Chapter Fifteen

The hacienda was brimming with excitement the day of the wedding.  Many of the servants were busy hanging decorations in the garden while others prepared massive amounts of food for the celebration. After decorating several carriages the vaqueros brought them to the main gate for the guests and wedding party who preparing themselves for the event filled day.

In the main house Amalia was occupied in Anna Maria's room laying out her wedding garments while Anna Maria sat at her dressing table staring into the mirror.  Time had gone by rapidly and now she was to become Señora de la Vega. Amalia walked over to the dressing table and began brushing Anna Maria's soft, brown hair.  Once her hair was done Anna Maria would finish dressing, go down to meet her father on the patio and begin the journey to the mission.

In another room of the hacienda Bernardo brought a light breakfast to Diego who was still lying in bed. Setting aside the untouched tray Diego rose from the bed.  He was too nervous to eat and paced back and forth as Bernardo began laying out his clothes.  A knock on the door brought them both to a halt.

"Well my son, it is a beautiful day.  Why are you not dressed?  We will be leaving soon. Is something the matter?" he questioned Diego who seemed disturbed.

"No father, I am...," said Diego.

"Ah, nervous," said Don Alejandro finishing Diego's sentence.  "This is typical of all bridegrooms.  Once you see Anna Maria all this will disappear.  Come, get dressed, you will feel better soon."

Looking over to Bernardo Diego smiled.  His father was right for he wished nothing more than to make Anna Maria his wife.   While Bernardo watched Diego finish dressing he wondered if things would change once Diego was married.  Would Diego still need him?  Of course things would change laughed Bernardo but Diego would always need his friendship.  Satisfied by the reflection he saw in the mirror Diego turned and joined his father at the waiting carriage.
At the mission Padre Felipe stood outside the small chapel personally welcoming everyone to the church.  Later he spent some time with Diego and Anna Maria in their separate rooms before the ceremony.  Returning to the chapel Padre Felipe remembered with fondness the young caballero who spent hours at the mission playing chess with him.  Diego had become a fine young man, intelligent, strong and about to marry the woman of his dreams. Now standing in front of the altar he put his hands together and said a little prayer.

The organ played quietly as Padre Felipe began the service. Everyone stood as Anna Maria and her father entered. She was the most beautiful woman Diego had seen.

                                                There is nothing holier,
                                                    in this life of ours,
                                        Than the first consciousness of love -
                                         the first fluttering of its silken wings.

Anna Maria seemed to float down the aisle on her father's arm. With tears in his eyes Don Grigorio was asked at the altar who gives this woman.

He answered proudly, "I do."

Don Grigorio happily kissed his daughter's cheek and placed her hand in Diego's.  The bride and groom walked to the altar and knelt before Padre Felipe.  For everyone attending the mass and ceremony were like a dream.  Diego and Anna Maria smiled at each other as they exchanged vows.  Don Alejandro and Don Grigorio felt as though his heart would burst from joy.  For Don Grigorio It was truly a love match between Diego and Anna Maria and for Don Alejandro it was the knowledge that Diego would share his life and dreams with the woman he loved.

The celebration commenced at the hacienda once the guests all arrived.  Don Alejandro had outdone himself. The affair was more then anyone could ever expect.  Anna Maria and Diego stood in the reception line hand in hand greeting their guests.  Soon after the first dance Diego and Anna Maria were torn from one another.  Anna Maria was off dancing with Ricardo among others while Diego found himself the center of well wishers.

The festivities continued late into the evening but without the bride and groom.  Anna Maria and Diego had snuck off to their room unnoticed.  Diego opened the door then picked up Anna Maria and carried her inside.  As he closed the door he lowered her to her feet. Holding her close he kissed her lips gently.  All about the room were beautiful, fragrant flowers and burning candles.   A most thoughtful gift from Bernardo.

"I have thought about this moment for so long that I am not sure what I should do," he said as nervous as one encountering love for the first time.

Leaning against him she could feel his heart beating quickly.  Her heart raced as she slid off his jacket and unbuttoned his vest and shirt.  Looking into his face she placed her hands on his chest.  They kissed once more.  Her hair fell about her shoulders as Diego removed the comb and pins that held her hair.

Standing behind her Diego began undoing her gown as he kissed her neck gently. His hands shook as he undid the buttons, one by one. The dress began to separate. A fever raged inside him as he watched her gracefully move behind the dressing screen.  Letting her gown fall to the floor she slowly removed her undergarments.  Reaching for the dressing gown from her trousseau she placed it on.  Taking a deep breath Anna Maria waited poised behind the screen.

Meanwhile tossing his vest and shirt on the chair Diego finished undressing. Picking up his dressing gown he put it on and fastened it. As he brushed his hair he saw Anna Maria's reflection in the mirror. She was so beautiful in the candlelight that for a moment Diego thought he was dreaming but for them the dream was just beginning. She approached him and placed her hands about his neck.  Carefully undoing her robe he moved his hands to her shoulders.  Dropping the robe to the floor he picked her up and carried her to the bed.

Ever so gently he laid her down. Taking off his dressing gown he lowered himself to her.  All tensions flowed from her body as she heard him say, "I love you." Soon their bodies melted together as the heat of passion overtook them.

Later lying in bed, Diego took his hand to wipe away tears that fell slowly from her eyes. Raising her face to his he asked, "Are you all right?"

"Sí, I am fine," a smile crossed her face.

"But the tears?" he looked at her curiously.

Touching his face she said, "They are tears of joy. I have never felt such happiness.  I love you Diego de la Vega with all my heart.

Kissing her again set the earlier events in motion.  Never had he felt such a desire for a woman.  As their emotions heightened they held each other close.
At the gate outside the hacienda a uniformed officer stood looking and listening. He had come directly from the cuartel as soon as he heard of the grand event. His appearance would certainly cause quite a stir.  Preparing to enter he smiled to himself with the same wicked smile that had so often crossed his face.  Walking through the gate the guests turned and stared at the man.  Then there was silence.

The Visit