In the clear moonlight, Antonio raced his stead downhill through the dusty track. Rosalin was seated sideways on the horse ahead of him, her face facing his. She was eyeing him seductively, her mane flowing in the wind and at one of time, covered her face except her eyes.
‘Oh God, you make me feel like a thorn, Rosa…lin.’ Antonio then brought his hand to her face and gently swept the hair aside. ‘You are so beautiful, rapariga.’
They had reached the beach and he brought his horse to a stop. She jumped down. She then ran across the sands, her white satin gown flowing with the wind. She appeared angelic as her gown glowed in the moonlight, making her appear like a celestial body floating in the wind.
Antonio followed her slowly completely bowled over by her beauty. He saw her kneel down on the sands, her hands outstretched like a bird. She leaned back and slowly fell on the sands and lay still.
Antonio walked over and stared at her lying with her eyes closed. He could hear the soft whispers of her breath. He let his eyes travel on her curvaceous body and felt passion build up inside him. He knelt down next to her body and let his finger touch her mane. He brought his fingers to curl the short locks of hers and slowly undid it. He let his fingers gingerly travel down her forehead, her nose and then her lips. He felt the lips delicately. She shivered slightly under his touch. He let his fingers trail further down her chin, her neck, over her dress. His fingers got locked at the tied neckline. He gently pulled at the neckline string and loosened it. He slowly pulled down the top hem of her dress. He could now make out her rich cleavage. He trailed his finger gingerly through it and then spreading out his palms, let his hand travel down her flat stomach. Her breath started coming faster.
It was dark now as the moon hid behind the clouds. Suddenly Antonio heard a strange sound. Antonio stopped and looked around in the dark. Eyes closed, Rosalin waited in anticipation. Sensing that he wasn’t working on her anymore, she opened her eyes to find him staring intently in the darkness across the beach. The moonlight wasn’t being of much help across the beach as the clouds moved away to expose the moon.
‘Why did you stop?’ she asked him huskily.
‘Thought I heard something.’
’Must be the breeze darling. Come back.’ Rosalin got up and wrapped her arms around Antonio and started to kiss him passionately. Antonio responded to her passionately kissing. They could feel the passion build up inside them as their tongue explored each other’s mouths. He pulled her gown down her shoulder exposing her lovely tanned firm breasts. It glistened in the moonlight. He let his palm knead it as he went on kissing her passionately.
Suddenly, there was a wild screeching sound. They stopped and looked around at the source. In the distance, they could now see some silhouettes moving around in the dark treacherously. Sound of shuffling of feet in the sand reached their ears.
Antonio slowly got up and pulled his pistols out of his waistband. He turned around and gave Rosalin a quick kiss. ‘Wait here. I’ll go and see what it is.’
Rosalin adjusted her dress to cover her breasts and held on to his hand. ‘I’ll come with you.’
Antonio looked at her lovingly. ‘No. This looks dangerous.’
‘I am not afraid to die. Let’s go.’
Antonio took her face between her hands and brought it close, his hands still clutching the pistols. ‘Never say that again. I am a soldier and I am here to kill and not to die at someone else’s hand.’
Rosalin smiled at him apologetically. ‘In that case I am already dead with your poisonous touch darling.’
Antonio looked at her hard and then softening, quickly kissed her hard on her lips. He then handed over one of the pistols to her. ‘Use this if need be.’
Rosalin took the pistol and stared at it somberly. For a girl, she held it strongly in her hand. It was heavy but she had no difficulty in carrying it as she followed Antonio through the dark beach. The clouds hid the moon again making it difficult for them to see ahead. In a way it was good she thought. They slowly and cautiously walked over in the direction of the silhouettes.
Suddenly a masked man lunged at Antonio with a knife. Antonio deftly pushed the man away and then kicked him hard in the groin. As the man doubled over with pain, Antonio quickly pulled out his pistol. From the darkness, two other men pounced on him. As he fended them off, his pistol fell on the ground. As the men slowly and menacingly moved towards him, Rosalin fired the pistol in the air. The men stopped in their tracks. Antonio lashed out at them. He jumped on the ground and picked up his pistol and fired at them killing them instantly. 2 more men turned up with knives and he fired at them too before they could attack him. They too fell down dead. Suddenly the first man got up writhing in pain and wrapping his arm around Rosalin’s waist, took her hostage. He held a knife against her neck and menacingly ordered Antonio to throw the pistol away. But Antonio kept walking towards him.
‘Stop or I will kill her.’ The man called out as Antonio advanced towards him with determined steps.
‘You won’t. You are a coward.’ Antonio mocked at him.
The man dragged Rosalin a step backward. ‘Ok I’ll let her go if you let me leave.’
