About the Book
Author: Hannah Fielding
The new book from award-winning romance novelist Hannah Fielding
A story of love, intrigue and redemption
The third book in her sweeping Andalucían Nights Trilogy
Summer, 2011 – A troubled young journalist goes undercover in Spain, and finds her loyalties tested when love and desire unearth secrets she hadn’t bargained for.
When Luna Ward, a beautiful ice-blonde graduate, is commissioned by a leading New York science journal to investigate the head of a Spanish alternative health clinic, she jumps at the chance. But her life becomes far more complicated once she meets the man she has been tasked to expose. Luna finds Rodrigo de Rueda Calderon to be a brilliant, outspoken oncology specialist with irresistible, dark gypsy looks and a devilish sense of humour. The pair are irrevocably drawn to each other, but how can she give herself up to a passion that threatens to topple all reason? And how could he ever learn to trust the person who has kept her identity from him, even though he has a terrible secret of his own?
The lovers unearth dark and brooding dramas in their family histories, binding them together in a web of intrigue that threatens to bring their lives toppling down.
Extract from Legacy by Hannah Fielding
Equipped with a bottle of water, a compass and a map, she drove to the outskirts of Cádiz and across the isthmus, parking at a small harbour. The sun beat down on her as she stepped out of the car, and Luna was thankful she’d exchanged her jeans and shirt for a mini-skirt, spaghetti-strap top and hat before going out.
The streets of the town that nestled around the bay climbed steeply towards the hills. Soon the rise was gentler, eventually plateauing out at the top. She paused to catch her breath and take a drink from her water bottle, looking out to sea and down on the glittering bay as she did so. In the other direction stretched a
fertile plain with cornfields, rich green vineyards and olive groves. She put away her water and set out along the track that bordered the fields, while skylarks fluttered high above, trilling their liquid waterfall of song. Now she was passing a large hacienda with its enormous orchard of laden orange trees, making a striking contrast of colour against the prevailing olives. At the end of the stone wall that bounded the property she finally came to a small hamlet of cottages, their gardens filled with brightly hued bougainvillea that fringed the walls or hung in long trails from little flat rooftops.
As Luna walked further from the coast and its luxuriant vegetation, pretty whitewashed cottages and lobster-pink haciendas, the countryside grew parched in a uniform umber. There was little sign of life now, other than the odd lizard that skittered away into a crack in the dry stone wall. Occasional patches
of wild shrubs dotted the parched earth, with a few scattered fig trees and carobs with their long green pods. There was precious little shade and Luna was glad she had brought her hat.
The afternoon sun was still beating down hard, and she paused to sit under an olive tree and drink some water. She had reached a crossroads of sorts, with several paths, all of which climbed upwards again; she took out her map to get her bearings. One of the rutted tracks must lead to the ruins of the Moorish mosque
– but which one? After a while, she resumed her walk. This time her path climbed steeply, with a low bank on either side, clad with various kinds of native laurel.
Luna was so absorbed in her expedition that she had successfully avoided all thoughts of Ruy since she left home. Besides, thinking straight under such a baking sun was a challenge in itself. It was lovely to look back at the valley lying below, filled with a shimmering light haze, and see how far she had walked. She could just make out the white villages bathed in the afternoon light, tinting them rose and brown in the distance. Above, the clear sky blazed like a furnace.
Then suddenly, after having climbed steadily for some time, the path narrowed for a few yards before plunging towards what seemed like a vast quarry of sharp grey rocks and brown earth. It was not the ruin Luna had hoped for but – to her, at least – it was just as interesting. This apparently useless piece of terrain
had been made habitable.
Luna took in the unexpected, vivid picture of the gypsy camp, excitement coursing through her veins. The asymmetrical ground harmonized into a mass of large inhabited barren knolls. A few caves had been cut from the side of the quarry to make irregular dwellings; some had shacks appended, made from wood and
corrugated iron. A small number of garish-looking barrel-topped wagons, the odd car or motorcycle, and a handful of horses populated the area, which was otherwise dotted with junk. Here and there, clothes were hanging from windows and branches to dry, adding a splash of colour to the scene.
On one side of the quarry, evergreen beeches marched up brown slopes. Further away, a tidier corner of the camp had been planted out with plane trees, many decades ago, under the precious shade of which men were dozing, their mouths wide open, while mangy dogs sniffed the dust around their feet for
morsels of food. Half-naked brown urchins swarmed in the area outside the wagons, shrieking at the top of their lungs. Gitanas sat at their doors chatting in groups: some plaiting baskets, others sweeping the earth in front of their dwellings, keeping a vigilant eye on the group of young girls playing hopscotch and blind
man’s buff under a gnarled fig tree.
Despite the heat, a number of old-fashioned braziers were smoking at the entrance to most of the dens, with huge black pots hanging above them. At the centre of this hidden community was a flat area of old tiles and stones pressed into the earth, which formed a kind of courtyard, where a large covered well had pride of place. Around it, chickens pecked the dusty earth and a few goats rummaged in the small heaps of rubbish nearby.
Greatly entertained, Luna stood fascinated, her eyes fixed on this amazing sight. She was so engrossed that she failed to hear a gypsy woman approach her from behind.
‘Buenas tardes, señorita. Encontrastes la cañada de los gitanos, ey? So you’ve found the gypsies’ glen, hey?’
Luna spun round to stare straight into the laughing black eyes of Morena, the gitana who had sold her the beautiful costume for the masked ball. She felt all at once guilty and ashamed at being caught like a gawping tourist, an interloper on territory that was private and should have been kept sequestered from prying eyes.
