The Promise


Gail Manfre








Diego tried to conceal his impatience at waiting almost a half-hour for his bride to emerge from her toilette. Although he had wanted to marry Selena at his father's hacienda, he agreed to hold their wedding ceremony at Don Martino's home. Ever since her unpleasant confrontation with the commandante, Selena had been extremely nervous regarding her pending nuptials. Diego really could not find fault with his bride’s feelings because Glorioso had come perilously close to ravishing her. Ay yi yi! To have such a terrible thing happen to a young bride just before her wedding! I wager that if I were in her position I too would be frightened of all men.

But, this hacienda was her last remaining physical tie with her deceased father, Don Martino de Rojas, and her new bridegroom truly wanted Selena when she made her final departure from her home, to retain only happy memories of this place. Diego also hoped to make Selena‘s transition to womanhood as pleasant as possible.

He glanced admiringly around the elegantly appointed bedroom, impressed by Selena’s exquisite taste. Unlike the de la Vegas’ furnishings, Selena preferred lighter cherry finishes for her bedchamber. Her antique 17th century canopy bed was draped with heavy silk damask and organdy, with pale lavender sheets covered by a deep rose colored silk bedspread. He had placed a bottle of twenty-five year old Jerez, together with a pair of gold rimmed lead crystal wine glasses to toast each other’s happiness artfully arranged on one of the night tables. Selena had instructed her servants to light white candles and place them in her parents’ wedding silver candlesticks. She personally added a dozen red roses to the setting and Diego believed their scent perfectly complimented the lingering trace of lavender which filled the air whenever Selena was present. He finished the last of his cubano puro as he stepped onto Selena’s bedroom balcony. Diego thought again, What could possibly be taking her so long to make herself presentable to me? I wonder if she is as really frightened of me as she claims to be?



Sitting at her toilette, Selena was far more uneasy than Don Diego suspected. She repeatedly brushed her long dark hair so much that it shone in the moonlight that peered through her boudoir drapes. She also carefully examined and reexamined her face for every “blemish” real, or imagined, in her mirror. Then she repeated the brushing of her hair routine three or four more times. Earlier that evening her maidservant, Amontildar, had carefully rubbed her entire torso with Selena's favorite lavender scented bath oils. She observed her reflection in her dressing table mirror and sighed. You know, Selena, it is a little late to tell Diego that you are exceedingly afraid of him. You should have paid more attention when you were seventeen to your grandmother's lectures regarding the wifely duties of the Spanish Grandee female on her wedding night. No, I would have fainted if I had absorbed everything my abuela said! And most of what she told me was probably censored. I could never imagine Condessa de Cortez, Talia Anna Manuela de Rojas y Espiñoza outlining the facts of life in minute detail. “You will learn to trust your husband, whoever he may be, child. That is the way of our culture.”

Between the ages of seventeen and twenty, Selena had rejected more than her share of suitors, five, to be exact. Don Martino angrily declined the first three proposals of marriage because those Grandees were far too old, [over fifty] or simply wanted the de Rojas fortune. Besides, Selena told her father, she preferred to remain at Court in Madrid. There she was the Queen’s favorite lady-in-waiting and Her Majesty had become her friend and confidante.

One day nearly four years ago, Don Estevan Tomaso de la Cruz introduced his nephew from Los Angeles, Alta California, Diego de la Vega de la Cruz. Diego was easily noticed among the throng of caballeros being presented to Their Majesties on that occasion because he was so tall. But Selena was particularly struck by the young de la Vega’s gracious manners and wry wit. The Queen noticed her interest with amusement.

“Young Diego does not think very much of arranged betrothals, Señorita de Rojas. He is an incurable romantic.“ Which, caused Selena to wonder at the time, why the Queen considered this opinion to be a detriment to marriage? “I know the de la Vegas well, fine people,” Her Majesty continued,” pity they are only hidalgos, child. Don Martino would never approve of that idea. You are, after all, the granddaughter of a Condessa!”

