No. It was worse than that.
“He’s not your boyfriend, eh?” My neighbor’s voice was regretful. “Pity. Such a handsome man. Why did he come looking for you, then? Do you know him?”
Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. “When was he here?”
She shrugged, looking bemused. “A half hour ago. Maybe more.”
“Did you say anything about—about Miguel being my son?”
Dolores shook her head. “He didn’t give me the chance. He just asked if you lived in the house two doors down. I said yes. He pulled out his wallet and asked me not to mention his visit, because he wanted to surprise you. Can you imagine?” She flourished some bills from her apron pocket in delight. “He paid me a thousand pesos for my silence!”
Yes. I could imagine. I briefly closed my eyes. “But you told me anyway,” I whispered. “Bless you.”
She snorted. “Men always want to arrive with a flourish of trumpets. I thought it better for you to be prepared.” She looked at my shapeless white sundress and plain sandals with a moue of disapproval, then at my long, casual ponytail and makeup-free face. She sighed. “You have a good figure, but in that dress you look like a marshmallow. You don’t make the most of yourself. It’s almost like you don’t want to be noticed!” She shook her head. “But tonight you must be at your most irresistible, your most sexy, sí? You want him to want you!”
No. I really didn’t. Not that he would want me anyway, now his evil plan had succeeded. “He’s not my boyfriend.”
“So picky!” She made a tsk sound. “You don’t want this billionaire, you don’t want that one—I tell you, wealthy, handsome men are not so thick upon the ground as you seem to think!” Dolores glared at me. “Your son needs a father. You need a husband. Both of you deserve every happiness.” Her expression turned suddenly sly. “And the man at my door looked like he would bring a lot of happiness to a wife. Every night.”
“No doubt,” I said over the razor blade in my throat. It was true. Alejandro had brought me intense joy for one summer. And a lifetime’s worth of anguish since. “I should go.”
“Sí. It’s almost Miguel’s nap time, isn’t it, pequeño?” she crooned.
My baby yawned, his fat cheeks vying with his sleepy dark eyes for cuteness. Those eyes just like his father’s.
I exhaled, running a hand over my forehead. I’d allowed myself to think we were safe. That Alejandro had given up looking for me. I should have known. I should have known better than to start sleeping at night, to start making friends, to start making a real home for myself and my son. I should have known they would someday find me....
“Lena?” My neighbor frowned. “Is something wrong? You do not seem happy.”
“Did you tell him when I’d be back?”
“I wasn’t sure when you’d be done, so to be safe I said four o’clock.”
I glanced at the clock in her brightly painted front room. It was only three. I had one hour. “Thank you.” In a burst of emotion, I hugged her, knowing that she’d been kind to me—to both of us—but I would never see her again after today. “Gracias, Dolores.”
She patted my back. “I know you’ve had a hard year, but that’s in the past. Your life is about to change for the better. I can always feel these things.”
Better? I choked back a laugh, then turned away before she could see my face. “Adios....”
“He’ll be your boyfriend, just wait and see,” she called after me gleefully. “He’ll be your husband someday!”
My husband. A bitter thought. I wasn’t the one Alejandro had wished to marry. He wanted my wealthy, beautiful cousin, Claudie. It was the whole reason he’d seduced me, the poor relation living in the shadows of Claudie’s London mansion. If he and Claudie wed, together they’d have everything: a dukedom, half of Andalucía, political connections across the world, billions in the bank. They’d have almost limitless power.
There was just one thing they could never have.