What Matters Most~ Chapter Fifteen

Marah tried to concentrate on being a polite hostess but she felt decidedly awkward for some unknown reason. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it but she felt like a specimen under a microscope which just served to further amp up her unease. Carlos Riviera had been nothing but charming since he walked in their home an hour ago but something about him just put her on edge. Perhaps it was his eyes. Though they were a dark brown like Tony’s that was where the similarities ended. Where Tony’s eyes reminded her of warm melted chocolate Carlos Riviera’s were cold and emotionless. When Tony had first introduced them it was almost as if he had looked right through her…

***

Marah checked to make sure that everything in the kitchen was in order before she went to greet their guest. Rafael had come by earlier to pick up Toby to take him next door to his place so that was one less thing for her to worry about. Finding everything else ready to go she exited to greet the newcomer.

She found the two men laughing about some unknown topic but the whole scene gave Marah pause. Tony didn’t open up easily. The only people he could truly be himself around were his family, he was even reserved around her family and he had known them for years, so the fact he was laughing and joking with this virtual stranger stuck her as odd. As she entered the room conversation stopped as both men stood, Tony coming to her side to make introductions.

“Carlos, I’d like you to meet my wife Marah.” Tony ushered her forward with a gentle and supportive hand on her lower back. When she was within arm’s reach she held out her hand to greet their guest properly, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

While she expected a handshake, firm and business-like, instead he brought her knuckles to his lips where he pressed a brief kiss. She didn’t know people still did that, like she was some lady fair in some Arthurian legend and certainly not the wives of business associates. But she decided to roll with it lest she make a scene and ruin Danny and Tony’s business deal. However, then he whispered huskily against her knuckles, “The pleasure is all mine.” her spidey senses started tingling.

She had to be imagining things, surely this guy wouldn’t hit on her in front of her own husband. Marah shifted her eyes to gauge Tony’s reaction. Tony was all alpha male, when they had first started going out his jealous reactions to anyone even talking to her used to drive her crazy. But he didn’t seem to notice anything amiss so Marah just chalked it up to her vivid imagination, but she still wanted to be cautious around this guy. She pasted on a bright smile while she subtly removed her hand. “Welcome to our home. Hope you brought your appetite because dinner’s almost ready.”

***

Marah felt guilty for her rush to judgement earlier of one Carlos Riviera. Since sitting down to dinner he had been nothing but charming and respectful.

He surveyed the dining room with a critical eye. “Your home is quite lovely. Very colorful.” He looked towards Marah before continuing, “Tony tells me you are an interior decorator.  Did you do all the decorating yourself?”

Marah swallowed the bite of food she was chewing before answering. “Thank you and I did.  I have always been pretty liberal with my use of color, even in my wardrobe, as Tony can probably attest to.” She smiled at her husband fondly before continuing. “After I moved back to Springfield and married Tony it sounded like the perfect way for me use my skills for design and be around my family.  What about you, do you have any family in the area?”

Carlos’s became haunted as he considered the question, “Not anymore.  My younger sister died about ten years ago.”

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry.”  When Marah looked at her husband in distress Tony squeezed her hand reassuringly.  Both of them had known the pain associated with loss.  Though Tony had to admit they had been awarded their fair share of miracles.  Hell, his very own return to the living was straight out of the realm of fiction.  They were lucky and they knew it.

“It’s quite alright Marah.” Carlos gave a smile and saluted his host with his wine glass,”Enough with the past.  Tonight is about the present, like the good company and this excellent meal.  In fact, this arroz con pollo is delicious. Tony, it seems your wife is a woman of many talents..  You better be careful or someone might steal her away.”

Tony laughed but still placed his hand over Marah’s smaller one. “Marah is immensely talented.  I knew from the moment I saw her that she was it for me.  One look and I was a complete goner.  Right Mi Corazon?”

Marah smiled in that sweet way happily married couples do that generally makes others around them either envious or nauseous. “Forever.”

***

Later that evening Carlos walked into the room adjoining his at the Rex Motel and haphazardly tossed the bag Marah Santos had so generously packed for him onto the bed. “Hungry?”

Angela had been startled awake by his unannounced entry and sat clutching the perpetually foul-smelling comforter to her chest. “Don’t you knock?”

Carlos was less than impressed by her actions, like she was some virtuous princess.  He just smirked, “Must have skipped that class at charm school.  You want the food or not?”

She eyed the bag with distaste. “Spare me.  No doubt perfect little Marah cooks like a dream in her perfect kitchen living her perfect little life.”

Inwardly Carlos grinned.  Envy looked good on her and he just couldn’t resist poking the hornet’s nest a bit more. “Marah is indeed a very fine cook.  Damn near makes arroz con pollo as good as my own abuela.  And that’s saying something considering she’s not Cuban.”

Angela rolled her eyes. “Like I said, spare me.”  She swung her legs outside the covers and finally faced him directly, “So did you learn anything that can be useful or did you just feed your face?”

He’d let her insolence go, for now. “Indeed I did.  You may dye your hair blonde but you will never be Marah.  Not to Tony Santos.  He will not be easily led astray.”

A memory, one she had harbored close to heart for years flashed before her eyes.  She looked at Carlos and grinned mischievously, “You know who I really am don’t you?”

Carlos resisted the urge to roll his eyes.  Did she think he was an amateur?  That he wouldn’t get the facts, the real facts, on the people he was working with.  She was the one who was in the dark not him.  So instead he just shot her a look that said she wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all him. “I knew from the beginning.”

If he knew who she was than he knew what she was capable of.  Crossing her arms across her chest she continued to grin, “Tony Santos is just like every other man, easily led and easily broken.”

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