include_once("common_lab_header.php");
Excerpt for Falling in Love in Barcelona by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



FALLING IN LOVE IN BARCELONA























GUS MURRAY











FALLING IN LOVE IN BARCELONA



ISBN: 978-84-09-03991-3

COPYRIGHT@DAVID ZAPICO FONTDEVILA 2018

BARCELONA



All Rights Reserved

Sweat dripped down Jessica’s face as she raised her arm to block the blazing sun out of her eyes. Staring across the sandy beach, she listened to children laughing and watched several tanned locals fan out their beach towels and pasty tourists apply globs of sunscreen. Jessica struggled to find an empty space on the packed beach. The locals in their bikinis and floppy hats probably knew the perfect time to come when no one was around.

Closing her eyes, she listened to the gentle sound of the waves crashing against the shore. She walked towards the water, wearing a blue one-piece bathing suit and a cloth sarong. Her blonde hair blew in her face as the wind picked up. She hopped over canvas bags and beach balls to reach the water. Finally, it splashed against her toes and she felt a sense of calm. She felt like she was at her favorite beach back home in the Unites States.

Barcelona, Spain had always been on her travel bucket list. She loved warm, exotic places with plenty of people around. When she planned her trip here, she spared no expense and found a room in a hotel right by the beach. She didn’t get a return flight, because she didn’t know when she’d want to return. As she listened to the chatter and laughter surrounding her, she sat in the sand and hugged her knees into her chest. Looking up, she saw a clear blue sky, which she saw as a sign that she would have a good trip.

“Are you all right, Miss?” asked a manly voice in a thick Spanish accent. It broke her out of her daydream, and it hadn’t fully registered what he said.

“Huh?” she asked, looking up at the man with tan skin, black hair, and a few freckles on his face.

The man crouched beside her. “I was wondering if you were all right,” he said softly, “You looked upset, and I couldn’t stand by watching a beautiful woman look so sad.”

Jessica blushed. “I was just enjoying the scenery,” she said nervously. His gaze was direct and when he smiled his dimples showed prominently.

“Did your husband leave you by yourself?”

Jessica furrowed her brows. “Husband?”

He pointed to the diamond princess cut ring on her left hand. “You have a husband?”

“Oh,” she chuckled, twisting the ring around her finger. “I’ve never been married. This is an engagement ring.”

“Ah,” he said, settling in the sand beside her, resting his hands behind him and stretching out his legs. “Where is your fiancé?”

“He’s not here,” she said, drawing scribbles in the sand with her finger, “I’m on this trip alone.”

“What an adventurer!” he exclaimed, “If a woman like you was with me, I’d never let you come to such an incredible city alone. I’d want to enjoy every second of your company, watching the sun kiss your face.”

“That’s sweet,” she giggled, “Do you have a girlfriend?”

“No, but if I did, she’d get very jealous of me talking to you. I’ve always found American girls so intriguing, but I don’t meet many that I like. My name is Mateo. Can I assume your name is Hermosa?” Mateo flexed his arms and stretched out on the sand, resting his hands behind his head. Jessica couldn’t help but notice his toned muscles on every inch of his body.

“My name is Jessica,” she grinned, lying back and shuffling slightly closer to him. “I assume you’re a local, right?”

Si, I have lived here my entire life. It’s a beautiful city with a rich culture, incredible food, and locals and tourists to keep me company. No day is the same as the next, and I’ll never find excitement as great as this anywhere else.”

“It’s nice to see that you love your home so much,” she smiled, “I’m trying to escape mine. That’s why I came here. To find myself and rediscover what I’m supposed to do with my life.”

“Your fiancé must be heartbroken that you’re so far from home.”

“Let’s not talk about him,” she said, cutting him off, “I’d rather get to know you better.”

“How would you like to take a walk with me?” he asked, “You can tell me anything or nothing about your lover and I won’t ask anymore questions. We can just view the scenery and eat until we’re overflowing.”

“That sounds fun,” Jessica stood and brushed herself off, “I should change out of my bathing suit first though.”

“No, not at all!” he exclaimed, wrapping his arm around her and guiding her away from the beach. “The people of Spain do not care what you wear as long as you have the time of your life. If you get cold, we can come back here and longue in the sun.”

“I doubt I’ll get cold,” she said, following him off the beach.

