“Momma!” Natalie called as she slammed the door and dumped her book bag onto the floor by the door. Silence. “Momma!” she bellowed again.
“Natalie! What’s going on?” her mother asked as she came out of her office, notebook and pencil in hand.
Natalie turned to her mother, her eyes bright with excitement. “I need to make food!”
Georgia looked down at her daughter and smiled. “Honey, you are a great cook. You never need to ask me if you can make something.”
Natalie shook her head, practically vibrating with eagerness. “No, this is different. I need to make something for Spanish class. We’re having a celebration and I want to make turron blando!”
Georgia stared at her daughter for a long moment, no clue what Natalie had just said. “Um…okay.” She paused then shook her head, lifting her shoulders slightly. “Never heard of it. How do you make it?”
Obviously prepared for that question, Natalie whipped out the recipe, a grin so wide, her cheeks ached. She loved anything Spanish and this was just another opportunity to learn more. “I need honey and sugar!” she explained, thinking that doubling the sweet ingredient would make this even better. “Can I make it?”
Georgia shrugged, handing the recipe page back. “Sure. Why not?”
Natalie clapped her hands, almost dancing into the kitchen to start her “homework”. “This is going to be great! I’ll double the recipe so we can have some here at home.”
Georgia stared after her daughter, laughing at her enthusiasm. “You go for it,” she called out, then walked back into her office, determined to finish up the latest report so she could join her daughter in the latest task. It was always fun to watch Natalie’s enthusiasm. She relished just about anything Spanish. Hopefully, they would make enough money to take a trip to the lovely country for Natalie’s high school graduation.
Ten years later…
Natalie walked through the museum, absorbing the art and the sculpture. Everything was beautiful, more colorful than any other culture she’d studied. Spanish culture, in her mind, was more alive, more vibrant than any other country’s. The Moorish impact added a distinctive flavor along with the Catalan and Andalusion influence. She could see the French and Italian influence as well, but as she stepped through the various rooms of the art museum, she noticed that the other countries’ influence dissipated and the art took on a more distinctive flavor.
Sighing, she wondered if she might be able to afford a poster of some of the pieces. If she had her way, Natalie would plaster her walls with Spanish art and build a house based off of one of the famous Spanish castles.
So much beauty and power and…
The man standing in the doorway stopped her in her tracks, pulled her mind away from the beautiful paintings as nothing else ever could. He was tall and strong with a look in his eyes that caused her whole body to shiver with…awareness? Excitement? He watched her and nothing short of an explosion could have pulled her eyes away from the man. In the back of her mind, she remembered that she was wearing only a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt and wished that she’d pulled on something more interesting.
Then he came towards her, his eyes stopping any possibility of retreat. Natalie’s breath caught in her throat as she watched him come closer. And closer….
“Beunos dias, mi bella.” His voice was deep and rich, reminding her of the dark, flavorful coffee she’d enjoyed at breakfast. Once again, that shiver of awareness hit her and she smiled up into his fascinating eyes.
“Jose Garcia hurt his hand yesterday while plowing his fields,” Juan Pablo announced as soon as he sat down to dinner. The formal atmosphere of the room always presaged a formal conversation. Dinners here weren’t a simple meal where family gathered to discuss their day. Eating was secondary to conveying information learned over the course of the last several hours, forming a plan for the evening and next day. The heavy furniture and ancient walls of Castle Astrana only added to the intense sense of responsibility that permeated the air.
Javier stared at his father, waiting. The servants poured wine for his mother and father and Javier knew that the conversation would not continue until the servants had departed from the dining room.
When the servant left, Javier turned to his father. “I’ll speak with the doctor and arrange to have Mr. Garcia’s medical bills sent to us,” he said, earning an approving nod from his father.
Turning to his mother, he asked her about her day and politely listened to the latest town gossip, which was conveyed in the form of news. As he listened, Javier wondered if his mother had ever wanted to do more with her life. She seemed to flutter from brunch to manicurist to community event. But in a way, perhaps she did more than he thought. She was more of an eyes and ears to the neighborhood. Without her information, they wouldn’t know half of what was going on in their world. And if he’d learned one thing from his father, it was that their family had a responsibility to watch out for the villagers.
As his mother and father discussed the weekend’s social activities, he thought about how this part of Spain was still a bit feudal. His father was the Duque and ruled over everyone’s lives. There were judges and law enforcement, but when there was a dispute that couldn’t be handled through those avenues, it was brought here, to the castillo and presented to his father to determine how to handle the issue.
“You’ve been accepted to the University of Barcelona,” his father announced.
Javier opened his mouth, wanting to argue that there were other universities that could teach him what he wanted to learn. He thrived on business, wanted to expand beyond the traditional ways. Javier had been urging his father to branch away from the traditional revenues. But one look from his father and Javier knew that this was not the time to argue.
Soon, he thought, finishing his dinner and carefully placing the linen napkin beside his plate. “If you will excuse me, I’ll head over to the Garcia residence to check on Jose, father.”
Juan Pablo nodded his head slightly. “That’s a good idea. Thank you for taking on that responsibility.”
Javier knew better. Responsibility had been drilled into him since he was old enough to walk.
Ten Years Later…
Javier watched her, fascinated by her eyes that appeared to be entranced by each and every painting she walked by. The beautiful woman seemed to sigh with happiness and longing and he would have laughed, but he was…enchanted. Charmed.
For a long time, he followed her, noticing her curves encased in the denim fabric and cotton shirt. The cheap material couldn’t hide the glorious beauty of her figure. In fact, the cheap clothes only seemed to make her seem even more lovely, making him notice the delicate bone structure, the creamy complexion of her skin and…well, her delightful curves.
Javier chuckled to himself. She really was beautiful, but a woman with a figure like that…it was no wonder he’d noticed her.
And then she turned, their eyes colliding. His heart accelerated as he watched her, willing her to come to him. But she stood still, not obeying his unspoken command. So he went to her. Needing to speak to her. Needing to touch her and discover who she was.
“Beunos dias, mi bella,” he said. Instantly, he was imprisoned by her shockingly lovely golden eyes.