Desire exploded through him the instant her mouth met his.  He encircled her in his arms, pulling her lush form up against his hard body and deepened the kiss.  She grasped his shoulders as she moaned low in her throat.

    She even tasted like Magdalena, he thought incoherently, plundering her mouth with his tongue.  Like cinnamon. . .fire. . .lust.  He couldn't help but wonder in what other ways she was like his former mistress.

      He glided his hands down her back until he cupped her rounded buttocks.  Then he roughly flexed his hips, pushing the evidence of his need against her stomach.  He could feel her lips move into a smile as she pressed back.   He lifted his mouth from her and gazed down at her in wonderment.

     Malditas, it had been so long since he had held a willing woman in his arms, one with experience, one who obviously wanted him as much as he wanted her.  One who would enjoy it as much as he would.  Even the thought of his marriage vows only caused him the tiniest twinges of guilt.  It was as if the mask he wore gave him the freedom to do as he pleased.

     Zorro's lips met Alberta's again.  She had slid her hands to the front of his black silk shirt and proceeded to undo the top button as he skimmed his hands up her back then to her sides.  His fingers found her breasts at the same time hers flicked opened the second button of his shirt.

     His only coherent thought was to lower her down onto the very convenient bed and ease himself into her clearly welcoming body.   He moved his mouth away from hers and was working his way down her swan-like neck toward her bosom when the sound of a chair scraping across the floor right outside the door caused them both to hesitate.

     "We need to leave," he breathlessly urged once again.  This time she nodded and allowed him to lead her out of the room.

[parts of the following scene taken from "A Woman Scorned" written by Philip John Taylor]

     Mendoza was exactly where Zorro had left him, sitting at the table and eating his chicken.  The sergeant didn't even blink an eye as the masked man and the prisoner passed by him, hand in hand.  They were about half the way down the staircase when Ventura stepped out of the shadows at the bottom landing, pointing a pistol at the pair of them.

    "Not another step," the lawman cautioned.  Zorro and Alberta stopped in mid-step.  Ventura smiled up at them insincerely.  "Did you think I'd trust that fool sergeant to guard her by himself?"

     Infuriated that his plans had gone so awry and that this interloper had insulted Mendoza, Zorro tightened his grip on the señora.  "Until you can prove you're truly a law officer," he challenged angrily, "the lady is coming with me."


     Victoria appeared behind them at the top of the stairs, further complicating the situation.  Both he and Alberta turned to face the distressed innkeeper.  Zorro watched as her expressive eyes took in their kiss swollen lips, the señora's crumpled silk gown, his nearly unbuttoned shirt, and drew their own conclusion.

     Zorro, unable to meet her reproachful stare, released Alberta's hand and launched himself at the man at the bottom of the stairs.

     "What are you doing?"  He heard the plaintive note in Victoria's voice as he punched Ventura's face.  The lawman went down in a heap.  Señora Sinestra hurried toward him and he grabbed her right hand.


     From the corner of his eye, Zorro saw Mendoza come up behind Victoria.  He grinned as she gave the sergeant a hard shove backward.  "Not now, Mendoza!" she shouted irritably.

    His smile faded, however, as he pulled Alberta through the curtained kitchen entrance and heard Victoria's distraught cry.

     "Zorro, you mustn't do this!"

     It rang through his head as he helped the señora onto Toronado's back.  It kept echoing in his mind as they galloped away from the pueblo.  And it was still resonating as he led Alberta into the deserted windmill that stood nearly ten miles north of Los Angeles.

     "There's a fresh horse outside," he said in an effort to clear his guilty feelings.  He went over and picked up a large white sack and held it up, not daring to meet her sapphire eyes.  "And provisions for your journey.  Ride to the mission at San Pedro and wait there."

     "Wait for what?" Alberta questioned as she walked toward him.  "Come away with me right now."

     "Señora, I understand your desire to be free," he began, "but I trust you to stay at the mission until your innocence is determined."

     "My innocence?" she repeated in a shrill tone which held a touch of amusement that Zorro hoped he had misheard.  "Ventura killed my husband," Alberta went on unwaveringly.  "I saw him.  And if he has the slightest chance, he will kill me too."

    She paused then moved closer to him until there was only a hairsbreadth of space between their bodies.  Once again, Zorro marveled at how fiercely he responded to her and wondered if it was only because of her resemblance to Magdalena.  Or was it because he had been so lonely for so long, that he would have reacted the same way to any woman.

