By Thursday, Julia had given up any hope that she would be able to find alternate accommodations in town. Neither the papers not the car were coming through for her. She soon began to accept she would end up staying well until the town’s celebration ended.
The day when Joaquin took her to the lemon fields, Sonia and Magdalena had helped her buy some clothes, though none of the functional jeans and shirts she had had in mind but more dressy stuff like summer linen dresses, skirts, tube tank tops, capri pants, even a cute black bikini Julia had given into, after much badgering from her two friends. Not that she’d have time to wear it.
It had been years since she had last worn one. Her trips abroad never included any leisure time. They could’ve but Julia always avoided idle time; if she wasn’t writing for the magazine she was focusing on her stories.
As for Damian, apart from their tense exchange the day after her car troubles, she had rarely seen him. She was aware of his presence when she would hear him in the mornings leaving his room or when he arrived in the evenings well past the time Julia had had dinner with Esperanza and Joaquin, the former always taking him a tray with food to his study were he spent most of his time.
Unfortunately, those few times when they did see each other proved to be hard for Julia’s jumbled emotions. It never ceased to annoy her the way the butterflies on her stomach took flight whenever he set his eyes on her, even if it was for a second. Still, it only took thinking about the wife and kid that had yet to arrive to scare away those inconvenient butterflies.
Though part of her wanted to, she didn’t seek him out to talk about what the gardener had revealed about his father and the change Damian’s life had taken. There was a battle taking place inside her. On one hand, there was her pride reminding her of what he’d done, and on the other hand, Julia’s growing curiosity wanted to know how it had been for Damian to reconnect with his father again, despite the circumstances that had forced him to do so.
Fortunately for her, Julia had other things to occupy her mind. She still had to finish the final chapters of her latest story and send them to Zack, her editor, who happened to be Susan’s husband. Susan had also sent her some articles for Julia to revise before they were put in print. Her boss assured her the magazine would survive in her absence. She also promised to stop by Julia’s studio and forward any mail that was important, though most of the people who wrote to Kate Morgan did so through the email address that appeared at the end of her books, or to her account at the magazine when they read Julia’s columns.
So that had kept her hidden in her room for most of her first days in La Providencia. When Saturday came though, Julia decided she needed to at least do some of the physical work she did back in New York. One thing was Esperanza worried she had not been eating well back in New York, and another thing entirely that she allowed herself to expand due to the lack of exercise.
Changing into her running clothes and sitting on the edge of the bed to tie her shoelaces, Julia thought about Susan’s suggestion that she write about La Providencia, as part of her travel column. Susan had mentioned that if she was going to be hung up there for three weeks, then Julia might consider this a somewhat spurt of the moment assignment and write about the town.
With that in mind, Julia tightened the knots on her shoelaces. After applying plasters of sunblock and putting her Yankees cap on, she left the house and went out through the main gate. Again, like every morning, Damian’s BMW was nowhere in sight, and for a while the writer in her wanted to ask him about what he was doing, purely as useful information for the article she would start to outline right now.
Selecting her Good run, Good sweat playlist on her Ipod, Julia set out walking first. Eventually, she started trotting until finally she found her pace and rhythm and focused only on her breathing.
Even before she could make it halfway into her run, Julia could feel her shirt already sticking to her spine, and the trickle of sweat as it coursed along her neck. It was barely eight thirty in the morning and the sun was a golden beacon in the sky, already announcing today would be another hot one. When her mind was clear, Julia started playing with words and searching feelings for what she would write about the town.
You might think you’re looking at an illusion. The way this jewel appears when you least expect it, amid dry land and thorny plants. How it lacks the exclusivity of the expensive summer gateways in the Hamptons, or the breathtaking beaches from the south of Mexico or the decadence of the private, hidden islands of the Mediterranean……
But it is the things you don’t see right away that make La Providencia, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, not only my favorite place in the whole world, but one preferred by many tourists from around the world as well. And as you dear readers know, I have been to quite a few places around it. You have only to get to know its people, walk along its pebbled streets, eat its spicy exotic food or have a shot of tequila, to realize the best of the best sometimes comes in the simplest package. Though there’s nothing simple about La Providencia.
I always used to think of it as an oasis…..
No, that sounds kind of corny. Julia did a bit of self-editing and tried to come up with a better line. But before she could help herself, her mind stored what little she had come up with and forgetting about continuing her introduction, Julia allowed herself to give in to the sights around her.
Thirty minutes later, Julia was on her way back to the house. Inadvertently, her mind decided to take her back down memory lane. It wandered to the river where she used to go with her friends and Danny, of the volleyball games they always entered, the barbecues, the music. All of them dancing around the river or the girls running around trying to stop Felix and Raul from dumping them into the water.