‘I didn’t mean to be intrusive. I was actually looking for the ruin of an ancient mosque which is supposed to be somewhere around here,’ she said with an embarrassed smile.
Far from looking offended, Morena smiled broadly. ‘It is a good omen, Señorita Luna, that you have come here this afternoon. Yes, I remember you from Mascaradas. The lovely but guarded Queen of the Night.’
Her eyes seemed to take in everything about Luna with a hawklike sharpness that she found somewhat unnerving but then the smile split her face in two again, and Luna was charmed.
‘You’ve arrived just as my sister is having her baby. Any moment now, the first child of Carmencita and her husband Juan will come into this world and then he’ll be baptized.’
‘What? Right now, this afternoon?’
‘Sí, sí. I have read in the stars that it will be a boy. Then we’ll celebrate with a zambra, a revelry. There will be food and wine – una fiesta maravillosa, a wonderful feast. Come, you must join us too. Your timing is perfect!’
Luna was admittedly curious and, anyhow, she could hardly refuse an invitation that was clearly regarded as an honour. ‘I’d be delighted to join your celebration, thank you,’ she told her.
They picked their way down an awkward bumpy footpath, paved with chunky cobbles, and Luna felt she had entered a strange new world, so remote from anything she had known. There were many more caves than she had at first thought; they were grotesquely shaped and eroded by the years, in stark contrast to the more modern gear stationed beside them. She smiled to herself. Primitive versus contemporary: even in a place like this – seemingly forgotten by time – one could not get away from the modern world.
No sooner had they descended to the camp than the gang of children running wild gathered from the four corners of the site and clustered around them, shouting all at once, jostling and nudging each other to get to the front. Morena gently pushed them back, swearing at them in a language that sounded to Luna like Spanish, yet was indecipherable. The men who had been lying out on the slopes were now sitting up, scratching their heads, their sharp dark eyes alert and instinctively distrustful. Meanwhile the women had stopped chatting and, motionless, maintained their position in front of their dwellings like the Vestal Virgins of the hearth, guarding the safety and wellbeing of their homes and eyeing the newcomer suspiciously. The silence was ominous.
Heading towards one of the larger caves, Morena shouted something in Caló. A tall old man with a long wispy beard and a beaten-up flat cap nodded and grinned, shouting something back. The very next moment the atmosphere lightened and the whole camp relaxed again. Many of the gypsies leapt up in a single bound to welcome Luna, and Morena turned to her with a chuckle. ‘Les dije que usted es una vija amiga, I told our chief you’re an old friend.’
While the men stood in a semicircle, a little apart, gaping at Luna speculatively, the women stood at a distance, whispering among themselves, while the children surrounded her, half giggling and half begging impudently. A little dazed – appalled by their poverty, though amused by their cheek – Luna spontaneously opened her bag and distributed the few euros and the bar of chocolate she had with her.
Suddenly a great deal of noise was emitted from one of the caves and a matronly woman appeared on the threshold. ‘Es un niño, it’s a boy,’ she cried out. ‘Un oscuro muchacho como la noche con los ojos azules como el cielo de Andalucía, a boy dark as the night, with eyes blue as the sky of Andalucía.’
Luna stared in disbelief, the smile frozen on her face. Behind the matron, a man in jeans and T-shirt had appeared, holding the naked newborn. In her shock, Luna’s mind refused to function at first; then it started careering between questions.
What in God’s name is Ruy doing here? Surely he can’t be the father?
Morena had told her the baby was her brother-in-law’s. How was it that she kept bumping into Ruy like this?
She flushed indignantly, amber eyes sparking fire. This man had the affront of the devil. First, the wild passion that had seized him at the gallery, with no thought of her feelings or how the public nature of it might embarrass her, followed by the jealousy that overtook him at the merest hint of a rival. To then
be incommunicado for the past few days, making her life an utter misery, was outrageous.
Now, here he was, holding a baby, as if he had no other care in the world – as if he had quite forgotten her and moved on to pastures new.
The anxiety and frustration of the past week finally caught up with Luna, fuelling the righteous anger steadily building in her breast. She prickled with resentment: he hadn’t had the simple courtesy to get in touch, if only to put her mind at ease, so she didn’t feel like a fool for letting her own passions run riot. Yet her anger was tinged with embarrassment. She feared it could look as though she was following him, haunting his footsteps like a plaintive spirit – and the idea that Ruy might think so irritated
her even more.
‘El Mèdico is going to be el padrino, the godfather of our little Luis,’ Morena whispered proudly to Luna. ‘He’s a gajo who is not only one of us by birth, but also el hermano de sangre, the blood brother of Chico, Juan’s brother. Luis es un niño muy afortunado, Luis is a very lucky boy.’
But Luna was not listening. She had just caught Ruy’s eye. Dark brows knitted together, and she saw his jaw tense as he stared at her. In that look, she read the attitude of a man who liked his private life to remain private. Maybe he was the kind of man who preferred to keep his girlfriend apart from his friends. She felt
herself colour under his gaze then, quick as a flash, she saw him regain his composure and his mouth twisted quizzically before he turned away again to look down at the indignantly squalling child as he followed the gitana out of the dwelling.
There was a large hollow in the ground next to the cave and a small fire had been lit alongside it. The matron poured water into it and Ruy immersed the child twice in the hole. He then held little Luis over the flame while enunciating a few words in Caló before giving him to his mother.
