Ring of Fire

By

 

Keliana Baker

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six


Diego looked up from fastening his cuffs and smiled a greeting as Bernardo came into his room. The manservant closed the door securely behind himself and turned back with a worried look on his face. Concerned, Diego straightened the sleeve, and giving his arm a final shake to make the ruffle lay down smoothly around his wrist, gave his full attention to what Bernardo began to say.

Bernardo gestured a sign suggesting a mustache which extended below the corners of the mouth, his sign for de Irujo, and continued gesturing that Rodríguez had done something with him.

"Say that again. What has Rodríguez done with de Irujo? He has not even had a trial yet," Diego commented.

Bernardo shrugged as if to say, 'Maybe not, but....' Then he gestured again indicating someone working, building something and digging holes.

"Working? Surely, he did not send that scoundrel to San Juan Capistrano! His crime was too serious for that. Why, if I had not been there...." Diego frowned. "Maybe he is to be held in that prison. However, I have not heard that it was being used for prisoners yet.  I suppose it might be just about finished and he could be one of the first prisoners there."

Bernardo frowned and shook his head. He repeated the sign for someone working and looked hard at Diego.

Diego ran his hand over the back of his neck, then shook his head worriedly. "Well, I did say that with Rodríguez one could not depend on him doing what he should," he said in disgust.

'You tell Señorita Ania now?' the mute gestured, his expression indicating his worry.

"No, not yet," was Diego's surprising answer.  He explained as Bernardo looked at him questioningly. "I do not want to alarm her unless I must. We will first talk to our overly merciful comandante to see what he has to say about this situation. If his answer does not satisfy me then we will warn Ania and make what arrangements we can for her safety," "It would seem that the only way de Irujo would be punished as he should would be if he had succeeded in killing Ania." He frowned more deeply as he realized that even that was not guaranteed. De Irujo had already killed at least once and not received the full punishment of the law. Quickly, Diego slipped on his chaqueta and turned to leave. Bernardo followed, hurrying to keep up with Diego's long legged stride.

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Capitán Rodríguez looked up at the knock on his office door. "Entre", he called absently as he looked back down at the paperwork spread over his desk. He immediately pushed the papers back as he realized that his guest was Diego de la Vega. Hmmmm, apparently news travels fast, he thought as he took note of the grim set to the young man's mouth. No doubt he has heard that de Irujo is no longer here. "Ah, buenos dias, Don Diego," he said aloud. "Do come in. What can I do for you today?"

"I would like to discuss something rather unbelievable that I have heard, Capitán," Diego began as he leaned against the back of the chair in front of the desk. His manner was controlled and his voice showed only concern. The only indication of anger that Rodríguez could see was a slight clenching of the muscles along the young man's jaw line.

Mentally, Rodríguez shrugged, Well, what would one expect with Diego de la Vega? The man has probably never fought a duel in his life and could not survive one if he did! It is a wonder he has even come here on his own to question what he has heard! If there was ever fire in the de la Vega blood, it ran out before it got to this one. The Capitán smiled to hide his contempt. "Sí? What would that be? Perhaps I can help clarify things. Please have a seat," he offered.

"Capitán, I have been told that you have sent the man who attacked Señorita Valdéz to San Juan Capistrano. Surely this cannot be so! Carlos de Irujo intended to, at the very least, dishonor her by forcing himself upon her, or more likely, intended to kill her to complete the revenge on her family. Such evil surely warrants more than a work sentence, Capitán!" Diego stated indignantly.

"Oh, but you yourself urged me to be more merciful to those who have had too much to drink," Rodríguez surprised him by saying.

"Had too much to drink?!..." Diego repeated in shock. "That man was stone cold sober, Capitán!"

"Well, I will admit that at first examination, the man hid it well, but had you been here when I questioned him, you would clearly have seen that he was drunk," Rodríguez countered. "It seems to me that both you and the señorita have told me upon occasion that I am too harsh with those in my care." He frowned over the desk at Diego.

"Capitán Rodríguez, I hardly see that Manolito Mería and Carlos de Irujo can be compared," Diego insisted, recognizing the occasion to which the Capitán was referring.