And before she could control it, Damian appeared as well, and the hairs on her arms stood up when the images of their first kiss flashed in her mind. Her body could still recall the way they’d been swaying to the music from Felix’s truck, and the silver light from the moon casting a pearly glow on his hair, and his eyes telling her without words how much he wanted to kiss her.
She didn’t know if it was the anticipation of the pain that always came whenever she allowed her mind to be weak and recall those times, or if she just became conscious of her surroundings, because next thing she knew, she experienced a throb of awareness at the back of her neck. Her legs slowed down to a trot and she glanced over her shoulder.
A few feet away, a truck with polarized windows stood behind her. She reached for her armband to lower the volume of her Ipod, her eyes squinting at the blackened glass trying to decipher who was the driver.
Her first thought was that it might be one of the guys, but when she waved, the driver remained still. An uncomfortable shiver ran through her as she felt the driver’s gaze fixed intently on her. It made her body go alert with wariness. Julia moved to the edge of the road and signaled him to pass. When the car remained idle, Julia’s unease was replaced by sheer annoyance. As she squinted harder, she was able to make out a cap and dark glasses. Maybe someone who had known her father but didn’t know if he or she could say hi to her.
Still, the way she felt his or her gaze on her, almost like he or she was considering something about her, had Julia’s nerves on edge.
“This is stupid.” She muttered and began to walk back to the side of the truck. Just then, its tires screeched on the road and a little too soon Julia realized the driver was aiming the truck at her. She threw herself to the side of the road, landing on a thorny shrub, scratching her legs and her elbow.
But her bravado was only in her words as she saw the truck stop a few yards ahead of her. From the rearview mirror, its driver continued to study her in a disturbing manner, the threat of it making Julia turn around and realizing she was totally alone.
Her eyes landed on a couple of rocks that she immediately limped over to grab, deciding that if this lunatic wanted to mess with her, then he had another thing coming. The adrenaline coursing inside her body had her standing up and hissing. “Okay you bastard, you want me, come and get me.”
Her entire body tensed up in anticipation. Just when one of her hands was getting ready to throw the first stone, the truck accelerated and disappeared from view in the next curve, heading towards town.
Dropping the stones, Julia put her hands on her knees and tried to breath normally. She finally let go of all the excess adrenaline by gasping until she felt stable enough to continue on her way back. No longer enjoying the sights from the cactus, and the many blue agave fields on either side of the road, she gave a sigh of relief when the house came into view.
As soon as she crossed the entrance gate, Julia did a quick check of her legs and arms and saw the faint red lines on her knees and on the outside of her thighs. Her right elbow was covered in dirt, the red scratches visible under it.
Julia decided she would make a dash for it before either Esperanza or Joaquin saw her. Pushing the front door open, she cringed when it squealed slightly. Just when she thought she had made it unseen, Esperanza called her name.
Julia came to a halt but didn’t turn to face Esperanza.
“Aren’t you going to have breakfast?” The cook inquired next.
Julia closed her eyes and opened them as she turned around.
“Sure, just let me get cleaned up. I’m all sweaty.” Much to her dismay her voice shook. Some of the fear she’d experienced must’ve still been dancing in her eyes, because the cook frowned at her and went to where she was standing at the edge of the stairs.
“What….what do you mean?”
Esperanza’s eyes traveled down and they saw her knees and her legs. Her eyes widened and soon, she was using her hands to inspect the rest of Julia’s body.
“Mija, what happened?” She asked again, her tone implying she expected the truth. Julia decided to tell her part of it. The part that wouldn’t send the old woman on a frenzy of questions Julia still had no answers to.
“I was busy changing the song on my Ipod,” she lifted her arm with the armband, “and didn’t see this rock and I tripped. Stupid, ha?”
The cook’s aged eyes studied her intently, almost as if she guessed Julia wasn’t being entirely honest. It took a few painstaking breaths before Esperanza said. “There’s alcohol and oxygenated water under the sink of your bathroom. Be sure to clean those cuts.”
“I will. I won’t take long.”
Julia hurried upstairs and locked the door to her room. The shower took longer than necessary. It proved to be an almost impossible task to shower and then get dressed when her hands refused to stop shaking. The aftershock of what more could’ve happened, had crazy psycho driver not changed his mind, had her cursing until she sat on the bed and gave herself a couple of moments to calm down.
