Lavinia Montoya stared longingly out the Plaza Cafe window.

A million stars twinkling like jewels from the heavens, framed against the purplish-black of the Mexican night sky. The light from the stars that light up the dessert‘s sand dunes and cactuses. And not a cloud in sight...

“Lavinia!” someone shouted, making the young Spanish beauty jump.

“What?” she yelped.

“You were doing it again.” growled her boss, Senior Torino, making her flinch slightly. Senior Torino was an ugly man. Not physically; physically he was what one might call handsome. He was tall with jet-black hair, high cheekbones and dark eyes. But Lavinia knew from experience that he was a cruel, heartless man who would do anything for a few extra Paseos. And any who dared oppose him never lived long.

“Get ready, there’s a show in five minutes.”

Lavinia nodded quickly before turning and darting off towards the dressing rooms. Once there, she quickly changed into a white dress that accentuated her slender figure and slim waist. That done, she quickly rushed to the mirror to fix her nearly flawless makeup. After a moment, she allowed herself a small smile of triumph. She really did look amazing with her long, flowing dark hair, onyx-eyes, light skin, low-neck dress and plump red lips. She gave the mirror a laughing smile.

She needed to make money in order to support herself, and in order to do that, she needed to impress the Cowboys that always came to the Cafe enough to get spare coins.

With her slender little hand, she plucked the red rose off the table. Truth be told, she had no idea where it’d come from, but seeing as it was there, she’d make it useful. Carefully she placed it in her hair. The effect was incredible. No one would recognize the penniless orphan from the streets that Senior Torino had dragged back to the Plaza to preform years before.

Although it might not have been at all ideal, it was a job and it did put food in her belly and give her a place to sleep, which was more than she’d had in the past.

The familiar buzz of chatter dragged her back to reality. She was standing in the shadows, hidden by the thick, velvety-red stage curtain.

Lavina took a deep breath a pushed it open. Instantly she was assaulted by a thousand different sights and smells. Golden light from the blazing fireplace and tallow candles made shadows dance on the walls. Two pot-bellied farmer sat at the table closest to her, sipping from a mostly-empty bottle of whiskey. A group of rowdy-looking men (probably runaway bandits) were sitting around one of the tables, laughing. Thick clouds of cigarette smoke filled the overly-crowded cafe, making her eyes water. Around another table sat a pack of gamblers in the middle of a game. Everyone was shouting, cursing, smoking, and drinking.

And suddenly her eyes found him.

He looked to be in his early twenties with a head of curly black hair. A cowboy hat was perched on top of his head at a crooked angle. His plain black clothing was caked with dust, but the sword he wore at his waist gleamed.

And he Q. was the only person who wasn’t being loud (excluding the unconscious, of course.). He was just calmly sitting there, sipping from a glass of ice water and slowly eating what looked like stew.

Then he looked up at her with a pair of melted-chocolate brown eyes. For a moment, their eyes met and she felt a physical jolt run through her entire body.

She was the one who broke the connection by looking away. She remained standing where she was, perfectly still on the stage, until the crowds went silent. Then the music started up from the other end of the Cafe, played by Senior Torino himself on an old guitar.

Lavinia began to dance. She knew the song by heart, so she hardly had to think about the movements and complex steps of the dance. No, her thoughts were all centered around a certain man...

And suddenly Lavina had an idea. In a movement that was to fast to follow, she leapt up onto one of the tables, kicking aside beer kegs and plates of food. Now she was thinking all about the dance. She spun away from one of the gamblers who’d been trying to grab her, probably to steal a kiss.

No, there was only one person she’d ever want to kiss in this room, and that was the mysterious cowboy.

A quick jump brought her to the next table. This time it was face cards and whiskey glasses that went flying.

Senior Torino has stopped playing his guitar and was staring in horror at her. She knew that she was making a wreck of his stupid Cafe and that would mean no pay-check for the next month, but the men loved her. All except for one man, that was.

And the lack of music didn’t matter ether. The men were all clapping to a beat now.

Then she began to sing.


Raffael stared dully down at the chunky muck that passed for stew in these parts. Of course, it was the first thing he’d had to eat that wasn’t jerky for the last six months, so he supposed that complaining was a bit unfair. Slowly he plunged his spoon into the bowl, choking down the mysterious liquid.

Raffael was a mercenary of sorts. His job was to track down thieves and bring them to justice. Sometimes that meant dragging them to a nearby jail, other times that meant fighting duels with bloodthirsty criminals. Thankfully, he had yet to meet anyone who matched his skill with a sword or pistol.

With a bored sigh, he looked up from his meal... and locked eyes with most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. His breath caught in his throat.

Her eyes were, of course, the first thing he noticed. They were an inky black, the color of onyx, and they seemed to absorb everything in the room. But it was the emotion that they held that was the most alluring thing about them. In those eyes he saw emotion so like his own: pain, fear, anger, bravery and, above all else, determination. The emotion was only there for a brief moment before it vanished behind a mask. He let his gaze take in the rest of her. She was wearing a white dress that sparkled and shone in the firelight. Her dark hair flowed in elegant waves behind her, shimmering with a natural beauty that was impossible to recreate. A blood-red rose was tucked behind one of her ears.

