Archive for the ‘Manny Fanfic’ Category

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 9

November 23, 2015

Republisher’s Note: Still in the present Danny and Michelle aren’t talking, so they don’t know that each one of the individually want to make their marriage real. There is a Manny wedding tonight, but sadly we don’t see much of it.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 9

Michelle showered and was brushing her hair in the bedroom the next morning when Rosa knocked on her door. “Come in,” Michelle called. Rosa entered carrying a cup of coffee.

“Thanks,” Michelle said, accepting it. “I didn’t know you were coming in this morning.”

“I thought I’d better stop by and see how things were going,” Rosa said nervously.

“Have you seen Danny?” Michelle asked, her eyes meeting Rosa’s over the rim of the cup. Rose nodded. “Where is he?”

“Waiting in the living room. He’s all dressed.”

“Already? How does he seem?”

“He seems tense. He looks gorgeous.” Michelle shook her head and smiled. “You look beautiful, ” she said to Michelle, who stared at herself in the mirror.

“Too bad this is such a farce,” Michelle said, applying her lipstick.

“You’ll get through it,” Rosa said firmly.

Danny rose as Michelle entered the living room. His eyes moved down, taking in her outfit, and up again to her face. “You look nice”, he said briefly. So did he. He was wearing a dark suit. His hair was wet with recent combing and his shoes were polished to a high gloss. “Be right back,” he said and went to the kitchen. When he returned he was carrying a florist box. “Here,” he said, handing it to Michelle. She took it, surprised. “I thought you should have that,” he said obviously uncomfortable. Inside was a small arrangement of irises and carnations.

“This is the same bouquet I had for my father’s wedding,” Michelle said in wonderment, lifting the spray out of the tissue paper and holding it to her nose.

He nodded. “You chose them before, so I knew you would like it.”

Michelle glanced at Rosa, who raised her brows. He had remembered a detail like that all these years?

He cleared his throat. “We better go,” he said.

The drive to the municipal building was brief, and Danny and Michelle signed the necessary papers in minutes. She had brought her blood test results with her, and the license was issued. Two clerks were the witnesses, and afterward their congratulations rang hollowly in Michelle’s ears. Her expression must have shown what she was thinking, because Danny said as they left, “Not exactly what you had in mind for your wedding, was it?” Michelle didn’t answer. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“It’s all right”, Michelle replied. “I understood what was going to happen when I came out here. It’s just that it all seemed so…”

“Cold?” he suggested.

“Yes, it did,” Michelle replied.

She left her flowers on the passenger seat and followed him into the restaurant. When they were seated and had ordered. Danny said, “There’s a problem you should be aware of in connection with the ranch. A couple of developers, Citrus Farms, and Sun City Homes, have been competing to buy it for a while.”

“Why do they want it?”

“The property around here has become very valuable in the last few years. The town is within commuting distance and the scenery is pretty. The schools are good. The developers have been moving in quick. They want to put subdivisions of tract houses on ranch land.”

“My father would have hated that,” Michelle said softly.

“He always refused to sell. The developers started in on me as soon as he died. When they find out about this wedding , they’re going to be after you, too. They’re offering a lot of money.”

“And you don’t want to sell?” Michelle asked.

“Do you?” Danny replied.

“I don’t know, I just got here, I really don’t know what’s going on,” Michelle said.

He lifted one shoulder. “This ranch is my life, but you may feel differently. You may want to take the money and go back to Springfield. In any case, once we inherit, they’ll have to deal with us together. One parcel is no  good without the other.”

“So you want us to stick together, is that it?”

“Do you want to see a bunch of stucco bread boxes sitting on your Dad’s place?” he countered.

“Ross Marler didn’t say anything about this to me,” Michelle said as the waitress brought their coffee.

“He doesn’t know.”

“But you said you had spoken to him.”

“I didn’t tell him,” Danny replied, taking a sip of his drink.

“Why didn’t you tell me before the wedding?”

“I didn’t want you to change your mind,” he said evenly.

“In other words, you tricked me.”

“How did I trick you?” he replied equably. “The terms of the will would have been the same. I just didn’t inform you that there were buyers out there waiting in case you wanted to sell.”

“You should have gone to law school,” Michelle muttered, and the trace of a smile flickered across his lips.

The waitress brought their food, but Michelle had no appetite. She cut her pancakes into little sections and rearranged them on her plate until Danny said,”You really should eat some of that.”

“Now you sound like Rosa.”

“Rosa’s right. You’ve gotten skinny.”

Michelle stared at him, annoyed. “Haven’t you heard that it’s chic to be thin?” she demanded, somewhat misleadingly. A desire to be stylish was not the reason for her slenderness. Since learning about the will, she hadn’t been able to eat much in anticipation of this reunion.

“Where? In Springfield?” he said the word as though it were a disease.


“You weren’t’ always so skinny,” he said, biting into a piece of toast.

“I was chubby ten years ago.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Really?” she said, holding his gaze, and he looked away.

“How did you get the time to come here?” he asked after she had returned her attention to the decorative placement of her food.

“I took a leave of absence.”

“On such a short notice?”

“They owed me several vacations.”

“You work for the D.A’s office?”


“Prosecuting murder cases.”

“They’re not all murder cases, but the one I just finished was…How did you know?”

“Marler told me.”

Ross Marler seems to have developed a sudden case of bigmoutitis, Michelle thought. He had babbled quite a few details to Danny, who in return had apparently told him nothing.

“Did you win?” Danny asked.


“Why not?”

She looked at him. That sounded like a challenge.

“It’s complicated,” she said.

“Try me,” he said tightly. “I may surprise you by being able to comprehend more than you think.”

Michelle hesitated. She hadn’t meant to insult his intelligence. He was certainly prickly.

“Well, we wanted a conviction on murder one, premeditation. That carries the maximum penalty,” she explained. “Frankly, I thought the guy deserved it, he seemed to have planned it all and taken his time setting it up. But his lawyer was able to get the charge knocked down to third degree, with a sentence of fifteen to twenty, eligible for parole after five. The defense hit heavily on the defendant’s service record and his work history. The guy had an honorable discharge from the navy and had held the same job for ten years, but that didn’t convince me he couldn’t have killed his girlfriend.”

“He must have convinced the jury,” Danny said.

Michelle shook her head. “No. He was a poor witness.”

“Then what happened?”

“The evidence made his girlfriend , the victim, sound like a tramp, and the jurors didn’t like what they heard about her. They decided that a tart like that deserved to die, so they weren’t going to sentence her boyfriend to death for finally getting fed up with her.”

Danny stared at her, shocked.

“It’s the truth, “Michelle said shrugging. “I tried to control the jury during voir dire…

“What’s that?”

“The questioning of prospective jurors, the jury selection process. The people I liked kept coming up with reasons to be excused from duty, and I was discounting too many possibilities. The judge censured me for wasting time, so I wound up with an unbalanced jury. It was bad from the start.”

“Does that happen often?”

“Too often.”

Danny shook his head.

“It isn’t always like that,” Michelle amended quickly, “There are good moments too.

Danny nodded.

“I wish we could do more, but we do what we can,” Michelle said.

“My mother always wanted to be a nurse,” Danny said softly. “But after my dad died, she gave it all up.

“I didn’t know that. By the way, you’ve done wonders with the place,” Michelle said grudgingly. “I can tell just by looking around that it’s very successful.”

“We’re doing all right,” he said shortly.

Michelle smiled, making a pancake dam to contain a burgeoning river of syrup. “Remember when you taught me to ride?”

He grinned, the first genuine smile she’d seen since she arrived. “How could I forget?” he said. “The first time you sat on the horse you fell off into the dirt.”

“Lightning. He was old and slow.”

“Lightning was slow when he was a year old. He lived to be twenty. Miguel was always talking about putting him down, but we both knew we’d never do it. He died in his sleep. After a huge meal, of course.” He drained his coffee cup. “Did you keep up with the riding?” he asked.

Michelle sighed. “I’m ashamed to tell you this, but I haven’t been on a horse since I was last in Europe.”

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I never saw anybody who wanted to learn so much.”

“It did mean a lot to me, and I always appreciated your help, but when I got to school other things became more important. You know how it is.”

He nodded slowly. “Want to do something about it?”

“What do you mean?”

“We can go for a ride when we get back, I’ll take you around the place, and show you some of the changes.”

“Danny, I’d fall off the horse again, I know it.”

“No, you won’t. It’s just like riding a bike.”

“I don’t have any riding clothes.”

“I’ve got some.”

“To fit me?”


Michelle tried to think of another objection and couldn’t. “You’d better call the paramedics and tell them to be on the alert,” she said as he called for the check.

“You’ll be fine”

“Only if you resurrect Lightning.”

“I’ve got another one just as slow.”

“Impossible. What’s its name?”


Michelle laughed. “Are you kidding me?”

“I am not.”

They went back to the car, and on the drive home Danny outlined the changes he’d made in the ranch operation, how he’d streamlined the purchasing and hired new vets to supervise the breeding of the horses. It was clearly a subject he loved, and Michelle just let him talk, wondering how any developer in the world thought he was going to get this man to sell to him.

When they got back to the house, Danny took her to the storage closet next to the garage and said, “There’s a box of riding clothes on the floor. See if you can find something to fit you.” He went to change.

Curious, Michelle took the container he had indicated to her room and sifted through it, amazed to discover an assortment of pants and shirts in various sizes, even a couple of leather belts. Where on earth had he got this stuff?

She selected a loose shirt and a pair of pants that were a little too big and cinched them with one of the belts. Danny was waiting for her in the living room when she emerged. “Whose clothes are these?” Michelle asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Danny, is the stuff in that box your bimbo bin?”

He stared at her. “My what?”

“Castoffs from your old girlfriends, things they left around that you just didn’t bother to return.”

He shook his head. “Michelle, I told you that Miguel runs a riding school now. Sometimes the students leave things behind and don’t come back for them. We save everything in there in case they come looking for what they left. That’s all.”

Michelle could feel herself flushing. “Oh,” she said in a small voice. Why on earth had she made such a big deal about it?

“There are boys clothes in there, too,” he said gently.

Michelle looked down at the shirt she was wearing. It had seemed odd when she was dressing, the buttons were on the wrong side.

“Ready”? he said looking at her. Michelle followed him to the stable, where he led her to a horse that looked almost as phlegmatic as lightning. He was methodically swatting flies with his tail and surveyed her with exquisite boredom.

“I take it this is Thunderbolt,” she said.

“Well, yes it is,” Danny said.

“Maybe I can handle something a little more lively,” she ventured bravely.

“You could?” Danny said looking down at her.

“I’d like to try.”

“Fine with me,” he readied another horse, named Melody, and helped Michelle into the saddle. His hands lingered at her waist no longer than necessary, and she felt perversely disappointed.

He followed Michelle out on his own horse and took her on a tour of the ranch, ending at the old stable where Miguel gave lessons. Michelle had done pretty well riding up until then, but Miguel had neglected to tell Danny that he’d been teaching Melody how to jump. When the horse saw a stanchions, she charged forward through the open gate and ran for the jump. Michelle hung on, but she had never jumped an obstacle in her life. When the horse went over, she went down, landing in a undignified heap on the ground.

Danny pulled up and leaped off his horse while it was still moving. He ran to Michelle’s side and took her face in his hands. “Are you all right?” he demanded, his expression anxious. She nodded. The wind was knocked out of her and she couldn’t talk, but otherwise she felt okay.

“Just stay here” he said. “I have to get the horses.”

She nodded again, and he took off. She watched as he tied the horses to the tress.

He returned and knelt next to Michelle in the grass.

“How are you doing? Can you try to walk?”

“All right,” she said breathlessly. He helped her to her feet, but when she tried to put weight on her left foot she cried out in pain. “Guess not,” she gasped. He scooped her up in one smooth movement and carried her to a huge tree that that bordered the ranch property. He held her for a few seconds, but it was enough for all the sense memories of the last time she was in his arms to come rushing back. The sensation was the same, but intensified.

Even his smell was familiar. She closed her eyes. Oh, Danny she thought.

He knelt and set her own the ground. “Better?” he said. “That sun was too hot?”

“This is fine.” She looked around her. “I used to picnic under this tree.”

“Let me see your ankle,” Danny said. He removed her shoe and sock and manipulated the joint. “Does that hurt?” he asked anxiously.

“A little. Not bad.”

“I don’t think that it’s broken,” he pronounced. “Just sprained. It may bruise, we better put some ice on it when we get back.”

She nodded.

“So,” he said, sitting next to her with his back against the tree, “I guess Melody wasn’t such a great idea, Huh?” His expression was teasing.

Michelle smiled ruefully. “I didn’t know she was trying out for the Olympic equestrian team.”

“Miguel must have been using her in his classes. I’ll have to talk to him. Apparently she’s too undisciplined for that.”

“Now you tell me,” Michelle said.

“I thought she was all right for you,” he said, turning his head to look at Michelle. “She always seemed pretty docile.”

“I guess she just likes to jump.”

“Horses can be like women that way,” he said softly. “They seem restrained, but when they see what they want, they go for it.” He was very near, close enough for her to see the gold flecks in his eyes.

“I tried once,” Michelle said. “It doesn’t always work.”

He dropped his eyes and stood. “We should go back to the house. Dr. Jensen can take a look at that ankle.”

“Dr. Jensen is a vet.”

“So, a doctor is a doctor, he can tell if the bone is broken, your father was a people doctor, and that didn’t stop him from taking care of the animals when he couldn’t get in touch with a vet.”

“You said it wasn’t broken,” she said.

“I said I thought it wasn’t. I’m not a doctor. I’ll get my horse, we can ride back double. I’m not taking any more chances with Melody, I’ll send somebody out for her later.”

I guess I brought that conversation to an abrupt end, Michelle thought morosely as she watched him walk away. Obviously any reference, no matter how oblique, to that last night ten years earlier was going to be met with silence. He returned with the horse and mounted, pulling her up behind him. Michelle remembered the last time she had traveled this way, but this trip was a lot more sedate. He kept the horse at an even canter all the way back and carried her into the house. “Just stay there, don’t try to walk,” he said as he deposited her on the living room sofa.

“Yes, sir,” Michelle replied and saluted.

“I will see if Jensen is still in the stables. He was supposed to give the horses their shots today,” he said and left.

Michelle’s ankle was beginning to throb, and she was contemplating disobeying ordered and hobbling to the bathroom for aspirin, when she heard voices. Danny entered the back door followed by Dr. Jensen. “She’s in here,” Danny said, leading the way. Dr. Jensen, a handsome man in his fifties, surveyed the patient with a critical eye.

“George,” Danny said. “This is my wife, Michelle.”

Michelle almost fainted. She glared at Danny while Jensen bent over her foot, saying. “Congratulations, Mrs. Santos. What a terrible thing to happen on your wedding day.”

Danny, who was pretending not to notice Michelle’s reaction, said, “It isn’t broken, is it?”

“No, no. But its a pretty bad sprain, and once the shock wears off it will be painful,” the doctor said. “Are you feeling it yet?”

“A little,” Michelle said. “Do you have any painkillers here?”

“This is an opiate, ” the doctor said. “People take them all the time. You won’t be able to sleep without them.” Michelle swallowed two of the pills. “Make sure she takes two every four hours,” Jensen said. “And put some ice on that foot.”

“I will,” Danny assured him. “It’s a sorry night to spend your wedding night,” the doctor said sympathetically.

“There will be other nights,” Danny said, and Michelle wanted to hit him.

After the doctor left, Michelle hissed, “Why did you tell him that we were married?”

“We are married.”

“You know what I mean. I thought we agreed that we were going to handle this discreetly.”

“What was I supposed to do?” Danny asked. “He knows that you are staying here with me.”

“Danny, I remember my father talking about that man. Dad said that he’s a nice guy, but he spreads information around. Everybody for miles around will know we’re married now.”

“Maybe that’s better. How could you live in this house without an explanation? What would people think?”

“What would people think?” Michelle repeated, staring at him.

“Danny Santos, you’re talking to me, the person who put you back together after more drunks and fights that I care to remember. You were the scandal of the community for years. You expect me to believe that you suddenly care what people think?”

“Maybe I’m changing my image,” he said mildly, propping her leg on a pillow. Michelle eyed him narrowly as he fussed over her.

There was a reason for what he had done, and she was certain it had nothing to do with his concern about their reputations.