Her flip-flops clopped against the stone path as they made their way through the city streets. Walking down a narrow road, she saw several quaint shops and cafés, and people sitting at patio tables with large umbrellas over them. She smelled sweet and savory foods, and overheard locals talk in their Spanish tongue, which Jessica barely understood. Tourists like her took pictures of everything, dressed in Hawaiian t-shirts and shorts. They spoke broken Spanish asking for directions and attempting to make friendly conversation. The locals giggled, but appreciated their efforts.

Jessica stayed silent, taking in the bustling city and the humming motors of mopeds zipping through the streets. Mateo talked endlessly about his three younger sisters and all the trouble they got into as teenagers. Most of his stories were about his family and how close they were, eating dinner with each other every Sunday. Her favorite story was about his sister Sofia when she tried to ride a moped for the first time. She barely made it an inch down the street before the bike completely toppled over. Mateo instantly ran to her rescue, and kissed his nine-year-old sister’s wounds better.

The two of them wandered through the city until the sky changed from blue to orange and pink. It was colder now, and Jessica began to shiver, rubbing away her goosebumps. She hadn’t spoken much on their journey, but she listened to every word he spoke, even when he switched from English to Spanish. “Hermosa, you’re freezing,” Mateo said in the middle of his story, “We must bring you back to your hotel immediately!” He wrapped his arms around her and she felt his warmth emanating off him as he rushed her towards the water.

“You should finish your story first,” Jessica pleaded, “What happened with your sister? Did she finally reach South Africa?”

“Worry not about her,” he said, rubbing her shoulders as they reached her hotel. Surrounding them were massive skyscrapers that looked much taller than the ones Jessica knew back home. Jessica looked up at the building, and Mateo turned her chin towards him. Gazing deep into her eyes, he couldn’t help but smile.

Jessica blushed, and she felt like she’d been doing so all day. The way he spoke about life sent chills down her spine, and his dashing smile could make any woman swoon. “Thank you for walking me back,” she smiled, “I’ve had a wonderful time with you today.”

“Let’s hope you can bring back many wonderful stories to your fiancé,” he said, kissing one cheek then the other, “He’s a lucky man, and I hope he knows it.”

“Will I see you again tomorrow?” she asked quickly before he turned away.

Mateo walked backwards, almost running into a woman who held her children’s hands. “Meet me at La Sagrada Família tomorrow morning.”

“What’s that?” she called out, cupping her hands around her mouth.

“If you want to join me, you’ll figure it out!”

That night, Jessica took to the internet to figure out what it was. When she saw the pictures of it, she marveled at the intricate architecture. “The Holy Family Temple,” she said, reading its description. She sat on her cushy bed, leaning against the headboard. A green face mask was peeling off her skin and she was curled up in a soft bathrobe. “I wonder why he’s taking me there.”

The next morning, Jessica found her way to the massive church. Mateo stood on the sidewalk near the entrance, smiling at her. “I’m so glad you came,” he said, kissing her cheeks.

Jessica covered her ears to protect them from the whir of the cranes and hammering surrounding them. “What’s with all the construction? This isn’t exactly what I expected!” She looked up at the building with several tall towers, windows in various shapes, and massive stone structures of biblical figures. “I can’t believe this is a church!” Mateo grabbed her hand and took her to a café across the street. When they went inside and sat at a table by the window, they still had a perfect view of the church. “That’s better,” Jessica sighed, rubbing her ears, “That’s a magnificent building. The pictures online really don’t do it justice.”

“You’re right about that,” he said, holding her hands in the middle of the table, “It was built in 1882 and is still standing strong today. Are you a religious woman, Jessica?”

Jessica shook her head. “I was forced to go to church as a kid, and I never continued on after that. It just didn’t seem like me. I’d rather create my own path.”

“Ah, you are a free spirit,” he said, then went to the counter to order them coffee. The café was packed with locals and tourists fighting to find a seat with their drinks and pastries in hand. Mateo handed her a coffee. “Drink, you’ll love it.”

“I’m sweating like a pig here,” she chuckled, fanning her tank top against her chest, “Do you really think coffee is a good idea?”

“This is no ordinary coffee!” he exclaimed, taking a sip from his cup, “It’s the best coffee in the city, and it’s a joy to drink no matter how you feel!”

Jessica blew on it to cool it down and took a sip. It was slightly bitter, but the aftertaste was sweet and pleasant. “Wow, this is incredible!”

