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The Consequence He Must Claim(8)

By:Dani Collins

“I asked not to be interrupted,” he informed both women, making sure his new assistant heard his displeased tone as he touched the face of his smart watch.

He automatically adjusted the volume in his earpiece as his assistant said, “They claim it’s an emergency. It’s a hospital in London.”

His thoughts leaped to Sorcha, even though there was no reason to expect she would be ill or injured, but he had tracked her on social media far enough to know she was working in that city. Still, if she needed medical attention, she wouldn’t list him as a contact. She had family in Ireland. She was off the company benefits, working for someone else.

He almost refused the call, unable to think of another reason a hospital in London would want to speak to him. He had a vague thought about his siblings’ whereabouts, but neither his brother nor sister was in that city. Hell, he would wind up returning this call later if he didn’t take it now and he would go out of his skull if he didn’t accomplish something constructive with his morning.

“Un momento,” he said, stepping away from the women. “Cesar Montero,” he stated, accepting the call.

“Cesar Montero...y Rosales?” a female voice asked.

“Sí.” He grew more alert at the use of his full name. “Who’s calling?”

She identified herself as an official for the hospital. “Did Ms. Kelly tell you to expect my call?”

“No.” He frowned as he absorbed this was about Sorcha.

“Oh.” She sounded confused. “This is the information she gave on her admittance form. Am I speaking to the correct person? Will you confirm a few details for me?”

“Sí,” he said and gave her his birth date and residential address as requested. He rubbed where the ache in his brow intensified. “What is this about?”

“You haven’t spoken to Ms. Kelly today?” She sounded surprised. The silence that followed struck him as a retreat. She was cautious now.

Instinct made him say carefully, “I’ve been tied up. She left a message, but I haven’t listened to it yet.”

“But you’re aware she was admitted last night?”

“Yes,” he lied, while his heart jolted painfully. They’d asked if he’d spoken to her, he reminded himself. That meant she was speaking. “I’ve been anxious for news,” he added. He was a scientist at heart, but he’d studied conversational manipulations at his mother’s knee. “What can you report?”

“Well, it’s difficult news, I’m afraid. There is a very small possibility the babies have been switched.” She paused, allowing him to react.

He didn’t have a reaction. A chasm of confusion opened in him, one he didn’t want to betray to the woman on the phone, or the two women behind him. He could hear their silence as they waited for him to wrap up this annoying interruption.

“Obviously we’ll be running a DNA test, but we’re hoping a blood test can offer some clarity. How soon could you get to a clinic? Our hospital will cover the charges, but we’re anxious for the results.”

Cesar choked out a laugh. “Are you...?”

He realized where he was. He jerked around to see both his fiancée and his mother staring at him. His mother waved an impatient hand at the seating plan spread across the dining room table. Diega’s features sharpened with query.

The air grew too thick for his lungs. In a kind of daze, he held up a staying finger and walked through the French doors onto the small balcony, closing them behind him. With great care, he lowered the voice that had begun to elevate, looking below to ensure there were no listening ears in the courtyard. His gaze blindly scanned the familiar landscape of his youth: immaculate gardens left barren for winter, dormant grapevines across acres of vineyard, the distant sound of waves washing the shoreline of the Med.

“Are you telling me you want me to provide a sample for a paternity test?” he asked in disbelief.

“Please don’t mistake me. We have no reason to doubt Sorcha Kelly’s identification of you as the father. The issue is whether she is the mother of the baby she is currently nursing. As you can imagine, we’re anxious to have this cleared up.”

He couldn’t speak. It took him a long moment to realize he wasn’t thinking any thoughts. His mind was completely blank.

Was he still feeling the effects of the concussion? No. This was the sort of thing no one in the world could make sense of.

Finally he drew a long ragged breath. “I can clear up my side of things very quickly,” he said, his voice flat and sharp. “I would remember if—” He cut himself off. Swore aloud as his condition struck him like a sledgehammer. Again.