Alternate Ending To 'One Special Night,' Version 2

by Linda Bindner

Slowly, Don Diego lay down on his blanket again after quickly closing the door of the windmill against the cold air that streamed with a vengeance in to the tiny room. He had given Victoria his blue caballero coat, looking into her eyes while he'd done it, seeing her cold, her confusion, her friendliness, her trust... It had been a mistake to look at her from the start, and he even knew beforehand that it would be a mistake, but he hadn't been able to help himself. The call to glance just once into those clear, guileless, innocent eyes, was overwhelming, yet the second Diego had felt himself becoming lost in those bottomless pools, he had forced himself to blink, shutting out the sight of her vulnerability for just a second. It was all the time that was required. He had been able to find the cold, hard logic inside himself that had momentarily deserted him, had been able to look away before she fully realized any of his secret, had been able to stop himself from doing something that he might later regret. For the moment, his secret was safe, and so was he, yet he couldn't help but wonder how she would have reacted if he had broken down and told her everything.

Idiot, he said to himself as he walked around the bench separating her side of the room from his side, you know how she would have reacted: she'd be angry, furious, that you haven't said something to her before now. She would abhor you, spurn you, and then leave you because she would never be able to trust you again. It was the one thing that he feared above all others. Even the promise of death wasn't as threatening as the possibility of having no hope of eventually having her as his wife, no dreams of the future, and so he lay on his single blanket, alone and shivering in the cold of the night, keeping his hope alive.

Then his downfall occurred.

Teeth clattering with cold, yet still completely artless in her request, Victoria naively suggested, You know, Diego, it would be much warmer if we shared body heat as well as our coats with each other.

Hating himself for the necessity of looking prudish in order to maintain his secret, he argued, That may not be a good idea, Victoria. Think of the gossip that would cause.

Victoria swallowed, and even Diego could hear the sound above the noise of her clattering teeth, above his own clenching of hands and shivering body. I've already thought of that, Victoria argued back, and what difference could it possibly make? Those people who are determined to find something disagreeable in this situation will find it no matter what we do, and I'm sure I won't be able to sleep a wink tonight by myself. I'm too cold. Look, my fingernails are blue already! She held out her hand towards him, and he rolled over onto his other side so he could look at her fingers, but her hand was shaking so hard that it refused to stay still long enough for him to look.

Without thought, Diego took hold of the icy fingers that she held out to him. You are chilled! Being so cold is dangerous. He knew enough about science and its discovery to know that! Anxiety for her well-being overcame the natural reservations he automatically felt at their situation, and he reacted instinctively. He sat up and began moving the bench out of the way. Why didn't you say so before now? Gossip, even the ridiculous kind about us, is preferable to pneumonia.

By then, he had risen, spread his own blanket next to hers, and sat down again, all without a question or a voiced reservation as to those decisive actions.

Diego, Victoria insisted immediately, you're as cold as I am. You're shivering!

I'm not quite as cold as you are, Victoria, so don't worry about me. I'll be fine. You'll be a lot warmer in a few moments, too. Now, come here, he commanded in a lower voice born of the distracting need to get her warm. With that said, he unthinkingly lay down next to her and pushed himself right up beside her cold body, like spoons in the silverware drawer back at the hacienda, and draped his left arm across to rest on her stomach. The new position was immediately warmer. He smiled as he lay next to her and joked, I won't tell anybody if you won't tell anybody.

Victoria snorted in amusement, even as she snuggled in closer to Diego's body. I won't say a word, as long as I can just get some sleep tonight. With that statement, she closed her eyes, and a few moments later, the shivering stopped as she grew aware of the warmth that naturally radiated from him, and she began to drift off to sleep, even as she clutched at his hand wrapped around her. He was the dearest friend to be willing to do this for her, she ruminated, and, with Diego's help, soon even her fingernails were no longer blue with cold, but a much healthier pink. She also was coherent of the fact that she could never be in such a compromising position as this with anybody but her best friend without worry for her reputation. Except for Zorro, she didn't trust anybody enough to be this close to him. Yet she trusted Diego completely, knowing almost inherently that he would never try anything improper or harmful. That trust made it possible for her to court sleep now as she drew his warmth about her like a blanket.

