Texas DesireBy: Holly Castillo
A Texas Legacy Romance
San Antonio, Coahuila y Tejas
March 5, 1836
Someone was in the house.
The realization was like jumping into icy water. Afraid to breathe, afraid to move, Olivia Torres held herself perfectly still, her hands gripping the bed sheet, desperately straining to hear a noise, praying it had just been a continuation of her nightmare.
A soft thump in the kitchen sent tremors coursing through her blood and her skin became clammy. She sat up quickly—cringing as the bed creaked, counting in her mind, ticking off the time since she had heard the first noise. In the dark, cold room, time seemed to crawl and she feared whoever it was had been in the house for several minutes already.
Her mouth was dry, her hands trembling. Olivia slipped off the bed and knelt on the cold floor, ignoring the ache in her ear as her heart pounded frantically. Her fingers felt under the cornhusk mattress until the smooth butt of a pistol fit into her palm. Gripping it tightly, her tremors slowed and she felt stronger, braver.
The door to her room seemed yards away, though it was only two short steps. Her mind was racing with possibilities and she tried to imagine how she would handle whatever it was she faced. Olivia hoped it was only her grandmother, or perhaps Serena, up and about for some odd reason. The likelihood was very small.
More than likely it was a Mexican soldier or a vagrant seeking shelter, food, or some other comfort she wasn’t prepared to offer. The sporadic fighting at the mission had been going on for days now, and it seemed inevitable that Santa Anna was going to make a hard push at the Alamo any day. It seemed every passing moment the Mexican Army built in size.
But the tension was thick and the soldiers were restless. She didn’t want to think about the danger her family would be in if the soldiers decided her home would provide entertainment. Cautiously, she opened the door and slipped out into the hall. The insane thought ran through her mind that her feet were cold and she should have grabbed her slippers. Yet her hands were sweating.
Same as in her dream, her heart pounded so hard it seemed impossible to hear anything more than the thundering cacophony. She hesitated for a moment in the hallway, pressing her back to the wall as she tried to gather her wits. This wasn’t her nightmare. There were no bullets and cannon balls flying around her. She was in her own home and just needed to discourage someone trying to escape the cold March night.
Her heart lurched as someone bumped into their stack of cast-iron pans. The curse that floated on the air was one she had never heard before, and her cheeks flamed at the colorful expression from the deep male voice that held a drawl that wasn’t familiar to her. Licking her lips, she whispered a quick prayer and crossed herself, then tiptoed silently towards the kitchen.
She couldn’t hear any more sounds, which only made her more nervous. Her ear started to throb painfully. She clenched her teeth together. It was bad enough she could barely hear a sound out of her left ear, but it was worse that it continued to ache and throb.
She peered around the corner of the hall, barely peeking her head out into the kitchen. Shadows from the moonlight made it difficult to distinguish anything. Gradually, her eyes adjusted and she began to pick out the familiar objects in the kitchen.
One of the pots had been knocked to the floor. Whatever man had invaded her home that night had certainly been clumsy. But where was he now? Nothing moved in the shadows. Swallowing hard, fingers tightening on the gun, she took a step forward, then another.
Nothing moved, not a sound was made other than her own nervous breathing. She took another step and her foot slipped on something. Surprised, she glanced down and noticed dark spots scattered on the floor. Confusion lasted for only a moment before her mouth went dry.
Blood. She heard an ominous click behind her. Her instinct was to whirl around and confront whoever had invaded her home, her sanctuary. But she had learned the hard way she needed to listen to reason and rational thought instead of blindly following her gut instinct.
“What do you want?” Her voice was nowhere near as strong as she had hoped. It even quivered. She had no idea what kind of madman held a gun at her back.
There wasn’t an immediate answer and her fingers twitched around her gun.
“Is this the Torres home?” The voice was deep, rough, and strained.
“What do you want?” she demanded again, avoiding his question. She was proud that her voice was stronger.
There was a sound, as though he took a step towards her, but then stopped. “I was told—a man told me you could help me…”
She turned very slowly, trying to keep her gun hidden within the folds of her nightgown. She didn’t see him right away. He was dressed in dark clothes that allowed him to blend in the shadows easily. His dark hat was pulled low over his eyes, and at least a day’s growth of beard shadowed his jaw. But it was hard to focus on anything with the large gun he held.