Authors: Laurie Larsen
Tags: #romance, #love, #multicultural, #contemporary, #hispanic
COPYRIGHT 2011 by Laurie Larsen
Smashwords Edition in 2012
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Cover art by Kimberlee Mendoza
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To my network of writing friends who
understand, listen, commiserate and celebrate, including but not
The Chronicles of Casey V, Or Mental
Ramblings of the Most Awesome Summer of My Life
Legacy of Lies
Whispers of the Heart
And upcoming in fall of 2012: Keeper by
Surprise (see exciting new excerpt at the end of this book!)
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Thirty minutes late.
Monica Lampton sprinted out of her sister’s
house like a racehorse breaking from the gate. She jumped into her
car, started the engine and buckled up. She’d told her sister and
mother that she needed to leave by five. Yet they’d come home late
from shopping as though her request meant nothing She dove into
traffic and urged her little car forward.
Good ole Monica, always around to babysit,
run errands, help with dinner parties, whatever her sister needed.
After all, Barbie was the important one – married to a politician,
mother to Mae and Spencer, the only grandchildren on both
Monica gripped the steering wheel and sighed.
And what did that make her? Single. Available. Reliable. That’s how
her family saw her.
She knew they loved her, but sometimes the
disparity was just too much. What about her needs? Her
accomplishments? Didn’t they count for anything?
Despite the stressful dash across town,
Monica broke land-speed records getting to the neighborhood of
Senora Josefina Garcia on the west side of St. Louis. She arrived
only seventeen minutes behind schedule, her car and her person
intact. She hated to start off on the wrong foot for this first
meeting together, when she was volunteering for a job as a positive
role model. But hopefully Mrs. Garcia would give her a chance to
make up for it.
She parked in front of the tiny
bungalow-style house and dashed up the front steps, her breath
coming in nervous pants. The door snatched open, revealing a short,
somewhat chubby woman. Her dark hair, slightly graying, was pulled
back with a thick barrette and she wore the unmistakable brown and
gold polyester of a fast food restaurant uniform.
Que tarde! Dios mio
.” The woman waved
“I’m so sorry I’m late. You see, …” But Mrs.
Garcia made a sharp
ing sound, effectively
cutting off any further explanation.
“Five thirty. You say five thirty,
“Yes, I’m sorry. I got held up. I’ll make
sure it doesn’t happen again.” Monica glanced around the tiny
living room – cluttered with furniture but clean and tidy.
“I don’t have time now. I late for my second
During this first meeting, they were supposed
to cover what Mrs. Garcia expected of Monica in her relationship
with her daughter, as well as what Monica expected of Mrs. Garcia.
Then, if they were on the same page, Mrs. Garcia would introduce
her to Luisa.
“I understand,” Monica said, anger stoking,
directed at her mother and sister. “Do we need to reschedule our
meeting? I swear I won’t be late again.”
“No no.” Mrs. Garcia shook her head fiercely.
“I don’t have another night. You must meet Luisa. But you need to
talk to an adult from the family first, yes?”
Monica nodded. “Yes, that’s the program. But
I understood Luisa doesn’t have a father, is that correct?”
“No, no papa,” Mrs. Garcia replied, shaking
her head sadly. “My Pablo, gone.”
She waved the sympathy away. “So you must
talk to Carlos. I call him.” And she did, loudly, “Carlos!”
Monica looked around the room
!” Mrs. Garcia
checked her watch and began shuffling around the room, collecting
her purse and a big canvas bag. A sound from the kitchen doorway
made Monica turn her head and her breath caught in her throat. A
man entered the room. The cliché, “tall, dark and handsome” flashed
through her mind. So this was the man who had inspired that tired
phrase. It had never held much meaning for her before – until it
came to life today.
He was dressed in worn jeans, frayed around
the pockets, Monica imagined, from the thousands of times he had
thrust his big, powerful hands into their depths. Hands he was
currently wiping on a greasy white cloth, as if he’d just been
called in from some dirty, sweaty,
He wore a black sleeveless muscle shirt,
which did an excellent job of revealing his brawny shoulders and
arms. His thick dark hair framed a face complete with sculpted
cheekbones and the most intense mocha brown eyes she’d ever
She loathed the heat that washed over her
face, because she knew her skin was blushing along with it, all the
way down her neck. She gave herself a mental toe-stomping and tore
her gaze away from his mesmerizing eyes.
mira. Tienes que hablar
“In English, Mama.” Carlos shook his head at
her. “You know you have to practice.”
!” Mrs. Garcia spit out. “I’m
running late and I don’t have time for this nonsense. Listen to me.
You must talk to this young woman for me.”
Carlos looked in her direction and gave her a
nod of his head in greeting. A heart-stopping smile followed and
Monica felt the heat begin its travels again.
“She is to be Luisa’s Big Sister.”
Carlos shook his head, his face now clouded
with confusion. “What?”
Mrs. Garcia turned and shuffled to the door.
