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The Spanish Uncle
 

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The Spanish Uncle


  The Spanish Uncle by Jane Corrie

  Mary had looked after her little nephew Paul since he was a baby after his father, Enrique Alvarados had deserted her sister Sheila without marrying her, and Sheila herself had died soon after having the baby. But now Mary had met the child's imposing uncle, Enrique's brother Rafael, who had insisted that she bring Paul to Spain to meet his father's family and he soon made it clear that his idea was that Paul should live with them altogether. How could Mary give him up especially to the tender mercies of Isabel Ruiz who was almost certainly going to marry Rafael ? And was it just because of little Paul that she found the idea unbearable?

  printed in Great Britain

  Books you will enjoy by JANE CORRIE

  PIRATES' LAIR

  Tragedy greeted Thea when she arrived in the Virgin Islands to visit her brother—only to learn that he had been killed in a car crash. But when her brother's boss, the formidable Marcus Conan, asked her to marry him it looked as if she was going to have a happy ending after all. Until Sapphire Durley burst her dream bubble for her ...

  ISLAND FIESTA

  Because they shared the same name, it had been fairly easy for ,Corinne's cousin to persuade her to go to the Canary Islands in her place, to claim a legacy. But it wasn't as simple as that—as Corinne found when she met the coinheritor Juan Martel and found herself trapped into marrying him

  THE STATION BOSS

  If only temporarily, Sheena just had to get away from Doyle Charter who had treated her so badly, so she accepted Clay Dayrpan's offer to take her off to his cattle station in the north of Australia. All she really wanted was to get back to Doyle as soon as she could —yet somehow, in all her dealings with Clay, she found she had no choice. What was it about this forceful man?

  TASMANIAN TANGLE

  Tanya's return to her old family home in Tasmania wasn't exactly a happy one, and now all she wanted was solitude and a settled home. But any hopes of peace were shattered by the constant presence of Kade Player, who had been a thorn in her side years ago and hadn't mellowed in the interim. Why did he seem bent on making her life a misery?

  All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the Author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the Author, and aft the incidents are pure invention.

  The text of this publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.

  This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the prior consent of the publisher in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this, condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  First published 1979 Australian copyright 1980 Philippine copyright 1980 This edition 198o

  © Jane Corrie 1979

  ISBN 0 263 73467 6

  CHAPTER ONE

  MARY Allis gave an exasperated sigh. Where had Paul got to? Her eyes scanned the visitors to the exhibition, milling in and out of the entrance hall. He had been there a moment or so ago—she really must curb this tendency, of his to wander off when something caught his eye. Then she saw him; he had evidently gone back for another look at the wine pressing section—she remembered that he had been fascinated by it.

  Her fine grey eyes took in the slight .figure that had not as yet seen her as he stood forlornly looking about him. 'I'm over here, Paul,' she called. She smiled at the way his eyes lit up as he saw her and rushed towards her. 'Darling, I do wish you wouldn't wander,' she scolded him. 'We've only just time to make the bus— come on!'

  With his hand firmly tucked into hers, Mary turned towards the exit and cannoned into a tall man entering the exhibition. 'I'm terribly sorry ' she began as her glance met his face, then she stopped dead and just stared, for she was looking at an exact replica of what Paul would look like in twenty years' time. As her startled eyes took in the amazing resemblance a note of fear struck her heart and she clutched Paul's hand tightly and made for the door.

  `One moment, please,' she heard a deep voice intone, but she did not turn round, for she was sure that she knew who had spoken. The deep voice had held a slight accent, but fear kept her going and she pretended that

  she had not heard the request.

  `Mummy, that man wants to speak to you,' said Paul, looking back at the man, but Mary muttered something about missing the bus if they did not hurry, and carried on, only to find her way blocked once more by that exceedingly tall man.

  —we have a bus to catch,' she said breathlessly. 'I'm sorry, but it's imperative that we catch it,' and she made to dart past the man, bur he stood his ground.