“I will get the ice,” he said and rose to go to the kitchen. She listened to him emptying the ice trays and opening cabinets, and by the time he returned she was feeling spacey. “Here you go,’ he said, putting her foot into the dishpan and packing it with ice bags. “This should work. Now just lie back and try to take a nap.” Michelle found that advice easy to follow, and when Danny came back later on to give her more pills, she wasn’t sure if she was awake or dreaming. She swallowed dutifully and closed her eyes again. He hesitated, then kissed her lightly on the mouth, certain that she wouldn’t remember it.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 8

November 22, 2015

Republisher’s Note: Michelle’s flashback to what happened years ago has ended and she heads back to Spain.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 8

The doorbell rang and Michelle snapped back to the present, glancing at the clock as she got up to answer it. She had spent over an hour thinking about the past, remembering her relationship with Danny Santos. And now, God help her, she was expected to marry him. She opened the door to admit her neighbor, who had accepted a package for Michelle that day while she was at work. Michelle chatted with her for a few minutes and, when the woman left, tossed the box onto her coffee table. She’d lost interest in the sweater she’d ordered two weeks earlier. She had more important things to consider now.

The burning humiliation of the last night with Danny had stayed fresh in her mind all through the years. She’d experienced other painful and embarrassing situations since then, of course, but her age at the time, combined with the depth of her feelings for Danny, always made her remember it with special chagrin.

She fixed herself a sandwich and called Bill Lewis to arrange to meet him for lunch. She had to persuade him to take over her files once she completed her current case so that she could go to Europe.

The restaurant was a little cafe that catered to the legal crowd, with glass topped tables and lots of hanging plants. Bill was already seated, and he stood when the hostess showed Michelle to their table. “Hi,” he said as she slipped into a chair. “Whats up?”

“I need to ask you a big favor,” Michelle said.

“Shoot,” Bill replied.

“I have to go to Europe, and I’d like you to cover my cases while I’m gone,  “Michelle said quickly, wincing.

He stared at her. “Europe? Now?”

“To settle my father’s estate.”

“I didn’t think you’d have to go there to do that. When did this happen?”

“Just yesterday. The will is a mess, and I really should be there in person to straighten it out.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“A couple of months.”

His mouth fell open. “A couple of months! Honey, what’s going on?”

For some reason Michelle didn’t want to tell Bill the whole truth about the situation. Probably because it might lead to a discussion of Danny and the past, a subject she heartily wished to avoid. “Its actually kind of a combination leave and vacation,” Michelle said weakly.

“When are you leaving?”

“As soon as my case wraps up.”

“Not wasting any time are you?” Bill said.

“Well, there is a certain urgency because my stepbrother is involved, too,” Michelle replied uncomfortably.

“Oh, right.”

“He runs the ranch, and he has to know this is going to be handled.”

“I see,” Bill brushed back a lock of medium brown hair and gazed at her with medium blue eyes. Everything about him was medium. Maybe that was the problem Michelle thought. Her response to him was medium, too.

“I sure am going to miss you,” he added.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” Michelle privately thought that some time away from Bill might be a good idea. He had been dropping hints about marriage lately, and she was far from ready to take such a step.

She packed and closed her apartment, booking a direct flight. On the way to the airport she sent a telegram to the ranch, announcing her arrival. She avoided calling preferring to deal with Danny in person rather than a disembodied voice on the phone. Danny was aware of the will and would know that Michelle’s arrival meant that she accepted its terms.

The flight to Europe was a long one and Michelle had plenty of time to think. She was dreading the reunion but at the same time felt a sort of resignation about it. In a very real sense she had been heading toward this for a long time.

Sunlight streamed into the glass fronted arrival lounge as she left the covered walkway that connected the plane to the terminal building. She was fishing in her purse for her baggage tickets when she realized that someone was standing off to one side, watching her. She turned her head and looked at Danny Santos.

Any hope that he might have become unattractive were dashed immediately. She had been wishing for a fat or bald, but neither was true. If anything, he was more compelling than she remembered. Her heart sank.

He walked toward her with the measured stride she recalled so well. He had filled out a little and looked, not heavier, but broader. His brown eyes met hers as he stopped in front of her. “Hello, Michelle,” he said quietly. They examined each other for several seconds in silence. His gaze was riveting.

“Eyes of gold and bramble dew,” she thought, it was a romantic description, but accurate.

“How did you know which plane to meet?” she finally asked.

“Is that all you can say to me after ten years?” he countered, his expression sober.

“Well, this is hardly a conventional reunion,” Michelle said stiffly.

“Hardly,” he murmured, watching her face.

“How did you know which flight?” she repeated.

“I checked around,” he said vaguely.

“What?” she replied.

“I knew the day you were arriving, so I checked the flights coming from Springfield,” he explained inadequately. She saw that he wasn’t going to elaborate, so she didn’t pursue it. She didn’t need any further evidence of a determination she remembered vividly. “It would have been easier if you had just told me,” he suggested, falling into step beside her and taking her overnight bag.

“Did it ever occur to you that I might not want to be met?” Michelle inquired.

“It occurred to me,” he said mildly, shooting her a sidelong glance that Michelle ignored. She marched beside him in silence until he added,”You cut your hair.”

“I cut my hair eight years ago,” she replied crisply.

“I know. I saw the pictures.”

“My father showed them to you?”

“I asked to see them,” he answered.

She let that pass. “How are things at the ranch?”

“All right. The place isn’t the same without your dad.” His voice was tinged with sadness, and Michelle realized that he was grieving, too, perhaps more than she, because he had seen her father every day.

“So you’re a lawyer now,” he said, still trying to make conversation.

“That’s right.”

“Do you like it?”

“I like it well enough.”

“I just can’t picture you doing that,” he said, shaking his head.

“Why not?”

“You were so…delicate,” he said as if that explained his attitude.

“I”m no longer the impulsive child you remember,” Michelle said crisply, not looking at him.

“What a shame,” he said softly. “I liked her quite a lot.”

Michelle stopped short and faced him. “Is that right?” she said tightly. “Funny, that’s not the way I recall it.”

He dropped his eyes. “Michelle, let’s not do this. I get the message. You resent being here and you clearly don’t want to see me. Okay. But there’s no point in denying reality.”

“Which is?” Michelle responded.

“You’re here because we’re getting married. Do you think we can pretend that isn’t true?”

“I’d like to pretend it isn’t true,” she muttered.

He sighed as they got to an escalator to descend to the baggage area. “You don’t have to be so defensive.”

Michelle looked at him, and he met her gaze squarely.

“Oh, this whole thing is so bizarre, ” Michelle mumbled irritably, looking away. “I feel like giving the ranch to a tuna cannery.”

“Gotta marry me first,” Danny said.

Michelle refused to smile.

He waited a moment, then touched her arm.

She stared up into his face. “Michelle look, I know I’m the last man on earth you would marry if it were your choice, but all we have to do is tolerate each other long enough to get through the formalities. That lawyer, Marler, called me, and if we don’t do this, we’re going to spend a long time in court untangling the mess. You understand that better than I do. Let’s take the easy route, okay? I’ll stay out of your way, I promise, and in a couple of months it will be over.”

The easy route? Michelle thought. Easy for him, maybe. “Why did my father set his will up this way?” she asked as they walked to the baggage carousel. “Do you know?”

“He wanted you to be settled, and…” He stopped.

“And?” Michelle replied.

“He always remembered the good influence you were on me that summer our parents got married,” he concluded quietly.

“So he was thinking of you?” Michelle said.

“He was thinking of both of us.”

He pulled her bags from the carousel as they passed. Michelle handed him her stubs as he shouldered her carryall and grabbed a bag with each hand. He showed her tickets to the attendant, and they passed into the throng of milling travelers. “Wait here,” he said abruptly. “I’ll come back for you.” Michelle had no choice but to obey, since he strode away immediately, blending into the crowd.

When he returned her bags were gone and he had a bunch of keys in his hand. “The car is at the door,’ he said and she followed him outside. Michelle climbed in the car when he held the door for her and sat staring straight ahead as he got in beside her, shifted gears and pulled out into the airport traffic. The freeways sped by as he drove efficiently, glancing over at her several times during the ride. As they were approaching the entrance to the ranch he said dryly, “Your spine will snap if you don’t relax.”

“It’s my spine,” Michelle replied evenly. But she did change positions as he drove up the road that wound between the corrals. She leaned forward, looking closely at everything. The redwood fencing she remembered had been replaced by expensive locust wood. The number of horses had doubled, and the whole place looked extremely prosperous. Her father had always made a comfortable living, but this was something else, and Michelle knew it was Danny’s doing. He had, indeed, “taken hold” as her father had said.

“I had Rosa prepare your old room,” he said as they entered. The living room had been redecorated in a breezy patio style, with painted wrought iron tables and white wicker furniture.

“Is Rosa still with you?” Michelle asked, delighted at the prospect of seeing an old friend. They walked down the hall to her old room.

He nodded. “She’ll be in later.” He set her bags on the floor. “I should tell you,” he went on,”we tore down the old guesthouse last year. I’m sleeping across the hall.”

Wonderful, Michelle thought sourly. Well, at least the guesthouse was gone. She had no desire to revisit that scene.

She looked around. The decor in the bedroom, unlike that in the rest of the house, was as she remembered it. She felt a wave of nostalgia for the four poster with the lumpy mattress and the maple rocking chair and the Priscilla curtains at the window.

“I’ve set the civil ceremony for tomorrow morning,” Danny said.

Michelle whirled to face him. “Not wasting any time, are we?” she said sarcastically.

“I thought you would want to get it over with,” he said obviously startled. “We can put the will into probate as soon as the marriage license is certified to the court.”

Michelle put her hand to her forehead wearily. “Yes, of course, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’m afraid this has been a bit much for me.”

“Maybe you’d like to be alone for a while, to get settled in,” he said.

“That’s a good idea,” she replied quickly. “Well, I have some work to do, I’ll ask Rosa to stop in and see you when she comes okay? Thank you,” Michelle listened to his footsteps recede down the hall.

It was obvious that Danny wasn’t going to make reference to the last time they’d seen each other, when she’d crept into his bed and thrown herself at him. Maybe he didn’t remember it as vividly as she did. Maybe he didn’t remember it at all. There must have been a lot of beds and a lot of women since.

Michelle heard a knock at the door. “Michelle, it’s Rosa.” Michelle ran to the door and pulled it wide, embracing the older woman as she stepped in from the hall.

“Rosa, oh, its so good to see you,” she said, standing back and taking a look.

“As beautiful as ever, ” she pronounced. “And you’re too thin,”Rosa replied. “Chili con carne tonight. And my special enchiladas encantadas.”

Michelle laughed. She had kept in touch with Rosa through cards and letters over the years, but had missed her practical no nonsense presence. “How is Pilar?” she asked.

“Raising cain, She starts high school in the fall.”

“High School”, Michelle said wonderingly. When she last saw Rosa’s daughter she was about to enter kindergarten. “I bet she’s gorgeous.”

“Hmmph,” Rosa said, but her pride shone through. “She is. And she knows it.” Rosa glanced over her shoulder. “Did you see Danny?”

Michelle nodded. “He picked me up at the airport.”

“How did that go?” Rosa asked in a low tone. Michelle shrugged and sat on the bed, gesturing for Rosa to join her.

“I don’t know. It’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking. At least we didn’t come to blows in the arrival lounge.”

“I”m relieved to hear it.”

“I suppose you know about the will”, Michelle said, Rosa nodded. “Can you believe my father did that? ”

“What I can’t believe is that you’re going along with it, ” Rosa said frankly.

Michelle threw up her hands. “What can I do? Challenging it would be worse. Do you think I’d be here if there were any other way out of this?”

Rosa fingered the design on the bedspread. “There was a time when marrying Danny Santos would have been your heart’s desire,” she said slowly.

“That time has passed”, Michelle said dryly. “Rosa, can you imagine how I feel? The last time I saw Danny I made a complete fool of myself. Now Dad’s will is compelling me to marry him, a prospect no more pleasing to him than it is to me, I’m sure. It’s just awful.”

“Are you sure? That it’s awful? To him I mean,” Rosa said carefully.

Michelle stood and began to pace the room. “Rosa he doesn’t want me. He made that clear the night I left here ten years ago.”

“Look at this place,” Rosa said making a sweeping gesture to indicate the whole ranch. “Danny did this. After Carmen died, your father didn’t care what happened. The bills wouldn’t even have been paid if it weren’t for Danny. He took over did everything. Gradually your father regained  interest, and when he saw how well Danny was doing, Ed just let him keep on running things.”

“I knew Dad took Carmen’s death hard,” Michelle said thoughtfully. “I always felt bad that I missed the funeral. I was having final exams when she went into the hospital, so Dad didn’t tell me. He didn’t want to disturb my concentration. By the time Exam week was over, she was dead and buried.”

“There was nothing you could have done. Ed and Danny went around this place for weeks like a couple of wounded animals in a cave. The difference was that Ed couldn’t work and Danny did nothing else but. He drove himself to exhaustion every night.”

“I would have thought he’d drink himself into bed,” Michelle said.

Rosa shook her head.”No more. Michelle, your relationship with him ten years ago was special, and for Danny, very unusual. Even I could see that. You affected him, he listened to you when no one, not even his mother, could get his attention. Maybe it ended badly for whatever reason, but I don’t think you can go from that to the emotional indifference of a business relationship just because you’re both a little older.”

She spent the dinner hour with Rosa, and as expected, Danny did not appear. After Rosa left, Michelle felt as though she was rattling around in the house with the ghosts of her father and Carmen whispering in the shadows, so she went outside and sat on the patio. The last time she was on the terrace it had been strung with lights for a night barbecue over the Labor Day weekend. Her father had cooked burgers with long handled tools, wearing an apron that said Too Mangy Broths Spoil the Cook. Carmen had made her Lemon-lime iced tea, and Michelle had worn her sky blue bathing suit with the navy trim.

It was so hard to accept that they were both dead now and that she was here on this fool’s errand. Her eyes filled with tears and she wiped at them awkwardly, ashamed of her weakness.

She went to bed around 11. Sleep would not come. She dozed fitfully for short intervals and finally gave up after a couple of hours. She rose and put on a bathrobe to go to the kitchen for a cup of tea. She stopped on the threshold. Danny was sitting at the table, his shirt off and draped on the chair back, a half empty glass cradled in his hands. Michelle hadn’t heard him come in and had assumed that he was out somewhere enjoying his last night of “freedom”.

He looked up as she entered and then stood, kicking the chair out of his way. “I’ll go ” he said shortly.

“That’s not necessary,” Michelle replied, determined not to let him see how much he still got to her. “This is your house too. If we can’t learn to coexist in it, this arrangement we’ve planned will never work.” He didn’t reply but sat down again, leaning back and taking another sip of his drink. Michelle went to the stove and got the kettle, filling it with water and putting it on to boil. When she turned to look at him, he was sitting with his head bent, staring into the portion of amber liquid that remained in his glass. She was facing his back. His hair, which she remembered as curling against his neck, was cropped shorter now. She was seized with he sudden urge to touch it, and she shoved her hands into the pockets of her robe.

“Couldn’t sleep?” he said without looking at her.

“No, I couldn’t”.

“Is that because you were worried about me?” he asked flatly.

“Worried?” Michelle said uncomprehendingly.

He turned. “Worried about having me in this house, that I might bother you,” he said.

It was the last thing she had expected him to say, and she was to startled that she replied frankly, “Danny, I’m not worried. I remember all too well that where I’m concerned, your self control is second to none.” She saw his face the impact of her careless statement. If she’d thought he might not remember that night in the guesthouse ten years earlier, she saw now that she was wrong. He flushed a dull red, and he stood again, his half naked body looming large and formidable in the small kitchen.

“Good,” he said huskily. “Because I want to make something clear before we go ahead with this. I was going to tell you in the morning, but I might as well say it now.”

Michelle waited, her fingers clenching inside her pockets.

“I’m not going to take advantage of this situation”, he said. “You’ll stay in your own room, and I’ll keep away from you. I realize that a beautiful, successful woman like you has her own life, and I won’t interfere. The only thing between us is the piece of paper we’ll get tomorrow, and when all this is over you can go right back to what you left.”

“Fine,” Michelle said softly. He finished his drink in one gulp, as if glad to have that speech behind him. He walked past her to the sink and set the glass on the drain board.

“I’ll see you in the morning”, he said. “The appointment as city hall is at nine o’clock.” He left the room, and a second later she heard his door shut down the hall.

So he wasn’t as cool about all of this as he’d seemed at the airport, she thought. It gave her some satisfaction that he was losing sleep over the situation, too, that it wasn’t some minor annoyance he could dismiss. Rosa had said he changed, and maybe he had. Michelle went back to bed, passing Danny’s door quickly. She didn’t lie awake this time, but fell into a dreamless slumber.

