Diego caught his bride before she sank to the floor and carried her over to the bed.  "Victoria?" he inquired worriedly, caressing her cheek.

     Her eyelids fluttered open.  He could see her bewilderment.  "No, it cannot be," she whispered, touching her fingers to her still tingling lips.   "Diego?"

     "I am Zorro," declared Diego, an unreadable expression on his unmasked face.

     "But. . ."  Victoria did not know where to begin.  She could not deny the proof before her.  Sitting up, although her head was still swimming, she glared furiously at the man perched stoically on the edge of the mattress.  "You. . .  All this time, you. . ."  She turned her head away.

     Why was she so angry with him?  Well, he lied to you all these years, a little voice in her head said.  He deceived you.  He didn't trust you enough to share his secret.  He let you remain unmarried so long that everyone called you an old maid.  He almost let you get too old to have children.

     But then she looked at Diego, his green eyes begging for her forgiveness.  Why had she not noticed before that those eyes were the same as Zorro's?  She remembered what he had said that day he had proposed to her.

        "The man behind this mask is afraid of only one thing in this world.  That you love a man with  whom he cannot possibly
         compete.  That if this mask were removed, you would still be in love with Zorro and not with the man of flesh and blood." *

     * scene from "An Affair To Remember" written by Gary Stephen Rieck

     She did love the man of flesh and blood, the man underneath the mask.  Dios mio, she had just had her prayers answered.  Was she going to throw away his love because he had wanted to protect her, to keep her safe?  Because he was afraid if he told her the truth, she would reject him?

     "Victoria?" he asked cautiously as he watched the range of emotions travel over her face. "I'm sorry that I lied to you, that I deceived you all these years.  Please, Victoria. . ."

     "Oh, Diego," she said as she reached out and touched his face.  "I forgive you.  I love you."  Leaning over, she kissed him, winding her arms around his neck.  When they drew apart, she looked at him curiously.  "Why are you revealing your secret to me now?" she wanted to know.  "Zorro's work is not finished, is it?"

     "No, not yet," he concurred.  "After that night in the mountains. . . when we almost made love.  I had to do something to help you regain your reputation and keep you from leaving Los Angeles.  Oh, querida, I couldn't bear to lose you."  He embraced her tightly.

     "Zorro could never marry you, Victoria," he stated solemnly.  "But I could."  Diego reached into his pocket.

     "The ring."  She recognized the emerald and diamond piece of jewelry.  She glanced up at him.  "How did you. . .?"

     "I took a great chance giving this to you as Zorro," he grinned wickedly.  He slipped it onto her finger where earlier that day he had placed the gold wedding band.

     "I do remember it now," she commented, admiring it.  "I can see your mother wearing it."  She thought of the pearl and diamond necklace lying on the vanity.  " I cannot believe you think I am worthy of her things, Diego.  I am nothing like her."

     "Yes you are," he contradicted, gazing into her lovely brown eyes.  "You are the most beautiful, generous, loving woman I have ever known.  Victoria, I love you."  Saying those words to her for the first time, he lowered his head.   "For longer than you could ever imagine."

     "Like when I was still a young girl?" she smiled at him coquettishly as she lifted his chin.  "I realized that just recently," she added.  Her face became serious then.  "I love you, Diego, the man under the mask.  Never doubt it."

     "Mi querida," he murmured.  "I love you."  Diego bent down and kissed his wife passionately.

     The kiss deepened as it always did between them.  Their tongues intertwined as Diego caressed her back through the thin nightdress.  He brought his hand up her side, cupping her breast.  She moaned softly.  He brushed his thumb across the hard bud of her nipple and she whimpered at the pleasure it caused.

     They mutually broke the embrace, looking at each other shyly.  "It's been a long day and you've had a bit of a shock.  I will understand, mi corazon, if you wish to wait until. . ."

      "No," Victoria declared.  "I have already waited eight years," she whispered seductively into his ear.  ". . .to show you my ‘appreciation'."  She pulled back, a bewitching smile on her lips.

     Dios mio, he thought, grinning wryly.  She still remembered that promise he had made so long ago.  He lowered his mouth to nibble on her neck and felt her shiver.

     "Diego," she moaned as his lips wandered from her bare shoulder to the edge of the ruffled neckline of her nightgown.  She shuddered in anticipation which he mistook for something else.

     "Are you still nervous, querida?" he asked concernedly.

     "A little," she admitted.  "It's just I have never. . . and I don't want to disappoint. . ."

     "Shh," he interrupted.  "It will be beautiful.  You could never disappoint me, Victoria."

     She smiled as she reached up to kiss him once again.  Her hands moved to the buttons on his black shirt and boldly began to undo them.  Diego kicked off his boots as they reclined back onto the bed.

      Victoria stroked the bare muscles of his chest as he resumed kissing her neck and shoulders.  His mouth quickly moved to the cleft left uncovered by her nightdress.  One finger tugged the flounce down, exposing her breasts.  They were as perfect as he always imagined they would be.  He flicked his tongue over one of the rosebud nipples then took it into his mouth.

