From Chapter 1 . . .
Diego Vargas stared out the kitchen window, looking over his neighborhood on the Southside of Seville. He had his back turned to his wife. A painful position. But he had to assume it. If he didn’t, her dark black Gypsy eyes would break him down. Catalina could compel him with a simple stare. Bend him with a blink.
Break him with a single tear.
He parted the curtains, eyes fixed firmly on the barriada. Row upon row of government housing stretched before him, three thousand units, each looking identical to all the rest. There was no joy in the buildings, but there was color in the bright curtains that flapped in open windows, in the clothes strung on lines hung across dusty balconies, in the angry graffiti painted on the walls. Most of what was written screamed about getting out. Few ever did.
He let the curtain fall back into place.
“I’m going out,” he said, turning toward the door.
She blocked his exit.
“Please, Diego. I want to go to the ranch with you.”
“No, Catalina.” He gripped the doorknob, channeling the tension out of his voice and into his white-knuckled hand. “Te dije que no.” He hated the macho sternness he heard in his voice, but she was pushing him. How many times did he have to say no?
“Don’t talk to me like that.” She straightened her shoulders, standing taller before him. “I’m your wife, not your dog.”
A knot formed in the pit of his stomach. For the first time in their nine-month marriage, he and Catalina were exchanging angry words.
“Sorry,” he said, immediately softening his tone. “But I can’t take you with me.” He wished he could explain why. But he had nothing more concrete to offer than a vague feeling that Catalina would not be safe. “You’re not well,” he eventually said.
Flustered, he moved back into the room, snatched his leather jacket off the kitchen chair, and stuffed a pack of cigarettes into his shirt pocket. He rarely smoked. But now he needed nicotine.
“I’ll be back.” He jerked open the door.
“I’m fine!” she shouted after him. “Why can’t you trust me?”
Diego turned, about to answer her. But her face stopped him.
She flinched. Her eyes fluttered. And then grew extra wide. Her hands moved down over her stomach. Then they were still, pressed against the underside of her belly.
Immediately, he dropped his jacket and reached for her stomach. It felt hard under her pajamas.
“Are you all right?” he said, all the anger gone.
A wave of movement floated under his hands.
“I told you, I’m fine.” Her eyes were still, unblinking. Shiny black river stones. Wet, but strong. “Pregnant women often feel sick in the morning.” She placed her hands over his. “It’s normal, my love.”
Maybe. Maybe not. He didn’t know what to think. Just turned nineteen and only six months into being an expectant father, Diego admitted he didn’t have much experience with pregnant women. But he did have experience with his wife.
Something was not right..