"Besides," Rodríguez continued conversationally, "a work sentence is not exactly light. The man in question has, in general, led a life of leisure, earning extra money by gambling. Good honest work might open his eyes and change his attitude. Then he can be ejected from the colony of California, much as Señorita Valdéz says he was from West Florida." The Capitán opened his record book and turned it toward Diego. "Also you can see that I have hardly been lenient with the amount of time he must work. Eighteen months at hard labor should change him quite a lot before he has the chance to return to his proud family."

"Ah, so that is it!" Diego scowled. "You know of his uncle's place in the government. Is it that you are afraid you might offend the uncle or is it just that you feel that it is worse for a drunk peon to call you a thief than it is for a nobleman's son to attempt to harm a young woman with whom you have never gotten along? It seems that you view things from the wrong end of the telescope, señor!" By now, Diego's eyes were showing his anger, though he attempted to control it.

"Señor de la Vega, I do not like your attitude in this. Only my having heard of your relationship with the young woman tempers my urge to take you to task for insinuating that I have let my personal dislike for her control my application of justice. Since it will be quite some time before the colonial judge will be back in our area, I decided that this was better than letting the man lounge around in the jail all that time consuming the pueblo's food and doing nothing. Also, I must remind you that the administration of a felon's penalty is within the military realm, a realm in which it is considered treason for a civilian to interfere. Need I remind you of the penalty for that treason, Señor de la Vega?"

Diego scowled again as he rose from his chair and stalked to the door.

Rodríguez rose quickly and spoke soothingly as he courteously opened the door for the young hacendado. "Do not worry, Don Diego. Now that the detachment of lancers is stationed there, de Irujo will not escape. Señorita Valdéz will be quite safe, I assure you."

"I shall hold you to that promise, Capitán!" the young don said angrily, before he stalked out.

"Safe at least for now," Capitán Rodríguez finished as the door closed. He then allowed himself a smile. By now, de Irujo and the peons would be approaching San Juan Capistrano. The peons would soon be turned over to the prison work detail. However, de Irujo would then be on his way to Monterey. His name would, however, be on the roster of prisoners, just in case anyone got curious. De Irujo had orders to make contact with a resistance group that Rodríguez had learned of in the capital city. His "partner", being as clever with words as that Valdéz woman, would soon have his contacts believing that he was a go-between for a rebel group in Los Ángeles, one that just happened to have the rare distinction of having a woman as their link with an even bigger resistance group. De Irujo also seemed to be a clever forger. Naturally, the group in Monterey would be given several notes from this woman, notes that later would clearly be seen to match the bothersome Señorita Valdéz's handwriting. Move one in a deadly chess game had just been made. Rodríguez smiled with anticipation as he returned to the paperwork that was an unavoidable part of his job.

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Bernardo could immediately tell just by the set of his patron's shoulders that the meeting with the comandante had not gone well. He quickly gestured, asking what had happened only to have Diego answer by impatiently beckoning him to come on. When they had ridden far enough out of the pueblo, Diego slowed down and told him that the rumor he had heard was true. Rodríguez had indeed sent de Irujo to the work camp.

"I only hope he will be kept there,” Diego continued. When I was last at the prison, security was not very tight. I am afraid that a determined man, such as I imagine de Irujo to be, might not find it terribly hard to escape." Diego frowned worriedly. "I think I will have to do a bit of investigating on my own."

Bernardo looked around and seeing no one, signed a Z close to his body.

"Yes, but before I go, I think I had better let Ania know what is going on," Diego said, "or at least, what might be going on. He may be perfectly honest about sending de Irujo to that camp, but then again that is almost too hard to believe of the man. Yet, for all that, it makes me uneasy to trust Rodríguez on this.  I cannot imagine what benefit he could receive by being lenient with de Irujo. Perhaps I am looking for trouble where there is none this time." Shaking his head, he urged Paseo into his smooth, but lazy canter.

Upon arriving back at the hacienda, they were surprised to see a strange coach with the royal crest on its door standing before the gate. Two lancers with uniforms cut slightly different than those worn by the local soldiers were standing by the coach, watching them approach.

"Buenos dias, señores," Diego began politely. "I am Diego de la Vega. This is my home. Might I inquire as to how you came to be standing before my gate? Whose coach is this?"

"Buenas dias, Señor de la Vega," one soldier replied respectfully. "This is the coach of Señor Ramón Teodoro Córdoba, Ambassador at Large to His Majesty the King. We are here on personal business of Ambassador Córdoba."

