The Carlotta Diamond
The wedding night surprise! Charlotte Christie wore white on her wedding day–and a priceless diamond necklace. Little did she know that her new husband, British billionaire Simon Farringdon, didn't believe she was an innocent. Nor did she realize that the Carlotta Diamond was his real motive for marriage.But the unexpected passion of their wedding night changed Simon's plans. His new bride was a virgin and he wanted her…
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The Carlotta Diamond
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Farringdon Hall, Old Leasham
RUDY had just arrived at the door of the sickroom and raised his free hand to knock, when he heard his brother-in-lawâs low, well-modulated voice, and paused to listen.
âSo what exactly is it you want me to do?â Simon was asking.
âI want you to try and trace Maria Bell-Farringdon, my sister,â Sir Nigelâs voice answered.
Sounding startled, Simon said, âBut surely your sisterâs dead? Didnât she die very young?â
âThat was Mara, Mariaâs twin sister. They were born in 1929âI was three at the timeâso Maria will be in her mid-seventies by now, if sheâs still aliveâ¦â
His curiosity aroused, Rudy stayed where he was, his ear pressed to the door panel.
âThe last time I saw her was November 1946. Though she was barely seventeen at the time, she was pregnant and unmarried. Despite a great deal of parental pressure, she refused to name the father, and after a terrible row, during which she was accused of bringing disgrace on the family, she just walked out and vanished without a trace. Our parents washed their hands of her, and her name was never again mentioned. It was just as if she had never existed. But in March 1947 she wrote secretly to me, saying sheâd given birth to a baby girl. The letter had a London postmarkâshe was living in Whitechapelâbut no address. I raised as much money as I couldâI was still at college thenâand waited, hoping she would contact me again, but she didnât, and that was the last time I heard from her. After my parents died I made a couple of attempts to find her, but without success. I should have kept trying, but somehow I let it slide. I suppose I thought I was immortal and had plenty of timeâ¦The doctor doesnât agree, however. His verdict is that Iâve three months to live at the most, so itâs suddenly become urgent that I find either Maria or her offspring.â
âDo you want to tell me why?â Simon asked.
âOf course, my boy,â Sir Nigel assured his grandson. âItâs only right that you should know.
âIf youâd like to open my safe, you know the combination, and take out the leather jewel case thatâs in thereâ¦â
There was a faint sound of movement, then Sir Nigel continued, âThis is why. Itâs come to be known as the Carlotta Stone. Some time in the early fifteen-hundreds it was given to Carlotta Bell-Farringdon by an Italian nobleman who was madly in love with her. For generations itâs been passed down to the eldest of the female line on her eighteenth birthday. Maraâwho had a heart defectâdied as a child, so the diamond should rightfully have gone to Maria, to be passed on to her daughter. Though a lot of years have gone by, itâs an injustice that I would like to put right before I die, so I just hope you can find her.â
âIâll certainly do my best, but at the moment my hands are full with the American merger, and Iâm due in New York tomorrow. However, if youâd like me to concentrate on finding Maria, Iâll send someone else over to the States in my place,â Simon offered.
âNo, noâ¦Youâre needed there. The negotiations are very delicate and I donât want to see them fall down at this stage.â
âIn that case, so as not to waste any time, Iâll hire a private detective to start making enquiries immediately. Of course, it will have to be done with the greatest discretion,â Simon said.
âQuite right, my boy. In fact Iâd like the whole thing kept under wraps. Not a word to a soul,â Sir Nigel warned.
âNot even Lucy?â
âNot even Lucy. For one thing, Iâd prefer it if Rudy didnât get to know, and for another, I understand one of her friends is a so-called journalist. The last thing I want is for the story to get into the gossip columns. They always blow these things up out of all proportion, and Iâd be extremely upset if there was any breath of scandal.â
It would serve the autocratic old devil right if there was, Rudy thought vindictively. Heâd be only too happy to see Sir Nigel, his precious grandson, and the whole of the Bell-Farringdon family taken down a peg or two.
âIn any case it would pay to tread carefully,â Simon said, âkeep the reason for the search a secret until weâre certain weâve got the right person.â
âYouâre quite right, of course. The Carlotta Stone is priceless, and I wouldnât want to risk it going to some imposter with an eye to the main chance.â
There was a silence, then Simon said thoughtfully, âThereâs not a lot to go on, and itâs quite possible, not to say probable, that Maria changed her name. However, modern technology should make it a great deal easierâ¦â
âGood morning, Mr Bradshaw.â The nurseâs decisive voice made Rudy spin round and almost drop the books he was holding. âJust leaving?â
Recovering himself, he said, âNo, as a matter of fact I was just about to knock.â