Chapter 1

California, 1802.

Spanish lord, Adrian Santiago watched the girl in his fields from his bedroom window. It was difficult to see what she was doing but he was sure of who she was; Alexandra De Sanchez. No one else had that very deep red hair in the village. He knew Federico, her father; their family had just moved here from England but he knew Federico would never let his daughter wander around on another man's land; so what on earth was the girl doing in there? He toyed with the idea of sending one of his men to bring her in, but brushed the thought away; the men would probably scare her. He would go himself…after his drink.


Alexandra had cornered Menelaus, her dog. She was trying not to startle him and was moving in slowly. The creature probably thought it was a game. He pranced around, ready for another run.

"'Idiot' would have been a better name for you," she said to the dog. He barked. "Shhh! someone will hear us."

Apparently someone did; she heard sounds coming from beyond the clearing she was standing in.

"Excellent," she said to the dog, who just stared up at her.

Here she was on a man's plantation. This was the sort of thing that…No! She was not going to think about that now.

"Menelaus! Come!"

Out of some miracle the dog actually followed her. She planned on going to the center of the field then moving towards the only unguarded fence. Damn the stupid maze! She planned to do this, but now that she'd wandered so far through it, she couldn't find a way that led to the center? The next sound made her heart start beating wildly; it was the sound of hooves and she didn't want to be caught in here. Calm down. She told herself. All she needed to do was find the nearest path. But where was that?

The sounds got nearer and she broke into a run. She could hear and feel the horse behind her and suddenly she was pulled up by a pair of very strong arms. She could tell that this was no ordinary worker by the softness of his shirt, the smoothness was unmistakably silk. She could feel his taut muscles beneath the shirt and she caught a long whiff of his cologne as she bumped into his chest. The scent was heady and intoxicating. No! What was she doing? She should be fighting to get away from him. If word of her being here got to her father…well the thought didn't bear consideration.

"Let go of me Señor or your master will hear of this!" What was the man doing here anyway? She looked around and couldn't see Menelaus anywhere. Ugh! This was one disaster followed by another.

"I fear he already knows." He said and there was amusement in his voice.

"I'll scream if you don't let me go."

She didn't mean it of course; the last thing she wanted was to draw attention to herself and, besides, if what the man said was true, Don Santiago might have sent him here. He was probably a well paid henchman. Her struggles with him, however, did not elicit any response from him other than a deep, rumbling laugh.

So she screamed. But, far from letting her go, he put his hand over her mouth and pulled her closer to him.

"Hush, querida."

Since she couldn't bite his hand she licked it instead. His reaction proved just as effective.

She controlled the unladylike urge to spit and said "I am not your dear!"

She had learned enough Spanish from her maid Bernadine, to understand the term of endearment.

"Now let me go this instant!"

Surprisingly enough he did and she got off the horse with as much dignity as she could muster. When she turned around to give him the tongue lashing he deserved, her eyes widened in shock. The man on the horse was none other than Don Santiago. He smiled.

"You might want to get back on the horse; you won't get far on foot."

"I was trying to get out of the field."

"Ah, but why were you here?"

"My dog ran in here and I was trying to find him…he must be somewhere here…he just ran off, he's very playful you see. He's bound to turn up any minute now."

She realized she was rambling but the skeptical look on his face made her slightly nervous and the continued absence of Menelaus didn't help her story. She looked around for the dog; unless the stupid animal suddenly turned up, it was likely he wouldn't believe her and then what? This was his land and she was trespassing; dog or no dog. What did they do to trespassers in this country?

"Come up on the horse. I'll take you home," he said.

"No, no. I'm sure I can find my way if you just get me out of this maze."

"Oh no, I couldn't let you walk."

"I walked and ran here chasing Menelaus, so I'm quite sure I can do it again."


"My dog."

"Oh", he said in comprehension. "But I insist, nonetheless. I never let a lady walk if I can help it."

"Please do."

"Give me a reason." There was a challenge twinkling in his eyes and she fought hard to resist it.

"I have one…" She began, knowing that it would sound just as ridiculous to him as it did in her head. He said nothing, only raising a quizzical brow in question.

"But, it's really none of your business." She finally snapped primly, straightening her spine to infuse a degree of maturity in the declaration. He seemed to draw himself up as well and there was a distinct hardening of his face and eyes. She turned from him and began walking away but his voice stopped her.

"Is your reason for trespassing also, none of my business?" He asked, with a politeness that his eyes belied.

"I…no, I told you I was chasing my dog!" She said rounding on him. She had been walking towards a path she could see beyond the clearing; she assumed he would tell her if she was going the wrong way; he was right behind her after all.

"And yet, no dog appears," He said, his smile still not reaching his eyes.