But the situation wasn't so innocuous for Diego, who grew aware of the danger he was in immediately. He could feel the fatigue accosting his very bones, fatigue born of his meeting with the King's Emissary, then the flight from Santa Paula to race home and tell his father of the meeting, and the effort it took to battle the storm all evening long, to say nothing of the constant war he had waged with his emotions concerning Victoria. But that fatigue was pushed aside from his consciousness as she snuggled closer to him and contentedly sighed into the night. Within a moment, he could tell just by her inactivity and lack of shivering that she was falling asleep.

However, a new, internal, shivering had replaced the cold for him. Sleep was no longer an option as just the smell from her hair accosted his nose, tickling that organ with a cry of love and desire until he couldn't help but berate himself for the way he had welcomed the danger of this position. He had practically jumped at the opportunity to be so close to her. Now he would surely pay the penalty for his thoughtlessness, was paying already, in fact. The smell of her hair barely touching his nose was positively delectable, way too delectable for his own good. He stiffened instantly, and was just as quickly in a contest with his sense of propriety as he acknowledged that he wanted to touch her hair in a way that a close friend should never want to do. It was downright indecent the thoughts that barraged his mind about Victoria, but he could hardly help himself with her curled so trustingly under his arm. He closed his eyes against the overpowering sensation of his own emotions, and fought with the internal desire to tell her everything about his secret even as his body reacted to their closeness in ways that he couldn't hope to control. He knew right away that he was fighting a losing battle.

A silent moment went by, broken only by his controlled, measured breathing and her innocent, deep breaths of oncoming sleep. Then it happened. Without a bit of incentive on his part, he hardened against his will, and knew there was no way that she could be unaware of his hidden desire. Instantly, Victoria stiffened at the sensation of obvious desire pushing against the small of her back.

Diego sighed, a quiet exhalation of the deep emotion that he had been valiantly trying to hold apart from her all day. Now, he knew that he could no longer fight himself and win. Due to their closeness, and his reaction to it, he would have to tell her everything. With a twinge of regret for the revelation of the secret that he had guarded for so long, Diego opened his mouth to speak.

But Victoria beat him to it. Diego? she questioned.

The sound of the confusion in her voice nearly rent his heart in two. The innate trust was gone. In its place was an automatic sense of inquiry overshadowed by the panic that she couldn't help but feel given the situation. A cold, analytical part of his mind that still miraculously worked noted, quite dispassionately, that she must be thinking that she was a small woman, alone, with a much larger, unmarried man, and though they were considered to be friends, there was just a hint of the danger of a possible attack, no matter how unlikely, that momentarily shrouded her common sense. After all, who could really say that he or she knew anybody so completely as to predict that person's reaction to any given situation? According to Victoria's behavior to Diego's suddenly obvious feelings for her, she was only trying her best to protect herself, and he tried to remind himself of that. But it was difficult; there was immediately an instinctive sense of No! emanating from her that he had to battle against, and it was daunting as well as disappointing, even if such a reaction was entirely anticipated.

Diego tried speaking again. Victoria. The sound of her name came out in a grating rasp that was hardly louder than the popping of the fire. Such an inaudible croak would never do for something as important as his divulgence of the secret identity that she had sought for years. He cleared his throat and tried again. Victoria, there's something I need to tell you. There, that was much better, even if he was forcing himself to lay stiffly by her side.

What's that? came her reply, and though she strove for a sound of nonchalance, her fear and sense of doom were clear in the cold, night air.

