The door burst open, and Diego jumped up, almost glad for the interruption. He pulled the door shut with a snap, but it wasn't in time to keep the cold air from streaming into the tiny room. Victoria crossed her arms against her chest, shivering instantly. Even Diego was affected by the cold as he clenched and unclenched his bare hands, trying to create warmth through the movement. But then he noticed Victoria sitting on the blanket, shivering.
Diego quickly took off his caballero jacket to drape across
Here, you're chilled. Let's get this around
you. He helped her by pulling the jacket close and rubbing her
arms to restore her previous warmth. Then he looked into her
dark eyes. It was his first and final mistake of the night.
Victoria stared back at him, a confused, questioning expression on her lovely face. Diego fought to contain his emotions, but it was a losing battle from the start. The welling tide was too strong. She had such beautiful eyes, he thought absently. Second only to the feel of her soft, inviting lips...
Suddenly he knew that he was in over his head. The only reason he had managed to keep his feelings of love from Victoria was that he had made certain not to get captured in a situation just like the one he found himself in. But he was lost now, alone, at night, with Victoria, staring into her eyes, lost in those fathomless pools. All he could think about was how much he wanted to feel her, to kiss her...
Without warning, the mask of deception suddenly fell away, and just as quickly she found herself staring into eyes that were sometimes frightening in their intensity, but always honest, hopeful, and blue. In that moment, like a flash of inspiration, she knew.
And drew in a sharp breath with the knowledge. Diego was Zorro. He had to be, what with the way he was currently staring at her.
All at once the similarities between the two became apparent, obvious once she knew what to look for. The same, strong jaw, the compelling, sweet lips, the smooth, silky cheek, the dark mustache, the striking, blue eyes... it was all there, exposed to a person with the right gaze, with the knowledge to see.
Suddenly, she was consumed by anger. He had been right there, every day, in her tavern, her best friend in the world, and he had never told her! Then the burst was gone as he looked at her, the love he felt obvious in his eyes, the tenderness, the need. How could she resist such strong emotion? But he spoke, and his words cut through the frozen mood like a knife.
His desperation was just as evident in his voice, even one
kept at a whisper.
I'm sorry, Victoria, but this won't work
any longer. I can't stand it. He was still staring, still
lost in her discerning eyes. His hand reached up to stroke
across her cheek, and he gazed at her through eyes belonging to a
man she knew well, a man of action and adventure.
he repeated, as if he was apologizing for something ahead of
Sorry for what? she asked, also quiet, though her voice
echoed effortlessly around the old windmill. Her hand reached
up, too, as if it had a life of its own. She hardly recognized
it. It felt his hair, enthralled by one soft strand, dark brown
in color, and totally absorbing. She had never touched his hair
before. Abruptly, she realized that she wasn't shivering
anymore. Or that she was shivering, but for a different
You're trembling again, he noticed dispassionately.
I always tremble during the important moments of my
And is this important?
I would say it's one of the most im...
But Victoria couldn't go on. Her heart pounding in time with the booming thunder, she felt his lips pressed against hers, compliant and magical in their sensuousness. Immediately she was overcome by the familiarity of the feeling, and immediately she was transported by the desire that flooded her body. For she couldn't help it, either. She had to answer the call she saw in his exquisite blue eyes. Without thought, she cradled his neck in her outstretched arms.
Diego wrapped his arms around her waist and back, holding the darkness, the demons, at bay. But he felt like he was drowning, being pulled in deeper by her response. She had looked so vulnerable, sitting there, cold and shivering, on the blanket, that he couldn't help himself. He'd felt torn all night, debating whether or not to tell her his secret, and without a word, he'd just given away over four years worth of silence, but she was irresistible. The feel of her lips were incredible and soft against his, too much to ignore, too much to oppose any longer. The yearning in that kiss was too strong, and simultaneously too insecure. He was only a man, and could therefore only resist for so long, and his wall of resistance wasn't nearly tall enough.
Victoria felt his tongue dart out to touch her lips once, twice, and she moaned her response, a sense of heightened emotion. He felt so good, so right, in her arms. It was almost mystical how well and how little she knew him, what he did, what he was going to do, and what kind of effect he had on her.
Just as suddenly as it had begun, the kiss ended. Diego
pulled back to search her eyes again. His breathing was as deep
and wrenching as her own. Always the scholar, always the
worrier, he smoothed her cheek and said,
We need to talk about
Always ready to jump into a situation with no regard for the
consequences, she answered,
What is there to say?
He smiled, and sunshine suddenly seemed to light up the
inside of the old windmill.
'I love you,' just for
His smile was magnetic. She felt the draw, but opposed it
for a moment.
Then you didn't plan this?