"He's here, somewhere." She was fighting a rising frustration.

In reply he rode forward, grabbed her and swung her unto the horse; right in front of him. She screamed again and tried but failed to get out of his grasp.

"Perhaps we will ask your father, yes?" He was almost whispering into her ear and the sound sent unusual thrills running down her spine. She jerked forward to break the intimate grasp.

"You can't take me home!" She snapped, trying to keep from sounding desperate. She needed to be logical. "Do you know what my father would say if I arrived astride your horse looking like this? Did you bother to think about the possible consequences of your taking me home? No! Of course not! You only…"

"I am only thinking of your safety, querida." He said pulling her back against him. "A young lady, such as yourself, should not be wandering around alone on another man's land. I'm sure your father would be able to explain the issue…better, in fact, than I could."

She felt the blood drain from her face at his words and felt familiar and unwelcome tears clog her throat. She hated it, her embarrassing habit of crying whenever she was scared. And now, in front of this stranger, she was falling prey to it. Blinking furiously, she kept the tears at bay as she tried to control her rising apprehension.

Her silence didn't seem to have gone unnoticed and the lord asked, with all the geniality of a gentleman at court, "Are you inventing a better tale for his ears, querida? Perhaps you were kidnapped by the wicked Don." The mocking laugh was unnerving but she knew she needed to convince him to let her go before they reached the open and she racked her brains for something. Where the devil was Menelaus?

They were getting dangerously close to the gate and there was no loosening of the firm hold around her middle. Desperation seized her and she cried, "Stop!" She had no excuse planned and was rather surprised at the sudden jerk, as Santiago pulled the horse to a halt.

"What is it?" He asked, impatiently. There was mistrust in the question and she couldn't help feeling that he wouldn't believe anything story that came out of her mouth.

"You can't take me home like this." She began, rather lamely.

"I think I can." He replied."

"Yes, I know, but you mustn't."


"Please." She couldn't believe she had actually let the plea escape from her, but the word changed the situation. "Please," she repeated, "You mustn't do this. I'm…I'm sorry and I know my dog hasn't shown his face, but you must believe me when I say that I only came in here to find him."

She supposed the fact that she wasn't facing him through this conversation helped in the way of exposing such anxiety to a man who was practically a stranger. She bit her bottom lip nervously waiting in his silence.

"I will take you to the main road, Senorita," He said, finally. "And I will have my workers search for your dog." Did he still, not believe her? But he was doing as she asked, so she decided not to care.

"Thank you." She murmured.

"You're welcome, querida."

For the next five minutes they rode in silence; perhaps the man had decided to leave her to her own musings…

"What color is your dog?" Or not.


"If it's seen I would think you would want it returned to you."

"He's brown with a white nose." The odd silence prompted her to thank him once again.

"Again the pleasure is mine."

They rode on for another five minutes in silence until they reached the main road.

"Thank you again. Goodbye Don Santiago."

"Goodbye Senorita, we'll see soon enough."

What did he mean by that, she wondered. She was still puzzling over this when someone grabbed her arm. "Come with me!"

"Señorita Honduras! What are you …?"

"I should be asking you the same question, Alexandra". Alex hated being called Alexandra and Madam Honduras was one of the few people who actually called her that.

"But I'm sure your father will be capable of asking you himself."

"My…my father? You didn't? You couldn't have…"

"The minute I saw you sneaking in here…I never thought the Don could be so…"

"The Don did nothing!" Alex said, tearing her arm away. "And I can find my own way home, thank you very much!" With that she turned and started towards her father's house.

"Somebody's in trouble," her younger sister, Adele, sang. "Daddy wants to see you."

"Do you know why?"

"Oh no; I never listen to other people's conversations"


She went towards the stairs but hesitated on the first step; perhaps her sister could be of some help. "Do you know who he was talking to?"

"I'm not your spy," she said superciliously and returned to what she was sewing.

"I hope you prick your finger."

"I hope you break your heart."

"What is that supposed to mean?"


"Then why did you say it? Why would I break my heart?"

"Why, why, pigeon pie."

"Of course, your little bouts of madness." Alex said going up the stairs, her sister's laughter following her.

"Come in, Alexandra." Her father was the only other person who called her that… well her brother did but only when he was extremely angry.

She walked in and closed the door behind her.

"Alexandra, I will not beat about the bush. I ask you: Why were you sneaking around in Don Santiago's fields?"

"I wasn't sneaking around. I was trying to find Menelaus."

"Señorita Honduras says you where on his horse draped all over him."

"She would." Alex muttered.

"What was that?"


"Even now you disrespect me."

"I'm not trying to be disrespectful, father." She said slowly. With her father, it was so easy to fall out of favor.

"Why do you do this to me, Alexandra?"

