Second Chances

by Linda Bindner

Chapter 7 - Victoria

The scuffing sound of Diego's boots mixed with the padding of Victoria's bare feet as they beat the carpet on their way down the hall. When they reached the cross-section of the hacienda, where they could have gone to the front door, the dining room, the sitting room, or the library, they both turned left and headed into the last room possible.

They sat, he on the love seat near the wall, and she, on a chair by the window. Diego was ill-at-ease, but Victoria seemed relaxed enough to have a mind left free to puzzle over his strange behavior. What is it, Diego? she inquired. Is it something more that I did wrong this afternoon at the tavern?

Diego smiled. No, I assure you, it has nothing to do with the tavern!

Then what is it?

Victoria, Diego started, his voice serious. He rose in a flurry of nervous energy, then picked up her hand to cradle it gently in between his own, and led her over to sit beside him on the love seat. This is bit confusing, he began.

Don't protect me, Diego, Victoria fiercely said, in case he felt he had to hide something from her, as if she were now too delicate to handle severely trying situations... If I did something wrong this afternoon at lunch...

Diego interrupted. No, please, this has nothing to do with lunch, with the tavern, with the pueblo...

Then what is it? What are you trying to say?

Her voice was wheedling, cajoling, persuasive, trusting, utterly lovable... She tried to fill it with as many good sounds as she could remember. Diego seemed to change his tactics right then and there. He looked at her, helpless for a moment, not moving, not speaking, and in the next instant, was falling into her eyes, into her beautiful skin, her new memories, with a smoothness that bespoke how natural the motion was for him to behave in such a way.

The next thing, after Victoria had barely had time to take a breath, he was kissing her, slowly, soothingly, lovingly, his lips on her neck, her throat, her eyelids, her mouth, her cheek, her hair... His touch was the coolness of fire, the softness of adoration, the reverence of touching something precious, treasured, something that would be utterly loved for the rest of her life...

Victoria could hardly contain her bursting heart at the sensation of the shivery pass of his hand, the gentle caress of his fingers that were everywhere at once... She answered in kind, touching him, feeling him, even though she knew many people would not look kindly on her behavior, would be critical of such untoward affection and see it as unseemly... But the new Victoria, the one who couldn't even recall her old life or how she used to behave, reveled in such abandonment of the restrictions that his kiss and touch created. To be honest, she admitted to herself that she wanted more...

You don't understand... he whispered, then was caught in the web of his own desires again and kissed the skin on the side of her neck.

Oh, my goodness, but that feels good! was the random thought that floated through Victoria's mind, and even as she realized that the many things she shouldn't want were totally delicious, they came all the more often. She knew that neither she nor Diego should desire what they shouldn't have, but coveted anyway. She was in love, and there was no use denying the obvious, the real, the truth, any longer. She was in love with Diego, wanted to make love with him, wanted him in her life, always, until...

Diego panted and groaned his long-repressed emotions at the same time that she did, caressed her with his lips and his hands even as he whispered, I know that I said we shouldn't... Marry me anyway. Marry me, and I will love you forever, for the rest of your days...

Even as I am now, with no memories of... well, of anything? she asked, and kissed him longingly between each word, lovingly, even as the affection she felt for him was subtly changing to become more feverish, more demanding, more uncontrollable, more a frenzy of undeniable passion and unstoppable desire... The conflagration of flame that was in her heart was threatening to erupt when he answered.

Victoria, I love you, even when you're sick or healthy, even when you're at the mercy of memories that don't seem to want to come back... Especially then. I need you... Say 'yes' to... to all that I am and all that I will become... whispered Diego as he held her tightly to him.

You've always known me, always known my feelings... Of course, I'll marry you.., Victoria started to whisper back when the cool, somehow strikingly familiar feeling of a ring on her right hand arrested her words for just a second, and then Diego had scooped her up with his muscular arms and carried her down the darkened corridor to his room.