So Selena tried in vain to erase the memory of her first meeting with Don Diego. His eyes, oh, they were as beautiful as any woman’s, light brown with fine flecks of gold, framed by long dark lashes, but there was an undercurrent of masculine strength in their hazel depths. His bearing even then at age eighteen bespoke of elegant breeding and class. His long, lean frame was crowned by strong, well-muscled shoulders. Diego de la Vega was enormously popular with the Queen’s coterie of ladies, but since Selena was nearly two years his elder, he regarded her almost as an older sister. But the Queen encouraged Selena to seek the favor of men slightly older than she, and were of the same social classwhic h automatically excluded the de la Vega.

Frustrated by this stringent social convention, Selena instead focused her attention to reporting court intrigues to her father and became adept at making business contacts for her father when he was in California. Although she reveled in the Intrigues of the Spanish Court, Don Martino de Rojas decided in early 1820 to setttle down in California where he had extensive holdings in the Los Angeles/San Gabriel area. Thus she found herself living in Los Angeles as Diego’s closest neighbor. She might as well been living on the moon, for the wagging tongues in the Pueblo de Los Angeles labeled her as an old maid, and an unattractive one at that!

As she unfolded her wedding lingerie, Selena warmly remembered the night that El Zorro graced her windowsill. Something in his eyes told her that he favored this color, so she decided to have her maidservant, Amontildar, and the Creole’s assistants quickly make a new set of lingerie, This nightgown revealed far more of her cleavage -- and was far more sheer -- than she desired. These things were not made for your benefit, woman! The new Doña de la Vega wryly noted. After Selena slipped into the soft silk clothes, she marveled how wonderful they felt against her skin. Ah, Selena, she whispered to her reflection in the mirror, there is no logical reason for you to fear Diego and you are supposed to enjoy your first night with your husband! Stop acting as if you were a teenage bride and not an adult woman. If you make Diego wait any longer, he may no longer recognize you! Now she was prepared to see Diego and become his wife. She hoped. As Selena left her toilette, she thought she heard her late mother’s voice floating through the chamber to her ears. “Remember, child, faith is everything in life. When you do marry, step into that new stage of your life on faith, Selena. Faith in your husband, faith in God, but most importantly you must have faith in yourself as a woman, as a person, for then you will find happiness.”



Diego rechecked his timepiece for a third time and shrugged his strong, wide shoulders. "Ah, women, they have such strange feminine habits! Who knows what women really think about men and marriage?" Diego wondered aloud. He suddenly remembered a conversation he had with his father just after he returned from University in Spain over a year ago.

"My son, I realize that you have not had a complete formal education. However, there are certain things in life that University cannot teach young man, such as respect for the sanctity of women." Don Alejandro said in a quiet voice. "What I


mean to say is, that have you, ah, had any experience with any young ladies while you were in Madrid?"

Feigning embarrassment, Diego replied “Ah, do you mean did I--“

“Si, si, my boy. Although you probably had your choice of women, I sincerely hope you did not visit with, ah, consort with women of dubious reputation!” Don Alejandro said, wiping the sweat from his forehead with a pañuelo. I can not understand why it has become warm in this room. Hmmm. his father wondered to himself. And why is Diego smiling?

Diego decided to have some fun with his father. “Well, I did visit the Old Quarter several times with Don Ricardo Suarez and Miguel Perrala, where we ...”

But when he saw the horrified look on Don Alejandro’s face, Diego completely lost control of himself. He laughed uproariously until he could no longer breathe. “My father, did you really believe that I would .....dally with such women?”

“Diego! Do not ever treat my concerns for your well being ...your physical... education. ....” Don Alejandro started to laugh as he watched his son gasping for air. Oh, Diego, you are most certainly your father’s son.”

“Gracias, I think.” Diego said, wiping tears from his eyes.




Forty minutes have passed. This our wedding night. Do all women possess no concept of time? Diego sardonically noted as he forced himself back to reality. He knew that marital relations between a man and his wife on their first night together was not a topic of discussion among proper Spanish upper class women. What little information Selena received probably came from a maiden aunt or worse, court gossip. He glanced at the palms of his hands. Sweaty. Hmm. I am nervous. Diego laughed softly as he extinguished his puro. Remember she trusts you. He was just reentering Selena’s bedroom when he heard the faint rustle of silk.