Danny listened to the faint sounds Michelle made as she settled into her room and tried not to picture what she was wearing or not wearing under her robe when she removed it for bed. This was going to be even more difficult than he’d thought. When he had first heard about Ed’s will he wasn’t exactly surprised. He always suspected that Ed knew he’d fallen in love with Michelle all those years ago and respected him for letting her go. Maybe this was Ed’s way of paying him back, giving him another shot at the prize. Except the prize wasn’t entirely in the mood to cooperate. Danny couldn’t blame Michelle for being angry. The terms of the will were weird, and on top of that she had the memory of his behavior toward her on the night before she left for home. She didn’t know how much he’d wanted her to stay, all she recalled was the bitterness of rejection. But did she have to be so beautiful, he thought, in agony at the prospect of trying to keep his hands off her for the next couple of months. The puppy prettiness of her teen years had matured into a fine porcelain loveliness that took his breath away. He’d recognized her immediately at the airport, she was the Michelle he remembered, and then some. And now, of course, she was old enough to love. Had he spoiled that chance forever? he wondered. Did she have someone back in Springfield? Probably. He couldn’t picture her spending her nights with frozen dinners and metromedia movies. That thought did not comfort him, and he punched the pillow behind his head, abandoning the idea of sleep.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 7

November 13, 2015

Republisher’s Note: We finish up the flashback tonight and find out why Michelle is so horrified at the thought of marrying Danny.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 7

Things changed after that night. Danny’s drinking and fighting tailed off to nothing, so much so that Ed remarked on it, but Michelle couldn’t enjoy his new pattern. Danny had told her that she was riding well enough now to go out on her own, and he restricted the lessons to once a week in the area of the ranch where they were always observed. Michelle, of course, was in love.

Danny had unwittingly done the one thing that was guaranteed to intensify her feelings for him, expose her to his personality, which in non-threating circumstances was his old, winning one, without any physical involvement, for which she was not ready. Her life became their rides together, the intervals between them a time of waiting.

Michelle was amazed a Danny’s tenacity. He had made up his mind about their relationship, and he stuck to his resolution. Before she met Danny, honor had been an abstract concept, but his behavior with her gave new meaning to the word. She knew intuitively underneath his distant exterior he wanted to carry things further between them, but it was clear that he never would. Which gave her the idea that she might have to take matters into her own hands.

One evening at the end of August, Michelle talked Danny into a ride up into the foothills just as the sun was setting. She knew that he gave in because she was leaving in just a few days, but she planned to make the most of their time together. Danny had been working all day, and he was tired. He led the way up the scrubby path they had followed before to a small mesa where they stopped to rest. They tied the horses to a locust tree and sat admiring the view. The whole valley was spread out like a carpet at their feet, the crimson sky fading as stars appeared and lights blinked on below them. “I never get tired of this sight,” Danny said with satisfaction, lying back with his arms folded beneath his head.

“I know what you mean. There’s nothing like it back in Springfield, that I can tell you,” Michelle glanced over at him. “Will you miss me when I go home?” she asked softly.

“We all will,” he replied noncommittally.

“I wish I didn’t have to go,” she said.

“You shouldn’t bypass college. Your father and brother agreed that you would live with your brother for the first couple of years.”

“You seem to know a lot about it,” Michelle commented.

“Your father told me.”

“Have you two been discussing me?” Michelle asked suspiciously.

“A little.”

“What does that mean?” Michelle asked.

“It means that we’re both concerned about you.”

“Well, don’t be concerned about me,” Michelle said huffily. He sounded like a guidance counselor.

“You should be glad that people are interested in you.”

“I don’t want people interested in me, I want YOU interested in me,” she replied. There, she had said it.

“I am.”

“You know what I mean,” Michelle said.

“It’s getting late,” he said, standing up. “We’d better go back.”

“Danny, I’m going to be gone next week. Can’t you sit here for once and listen to me?”

He sat. “I’m listening,” he said.

“Will you write to me when I leave?” she asked.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Michelle,” he replied.


“The purpose behind going to college is to meet new people, guys your own age, and I think you should concentrate on that.”

“I thought the purpose of college was to get an education.”

“That too,” he said stretching out.

“Are you telling me that I won’t hear from you after I go?” she asked disbelievingly.

“That’s probably best.”

“Best for who? For you, because you want to get rid of the kid and go back to chasing people like Eloise Randall?”

He looked at her, then away. “You don’t’ know what you’re talking about,” he said flatly.

“You like her better than you like me. I’m sure she’s mature and grown up and responsible, right? You won’t be packing her off to college.”

“Shut up”. Michelle stared at him, amazed. He was furious, and she felt like crying.

“Why won’t you write to me when I leave?’ she said desperately.

“Drop it.”

“Why are you always in charge?” she demanded. “Why do you always make all the decisions?”

He wouldn’t answer, just sat looking out over the valley. The moon had risen and his clean profile was etched in silver as she watched him.

“You were the last thing I expected to happen to me this summer,” he finally said thoughtfully. “When I came here I was running away. From the life, from the past. From the pictures in my head…”

“Pictures?” Michelle asked.

“Memories.” He looked back at the view. Michelle nestled against him, and to her surprise he allowed her to remain. They sat still for a long time, and she inched closer, pressing into him. Finally, he stirred, sighing, and nuzzled her neck. She leaned back and he bent his head, opening his mouth against her breasts, wet heat burning through the cloth that covered them in a gesture that was frankly sexual. Michelle gasped aloud and he pulled away.

“Scared?” he said hoarsely. She couldn’t answer. “Isn’t that what you wanted?” he demanded. “Don’t’ play with me, or you might get what you’re asking for.” He stood up.


“No more, ” he said huskily. “Let’s go”.

“Danny, wait…”

“Michelle, I mean it. I’ll leave you here if you don’t get on that horse.” She obeyed meekly, still stunned by the impact of those few seconds when he had responded to her. They rode back to the house in silence, and Danny went immediately to the guesthouse.

Michelle knew that Danny would never lower his guard again, and she saw herself going back to Springfield and being cut off from him forever. She had to do something about it, but the opportunity didn’t present itself until the night before she was to depart. Her bags were packed and waiting at the door. Her father was planning to drive her to the airport in the morning, and they all had a family dinner at the house to say goodbye.

Danny was very quiet during the meal, and anyone could see that he wasn’t happy. Michelle allowed this to encourage her in her plans, and when he took her aside after dinner she played along.

“Well, I guess this is it,”he said. “You’ll be leaving tomorrow.”

She nodded. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Okay,” he agreed. He looked at her closely, as if surprised by her acquiescence. He was wearing a yellow shirt that set off his dark good looks, a  recent haircut had left him looking better than usual. “See ya,” he said and left by the kitchen door.

Ed and Carmen went to the store, and Michelle stayed to help Rosa clean up. When they left Rosa inquired “What are you going to do?” She didn’t have to elaborate, Rosa was Michelle’s confidante and had closely followed her developing relationship with Danny.

“I don’t know,” Michelle said, rinsing cups in the sink.

“You’ve got a plan?”

“I’m thinking about trying something,” Michelle replied. Rosa wiped her soapy hands on a dishcloth and took Michelle’s chin in her fingers. “You listen to me, be careful. I know how you feel, it wasn’t so long ago for me, but you could make a mistake now that could ruin your whole future.”

“But Rosa,” Michelle said. “You saw how he was tonight. He’s just going to let me go”.

“And maybe that’s for the best,” Rosa said, nodding. “Sometimes in life the timing is just not right”.

Michelle didn’t answer, and when her father returned she went to her room, saying she had some last minute packing to do.

By midnight, the house was quiet. Rosa had gone home without further conversation, and Ed and Carmen had retired early to prepare for the drive in the morning. Michelle took a shower and washed her hair, then dressed in her best nightgown and applied perfume to her wrists and throat. When she felt that she was ready, she slipped out of her bedroom, pausing to listen in the hall, her heart pounding, before she hurried out of the house and down the lane to the guesthouse for the last time.

The night was cool and breezy, with a full moon that illuminated Michelle’s path as she walked. The fresh scent of the citrus trees hung in the air, and the dew on the grass soaked her ankles, dampening the hem of her gossamer gown. She ran lightly up the steps to the guesthouse and opened the door.

Danny was asleep on his side in a shaft of moonlight, his bare torso visible above the muslin sheet drawn down below his waist. Michelle stood next to the bed and studied him, aware that this might be her only chance to do so. Michelle moved closer, her fingers itching with the urge to touch. She could see only one side of his face, the luxurious lashes, the strong nose, the full lower lip that still bore a faint mark from his last fight. His hair, wavy and curling inward at the tips, lay against the base of his neck in a series of elongated commas. She touched one of them gingerly. He didn’t move. Trembling, Michelle raised the sheet and crawled in beside him. His body heat, trapped by the cotton cover, radiated around her, and she could see beads of perspiration dappling his shoulder blades. He must have been asleep for some time.

Michelle put her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. He stirred, murmuring in his sleep, and turned toward her, slipping his arm under her. He was naked. She had never felt a nude man all along the length of her, and she shuddered with the sensation as he took charge of the situation, pulling her on top of him. He ran his hands down her body, his eyes still closed, and searched in the dark for her mouth with his. She had dreamed of kissing him for so long that the reality was like a dream, too, the surprising softness of his lips, the vise of his arms binding her to him, his sigh of gratification as her mouth opened to admit his probing tongue. It was more wonderful than she had ever imagined. Before this, she had kissed only high school boys, who didn’t know what they were doing. Even asleep Danny knew what he was doing.

His mouth moved to her neck and he plucked at the folds of her gown, obviously searching for the way to remove it. Michelle shifted to accommodate him, and he moaned, clutching her tightly as he felt her slip into the cradle of his hips. He turned and rolled her under him, kissing her breasts through the thin batiste night dress, raising her nipples with his tongue. Michelle whimpered, throwing her head back as he pressed into her, and she felt him ready against  her thigh.

“Danny”, she whispered feverishly. “Oh Danny, I love you.”

Her voice seemed to trigger some sort of recognition within him, and he sat up abruptly, pushing her away from him.

“My God, Michelle, what are you doing?” he gasped, struggling out of the half sleep in which she had caught him.

“Making love to you,” she replied, trying to wind her arms around his neck again.

He held her off, trapping both of her wrists in one of his hands. “Go back to the house,” he said harshly. His breath was coming in short bursts, and she could see his pulse pumping madly in his throat.

“Let me stay,” she pleaded, kissing the only part of him she could reach, which was his left bicep. “You want me, I know you do. You can’t deny it now.”

Danny looked at her, so soft and pliant and scented in his bed, wearing two ounces of nothing, her pale hair aglow in the moonlight streaming through his window. He wanted her more than she could ever guess. He wanted her unstained soul as much as he wanted her body, but he was about to do the most unselfish thing he had ever done, though he knew she wouldn’t see it that way.

“Get out of here now,” he said turning his head. “I don’t’ want you and never have. You’re a baby, and I need a real woman. Go back home to school and play with your pencil box.”

Michelle stared at him, stunned. “But you just now….” she began.

“Just now you could have been anyone. I was asleep, you became part of my dream. You were a female body in bed with me like one of the whores I use to sleep with. I’m a man, what do you expect?”

“Then, you don’t….care about me?” Michelle asked, the threat of tears trembling in her voice. Danny steeled himself. He had to be convincing or she would never make a clean break.

“You were all right to pass the time,” he replied neutrally. ” I had nothing better to do this summer”.

Michelle tore away from him and bolted from the bed, her bare feet slapping the floor, her nightgown flying. Danny didn’t look after her, but remained staring at her abandoned slippers upside down on the floor, waiting for his heartbeat to return to normal. He would always remember the look on her face as she reacted to his cruel words. He felt his own throat tighten with unshed tears. God, he had hurt her. But, he had no choice. Or did he?

He stood abruptly, thrusting his hands through his damp hair. She had really worked him up, he was still charged, jittery. He went to the window and gulped the night air. If only she knew his real feelings. The truth was that he was desperate to keep her from leaving and had spent long hours that evening by himself in the guesthouse, wondering what to do. He had just gone to sleep exhausted when he couldn’t think about it anymore, and had awakened to find her in his bed.

He sat down again, dispiritedly. He shouldn’t deprive Michelle of her chance to get an education, see the world, perhaps meet another man far more suitable than himself. He was her first love, and he wanted to be her only one, but he knew that she couldn’t make an informed choice until she was older and more experienced. It wasn’t fair of him to pick her off the tree before anyone else got into the orchard.

All of these things he knew, but what he wanted was to run after her and keep her for himself. Instead he sat up until daybreak, feeling more lonely and bereft than he ever had in his life.

Michelle spent a sleepless night also, crying intermittently. She wound up putting ice packs on her eyes at six in the morning to reduce the redness and swelling before Carmen and Ed saw her. She dressed as the sun rose. She forced down some breakfast, said her goodbyes to Carmen and Rosa and the other people on the ranch and climbed into the car with her father. Her eyes filmed over again as they drove down the road that ran between the corrals, and she turned her head so her father wouldn’t see. She didn’t notice Danny standing just inside the stable door, watching her leave, his expression bleak.

She never saw him again……….

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 5

November 11, 2015

Republisher’s Note: We continue with Michelle’s flashback to the summer she spent on Ed Bauer and his new wife Carmen’s ranch and met….Danny.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 5

They got on either side of Danny and walked him back to the guesthouse. Ed shoved Danny into the bathroom, and Michelle heard some thumping noises while her father got him undressed and into the shower. After a minute Ed emerged, looking slightly rumpled but pleased.

“He’s coming out of it, the cold water is doing the trick,” Ed reported. “The kitchen is right in there, Michelle. Why don’t you fix him some coffee? Make him a strong cup and help him get ready when he comes out. His suit is all right but I’ll have to send for a shirt and tie with Rosa. Okay Honey, thanks a lot. I’ll see you back at the house.” Her father fled.

She was heating water for coffee when the bathroom door opened and Danny emerged, surrounded by a cloud of steam.

“How are you feeling?” Michelle asked.

He thumbed his damp hair back from his face. “Foolish”, he said shortly. He had a white towel wrapped around his hips.

“I’m making you some coffee,” Michelle said.

“Thanks.” He sat on the edge of the bed and put his head in his hands. He looked so defeated and alone that her heart went out to him.

Michelle walked over and sat next to him. After a moment she put a tentative hand on his shoulder. His flesh was cool on the surface from the water, but warm underneath. He looked up, his dark, dark lashes still tangled and wet from the shower. “I don’t think I can face this,” he whispered.

The naked vulnerability in his expression took her by surprise, he seemed like a person who would keep such feelings to himself. But she had seen too much in the past hour to be fooled by his false bravado, and perhaps he knew that.

“Yes, you can,” she said quietly.

“You really know your father’s gone when you see your mother marrying somebody else,” he muttered.

“You miss him a lot don’t you?”

He didn’t answer.

“I think I know how you’re feeling,” she said.

He studied her intently. “You do?”

She nodded. “It’s hard for me to see my father marrying again too. My mother died when I was 12, and it was very painful for me. Kids always have this fantasy about their parents being happy and together forever, you know?” She stopped and concluded, “It’s hard for me to face this, too.”

He sighed brokenly, his gaze focused on the floor.

“Let me bring you that coffee,” Michelle said quickly, rising to get it. She handed him the cup and he downed half of it in one swallow.

“You’re pretty grown up for a little girl,” he observed, looking at her. Michelle didn’t reply.

“I’m sorry that you had to see this,” he went on, shaking his head. “Sometimes I just can’t seem to….” His voice trailed off into silence.

“It’s all right,” Michelle said reassuringly. “Nobody knows but my father and me.”

“I’m such a jerk,” he said closing his eyes. “I really didn’t want to ruin this for my mother.”

“You won’t,” Michelle said firmly. “There’s still time. Now get dressed and we’ll go.”

He nodded, swallowing the rest of the coffee, and rose, grabbing his clothes. He went back into the bathroom and emerged seconds later wearing his suit pants, with the jacket over his arm. A knock came at the door. Michelle opened it to admit Rosa, who took the scene at a glance an raised her eyes heavenward. Mr. Bauer said to give you this,” she declaimed, handing Michelle a folded shirt and tie.

“Thank you,” Michelle said, taking the bundle. She looked back at Danny. “Rosa this is just…I mean, we’re…”

“I don’t want to hear,” Rosa said, holding up her hand and turning to pull the door closed behind her.