Z Z Z

It was the next morning, and when Victoria became marginally aware of herself, the first thing she knew was that, for some as-of-yet-unknown reason, she ached deliciously in the area between her legs, a dull throbbing that spoke of one moment of pain surrounded by hours of unending pleasure and undeniable warmth, incredibleness, strength, passion... She felt too good to wake up yet and let the morning sweep her into the day... She must have been having one heck of an excellent dream about Zorro to feel so good in the morning...

That was the second that Victoria heard the breathing of someone else lying beside her, and she realized that she wasn't alone. Her eyes popped open to see a smooth sheet, the edge of a pillow, the feel of an arm protectively around her, the maleness of that arm...

Male? her mind screamed at her, and panic swiftly followed on the heels of discovery. It overtook any pleasant sensations that had previously accosted her mind and turned her body into the beautifully relaxed muscles of a moment before. She breathed out harshly into the still, morning air, but the sound didn't wake her companion...

Oh, no, oh, no no no, oh, Dios Mio. Her mind vibrated with her thoughts, shocked at the memories that flooded through her consciousness, as she looked down at that arm wrapped so tightly around her, so possessively...

Quick as a flash of lightening, it all came flooding back to her, a rampage of ideas, emotions, events, conversations... Oh, no, it's not possible... was the next horrifying thought, freezing her into stunned stillness on the bed. That's when she grew more conscious of the fact that she wasn't wearing anything, that the arm wrapped around her was naked, that the somehow familiar feel of a heavy engagement ring was circling the finger of her right hand....

Oh, Dios Mio, no no no! Her mind rejected her growing knowledge even as it became an accepted event to her... No! Oh, God, she was going to be sick to her stomach, she was going to lose her latest meal, she was reeling from the surprise that she was engaged to, had made love to, she could even now be carrying the child of... And he had loved her secretly for years as the Fox of the Night, as a bandit... He had loved her...

Diego de la Vega... Zorro!

It was all a jumble in her mind, a tangle of memories of everything that had happened, both old memories and new memories, all just beginning to start sorting themselves into coherent thought...

In spite of her nakedness, of what her memories were telling her had happened, of her own willingness to take part in those events to begin with, Victoria threw off the covers, the arm, the sheets, and gave a strangled grunt of shock as she bounded out of bed to put some distance between herself and...

Victoria? came a sleepy mumble from among the bedclothes. Did you dream something? Something wrong?

Victoria grabbed at her nightgown that was lying on the floor closest to where she had landed after her mad dash from the bed. She pulled it to her and held it up in front of her with trembling hands. Only, those hands were shaking in rage, not in the desire that she and Diego had shared in the dark of the night before... Harshly, she said, I should say that there's something wrong... Wake up! she demanded as she pulled her nightgown over her body, followed by a tightly-belted robe.

Diego groggily rubbed his eyes at the sunlight that was just beginning to peak through the window. That's not how I expected you to sound when...

Victoria put her hands on her hips and started pacing, biting her lip as she went. We have a problem, she flung in his general direction.

Diego reacted to her tone if not to her comment. He sat up slowly, still trying to shake away the previous shroud of sleep that he had been suffering under, trying to force muscles that were languid and loose into motion of some kind... He rubbed his eyes again, and then lowered his brow in confusion. Victoria? What is it? What's wrong?

I'll tell you what's wrong! she hissed in a strident whisper, but had to put her hands to her head in sorrow. Oh, God, oh, no no no no! She had no idea that she was echoing the words that had gone through Diego's mind when she had first been injured. It was all lost on her as the horror of the situation began filtering through her heart. You! she spat. You, of all people! It had to be... Furious that he had so successfully fooled her for so long, that she had accepted him so quickly after her lack of memory had manifested itself... She couldn't go on.

Diego gazed at her in puzzlement.

Victoria couldn't stand his expression of bemusement any longer. I know! she yelled, though the words come out as a whisper that no one but he could possibly hear. I remember! I remember all of it! she went on. And I don't know if I like any..!

That statement got his attention! His entire face darkened in an expression of frightened indignation that she had never witnessed as coming from Diego. Victoria didn't even know that he could get so angry! He suppressed his emotional response, reined it in so that he might make some sense of her ramblings, and asked, What do you mean, 'you don't know if you like any of it?'

