What Matters Most~ Chapter Twenty-Three

The next morning Tony was bleary-eyed as he stared into his second cup on coffee. Danny, Rafael, and he had been up to nearly one o’clock strategizing until he finally dragged his exhausted butt home. He had gotten maybe five hours of sleep before was finally awoken by nerves and an even more disturbing emotion, guilt.

He had run out on Marah last night after had gotten that text message. She was going to be spitting mad this morning and he was going to have to grovel his heart out. When all this was over and they could go back to being the happy duo they were destined to be he could finally breathe easier.

“Who is she?”

The harsh words were so unexpected Tony jumped and sloshed his scalding hot coffee on his hand. But he ignored the sting. He was more focused on what Marah had said. “What?”

“I said,” Clearly Marah wasn’t just mad she was scathing mad. “Who is she? Because that is the only explanation I could come up with for why you would forgo sex with me and leave home in the middle of the night.”

Tony quickly got to his feet but when he tried to approach his wife she backed away. This was not just bad this was epic bad. “Marah I swear. I would not cheat on you.”

Marah kept the kitchen island between them as she made her way to the back door and grabbed her car keys. “Sweet words Tony. But I don’t believe you.”

She opened the door with such force Tony was surprise it didn’t fly off its hinges and he became desperate. “Marah please,” He slowly moved towards her keeping his voice gentle. “Let’s talk about this. This stress can’t be good for the baby.”

She whirled on him a mass of wounded fury. “How dare you! I was left waiting for you in our bed last night Tony while you crept out of here like a sneak. I told Michelle that you were hiding something from me but I never expected this.”

The sight of the tears forming in her eyes was like a punch to Tony’s gut. He had done this to her. Worse is that he couldn’t blame Eden. He could have come clean and dealt with her fury weeks ago but in trying to spare his wife pain he had ended up causing her even more. Her thinking he was cheating on her was just the tip of the iceberg. If he told the truth about Eden now it would play in to her suspicions perfectly. He was well and truly screwed. “Marah when I told you that you were the one for me the night I took you to prom I meant it. Nothing has changed. Even now. You will always be the one for me. Why would I cheat on you when you are the only one I need?”

“Yeah I was the one for you. You slept with Catalina how long afterwards?”

Direct hit. Marah wasn’t pulling punches if she was bringing up Catalina, his first big mistake. “We both made mistakes Marah but we still loved each other. Have we ever stopped?”

Marah’s mask of fury crumpled into one of sadness. The keys fell from her hand as she brought both of them up to cover her eyes. Her shoulders shook as she began sobbing. “No I never stopped loving you.”

Unable to stop himself Tony went to Marah and pulled her into his arms. He kissed her forehead and cheeks, tasting the salt of her tears. Brushing the hair off her forehead he looked into her eyes and smiled. “You are mi Corazon. Without you I am nothing.”

Marah reached up anchoring her hands to his that were framing her face. Tony pulled her in close, tucking her in tight to him. “I met with Danny and Rafael at Infierno. Last minute powwow before his business meeting.”

Marah pulled back and looked at him earnestly. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

He kissed her tenderly then with all the unleashed passion he felt for her. That he’d always felt for Marah. Forever. “Never mi vida.”

***
When Tony entered the Towers’ lounge his focus zeroed in on Bill Lewis who looked liked he was trying to drown his troubles in the bottom of a bottle of Budlight. As if this day could get any worse. Now he had Marah’s family as witnesses.

He joined Bill at the bar and signaled to the bartender indicating he’d take a beer. This day called for whiskey but he needed to keep his faculties about him. “Hey Bill.”

It took the other man several minutes to acknowledge his presence. As if he were too caught up in the answers the amber depths provided. “Tony. So did you hear? Eden is back on town.” Bill punctuated the question by chugging the rest of his drink and signaling for another.

“Yeah I heard.” If Bill only knew.

“She came by the house. My house man. Where I live with my wife and kids. Said she wanted to ‘catch up’ whatever that means. Lizzie nearly had a fit.”

Tony kept silent a took a drink of his beer. He didn’t know Elizabeth that well but from what he remembered having fits was a specialty of hers. Though he couldn’t fault Bill for wanting to protect his wife and kids, he himself was doing the same thing.

Bill turned his tipsy eyes towards Tony and sighed. “I never told Marah about you and Eden in case you were wondering.”

Well hell. If it was possible to feel lower than dirt Tony felt it now. “It was a mistake that never should have happened. I love Marah, I always have.”

He nodded. “I know.  Why do you think I never told her?  But just so you know, if you hurt her again I will personally round-up every Lewis male to kick your ass.” Though Bill’s tone remained friendly considering what had happened Tony knew he meant every word.  The Lewis men didn’t play.

Toby saluted him with his beer. “Duly noted.”

Bill finished his beer and threw some cash on the bar. But before he left he turned to Tony. “I don’t envy you. Because even though she toyed with me I could tell I was just that, a toy. My guess is you are the prize.”

Toby gritted his teeth. Bill was hitting too close to home. “Well she won’t win. I won’t let her.”

Bill slapped him on the shoulder. “Watch your back. Like Eden itself, there are snakes just waiting to strike if you’re not careful.”
***
Like Eden itself there are snakes just waiting to strike….” Tony polished off his beer with Bill’s words echoing in his head.  If only Bill had any idea how appropriate those words were, how close they hit to home.

The same bartender from the other night, John something or other, placed another drink in front of him. Without looking Tony in the eye he mumbled a terse, “Sorry man.” then walked off.

Before Tony could question the comment Eden was sidling up next to him at the bar. “Hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

Well it looked like it was game.  Tony gestured to the neighboring tables. “How about we move away from the crowded bar.  Or do you want half of Springfield to know how you are destroying my life?”

Despite his animosity Eden smiled coyly. “By all means Tony.  Lead the way.”

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