What Matters Most~Chapter Twenty-Eight

Sorry guys, This is the post the should have gone up on Friday instead of the short story.  The short story should have been for today. 

When Tony entered the kitchen he immediately spied Michelle nursing a cup of coffee. The very fact that she was up at this hour spoke volumes. “Had to wait for me to break that pesky doctor-patient confidentiality?”

Michelle simply looked at him sympathtically. “Perhaps. Then again it could be because I love your stupid ass.”

As if this day couldn’t get any worse, now he had offended Michelle. Tony went over and kissed the top of her head in apology. “Sorry. I am not exactly having the best day.”

Michelle knew Tony was hurting so she couldn’t hold his outburst against him. In the same situation she would be just as angry, lashing out at the world. She reached up and patted his hand. “We’ll help however we can Tony you have to know that.”

Not one to waste time Danny simply cut straight to the chase. “So you want to tell me why you were sitting in our driveway in the middle of the night?”

Tony had dreaded this moment, admitting to Danny just how badly he had messed up. “I met with Eden at Towers as planned. I tried to see what it would take to get her to leave town but that was a dead end. It was clear that money was not her objective. Next thing I know I am waking up in one of the rooms upstairs with Eden next to me and Marah standing in the doorway.” He hung his head in agony. Seeing the anger and disappointment in Danny’s eyes would be the icing on this awful day.

“What it would take to get Eden to leave town? Tony tell me you’re not that stupid!”

At his side Michelle gasped admonishingly. “Danny! Don’t kick him when he’s already down.”

“Maybe that’s what he needs, maybe it would knock some sense into him!” He turned the full brunt of his anger towards his cousin who still sat motionless. Tony was the poster child of abject mistery but he wasn’t going to be deterrred. Danny didn’t know why Eden continued to be a foil for Tony but clearly that was still the case or he wouldn’t be sitting in his kitchen looking like someone just kicked his puppy. It was time for Tony to wise up and Danny was just the guy to do it. “You know damn good and well what it would take for Eden to leave town! You to leave Marah and be with her. Is that what you want?”

“Hell no!” Tony finally looked up at his cousin his voice reflecting his own anger, both at the situation and the question, “How could you even ask me that?”

“Well,” Danny said with a frown, “this is the second time you have let Eden screw with your relationship with Marah. This time you are married with a child on the way. What if Marah doesn’t take you back? Have you thought of that?”

“Of course I have! That’s all I think of. I can’t lose her Danny.” Suddenly feeling suffocated Tony got up and went to the large window that faced out into the back yard. It was pitch black outside preventing him from seeing anything beyond the patio but he wasn’t interested in the view. This situation had gotten out of control and now he faced losing what mattered most, the love of his life and what they had built together. “I wish I could remember how I got in that room. But a lot of that night is just…gone. I can remember sitting there thinking it felt like someone cranked up the heat. And the people around us started sounded funny. Like they were yelling down a long tunnel or something. Next thing I know I am waking up next to Eden with a headache the size of Texas and no memory of how I got there.”

From the table Michelle shot her husband a look before she stood and went over to Tony. Placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder she turned him to face her. “Do you think it is possible you were drugged?”

***

Eden had just exited the bathroom and was still towling her hair dry when she noticed Carlos lounging on her bed. With a sigh of frustration she flung the wet towel his way. “Still haven’t learned to knock I see.”

Carlos just laughed as he tossed the offending terrycloth material away and onto the floor. “I did. You didn’t answer.”

“That usually implies that one isn’t available. For you, however, that means enter and make yourself at home.”

Carlos just shrugged nonchalantly. “Maybe I was concerned about your welfare.”

“Yeah I bet.” Eden simply rolled her eyes and pointed to her freshly dyed hair. “I decided it was time to go back to my natural color.”

“Time to stop trying to emulate Marah you mean?” Carlos eyed the change with critical eyes before nodding. “It suits you. So how did you’re meeting with Tony go? Was it everything you dreamed it would be?”

“Trust me, when Tony comes to me freely I won’t have to resort to such frat boy means to get him where I want him.” The sarcasm practically radiated off her in waveds but still Eden grinned in triumph. “Everything went according to plan though. I still don’t understand why we have to wait. They are separated, we could easily get what we both want.”

“We go forward when I say so.” Carlos held his frustration in check. Barely. Her impulsivity was a liability not a helpmate. But still his tone had just enough bite to remind her who was in charge, and it wasn’t Eden August.

Eden ground her teeth together in frustration but nodded her agreement. She would bide her time even if she hated it.

***
“Drugged?” Tony shook his head in astonishment, “When would she have gotten the chance? I already had my drink when she arrived.”

Danny lifted an eyebrow in question. “Maybe she had help from someone. A waitress? The bartender? You of all people know how persuasive she can be. Hell she used to take pictures of men in compromising situations for money!” He stood to join the others, particularly Michelle. This was her area of expertise. “Honey it hasn’t been 24 hours yet. Do you think if she slipped him something it would still be detectable?”

Michelle seemed to think about it before nodding. “Danny you are quite the genius! Just one of the many reasons why I married you. I’ll be right back.”

She wasn’t gone five minutes when she returned with a vintage doctor bag, it’s black leather practically shining in the bright kitchen lights. Despite the seriousness of the situation Tony whistled. “Impressive bag there doc.”

Michelle beamed as she turned it for further inspection. “My darling husband got it for me when I finished medical school. See, he even had it monogrammed.” Indeed on the front was scripted in perfect lettering Dr. Michelle Bauer-Santos.

She reached inside and extracted a sterile syringe which she deftly unwrapped. In her element she cleaned a spot on Tony’s arm with an alcohol whipe before warning him. “Deep breath.” The needle piercing his skin couldn’t hurt him, he was hurting enough already, but he did as he was told. All he had was hope, hope that this would provide some answers.

Michelle finished in a flourish, capping off her syringe and placing a bandaid over his skin. “I will send this to the lab first thing in the morning. In the mean time go bunk down in the guest room.”

Tony wanted to protest. What if Marah came home? He needed to see her. Talk to her. At least at home he was surrounded by her, by them, even if the reminders cut him down to his soul. But before he could open his mouth Danny held up a hand forestalling him. “Don’t argue. At least if you are here Marah can move back home. Then Rafael can keep an eye on here and make sure she is safe. As much as I love Reva and Josh, having that man at my back makes even me feel secure.”

Toby couldn’t refute that logic. There was no doubt that Rafael was a hard man except to those he considered family. And due to fate, or maybe sheer dumb luck Rafael had come into Tony’s life. Now he was as close to family as Danny and Ray. Tony gathered Danny close for some masculine back slapping. “Thanks Danny.” Then he turned and kissed Michelle’s forehead. “And you? I owe you more than I can say.”

Michelle held him tight. Reassuring him that he was not alone in his fight. “We’ll figure this out Tony. I know it.”

Tony held on to her optimism. But deep down he wished he was as confident as Michelle was.

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