Title:False Identity
Author:Bridget...CrazyGurlBB
Category: M&M, AU
Rating: mature - adult
Disclaimer: If I owned anything, you can bet I wouldn't be sitting in front of my computer just writing fics.
Summary: Maria Deluca has always lived the perfect life, but it’s a life Maria cannot stand to live. As she struggles to find her own identity, she finds a way out of her family's lifestyle.

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Chapter One: True meaning to dreams

The water crashed against the shoreline as the smell of the salty ocean filtered throughout the night air. The blonde stood on the edge, feet just dipping into the cool, cold liquid, sending chills down her back every so often. She loved the view of the water, it was calming, relaxing and kept her at peace.

Tears pooled in her green eyes. She bit back a sob as her eyes grazed the open sea, it was so big and she felt so alone in this massive world. The material of her white dress was not enough to keep her body warm, she shivered as the wind barraged on by, causing her pale skin to decrease in temperature.

She could feel her world slowly crumbling down onto her. She could barely breathe in the place she should call home. Her breathing labored as the tears found a more quickening pace.

The moon was bright, creating a light onto the ocean that it looked upon. The light waves in the water reflected the light off its dark blue color. The stars hung brightly from their places in the sky.

The entire scene could have come from a painting but for her she was living, breathing inside the gorgeous picture, and yet all she felt was pain. It was a beautiful setting, one anyone would dream of and she stood before the ocean, crying from the pain that had occupied her heart, leaving her little room to stop it. She was a prisoner to her own heart, silently shadowing her life that had continued living while she lay stuck in a place she hated more then anything.

A hand laid itself on her shoulder, causing her to flinch and pull back to study the being that had touched her so gently. The hand had dropped immediately and by the time she turned around to face the person, the man started off into the other direction not giving her a shot to catch up.

“Wait, please.” She shouted, hoping the man would hear her but he continued walking in the other direction. “Please! Who are you?” She shouted again, this time running in the direction he was walking.

She ran until she could no longer see the man that had gently touched her. She stopped, trying to catch her breath and looked one more time hoping the man might have returned but he had not. She fell to the ground crying, no one wanted her.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Maria shot straight up in her bed and tried to steady her breathing. The dreams she had lately were so vivid in detail. Sometimes when she’d wake up she’d cry just because she felt that similar pain from her dream.

She raised her hand to rub some of the sweat off her forehead. In august it would get extremely hot, even at night. She kicked off her covers, wanting to eliminate as much heat as possible.

She emerged from the bed, tip toeing to her door that led to her balcony, hoping the cool night air would be refreshing. She unlocked the white door and stepped onto her balcony that connected to her sister’s and had a stairway, leading down to the ocean.

Maria’s parents were one of the wealthiest people in L.A. Her father was a movie director and her mother was a movie star, and had come from a wealthy family.

Maria hated it. She found life with the rich and famous person was uneventful, unfulfilling and a huge waste of her time. She could care less about fashion, who wore what at which award show and who had the most money. Life was not very appealing to her. Whoever had said money doesn’t buy happiness, Maria agreed wholeheartedly.

“It’s seven in the morning.” A voice called from behind her. Maria didn’t bother to turn around. “What are you doing out here anyway?”

“Thinking,” Maria whispered. “I had that dream again.”

“Great.” The person mumbled, soon joining Maria against the railing. “You have some dream and I get to lose my beauty sleep.”

“Tess,” Maria said, rolling her eyes at her sister. Tess could act such like the little princess when she felt like it. “Isn’t it so pretty out here in the morning?” Maria smiled as she examined the ocean view before her. The waves gently blowing a crossed the water, the sun rising.

Tess looked at the view. Her sister loved nature, smells, baths, lotions and all of that kind of stuff. Tess never really got it but she would smile and agree usually with her that it was indeed pretty. “Did you see the guy’s face?”

“No,” Maria answered sadly, that was one thing that bugged her about the dream. She never saw his face. “Do you think I’m crazy?”

Tess was a shocked by Maria’s question and blurted out what she felt. “No.”

“Tess, are you just saying that?” Maria asked, still facing the water.

Tess sighed. “Maria, when do I say something to you that isn’t the truth?” Maria shook her head, knowing Tess never did such a thing. “We’re sisters, and we’ll always be close and tell each other everything.” Tess put an arm around Maria pulling her close for a hug.

“Thanks, Tess.”

“Anytime.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Tess, just pick one,” Maria moaned, using the wall as support. She hated doing the formal dress shopping. But whenever their mother wanted them at a function, or an award show or whatever she wanted, the two girls were there.

“Maria, stop being impatient. Mom wants me to start looking for a man,” Tess called from her dressing room. “Or that’s how she put it.” Tess added in a soft voice, she knew the game their mother played, and now Tess was up to bat.

“I don’t get why she wants us to marry some rich stud.” Maria complained, looking over some of the jewelry nearby. The great part about the famous stores, there was private dressing rooms, and other items everywhere to look at while you wait. “He’ll just cheat on you with some new hot model that you could eat for dinner.”

“Because it equals money.” Tess explained, she hated it just as much as Maria, but Tess could hide it and play the good girl her mother wanted. She had become good playing it too, to perfection.

“I still hate it.”

“I know.” Tess agreed, stepping out of the little dressing room in a baby blue dress. The dress was form fitting, showing off in all the right places. “So?” Her voice innocent and sweet as she asked, twirling around a little.

“It’s looks great, Tess.” Maria smiled big, showing Tess her approval of the dress. Tess liked dressing up, and Maria could see that she was still the little girl playing dress up, hoping to make mommy happy. But there was no pleasing Angela Deluca, and Maria knew that, better than anyone.

Tess laughed a little, Maria was so predictable, honest but predictable. She was just as good of an actress, letting her true emotions hide deep within herself, knowing whatever she said, could later hurt her. “Okay, we can go.”

“Yay, beach time.” Maria smiled, she love soaking in the sun and spending all this time at the mall wasn’t that much fun. She learned a long time ago that she was a simple person stuck a complex life. And boy did she want out.

“Are you getting a dress?” Tess asked as she quickly ran into the dress room and shed the dress, hung it back on the hanger, put on her clothes and was ready to leave.

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be sent to the house,” Maria clarified she found it so much easier just to order the dress over the phone instead of shopping for it. “And your not gonna see it before Saturday.” She added, smiling softly, knowing it would torture Tess in the process, but what were sisters for?

Tess moaned she hated how Maria made her wait to see the dress. “No fair. I let you see mine.”

“That’s because you want someone’s opinion. Not my fault.” Maria shrugged her shoulders, knowing exactly how to bug Tess, playing it off as no big deal.

“Still not fair,” Tess grumbled, handing her dress to the clerk to ring it up for her. She flipped her hair a little.

“No one here is going to check you out, Tess.” Maria had grabbed a magazine and started looking through it as Tess tried her best to be always flirty, mother’s orders—be cute at all times, be presentable, and be the sweetest thing on the rack, even beating the chocolate, and always have the right about of lip gloss. “And why do you listen to mom? She’s full of it half the time.”

“Cause unlike you I like making them proud.” Tess explained her annoyance at Maria evident in her tone of voice. The only thing the sisters disagreed on, Maria staggered down her own path, and Tess followed the straight shot to mom and dad.

