Archive | June 2011

It’s not over…

Hope you didn’t think things were done.  While writing I Believe in the Mystery it became clear that Marah and Tony still had a lot more story to tell.  In fact, they wouldn’t leave me alone!  And then a character from the past started poking his/her nose into my subconscious wanting to challenge the couple…and thus story two was formed!

So make sure to look for it in coming weeks!

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Epilogue…

Four months later…

Marah rolled over and locked eyes with her smiling husband…and promptly turned a lovely shade of green before rushing to the bathroom.  She was really starting to get tired of this flu bug she had been unfortunate enough to catch.  For the past three days she had felt like utter crap and she was ready for this hell to end.  She felt something cool on her face and looked up to see her husband holding a wash cloth against her cheek, his face pulled tight in concern.  Her Husband.  She still had moments when she couldn’t believe they had found their way back to each other.  That warm fuzzy feeling was quickly dashed by what he was saying.

“Baby I think you need to see a doctor.  It’s been three days now and you can’t keep anything down.  I think I’m going to call Michelle and see if I can get you an appointment.”

“I’m fine.  I don’t need a doctor.”

When she resumed retching Tony decided she was going whether she liked it or not.

***

Tony had been in some interesting places but sitting in the examining room of a woman’s health clinic took the proverbial cake.  From what he had seen he was basically the only male in the entire building which he could understand, like most males he would rather be anywhere but here.  But Marah was in no condition to drive herself and her needs outweighed any discomfort he may be feeling at the moment.  “How you feeling?”

When all he got in return was a stoney glare he had the feeling he was in the dog house so to speak.  He could live with that as long as Marah got better.

Michelle breezed in looking quite the professional in her white lab coat, “Anyone tell you Marah that you’re supposed to come back from vacation looking better not worse.  And thanks by the way.  All Robbie can talk about is dogs since we had to watch that big bruiser you call a dog.”

Marah laughed weakly.  Tony has surprised her with a slightly delayed honeymoon to Hawaii, “How reassuring.  I look just as bad as I feel, it’s been three days of hell.”

Michelle made notes on the chart in front of her, “Okay how about we draw some blood and see what we’re working with?”

A nurse was called in and all they had to do was sit and wait.

***

“You going to talk to me again?”

Marah grumbled a “maybe” but it was at least something in Tony’s eyes. “It’s not so bad, Michelle will give you some antibiotics and you’ll be good as new in no time.”

The door opened and Michelle came in looking excited.  Excited?  Tony wasn’t so sure what was so exciting about the flu. “Well the results are back and Marah you most definitely do not have the flu.”

Marah reached out blindly for Tony’s hand, “What is it?  Oh God I’ve got something like Dengue Fever don’t I?”

Michelle just waved it off, “No nothing like that silly.  And don’t worry the morning sickness is normal for most women, although I can write a prescription to help if it gets too severe.”

Morning sickness?  Deep inside Tony knew he was missing something crucial but his brain was blow to respond.  He looked at Marah but she just had a shocked expression on her face, “Michelle she’s been getting sick at all hours of the day.  Even at night.”

“That’s common in early pregnancy.  Morning sickness is just the generally used term.”

If Tony’s brain was slow to react before it made up for itself in full force.  Pregnancy.  Morning sickness.  Marah was pregnant!  He looked back down at his wife who was shedding silent tears.  Tears of joy.  “We’re going to have a baby.”

Michelle smiled, “Yes you are.  You need to come back in two weeks.  By then we should be able to perform a sonogram and determine just how far along you are since you are not positive on your last cycle dates.  I am also going to write you a prescription for some prenatal vitamins.”  She closed her prescription pad, “And now that my official doctor work is over, congratulations you two!”

This wasn’t the first time Tony had been told he was going to be a father but this was the first time he had heard it and felt immense joy.  He was going to be a father!  Tony felt a light buzzing in his ears and the next thing he knew he was on the ground.

***

“Rise and shine sleepy head.”

Tony blinked his eyes open only yo be assaulted by Michelle pen light. “Do you have to blind me?”

He heard his wife snicker, “I think he’s awake now.”

Tony slowly sat up clutching his head, “What happened?”

Michelle looked at him with compassion, “You fainted.”

Then it all came rushing back at him.  Not the flu, Marah was pregnant.  And he’d fainted like a wuss. “Don’t you dare tell Danny.  I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Michelle and Marah shared a look than laughed, “I couldn’t even if I wanted to.  Doctor-patient confidentiality.”  They both helped him on his feet, “Marah you may want to drive home just in case.”

