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Heart’s Desire

Heart’s Desire by Pat GARCIA

Standing at the window, looking up at the wonderful clear blue sky, Lena was startled when she heard the doorbell ring. Ms. Rosario, the housekeeper, would answer it, she thought as she continued to look up towards heaven. It was her very first day in Spain. She had never been here before, and from what she could see at the airport and on the way to the penthouse that would be hers for the week, they had a lovely country. The airport was absolutely gorgeous. Deep in thought she did not hear Ms. Rosario as she entered into the sitting room of the penthouse, which would be her home for a week every month of this year. The contract to sing one week out of the month in Spain was her first lucrative engagement. Of course, it was connected with a lot of rules and stipulations, which she had not expected and was not used to, but for the kind of money that her sponsor was paying, it was well worth it. Ms. Rosario had informed her that she could leave her clothing since the apartment was booked only for her use the whole year through. Lena had been thrilled about that, thinking she would not have to transport much luggage back and forth. Besides, she could even open up her own bank account and buy two or three evening gowns for her concerts that she had to conduct in Spain.

The floor was carpeted so she didn’t hear the footsteps as they approached her from behind.

“Nice view isn’t it?”

Turning around she looked into the sea blue eyes of the bodyguard who had ben assigned to her.

“Yes, it is. May I help you? Did you forget something?” She thought he had already left to go to his own room.

“No, you may not help me and I didn’t forget anything. This is where I am staying for the week,” he answered.

“Oh no you’re not. “

“Why not? There are more than enough rooms in this Penthouse to accommodate eight people.”

“Mr. Ramierez, ____"

“Please call me Nigel."

“Okay, Nigel. I don’t think you know this but I need peace and quiet before my concerts.”

“I will not be disturbing you. You will have all the peace and quiet you need.”

“If you are not going to leave Nigel, then I will. I will inform the sponsor to find me other quarters.”

“I am not leaving and you are not going to other quarters, Lady, so get used to the fact that I am here.”

“This lady has a name!”

“Of course you do. Sorry about that Lena. Let me repeat myself for the last time. You're not going anywhere. These quarters are more than sufficient for you and I and the couple who is responsible for taking care of it.”

“What is your problem? I want another bodyguard!”

“Sorry again. You have me for the next year so get used to it, Sweetheart; and don’t bother contacting the sponsor because I go with the contract that you signed or didn’t you read the fine print on pages 12 and 13?”

Heart’s Desire- Chapter 1 - The Encounter

Chapter One – The Encounter

 

The Arrow And The Song

 

I shot an arrow into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow it in its flight.

 

I breathed a song into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For who has sight so keen and strong,

That it can follow the flight of song?

 

Long, long afterward, in an oak

I found the arrow, still unbroken;

And the song, from beginning to end,

I found again in the heart of a friend.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow[1]

 

 

At the ticket counter, Lena requested a window seat and the clerk smiled at her as he gave her what she requested.  Returning his smile, she asked,

"Are you from China?"

"Yes, how did you know that?"

"Oh! I didn't know it, but looking at your features, I thought you might be Chinese."

"Interesting."

"Why?"

"Most people don't really look at me. They are too busy attending to their own agenda, and they are not interested in whether I am Chinese or Korean. Thank you."

"For what?" Lena asked. And he smiled again without answering her.  

As she turned to leave, she looked into his eyes and said, "Thank you. I hope you have a nice day."

"Miss, ––I should thank you," he replied. "You have made my day. Have a nice flight and enjoy Spain."   Then he called out the next customer and his smile disappeared as the customer  began to complain about him being too slow servicing the people.

 

Lena walked to the departure lounge with her small overnight case in her hand.

Dark skinned with a burnt brown complexion, no one would have thought she was anywhere over thirty-five years of age.  She had a certain lift in her walk, as if she were on the way to behold something that had caught her interest. Her short Afro, neatly coiffed and cut to fit her face brought out her big eyes that were light brown in color, with naturally long lashes surrounded by bushy black eyebrows she didn't particularly care about.

Most people didn't see Lena as beautiful. It was only after hearing her voice, when  people got a glimpse of the raw diamond glistening beneath the surface.  

 

Men noticed her, but she ignored them. Her life, her time, her devotion she divided between her music and her cat, who was now in a cat hotel near her home, mourning over her leaving him alone for a week.

 

She felt a shimmer of pain touch her heart. She always felt heart pain when she had to leave him there. But I cannot leave him alone in my apartment, she thought,  and besides, I have no one reliable who would look after him, and she accepted the obvious. He would have to mourn until she had returned.  

