Romance lingered in the air. If she closed her eyes long enough, the smell of the ocean would roll through the mist and make life flow through her once again. In the distance, palm trees swayed, their twinkling Christmas lights billowing in the breeze. Somewhere in the distance, a solo guitar began to play. The music drifted along the shore. Something about the song spoke to her, moved her. It reminded her of why she had come here, why she had booked a flight for Spain to ring in the New Year.
Laughter rang out from behind. Unfamiliar accents filled the night air. Turning slightly, she caught sight of the dancers in front of her. They moved in a beautiful embrace, swaying to the sultry sounds played out before them. Drawn to the music and the dancing by a magnetic pull she couldn’t deny, she started towards the courtyard.
That was when she saw him.
Dark eyes drifted upward, away from the Spanish guitar in his hand, and landed on her. As his fingers flew over the strings with nimble speed, his gaze held hers there, hypnotized, as he played. His eyes seared into her, leaving a brand on her soul. He was bent over his craft; lost in the ballad he was playing. Dark, wavy hair that had been pulled back into a low ponytail escaped from a leather band. A loose tendril fell over his cheek, brushing the edge of his beard. For a split second, she felt the urge to push the hair away.
Embarrassed, she shoved her way through the dancers. She hadn’t come to Spain to flirt with the locals. But then… Those eyes.
Makenzie took a deep breath. Dark eyes that resembled the color of caramel held her frozen in place – he locked eyes with her and refused to let go. He completely captivated her. Shifting uncomfortably, she left the stage and made her way to an open table in the courtyard.
Music, dancing, the night air. This place stirred something in her that no other place at home ever had. Her best friends kept insisting she was running from something but she knew that wasn’t it. Here, in the sultry night air on the coast of Spain, she was running into the arms of something… Or maybe someone.
As the music continued, Makenzie ordered a bottle of wine and lost herself in the evening. As one glass of wine turned into two, there was a brief pause, a change of artists, and the delightful sounds that had stirred her to life shifted hands.
Checking her watch and realizing the evening had gotten away from her, Makenzie started to rise from her seat. A brief movement to her left caught her short. Without having to look up to know exactly who had stopped at her table, Makenzie’s heart began to pound.
“Good evening,” he said with an accent that made her knees weak. “I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure.”
She hesitated as he stuck out his hand. She knew that the second she touched his hand, she would regret it instantly. Or not. Biting back the fear and trepidation swirling around in her heart, Makenzie took his outstretched hand. “I don’t believe we have.” In an unexpected gesture, he brought her hand to his lips.
“May I take this seat?”
All those times traipsing around Europe, living her best life, this was what they said would happen. She had managed to avoid it a dozen times. She had been too busy sightseeing to care about getting involved with a local. But now, sitting here, staring into the face of a man that somehow made her tingle upward from the tips of her toes, changed everything.
He took the seat opposite her, leaning comfortably back in the chair, staring at her once again with those caramel-colored eyes. Sitting this close, she saw chocolate flecks in those caramel depths.
Smiling slightly, he motioned to the wait staff for another glass of wine. “You’re an American.”
They could always tell. She tried her best to dress like the locals but it was useless. Something about her still cried out tourist!
“Born and bred.” Wincing, Makenzie looked down. Had she forgotten how to talk to people?
“What brings you out here?”
She broke into a huge smile. She couldn’t help it. “Take a look around. This is what brought me here. It’s incredible.”
As the waiter arrived with an empty wine glass, she pushed her bottle towards him. “Help yourself.”
“Is it your first time here?”
She shook her head. “No, I was here a couple of years ago backpacking and fell in love with the place. I knew I had to come back.”
“For holiday with your family?”
Was this his way of asking whether she had a significant other? She couldn’t tell. “No,” she said quietly. “Just me.”
At that moment, he brought his glass of wine up to his lips, smiled slightly over the rim, and took a sip. Those eyes held her captive, locked in his smoldering gaze.
Forcing herself to look away, Makenzie focused on her own glass. “You played beautifully tonight.”
Something lit up within him. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Do you play a lot?”
He paused, turned his head slightly as if her question hadn’t made a proper translation, and then nodded. “I play as often as I can.”
Makenzie lifted her own glass of wine and watched the deep, purple liquid spin around and around in the glass. “I’ve never been able to play anything. I tried piano once but my music teacher hated me by the end of the lessons. I was pretty much a lost cause.” She looked up and smiled at him. “But just because I don’t play doesn’t mean I don’t have a great appreciation for it.”