“Smart woman”, Danny said dryly. He took the shirt and slipped into it, buttoning it hastily, it hung on his slim frame and the collar was too big. He stuffed the loose folds into his pants and knotted the tie tightly under the collar. “How do I look?” he asked, putting on his jacket and turning to face her.

“Very handsome,” Michelle said truthfully.

He came to her and took her face between his hands, kissing the tip of her nose briefly. “You’re a sweet girl”, he said. “A liar, but a sweet girl.” She smiled at him. “Now let’s get a move on before Mother sends out the National Guard,” he said briskly.

They ran back to the main house and entered just as the minister was arriving. “There you are!”  Carmen said as they walked into the living room. Her forced smile became genuine when she saw her son. She took his boutonniere from a box on the coffee table and fastened it to his lapel, giving Michelle a frown. “Look your hair’s still wet” she said, brushing back a lock of it as she stepped away from him.

“Everything looks great,” Danny said. The whole room was banked with flowers, the dining table ablaze with candles and loaded with fool. The well dressed guests were milling about, drinks in hand.

“It sure does,” Michelle seconded. “And so do you,” Michelle said.

“Would you like a drink?” Carmen said to her son. Danny looked at Michelle, who glanced away.

“No thanks,” Danny said.

“Here you are, Michelle,” she handed Michelle an arrangement of irises and carnations, “Blue and white, as requested.”

“Thank you.”

Everyone assembled in the living room. The ceremony was mercifully short, and Danny said the right things at the right time. Afterward, during the flurry of congratulations, Danny sidled up to Michelle in the dinning room and said, “We made it.”

“Yes, we did,” she agreed, smiling.

“Thanks to you,” he added. “That’s twice you took care of me in two days. Are you a ministering angel in disguise?”

“Maybe,” Michelle said mysteriously.

“Then its a bad disguise, ” Danny said, popping a Swedish meatball into his mouth. “You look to much like an angel in it.”

Charmed into silence, Michelle didn’t know what to say. Before she could reply, he was talking to somebody else.

“How did I do?” Michelle’s father asked behind her.

“You’re a star,” she said kissing him.

A friend of Ed’s came over to be introduced, and by the time Michelle looked around for Danny, all that was visible was his back disappearing through the front door. He was following a young woman in a red dress.

“Daddy?” Michelle said.

Her father turned, “What honey?”

“Who was the girl in the red dress? She was standing next to the fireplace during the ceremony.”

“Oh, that was Josh Randall’s daughter. He runs the local feed supply house. She works in the office.”

Michelle watched for the rest of the afternoon, but Danny did not return. Her father and Carmen went to bed around midnight, after everyone had gone home, and Michelle did the same a few minutes later. She slept fitfully and woke just before dawn. Danny’s car was still gone.


For the next couple of weeks, Michelle saw Danny around the ranch but rarely spoke to him. He would wave or gesture to her when he saw her, but his days were occupied with working under her father’s supervision, and he took his meals elsewhere.

At night he would vanish. Carmen said to her friends on the phone that she’d had reports he was patronizing the local bars, and expression that Michelle had previously heard only in the movies. And on the weekends, he would disappear from Friday evening until Monday morning.

Michelle heard her father telling Carmen to leave Danny alone, not to interfere, and her stepmother seemed to be taking the advice.

Michelle’s birthday came at the end of the month. Ed and Carmen had a horse show in the afternoon, but they were planning to return to take Michelle out to dinner in the evening. They had made a reservation in a fancy restaurant, and Michelle was planning to wear her blue dress. Sans Jacket. She had been working on her tan, spending her afternoons by the pool. Her hair had lightened a shade and her skin had a healthy glow. Her father had remarked jokingly that it was a shame there were no suitable young men around to appreciate her. Michelle agreed. She was polishing her nails when the phone rang on the afternoon of her birthday. “Hello,” Michelle, said picking up the receiver. It was Rosa’s day off and, anyway, she couldn’t get used to having a housekeeper answer the phone.

“Hi, it’s Carmen. Listen, this auction is running much later than we thought it would, and the horse your father is waiting for is scheduled for last. We’re not going to make it back to take you out for dinner. I hope you don’t mind.”

“That’s okay,” Michelle said, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

“But, I called Daniel at the guesthouse, and he’s going to take you. I hope you don’t mind.”

Michelle hesitated. That was certainly a switch.

“I already called the restaurant and changed the reservation from three to two people. It’s for eight o’clock, so I told Daniel you’d better leave by seven thirty.”

“Fine,” Michelle answered. What else could she say? Michelle hung up. The prospect of spending an evening with Danny was a little unnerving.

Danny walked through the door at seven fifteen. She was wearing mascara and eyeliner, which her brother did not allow, and had put her hair up in a chignon. She was feeling very nervous but wanted to put on a brave face. He was wearing slacks with a navy blazer. He stopped short when he saw Michelle. His eyes raked over her from head to food and returned to her face. “Where did you get that dress?” he said.

“This is the dress I was wearing at the wedding,” she said, bewildered.

“It didn’t look like that before,” he said.

“I had the jacket on then,” Michelle said.

“Put it on now,” Danny replied.

“Why?” She asked, disappointed that he didn’t like her outfit. She could understand why his mother worried about him. He was certainly mercurial.

He shrugged. “Have it your way. Well, I guess we’d better get going. I promised Mother I’d have you there by eight.” His manner was less than enthusiastic.

“Don’t do me any favors.” Michelle mumbled under her breath.

“What?” he said watching her.

“Never mind.” He probably had to break a hot date to take the brat stepsister to dinner, she thought unhappily.

“Then let’s just go, okay?” he said.

It was a strained ride to the restaurant. Despite his apology, Danny was still jumpy, and after a few faltering attempts at conversation, Michelle gave up, sitting in silence until the attendant had taken the car and they were inside the restaurant. They arrived on time and were seated immediately.

The wine list was propped on a silver stand, and when the waiter arrived he asked, “Will there be anything to drink?”

“I’ll have bourbon, straight up, and you can bring this young lady a soda,’ Danny said to the man.

“Yes sir,” he answered, smiling , and left.

“Do you think you should be drinking?” Michelle asked, concerned.

“Yes,” he replied shortly.

Swell, Michelle thought. This duty is so onerous he had to fortify himself to get through it.

Their order arrived, and Michelle sipped her soda, examining the menu the waiter brought. Everything was in Italian.

“Need a little help?” Danny asked, noticing her expression.

“I suppose so,” she admitted.

“Carmen told me that you like Italian food,” he said.

“I do,”… I just don’t know I had to be Italian to get some, Michelle added silently.

“I speak Italian. I’ve known it all my life. Do you want me to order for you?”

“Okay,” Michelle said.

“What would you like?” Danny said.

“A shrimp cocktail and veal parmigiana,” she said.

When the waiter returned, Danny ordered for both of them.

“How did you learn to speak Italian?” She asked feeling as if she were extracting every word from him with pliers.

“My father was from Italy,” he said briefly.”I grew up speaking Italian and English. I use English all the time now, Mother knows little Italian.”

Michelle watched Danny push his salad around on his plate before she said, “Danny, what’s wrong?”

He looked up as if remembering that she was there.

“Are you unhappy because your mother forced you to bring me here?” she asked miserably.

His face went blank, and then he looked concerned. “Oh, no it has nothing to do with you.”

“Then what is it? Can’t you tell me?”

He sighed. “I found out this afternoon that I’m not going back to California, to help run my Uncle’s business. I thought I could
spend the summer here and go back in September, but my uncle thinks I’m turning against him. It’s a long story, Michelle.”

“Oh,” she said softly.

“So it’s take your father’s charity or be out on the street,” he added bitterly.

“It isn’t charity, Danny!” Michelle said outraged. “He needs the help, he told me so, and you’re working very hard.”

“I wouldn’t have the work if I weren’t Carmen’s son,” he said stubbornly, finishing his drink.

“So what, you’re not goldbricking, you’re earning every penny.”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “The work in California, is my kind of work. It’s what I know how to do best. I was trying to help my uncle get his business straight. I wanted to go back there to show mother and your dad that I was independent. This way, everybody still thinks of me as…”

“What?” Michelle asked.

” A burden, a concern, a problem,” he answered and she couldn’t disagree.

A dance band was assembling in the room behind them. Michelle was listening to them tuning up when two attendants opened a folding divider to their left, putting the band into the room with them. A pegged wood dance floor spread out in front of the dais. “Isn’t there some field you could go into? Didn’t you go to college?” she asked trying to be helpful.

“Yes, I attended college and yes, I got a degree. But, I learned to kill people from my own family.”

Michelle fell silent. He signaled for another drink. The band began to play , a cheerful counterpoint to their strained conversation. Michelle stood abruptly.

“Where are you going”? he asked.

“To the ladies room,” she said quietly and fled. He watched her leave. When Michelle returned, the table was empty. For a brief wild moment she thought he had left, but she realized that Carmen’s son would never do such a thing, no matter how upset he was.

She was standing uncertainly next to her chair when she felt a tap on her shoulder. “Dance?” the young man said. He was about 20, dinning with his parents a couple tables away. They had come in while Danny was away from the table, and he obviously didn’t realize that Michelle had an escort.

“No, I can’t, I’m sorry,” she said, flustered.

“Why not? Got a date?”

“Well, not a date actually, but…”

“Then dance with me,” he said, taking her hand and guiding her onto the floor.

“Wait,” Michelle said, but it was too late.

Danny appeared behind the boy and grabbed his shoulder, spinning him around with stunning force. Before the boy could say a world, Danny’s fist crashed into his jaw and he fell. Michelle clamped her hands over her mouth, horrified. Then she darted forward as she realized that Danny was bending down to grab the boy and hit him again.

“Danny!” she screamed, throwing both arms around his neck and holding him back, placing herself between him and his victim. “What are you doing?”

He tried to put her aside, but she hung on with all her might, and he couldn’t continue the fight unless he handled her roughly. As he paused to disentangle her, the boy’s parents ran from their table and helped their son to his feet. At the same time, the maitre d’ and several waiters rushed to intervene.

“What is the meaning of this?” the boys father demanded, sputtering. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyers!”

“Forget it , Dad” the kid said, wiping his bloody mouth with his hand. “Let’s just get out of here”.

The family left in a huff, the father still muttering threats of litigation against both Danny and the restaurant as Danny pried Michelle’s arms from his neck and reached for his wallet.

The enraged maitre d’ started to say something about unacceptable conduct and disturbing the guests and calling the police. Danny removed several dollars from his wallet and flung them onto the nearest table. “Save it,” he said to the man. “That’s enough to cover their meal and ours and to pay for any damage. We’re leaving.” He grabbed Michelle’s wrist and hauled her after him through the dinning room, where everyone stared as if they were a sideshow, and into the lobby.

He paused long enough to look down at her and say, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, she responded shakily. “But I’m not the one you were beating up.”

He didn’t reply to that but merely said, “Wait here. I’ll get the car.”

She slipped into the passenger seat beside him and he gunned the motor, leaving the restaurant behind as quickly as possible. He drove for a while with unrelieved concentration, not looking at her, until he surprised her by pulling into a rest area It was paved for parking and had picnic benches by the side of the road. He shut off the motor and sat staring straight ahead until he said expressionlessly, “I’m sorry.”

“Why did you do it, Danny?” she asked. “That boy wasn’t bothering me.”

He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I know,” he said quietly.

“Then why”? He shrugged, shook his head and looked out the side window at nothing.

“Come on,” Michelle said impulsively. “Let’s go sit under the trees.”

He obeyed without protest, getting out on his side and following her to one of the benches. She sat, and he leaned against a tree trunk. “So, I guess I ruined your birthday, huh?” he said.

“No, of course not. But I wish I could understand what happened.”

“I made a mistake, that’s what happened,” he said flatly. “Nothing new.”

“I think you were disappointed and unhappy, and you wanted to take it out on someone. That kid just gave you an excuse to do it.”

“How did somebody your age get to be so smart?” he smiled thinly.

“I’m a child prodigy,” Michelle replied, and his smile widened.

“That’s better,” she said.

“Better than what?”

“Fistfights in restaurants?” she suggested.

He nodded slowly.

“Do you have a boyfriend back home?” he said.

Michelle shook her head.

“Why not?”

“My brother ‘s kind of strict. He doesn’t allow me to date much.”

“But you’ll be going to college in the fall. That will change.”

“I hope so,” Michelle said fervently, and he grinned.

“What about you?” she asked boldly.


“Uh-huh, Rosa says you have lots of girlfriends.”

“Rosa talks to much,” he muttered.

“I saw you leave the wedding with Eloise Randall.”

“You don’t miss much do you?” he said archly.

“Do you like her?”

“She’s all right,” he said dismissively.

“Do girls like that make you feel better?” she asked ingenuously.

He eyed her closely, wondering if he should be annoyed, but she seemed innocent. He looked at the ground. “No,” he said remotely. “They’re a quick fix for one night, maybe, but nothing changes.”

“Then why do you go with them?” she asked.

“You’re just full of questions, aren’t you missy?” he said taking her hand and pulling her off the bench.

“I’m sorry if I was nosy, ” she said quickly, realizing that she had been grilling him. “I’m just…interested.”

“I’ll say. Is there anything else you would like to know?”

“Yes. Where I can get a hamburger? I’m starving.”

“That’s right, you missed your birthday dinner on account of me, didn’t you? Well, the least I can do to make up for it is to feed you. I know a good Mexican burger place, Want to go?”

“You bet.”

They were on the road again shortly, Danny humming along with his radio as he drove.

“Your mood had improved, ” Michelle said.

“Must be because of you,” he said, glancing at her.

“I was with you in the restaurant, too,” she said impishly.

“Prolonged exposure may be required to have an effect,” he said.

“Then you’ll have to see more of me,” Michelle suggested. He glanced over at her but didn’t reply.

They got to a railroad style diner with vinyl booths and a mini jukebox affixed to each table. They ordered burgers, and while they waited for them to arrive, Danny said, “So what do you want for your birthday?”

“Riding lessons”, she said fervently.


“Yes. I’m the only one on the whole ranch who can’t ride a horse, and I feel ridiculous. My father said Miguel could teach me, but he never seems to have any free time and…”

“I’ll teach you,” Danny offered casually.

“Are you serious? Michelle asked, wide-eyed.

“Sure. If you ‘re not scared of me after tonight, that is,” he added watching her face.

“I’m not scared of you, ” Michelle said softly.

“Brave girl.” he said wryly, seemingly relieved.

“Okay, I’ll work the time out with your father. We can start tomorrow.”

“You sure you don’t’ mind?” Michelle asked delighted.

“Nope, It will give me something constructive to do”.

Their food came, and Danny asked Michelle about her life in Springfield as they ate.

“Boredom,” was Michelle’s description. “I couldn’t wait to get out here for the summer.”

“Are we that much more exciting?” he asked raising his brows. He seemed relaxed now, his coffee colored eyes smiling, that is it was difficult to recall the violent stranger who had erupted in the restaurant.

“Anything is more exciting than living with my brother,” Michelle said around a mouthful of hamburger. “As a jailer, he’s about on a level with Ernest Borgnine in From Here to Eternity.”

“Fatso Judson, sergeant of the stockade,” Danny said, grinning. “You remember that old movie?”

“I love old movies. My brother doesn’t let me go out much, and when I get tired of books the television is about the only thing left.”

“So what’s your brother’s problem?” Danny asked, popping a French fry into his mouth.

“He thinks every guy under the age of sixty is after me.”

“I’m sure they are,” Danny said evenly.

“I wish as many were as he thinks”, Michelle said glumly, and he smiled. “I’m having a good time now,” Michelle said brightly.

“Really?” he asked as if he doubted it.

“Sure, why not?”

He shrugged, ” I guess I don’t consider myself very entertaining outside of…” He stopped. He didn’t say “Bed”, but the implication was clear.

Michelle could feel herself blushing. So that’s why he pursued women like Eloise Randall. They made him feel successful when he felt like a failure everywhere else. “I think you’re very entertaining,” Michelle said gently.

“I think you’re just easily amused,” he responded, smiling and she had to smile, too.

The waitress arrived to clear their plates, and Danny ordered desert in a low tone while Michelle selected a number on the jukebox. The waitress returned with coffee for Danny and a chocolate cupcake with a candle in it for Michelle.

“Surprise”, Danny said.

Michelle was touched. He lit the candle and insisted on singing an off key rendition of “Happy Birthday” with the waitress, who thought the whole thing very cute. Michelle was embarrassed by the performance but pleased by his attempt to repair the wreckage of the evening. As far as she was concerned, he had succeeded. They divided the cupcake in half.

He glanced at his watch and said, “I better get you home, Your dad will be very upset with me if I keep you out too late.” Michelle didn’t want to go, but agreed reluctantly.