‘He is bestowing upon him the gift of immortality,’ Morena whispered, ‘an old tradition that some of us follow and that will bring much luck to the child.’
Bestowing the gift of disease, more like, thought Luna. For God’s sake, Ruy! You’re a doctor, you should know better.
She could understand superstitious gypsies abiding by such archaic customs, but a qualified medic? What was he thinking? She recalled her Aunt Isabel’s words: ‘The mixed gajo and Caló blood that runs in Ruy’s veins pulls him in different directions.’
A cradle made of bamboo was brought out. The matron handed Ruy three sprigs of garlic and three pieces of bread, which he placed underneath the mattress. Then, dipping his finger in the hot cinders, he marked the child’s forehead with a semi-circular sign illustrating the moon.
As Luna watched, it was as if a stranger was performing these alien gestures. She felt so far removed from this culture of arcane symbolism and superstition … and separated from Ruy too. Could she ever feel a part of this? There she was, fretting about hygiene and birthing practices, while Ruy casually daubed dirt on the newborn. Yet she sensed an odd stirring inside too, as though some inner part of her was reaching out to it all, like a hungry sapling seeking the sun.
Morena was still explaining these rituals to her and she struggled to focus on the gypsy’s words. ‘The garlic and the bread are for the three goddesses of fate. El Mèdico has explained to us that this tradition we have comes from the ancient legends of Greece. The first goddess spins the thread of life for each person
with her spindle, the second measures it with her rod, and the third determines when and how it should be cut. El Mèdico is very knowledgeable. El es un hombre sabio y un curandero, he is a wise man and a healer.’
Morena’s jet-black eyes were shining bright as jewels as she spoke of Ruy. He seemed to inspire hero-worship, if not infatuation, in every woman Luna came across. She wondered how the gypsy men felt about that and if he was as popular with them as he was with the gitanas.
‘He’s been here most evenings this week, when he’s not been at Sabrina’s helping her out.’ Morena smiled. ‘He’s a wonderful man, a true friend.’
Away on business? Luna recalled Charo’s words and seethed inwardly to think that Ruy had been here, at the gypsy camp, carousing with his friends or – worse still – alone with that ravishing minx Sabrina, ‘helping’ her.
If Morena noticed the tightening of Luna’s lips she didn’t let on, but continued to explain matters. ‘He has chosen for my nephew the name of Luis. That is the name he will be known by, but his parents have given him another, which will remain a secret so the devil will be deceived and will never know who the child is.’
Luna couldn’t help smiling. The naïvety of these people beggared belief, yet she found their ways charming.
There was a short pause and then Morena, all of a sudden, took a new tack. ‘El Mèdico often comes here when he is troubled. Always running away from something,’ she mused. ‘It does his soul good to be among his gypsy brethren, as it does when he tends his herb garden.’
Luna couldn’t help but wince at the thought that Ruy might be running away from her, from their growing intimacy. Intrigued, she asked: ‘Where is it, this herb garden?’
Morena gave her a keen glance. ‘It’s about a mile up that way.’ She pointed to a narrow path that Luna could just make out, snaking its way up into the wooded hills. ‘You see? There.’
Luna nodded. ‘Does he use the herbs to treat people in the camp?’
‘Sometimes. Though we do have aspirin and antibiotics, you know.’ Morena gave a throaty laugh. ‘But yes, there are recipes for salves and poultices which La Pharaona passed on to Ruy, ones that have been used for generations. He’s perfected her art and knows more about plant lore than anyone now, living or dead.’
Then as an afterthought: ‘Sabrina knows some, but her mother realized that Ruy was the true apprentice, the one she’d been waiting for. Every healer, every shaman, seeks the one to whom they will pass their secrets, their power before they depart this world for the next. Like my mother Paquita passing her mantle
to me. For La Pharaona, her natural successor was Ruy.’
As if by voicing his name Morena had managed somehow to summon Ruy, he now walked over to join them. Not once during the ceremony had he looked in Luna’s direction, which in some ways had been a blessing because it had given her a chance to vaguely soothe her fractured feelings. She gave him a tight smile, while he greeted Morena with a hug. ‘So the little chap has joined us at last!’
‘He was a long time coming. Didn’t want to leave Carmelita’s belly, the lazy little gitano!’
Morena chuckled, then winked. ‘I’d better leave you to it. They’ll need my help preparing the food. You know each other, I see.’
Luna detected a world of knowledge in Morena’s gaze. She wouldn’t have been at all surprised had the gypsy fortune teller known exactly what was going on between her and Ruy, right from the time they’d first met at the costume shop – and not because Ruy himself had breathed a word about it. The gitana
would not have needed him to. No, nothing would surprise Luna about this strange, earthy but ethereal woman.
For a moment she and Ruy stood silent while they watched Morena walk away to join the others, her colourful underskirt kicking out in a flash of red as she strode along.
‘Luna, what a surprise! I didn’t know you were also a friend of the gypsies.’ If Ruy detected Luna’s pique, he didn’t show it. Instead, he leaned his head towards her. ‘Just another thing we have in common,’ he whispered in her ear.
‘I don’t think so.’ Her voice was clipped. ‘I’m beginning to think there’s very little we have in common.’ She kept her attention focused on Morena, who was spooning something from a great big cooking pot into a gaudy earthenware bowl. Luna hardly dared look into his eyes again, fearing he would see the hurt and
longing she was feeling just being near him again.