“I told you it was.”

“So, why is there so much construction going on?”

“Someone tried to burn the building down back in 2011. It was devastating to many people, especially the extremely devout Roman Catholics. This building is such a rich part of our history and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to burn it down.”

Jessica took another sip of coffee and looked at the towers with expertly crafted spires on top. “I think religion makes people a little crazy. When they destroy such a strong symbol it gives them power and causes fear throughout a nation. Whoever did that was sick.”

“I believe the sickness was love.”

“Love?” Jessica tilted her head to the side and gave him a quizzical look. “Why would anyone use fire to express love?”

“Think about it. Fire is burning hot, like the passion one feels for their true love. He or she must have done this to gain the attention of their lover and show they’ll go to the ends of the Earth to ensure they would be together.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Jessica scoffed, “Why not just send flowers?”

“I didn’t say it was a good thing to do, but everything needs a story. There are too many non-sensical things in the world, and I want to understand the bad things that happen. Even if there is no story, there’s no harm in making it up on my own. Love is dangerous and makes us wild creatures with primal desires.”

Jessica rested her chin on her palm and sighed. “The way you speak is so magical. I feel safe knowing that you’re my tour guide. Is there any particular reason you brought me here?”

“Oh, I’m your tour guide? Where’s my payment?” he teased, and Jessica giggled. “I joke, I joke. I’m happy to show you around my home. I thought it was important to bring you here, to help you get answers about who you are. You have a troubled soul, but I can’t figure out why.”

“How could you possibly know my soul is troubled?”

“It’s in the sadness of your eyes.”

Jessica broke their gaze and stared out the window. “So, what? Did you bring me here to pray or something?”

“You can, but that’s not the reason. When I was a teenager, I had my first kiss outside that church. The girl was beautiful and free just like you. She told me something that I will never forget, and I’d like to share it with you.”

“Oh yeah? What is it?” Jessica leaned in, intrigued.

Mateo flailed his arms and spoke in a bold voice. “She said ‘Mateo, you are the worst kisser I’ve ever met!’”

Jessica giggled. “I could see how that would stick with you. I’m sure you got lots of practice after that.”

Mateo winked. “She did say that, but that wasn’t what stayed with me the most. You see, at the time I was struggling with the death of a dear uncle. She saw it weighing me down and told me that ships don’t sink because of the water that surrounds them. They sink because of the holes and the water that gets through and pushes it down. She didn’t want me to take on too much and let it drag me down. She wanted me to let it go and share the burden of the pain with others. Bail out the water, so to speak.”

“What makes you think I lost someone?” she snapped.

“I didn’t…”

“You don’t know me and don’t think you could try to help.”

“It was just general life advice…”

“Just stop,” she said, standing abruptly, “I can’t be around you. You’re just a stranger praying on tourists!” Jessica stormed out of the café, leaving Mateo speechless. She returned to her hotel room and flung herself onto the bed. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks. She buried her face in the pillow and fell asleep.

Later, Jessica was woken up by the sound of a loud knock on the door. Sitting up, she stretched and shuffled towards the irritating noise. She swung the door open, and there was Mateo. “What the hell are you doing here? How did you find my room?”

Mateo shrugged. “The hotel manager is a friend of mine. I told him I needed to apologize to a dear friend.”

“We’re not friends,” she said, trying to close the door, “I’ve barely known you for a day.”

“I know,” Mateo said, grabbing the edge of the door before she closed it, “I have a tendency to go too far and become consumed by something I’m passionate about. I thought we connected yesterday, and I wanted to make the most of our time together before you returned home. I’m truly sorry for the pain I’ve caused you, and I would like a second chance at your friendship.”

Jessica rubbed her puffy eyes and sighed. “I appreciate your apology. I’m sorry for storming out like that, it’s just that…”

“No,” Mateo said, putting his hand up, “You don’t have to explain anything to me. Why don’t we go down to the beach and cool off in the water? I can tell that you need it.”

Jessica laughed, wiping sweat off her forehead. “That does sound refreshing. Let’s do it!”

Mateo linked his arm with hers and led her back to the beach where they met. They spent the afternoon lounging on the hot sand and splashing in the water. Jessica’s good mood was fueled by the different people surrounding her. They each had their own life and story to tell. They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children. They were people from all walks of life, and Jessica found that mindboggling. So maybe people came together on the same day just for the love of the beach.

