Chapter Eighteen

Tony was stunned.  He knew Abuela had pulled some nasty stunts but this went above and beyond her usual brand of evil.  “Why would she help you?”

“Because I went to prison for carrying out her orders.  I was the only one of the Familia to show any sort of loyalty.  Danny made the family legit, you were obsessed with Marah, and Maria played you all.  She arranged for my supposed death in prison and set me up in California.  All I had to do is bide my time.”  He laughed mockingly at Tony, “You made it so damn easy.  I barely had to wait a year for you to screw it all up.  You played right into my hands.”

“You already succeeded.  Now why don’t you let Marah go and you can finish this.”

Romeo just shook his head, “You still don’t get it.  I could have killed you years ago.  You weren’t needed anymore.  But what would be the fun in that?  You had to watch me systematically destroy your life.  I had to break you.” Romeo raised the gun towards Marah, “But you wouldn’t break.  I listened to your pathetic pleas at night, your mindless ramblings for Marah.  I knew as long as this bitch was walking the Earth you would hold on.  Your escape actually worked in my favor.  Coming back to Springfield provided the perfect opportunity to rid the world of every Santos once and for all.  And Marah, I have to thank you for returning home at just the right moment.  I have had you watched for years.  Your dear friend Phillipe was so accommodating in informing me of your trip.   It must have been fate.  Now I can deal with both of you at one time before Danny and Michelle.”

Romeo was in his element.  He had all the power and they knew it.  “I am going to enjoy watching the light go out of your eyes.  It’s a shame I won’t get to enjoy it longer.  But you are correct Tony, it is time to finish this once and for all. “.  He took aim at Marah and fired.

***

It all happened so fast.  Marah’s screams, pure terror making his heart pound in his ears, the sounds of gunfire in the air…and when it was all over Tony found himself sprawled on top Marah.

She was so still, so silent.  He began to panic.  “Marah? Oh God Marah are you alright?”

***

Marah opened her eyes to Tony’s face, pulled taught with worry.   Reminded of her long ago dream she looked down and saw the blood, “Oh god!”  She didn’t feel like she’d been shot but still in shock she tentatively searched for a wound.  With a groan Tony rolled off of her and sat against the base of a tree.  That’s when she saw the source of the blood, “Oh God, you’ve been shot!”

Tony raised a hand briefly to the oozing wound in his shoulder. “Oh this?  It’s just a scratch”.  He tried to grin but it came out more as a grimace, “Are you okay?”

Marah tore off the sleeve to her t-shirt and pressed it to his shoulder with trembling fingers.  He saved her life.  Jumped in front of a bullet meant for her, “Better now that I’m not dead, and that I know I wasn’t going crazy and hallucinating.  I need to go get help.”

When Marah moved to get up he put his hand over hers and squeezed gently, “I’ll be fine, Danny’s already gone for help.  Stay with me.  Please?”

She looked into his eyes, eyes that were not only filled with pain but also longing and something even deeper.  Hope.  Her heart responded in kind.  Hope sounded pretty good about now.   She raised her free hand and brushed his hair away from his face, “Of course I’ll stay.  You saved my life Tony.  Again.  I can’t believe you took a bullet for me, not after everything that had happened between us.”

Tony cupped her chin in his hand, “Marah, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. ”

***

Rafael stomped into the clearing and went over to the person lying on the ground.   Judging from the quarter sized hole in his forehead Mr. Romeo Jones was now deader than a doornail.   He turned towards the couple and cleared his throat, “Sorry to break up this warm and fuzzy moment but thought I’d let you know that the enemy has been…neutralized.  And judging by the sound of sirens I hear, that the Calvary is on its way.”

Tony looked over and smiled, “Look at you Rambo.”

Indeed Rafael and the two people with him were decked out in full camouflage.  But judging by Rafael’s stern expression he was less than amused, “This is exactly what I was talking about.  You rushed in here blind and could have gotten yourself killed, could have gotten both of you killed!  Madre de Dios!  I swear if you weren’t a grown man I would…”

“You’re right.  It was stupid.”  He glanced at Marah then back to the older man, “Santos men aren’t exactly rational when those we love are in danger.”

Rafael’s frown got even bigger, “Way to ruin a good rant Tony Santos.”  He glanced at Marah all signs of anger gone from his weathered face, “Glad to see you safe and sound Miss Lewis.  Now if you excuse me here comes Chief Cooper.  Should be the highlight of my evening.”

***

Marah stood nearby while Tony grudgingly had his shoulder looked at by the paramedics.   She was still in shock over tonight.  Not only the shock of having her life once again touched by the evil of Romeo Jones but by also by the fact that Tony was alive.  Her brain wasn’t processing what to do with that information yet.  She meant what she had told him, she had always hoped they would get another chance.  She knew he loved her just as much as she loved him.  But love had never been their problem.   And now there was a whole new set of issues between them.  Her life was in Paris and he had just gotten his back.  How would that even work? 

Nothing had to be solved tonight.

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