The Santana Heir

By: Elizabeth Lane

One

Urubamba, Peru, January 21

Emilio Santana stared at the folder on the massive mahogany desk—the desk that had served the head of the Santana family for seven generations. Until two weeks ago that desk had belonged to his brother. Now it was his.

He was still reeling from Arturo’s death in a highway accident. But the vast Santana business holdings couldn’t wait for grief. Catapulted into place as the new jefe, Emilio had a world of things to learn—and barely enough time to learn them. He’d never wanted this responsibility. But now it was his—for life.

Arturo had always been the one who took care of things. While Emilio jetted around the world, partying with rock stars and dating glamorous women, Arturo had managed the family estate in Urubamba, the corporate offices in Lima and the portfolio of global investments and properties that comprised the Santana fortune. Steady and competent, Arturo had always been there to bail his wild younger brother out of trouble. Now he was gone, the reality of his loss still sinking in.

Since the funeral and the novena, Emilio had spent much of his time going through the files in Arturo’s home office. Invoices, contracts, business correspondence. It was all a lot to take in, but he’d found nothing out of the ordinary.

Until now.

The manila folder, marked “Personal,” had been tucked into the back of the file drawer. Inside, Emilio found a certified envelope, addressed to Arturo and mailed from Tucson, Arizona, ten months earlier. Inside was a folded letter, printed on plain white paper and signed in a strong but feminine hand.





March 10

Dear Mr. Santana:

It saddens me to inform you that my stepsister, Cassidy Miller, passed away March 1 of this year, due to a brain tumor…





Cassidy dead? But how could that be? Emilio stared at the page in disbelief. Cassidy had been so beautiful, so full of life and mischief. A model with a reputation as a party girl, Cassidy Miller had been doing a fashion shoot in Cusco when Emilio had met her. After the shoot he’d invited her and several model friends to spend a few days at the Urubamba estate. One look at Arturo, and she’d cancelled an upcoming assignment to stay with him. During the five weeks they’d spent together, Emilio’s brother had never looked happier. Then Cassidy had vanished from his life. Emilio had wondered why, but if Arturo had known, he’d never said a word.

Biting back emotion Emilio read on.





I know this news will come as a shock. Cassidy begged me not to tell you about her illness. But now that she’s gone I feel duty-bound to write to you for another reason. In the last days of her life, Cassidy gave birth to a baby boy. Since he was born February 26, nine months from the time she was with you in Peru, I have every reason to believe he’s your son.

Rest assured that I’m not writing to make any claim on your wealth or your estate. In fact, if you agree, I would like to raise the boy myself. Little Zac, as Cassidy named him, will be well cared for here with me. I’ve brought him home and would love to raise him as my own. My lawyer has advised me to inform you of his birth and ask your permission before taking steps to adopt him.

My business card is enclosed. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume you have no interest in the boy and proceed with the adoption.

Sincerely,



Grace Chandler





Emilio reread the letter. His numbness ebbed as the news sank home. Cassidy was gone forever. But Arturo had left a son—a son he’d kept secret. Why?

Looking for answers, Emilio unfolded a second sheet of paper—this one a photocopy of Arturo’s reply.





March 31

Dear Miss Chandler:

My condolences on your loss. You may adopt the boy on condition that he have no future contact with the Santana family, nor any legal claim to the Santana estate. I plan to be married soon and start a family of my own. The appearance of an illegitimate son would cause pain and embarrassment, which I wish to avoid at all cost.

If I can trust you to understand my position and honor my wishes, I will leave this matter entirely in your hands.

Yours truly,



Arturo Rafael Santana y Morales





Emilio studied the letter. The language sounded brusque, even cold. But Arturo himself had often sounded cold and closed-off after Cassidy left. And even before she came into his life, he had always put family interests ahead of personal feelings. At the time when he’d written the letter, he’d become engaged to Mercedes Villanueva, the daughter of a wealthy neighbor. The wedding had never taken place, but Emilio could understand Arturo’s not wanting an illegitimate offspring to interfere.

Illegitimate. Such an ugly word for an innocent child. Turning, he gazed out the window, which commanded a view of the Santana estate. Situated in the lush Sacred Valley of the Incas, the land had been in his family since the 1600s when Spanish conquistador Miguel Santana had acquired it as a royal grant. Santana had married an Inca princess and settled into the life of a country gentleman. The land reforms of the 1960s had trimmed away most of the original grant, but the heart of the estate remained, as did the well-managed Santana fortune.

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