The drive back to the ranch was quiet yet companionable. When they arrived home, the house was dark. “Cinderella’s back from the ball before midnight,” Danny said as he unlocked the door. He walked into the kitchen with Michelle and turned on the lights.

“Thank you,” Michelle said. “I had a wonderful time.”

“I’m glad and I’m sorry about what happened earlier. I didn’t want to ruin anything for you.”

“You didn’t. She stood on tiptoe to kiss his check, and for just a moment his arm came around her, pressing her close.

She felt his hard, muscular body along the length of hers, inhaled his masculine scent, and then he released her. “I’ll come by for your first lesson at one,” he said softly. “Good night.”

“Good night,” she whispered.

And he was gone.

Michelle wandered back to her bedroom, thinking about the evening she had just spent. What a contradiction Danny was, she could certainly see why he was considered a troublemaker, but he had been so nice to her later on. It was if two natures were at war within him, and it was a toss up as to which one would win.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ – Chapter 4

November 10, 2015

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?”


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.”

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 3

November 9, 2015

Republisher’s Note: A reader of the blog just sent me this missing chapter for Marriage of Convenience. According to her father’s will Michelle must marry Danny or his ranch will be sold out beneath him.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 3

It seemed to Michelle that she was a teenager again as she drifted back.

Michelle looked at the clouds floating past the airplane window, listening to the pilot announcing the descent to Europe. Her stomach was knotted with excitement. This was her first time away from home without her brother (thank-god), her first time on a flight and her first visit to her father’s new house. She had just graduated from high school in Springfield the week before, and she was on her way to her father’s wedding.

She’d never met her future stepmother, a widow with a grown son, Michelle’s father knew his fiancee from the local ranchers association. She’d sold her own place when she decided to leave her so called “business”. She decided to remarry, the couple planned to run the ranch together. Michelle had seen a picture of her, a tall dark woman standing next to her father, who looked very happy.

The ground was rising up to the plane. Michelle could make out houses and cars below, miniaturized like monopoly pieces. She sat back in her seat and closed her eyes, thinking about ten weeks of freedom that awaited her. Her father was dictatorial about long range plans and given to scatted outbursts of parental concern, but on a day to day basis he was much less exacting than her brother who practically required an hourly check in from his sister. Michelle planned to make the most from her parole.

The jets engines reversed and Michelle felt their backward thrust, then the jolt as the landing gear touched the ground. She lifted her overnight case onto her lap and shouldered purse, intending to be the first person into the aisle when the seat belt light went off. She had brought three suitcases, every stitch of summer clothing she owned and she felt outfitted for anything.

Her father was waiting for her in the deplaning lounge alone. He enveloped her in a bear hug. Michelle closed her eyes and let him hold her as he’d done when she was little. She’d missed him. “Honey, it’s great to have you here,” her father finally said, misty eyed as he released her.

“Where’s Carmen?” Michelle asked after they looked each other over in smiling silence.

“Oh, she thought it would be better if she just waited at home. She wanted to give us a chance to get reacquainted on the drive out to the ranch. You look great honey. I can’t wait for you to see the ranch. I was telling Carmen this morning, I just know you’re going to love it,” her father said.

“I still don’t believe that Rick agreed to let me come out here,” Michelle said to him. Noticing his linen shorts and loose print shirt. He had never dressed that way in Springfield even in high summer. They made small talk as they waited for her luggage to come up on the carousel, and when it did, Michelle’s father stared in disbelief.

“Honey, you didn’t tell me you were packing for the whole city of Springfield,” he said dryly, staggering as he lifted one of the overloaded suitcases to the floor.

“Did I bring too much?” Michelle asked nervously.

“Nah, whatever gave you that idea?”

“I didn’t want to have to buy anything, since I won’t have a job.”

“Don’t worry about it, if you want anything you just let me know.”

As they left the airport, and took the exit to the ranch, her father cleared his throat and said, “Honey, there’s something I want to discuss with you before we get there. I didn’t mention it in my letters. We just found out yesterday that Carmen’s son will be coming in for the wedding tomorrow, and might be staying for awhile.”

“Oh?” Michelle said trying to remember what she knew about Carmen’s son. She had a vague impression that he was older than she was, in his twenties. She knew he’d been involved in the so called “Business” with his mother before they tried to legitimize it.

“Yeah, he was helping his uncle out in California, but he couldn’t live that sort of life anymore. I think he had plans to leave when the wedding was over, but Carmen talked him into working on the ranch for a bit. I could use the help.” Ed glanced over at her. “Truthfully I think his mother would like to keep an eye on him.”


Her father sighed. “He’s had a little trouble readjusting after the mob,” he said shortly in a tone that indicated the subject was now closed.

Michelle filed that away for future reference, turning her attention to the scenery as they drove through the town and upward into the foothills. The stables and guest houses were at the back, against the mountain rim and behind a one story house that was shaped like and L. with long shuttered windows and redwood siding. They left the luggage in the car and went up a brick walk that bordered on either side with flower beds. ”

“Carmen we’re here,” her father called as they entered.

A woman with streaked dark hair entered the cool, air conditioned front hall. “Welcome, dear You’re just as pretty as all of your photos. We’re so happy to have you with us. Come inside,” Carmen said. “You must be hot and tired from your trip.”

Michelle followed her father from the hall, past the living room, which was furnished with low sofas and chairs in beige linen and raw cotton, into a kitchen/den combination. They sat in the breakfast nook and sipped iced tea flavored with lemon and lime slices.

“Your room is all ready for you,” Carmen said brightly. “Rosa just changed the linens this morning.”

“Rosa?” Michelle asked, looking at her father.

“Our housekeeper. She lives in town with her little girl. She just went home for the day, you’ll meet her tomorrow,” Carmen replied.

“I think you better go to bed miss,” Ed said to Michelle. “Your eyelids are slipping to half mast.”

“I’m wide awake,” Michelle replied, stifling a yawn.

Her father was about to reply when the kitchen door opened abruptly. A suitcase was tossed through the doorway, and then its owner appeared. His hair unruly and his skin as brown as a nut. He was wearing two days growth of stubble and a Peck’s bad boy expression. “Hi, Mother,” the new arrival said, smiling the crooked smile that Michelle would come to know. “Am I still in time for the ceremony?”

“Daniel!” Carmen jumped up with a glad cry, embraced him and shot Michelle’s father a worried look over her son’s shoulder. Michelle observing the scene, got the message this was expected to be a problem. She studied Danny, wondering why. Her father’s vague reference to adjustment difficulties after being in the mob didn’t tell her much.

He was about eight or ten years older than she was, in his middle to late twenties, with the slow, graceful carriage of a roaming panther. When he walked over to shake her father’s hand, his step was controlled and quiet, even though he stood a head taller than the older man and must have weighed nearly as much. Michelle knew the type from her observation of athletes at school. She suspected that he could explode into motion that would dazzle the eye in an instant. His dark gaze moved across the room to her and remained there. He examined her until she became uncomfortable and his mother intervened to say, “Daniel, this is Ed’s daughter Michelle. She’s staying with us this summer.”

Michelle stood as if called upon in class to give an answer, and Danny walked over to her, looking down into her face. His eyelashes were very long, almost girlish.” Hi,” he said briefly and offered his hand as he had to her father. Michelle took it, feeling foolish. She had never shaken hands with a man before, and he seemed almost to be mocking her with the gesture, as it only served to emphasize her youth. He held her fingers trapped in his while he studied her for a moment, then he let her go, turning away as if she were of no consequence.

“We expected you earlier,” his mother said to him.

“Well, Mother, I got a late start,” Danny replied, sitting as his mother gestured to a chair and stretching his legs before him.

Carmen was getting up, when the door opened and on of the ranch hands burst into the room. “Fair Season is about to foal. You folks told me to let you know.”

Ed and Carmen both bolted for the door. “That’s our prince mare!” Ed called as he ran into the night.

“We’ve been waiting a week for this,” Carmen added hot on his heels. “Help yourself to anything you like, the fridge is full,” she advised her son before disappearing after her fiance. Danny and Michelle were left to share uncomfortable silence.

“Did you ever see so much fuss about a horse?” Danny finally said, shooting her a sidelong glance. “You’d think that mare was giving birth to the Prince of Wales.”

Michelle watched as he sauntered over to the refrigerator and yanked the door open. His shirt was stuck to his back with perspiration, and she could make out the column of his spine through the thin cotton. He fitted his hair off his nape with a casual hand. He withdrew and apple and turned to face her, leaning against the kitchen counter and crossing his legs at the ankle.

“So,” he said taking a bite, “How old are you?”

“Eighteen,” she replied.”…In two weeks.”

“As much as that?” He said raising his brows. “I would never have guessed.”

She knew that he was baiting her but wasn’t sure how to reply.

“I suppose they warned you about me,” he added.

Michelle looked down, nonplussed.

He nodded, pursing his lips. “I thought so. Well, don’t worry. I haven’t taken into hurting little teenyboppers yet, so you’re safe.”

“I’m not a teenybopper,” she said annoyed.

“Oh No? What are you?” He asked as if genuinely interested, turning the apple and taking another bite of it.

“I guess I’m a….young adult,” she replied, using a term from her high school, uncomfortably aware that she sounded juvenile.

He grinned. “What does that make me? And old adult?” He took another bite of apple. “SO tomorrow’s the big day, huh?” he said. “Your dad and my mother are going to get married.”

Michelle nodded. “How do you feel about that? I’m happy for my father. My mother and father never got along, and he seems like a changed man now.”

“My parents got along great,” Danny offered, eyeing her steadily. “When my father died, Mother was devastated. I didn’t think she’d ever marry again.”

“Oh,” Michelle said quietly as Danny bit into a cookie. “If you’d stop inhaling that junk for a minute, I’ll make you something to eat,” she added shyly, attempting to gain control of the conversation once more.

“She cooks”, Danny said wonderingly, dusting cookies crumbs from his fingers. “What does she cook?”

“Anything you like. Are there eggs in the refrigerator?” she asked walking past him to look inside. “I think so. How about an omelet?” Michelle asked, pushing items aside to find what she wanted.

“Sounds great,” Danny replied, watching as she assembled ingredients and went looking for a skillet. It took her a little longer than usual, since she was unfamiliar with the kitchen, but she soon has an omelet simmering in the pan, filling the air with an appetizing aroma.

“I’m impressed,” Danny said kicking a chair loose from the table legs with his foot and dropping into it.

“Don’t be,” she said. “Rick works full time. And goes in on weekends sometimes and stays late a lot. It was either learn to cook or starve.”

Carmen entered the house, “She’s a beauty,” she said.

“Where is my father?” Michelle asked.

“He’s helping the men clean up. I just came in to call the vet.” Carmen walked into the living room, patting her son’s cheek as she past. “Sleep tight sweetheart. See you in the morning.”

“I would be happy to Mother, if you would show me where the bed is,” Danny replied.

“You’re sleeping in the guest house. The young lady gets the extra room.”

“Fine with me,” Danny said equably, picking up his suitcase. Danny turned and looked at Michelle when his mother left. “Thanks for fixing me something to eat,” he said.

“You’re welcome.”

He doubled his fist and tapped her lightly on the chin. “Good night, kid,” he said softly.

“Goodnight,” Michelle replied. Watching him walk out of the room. She heard the back door close behind him.

Well, so that was Carmen’s son, the object of so much concern, Michelle could understand it better now. Although he hadn’t been doing anything particularly unusual that evening there was an aura of power about him, of danger. It was subtle, but unmistakable. She wasn’t sure what to think of him.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 2

November 8, 2015

Republisher’s Note: It’s almost as hard to understand what these two are thinking and feeling at first as during the fake marriage on the show. I think it’s worth it though. I think the initial set up here is strange, but you’ll really enjoy once Michelle gets to the ranch. Also in a nice change from the last few fanfics, Bill isn’t evil and isn’t near the doofus he was in One Night Only. I like Bill. I’ve known him since his parents first met (actually they are another of my all time favorite couples) when Bill wasn’t even a gleam in his daddy’s eye yet. I just don’t want him romantically involved with Michelle so I’m glad this fanfic is kinder to him.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 2

Michelle was silent. Then, “He was old-fashioned, as you know. He thought I needed a husband. He was always after me to get married, and over the years he grew very fond of Danny.” Michelle shifted in her chair, choosing her words carefully. “In the beginning, when Dad first married Danny’s mother, Danny had some…problems. A lot of people wrote him off, I think, but Dad always seemed to understand him. After Danny’s mother died five years ago, Dad sort of lost interest in the place and Danny really ran the ranch himself. Dad came to rely on Danny more and more, like a son. He had a great deal of respect and affection for him.”

“But you don’t have any affection for him.”

“I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Michelle replied shortly, aware that she wasn’t exactly answering the question.

Ross let it slide. “What kind of problems did Danny have when you knew him?” he asked.

“My father told me that Danny and his mother use to be a big time Mob family. He was pretty disturbed when I met him I guess–fighting, disappearing for days at a stretch, drinking.”

“Really?” Ross said getting worried. “Was Danny dangerous?”

“Not to me,” Michelle replied softly, her expression changing.

Ross nodded slowly.

“I guess my father thought he would be taking care of both of us, tying things up all neat and tidy this way,” Michelle offered resignedly.

“What happened if I don’t marry him , if I don’t contest the will but just refuse to comply with it?”

Ross looked pained. “I guess you didn’t read that part. The whole place reverts to charity, becomes a wildlife refuge.”

Michelle stared at the floor morosely. The ranch was Danny’s life as it had been her father’s before her stepmom’s death. She hated to be pushed into this, but to deprive Danny of his home and livelihood was cruel, when all she had to do to prevent that was follow Ross’s advice. She had to admit her father had know exactly what he was doing.

“Marry him,” Ross said again. “Why is that such an awful prospect? You can handle it in friendly fashion, can’t you?”

Friendly fashion. Michelle didn’t know whether she wanted to laugh or cry. “Ross, I have to think about this,” she finally said. “Let me have my copy of the will, and I’ll study it. I’ll call you in a few days.”

Danny Santos. She had managed not to think about him for a long time, even when her father mentioned him, she would smoothly change the subject without comment. She had never thought her father picked up on her reaction, but maybe he had noticed something.

Michelle took off her suit and shoes and made herself a cup of tea, then sat in her slip by the bay window in the living room.

Dear old Dad, she thought grimly. Her grief at his loss was submerged in a welter of fury at this high handed maneuvering, so typical of the arrangements he liked to make for his daughter. He was still trying to control her life, even after his death.

She recalled him as he’d looked that August when she was eighteen; It was how she always pictured him, since she had never seen him again after that summer. He’d been slim, with wide shoulders and the sort of hipless, long legged physique. He had the blackest hair she had ever seen.

As usual Michelle tried not to think about Danny. Over the years, she had perfected that art to such a degree that the very whisper of him in her mind triggered an avoidance response. But this time she let the image remain, remembering the man who had changed her life and spoiled her for anyone else.

Michelle recalled his face with a painful clarity that all the years of sublimation had not managed to dim; the deep-set brown eyes, the heavy black brows, straight Santos nose. But most of all she remembered his mouth, its surprising softness and…..

Her eyes filled with tears now as the bittersweet recollection washed over her. How could she have resisted him? Had an incubus been summoned by a spell to break her young girl’s heart, it would have taken the form of Danny Santos.

He was the reason she could never make a commitment to another man, he was the reason she had broken her engagement to a fellow law student just before graduation. For all her refusal to think about him, talk about him, acknowledge that he still existed on the earth, he had dominated her life all these years.

Had her father sensed that?

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 1

November 7, 2015

Republisher’s Note: A reader named Rose sent me the two missing beginning chapters. Thank you very much and if you have any Manny fanfic chapters either old or new ones you’ve written please share.

Since she’s shared Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 was already out of order, I’m going to go ahead and repost the rest of the story so it’s in order.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 1

“Tell him I’ll be there around five, if he can wait for me,” Michelle Bauer said into the phone. She listened to the response and nodded. “Okay,” she answered, concluding the conversation, and hung up thoughtfully, staring out the window at the full, newly blooming trees.

The appointment was to discuss her father’s will with his probate lawyer. Her father had just died in Europe, leaving instructions forbidding a funeral or memorial service of any kind. His passing seemed unreal to Michelle, who had never had a chance to say goodbye.

The house line buzzed on her phone. She picked it up distractedly. “How about dinner tonight?” Bill Lewis said.

