Romantic Flash Fiction 16:
At a hard gallop, the hoofs of the slick black Saddlebred pounded the wild desert ground as it raced into the unknown. Upon the gallant steed, Rosea clung to the waist of the man who had rescued her, or more to the point, the one who had stolen her away. As they sat on only an Apache blanket, she felt every jolt as they traversed the expansive dry land at night with only the moonlight to guide their way. Rising up in the distance like shadows along the horizon, mountain chains silently witnessed their escape and spoke not a word, a secret they intended to keep. The two of them covered more ground, riding into the night as Rosea fixed her eyes on the full moon above, its brightness illuminating the surrounding clouds in an eerie glow.
The faster the horse galloped, the harder Rosea pursed her lips, locking her jaw in a furious temper. How dare this man steal her away from the only life she had ever known? What nerve he had had. But now that she was here, she knew there was nothing she would be able to do. She knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that her life was about to change forever, and this man was somehow the catalyst.
What felt like hours later, the man finally slowed the horse to a canter and chose a spot that was shaded by a grove of willow trees with tall grass growing out of the desert sand. The grass wafted in the strong evening breeze, as did Rosea’s hair. After he swung down from the horse’s back, he reached up to help Rosea down, but she refused to take his hand. Instead, she swung down on her own, not caring if her dress lifted halfway up her legs in the process.
The man appeared to ignore her, taking out things from the small leather satchel around his shoulder and sifting through them. Among them, he had a compact tent that he was unfolding. But he surprised her by handing her his canteen.
When Rosea hesitated, the man insisted. “Drink. We don’t know how long it’ll last, but I think there’s a river on the other side of this valley where we can fill up. We’ll camp here until morning.”
Reluctantly she took it but swigged it down like it was the last supply of water on earth. When she came up for air, he was grinning at her affectionately. After he’d removed his cowboy hat, she noticed he was handsome, the moonlight casting a glow over his strong jaw line and cheekbones. But she was taken in by his eyes that spoke to her only kindness.
Still. How could she just forgive him? “You’ve done it now,” she said, handing the canteen back to him. “They will come looking for you. For us. And they won’t stop hunting you until you are dead. You have stolen what is most precious to them.”
The man nodded with a moonlit sparkle in his eyes. “Yes, I have.”
Rosea was indignant. While the man drank his fill, she let him have it. “Listen, mister, you had no right to steal me away and kidnap me.”
The man almost choked on the water. “Is that what you think this is?”
“What would you say it is?” she asked, feeling her blood boil.
“I’d call it a rescue,” he said, the smile returning.
Rosea gasped tempestuously. “By taking me against my will and dragging me out into the middle of the desert like this?”
“Against your will?” he countered. “What was your will? That you stay and let those men beat you to a pulp?”
“This is my job!” she shot back, her hair whipping about in the howling desert wind. “You know nothing about me. I have been doing this since I was twelve years old. Twelve! And every time I step out of line, or a customer gets off scot-free, they make me pay for it, with my blood. It is the way it is and always will be for me.”
“Not anymore,” the man said casually. His eyes projected the confidence that she herself had never known, the courage to walk away.
Something within Rosea stirred and deep down, she wanted to believe him, that she was better than this work. But the thought lasted a moment, and then the moment passed. She finally spoke softly, fighting back angry tears. “I don’t know how to do anything else.”
He moved closer to her, cautiously. “We’ll find something new. I’ll help you,” he said.
She looked up at him with wet eyes. “Why?”
His answer sent shockwaves through her soul. “Because I love you.”
She snickered cynically. “You love me. You only met me two weeks ago at the brothel. How can you say you love me?”
“I think you’ll find I know more about you than you realize,” he said with that handsome grin that lit up his face.
Rosea squinted her eyes. “Like what?” she challenged.
He moved even closer, so close that Rosea could smell his musky sweat, but it was the scent of a man, one in which she began to wonder what it would be like to know well. She glanced up at him with different eyes than before. There was something about him that was luring her in.
When he reached out and ran his fingers softly through her hair, she didn’t move away, but the gesture sent shivers down her spine and warmth between her thighs. He spoke tenderly and lovingly. “I know that when I see you walking down the street, my heart does somersaults and exhales like it’s found its first breath. I know that when I hear you speak, I could stop and listen to your voice forever, and I know that when you laugh, the whole world lights up brighter than the sun. At least it does around me.”
Rosea was speechless, her heart beating faster, her palms sweating.
He continued, his fingers tracing down her cheek. Inadvertently, she closed her eyes as he spoke, letting the words wash over her. “I know that you have the biggest heart of anyone I know. I’ve seen the way you’ve played with the children in the village. How your smile lights up their lives.”
She chortled. “You must have missed the part where their parents snatch them away and tell them not to play with that low-life whore.”
He shook his head slowly. “Not you. You’re too dignified for that. Too wonderful to be even in the same league as that.”
Her face suddenly became downtrodden. “That’s where you really don’t know me at all,” she said. “I truly am what they say I am.”
He shook his head again as his hand touched underneath her chin, lifting her face to his. “Don’t you ever believe it, Rosea.”
As he brought his lips to hers, she stood there in stunned silence, allowing him to kiss her, to melt the rest of her heart that had not yet yielded itself to his love. Finally, she joined in, feeling his lips and tongue connect with hers in stirring indulgence. She wrapped her arms around his neck as they kissed long and slow and easily.
Behind her kiss, she smiled to herself. Perhaps, just perhaps, this was the moment that she had been dreaming about as a child but had suppressed as an adult. Her chance to be free, truly free, to experience a life of dignity and worth.
With one kiss, she fell in love that day. And with one kiss, she decided to believe it was possible.