“Be careful.” Maria told her looking up to see a confused look graze Tess’s soft features; she really had the looks in their family. Maria was the social outcast, big lips and to skinny in certain areas. Her eyes were far too big and green. Their mother said blue was much more a pretty color. “You sound like Mother.” Maria put the magazine away and started for the door.

Tess paid the clerk and headed out after Maria. “I don’t get why you let her bother you.” Tess said once she stepped outside where Maria had her arms crossed and leaning against the wall. “She only says half that stuff because she envied Aunt Amy and Maria you look a lot like Aunt Amy.”

“Aunt Amy has brown hair, I’m a blonde.” Maria threw back, not believing what Tess was saying. If only she could have been Amy’s daughter. They always argued about it and Maria still believed Tess was trying to make her feel better.

“But Aunt Amy has those big green eyes and the big lips. I’m telling you; ignore our Mother because you are the more beautiful daughter.” Tess decided she had said enough to try and convince Maria, and she got into the limousine.

Maria thought about it for a second, wondering if Tess was right but let the thought pass quickly. She was the ugly duckling and she was fine with that. She didn’t need to conform with her mother’s views of what perfection should look like.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Maria banged on the side door. “Aunt Amy.” She banged a little harder, she was a little worried, and Aunt Amy usually was either outside or had the doors open and reading in the sun room.

“I do have a life.”

Maria was a little shocked by the voice, and let out a yelp and turned around embarrassed. “Sorry, I figured you were home.”

Amy smiled at Maria, hoisted the bag of groceries on her hip, searching for her keys in her purse to open the door. “There, and help an old woman out.”

Maria laughed, holding the door open for Amy and then going to the car to retrieve whatever was left of the food. “You’re not old,” She said in a singsong voice.

“Maria, I’m almost forty years old and I’m not married. I’m old and pathetic.” Amy shot back, knowing how Maria always argued the issue with her. She had grown to adore her time with her niece, having no children of her own; it was a nice piece of family she’d never get.

“I envy you.” Maria sat on the bar stool, looking at her aunt. She hated being stuck in that mansion she called home, it was a prison. “You got out before it was too late. You live a life you chose, not someone choosing for you. You live in a house right on the beach, the best view, and no parties.”

Amy’s face saddened hearing Maria talk. She understood her feelings all to well because at Maria’s age, she took the chance and went against her mother’s wishes and refused to marry. But in her once hopeful eyes—had become lost, for she knew she would be stuck in a world, she wanted nothing to do with. Some days Amy wished she could change that, that life was not so hard. “You’ll get your chance. And when you do, grab onto it and never let it go.”

Maria sighed; Aunt Amy always made it sound easy, simple. Didn’t she understand her mother’s obnoxious ways, her never ending control trip she had on the entire family. In a voice sounding like a lost child, Maria asked, “Can’t I just live with you?”

“Sorry honey, it doesn’t work that way.” Amy smiled reassuringly at her, letting her know if she had the chance, she would have let Maria live with her a long time ago, but Amy had no choice.

“How’s that guy you’re dating?” Maria decided to change the subject, she didn’t want to focus on her mother, or her never there dad and how messed up her rich life was. She wanted to feel normal—as normal as her life could be.

Amy smiled. “He’s good.” Maria was a smart girl and she knew she’d get out one day and Amy was thankful she was at least there for Maria. Maria knew if she needed someone to talk to about anything she came to Amy, which Amy was happy to be there.

“Isn’t he a sheriff or something?” Maria asked getting very into her Aunt’s dating life, unlike the people her age. It was about money and looks. Amy was beyond that.

“Yes, he is.”

“Come on, tell me more.” Maria was an impatient person and Amy laughed at her, knowing Maria was enjoying every minute about talking about her Aunt’s dating life.

“He’s nice, likes to have a good time.” Amy smiled seeing Maria trying to encourage more out of her. “He has a son your age; he’s been divorced for about twelve years or so.”

“Not bad,” Maria teased.

“Shut up.” Amy rolled her eyes, started putting the food away. “Are you staying for dinner?”

“Nope, mom wants to have a family meal or something.” Maria hated when her mom tried to act that family meant the world to her when in reality it was about success and movies.

Amy put down a bag of chocolate. “So you don’t mind spoiling your dinner?’

“Yay,” Maria said in approval. She may hate her life in a lot of ways but she did have some things to be thankful for, maybe one day like her aunt she’d find a way out, a way to change her fate. She had to hope, hope that someone out there was waiting to rescue her.


Chapter Two: Stuck somewhere between hell and pleasure.

Maria stared at herself in the long mirror. She pushed a few strands of hair, trying to make it lay right. Tess said they should both wear their hair in the natural curls but Maria almost hated it. The huge diamond necklace on her neck was choking her. Or was it her life doing that? Her mother specifically said only two pieces of jewelry, too many looked like you were trying to impress too much.

Her mother also wanted her to wear the necklace. Maria grabbed her unique ring she had gotten from her Aunt when she was in Paris. Black glittering stones surrounded a platinum diamond in the middle. It was a ring Maria cherished. To add just the final touch and to send her mother over the edge, Maria put on her diamond earrings that were just studs that matched the necklace.

She went to her vanity table, staring at herself, hating herself for still being there, to still be living a life she hated more then anything known to man. Yet she was stuck. Maybe that was what her dreams were telling her to do. Don’t stay stuck, go. But it was harder then it seemed, it was scarier then it seemed as well.

“Maria?” The knock on the door startled Maria from her daydreaming and she knew by Tess’s voice she was no in the mood to be patient.

“I’ll be down in a minute.” Maria responded, sliding the black stilettos onto her feet and standing up to inspect the black silk dress. It was daring as always. Her mother hated dresses of black and red. The thin straps could be easy fallen off her soft skin. The v-neck revealed just enough cleavage and the slit on the side was mid-thigh. The bottom was slanted showing her left leg as she walked because of how tight the dress was.

One day she told herself. One day she’d find the way out but for now she’d suffer so when she found that way out she’d be thankful.

“Nice.” Tess whistled as Maria came out. She knew her sister would be noticed but Maria managed to keep people’s attention. Tess played it safe. The diamond necklace, plain diamond earrings and a dress her mother would love. It was an innocent color Angela had once called it and had always asked Tess to wear it more, which Tess always did.

“You too.” The two linked arms as they headed down to the ballroom where all the parties were held. “So does mom have any boys for you to meet?”

Tess shrugged her shoulders, going quiet. “I don’t know. I’m sure she does. Be thankful you pulled a fast one on her and she doesn’t try to find you a husband.”

Maria smirked to herself. When Maria turned eighteen their mother tried to have her marry Max Evans but Maria told him she would never touch him. He told his parents there was no reasoning with her. So the arrangement their parents had was called off. Angela never tried to find Maria a husband ever again. Now it was almost year later and she was putting Tess through the same torture.

“Tess, my dear you look beautiful.” Angela Deluca’s voice seemed force to be gentle to her younger daughter. “Maria what have I said about black?”

Maria seemed unaffected by her mother’s stern voice. “It was daring?” She didn’t care, she never had and she wasn’t about to.

“Maria, next time try to find something that covers skin.” Angela walked away to greet guests with a whine glass in her hands.

“She just hates it because everyone’s gonna love it.” Tess giggled, she knew Maria would pass it off as nothing but Tess had always admired Maria taste, it was young and fresh. It was who Maria was.

“Sure,” Maria whispered she hated the fact she cared, that she worried. She was good at acting like she didn’t but all it was just that, acting. “There’s Alex, I’m gonna go talk to him.”