The hell she was, “I’m fine.  What Marah’s going to do is get home and go to bed.”

Marah placed her hands on her hips, “You’re going to be one of those hovering, coddling expectant fathers aren’t you?”

Tony thought about it for a minute, “Oh yeah.”

***

Back at their home Marah lay in bed with Tony beside her.  She still couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that a life was growing inside her.  A life they had created together.  It was awe-inspiring.  “Are you happy about this?”

Tony placed his hand gingerly on her still flat stomach, “You have no idea.  It may not have exactly been planned but it’s wonderful and I can’t tell you how excited I am that you are having my baby.”

“I can tell, you even fainted.”

Tony frowned a little, “Well we can leave that part out of the story we tell everyone else.”

She reached her hand out and ran it through his hair, “I thought it was sweet.  I love you Tony Santos.”

Tony kissed her softly, “And I you Marah Santos.”

Chapter Thirty-Seven (Part Three)

Dedicated to GLMANNY.  When she reads what I wrote she’ll see why 🙂

Marah was still crying happy tears when she finally got a chance to properly thank those responsible for this glorious night.  After thanking her mother she pulled Michelle into a tight embrace that was returned with equal fervency, “Thank you Michelle!  It was…perfect.  Yeah I’ll go with perfect,” She raised her head so that she could look into Michelle’s eyes and smiled, “And I must say you managed to keep the entire town from spilling your secret.  You must be some kind of evil genius.”

Michelle laughed, “Everyone seems so surprised.  I have been devious in the past you know.”

When Marah and Michelle finally released each other Marah was caught up in another hug, this one from Danny, “Welcome to the family!  Although I think we got the better end of the deal adding you to ours.”

Tony let out some good-natured grumbling, “Thanks a lot Danny.  Love you too.”  He tried to look stern but his eyes were sparkling bigger and brighter than Marah had ever seen them, “You aren’t the only one full of surprises you know.”

The couple watched while Tony and Marah walked over to the stage where the band was preparing to get started.  After chatting a few moments with the band leader the other man nodded and handed over the microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you all for coming.  Tonight I thought I was simple attending the grand re-opening of Infierno which was exciting enough.  But tonight quickly became the greatest night of my life.  I got to marry the love of my life and having each and every one of you here to celebrate with us made it that much more special.  So I’d like to offer a heartfelt thanks to the people possible for this event; Danny and Michelle Santos and Reva and Josh Lewis.”  The applause was deafening and Tony waited before continuing, “But they aren’t the only ones with a surprise.  Marah and I were a bit devious ourselves trying to make this night special and the way I’m feeling now you can never have too much special.  So without further ado, our surprise…”

The lights dimmed as the music began and Tony returned to his bride’s side, “Want to dance mi corazón?  Remember no stepping on my feet like you did on your prom night.”

Marah laughed but eagerly accepted his hand, “Least you forget husband of mine, it was you who stepped on my feet.”

***

Beside him Michelle gasped.  Every antenna Danny possessed rose in alarm, “What’s wrong?”

But Michelle was speechless.  Silent tears were making their way down her cheeks it was all she could do just point towards the stage and manage a brief, “Look Danny.”

Danny looked where Michelle indicated and saw why his wife was so shocked.

They hadn’t seen him in years.  They had attempted to keep in touch by mail but their last letter, the one informing him of their move to California, had been returned unopened.  Seeing him now made their hearts fill with joy.  Sure the man before them bore little resemblance to the teenager they had taken into their home, but after hearing his beautiful voice there was no doubt to his identity.  Danny placed a comforting arm around his wife, “Looks like our Nico Castaño grew into quite a man.”

Michelle was still too choked up to answer verbally so she just nodded and watched the young man she had loved like one of her own children sang to the newlyweds.

***

“You know, one day I was sitting at Infierno drowning my sorrows over missing you and some singer who I can’t for the life of me name was performing this song.   After that night I always thought of this as our song.”

Marah grinned up at her husband, “Our song huh?”  She listened as Nico sang of love sometimes being complicated but the mystery of love bringing two people together.  She had to admit it was a beautiful song, and considering their history it was perfect for them, “Who knew you had such a poetic soul Tony Santos?”

Tony smiled and dipped her in extravagant fashion, “You did Marah Santos.”

