Danger In Havana – Episode 25

MARK went over to where Bryony was gazing down at the horses, and took a look over the balcony.

“Goodness,” he said in surprise, “they’re little more than ponies. They’ll be no trouble at all to ride.”

“Do you think so?”

“I’m used to the great big beasts they use as police horses. I once thought of going into the mounted police but then I chose a different route. Being a detective always seemed more interesting. Police horses are huge great things. We’ll have no trouble on those two, they’ll be as tame as donkeys.”

He saw her shoulders, which had been hunched, relax a little.

He took a chance, a big chance, and rested his hand on her arm.

Ever since last night, when she had melted into his touch, willingly responding to his lead when they were dancing, he’d imagined what it would be like to feel the warmth of her skin again. But concerns about whether she might flinch away from his touch, about whether she still held a candle burning bright for her husband had run round in his head.

She didn’t pull away. In fact, she seemed to melt slightly. He saw her breathing slow down.

“It’ll be fine,” he reassured her. “Just think, Bryony, you might enjoy it. It might even be fun.”

She looked up at him and her eyes were big and soulful, but he was delighted to see the corners of her mouth upturn slightly in the ghost of a smile.

All of a sudden, from nowhere, the thing he most wanted to do in all the world, was take her in his arms and kiss her.

He knew it would be unwise but sometimes it was easy to be carried on an emotion if it was strong, like a force of nature. But she looked so vulnerable, so gorgeous standing there in her white cotton shirt, devoid of make-up, looking up at him, appealing for his help to get her through this ordeal.

He placed another hand on her and turned her to him. For a moment, for one searing, extraordinary, uplifting moment, she turned her face up to his, and he saw her eyes flicker.

He leaned down, a fraction closer. So close he could smell melon and mandarin shampoo on her hair, detect jasmine from the soap she had used.

She had moved one tiny fraction closer to him and her lips had parted. Any second now, their lips would touch. He realised he wanted that more than anything.

His heart beat faster, his breath became shallow, adrenaline coursed through his veins at the nearness of her.

It wasn’t like last night. Last night was in full view of other people, last night he had been in control and she had followed. This fresh, bright morning, they were like a male and female deer who had come across each other in a forest clearing, were edging around each other, tilting heads to get to know each other, a beam of sun settling upon them like a blessing.

Mark knew he wanted to kiss Bryony. What’s more, he knew she wanted to kiss him. This was his chance to show her how he felt.

He moved closer, deciding to be brave, to take the moment and make it theirs. Then, suddenly, the door burst open.

Carlos didn’t see them. Mark moved back like a shot, knowing Bryony would be embarrassed.

*  *  *  *

The moment was lost. Mark had been too hesitant, his timing was wrong. He could have kicked himself for being a stupid, hesitant, fool. Would that moment ever come again?

“The horses are ready, come down and try them.” Carlos ushered them out and on to the street.

“They look awfully big,” Bryony said nervously.

“Yours is smallest. Here, let me help you.” Norelvis guided her foot into the stirrup. “Now, just put your hands, one here on pommel, one here on back of saddle. Put your foot on my hands, use it as stirrup, then up.”

In a second she was sitting astride the animal. He shook his mane but seemed unconcerned to have such a light weight on his back.

Would he be able to tell how inexperienced she was? Would he play up, or, heaven forbid, decide at some point he wanted to gallop, and shake her off?

“Yours is called Bembe,” Norelvis said as he adjusted the stirrups and tightened the girth.

He beckoned to Mark to mount.

“Your one, he is called Tolomeo. Bembe is very lazy and likes to eat whenever he sees a tasty leaf, so I go at back to make him keep going. If he stop, Mrs Bryony, just give him little prod with your heels in side, like this.”

Norelvis had mounted himself by now, his horse somewhat larger and sturdier then theirs, which were tough, wiry stock.

“Tolomeo knows the way even if we go to blindfold him. He is leader of men, just like you, Mr Mark. He has job to do and he does it. He will take us into hills to find Miss Anna.”

They clip-clopped off up the road which soon turned into a dirt track leading out of Trinidad.

“Here is outskirts of village,” Norelvis announced as they came to a gate.

He expertly removed the rope around it and ushered them through.

“Now we climb.”

And climb they did, through verdant fields, up rock-strewn pathways, past acres of sturdy tobacco with their leaves like green men’s hankies hung out to dry in the hot air.

The obedient horses trotted nobly along. All the while, Norelvis delighted in his new role as horse-trekking tourist guide.

Occasionally, carefully monitoring how they were doing, Norelvis would go to the front of their little party, and encourage the horses along faster.

In some unspoken pact, the two men worked together to make Bryony feel safe. Mark allowed his horse to slow and end up behind Bryony so that she was always sandwiched between them, in case her horse lost his footing on the rocks and stones.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!