A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Thirty-One (Part Three)

Tony coughed and sputtered as the beer he had been drinking went down the wrong pipe.  Tristan placed a surprised hand to her chest and fluttered her eyelashes, “I’m sorry Tony, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Madre di Dios!” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “No.” He tried to catch his breath to continue, “Make that a hell no!”  Tony shook his head at the absurdity of the very idea.  Not only was Tony married but he was her employer, which just added to the “Skeeze” factor of the situation.  Here he was trying to save his marriage not tear it to shreds and set it on fire.

Tristan just shrugged innocently, “I just didn’t want to bother Jonathan while he was eating.  I am taking over babysitting duties at the pool so that the adults can eat.” She smiled sweetly, “But I understand.  It probably wasn’t appropriate and I’m sorry.”

When she indicated the pool behind her,  Tony saw the area was swarming with kids of various ages.  Which made him feel even worse, here she was trying to be nice and he was thinking she was coming on to him.  “Yeah probably not a good idea.  I’ll just go over and see if Jonathan is done and send him over.”  Without waiting for a reply he headed off towards the tables.

***

Marah didn’t know how moms did this and make it look so effortless.  She balanced Lanie on her one leg while trying, and mostly failing, to feed herself.  She had managed to drop more food on herself than her infant daughter.

“Here. Let me hold her.” Tony sad beside her and held out his arms toward the baby.  He looked past Marah at Jonathan, “Tristan needs your assistance if you are done.”

Jonathan looked across the yard at his date and smiled at the sight of her in her bikini.  Standing up he grinned at the rest of his family members, “When duty calls.”

But Marah didn’t take her eyes off of her husband who was making goofy faces at their daughter which made her squeal with laughter.  Tony looked up when he sensed she was staring, “What?  Do I have something on my face?”

Marah smiled serenely, “I was just thinking you are a really great dad.”

Tony looked down at Lanie who was currently trying to see if she could move her foot into her mouth and then back at his wife, “Thanks.  But I think she might just be a really great baby.”

Marah opened her mouth to respond when she realized the general chatter at the table had stopped.  Looking over her shoulder she saw that her entire family sat at rapt attention, watching the exchange between Tony and herself.  At least most of them had the decency to look away guiltily after having been caught gawking.  But not her mother, Reva just rested her chin in her folded hands, “Don’t mind us.”

Josh elbowed his wife gently, “Come on, let’s leave these two in peace.”  Without waiting for his wife’s objections Josh gathered Reva’s hand in his and pulled her away towards where an enthusiastic game of washers was currently underway.

Tony looked down and Lanie and back at his wife, “I saw Dr. Feel Good talk to you earlier.”

Instantly Marah’s hackles rose. “He apologized for crossing the line the other night.” Marah paused to sip her ice water, she had been avoiding alcohol like the plague since that night, “I accepted since it was partially my fault.”

Tony nodded, “Okay.”

Not exactly the response Marah had expected from her husband. He had given the guy a black eye after all, “Good?”

“Yeah” Tony nodded then plucked a stray piece of cantaloupe off Marah’s plate.  He chewed and swallowed before continuing, “He should have apologized.  You were inebriated and he wasn’t.”

Marah crossed her arms across her chest, “That is downright reasonable of you Tony Santos.”

“This separation thing has given me a lot of time to think, ” He shrugged, “When it comes to you and Lanie I am not going to lie, I will probably always lash out first at anything I see as a threat.  That’s just who I am, who I’ve always been.  But I also know you can handle things yourself.  You were the one wronged by Richard Salas and it is your decision whether to forgive him or not.”

Marah was silent as she digested what Tony was saying.  She couldn’t stop herself from reaching over and rubbing her hand along his cheekbone.  “If we are being honest here, the separation idea was stupid.  I just wanted you to see that you can tell me things and I can handle it.  That we are better together, not when you keep secrets from me.”

Tony grabbed her soft hand in his and brought it to his lips. “When a man is given the life he had always dreamed of that man does whatever he can to hold that world with everything he has.”

“Tony you think it is any different for me?  You were always my dream and I would follow you into the gates of hell to fight for us.”

Tony smiled, “You been talking to Michelle?  That moment in Danny and Michelle history has become something of a legend.”

“Maybe a little,” Marah laughed, “It’s a good line for us Santos women.”

“Perhaps,” He leaned past their daughter and placed a chaste kiss on his wife’s lips.  It wasn’t nearly enough, not after the weeks they had spent apart, but he could hardly ravish her in the Bauer’s backyard, “And while w are on the subject of full disclosure Tristan asked me to help her with her suntan lotion.  She didn’t mean anything by it but it just struck me as odd.”

Marah was barely listening, something as small as a kiss had her brain going to mush.  But she lifted an eyebrow in question, “She came on to you?”

Tony shook his head, “She said she didn’t want to bother Jonathan while he was eating.  But it didn’t seem appropriate.”

“You’re right. And thank you for telling me.” Lanie chose that moment to lose interest in her foot and started screaming as if her small world was in ruins. Marah reached out and scooped up the baby, “Someone must need a diaper change.  I’ll be right back.”

Tony reached out and snagged her hand before she walked off, “Want to watch the fireworks with me Mrs. Santos?”

For the first time in weeks Marah’s heart felt light as air.  Leaning down she laid her own chaste kiss on her husband’s lips, “It’s a date.”

***

Reva held out her hand, “Pay up guys.”

With some good-natured grumbling Josh, Shayne, and Danny opened their wallets and each handed over a twenty. Reva pocked the money with glee and smiled at the others, “Never bet against a mama boys.”

Danny laughed but had to ask, “How did you know?  I mean we all thought the semi-separation wouldn’t work but how did you know those two would finally come to their senses?”

Reva smiled, “Marah is hard headed sometimes but eventually she comes around.”

Michelle came over and rested her hand on Danny’s shoulder, “And you Santos men know how to get your way.”

***

Richard Salas leaned against a tree trunk watching the festivities slowly unwind.  As the food clean up began and the kids exited the pool in anticipation of the firework show that rumor had it was ‘unbelievable’.  But his focus was on one brunette who was trying her best to ignore he was there.  “You know I am not going away.”

Tristan whirled around to face him, “Look I dangled the bait out but Tony wasn’t biting.”  She looked around her to make sure they were alone, “I will give it a few days and try again.”

Pushing off the tree Richard stalked towards his prey, “You are going to have to do better than parading around in a bikini Tris and you know it.”

“Look, I know what I’m doing,” She pinned him with a look, “It worked on you didn’t it?”

“True.  But I didn’t have quite as much to lose.”

***

From across the yard Rafael watched as the good Doctor chatted up Tony and Marah’s nanny.  Something was off with those two.  He was going to have to keep his eye on that one.  Finishing his beer he threw it in a nearby trashcan.  After all, that is what honorary grandfathers did.

***

From their spot in the yard Tony sat with Marah between his upturned knees.  And from her lap Lanie sat pointing at the colors exploding in the sky.  For the first time in weeks he felt like he could breathe.  Tony reflexively tightened his arms around his girls.  For the first time in weeks Tony felt peace.

History had shown him that peace usually came with a price.

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