***

The reunion was full of hugs, male back-slapping, and on Michelle’s part more tears.  On top of that were the endless barrage of questions directed at the younger man.

“Where have you been?  Why didn’t you write back?”

Nico pulled Michelle into another hug, “Good to see some things never change!  And to answer your questions I have been all over the place.  And I did write but I was moving around a lot playing in clubs across the country.  It was hard keeping up with forwarding my address with me moving all the time.  So what have you two been up to?”

Danny opened his mouth to answer but Michelle beat him to the punch, “We have three kids now.  Robbie is getting so big and you haven’t met Hope and baby Danielle yet.”

Nico grinned at Danny before smiling back at Michelle, “Seems you two have been busy.  I can’t wait to meet them.”  He turned towards Tony, “Seems I was right about you loving Martha.”

Tony laughed while Rafael looked confused, “Martha?  Son I don’t think I follow.”

“Small inside joke.” Kind of.  But he still laughed at the brief mention of his past stupidity, “And yes you always said I loved Marah.”

Rafael wasn’t the only one confused.  Marah herself was wondering what was going on.  She knew there was more to what was being said but in the end she couldn’t muster up the energy to care.  Tonight had been too wonderful to stop and wonder why Nico called her Martha.

***

It was approaching midnight when Danny finally escorted the last guest out the door.  It had been a long day, no doubt longer for Michelle.  She had been on pins and needles all day ensuring that everything went as planned.  After saying their goodbyes to the happy couple Danny and Michelle began walking towards the car, “I will never doubt you again, tonight was definitely a success.”

Michelle was smiling happily, “Yes it was and you should know by now not to doubt me.  But planning a wedding is exhausting!”

“Look on the bright side, the kids are at your brother’s and Nico is coming over for dinner tomorrow.  You’ll probably fall asleep before your head hits the pillow.”

Michelle pulled Danny to a stop outside the door, “Oh I don’t think so Danny Santos.”

Danny paused to raise an eyebrow at his wife’s teasing voice, “Oh yeah?”

Michelle leaned in to her husband, “How fast do you think you can get us home so I can show you what I have in mind?”

Danny rushed them towards their car, “I know I’ve said this multiple times but damn I love the way you think.”

***

Marah should be exhausted but tonight was so special she didn’t want it to end.  She leaned into her new husband and sighed dreamily, “Did you see Jonathan’s face when Sarah caught the bouquet?”

Tony laughed, “I think it was a toss-up between Jonathan, Lizzie, or Bill who looked more panicked.  But Jonathan’s face was priceless.  It was almost the same look your father had when you caught Michelle’s.”

“He seemed to be in good spirits tonight.”

With a surprisingly straight face Tony deadpanned, “It was the bourbon.”  When Marah playfully hit his arm he laughed, “I think your father and I have reached an understanding.  We might make it to friends one day.” Yeah that was a longshot but at least there was no more animosity or doubt in Josh’s eyes.

Marah was done talking about others when there were more fun activities awaiting them.  She ran a finger up her husband’s lapel seductively, “You ready to go home and start our wedding night off right?”

Tony felt a small shiver go up his spine, “Baby you don’t even have to ask.”

And together they ran hand in hand ready to begin the next chapter in their lives….

Chapter Thirty-Seven (Part Two)

Marah ran her hands down the flared skirt of her dress, it didn’t look wrinkled but she didn’t want to take any chances, “Does my dress look okay?”

Tony paused in fastening his pants.  He looked her over once then twice before grinning. “Are you sure we have to rejoin the party?  They can celebrate without us right?”

She laughed, “As it is we’ve been up here for almost an hour.  People are going to be suspicious.”

Ignoring her protests Tony pulled her into his arms, “Oh come on we’re engaged, it’s to be expected.  In fact, they’re lucky we showed up on time considering how you look in that dress!”  When Marah still looked worried Tony kissed her sweetly, “It’ll be fine.  Doubt anyone will even realize we were gone.”

Together they held hands as they went to rejoin the festivities.

***

“Okay I knew they might be up there for a while but at this rate they won’t come down till the party is over!”

Reva placed a reassuring hand on Michelle’s shoulder, “They’ll be down and this night will be just as amazing as we planned.”  She caught movement out of the corner of her eye and smiled, “Look, here they come now.”

Sure enough the door to Tony’s office had opened and the couple emerged, only to stop when they saw all the guest sitting below.  Tony was first to speak,”Um what’s going on here?”

