Mateo nods and Draco cocks his head, telling him to go on.
“Ma! Look!” the boy yells, running back to her.
The woman’s eyes glisten when the boy stuffs the money in her hands. She brings her fingertips up to her lips, whispering her thanks over and over again.
Draco walks to her, capping her shoulder and saying something. She nods her head appreciatively, saying “Gracias” even louder now. She gives him a tight hug and then pulls away with haste.
I’m shocked that he allows it, but that’s not what really catches me by surprise. It’s how quiet the market has become, like the spotlight is on him. Everyone is watching. Staring. Not only at him, but at me too.
“Bonita,” I hear a woman whisper as she stares at me. Pretty.
“Muy maravilloso,” another says. Very gorgeous.
“Quien es ella?” Who is she?
I see a set of shoulders shrug in the crowd near the voice. Draco returns, hooking his arm through mine and leading the way through the market.
“You gave him a lot of money,” I note. “How much was it?”
“Six hundred American dollars.”
“You carry American money?”
“It’s worth more here. Why not?” He has his head up, scanning the area himself, eyes peeled.
“That was nice,” I finally say when he brings me under a tent to get in the shade.
“These are my people, Gianna. It’s my home. They respect me and I respect them. Some may be afraid of me, but most love me. I do for my people.”
“What kind of flowers did you give that boy’s mother? Chocolate cosmos?”
His smile is the answer.
“She used to be my tutor before my father died. She’s a single mother, but she had her mother to help out with her son. Her mother grew sick, passed away a few months ago. She used up all of the money she had saved for the funeral and I heard about it. She’d always loved the flowers. She was the one who introduced me to them in my books—said she wanted to have a garden of her own one day.”
A smile touches the edges of my lips.
“I gave her a bouquet to send my condolences and took care of her home. It’s paid for. She has no more worries. That woman was more than patient with me, kind of like your mother was with my violin lessons. They knew I hated learning, but stuck it out with me anyway.” He chuckles.
“Yeah, I can see that,” I tease.
He looks around the market, watching the patrons return to their shopping. “We can’t be out here for long, Gianna. Someone will call the police soon to report me, try and get the reward. I’m taking this risk for you, but I normally don’t do public places like this. Not often.”
“I understand. I just want to get her something—doesn’t have to be big. I want to show my appreciation.”
“Appreciation for what?”
“For . . . all she’s done and for always having my back when it comes to you, her own son.” I cock a brow at him and he raises his chin, glaring like he knows that I know something I shouldn’t. He doesn’t speak on it, though. Instead, he wraps an arm around my shoulders and twists me around, leading the way through the outdoor market.
“She likes books and jewelry. She collects music boxes, shells, and she loves drinking red wines and knitting. She’s not too hard to please. There is a place down here where you’ll most likely find something.” He doesn’t look at me and I’m curious as to why.
I don’t speak on it, though. I walk with him and enjoy my freedom—this place. It smells good here. I can smell meat grilling, tortillas browning. It all smells so delicious and fresh.
“Thank you, Draco,” I finally murmur, and he drops his eyes, focusing on me.
“Don’t thank me for freedom, Gianna. Whatever you desire is yours.”
My mouth twitches.
“Just don’t play me for a fool,” he adds on and I whip my head up, locking on his face. One of his eyebrows slides up, his face solemn.
“What happens if I do? You’ll kill me?” I ask softly.
“I could never kill you.”
“I owe your father my life. Killing his only daughter would never settle with me and I wouldn’t take pride in it.”
“And also because he promised me to you.” I chew on my bottom lip, stepping over large rocks. “What all did he tell you to do with me?”
“To protect you. To make you trust me. To never shed any of your blood—well, not too much of it anyway.” He smirks at that. I roll my eyes.
“And you expect me to do the same for you?”
When I ask that, a smirk tugs at the corner of his lips again. “Same goes for you, mi reina. For this to last, it must work both ways, no?”