Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 13

Republisher’s Note: Manny are fighting a fire during their marriage of convenience. — SORRY somehow missed this one, here it is, out of order. 😦

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 13

“Did you call the fire department?” Danny yelled to Carlo as he dashed through the door.

“First thing.”

Danny disappeared, calling back to Michelle, “Stay here.”

Michelle ignored him and followed on his heels, trailing the two men at a safe distance. It wasn’t difficult to stay behind them, they were running full out and she was hampered by a full skirt and heels. Hibiscus and jacaranda whipped against her legs, the shinning leaves cold and wet, as she circled the house in the thinning rain.

The roof of the stable was ablaze, spewing a funnel of thick smoke. But as the rain tailed off, the flames increased, and it was clear that the storm wouldn’t last long enough to put out the fire.

As Michelle got closer to the stable she could hear the fearful noise the horses were making, they could smell the smoke even though they couldn’t see the fire spreading from the roof.

Danny and Carlo were pulling open the double wooden doors, and as she watched, they ran to and fro, leading the stamping, frightened animals from the barn. Melody was the last to emerge, and Michelle could see that she was veering out of control, bucking wildly, her eyes rolling with terror. Danny was dragging on the tether, trying to handle her. He finally gave up and let her go.

Danny walked over to Michelle and said “I thought I told you to stay in the house.” They could hear fire engines screaming in the distance, coming closer.

“I was worried, I wanted to see what happened.”

Danny took her by the shoulders and looked down into her eyes. “Michelle, read my lips. I know you’ve made up your mind never to listen to a thing I say, but this is important. I don’t want you to get hurt. This fire could spread. Now go back to the house and stay there.”

Michelle obeyed reluctantly and then compromised by standing on the back terrace to watch while the two engines attacked the fire with powerful streams of water. The rain had stopped, but the droplets clung to all the plants and shrubs, bejeweling the foliage. A crescent moon emerged to hang over the landscape, veiled by smoke at first but becoming more visible as the fire subsided. The crews worked steadily to subdue the blaze, and after a few minutes Michelle went inside to make coffee.

It was almost and hour before the firemen started coming to the house for refreshments. They kept her busy dispensing drinks in the Styrofoam cups Rosa stocked, until only one man remained behind his colleagues returned to their truck.

Michelle glanced at him, lounging in the kitchen in his soot-stained clothes, and she looked at the clock. It was after one in the morning. “Is there something else I can get for you?” Michelle asked the fireman.

He shook his head, taking a last sip of the coffee. “So you’re the new missus, huh?” he said.

“That’s right,” Michelle replied wondering how many times she was going to have this conversation.

“We heard down at the firehouse that Danny got married. None of us could believe it.”

Michelle smiled vaguely, waiting for him to get on with the rest of it.

“Danny and I use to hoist a few together, back in his heavy drinking days,” the fireman said. “He said he was hurt once real bad, years ago, and I really thought that would put him off women forever.”

“Is that right?” Michelle said, listening closely now.

“Hey, maybe this is classified stuff and I should shut up. I’m Rob Harris, by the way.”

Michelle shook his extended hand. “Don’t be silly, Rob. I’m aware of my husband’s checkered past.”

“Oh, then you know that Girl Michelle really blew him out of the water.”

Rob was looking for a place to put his empty cup, or he would have noticed the stunned expression on Michelle’s face. She recovered and turned away from him, saying quietly. “I heard something about it. What did he tell you?”

Rob shrugged. “Not much. Enough to let me know he couldn’t forget her. He was drunk that night and never mentioned it again. He just said that she was younger, a kid really, and came into his life at a bad time. He let her go and he was always sorry about it.”

“Why didn’t he go after her later?” Michelle asked softly.

“Like I said, he only talked about it the one time. Maybe she married somebody else or something.”

“She didn’t,” Michelle said.

Rob looked at her.

“I’m Michelle.”

A huge grin split his grimy face. “You been leading me on, Huh?”

“A little,” she admitted

“Well, I’m sure glad you guys worked it out,” Rob said. “I can’t wait to go and talk to Dan—”

“Uh, Rob, don’t say anything to him please,” Michelle said, interrupting with her most potent smile. “We wouldn’t want to embarrass him or anything. He might feel funny if he knew we were discussing him behind his back.”

“Okay,” Rob said agreeably. He left and Michelle cleaned up the kitchen.

She was in a daze. She would never have believed that some casual remarks from a semi stranger could provoke such a reaction within her, but she felt that everything had changed.

Danny had wanted her and regretted letting her go. She had guessed it, hoped it, wondered about it during recent weeks, but now she was sure. Danny would have no reason to lie to his drinking buddy, especially while under the influence. Liquor had loosened Danny’s tongue, causing the buried truth to emerge.

About half an hour later Michelle heard the fire trucks leaving, and shortly after that Danny came back to the house.

“The fire’s out,” he announced. “We will need a new roof, but we saved the stable. The horses are bedded down in the other barns.”

“Danny, sit right here,” Michelle said firmly. “You’ve been overdoing it. You just had that fight and your ribs aren’t healed.”

He sat. “I’m all right,” he said wearily, closing his eyes.

“I can see that,” she replied dryly. She filled a cup with the last of the black coffee and put it in front of him.

“Drink that,” she said.

He raised the mug obediently to his lips and grimaced at the bitterness.

“It’s old,” Michelle explained. “I’ll make some fresh.”

He shook his head. “Don’t bother. I’m just going to bed, I think.” He stood, then sat down again, hard, looking puzzled.

“What is it?” Michelle asked.

“I’m tired, I guess,” Danny mumbled, rubbing his forehead.

“I’ll bet you are,” Michelle said grimly. But in a way she was glad for his distraction, she was feeling very nervous around him after her conversation with Rob Harris, but Danny was too exhausted to notice.

“I’ll turn down your bed for you,” Michelle said. “Just wait here until I come back.”

He didn’t reply, but he also didn’t look as though he was going to move. Michelle hurried down the hall and entered his room. She went over to the bed, pulled the spread down, folded it and placed it at the foot. There was a light summer blanked covering a sheet, and she turned them down invitingly.

She was gone no more than two minutes, but by the time she got back to the kitchen Danny was asleep in the chair. She shook his shoulder gently. His eyes lifted and he stared at her groggily.

“Time for bed,” she said.

He nodded and stood, and she walked with him down the hall. He sat on the edge of the bed, pulling off his shoes.

“You’re making a habit of this,” he said.

“What?”

“Putting me to bed.”

“Well, if you would take better care of yourself, I wouldn’t have to do it all the time.”

“I had to fight the fire,” he mumbled.

“I thought that’s what the fireman were supposed to do,” Michelle replied, unbuttoning his shirt.

“They did a great job, saved the stable,” he said, yawning and shrugging out of the sleeves.

“I met some of them at the house. I talked to your old friend Rob Harris.”

Danny smiled slightly. “How is Rob? I haven’t seen him a while.”

“He’s fine. He was surprised to hear you were married.”

“No more surprised than we were, huh?” Danny said, looking at her candidly.

Michelle put a forefinger against his shoulder and pushed. He fell back against the pillows, grabbing for her wrist. She eluded him, and as he sat up again, she slipped quickly through the door. “GO to sleep,” she said sternly, shutting off the light and pulling the door closed behind her.

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