Tess nodded and started the other way, waiting to talk to someone, unlike Maria she was quiet, unsure of herself, trying to become noticed.

“Tess Deluca.”

Tess quickly turned when she heard her name. “Hello Max,” Tess smiled nervously. She wasn’t sure how to talk to him. Then she realized that her parents wanted to set her up with Max. Her mother had been talking about him at dinner. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“My parents wanted me to come and visit. I’ve been busy at the company.” He was professional, he was boring and he was six years older then her. He was dressed in a nice suit. Probably one of the most expensive kinds and there she was stuck. Now she knew how Maria felt.

“What do you do exactly?” Tess knew what she had to do once someone talked to her, ask questions to make the guy feel smarter. Maria was the master at knowing and building off that.

“I’m the CEO at my father’s company. His great grandfather founded the company. It’s handed down from generation to generation. Now I’m in charge of it. It’s one of the best. I keep everything in line…..”

Tess was bored out of her mind. He was one of the most boring guys she’d ever met. He talked about himself and only himself. Tess wanted to shoot herself.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Maria, now that’s one hell of a dress.” Alex smiled and kissed her cheek. They always enjoyed joking with each other because unlike the rest of the people at the parties, they each had a real side. Also Alex’s parents had just become rich and were considered new money and not always liked among the ‘in’ crowd.

“Thank you. You look pretty nice yourself, Mr. Whitmen.” Maria smiled brightly. She carried things off with a bang. “So how is the new girlfriend, Isabel?”

“Isabel is doing very well. My parents just met and love her.” Alex explained. “I’ve heard her brother is here, which is a bit of a surprise in fact.”

“Who’s her brother?” Maria was interested. She had only heard little of Alex’s girlfriend who was a new model hitting things big.

“Michael Guerin. I think he came with Max.” Alex told her, he knew little of the known people of the area but Isabel had expressed that her brother was much known.

“Wait,” Maria stopped; she had to have heard Alex wrong. “I thought Isabel’s last name is Ramirez.”

Alex sighed he had a lot to make clear to Maria. “Isabel never changed her name back after her divorce from Jesse. As I’m sure you know, Guerin is known as a gangster name and to avoid that, Isabel kept Jesse’s name so no one would assume.”

“So he is Anthony Guerin’s son?” Maria wanted to make sure. It seemed crazy that Michael would come and also crazy he would come with Max. Her interests were peeked.

Alex nodded, knowing it would probably worry Maria or she’d pass it off as nothing. She did that a lot. “Apparently Max and Michael went to school together. Some private school, Max went because his parents wanted him to have the best education. Michael was sent to get a better hold of his life.”

“Wow, and he’s your girlfriend’s brother?” Maria was a little interested; she couldn’t ignore the voice nagging. She never knew the mobsters or the gangsters of the area only rumors and Maria liked straight, hard fact.

“Yeah, Isabel and her sister Laurie are really not involved with it. Their father didn’t want his daughters involved.” Alex told her, noticing Maria seemed unaffected as usual.

“I can’t help but wonder if my parents know he’s here.” Maria found the idea alluring and the concept to go talk to him would also spark something. Her mother would die.

“I doubt it.”

Maria was scanning the room, looking for anyone who may be him. That’s when she spotted Tess talking to Max and Maria’s heart sank. “Why’s Tess talking to him?” She didn’t mean to say it aloud but it slipped like many things did.

“Who?” Alex eyes wandered trying to find Tess to see who was talking to.

“Max.” Maria was not happy about the idea. Tess was better then Max and Maria knew her mother was behind the idea. It had to be Angela’s doing. Max’s parents and her parents adored each other. The first daughter didn’t work. Why not try the next one, she’s the perfect daughter.

She had to stop Tess before something horrible happened. “Don’t, Maria.” Alex grabbed her arm, knowing perfectly well what Maria was planning on doing.

“Alex I can’t sit by and watch her go through that. She doesn’t even know him and my parents have probably already set the date.”

“You can’t control her life, Maria.” Alex told her, seeing the look going across Maria’s face. She didn’t care; she just wanted to protect her sister. “It’s Tess’s life.”

Maria pulled her arm from his hold and stormed over to where the drinks were being held. She grabbed one and quickly sipped the liquid. No one cared about ids at the parties and for once Maria was thankful. She finished the glass and grabbed another one but a voice stopped her before sipping the new entertainment.

“I’ve never seen a girl drink so fast.”

The voice was sexy, strong and teasing. Maria turned to come face to face with hazel pools that held more emotion then the world could hold. She was taken back and fascinated by the being that was towering over. “Who are you?” She had never seen the man before in her life.

“Michael Gurein.” He expected her to gasp, to scream, to back away but the petit blonde in front of him stood her ground and just kept looking straight into his eyes. If he wasn’t so sure of himself he’d be uncertain of what she could find in his eyes. Hers were a deep green that held curiosity, she was not afraid of him. He liked that. “You are?”

“Maria Deluca.” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ears, her earrings glittering in the light that shinned from the crystal chandlers. Her voice was seductive and Michael loved the way her lips curved to smile with mischief like talking to him was bad but yet so good. “So what are you doing here, Mr. Gurein?”

“Maxwell dragged me here.” Michael chuckled a little at the idea and heard the sweet giggles that escaped Maria’s pouty lips.

“Didn’t know ‘Mr. I’m too serious’ could drag you here.” She laughed again, smiling. She liked what she saw and it felt so good to be talking to him.

“Yeah, well the guy can’t do anything on his own.” Michael causally threw out and noticed Maria’s eyes shift a little. “Know Maxwell well?”

“Let’s just say I’m the one he was supposed to marry last spring.” Maria looked around the room, not really wanting to see Michael’s face. It was fun now but she was positive Michael’s loyalties would lie with Max or maybe a guy like Michael never cared.

Michael checked her out once more. “Man, he was stupid to pass that up.” He whistled for a little effect and smirked when a soft pink color entered Maria’s cheeks.

“Well I told him he touches me it’d be the last thing he’d touch.”

Michael scratched his chin, she was tough and definitely a naughty one. He always liked girls like that. It added a thrill to it. “So are you involved now?”

“No, parents haven’t tried to find me a man.” Maria placed a hand on her hip causing Michael to notice how tiny she really was and how tight that dress fit her. How it fit in all the right places to make a guy crazy with lust. “They say I’m never satisfied.” Her lips curved in a soft, but sexy smile.

Michael chuckled, crossing his arms showing off the muscle that pulled on the material of the button up shirt Max told him to wear. He was a fit man and Maria was definitely in to the idea of kissing him. His lips were perfectly kissable. “What does satisfy you Maria?”

She smiled sweetly, using his arm for support she pushed herself up so her mouth was inches away from his ear to whisper. “To live in the moment, to live each day like my last.” She smiled again; slowly exposing her warm eyes she headed up the stairs, hoping Michael would follow her.


Chapter Three: the fears, in the corner of your mind

Maria rolled over into the body next to her. She wasn’t use to sharing her bed and to have a guy like Michael take it over was not easy. “Move,” She rubbed her eyes to see Michael smirking at her. She knew she looked terrible but to have someone there was not easy.

Michael continued to laugh and smirk at her, she was tiny but tough. She’d proven it hours earlier. “Am I in your way?” He lowered his head to whisper in her ear, his hand covering the small of her back.

