Chapter 2

Adrian was fingering a sword. He was in a huge room with a high ceiling, a private fighting court, which had an assortment of weapons hung on almost every bit of space on the walls. It had benches at opposite ends of the room, upon one of which, sat the don, Santiago, in a nothing but snug breeches. The chamber had been designed by his father, with twelve windows, high in the walls. There were two doors and through one of these, walked his brother, Felix.

"Are you planning on killing anyone?"

"Yes, you…" He replied jokingly, but with a measure of irritation, since he had been looking forward to some solitude. "This was fathers'."

"I know. I used to come in here and play with his weapons."

"And he would come in and tell you to stop, but you never did."

"How about a fight?" Felix suddenly asked, after a somewhat uncomfortable silence.

"A fight? Surely you jest."

"No, I'm serious. Come on. Or are you afraid you'll lose, big brother?"

"I hardly ever lost to father once he'd thought me. Why would I lose to you?"

Adrian asked, in good natured fun. His brother had always been a hotheaded rascal and his volatile temper made him an easy fighter to manipulate.

"Or were you planning on paying me to let you win? It would cost you more than you can afford."

"Are we doing this or are you just going to talk?" Felix asked, with a tinge of impatience in his voice.

"Alright then. Choose your weapon."

xx

Alex flipped through the book she was reading not really paying attention to the words. She kept glancing up and looking around the room and every time she looked down she would flip through a few pages. Ordinarily she would have been enjoying the story but she had other things on her mind. They had just had breakfast - a meal Alex considered to be the most tedious of them all especially since Adele was present…where was she anyway? And she and her brother were lounging in one of the many parlors the mansion consisted of. Lincoln, who was seating opposite her, looked up from the newspaper he was going through and said, "Either you've suddenly developed the ability to read at lightening speed or you're not really reading that book." She put the book down with a smile and said, "I'm not."

"A penny for your thoughts."

"I was wondering if you knew someone," she began, slowly. "But you might not remember and I might be bringing it up for no reason, and you'll make a fuss about nothing."

"Well then perhaps you'd better not tell me, I don't feel much like worrying for no reason, at the moment." He retorted, with amusement.

"Oh don't be so silly, Lincoln, this is important."

"Is this about a man?" He asked, somewhat incredulous.

"You know then?" She asked, sitting up.

"Actually no, I have no idea what you mean." Lincoln replied, slightly surprised at her enthusiasm.

"Adrian Santiago…you know him don't you?"

"The one I met in London?"

"Yes. He lives here!"

"Well, yes, I do know him. What about him?"

"Do you know anything of his character? What sort of man is he?"

"I must say, that is a rather strange vein of questions, Alex," He began.

"Yes, I know it is…I was just curious, since he lives so very close to us."

"Hmm, well he's very top-lofty, I suppose. But not in an unbearable way, rather an older sort of way. If you'll remember, I met him when I was much younger, kicking up all kinds of noise. He's everything of the gentleman, of course, but very shrewd. He would know if he were being led a dance in a minute. Quite unimpeachable character, if I say so myself."

"That's very interesting." She mused.

"Why?"

"Oh, I just wondered about him."

"You're not infatuated, are you…but wait…I'm remembering something." As he said this a smile began to play across his face. "Don't remind me Lincoln," Alex said. She felt her ears getting hot.

"No, no, this is too funny," He had started laughing now. "You fancied that fop from Belgium. What was his name?"

"Michelangelo. Yes, yes and he was…"

"Married…he was bloody married."

"It's not funny, Lincoln. Elder brothers are supposed to be compassionate to their sisters."

"You were ten! I still can't believe you sneaked up into…"

"Go on laugh! You never take me seriously, no one does." She said with an exaggerated pout. Lincoln got up and playfully ruffled her hair as he left the room. She said nothing but stared at his retreating back. She had hoped Lincoln would forget that incident with Michael. But then no one would ever forget everything she had done in London.

She had been young and restless; why couldn't anyone see her differently now. She got up and went out to the balcony breathing in the tangy sea air. Alex had been coming to this balcony lately to think and just dream. Her mother had always said she was a romantic, always playing at being a princess while Jeremy Collingwood, one of her very good friends, played the prince. In her minds eye, she saw a fairy tale romance in which a handsome prince would come and sweep her off her feet. She'd never told anyone about this fantasy mainly because it sounded so silly and childish and also because the likelihood of that ever happening was slim.

Back home she was everyone's friend, but nothing else. No one saw her as a woman. Couldn't people see that she had grown up? Couldn't they see her as anything but a tomboy who was good company? In her tight knit circle of friends her behavior which had fallen just short of recklessness, was not looked down upon and she had had such good connections that not even the strictest of the ton would dare to ostracize her. But then her friends got married and even her connections couldn't save her from the scorn of all the eligible men who weren't friends.