"Ramón Córdoba...ah, yes! Señorita Valdéz's cousin! Well, it seems that I have returned home at an opportune time," Diego replied as he dismounted and handed his reins to a servant. Perhaps I can delay leaving for a short while. Ania will want me here at least for the first few hours Don Ramón is here. He worried about it for a moment but decided that tonight would be soon enough to go to the prison complex to make sure de Irujo had actually been sent there. He did not intend for Ania to be out of his sight until then, and he would be sure Bernardo and his father kept an eye on her while he was gone. While Ania neither needed nor intended to ask anyone in her family for permission to marry, she had wanted to talk with Don Ramón before setting the actual date. This cousin represented the relatively few family members to whom Ania still felt close. It was important to her that he be able to be present at their wedding if at all possible. Diego also wanted to get to know this soon to be cousin-by-marriage. Ania had had many good things to say about him. It would be interesting to talk to someone who had known Ania as she was growing up.

As he opened the sala door, he caught sight of a very happy looking Ania seated beside a tall, dark haired man with bright blue eyes. He appeared to be perhaps a couple of years older than Diego, probably close to the age Ania said Felipe would have been. In a chair across from him, his father was apparently enjoying whatever had just been said.

Ania's face lit up even more as she looked up and met Diego's eyes. Rising, she came to him and took his arm. Then turning back toward Ramón, Ania smiled. "This is the man I was just telling you about, Ramón. Diego, this is my cousin, Ramón Córdoba. I would give his whole title, but if he hears it too often he will surely begin thinking himself too important. Ramón, this is Diego de la Vega, my fiancé." As she said the word 'fiancé', she looked back into Diego's eyes. It said a lot about her relationship with this cousin that she hid very little of what she felt.

As Diego looked at Ania, her openness touched a cord within him. A wave of tenderness swept through him and he had difficulty for a moment resisting the urge to take her in his arms, then and there. He contented himself with laying his hand over hers and giving it a squeeze. His decorum preserved, he walked with Ania further into the room, as Ramón rose to greet him.

"Ah, Don Diego! It is a pleasure to meet the man who could tame this little swamp cat," Ramón laughed as Ania looked at him sharply.

"Swamp cat?" Diego asked, somewhat puzzled.

Ania chuckled and shook her head. "Another word for the cougars that could be seen in the woods in our area of West Florida," she explained. "Ramón, no one has dared call me that for a long time now. Even my brothers soon decided it was not worth it."

"Well, you earned the title honestly," he laughed.

"It seems that I have a lot to learn about you as you were growing up, Ania," Diego commented as he smiled down at her. He had the feeling that he was going to enjoy having this man around. He wondered if the other men in Ania's family had been such bold teasers. He would have been willing to bet that Juan had been, based solely on the short length of time he had known Ania's twin.

"Hopefully, not so much as Ramón thinks. I am glad to say that I have been fairly honest with you on that score," Ania laughed. "I hope you at least will not send me packing after listening to this scoundrel, and his no doubt one-sided memories."

"Are you saying that I have a tendency to make things up, cousin?" Ramón asked as he cocked an eyebrow at her.

"No, I am saying that you always loved to get me in trouble and apparently you have not changed, Ramón!" Ania shook her finger at her cousin in playful admonition.

Laughing, Ramón returned to his chair. Ania and Diego sat across from him on a sofa, as the talk gradually drifted to Don Ramón's travels and as much of his business as could be shared. Presently, when the dinner was served, everyone sat down to a veritable feast, all agreeing that Crescencia and the kitchen servants had worked a miracle to come up with such a fine meal on such short notice.

"Ania, I just can not imagine what happened to my letter informing you that we would arrive today,” Ramón said. I sent one as soon as our ship arrived in Monterey and then made sure that we left on the appropriate day to get here on time.”

"Oh, the mails here are a bit better than back in West Florida, but they are still not perfect," Ania assured him. "That letter will probably arrive sometime in the future, having gone Heaven only knows where. The good thing is that you are finally here. It's been what, almost five years since we last saw each other?"

"Sí, you had just returned from Spain, which brings up another subject, Ania. Señor Marcos left some papers for me that puzzle me. You are intending to sell the family estates in Spain?" Ramón frowned.

"I have made that decision, sí. I see no reason to continue to hold title to lands and casas grandes that I never intend to go back to," Ania stiffened as she spoke. She fully expected her cousin to oppose her on the issue and he did not disappoint her.