Near the end of the day, Jessica sat in the ocean, with the water reaching just above her chin. She watched the sky change color and heard birds singing their evening song as they soared through the sky. Mateo swam up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Her body tingled at his touch, and she tried not to react to show how much she liked having him close.

“Tell me about your fiancé,” he whispered in her ear.

“You can’t ask me that while you’re holding me like this,” she said, laughing softly.

Mateo let go, and Jessica felt like a piece of her had gone with him. Even though she hadn’t known him long, the last two days helped her feel more at peace than ever. She could forget her life back home and focus on the moment. Looking over, she saw Mateo floating in the water with his arms and legs outstretched. “How far do you think you could swim out there before your legs started cramping?”

“Not far,” she chuckled, “I only learned to swim right before my trip. I know enough to not drown.”

Mateo flicked water into the air, and she felt a few drops land on her head. “Are you in love with your fiancé?” he asked, catching Jessica off guard.

Jessica turned to Mateo, her mouth opening and closing as if no words were left on her tongue. Tears formed in her eyes, and she sank fully into the water to wash them away. When she emerged, she went back to shore and laid on her towel. Mateo returned and laid beside her in the sand. He wanted to speak, but remained silent.

“I love him,” she said, her voice cracking, “I love him more than I could ever love anyone.”

“Do you think he’d be uncomfortable with our friendship?” he asked hesitantly.

“That doesn’t matter,” she said, looking up at the sky, “Once I leave, you’ll be a distant memory.”

Hurt filled his eyes, but he ignored the pain. Instead, he said a kind goodbye to Jessica, and she stayed on the beach until it got dark.

Over the next week and a half, Mateo and Jessica continued meeting at parks and tourist spots around the city, never discussing that conversation on the beach. They walked through the city hand-in-hand, ate several pastries until they were too full to walk, and spoke to tourists as they tried to find their way around. Jessica laughed at Mateo’s crazy stories, and told a few of her own party stories from college. She felt free as a bird with no responsibilities. She wondered if she’d ever want to leave, but the weight of missing her family and friends was weighing her down.

One evening, the two of them enjoyed a five-star dinner in the hotel longue. They drank too much and flirted with each other, then Jessica invited him up to her room. “Do you think that’s a good idea?” Mateo asked, staring at her green strapless dress and gorgeous eyes. “Don’t do something you will regret.”

“I just want to be with you a little longer,” she said, “In privacy.”

Mateo smiled and agreed to go upstairs. She staggered out of the busy longue with clinking glasses and classical music coming from the speakers. Mateo tried to help keep her steady, but she pushed him away. When they entered the elevator, Jessica grabbed his muscled arms and pulled him in for a kiss. Mateo sank into it, moaning deeply. Suddenly, his eyes jolted open and he gently pushed her away. “You can’t do that. It’s not right.”

“It’s fun,” she said, slurring her words. The elevator dinged to signal their floor and she got out. Mateo followed her as she fumbled through her purse to find her key card. Eventually she got the door open and kicked off her flip-flops. She fell backwards onto the bed and giggled. “Aren’t you going to join me?”

“Jessica,” he said softly, sitting on the bed beside her, “I know this has been…”

Jessica snored loudly, and her head leaned against his chest. Mateo laughed and pulled her onto the bed. Tucking her in, he laid beside her and fell asleep. When she woke that morning, Jessica screamed when she saw Mateo in his underwear sprawled out on the bed. Mateo jolted awake from the scream and looked around.

“What? What’s wrong?” he asked.

Jessica stumbled away from the bed, her head pounding. “We didn’t have…”

“No,” he said quickly, “You just kissed me, that’s it.”

“I kissed you!?” she gasped, rubbing her face, “No, no, this has gone too far.” Jessica stumbled in circles, feeling like the room was spinning. Mateo casually got out of bed, then Jessica pulled her suitcase out from under it. She raced around the room, shoving her things in the bag and mumbling to herself.

“What are you doing?” he asked through a yawn, turning on the television.

“I’m leaving,” she said breathlessly, “I’ve overstayed my welcome.”

“Whoa, stop,” he said, rushing around the bed to grab her shoulders. “Look at me. Stop. If kissing me was a mistake, I understand. That doesn’t me you have to leave and ruin your vacation.”