Perhaps that was why they weren't friends. Who wanted a reckless redhead with a temper to scorch the earth as their wife? Apparently nobody did or she would have been snatched up immediately. Her dowry alone would attract many and she wasn't exactly ugly. In fact she was vain enough to call herself as beautiful. So why at eighteen wasn't she married. She pretended she didn't care when half of her friends were married at sixteen but the prospect of becoming an old maid was enough to have her at her wits end. She could not adopt a completely different lifestyle…no she wouldn't.

Of all the things her mother had told her, she remembered her constantly reminding Alex to be herself. The problem was that England did not accept individuality quite so well. So maybe it was time to take a different approach. In most cases the move to California had been the best thing to have happened to her. She could start over. She had made a resolution to get married by the end of this year and then Adrian Santiago had practically fallen into her lap. Or rather she had fallen into his. That couldn't happen again. From now on she would be the epitome of lady-like behavior. As hard as it was to admit, her father was right.

xx

"Give up, Felix?" Adrian asked, his sword holding up his brother's chin.

"How do you do it?" Felix asked, still on the floor.

"Do what?" Santiago, asked sheathing his sword.

"You know, fencing so bloody well."

"Like I said before, father taught me. Come get up." He replied, holding out his hand. Felix accepted the offer and with Adrian's aid got up. "Do you think you could teach me? It might come in handy some day." He asked tentatively.

"Of course I…why would it come in handy? You aren't still fighting that Hernando boy are you?"

"Not right now but… if I could prove myself better than him maybe I'll get some respect from people here."

"You don't need to prove yourself to anyone."

"No you don't, I'm…I'm just your little brother and nothing else. I just need a few pointers and I could take him."

"I'm not going to teach you to kill yourself." Adrian said, an edge to his voice.

"You don't think I could win?"

"I don't think you have to."

"Have to? What do you know about what people have to do? You don't have to do anything here. Every one respects you, everyone knows you. That's your life, your perfect life that you don't have to do anything in, because everyone does it for you. Do you know what my life is like? Of course not. Let me give you a little insight into my life. Every day I have to stand behind you even if you aren't there. I'm your shadow, your little brother from England, the gringo. No one respects me the way they do you. No one cares what I say or what I do. I'm stuck being your shadow for the rest of my life and you tell me about what I have to do. You don't know anything about what people have to do. What's more you don't care. I ask you for one thing one little thing and you won't give it to me. For heavens sake, I'm your own flesh and blood and you…"

"Stop, Felix," Adrian bit out, "I've heard what you have to say and…"

"No you haven't. You still…"

"Silence! You claim to live a hard life yet I don't see that; you have been sheltered for so long and now you see the world and you tell me it is hard. You know nothing of hardship because you have an inheritance to fall back upon. Yes, I hold it for you, and I hope that by the time you are able to take possession of it, you have gained a little more common sense. You want my life, to deal with hundred's each day, who all want something and all have some grievance to put before me. Responsibility, brother. That's what it's called and you have yet to accept any of it. You want the respect that comes with it, but you must earn that. Engaging in such stupid fighting, will not give it to you."

They stood opposite each other, Adrian with his hands clenched and his eyes glinting and Felix looking mutinous. He was red in the face and his knuckles were white as he gripped the sword hilt.

"Fine!" He said, "Fine. Here, have the stupid sword." He threw it at Adrian's feet, spun around and stormed out of the chamber, slamming the door through which he had come in.

The opposing door opened revealing Narciso. "Maybe you should teach him." Adrian turned to him and just stared at him for a while then, looking as though he were pondering something, asked, "How long have you been there?"

"Long enough." Narciso replied. Adrian checked his pocket and felt a set of keys. He looked back at Narciso, who had an impassive expression, inwardly shrugged then asked, "And you really think I should teach him?"

"It's not necessarily what I think. Perhaps a strengthening of the bond you share would help him on the path to self actualization."

"Perhaps, perhaps not. I just don't want him to feel ready and jump into a fight with Hernando, thinking he can win."

"Maybe he is ready…"

"Trust me, he's not. Felix has so much energy but just puts it in all the wrong places. From what I know of Hernando, he's excellent with swords. He could beat Felix in his sleep."

"An excellent reason why you should teach him. The knowledge certainly won't be wasted."

"That's the thing. As long as he does not think he's up to it, he won't put himself in any unnecessary danger." At this point Narciso laughed. "What's so funny?" Adrian asked.

"I'm just imagining the look that would have been on your face, if your father had told you this." The laughter gone, he said, "Adrian, you can refuse to teach him but you can't stop him from fighting. One day he'll want to fight and he'll go out hoping to prove something. You aren't going to be there on that day so don't you think it would be better if he knew something of the art?" Adrian looked at the sword Felix had thrown at his feet. He bent, picked it up and said, "I just hope I'm doing the right thing."