The pueblo de Los Angeles was taking on a definite decorative air.  The townspeople had been busy all day putting up streamers and flowers.  Everything had to be made ready for the big event the next day.

     It wasn't everyday that the commandante of the garrison got married.  In fact, he had never ever been married before.  The de la Vegas were at the tavern with Mendoza and his men as the soldier was enjoying his last night as a single man.

     "Here's to Mendoza," offered Don Alejandro, lifting his glass of wine.  The rest of them did likewise.

     Felipe took a sip and smiled.  It had been a month since he had found Ana Maria.   After he had sent word to Los Angeles that she was safe and sound, they had made their way back to Santa Paula.

    The sisters at the convent had a tiny guesthouse that the reunited couple had stayed in that fateful night.  They had melted into each others' arms on the small cot as the storm raged on outside.  The consequences of that night brought an even bigger grin to his face.

     "Did I tell you that Alfonso is crawling already?" Don Alejandro broke into the young man's thoughts.  "Not even six months old yet.  I swear that boy is the most clever child in all of California."

      The elder de la Vega loved to brag about his little grandson to just about anyone who listen (and even some who didn't).  "He takes after his abuelo," said Felipe with a chuckle.

      Don Alejandro laughed heartily.  He patted the young man on the back.  "I'm proud of you, too, hijo.  You've survived through what would have broke a lesser man."

     Felipe's grin disappeared.   He had almost cracked under all the stress of the past six months.  The thought of disappointing Diego and Don Alejandro had been one of the things that had kept him from doing so.

     "Gracias, Abuelo," he said solemnly.

     The elder de la Vega then nudged him in the ribs.  "I don't think we should let Mendoza drink anymore," he whispered, indicating the slightly tipsy lancer.  "I'm sure his bride-to-be will thank us tomorrow."

     "I think you're right," replied Felipe, the smile returning to his face.  His mother-in-law would not be happy if her groom was hung over the next day.  He shook his head.  Mendoza was going to be his father-in-law.  It was still just a little hard to believe.

     He and Don Alejandro stood, intending to break up the bachelor party before things got out of hand.  They hadn't gotten too far when the tavern door opened and three women entered the establishment.  Victoria and Ana Maria were wearing smiles as they search for their husbands.  Leonora's countenance was somewhat less pleasant as she spied her intoxicated husband-to-be.

     "Uh oh," the soldier muttered when he saw her face.  He unsteadily got to his feet amid comments by his men of already being hen-pecked.

     Felipe encircled Ana Maria in his arms as they both tried unsuccessfully to contain their mirth.  Saying their goodbyes, the young couple then made their way across the plaza to the dressmaking shop.  They were staying there this visit so Ana Maria could help her mother with the wedding preparations.

     They waited until Leonora had retired for the night before undressing and getting into bed.  Felipe kissed his beautiful wife as they lay there.

     "Are you scared?" asked Felipe, placing his hand on her bare stomach.

     "To death," she replied, putting her hand on top of his.  "It feels different this time though.  I haven't felt queasy and my back doesn't hurt like last time."

    "Oh, querida," he murmured.  "I'm scared too.  We just have to pray that we'll have a healthy baby this time."

     "A little boy who looks just like his papa," declared Ana Maria.  She took his face in her hands.

     "No, a little girl as beautiful as her mama," contradicted Felipe.  He kissed her.

     "Well, we will have to wait eight months to find out who's right," she stated.  She kissed him back.

     "Care to make a little wager?" asked Felipe mischievously.

     "No," she responded as she took a small swipe at him.  "You don't need to add gambling to all your other bad habits."

      Felipe laughed and gathered her into his arms

     "Have I told you today that I love you?" he asked as he stroked her black curls.

     "Only about a dozen times," she replied as she caressed his face.  "But who's counting?"  She smiled as she kissed his lips.  The whiskers of his beard, which he had grown while she had been gone, tickled her but she liked it.   "I love you, Felipe," she murmured.

     "I love you too, Ana," he declared as he hugged her close.  Felipe wished everyone could be as happy as he was at this moment.  The woman he loved was in his arms, their child was in her belly. . .  Ah, life was good.
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