When Only Diamonds Will Do Online

PROLOGUE

REITH RICHARDSON slammed his phone down and swore beneath his breath.

His secretary, Alice Hawthorn, grey-haired and in her fifties, raised her eyebrows. ‘Francis Theron, I gather?’

‘You gather right,’ Reith agreed. ‘He doesn’t believe I’m a suitable person to be—’ he paused and grimaced ‘—within a hundred miles of his beloved winery, no doubt. Despite the fact he’s in dire straits, despite the fact my offer is the only one he’s got and he could end up bankrupt in the near future.’

‘Hmm …’ Alice mused. ‘A very socially prominent family, the Therons of Balthazar and Saldanha. Very proud.’

‘You know what they say about pride and the proverbial fall,’ Reith murmured. ‘OK, Alice, I’m withdrawing the offer I made. I’ll leave the Therons to their fate.’ He bundled the papers before him into a stack and handed them over to her.

‘There’s a daughter, you know,’ Alice said, as she packed the papers into a folder. ‘An absolute stunner, I believe. About twenty-two.’

Reith shrugged. ‘Maybe they need to find her a rich husband who can save them all.’

‘There’s also a son.’

‘I know, I’ve met him—all the right schools, top polo player, seriously into horses, in fact, but singularly unblessed with any business sense,’ Reith replied dryly then he smiled a crooked grin. ‘Maybe they need to find him a horsy but rich wife.’

Alice laughed and got up. ‘Will you be in Perth or Bunbury for the next few days?’

‘Bunbury, probably, there’s a stud down that way I’m interested in. Alice,’ Reith said with a frown as he looked around his office, one of his new luxury suite of offices in Perth that overlooked the Swan River, ‘I don’t like the artwork the interior decorator’s supplied. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t do anything for me.’

Alice looked around at the Impressionist landscapes and marine life on the walls. ‘Well, perhaps you ought to choose it yourself?’ she suggested.

Reith got up and strolled over to the windows. ‘All right, when I get the time,’ he said wryly. ‘Thanks, Alice.’

She took the hint but when she got back to her desk she sat deep in thought for a while. It wasn’t often her boss backed a wrong hunch—made an offer that was knocked back, in other words. In fact his timing was usually impeccable and he was little short of a genius when it came to buying businesses in trouble and turning them around. It was how he’d consolidated a small fortune made from a mining venture into a very large fortune, but this was obviously different. This was something that involved pride and history; the Therons went back a long way to their Huguenot ancestors in South Africa and viticulture ran in their veins.

Whereas Reith Richardson went back to a cattle station beyond the black stump …

Alice shrugged and patted the folder she was about to file away for the last time. Concerning her boss, there were times when she fervently wished herself twenty years younger, and other times when she felt rather motherly. This was one of those motherly times, she decided. A time when she wished he would be a little more understanding, a little less the steel-hard businessman.

What he really needed, she mused, was a softening influence in his life, like a wife. And heaven knew there were plenty of women who found his tall, dark looks fascinating but of course his disinclination to marry any of them could be due to the fact that he had lost his first wife.

Alice stopped her thoughts at this point as her phone rang and she was completely unaware that, at the same time, her boss was staring at a framed photo on his desk and thinking about his lost wife.

It wasn’t a photo of his wife but a boy, a freckled, fair boy who went by the name of Darcy Richardson. His only son, his only child. Born of a girl who had been little more than a child herself except in years. She’d been nineteen when they’d married because she was pregnant, twenty when she’d given birth to Darcy and died from unforeseen complications.

And he very much doubted he’d ever get over the guilt he felt. Guilt because it had all happened so quickly. He’d never expected a pregnancy but he should have sensed that she was being naïve when she claimed she was protected; a country girl who’d stopped taking the Pill when it made her sick. But most of all guilt over her dying—as if he’d caused it.

And now the guilt