 

Clay, the cat, was the boss in her house, and she chuckled as she thought about how she had acquired him.   Five years ago, after her morning jog, he  had approached her as she walked towards the entrance door of her apartment building.  She had squatted down to pet him, and he allowed her to tickle his tummy.   Not having any experience with cats, Lena was surprised when he rolled over three or four times, and she began talking to him.

"My, you are a pretty little cat," she said, and he had meowed as if in agreement with her.

"Are you a boy or a girl cat?"

"Meow, meow."

"Are you trying to tell me you are a little girl?" she asked and laughed, as she thought of the people in her apartment building. They would think she had flipped out if they saw her talking to a cat.

Again, the cat, "Meowed," and began to purr like a train as she continued to comb through its hair with one hand and rub his tummy with the other.

"Okay, then, I think you are telling me you are a female. It was nice talking with you, but I have to go now. I have a studio appointment in about two hours," and Lena chuckled at the cat's behaviour as she stood up. It also got up and followed her to the door.

Thinking he belonged to someone in the house she had let him in and gone upstairs to shower, and put on a fresh change of clothes before she left for the studio.

 

The hot water splashing on her body had felt good, and thoughts about the friendly cat she had just had an encounter with dominated her mind,  and a small grunt of laughter arose from deep within her and burst out of her mouth like a flowing river that seeks release.  Cats are cute, she thought, while drying herself as her mobile went off in her bedroom, interrupting her joyful thoughts.

It might be the studio, she mumbled to herself, so she wrapped her towel around her and ran to her bedroom to answer her phone.

"Hello___"

"Lena?" J asked.

"Well, who else could it be, J? You are calling me on my mobile. What 's your problem?"

"Just wanted to remind you about the studio appointment, and see if you want to ride with me," he replied.

"No, thanks. I'll take my own car, because I want to do some shopping afterward."

"Okay, then I'll see you at three."

"Yeah, bye." And she hung up.

 

Suddenly, she had heard something whining and scratching on her apartment door.  What is that? She asked herself. Putting on her bathrobe, she walked to her living room to look through her peephole.  Nobody stood before her door, but the noise was louder.  Lena's curiosity forced her to open the door and in walked the black cat with the pretty emerald green eyes she had petted before the apartment building.

"Now you, is your mommy not at home?" She asked her, thinking that she was female.

 

The cat looked at her, said, "Meow," and walking to her easy chair, jumped up and began to make herself at home, while cleaning her fur with her tongue.

"Sorry, but you can't stay in my apartment until mommy gets back, because I have a studio appointment. "

 

The cat continued to clean its fur, paying no attention to Lena. 

"Okay, buddy, you have to leave." She said as she walked towards the cat , and  it stood up and took off for her bedroom. She had run after her, but the cat thought she was playing a game.  Realizing she was not going to catch her before she had to leave her home to go to the studio, she decided to leave the cat in her apartment, and she crossed her fingers that she would not pee on her floors, and she breathed out a thankful sigh that her floors were wood.

 

Her cat encounter had happened five years ago, and Clay, as she now called him had been with her ever since.

Reaching the departure lounge, she found a place to sit facing the large windows in the terminal, so she could observe the planes as they took off and landed.  Again her mind wandered back to Clay. 

 

It had surprised her when she returned home to find out the cat belonged to no one in her building. Even more surprising was the fact  he had not urinated on her floors.  She tried to let him out to go pee, but he dashed off towards her bedroom once again and wouldn't budge from under the bed.

 

"I'm going to the store to get you a litter box and some food, since it seems as if you are going to be staying here for the night, she said to the cat. I don't know what I am going to do with it when I find your owner. They must be looking for you."

And the cat replied with a "Meow, Meow, Meow."

 

Lena regretted she could not speak cat language and laughed at the silliness of the whole situation.  I think I have been living alone too long. She thought. Something is wrong with my circuit board.

 

She returned from the supermarket with two bags of goodies, a litter box, sand and a ball for her to play with.  A lady she met at the supermarket was also shopping for her cat, and Lena walked up to her, seeking advice.

 

"Excuse me, Madam. Are you shopping for your cat?"

The lady was at first suspicious and cross.

"What is it to you is if I am?" she asked.

"Well, I need some help. There is a cat that just walked into my home, and now it refuses to leave. So, until I can find the owner, I am going to take care of him. "

"Oh, I am sorry. I thought you were trying to take my money."

Lena stifled a chuckle and said, "Madam, your money is safe with me. I am not here to rob you. I just wanted to know what you were buying for your cat, so I can buy it for the cat who has invaded my home.

"What kind of cat is it?"

"I have no idea. All cats were alike for me until today. This one walked up to me and rolled over three or four times as it let me stroke its fur."