From a corner, Raffael heard a guitar take up a lively tune. Normally he’d look to see who the musician was, but now he couldn’t take his eyes away from this strange woman.

Then she began to dance. He followed her every move with hungry eyes.

It’d been so long since he loved someone; longer than he cared to admit, truth be told. And now this woman who he’d never seen before in his life had stolen his heart.

After a moment, he leaned over to a man seated near him.

“Senior, who is she?”

His words made the man snort derisively. “Only Señorita Lavina Montoya, the most beautiful woman alive.”

Raffael smiled slightly. A filthy Cafe (if one could call it that) was no place for a lady like her. One way or another, the beautiful Lavina Montoya would be free of the miserable Cafe and the scoundrel who, know doubt, ran it before the morning was up.


Lavina’s slender feet clicked lightly against the cracked tables. She could feel the cowboy watching her now, and she was determined to keep his attention, if only for a moment longer.

It was that thought that prompted her to throw herself onto his table. This time, however, Lavina was careful to avoid stepping on the man’s meal.

“So you are the beautiful Señorita that has caused so much commotion.“

Lavina flashed him a lightning smile. “Meet me behind the curtain. There’s a side door. Go in through there.” she hissed softly.

Raffael nodded slightly. Taking this for a yes, Lavina spun away.


Raffael stood behind the curtain with his hands buried deeply in his pockets. Never in a thousand years had he thought that he, a young Spanish noble, would end up standing behind a stage curtain waiting to speak with an actress. The soft froo-froo of silk rustling against the floor shook him from his thoughts.

“What do you think you’re doing, Lavina?” The voice was cold and dangerous. Raffael had to squint to see who the speaker was through the darkness. He was surprised to recognize the man who’d played the guitar.

Lavina flinched. “I was merely doing my job. I got more money than I have in ages; surely you can’t fault me for that?”

The man laughed cruelly. “You were just trying to impress a cowboy. It’s such a shame, Lavina, that said cowboy won’t survive the night.”

At that, Lavina stiffened visibly. “Leave him alone, Torino. Do what you will to me, but leave him alone. Killing someone over my mistake...” her voice broke.

“It isn’t fair, is it?” purred the man who he assumed was Torino. “But sweet Lavina, life isn’t fair.”

Tears were forming in her dark eyes now.

And that was when something inside Raffael broke. He charged towards the man, pistol drawn. “You would murder me, would you?! And all to hurt another!”

For a moment, Torino looked genuinely terrified, but an instant later, his expression was unreadable. “Senior, I have never lost a duel before, and I don’t intend to do so now.”

Raffael smiles at him, although there was no friendliness in the gesture. “And neither have I.”

And suddenly, there was a blade at Raffael’s throat.

Torino smirked triumphantly. He opened his mouth to say something, although nobody will ever know what because at that moment, Lavina pounced at him, wrapping her slender arms around his neck.

“YOU WILL NOT TOUCH HIM!” she screamed furiously.

Torino stumbled backwards, gasping for breath. Then he shook the young actress off, throwing her across the dark stage.

But she had given Raffael what he needed, a chance to get his own weapon. He’d drawn his own sword and rushed Torino. Unfortunately, Torino was ready for him. He easily deflected Raffael’s blade, a cruel smile playing itself out in his thin lips. And although he didn’t say anything aloud, the message was clear: only one leaves this stage alive.


Lavina stared in shocked disbelief as her defender boldly charged Torino again. It was so strange to see people fighting to the death over you, especially when one of them was a total stranger.

The duel had lasted only for five minutes so far, but I’d felt like a lifetime and a half to her. Based on what she’d seen so far, the men were equally matched in their fencing skills. But soon Torino began to tire. Sweat ran off his face in streams, and his breath was coming in choked gasps.

And suddenly, in a movement too fast to follow, her savior thrust forward. And this time, his blade sunk deep into Torino’s chest.

Torino’s eyes widened in shock. He opened his mouth to say something, but the only sound that came out was a strange gurgling noise. And then his knees buckled and he fell to the earth with a dull thud.

Raffael turned to Lavina, giving her a low bow. “Señorita, will you ride with me?”

In response, Lavina kissed him.


Lavina gripped her husband’s powerful shoulders yet again. It was true that the couple no longer had to share a horse now that they were both so rich, but Lavina could never give up the sensation it brought.

At that thought, a small smile played itself out on her pretty lips. It’d been five years since that fateful day when Torino had met his match.

Raffael’s voice startled her out of her thoughts. “The stars are so wonderful tonight.”

“Like a million jewels scattered all through the heavens.” finished Lavina.

And Raffael leaned back and kissed her.

April 25, 2020 02:50

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Caroline G
23:07 May 06, 2020

Great job having such a strong author's tone throughout this whole piece!


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Raven Car
14:56 Apr 30, 2020

Thank you, Khadijah. This is my second attempt at a short story, and your reviews mean a lot. Thanks a million.


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Katy S.
21:24 Apr 25, 2020

Wow! Seems like a movie ! Romance , thrilling duel, penniless orphan turned rich!


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