A Vow to Secure His Legacy

By: Annie West

PROLOGUE

‘IMOGEN! WHAT A lovely surprise.’ The receptionist looked up from her desk. ‘I didn’t expect to see you again.’ She paused, her smile fading. ‘I was so sorry to hear about your mother.’

Her voice held a note of sympathy that stirred grief, even after four months. It was like pressure applied to a bruise that hadn’t faded. The pain was more intense today because coming here, doing this, was so difficult. Imogen laced her fingers together to stop them trembling.

‘Thanks, Krissy.’ The staff here at the specialist’s consulting rooms had been terrific with her mum and her.

Imogen swept her gaze around the familiar space. The soothing sea-green furnishings, the vase of bright gerberas on the counter and the waiting room of people apparently engrossed in their magazines. She recognised their alert stillness—a desperate attempt to pretend everything would be all right. That they’d receive good news from the doctor, despite the fact he had a reputation for dealing with the most difficult cases.

Her stomach swooped in a nauseating loop-the-loop. A chill skated up her spine to clamp her neck.

Swiftly, she turned back to the desk.

‘What brings you here?’ Krissy leaned in. ‘You just can’t stay away, is that it? You love our company so much?’

Imogen opened her mouth but her throat constricted. No words came out.

‘Krissy! That’s enough.’ It was Ruby, the older receptionist, bustling in from a back room. She wore an expression of careful serenity. Only the sympathetic look in those piercing eyes gave anything away. ‘Ms Holgate is here for an appointment.’

There was a hiss of indrawn breath and a clatter as Krissy dropped the stapler she’d been holding.

‘Please take a seat, Ms Holgate. The doctor is running a little late. There was a delay in surgery this morning, but he’ll see you shortly.’

‘Thanks,’ Imogen croaked and turned away with a vague smile in Krissy’s direction. She couldn’t meet the other woman’s eyes. They’d be round with shock. Perhaps even with the horror she’d seen in her own mirror.

For weeks she’d told herself she was imagining things...that the symptoms would pass. Until her GP had looked at her gravely, barely concealing concern, and said he was sending her for tests. Then he’d referred her to the very man who’d tried to save her mother when she’d suffered exactly the same symptoms.

Imogen had had the tests last week and all this week she’d waited for a message from her GP saying there was no need to see the specialist, that everything was clear.

There’d been no message. No reprieve. No good news.

She swallowed hard and made herself cross the room, taking a seat where she could look out at the bright Sydney sunshine rather than at the reception desk.

Pride dictated she play the game, hiding her fear behind a façade of calm. She took a magazine, not looking at the cover. She wouldn’t take it in. Her brain was too busy cataloguing all the reasons this couldn’t end well.

A year ago she’d have believed everything would be okay.

But too much had happened in her twenty-fifth year for her to be complacent ever again. The world had shifted on its axis, proving once more, as it had in childhood, that nothing was safe, nothing sure.

Nine months ago had come the news that her twin sister—flamboyant, full-of-life Isabelle—was dead. She’d survived paragliding, white-water rafting and backpacking through Africa, only to be knocked over by a driver in Paris as she crossed the street on her way to work.

Imogen swallowed down a knot of grief. Isabelle had accused her of being in a rut, of playing safe when there was a wide world out there to be explored and enjoyed.

Her twin had followed her dream, even knowing the odds of her succeeding were a million to one. Yet she had succeeded. She’d moved to France and through talent, perseverance plus sheer luck had snaffled a job with a top fashion designer. She’d had everything to look forward to. Then suddenly her life was snuffed out.

Soon after had come their mother’s diagnosis—a brain tumour. Massive, risky to operate on, lethal.

Blindly, Imogen flipped open the magazine on her lap.

When the news had come from Paris she’d protested that there must have been a mistake—Isabelle couldn’t possibly be dead. It had taken weeks to accept the truth. Then, as her mother’s headaches and blurry vision had worsened and the doctors looked more and more grim, Imogen had been convinced there would be a cure. Fatal brain tumours just didn’t happen in her world. The diagnosis was impossible.

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