"Oh, oh––" the lady said.

"What do you mean by Oh, Oh?" Lena asked.

"I mean that the cat was telling you, you belong to him."

"What do you mean, I belong to him?"

"That's the way cats are," she said. And Lena almost exploded as she said,

"Madam, I don't have any time to take care of a cat, and as soon as I find out who its owner is, I am going to take it home."

"Do you know what sex it is?"

" I asked it, and I believe it told me it is a female."

"Are you sure?"

"No, I am not sure, but why does that matter?"

"Because my experience tells me female cats don't like to be bothered very much, but you said this cat let you stroke him three or four times.  Sounds like a male to me."

"Well, it is not a male. It's a female. She told me so. So now will you tell me what you buy for your cat?"

Lena had returned home with everything. She had not known  a cat could cause so much work, and she made a vow to get it to its owner as soon as possible.

 

The four-legged animal home welcomed her return and as she heard the sand being poured in her litter box with sand, she rushed to it and let out Niagara Falls.

"I guess you're hungry too, Lena had said and she opened up a can of Whiskas and put it in the new cat dish she had bought.  Then she ran some fresh water in the new water bowl, she had bought and sat it beside the food.

 

Who would have thought that I would still have him with me? She asked herself while looking at the planes parked outside by the terminal at the airport.  How was I to know that it was not a female but a male?  And she continued to let her mind wander over the past event.

 

After looking for its owner for days with no success, she had gone to the Police Station.  They had no reports for a missing cat and told her to take it to the animal shelter.  She had planned to do just that, until she got home.

 

Clay had looked at her as if she were a traitor, and she could not take him there. The next day she looked up an animal doctor to have him examined. Maybe someone had reported their cat missing.  She chose the first doctor she had found, and the next day she and the cat she had now named Cleopatra went to see Uncle Doctor.  After a harrowing ride, because Cleopatra did not like cars and Lena had not put her in a cat cage, the two arrived at the doctor's office. 

 

"So, you found a stray cat, did you?" the nurse had said.

"No, I didn't find a stray cat. She found me."

"Okay. That happens some time. The doctor will be with you two in a moment."

So, Lena had taken Cleopatra in her arms and they had gone to sit in the waiting room.

"Do you know if she is fixed?"  The nurse yelled out.

"What is fixed and how do I know that?" Lena said, frustrated. "Didn't you hear me say, she's not my cat?"

Cleopatra looked at her with an accusing look, and Lena could have sworn the cat was saying, You're right. You belong to me, but the door opened and the doctor came out.

 

She had followed him with Cleopatra into the examining room.  Before he gave her the vaccinations she needed, he thought it best to examine her completely and Lena fussed with herself about the money she was putting out for someone else's cat.

"Is she a healthy cat, Doctor?" Lena had asked.

"Oh, it's healthy alright but it is not a she, Miss."

"Then what is it?"

"You have a boy here. It is a mighty healthy one at that."

Lena could have fainted.  She had left home with Cleopatra, and was now returning home with Clay.

 

Over the intercom, Lena heard her flight number being called out. It was time to board the plane.  I hope they have booked me a high-class economy seat, she thought. I surely don't want to sit in the back of the plane, and she approached the stewardess and handed her her ticket. 

 

"Please take the second entry and your seat is on the right hand side," the stewardess said.

"Thank you." Lena replied and walked past her and turned right.

 

Her boarding card said seat number 7 and looking up she saw seat number 7, a window seat, in the first class cabin.  This has got to be a mistake. My sponsors don't usually put me in first class, and if they did, they would have told me.

 

A steward came up to ask her if he could help her. Lena was creating a traffic jam in the aisle.

"May I help you, Miss?"

"Yes, you may. I believe there has been a mistake made. My seat placement says number seven. Do you have more than one seat, which is the number seven here in this plane?"

"No, Miss. This is the only seat seven we have, so it is your seat. Would you please let the others pass? You're blocking the entry of the other customers. "

Lena chuckled. This is a nice surprise she thought.  It looks as if taking this assignment has brought me good fortune.  And she removed herself from blocking the aisle with a big smile plastered over her face.

 

Lena was a singer, and she loved her job. It was her job, her hobby, and her heart's desire. Having had the possibility of becoming a world star, she had turned it down, because it conflicted with her own principles. She had established before the beginning of her career a list of the things she would not compromise on, things, which went against her own beliefs, and she stood firm in her decision.  This hindered her from receiving some of the more lucrative jobs.  Therefore, she was very surprised when she received an invitation to sing in Spain for three days out of each month for an entire year. It required  she spend the entire week in Spain, but she would be paid for the entire week although she had to do only three concerts.  Clay had meowed against it, but he doesn't have any choice in the matter as much as he eats, and as fickle as he is, Lena thought. The best surprise came last week as she had enquired about hotels. She had wanted to book her accommodations.  She received a telegram within an hour, which stated in a very stiff commanding tone that her meals and apartment to include a live in housekeeper and a bodyguard were included. She was speechless!