Diego sighed at her inherent and habitual alarm. Before any confessions could take place, he had to first say something that would set her at ease again. First of all, no matter what I say, you should know that I have no intention of harming you in any way, so you... shouldn't be... afraid or anything, he began inelegantly.

Victoria noted the sense of chivalry in his voice when he whispered those words to her. The stiffness didn't leave her frame entirely, but it grew considerably less as she answered, not bothering to pretend any longer, All right.

Diego tried with every ounce of willpower he had left to fight against the enticing smell of her hair and skin. You may not like what I have to say, he cautioned. In fact, you may become extremely angry, and... incensed... at my words.

I won't become angry, she promised. She whispered the words, and her inborn sense of unquestioning belief in him seemed to reverberate with goodness on the stone walls surrounding them. She bent her legs a little more for comfort, rubbing without guile against his own bent legs.

He couldn't help but respond to her movement, but his response came in a far different fashion than he expected. He didn't increase the rigidity of his body, and he didn't repulse her sense of naivete at his words. Instead, he hardened even further, and moved minutely against her back; he simply couldn't help himself. Even through all the clothing that they both currently wore, she felt the change. In reaction again, her belief in him left, and she grew stiffer as well, and swallowed, the sound now nervous in the silence of the windmill. The most basic level of the situation asserted itself again; she was once more a woman, alone with a man who quite obviously desired her, and she didn't know what to expect from him.

But as much as he wanted to reassure her that he meant her no harm, the words for the divulgence of his secret began burning holes in his mind. Such reassurance would have to wait. He swallowed, too, and the sensation of the accompanying emotion made his Adam's apple jump. I apologize, Victoria, but I can explain such an unanticipated reaction, he started by saying, no longer upholding the pretense that his desire didn't exist. On the other hand, his arm didn't tighten into an embrace, lest he frighten her even more, and he didn't display the intense depth of his feelings for her, either, for the same reason. But the smell of her hair was slowly eating away at his resistance. As a distraction to the inherent adoration for her that he was feeling, he whispered, I am... I am...

What, Diego? she whispered back. What are you?

Not allowing himself the time to question the wisdom of such a confession, he went on. I am... But he had worked so hard against this moment for so many years, trained himself so well, that he found he was physically incapable of saying the words now that the moment of disclosure had come. He couldn't do it.

Victoria began to grow impatient, even though her stiffness didn't abate. Well?

No, he had pretended too well. Diego drew a deep breath against his own defenses, and closed his eyes. Perhaps if he tricked himself into making this confession..? This divulgence was much harder than he had ever anticipated. He hissed out a breath and tried again, I... I need to tell you that... that I'm the one you've been searching for all these years, he whispered enigmatically.

He'd voiced the words, but such a cryptic response was, well, cryptic. Victoria, however, drew in a sharp breath at his claim. Did he mean..? But that couldn't be. What? burst from her before she could halt such a reply. Do you mean..?

Diego sighed once more into the back of her head. I know such an idea is unbelievable, but it is true, in spite of your previous conceptions of me in the past.

My previous conceptions? she barked with a harsh laugh, beginning to feel anger despite her promise not to. But this divulgence was so unexpected that anger was the least worrisome of her possible responses. Diego? You? she asked next, her tone illustrating her incredulity at his words.

She didn't believe him? That was a reaction he hadn't anticipated. He'd always expected her anger and ultimate rejection, so much so that he had spent hours on internal arguments with himself in his own defense. But not once had he argued against her imagined disbelief. I know that it seems impossible... but... I can give you proof if you need it.

Victoria snorted, an inelegant sound that was devoid of any humor. Proof? All right, I think I need to hear...

Diego interrupted her words. You have the ring left to me by my mother, he said in a whisper. I gave it to you one day when, to escape several persistent bandits, we hid for many hours in my secret laboratory. I asked you to marry me that day, and you said yes.