  'I'll see you get to your destination,' he said calmly yet firmly. 'I do think we ought to have a talk, don't you?' His eyes were on Paul as he spoke, and without waiting for Mary's agreement caught her arm lightly but firmly and turned her towards the hall again. 'If you would be so good,' he said authoritatively, and led her towards an office section beyond the main exhibition hall.

  Without making a scene, there was not a lot Mary could do about it. If only Paul had not wandered off, she thought miserably, but it was all 'ifs'. If she hadn't taken him to see that exhibition. If there had been any other exhibition on at that particular time there were any amount of 'ifs', but it didn't help her to recall any of them at that particular time. All she knew was that she had to have her wits about her. Whatever the man said, he had no rights where Paul was concerned; not after all this time. He was hers, and she would fight for him. Not even if he was the father—it made no difference—not now.

  Paul, whose eyes had never left the man's face, voiced her sentiments in the most embarrassing way, but typically childlike. 'Are you my father?' he asked suddenly, as the man guided them towards a door at the end of the long corridor.

  Mary closed her eyes. Hush, Paul ! ' she said quickly, thanking providence that there were no visitors within proximity.

  The man smiled down at Paul, and Mary noticed how his austere face softened as he looked at the child. `No,' he replied quietly, 'but I do know who your father was.'

  Mary's heart lifted temporarily; he wasn't the father, and .that meant that he couldn't make life difficult for her. Did that mean that Enrique was dead? She glanced swiftly at the man now opening the door for them; he was so like Paul that he must be Enrique's brother, the likeness was so striking it could be no other. Her lips straightened that meant that he was Paul's uncle, and as she was his aunt, he had no legal rights over her.

  Even as they entered the room the man still kept a light hold on Mary's arm as if afraid she might suddenly make a bolt for it, although how, as he had now closed the door behind them, Mary was at a loss to understand, but she was well aware of his determination in keeping his quarry in close proximity.

  The room was a small office, and after a courteous request that she should be seated; the man seated himself behind the desk and addressed Paul, who appeared unable to take his eyes off the man he so closely resembled. `So your name is Paul, is it?' the man asked, giving the boy a brief smile.

  Paul nodded, then stuck his chin out in what Mary recognised as a haughty gesture his when faced with something he did not understand and not liking the disadvantage, as young as he was. 'I like my first name best,' he answered solemnly. `It's Enrique,' and fixing his large dark eyes on the man he asked, 'What's yours?'

  Again that brief smile lit the man's hard face, and it occurr
ed to Mary that this man did not indulge often in the practice of salutary greetings. 'My name is Rafael. You may call me Uncle Rafael. Your father was my brother, so that is quite in order.'

  Mary intervened quickly here, afraid that Paul might ask further embarrassing questions. 'That's enough, Paul. Be a good boy and just keep quiet while Mr—' she stopped short in total embarrassment, she did not know the man's surname, and a painful flush washed over her cheeks.

  The man's cold black eyes met hers briefly before he gave what Mary could only describe as a slight bow, and supplied with what sounded suspiciously, like a kind of disdain that heightened the colour in Mary's cheeks, 'Rafael Esteban Alvarados, at your service, senora,' and held out a strong lean hand towards her.

  Mary placed her small hand in his and returned the compliment; if it was a compliment, for she realised that he had addressed her as a married woman, and acting purely on instinct she did not correct this error, but keeping her left hand close to her side and away from surveyance, she murmured, 'Er—Allis, Mary,' and took it from there, surreptitiously turning her engagement ring round so that only the metal band was presented.

