A Price Worth Paying - By Trish Morey

CHAPTER ONE

FELIPE WAS DYING. Six months to live. Maybe twelve at a stretch.

Dying!

Simone swiped away a tear from her cheek, stumbling a little as she ran between the rows of vines clinging to the mountainside. Her grandfather would hate it if he knew she was crying over him. ‘I am old,’ he’d said, when finally he’d let her learn the truth, ‘I’ve had my time. I have few regrets …’ But then his eyes had misted over and she’d seen the enormity of those ‘few’ regrets swirling in their watery depths.

The sorrow at losing his wife of fifty years to her battle with cancer.

The despair when his recently reconciled daughter and her husband—Simone’s parents—were lost in a joy flight crash whilst holidaying not three months later.

And the shame of succumbing to drink and then to the cards in the depths of his resultant depression, gambling away three-quarters of the estate before he was discovered and dragged bodily from the table by a friend before he could lose his own home.

It was the regret that was killing him. Oh yes, there was cancer too—that was doing its worst to eat away at his bones and shorten his life—but it was the regret that was sucking away his will to fight his disease and give in to it instead; regret that was telling him that there was no point because he had nothing left to live for.

And nothing anybody could say or do seemed to make a difference. Not when every time he looked out of his window he saw the vines that were no longer his, and he was reminded all over again of all that he had lost.

She stopped at the edge of the estate, where the recently erected fence marked the new border between her grandfather’s remaining property and the neighbouring Esquivel estate. Here, where there was a break between the rows of vines staked and trellised high above her head, she could look down over the spectacular coastline of northern Spain. Below her the town of Getaria nestled behind a rocky headland that jutted out into the Bay of Biscay. Beyond that the sea swelled in brilliant shades of blue that changed with the wind and with the sun, a view so unlike what she had at home in Australia that it took her breath away every time she looked at it.

She inhaled deeply of the salt-tinged air, the scene of terraced hills, the tiered vines, the ancient town below all too picture perfect to be real. It wouldn’t seem real when she was back home in Melbourne and living again in one of the cheap, outer-city student flats she was used to. But Melbourne and her deferred university studies would have to wait a bit longer. She’d come expecting to stay just a few weeks between semesters. Then Felipe had fallen ill and she’d promised to stay until he was back on his feet. But after this latest news, it was clear she wasn’t returning home any time soon. Because there was no way she could leave him now.

Dying.

Hadn’t there been enough death lately without losing Felipe too? She was only just getting to know him properly—the long-term rift between him and his daughter keeping the families apart ever since she was a child, Felipe and his wife here in Spain, their wayward daughter, her forbidden lover and their granddaughter living in self-imposed exile in Australia.

All those wasted years, only to be reunited now, when mere months remained.

How could she make those last few months better for Felipe? How to ease the pain of all he had lost? She shook her head, searching for answers as she gazed across the fence at the acres of vines that were once his and that now belonged to others, sensing the enormity of his loss, his guilt, his shame, and wishing there was some way she could make things better.

For there was no way to bring back his wife or his daughter and son-in-law.

There was no money to buy back the acreage he had lost.

And given the long-running rivalry between the two neighbouring families, there was no way the Esquivels were going to hand it back when they had seized such a powerful advantage.

Which left her with only one crazy option.

So crazy there was no way it could ever work.

But was she crazy enough to try?

‘You sacked her!’ Alesander Manuel Esquivel forgot all about the coffee he was about to pour and glared incredulously at his mother, who stood there with