Michelle stepped forward, “This isn’t just Infierno’s grand opening.  Reva and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give you the wedding you both deserved.”

Marah look startled for a moment, “Wait.  A wedding?  Forgive me but I am a little lost.”

“I will never forget the gift you both gave Danny and I that summer.  This was my opportunity to give you back all that you’ve given to me.”

Once again Reva placed a reassuring hand on Michelle’s shoulder, “Marah, honey, you know I love you but when Michelle came to me and said you were planning to get married in front of the justice of the peace I had to join her in planning this event.  You deserve all the bells and whistles when you marry your true love.”

Marah felt tears threatening to escape.  Her best friend and her own mother had conspired together in order to give her and Tony a night to remember.  She looked towards the love of her life, “What do you think?”

He just grinned, “I’d marry you any day, any time.  But I can’t get married without…”

“Without me brother?”  Ray stepped forward in full priest mode, “You think I would miss my own brother’s wedding?”

Tony laughed, “No, but since this wedding was a surprise I’m not exactly privy to the details.”

Ray held up a piece of paper, “All you two have to do is sign this piece of paper and we can get started.”

Tony looked at the absolute joy on Marah’s face.  She was only woman he had ever loved, his light in the darkness, and cursed his stupid idea of a quickie wedding.  He’d just wanted to make it official as quickly as possible, to start the family they had always planned on having.  But glancing at all those who had gathered to witness their wedding he had to admit that this was indeed better than some impersonal ceremony performed at City Hall.  “Anybody got a pen?”

***

Tony stood nervously next to Ray, his best man Danny by his side. “So you do have Marah’s ring right?”

“Just wait, Michelle and Reva have this thing planned down to the minute detail.”

Tony was not convinced, “You know, I may have to kick your ass for hiding this from me.”

Danny just slapped him on the back, “Kind of like when you sprang that surprise wedding on Michelle and me?”

The cousins looked at each other and grinned, “Best secret I ever kept.”

“Ditto.”

***

As Tony watched Robbie and Sarah make their way up the “aisle” he had to admit that Michelle and Reva had gone all out for this wedding.  This was no informal affair in a judge’s chambers, this was…perfect.  Next came Collin who was concentrating hard on not dropping the small pillow that held their rings in his hand.

Danny leaned over and whispered, “Told you they had it all planned.”

But Tony was no longer paying attention.  His sole focus was on the woman standing behind Michelle and Hope who were currently making their way towards the front.  He probably shouldn’t have been mesmerized by how beautiful she looked considering he had already seen the dress.  But seeing it in the context of a wedding gown struck him stupid.  “Wow.”

Beside him Danny covered up his burst of laughter with a cough, but Tony didn’t care.  She was the most beautiful bride he’d ever seen and he was honored that she had agreed to be his.

***

“Ready honey?”

Marah held the bouquet of roses Michelle had bestowed on her earlier tight before looking up at her father with a reassuring smile, “More than ready.”

As Marah and Josh made their way to the front the whole room seemed to disappear as soon as Marah locked eyes with Tony.  She felt like a princess out of a fairytale.  And Tony made one handsome prince if she did say so herself.  Who would have imagined that they’d ever get to this place in their lives?  Not long ago Marah thought Tony was lost to her forever and now here they were, about ready to begin the next chapter in their lives.  It almost felt like a dream.

Before she knew it Josh was handing her over to Tony with a brief kiss on her cheek.  Her hand was held gently in his as Ray began to officiate but Marah and Tony were too wrapped up in each other to hear a word.

Tony was snapped out of his trance when Danny gave him a slight nudge indicating it was time to recite vows.  He picked up the ring, “I, Tony Santos, take you, Marah Lewis, to be my lawfully wedded wife, my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward.  In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow.  I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.”

Marah had tears in her eyes as she recited the vows back to him while sliding the warm medal ring on his finger.  It was solid and Tony enjoyed the feeling of completeness.

Ray cleared his throat, “It seems I have been waiting forever to say this.  I now pronounce you man and wife.  You may kiss your bride!”

Like Tony needed permission.  As the crowd cheered he already had Marah in his arms and was kissing her soundly before whispering the words he told her long ago on her prom night, “I love you Mi Corazón, Mi vida, Mi esposa.”

Chapter Thirty-Seven (Part One)

February 14-The Grand Opening

“So what do you think?”

Tony looked up from fastening his tux, and nearly swallowed his tongue.  Words didn’t even begin to describe the vision standing in front of him.  “You look stunning.”