“Yes.” She grumbled, mad that he was making fun of her. She didn’t care that she had just had sex with Michael upon meeting him. She felt comfortable, safe with him regardless of his history. “So…” Maria sat up, holding the sheet to her still naked body, using the pillow to lean against.

“So….” Michael copied, using an elbow to prop himself up on the pillow to look at the beautiful creature next to him, the sheets falling at his stomach, like he cared anyway.

She pulled a piece of hair out of her face. “So is your Dad really involved in the mob?” It was question she never intended on asking but it was still early and as long as he was still in her bed she might as well make conversation with the gorgeous man in the bed to keep her company.

Michael laughed, she didn’t seem to care but she had curiosity in her eyes like she was a child on Christmas day waiting for a present to be opened. “Yes.”

“So do you help him?” Maria raised an eyebrow interested in his response.

Michael had a feeling she was a girl that expected honest, real answers and he could do that, he just wouldn’t give the nice details to his life. What could it hurt? “My father wants me to follow in his footsteps so for the time being I’m doing little things like getting money from people who owe him but it’s not what I really want to do.”

Her heart didn’t skip a beat before asking, “What do you want to do then?”

“What my father is really good at is getting out of something. I think it’s fascinating how you can manipulate the system that puts criminals behind bars.”

“You find men who have committed murder getting off fascinating?” She was confused, also not sure where he was leading the whole thing and almost to tired to listen all the way but his lips…

“I think doing it legally is interesting.” He put in before Maria could put in another word. The girl didn’t like to give the spotlight to someone else. He personally didn’t like having that light but he was explaining something and she cut him off.

“So you like want to be a lawyer to help people get off?” That actually made sense to her. It was honest work and he’d probably end up helping an innocent person or two.

“Yes.” He saw the uncertainty in her eyes. She was young he knew it last night when she started the kissing. She wasn’t confident; personally if he didn’t know better he would have said it was her first time. “How old are you?”

“Nineteen. Why?” She stared at him, suddenly feeling like she was being put on spot. She knew she wasn’t good at it or anything but she really didn’t want to get into personal detail.

“You seem young.” He answered, not wanting to hurt her feelings in anyway. She wasn’t bad at all, she was just new. There were some things in life that took practice. Michael Gurein could easily notice the differences.

“Oh.” She folded her knees so they were pressed against her stomach, squishing her body into an impossible ball. She was beginning to feel uncomfortable. “I’m going to go take a shower.”

“Maria, come on.” Michael said realizing he probably scared her. Something inside of him told him to be careful with her, that regardless how tough she pretended to be she was human underneath. “It’s still dark, don’t go.” He grabbed her forearm and when she flinched her saw something in her eyes, something told him to ask, to be worried and he had no idea where it came from because he, Michael Gurein never cared. “Maria, are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” She spat holding the sheet against her as she sat on the edge of the bed, wanting to leave.

“Maria, what’s wrong?” Michael asked again, more sternly like the way his father taught him to, how to get what you wanted out of somebody.

“If there is something wrong,” She said trying to hold herself together. “What makes you think I’d tell you?”

Michael stared at her. What was he suppose to say? He wasn’t her boyfriend, hell he wasn’t even her friend and he had just had sex with the blonde before him. “Because even though you may not believe me, I care.”

She was silent. She had no clue if she should believe him. She wanted to, her entire soul wanted to believe, believe that he may be the guy to rescue her from her own worst hell, her life. But all it would be was wishing, hoping for something that wasn’t real and she couldn’t get her hopes up, she couldn’t, she wouldn’t. “I don’t even know you, why should I believe you.”

“Why’d you sleep with me then?” He challenged her, hoping it would spark something in her, make her have to actually think.

“The same reason you probably slept with me, available and hot enough.” She was smarter then he gave her credit for.

“Well I’m sorry that’s the way you feel, Maria because I’m not low enough to use a girl like that.” He twisted the tables on her; he was an expert on making people wish they never said anything. Michael leaned over to grab his pants, pulling out his wallet. “If I was looking for something like that I would have paid for one, but despite what you think I do care and if you ever need anything Maria don’t be afraid to call.” He said tugging his pants up threw on his shirt and left the number on the bed and a speechless Maria staring mouth opened at the shut door.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Maxwell let’s get the hell out of here.” Michael cut into one of the groups Max was talking in. Michael hated the stupid parties Max would bring him to. It was too formal, to fancy and to boring for Michael’s taste.

“Michael, I’m talking.” Max wrapped his arm around a brunette, laughing and saying things into her ear causing her to giggle.

“I thought you were supposed to make arrangements with the younger Deluca daughter.” The little thing Max had, looked at Michael and slipped away realizing she wanted nothing to do with Max.

Max was a little upset that Michael ruined his fun. “I liked that one and where have you been, you smell like sex.” Michael growled and Max took it as a sign to shut up. “Fine, we’ll go but I have a few good-byes to make.”

Michael nodded, standing against the door, waiting for Max to hurry up. The curly haired blonde that glided by caught Michael’s attention. She looked an awful a lot like Maria. Michael figured it was her sister. “Are you Tess?”

Tess turned to him, a little shocked he started talking to her. “Yes, why?”

“Oh nothing, I’m a friend of Max’s.” Michael saw the look of dread in her eyes; hers were crystal blue, and bright. Her eyes weren’t as beautiful as Maria’s but the similarity was there. “You have a beautiful eyes, your sister does to.” Michael was born a charmer; weasel to get what he wanted and then ignored the entire world.

“Thank you.” Tess smiled; pleased someone called her eyes beautiful. “You know Maria?”

“Yes, met her tonight.” Michael knew he couldn’t tell Tess the truth, if Maria wanted her sister to know she would have to tell herself. “Smooth talker she is.”

“Oh that’s Maria alright. She got out of marrying Max. Lord knows how she did it; she said he was the worst kisser though.” Tess commented, joking around and doing some harmless flirting.

Michael’s ears perked up. Maria had said that she threaten his life he ever touched her. Why would she lie? She had no reason. “Really? Glad I’ll never know.”

Tess giggled, “Oh there’s Max. I must be going; it was nice meeting you…” She realized she didn’t know his name.

“Michael.” He smiled finishing for her, grabbing her hand. “It was a pleasure to meet you as well, Miss Deluca.”

Max strolled up and showed his dislike with a glare of the eyes on how he found Michael’s behavior unacceptable and said his goodnights to Tess and scoffed out the door, with Michael following behind pleased with what he did. He always did enjoy pissing off Max.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Maria.” Tess came skipping into the room. She had fun at the party, no interesting guys but she had fun talking and seeing all the people there. Tess found Maria’s black and white cat sitting on the couch but no Maria in sight. Tess went outside on the deck to find Maria reading on a lounge chair. “There you are.”

Maria glanced up from her reading to see Tess. “Hi, have fun tonight?” Maria smiled thinking how she was going to tell Tess. Yes they told each other some things but the one secret she kept could change Tess’s entire life.

“Lots,” Tess sat in the chair next to her. “But girl you so have to tell me about that Michael. I met him on his way out the door with Max and you could eat him up with a spoon.”

“Michael?” Maria’s brows furred in confusion. “What did Michael exactly say to you?” Maria was scared this man told Tess what had happened only hours earlier.

“He said he met you and you were a real smooth talker. He’s cute, what happened?” Tess loved girl talk and gossiping.

“You do realize his last name his Guerin.”

“Wait, he’s Anthony Guerin’s son?”

