The first thing Felipe noticed as he walked into the law office that afternoon was the deep frown on Juan's face. The frown turned to a look of disgust when the other apprentice looked up and saw his friend.
"What?" Felipe immediately was on the defensive.
Juan reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. "At least wipe off her lip paint from your face," he advised.
Felipe ignored the proffered linen and took out his own. Bright red smears appeared after he had rubbed it on his lips and cheeks.
"Kissing her was nothing?" asked Juan in disbelief.
Felipe turned his back to his amigo as his face burned. It had been quite something, all right. "She has agreed to help me."
"Si, but a what cost?" Juan shook his head. "Felipe, you need to tread carefully. . ."
"You've warned me already, Juan," he interrupted. "I can handle her."
"That's what worries me," stated his friend wryly. "You ‘handling' her."
"I'm a married man."
"It's about time you remembered that," Juan said. Anymore scolding he might have done was stilled as Don Ernesto came into the room.
The attorney gave his two apprentices an appraising look. They appeared to be quarreling, he thought. The two young men usually got along so well. Hopefully it was nothing serious. He was quite pleased with their progress so far. They both were going to make fine lawyers. Juan had the makings of a fine trial attorney. And Felipe, he would be an excellent defender of the people.
Giving his head a shake, Don Ernesto turned his attention to both young men then went over the rest of the day's schedule with them.
It was early evening before Felipe finally made it home. Ana Maria was once again in the kitchen, preparing supper. She barely glanced at him as she put the food on the table.
"Ana," he began, but not really knowing where to begin. She looked up at him with her haunted brown eyes. Thoughts of his rendezvous with Sofia made him redden with shame and avert his gaze. He loved Ana Maria so much. But he was no longer sure of her feelings toward him.
"Querida, please tell me what's wrong," he declared ardently. "Ana Maria, I love you. I-I want to help you."
"There is nothing wrong," she replied. He could hear the false cheerfulness in her voice. "Eat your supper before it gets cold."
"Don't lie to me," Felipe retorted, angry at her denial. Breathing deeply as he quelled his ire, a question leapt from his heart that seared his soul. "Ana, d-do you st-still love me?"
"Of course." Now she was the one who turned away but not before he glimpsed the tears in her eyes.
Felipe sighed wearily. He started to eat the meal she had made even though he wasn't very hungry. He noted she just pushed her food around her plate as well. When he had swallowed all he could, he pushed his dish away and stood.
He then knelt down beside her chair and took her hand. She tried to pull away from him, but he held on tight. "Ana Maria, por favor," he pleaded, resolving one more time to get her to open up to him. "I love you, querida. I know losing the ba-baby was hard, it was for me too. . ."
"You know nothing!" Ana Maria jumped to her feet. Felipe still would not relinquish her hand although she attempted to wrench it from him. "Let go of me."
"No," Felipe replied, trying to stay calm. "Please, we n-need to talk about this. I know you're hurting, we both are. I'm afraid for you, querida. I-I'm afraid for both of us."
"Leave me alone," she said quietly. "I'm fine. There is nothing wrong."
Felipe let go of her hand then. Dios, she was so far gone that she was deluding herself that everything was all right between them. "V-Very well," he said as he got to his feet. "If that's what you want to believe. I. . . I'll be at the tavern if you need me."
She glanced up at him sharply. He saw a spark of anger in her eyes, something he had not seen there for a long time. Felipe had to suppress a elated grin. Some small part of her did still care. He decided to take pity upon her. "I'll be home later," he murmured as he bent down and kissed her cheek.
Ana Maria stiffened at the gesture, then shrugged. "Up to you," she said dully. "I won't wait up." Rising from her chair, she began to clear the uneaten supper from the table.
Felipe stared at her for a moment, his heart
full of yearning and anguish, before turning on his heel and departing
Z Z Z
He did not return until after midnight. Ana Maria had gone to bed long before his arrival. Felipe spent another lonely night in the spare bedroom, his dreams filled with longing for his beautiful wife sleeping in the other room.