  After the introductions had been performed, Mary sat back and made a point of glancing at her watch. Whatever the man had to say to her she wished he would get it over with perhaps he would suggest that he kept in touch with 'them, and she had no quarrel with this sentiment as long as that was all he wanted, but she could not convince herself of this. The man's very presence threatened her peace of mind, though why she should be so afraid she had no idea. It was a

  little late in the day for the family of Enrique to take an interest in his son when they had turned their backs on the girl whose child he had fathered. Her lips thinned as she thought of Sheila, who had been so trusting and so gullible, and who had never once in her short period of motherhood accepted the fact that her Enrique had feet of clay and had walked out on her, ostensibly to return to Spain to gain his father's permission to marry, as he had put it to the trusting Sheila, the woman he loved, and to seek his release from the girl chosen by his family to become his wife.

  Her somewhat bitter musings were interrupted by the man sitting opposite her as he leaned forward and pressed a belt on the desk in front of him. 'Do you like ice cream, Enrique?' he asked the still puzzled boy, whose face lit up in expectation at the query, and who nodded fervently in answer.

  Mary, taking full note of the way the man addressed Paul by his first name, felt a spurt of annoyance at the autocratic way he had bypassed the name 'Paul' as if it were of no consequence and put his implacable stamp on future proceedings. She said quickly, 'It's a little. near our evening meal, dear,' and gave the man a challenging look as if daring him to override her in this.

  He not only dared, but completely ignored the silent challenge Mary had thrown out by addressing the person who had answered the bell and issuing instructions to him that he was to accompany Master Enrique to the refreshment table and provide him with an ice. In answer to Marys tight lipped glare at this flagrant disregard to her wishes, he said lightly, 'I'm sure one ice would not spoil the young man's appetite,' then addressed the man whose eyes lingered on Paul for a

  moment and then returned to Rafael Alvarados. 'Take your time, Miguel, will you?' He glanced at the fine gold watch on his wrist. 'Fifteen minutes at least, please,' he ordered.

  The man nodded his understanding, and inclined his head at Paul. 'Shall we go?' he said, his heavy sober countenance breaking into a smile purely in an effort. to gain the child's confidence.

  To give Paul credit, he did hesitate and look at Mary, seeking her permission to sample the treat in store, and again she felt that unreasonable spurt of fear. But was it so unreasonable? What was to stop the man from walking away with Paul and out of her life? She swallowed and looked back at Rafael Alvarados, and there must have been something in the look that she gave him that made him say abruptly, 'I give my word he shall be brought back here directly,' his dark hard eyes boring into hers as if willing her to trust him.

  With a faint shock Mary realised that she did trust him; she did not like him, there was something altogether too overpowering about him that slightly frightened her, but she nodded at Paul and watched them leave, Paul with his small hand trustingly placed in the large hand of the thick set man addressed as Miguel.

  There was a tiny silence in the office after their departure, and Mary, marshalling her wits ready for what she now sensed to be some kind of battle over Paul's future, cast a quick assessing look at Rafael Alvarados, and noted with no little Infusion that he was subjecting her to a minute scrutiny.

  Although his face was completely bland, and she could discern no emotion whatsoever that gave her the slightest hint as to his thoughts, she sensed a certain

  amount of puzzlement in his assessment of her, and she wondered Why.

  He looked away abruptly from her wary eyes and studied the desk top, as if seeking the right approach to What, after all was said and done, could be a highly embarrassing conversation, at least it appeared so from his way of thinking, and Mary was fully aware of this. 'The child would be seven years old now, wouldn't he?' he said abruptly, cutting into Mary's reflection of his dark forbidding features.

  Mary's sardonic eyes met his. 'I'm surprised you know that much,' she said, forcing a note of dryness into her voice and willing herself to remain calm and dignified over the matter. It was no use dragging the bitterness back, but for Sheila's sake she would lose no opportunity in showing this proud and obviously wealthy family that they had no need of their patronage, as hard as it had been for Mary to bring Paul up. .

  Rafael Alvarados's eyebrows quirked up at the corners at this blunt remark pf hers, and his hard firm lips straightened for a second or so, proving to Mary how distasteful he found the whole business, but she had. not sought this interview, he had brought this on his own head. 'It may interest you to know that an exhaustive search was made for you and the child when Enrique's effects were forwarded to my father.'

