Welcome to the fourth installment of my paranormal novel Garlic for Breakfast.
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He beamed at me when he was done. “I will ask Beatriz to send you a copy,” he said, whisking the contract in his briefcase.
“Why don’t you ask her now?”
I turned my eyes towards the woman standing by the door and, as I did, she came to life and stepped inside.
With the feline grace that characterized all his movements, Becquer stood—the noise of his chair skidding the floor lost in the brouhaha of conversation that once more filled the room—and motioned his secretary to join us.
“Beatriz,” he called as she came closer, “what a pleasant surprise. We were just talking about you.”
He flashed at her a smile that would have charmed a miser out of his gold. But the pinched expression on the woman’s face remained unchanged. “Indeed,” she said and stared at me.
I climbed to my feet.
“Federico called,” Beatriz said after Becquer had introduced us and told her I had already signed with him. “He’s flying into Philadelphia and wants you to pick him up.”
Becquer swore with an old fashioned Spanish word I had never heard spoken before. “Why didn’t you send Matt?” he growled. “Or tell him to rent a car?”
“I did. But he insisted he wanted you. You know he doesn’t like driving.”
Like a boy told he must do his homework before playing, Becquer sulked. “Is that why you came? To tell me this?”
Beatriz nodded. “I called your cell first. But, as usual, you left it at home.”
“I hate cell phones,” Becquer said.
“You better go,” Beatriz insisted. “It took me a while to find you. Federico’s plane will be landing soon. And he hates waiting.”
“Yes, he does, doesn’t he? Even more than he hates me.”
“Federico doesn’t hate you.” Beatriz’s voice was firm as if talking to a stubborn child. “He…”
“Then why does he do this to me? Now, I won’t have time to set the lights.”
Beatriz took a step back as if to urge him to follow. “You don’t have to worry about that. I told Matt to set them after you left this morning. I thought you were too busy this year to care for such trivial matters.”
Becquer stared her down. “I appreciate your concern,” he told her, the stiffness of his body saying otherwise. “But you know I like to decorate the house myself.”
“You can always change the decorations if they are not to your liking.”
“Of course.” He looked at his watch, a flash of silver on his wrist, then he continued, no trace of anger left in his voice. “But you were right in asking Matt to do it. If I am to get Federico, I will merely make it on time before the first guests arrive. Which reminds me, he said turning towards me, “I have not invited you yet. Have I?”
“No, I don’t think you have.”
“How rude of me! I host a party for my authors every year for Halloween. I would be thrilled were you to come.”
“Thank you for the invitation, but–”
“The party starts at six,” he interrupted me. “Don’t worry about the directions. I’ll send Matt to pick you up. Expect him around five thirty.” He turned to Beatriz, “Please remind him if I forget.”
“Great,” he continued as Beatriz nodded. “One more thing,” he said to me. “Please, don’t mention my–condition as my other authors do not know.”
He smiled when I agreed and bowed to me and, after stealing his briefcase from the table, wrapped one arm around Beatriz’s waist and whisked her away.
I watched them go. He, dark and tall, she swaying slightly on her high heels, their closeness hurting in a way that shouldn’t have.
His hand never leaving her waist, he opened the door and held it open for her to pass. And as he did, their bodies touched.
Beatriz looked back over her shoulder and glared at me, her pale blue eyes cold like ice, her lips closed in a tight line. Then she was gone.
I sat back.
I was breathing hard, I noticed, and my heart was beating fast. What had just happened? Was Beatriz jealous of me as Becquer had suggested, jealous that I’d take her place? Or was she warning me that Becquer was his? But he wasn’t, was he?
“She’s my personal secretary,” Becquer had told me. How personal, I wondered now. Had he meant that they were lovers? And what if they were? Why should that bother me? But they were not, could not be for she was close to my age and he was…almost two hundred years old.
I closed my eyes for a moment to calm myself down. What was I thinking, worrying about Becquer’s private life instead of worrying that he had a life at all, as he, by all logic, should have been long dead? Unless none of this had happened. Unless I had imagined he had stopped time. Unless his claim that he was Becquer had been a lie.
Outside the window, coming down Main, a dark convertible waited at the light. As I watched, the roof rolled back and the sun poured inside the car, on the black hair and pale skin of the man who claimed to be Becquer. I held my breath, afraid that he would burst into flames. Across the distance, Becquer’s eyes locked on mine and, in my head, I heard his laughter, a clear laughter of childish joy. Before I could react, the light turned green and, with a slight movement of his hand, he shifted gears, and, disappeared in a blur of blue.
His acknowledgment of my reaction did nothing to reassure me because, as far as I was from the window, no human eye could have seen me. And so I knew that Becquer was Becquer as he claimed, an immortal who could freeze time, and I, by signing the contract, had just bound myself to him.
I took a deep breath. The smell of coffee overpowered now the other scent, the scent of lemon with a hint of cinnamon, Becquer had left.
Steam still rose from the second cup he had brought me. I picked it up and swallowed the espresso in one gulp, burning my tongue. But caffeine did not do the trick. The fear remained.
Unfortunately, as Becquer had mentioned, in the States, you can’t get brandy in a cafe. And that was what I needed now, a shot of brandy in my coffee. Or, even better, a shot of brandy straight.
I needed a drink.
To be continued . . .
Please note: starting next week Garlic for Breakfast has been moved to WEDNESDAYS
I’d need a drink too if I were to engage with a 200 year old man—–does your fertile imagination come from growing up amongst medieval cross-cultures?