Felipe was almost late for work as Ana Maria did not wake him as she usually did. He had to make his own breakfast as well. Looking out the kitchen window, he could see her talking with Luisa Guevara as the neighbor woman was hanging up wet garments to dry. She ignored his wave as he hurriedly headed off to Don Ernesto's office.
The morning flew by quickly. Both Felipe and Juan were very busy, looking up precedents for three cases their patron was handling. The young de la Vega was filled with trepidation as his lunch time assignation with Sofia drew nearer. He recalled Padre Benitez' wise quotation ‘The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak'. It certainly was true in his case. Whenever the young woman touched him, all his resolve seemed to melt away.
Sofia, dressed in a black riding habit today although with the same low cut blouse displaying her ample bosom; was eagerly awaiting him at the barn's entrance. She led him into the building's dim interior where once again a blanket lay upon the floor.
"You have the evidence?" Felipe asked, not wanting to prolong this encounter any longer than necessary.
"Si," she said with a seductive smile on her lovely face. "But let's worry about that later." She snaked her arms up around his neck and brought his face down to hers. "We both know why we're here, don't we?"
Sofia didn't give him a chance to answer as she kissed him, thrusting her tongue into his mouth. Alarm bells went off inside his head. He shouldn't be doing this, he should. . .
All thoughts were driven from his mind as she caressed his chest. She slipped his jacket from his shoulders then shrugged out of her own as well. She deftly unbuttoned his shirt and tugged it from his waistband.
Felipe groaned as her fingers touched his exposed skin. Their kiss grew deeper and he pulled her closer, noting dully she did not shy away from the evidence of his desire. Mutually breaking away to catch their breath, Sofia looked up at Felipe. The respite let him recoup his reeling brain for a moment.
"Don't think, Felipe. Just feel." She took his face into her hands. He shut his eyes as he touched his lips to hers again. They lowered themselves down to the blanket.
His hands began to move of their own volition it seemed, sliding down from her shoulders to her heaving breasts. His thumbs rubbed the hard nubs he found there. He was so very tempted to take what she was offering, to lose himself in her arms and sink into her softness.
Felipe leaned down and kissed her neck. He pushed her blouse down off her shoulders, baring her bosom. His mouth made its way down to suckle one of her nipples when she boldly moved her hands to the fastening of his pants. Then she stroked a finger up his hard length. A wave of lust flowed through him, causing him to tremble.
But it also brought him to his senses. That was all this was, lust. He didn't even like her, let alone love her. He would love Ana Maria to his dying breath. Extricating himself from Sofia's grasp, he jumped up and took several steps backward as he tried to regain his composure.
"I-I am sorry, Sofia," he started to apologize as he re-fastened his trousers, "I cannot d-do this. . . It is not right. . ."
"You promised me," she spat out viciously, covering herself up again. She glared at him, seeing the remorse on his face. "Don't get all righteous on me. You wanted to do this too. You're not the first married man I've been with, you know. Most don't think about their wives at all, at least not until afterwards." She took a step toward him, not ready to let him escape.
Felipe shrank from her in disgust. "I love my wife with all my heart and soul," he declared. "I will not betray her with a whore like you."
She quickly traveled the distance between them and slapped his face. Sofia sneered contemptuously. "You have made a huge mistake, Señor de la Vega. You could have had me and proof of my father's wrongdoings. But you are so noble," she mocked him. "Why don't you go home to your little wife. She obviously isn't giving you what I could give you." She laughed bitterly.
Felipe realized part of what she said was true. That he probably lost his chance of obtaining any information about her father. But he was not ready to give up on Ana Maria and his marriage. The passion between them was still there. He just had to learn why she was so frightened of his touch.
"Buenos dias, Señorita," he
said as he picked up his jacket then strode out of the barn. He could
hear her footsteps behind him but he ignored them as he remounted his stallion.
He rode away without a backward glance.