She turned and looked in the full length mirror, “You don’t think it’s too much?”

The dress she had worked for the past month on was simple yet elegant in its design.  It reminded him of something from the fairy tales Pilar used to read.  Tony shook his head to clear the fog from his brain. “Baby you are going to be the most beautiful woman in the room.  It’s taking all the restraint I have not to blow the whole grand opening thing off and spend it showing you just how much I adore you.”

Marah smiled and kissed him sweetly, “You say the sweetest things honey.  But that is going to have to wait till later tonight because I wouldn’t miss your big night for anything in the world.”

***

Michelle held her handy clipboard and checked things off her list.   The band was on stage setting up their equipment and the caterers had arrived and were about to begin the same.  So far everything was going like clockwork.

“I may have had some reservations about this plan of yours but this place looks amazing!”

She turned and faced her husband with a raised eyebrow, “You seem surprised Danny.  Didn’t think your wife could be so cunning and sly?”

Danny grinned wickedly while encircling her in his arms, “Oh honey, I know better than most how crafty you can be.  I am just surprised you were able to hold in the secret.  I am sure these past weeks have been tough on you.”

“You have no idea!  I would have folded weeks ago if it wasn’t for my partner in crime.”

They were both laughing so hard that they didn’t hear when Reva and Josh entered, “My ears are burning.  You must be talking about me.”

Michelle greeted the other couple with hugs, “Only in the most flattering of terms of course.  I was just telling Danny that you kept me from cracking these past weeks.”

Reva nodded, “While not a master of deception she held up remarkably well.  And I have to admit devious looked good on her.” She spotted Marah and Tony coming through the entrance, “Will you excuse us?  Think we’ll go keep the clueless couple occupied.”

They watched the other couple walk away before Danny turned towards his wife, “She was right you know.”

“About?”

“The devious looking good  on you.  It’s very sexy.”  He eyed his wife up and down, “Almost as sexy as this dress.  So who’s taking the kids home after their part in the wedding?”

Michelle quickly covered his mouth with her hand, “Shh!  Not so loud.  We’ve come too far for them to learn about it now!  And Rick will be taking them home with him since he has an early shift at the hospital tomorrow.”

Danny moved her hand from his mouth and kissed it, “So I get you all to myself tonight?”

“Uh huh.  And if you play your cards right you just might get lucky.”

“With you in my life I know how lucky I am every single day.”

***

“You know red isn’t exactly keeping with the theme of the party mom.”

Reva shrugged and did a little turn that sent her dress swirling, “You know me.  Red is my signature color.”

Wasn’t that the truth!  Reva always rocked out the red more than anyone Marah had ever known.  And Marah had to admit the color suited her.  Red was the color of passion and Reva lived everyday with that same fervency.  “Well no matter what the color you look great mom.  You to dad.”

Josh cleared his throat and if Marah didn’t know better she would have thought those were tears in his eyes.  But when he opened his mouth all he uttered was a rough, “You look beautiful honey.”

Reva tried to subtly nudge her husband with her elbow and an entire conversation was conducted between her parents by just their eyes alone.  Finally Josh looked at Tony, “You look nice too Tony.  And looks like Jonathan did a bang up job on this place.”

Tony nodded, “I’ve got no complaints.  Jonathan sure knows his stuff, but I expected nothing less from you guys.”

“Good evening Josh.  Reva.  Michelle is looking for you.”

Rafael looked handsome in his suit, and severely uncomfortable.  Poor guy hated dressing up, “You look nice tonight Rafael.”

“Thank you Marah.  And I must say you make the most beautiful b-” Whatever he was about to say ended on a grunt as Reva slapped his back.

“Let’s go see what Michelle wants.  It sure looks like it’s going to be a full house tonight.”

Sure enough people seemed to be arriving in droves.  “I guess we should go mix and mingle.”

Reva shook her head at Tony, “You two go enjoy yourselves.  Danny has that covered.  Now we’re going to go see Michelle and we’ll catch up alter.”  With a quick kiss on her daughter’s cheek Reva wrangled Josh and Rafael through the growing throng of people in search of Michelle.

Tony held out his hand, “Come on.  You haven’t seen my finished office yet.”

Detecting that glint in Tony’s eye Marah feigned reluctance, “Do you think we should?  I mean this is your party.  I don’t think the host should just disappear.”

Tony rolled his eyes and pulled her towards the stairs, “Your mom said for us to enjoy ourselves and far be it from me to disobey Reva.”