‘Let me go or I’ll kill her too.’ The man seemed to plead now. He could see that Antonio was highly incensed.
Rosalin felt the man go weak on his hold on her. She realized that he was going to surrender. ‘Let him go.’ She called out to Antonio.
Hearing her, Antonio pondered for a moment and then stopped in his track. He lowered his pistol. The man stared at him suspiciously with a heavy awkward pause. He then took few steps backward, Rosalin still gripped in his arm.
At a safe distance, the man suddenly pushed her away and hastily turned around and ran for his life. He had hardly taken a few steps when Antonio raised his pistol and fired at him. The man fell down dead in one shot. Rosalin walked over to the man stunned. She stared down at the dead body lying sprawled on the sands in shock. She couldn’t believe he was dead. Just a moment ago, he was alive and now he lay dead. Antonio walked over and put his arm around her to ease her.
‘You didn’t have to kill him. You went back on your words.’ She cried out shrilly as she push his hand away.
‘I didn’t give him my words.’
‘But he had surrendered somewhat.’ She cried tearfully.
‘And you think I would have let him lived another day to take another shot at me, no way!’
He turned around and walked across the sands. She stood her ground staring at the dead bodies lying around feeling remorse for them. She did a slow sign of the cross and followed him not believing if it was really him that she saw kill all these men so brutally. His hands had appeared so delicate, they had felt so soft and tender on her body, on her lips. And those hands, could they really kill? She thought to herself. She was wrong. He was capable of killing. He was a soldier after all.
They rode back to the village in silence. They reached her house. She got down and walked towards the gate to the courtyard. He called out to her. ‘Rosalin…’ She stopped but didn’t turn around. ‘Can I see you again?’ He added gently.
She turned around and nodded her head slowly. He smiled at her and turning around, galloped towards the palace at high speed.
She slowly walked inside the courtyard and climbed the stairs slowly. She pushed open the door. It was not locked. She walked in and closed the door behind her. The lamps were still on. She walked to her room and slowly started undressing. She stared at herself in the mirror as all her clothes came off. She felt her nipples harden as she remembered Antonio’s delicate touch. A smile came on her lips and then the next second, she remembered the brutal way Antonio killed the last surviving member of the gang and a gasp escaped her lips. Was he the same man she thought aloud again? She lay down on the bed and tried to tell herself that he was a soldier over and over again. She had no idea when sleep overcame.
Antonio raced inside the palace courtyard and dismounted from his horse. A servant took the horse away. He walked inside the palace and in the hall. The party was still on.
He silently walked incognito to the balcony where he and Rosalin had stood sometime back. He gently sniffed the air to feel her presence. Oh God, he was falling in love with her he thought to himself. She was an enigma, a beautiful and sensual enigma. He stared out at the beach far below and reminisced those beautiful moments he just shared with her. There were some of the best moments of his life. Where had she been all this while he wondered to himself. His thoughts were broken again.
‘Hello your highness.’
He recognized that soft mellow voice even before he could turn around.
‘Hello Padre.’ He called out turning around.
‘What happened? You look hassled, your highness.’
‘Oh nothing. Just had a brush with some bandits down at the beach.’
‘Bandits? Are you ok your highness?’ Fr. Kane asked with concern in his voice.
‘Yes Padre, obrigado.’
’And your companion? Is she ok?
‘Yes Padre.’ Antonio replied smiling, clearly embarrassed as he looked at Fr. Kane. How many people must have seen him go out with Rosalin tonight, he thought to himself.
As if reading his thoughts, Fr. Kane replied mischievously. ’Don’t worry. It’s just me who saw you and Lady Rosalin go out.
Antonio gave a short chuckle.
‘I guess you will have to tell his highness about it.’ Fr. Kane added.
‘You mean going out with Rosalin?’ He looked incredulously at Fr. Kane.
Fr. Kane shook his head. ‘I meant the bandits.’
Antonio took a deep breath and nodded slowly. He looked across the room. His father was with Marcos and other family members. He walked over with firm steps towards them. Fr. Kane followed him.
As they approached the group, a stranger who happened to be Rosalin’s uncle, Tio Alberto, noticed them and for a fleeting moment, surprise registered on his face but he quickly composed himself and went on to enjoy the party.
He saw Antonio and Fr. Kane walk to the Viceroy and say something in his ears. The three walked up the stairs. Through the railings, he saw them enter a room that was the Viceroy’s study.
He looked across the room and saw Kishen. They made some sign to each other and both of them walked over to a lonely secluded corner.
‘What happened?’ Tio Alberto asked in a hushed tone.
