Bad Times in LA

Parte Diecisiete-B

Nancy Smith

"I love you Victoria!" he whispered as he lightly kissed her lips.

Suddenly she put her hands upon his shoulders and slowly pulled away from his embrace.

The moment their eyes met, Victoria took Zorro's face into her hands and flashed a discerning look into his eyes.

"If that's true, then remove your mask so I can look upon the face of the man that truly loves me so deeply!" she replied as her eyes gazed fervently into his.

He reached up and pulled her arms from his shoulders and took her hands in his and kissed them.

"Yes Victoria, I do love you! I love you more than you'll ever know! And every moment that I'm away from you, it's like an eternity! But there's something I must know before I remove this mask and look upon your face as the man who truly loves you!" He replied flashing an intense look into her eyes. As he held her hands firmly in his, his steel blue eyes bore into hers as he waited for her response.

Victoria suddenly felt her heart pounding as he looked at her. 'What could he possibly need to know, before he removes his mask?' she thought as she cast a curious look upon his face.

"What is it Zorro? What's wrong? You know I would gladly tell you anything you need to know! You know how much I love you!" You know I would never keep any secrets from you!" Victoria replied earnestly as she searched his face for answers.

Zorro sighed and released her hands. He slowly stood up and walked over to the window. He stood gazing into the darkness as if deep in thought. He slowly turned and flashed an intense look at her.

"Victoria, you say you love me, but somehow I have a feeling that there is someone else whom you love. You must tell me the truth Victoria, is there someone else in your life? If there is, then I will gladly step aside! As much as I love you, my only concern is your happiness. I cannot ask you to continue this relationship with me if you are in love with someone else." Zorro stated resolutely. 'Say you love me as Diego, Victoria and this mask will never be between us again.' thought Diego as he looked passionately into her eyes.

Victoria's eyes widened. She slowly rose from her bed and stood before him. She suddenly felt her face become flushed as her eyes slightly narrowed and she flashed a firey look into his eyes. 'What does he mean...is there someone else?!!! Of course there's no one else!!! I love HIM! I love Die..go!' She suddenly put her hand to her mouth and gasped as the realization of what he was wanting her to say finally struck her like a bolt of lightening. Suddenly she felt tears come to her eyes as she turned her back on him once again. As the tears ran down her face she slightly nodded.

"Yes..." she began softly. She slowly turned and looked at him with tear-laden eyes. "I do love someone else Zorro and he loves me as well." She said wiping the dampness from her eyes. She walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. "But I also love you as well!" she said laying her head against his chest. As she did she could hear the rapid beating of his heart as he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close.

"Oh Victoria..." Zorro began as he bent his head down and kissed her cheek. He reached up and caressed her soft dark hair with his hand as it fell across her back. "don't let me stand in the way of the one you love! I know whoever he is, he loves you as much as I do!" Diego gently grasped her shoulders and slowly pulled her apart from him. He felt a heaviness in his heart as he gazed into her eyes.

Victoria lifted her eyes to meet his. She reached up and caressed his face with her hand and smiled. 'Oh Diego...don't you know it's you I love!' she thought as she gazed into his eyes.

"Yes he does! And he's been standing right in front of me all these years!" she said gazing passionately into his eyes.

Diego's eyes widened as he looked into her eyes. "What are saying Victoria?" he suddenly felt his heart skip a beat as he felt the weight of her stare upon his face.

"I'm saying that the man that I love with all my heart and who loves me with all his heart is you Diego! You are the one who defends the weak and stands up for what is right and just. You are strong and brave one moment and kind and gentle the next. And the passion that beats in your heart is stronger than any force on earth. And I have loved you for as long as I can remember. The only thing is..." she paused as she looked at him wistfully. "it took me a long time to realize it! You were standing right in front me all this time and I didn't even know it!" Her eyes slightly dropped and she shook her head and sighed.

Diego reached up and pulled the mask from his face. He suddenly felt the tears well up in his eyes as he put his finger under her chin and lifted her head. As their eyes met, Victoria wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him close.

"Oh Diego! How I must have hurt you so! Here you were in love with me all these years and I was too blind to see it!" she replied as she felt the tears run down her face.

Diego hugged her tight and tenderly kissed her cheek. He momentarily broke from their embrace.

"It wasn't your fault Victoria! I was the one who didn't want anyone to know that Zorro and I were one in the same! That's why I made up this pretense of this overly studious son. I had to do something to protect my identity as Zorro! I also had to do it to protect your life and my father's. If anyone besides myself knew about me being Zorro then you and father would be at risk going to jail and being hung for aiding an outlaw!" replied Diego resolutely.

