Tomorrow was Alejandro’s birthday. His real birthday. I would give him the painting of Miguel and Maurine, and show him the brand-new photo album I’d begun for our family. On the back page, I’d tucked in a picture of a sonogram. We were going to have another baby sometime next summer, when the jacaranda trees were in bloom.

I could hardly wait to give Alejandro his gift....

I heard a clank of silverware against crystal. “Everyone. Could I have your attention?” Looking up, I saw Alejandro holding up his champagne glass. “I’d like to thank all our family and friends for coming today....”

“Any time you want to send your private jet,” someone shouted.

“Or first-class tickets!”

“Or help me pave my garden path—how’s Wednesday?”

There was scattered laughter, and a few tipsy cheers.

Alejandro grinned. “I’d also like to thank my grandmother for doing such a wonderful job designing this party....”

“Darn straight,” Maurine said stoutly, holding our smiling baby in her arms. Miguel, though barefoot as he did not like shoes, was suitably dressed in a baby tuxedo.

“I’d like to thank our baby son for sleeping so well at night....”

Darn straight, I echoed, but didn’t say aloud.

“But most of all—” Alejandro’s dark eyes glowed with tenderness that took my breath away as he looked at me “—I’d like to thank my beautiful wife. Lena. You gave me the family I never dreamed I could have. Just waking up in your arms every morning is a heaven beyond what any mortal man should deserve. But I will spend the rest of my life trying.” He held up the flute. “To family. Forever.”

“Family forever,” everyone cried, with the greatest cheer of all.

“Thank you,” I said to them. I blinked fast, smiling with tears in my eyes. “I love you all.” I looked at my husband. “Especially you.”

Coming through the crowd, Alejandro took me in his arms, and kissed me soundly in front of everyone. And I kissed him back. Oh, boy, you bet I did.

It was crazy. Just a year ago, I’d been so scared and alone. I’d hated Alejandro. I’d thought I would remain a single mother forever.

The disastrous night we were married in Madrid, Alejandro said sometimes fate chooses better for us than we can choose for ourselves. But I think there’s more to it.

It’s not just fate. You create your own future, step by step, by being brave. By doing the right thing. By telling the truth. By trying your best.

By reaching for the man you love, and giving him the chance to reach back, pull you into his arms and finally show you the man he really is inside—the powerful, infuriating, sexy, compassionate man whom no one else will ever truly know.

Love, like trust, is earned. It is kept, day by day, night by night, as we reveal to each other who we were. Who we are. And most of all, who we hope to be.

* * * * *