 

She relaxed as the plane finally reached its altitude and closing her eyes, she let her mind wander back to last month's concerts in Cordova.  The people were friendly and her joy would have been complete if she had not encountered the bodyguard who had been assigned to her, Nigel Ramirez.   She hoped she would not encounter him again.  It had taken her a week to get him out of her system.  Even now, when exhaustion hit her, he would pop into her dreams and pay her a visit.  She looked out of her window and whispered a prayer, "LORD, take care of me in Spain. You know I am a stranger in their country." And she dozed off to sleep.

 

She opened her eyes as the stewardess gently touched her shoulders, asking her to sit upright. They were getting ready to land.  She had not known she had slept so intensely.

 

On the ground, a man was waiting to pick her up and throw her into a new adventure that she was totally unaware of.  As he stood in the terminal in the arrival lounge, his eyes observed two gentlemen with a package. One of them he knew very well. After all, his team had arrested him several times, but somehow or another they never had enough evidence to put him behind bars. He watched them as they left the terminal and headed towards a Mercedes Benz, and for once, he was happy they had disappeared. Making a mental note of the observation, so that he could inform the chief, he brought his mind back to his purpose of being where he was.

 

Nigel Ramirez, strikingly handsome, with straight jet-black hair and dark blue eyes that looked cold and distant like the sea, worked with the special unit team that covered the southern provincial region including Cordova, the capital.  His team was responsible for the drug traffic scene, which had increased tremendously over the past five years.  Five years ago, he had become unexpectantly, a father to two boys that he had now adopted and Conchita, his sister had put off her plans to come live with him, and take care of them, until he found the woman he wanted to marry.  Nigel had dated many women, but Giovanni, his youngest son, immediately rejected every one he brought home.

 

A year ago, Nigel, who had been a Christian for years, asked God to give him a wife, since it was very obvious he wasn't succeeding on finding one on his own. He wanted someone who fit into his lifestyle and was willing to devote herself to him and his two boys, as well as have a big heart and understanding for his sister, Conchita. 

 

He was about to depart for home, when his chief had come in and asked him if he could be a bodyguard for Lena Jermaine, a singer, who was touring Spain for three days.  The agent, who had been scheduled, had an emergency at home and would not be able to fulfill his obligations.  Although Nigel had made plans to spend an evening with the boys, he had said yes to help his boss out. 

 

 

 Even though everyone in the office knew Nigel really didn’t need to work, they admired the fact that he pulled his weight and worked harder than any of them.  He had inherited his father’s wealth, and his father's cleverness, but Nigel was a daredevil at heart.  He loved being a part of the SWAT team.

 

He had picked up Lena Jermaine from the airport and escorted her to her hotel,  and she had shown him the cold shoulder the entire distance as they traveled in the car.  He didn't care particularly for or like women with a chip on their shoulder, and so he regretted doing his chief a favour immediately.

"Buenos Dias, I am Nigel Ramirez and your escort for the next three days," he had said.

Lena had looked at him as if he were some kind of ghostly apparition and said,

"Hi, well, let's go," and she turned towards the exit.

 

 That had angered him.  Not knowing that Lena was fighting with the fear of performing, he thought she was one of those divas who had no sense of kindness and respect for others and his heart had hardened against her.  As he walked her to his car, he asked,

"Would you like something to eat before I escort you to your hotel?"

"No, thank you. I just want peace and solitude, before my sound check. I don't need you until then," she said, but she had not intended to hurt him. She was only being honest.

"Don't worry, Lady. You'll get your solitude." And Nigel withdrew into himself.

 

 

Later on that afternoon at her sound check he discovered her fright. Watching her pace up and down the side of the auditorium where the technicians were standing, he at first thought she was on some kind of drugs.  When the Priest, whom he knew since he was a child, entered the room, he mentioned it casually to him.

"Do you know this woman is on drugs?"

Father Santana had laughed.  "Drugs, Nigel. I can honestly tell you, you're mistaken. That is stage fright. Lena has suffered with it, since she has been singing. She is fighting with her enemy as she calls it, and she usually blocks everyone who wants to get near her until she has conquered it."

"If she is that afraid then why does she sing?"