"But Diego..." Victoria began. "you're not an outlaw! You've done a lot of good for the people of this pueblo! If it hadn't been for you becoming Zorro, things would be a lot worse than they are now! To the people of this pueblo, you are their hero! Your fight for injustice and tyranny gives them hope and you are someone that they can trust!" She replied earnestly.

Diego slightly nodded and then he lowered his head and sighed. He looked at Victoria with a remorseful gaze.

"But in becoming Zorro, I paid a dear price! I almost lost you once to Bishop when you took a bullet that was meant for me! And the Alcalde almost hung my father because he thought he was Zorro! Don't you see Victoria, just knowing that I am Zorro, you are at risk! How can we have a life together knowing that you will always be in constant danger. How can I ask that of you and what kind of life could we have!" Commented Diego anxiously.

Victoria eyed Diego earnestly. "Diego I would gladly risk my life to protect your identity. I would risk everything I have just so we could be together! I love you Diego! Not just because you are Zorro, but because of who you really are! I confess that at first I was in love with you as Zorro because of what you did for the people and what you stood for. But later as Diego, you began to change. You began to show more interest in what happened around the pueblo and you began to really care what happened. And the moment you kissed me in the tavern, and told me you loved me I knew there was something different about you." She stated compassionately.

Diego cast an inquisitive look at her. "When did you first realize that I was Zorro?" he asked.

Victoria smiled as she gazed into his eyes. "It was the night you came to me as Zorro and brought that letter that you had written for Alejandro and said you were going for help. I knew the moment that you looked into my eyes and looked at me as if you couldn't take your eyes off of me, I knew at that moment, it was you. You looked at me the same way you did when you were Diego and I knew it was you!" she replied intently.

Diego gazed at her smiled. "And I'll never stop looking at you that way." He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a warm impassioned embrace and pressed a deep passionate kiss upon her lips.

As he held her in his arms he could feel Victoria melting into his embrace as she wrapped her arms around him and pressed herself against him in a warm embrace. The moment he kissed her he could feel himself becoming swept away by the passion that was stirring inside him. He suddenly found himself tenderly caressing the soft curves of her body as he kissed her and it was exciting. She was exciting and he loved her with all his heart and soul. Victoria herself was feeling the sudden swell of emotion rise within her as she felt the heat of his body against hers. She too found herself pulling the black silk shirt from around his waistband and sliding her hands inside his shirt wanting to feel the firmness of his body as her hands caressed his back. Victoria slipped her hands from his back and wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tight as she deepened her kiss.

Before Victoria could say a word, she suddenly felt Diego lifting her into his arms. She wrapped her arms tightly around him as he carried her to her bed and gently lay her down. He gazed passionately into her eyes and gently pressed his body against hers as he kissed her one last time. He pulled her arms from around his neck and pressed a kiss to her hands and smiled. He slowly rose from the bed and stood up.

"I must go Victoria. It's very late and I fear I have stayed too long already!" he said as he flashed a quixotic gaze at her smiled.

Victoria sat up and flashed an intense look at him, her face still flushed from their passionate moment.

"Diego...don't go! Stay here with me tonight!" she replied as her eyes gazed fervently into his.

Diego sat down on the side of her bed and gently held her face in his hands and smiled.

"Oh Victoria...as much as I want to be in your arms for the rest of the night, and even wake up next to you in the morning, I know it would not be right!" he said resolutely. He put his hands upon her shoulders and sighed. "I love you Victoria, and I cherish your love with all my heart! I would never do anything to compromise your reputation or cause you embarrassment because I was irresponsible in loving you. No Victoria, when we consummate our love for one another, it will be within the sacred bonds of marriage. I want to marry you more than anything in the world and I want us to be together forever!" replied Diego looking passionately into her eyes.

Victoria's eyes widened as she looked at him. "Oh Diego...are you saying what I think you're saying?!!!" she asked as a smile spread across her face.

Diego took her hands and pressed them into his and smiled. "Victoria...will you marry me?!!!" he asked as his deep blue eyes melted into hers.

Victoria happily nodded and slipped her hands from his. "Oh Diego!!! Yes...I'll marry you!!!" She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tight. Diego put his arms around her and held her close as he hugged her tight.

"Oh Diego!" Victoria sighed. "It seems as if I have been waiting for this moment forever! I never thought this day would come!" Victoria replied as she lay her head on his shoulder and sighed. She suddenly felt the tears welling up in her eyes and as she blinked, a tear rolled down her cheek.

Diego slightly broke from their embrace and reached up and wiped the tears from Victoria's eyes and smiled.

