What Matters Most~ Chapter Eighteen

Danny hadn’t slept much the night before and had ignored Michelle’s curious glances over coffee this morning. After so many years together Michelle and he didn’t even have to communicate with words sometimes, they just knew. Just like she sensed that his mood this morning had the hallmark traces of Tony drama. And this Tony drama found him storming into Infierno even earlier than usual. It also found him heading downstairs instead of up to his comfortable office as was his usual routine.

And just as he suspected. His target was waiting, almost sitting serenely, at one of their many tables nursing her own cup of coffee before they officially opened. It was almost as if she had been waiting for him. Well at least he didn’t have to hunt her down, she made his job a lot easier. “So you’re using the name Angela Coleman now?”

She took in his stormy disposition with a quirk of her lips. “Should have known it wouldn’t take long for him to rally the family.” The woman formally known as Eden rested her chin on her hands, “I have been a lot of names Danny, Angela Coleman is just the latest.”

“Let me guess, you’re back because Salerno is no longer a threat. Back to cause more trouble.”

“Among other things.”

If it was possible that infernal smirk of hers got even larger. Danny wasn’t up to playing her games, even more importantly he didn’t want to see his cousin caught in whatever it was she was planning. Not this time. Not when he had so much going for him. She may be playing coy but he was on to her now as he had been years ago, she came back to Springfield to get her claws into Tony. Not happening. He sat down across from her and stared her down. “Here’s how it’s going to be Angela or whatever it is you go by these days. You need to pack your things and get the hell out of Springfield. Preferably to crawl back under whatever rock you slithered out from under.”

Casually as ever Angela tossed her long hair over her shoulder and laughed. “I don’t think so Danny. You see, I have done nothing to warrant termination. You fire me and I will drag your ass into court so fast your head will spin. Even better? I will win.”

Danny stood up from the table and eyed her harshly. “I don’t know what game you are playing Eden but stay away from my family. You come near any of them and I will destroy you. Not even the witness protection program will be able to save you this time. You can count on that.”

Angela watched Danny exit the lounge with his air of superiority. She had never met a man who felt more in charge than Danny Santos, he wore that authority like a second skin. But she had never backed down from him before and she wasn’t going to now. Though at least she could thank Tony for one thing, at least now she could drop the pretense. She looked at herself in the mirror behind the bar. “Goodbye Angela Coleman. Welcome home, Eden August.”

***

Later that day the cousins Santos and Rafael had gathered in Danny’s office to discuss this latest development. But first they had to clue Rafael in on the rather unsavory history of Eden August. Especially her obsession with Tony.

Rafael lifted his eyebrow in question. “So let me get this straight, when you and Marah broke up you jumped into bed with this Eden person? This same woman who had basically thrown herself at you for the past few months?

Tony sighed heavily but didn’t dare meet the older man’s critical gaze. “Actually it was a roof. There was no bed involved. I was angry and hurt and it just…happened.”

The older man just grunted in disdain. “I just bet. So does Marah know? That this happened before or that she is back in town?”

Tony shook his head finally looking at the others. “Not that I know of. She may have suspected something when we first broke up but I never told her and neither did Eden. Believe it or not Eden felt guilty. Marah had been her only friend. And lord knows I couldn’t tell her what I had done. It would have destroyed her.”

Ray put a hand on his brother’s shoulder comfortingly. “I have always had faith in you and Marah’s love little brother. But Tony, you have to decide what matters most in your relationship .”

“She thinks I’m hiding something from her Ray. Hell I am! ” Tony wanted to hang his head and cry or even rip his office apart. In the deepest, darkest corner of his heart he wished he could go downstairs and rid them all of Eden August once and for all. Instead he just got up and began pacing from one end of Danny’s office to the other while the others talked around him.

Rafael looked at Danny a bit apologetically. “I did her background check myself. Nothing ever came up suspicious.”

Danny waved off his concern. “Not your fault. Angela Coleman was her name under the witness protection program. One of them at least, I am sure she had others. Their crafted identity wouldn’t raise any red flags.”

Rafael still didn’t look mollified but he continued. “What about her continued presence here at Infierno?”

Tony stopped his pacing to look at Danny who sadly shook his head. “Spoke to our lawyer this morning. We have no legal grounds to fire her and she was right, she could sue the pants off of us. And since Tony here is balking at telling Marah about this then there is only one thing we can do. Grin and bear it.” He pointed at Tony, “But I think it’s best that you reduce your time spent at the office. Convince Marah you are working from home because of the baby. You can knit baby blankets for all I care but you stay away from Eden August. We don’t need to welcome any more trouble.”

Tony hated that one mistake from years ago had snowballed into all these lies but he was determined to protect Marah. But Ray was right about one thing. He had to decide what matter most, keeping the past a secret and protecting Marah or revealing all and possibly ruining their future.

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