A roar of silence met his probing ears, then. He could easily discern the swish of the rain pounding on the windmill's roof, and the almost constant rumble of thunder from the storm. At the sound of his words, Victoria went still under the heaviness of his arm. Her stiffness hadn't abated, but even Diego could feel the astonishment pouring off her and into the room. Her breath seemed frozen inside her as she struggled with the new knowledge that he was claiming.

Finally, she found her voice and asked a question, though she couldn't quite hide her sense of amazement at this information. You? I... I would... never have expected this... Her breathy voice trailed off into the silence of the room.

Carefully, Diego started to tighten the grip of his left arm; he really couldn't stop such a reaction, any reaction, any more than he could put a halt to the effect of his hidden desire. I'm sorry for not telling you much sooner than this. I didn't want you to be harmed because of such knowledge, he whispered into her hair.

Harmed?

Giving in to the insistent cry of his heart, Diego slowly slid his forehead down until it touched the back of her head. Besides relishing the smell of her hair, he took immense comfort just from the contact. The sensation helped him to continue, Anybody with knowledge of my identity will be hung right beside me if I'm ever captured... Felipe is already living under such a threat to his life, and that's difficult enough for me to bear, he admitted. If something were to happen to you as well, I'd... I don't know what I would do. He buried his face in her sweet smelling hair to help rid his mind of the image of a hung, dead Victoria.

Felipe? she inquired next, her voice still sounding taut with shock.

Yes, he's been my loyal... well, my loyal everything. I got the idea of creating Zorro from him, actually, when you were jailed at the same instance as my father, Diego explained, giving a name to his alter-ego for the first time. I'd have an impossible time of it if not for him... and for you, he dared to say.

Victoria was silent after that confession, but he could feel the way she was still aware of everything he said, every move he made, every breath he took. The prickles on her skin showed that she was listening to each word that came out of his mouth. She remained unmoving for another moment, just breathing as she processed the astonishing information that he claimed. But I don't understand.., she said at last. You're such a serious man, dedicated to your studies, and Zorro is...

A man of action? Diego interjected with a slight, deprecating laugh. Very different from the Don Diego you've always known?

Well, yes, she admitted quietly.

Diego laughed even more at such an admittance, a slightly bitter laugh. I made certain we were as different as possible to make the connection between Zorro and Diego to be inconceivable at best. That way, I could live my life without worry of retribution. His arm dared to squeeze tighter yet. However, he went on, the deception I was then forced to play for my father and for you always preyed heavily on my mind. Constantly using a higher voice, pretending to dislike action of any kind, being thought of as 'weak,' were still small prices to pay next to the pain of not telling you everything each time I saw you.

Victoria stayed frozen in her position facing away from him. It was almost easier for her not to look at him, and for him to confide in the back of her head. It made everything less real, not quite as serious. But such a luxury of hiding couldn't be hers forever. At the same time, if she faced him, she wasn't sure she could overcome what her eyes were seeing and acknowledge him as the man she had sought for so long. I mean, Diego? she asked herself, reverting to her old opinions and perceptions of him no matter what he had cautioned her against earlier that night.

I have to look, she said to herself. If just to be sure... What she really wanted to look at, and what she couldn't admit, even to herself, were his eyes. What if they weren't the same as the blue eyes that she'd seen a hundred times while they stood in her kitchen and that she'd ached for on the lonely nights in between his unexpected visits? What if they didn't have the same expression in them? What if they were the same inexpressive eyes that she had seen staring out of Diego's face every day of her life? The question that she refused to answer for herself was what she planned to do if they were the same as the eyes belonging to the man she'd been in love with since his sudden arrival in the pueblo of Los Angeles.