"Ania, I cannot understand this? Señor Marcos said that you were quite set on it and he could not even get you to talk of anything else. I think this is most unwise," Ramón frowned again at her.

Looking down at her plate, Ania clearly had no desire to speak of this further, at least at the moment. "I am determined that it be so, but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss it. Let us return to more pleasant topics during our meal, Ramón, please.'

"Sí, you are correct, Ania." Ramón nodded in Don Alejandro's direction. "Perdonamé, Don Alejandro...Don Diego! I did not mean to bring contention to the table. It will be as you wish, but after this meal I feel that we must discuss this further."

"Very well, Ramón, just not now." Ania placed a smile back on her face and changed the subject.

The conversation moved along pleasantly once again. Diego was amused to find as Ania and Ramón were reminiscing, that he had already heard Ania's side regarding some of the things they spoke about. Ramón put a new light on these things.

"So, Ania," Diego laughed, "this is the cousin whose clothes you stole in order to ride in that horse race."

"Sí, this is the one," Ania admitted, with a laugh, "though I doubt that Ramón remembers the incident very clearly."

"Ha, like it was yesterday. How could I forget? That trick left me ten miles from the hacienda with no clothes, just as I am sure you planned it." Ramón declared as he rolled his eyes. "You have no idea how difficult it was to procure another set of clothes! Your brothers thought it was tremendously funny and all of them drove very hard bargains indeed before they loaned me so much as a shirt, let alone a pair of pants."

"Well, I suppose that might have taught you not to be such a pest. I do not recall you ever telling Luisa on me again after that," was Ania's smug reply, "and my horse did win."

"I hope that you have gotten beyond stealing people's clothing now, Ania," Ramón said.

"Oh, surely I have, Ramón," Ania laughed with an innocent look at Diego. "I do not think I will be needing to steal anyone's clothing now. I would have to have a very important reason to do something like that again. Is that not so, Diego?"

"I would hope that I never catch you in stolen clothes, Ania,” Diego said just as innocently as she. His eyes sparkled with teasing mischief. “We would not want an outlaw in the de la Vega family. If you did that, what could we expect of you next?  Why, you might even dare to become a horse thief!"

Ania struggled, and just managed to keep her face straight.  She always loved Diego’s expression and she wanted so much to laugh aloud with him.  It only made matters worse when she felt Diego lightly nudged her ankle with his foot.  She covered her difficulty by looking away from him and taking a sip of wine.

Ramón looked down at his plate for a moment and Don Alejandro took the opportunity to shoot them both a cautionary glance.

Her decorum once again secure, Ania smiled her most innocent smile at her future father-in-law. 

Don Alejandro quickly looked heavenward as if to ask the saints for strength to live around these two. It is bad enough that Diego plays this type of word game. Now there will be two of them at it. Ay, if my hair was not already white, it would definitely turn so if much of this goes on! he thought as he picked up the train of conversation with Don Ramón.

After dinner, they all settled once again in the sala with a glass of Ania's wine as the light conversation continued. Diego sat back comfortably on the sofa, as Ania perched demurely beside him on the sofa’s edge. Finally, however, Don Ramón revived the topic of the lands in Spain.

"Well, if you will excuse me, Don Ramón. I still have many things to do today," Don Alejandro stated. "This matter is more between you and Ania, so I will see you two later tonight for supper."

"I, too, have matters to attend to," Diego began as his father walked out.

"I feel that since Ania's property would be coming into this family, you two should be in this discussion as well," was Ramón's objection. "Especially you, Don Diego."

Diego saw an almost pleading look in Ania's eyes and made an immediate decision to remain with her. "Very well, though I do not feel that this is one decision I should have a say in."

"I cannot understand that. It is to be hoped that you and Ania will be blessed with many children, children who would stand to inherit a rather large network of lands, casas, and, not incidentally, several titles," Don Ramón said seriously.

"That is Ania's decision," Diego insisted.

Ramón then turned to Ania. "How could you turn your back on both your father's and your mother's families like this? The titles that go with the lands have been in your family for hundreds of years, Ania! Some of them belonged to your brother, Felipe, and to your grandfather before him. Tío Miguel would never have given them up for any reason."