“Bill I can’t,” Michelle replied. “I have to go over to Ross Marler’s office and discuss my father’s estate.  Ross’s being very mysterious, refusing to talk about it over the phone.” Michelle had been dating Bill, her colleague in the district attorney’s office, for several months. Michelle decided to study law in school, after wanting to be a doctor for several years.

“Maybe your dad left you an emerald mine in South America, ” Bill said lightly.

Michelle smiled. “I wish it were that simple. I’m sure it concerns the ranch, and what I’m going to do about that, I haven’t a clue.”

“You’ll resolve it, ” Bill said confidently. “Selling it is probably the answer.”

” Bill, I’ve got another call.”

” Okay,” Bill said, “I’ll call you tonight.” Michelle switched lines and took the call, then hung up and grimaced at the pile of paperwork awaiting her. At this point her summation consisted of an assortment of scattered index cards with notes like “Point out defendant’s recent history of psychiatric treatment” and “remind jury of previous threats against the victim’s family.” Michelle made a face. This would never do. She instructed her secretary to hold all further calls and settled down to prepare for the court presentation.

But her mind kept wandering back to the subject of her father. Michelle’s mother had died, after finding out about an affair her dad had with a hospital nurse. He remarried. When her step-mother died, her father had remained in Europe on his ranch with his stepson as the foreman. Her father visited Michelle in Springfield regularly, but she had not been back to Europe since the summer after she graduated from high school.

Ten years, she thought. During that time she had gone to college and pre-med, then changed her major and went to law school, taken a job as an assistant district attorney in Springfield and performed with notable success.

But somehow when she thought of Europe, she was always eighteen again. At a quarter to five Michelle gave up on the summation, deciding to keep her appointment with Ross and then spend a couple of late nights getting the oral presentation ready. She packed her briefcase and walked the four blocks to Ross’s office, enjoying the late-spring afternoon.

Winnie, Ross’s secretary, waved her inside. “Hi Ross,” Michelle said, dropping wearily into the lawyer’s conference chair and setting her briefcase on the floor.

Ross looked at her over the tops of his glasses. “Bad day?” he said.

“Kind of.”

He sighed. “I’m afraid I’m not going to improve it”.

Michelle surveyed him. Ross was one of her father’s oldest friends, and she’d known him since she was a child. “What’s the matter, Ross?” she said easily. “Didn’t the papers come through?”

“Oh they came through, all right, but you’re not going to like what they say”

“What do they say?”

“You’d better sit down, Michelle,” Ross said.

Staring at him, Michelle said, “I am sitting down.” Michelle leaned forward. “Tell me,” she said tersely.

“Well, your father left you half the ranch in Europe on one condition,” Ross said cautiously.

“Half?” Michelle asked, bewildered.


“What’s the condition,?” She had no idea what to do with a horse ranch, half or whole, in the first place, and couldn’t think of any reason why her father would place a condition on her receipt of it, in the second.

“You must marry your father’s stepson, Danny Santos,” Ross said, wincing. Michelle’s ivory skin became even paler, and her fingers closed around the leather-padded arms of her chair. Danny Santos. The name brought a flood of unwanted memories, and her mouth became a grim line.

“I will not marry that man under any circumstances,” she announced flatly.

“Read it and weep.” Ross replied, shrugging, and tossed a file into Michelle’s lap. “You get half the place and Danny gets half. To keep it together and hold it as joint tenants, you have to get married.”

Michelle flipped through the pages, reading the intermittently, and then clipped the file together, replacing it on Ross’s desk carefully. “Ross, this is preposterous, she said. Estates on condition of marriage went out with the last century, you know that. The will would never hold up in court, the condition would be struck.”

Ross pursed his lips. ” I told your father as much. I said that if you contested it the condition would fail, but he insisted.”

“So what am I supposed to do now?” Michelle demanded, frustrated.

“Are you asking my advice?”

“I imagine I’d better hear it,” Michelle answered wearily.

“Contesting this will take forever,” Ross said. “The probate docket is backed up into next year. I know what your situation is at work. You’re up against a tough thing there, and you don’t need to be suing your father’s estate at the same time. My advice is to take a leave of absence when your current case closes, go to Europe and marry this Danny. If you allow this will to go through, the estate will be probated in a few months and you can divorce the guy.”

“Ross, you can’t be serious,” Michelle said dumbfounded.

“Why not? Take a vacation in Europe. Go through a civil ceremony with the step-son and cut him loose when you get clear title. You and he can sell the place and split the money, or he can buy out your half.

“I’m not going to do it!” Michelle replied outraged.

“Is it something about this man, Danny that’s bothering you?” Ross asked mildly, watching her face.

“Why do you say that?” Michelle asked sharply.

“Your father gave me the impression that you knew him.”

“I knew him once,” Michelle answered distantly, avoiding the lawyers gaze. “I spent the summer out there ten years ago when my father married his mother.”

“Can you think of any reason why your father would force you to do this?


One Night Only, Epilogue by Samj

October 30, 2015

Republisher’s Note: Tonight has one of my favorite lines from Manny fanfic. “Michelle still didn’t understand the attraction of futbol or why Danny couldn’t just call it soccer like the rest of the US…”We hit a Manny happy ending, but look for another fanfic to start soon.

AUTHOR NOTE: This is my response to Kellie’s challenge for the Amnesia RR. Kellie, I sure hope this is what you wanted, because I’m not writing anything else! Sorry it’s a little “rough” I only really had time to do a sketch rather than a well-developed chapter. And I have to admit that I feel a little silly posting the epilogue to a story I didn’t originally post here, but Carrie gave me her okay (and Kellie posed her challenge here), and I had to post it somewhere, right?

One Night Only, Epilogue

The next six months did in fact turn out to be the best of Michelle’s life…and the hardest. She and Danny were both incredibly stubborn individuals, and sustaining a relationship required an intense amount of work on both their parts.

On some things, they learned to compromise. Michelle still didn’t understand the attraction of futbol or why Danny couldn’t just call it soccer like the rest of the US but she managed to keep her comments to herself, even when games went into double-overtime. And Danny didn’t like the cliquish nature of Michelle’s friends from the hospital or the veiled remarks they’d make about his family’s business but he somehow managed to make polite conversation with them whenever he accompanied Michelle to hospital functions.

On other things, they agreed to disagree. Danny swore he would never again sit through a “modern dance” performance, no matter how much Michelle tried to tell him that they’d happened upon a particularly bad one. And Michelle refused to ride any roller coaster with “loops” or 300 foot drops, no matter how many times Danny called her chicken, or how much he whined about having to ride them alone.

And then there were the breaking points. Michelle almost walked out when Danny told her that he was thinking about going into a joint venture with Nino and Teresa. She wanted to believe him when he said the entire deal was legitimate, but she didn’t completely trust Nino or Teresa, and she was afraid that Danny’s family was pressuring him to help out his step-sister. They ended up in a huge argument, with Danny accusing Michelle of not trusting him and Michelle accusing Danny of maintaining his mob ties. It took four days (and sleepless nights), thirty-seven phone calls, and a trip to an independent financial advisor in a Chicago law firm before they were able to completely repair the damage.

Danny almost gave up when Michelle took on additional responsibilities at the hospital that ate up what little free time she had. Danny knew that her career was important to her, and he wanted her to be successful and happy, but he couldn’t help feeling neglected. He accused her of putting herself before their relationship, and of making it impossible for him to do what she expected of him, namely getting to know her and helping her get to know him. They had another huge fight, and this time it took five days, over forty phone calls, and a visit to one of Michelle’s supervisors (who explained why the temporary project could make Michelle’s entire career) to repair the damage.

And both of them felt the pressure of Michelle’s decision that they would not have a sexual relationship during their six week “trial period.” Danny had thought she was joking at first, but Michelle couldn’t have been more serious. She needed to know, she said, that there was more between them than just this incredible chemistry, and she didn’t want their obvious physical compatibility to confuse the issue. Danny had reluctantly agreed.

Michelle’s resolve lasted exactly twenty-three days….


Danny took over control of Sancorp the day after Carlos’ death. It was a seamless transition internally, and Danny had few problems moving the essential personnel from Springfield to Chicago. Not all of Sancorp’s international customers were pleased, however, and one conglomerate in particular immediately refused to deal with the “child” who had been appointed out of the blue. Danny worked night and day trying to court them back, and finally, after three weeks of conference calls, he managed to arrange a face-to-face meeting at the conglomerate’s headquarters in London. With only twenty-four hours to prepare before his flight’s departure time, he chained himself to his desk until he knew every detail of the conglomerate’s dealings with Sancorp for the previous ten years.

Danny was still making arrangements as his driver brought him home. It was almost midnight when he called Michelle to say good-bye before his six a.m. trip.

“You sound really tense,” she observed immediately, concern evident in her voice.

You don’t know the half of it, he thought, rubbing the knots in the back of his neck. “I’m fine, really,” he assured her, not wanting to waste time talking about his problems when he could be hearing about her day.

“What you need is a nice, hot bubble bath,” she informed him. “That’ll relax those knotted muscles in your neck and help you sleep.”

“Don’t you think bubble baths are kind of a chick thing, Michelle?” he joked dryly, knowing his remark would get a rise out of her.

“Oh really, and what would be the ‘manly’ remedy Danny?” she shot back, half-joking and half- irritated. “Knocking back a few beers and hitting on the barmaid?”

“Barmaid?” he repeated, trying to control his laughter as he followed his driver to the front door and waited while the driver who doubled as a body guard disarmed the alarm system and let him inside. “I can assure you that I’ve never in my life hit on a barmaid!”

“Okay, whatever,” Michelle dismissed quickly, returning to the matter at hand. “Are you alone in the house?”

“Of course,” he answered, distracted by the scent of vanilla in the air. I can smell your perfume even when you aren’t here, he marveled. “Why?” he asked suspiciously.

“Then no one will ever know about your chick’ bath,” she explained with a smile in her voice. “Now sit down on the couch and take off your shoes and socks.”

“Your wish is my command,” he answered, sitting on the arm of a chair and doing so. Hey, I at least need to take a shower before I hit the sack anyway, he rationalized, unwilling to admit that he was enjoying this new game.

“I’m guessing you’ve already lost your jacket and tie….”

“Uh-huh,” he grunted while trying to balance the phone on his shoulder and unlace his shoes with one hand.

“Well then, you can skip right ahead to taking off your pants,” she instructed casually, holding in her giggles at the shocked expression she imagined on his face.

He dropped the shoe he was holding directly on his foot, causing him to swear under his breath. “Excuse me?” he asked in disbelief.

“You heard me,” she answered in mock exasperation. “There’s no one around to see you, so just unbuckle your belt, unbutton the button, unzip the zipper, and take off your pants already.”

He couldn’t help laughing. “This is getting a little kinky, don’t you think?” he asked playfully, leaving his pants in a heap with his socks and shoes.

“Mm-hmm,” she purred seductively, remembering just how irresistible he looked in nothing but boxer shorts. “That doesn’t mean you want me to stop, does it?”

“Not on your life, baby,” he assured her, already working on the buttons on his shirt. “Not on your life.”

“I really, really like the way you think,” she began again, but before she could continue she was interrupted by Danny’s gasp as he opened the bathroom door and stepped inside.

The overhead lights were turned off, but the area around the oversized bath tub was illuminated by the glow of dozens of scented candles. Piles of bubbles filled the tub, and in the middle of it all sat Michelle, her face flushed bright red from the heat of the water and her own anticipation.

“Mi-Mi-Michelle,” he stuttered, his cell phone clanging noisily against the expensive tile as it slipped off his shoulder. “What are you doing here?”

She smiled her most innocent smile. “I was just making sure that the water was the right temperature for your bath.” Her smile turned wickedly seductive as she beckoned to him with one finger. “And it is, so why don’t you join me?”

He swallowed around the lump in his throat. “I can’t do this, Michelle.”

“Why not?” she asked in surprise, momentarily stepping out of character. Recovering quickly she amended, “Oh, you’re right, we’re still playing Simon Says.’ Danny, take off your boxer shorts and climb into the tub.”

“Michelle,” he groaned in frustration, “I can’t. Being that close to you, naked,” images of her body, glistening under the bubbles, prevented him from speaking for a moment “without being able to make love to you…it would kill me.”

Scooting up to the edge of the tub, she reached her hand out to him. “No, Danny, no,” she corrected quickly, so quickly that her words ran together, “that isn’t what I meant. I wouldn’t tease you that way.”

He crouched down in front of the tub and took her hand gently in his. “No, baby, I know you wouldn’t but…. This is important to me you’re important to me and I don’t want to screw this up.”

“Danny,” she said seriously, looking him straight in the eye, “over the last twenty-three days, you’ve convinced me that what we have is more than a physical attraction.” She sat up taller and kissed him lightly on the nose. “And, you’ve convinced me that you’re interested in more than a physical relationship. That’s all I needed to know.” She tugged on his hand, pulling him close so that she could whisper in his ear. “Besides, staying away from you has been driving me nuts!” she confided.
“You and me both,” he laughed, pulling away so that he could rid himself of his underwear and climb in with her.

She picked up a bubble-laden sponge that was floating along the water. “Now, let’s see what I can do to relax you,” she offered.

….He almost missed his flight that morning.

[End flashback]

Of course not all of their battles were with each other; in some they presented a united front against the outside world. Michelle’s battle had been against her family’s constant interference. Danny’s battle had been against the demons from his past.


When Michelle finally told her parents about her relationship with Danny, they insisted that she bring him to Thanksgiving dinner. She was nervous enough about introducing Danny to her parents for the first time, but she became absolutely livid when she walked through the kitchen door to find Bill Lewis helping Maureen carry appetizers into the dining room.

Ed feigned innocence. “I don’t see what the problem is sweetheart. I thought you would be happy to see your best friend.”

“And Bill is a very important member of this family,” Rick added, giving Bill an encouraging pat on the back. . . . .

During dinner, Ed, Rick, and Bill merely glared at Danny, while Maureen and Meta “counseled” Michelle on the poor choices she was making with her life. The only person who seemed to be on their side was Abby, but she was too busy feeding bits of turkey to two-year old Tommy to offer much verbal support.

Half-way through the incredibly tense meal, Michelle stood up and flung her napkin onto the table. “You are unbelievable!” she declared, eyes blazing with anger. “All of you! Haven’t you learned by now that you don’t get to choose the person I love?” She searched her parents’ eyes for some sign of understanding. “Do you even care how I feel?”

Somewhere deep inside, Michelle admitted that she already knew the answer to that question. Afraid to hear the words out loud, she ran from the dining room, knocking over her chair in the process.

Only when he heard the kitchen door slam shut did Danny slowly and deliberately stand and push in his chair, then pick up Michelle’s chair and push it in as well. With all eyes upon him, he slowly pronounced, “You’ve already missed years of your daughter’s life because of your own incredible egos. One day, you’re going to realize your mistake I just hope it isn’t too late.” Walking to the doorway he ended politely, “If you’ll excuse me.” ….

He found her in the passenger seat of his car, crying softly. He held her close, murmuring words of comfort until she was able to speak.

She meekly accepted the tissue he offered and dabbed at her puffy eyes. “I’m so sorry, Danny,” she kept repeating, “so, so sorry.”

“None of that matters, Michelle,” he assured her, gently stroking her hair. “There’s only one thing I need to know.” He lifted her chin so that so she was looking straight in his eyes. “Did you mean it, baby?” he asked, terrified of her answer.

“Did I mean what?” she asked in confusion. Then, just as quickly, understanding dawned. “That I love you?”

He nodded, unable to breathe. His entire future rested on that question.

“Yes, Danny, I meant it. I love you.” She waved her hand absently toward the house. “Of course this wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to tell you.”

He let out a sigh of relief and pulled her into an embrace. “It was perfect,” he whispered in her ear. “You’re perfect.”

She pulled back and looked him in the eye again. “I should’ve told you sooner. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he assured her. “I already knew. I just wanted to hear you say it.”

She gave a half-hearted smile in response to his over-confidence. “Well, then listen very carefully,” she instructed seriously. “I love you, Danny Santos.”

“I love you, Michelle Bauer,” he returned just as seriously, leaning in for a long, slow kiss.

When they finally pulled apart for air he smirked, then turned the key in the ignition and gunned the engine. “Now let’s get out of here,” he suggested.

[End flashback]

Carmen didn’t ask any questions when Danny and Michelle showed up on her doorstep in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. She simply ushered them into the dining room, where two extra places had been set “just in case.”