He tilted his glass towards hers. “I will drink to that.” Their glasses clinked together in the moonlight. “Salud,” he said. “To new friends.”
“Salud,” she repeated, reciting the traditional ‘cheers’ in his language.
Suddenly, there was commotion among the patrons and dancers. In the distance, voices grew. They were speaking so loudly and so quickly in their native tongue Makenzie had a hard time making it out. But something in what they were saying had his attention.
“Would you like to take a walk with me?” he asked, stealing a glance over his shoulder. “Like, right now.”
She stared at him. Why was he in such a rush to leave? What about those people making their way toward him had him wanting to run for cover? And didn’t she know better than to run off in the dark, in a foreign country, with a stranger?
He stood up, holding out his hand. “It would be my pleasure.”
Something in the way he pleaded with her told her to sprint the other way. But, instead of listening to everything warning her to run, she placed her hand in his. “Lead the way.”
Quickly – much too quickly – they made their way through the courtyard, losing their tail among the other locals that had come out for the night. Soon, the loud voices faded into the background.
Still holding onto her hand, he led her past a white-washed building, down a set of cobblestone steps, and towards the shore. Standing there, bathed in moonlight, he seemed to relax again. Smiling down at her, he held out his arm. “I don’t believe I got your name.”
He squeezed her hand gently as he tucked it into the crook of his arm. “It’s an honor to meet you, Makenzie. My name is Diego.”
Closing her eyes, Makenzie soaked it all in. These moments, this was what dreams were made of: moonlight walks along the ocean, a gorgeous man with an accent that made her go weak in the knees, a romantic backdrop that belonged in some cheesy romance novel… It was enough to make her giggle. Or maybe it was the wine.
He stopped, turning toward her. “Did I say something wrong?”
She couldn’t fight the smile. It seemed to reach from the depths of her heart and take a long, languid stretch. “Not at all. Just taking in the moment.”
He returned her smile. “I’ve never met anyone like you.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“You’re right,” he said, taking a step closer towards her. “But I would like to.”
Fighting back the butterflies that had just taken flight in her stomach, she bit her lower lip. “I’m here through the end of the month.”
“Then you’ll let me see you again.”
That’s when he took a step forward, placed his finger under her chin and tilted her head. Staring into her eyes, keeping her focused on him and him alone, he lowered his mouth, pressing his lips gently over hers.
The moment their lips touched fireworks exploded overhead.
Startled by the noise, they broke apart. “It’s the New Year,” he shouted over the loud boom. “Come on!”
They took off through the dark, running back towards the courtyard, where it was now filled with cheering and shouting from all around.
Swinging her into his arms, he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into his chest. As the night sky exploded with fireworks and the locals shouted their welcome of the New Year, Makenzie stood under the lights with her magnetic stranger, locked in his embrace.
As she started to pull away, he stopped her. Gently, he cupped her face in his hand. “This has been the most incredible night of my life.”
As the fireworks began to fade, leaving a smoky haze settling in the courtyard, he took a step back. “Will you excuse me for just one moment?”
Too stunned to object, Makenzie just nodded.
“Don’t move,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”
She didn’t move. Instead, as the world continued to celebrate around her, Makenzie stayed frozen in place, still reeling from the night.
Suddenly, there was a voice behind her. “You know who that is, don’t you?”
She turned toward the waiter who had attended to them earlier. “He said his name was Diego.”
The waiter cracked a smile. “His name is Antonio Diego Cruz. And he’s one of the most famous classical guitarists in the country.”
As the smoke began to clear, she caught sight of him. He was back on the stage where a flock of locals were eager for his attention. “But he’s playing here, in this town…” Her voice faded.
“He likes to come back here,” the waiter told her. “This is where he calls home.”
It suddenly made sense, the surprise when she asked if he played a lot, his rush to leave the barrage of fans that were trailing him.
Her name spoken stopped her short. She heard the sound reverberate through the courtyard as a hush went over the crowd.
Fearing what she already knew, she looked at the stage. Diego was sitting there, calling to her, just as she had first seen him, watching her with his dark eyes. But this time, as he picked up his guitar, the music wasn’t just for anyone. This time, the music was for her.
And, as the New Year came into full bloom, Makenzie suddenly knew there was magic in kisses shared at midnight.