The Promise

by 

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

EL ZORRO AND SENORITA DE ROJAS

 

As he expected, the Commandante saw Señorita de Rojas was offended but to her credit she controlled her temper. The elegant highborn lady‘s nose wrinkled as if she had sensed a vile odor. Selena slowly rose from her seat and boldly walked around his desk. Glorioso sprang to his feet, unsure what she would do or say now as she halted inches from his chest. The officer instinctively reached for his sword as he looked down into her now indecipherable gray eyes.

"Thank you very much for your time Capitán Glorioso. I regret to say that I do not agree with your views,” the señorita continued sardonically, “Buenos tardes."

As he observed her depart the Cuartel from his office window, Glorioso thought to himself that Selena de Rojas certainly bore watching. Señorita, I hope for your sake that you leave me alone to govern the Pueblo de Los Ángeles. I shall not tolerate interference from anyone, especially a woman.

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Don Diego slammed his fist repeatedly against his saddle horn as he rode his palomino into the de la Vega stable. The servants knew something was drastically wrong because their young master usually had a kind word for each of them and a wink whenever he returned from the pueblo. Today he studiously avoided their welcomes as he rushed from the stable into the hacienda and climbed the stairs like a mountain cougar on the prowl for its next meal.

SANTA MARIA! Glorioso had discovered yet another scheme to separate the good people of Los Angeles from their hard-earned money! Zorro can not defeat this warped adversary alone, this time. I must somehow convince the dons to band together and help the peons and tradesmen pay these new levies while they send a representative to petition the Gobernador to depose this mad Commandante! Ai, now I am thinking clearly. I shall ride through the de la Vega estate and offer pesos to those who are unable to pay the new taxes! And I know that my father and Don Alfredo will see the wisdom of this plan, but most of the hidalgos would rather meekly do whatever Capitán Glorioso told them to do. After all, they have their extensive holdings, which provide them with a comfortable lifestyle. I can only do my best and then trust in the Lord as Bernardo says.

Bernardo entered the secret room as Diego began his ritual metamorphosis into the Masked Avenger. He started to tell his young friend that Crescencia had been in the Pueblo earlier today and spoken with Señorita de Rojas.

“Selena was in Los Angeles today?” Diego inquired blandly.

. The mute sliced the air with his animated arm movements. Surely you must have seen her?

His master replied, “I honestly did not see the señorita today in the pueblo, Bernardo,” as Diego focused on donning on his black costume.

Señorita de Rojas told Cresencia that she spoke to you but that you were so upset over the Commandante’s new edict that you did not even see her. His mozo continued.

Diego pulled the mask over his face to complete his disguise as El Zorro as he reached the bottom of the stairwell that led to the cave. “Si, I was so mad that I wanted to storm into Capitán Glorioso’s office and force him to eat the parchment that his Aviso was printed on! But,” Zorro noted just before he mounted Tornado, “you have something else to tell me, eh?”

Bernardo pursed his lips. “I overheard Crescencia informing the cook, Señora Guaderas, that Señorita de Rojas went to plead with the Commandante to try to get him to change his mind regarding his new taxes.”

The Fox was astonished. “What a foolish thing to do by confronting him in his office!” Then he remembered the night that he had earlier seen Maria Suarez’s body being buried in Señorita Selena’s garden. “Bernardo, I shall definitely pay a visit to her hacienda this evening. I now realize I should have done so earlier since the señorita is now actively involved in defying the Commandante. El Zorro must do everything in his power to protect her.”

His mozo grasped Tornado’s reins. Do you not believe that she can take care of herself? Bernardo raised his eyebrows.

“We know Glorioso has already committed two murders, and both victims were women. I need to remind her that Glorioso is a most ruthless man,” Zorro replied over his shoulder as he lightly prodded his mount. “ Into the night, Tornado!”

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Bernardo’s information that Señorita de Rojas had actually challenged Capitán Glorioso regarding his arbitrary and sadistic treatment of the citizens of Los Angeles piqued his curiosity. Why would the fabulously rich Señorita take such a bold risk in questioning the Commandante’s policies? It would be far easier to, like the other “idle wealthy” persons of her class, sit back and

allow him to plunder the countryside. Perhaps beneath the layers of lace and silk petticoats there beat a heart of true compassion for those less fortunate than she. Zorro permitted Tornado to run as fast as the stallion wished. After a few minutes of hard riding, he reined his horse to a halt as they came into a clearing. There, at the summit of a small hill overlooking the Camino Real path to the San Gabriel Mission, lay the de Rojas hacienda. By contrast with his father’s own tasteful manor, Don Martino’s home resembled a lavish and exotic Moorish castle. The four corners of the main house were comprised of miniature minarets, reminding Zorro of the Andalusian architecture in Southern Spain.