    "You must believe that," said the señora, causing him to be befuddled for a moment as he thought she had read his mind.  "You rescued me."

    He then made the mistake of looking down at her.  Lust shot through him so intensely it practically floored him.  He took a step back, hoping to put some distance between them.  But Alberta only moved with him, not stopping until she was crushed up against him.  He could feel her desire and it intoxicated him.

     "As I would anyone in danger," he murmured huskily before bending his lips to hers.  It was as if the flight from the tavern had never taken place.  The fire between them sprang to life once again, burning even hotter than it had in the señora's room.

     His hands found her breasts again and their hardened nipples.  He wrenched down the neckline of her gown, freeing them to his gaze before lowering his mouth.  Alberta moaned deeply as she clung to him while he feasted.

     "Listen," she said breathlessly.  "I have money."  He ignored her, instead guiding her to a pile of hay where he laid her down on her back.  "More money than you can imagine," she gasped out as his left hand raised the hem of her skirts, his lips still worshipping her bosom.

     She had finally succeeded in unbuttoning his shirt and was pushing it off his shoulders.  She nuzzled his bared throat and chest as he slid his hand up to the junction of her legs.

    "We'll start a new life together," she said as she kissed his neck.  "Far from here.  Somewhere where they've never heard of Zorro."

     The man in question felt as an ice cold bucket of water had been tossed over his head, instantly cooling his ardor.  His hand stilled abruptly against her trembling thigh.

     "Alberta," he said as he pushed himself up off of her.  "My heart is here in Los Angeles. I can never leave."  Evidently he had no problem betraying his vows to his wife.  And his feelings for Victoria were of no consequence either, it seemed.  It was the thought of never seeing his daughter again that finished off what was left of his passion for the woman lying almost naked beneath him.

     Señora Sinestra glared up at him with an expression of disdain.  "Hah!  I don't believe," she sneered.  "You have feelings for that tavern wench.  ‘Oh, Zorro, you mustn't'," she mimicked Victoria's desperate plea.  She yanked down her skirts as she pulled up the bodice of her dress before standing up and staring down at him.  "Fine, then," she declared, her voice dripping with scorn.  "You've made your choice. . .and you'll pay for it, Señor."

     He flinched as he saw the tears in her eyes.  "Alberta, I'm sorry," he apologized as he stood as well.  He re-fastened his shirt then bent down to pick up his hat, which he hadn't even realized had fallen off his head.

     "Just leave," she snarled, turning her back on him.  "I'll go to your stupid mission.  And I'll wait for you to determine my innocence."  She dramatically emphasized the last word.

     Zorro felt uneasy about leaving her in her current state but he had no choice.  Not only did he have to find out if Ventura was a lying murder, but if he stayed, the odds were he and the señora would end up rolling around in the hay together  But he couldn't allow his feelings for her to cloud his judgment anymore than they already had.  He walked over to the abandoned building's lone doorway.

     "Adios, Alberta," he said.  "I wish you. . ."

     "Get out!" she cut in.

     Mentally shrugging, he followed her advice and left.
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     Nearly twenty-four hours later, Zorro was no more closer to the truth of Alberta's situation than when he had first begun to investigate it.  He had checked on Jacinto Santana, whose circumstances he hadn't improved either.  It had not helped at all that when Diego had arrived at dawn at the hacienda for some much needed rest, Isabella had been awake and howling from the pain of a new tooth erupting through her tender gums.

     Of course, Zafira was nowhere to be found.  The poor niñera had been up most of the night and was only too grateful to put his daughter into his care.  "Oh gracias, Patron," the nanny had said as she handed the unhappy little girl over to him before bustling off to her room

     Diego looked down at Isabella's tear streaked little face and melted.  It wasn't until he had put her down for her afternoon nap that he had the chance to duck into the secret cave and change into his alter-ego.  Felipe filled him on what little he had learned in the pueblo as he saddled Toronado.

     Zorro knew before he even stepped inside the mission in San Pedro that Alberta wasn't there and never had been.  With a sinking feeling, he urge Toronado back toward Los Angeles, uncertain of what he would discover there and dreading it would be the worst.

[parts of the following scene taken from "A Woman Scorned" written by Philip John Taylor]

    He arrived at the tavern just in time to see Señora Sinestra, holding up one of the kitchen knives high in her right hand, advancing toward Victoria as she stepped over Ventura's prone and motionless body. The murderous gleam in Alberta's eyes made his stomach churn, sickened by the thought of the sin he had almost committed with this unstable woman only because she reminded him of another.