***

By the time Reva dn Josh located Michelle she was “So how are we going to sneak Ray and the kids in without Marah and Tony noticing?” That was one of the things not detailed in Michelle’s itinerary.

“Oh I don’t think that will be a problem.”

All eyes turned towards Rafael and he just shrugged in response, “Look at them.” He pointed to the two figures heading up the stairs towards Tony’s office, “You could bring a marching band through here and they wouldn’t notice.  I’d say you have a good half hour to set up, and knowing those two maybe even longer.”

Josh looked even more uncomfortable while Reva focused on the fact that their plans weren’t going to be ruined.  “There we go Michelle.  Let’s get this ball rolling!”

Chapter Thirty-Six

Jonathan groaned, “Come on mom you can’t be serious.”

Reva pinned her son with a look, “Oh yes I am Jonathan.  Think of it as male bonding.”

“Male bonding? Yeah that sounds like something I’d really be into.” Sarcasm radiated with every syllable.   Jonathan wasn’t one for male bonding, hell he wasn’t one for bonding in general.  It was hard enough developing a relationship with his own family much less people outside the gene pool.

“Look we are doing this whole thing on the sly and I just think it would be a good idea.  The man is marrying your sister, the least we can do is give him a warm welcome into this family.”

“Next time you ask me out to lunch you are on your own.” Jonathan leaned back in his chair and grinned, “I know I am going to regret this but fine I’ll do it.  What should this male bonding entail? Should I take him over to some dive off of Fifth Street?  A strip club two towns over? I’m not exactly known for my bonding.”

“I never said anything about strippers.  And I’m not too sure how your sister would react to that one, not with their past.  Just go drinking, maybe catch a game.  Nothing too extreme because we don’t want him tipped off that this is his bachelor party.”

Just swell.  Not only was he now “bonding” but he had to do it without giving his mother and Michelle’s plans away.   This was going to be an interesting night.

***

“So you want to go catch the game later?  Villanova is playing UCLA so it’s bound to be a good one.”

Tony looked at Jonathan like he’d grown a second head, “You want to watch the game?  With me?”

Jonathan knew Tony was going to be a hard sell, but he also know he’d eventually give in.  Because Jonathan had a guarteed ace at his disposal, “Well I thought it would be a good idea since you’re marrying my sister and all.  But if you’re not interested that’s cool.”  He turned to join the reast of his crew who were finishing the renovations in the dining area.

“Wait.  What time does the game start?”

Jonathan smiled.  The Marah card works every time.

***

Tony didn’t know why he was doing this.  No that was a lie, he knew exactly why he was sitting in a bar watching a game that didn’t even interest him.  He was doing this for Marah.  She would never ask but the Lewis family were close, and if there was a chance he could “improve relations” he was going to take it.

“Hey Tony you ready for another round?”

Tony looked at the half empty beer in his hand then at Marah’s cousin Bill, “Sure.”

Bill raised his hand to signal the passing waiter, “That’s the spirit!  Danny you up?”

Danny lifted his beer and shook his head, “I’m good for now, but thanks.”

He may be doing this for Marah but he was no fool, he brought Danny and Rafael for reinforcements.  The bar erupted in cheers as one of the teams scored.  Not that he had a clue which on that was, that would require actually paying attention.

“We boring you?”

Caught off guard the beer Tony had just drank went down the wrong pipe causing him to gasp and cough.  When he could finally talk again he turned to face Marah’s father, and made a point to ignore Jonathan smirking at him from behind his own drink.  “Not at all Mr. Lewis.  I was just reeling from that amazing play UCLA made.”

Rafael nudged him with his elbow, “Villanova.”

“What?”

“Villanova scored, not UCLA.   Sheesh Tony, for someone trying to improve relations you can’t pay attention for shit.”

The whole table erupted in laughter, Tony included.  “Sorry basketball isn’t exactly my sport.”

Josh took a drink of his beer before answering, “Us either.  But sometimes you just have to let off some steam.  I’ve loved Reva since we were teenagers but lord knows I need a night out with the guys.”  He paused to take another drink, “Besides if you get Bill drunk enough he’ll do a rousing karaoke rendition of Every Rose has its Thorn.”

Bill groaned while the rest of the men laughed.  This might not be a bad night after all.

***

Wolf whistles and good natured jeers were directed towards the stage.  The stage where an off-key Bill Lewis sang his version of the 80’s power ballad.