"You are wrong there, Ramón," Ania stressed. "My father, in effect, had already turned his back on those titles. He had made the decision not to let anyone know of our connection to the crown even before we came to these shores. In fact, no one knew of our family lineage until a few months ago when I chose to go ahead and add the crest to the marker for their graves. Perhaps Papá had changed a bit since you were with him. Something in him changed when Eduardo died in France and then Felipe was murdered. Not long after that, he also came under criticism from the king for speaking out against some unfair policies affecting the people in West Florida. I assure you that by the time we left there, Papá only wanted to live a free and quiet life, without interference from anyone. As far as I know, he did not even encourage Juan to assert his right to any of the titles. Just that alone should show his feeling on the issue."

"Ania, I cannot believe that Tío Miguel would not at least have felt gratitude for the care given you by his family and ours while you were in Spain with your stepmother.  Surely he would not have wanted you to turn your back upon all of them?  Do you not understand this is how your actions will seem to them?  Do you, yourself have no gratitude to them?"

Diego felt Ania stiffen at the question. He looked at her in concern and tried to catch her eye to encourage her, but she merely stared at her cousin.

"Gratitude? Have you no idea what my life was like in Spain?" Ania stood and walked to the mantel before turning to look at her cousin.

"Well, I have heard that you and Tía Leya did not get along," Ramón began.

"Do not give her that title!" Ania cried. "She was never my father's wife in her own heart and soul where it counted and she was quite definitely not a mother to me! Why does everyone cling to that belief regardless of the evidence?”

"Ania, calm yourself! I do not understand your viciousness toward her," Ramón declared.

"My viciousness toward her?  What of hers toward me?" Ania countered. "And for all they did for me, those relatives to whom you say I should be grateful, I could have been dead!  That includes your father. There are very few people in Spain who I ever hope to see again. I never wish to set foot in Spain again for any reason! Why should I keep lands there?"

"I do not understand, Ania," Ramon said, surprise and a little anger on his face.  When did my father or any of your father's family ever see you in danger and not help you?" Ramón asked.

"Oh, do not pretend that you have not heard that Leya beat me while I was there," Ania accused.

"Well, I know that you were headstrong and I have heard that she was a strict disciplinarian," Ramón began.

"Disciplinarian?” Ania cried. “The woman was a manipulator, a social climber, a trollop who was trying to use me and my father to advance herself. I caught her with her lover.  From that moment on, I refused to be used by such a woman. That is what I was rebelling against! However, since I was the rebel, the black sheep of my family, at least, in some of their eyes, no one listened to me when I tried to tell of it, not even your father!" Ania was trembling with emotion now. "It took nearly dying at her hands and then later nearly being raped by her lover to push me into finally collecting proof of what that man and my so called stepmother really were. Even when I had proof, no one, except the Marques de Casa Calvo, ever apologized for their refusal to believe me. Why should I ever want to set foot on the soil of Spain again? Answer me that!"

The bluntness of Ania's terms shocked Don Ramón into silence for a moment. He merely watched as Diego rose and went to Ania.

Gently, Diego ran his hands from her shoulders down her arms. He said nothing, but at his touch, Ania's trembling lessened and stopped. As she had on the dock at San Pedro, she crossed her arms and gripped his hands, taking comfort from him.

"I am sorry, Ania. I truly did not know. I cannot understand my father not helping you. Even at your most irrepressible, my father always liked you and your spirit," Don Ramón said quietly.

Ania sighed and visibly relaxed, "I am sorry, too, Ramón. Perhaps I should not feel so hard toward your father. All the other times that I can remember he has been very kind and loving toward me. If he and your mother ever come here, I would like to see them again, just not in Spain. As I said, I do not ever intend to return there."

Don Ramón looked at Diego. "What of you, Don Diego?"

"Me?" Diego asked.

"Sí, this is a great deal of property which she would be bringing with her into the marriage,” Don Ramón said as he watched Diego carefully.  “Have you no feelings about her giving that up?"

Diego looked down and met Ania's eyes. "Was she the poorest of the poor and had absolutely nothing to bring with her, only herself, I would still count myself the luckiest, richest man on earth. No amount of money, or lack thereof, can ever change that." Ania's eyes shone with love as she looked up at him.

Don Ramón rose and came to stand beside them, smiling. Then he surprised them by saying, "Good! Then you pass my test."

"Test?" both Ania and Diego said, puzzled. "You mean that all that was..." Diego continued.

"...a test to see your true feelings?" Ramón completed for him. "Sí, and I am glad to see that apparently this is truly a love match on both sides."