Selena stepped from behind the bed’s heavy drapery and slowly walked to him, with her arms extended. Blessed Mother! Was she wearing the same color satin nightgown he had seen her in the night he visited her boudoir as Zorro? Ah, no.. this oh, so revealing ..perfect! Diego smiled down at her. As she slowly twirled herself around so Diego could admire the way the practically transparent fabric emphasized her voluptuous charms, she brushed against him. Seeing his

obvious excitement, Selena halted and shot Diego a questioning look. His hazel eyes sparkled with ardor. Even in the gentle glow of the candlelight Diego saw her skin flush scarlet.

“My husband ....” she said softly as she leaned against him. Diego hugged her tightly until he could control himself no longer. He released her and Selena thought, now what do I do? Perhaps I should start undressing myself? She began disrobing but Diego’s hand stopped her.

“No. Allow me, Señora de la Vega.”

“Si, beloved. Teach me to please you. I am so ...unschooled in the ways of men.” Selena murmured huskily.

“Gladly, if you promise me to relax and allow me make love to you. Always remember that I would not intentionally hurt you.” Her eyes brightened at his declaration of love.

Diego slowly caressed her neck and shoulders through the satin fabric. He tossed aside his own robe, revealing a tantalizing view of his wide, well muscled chest. Then he carefully took his time removing her robe. God, her bare skin was softer than he remembered and lightly smelled of lavender. Before sliding the satin fabric down her lithe body, he paused to kiss the swell of her breasts. Selena moaned his name.

“Hush. You are here to learn, eh?” His teased her.

“Si.“ she contritely replied. “I love you very much, Señor de le Vega.”

Her husband removed the clinging satin nightgown, pausing to shower kisses on every inch of her body that was now revealed for his eyes only. Selena responded as he hoped she would. “Liar,“ he whispered in her ear. “you were not afraid of me, you are eager to become mine! I am most gratified,“ he said as he laid her gently down on their bed. Selena’s frame relaxed against him. He caressed Selena in areas that she did not realize could arouse her passion. Diego proceeded to lightly draw circles on her neck and shoulders and shifted his position again so he could kiss Selena long and hard on her wonderful mouth. He paused only long enough to murmur how lovely she was, then he resumed kissing her body and when his hands explored further, Selena’s mind and soul dissolved in ecstasy.



The following day was Saturday and the new mistress of the de la Vega hacienda awakened slowly and found her Adonis staring down at her. “Buenos

dias, Senora de la Vega. You certainly slept well. “

Bon matin, mon mari. Did I please you last night, Diego?” Selena’s light gray eyes quickly scanned her beloved’s face for confirmation. “As you probably guessed, Señor de la Vega,” his bride added, “I will require a lot of instruction for many years to come!”

He chuckled at her humor. “Surely not years of instruction, querida mia?

Selena’s expression changed to one of mock surprise as she rolled over and propped herself on her left arm to face him. “And I had such great anticipation in getting to know my instructor better. Perhaps if I make gentle inquiries I can...”

“Perhaps you should, Doña de la Vega.” he retorted, curling a thick lock of her sable dark hair around his fingertips.

“Diego! I was only jesting, I ...”

“Darling,” he sardonically interrupted her, “I can assure you that you that this bridegroom is one lucky and happy man. Ah, it is still early, judging by the angle of the sunlight striking the window.” He began kissing the base of her throat as she stretched out her body for him. Diego decided to concentrate on nuzzling her chest.

“Diego, I never knew this loving could feel so good. Tell me, Señor de la Vega, do have any plans for the rest of the day?” she innocently inquired.

“Plans? Querida mia, last night I thought we agreed to remain in our bedroom!” Diego responded mockingly.

Selena failed to control the urge to giggle by covering her mouth with a bed sheet. “O, Señor, your pardon!” She laughed uncontrollably.

Diego looked up to see Selena wiping tears from her eyes and grinning at him. “Señora de la Vega, you force me to give you my special and undivided attention. Therefore, today’s lesson will be ....”

“Be quiet, Señor.“ Selena teased him. Diego did not have a chance to finish his sentence as she pulled him toward her parted lips.





Chapter Twenty-five
Chapter One
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