Because of what happened at Thanksgiving, Michelle didn’t even bother making plans for Christmas with her family. Instead, she and Danny traveled to Spain to spend the holiday with Carmen, Bernard, Nino, Teresa, Mick and his family, and Pilar in a villa near the University which Pilar attended. It was almost impossible to imagine how any of them could’ve been happier. Carmen had her children and grandchildren together in one place for the first time since Miguel’s death, and they’d finally reached an understanding about her marriage to Bernard. Bernard found out he was going to be a grandfather in seven months. Nino and Teresa were trying to enjoy every moment of the pregnancy (morning sickness, however, posed a formidable challenge to their goal). And Mick, Danny, and Pilar were finally rebuilding the strong connections they’d had as children.

Danny whisked Michelle off to a private villa on a nearby island to celebrate the New Year, which also happened to mark the last day of their six month “trial period.” After a night of fireworks and dancing, they watched the sunrise from the balcony of their bedroom. As Danny carried her back inside to their bed and placed her gently on the edge of it, she told him she couldn’t think of a more perfect way to start off a new year.

He responded by giving her the most beautiful marriage proposal she’d ever heard, and a flawless diamond engagement ring as well.
April 2, 200?

“Oh Michelle, you look absolutely breathtaking,” Katie sighed, securely anchoring one last wisp of hair before standing back to admire her handiwork.

Michelle looked up at her reflection in the mirror and could hardly believe what she saw. “That’s because you did an incredible job,” she gasped. Swiveling her chair to face Katie she said sincerely, “Thank you so much for being my maid of honor.”

“Are you kidding?” she replied. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“I wish my family felt that way,” Michelle admitted quietly, staring intently at the carpet beneath her shoes.

On the RSVP card Ed had written in bold, block letters, “You’re about to make the biggest mistake of your life, Michelle.” On the back he had added, “How can you disappoint your mother this way?”

Michelle had already been crying for an hour when Danny let himself into her apartment. She cried for another twenty minutes before she calmed down enough to tell him what had happened.
“Why?” she asked repeatedly. “Why did he have to be so cruel?”

Katie hated the Bauers for making Michelle miserable on her wedding day. “It’s their loss, kiddo,” she assured Michelle, drawing her back to the present with her voice, “because today’s going to be perfect.”

Michelle shook her head to clear it of her family’s disapproval and quickly changed the subject. “I feel like we’re forgetting something, you know, but I can’t figure out what.”

Katie took the hint. “What could we possibly be forgetting? We’ve checked off every single box on every single checklist that both you and Danny have written up.”

“But still….” Michelle objected.

“Okay, look ” Katie held up a stack of checklists, each of which had long columns of red x’s.
“There’s only one checklist left.”

Michelle’s eyes widened like saucers. “There’s a checklist we haven’t done yet!” she exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Katie teased, “but it’s the easiest one. You remember the old rhyme: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

“Well, we’ve covered something blue,” Michelle drawled, blushing slightly at the thought of Danny removing the leg band during the reception.

“And this mantilla is definitely something old,” Katie observed, running her hand down the delicate lace. “I can’t believe that Danny’s great-grandmother actually made this for her own wedding.”

“And these earrings that Danny gave me at the rehearsal dinner last night are something new,” Michelle continued, carefully fastening them in her ears, “although they’re also entirely too extravagant. The only reason I didn’t throw more of a fit was because it didn’t seem appropriate the night before the wedding.”

“Poor Michelle,” Katie sympathized. “Stuck with gorgeous, expensive earrings on her wedding day. It must be quite a burden.” Easily deflecting Michelle’s hand as she swatted at her, Katie asked, “And you’ve got something borrowed, right?”

Michelle’s face went absolutely ashen. “That’s it! That’s what we’re missing.” She was practically hyperventilating as she pleaded, “Quick, quick, lend me something, anything.”

It took all of Katie’s self-restraint not to burst out laughing at Michelle’s panic. “Calm down, Michelle. This isn’t a problem.”

They were interrupted by a knock on the door.

Katie sighed in genuine frustration. “Danny,” she called through the door, “for the nine hundredth time today, you are not going to see Michelle until she walks down that aisle.”

“I’m afraid I’m not Danny,” revealed the woman standing in the now open doorway.

“Mom,” Michelle whispered, her throat going dry before she could say anything else.

Maureen could see the conflicting emotions written on Michelle’s face. Breaking the incredibly awkward silence she offered, “I heard you need something borrowed, sweetie. Will this do?”

Michelle looked at Maureen’s outstretched hand, which held a gold charm bracelet. “Your bracelet?” she questioned.

Maureen nodded. Fingering a gold stork she explained, “I know you’ve heard this story a million times, but your father gave me this bracelet, with this charm, the day you were born. Every single charm marks a special moment in your life, and I think you should have this with you for your wedding.”

Michelle was overcome with emotion. “Thank you so much,” she gushed, holding out her wrist so that her mother could fasten the bracelet on it. “I don’t know what to say….”

“You don’t have to say anything,” Maureen assured her, securing the bracelet despite her trembling hands.

Although she was afraid of ruining the moment, Michelle couldn’t stop herself from asking, “What are you doing here anyway?”

“You’re my daughter, Michelle, and I love you,” Maureen began. “And more importantly right now, I trust you if you truly believe that Danny Santos is the right man for you, then I’m going to support you.”

“That means everything to me,” Michelle confided with a quivering voice.

“Don’t you dare start crying Michelle Bauer,” Katie admonished seriously, relieved about the way the scene had played out in front of her. “I am not doing your makeup again.”

“I’m okay,” Michelle assured her with a shaky laugh, lightly dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. “But you can’t possibly expect me to get through this wedding without crying.” After throwing the tissue into the trash can, she picked up the mascara sitting on the dressing table and waved it at Katie. “That’s why we bought waterproof mascara, remember?”

“You know, there are a lot of things I’m gonna miss about you, roomie,” Katie began solemnly. “But your smart aleck remarks I can certainly do without.”

In response, Michelle stuck out her tongue, and Katie answered in kind.

Watching the two young women reminded Maureen of countless slumber parties where the Bauer’s living room had been filled with giggling grade schoolers. And now my baby’s getting married, she marveled.

“Okay girls, that’s quite enough,” Maureen broke in, gaining their attention. She tried to make her glance stern, but her smiling eyes gave her away as she declared, “I think we’ve kept your guests waiting long enough, Michelle, don’t you?”

“Absolutely,” Michelle agreed enthusiastically. “I can’t wait another minute.”

As Katie helped Michelle gather up her dress, Maureen added seriously, “I’m sorry I couldn’t get your father to come today as well. Sometimes I don’t know why I married such a stubborn man.”

“Because you love him,” Michelle answered simply, ignoring as best she could the pain of knowing she’d be walking down the aisle alone. “And because he needs someone to keep him in line,” she added more lightly. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

“Well, I’m not alone,” Maureen informed her as they made their way to the door. “I have one more surprise for you.”
I’ve never seen Danny this happy, Ray thought to himself as he and Mick “ushered” guests to their seats. Just as he had that thought, however, he noticed that Danny’s huge smile had dimmed and that his jaw was beginning to twitch. Who is that guy he’s walking towards? Ray wondered, hoping that Danny wasn’t going to do something stupid and hotheaded just minutes before his wedding.

Danny made a beeline towards Rick as soon as he saw him approach. Keeping his voice quite because he was in church, his tone was unmistakably malicious as he warned, “Look Dr. Bauer, if you think you can come in here and stop this wedding….”

“That isn’t why I’m here, Danny,” Rick interrupted, hoping to avoid a confrontation in front of the entire church.

“Then why are you here?” he challenged in a low growl, his arms crossed defiantly.

“My wife” Rick used a nod of his head to point to Abby, who was sitting a few rows away with Tommy on her lap “reminded me of everything that she and I went through before we got married. See, her parents didn’t think I was an appropriate husband for her.”

“I can’t imagine,” Danny returned dryly.

Rick ignored the comment. “Abby’s never gotten over her family’s rejection,” he continued, the pain he felt for his wife evident in his voice. “I don’t want that for my little sister.”

Danny raised an eyebrow expectantly, both his patience and his self-control running thin.

“I love my sister, and I’m going to support her in everything she does,” Rick vowed. “Including marrying you.”

“That’s so big of you,” Danny scoffed, while simultaneously signaling a concerned Ray that he had the situation under control.

“Hey, you don’t have to like me, Danny. And quite frankly, I don’t have to like you either.” Danny’s lips quirked at the honesty of the statement. “But we both love Michelle, and she wants both of us in her life, so why don’t we call a truce, at least for today?”

“Fine, you’re right,” Danny conceded reluctantly. “I know how much Michelle wanted her family to be here today.” I remember how miserable I was when I cut myself off from my family. Michelle brought us all back together, he winked at his mother, sitting in the front pew with Mick’s wife and children, Bernard, Nino, and Teresa; Pilar was Michelle’s other bridesmaid, and Mick was his other groomsman and I repaid her by driving a wedge between her and her own family.

Danny briefly scanned the church. “I don’t suppose you managed to drag your parents here as well?”

“My mom’s here, but just so you know no one drags her anywhere. She decided that even gaining you as a son-in-law was better than losing her little girl.” Rick chuckled at his own little joke, but Danny remained unamused. Clearing his voice he continued seriously, “My dad on the other hand….”

“Thinks that Michelle won’t go through with this if he isn’t here,” Danny supplied, shaking his head at Ed’s audacity. His guard slipped slightly and his voice was pained as he asked, “Doesn’t he realize that all he’s doing is hurting her?”

Rick actually looked sympathetic as he reassured Danny, “My sister’s an incredibly strong person; she’ll be just fine.” Catching a glimpse of Maureen at the back of the church, he excused himself saying, “Right now I need to go beg her forgiveness and she if she’ll do me the honor of letting me walk her down the aisle.”

“Thanks, Rick,” Danny said sincerely, offering his hand.

Rick shook it firmly before walking to the back of the church to talk to Michelle.
“You look beautiful,” Danny mouthed to Michelle as she practically floated down the aisle on her brother’s arm. I love you, he added silently.

Michelle had developed quite a knack for reading Danny’s mind. “I love you, too,” she mouthed back, her radiant smile somehow increasing in intensity.

When Michelle and Rick finally reached the altar, Father Tomas asked solemnly, “Who gives this woman away?”

“I do,” Rick replied confidently, placing Michelle’s hand in Danny’s and then giving her a light kiss on the cheek. “I’m her big brother,” he declared proudly.

“Very well then,” Father Tomas nodded, dismissing Rick to return to his seat with Abby, Tommy, and Maureen. “Dearly beloved….”

The end.


One Night Only by Samj Chapter 14

October 28, 2015
Republisher’s Note: Yesterday’s episode ended with a gunshot.

One Night Only by Samj Chapter 14

Michelle watched in horrified fascination. They’re all moving in slow motion. I thought that only happened in the movies.

You’re in shock, that’s why it looks slowed down, a detached, clinical voice inside her head explained, but she was too distracted to process the information.

It took an eternity just for Carlos to fall to his knees.

Danny’s arm followed the motion of Carlos’ body, his gun remaining trained on Carlos’ head.

The man standing behind Carlos lowered his arm as well, dropping it to his side and allowing his gun to hang loosely from his fingers.

Only when Carlos’ face hit the carpeted floor could Michelle see the blood spilling from the small hole in the back of his head.

She shrieked incoherently, tripping over her own feet in her haste to reach him. Her mind frantically recited the facts she would’ve presented had she been in the E/R. Gunshot wound, no visible exit, bullet’s probably lodged inside.

She ignored the warm, wet blood pouring over her fingers as she searched Carlos’ neck for a pulse. Unable to find one, she looked up at Danny with eyes made huge by fear and gasped out, “He’s dead.”

Danny crouched down beside Michelle and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her away from Carlos’ body and onto his lap. “I know, baby, I know,” he soothed, gently rocking her back and forth. “It’s gonna be okay.”

Carmen addressed the man who had been standing behind Carlos. “Deitz!” she exclaimed in a mixture of shock and relief.

Deitz spoke with great deference to his employer. “I’m sorry, Boss, I would’ve been here sooner, but” – his gun disappeared into his jacket – “Carlos had some men positioned outside, and it took longer than it should’ve to contain them.”

“But you have the situation under control now?” Carmen confirmed.

“Yeah.” Deitz looked down at Carlos’ body then back at Carmen. “And I’ll have this cleaned up in a few minutes.”

“No,” Bernard commanded with authority. “Carlos has caused enough destruction for one lifetime. We’re going to allow the police to handle this.”

Deitz looked skeptically at Carmen, who nodded her head almost imperceptibly. “You’re the Boss,” he muttered under his breath, wondering if Carmen and Bernard would live to realize their mistake.
“Of course, Ben,” Carmen replied, rolling her eyes at her attorney’s instructions. “We won’t say anything until you get here.” How many times have we been questioned by the police over the years? she added rhetorically.

“Thanks, Ben,” she finished, closing the cell phone and laying it on the fireplace mantle. Only then did she notice that her hands were shaking violently. With her back to the others in the room, she shielded her eyes with her right and did something she hadn’t done since Mick’s recovery – Carmen Santos broke down in tears.

While Carmen had been calling the police, ambulance, and Santos family criminal attorney, Bernard had been making calls to Carlos’ organization and the other New York and Chicago families to eliminate any possibility of a power vacuum forming as a result of Carlos’ death. Catching a glimpse of Carmen’s bent head out of the corner of his eye, however, he immediately handed the phone to Deitz and approached his wife.

Bernard stood behind her, his hands hanging awkwardly at his sides as he searched for some way to comfort her. When he finally spoke, his hushed tones conveyed the heaviness of his heart. “I’m so sorry, Carmen.” He placed his hands gingerly on his shoulders, unsure of what her reaction would be. Will you hate me for what my brother did to you? “I know how hard it must be for you, hearing about Miguel this way.”

Carmen turned to face him, running her hands over her face to rid it of her tears. “No,” she choked out, shaking her head.

Bernard handed her his silk handkerchief, then waited expectantly while she dabbed at her eyes.

“I mean, yes,” she sniffed, “of course it hurts, but….” She looked up at him with eyes brightened by tears. “I’m responsible for your brother’s death. How can you ever forgive me?”

“Oh Carmen,” he sighed, wishing he could somehow absorb her pain, “there’s nothing to forgive.”

“But you lost your brother because of me,” she protested, steeling herself against the anger and blame she expected from him. I know what those feelings can do to a person. I know what I almost let them do to me.

Bernard flashed back to Miguel’s violent and ugly death – at Carlos’ hand. He remembered the anguish he had felt, burying first his wife and then his best friend – in the span of only a few months.

“I know now that I lost my brother a long time ago,” Bernard confided sadly. “And the madman’ who showed up here tonight was a complete stranger.”

He glanced almost carelessly at Carlos’ body, then returned his full attention to his wife. “It would’ve been so much worse if I had lost you,” he whispered sincerely.

“You know, I really do love you,” she assured him, managing only a weak smile in light of the grave situation.

Bernard took a deep breath and asked the question that terrified him more than any other – “Even knowing what my brother did to you?”

“Both of us,” Carmen corrected, firmly grasping one of his hand between both of hers. “He did this to both of us” – she noticed a picture of her children sitting on the mantle – “all of us.” She gave him a more confident smile. “But we survived Miguel’s death, and we’ll survive this too.”

The other families can’t possibly believe that women aren’t strong enough to run the mob, he thought as he gazed at Carmen in amazement. They’re really afraid that the women will do too good a job. But he kept those thoughts to himself and settled for a simple, “I love you too, Carmen.”

Ben Warren’s legal maneuvers prevented the police from gathering very much information from his clients regarding Carlos’ death, but the police had several matters to discuss with Michelle – beginning with her kidnapping and ending with her efforts to revive Carlos. While she was being questioned, Bernard and Carmen assembled Danny, Nino, and Teresa for questioning of their own.

“Danny, I want to know about the deal between you and Nino,” Carmen demanded without any sort of lead-in.

Danny tried one last time to dodge the confrontation he knew was coming. “Mama, don’t you think there’s already enough going on?” He waved his hand in the direction of the police investigators.

“I want to know about the deal,” Carmen repeated slowly and deliberately. “Now.”

“Fine,” Danny sighed in defeat. I didn’t want to hurt you; you have to believe that. “It was pretty straightforward – all of my holdings in Chicago in exchange for cash and a guarantee of protection from the other families.”

Bernard’s eyes bore into Nino, causing both Nino and Teresa to brace themselves for an explosion. Although Bernard certainly had a lot to say, he graciously allowed Carmen to go first.

Carmen’s face went deathly pale, but she kept her voice down to prevent the police from overhearing. “How could you betray this family? If you needed money, you could’ve come to me.”