“The one and only.”

“Wow.”

“Tell me about it.”

“No, that’s perfect.”

“How is that perfect?”

Tess smiled. “Don’t you see Maria, Michael is your ticket to getting out of here. If mom and dad find out your involved with him they’ll be furious and you two will runaway to get married and be like Romeo and Juliet.”

Maria stared at her sister with shock. “Tess, Romeo and Juliet killed themselves and I personally do not want my happily ever after to be that, death.”

“But Michael can help you escaped Mom and Dad.”

“I doubt it.” Maria told her younger sister who fell in love with the idea. Maria knew real life didn’t end that way, especially if the couple already slept together and probably never saw each other ever again. Maria knew fairytale endings never happened in real life.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Did you see Alex there?’ Isabel asked setting some food onto the table as her brother stumbled into the kitchen. She and Michael shared a studio apartment together while their little sister Laurie still lived with their parents.

Michael yawned and scratched his stomach. “Yeah, he was talking to one of the Deluca’s daughters.” Michael reached for the coffee, sitting down before he fell over.

“It was probably Maria.” Isabel explained, neatly putting cream cheese onto her bagel as she continued talking. “He’s really close to her. Apparently ever since his parents have had the money Maria has always been a true friend. He says she’ll get out of that life one day.”

“Huh?” Michael mumbled with a mouthful of cereal, what on gods green earth was Isabel talking about?

“Maria hates that life, as Alex put it. She’s probably waiting for true love to find her to get her away from loveless marriages but can you honestly blame her.” Michael nodded; all he could do was wonder. What if she was just hiding her feelings but Michael knew he’d never see her again anyway so he went back to listening to Isabel’s endless chatter.


Chapter Four: Picture Perfect….

“I’m not in the mood for this, Maxwell.” Michael crunched on the potato chip, biting a little harder then usual, Max was being a pest.

Max fixed his shirt, getting whatever lint was on it, smoothing it over to eliminate the wrinkles. “I have this dinner party at the Deluca’s. My parents suggested having you there will enforce their plans.”

“What are you up to, Maxwell?” Michael crossed his arms, a little worried what was going on. There was so much being left out.

Max added a little gel to his hair, had to make it perfect. “My parents want to make a deal with them. If your there, the Deluca’s may know they’re place.”

Michael leaned against the wall and sighed. He’d have to see her, he didn’t like one minute of what was going on. “I don’t have to be pleasant?”

“Just be scary.” Max turned to face Michael. “I doubt that’ll be a problem.” He muttered walking out of the room.

“Insult me,” Michael followed after; he didn’t care about impressing these people. He had nice pants on and a button up shirt from working. He didn’t feel like changing. “That’ll make me do what you want.”

“Has it ever stopped me before?” Max smirked as he grabbed his car keys and headed out the door.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“It’s only been a couple of days since the party and they’re having the Evans’s over for dinner.” Maria rambled. She didn’t like it. They were rushing things with Tess and Max but why. She didn’t understand it.

“Maria.” Tess was far calmer. She smiled a little, hoping it would help Maria out but it was no luck, Maria began her babbling.

“How can you not get upset?” Maria demanded but never waited for an answer. “I mean this is your life and you know how our mother is. She’ll force you to marry a man you do not love…”

“Can you please hold yourself together?” Tess sighed. She was scared, hell she was terrified. Maria was not making the situation any better.

Maria’s eyes got big as she saw the first time in her life, fear in Tess’s eyes. She was young still; seventeen and her parents wanted her married. Maria remembered that same thing pushed on her. It was overbearing, it was far too much for a young woman to take when the whole world was in front of her.

“It’ll be okay.”

Tess laughed a little, typical Maria to be freaking out and the next minute trying to comfort her. Her sister came from a weird place. “And if it’s not?”

“We’ll do what we have to.” Maria was back to her ideas, she had to save her sister and she would have to do everything in her power and she would.

“I don’t want to marry him.” Tess’s voice was like a child, afraid. Maria felt a little sick, they’re mother did this to Tess. “What did I do to deserve this? I play by the rules and she does this.” Tess fell onto the bed in tears.

Maria sat down beside her and let Tess cry on her shoulder. Maria rubbed her back soothingly as Tess continued to cry, whispering it’ll be ok.

“You did nothing wrong. We’ll figure this out.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

Angela Deluca greeted the family pleasantly. “Hello Diane, Phillip.” Her voice was cheery, unlike how she treats her daughters. “Brian Darling.” She called sweetly.

“Hello.” He came out on her call smiling big. “Please come into the family room.” He let the other couple to the room was used only when guests were visiting, the posh love seat couches, with a white carpet, and gorgeous paintings surrounding the room. “Where is Max?”

“Max is running a little behind. He is bringing a friend. I hope you don’t mind.” Phillip explained in a friendly tone.

“Oh it’s no problem.” Angela smiled, her white teeth showing almost as bright as the diamonds she wore.

The two couples continued to keep talking about business and other useless information when the door again rang. The butler opened and invited the two young men in and directed them to where the others were.

“Angela, Brian.” Max smiled politely as he walked in. Michael stood behind, not really in the mood to be pleasant. “I’d like you to meet my friend, Michael Gurein. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.”

“Gurein?” Angela caught herself quickly, unlike her husband who was quiet. Angela was a determine woman and was not willing to back down once she started. It was something Maria did as well Michael had noticed.

“Yes, the name’s pretty popular, almost as big as Deluca.” His smirk was there. He could see something in the older woman’s eyes, but Michael Gurein was better at this game, he was supposed to make a living out of it.

“Where are the girls?” Angela quickly changed her attention to something else. She didn’t like the idea of having Michael in the house but she could ignore as long as everything worked out.

“Tess is still getting ready.” Maria entered the room. She was pissed; her attitude had grown since having to hold her crying sister. She decided to wear red, tight and very limited material, her decent size breasts revealing a good amount of cleavage. Did she care? Not anymore, not ever. She was sick of sitting back, she was a born fighter.

Angela looked her up and down. “What did I say about that color?” She was snippy herself, she had guests to impress and Maria was wearing nothing—almost nothing.

“It was daring.” Her full lips held a smirk that made her mother angry. “Hello Diane, Phillip. How are you?” She was sweet to the other couple as she completely forgot about her mother.

“Good.” They both turned quiet soon after the pleasantries. The mother daughter pair was not one you wanted to go against. They knew to stay silent as each had they’re moment.

Maria flipped her now straight hair. She always changed it from the natural curls to straight hair, she felt the curls made a person cute, a Shirley Temple type, while the straight was more mature, more respected, and certainly not innocent. “That’s great.” And when she looked to her side that’s when she spotted Michael. Now she knew how to send her mother totally over the edge. “Michael.”

“How are you Maria?” He could see pain in her eyes. She was a good actress, amazing but she was hurt by something and he couldn’t understand and her own mother seemed to not care.

“I’m wonderful. Thanks for asking.” Her lips curved into a small smile, licking her glossed lips. He was being kind, an added bonus. “Why are you here?” She leaned over by his ear to whisper.

“Max wanted me here.” He understood to be quiet, she had to act like it didn’t matter, but he couldn’t help but look at her outfit to closely. She was a beautiful woman and the dress was perfect on her body. She knew how to pick ‘em.

In the time they were talking the others had left the room to go into the dinning room, except Max. “Michael, you didn’t tell me you knew Maria.”