Still, she had to know for sure. Slowly, hesitantly, Victoria turned under his warm arm. She was assiduously careful not to glance at him the entire time she was wriggling against him, though she was very aware of the weight of his arm against her side and the rustle of his silken sleeve on her riding outfit. His arm could trap her to him in an instant, she knew, especially considering the raw strength she had always seen in him as he battled for justice while in the small town of Los Angeles. But she wasn't certain that he would ever do such a thing, even if she realized his worst fear by outright rejecting him. The trust she unconsciously felt for Diego was back, to mix chaotically with the emotions she'd always held for her friend. Having such unquestioning trust was a wonderful feeling, to both of them as they lay, quiet, on the blankets strewn over the windmill's cold stone floor.

When Victoria could see the outline of the blue trousers he had been wearing that day, and the glaring white of his caballero shirt, her heart started to thunder. Slowly, because she didn't want to make the mistake of seeming to stare at his chest, she raised her eyes, letting her sight travel freely up his left arm, and from where it met his shoulder, to the bottom of his chin. She took a deep breath to steel herself, then, refusing to cave in to the cowardice she was feeling, looked steadfastly up into his eyes.

It was a heart-stopping moment, painful, accepting, yet just as full of the possibility of rejection, of remaining open to the hazards of that rejection... Cautiously, Victoria looked.

She needn't have worried. The trepidation and fear he was feeling at her decisive move were obvious, but the blue eyes themselves looked exactly the same, like the ones she had seen a hundred times before, gazing at her with obvious love and desire shining from them, as those emotions were shining from them now in all their previous splendor.

For a moment, Victoria took the luxury of just looking, soaking up the sight of the man she had proclaimed her love for, staring with all her inborn curiosity, as if seeing her best friend for the first time. Perhaps it was the first time she had looked so closely. It was certainly the first time she had ever looked at him while the knowledge of his double life raced across and imbedded itself in her mind.

The same indelible shade of blue stared back at her. Unlike her own curiosity, his eyes blazed with uncertainty, and fear. Rejection may have been a reaction that had disappeared for her the second she gazed at him, but she hadn't said anything yet, and the possibility was still very real for him, amazing as it may seem. The idea of this man, this hero of the people, being afraid of anything was ludicrous. But there he was, he who had never shown fear of anything or any situation, the fright palpably seeping from his pores to wash over her in waves of pure dread and apprehension. In a flash of insight, Victoria finally understood that the terrible burden of caring for her had caused him to visit her tavern every day for years, just so he could ascertain for himself that she was all right, that she was in control of her little corner of the world, that she was unharmed by the ravages of life in the colonies that so often came to those who dared to challenge it. She was a single woman, essentially alone, and only the love of an imaginary person was available to protect her, to keep her safe. She saw it all flashing before her in a blink in the blue of his eyes.

Then, almost as if the hand wasn't her own, she lifted it to his face and wove her fingers through the dark hair on his left temple in a gesture of affection that had always been denied her before.

He closed those vivid eyes of his for a moment, shutting in his fear of rejection with the action, swallowing convulsively enough to make his throat twitch, but reveling in the smoothness of her exploring fingers. When he opened his eyes, Victoria was only one or two inches from his face. She watched the interplay of emotions chase themselves across his features as he gazed raptly at her, caught by the gentle stare of her calming, dark eyes. His own gaze darted from her eyes to her lips and back again.

Victoria saw the direction of his gaze, and without any other reason, her pulse quickened inside her chest. She could feel his hot breath wash over one of her cheeks, and her hand came up once more to rest against the smooth skin of his cheek. One breath later, she leaned the rest of the way towards him and kissed him tenderly on his lips.

This was not a kiss of passion, but of love, slow, and aching, and more delicate than any they had shared before. Diego's arm tightened around her back, and his own hand rose to gingerly cradle her cheek like it was the most precious jewel he had ever encountered. All too soon, his lips slid off hers and glided across to her ear, kissing her skin and rubbing her dreamily the entire way. When he reached the end of the surface he could reach, he kissed her hair, then wrapped his arms around her to cherish her in a deep embrace, and simply held on. I love you, Victoria, he whispered, the sound of his voice barely cutting through the noise of the storm. I love only you, and so much, I hurt with it.

