I loved him.
And I knew—I’d always known, really—how this would someday end.
Through my tears, I kissed him back desperately, letting him pull me into the whirlwind of mingled anguish and pleasure.
But when the heat between us was satisfied, coldness was all that was left. Both of us still naked, he held me against him on the bed. His voice was low.
“Why do you not look at me like you used to? What has changed? What do you—know?”
I looked at him. His face shimmered through my tears.
“Edward came to see me last week. At Rohares.”
“What!” he exploded, sitting up.
I held his hand. “I didn’t ask him to come. He snuck in. I only spoke with him for a moment. He wanted me to run away with him. When I refused, he told me...you had a woman here. In Granada. That you visited her. That you bought her a tavern. That you even sing to her....”
For a long moment, we stared at each other in the slanted bars of sunlight coming through the window blinds. I could almost hear the pounding of my heart.
Then Alejandro’s lip slowly curled.
“I will kill him,” he said, and with cold menace, started to rise from the bed.
“No!” Grabbing his arm, I looked up at him pleadingly. “It’s not about Edward anymore. It’s about us. You and me.” I swallowed, blinking fast as I whispered, “Do you love her?”
He looked down at me.
“Yes,” he said dully.
My lips parted in a silent, heartsick gasp. Numbly, I let him go.
“So that is your big secret. The thing I expected from the beginning.” I tried to laugh, wiping my eyes. “How very boring.”
“It’s not like that.” Sitting on the edge of the bed, he scowled at me. “You think so little of my loyalty, even after all the time we’ve spent together?”
“But you said you love her,” I whispered. “You’ve never said that to me. Not once.”
I heard his intake of breath. “It’s not like that,” he repeated, setting his jaw. “Theresa is not my mistress.”
“Then what?” I choked out. “What secret could you possibly be keeping, that would hurt me worse than that?”
“I protect the people I love. At any cost.” His voice was bleak. I looked at him sharply, and saw the vulnerability in his eyes. The yearning. He took a deep, shuddering breath. “How I wish I could tell you everything.”
Our eyes locked. Held. I opened my lips to plead—
He shook his head and rose to his feet. The yearning in his expression shuttered. His face returned to the handsome mask I knew so well—powerful, ruthless and cold.
“Come,” he said. “Our time is short.”
After a silent luncheon on the lovely terrace of the parador, we walked through the gardens of the Alhambra, with their flowers and trees and wide lush pools. As beautiful and varied and wide as they were, they didn’t hold a candle to the gardens of Rohares, in my opinion. Though perhaps I was biased. Because the castle had become my home.
Alejandro held my hand tightly as we walked. I didn’t even try to resist. The truth was I wanted the comfort of his hand. It felt warm and strong in mine. Was it wrong of me to still want to believe? To trust him?
Yes. I was a fool. Any of the women’s magazines would have called me an idiot for not already being on my way to a lawyer’s office. And yet...
We met a guide who took us on a private tour. We walked through the graceful arcades of the Alhambra complex, through the lush terraces with their views of Granada in the valley below, past the blue pools hedged by myrtle, reflecting the wide blue sky. But in spite of the fact that I’d dreamed of visiting the Alhambra all my life, I barely noticed the beauty. As we walked through cavernous rooms, decorated with tile and geometric patterns and arabesques of Arabic calligraphy in plaster, beneath jaw-dropping ceilings soaring high above, of the sun and stars, my mind was scrambling, trying to put the clues together.
Why would Alejandro need to protect Maurine and Miguel? What could the secret be?
We had our picture taken together in the famous stone Court of the Lions, from the fourteenth century.
“No,” the guide laughed. “You are newlyweds. Stand closer.”