     She closed her eyes as she gave a little cry of surprise.  Somehow they divested themselves and each other of their clothing.  Diego's hands shook as he fumbled with the fastenings of his black trousers like a nervous schoolboy.  Victoria was so beautiful, so perfect.  And so small and delicate; he was a little afraid of hurting of her.

     He touched the scar just under her left breast then bent to kiss it.  Shutting his eyes, he sent up another prayer of thanks, shuddering as he remembered how he had almost lost her to that gambler's bullet.

     She was taking inventory of all the marks on his body until her eyes traveled below his waist.  She knew of what would happen between them but wondered how it would be possible.  Tentatively reaching out her hand, she touched his hardness.  Stroking upward then down, she was amazed by how it felt, warm and velvety.

     A loud groan from Diego made her glance up at him.  "Did I hurt you?" she queried, drawing her hand away.

     "No."  He shook his head then smiled.  "Quite the opposite."


     He gathered her into his arms and kissed her.  Their hands caressed each other as their tongues entwined.  Pausing slightly, Diego moved his hand to the mound between her legs.  The warm dampness he felt there told him she was nearly ready for him.  With one finger, he gently split her folds and probed her very core.

     Oh my, she thought.  She knew she was lucky to have such a tender lover as a husband.  She had heard tales at the tavern of women who were not as fortunate.  Everything was driven out her head though as Diego found the little piece of flesh that sent her moaning wildly with pleasure.

     "Please," she murmured.  "Oh, por favor."  She was not quite sure what she was begging for.  When a wild shudder shook her slender body, she knew then.  "Oh, Diego," she sobbed, clutching his shoulders

     "Oh, querida," he said as he gently kissed away her tears.  "It's all right.  Shh. . ."

     "I didn't know," she whispered.  She ran her fingers through his hair then drew him down to her lips.  "I love you so much," she breathed into his ear.

      "Es muy bonita y muy dulce," he murmured.  They glanced at each other a bit nervously.  Then their mouths meet, their ardor bursting into flames.  Victoria opened her thighs to him and he could feel her hot moistness.  Dios. He didn't want to hurt her but knew it was unavoidable.  Slowly inching his way up inside her tight passage, he let her get accustomed to the intrusion.  He trailed little kisses down her neck to her shoulder as she melted beneath him.

     Victoria bit her lip in anticipation.  "Oh," she gasped as Diego tore her maidenhead.  Then the length of him slid fully inside her.  Her mother and Ana Maria had been right, it only hurt a little.  Even so, tears came unbidden to her eyes.

      "Are you all right, querida?" he asked.  She nodded as she touched his face.

      "Si," she said.  "Please, Diego."

      Gradually their bodies found a common rhythm, although Diego was a bit astonished as Victoria raised her hips to meet his.  His virgin bride was no shrinking violet, as he was learning to his amazement.

       Her earlier pain long forgotten, Victoria could feel the pleasure building up inside of her again and could not stop herself from moving faster.  Diego groaned as he matched her, stroke for stroke.  He held out for as long as he could, but finally he filled her with his seed just as she arched her back off the mattress in the throes of ecstasy.

      "Dios mio," they both said once they came back down to earth and could breathe again.  Diego kissed her tenderly.  "I love you, Victoria."

     "I love you too, Diego" she replied.  She slowly became aware of her surroundings.  "It is as you promised," she said a little in awe.  "The soft bed, the candlelight. . . and the husband.  And it was so beautiful."  She lowered her gaze.  "I'm glad we waited."

     He smiled as she flashed him a coy look.  "As am I," he stated.  "Although you were very difficult to resist, mi querida."  He kissed her again as they laid entangled together.

      "Is that why you stayed away?" she asked, the tears reappearing in her eyes.  "I thought you didn't love me anymore.  That you wanted me to marry. . ."  She looked up at him, realization cutting through her hurt and confusion, and she chuckled.  "Yourself."

     "I'm so sorry, mi corazon," he apologized.  "I couldn't trust myself around you anymore as Zorro.  You were so very tempting."  He took a deep breath.  "I'm sorry for the deception.  I just wanted to protect you, Victoria, and my father as well.  The thought of you being imprisoned or worse on my account. . ."

     "I understand that now," she conceded, stroking his cheek.  "It was just the thought you didn't trust me enough to share your secrets with me that made me so upset."

     "I had good reason to be so reluctant," he declared.  "Everyone else who has discovered that I am Zorro is dead.  All except one person, that is."

     "That would be Felipe, wouldn't it?" she guessed correctly.  He was shocked she had figured it out so quickly.


     "Ana Maria doesn't know?  He hasn't told her?"


     "Do you know that they. . .?"

     "Yes."  He stared at her curiously.  "How did you find. . .?"

     "She hinted at it,"replied Victoria, "by giving me some sisterly advice about tonight."


     "She's not. . .?"