Ruy’s tone changed, all pretence at humour now gone. ‘I’m sorry I’ve been elusive,’ he murmured. ‘I know how it must look to you. A stronger man would have called you, sent you a message this week. But I’m not a strong man at the moment, Luna. The truth is I had to stay away from you.’
She looked up at him sharply. ‘Really? Why is that? Did you have better things to do, other than being away on business, of course?’ Wasn’t that what men said when they were carrying on an affair? Luna tried not to think about the young gypsy siren again. She was acting like a jealous wife and the intensity of her
feelings alarmed her.
Ruy dragged a hand through his hair. ‘It’s only the evenings I’ve been here at the camp, Luna. My days have been filled with meetings outside Cádiz. I did arrange them on purpose so that I wouldn’t be in the office and see you every day, though. What I said to you at the concert was true, I can’t control how I feel around you.’ The blueness of his eyes was like bright lasers, and she couldn’t speak, couldn’t think. ‘I had to get my head together before I got in touch again. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing.’
Luna took a breath and bit back a sarcastic comment. What he’d said, and the earnest manner in which he said it, gave her pause. ‘I … I think I understand what you’re saying …’ She found herself stammering a little; she always felt uncomfortable talking about her feelings. ‘Let’s not dwell on it. Apology accepted.’
Ruy smiled and exhaled with obvious relief. He gestured towards his surroundings. ‘Being here has made me see things clearly,’ he said, and she could sense him relax again. ‘And, for a moment at least, with little Luis coming into the world, all other concerns seemed to melt away.’
‘Except the medical ones, clearly.’ She couldn’t help the acerbic remark. ‘Ritual is one thing, but where were the standard birthing hygiene measures for that baby? You’re supposed to be a doctor, for heaven’s sake, not a voodoo sorcerer!’
‘Don’t be angry with me, chica.’ He tweaked her cheek, and laughed. ‘What I did couldn’t harm the child.’
Luna huffed. ‘Dunking him in muddy water? You’re joking!’ Half irritated and half bemused by her antics, he gave her aquizzical smile. ‘Have you looked at the hole?’
She threw back her head defiantly. ‘No, why?’
Was it anger that darkened his face?
‘I wouldn’t judge before you have the facts, Luna. If you had, you’d see that the hole is tiled and the water was clean and warm.’
She felt the wind taken out of her sails somewhat, but her chin was still set at a stubborn angle.
‘You should be trying to educate them, not encouraging these weird superstitions dating from the Middle Ages,’ she retorted provocatively.
‘I’m afraid tunnel vision is not my forte.’
Luna glared at him. ‘Are you accusing me of being narrowminded?’
He returned her glare with a wicked smile. ‘Yes,’ he said softly. ‘I believe I am.’
She caught that glimmer of laughter in his eyes. Miffed, her lips compressed, she gave him a furious look. Just who did he think he was?
He smiled sardonically, obviously reading her mind. ‘One day we’ll have to sit down and seriously discuss our differences like adults.’
Just then Morena interrupted their tête-à-tête and he was spared Luna’s crushing answer. ‘You must taste one of our gypsy delicacies,’ the gitana said, addressing Luna as she held out a large tray of round cakes topped with sugar. ‘They are called jalluyo and are made of flour, sesame seed, sugar and olive oil. The wine is homemade.’
Luna politely took one of the cakes, but refused the glass of bluish-black wine with dark glints of vermillion. Just as she was gingerly biting into the rock of brown dough, she met Ruy’s mocking gaze.
‘I promise it won’t harm you. Well, maybe you’ll break a tooth or two, but that’s about it!’
His sarcastic comment was just what she didn’t need. At every turn he seemed to accuse her of being uptight, strait-laced or narrow-minded and she’d had enough. She was worn out; it had been a long day. Here she was, among a group of gypsies all talking at the top of their voices in a strange language that she
couldn’t fathom, with a man who insisted on following her every move with ironical eyes, scrutinizing her, judging her. Where was the closeness she thought they had shared at the concert now? She felt torn between the sudden need to cry, and wanting to stomp off.
Just then a giant of a man with tousled long black hair ambled over and slung a muscled arm around Ruy’s shoulders. His garish T-shirt barely contained his massive torso and Luna couldn’t help thinking of a fairy-tale giant, making her even more acutely conscious of the strange otherness of the camp, a place and a
people completely out of her ken.
He gave a slight nod of greeting. ‘You must be the lovely Luna that Ruy’s told me about.’ His eyes weren’t overly warm as he surveyed her.
Luna didn’t know what to say, other than to make a retort that she might regret, so she remained silent. One part of her was quietly glad that Ruy hadn’t after all been keeping her presence in his life secret from his gypsy friends.
‘Luna, this is my best friend, Chico,’ Ruy broke in quickly, throwing a warning glance at the huge man.
‘Well, enjoy,’ said Chico, raising the gourd he was carrying in his left hand to his mouth and taking a swig. ‘There’s a feast being prepared, and it mustn’t go to waste.’
With a last speculative look at Luna, he walked off, and she almost fancied she could feel the ground shake beneath her feet as he did so.
Luna turned to Ruy, glancing at her watch. ‘It’s time for me to go,’ she said in a decisive tone. ‘I must get back before dark.’
‘You can’t leave now, Luna. The zambra, the party to honour the newborn child, has barely started. They’ll take it as an insult if you go.’
‘Well, I’ll just have to live with that. I’ve parked my car in town and it’s a long walk. I’ll never find my way if I don’t leave now.’
‘I’ll give you a lift.’