Michael glanced at Max to see he was unhappy. “I didn’t know it mattered.” He faced Maria again, she went immediately quiet. She was looking at the floor and not him anymore. He didn’t understand how her whole attitude could change so rapidly.

“Didn’t know you wanted my leftovers.” Max smirked a little at Maria as he strolled out of the room to find his future fiancé.

“I need to go.” Maria felt humiliated, if she didn’t lack confidence when it came to Michael already, Max sealed the deal. She ran a hand through her hair, making it lay differently as she started to leave.

“Don’t.” Michael caught her arm, hoping she wouldn’t walk away. She was vulnerable, he suspected she had a little bit of it somewhere but it was more then she ever let on.

“I need to go find my sister before Max destroys what’s left of her.” She was rude now; she hid whatever embarrassment there was by what she had to do for Tess.

Michael raised his eyebrow. Now he was confused. “What do you mean?”

“Like you don’t already know. He’s your friend.”

“No, I don’t know.” Michael was forceful this time. He wasn’t going to play mind games, even though he was sure she was interesting at it, he didn’t have the time.

“Max plans on marrying Tess.”

Now it explained why Max was determined to have Michael there, it was a sure way to get the Deluca’s to cave. A deal? His ass Max’s parents wanted a deal. “Why does this make you upset?”

Maria’s eyes shifted, she didn’t know if she should trust him. “Tess doesn’t want to be with Max but my parents want this marriage. I love my sister and she doesn’t deserve this.”

“Well how can you stop it?” Michael crossed his arms, it looked like Maria was gonna stick around.

Maria sighed as she lowered herself onto a chair. “That’s my problem. I could barely get myself out. I have no clue where to start.” She closed her eyes as she felt her frustration getting to her.

Michael now understood her pain from earlier. She was the only one fighting for what Tess wanted. “I can help.”

Her eyes snapped open as he said this. She had to have misheard him; he couldn’t have just been willing to help like that. “How?”

“I have my ways.” Michael said shortly but Maria’s eyes said she needed more then just that. “I can talk to my friend; he can find something to help us out.”

“You’d do that?”

Michael bit his tongue from saying of course but he went with the smoother approach. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Her dark green eyes lit up as she threw her arms around his neck as she hugged him, hard. “Thank you so much.”

Michael felt his chest tightened as she did that. “No problem.” He whispered into her hair. It could be a stupid thing helping her out, but the feel of her in his arms made doubts fly right out the window.


Chapter Five: Secrets, lies and money

Michael rubbed his face and ruffled his hair, making it stand up even more then usual. He tossed the cell phone on the passenger side of the car. He ripped off his tie. He hated his job. Sure, he was good at but Michael Gurein had bigger things in mind. The life of crime his father loved so much was not working for Michael. He knew it a long time ago, seeing his parents go through the torture of all the struggles, the other lovers, countless lonely nights. Michael Gurein knew at an early age he wanted nothing to do with his father’s life of crime.

He stepped out of his expensive car, jaguar. Money came with the job, a usually appealing quality but one Michael dismissed. Money didn’t buy happiness. Michael knew that all to well.

He headed into the brick building that was labeled the police department. It was kinda of strange a Gurein walking into those doors willingly, not cuffed. But Michael strolled along with ease and knew exactly where he was going.

“Michael Gurein.” The smiling face behind the desk chirped. The little brunette was pretty. Michael had hooked Max up with her for a while. She was friendly as well, a bit shy but the perfect secretary, polite and polish.

“Liz, is he in?” Michael smirked; Liz knew his charm and passed it off as nothing. But he had a reputation to hold up and there could be a new girl in.

“Swearin’ up a storm since nine this morning.” She sounded annoyed, as she kept her eyes on the computer in front of her and continued typing as she talked. Liz never liked swearing, she was the church girl. It was funny when Max tried to get into her pants and the little thing smacked him and refused to date any of Michael’s friends. Michael laughed for a week straight when he heard that.

Her voice was quiet as she told him the next part as if someone was actually listening to what she had to say. “Said he needs to find a good lay because whatever girl he’s dating now isn’t an easy one he’s usually accustomed to.”

Michael couldn’t help but laugh. Only Liz Parker, probably the innocent ones of girls, one that probably never had sex yet had to hear more from her boss, a healthy bachelor all about his sex problems. “So can I surprise him?”

“Be my guest.” She returned to her work as she left a sweet smile back at Michael. He personally would never hang around a girl like Liz but she was a good secretary. God, did she know her gossip and she sure as hell didn’t know what to do with it.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“What did I tell you?” The voice getting mad and impatient as Michael laughed to at him, silently to not be heard. The man Michael’s age’s back was turned, dressed in a pair of black slacks, nice button shirt, most likely a cheesy tie, his perfect hair gelled to perfection as he argued with a very unlucky soul. “No, no. What did I tell you people? I want that damn report ready.” He slammed the phone down.

“Valenti let me take you out. You are obviously way to sexually frustrated.” Michael grinned as he shut the door.

“Fuck you, Gurein.” Kyle ignored him and went back to his work. If Michael wanted to piss him off, he wasn’t gonna stop him. Good way to lose some of the aggravation. That was half the fun with their friendship. They teased the other for amusement as if it was a sport but then again they were men.

Michael’s smirk got a little bigger as he made himself comfortable. “Last time I checked I still got woman.”

Kyle sighed as he stared at Michael. He wanted something. Michael only came when he needed something. The old buddies went to school together but because of the differences in professions they spent less time hanging out. “What do you want?”

“Who said anything about wanting something?”

“I did.”

Michael leaned back in the chair a smirk on his lips as he could see the frustration pouring off Kyle. “I mean it, Michael. I don’t have time for your shit. I have a murder to solve, a missing girl I need to find in the next forty-eight hours,” He stopped hoping a certain someone would hear the next part. “A new damn intern to break in.”

Yeah, Liz was right, Kyle was swearing up a storm and then some. Michael laughed. Kyle Valenti was good at his job, extremely good. “I have a friend who needs help.”

“I’m not helping any strippers. Max last case almost cost me my job.” Kyle had also been friends with Max as well. Michael and Kyle were more of the guy friends that could go hang while Max was a stick in the mud, except the guy had some major issues when it came to finding actual woman.

“No strippers.” Michael shook his head, Max really got into some weird stuff. “I don’t do that crap. I can find real women.”

“Alright then.” Kyle folded his arms, he knew whatever Michael wanted was something big, he had to be prepared. “What do you need?” Michael pulled out a piece of paper handing it to Kyle. Kyle skimmed the paper. “Deluca’s? When’d you get involved with rich folk?”

“I met the oldest daughter.”

“Maria.” Kyle quickly cut in as he slid the paper back to Michael as he started typing on his computer. Michael raised an eyebrow, unsure of how Kyle knew her. “You know how dad got a girlfriend?” Kyle saw out of the corner of his eye Michael shake his head, Jim never dated much so when a girlfriend entered the picture, it was strange. “Well Amy is Angela Deluca’s sister.”

“Damn.” Michael whistled impressed by Jim’s choice in a girlfriend. “Your dad never dated a woman since your mom and he’s scorin’ it with rich people.”

“Amy has no money.”

“What?”

Kyle stopped for a minute. Michael didn’t seem to know the family history all to well but he was helping Maria. Kyle could only wonder how he and Maria met. “Amy is the older version of Maria.”