     "No."  Diego too had been very relieved that the young couple's desperate lovemaking had not resulted in a baby.  But he also understood the underlying regret on his son's face when Felipe had relayed the news to him.  To create a new life with the woman you loved. . .  He inhaled as he closed his eyes.

     Placing his hand upon her flat stomach, he remarked sincerely,  "I hope we made a child tonight, querida."  He was stunned again by her reaction.

     Tears began streaming down her cheeks.  "I'm sorry," he said contritely, caressing her hair as he held her close.  "I thought you wanted. . ."

     "I do," she murmured against his chest.  "I want a baby so much.  I thought you didn't.  You said we couldn't. . ."

     Wiping the dampness from her face, he kissed her gently.  "Oh, Victoria.  Shh. . ." he tried to comfort her.  "You and Zorro couldn't have children.  You and I, however, can make as many niños as we want."

     She smiled through her tears.  "Your father is going to be very happy."

     Diego laughed.  "If I had a peso for every time he told me he wanted grandchildren. . ."  She joined in his amusement.

     Then she glanced up at him.  "Diego," she began a bit bashfully, "can we. . .  I mean. . ."  One look at her face told him what she was trying to say.

     "Again?"  Madre de Dios.  "Are you sure. . .?"

     "Si.  Please. . ."

      He interrupted her by kissing her lips.  She was purring with pleasure by the time he entered her again.  This time there was no pain as they became one.  Diego still treated her very gently, moving in and out slowly, little by little increasing the tempo.  But then suddenly he stopped, a wicked grin on his handsome face.

     Victoria was confused by his inaction.  "What?  Oh. . ."  He rolled them so he was on his back and she atop him then resumed where he had left off.

     Oh my, she thought.   His strong hands were caressing her hips as he helped her glide up and down.  He also took advantage of her breasts being suspended above him, taking turns licking and sucking each nipple.  She made little noises of delight that almost caused him to lose control.

     She quivered with satisfaction about a minute before he climaxed deep inside her.  Maneuvering their bodies so they were lying side by side, they held each other tightly.  Diego kissed her tenderly.

      A unsettling thought niggled in the back of Victoria's mind.  "I'm not your first lover, am I?" she asked although in her heart she already knew the answer.  She laid her head against his muscular chest

     "No, querida," he apologized ruefully, the sadness in her voice nearly breaking his heart.

     "Was it Zafira?"

    "No," Diego stated emphatically.  "It was while I was in Spain though.  Understand, I was far from home and terribly lonely."  He lifted her chin so he could gaze into her sad brown eyes.  "I'm so sorry, Victoria.  You were so young when I left.  I didn't know I would be returning to find such a beautiful woman instead of the pretty girl I pictured in my mind all those years."  He smiled wryly.  "Would you have considered me if I had declared my feelings for you when I came back from Spain?  Before you met Zorro?"

     She had to mull his question over for a few minutes.  "I don't know," she responded honestly.  She closed her eyes as she cleared the jealous and jumbled thoughts from her head.  He was hers now.  And that was all that mattered.

     "I love you with all my heart, Diego de la Vega," she declared.

     He kissed her again.  "I will always love you, Victoria Escalante de la Vega," he declared fervently.  "Always, querida."

      Exhaustion soon claimed them both as they floated off to sleep, entwined in each other's arms.
                                                           Z                                                               Z                                                               Z

     Sunlight was streaming through the bedroom window when Victoria opened her eyes again.  Stretching languorously, she thought of the delicious dream she had. . .

     "Oh."  It had been no dream.  Glancing over at the other side of the bed, a wave of panic rose in her.  Where was Diego?

      Her anxiety was allayed as he came through the door, carrying a napkin covered tray.  He was grinning broadly as he placed it on her lap.

     "I didn't know what you have for breakfast," he confessed as she removed the cloth.  There was a little bit of everything, bacon, eggs, toast, fruit as well as a carafe of coffee.

    "I usually just have toast and coffee," she admitted.  Diego immediately poured her a cup of the hot beverage and handed her the plate of toast.   She smiled shyly at her husband, not accustomed to being waited on by someone else.  She had the sneaking suspicion she was going to have to used to it.

     Diego helped himself to the rest of the food.  "I seemed to have worked up quite an appetite," he stated in response to her raised eyebrow.

     "What shall we do today?" he inquired after they had eaten their fill.  "The choice is yours, mi querida.  Whatever your heart desires."

     Victoria set down her cup on the tray.  Somehow, while she slept, Diego managed to dress her once again in her nightgown.  She moved the tray from her lap and seductively pulled the garment's ruffled neckline down to her waist.

     Diego quickly placed the tray on the floor and began to unbutton his shirt.  "Are you sure?" he asked as he tossed it onto the floor.  Dios, he was a lucky man.

     She smiled with a wicked gleam in her dark eyes.  "Oh, I am sure," she murmured, drawing him down to kiss his lips.  "Very sure."
                                                           Z                                                               Z                                                           Z