She knew what he meant by aching with the joy of such love as theirs. Her own heart felt like it was about to burst inside her ribs. She cradled him in a return embrace, and lovingly ran her hand over and down his soft, brown hair, her eyes closed to better experience the emotion that only he could draw from her. Feeling the pressure of him against her chest, she pulled him in even more, aware of the soft strands of his hair under her fingers and the feel of his body lying next to hers on the blankets. Before she knew what was happening, she was kissing him again, seeking out the tender sense of exploration that he effortlessly set off inside her, wanting to feel the explosion of warm passion that always crept through her body when he was so near.

She kissed his mouth, his cheek, his eyes, his ears, his temple, his hair, all the while amazed that she had finally found him. And you were afraid that I wouldn't like you anymore! she said, the sound coming out more like a discovery than a criticism. You, who's done so many things... I can't believe I've found you at last, that you're here, with me, and that you won't be leaving so soon.

Diego responded to her kisses, carefully touching the tip of his tongue to her lips in desire. It wasn't something that he hadn't done before, but her new knowledge put a twist on old expectations, and he moved cautiously. Still, when she kissed the skin of his ear and his hair, something he'd never previously experienced, he melted against her. I'm not going anywhere, Victoria. I want to be right by you, wherever you are; I'll never leave you so alone again.

Those words, so ingenuously uttered, told her that he'd always been aware of the times that necessity had dictated for them to be apart; the lonely nights, the empty days. His burden seemed to double under the weight of that kind of knowledge. Is that why you were sometimes in the tavern twice a day? she asked.

Solemnly, Diego nodded. I always felt your absence, always, even if I had just seen you that morning. The sensation was strongest if I ever found you in danger of any kind.

Victoria understood that Diego was traditional enough to think that he needed to protect her, that she needed his protection in daily life. She loved him, loved his benevolent nature, but chafed at the loss of independence that such a feeling created. You don't have to feel that way in the future, she couldn't help suggesting.

Diego laughed from deep in his chest. That's my preciosa, he explained his mirth, always feeling trapped under the traditions of the time.

Traditions! she expostulated. Maybe such 'traditions' need to be rethought.

Maybe.

Women are more than capable of handling the world on their own.

Diego chuckled again. I love your spirit every time you show it, preciosa. You seem to glow with the energy it gives you. He kissed her easily on the lips as she blushed at the compliment that he had only dared to express before in his dreams. Now, to respond to your comment, some traditions are in place for a reason. Men are simply stronger than women, and some men will always want to take advantage of that. I may not like it, you may not like it, but it's an indisputable truth of life. Besides, he added a bit sheepishly, I like to feel as if I'm protecting you from an evil world. That doesn't mean I respect your mind any less.

Victoria snorted. I don't need protection like some simpering...

I know, he gently interrupted. But I like to feel as if you do. Perhaps it's my male ego rearing it's ugly head.

Victoria grinned. You don't have a male ego.

Diego couldn't help grinning back. Of course I do, one that's well-trained and has been highly nurtured since I was young. It's part of the romantic side of Zorro. He propped himself up on his elbow to better see her answering expression.

Victoria mirrored his posture. You are the most romantic man I've ever met, she admitted.

That is a compliment, coming from you; you've probably met more men than live in the territory.

I've never met the King, and he's a man, Victoria argued.

Suddenly Diego grew more serious. What do you think of the King, Victoria?

The question as well as the change of subject took her aback. Nobody had ever asked for her opinions before, only another drink. What do I think of the King? Are you serious? Do you truly want to know?

Yes, Diego responded immediately and even more pointedly. What do you think of his rule, his politics, his edicts?

She raised her eyebrows in sudden consideration. Well, no one's ever asked me that before...

We should all ask. You're a natural one to ask; a citizen with the definitive voice of the people at heart. It's what drew me to you at the very beginning, he confessed shyly.

