The Secret Valtinos Baby

By: Lynne Graham
CHAPTER ONE

THE GREEK BILLIONAIRE, Angel Valtinos, strode into his father’s office suite to find both his brothers waiting in Reception and he stopped dead, ebony brows skating up. ‘What is this? A family reunion    ?’

‘Or Papa is planning to carpet us for something,’ his Italian half-brother, Prince Vitale Castiglione, commented with perceptible amusement because they were all beyond the age where parental disapproval was a normal source of concern.

‘Does he make a habit of that?’ Zac Da Rocha demanded with a frown.

Angel met Vitale’s eyes and his jawline squared, neither passing comment. Zac, their illegitimate Brazilian sibling, was pretty much a wild card. As he was a new and rather mysterious addition to the family circle his brothers had yet to fully accept him. And trust came no more easily to the suspicious Angel than it did to Vitale.

Vitale grinned. ‘You’re the eldest,’ he reminded Angel. ‘You get top billing and first appearance.’

‘Not sure I want it on this occasion,’ Angel conceded, but he swiftly shrugged off the faint and comically unfamiliar sense of unease assailing his innately rock-solid confidence.

After all, Charles Russell had never played the heavy father in his sons’ lives, but even without exercising that authority he had still been a remarkably decent father, Angel conceded reflectively. Charles had not stayed married to either his or Vitale’s mother for very long but he had taken a keen interest post-divorce in fostering and maintaining a close relationship with his sons. Angel had often had cause to be grateful for his father’s stable approach to life and the shrewd business brain he suspected he had inherited from him. His mother was a thoroughly flighty and frivolous Greek heiress, whose attitude to childcare and education would have been careless without his father’s stipulations on his son’s behalf.

Charles Russell crossed his office to greet his eldest son. ‘You’re late,’ he told him without heat.

‘My board meeting ran over,’ Angel told him smoothly. ‘What’s this all about? When I saw Zac and Vitale in Reception I wondered if there was a family emergency.’

‘It depends what you call an emergency,’ Charles deflected, studying his very tall thirty-three-year-old eldest son, who topped him in height by several inches.

A son to be proud of, Charles had believed until very recently when the startling discovery of certain disquieting information had punctured his paternal pride. To be fair, Angel also carried the genes of a fabulously wealthy and pedigreed Greek family, more known for their self-destructiveness than their achievements. Even so, Charles had prided himself on Angel’s hugely successful reputation in the business world. Angel was the first Valtinos in two generations to make more money than he spent. A very astute high-achiever and a loyal and loving son, he was the very last child Charles had expected to disappoint him. Nonetheless, Angel had let him down by revealing a ruthless streak of Valtinos self-interest and irresponsibility.

‘Tell me what this is about,’ Angel urged with characteristic cool.

Charles rested back against his tidy desk, a still handsome man with greying hair in his early fifties. His well-built frame was tense. ‘When do you plan to grow up?’ he murmured wryly.

Angel blinked in bewilderment. ‘Is that a joke?’ he whispered.

‘Sadly not,’ his father confirmed. ‘A week ago, I learned from a source I will not share that I am a grandfather…’

Angel froze, his lean, extravagantly handsome features suddenly wiped clean of all animation, while his shrewd dark eyes hardened and veiled. In less than a split second, though, he had lifted his aggressive chin in grim acknowledgement of the unwelcome shock he had been dealt: an issue he had hoped to keep buried had been unexpectedly and most unhappily disinterred by the only man in the world whose good opinion he valued.

‘And, moreover, the grandfather of a child whom I will never meet if you have anything to do with it,’ Charles completed in a tone of regret.

Angel frowned and suddenly extended his arms in a very expansive Greek gesture of dismissal. ‘I thought to protect you—’

‘No, your sole motivation was to protect you,’ Charles contradicted without hesitation. ‘From the demands and responsibility of a child.’

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