‘No, thank you. I …’
The rest of the phrase died on her lips as toasts were raised and the frenzied thrumming of guitars started up, punctuated by olés and andes. While Ruy and Luna had been talking, mats, chairs and cushions had been placed outside the cave for the audience, with the quadro flamenco in one corner.
Ruy’s fingers closed on her arm in a grip that brooked no argument. ‘Come, let’s sit down. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a lift back to your car tonight. You really can’t go now.’
‘But I must …’
‘Don’t be so argumentative.’
Argumentative? Her? The cheek of the man! She wasn’t going to have a fight here. Anyhow, she was tired; all this bickering was wearing her out.
They moved towards the gathering of gitanos and, silently, she let herself be led, his very nearness causing her every nerve to quiver with discomfort. God, he was much too close! Her breasts tingled, her stomach churned, her heart knocked against her ribs. A fragrance floated towards her, making her head swoon – a
combination of spice, musk and mint that characterized him so well. It was his scent; she would recognize it anywhere. Her throat felt parched and she swallowed hard, praying for this uneasiness to subside. She didn’t want to give herself away. He must never guess how vulnerable she was with him, how much she had needed him – wanted him – this past week when he had clearly decided to make himself scarce.
Night was beginning to fall. Luna watched as the sky became a greenish-blue with a few purple puffy clouds shot with golden tints. Gradually the camp became shrouded in darkness, wrapped up in the veil of night against the clear sky. The moon and stars became visible and more braziers were lit. In the glowing light of the flames, there was something unearthly about these people, these gypsies with their long unkempt hair, coarse swarthy features and magnificent dark and deep-set woeful eyes. Clinging desperately to their primitive ways, they sang and danced to forget their misery. It all combined to give an overpowering sense of unreality and Luna felt as though she was in an epic dream. She decided to give in to it; give herself to the power of this strange and time-honoured revelry, to let Ruy guide her through whatever arcane rites she might be witness to or, indeed, be required to face.
As the night progressed and the wine kept flowing, so the fiesta became noisier. Men and women capered and jumped in the air like mythical fauns, or tapped their feet with eyes half closed, while others performed the toque de palmas – the famous hand clapping – or snapped castanets. All the while, there was the eternal stamping, stamping, stamping of feet, which made the already disorientated Luna feel positively giddy.
Now, gypsy girls with rouged lips and cheeks, in brightly coloured dresses that hugged their waists and hips, took their place in the middle of the stage, one after another. They danced with arms raised above their heads, before moving spiralling hands down their quivering bodies in graceful undulating movements. The audience was growing raucous, everyone drinking, dancing and laughing, loudly joining in the choruses as if they had not a care in the world.
Luna’s mind and body felt inexorably drawn into the whirling noisy maelstrom, wholly sensitized, as if her nerve-ends were electric somehow. She was also painfully aware of the man sitting beside her. He was close, so agonizingly close. From the corner of her eye she noticed his tanned bronze face turning every now and then in her direction, his blue gaze scrutinizing her thoughtfully.
He was going to give her a lift back to where she’d parked. The mere thought of being trapped alone in a car with him filled her with panic. What if he tried to kiss her? A sudden warmth flooded her body. Wouldn’t it be exactly what she needed, everything she had been aching for? No, it wouldn’t, a voice at the back of her mind castigated. How could she untangle the snarl of different emotions she was feeling? There was no logical reasoning or explanation she could whip up against a force so powerful that her whole being trembled with the intensity of it. She sighed.
Immediately she felt his hand on her arm.
‘Tired?’ he whispered softly in her ear.
She shook her head without looking at him.
‘Next, it will be my turn to sing. We can’t leave yet.’
Her heart fluttered like a captive butterfly. ‘You’re going to sing?’ she uttered, breathless, as memories of another time when he had sung rushed back. She looked up at him with wide amber eyes that were unable to hide her feelings.
‘Yes, I’m going to sing a ballad for you, just for you, beautiful Luna.’ His bedroom eyes beckoned and the seductive whispered words were full of promise. When he left his seat to take his place in the middle of the quadro flamenco, Morena came and sat next to Luna.
As Ruy’s powerful sultry voice rose into the night, the atmosphere around him trembled and stirred. Time stood still while Luna was caught up in the magical quality of the tender melody. The melancholy notes floated towards her, making every nerve-end vibrate, releasing her mind from the anxiety and stress that had beset her these past few days, stealing it away to a dreamland where their souls were one. Every note seemed to be a pure expression of love and passion, one that the singer wanted to remain forever
engraved in the heart of his intended. Every girl’s eyes in the camp were feasting on the handsome singer, no doubt imagining what itwould feel like to be the object of such adoration. How could Luna ever feel secure in his regard – whatever that was – when Ruy was such a magnet for every other hot-blooded woman around?
When the song ended, she met his gaze and although he was surrounded by gypsies hailing him cheerfully, she was aware of the tension flowing from him to her, a kind of wild expectancy that was almost tangible. Her pulse quickened and her gaze tried to skitter away from his, but he held her suspended, anticipating
and captive. Once more, her doubts melted away in the fire of his stare. In the midst of a crowd they were alone in the world, each knowing what the other was thinking; each lost in the fierce emotion between them.
Morena flashed a friendly smile at Luna. ‘El Mèdico has eyes only for you, señorita, and you, you tremble when he looks at you,’ she murmured.