Z Z Z
He took Viento out for a good gallop instead of going back work. It was something he hadn't done during the six months he had lived in Santa Paula. He understood why Diego had taken Toronado out some nights, even when Zorro hadn't been needed. A man just had to escape once in a while from all the burdens that had been placed upon his shoulders.
It was early evening by the time Felipe returned to town. It took nearly an hour to cool down and curry his horse before securing him in the livery for the night. Then he reluctantly headed for home.
He grew alarmed as he approached their little cottage. All the windows in the front of the house were dark. Madre de Dios, he thought worriedly. What had happened? Breaking into a run, he burst through the door.
"Ana Maria?" Felipe called out anxiously. "Querida, where are you?"
His shoulders sagged in relief as he heard her voice coming from their bedroom "In here."
He opened the door and stopped in his tracks. Blinking, he could not believe what he saw. At least a dozen candles had been lit and placed around the room. The bed had been covered with rose petals.
But the most surprising thing of all was Ana Maria, lying there naked except for a few strategically placed blossoms; an inviting smile on her lips.
"I've been waiting for you, querido," she said a bit petulantly.
Felipe found it hard to breathe or swallow. Massive waves of guilt poured over him as he thought of what he had almost done with Sofia. "Querida, are you sure?" he inquired. He didn't know if he could take being rejected again.
"Si," she replied. She gazed up at him pleadingly. "Por favor."
His clothing was torn off in record time and he joined his wife on the bed. "I love you, Ana," he murmured several minutes later as he was about to enter her.
"I love you too, Felipe," she stated. She sighed with pleasure as he slowly sank into her depths.
If he had not been so ecstatic about
what was taking place, he might have noticed that behind her smile was
sorrow. A deep and painful sorrow that consumed her heart.
Z Z Z
The last thing Felipe wanted to do the next morning was get out of bed and go to work. Lying back against the pillows, he groaned as he remembered the bliss of the previous night. Then he looked over at his sleeping wife.
She was so beautiful. And she had been so amazing. It had always been good between them, but never like this. He couldn't stop the silly grin he knew he was wearing. Felipe placed a kiss on the top of her head, causing her to stir.
"What time is it?" she mumbled groggily as she barely opened her eyes.
"You don't have to be to the office until eight?"
"No." Felipe's smile grew even wider. "Why?"
She answered his question without using any words. They very reluctantly dragged themselves from the bed about an hour later. Felipe got dressed as Ana Maria went to make breakfast.
"Sit down," she instructed him, placing his meal on the table as he entered the kitchen. He did as she bid but pulled her down onto his lap and kissed her.
"Why?" he queried again. She didn't pretend to misunderstand him. Ana Maria turned away, knowing she could not tell him the truth.
"Because I love you," she replied as she arose and went to get the coffee.
Felipe wondered if he should tell her about Sofia and what had almost happened. He was angry for getting himself in a compromising situation with the bewitching woman. On one hand, he didn't want to keep secrets from his wife. But wouldn't it just hurt her if he did unburdened his guilt?
He glanced up at Ana Maria as she poured the hot brown liquid into their cups. Her smile did not quite reach her eyes, he noticed. He was sure there was something she wasn't sharing with him as well. He closed his eyes. He should be happy, he had his beautiful, loving wife back. But he could not shake the feeling he was living in a fool's paradise.
Ana Maria embraced him tightly when it was time for him to head off to work. Concentrating was going to be very difficult today, Felipe mused as they kissed each other. He would probably spend most of the day reliving last night and dreaming of what would happen tonight.
"I love you, querida," he murmured as they drew apart. He gave her a quick peck on the mouth.
"I love you too, querido," she returned and shut her eyes. She hugged him so fiercely he thought they were going to merge into one being.
Very unwillingly he disentangled himself from her arms. "Adios, querida."
"Adios, Felipe," she replied, watching as he walked through the gate. He turned and blew her a kiss before continuing on his way.
"Vaya con Dios, querido," whispered
Ana Maria as she wiped a tear from her cheek.
Z Z Z
"SUEÑOS ROTOS" - CHAPTER NINE