  He was silent for a moment or so, and then looked up suddenly at Mary, who couldn't see that that information meant anything relevant, as Enrique had still deserted Sheila. 'He died shortly after a motor accident on the way to see his father. Later, of course, we learnt the purpose of the visit. He wasn't due home until his studies ended in. July.' He stared down at the desk again. 'We hadn't much to go on, you know. One letter,

  presumably from you,' he gave Mary a quick glance, `but apart from the usual endearments, no name, and no address. We wouldn't have known about the child if Enrique hadn't left a message to be forwarded to my father.' He looked away again and firmed that strong jaw of his. 'There wasn't much time, you understand, and he knew this. By the time my father received the message it was probably out of its original context, but one thing was clear, he was desperately anxious that you and the child were provided for.'

  Mary sat stunned, her wide eyes echoing her thoughts that alternated from shock to downright shame at the way she had misjudged Enrique. Sheila had known he wouldn't let her down, and how right she had been. Her eyes filled with tears as she thought of her sister, and how proud and happy she would have been at this moment if she had lived to hear this, but she had survived only a few months after having Paul, and Mary had brought him up, finding herself unable to give him up no matter how many problems it inevitably brought her.

  In the midst of these heart searching thoughts, one fact was clamouring for attention and eventually broke through her consciousness, and that was that Rafael Alvarados had assumed that she was Paul's mother. The tears slipped over and she dashed them away quickly, but her thoughts were still with her, and she couldn't so easily wipe them away. Wasn't she his mother? She hadn't given birth to him, but she had been there to hold out her arms to the small stumbling child as he had taken his first tentative steps under his own power. It was she who had seen him through all the childish ailments, she who had worried about his slow recuperation after whooping cough when he
had been five. She

  swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat; there had been countless occasions that had bound him irretrievably to her, and she to him She was mother to him, and always would be, so why should she deny the fact? It couldn't hurt anyone, not now. Sheila and Enrique had gone, but she and Paul still had each other —and there was Derek. She swallowed again. Odd that she should not give him a thought until now. When she married Derek, he would look after them. In the Meantime she had to find something to say to the unexpected and entirely shaking news that she had just received. She looked up at the man who had sat so silently while she had marshalled her thoughts and found him studying a heavy gold ring on his little finger, yet she sensed his thoughts were fax away. He could not have missed her emotional reaction to the news that he had given her, but she had no doubt that he had put another interpretation on it. If she had been Sheila, her thoughts would have been on Enrique and the fact that he had died all that time ago, and she had not known.

  'I'm sorry,' she said in a low voice. 'I—well, the news came as a shock to me. I—we thought—' She hesitated here, realising she must be careful in what she said.

  He nodded abruptly as if to assure her that it was not necessary for her to go on. 'As I have said,' he went on in that deep voice of his, 'all efforts to trace you petered out. It appeared that Enrique kept his affairs to himself. We could find no associate of his who knew either your name or your address.' He shrugged his wide powerful shoulders. 'Oh, they knew there was someone, but whoever she was, she was not a student at

  the university, that much was ascertained, so there was no help there.'

  Mary looked away quickly; Sheila had met Enrique at an evening institute that she and Mary were attending in order to learn Spanish, and Enrique English. They had collided into each other at the entrance one evening, much as Mary had collided with Rafael and brought about this astonishing sequel to the past. In the case of Enrique and Sheila it had been love at first sight, not that Mary had believed in such a happening at the time. At nineteen, Sheila was two years younger than Mary, and Mary had thought that she was just indulging in A light flirtatious affair, for she was pretty enough to gain a lot of attention from the male sector of the population. It was not long afterwards that both were missing from their separate classes, having come to the joint decision that Enrique would teach Sheila Spanish, if she would teach him English, and as Mary had no wish to play gooseberry she had carried on at the institute to the successful conclusion of her course.

 
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