Then she took hold of Luna’s arm, and her features darkened. In the glowing light of the fire Luna saw the usually vivacious eyes glaze over in a glassy stare. She had witnessed this once before,
at Mascaradas, and apprehension filled her as she tried to gently prise herself away from the gypsy’s grip. Morena’s fingers clutched her tightly, digging into her like a bird’s claws. ‘The electricity between you hovers in the air. It is suspended above your heads, menacing, and charged with foreboding.’
Once again, her voice had become cavernous and hoarse. ‘Such a powerful passion is dangerous. It can cause the earth to tremble and volcanoes to erupt.’ She paused for a moment and then, closing her eyes, raised her voice in a chant and recited an incantation, before ending gloomily: ‘There is a full moon
tonight and the moon is a jealous goddess. Sooner or later, she will claim her share and you will pay for it with your tears.’
Morena blinked as if shaking something off, then rummaged in her pocket. ‘Do not despair,’ she said, taking Luna’s hand and slipping into it what felt like a warm smooth pebble. ‘This charm will guard you from the evil spirits. It will induce calm and peace within your troubled heart. It has mystic powers, but must stay buried in your heart. Wear it against your breast, but never tell anybody of its origin. No permanent harm will come to you as long as this magic jewel is with you.’
Luna smiled awkwardly, noting this was the second time that the gypsy had warned her, but she refused to dwell on the thought. ‘Thank you, Morena, I will take good care of it,’ she promised. She did not really believe in this hocus-pocus nonsense, she told herself, but she was sensitive to the gypsy’s kindness and
hospitality. After all, she had been included in a family celebration without any reticence or prejudice. In return, why not give the benefit of the doubt to these people?
They embraced and Morena moved away just as Ruy, having freed himself from his effusive fans, walked towards them.
‘I didn’t know you had friends among the gypsies.’
‘Morena sold me the Moon Queen costume.’
‘Ah yes, at Mascaradas,’ he said, the glimmer of a memory lighting his eyes. ‘She’s engaged to Chico, you know. I’ll introduce you properly to him after the dancing has finished. He’s not the growling giant he seems, I promise.’
They paused to watch as the music started up again and dancing couples began to twirl once more in a flurry of clapping and singing.
Ruy nodded towards them. ‘One thing about gypsies, they know how to celebrate. Have you enjoyed your evening?’ he asked courteously.
‘Very much. I think people were a little suspicious of me at first but Morena was very kind.’
‘You know what they say about gypsies? They make wonderful friends and formidable enemies.’
Luna said nothing, although for an instant her mind flicked to the memory of Chico’s glowering face.
‘Have you ever tried it before?’ Ruy smiled at her quizzically.
She gave him a blank look. ‘Tried what?’
Luna let out a nervous laugh. ‘Sadly, no, but it’s fascinating to watch. I can’t boast any experience of that side of my Spanish heritage.’
‘We’ll have to remedy that then,’ Ruy murmured.
She looked suddenly taken aback. ‘I would have to drink quite a bit of sangria for that ever to happen, and even then, your feet wouldn’t be safe from my lack of rhythm.’
He looked at her through a wayward lock of dark hair. ‘I think you have very good rhythm, Luna.’
She swallowed lightly at the look in his eye.
‘Come, Luna, let’s dance.’
‘What now? I’ve never danced flamenco before. Please, Ruy, I can’t. Not in front of all these people!’ Luna protested.
His hand was outstretched and she paused a moment, meeting his spirited gaze.
‘I promise you can even step on my toes if you want to.’
She reluctantly took his hand and Ruy pulled her with him in one swift movement to where the gypsies were standing in a loose circle, in the middle of which dancers spun around each other. The velvet canopy of night hung above them, but all around was the orange haze of firelight and braziers. Spicy smells of
woodsmoke, tobacco and grilled chorizo wafted in the air, borne by the faintest of warm breezes now that the heavy heat of the day had eased. Two guitarists were now strumming fast chord progressions alongside the percussive beat of tambourines, and the syncopated rhythm of hand clapping and fingers snapping.
There were various couples, young and old, all stalking and twirling around each other with abandon, hands weaving above their heads. The tassels on the women’s shoulders and bodices flew around in colourful arcs as their dresses shimmered in the firelight. Dancers held on to each other and turned this way and that to the loud chorus of voices wailing in unison around them, goading them on with whoops and cries of ‘Olé!’
As she watched the vivid spectacle, Luna could feel the enticing beat of the music seeping into her, despite her reluctance to join in. This was better than any live show of flamenco she had seen back home in California. She sensed Ruy standing close behind her.
‘Shall we?’ he murmured.
Her stomach gave a little jump and she spoke without turning round. ‘I’m not sure if I can do this. I need to see how to count out the steps first.’
The smile was audible in his voice. ‘You don’t need to count anything, Luna. My father taught my mother to dance flamenco. I will do the same for you. Just relax and trust me.’
Luna almost laughed. Wasn’t she always trying to do that?
His breath was warm in her ear and he stood so close to her that she almost leaned into him though, for some reason, it was hard to look at his face.
Ruy placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her round towards him, forcing her to meet his eyes. ‘Don’t be nervous with me, Luna.’ His gaze was as tangible as the heat from the fire. ‘Open your heart and let out your passion. This is Spain, these are your people. Just let go.’ The music pulsated around them as
he lifted her hand and gently closed her delicate fingers into a fist, wrapping his own, strong and dexterous, gently around it. His eyes were like liquid blue fire as he held her clenched hand between her breasts. ‘Feel it here.’