‘I don’t know. I ordered the men to follow him as was planned and to kill him when the opportunity arises but I guess they missed it.’
‘I don’t like this. We kill him and we shake the Viceroy’s foundation. He has to be eliminated before he strengthens the Portuguese hold in Goa’
‘You know I want freedom too but I can’t do this myself.’ Kishen pointed out.
’I know son. You keep an eye on him. By the way, have you met Rosa?
‘No but I did see her. I don’t think she recognizes me after all these years living in Lisbon as a slave.’
‘Well you better not disclose your identity. Her father is close to the Viceroy and that can hamper our mission. My own brother with the enemies!’ Tio Alberto shook his head.
‘Shhh someone’s coming. I better go.’ Kishen quickly disappeared in the crowd. Tio Alberto went about enjoying and mingling with the crowd, his eyes back on the Viceroy’s study.
On the other side of the room even Marcos was curious. He wondered what was being discussed in the Viceroy’s room and why was it so important for them to leave the party. Isabella, his sister walked up.
‘Hey Irmao (brother), hope you are enjoying the party.’
‘Sure Isa. Have you met Antonio yet?’
‘No. Where is he?’ She said looking around.
‘He is with his highness in his study.’
‘What is he doing there?’
‘That is what I am wondering…’ Marcos said thoughtfully. ‘Come Isa, let’s dance.’
Isabella was a lovely, attractive, fair woman. She moved around in grace and style, having being a party of a rich family. Her upbringing had been very royal. Her brother had always made it clear to her since she came down from Lisbon that Antonio was the man for her. But she had yet to meet him. It was just yesterday that she had arrived from Bombaim where she had been landed from Lisbon and after visiting some relatives, traveled down to Goa. And just in one day, she had heard a lot about him from Marcos and Teresa. She hadn’t got a chance to meet him yesterday since Antonio had been busy meeting the naval commandments and studying about the conditions in Goa. She had hoped she would get to meet him today but since she came down for the party dressed at her elegant best, he had been missing.
‘Well, Irmao I guess now I’ll get to meet him.’ she said as she saw the study door open and the Viceroy walk out followed by Fr. Kane and Antonio. They walked to the railing and the Viceroy clapped aloud to catch everyone’s attention. Satisfied, he looked around as everyone stared up at him waiting for some big announcement.
‘Friends, I thank each one of you for making this a memorable day and for extending a hand of welcome towards my son. But I have one bad news for you. My son was attacked by some unknown brigands just about now and he proved his valor by eliminating them like a true soldier. I am proud of him but at the same time, I must say that I condemn this attack. I won’t tolerate this kind of aggression against the Portuguese. I repeat I won’t tolerate it. I want you to be harsh on anyone doing so. My son has set an example. I want you to follow. Understand!!! Now you may enjoy the party. Cheers!’ The Viceroy raised his glass.
‘Just a minute, your highness.’ Fr. Kane interrupted.
‘This Sabbath, let’s offer a thanksgiving at the Church in honor of Antonio coming home and for his safe delivery from the hands of the bandits.’
The Viceroy smiled. ‘Sure Padre.’ He turned back to the crowd. ‘Friends, this Sabbath, we are offering a thanksgiving in the Church. Be there.’
The crowd raised their glasses in acceptance. The Viceroy then walked down with Fr. Kane and Antonio. The crowd surged forward to hear more about the attack but Antonio just smiled it away. He walked towards his mother and Theresa, his sister who wore a worried look. ‘It’s ok Mae, I am ok.’ He smiled at them in assurance. Over their shoulders, he saw Marcos wave out to him and he walked over through the crowd.
‘Hello Marcos and who is this beautiful woman with you?’ He asked her, his eyes on Isabella.
‘You guess.’ Marcos replied back with a wink.
‘Isabella.’ Antonio said with a mischievous smile. ‘Heard you had come and I guess it had to be you since there is no other woman as beautiful as you in this room.’
Isabella was taken back by his words. So he was aware of her existence. Good she thought to herself. She extended her hand and Antonio took it and gently kissed it. ‘May we dance?’
They danced together. Marcos watched them. This is what he wanted for his sister. A nice and deserving husband and a powerful man at that.
With every step she took with Antonio, Isabella realized she wanted more and more of him. She let her head fall on his shoulder and hugged him closer. She wanted to feel the warmth of his body. They danced through the late hours in close proximity and as each moment passed, Isabella realization deepened that she had found her man.
On the other side of the room in a secluded corner, Marcos was animated talking to a beautiful girl. Fr. Kane watched them and his eyes followed them as they went deeper in the darkness. He didn’t have to see what they were up to. He knew they were indulging in an immoral act. He shook his head slowly. He didn’t like it.