"That is her gift, Nigel. She is blessed to be one of those people who has been given the voice to sing to others. But such gifts come with great responsibility and most of the time with a weakness or weaknesses that such people must battle against."

"If I were her, I would refuse to sing."

"No you wouldn't Nigel. If you look at your own job, you are in the same position. You have found your life's calling, and may I say as your Priest, it could demand your life. Tell me, will you quit tomorrow because of the danger, or because of those two boys that you love so deeply, or because of your dear sister?"

"No, I wouldn't, Father Santana. I hadn't considered her job as a calling. Now that you have given me some insight, what happened today is becoming clearer."

 

 Surprised over the information, he had received from the Priest concerning Lena, Nigel thought back to their encounter at the airport and saw her distance in a different light.   He watched her as she walked to the stage to test her microphone, her head bowed down a little, her eyes distant as she took each step, step for step. 

 

She picked up her microphone and standing in the middle of the stage she began to sing, a cappella. No one played, the instruments remained silent, but Lena Jermaine sang, and she conquered his heart. Her voice soothed his aching soul.   Smooth and soft, like velvet, it caressed his heart, and he had a strong desire to take her–– to cradle her in his arms.  He was mesmerized by her voice.  As he listened, peace flooded his heart, and he yearned to be one with her.  Nigel had fallen in love with his client. It was something he had not believed would ever happen to him, and he saw her as the answer to his prayer.  God had shown him his wife. 

 

Therefore, Lena's presence in Spain was necessary. A year is a long time, he thought. But I have got to give her time to get to know me, Conchita and the boys, He wanted to see if the boys and Conchita got along well with her. After all the boys would be spending a lot of time with her while he was working, especially when Conchita departed to fulfill her heart's desire.

 

TO BE CONTINUED:  AUGUST, 2012, CHAPTER Two – Getting Settled



[1] Longfellow, Henry, Wadsworth, The Arrow And The Song,  THE MENTOR BOOK OF MAJOR AMERICAN POETS.  Edited by Oscar Williams and Edwin Honig,  1962. Published by The New American Library.

Heart’s Desire- Chapter 2 - Gettting Settled

When Lena de-boarded the plane, she cleared customs with no problems and walked to the entrance leading to the terminal.  It was extremely noisy due to a group of tourists who had just arrived with their tour guide.  Lena turned to see if her escort had gotten mixed up in the crowd of people. He might think I am  among them, she thought  as she felt a tap on her shoulder, before being spun around to look into the chest of Nigel Ramirez.

"Do you always scare people half to death when you approach them?" Lena asked, a little cross and disappointed that her prayers had not been answered. Of all the people she had met in Spain during her first visit, she certainly had not expected to meet Nigel at the airport.

"Did I scare you? If I did, I didn't intend to. I wanted to surprise you."

"Well, you've succeeded. I am surprised. What are you doing here?"

"Picking you up."

"Why are you here picking me up? I was expecting my sponsor.  Do you know everybody in this country?"

"No, but I do know your sponsor extremely well, and that is why I'm picking you up. I am your escort, or your bodyguard while you are here in Spain," Nigel replied without informing her that he was also her sponsor. 

"Oh no you aren't! There must be a mistake somewhere."

"There's no mistake, Lena.  I will be escorting you around this week.  Shall we go to my car?" and he offered her his arm and gave her a look that let her know she had better not protest.

Taking hold of his arm, they both walked toward the elevator leading down to the car park.

"Did you have a nice flight?"

"Yes, I did as a matter of fact. Something beautiful happened to me today."

"Oh, what happened?"

"My sponsor bought me a first class ticket, and I didn't know anything about it, until I got on the plane. At first, I thought it was a mistake and the clerk at the ticket counter had made an error in the seating, but then I checked the ticket after I had sat down, and it was no mistake.  My seat number was  number 7.  So, I checked my return flight, and it is also first class!"

"Did you enjoy it?  The first class section, I mean?"

"Of course I did, Nigel. What woman wouldn't?"

"Just asking.  You know I am a curious person who likes to know things."

"How well, do I know that? I haven't forgotten what happened the last time I was here."

"Lena––that will not happen again as long as you are open and honest with me. If you remember, I asked you several times who the man was, and you were not truthful with me."

"Nigel, I didn't think it was any of your business who he was, nor did I think it was necessary that you know what he asked me."

"Well now you know anything concerning you is my business. As long as you are under my care and protection, I want to know exactly what you are planning and more importantly, I want to know with whom you are planning to do things with.  Is that clear?"

……………

 

They left the elevator in silence.   Nigel's demands dumbfounded Lena, and she decided to talk with her sponsor, later on in the evening, after  Nigel had deposited her in her apartment.

