Chapter Twenty-Five

Once again I apologize for any mistakes, I tried to be as accurate as possible.

And that’s just what they did.  Marah’s first stop had been to tell her boss that she wasn’t coming back.  While she hadn’t become the next household name while working there he had taken a chance on her six years ago and she owed him for giving her the opportunity and the experience.  He had been sad to see her leave but more than understanding.  Which probably had more to do with the appreciative way he eyed Tony than anything else.  Not that she could blame him, looking at Tony made her heart race as well.

Once that was done they explored Paris.  They visited the Louvre and he even humored her by having their picture taken in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Marah dragged Tony grudgingly into dozens of shops and department stores. They dined at the cafes and strolled through the famous Tuileries Garden.  Time seemed to melt away leaving them in a permanent state of bliss.

She loved how Tony held her close while they walked, like he didn’t want to let her go.  It sent a thrill through her heart.

“Fair warning sweetheart.  When we get back to your place I am going to ravish you.”

That sent a different kind of thrill through her, one that made her feel both weak and powerful at the same time. He’d whispered that in her ear only moments ago but it got the desired effect.  She was leading him through the market crowds while he chuckled at the determined expression her face.

“Where’s the fire babe?”

“You know darned well where the fire is Tony Santos.  You are such a letch.”

He pulled her back against him and grinned, “You love it and you know it.”

Marah whole-heartedly agreed but wasn’t going to tell him that, his ego didn’t need any more ammunition.

They reached the front door of her apartment building as someone was leaving.  In too much of a hurry Marah called out for him to hold the door.  And just like that all the joy drained out of her only to be replaced by anger.

“Marah!  How good to see you.  Your neighbor Estelle informed me that you were back but I thought surely she was mistaken.”

As he leaned in to kiss her cheek in greeting Marah pulled away, “Phillipe.”

Tony had noted the look of surprise on the man’s face when Marah had called out and now he knew why.  This was Romeo’s mole, the one he used to keep tabs on Marah.  In an unconscious move Tony gently pushed Marah behind him. “Don’t touch her.”

The man eyed Tony up and down, “And you are?  I mean no harm. Marah and I are as you would say ‘old friends’.”

“Nevermind who I am.  And some friend you are, you nearly got her killed!”

Phillipe tried to feign ignorance but the truth was in his eyes.   He knew exactly what, or more appropriately WHO, Tony was referring to. When Marah had first called out he had acted surprised, like he hadn’t expected to ever hear her voice again.  And his talk of being “old friends” just infuriated Marah further.  She moved from behind Tony and faced the man she had considered her friend. “You make me sick.  What did Romeo promise you Phillipe?  Money? What was the price of our friendship?”

“I assure you I do not know what you are talking about Marah.” He gestured to the building he had just exited, “Perhaps we should go inside and discuss these accusations like adults.”

“Save it for someone who cares.  Romeo told me exactly how he knew my whereabouts.  Said you kept him informed.”  Marah was trying hard to control her anger as to not cause a scene.  As it was people were starting to take notice and curious stares were being aimed in their direction.

“I didn’t want to!  But I had no choice.”

“Bull. We all have choices.  And you sold me out.”

“Not when it comes to these people.  I owed money Marah, more money than I could ever come up with on my own.  Then come Romeo Jones.  He offered to cover my debts in exchange for keeping tabs on you.  I figured what harm would that be.  It wasn’t a hardship, I really liked you and all I had to do was inform him on your whereabouts and what you were doing.  But Marah, we had some good times did we not?”

“We did.  Now every memory is tainted by the fact that you handed me straight into the path of a psychopath. ”  She turned to Tony, suddenly tired of it all. “Let’s go.  I want to finish packing and go home.”  She turned back to Phillipe, “Goodbye.  I would say it was nice knowing you but that would be a lie.”

Tony held back until Marah had started walking away before he faced Phillipe.  “I would like nothing better than to kick your teeth in for what you did to her.  But I won’t because Marah doesn’t need me to fight her battles for her.” Tony got up close and personal with the other man, “But if you ever come near her again all bets are off.”

Seeing the barely contained rage in the other man’s eyes Phillipe at least had the good sense to stay silent.

Tony nodded his approval and walked towards Marah.  Every fiber of his being was screaming at him to knock Phillipe into the next century but he hadn’t given in.  He’d call that progress.  Danny and Rafael would be so proud.

***

“Alright this is the last box, your closet is officially empty,” Tony set the box he was holding next to the others by the door.  They were scheduled to be picked up tomorrow morning before their flight.  “Seriously who would think that one small woman would need so many clothes?”

Marah rolled her eyes as she packed away the last of her photos, her only real personalization of the place, “I worked in fashion what do you expect?”  She secured the box with tape and added it to the small pile by the front door, “It’s our last night in Paris what do you want to do?”

Tony seemed to ponder that for a while before answering, “Let’s just walk and see where it takes us.”

“Sounds good to me.”

***

After walking around the heart of Paris Tony insisted they end their last night at the Eiffel Tower.  Marah didn’t object, as impressive as the structure was during the day it was spectacular at night.  As they exited the elevator at the top floor Marah took in the glittering light of Paris below.  She had lived here for six years and the sight still took her breath away.

Tony handed her a glass from the Champagne bar, “A toast, to Paris by moonlight and to you mi corazón whose beauty puts all of that to shame.”

She clinked his glass lightly, “You’re one smooth talker Tony Santos.  But I’ll take it.”

Marah nearly choked on her sip of champagne at what came next.  One minute Tony was smiling at her with a gleam in his eye and the next he was on one knee.  The hand holding her champagne flute began to tremble.

Tony took her glass and placed it on the ground with his own but kept holding her hand gently.  He had been debating this over in his head but it just felt…right. “Marah, our relationship has had it’s fair share of ups and downs.  But I knew from the moment we met that you were the one for me.  I screwed up….a lot.  But it was always you, and only you, who held my heart.  You are my light in the darkness, my strength when I am weak, and if I’ve learned anything in six years it is that you complete me.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box, “Marah Lewis will you marry me?”

Marah didn’t even have to think twice, “Yes!  Yes, yes, yes.”  Tony could barely slip the ring on she was almost jumping with joy.  But once it’s weight was on her finger she pulled him to her in a scorching kiss, “I love you Tony.”

“Love you too Baby.”

Marah looked at the ring with blurry eyes.  It was definitely an antique with its intricate band design topped off with a large round-cut diamond.  “It was my mother’s.  It’s the one thing I have left of her.  We can get you something more modern if you want.”

Over her dead body!  This ring was never coming off her hand. “It’s perfect.  I love it.”  She cupped his cheek in the palm of her hand, “Let’s finish our champagne and go celebrate in private.  And this time I am going to ravish you Mr. Santos.”

And this time it was Marah who laughed as Tony rushed them back to her apartment.

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