“Damn.” I slide my fingertips into my back pockets. “Well, are we doing breakfast today?”
“I doubt it. He’s not even here.”
“Where did he go?”
“To town with Thiago.” When she says that her face pinches a little, as if she disapproves.
“You don’t like him,” I state, and she picks up her gaze.
“Can’t stand him,” she mutters.
Her upper lip spasms, almost in a near snarl. When she doesn’t speak, I sense it’s because of something personal. “Come on.” She twists around. “We can still have the chef cook whatever you want. I’m sure Jefe will be back soon. He doesn’t like to be off the property for too long.”
I follow after her, but I can’t help feeling that it’s something deeper than she’s letting off. Her body is tense, and she’s purposely avoiding my gaze. I won’t touch on it though. I know she isn’t going to tell. She hurries down the stairs, her hand on her gun when she meets at the bottom.
To our left, I see a few men in navy work uniforms coming in and out of the front door. They are all sweaty, sunburnt, and speaking rapidly in Spanish as they march in and out with tools.
We make our way to the kitchen, where there are three butlers fanning themselves and standing in front of a round fan. A heavyset man named Eduardo stands at the counter, whipping something in a bowl. The house chef. He’s glistening like a greased pig, patches of sweat seeping through his white jacket. The hat he usually wears is off, his black hair damp.
I’ve come to know he’s a good man. Though Draco didn’t want me talking to anyone, I still made my rounds. He wanted me to be comfortable here. I had to know these people, or at least speak to them as often as I could.
The maids are sweet, but none of them have families. All of them, the butlers as well, live in homes less than a mile away from here. They stay in an apartment building that was paid for years ago by Draco himself, just so they could stay close to the property, and so his guards could keep watch of them.
They don’t butt in much. They also don’t speak unless spoken to. Whenever they see me, they stand tall, slightly bowing their heads at me as if I’m royalty.
Like now. All three butlers spot me walking into the kitchen, and they perk up almost instantly, uneasy smiles spreading across their faces.
I return a small one, walking toward Eduardo. “Good morning, Eduardo.”
He glances over at me. There is something about Eduardo that I find comforting. He’s the only one around who isn’t afraid to speak to me. He says what he wants, and is, indeed, a true shit talker that makes amazing food.
“Good morning, Patrona!” he yells cheerfully in his native tongue, placing his bowl down. “What the hell are you doing in my kitchen? You know Jefe doesn’t like you in here.” He plants a hand on his hip, using the back of his other to wipe the beads of sweat away from his forehead and cheek.
I laugh. “Who cares what Jefe says? What are you making?”
“Baking a cake,” he sighs. “Too damn hot in this fucking house to bake, but it’s for Mrs. Molina’s birthday. That woman deserves ten-thousand cakes, no matter the temperature of the house.”
My eyebrows rise. “It’s her birthday today?”
“Yes.” He bobs his head, grinning. “I will be making her favorite meal for dinner tonight. Jefe wants everything to be in order for her. We have a busy night.”
I glance over at Patanza. “Why didn’t he tell me it was her birthday?” I ask in English.
She presses her lips, glances between the butlers, and then flicks her fingers, gesturing for me to come her way. My eyebrows stitch and I join her in the secluded corner she stopped at. “She doesn’t like to celebrate it.”
“Mr. Molina used to take her to Spain every year for her birthday. They would party like college students and they’d come back happier than ever, from what I’ve heard. Her birthdays remind her of him. She says they will never be able to compare to that again.”
“Oh.” Damn. I look back at Eduardo, watching as he pours the chocolate batter into a cake pan. “Well, then, maybe we should make the night a good one for her. Make it great. She deserves that, right?”
“Jefe usually takes care of the birthday plans.”
“Well, he isn’t here, is he? How is he supposed to take care of anything if he’s out running around all the time?”
She fixes her mouth like she wants to say something, but clamps it shut in an instant.
“No.” I smile, placing a hand on her shoulder. “What were you going to say?”
She fights a smile, glancing at the butlers who are finding little things to pick up and clean to occupy themselves. When she brings her eyes on me again, she says, “I was going to say his parties for her are kind of lame.”