Chapter 25

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<pre style="background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial;"><span style="font-size: 11pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;">María's P.O.V.

I’d stayed in contact with Ale, of course because we were best friends. She was the second person to know about our break-up right after Pedro. I told her we’d been going out but weren’t actually dating yet. I heard her laughing and fighting Álvaro Vázquez off. “Álvaro, stop. I’m trying to talk here.” She had moved to Swansea with him because he had been given on loan to the Wales club. I heard him say something to her and she finally addressed me.

“Do you like him?” She asked. “Yeah. I mean, he’s a really nice guy. He’s very kind and sweet. There’s not much not to love, really.” “But he’s not Cristian.” Dammit. Why’d she have to say it like that? Yes. That’s exactly it. The man is practically perfect but the heart wants what the heart wants.

“I gotta go, Ale. I hope to see you soon, ok? Tell Álvaro I say hi.” “You’re changing the subject because you know I’m right.” “Bye.” I said and hung up. I didn’t want to hear any more. It was painful enough without being reminded of it…

We’d been invited to celebrate the Christmas Holidays at Álvaro Morata’s house. Him and Pedro were the best of friends, as I already knew. When he asked if he could take me, Álvaro was surprised to hear he had gone steady with a girl. Sadly for Pedro, he’d put it on speaker.

We were baking cookies in his kitchen and he tried to make a move toward his phone but I was quicker. “Hi, Álvaro. This is María. How many girlfriends has Pedro introduced you to?” He started running behind me and I tried to evade him, laughing. “None that I recall. Pedro’s very picky with girls. He must really like you.”

“Álvaro, shut up!” As he said that, he had taken a handful of flour and threw it at my face. I opened my eyes huge and stared at him, my mouth open out of shock. He used my distraction to gain an advantage and had his arms around my waist before I could protest. “It’s true! He’s really into you, I’m telling you.” “Ok, Álvaro, thanks. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

He said as he took the phone from my hand, hung up and put the phone on the counter. I turned to face him, still laughing, and he tried to clean off my cheeks. “You’ve got a little something on your face.” I laughed as he touched my nose with his index finger playfully. “Is that true?” I asked him softly, changing the mood abruptly. “What is?” “You know.”

He looked down and let go of my waist. I took his wrists in my hands and pulled him toward me as I sat on a barstool. “You can tell me.” I encouraged him. He finally gave in with a sigh and confessed. “Yes. The last girlfriend I had, I was in seventh grade. Álvaro didn’t know me then. I really liked her. She was beautiful and popular. I couldn’t understand why she would be going out with a guy like me.” I smiled but I could tell by his smirk that it didn’t end well. “It turned out she’s been doing it on a bet. The wager was that she’d have to date me, the class loser.”

I was about to cry as I placed my hand on his cheek and he looked up at me through his eyebrows, a sorry look in his eyes. “You’re not a loser. Look at you. You’re a first division footballer, soon-to-be lawyer. She’ll be sorry she ever let you go.” I felt the need to kiss him so I did. I brought his face to me and kissed him softly. He ran his hands down my back until they rested on my hips as I deepened the kiss. He took a step toward me and I felt more comfortable, wrapping my arms around his neck. For someone with very little experience, he was an excellent kisser.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” He stepped back and I frowned at him. “Do what?” “Kiss you like that and not want to…I know it’s not right. I apologize.” I knew what he meant. He didn’t want to kiss me like that because he couldn’t resist wanting to go to bed with me. It was so sweet of him to be so courteous. He started moving away but I wouldn’t let him. I grabbed his shirt and pulled him back to me. Centimeters away from his face, I whispered: “Kiss me.”

He did as I asked without hesitating for half a second. He pressed his lips against mine urgently and I responded. I started to take his shirt off but he took my wrists in his hands to stop me. “Are you sure about this?” He said softly, out of breath. “Yes.” I whispered back and he froze. He took a step back to look at me and I bit my lip, looking down. He placed one hand on my lower back and bent to slide his arm under my knees and carry me. I wrapped my arms around his neck and let him take me to his room.

He laid me on his bed carefully and balanced his body on top of mine. He looked at every inch of my face as if trying to remember this moment. He bent and kissed me tenderly. I simply adored his kisses, that much was clear. I placed my hands on either side of his face and kissed him back…. We made love slowly and sweetly. He was so careful. It felt as though he thought I would break under him. He was meticulous with protection and was a perfect gentleman the whole time. It had been a truly blissful experience.

I was lying naked on top of him, propping my chin on my hands. He smiled and brought his hand to my face. He caressed my cheek with his thumb and said softly: “You have no idea how much I love you.” He’d said it looking straight into my eyes and the honesty there made my whole body tremble. He meant it. My mouth was agape as his smile disappeared and he cursed under his breath. He removed his hand from my face and added: “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I said that. I know it’s sudden, I just…” I shut him up with a kiss, on the verge of tears. Tears of happiness and of guilt.

“Don’t be sorry. You’re so sweet and caring. You worry about me so much and you’re always there when I need you.” I said honestly as I placed my hand on his cheek. “I love you.” I wasn’t lying to him. I did love him. But as I looked into his satisfied eyes and felt his lips press against mine once more, I couldn’t help comparing the love I felt for Cristian with this. I’d loved Cristian with a passion, with an urgency, with a need. This seemed like a much stabler, much more serious love. But that spark was definitely not there. It was just me reciprocating the way he cared about me, how he went out of his way to make me happy.</span></pre>

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