As Nigel opened the car door for her to get in, he observed her facial structure. She was angry with him, and he could see it. The atmosphere between them had gone from lukewarm to frosty, but he had no problems with that. He would not tolerate her going out with other men, because she was in his care.  He planned to escort her wherever she wanted to go and that was a condition he had been wise enough to put in her contract.  He chuckled to himself as he thought, "She hasn't read the contract thoroughly, but that will change.  I don't want her losing her fortune and that of the boys, if something happens to me, by signing her fortune away in ignorance to some gigolo."

Breaking the silence, he asked her,

"Would you like to eat out this evening or at the apartment?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Of course you do. I've just offered you one, dinner at the apartment or at a restaurant, or didn't you understand me?"

"If I say I would like to eat out, can I go out alone?"

"No, Lena. I don't want you going out alone in a city you do not know. You just got here and I want you to get to know your way around first."

"Then I'll eat at the apartment," Lena replied and let out a weary sigh. All of a sudden, she was tired. Talking with Nigel Ramirez demanded lots of energy she wanted to preserve for her concert, and she sat back in her seat and closed her eyes and thought about Clay. She missed him. He had become her comforter when she was stressed.

 

……………………….

The drive to her new home lasted about thirty minutes.  Nigel was an excellent driver and as he drove away from the city of Cordova to a tiny village, she hoped that it was not too far out and she thought to herself, Wherever I am staying, it seems far from Cordova.  I hope they have good bus transportation or I will be stuck in the apartment the whole day, and I definitely don't want to stay stuck up in an apartment in such lovely weather.

She turned to look at Nigel's profile.  He was really a handsome man in his own way.  His skin tanned a light brown, she observed his handgrip on the steering wheel and thought back to her first visit to Cordova.  He had taken her out to dinner after her concert, and they had laughed over many things. She had felt comfortable being in his presence and had let the distance she usually puts between her and the person, who is there to watch out for her, disappear.   How it happened she couldn't say, but between two glasses of wine and a nice atmosphere, and a couple of slow dances with mellow music, she had landed in his arms afterwards, and she had enjoyed it. He had kissed her with a certain gentleness that had brought out the woman hidden deep inside of her.  Later, she could have kicked herself for forgetting where she was and had tried to put distance between her and Nigel for the second concert by accepting an invitation to dinner from a friend of one of her sponsors.  Nigel had asked her who he was, and what he wanted from her. She refused to tell him, so Nigel had left her dressing room and talked with the man himself.  It was after the concert that she found out he had cancelled her date, and she was livid with anger.   Nigel promptly took her into his arms and told her to calm down, and made it quite plain he would not tolerate her yelling or scolding him. She wasn't his mother!   Wanting to get out of his proximity, she had caught hold of her temper and listened as Nigel told her he would not have done what he had done, if she had been honest with him and given him answers to his questions.  The evening had been rough. He insisted on their going to dinner. Knowing that she didn't eat before a concert, he knew she was hungry.  There were no repeats of what happened on the first night, but when he drove her to the airport three days later, he did the most unexpected thing when she turned to tell him goodbye.  He took her in his arms and kissed her again.  It had taken her weeks to get over that embrace, and now she was sitting in his company once again. Just my luck she thought. 

Deciding to ease the tension between them, she asked about the distance between the city and her new home.

"Am I living very far outside of the city limits?"

"Yes, the village is two towns away from the apartment, but I believe you'll love it. Mountains surround the village. "

"Are there any buses or is there a train station available?"

"There is one bus which runs every three hours during the day but no train station. The majority of the people go by bike, when they have something to take care of in the village, or they go by car to Cordova. Why do you ask?"

"I was just wondering how I am going to get around while I am here. I don't want to stay cooped up in the apartment all day long." And Nigel chuckled at her answer.

"Are you laughing at me?"

"No, I'm not laughing at you. It is just funny the way you described staying in your new apartment.  I've never heard it described that way before."

"It's dialect. Sorry, cooped up is a word we used when we talk about chickens on a chicken farm."

"That's nice to know. I'll make sure you aren't cooped up then."

"Nigel, I didn't mean you have to look after me, I can take care of myself," Lena said and withdrew into herself, once again. She had the funny feeling, the more she talked, the more Nigel would feel responsible to look after her, and that is what she did not want.

……………………

They arrived at a beautiful apartment building spread out and sitting high above the landscape, surrounded by large palm and willow trees.  A quaint old medieval villa, it  was beautiful. The grounds were immaculate and the grass glittered with drops of water, which looked like pearls had fallen on it. There were four garages on the side of the house and a large veranda on each floor, which went from one end of the house to the other end.

