Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ – Chapter 4

Republisher’s Note: I’m so glad we were able to fill out the the first 3 chapters. I’m glad we can give you all of this fanfic. Michelle is remembering her long ago summer on her father’s ranch. I believe Part 18 is the last chapter, but if anybody has anymore please let me know.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 4

Michelle woke to the sounds of bustle and preparation outside her door. When she emerged, belting  her bath robe, she could hear the florists and caterers taking over the living room. Carmen’s voice dominated. Michelle bypassed the scene and entered the kitchen, where her father was nursing a cup of coffee morosely.

“I told Carmen we should have gone to the justice of the peace,” he said to Michelle. “Did you see the chaos in there?”

“I’m sure it will be lovely,” Michelle said soothingly.

Ed looked as though he wasn’t so sure.

Michelle went to get a glass of orange juice, and from the window over the sink she saw Danny  stacking a pile of bricks on the terrace next to the pool. “What’s Danny doing?” she said to her father.

“He’s clearing off the patio for this afternoon,” her father replied distractedly, wincing at a crash in the next room. He got up to investigate, and Michelle moved closer. Danny had removed his shirt, and the morning sun shone fully on his tanned torso as he shifted the stones. A thin stream of perspiration trickled down the middle of his back. Michelle watched for a long moment, then glanced over her shoulder to make sure her father was still occupied before she wandered outside.

“Good Morning,” she said to Danny, who looked up.

“Hi Michelle,” he said, unsmiling, wiping his forehead with the back of his arm.

“How long have you been out here?” Michelle asked.

“Oh, and hour or so, I thought I would make myself useful, before the big event. How are things inside?”

“Loud.”

He nodded. “When’s the wedding?”

“Two o’clock. Who’s coming?” Michelle shrugged. “I really don’t know. Some local people, friends of theirs, I guess.”

He didn’t look pleased at the prospect. In fact, neither of the men in the house seemed particularly delighted by the proceedings.

“Michelle, are you coming in for breakfast?” her father called from the doorway.

Michelle looked at Danny. “What about you?” she said.

“I’m okay,” he answered. Michelle turned and went in the house.

Rosa had arrived while Michelle was outside. She was a beautiful dark skinned woman in her late thirties, with waist length hair. She nodded at Michelle when they were introduced and went back to cooking breakfast. Michelle joined Carmen and her father at the table. They discussed the upcoming nuptials with varying degrees of enthusiasm throughout the meal. and by the time Michelle got up to put her plate in the sink, Danny was gone.

He did not reappear for the rest of the morning and around noon his mother started looking worried. Michelle went to her room to get ready. The trades people has all left and the house was curiously quiet, the calm before the storm. Michelle removed her dress from the closet and hung it on the back of the door. She examined herself in the mirror, studying her dark blond hair, and the slim legs reveled by her short robe. What did people see when they looked at her? A kid. Danny said, but was that really true? She sensed that the summer would forge a bridge between childhood and womanhood, and she felt poised on the brink of a new life.

She made up carefully and donned the expensive dress her brother would never have approved- a  strapless pale blue sheath with a cap sleeved bolero jacket. With the jacket, it was quite proper, without the possibilities for impropriety seemed endless. Michelle added a pair of white sandals, and pearls at her ears and throat, and she was ready.

Some of the guests were arriving, and Michelle’s father introduced her to a few of them. When there was a lull in the conversation, he took her aside and whispered, “Honey, see if you can locate Danny. We’re almost ready to do this thing and Carmen can’t find him.” Michelle nodded, slipping out the back door as soon as she had a chance. Rosa, standing at the kitchen counter glanced after her as she left.

Cars were lining up on the driveway and the bustle of activity was increasing. Michelle bypassed it, going straight to the guest house, which was empty. Danny’s suitcase was dumped on the floor, its contents spilling out, and the bed was rumpled. Michelle strolled around the grounds a bit more, but Danny was nowhere to be found. Time was passing and she went back to the house, signaling her father by shaking her head. He closed his eyes briefly, disengaged himself form a conversation, took Michelle’s arm and ushered her out the door again. “I knew he would do something like this”, Ed muttered. “We have to find him. Carmen will be devastated if he doesn’t stand up for us”. They widened the circle of exploration, proceeding down the back path to the staff houses and the horse stalls. They encountered nothing but empty space until Ed unbarred the door of the last stable.

Danny was sprawled in the hay, fully dressed in a dark suit. His eyes were closed. “Is he asleep”? Michelle asked anxiously, lifting her dress carefully out of the way and kneeling next to the inert man on the straw.

“He’s drunk,” Michelle’s father replied, pushing Danny to a sitting position and slapping his cheeks. A half empty bottle of bourbon rolled out from under him, dribbling dark liquid into the straw.

“Why?” Michelle asked.

Her father sighed. “I’m not sure, honey, but I can guess. He loved his dad a lot. I don’t’ think he can face his mother marrying someone else.” He shook the younger man briskly, and Danny mumbled, his eyelids fluttering.

“But he came here for the wedding,” Michelle protested. “And he likes you, I can tell.”

“He’s trying, Michelle,” Ed replied. “I know he wants his mother to be happy, but he’s been through such a lot. I guess this was just a little too much for him.” Ed propped Danny against the wall of the stall, and his head lolled.

“What has he been through?” Michelle asked, awed by the compassionate tone in her usually gruff father’s voice. Ed glanced at her as if to determine whether she could handle the information he was about to impart.

“He was raised from a boy, to kill”. Ed said flatly. “Him and his mother had to take over the handling of the business after Mr. Santos got murdered. “He was just a kid, a little younger than you. What he has seen, and had to do is heart wrenching. I’m telling you this to help you understand, but I don’t want you to mention it to him or anyone else, have you got that?”

“Yes,” Michelle murmured, swallowing. “But, how could he think that doing this would help?” she inquired after a thoughtful  pause.

“He isn’t thinking, he’s in a lot of pain. And not just about this wedding. Don’t be fooled by that smart aleck exterior.” He shook Danny again, and this time Danny came around, coughing and blinking. In the next instant Danny was on his feet and Ed was flung to the floor. Michelle jumped back, shocked as Danny grabbed her, his eyes wild. She would never forget the strength of his grip, the expression on his face, as he struggled back to full consciousness. He released her the instant her realized what he was doing.

“I’m sorry,” he gasped in confusion. “I didn’t mean to do that. Did I hurt you?” His hair was disheveled, littered with bits of hay, and his eyes were bloodshot. He had whiskey stains on his shirt and tie. Michelle shook her head, rubbing her bare arms where Danny’s fingers had bruised the flesh.

Her father struggled to his feet. He took Danny by the shoulders and said, “Take it easy. You’re safe, among your friends. We’ve got to get you straightened out before your mother sees you, okay?”

Danny passed a shaking hand over his forehead and nodded dumbly. His eyes returned to Michelle and dropped. He walked unsteadily to the wall a short distance away and stood with one hand flat against it, his head bent, silent.

“Is he alright?” Michelle asked in an undertone.

Ed nodded. “I think so. But if he’s like that drunk, I’d  hate to see the damage he could do when he’s sober.” He pushed back the sleeve of his jacket and glanced at his watch. “You go back, Dad,” Michelle said quickly, making a decision. “They’ll be looking for you, the minister will be here any minute. I’ll take care of Danny. I’ll get him together and we’ll both be there on time”.

Ed looked relieved for a split second before his expression changed to concern. “Are you sure you can handle him?” he asked, looking worriedly from one young person to the other.

“We’ll be fine” Michelle said, kissing his cheek hurriedly. “Just help me get him to the guesthouse and you can go ahead.”

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