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Authors: Sara Craven

Flame of Diablo

BOOK: Flame of Diablo
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FLAME OF

DIABLO

Sara Craven

Rachel had vowed to reach Diablo

In London, it had seemed simple. Go out

to Columbia, bring back her brother,

Mark. It was her one chance to do

something for her beloved grandfather

with whom Mark had quarreled.

In Columbia, nothing went right. Mark

was off in the wilds of Diablo looking

for a legendary emerald--and the one

man who could guide her to the territory

was the handsome, arrogant Vitas de

Mendoza.

Rachel didn't trust him an inch, but he

agreed to take her--at a price. Only when

it was too late did Rachel discover that

the price was far, far too high....

CHAPTER ONE

A few flakes of snow were drifting

down from a leaden sky as Rachel

Crichton paid off the taxi, and ran up the

shallow flight of steps to the front door.

Her urgent ring at the bell was answered

almost immediately by a tall thin woman

in a neat dark dress, a smile of

thankfulness relieving the anxiety in her

face.

'Oh, Miss Rachel, you've come at last!

He's been asking and asking for you. Dr

Kingston wants to move him to the

Mordaunt Clinic, and he won't go. Said

he had to see you first. He's been getting

himself in a real state—and Miss

Rachel, he mustn't!'

'I know.' Rachel gave the housekeeper's

hand a comforting squeeze. Even after

twenty years, Mrs Thurston still had not

been able to come to terms with Sir

Giles Crichton's arrogant refusal to

allow any denial of his wishes. 'I came

as soon as I got your message. How—

how is he?' She made a little helpless

gesture. 'This is the last thing I was

expecting. He seemed to have got over

the last attack …'

She paused, and saw Mrs Thurston give

a little shake of her head.

'It's bad this time, Miss Rachel; the

worst yet. That's why Doctor Kingston

wants to move him. He told him to his

face that he couldn't be trusted to rest

properly here.' She swallowed. 'I was

with him when it happened, and I thought

we were going to lose him, that I did.'

'Oh, Thursty!' Rachel stared at her in

dismay. 'It must have been awful for you.

I should have been here—the play

closed over a week ago.'

'It wouldn't have made much difference.'

Mrs Thurston seemed to rouse herself

from her anxiety, and moved to help

Rachel off with her coat. 'Sir Giles has

hardly been here himself for the past

fortnight. He's been backwards and

forwards to London nearly every day.

He even spent the night there one day

last week. And when I tried to remind

him of what the doctor had said, he

nearly bit my head off. I said no more,

naturally, but I'm wondering now

whether, if I hadn't given up so easily,

this might have been avoided.'

'I don't think so, Thursty darling. And

you're not to blame yourself.' Rachel

gave a soft sigh. 'We both know what

Grandfather's like when he's got the bit

between his teeth. But what can he have

been doing in London? Did he give no

hint?'

'None at all, Miss Rachel.' The older

woman hesitated. 'But he seemed—

different. More like his old self. I

wondered if it might have something to

do with Mr Mark.'

'I don't think so, Thursty,' Rachel said

gently. 'But we can always hope. Now,

I'd better go up.'

She ran up the broad, shallow flight of

stairs which led to the first floor

bedrooms, and turned along the landing

to the big double doors of the room

situated at the far end. As she

approached they opened, and a slight

grey-haired man emerged. He looked

tired and anxious, but his eyes lit up

when he saw her, and he laid a finger

conspiratorially over his lips, glancing

back towards the room he had left.

'Uncle Andrew?' she whispered. 'How is

he?'

'No worse, but certainly no better either,'

he said quietly. 'Your arrival should

help. He's under sedation, and I rely on

you, Rachel, not to allow him to get

excited in any way. Now that you're here

I'll go and arrange about that ambulance.'

He patted her cheek and went on past her

towards the stairs.

It was very warm in the bedroom. A fire

had been kindled in the old-fashioned

grate, and its leaping flames together

with a shaded bedside lamp provided all

the light in the room.

Her grandfather lay back against the

pillows, his eyes closed. He was very

pale, and there was a bluish tinge around

his mouth which frightened her, but she

was careful not to let the fright show as

she trod across the carpet, her slender

feet noiseless in their low-heeled shoes.

There was a chair close beside the bed,

and she sat down on it, waiting for him

to open his eyes and notice her there,

unwilling to disturb him purposely.

At last his eyes did open, still fiercely

blue, but with some of their former fire

dimmed. For a moment Sir Giles gazed

at her almost without recognition, then

his glance sharpened and focussed, and

he said, 'So you're here at last.'