He laughed again, a light chuckle that washed goodness over
I didn't plan any of this. But I'm glad it happened.
You have the biggest right to know. He abruptly embraced her.
I'm sorry, Victoria.
Sh! It's all right, Victoria insisted.
I think I
understand why you remained quiet all those years.
To keep you safe. To keep Father safe. That was the only
reason, the only point. I couldn't bear it if you were hurt
because of me!
It was amazing that he had carried such fear alone, and she
had never known. Victoria drew back and gazed at him intently,
like she had on so many other occasions.
Don't you think
you've considered others long enough? Now it's your turn; what
do you want?
Diego practically jumped. No one had ever asked him that
before. He didn't have to think too hard before he responded in
I want you. He rubbed her cheek with his long
fingers, caressing more gently than she thought was capable for
such a big man.
You can have anything you want, as long as
you just reach out and grab it.
But what about tomorrow? Won't you regret all this, be
She pushed his hair back so she could be sure to see his
No, he answered at once.
She had to whisper a reply to that statement.
Then his lips were on hers once more, or were hers on his?
She didn't know, and it didn't matter anymore as her tongue met
his, dancing to the rhythm of the rain pounding on the roof
above. She was sure her heart was going to explode, or melt with
love, or both as his hot, passionate mouth blazed a trail down
her neck to her collarbone, urgent in its kisses. His huge hand
supported her head and pushed, determined to explore his
previously buried emotions, though his mouth stopped working its
incredible magic on her neck. He groaned, feeling suddenly
We can't. The Alcalde would get too much enjoyment
out of torturing any child we might have because of this
Victoria made a sound of protest at the back of her throat.
But I want this. I want you, more than anything, she
And I want you, Diego whispered back, and his whispers
caused hot breath to wash across her ear. It felt so good, it
made her shiver again.
But I always have to think, to be
prepared for the worst. It's happened often enough.
Slipping all the persuasion she could into her voice,
Just think of all that you have missed by
thinking too much.
It was the only persuasion he needed. Diego kissed her again, and his kisses turned hard, demanding, ravenous. He pushed against her in his intensity, his desire to become part of her. He almost seemed to want to consume her, as he carefully laid her back on the blanket, kissing her neck again, his hot lips once more marking a trail of fire on her skin. Victoria held onto his hand, meeting his palm with hers before she again wrapped her arms around his neck and curved her back up to meet his caresses. It was what she had wanted, what she craved, and she gave no more thought to the consequences of this special, delectable night.
* * *
Thunder rumbled again, far off and distant, but Victoria couldn't find it in herself to worry about it. She had never felt so sleepy, so warm, so content before. She pulsed with the emotions. But she had to look once more, to satisfy an inner curiosity, a craving that grew deep inside her. She couldn't deny it.
So she looked, and caressed what she probably would not get to feel again until that special day when they married. Victoria hoped that day was soon in coming.
What are you looking at? Diego asked, his eyes still
shut to block out the light from the fire.
I guess I should ask instead, 'What are you
Victoria lifted her head from his pale shoulder under the
single blanket that covered them both.
I can't help it; I'm
thinking about weddings.
Her comment wiped the smile off his face. It appeared that
'tomorrow' had already come. But Diego only thoughtfully said,
You know, Victoria, you can always marry Diego instead of Zorro
if you want. That might hurry things along. If you want.
I want. You're suddenly quite... appealing. She
I am? He hugged her tightly then, his arms wrapping
around her momentarily like the steel of his blade.
sure I care about what other people might think at a seemingly
hasty union, but I have to consider the consequences of any and
all actions. However, you won't get any argument from me.
Victoria's kiss landed on his chest.
A courtship might be
our only option. It could be fun.
Diego smiled again, his eyes still closed against the light.
Fun? Taking you places, showing affection straight to you in
your tavern, buying you all the things I've ever wanted to...
You're right, a courtship could be fun. His eyes opened,
though she couldn't see the love held in them as he stretched
down to lightly kiss her lips.
The endearment was delicious, warm in its invitation,
something she had never felt before. It made her grin. She
couldn't hold back the gesture.
And then? she asked,
artfully coy for the first time all night.
Diego gazed at Victoria, the passion, the desire, so clear
in his expression. He whispered,
I want to marry you in the
biggest, the best wedding the pueblo has ever seen. Then I want
to take you home and do things that shouldn't be on an unmarried
Victoria smiled; she couldn't help it.
Oh, it will be, he promised, and kissed her forehead.
We'll have to be careful, especially at first, when it will be
the hardest, but it's definitely a possibility. Then he gave
in to the crying of his heart and kissed her passionately, as
he'd always wanted to. She responded instantly, with wild
abandon shaking her small frame.
Outside, the rain fell, but the two inside the windmill were completely oblivious to the weather.
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