In the Brazilian's DebtBy: Susan Stephens
REVENGE IS A DISH best served cold.
Lizzie thought about her father’s words as the transport plane lost height, bringing them closer to their destination. Determination was an admirable quality, her father had insisted with his usual bluff confidence, founded on nothing more than one of his hunches and the dregs from a bottle of Scotch. His Lizzie wasn’t short of determination. She would rebuild the family pride where he had failed.
How many other apparently confident people put on an act in order to reassure others? Lizzie wondered as she peered out of the small, grainy window. She had been planning to embark on this advanced training programme with horses in Brazil for years, and just hoped she wasn’t shooting too high. She was determined to set the family business back on its feet, but flying for hours over miles of uninhabited nothingness in Brazil had thrown her. She felt so far away from home, and seeing Chico Fernandez again after all these years was going to dent her confidence even more.
‘How come you’re not nervous?’ Lizzie’s friend and fellow groom Danny Cameron demanded, clutching on tightly to Lizzie’s hand as the plane dropped like a stone.
She put on one hell of an act? She wasn’t a great traveller, and probably felt the same fear as Danny. As the ground came up to meet them like a slap in the face, her stomach roiled. The distinctly unglamorous transporter, known as the Carrier Pigeon to the staff of Fazenda Fernandez, appeared to dive-bomb its target, which was a rambling ranch in the middle of the pampas in Brazil.
‘We’ll be fine,’ she soothed Danny, hoping for the best.
Would they make it?
Would she make it, more to the point? Never mind that the runway was short, and the plane was loaded down with horses, grooms, and equipment, all heading to the world-class training ranch of the infamous hard man of polo, Chico Fernandez. She might make it to the ground safely, but would she make it safely out of here with both her heart and her reputation intact? It seemed incredible now that Chico had once meant so much to her, but she’d been fifteen the last time she’d seen him in person, when, for one glorious summer, Chico had been her closest friend and confidant, until her parents started referring to him in the same tone people reserved for the devil.
Chico Fernandez was supposedly the Fane family’s nemesis, yet here she was, to suck him dry of all his equine knowledge, according to her father, before returning home to restore the horse-training business that, again, according to her father, Chico Fernandez had destroyed. She knew now her father’s bluster covered for his faults, and had learned to make up her own mind where his many, dramatic pronouncements were concerned. The college that had awarded her this scholarship to train with Chico Fernandez was spending good money on the course, as were all the other students. She guessed they, like her, also hoped to ‘suck the famous polo player dry’ of everything Chico could teach them.
Any thoughts her father might have had about this being a wonderful opportunity for Lizzie to get back at a man he considered his enemy were so far off the mark as to be ludicrous. But she’d listened patiently, as she always did when her father was on one of his rambles, as he assured her that this trip was simple justice, because Chico had stolen everything from him: his good name, his business, his wealth and success, and his horses. ‘Chico took everything from me—everything, Lizzie—even your mother! Never forget that.’
How could she forget her father’s impassioned speech, when he constantly reminded her that thanks to Chico he had been reduced to a drunken husk, while her mother had left him to go and live in the South of France with the latest in a long line of much younger men?
But not before her mother had been seduced by Chico? The rumours put about by her parents were even worse. They said Chico had forced her mother to have sex with him. Lizzie couldn’t equate that with the man she’d known, though her mother, whom Lizzie had been made to call Serena, had done everything she could to destroy Lizzie’s friendship with Chico, saying he was just a poor boy from the slums of Brazil, while her daughter was Lady Elizabeth Fane.
Lizzie had thought herself in love with Chico, and had cared nothing for her so-called status. She still cared nothing for it, but she was no longer a gullible adolescent and could see her parents’ faults. Whatever her father said, Lizzie doubted Chico was to blame for her family’s descent into ruin. In fact, her grandmother, who had taken over Lizzie’s care when her parents lost interest, had confirmed this, saying Lizzie’s parents hadn’t needed any help where ruining the family was concerned.