     "Where's Zorro?" asked Victoria, her voice shaking with anger and fear.  "He was with you."

     The señora smiled smugly at the innkeeper.  "That's right," she gloated.  "You've lost him.  He loves me now."

     Before he could intervene, Alberta stabbed her weapon at Victoria, who turned and grabbed a nearby stool, using it to deflect the deadly thrust.  But the knife glanced off one of the legs and sliced Victoria's upper left arm.  She spun around and started to run but Zorro stepped out from his hiding place, putting his body between hers and the señora.  Alberta, blinded by blood lust, didn't even see him as she tried to plunge her knife into Victoria once again.

     Zorro grabbed her wrist, impeding the blade's progress.  He looked into Alberta's eyes, the ones that looked so much like Magdalena's, and was frightened by the inhuman fury he saw there.

     "You have such a twisted view of love," he snarled at her, upset with himself that his body was still reacting to her nearness.  "I truly pity you, Señora.  You're going back to Santa Fe to stand trial."  He wrested the knife from her now lax fingers.

     "Ventura was just like my husband," she stated defiantly, "and just like that alcalde in San Diego.  Well, I showed them.  They all deserved to die."  She smiled evilly at Zorro.  "And so do you!"

     She ran over to the open front door.  "Lancers!" she called out into the dark plaza.  "Zorro!"

     Both Zorro and Victoria hurried over to her but it was too late.  Soldiers were beginning to scramble about outside, shouting "It's Zorro!"

     Zorro put a gloved hand on Alberta's shoulder.  "Please," he requested, "stand aside."


     Victoria punched the señora in the face.  The murderess crumpled instantly and Zorro caught her before she hit the floor.  He grinned up at the flushed Victoria.  "Feel better?" he asked as a sense of relief came over him.

     Victoria smiled back at him mischievously and nodded.  "Much better."

     He chuckled at the look of satisfaction on her beautiful face and then realized that he really did love her.  That the lust he felt for other women was just that, lust.  He desired Victoria as well but it was different.  He wanted her for his friend as well as his lover.  She was the other half of his soul.

     He easily took care of the lancers who invaded the tavern by cutting the rope that held up the candlelit  chandelier in the middle of the room.  It landed on the soldiers' heads, trapping all except one under its heavy weight.  A mere flick of his saber and a fist to the face made certain the last lancer joined his amigos on the floor.

     Zorro turned just in time to see Victoria start to sway.  Cursing himself for forgetting about the wound on her arm, he scooped her up into his arms and carried her to her quarters.

     For the second time in two days, he found himself alone in a bedroom with a woman other than his wife.  They sat on her bed as he tending to the slash, which he was happy to note was shallow enough that it didn't need stitching    He tied off the length of gauze he had wrapped around the still bleeding cut then lifted his hand up to her cheek, brushing away a stray curl of her raven hair.

    "I'm all right," she said shyly.  "Really."

     They hadn't been this close to each other since the night they had kissed in the de la Vega courtyard.  Zorro trembled as he drank in her nearness.  Dios, he wanted her, more than he had ever wanted any other woman.  But with her, her knew that it would be a mating of their hearts, not just their bodies.  Unable to stop himself, he placed his hands on her shoulders and stared into her dark brown eyes.

     "Victoria," he croaked out.  He wanted to tell her everything; that he loved her, who he was under the mask, that he was sorry he was married to another woman, sorry that he hadn't waited for her, sorry he had killed her husband.

     "You must go," she murmured, turning away from the intensity of his regard.  "This is your only chance to clear Jacinto Santana of murder charges."  She looked up at him again and he saw that after everything that had happened; her husband's death, his show of indifference toward her, his interlude with Alberta; she still was in love with him.  He leaned forward, their mouths mere inches from each other.

     "Victoria," he whispered huskily as he drew back, unwilling to sully her lips with his that only hours before had been kissing a murderess.  "I'm sorry."  He lifted himself off the mattress then put his hat back on his head.  He walked across the room and opened the door, resolving not to look back because he knew he would be unable to resist the impulse to lower her down onto her bed and make love to her.

     Just as he began to close the door, he heard her speak.  "So am I, Zorro," she said in a barely audible voice.  "So am I."
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