"Ramón, that was uncalled for," Ania objected.

"Maybe," Don Ramón allowed, "but I remember your vow never to marry other than for love. Knowing you as I do, I believe that is the only way you would truly be happy. I wanted to see that you had not been tricked out of that resolve. I agree now that you have chosen well."

"Ramón, I ought to..." Ania started angrily.

"Yes, I agree. I probably do deserve a trouncing for putting you through that. If I had known what you just told me, I probably would have gone about it differently," he said sincerely. "Also, were you still the barely civilized young girl you once were, I would now begin running for my life.  You could indeed be a 'swamp cat' when you were angry, Ania." He laughed for a moment. His laughter was so contagious that finally even Ania and Diego began smiling with him.

"Now, when will the wedding itself take place?" Don Ramón asked as he sat back down. "I would like to be there, but I understand that it takes quite a while to get everything done and I have only three months that I can be free just to visit."

Ania thought for a moment. The cloth that her father had shipped here would be a true blessing now. "I think everything can be ready in that time," she said, still figuring things out in her head. "In fact, I think it can take place before that time."

"Ania, I want everything to be just right for you. Much as I look forward to that day, if you need more time..." Diego assured her.

"No, I do not need more. Everything will be ready if I have to hire every seamstress in Alta California to do it," Ania vowed as she turned to smile up at him. "When must you be back in Monterey, Ramón?"

"I have said that I would return by the 3rd of agosto," he replied.

"Well, then," Ania said as she turned back to Diego, "what about the 20th of julio?"

"Sí, that would be good," Diego's joy showed in his eyes as well as his smile. "Ten weeks, that is not a long time, yet it cannot pass quickly enough for me!"

"Good! Then if that is settled, would it be possible for you to have a servant show me to my room?" Don Ramón asked as he quickly hid a yawn. "Such was my hurry to see you again this morning, Ania, that I rose quite early so that we could be on our way. A siesta seems a most desirable thing right now."

Diego quickly did as Don Ramón requested and he and Ania finally found themselves alone. He smiled as he watched Ania and realized that once again she was fairly glowing with her happiness, now that there was an actual date to look forward to. Then he sobered as he realized that he needed to tell her something about what he had found out so that she would be on her guard. Without his saying a word, Ania sensed his mood change and looked at him curiously. "Ania," he began, "I cannot be here for supper tonight. I have something I must do. I had thought to wait until nightfall, but it might be better done sooner."

"Zorro?" Ania asked quietly.

"Sí, and the matter concerns you closely. Rodríguez sent de Irujo to San Juan Capistrano," he continued.

"The prison there is open?" Ania asked.

"No, I'm afraid not. He was sent there as forced labor for eighteen months," he explained. "I am going to see if Rodríguez has really done as he says and if the security of the work crews is any better than it was the last time I was there."

Ania’s eyes were troubled as Diego explained his fears of de Irujo’s possible escape. "What am I going to do, Diego? I cannot stay within these walls all the time!"

"No, but I want you to begin taking precautions again. Move Bastián back to the position as your bodyguard. Never...and I mean NEVER...go anywhere alone until I am sure of what is going on. Continue to wear the hidden stilettos. If you must take Don Ramón onto your land before I return, at least take several people with you. Before I go, I will also ask that Bernardo and Father stay close to you as well. I will leave soon, so you and Father must make excuses for me as to why I am not at supper. I will be back as quickly as I can, probably tomorrow morning sometime." Diego leaned down quickly and kissed her lightly, knowing that he needed to be on his way. "Te amo, Ania. Do not worry; I will be back soon."

"Vaya con Dios, Diego. I love you," she whispered as she watched him quickly walk to the cabinet and disappear. It occurred to her that this was perhaps merely the beginning of a lifetime of seeing him leave on one mission or another. The idea thrilled her and yet frightened her a bit as well. She realized that he was rapidly becoming not merely the point around which her life revolved, but her very world itself. Turning to a shrine nearby, she quickly made the sign of the cross and said a prayer for his safety. She wondered if it would ever get any easier. Probably not, but such would be the way it was for however long Señor Zorro was a part of their lives. Resolutely she turned and walked to her room for a siesta as well. Beginning now, she must learn to dissimulate whenever it was necessary to cover for him and she was determined to do what she needed to as his wife. Whatever he needed her to do, she would do, just as before.

"Whatever it takes" she whispered softly.


 

 

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