A/N: Here it is – my 'take' on the last four episodes, but it's not a story of the last four episodes, but of the Risendos and the de la Vegas. I changed the 'current' date to 1822, in keeping with Spanish California before the Mexican takeover and the year the twins were born to 1787, which makes them 35 when they meet. The dates of 'Conspiracy of Blood' were 1824 and 1788, so I changed their birth by a year. The actors were 40 and 38, respectively when these episodes aired.

A/N2: If Ynez was an angry, bitter, and jealous woman, how did she get that way? How did Alejandro know it? How did Alejandro 'ruin' Ynez's life? What's her grudge? I created names for people who had no names in the show, such as the servant girl and Elena's father. I showed the parallel lives of Gilberto and Diego as they were growing up. Once we hit 'The Arrival,' a gap or two in the last four episodes might also be included for a more complete story, or to show certain viewpoints and character thoughts, but only certain scenes are included, much later in this story. This is not comprehensive, but shows the possibilities of what might have caused the last four episodes to go the way they went, and how Gilberto Risendo became the instrument of Ynez's revenge, and how she 'suckled' him on vengeance. I'm also breaking a cardinal rule in writing – I'm going to show, from time-to-time, multiple internal points of view within a chapter.

SUCKLED ON VENGEANCE

CHAPTER ONE – Seeds of Vengeance

MADRID – 1787

Doña Elena de la Vega was in bed and miserable. "Alejandro, my beloved, I am so uncomfortable. I wish the baby would come. What did the doctor say?"

Alejandro sat on the edge of the bed. "My dearest Elena, I am very sorry this is so difficult for you. The doctor recommended I get you a midwife. I will see to it before I leave. I know your father will also keep an eye on you. I am so sorry, but I must return to my regiment."

"It's just that…" Elena turned her head to one side.

"Si, my beloved?" Alejandro brushed back his dark, black hair from his eyes.

"It's just that…we are thousands of miles away from home. I am glad my father is here with us…but I wish we were at home in Los Angeles."

They heard a knock on the door. "Enter." Alejandro's voice seemed loud in the room. Marta, the fifteen-year-old kitchen maid entered.

"Patron, is there anything I can get the Doña?" Marta was cute and sweet. She had bright eyes and the inquisitive nature of most teenagers. She had been in their service for over a year and she was very competent and trustworthy.

Alejandro smiled. "Thank you, Marta, no. But por favor, check in with my wife after I've left, comprende?"

"Si, Patron." Marta slipped out.

"When do you have to go, Alejandro?" Elena shifted trying to get comfortable. The doctor had ordered complete bed rest until the baby came.

"Tomorrow, I'm afraid, my Felicidad, my preciosa." He bent down and kissed her.

Z

Don Alejandro and Doña Elena de la Vega moved to Spain from their home in California so that Don Alejandro could serve a special one-year tour of duty in the Fifth Cavalry of the Royal Spanish Army. Doña Elena would have stayed in Los Angeles, but they were newlyweds. Alejandro was promoted to Capitan in the regiment, which took him away quite a bit, but the pay was enough to rent a suite of rooms. Soon after their arrival in Madrid, they learned Doña Elena was expecting.

They rented a second-floor set of rooms in a newer part of Madrid, although still in town. Elena's pregnancy had gone fairly well at first, but she quickly swelled to an extraordinarily large size mid-way through the pregnancy. The doctor was concerned, but distracted by many other patients in his busy practice. During the doctor's last visit, Alejandro asked him who he would recommend for a midwife.

"I know of a young widow. She's been working as a midwife since her husband died earlier this year. She has earned a good reputation as kind and helpful – and she's a real take-charge type of person."

"She sounds fine, doctor. Who is she?" Alejandro drew in a breath, and let it out. He was hesitant about having a midwife instead of a doctor present at the birth of his first child, but the doctor said he couldn't be in two places at once. Several babies in his practice were all due around the same time…it was going to be first come, first serve. Because of Elena's size, there was really no way to predict.

"Her name is Ynez Risendo. She delivered my niece's child last week. She's looking for a possible live-in position for the last month. I told her about your situation. She's interested. And…I have the utmost confidence in her to deliver your child in a very satisfactory manner."

