The Spanish Love Deception

By: Elena Armas

To those chasing dreams,

never give up on them.

We are not quitters, you hear me?

Chapter One

“I’ll be your date to the wedding.”

Words I had never—not even in my wildest dreams, and trust me, I had a vivid imagination—conceived of hearing from that deep and rich tone reached my ears.

Looking down at my coffee, I squinted my eyes, trying to search for any signs of noxious substances floating around. That would at least explain what was happening. But nope.

Nothing. Just what was left of my Americano.

“I’ll do it if you need someone that badly,” the deep voice came again.

Eyes growing wide, I lifted my head. I opened my mouth and then snapped it closed again.

“Rosie …” I trailed off, the word leaving me in a whisper. “Is he really there? Can you see him? Or did someone spike my coffee without me noticing?”

Rosie—my best friend and colleague in InTech, the New York City–based engineering consulting company, where we had met and worked—slowly nodded her head. I watched her dark curls bounce with the motion, an expression of disbelief marring her otherwise soft features. She lowered her voice. “Nope. He’s right there.” Her head peeked around me very quickly. “Hi. Good morning!” she said brightly before her attention returned to my face. “Right behind you.”

Lips parted, I stared at my friend for a long moment. We were standing at the far end of the hallway of the eleventh floor of the InTech headquarters. Both our offices were relatively close together, so the moment I had entered the building located in the heart of Manhattan, in the vicinity of Central Park, I had gone straight to her office.

My plan had been to grab Rosie and plop down on the upholstered wooden armchairs that served as a waiting sitting area for visiting clients, which were usually unoccupied this early in the morning. But we never made it. I somehow dropped the bomb before we ever sat down. That was how much my predicament needed Rosie’s immediate attention. And then … then he had materialized out of nowhere.

“Should I repeat that a third time?” His question sent a new wave of disbelief rushing down my body, freezing the blood in my veins.

He wouldn’t. Not because he couldn’t, but because what he was saying did not make any freaking sense. Not in our world. One where we—

“All right, fine,” he sighed. “You can take me.” He paused, sending more of that ice-cold wariness through me. “To your sister’s wedding.”

My spine locked up.

My shoulders stiffened.

I even felt the satin blouse I had tucked into my camel slacks stretch with the sudden motion.

I can take him.

To my sister’s wedding.

As my … date?

I blinked, his words echoing inside my head.

Then, something unhitched inside of me. The absurdity of whatever this was—whatever perverse joke this man I knew not to trust was trying to pull off—made a snort bubble its way up my throat and reach my lips, leaving me quickly and loudly. As if it had been in a rush to get out.

A grunt came from behind me. “What’s so funny?” His voice dropped, turning colder. “I’m completely serious.”

I bit back another burst of laughter. I didn’t believe that. Not for a second. “The chances of him,” I told Rosie, “being actually serious are the same chances I have of having Chris Evans pop out of nowhere and confess his undying love for me.” I made a show of looking right and left. “Nonexistent. So, Rosie, you were saying something about … Mr. Frenkel, right?”

There was no Mr. Frenkel.

“Lina,” Rosie said with that fake, toothy smile I knew she wore when she didn’t want to be rude. “He looks like he’s serious,” she spoke through her freaky smile. Her gaze inspected the man standing behind me. “Yep. I think he might be serious.”

“Nope. He can’t be.” I shook my head, still refusing to turn around and acknowledge that there was a possibility my friend was right.

There couldn’t be. There was no way Aaron Blackford, colleague and well-established affliction of mine, would even attempt to offer something like that. No. Way.

An impatient sigh came from behind me. “This is getting repetitive, Catalina.” A long pause. Then, another noisy exhale left his lips, this one much longer. But I did not turn around. I held my ground. “Ignoring me won’t make me disappear. You know that.”

I did. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying,” I muttered under my breath.

Rosie leveled me with a look. Then, she peeked around me again, keeping that toothy grin in place. “Sorry about that, Aaron. We are not ignoring you.” Her grin strained. “We are … debating something.”