He followed, bending closer to her. His words became quieter as he
spoke in Spanish. Monica turned her back to them, giving them
privacy. Although she couldn’t understand the words they were
exchanging, she couldn’t mistake the tone. Carlos didn’t know she
was coming. And from the sounds of it, he wasn’t inclined to
welcome her with open arms.
Monica had often felt invisible around her
sister Barbie, and although she generally hated the sensation, now
she would prefer it to standing there in the room, a third party
knowing that one of the child’s family members didn’t want her
The door closed and the conversation stopped.
Monica turned to see that Mrs. Garcia had left. Carlos stood by the
door, his chiseled arms even more defined as he crossed them in
front of his chest. He ran a hand over his chin and lips, a picture
of a man normally in charge, now unsure of how to proceed.
A silent moment passed while Monica
determined her plan of action. Becoming a Big Sister was something
she’d thought long and hard about. She wanted desperately to have a
positive impact on someone. She wanted to help and guide someone
less fortunate. And she’d love to show her sister and her mother
that there was a greater purpose in her life.
She took a few tentative steps in Carlos’
direction. “Excuse me.”
He aimed those gorgeous, albeit stormy, light
brown eyes at her. “Yes. I’m sorry. My mother hadn’t told me about
your appointment. If she had, I could have saved you the trip
Monica nodded. “Your mother applied to Big
Brothers/Big Sisters for an adult companion for Luisa. I was
assigned. I’m supposed to meet with the family about expectations.
That’s how it starts.”
He stared motionless, then he walked toward
her, stopping a hand-breadth away. “Yes, she filled me in before
she left. But my mother is mistaken. Luisa doesn’t need a Big
Monica frowned. Maybe he wasn’t familiar with
the program. Once he knew how helpful the organization was, and
what positive things could come out of the time she and Luisa would
spend together, there’s no way he could object. “A Big Sister is
simply an adult female role model to help enhance her schooling and
social network. I would help her with homework, reinforce her
learning, take her to plays, movies. How does that sound?”
He ignored the question, but shook his head.
They stood so close to each other that when she inhaled she took in
his aroma – a clean soap smell combined with the tartness of oil.
He looked down, his jet-black hair falling over his forehead, and
for a moment hid his eyes from her view.
“Could I meet Luisa?”
But the words were barely out of her mouth
when he chopped them off with his own, “No.”
Carlos turned his back and interested himself
with a figurine sitting on a nearby table.
Monica sighed, unsure of what to do. They
were at an impasse, and without Mrs. Garcia, she could see she’d
make no headway with this protective older brother. Despite Mrs.
Garcia’s insistence that she didn’t have another free night, she
would have to try to reschedule the meeting. She looked at Carlos
and shrugged a single shoulder. “All right then. Thank you for your
She slipped past him and returned to her car.
He stood leaning a muscled arm against the doorjamb, watching her
drive away. She gripped the steering wheel, her mind focused on the
challenges ahead. Somehow, she had to clear the obstacles in the
Garcia family so she could provide a positive role model for Luisa.
First, she must figure out how to get around a dark, stormy and
That night, at least twenty minutes after
Carlos expected her, his mother arrived home, carrying a grocery
bag. He rose to his feet as she entered through the front door.
“Mama, here, let me help you.” He covered the
distance between them with a few strides and took the bag from her
Ay, Dios mio
, you scare me sitting
there.” The older woman placed her hand atop her heart. “I didn’t
“I was waiting for you. “ He motioned to the
bag. “Why didn’t you call me? I could’ve picked up groceries.”
She waved a hand, a dismissal of his
suggestion. “You’re busy enough,
. You work so hard. I
take care of shopping.”
Carlos bit his tongue. The thought of her
stopping at the grocery store so late at night bothered him. He
didn’t like her working late hours anyway; making a stop afterward
He carried the bag to the kitchen and pulled
out a gallon of milk, a box of cereal, a few apples and a box of
Pop Tarts. Mama swiped them into her arms and bustled around the
kitchen, putting them in their places.
“Would you like tea?”
“No thanks, Mama. You go ahead. I want to
talk to you.”
She nodded while pouring water into the
“This woman that wants to work with Luisa…,”
“Monica.” Her tone was firm. “You learn her
. She be a part of your sister’s life. Monica.”
She banged the teapot on the burner.
Carlos held back an angry retort. He took a
breath and tried again. “I wish you had consulted me before you
agreed to a Big Sister for Luisa. I have concerns about this
Mama turned to him, leaning a hip against the
stove. “She is a smart woman. Independent. Just like I want my
Luisa to be. She be good for Luisa.”
“Mama, I’m not so sure. How much do you know
Mrs. Garcia blinked. “The agency recommend
her. That’s all I need to know. They do screenings.”
Carlos stood and took a step toward her. “Let
me take a guess. She’s smart, she’s professional, she has a good
job, she’s dedicated to her career. She would never turn down a
promotion or transfer if it helped her climb up the ladder of
success. Then, what about Luisa? She could get very attached to
this woman only to have her leave.”