Not that she was foreign to creeps trying to scare her. She lived in New York, for God’s sake. If you didn’t find one roaming Central Park, you certainly encountered a few at the subway. But something about this happening to her here, in La Providencia was what had her in a fit of trembling hands and legs.
Fortunately, Julia was more successful in keeping her hands steady while she drank her coffee and ate her breakfast, eggs with chorizo and fried beans, while Esperanza watched her like a hawk.
Thankfully, the cook soon became busy with lunch preparations and with the things she needed to get in town. Julia sneaked out from the kitchen and went back to her room.
After three hours of sitting in front of her computer being able to write nothing, not wanting to recall what she’d thought about during her run, for fear of going through the whole bizarre episode again, she closed her Mac and went over to her dresser. She pulled open one of the drawers and took out the black bikini and stormed into the bathroom to get changed. Choosing one of the dress shirts Sonia and Magdalena made her buy and a pair of white sandals, Julia grabbed her Ipod, her sunscreen, her sunglasses, and a blue fluffy beach towel from the cabinet inside the bathroom.
After making sure Damian was still not back in the house, since she already felt like she was sneaking around doing something she wasn’t supposed to, just so she could lie under the sun and maybe take a swim in the pool, she walked out through the sliding glass doors in the living room. Julia walked the stone path down to the pool gate and opened it. After putting her stuff on the grass, she went back out to the small shed right next to where the pool’s pump and cleaning chemicals where located and pulled out a couple of sun beds.
Once settled, she tossed the towel over one of the beds and undressed, a bit self-conscious as she noticed the way the tight fabric of the upper half somehow made her breasts look fuller and bigger than what they really were.
The sun was blazing hot and the palm trees danced seductively with the wind. The ficus lost some leaves which landed on the pool, doing a dance of their own with the bougainvillea flowers that joined them a few minutes later. Julia remembered her dad always liked to keep the water’s temperature above eighty degrees, though in this heat, what she had always liked was to take a quick dive into the cool water.
Since she had not brought any recreational reading, she opted to just get some sun while she listened to some music. To relax, something she didn’t allow herself to do often back in New York.
Julia was finally putting the episode from her morning run behind and little by little, her skin began to glisten from sweat and the oil from her sunscreen. Behind her sunglasses, her eyes dropped closed, and she relaxed.
All Damian wanted was to grab a cool shower and maybe afterwards a beer. Then he intended to go outside and sit on one of the many benches on the edge of the property next to the pool and unwind from the day’s hard work. He knew starting what he had come here to do would be hard, but he forgot people, especially farmers, were wary of outsiders. Especially outsiders who wanted to sell their products, though most of them had known him since he was a kid. Maybe having been gone for ten years had made Damian not one of the town anymore. But he knew that if they agreed to sell him their fruits and vegetables, he would be able to sell them at Summers here in Mexico for a fair price for them.
He had made the experiment with the thousand lemon trees he’d asked Joaquin to plant on the piece of land he’d bought, before buying the old Andersson place. The first months he had not made any profit, though his father had been genuinely pleased by his idea, offering him encouragement when Damian began to doubt the success of his plan.
During his economics classes, he had learned many of these farmers had become even poorer after NAFTA had set into motion, especially with the obstacles farmers from the U.S were putting to foreign products. Damian knew it would be hard to try and get their products into the U.S and get a fair price in return, but he knew he could do that with the stores they were planning on opening later in the fall, in this country. But first, he had to gain the trust of the farmers which was proving to be harder than actually getting the land ready for more crops.
What he was doing now was a series of test runs, offering the products to some high end restaurants from Guadalajara and Mexico City, plus some local places in town.
Damian only got as far as the front door of the house, when the wind blew around him, carrying with it the sound of singing. A woman’s voice. By the way the hairs on his arms stood up and his gut tightened, he knew whose voice it was. Instead of going inside, he skirted around passing next to the palm trees that guarded each side of the house, welcoming the shade they provided until he made it to the back of the house.
At first, Damian thought the sound was coming from the balcony up in her room but as she continued to sing, he located the sound coming from the pool. It was then that he saw her, lying down on one of the sun beds he assumed Joaquin thought would be useful to keep.
Apart from changing the furniture in all the upstairs rooms, Damian had left the task of choosing what stayed and what was given away from the rest of the house, to both Joaquin and Esperanza. The furniture for their cottage had arrived the day after Damian moved into the house.
As he approached, trying to muffle his steps by staying away from the stone path, he realized a whole marching band could’ve been playing around Julia and she wouldn’t have noticed. Her eyes were closed, while her lips moved as they sang. It was the most relaxed he’d seen her since she’d been here.