Michael still didn’t completely understand. “Yeah but Angela and Amy’s parents had millions of dollars, probably the richest family for miles. Why would Amy have nothing?”

“Their parents cut her off when she said she wouldn’t marry a man they wanted her to marry.” Kyle explained shortly. “Amy was not about to be told how to live her life, so she left, and has worked since she was twenty.”

“Yeah, that sounds like Maria.” Michael got it now. Maria knew it was possible to survive but she couldn’t leave her sister alone. “Why does Angela push Maria then?”

“Angela and Amy are not close like Maria and Tess are. Actually the two sister relationships are polar opposite of one another. It pisses Angela off that Maria visits her aunt like she does.”

Michael scratched his head. This was going to be a lot harder then he imagined. “This is a pretty twisted family, isn’t it?”

Kyle agreed he started typing on his computer trying to pull up information. After a minute his eyes focused on the screen, a little shocked. “I didn’t know the Evan’s company is in debt.”

Michael narrowed his eyes, as he turned sideways to get a better look at the screen. “I didn’t either.” Something wasn’t adding up right, the entire thing was fishy. “How much do they owe?”

“About ten million it says.” Kyle was scrolling down; searching for something else, anything else that might explain the relationship between Deluca and Evans. “The girls aren’t worth that much. The only money they have is from mom and dad, right?”

“I would assume so.” Michael was dumbfounded. Something was definitely not adding up. Michael scratched his chin as he was thinking. “The Evans’s wanted me to go to the dinner they were having with the Deluca’s so they knew they’re place. The Evans’s are in debt not Deluca’s.”

Kyle leaned back in his chair. “Okay, you’ve caught my attention. I will look further into this but I still got a pile of work to do. Tell Maria to meet with me at her aunt’s sometime this week so I can at least to see if there is any hidden family money.”

“Thank you, Kyle.” Michael nodded.

“No guarantees.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

Maria curled in the sofa as she read the book in her hands, her fingers rubbing the case of the book, needing to do something to rid of the nerves energy. Michael had called her and told her to meet him and his friend at her aunts. His explanation of they needed a safe meeting spot where her parents would not suspect made sense.

“Want anything?” Amy offered as she noticed Maria’s nervous behavior. It saddened Amy at how her sister had raised her child, or tried to. Maria was a stubborn, a born believer and Amy knew that’s what it will take for Maria to be happy in life.

Maria glanced up, shaking her head lightly. “No, I’m just waiting for Michael.” She hated the sound of that though. As nice as Michael was being, she was depending on him for help, depending on him to make life better for her. Tess was more right then Maria wanted to admit.

Amy saw the look in Maria’s eyes. Michael obviously caught something in Maria’s eyes for her to be like this, to allow him to get close. “What really happen with Michael?” She asked as she sat next to Maria.

“Nothing happened.” Maria said, almost too quickly and she attempted to be firm about it, even though her heart was not letting her.

Amy leaned into the sofa, cocking her head at Maria. “Denial isn’t a good thing Maria. This boy obviously has an effect on you.”

Maria bit her lip. Amy was always bluntly honest with her. “I don’t want him to. We had like a one night stand type of thing and then Max brought him to the dinner to scare Mom and Dad off. He offered to help in concerns of Tess.”

Amy chuckled. “And that was nothing?”

Maria sighed. All she seemed to be doing lately was making the wrong move. Now she had to own up to it and she still wasn’t sure what everything meant. “I didn’t even tell Tess yet.”

Amy remained silent for a minute. When Maria didn’t confide in Tess there was a reason behind it. There had to be. “Why?”

“Because nothing is actually going to become of it and she already had my fairy tale ending all planned out with him rescuing me from my horrid life. I couldn’t break that idea for her.” Maria paused, biting back the tears in her eyes as she whispered. “I didn’t want it to be broken either. If I said it to her, I’d be making it real.”

Amy hated what everything had been happening to Maria, now her poor niece was left so broken. The doing of all the pain and suffering was none other then Angela Deluca. Amy took Maria’s delicate hand and squeezed trying to give Maria some kind of support.

“There’s no way to predict the future, just live your life Maria. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. It is only yours and yours alone. No one can choose your path.”

The determination in Amy’s voice made Maria believe for a second she had a choice, that her life was her owns but it wasn’t. Maria was stuck into something she couldn’t stand. She gave Amy a weary smile, trying to at least make Amy feel better. Slowly Maria was beginning to accept her life that maybe she couldn’t save herself, and maybe she couldn’t save Tess either.


Chapter Six: Simply Fate

Kyle knocked on the flower covered door. Only Jim Valenti would honestly date a woman who covered the entire door in flowers. His father was either desperate; it ran in the family though, or he had lost all common sense and Kyle should enter him into the next mental institution.

“Kyle.” Amy’s smile was huge and she seemed friendly. Maybe Jim hadn’t completely lost it, she was just….into new things. Kyle smiled warmly back at her and entered the beach house Amy lived at. “What are you doing here?” Amy shut the door tight as she turned to be welcoming.

Kyle scratched his head, obviously Michael forgot to say who is friend is. “I’m the friend of Michael’s. He’s running late, he had a business deal to finish, told me to head straight over.”

Amy nodded, and hid her shock of the pair being friends. “Maria’s in the sunroom, reading. Come with me.”

Kyle gladly followed. So his dad had decent taste, he could give him that much and Amy overall was a friendly and nice person. Kyle stopped at the doorway when he spotted Maria. The petit blonde was curled up and seemed unaffected by the world. He couldn’t believe she actually lived in a mansion and yet seemed so simple.

“Maria.”

Her dark green eyes caught his attention; only a woman could hold that much emotion could capture Michael’s heart. Kyle then knew why Michael was determined to help her. Michael couldn’t stand to see those eyes in pain and Kyle held back a chuckle, this little woman caught Michael Guerin’s heart. Size really didn’t matter.

“Hi.” She spoke softly, she had a feeling it was Michael’s friend but she never met the man before. She gingerly set the book down on a nearby side table, made of wood and stood up. Her long pleasant skirt fell loosely around her thin legs.

Amy noticed the silence, the scary silence and decided to help. “This is Kyle, he’s Jim’s son. He’s a friend of Michael’s.” Maria nodded softly. “I’m gonna get something for all of us to drink. Lemonade okay with you kids?” They both nodded and Amy made a quiet exit.

“Did you find anything?” She blurted out. It was killing her to know if there was something on her parents, anything. It could help in the long run. It was petty, she knew that. To so badly want them to have a flaw, but she needed something to go against them.

Kyle cleared his throat and nodded. “The Evan’s are in debt, ten million to be exact.” He handed her the sheet of paper with the information.

Maria studied the information, looking up with a confuse gaze in her eyes. “What does this mean?”

“They had to have made a deal with your parents. Why else would they keeping making one of you girls marry Max?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do either of you have money that could be variable to the Evans’s?”

Maria stared, a little hurt. He was interrogating her as if she did something. “Did I do something wrong?”

Kyle stopped his questions and paused, confused. “What? I’m just asking—“

“You’re demanding.”

“I’m trying to help. I’m a detective, it’s my job.”

“Are you on duty?”

Kyle sighed in frustration. Michael was paying him back. This was is little way of making him pay, make him think the girl is sweet and innocent and then she opens her mouth. “I’m trying to help.”

“Then please be kind about it.” Maria sat back down on the sofa and she made herself comfortable. “The only sources of money Tess and I have are our trust funds, which we can’t get till we’re twenty-one.”

