The Ring The Spaniard Gave Her - Lynne Graham


RUY VALIENTE, THE reclusive billionaire owner of Valiente Capital, one of the world’s largest and most successful hedge funds, didn’t immediately answer his mobile when it pulsed in his pocket.

Why? He was in a great mood, happily contemplating a few weeks off finance and the opportunity to indulge in his secret passion. Those breaks were both rare and precious in his life because he had been brought up to be enormously disciplined and do his duty. He was also in transit to his rural English home, which he planned to make his very private bolt-hole. When he finally grudgingly drew out the phone, bearing in mind that a call to his personal number—known to few—could be an emergency, he was reassured when he saw his half-sister, Cecile’s name flash up.

In his rigorously conservative, judgemental circle of relations, Cecile was just about the only one he could stomach, and it was to her that he owed the discovery of his new home, he reminded himself as he answered.

‘I need your help,’ Cecile told him without any preamble. ‘And I know it’s a dreadful imposition and that when you’re moving into a house only a couple of miles away from Charles and me you will now suspect that we’re going to be a nuisance—’

Ruy smiled. ‘That thought would never occur to me.’

‘Where are you?’ she asked.

‘Ten minutes from my new house.’

‘Oh, good. Charles and I are stuck in a jam on the motorway. We were on our way home early to see the girls perform in their spring concert,’ she told him. ‘But we’re not going to make it in time.’

‘That’s unfortunate.’ Ruy was sympathetic because his sister and her husband were medics, whom he knew often struggled to combine work and family commitments. ‘How can I help?’

‘Lola and Lucia will be devastated when we don’t turn up. They’ve been rehearsing their performance for weeks,’ Cecile told him tautly. ‘I know it’s a very big ask, Ruy, because it’s not your sort of thing, but if you could show up in our stead it would mean a lot to the girls. In fact, your appearance would be much more exciting than ours. Tio Ruy is hugely popular with them. The concert is in the village hall and it’s already started. Luckily, the girls are in the very last act. Can you make it?’

Ruy swallowed every one of the objections brimming on his lips and murmured, ‘Of course I can,’ because it was the very first time his half-sister had asked him for anything.

All the rest of his relatives maintained a constant barrage of requests for money, jobs, help with legal and family problems—indeed every bump in the road of their lives from disease to divorce inspired their urgent pleas for assistance. Of course, his late father, Armando, had encouraged that dependency on the head of the Valiente family because it had fed his love of power and a subservient audience, but Ruy found that same steady stream of demands exasperating and was gradually doing what he could to discourage his relations from the habit.

‘You...will?’ Cecile could hide neither the relief nor the surprise in her response. ‘You won’t need to take the girls home or anything. Their nanny is with them. All you have to do is show your face and give them a hug afterwards and obviously lie when Lola asks how she did because she’s like a baby elephant on stage...bless her! It shouldn’t take more than an hour of your time.’

‘It’s fine, Cecile.’

‘But this is your first visit to your new home and I’m totally invading your privacy,’ she protested guiltily.

‘I’m not that inflexible,’ he assured her soothingly, although he knew that he was lying out of courtesy. He had learned the hard way over his thirty years that if he didn’t ruthlessly carve out the time for his art from his incredibly demanding schedule in the world of investment, he didn’t get any time to do what he most enjoyed. ‘It will be good to see the girls.’

‘If you would only agree to visit us more often...sorry, in a moany mood here,’ Cecile mumbled apologetically, knowing that she was crossing his boundaries.

Ruy was very much a loner who cherished his privacy, a privilege he saw little of in the real world where he was invariably surrounded by staff. Employees waited on him hand and foot and hung on his every word and, all credit to him, he was aware that his lifestyle was far from normal. He was