“Come, Tornado, you remember the location of the señorita’s’ bedchamber do you not? Sí? Bueno, let us see if she has not yet retired for the evening.”

Tornado obediently strode through the gardens beneath her balcony. “Wait here, my friend.” The Fox quickly used his whip to make his way up to her second story window and then slowly parted the sheer curtains draping the opening and peered inside. Her bed was turned down but empty. Zorro gracefully lifted himself onto the windowsill and waited.

Minutes later the señorita entered the room and the Fox could not help but stare at her. Selena was a tantalizing vision in rose colored silk. She turned her back to him as she removed her robe and then walked toward the window to close the drapes. Zorro inhaled slowly. Dios, but she is beautiful. Although the bodice of her nightgown was exquisitely decorated with lace from her shoulders to the base of her throat, it was cut daringly low, revealing almost all of her creamy bosom. The rest of the material clung provocatively to her curvaceous form. O Blessed Virgin, forgive me for what I am thinking!

“Señorita de Rojas, before you come any closer I should warn you that you are not alone!” Zorro’s strong timbre of his voice filled the silence of Selena’s boudoir.

“W-what? Who is there?” Her eyes strained to see the origin of that obviously masculine voice but all she could discern was a black clad shape adorning her windowsill.

“You need not fear me. It is I, El Zorro,” he whispered his identity to gauge her reaction. My God, she is coming closer toward me dressed only in that tantalizing gown...

Señor Fox, to what do I owe the honor of your personal attention?“ she inquired with a trace of amusement.

His eyes continued to rove over her body as she finally halted just inches from his perch. Selena was close enough so that he could easily pull her into his arms and then ... Zorro abruptly cleared his throat.

“You had a conversation with the Commandante earlier today,” he finally managed to say after shrugging inwardly to clear his senses, “may I inquire as to the subject matter of your little tête-à-tête?”

She chuckled, “you may, señor. I upbraided our ‘beloved’ Capitán Glorioso for his greed and callousness regarding the citizens of Los Angeles.”

“Dangerous words, Señorita. Might I suggest that you ... ” Zorro began saying.

“The Commandante said the exact same thing that you are about say, and my answer to you both is this: the welfare of our people is my business!” She threw back her head, challenging him to argue with her.

Zorro swallowed deeply, marveling at her courage. A remarkable woman, every inch a lady. He mused to himself. “Nevertheless, I must warn you again to tread lightly. The Commandante would not hesitate to arrest you,” the Fox replied, his voice dropping his voice to the barest of whispers.

As Selena stepped even closer to where the Fox was standing, her gray eyes became charmingly animated with blazing defiance. She stood there with all her heart willing him to kiss her. What am I doing? It is Diego de la Vega whom I love...but El Zorro is here now. Selena closed her eyes eagerly wondering what he would do next.

He drew her to him. At that moment, he realized how much her presence excited him. Careful ... I must move slowly. Zorro placed his gloved left hand against her cheek, lightly caressing her face. Selena responded to his sensuous touch immediately. The señorita relaxed completely

against his shoulder and he found himself wanting to make love to her now, social conventions be damned. Dios! Selena de Rojas inflamed the very center of his being and she desires me as much as I desire her, hHe reflected quietly. Zorro whispered ‘querida’ and gently held her chin up so that he could kiss her. When his lips possessed her mouth, Selena shivered, which stoked his passion. He maneuvered her towards her bed and placed her on it. For several long minutes he continued to stare at her face and deliciously soft neck.

“Oh, your pardon ... but ... Señor Zorro ... I have never done anything like this before,” she replied softly.

But Zorro, being the gentleman that he was, could not dishonor her like this. “Selena, Selena.” he repeated her name over and over. He forced himself to break physical contact as he tenderly drew up the satin coverlet over her.

“Will I see you again, El Zorro?” she whispered.

“Señorita, you know that I am a wanted outlaw with a price on my head-”

‘No, El Zorro, you are quite mistaken. There is only one criminal here in Los Angeles -- Capitán Glorioso,” the señorita firmly replied.

He dipped his head in a small salute. “We are in complete agreement, señorita. Will you promise me to refrain from antagonizing the Commandante any further?”

Selena de Rojas snorted, “you can not vanquish Glorioso alone. Permit me to help in some small way!”

The Fox stood before her with his hands on his hips. Well, señor, she is stubborn, far more stubborn than Señorita Cabrillo ever was. Dios, mi, that señorita was a child and Señorita de Rojas is not! She is a beautiful, sensuous woman. Strong-minded women such as this lovely señorita are impossible to reason with, but at least admit to yourself you are attracted to this type of woman. he sighed aloud.

“I shall consider your offer, señorita. Buenos noches and thank you for a most ... stimulating evening. Sleep well.” El Zorro kissed the back of her right hand and disappeared into the night the way he came.

 

 

END OF CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen
Chapter One
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