"Victoria, I love you so much!!! Are you sure you want to do this?" He asked earnestly as he held her hand in his.

Victoria nodded. "Diego, I've never been more sure of anything in my life as I am of this! This is the moment I've been waiting for all my life! I will love you for the rest of my life and for all eternity!" replied Victoria adamantly.

Diego gazed into her eyes and smiled. "Victoria, I cannot imagine my life without you! I will love you for the rest of my life, and forever!" he replied passionately.

As Diego sat holding her hand, a strange feeling came over him and he suddenly felt something inside the waistband. He glanced down and reached inside to see what it was. His fingers wrapped around a small round metal object. As he retrieved it and held it in his hand, his eyes widened in amazement. There in his hand was the most beautiful ring Diego had ever seen. Victoria's eyes widened as well.

"Diego..." she began. "it's beautiful!" she exclaimed breathlessly.

"Yes... it is!" he replied softly yet there was a hesitation in his voice. He reached over and lit Victoria's lamp and slightly adjusted the wick to lighten the room. As he held the ring up to the light, and turned it around, he noticed how the dark ruby stone with its diamonds clustering around it glistened in the light. All at once, he saw something inscribed inside the gold band. "Eternally Yours" he read softly. His eyes softened and a tear rolled down his cheek and he smiled.

Victoria tenderly pressed her hand to Diego's cheek and looked at him anxiously.

"What's wrong Diego?" she asked.

Diego warmly gazed into her eyes and smiled.

"This is my mother's ring Victoria. She must have known I was going to ask you." He said wistfully.

Victoria looked at him oddly. "What do you mean Diego?" she asked,

Diego smiled and took Victoria's right hand and placed the ring upon her finger and then pressed a tender kiss to her palm.

"Let this ring be a symbol of our love for each other. When all this is over querida, I promise I will make you my wife! I love you mi querida!!! Now I must go." He replied. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed a tender kiss to her lips and looked at her and smiled as he noticed the soft blush upon her face. Victoria smiled as she softly gazed into his eyes. He rose from her bed and retrieved his mask and quickly put it on. She watched him as he walked over to the chair and don his hat, cape and gloves and then collected his whip and sword.

Diego walked over to the window and as he opened it, a small breeze blew in and it slightly rustled his cape. He turned and blew her kiss.

"Buenas noches mi amor! Until tomorrow! He turned and quickly left.

Victoria quickly rose from her bed and ran to the window. She stepped out on the balcony and looked around, but he was already gone. She shook her head and smiled. She was always amazed at how he was able to disappear so quickly and without a sound. As she turned to go back into her room she suddenly heard the sound of hoofbeats growing fainter as they faded away. She turned and looked out over the rail to try to catch a glimpse of him riding away. Off in the distance in the pale moonlight she suddenly caught sight of the back of his cape flowing behind him in the wind. She watched as he disappeared into the night.

She walked back into her room and closed her window and locked it and then closed her curtains. She walked over and sat on the side of her bed and glanced down at the ring upon her hand and watched as shimmers of light from her lamp danced in the stones. As she reached over to turn out her lamp she suddenly saw a bright light in the corner of her room. She shielded her eyes with her hand until the light slightly dimmed. When she removed her hand from her eyes, her eyes suddenly widened in amazement. Standing before her in a halo of light was a very tall beautiful woman with long black hair and soft features and the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. She never said a word, but gazed warmly at Victoria and smiled. Victoria's eyes widened as the woman drifted toward her and tenderly caressed her cheek. The moment she touched her, a warm and gentle feeling poured over Victoria. She smiled back at the woman as she gazed into her eyes.

As she looked upon the woman's face, she noticed how her features resembled that of Diego's. She briefly felt her heart flutter as she suddenly recognized this apparition that stood before her. She put her hand to her chest as if to still the rapid beating of her heart. "Dona Elena!" Victoria said softly.

Elena put her hand on Victoria's shoulder and leaned over and tenderly kissed her cheek and smiled. As Victoria reached out to touch her, Elena slowly turned and walked away. She turned and looked at Victoria once more and smiled and then made the sign of the cross in the air with her hand as a sign of her blessing to Victoria. Victoria smiled as she watched her slowly disappear.

Victoria momentarily gazed at the spot where Elena had stood reflecting upon what had just transpired. A warm feeling came over her as she slightly blinked and stood up and blew out her lamp. As Victoria climbed into bed and pulled the covers around her, she released a small sigh and smiled. She had a feeling that from now on things were going to be all right. The epidemic would soon be over and she and Diego would get married. With that in mind, she knew that these bad times would soon be over.

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