'Thank God that's over with.' Thought Diego. 'This has been one long day, and it's not even over yet!' thought Diego slightly dabbing his brow. He stepped up to his horse and took the reins and led him across the street over to the tavern. When he arrived, he tethered his horse to the post and casually strolled into the tavern.
As he walked in, he saw Victoria in her usual spot behind the bar serving up drinks to her patrons smiling at them as they stepped up and greeted her. Diego stood for a moment and smiled as he gazed at her carefully pouring their drinks and exchanging idle gossip with them.
He sauntered over and casually leaned against the bar and watched her intently as she went about her work. As she turned to retrieve another bottle from underneath the counter, she quickly saw Diego at end of the bar and walked over to him and cast a warm smile at him. The moment she looked at him, Diego slightly straightened himself and looked into her soft warm eyes and smiled. Victoria sat the bottle in front of her and reached over and retrieved a fresh cup and placed it in front of Diego and smiled.
"Buenos dias Diego. How are you doing this morning?" she greeted warmly, as she held a steady gaze upon his face.
As Diego felt himself being pulled into her beautiful dark brown eyes, he slightly blinked and managed a mild response. "Buenas dias Victoria. I'm quite well thank you!" he responded congenially.
He slightly sighed as he picked up the bottle and poured himself a drink. 'Come on Diego that's not what you really wanted to say!' thought Diego to himself. He picked up the cup and slowly swirled the drink around and then took a sip and sat his drink on the counter and momentarily gazed into the cup as if in deep thought. Victoria looked at him anxiously and placed a reassuring hand upon his arm.
"Diego, is there something bothering you?" she asked as she cast a worried gaze upon his face.
Diego slightly shook his head as he looked up into her soft gentle eyes and smiled. "Truly, I'm all right Victoria. I had some business with the Alcalde this morning and…well, you know how that is!" Diego responded resolutely as he placed his hand on top of hers.
Victoria looked at Diego and slightly nodded. " Sí! You and DeSoto can't even be in the same room together without getting into an argument. I only hope you didn't loose your temper Diego!" She responded teasingly.
Unlike Alejandro, Victoria knew that Diego was not as quick tempered as his father. Of course it depended upon what the situation was. Generally he managed to keep a cool head about him. The only time that she remembered Diego showing any sign of anger was when a vaquero became a bit too "familiar" with her and Diego stepped up and gave him a stern look and convinced him to return to his seat. Of course Diego being slightly taller than the vaquero was definitely an advantage. Not to mention the look on Diego's face as he glared at him was enough to convince the vaquero to return to his table.
Diego slightly chuckled. "Well if you mean did we come to blows, the answer is no! It did cross my mind though, but I really didn't think it was worth the effort." Diego replied earnestly.
Victoria shook her head and smiled. "Of course not! Far be it for you to get into a fight with the Alcalde!" she slightly chuckled as she looked at him somewhat smugly.
Diego's eyes slightly widened as he flashed an abashed look at her, taking a somewhat indignant posture. "Really Victoria! Surely you don't expect me to get thrown into jail for picking a fight with the Alcalde!" he slightly huffed as he shook his head in amazement.
Victoria put her hand over her mouth and tried to suppress her laugh, but the expression on Diego's face was too much as the tears came to her eyes and she burst out laughing. As Diego reflected upon what he had just said, it suddenly occurred to him that her idea of 'meek, mild-mannered, studious Diego' getting into a brawl with DeSoto was actually quite comical. Soon he too started out chuckling and then burst out laughing. Some of the patrons glanced around and looked at the couple with mild curiosity and shook their heads and sighed.
Victoria finally released a lengthy sigh and shook her head and smiled. "I'm sorry Diego! I couldn't help it! The look on your face…it was so funny!" she chuckled as she wiped some of the tears from her eyes.
Diego slightly sighed and smiled at Victoria as he gently took her hand in his and gazed amiably upon her face.
"Victoria, not only are you beautiful, but you truly brightened my day! Gracias Victoria!" Diego replied warmly. He lifted her hand and lightly kissed it. He momentarily gazed passionately into her eyes and smiled as he still held her hand.
Victoria slightly blushed as she felt the intensity of his stare and slowly slipped her hand from his and cast a retiring smile at Diego.
"Thank you, Diego. How sweet of you to say that!" she replied somewhat modestly.
She flashed a somewhat bemused look at him as she contemplated the look on his face. This was not the first time he had looked at her, but this was the first time he had looked at her that way. Just in conversation, he would look at her intently as she spoke as if he were truly interested in what she was saying. Whether or not she thought he was, at least he appeared to be.
And again she would sometimes notice him occasionally watching her skirting about the tavern waiting on customers and cleaning the tables preparing them for the next customer. The only other man that looked at her that way with those same deep seemingly bottomless blue eyes was the one she was truly in love with, and that was Zorro.
As Victoria held a steady gaze on Diego and looked deep into his eyes as if she were delving into his very soul, Diego slightly averted his eyes and took another drink and looked around the tavern. He glanced back at Victoria and smiled.
"You know Victoria, it looks like you're going to have quite a crowd today. I suppose that's a good sign…isn't it?" Diego commented mildly, as he watched a few more people entering the tavern. He looked back at Victoria somewhat impassively as if awaiting her response.
Victoria shook her head in disbelief as she flashed a bewildered look at Diego. 'What was that all about!' she thought as she inwardly gathered herself and prepared to answer his question.
She slightly shrugged her shoulders and managed a polite smile. "I suppose so Diego. It also means that I will be extremely busy for the rest of the day!" Victoria replied sighing. She leaned against the counter and rested her head on her hand and glanced around the tavern looking at the large gathering with mild interest.
Diego suddenly felt a twinge of guilt and a slight sinking feeling as he sensed the cheerfulness in her voice and the light in her eyes somewhat fade as Victoria seemed to direct her attention back to her impending customers. Maybe he shouldn't have looked at her the way he did or kissed her hand or…something! Yet when he was standing there looking at her and reflecting on that small bit of humor they had shared and how it had lifted his spirits, he suddenly reacted on impulse.
Maybe he shouldn't have, but he did. But then afterwards when she looked at him with those penetrating eyes of hers, he felt that he suddenly had to look away and change the subject…again. Like he had done so many times! But this time she noticed. She never had before, but this time…she did! And the expression on her face…he would never forget that!
As he looked at her, he thought about apologizing, but he knew it would only bring about a lengthy explanation that would probably lead to questions that he knew he just wasn't quite ready to answer.
'I have to say something!' thought Diego. 'But what?'
"Victoria…" Diego began somewhat hesitantly.