Victoria looked a little surprised at his admission. Really? I was always told while I was growing up that a female should not have so many opinions about matters that don't concern her, as if the matters of the world don't automatically concern everybody.

He kissed her tenderly on her forehead, pride for those interests of hers practically oozing out of him. I hope you always have an opinion.

Again Victoria laughed. You know me; I always will, whether it's a good thing or not.

He kissed her a second time. Go on. What are your ideas of the King?

Victoria blew out a breath of air. The King? He doesn't care enough about the women under his control, or for anybody, for that fact. Plus, he doesn't pay much attention to those of the lower classes. Low class status doesn't mean low brain capacity, and he shouldn't just ignore the masses the way he does. That's what I think. She closed her mouth on the traitorous ideas that wanted to express.

Diego seemed to consider her words for a moment. Interesting, he said, and she could practically see him switch to his scientific personality that he was most well-known for. It was a comfortable switch, expected. You're very concerned about Spanish women? No one was concerned about what women thought, he ruminated imperturbably.

Victoria reared back to regard him. I'm concerned about all women, as you should be, too.

Diego smiled, and the scientist was instantly gone, to be replaced by a man she knew very little about, but who she was more than willing to become better acquainted with. I am, but I'm currently concerned about one woman in particular.

She blushed, in spite of herself. Which woman would that be? she asked playfully.

He loved that she could be opinionated and flirtatious at the same time. Oh, one who works to tend to the needs of men who don't appreciate her efforts. Thank goodness.

I'll be sure to tell you about it if that appreciation ever changes, she promised, still flirting. She couldn't help herself; he pushed her into a mild flirtation by just existing, she realized honestly.

He smiled as he reached for her. Be sure you do, he said, then his lips were on hers, blazing a trail up to her hairline, covering her hot skin with yearning and affection that had existed only in his daydreams. I will always want to hear your opinions, he declared.

And you will, she pledged right before his mouth devoured hers as if he couldn't get enough of her. She responded with ardor equal to his own, wanting to feel him, to touch him, to do all the things that had been previously forbidden. The new knowledge that she now understood gave a certain permission that had never previously existed. Yet...

He drew back, panting hard enough to negate his words. No. We shouldn't. We're not married yet. It was the part of him that always listened to teachings and traditions, his proper part, she thought in sour disappointment.

Victoria breathed in interrupted passion and stared at him, not sure she would ever get tired of looking at what had been denied her for so many years. Your propriety, she answered with a sense of irritation.

Diego smiled at her innate personality that displayed everything she thought and felt the instant she thought or felt it. She was so 'surface,' he thought, and so beautiful. It took every bit of his willpower to resist her. He nuzzled her neck anyway, then searched his mind for a distraction. What time is it? He drew his watch from the pocket of his trousers as he spoke and flipped it open. Eleven o' clock! We better get some sleep or we won't be coherent enough to travel home tomorrow.

She smiled flirtatiously. Who wants to be coherent? she asked.

Diego laughed, obviously enjoying her blatant desire to question their reality. I do, he said reluctantly, and sighed. I never know when my presence might be necessary.

Victoria also sighed in disappointment, then looked at him in reluctant acceptance of the situation. She shrugged. That's what I get for falling in love with a man of action.

Diego let his hand wander over her cheek and familiar, treasured, features. I hope you always will fall in love, over and over again.

She leaned in close to him. Oh, I think you can be assured that I will for eternity. Then she kissed him, long and wet and hot, just to give him a hint of what he was denying himself, as if he didn't already know. Then, on a huff of objection, she rolled over so that she was facing away from him once more, and cuddled into his warm, inviting chest.

Like a spoon, he thought, and decided that he really needed to find another metaphor to describe their 'proper' position on the floor of the old windmill. The storm continued to rage against the building, but inside, he was warm and content as he held Victoria, his dream.