“Man I don’t know if this is hilarious or extremely sad.”

Jonathan laughed, “I think it’s a bit of both.  So you having a good time yet?”

Tony was surprised that he actually was.  Sure he had Danny, Ray, and Rafael but tonight Jonathan and the Lewis clan welcomed him into their inner circle, made him feel like he was actually one of them.  “Yeah I actually am.”

“Good.  Marah would be all over our asses if you didn’t.”

Tony had to laugh at that one, “Nah my girl isn’t so mercenary.”

“You’d be surprised.  You know a while back I told Marah that from the stories I’d heard about you that she’d be better off without you.  Granted this was before we knew you were alive and all that.  But I was wrong.  You make her happy.  Just don’t make her cry or I’ll find a hole where no one would be able to find you.”

“Fair enough.  And just so you know I love her more than anything and would rather cut off my arm then hurt her.”  He saw Josh moving through the throngs of people carrying more shots, “And on that note I am going to the restroom before I have to force down more whiskey.  I think Josh is trying to kill me.”

***

Tony signaled the bartender for another drink.  He was in that pleasant buzzed state and that was only because he had been dodging Josh’s whiskey shots as much as possible.  If not he would have been passed out under the table.

“Hey handsome.  Buy a girl a drink?”

Tony didn’t even spare the woman a glance, “No thanks.”

She trailed blood-red nails down his arm in what could only be described as a pathetic attempt at seduction.  “Yeah I don’t think so.  I’m engaged.”

“Hmm but she’s not here.”

He finally looked at the woman, “Look I am sure you are a lovely person.  But I am not interested.  There are a ton of men in this bar who would love to buy you a drink.  Go find one of them.”

The woman flipped her hair back over her shoulder, “Your loss.”

He watched her walk off in a huff, “Yeah I seriously doubt it.”

The bartender finally set the beer down in front of him, “Never seen anyone turn down Angie.  Once she spots her prey she usually doesn’t give in until she’s got them in her clutches.”

“Guess they didn’t have as much to lose. ”

***

Jonathan raised an eyebrow when Tony rejoined the group at the table, “New friend?”

“You have that protective big brother act down to an art.  But no, she wanted me to buy her a drink and I declined.  I’m not a complete idiot.”

“Fair enough.”He raised his hand to point towards the stage,”Now check this out.”

Apparently Danny and Rafael hadn’t escaped Josh’s potent shots.   There they were in all their drunken glory crooning with Bill Lewis to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer.  Tony dug his phone out of his pocket and pointed it towards the trio, “Oh Michelle is going to love this!”

Chapter Thirty-Five

Marah was beginning to worry about her mother.  For the past month she’d been either late for work or leaving early.  Which wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t for the hushed phone conversations that her mother ended abruptly when Marah entered the room.  Feeling a soft shift underneath her drafting table Marah looked down at Toby, the yellow Labrador Retriever puppy Tony had gotten her for Christmas.  “Baby practice” he’d called it.  All she knew was that he was adorable, “Something is up with her I just know it.” Toby just sighed and rested his head between his outstretched paws.

“Talking to that dog again?  People are going to think you’ve lost your mind.”

Speak of the devil.  “Where have you been this time mom?

Reva looked everywhere but at Marah, “Just had to go run some errands.  So what’s on the agenda today?”

Yeah something was definitely up.  “Mom is everything alright?  You’ve been acting strange lately.”  A thought popped into Marah’s head and it felt like a vice tightened around her heart, “The cancer’s not back is it?  Have you been to the doctor?”

“Marah I’m fine.  The cancer isn’t back and I feel better than I have in years.  I’ve just been busy, what with your father catching the flu and Sarah and Collin being on Christmas vacation.  Things should calm down soon.”

Marah wasn’t convinced but she’d let it go, for now. “Danny called earlier.  Have you rescheduled the meeting for the tables?”

“Um, no.  But I’ll go call right now.”

Marah watched Reva leave as quickly as she’d arrived, “Yeah Toby something is definitely up.” Deciding she wasn’t going to get any work done with her mind occupied with her mother’s strange behavior she picked up the puppy’s leash, “Let’s go for a walk.  Maybe we’ll stop by Infierno and see your buddies, I am sure Rafael has some treats for you.”

***

Danny was pacing in what would soon be his office, “Michelle I still don’t know about this.  What if Reva and you are wrong?”  He paused to listen to his wife’s vehement protests.  “Yes I know Reva wouldn’t have agreed to go along with it if it were a bad idea.  But are you sure that I have to do this part?”