Lena looked at Nigel, astounded by the regal beauty and asked, "Is this where my apartment is?"

"Yes, it is. You are on the top floor. There are only four apartments in this villa," and he got out of the car and went around to her door and opened it.

"Shall we?  I believe Mrs. Rosario is impatiently waiting for you to arrive.   She and her husband are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the apartment you’ll be staying in."

Suddenly, Lena's shyness came out. Not knowing anyone except Nigel, she feared  Mrs. Rosario might not like or accept her.

"Is she nice, Nigel?" She asked, barely whispering her question so that he almost missed it.

Nigel looked down at her and for the first time since their drive in the car,  his face softened with a smile. Her shyness is there, he thought. Lena, I love you and you don't have to be afraid of anything. Mrs. Rosario loves you already, because you are the woman that makes me happy.

"She's very nice and she's looking forward to taking care of you every month upon your arrival."

"Are you sure about that, Nigel?"

"Yes, I am. That is one thing I'm very sure about."

"Then, I guess I will have to take your word for it," Lena replied, and she sighed as she looked up toward the veranda. 

"Are you ready? I'll come down and get your bags after I've accompanied you into your new home. "

"Yes, I'm ready."

Although Lena was used to living alone, for some reason, she could not explain, she clung to Nigel. Living alone had always given her a certain amount of security, but  since Clay had entered her life, things had changed. It had been hard adjusting to him even though he was only a cat.  She wanted her space, but Clay either refused to understand or didn't accept the fact that she needed her space away from him.  He wanted to snuggle up to her every chance he got. In fact, he demanded she cuddle up with him first, before she unpacked her bags every time she came back from a road trip that took her away for more than one day. As she thought about him, a smile came across her face and Nigel asked, "Why are you smiling?  Did I say something funny?"

"No, I was thinking about Clay."

"Who's Clay, Lena?" Nigel asked, his voice suddenly hardened; irritated at the thought she could have a man waiting for her in Germany.

"Why?"

"Why do you always ask why? Just tell me, who Clay is, or are you trying to provoke me to anger on your first day?"

"Clay is my cat, Nigel, and no I am not trying to provoke you to anger on my first day in this lovely country."

"Oh, I didn't know you had a cat."

"There are a lot of things that you don’t know about me, Nigel."

 Where's he staying now?"

"In a cat hotel until I get back. He doesn't like it, but I told him he has no say so in the matter, as finicky as he is.  He eats like a king." And Nigel let out a hearty laugh.

"Then let's go? I see Mrs. Rosario standing on the veranda, wondering what is taking us so long."

 

 Without looking up at the veranda, Lena let Nigel lead her to the entrance door of the apartment building.  As they walked through the revolving door, the concierge came to greet them.  Lena, again, drew close to Nigel, and Nigel willingly took her in his arms.  He thought, your clinging has captured me, Lena. If it takes meeting strangers for you to seek the comfort of my arms, then I will have to put more strangers in your way.  I love it when you seek my arms for protection.  And his arms tightened around her.

 

Lena lifted her head to look up into his eyes, and he lowered his head and kissed her on her forehead.

What is wrong with me, she thought.  What am I afraid of? I really believe I have been living alone too long.  I never thought I would be this afraid of people.  And her thoughts went back to what J had been nagging her about for the last two months.  He had accused her of drifting away from civilization and had practically begged her to consider taking in  a roommate.   She promptly refused to even think about it!  Then, Clay came into her life, and the topic was forgotten.

……………………

The concierge greeted her heartedly.

"Buenos Dias Senora! Welcome to Spain, and welcome to Venta Corez!" Enclosed in Nigel's arms, she stretched out her hand.  

Nigel whispered in her ear "It's alright, Lena. Senor Castanos is not going to hurt you.  He is a part of the security and makes sure only those who live here go past the reception desk."

She looked up into his sea blue eyes and whispered words of thanks, amazed at the deep-sea blue color.  That he wasn't shocked at her fright did not surprise her. It reminded her of how he cared for her on her first trip. Then she had been surprised at the consideration she had received.  

"Buenos Dias," Lena replied, and he shook her hand with a firm grasp as he enclosed it within his.

Still in Nigel's embracement, they walked to the lift.

 "Are you sure there are only four apartments in this building? It seems pretty large for only four apartments."

"Very sure. This is an old villa turned into four condos, as you would say in the country of your birth.  Each condo is large and spacious, and each tenant has the solitude and quietness they are seeking."

As they stepped out of the lift, Mrs. Rosario was already standing at the door, waiting on  them.  Lena lifted her head to look into her eyes as they walked to her.