“You don’t understand,” she said, collapsing on the bed, “Kissing you wasn’t a mistake.”

Mateo smiled wide and sat next to her. “So, you feel it too? I knew you wouldn’t have stayed with me for so long if you didn’t feel something. I can’t tell you how happy I’m feeling in this moment. Did you feel a rush like I did?”

“Stop talking,” she grumbled, “This is wrong.” Jessica stood and started pacing in front of him, shaking her arms around. “I can’t have feelings for you. This is not the reason I came here. I just wanted to get away and find myself.”

“What’s wrong with finding love along the way?” he said, pulling her into a hug.

“Who said this was love?” she said, pushing him away.

“I see the way you look at me and the way you smile when I hold you close. Hermosa, you’re the most exciting woman I’ve ever met, and when I’m around you it feels like fireworks are going off everywhere. Don’t you feel the same way?”

“Look, you’re smart and sexy, and you make me feel like I’m home when I’m hugging you, but this can’t happen…”

“I know you don’t want to hurt your fiancé, but…”

“You don’t get it!” she screamed, collapsing to her knees. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she started heaving. Mateo rushed to her side and held her close, rocking her gently.

Hermosa, what’s wrong?” He stroked her hair and hummed a song until she was able to breathe properly and relax.

“I’m falling for you, Mateo,” she croaked, “I’m a terrible person for feeling happy.”

“That’s not true,” he whispered, “You can’t help who your heart is drawn to, but if you must return to your fiancé, I’ll understand.”

“You don’t get it,” she whimpered, “My fiancé is gone.” She pulled the ring off her finger and held it in her palm. “He died… three years ago. I agreed to marry him even though he was dying of cancer. I loved him with all my heart, and I don’t deserve to be alive and happy when he’s buried in a cemetery that I can’t bring myself to visit.” Jessica sobbed, and Mateo hugged her close to his chest.

“Shh,” he said, rubbing her back, “Cry as long as you need to.”

Jessica wiped her eyes and sobbed until her tears ran dry. When she was done, Mateo helped her onto the bed and brought her a cold glass of water. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said, resting against the headboard next to her. I did not realize how much pain you were in.”

Jessica drank all the water and put the glass on the bedside table. “I think that’s the first time I’ve said the word ‘died’. I always used euphemisms like ‘passed away’ or ‘went to a better place’. I guess I didn’t think it was real until I started spending time with you, which makes me feel awful.”

“Grieving is a difficult process,” he said, “You can’t blame yourself for his death or speed up your healing.”

“I haven’t felt whole in a long time,” she sighed, “Not until I came to Spain. I’m sure I could have been healed long ago, but I was forcing myself to stay miserable. I pushed away all my friends, cut ties with my parents, and quit my job after a huge promotion. Talk about stupid, right?”

“You needed time away,” he nodded.

“I made a mess of my life, and I thought I could start over here. When I met you and the feelings started stirring, I felt so guilty.”

“I’m sure your fiancé would have wanted you to be happy, and one day when you find yourself I will be right here waiting for you.” Mateo got off the bed and started folding the clothes in her suitcase properly.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“If you need to leave, I will respect your decision. I want you to be happy and to let go of all the pain you have. I fear that I’m making everything worse and I don’t know how to help you. I think the best thing is for me to let you go back home.”

“You would really do that for me?” she asked, placing her hand over his. “You wouldn’t fight to keep me here?”

“I would fight all the bulls in Spain to keep you here, but I can’t force you to do something you’re not comfortable with.”

Resting on her knees, Jessica leaned over the suitcase to plant a soft kiss on his lips. “You’re sweet for wanting to look out for me,” she sniffed and wiped a tear, “But I honestly don’t think I’m ready to leave yet. I think I want to see what else Spain has to offer.” Mateo smiled and kissed her again, pulling her tightly into his arms. Jessica felt calm for the first time in years, and wanted to make this her new home.

Jessica never did return to America, and decided to build a life with Mateo in Barcelona. She spent over a year in Barcelona, while also traveling to neighboring cities and countries with Mateo at her side. Slowly, she started rebuilding her relationships with her friends and family, and planned to visit them over the Christmas holiday. She never forgot about her fiancé, and kept the ring in her purse wherever she went. Little did she know, she would get a new ring soon. One from Mateo, the new love of her life, and the man that would do anything to ensure her happiness.


Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-16 show above.)