Though he’d strategically avoided bumping into her, he always noticed her whole body tensing up whenever they did see each other at nights, after he arrived from having spent the day driving around to other neighboring towns or to the fields, lobbying with the rest of the farmers.
What made him groan inwardly and clench his jaw and fists was the sight of her. Evidently, she’d been under the sun for quite some time. Her skin was already catching that sexy tan he remembered from the summers she had spent here. She was also oily and slick, her firm stomach and long legs glistening from the sweat traveling down to the sides.
The breeze wafted the smell of coconut and something more exotic his way, probably her. He literally felt his mouth water as his eyes roamed up and down her entire length, appreciating the intriguing bikini, fitted just barely to cover what was necessary, yet in a simple manner. The whole scene made his overheated brain quite capable of putting two and two together, and coming to terms with Julia no longer being some eye catching teenager, but a full blossomed woman.
He would later swear it was the pressing heat that made him do what he did next. That and the arousing command that came out from her lips, as they pouted as if waiting for him to act. Which he did.
One of her favorite songs of all time, Kiss me by Sixpense None the Richer, was streaming through her headphones. As she liked to do when she knew she was alone, Julia was singing out loud. The tension from her morning’s freaky moment was ebbing away, flowing out of her system. She felt her body warm and slick from the sun and it was as if her muscles were moaning in happiness at having been granted a moment of rest.
“So kiss me……”
As soon as she said it she felt a pressure on her lips, a pressure she didn’t push away but welcomed by parting her lips under it. Automatically, her arms lifted up, hearing in the distance a deep sound, almost like a growl as her action was welcomed.
All of a sudden, whatever tension was left scattered away. Her heated body relished in having something strong pressing her down to the sun bed. She shifted her body so her mouth would continue to be ravished. She emitted a sound of complaint when the teasing, bone melting pressure left her lips. Much to her pleasure, said touch began traveling down along her neck line. That didn’t stop her from trembling when that amazing sensation began nibbling at her earlobe.
A moan escaped her parted lips and once again, a pressure took possession of them. Very vaguely, her brain registered a pair of hands as they traveled up and down her body, caressing each spot not stopping long enough for her to experience full pleasure but long enough for her to arch her body and shiver.
A warm, baffling feeling began to ignite deep down, making her aware she may have felt this way before, though the when and the who were fuzzy right now. However, she moved to give one of the hands touching her better access to her back while the other one stroked her long, lean thighs and calves. Part of her wanted to remember better when she’d felt this insurmountable pleasure before. Another part, stronger, wanted her to stop thinking and give in to this delicious and tormenting moment. This very vivid daydream was wreaking havoc to her senses.
Her hands found a thick mass of silk and they were having their way with it. Another low primal sound of pleasure vibrated against her lips and she knew she moaned again, when the hand that had been caressing her back began to work the knot of her bikini top.
Uhmmmm…….not so bad for someone who’d never been this close to such intimacy before. She did have a very useful imagination.
As if being pulled by an invisible force, she saw herself from a distance, lying on the flatbed of a truck, under the sparkling diamonds adorning the night, her body being breathtakingly ravished by Damian, as he kissed her mouth, her neck and traveled down to her breasts over the fabric of her buttoned-up shirt. A couple of buttons had already been unfastened allowing easier access to her neck.
His hands were caressing her long tanned legs, as the quiet night was pierced by her low moans and his agitated breathing. Then, he said. “I don’t want to pressure you into anything, Julia.”
“You’re not. I am ready.”
She remembered the way he had smiled tenderly at her, her heart bursting from love as he kissed her one long moment before saying again. “We can wait. You’ll be eighteen in a few months and then will be together. And I promise you, your first time will be more special and not in the flatbed of a truck.”
“As long as it is with you, it will always be special and perfect.”
“I love you, Julia.”
“I love you, Damian.”
The pain came out of nowhere. First, slicing her soul. Then, making her aware of what was really happening, as her brain threw her back again to the present. That night had been the last time she’d seen him before going back to New York. He had been right. She turned eighteen the following October and had taken to working after school to earn enough money to come back and leave her house. Well, she knew how that had turned out.
It was the memory of learning what he’d done, while she’d been eagerly anticipating losing her virginity to him, that made her snap her eyes open and realize she wasn’t just daydreaming about being kissed. But was in fact being kissed, by no other than Damian Solis!
Julia found herself staring into a pair of clouded dark brown eyes, as they pierced her body and heart.
“What the hell are you doing?” She gasped, glad she sounded outraged and not hurt or what was worse, excited as the beating of her heart.