"Buenos Dias, Senora," Lena said, extending her hand.

Mrs. Rosario smiled. She liked this one. The other women Senor Nigel had brought home had treated her like a servant to do their bidding.  This one is different, she thought. She has extended me the hand of friendship, and Mrs. Rosario reached out for Lena's hand and took her in her arms, while giving Nigel an approving wink.

Nigel returned Mrs. Rosario's smile and his world brightened. Watching the two walk together into the apartment, he thought about Clay.  I must see that the cat comes with her the next time.  He might as well get used to his new home and his new family.  Giovanni would love him, I'm sure.

Speaking to the backs of the two, he told them that he would go downstairs and get the luggage, but the two women paid no attention to him as they let the door shut before his face.

 ………………….

 His body stature relaxed as he realized Lena had passed the first hurdle of acceptance in his family, and it gave him a new burst of energy that made him walk vigorously to the lift.  Mrs. Rosario had taken her to heart. Everyone, including his sister, Conchita, knew how protective Mrs. Rosario was of the whole Ramirez family, and especially since the two boys had arrived.  Nigel couldn't help but chuckle, as he ran towards the lift to go to the car and bring up the luggage.  Lena had won her over with an outstretched hand of fellowship, and he grinned.   She is simply my woman, he thought and walked to the reception desk, after departing the lift to ask Senor Castanos how his family was doing, before going to get the luggage.

 ……………………

 Lena was standing at the window, looking up at the wonderful clear blue sky when Nigel returned.  She had not heard a doorbell ring, and thought Nigel had probably deposited her luggage at the reception desk to be brought up by the concierge and had left without saying goodbye.  This disturbed her, and she was trying to shake off the feeling as she wondered why it had disturbed her, when he tapped her on her shoulder and whispered in her ear,

"A penny for your thoughts?"

She chuckled and turned to tell him her thoughts were much more valuable than a penny, but before she could say the words, his mouth had found hers as he pulled her into an embrace.  His hands slipped down to her buttocks to bring her closer as she opened her mouth and let him capture her tongue, awakening feelings in her that made her struggle to be free.

"I'm sorry," Nigel said, breathing heavily. "I couldn't resist kissing you. I let my feelings of having you here get the best of me."

"Don't apologize," Lena whispered, caught off guard. She realized she had wanted him to kiss her.  "I am also at fault. I have been clinging to you today, and I'm quite sure that my actions played a roll in what has just happened.  So let's forget it."

"It is not that easy to forget, Lena." Nigel said, and lifting her chin up to look at him, she saw desire in his eyes that frightened her.  

"Yes, it is. All you have to do is try. How did you get in without ringing the doorbell?"

"I have my own keys."

Nigel changed the subject as he stood before the window, looking up towards the clouds she had been admiring. He didn't want to argue with her; it had been so peaceful between them, since they had arrived, and he wanted to show her his love.

"Nice view isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. It is very lovely. Are you staying for dinner?"

"Yes, Lena."

"Oh, then don't you think we should inform Mrs. Rosario that there will be two of us?

"She already knows."

"Oh_" and Lena stood next to him pondering over his answer, and where he would be staying.

"What are you thinking about, pretty lady?" He asked.

"I am wondering where are you staying, because I would like to get out and do some exploring tomorrow, before you pick me up for the sound check."

"I'm staying here."

"Oh no you're not."

"Why not?  There are more than enough rooms in the penthouse to accommodate eight people"

"Mr. Ramirez–––"

"So far as I can remember, the name is Nigel."

"Okay, Nigel. I don't think you know this, but I need peace and quiet before my concerts."

"I will not be disturbing you, Lena.  You will have all the peace and quiet you need."

"If you are not going to leave Nigel, then I will.  I will inform the sponsor that he needs to find me other quarters, because I need my own space!"

"I'm not leaving, and you are not going to go to other quarters, Lady, so get used to the fact I am going to be living here!" He replied without raising his voice, but he spoke to her as if he were some type of commander in charge.

"This lady has a name!"

"Of course you do. Sorry about that, Lena. I didn't mean to throw your own tactics at you.  Let me repeat myself for the last time, so you can clearly understand what I am saying.  You're not going anywhere.  These quarters are more than sufficient for you and me, and the couple who is responsible for taking care of it. You are safe with me."

"Nigel, you know this is not going to work.   What is your problem? I want another bodyguard, and why do I need one anyway?"

"Sorry again.  You have me for the next year, so get used to it, Sweetheart; and don't bother contacting the sponsor, because I go with the contract you signed, or didn't you read the fine print on pages twelve and thirteen?"

 

………………………………

 

End of Chapter 2 -

 

 

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