Luna’s heart was thumping so hard beneath his fingers she thought it would burst. Ruy led her into the throng of dancers and immediately sent her into a spin with just a flick of his wrist. She had no time to think; she could only react, following his lead. For a moment she almost collided with his broad chest, but his steadying hand caught her effortlessly at the waist and held her tight.
‘Just follow where I take you,’ he murmured, lifting one arm into the air, his mouth just inches from hers.
He moved around her in a circle while his hand held her waist, his other arm bent behind his back, then turned her in a figure of eight. She was painfully aware of his lithe, muscular frame as it brushed against her. He stepped back, spreading his arms wide and high, then bringing his hands down to his waist. Then
he nodded at her to do the same and she obeyed, echoing his gestures, transfixed by the electricity between them.
Luna found that she had remembered some of the movements she had seen the other women make, and started to move instinctively, gyrating her hips gently and raising her arms more expressively than before. Ruy’s eyes widened in appreciation, his gaze sliding fervently down her body, and Luna found herself basking in the hunger she could feel emanating from him. All embarrassment melted away and a liberating wave of emotion carried her higher and higher as the music and clapping crescendoed.
Ruy now moved one foot in front of the other, proudly stamping out the steps with the heel of his boots, each arm coming down to his waist as he moved, one jet-black lock of hair falling moodily in front of his brow as he did so. He was pure gypsy, Luna thought. It was the most sexual, mesmerizing thing she had ever seen.
Ruy took both her arms now, lifting them above her head and holding them in place as he let his hands glide down the sides of her body. Luna’s breath caught in her throat and heat fired in her core. For a moment her eyelids fluttered closed as her head tipped back. She was in Ruy’s arms again, as she had been at the masked ball, and nothing felt more natural. His masculine power overwhelmed her.
While they danced, Ruy’s eyes never left her face, often sliding down to her mouth and remaining there while his hand held her waist, his body moving against hers to the insistent rhythm of the music. His gaze was intoxicating, searing her like blue lightning and her head span with the delicious pleasure of it. There was nothing but the music and the fierce longing she saw in his eyes and the heat of their desire.
As the music came to a triumphant conclusion, Ruy sent Luna into one last spin and then drew her against his muscled body, crushing her breasts to him. Her breathing was laboured against his chest, which was rising and falling rapidly in tandem with hers. His eyes left her mouth and, without speaking, they were locked in an intense gaze as if all the words of passion and emotion they had for one another were struggling to express themselves in that moment and could not.
Luna tried to steady her deep, trembling breath. She brought herself to her senses, and pushed gently at Ruy’s chest, taking a step back from him, though in helpless thrall to those riveting blue eyes. Exhilarated and disorientated by the wash of fire still sweeping her body after their dance, her mind was stupefied.
Ruy led her to a log that had been fashioned into a rudimentary bench. They sat a moment in silence, each recovering from the dance. It took a while for Luna’s heart to slow its thunderous beating; her emotions were in such disarray.
Finally she managed to speak. ‘Thank you for the dance,’ she whispered, letting the polite words cover the confusion mixed with naked longing that was still assailing her.
Just then, Morena and Chico emerged from the onlookers, arms around one another. Chico looked altogether softer, no longer the boorish ogre of before. When he spoke to Luna now, his voice was warm, if a little slurred. ‘You two dance as if you were made for each other,’ he said. ‘There’s no Herrera can dance
like that, I’m certain. You must be a changeling after all.’
Luna blanched at the mention of her family. Ruy was quick to intervene.
‘No talk of Herreras,’ he said, leaning over to cuff his friend, before turning to Luna, his eyes glittering softly. ‘Let me get us some water. You stay here and get to know my blood brother.’
‘You know, Luna,’ said Chico when Ruy had walked off, arm in arm with Morena, ‘I owe you an apology.’ He sat down heavily beside her with a gourd of wine and his great craggy face was a picture of regret, enhanced no doubt by the quantity of alcohol he’d imbibed.
‘You don’t have to say that,’ said Luna, flushing slightly.
‘Thing is, I thought you’d be just another of those no-good Herreras,’ he said. ‘And that was wrong of me, muy equivocada. When Ruy told me who you were, I thought you might be mala suerte, bad luck for him. We have a saying: the seed never falls far from the tree – but that’s rubbish. We can all escape the cards
we’re dealt at birth.’
‘You were just trying to protect your friend,’ said Luna. ‘That’s only natural. He’s a lucky man to have you looking out for him.’
‘No, it’s me who should be grateful. I know Ruy would risk his life for me without a second thought. That’s the kind of man he is,’ Chico replied fervently. ‘That’s what it is to be blood brothers.’
Luna was instantly curious. ‘I heard Morena and Ruy both call you that. What does it mean exactly?’
‘He hasn’t told you? It happened when I was sixteen, Ruy was ten.’ Chico took a gulp of wine from the gourd and settled into his story. ‘I used to do some work for his family at El Pavón, a bit of this and that, mostly in the gardens. Anyway, one day he saw me pinch his mother’s Cartier watch. She’d left it by the swimming pool.’ He waved his hand dismissively. ‘It was a stupid dare from one of the other kids at the camp, who was jealous I’d got the job. Next thing I knew, Ruy was riding his bike like a crazy devil into
our camp. He told me the police had come, that his mother had said I’d been the only person in the garden that morning.’
‘What happened next?’
‘He said I’d better give him the watch as the police would come searching. Then he took it and rode off. I found out later that he’d taken it back to his house and put it in the cupboard under the sink in his parents’ bathroom.’