“It wasn’t about the money Mama. I was going to give you the money, to make up for the loss.” Danny paused, his heart constricting when he saw the pain in his mother’s eyes. “I just wanted out,” he explained. “I’ve always wanted out.”

“And I wanted in,” Nino supplied before Teresa mouthed don’t interrupt.’

Carmen ignored Nino completely, instead continuing with her interrogation of her son. “Why this way, Danny? Behind my back, involving an outsider. Why?”

Danny stared at his hands as he spoke. “Do you remember, Mama, when Mick moved to New York? You told me that I was the future of the family, that I had to carry on Papa’s legacy.” He met her eyes and asked softly, “How could I come to you and tell you that I didn’t want it anymore?”

“I’m your mother and I love you, that’s how,” she informed him. “All I want is for you to be happy.” I did all of this for you, for you and Mick and Pilar.

Bernard knew that Carmen would do anything for her children – hadn’t she proven that by marrying him to protect the boys? – including letting Danny leave the family completely, but he also knew that losing him the way she lost Mick would be a devastating blow. He saw an opportunity to make both of them happy, as well as to repair a tiny piece of the damage that Carlos caused all those years ago. “Have you closed this deal yet?” he asked Danny, still ignoring Nino.

“No,” Danny admitted reluctantly, grateful for the reprieve from his mother’s disappointment, “we were ironing out the final details when Tony Moreno showed up.”

“All right then. Daniel, you’ll hand back your Chicago holdings to your mother,” Bernard instructed, “and I’ll give you full control of Sancorp. Will that be acceptable?”

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, clearly caught off guard by Bernard’s offer. It can’t possibly be this easy. I didn’t even ask for Sancorp. What’s going on here? “Mama…” he prompted, seeking her approval. Please forgive me.

Carmen smiled at Bernard, aware of all the reasons behind his proposal. “That’s acceptable to me as well, as long as it makes you happy Danny.”

Danny rose from his chair and kissed his mother lightly on the cheek. “Thank you Mama,” he whispered sincerely. “I’ll make you proud of me. I will.”

Teresa grew frustrated and could no longer hold her tongue. “What about Nino and I?” she inquired of her father. “Danny promised us those holdings.”

Bernard still couldn’t comprehend how his little girl could run off to Springfield and marry a man known throughout the organized crime world as “the stupid one.” He decided to postpone dealing with it. “I know that the police will demand that we stay in Chicago until this investigation is finished,” he began. “You and Nino will stay here at the house with Carmen and I, and we will sort all of this out – your marriage, whether either of you should have any part of the business, etc.”

“But Danny gets everything he wants right away,” she whined.

“Enough,” Bernard warned sternly. “Believe me, we will discuss all of this in detail. Later.”

Danny overheard one of the officers tell Michelle, “We took your car from the parking lot and put it in the impound yard. You’ll be able to pick it up in the morning.”

“I think they’re done with Michelle,” he informed the group. “I’m gonna take her home now.” He kissed his mother’s cheek again. “I’ll call you in the morning, Mama,” he promised.

I may get my family back after all, Carmen realized.
Michelle’s apartment, several hours later.

The detached, clinical voice had returned. “Sex is a reaffirmation of life,” it lectured as Michelle rested her head on Danny’s chest and willed her breathing to return to normal.

Oh I’m definitely alive, she quipped, her entire body still tingling. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive.

When they had arrived back at her apartment, Michelle had headed immediately for the shower, her only concern washing the blood and sweat from her body. Standing under the hot, cleansing water, however, she had been mercilessly assaulted by thoughts and images of Carlos’ death. By the time she had emerged from the bathroom, she had been desperate for any kind of reprieve.

Seeing Danny standing at the foot of her bed, Michelle decided that he could be a quick fix to her problem. Boldly she unwrapped the towel from her body and then used her own weight to push Danny down onto the bed.

Danny had been running on adrenaline from the moment he learned of Michelle’s kidnapping, and more than anything at that moment he just wanted to know that she was indeed safe…and real. He quickly rolled them both over and helped her in her efforts to rid him of his clothing. . . . .

But now that their “activities” had ceased, Michelle could no longer push aside those distressing thoughts.

I almost died tonight. The words hit her like a physical blow, and left her reeling. If Dietz – it was almost funny to think that she owed her life to a man named “Dietz” of all things – had been delayed a few more seconds…. If Carlos had decided to “eliminate” her before he went after Nino…. If, if, if….

I almost died tonight, she repeated to herself, trying to come to grips with the statement.

Danny, who had yet to form a coherent thought, felt Michelle stiffen in his arms. “Are you okay, baby?” he whispered in her ear, knowing instinctively what her answer would be.

“Am I okay?” she parroted back incredulously, raising her head from his chest and looking him straight in the eye. “No, Danny, I’m not ‘okay.’ I almost died tonight.” She paused, still wrestling with the monumental impact of that statement. Moving unconsciously from fear to anger she accused, “I almost died tonight because of you.”

Danny refused to admit the truth of her words, even though his own conscience had been telling him the same thing ever since the kidnapping. Attempting to reassure her, he brushed hair out of her face and stated firmly, “I promise that nothing like what happened tonight will ever happen again.”

“You’re damn right it won’t!” Michelle shot back angrily, rolling off of him and then grabbing only a pillow with which to cover herself as she scooted to the far edge of the bed. “I want you out of here, Danny!” she declared, turning her back to him and planting her feet on the floor. When he didn’t respond she stood up from the bed and faced him, holding the pillow across her body with one hand and pointing toward the door with the other. “Leave, Danny. NOW!”

Danny sat up and leaned against the headboard, crossing his arms in front of his chest in a defiant posture. “I’m quite comfortable right here,” he informed her.

Furious, Michelle picked up Danny’s pants from the pile of clothing at the foot of the bed and threw them at his head. “This is my apartment, Danny, and I’m telling you to get dressed and get out.”

“You know,” he ducked the flying pants and allowing them to remain perched half-off and half-on the headboard beside him, “even if I did want to get dressed, which I don’t, I would probably need my boxers before I could put on my pants.”

“Not a problem,” she retorted, crumpling his boxer shorts into a ball before hurling them at him with as much force as she could manage.

He caught them easily, which only caused to infuriate her further. She quickly gathered up his shirt, socks, belt – even his shoes – and threw them all towards him.

“Hey!” he exclaimed as the belt buckle stung his bare chest, “knock it off.” Picking up the pile from his lap he made a show of dumped it where Michelle’s pillow had been before she had left the bed. He balled his hands into fists and pressed them down into the bed, one on each side of his body – simultaneously bracing himself and restraining his own growing anger. “I’m not gonna let you run away from me again.”

Michelle stormed over to the dresser and yanked one of the drawers open with both hands, letting go of the pillow in the process. Under normal circumstances she would’ve felt incredibly self- conscious, but at the moment her anger was overriding all other considerations.

Grabbing a pair of panties she hurriedly stepped into them and pulled them on while insisting, “You can’t possibly expect me to stick around and wait to get killed, Danny.”

“I told you -”

She cut him off before he could continue. “What makes you think that next time will be any different, huh?” she challenged, struggling into a tank top. She couldn’t seem to make her arms and head cooperate, and it took a few extra seconds before her head emerged from the top of the shirt. “You couldn’t protect me this time, Danny, so why the hell should I believe that you’ll be able to the next time?” Without bothering to put on any more clothing she spun around and locked eyes with him, reminding him, “After all, you’ve lied to me before.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you about this,” he roared in indignation.

“I wouldn’t lie to you,” she mimicked sarcastically. “Should I take your word’ for that?”

“Yeah, you should,” he answered seriously, lowering his voice momentarily. “I’ve never broken my word. Ever.”

Michelle only glared, which caused Danny to reemphasize loudly, “I wouldn’t lie to you. Not about this. Not now.”

Shaking with anger, Michelle clutched the dresser to prevent the room from spinning. “Why not?” she shouted.

“Because I love you!” Danny shouted back, startling even himself with the revelation.

Michelle tilted her head back and let out an exasperated sigh that conveyed her extreme skepticism at his revelation. “You don’t love me Danny,” she stated matter-of-factly.

Danny’s mouth gaped open at the sheer audacity of her statement. How the hell can she dismiss this so lightly?

His anger immediately overriding his shock, he snatched his boxer shorts and shoved his legs into them. “Do you think I just casually throw those words around?” he challenged, staring her straight in the eye.

“Love is more than just sex, Danny,” she lectured impatiently, rising on tiptoe for emphasis on the word sex.’ “What happened here tonight was a natural reaction to fear of death.”

“Psych 101?” he mocked, his feet tangling in his pant leg and almost causing him to fall. “I took that class too, Michelle. And I’m not stupid.”

“I didn’t say that you were,” she defended, keeping her distance because she doubted her own ability to resist him, not because she thought he would hurt her.

“I know why tonight happened, Michelle. I felt the same mix of fear and anger and relief that you did.” He popped the button off his pants in his haste to fasten them. “I didn’t say that I love you because of that.”

Why can’t he just be reasonable about this? Why does he have to keep pushing? “You can’t love me Danny,” she reiterated, trying a different argument. “You don’t even know me.”

He was completely still as he informed her, “I know you. I do.” Then he resumed dressing, yanking his shirt off the bed and putting it on, his anger still evident in every move.

The tone of his voice sent shivers down her spine, and for a moment she forgot why she was even arguing with him. But then the events at Bernard’s house came rushing back with frightening clarity, and she found the motivation to continue. “Oh really? Is that one of the skills’ you picked up as a mob boss, the ability to ‘read’ people?”

He walked toward her and lowered his voice to almost a whisper. “This isn’t about reading people. This is about you…us.” Finished fastening the last button, he reached out and brushed his hand over her cheek. “I – know – you,” he repeated slowly, emphasizing every word.

She batted his hand away and tried to step back, but the dresser stopped her progress. “I’m not falling for your lines,” she claimed, flattening herself against the dresser to stay as far away from him as possible.

“Fine,” he agreed easily, too easily for Michelle’s tastes. “I heard everything you said about Bill, and your family, and your life in Springfield when we had dinner together. Or had you forgotten about that?”

“That isn’t enough, Danny. You know why I came to Chicago, I’ll give you that, but do you know why I stayed in medicine after I got here?” She inched along the side of the dresser until she was out of Danny’s reach. “You know why I haven’t been back to Springfield, but do you know why I still co-chair Cedars’ fundraising gala for the AIDS program?”

When Danny failed to respond, Michelle relented slightly and switched to more “softball” questions. “Do you even know what I like on my pizza, or the name of my kitty?”

Danny shook his head ruefully. “You know, for someone pontificating about what love is, you sure have a-helluva-lot to learn.”

Instead of following Michelle when she stalked over toward the doorway, Danny went back to the bed and sat down to put on his expensive Italian dress shoes. “Love isn’t knowledge either, Michelle,” he pointed out, deliberately concentrating on tying the shoes. “I could know all of those things about some other woman, but that wouldn’t make me love her.”

He’s right, she realized with complete certainty. I know everything about Bill, and I don’t love him.

Danny decided to take advantage of the indecision on Michelle’s face. Sliding gently off the bed, he approached her cautiously, using eye contact and the tone of his voice to try to soothe her. “We’re connected, Michelle,” he whispered. “In our hearts, we’re connected.”

“But you’re in the mob,” Michelle whispered back, tears forming in her eyes. “And I can’t live with the fear and the danger and the violence that you do, that I did tonight.”

“I’m out,” he insisted, resting his hands on her shoulders. “So you don’t have to worry about any of that anymore.”

She placed her hands over his and asked seriously, “How can I believe that, Danny? How would I ever know if you’re really out?” She pressed her hand against his mouth to prevent his protests. “How do I know that being ‘out’ will actually keep me safe?”

He kissed her fingers, prompting her to remove them from his mouth. “Then just give me some time to show you,” he implored, gliding his hands along her shoulders and up her neck. “I’m going to run SanCorp as a legitimate business,” he vowed. For the first time since Mick got into trouble, I’m going to do things my way. “Just give me some time…” he breathed into her ear.

This is insane, Michelle. He’s in the mob. You almost died. Throw him out.

Before she could rebuild enough anger to say those words, however, a second voice spoke up in her head. You’ve been waiting for this…chemistry, this…intensity, your entire life. You threw away everything in Springfield on the hope that you would find it someday, even though part of you doubted that it actually existed. And now you’re just going to walk away?

If the mob kills me, I won’t have the opportunity to walk away, she argued.

You’re a smart girl, Michelle; you can protect yourself. All he’s asking for is a little time.

“How much time do you want?” she asked breathlessly, mesmerized by the sensations he was creating by running his tongue around her ear.

“To be with you? Forever,” he whispered directly into her ear. Pulling back to break the spell, he chuckled slightly and amended, “But I think I only need six months to pass your tests.”

Shaking her head to clear it she took a deep breath and offered, “Why don’t we start with six weeks and see how that goes?”

He gave her his best “puppy dog” look. “Six weeks? Come on, give a guy a break here.”

She couldn’t help but laugh at his expression. “You’re just lucky I didn’t say six days, buddy,” she joked, amazed that she could find any humor in the situation. You’re delirious, the clinical voice diagnosed. One step away from hysteria most likely; that’ll be tons of fun I’ll wager.

“Six months,” he persisted. “I’m not leaving here until I hear you say six months.”

“Six months,” she enunciated slowly. She took his hand and pulled him through the doorway towards the front entranceway. “Okay, I said it. Now get out of here before you lose the six weeks I agreed to.”

“Six months,” he sing-songed, padding along behind her but also playfully dragging his heels in a token resistance.

She let go of his hand to unlock and open the door. “You never give up, do you?” she asked in feigned frustration.

“See, you’re learning about me already,” he grinned, leaning against the doorframe and wrapping his arms loosely around her waist. “How about dinner tomorrow night?”

“Call me around lunchtime tomorrow,” she suggested, reaching behind her back and unclasping his hands. “I’ll let you know then what my schedule is like.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay with you tonight?” he asked seriously, sure that a terrible mixture nightmares and sleeplessness would plague her when she tried to sleep.

She glanced at the police officer who had been assigned to guard her until the details of Carlos’ death were fully investigated. “I’ll be fine, Danny,” she assured him, returning the officer’s nod of acknowledgment. “Besides, I think having a policeman outside the door will be more than enough drama; I really don’t feel up to introducing my roommate to the head of the Santos mob operations.” Your roommate? Your parents will probably have you committed to the psych ward when you tell them; compared to that, Katie will be a breeze.

“Ex-head,” he corrected somewhat defensively. “I’m just your run-of-the-mill CEO of an ordinary, legitimate multi-million dollar corporation.”

“Yeah, well, she has six weeks to find that out,” Michelle replied, nudging him into the hallway. “Provided that you convince me of it first.” I’m not going to let you charm me into being with you if it means putting my life in danger.

She isn’t going to give me an inch, he thought, simultaneously frustrated and intrigued by the challenge she presented. But she’s definitely worth it.

“I will, Michelle,” he promised. “Trust me, I will.”

“Good-bye, Danny,” she called out, waving and slowly closing the door.

“Six months,” he tried one last time before she disappeared from his sight. The officer having already summoned the elevator for him, Danny entered the car and punched the button for the ground floor, faintly humming the tune to which he and Michelle had danced in his hotel suite as he did so.

Michelle, meanwhile, leaned against the door of her apartment until she heard the elevator descending, then went to the kitchen to put the kettle on to boil. She knew that she had a long night ahead of her, and she hoped that a cup of herbal tea would help to calm her nerves.

While she waited for the water to boil, she picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number. “Father Patrick, please,” she requested, wedging the phone between her ear and shoulder and grabbing a clean mug from the dishwasher. Father Patrick had been the priest at St. Mary’s parish for most of Michelle’s life, and he had been a trusted confidant ever since Michelle had entered high school and discovered that a child for whom she babysat was being physically abused by his mother.

“Hi, Father Patrick, it’s Michelle,” she began, reaching into the cupboard for the honey.

“No, I’m still in Chicago,” she replied, “and everything’s fine at the hospital. But I do need to talk if you have the time. There’s a lot going on right now and it’s….” She stopped, at a complete loss for any way to characterize the bizarre events. “I just really need someone who’s more objective’ to help me sort things out.” Because Danny makes me anything but objective, she added silently to herself.

“Great,” she sighed in relief, removing the whistling teakettle from the stove. “It all started a few weeks ago….”
They talked into the night, and when Danny called the next day at exactly twelve noon Michelle agreed to have dinner with him.

As she hung up the phone she couldn’t help but grin. These may turn out to be the best six WEEKS of my life.


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