For a second, he hesitated. Clearly, not understanding what had just happened. Before he could do or say anything, Julia used her arms to push Damian away as she scrambled up to her feet, scraping her ankle on the edge of the sun bed. She winced and cursed as she had gotten more bruises in one day than in her entire life.
Damian was still breathing hard, mad at the way he had let his defenses down and succumbed to his physical reaction to her. If whatever happened inside her head hadn’t happened, he knew he had been seconds away from having her naked under his arms and ready and panting only for him. The fact that he still wanted that had him taking a step back.
Julia saw the play of emotions on his face: desire, reluctance, longing, until finally his face was a blank mask and his eyes so devoid of any feeling, Julia couldn’t help but wonder how they had scorched her with blinding passion a few seconds ago. Part of her wanted to know what she’d done for him to hate her so much, especially when he’d been the one to destroy what they’d had.
“You did ask me to kiss you.” He finally said in a mocking tone, masking how startled he still was by his own uncontrolled impulses.
“I was singing, you moron. Never in a million years would I ask you to kiss me, ever again.”
“Are you sure? Because you weren’t so reluctant a few seconds ago. In fact, you were making sounds that indicated you were very much enjoying the moment.”
Damian decided his best weapon was to act aloof, as if the whole situation was a big joke. Better that than to show her she had affected him in any way.
“How dare you? You conceited bastard. You think you’re so hot all women must fall at your feet? Well, not this woman.”
And it seemed he’d not shed off his cheating tendencies. He was married, for crying out loud!
Julia put her shirt on with jerky movements. She was about to grab her towel and the rest of the stuff she’d brought down with her, when Damian’s hand took her arm and pulled her close to him.
“Why don’t we see if you can resist me a second time?”
To hell with pretending. Damian wanted her. It was no longer that innocent desire from when they were younger, the novelty of feeling your insides go all wax with need. This was a blazing fire that had his body all taut and willing to release all that pent up desire. Hell, he’d wanted to kiss her senseless since he saw her at the notary’s office last Saturday. Now, he might as well do it and get it over with and move on.
“Get your hands off me.” Julia hissed.
Damian only caged her with his two arms. Her hands went up to sprawl on his chest and she chanced a glance at his face. What she saw both confused and scared her. She’d given herself to what he made her feel a long time ago, and look where that had taken her. Nowhere good. The fact that he was assuming she would just yield to his own sick idea of a good time, was just that, sick.
But if he wanted to play, then he’d picked a worthy opponent. Julia counted to ten in her head and offered him a low, you make-me-weak-in-the-knees smile. She batted her lashes for more effect and purred. “Are you sure we should be doing this?”
Unfazed by her abrupt change of attitude, Damian began to lower his head as he whispered. “Oh believe me, we must.”
But she got no further than that as his mouth assaulted hers and she clung to him almost as if she were trying to fuse two bodies into one. She stood on tiptoes and for several seconds, allowed to be kissed by him. Every second she lingered in his arms, a crack shattered the shell she’d built around her heart. The power of his touch had increased with age, like the taste of an expensive wine. She was already drunk and that place of her that had remained hers and not been shared with anyone, began to pulse in awareness.
It was all she could do to begin moving, making Damian walk backwards as she let out a moan which wasn’t part of her act and which infuriated her more, as her mind and body were forgetting this was part of the plan, not the main punch line.
Just when Damian was standing a few inches away from the edge of the pool, Julia squirmed free from his touch and began undoing the buttons and pulling her shirt down her shoulders, watching as his eyes widened and his pupils dilated as they followed the movement.
That was the distraction she needed to take one step forward and push with all her might. Julia caught Damian’s shocked expression before she heard the splash, as his body disturbed the blue crystal surface of the pool.
When Damian resurfaced, he looked like he was ready to kill someone. Julia felt her resolve waver and fear take its place. And she inevitably remembered what had almost happened this morning. He seemed to notice her fear, too, and what she could only describe as bafflement made him squint his eyes, though they were soon glaring at her again.
It was then his pissed off stare travelled down her legs and arms, and noticed for the first time the scratches from her fall. Julia grabbed the towel and shirt and used them to cover her exposed skin. She glowered at him in return and said. “Yes, that’s what happens when you try to kiss me after I said no. Enjoy your swim.”
She whirled around, picking up the rest of her stuff on her way next to the sun bed, bumping into an open-mouthed Joaquin who had obviously witnessed the whole scene. Julia lifted her chin and said. “He asked for it. Plus, he looked like he could use something to cool him down. Excuse me.”
She walked quickly inside and hid in her room for the rest of the day.