Maria looked up to see Diego there and smiled. He was leaning against the door frame as he tentatively peered into the room, “Hello, Señorita. Do you mind? Am I interrupting?” He asked shyly.
“No, no, please – come in,” she replied, “sit down. And it’s Maria, remember?”
“Yes, of course. Thank you, Maria.” Diego said, stepping immediately over to the wing-backed chair beside the bed and sitting down. Looking into her deep green eyes Diego very nearly lost his train of thought, transfixed once more by her staggering beauty, but he quickly regained his composure before speaking again. “So, Dr Degollado tells me you are doing well. That is very good news.”
“It is, yes.”
“And you are feeling better in yourself?”
“Much, thank you.”
“Good, good…” Diego’s nerves were getting the better of him, especially as she was now studying him intently. He was not a natural conversationalist nor especially good at chatting to women in general but he usually managed well enough. However, Maria had come to mean so much to him over the years so he was momentarily tongue-tied and knew not what to say next for fear of it possibly being the wrong thing. “That is good news indeed,” he said, then realised immediately that he was repeating himself and assumed she must think him a complete buffoon. “Sorry,” he said, brushing a hand through his hair, making it stick out at odd angles. “May I have a sip of your water?”
“Of course, please do,” said Maria smiling.
Diego reached for the water jug and spare glass on her bedside table. With an unsteady hand he hurriedly poured himself a drink and took several long sips. Instantly he felt calmer.
“Better?” she asked.
“I make you nervous?”
“A little, yes.” He replied. “Actually a lot,” he laughed. She laughed, too, in a kindly way. She had a magical, tinkling little giggle which somehow relaxed him.
“I don’t know why. I’m supposedly a captain of industry, an international businessman responsible for the livelihoods of thousands of people, yet here I am, a blithering idiot. It’s truly ridiculous is it not?”
She laughed some more. “It is a little,” she said. “But there’s no need to be nervous, I’m not a monster, I won’t bite your head off.”
“That is reassuring to know,” he said, placing a hand on his heart and tapping it with mock relief.
“I am cross with you, however,” she said.
“You are?” Diego spluttered, suddenly mortified. “I’m deeply sorry, Señorita, why so?”
“Because two weeks ago you said that you would visit me again soon and yet it has taken you all this time.” Even though her voice was stern she was smiling, maybe even flirting a little, but she meant every word she said – not that she was actually cross with him but she was desperate for company and he did intrigue her very much. She felt that he would be an ideal companion for her whilst she convalesced.
“Yes, Maria, sorry, please forgive—”
“No, Diego.” She interrupted. “I will not forgive you. Not unless you promise to visit me every day or at least as often as your work allows.” She may have sounded like a petulant child but there was a mischievous glint in her eye and a playful grin on her face that told Diego she was only teasing but he was most happy to play along.
“Why of course. You have my word of honour. I will visit you every day from now until the day you wish to leave. Would that please you?”
“It would,” she said earnestly. “But what about your company, your commitments?”
“Ah, well,” replied Diego, now feeling much more at ease in her company, “That is the great benefit of being a wealthy man. I have many people I can rely on who will keep things running smoothly in my absence.”
He was under playing his importance to Matador considerably. People like Juan Pablo Clemente were indeed loyal, talented and eminently capable but none were so naturally gifted at global business as Diego Del Toro. But for him nothing was more important than Maria. Her recovery was first and foremost in his mind and if that meant him taking a temporary leave of absence then so be it. He could still keep his hands firmly on the helm of Matador, it would just have to be from Cadiz. Juan Pablo had already done a sterling job representing him over the past two weeks and Diego was certain that he would be more than happy to continue.
“That is indeed a significant benefit.”
“It is. I am an extremely lucky man. So, Maria, do you accept my offer?”
“You’ll visit every day, you promise?”
“Ten o’clock every morning for at least an hour, I swear it.”
“At least. We’ll have to be guided by Dr Degollado – we must not hamper your recovery and you may find me—” he searched for the right word – he spoke English fluently but it was not his first language. Then he smiled and said, “Tiresome.”
Maria could not help but laugh. He was very modest but also extremely likeable. “You are right,” she said, “I might. But somehow I doubt it.”
“Those are my terms. Do you accept?”
“Excellent. Then, Señorita Maria—” he said, rising to his feet and taking her hand in his, “I bid you farewell until tomorrow when I will be back here at ten o’clock sharp.” He bent and very lightly kissed her hand then moved towards the door.
“Until tomorrow,” Maria said, feeling strangely flushed.
“Indeed,” said Diego. Then he was gone.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here