Alejandro ran a hand through his smooth, straight black hair. Some of the locks fell over his forehead. "All right, doctor. Set it up."

Z

It's not fair. I so wanted a child from Guillermo. Why did he have to die! And my ever-loving family – ha! Father disowned me. Mother ignores me. I write to her, but she doesn't answer my letters. I'll show them. I'll show them both. Only my beloved brother, Gilberto Avila writes to me at all. I hate being a midwife! But I have to make some sort of living.

Dear Mother, Ynez wrote

I am expecting a child any day. That is why I remain in Madrid. I hope you will forgive me for marrying Guillermo Risendo, but at the time, I thought I loved him. I can see now that I never did. I believe he loved me..in his way. I hope to come home within the year, as soon as I have saved enough to bring both me and the child home.

Guillermo Risendo had died in a fire six months ago, leaving her without any hope of ever conceiving her own child. To be childless was a curse, and Ynez resolved she would not be a victim of it. She would do whatever she must, short of prostituting herself, to become a mother.

For three months after her husband died, Ynez nearly went mad from grief. Not grief from losing a 'loving' husband, but grief that reflected the futility of her situation. She was angry at Guillermo for dying – and for putting her in this position.

Slowly, with monumental mental effort, she pulled herself out of despair. An idea came to her. A plan began to formulate in her mind. She nodded to herself. Si, that could work. I only need the right situation. I will be patient and wait for it. I will know when the right situation appears.

The next day, Doctor Rosario found her in the marketplace.

"Senora Risendo! May I speak to you a moment?"

"Doctor Rosario – how are you?"

"Ynez, I've found another position for you. It should give you at least two months' work, possibly more. The couple is very well off. They are well-respected and well-placed. You should be able to earn enough for your fare back to Barcelona, if you do a good job. How much do you still need?"

Ynez pushed a stray lock of black hair out of her face that blew there by the wind. "Oh, about six hundred pesos. What can you tell me about them?"

Z

Elena de la Vega had been in pain for several days. Senora Ynez Risendo had come nearly every day the first month to check on her, but now stayed with her every day, and most nights. Alejandro was away in the Army. Elena's father came to visit after work every day.

The first day she came to work for Elena, Ynez did her customary 'examination' – checking Elena's pulse, and listened to the baby's heartbeat. What she heard surprised her. The doctor said nothing about that. I wonder if he knows…probably not. Doctors don't usually take the time to listen. They do not expect twins. I can put my plan into place. Nothing will stop me.

Z

Two weeks before the baby was due, Alejandro received a special twenty-four hour leave from the Army to visit his wife. He arrived home to find he was denied entrance into his own home.

"Excuse me, Senorita. May I ask what your business is here?" Alejandro tried to be calm, but wasn't succeeding well.

"Pardon me, Senor, it is Senora. But may I ask who you are? And what your business is here?" Ynez didn't like this man; she didn't like him at all. He seemed hot-tempered…she'd borne the brunt of hot-tempered men – first her father, then her husband…

"I am Alejandro de la Vega, master of this house. Now answer my question! Who are you?" Alejandro was beginning to lose patience. He'd ridden all night, and he was tired. The last thing he wanted to deal with was a woman who was as bossy as she was rude.

Ynez gulped, and lowered her eyes slightly. "Pardon me, Senor. I am Ynez Risendo, the midwife. Doctor Rosario recommended me, I believe? Please, come in." She opened the door further and allowed Alejandro to pass.

"You are…our midwife?"

"Si."

"How is my wife? When is the baby expected? I only have one day. I have to report to Calais in the morning."

"She is fine, Senor de la Vega. All is well for her at this stage. The…babeee…" Ynez drew out the word as she drew in a breath. Be careful. No one but me knows there are two. "The baby will be born within a week, I predict…No more than two weeks."

Alejandro nodded and started up the stairs to the bedroom when Ynez's soft-toned, but commanding voice halted him. "Senor! The Senora is sleeping now. She needs her rest to keep up her strength. You should be able to see her later."

Alejandro bristled. Am I not master of my own house? A common midwife is giving me orders in my own home. I don't like it. And I don't like…her!

Z

Alejandro slept on the couch downstairs in the parlor that night because Senora Risendo usually slept in the room with Doña Elena, to be there in case something would happen during the night.