What did you mean exactly by never knowing when you might be needed? she asked eventually, thoughtful, her voice drifting out into the quiet to halt the fog of sleep that had begun to descend over him.

I don't know for sure what day or when precisely that need will come, he answered sleepily. The only constant in my life is you. He pulled her even closer.

If he'd been paying attention to what she was saying, he might have been given a hint as to her thoughts. But he was too busy falling asleep with the unfamiliar, distracting, sensation of her in his arms. You mean your fight could go on forever? she asked.

That comment caused him to open his eyes and blink the sleep from them. I suppose it's possible, but I certainly hope not, he answered.

She grew still under the weight of this new realization. It might go on for the rest of our lives? We might never be together? she choked.

Diego's eyes widened, aware for the first time of her worries. Despair immediately engulfed him. I guess that's a possible outcome, he replied.

Forever? was the cry that peeled in her mind like a bell, clanging in sudden insistence. You mean I might never feel..? She quickly rolled over to see his wide, truthful eyes. Her hand crept up to splay across his familiar cheek. I'm not sure I can wait that long, she admitted.

Diego gazed at her, aware of the feel of her hand on his cheek, her body pressed against his body, his reaction to the desire he felt at their rearranged position. He became hard at just the hint of her passion. Slowly, as if this thought had just now dawned on him, he shook his head. I'm not sure I can wait that long, either.

The spark of this new revelation was instantaneous. Victoria placed both sets of fingers possessively on his cheeks, and kissed him as deeply as if she hadn't seen him in a year. The insistence she was now feeling communicated quickly in her desperate gesture, and her hands had moved to the back of his head, cradling him before he knew it. Her tongue reached out to stroke his lips only seconds after his, and the invitation of her opened mouth was irresistible to him. Diego's tongue slipped inside without thought, for once in his life just feeling instead of thinking in the circles that typically trapped him.

Their hands slid to the places that propriety had forbidden to them in the past. Shirts were tugged out of waistbands and fingers languidly touched the skin underneath as their desire mounted to send them spiraling out of control in seconds. It was like the loss of a leash that had held them back for far too long.

Diego's fingers flicked at the buttons on his shirt front, and with magical alacrity, the shirt fell open to welcome her burning touch. She felt all that she had wanted to touch for as long as she'd known him, forever. Four long years worth of desire and passion burst out of them as the slow, ancient dance began in earnest.

Burning with a need he didn't understand but accepted as part of loving her, Diego flipped the shirt off his shoulders and paused long enough to pull her shirt from around her frame. Corset, underthings, skirt, were all just a bothersome impediment to what he'd been craving to experience for those long four years. Slowly, quietly, he kissed her and lightly cherished her soul as he lowered them both back to the rough fabric of the blankets behind him.


The fire hissed and the light rain continued to strafe the old windows as Diego lay, holding Victoria, the passion and frenzy of only a moment before deliciously spent in one decisive move that might steer his life in unexpected directions. He felt wonderful in spite of the small amount of fear such a decision caused.

Languidly, Victoria stretched beside him. All that waiting and pining... It was worth it, she declared quietly. She caressed his chest. Dios, I love you.

Diego softly kissed her hair, the only part of her he could safely reach. The feeling's mutual, he reassured her. I haven't felt this good since... He considered. I've never felt this good, he admitted at last.

Victoria giggled, then sighed. I've never felt so good either.

Diego joked as he held her, Maybe this is what the Alcalde needs.

She laughed at his humor. Maybe you're right.

He could just fall in love with someone, and I would be out of a job.

Victoria turned to glance at him. I hope it's as easy as that.

So do I, Diego said. Yet somehow, I doubt it. He held her tightly in his embrace. However, I have everything I want and need right here.

Victoria smiled. May you always feel that way.

Diego grinned a response. Oh, I will, you can be assured of that. For this one night, I have the world in my arms. He kissed her briefly on the top of her head. And I intend to take care of it so I have it, always, just as it is.


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