‘And the blood brothers’ thing?’ asked Luna.
‘After that I went looking for Ruy. I needed to show my thanks. He saved me from screwing up my life. I found him in his garden and we performed the rite. It’s a time-honoured ritual that us gitanos would defend with our lives. I cut both our palms with my navaja, my knife, then pressed them together to let the blood mix.’
At this Luna just managed to stop herself from mentioning that they could have caught hepatitis or any number of infections. In her mind’s eye she could imagine Ruy intuiting her thoughts
with his customary knack, and regarding her with his gently mocking twinkle.
Once on the subject of Ruy there was no stopping Chico. ‘Ruy may be only a quarter gitano but he’s as much a gypsy as any of us, pueden pulgas comer mis ojos, and may fleas eat my eyes if I’m wrong. As a kid he was like a sponge, absorbing our ways, all our lore. Every spare moment he had, he’d be tearing off to our camp. Exploring the sea caves.’ He gave a booming laugh. ‘That boy never did care what the gajo world thought of him.’
‘I can see that,’ said Luna reflectively. ‘Otherwise he wouldn’t have chosen to pursue his line of work.’
‘That’s right.’ Chico gave a hiccup and tapped his chest with a massive fist. ‘He’s always followed his star. When I was a youngster I just wanted to have a laugh, bit of work here and there … partying whenever it suited me. Ruy’s not like that. He wanted to make a difference, see.’
‘Yes, I suppose I do.’ And she did, she realized. Ruy, whom she had found so devilish at times, was still a man full of compassion, loyalty and integrity. A man who was laying siege to her heart, though if she allowed herself to fall in love with him she could well regret it bitterly.
‘I hope Chico hasn’t been divulging all my secrets,’ came a deep voice behind them. Ruy was back. ‘He’s got a loose tongue when he’s had a bit of manzanilla.’ He grinned at Luna, who took the glass of water he offered her and drank it straight down gratefully.
Chico rested the gourd clumsily on his knee, peering up at his friend. ‘Hermanito, you know what they say. Para todo mal, manzanilla, para toda bien, tambien. For every ill, drink manzanilla. For everything good, as well. Salut!’
Luna stood up. ‘I really think we should be going,’ she said.
‘Come on, my friends,’ said Chico, pulling his great weight off the bench. ‘The night is still young! There’s plenty left in the barrel. Stay and see the sun rise. It’s not every day a babe’s head is wetted.’
Luna was grateful that Ruy didn’t join his friend in insisting she stay. Instead he agreed that it was time to leave, and was smilingly firm with Chico, who staggered to his feet and raised his gourd to them both. ‘All right then. In that case, I’m going to see what Morena is up to. I want a dance with my woman.’
As Chico bade them farewell and went back to join the revellers, Ruy crossed his arms. ‘Did Chico give you a hard time about being a Herrera?’ he asked, the casualness of his tone belied by the slight shifting of his weight from one foot to the other.
‘He apologized, actually,’ said Luna. ‘In not so many words, he said I wasn’t, as far as he could tell, a chip off the old block.’
‘He didn’t say anything else?’ There was still a tautness about Ruy, Luna could sense it. What was it that he was hiding? Something that Chico was aware of, evidently. Once more, disquiet curled its
tendrils around her heart, squeezing it uncomfortably.
‘Nothing you should be worried about.’ Luna gave a short laugh that was somewhat forced, uneasy. ‘Look, I realize my being a Herrera must be difficult for you. Maybe your family’s not best pleased … but you must know that my mother was nothing to me, and I was nothing to her. I don’t like a single one of the Herreras, and that’s that.’
A look of surprise, relief even, crossed Ruy’s face. ‘Luna, is that what you’re dwelling on? Listen, I don’t care who your family is.’ His gaze was intense. ‘You mustn’t think we’re judging you in any way. For God’s sake, we’re hardly ones to talk. There’s never been a lack of feuding in our family. My grandmother, Marujita, the gypsy queen, fought tooth and nail to bring down Salvador and Luz. I’ve
got the blood of bitter rivals coursing through my veins already.’
It was the first time that the subject of her family had been raised, and Luna felt as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders. She smiled, relieved. ‘You don’t mind that I’m half Herrera then?’
‘Luna, I wouldn’t mind if you were half Martian.’ He gave her a raffish grin, then suddenly changed the subject. ‘Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?’ he asked.
Hannah Fielding was born and grew up in Alexandria, Egypt. Her family home was a large rambling house overlooking the Mediterranean where she lived with her parents and her grandmother, Esther Fanous, who had been a revolutionary feminist and writer in Egypt during the early 1900s.
Fluent in French, English and Arabic, Hannah’s left school at 18 and travelled extensively all over the world. Hannah met her husband in England and they lived in Cairo for 10 years before returning to England in 1989. They settled in Kent, bringing up two children in a Georgian rectory, surrounded by dogs, horses and the English countryside. During this time, Hannah established a very successful business as an interior designer renovating rundown cottages.
With her children now grown up, Hannah now has the time to indulge in her one true passion, which is writing. Hannah has so far published four novels all featuring exotic locations and vivid descriptions: Burning Embers set in 1970s Africa, The Echoes of Love set in 1980s Venice, Indiscretion set in the 1950s and Masquerade set in the 1970s, both set in Spain. Her romance novels are adored by readers all over the world.
Author Website - http://hannahfielding.net/Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Hannah-Fielding/dp/0993291775/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1487948856&sr=1-1