Immortal Love Online

Chapter One: Bécquer

Bécquer called Sunday morning.

I was arguing with my daughter at the time, because she wanted to go to a Halloween party and I said no. I said no, not only because the party started late, but also because the outfit she planned to wear would have been too small had she been five, and she was fifteen. Caught in the middle of my impassioned speech to support my refusal, I picked up the receiver and barked a sharp hello.

A voice, deep and beguiling, answered mine. “Carla, this is Bécquer.”

The dark eyes his name evoked sent my heart into overdrive so that my voice shook when I returned his greeting.

“We met last Sunday at the Eastern College Writers Conference,” he explained.

As if I could forget.

He had been the only agent to ask me for a full manuscript that day. The only male, too, in a sea of female agents, a fact that would have made him memorable even if he hadn’t had the impossible good looks of a pagan god. He was older than most agents at the conference, mid-thirties was my guess, and, unlike all the others, he knew who I was.

“I read Two Moon Princess,” he’d told me when I sat down at his table. His voice, loud enough to be heard over the noise of other attendees furiously pitching their stories, was warm, creating a comforting intimacy between us. An intimacy his words only enhanced.

He was the fifth agent to whom I’d delivered my pitch that morning. Or maybe he was the sixth. I’d lost count of how many had told me already, with canned smiles glued on their faces, that my project was not a good fit for their list. As for someone reading my published work, that was a first. Ever.

“You did?” I mumbled, trying to remember whether I had sent a resume with my application.

“I ran a search on you.” He answered my unspoken question. “I’m interested in Spanish history.” Nothing personal, his words implied.

“Your accent — ”

“Still there after all these years,” he interrupted me as if to discourage further inquiry. “Tell me about your new novel. Did the boy kill the queen?”

“It’s a love story,” I told him, reluctant to give away the ending.

Bécquer smiled, showing a perfect row of white teeth between his sensuous lips. “Marvelous. I adore love stories, especially when they have tragic endings.”

Bécquer’s voice came through the phone, bringing me back to the present. “I finished your manuscript and would like to meet with you to discuss it. If that’s all right.”

“Yes, of course.” I tried and failed to sound nonchalant. “When?” I grabbed a pen as I spoke and faced the calendar on the kitchen wall to mark the date.

“Café Vienna on State and Main in fifteen minutes?”

“Fifteen minutes? You mean you’re here in Doylestown?”

“Exactly.”

I would have asked for more time, but I could hear Madison screaming her head off up in her room, probably complaining to a friend about her impossible mother. Because my mind was busy blocking her voice, I didn’t have a lot of brains left for thinking. So I agreed, only to panic as soon as I hung up.

What was I thinking? I would never make it on time.

But I did. It took me a minute to run upstairs, give Madison an ultimatum — either she could go to the party in another costume or wear that one at home — and rush in, then right back out of my room.

• • •

Bécquer was sitting by one of the windows, a cup of coffee in front of him. He got up as I approached and, after inviting me to the chair across from him with a movement of his hand, asked me what I would like to drink.

“An espresso would be nice,” I said, taken aback by his old-fashioned manners. When was the last time someone, male or female, had offered to get my order? Yes, I knew gentlemanly manners were a sign of male dominance, and I had endured enough of the drawbacks of a misogynistic society as a child to be certain I didn’t want to live in one. But the way Bécquer asked was not condescending, more like offering a courtesy to an equal. If he wanted to impress me, he succeeded. Somehow, I thought he wasn’t trying.

Soon he was back from the counter and set the espresso in front of me: a small cup on a saucer, the European way. I thanked him for the coffee and for the