Alejandro was usually a heavy sleeper, but tonight, his thoughts were filled with his wife and soon-to-be child. I wonder if it's a boy or a girl. He chuckled to himself. Well, of course, it's going to be one or the other. They'd already decided on a name for a boy…Diego. Elena loved the name so much, even though the name was new to the family. Alejandro remembered…

"Alejandro, if we have a boy, I want him to be named Diego Alejandro Sebastian de la Vega. That way he will carry the family names, as well as his own. And Diego is such a proud name… after a Patriarch, after all."

Elena smiled. Alejandro was puzzled. "A patriarch? A Biblical Patriarch?"

"Si, Alejandro…Abrahám, Isaac, and…Diego," Elena's eyes teased. Alejandro chuckled. Alejandro leaned over and kissed Elena. One of his endearing pet names for her was Felicidad – because she was such a joy to be around, and her nature was one of joy and happiness.

"My dear Felicidad, you know I can deny you nothing. If we have a boy, he will be called Diego, as you have said…after the patriarch Jacob. But that means I get to pick the name if we have a girl…"

He was just drifting off when he heard mumbling…

Z

"Ynez." Elena was restless.

"Si Senora." Ynez got up from the cot she slept on, positioned at Elena's right. She climbed up on the edge of the bed and grasped Elena's hand.

"I am thirsty. Could I have a drink of water?"

"Certainly. I'll get you some. I'll be back in a few minutes. Rest easy, Senora."

She threw on her robe and took the empty pitcher with her.

Z

Ynez came downstairs mumbling to herself as she puttered to the kitchen to make herself a sandwich – and get Elena's water. "Of all nights she can't sleep, it has to be the one night when Don Alejandro is here." She knew she was whispering out loud, but she was sure the 'master' of the house would be fast asleep.

"Men! They bluster around as if they own the world. Then are offended when they find out they don't! God, why did you allow the torture, the beatings, the miscarriage? Why is midwife the only job I can get? To bring other women's babies into the world when I cannot have one myself? Why? And to know that I have to serve the commanding officer who sent Guillermo into the flames…"

"Is everything all right, Senora?" Marta shuffled into the kitchen. "I'm sorry. I thought I heard talking. I am a light sleeper. Is Doña Elena all right?"

"Everything is fine, Marta. Go back to sleep. I was talking to myself. I do that sometimes."

"You may talk to me, Senora. I can keep a confidence."

"Can I trust you, Marta?"

"Si."

"Good. I may have a special job for you to do for me in the coming days."

"I will be happy to help, Senora."

"Good. Now, back to bed, Marta. The Senora's time is very soon. It could be any day. We both need to get as much rest as we can."

After Marta left the kitchen, with her harsh whispering voice, it was like Ynez raised her fist to the sky. "You claim to be a God of love, but all we women ever get from you – and men – is pain, anguish, brutality and torture!"

From his couch, Alejandro rose up on an elbow, then laid back down, a look of bewilderment written all over his face. What kind of woman had he hired to be Elena's midwife? What torture had that woman been through that made her so angry? What beatings? Alejandro felt kind of sorry for her. Maybe it's a good thing she was working for them. Maybe Elena could help heal her wounded soul. She sounded jealous of women who could have children when for some reason she could not.

Before sunup, Alejandro was well on his way.He hoped everything would be all right, but he had a niggling feeling all was not well.

Z

The next morning, Marta arose and attended to her duties. As she checked on Senora Risendo and Doña Elena, she found Ynez again 'listening' to the Elena's stomach. Elena seemed to wait in anticipation.

"What is that you do, Senora?" Marta's sweet voice broke the silence.

Ynez moved her ear from one place to another, listened, then rose up. "I listen for the baby's heartbeat. If I hear it, I know all is well."

"May I listen?"

Ynez shook her head. "It is of no importance, Marta. All is well. Could you bring the Senora some tea?"

"Certainly, Senora. Doña Elena, are you getting excited? The time must be very soon." Marta smiled in anticipation.

Ynez snapped. "Marta, the Senora needs her rest. I will talk to you later about the special job. Now, go!"

Marta was startled by the fierce reply, but left the room obediently.

Ynez mumbled to herself in a voice too soft for Elena to hear. "That one is too curious for her own good."

TBC