She remained silent, bowing her head in a subdued fashion, hoping he would just yell and be done with it.

"Is that the way of a lady of my household? Do you know what it means for my own daughter to be seen with a man? Unattended!?"

"But you know the Don." She said, and bit her tongue, cursing her mouth.

"It is of no consequence whether I know him or not. You leave me no choice, Alexandra. Your behavior is unacceptable and – "

A knock on the door made him pause, he glanced at Alexandra before allowing the knocker, entrance.

"Excuse me, father." Lincoln, her elder brother came in right on time, in her opinion. "There's a man who wishes to see you on some very important matters." He looked quizzically at Alex, who refused to meet his eye.

"I'll talk to you after dinner, Alexandra." Her father said and left the room.

"What did you do this time?" Lincoln asked.

"Nothing whatsoever." She said, with a mischievous smile as she dropped into one of her father's soft leather chairs.

"Nothing whatsoever?"

"Nothing whatsoever." She reaffirmed.

"Adele seemed overjoyed." He said lightly, playing with his pocket watch.

"I'm starting to hate that girl." Alex said, with a scowl. "Every year, she gets worse."

"She grows on you after a while." He said of his youngest sister.

"Like a parasite?" She asked with a grin.

"You know I didn't mean that…"He laughed. "I used to hate you too; everyone treating you like glass…come to think of it they still do; I just stopped noticing when I started doing it myself."

"This is all that snakes fault." Alex said, vehemently.

"That Honduras woman?"

"See the nickname makes sense."

"Careful; the walls have ears."

"Our walls wouldn't tell hers anything. Besides I'm not afraid of her. All she has is her viper's tongue and I don't care about talk."

"Maybe you should."

"Maybe you should." She imitated him "Don't be such a hypocrite. You don't care about talk either. You've said so yourself many times."

"I don't have to. You, on the other hand, do." He, said as he left the room.

"Stop being so damned prophetic, Lincoln. It doesn't fit you."


Alex sat cross-legged on her bed, her brow furrowed. Her personal maid, Bernadine, busied herself with some articles of clothing while she listened with interest to her lady speak.

"Oh Bernadine, it's so confusing. The way I feel, you know."

"My lady, I have not known a man like that, so I do not."

"Yes, yes, of course. But Bernadine his arms…"


"He was so strong and so…so manly. And his smell…"

"His smell?"

"Oh no. I meant his cologne. It was…it made me so lightheaded. And his smile was..."

"Was it really?" Adele's sneering voice floated into the room as she walked in.

"Don't you ever knock?"

"And miss the looks on people's faces when I come in? Of course not!"

"Get out Adele!"

"Fine!" She said, stalking out and slamming the door behind her.

"That girl is such a brat."

"My lady, may I make a suggestion?"

"If it doesn't involve the disappearance of my sister, please don't."She laughed at the horrified expression on the other woman's face. "No, really do go on."

"Well I think she's lonely; maybe if you talked to her…You and Master Lincoln never pay any attention to her and she…well maybe she needs that."

"If this were any other person, Bernadine, honestly, I would agree with you but my sister doesn't need to talk to me; she's part of every conversation in this house, even though the other people involved don't know she's there."

"But maybe if you invited her to talk, she wouldn't have to listen at keyholes."

She doesn't have to listen at keyholes; she doesn't need to hear what is being said behind closed doors."

"What she needs is someone to talk to, there's no one her age around here."

"What she needs is a good thrashing and I'm sorry Bernadine but I don't want to talk about my sister; she's selfish and full of spite."

"Selfish maybe, but full of sadness not spite."


"Oh Ok." She said raising her arms up in mock surrender. "So what did the Don look like?"

"Forbidding," She found herself saying. "Yes, it was almost frightening."


The dining room was large enough to seat twenty and was not at all to Adrian's taste. The room was well lit, especially the side on which he sat and ate in silence. His long time friend, Narciso chose that moment to enter then promptly begged pardon and was about to leave when Adrian called him back.

"Narciso, come dine with me."

"Oh Señor, I should not."

"Would you deny me this one thing; eating alone is very boring."

"Is it really, Señor?"

"Yes, Narciso, and could you refrain from calling me that?"

"Far be it from me to deny you my company," he said, sitting down. "Señor."

"I'm glad your ready wit has not left you." The don said, drily. "I really wanted to talk to you. You've become so distant. Is it something I've said?"

"He's sick of your company, Brother."

"Felix! Welcome! Come, join us."

"Don't need to be asked twice." He said sitting down. Adrian rang a bell for more glasses and food. His servants, always quick to respond, had served the two men in minutes.

"How about a toast?" asked Narciso asked, while his smile seemed somewhat strained. "To long life."

"To women," said Felix.

"To fields and horses." said Adrian.