She opened her mouth to do nothing more than breath, but words came flying out instead of air, Oh, Madre de Dios, how did I get into this, how can I possibly get out..? she muttered.

Diego reacted again to her words - he scowled, making a question out of his expression. Victoria, what's wrong with you? he inquired. Did you hit your head again?

No! she whispered, amazed that her acrimony was able to seep loudly and clearly through nothing but a whispered voice. I didn't hit my head! Then, she added, Well, no more than the first time, and that you already know about..!

He continued to stare at her in angry confusion. What..?

She placed one hand on either side of her head. I can't do this... Can't marry you... Can't even be engaged to you...

The dark of his face became a thundercloud. What do you mean by that?

Victoria frantically tugged her engagement ring off her finger and held out the piece of jewelry to him. I can't..! I can't..! She couldn't finish... barely sounded coherent. She dropped the ring in all its emerald glory onto the small table beside his bed.

I'm sorry... But... With that, she turned around and ran from the room.

It was only moments later that Diego called, Victoria! as he stood, shirtless, his chest exposed to the world and anyone who wanted to look at it, and peered into the gloom that made up the de la Vega stables.

Victoria's frenzied motions grew even more frenzied at the sound of his voice. She worked harder at buckling the stubborn girth strap around one of Don Alejandro's prized horses. Tell your father I'll leave his horse at the stable in town.., she babbled.

A hand roughly grabbed at her arm and she found herself jerked around to gaze into Diego's uncomprehending face, and she didn't blame him for her rough treatment even if she wanted to yell at him to take his hands off her. She swallowed the unkind commands, but the panic brewing inside her climbed up another notch... She had to get away, had to leave, had to return to the haven of the tavern... The resurfaced memories were ringing for attention in her mind... She wanted to run from it all...

His face fell to even darker lines. You can't..! he gasped. Where are you going?

I'm sorry, Diego... I know what I said...

Twice! You said it twice! His anger was growing even further into the fury that she hadn't known existed, but was probably the source of emotion that he tapped that allowed him to become Zorro, she dispassionately realized.

I know I said it twice! Victoria yelled before her voice turned weak and breathy with self-loathing. But I can't... Not now, not when I remember everything..!

With the suddenness of a changing sword fight, Diego reacted to another issue. Do you realize that you might be carrying my child now? How can I let..?

I've already thought of that! pled Victoria on a cry.

What? What have you thought? asked Diego. You haven't thought at all! he accused, perhaps rightly so.

Yet Victoria knew that the muddle that her mind had become would not get sorted out while she was at the hacienda. So she yelled back, That's not fair! Of course I've thought about it! I can't think about anything else!

God, don't... Diego started to say, then he ran through his crazily swinging hair with both hands. When they came down, he changed his tactics again, and Victoria had a difficult enough time keeping up with all his changes and try to cope with her new knowledge at the same time. Please, Victoria, don't go, don't leave me like this, not after last night...

Last night was a mistake...

Diego seemed to freeze at the comment as well as at the way she flung it at him so recklessly. You don't mean that...

Of course Victoria didn't mean what she'd said. But, in her unguarded moment, she hadn't thought, couldn't think through the muddle that her mind had become... I don't know what I mean! she yelled in desperation, then tugged the horse she had chosen at random to take her back to the pueblo past him and out of the stables... She made certain not to touch him as she passed, knew that she couldn't trust herself or her befuddled mind to remain either staunch in her purpose or muddied to the extent necessary to get away... and she had to get away...

Victoria, don't go like this, Diego persuaded again in desperation. Don't go back to your room at the tavern and be alone... We can talk through this..!

I can't talk... I can't even think! she said, ignoring the fact that she'd claimed just the opposite a few moments before. She vaulted onto the horse's back, gathered the reins, and before either of them knew it, she was gone, galloping in a paroxysm of stunned confusion back towards the indeterminate safety of Los Angeles.

Go on to Chapter 8


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