Danny wasn’t exactly sure why he was putting this off when they both knew Michelle would win.  He wasn’t a pushover by any means but when Michelle had her heart set on something he would move Heaven and Earth to give it to her, and she had her heart set on giving Marah and Tony their special day.  He might as well give in before she pulled out the big guns and sent Reva after him, “Okay I’ll do it.  But if this blows up in our faces I am pleading full deniability. ”  He held the phone away from his ear at her delighted response, “Love you too.”

***

The minute they entered Infierno Toby made a beeline towards Tony and Rafael who were sitting at the newly refurnished bar area.  Tony may have bought the puppy for her but he was definitely the dog’s favorite.  Rafael too, but that was because Rafael now had a habit of carrying around treats.  Which just added another piece to the Rafael puzzle, apparently he was an animal lover.

Tony bent and scratched the dog behind his fluffy ears, “Hey buddy!  You better not make a mess in here or Danny will ring my neck.”

Marah went over and greeted her fiancée with a kiss, “He already did his business.  Do you have a minute?”

“For you Baby I have all the time in the world.  And I have something exciting to talk to you about,” he turned to Rafael, “If you think he’s our best candidate for the bartender position then call him in for an interview.  Danny will put him through his paces and see if he’s any good.”

Tony called the dog over and the trio headed towards the upstairs offices.

As they were passing Danny’s office door he called out, “Hey you two, or should I say three with Kujo there, do you have a minute?”

Marah laughed, “Danny you love him and you know it!”

“You should just bite the bullet and get yourself a dog.  You know you want too, and Robbie would be ecstatic at having another male to balance out the male to female ratio in the house.”

“You may have a point.  Lord knows Robbie hasn’t stopped ranting about big paws there since you got him.”  Danny shook his head.  He had a mission to complete and was due to report back to mission control with what Michelle hoped would be the right answer.  He had to admit Michelle and Reva had come up with a pretty good idea, even if there was the underlying subterfuge angle.   Might as well get it over with while he had them both there, “But for the reason I called you in here, Michelle had a great idea for our grand opening.  She suggested a black and white ball.  But I told her I had to run it by you before we could go ahead with the planning.”

Tony rubbed his jaw in contemplation, “Sounds interesting.  Outside of the general theme of the place but still unique.  And the great citizens of Springfield love a reason to dress up.  So I say why not!  What do you think Marah?”

“I think it sounds like fun!  I know I sure love a good reason to dress up.”

Noting the look on her face Tony laughed, “I think Marah is mentally designing her dress for the occasion.  I would tell Michelle it’s definitely a go.”

***

“Well I’d say your plan worked you evil genius.  They both agreed to the party theme and Marah is to quote Tony, mentally designing her dress for the occasion.”

***

Michelle set down the phone after gushing her utter love and devotion to her amazing husband, “Danny said they both agreed to the party theme.  This is going better than expected.”

Reva raised her hand to exchange a high-five with her cohort, “Please!  Between the two of us they won’t know what hit them.”

***

Unlike the other office Tony’s was still under construction.  But it was the only place they could talk with the being interrupted by the obnoxious sound of saws, drills, and other various construction equipment..  He moved around boxes and lumber, “Sorry there’s not much of a place to sit.  I can’t wait till they start work on this next week.”

Marah sat on the step-ladder, the only real place to sit in the room, “It’s okay.  I’m not staying long I just wanted to get your opinion on something.”

“Okay shoot.”

“Have you noticed my mom acting funny lately?  Because she has been really flakey at work and is having these secretive phone calls at work that end as soon as I enter the room.”

Tony thought for a minute, “Can’t think of anything off the top of my head.  Have you talked to her about it?”

“Yeah.  She said it was nothing, that she’s just been busy.  Maybe I am just being ridiculous.  So what did you want to tell me?”

Tony blinked at Marah’s attempt to change the subject.  He could tell whatever was going on was really bothering her,  “First off, I don’t think you’re being ridiculous.  Your mom was sick and hid it from everyone so naturally you are going to be suspicious when she gets secretive.  Maybe you should ask your dad if he has noticed anything or even Jonathan.  As for my secret, remember that thing we were talking about the other day?”  When she nodded he continued, “Well guess who will be here in time for the opening?”

Marah brought her hands to her mouth in surprise, “Really?  Michelle and Danny are going to be so excited!”