Rachel tried to ignore the implied

reproach in his words of greeting, to

forget that if he'd been backwards and

forwards to London as Mrs Thurston had

said,

there

had

been

plenty

of

opportunities for him to contact her if

he'd wanted—opportunities that had

remained neglected. She tried to forget

too that the reproach had always been

there, ever since, in fact, the longed-for

first grandchild had been born a girl

instead of the boy he had set his heart on,

and had not been alleviated even with

Mark's birth some two and a half years

later.

She bent over the bed and put her lips to

his cheek. 'I'm here, Grandfather. Can I

get you a drink or anything?'

'No, child.' The effort of speaking

seemed to be using up his breath at an

alarming rate, she thought. 'Just—listen.'

He closed his eyes again and lay still,

absorbed with some interior struggle for

strength. She was just beginning to grow

uneasy, when he said, 'Have you heard

from Mark?'

'No, darling,' she said gently. 'Not a

word.'

He gave a slight nod. 'Not important. I—

know where he is.'

'You know?' Rachel felt a stab of anger.

'And you never told me? You never ...'

'I'm telling you now, child,' he

interrupted , testily, and she subsided,

remembering what the doctor had said

about not letting him become excited. 'It

was by chance I found out. I had to go up

to Town to see old Grainger. I was

having lunch at the club afterwards when

Larry Forsyth walked in. Do you

remember him?'

'I think so,' Rachel returned almost

mechanically, her brain still whirling

from the news she had just received.

'Wasn't he in the diplomatic service?'

Her grandfather gave a grunt. 'Still is.

He's been out in Colombia for a couple

of years. And that's where he saw Mark,

less than three weeks ago.'

'In Colombia?' Rachel shook her head. 'It

sounds most unlikely. Was he sure it was

Mark?'

'Of course he was sure!' Sir Giles

sounded irritable. 'Knew him at once,

and Mark recognised him too. He was

dining with some people—name of

Arviles. Senor Arviles is one of the top

lawyers in Bogota, according to Larry.'

'Mark was at university with someone

called Arviles— Miguel Arviles,'

Rachel said slowly. 'But I didn't know

he was a Colombian. And I didn't realise

that Mark was on particularly close

terms with him either.'

But then, she thought, why should she

had known? Mark had never been

forthcoming about his friendships, and

Rachel had had to learn to curb her

curiosity, knowing that any suspicion of

over-protectiveness would be resented.

She frowned a little. 'Did Mr Forsyth

know what Mark was actually doing

there?'

'Of course not. He assumed I would

know all about it and I allowed him to

think so, or did you imagine I was

prepared to make him cognisant of our

private affairs?' Sir Giles' eyes glared a

little under the bushy white brows and

Rachel said hurriedly,

'No, no. It was silly of me. Did—did

Mark send any kind of message?'

'Apparently he had very little to say for

himself,' her grandfather said shortly.

'That's why I asked whether you'd heard

from him. It occurred to me that as he

must realise his whereabouts are now

known, he might have been in touch.' He

was silent for a moment, his breathing

ragged.

Rachel was silent too, remembering.

There had been family rows before,

some of them quite spectacular, as when

she had announced her intention of going

to drama school, but somehow she had

known they had not really been

important. Grandfather had been irritated

by the idea of her wishing to become an

actress and had expressed his views

forcibly, but she had always suspected

he was merely going through the

motions. It didn't really matter to him

what Rachel did with her working life,

because she would merely be filling in

time before she made a suitable

marriage.

But Mark was different. Grandfather had

plans for Mark, and had never made any

secret of the fact, and none of these plans

took into account Mark's openly

acknowledged passion for geology, and

his desire to study it at university. Harsh

words had been uttered on both sides,

but Mark had got his way in the end—as

he

usually

did,

Rachel

thought

resignedly. Perhaps Grandfather had

thought it was just a boyish quirk from

which Mark would recover in his own

good time if left unopposed. Only it

hadn't been like that. When he had left

university, it was to seek work as a

geologist, not to succumb to the none too

subtle pressure being exerted to make

him join the family firm.

And that was when the real row had

started. Rachel had been staying at

Abbots Field during that weekend, and

she had been powerless to intercede

while her grandfather and her brother

prepared to tear each other to pieces.

The trouble was they were too alike in

many ways, she thought. Neither of them

could easily see any point of view other

than his own, or even believe that such a

thing existed. The weekend had been full

of tensions—rather like duellists, she

had thought afterwards, selecting their

weapons and taking the prescribed

paces, but the first shots had not been

exchanged until Sunday evening at

dinner, just when she'd begun to hope

that an open confrontation might be

avoided. They'd quickly passed from

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