Amy stood in the doorway, quiet and then said something once she heard the last part; Amy knew she had to speak up. “That’s a lie.”

Both Kyle and Maria turned their heads. Maria shocked and Kyle curious. “How so?”

Amy sighed softly, how could she explain to Maria that Angela lied to her own children, that she manipulated everything so it fit her way. Maria had already had enough disappointed. Why not add another to the long list her mother created. It was unfair; no child should suffer so much because a parent’s wants.

“My parents left the money for the girls. It was their way of leaving something for them. I expected to receive nothing, but I got a letter of their deepest regret was pushing me and Angela got a letter of warning not to do that to her girls. Tess and Maria each have ten million dollars set aside, in a fund like Maria said, but…it was when the girls got married so they wouldn’t have to worry about trying to pay for a house, buy furniture. They had money to support their own families.”

Kyle rubbed his chin. Now he completely understood Maria’s position. Her mother was evil, simply evil to do that to her daughters. “So that’s how the Evans’s plan on getting the money?”

“It has to be.” Amy answered, keeping an eye on Maria. She was too quiet, even for Maria. “There’s no other money Angela would spare.”

Maria finally looked up from her focusing spot on the carpet to her Aunt’s face. It all made sense, easy way to get rid of Maria. Max gets the money and they get rid of the horrible child. “I’ll be outside.”

“Maria,” Amy called but she was already out the door and down the beach.

Kyle set his hand Amy’s shoulder. “Let her soak this in. It’s gotta be tough.” He hoped it comforted Amy, it was obviously how much Amy cared for her niece but there was only so much she could do.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Maria breathed deeply as the tears welled in her eyes. She found a soft spot that was welcoming right on the shoreline, so the water could brush up against her feet. Amy would certainly check on her soon and Maria wanted silence and the ocean to let her mind unwind and clear.

It was windy and the sky had turned into a dark gray, a storm was on its way. It seemed fitting. The pain she felt in her heart would soon explode in a storm forcing the world to feel it. Maria always loved the rain, refreshing in a way. It allowed things to be clean, a new.

A few tear drops fell down her cheek. She knew better then to care, to even remotely feel anything other then hate towards her mother. But it was her mother. How else was a child supposed to feel?

Michael was about to knock on the door to Amy’s house just before he spotted Maria sitting by the water, all by herself. He took it upon himself to go over to her. “Am I that late?” He was trying to joke, but instead she jumped, not realizing he was in her presence. She was already on her feet, wiping her eyes. “What happened?” His concern was probably sticking out like an overdone billboard but she was visibly upset. He couldn’t just ignore that she was hurt by something. Or could he have?

Sniffling as she continued to attempt to rid her tears, as she softly spoke. “Nothing.”

“Yeah, you’re crying and it’s nothing?” Michael crossed his arms, not fooled by her tough girl attitude. But she remained silent, not budging. “What happened?” He repeated softer, hoping she would say something, anything.

“My trust fund, the one I was told I couldn’t get till I was twenty-one, I now find out my mother lied.” Maria huffed, dissolving her hurt and tears struggling to appear just fine, turning to sit down once again to avoid Michael’s intense glare.

Michael calmly eased himself next to her, raising his knees higher to allow his arms to lay a crossed them. “How’d she lie?”

Maria sighed as she still avoided staring his way and made her eyes focused on the blue ocean. She could feel the tears resurfacing in her eyes as she stumbled the next part out, like it caused her actual pain to just talk. “The funds Tess and I have, we can get when we are married to help our new family.”

It sounded bitter as she forced the truth out. It hurt to say it. Her mother lied. Why did she expect anything less from Angela Deluca? To lie to her own daughters for personal gain was a perfect plot. She probably decided to do it years ago and now feels proud of her accomplishments.

Michael nodded, knowing Maria was most likely not looking at him but it made sense now. “Let me guess, it’s worth ten million?”

“You already knew about the Evans’s debt?”

“I was at Kyle’s office when he arrived to that conclusion. I couldn’t believe it. Max has said absolutely nothing about being in debt and to have Kyle find it out. I was simply stunned.” Michael explained, hoping it would divert her attention from her own pain for at least a minute as he ramble on like a complete fool. He still wasn’t sure why he cared so much.

She remained silent as he talked and allowed the silence to surround them. She felt drained from the same old things. The same lies, the same countless games her mother pulled. It was so exhausting. Maria was sick and tired of playing to Angela’s games.

“It’ll be okay.” Michael was about to nail his mouth shut. He sucked at being sympathetic and here he was trying to offer her words of hope, of comfort. He’d lost it, completely lost it.

And when she finally found the courage to face him, her eyes nearly ripped out his heart. It was too powerful, overwhelming her pain, her suffering. And her soft voice was even worth. It was tiny and soft, as if she couldn’t do anything anymore. “What would you do when you realized your mother tried to get rid of you by buying you off with your own money? Don’t tell me it’s going to just be okay, because nothing is okay about this situation to say the least.”

“I’m trying to be helpful. If I wanted to get chewed out I can go deal with my own mother.” Michael grumbled slightly aggravated after he tried to at least be supportive to get her complaining about it that he didn’t understand. He understood all to well, a parent’s greed to get what they want.

“Who ever said I needed your help?” Maria snapped. She was sick of playing the vulnerable damsel in distress. She was anything but weak.

“I never said you did. I was trying to be a friend.” His words struck at her heart. A friend that was all he wanted from her, nothing more. She couldn’t believe she cared so damn much. She wanted more from him, liked she ever admit it but to hear him say it, hurt, hurt more then she realized until he said it.

She mumbled softly. “I’m sorry. I’m just a little sensitive right now.”

Michael glazed over at her, shocked she actually apologized, not that he wanted one but she seemed like the type to refuse. He noticed how drawn she was. This life she led was taking everlasting toll on her. “It’s ok.” He whispered, again attempting to be sympathetic to her needs. “We should get back inside before it pours.”

Maria agreed and followed Michael back to the beach house where only more surprises would hold.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Amy, it’s gotta hurt her. Don’t take offense to her wanting space.” Kyle tried to calm down Amy the minute Maria escaped, wanting time alone.

Amy shook her head softly as she poured herself a glass of lemonade. “My sister has never showered her children with love like our parents did. Yes, they wanted us married but they always showed love.” Amy let out a low sigh. “I worry about the girls. Tess is good at being somewhat happy, but Maria just draws herself into a little corner.”

Kyle sipped his own glass before adding. “The more I know of Maria, the more surprised I am that a girl could work so perfectly with Michael. I mean he won’t admit it of course. But the fact he asked me to help her, he cares for her deeply.”

Amy immediately was interested in this. “How are you so sure?” By this point Michael had arrived without either realized, too engrossed with their conversation.

Kyle rubbed his chin roughly. “This is Michael we’re talking about. He doesn’t like showing feeling to anybody, ever. And the fact he is helping Maria, there’s something there even if he won’t admit it.”

Amy nodded, understanding how Michael was. Only her niece could fall for someone that would care so deep but she would never see it. Amy knew they had to work something out to make sure the pair ended up together.

“What can we do to Angela?”

“We can sue her for not taking proper care of the girls’ trust funds. And in this country it’s illegal to force someone into marriage. I’m sure I can look further into it and see if there’s more.”

Smiling Amy said. “Do whatever you have to.”


Chapter Seven: Just the Beginning

Maria sat gracefully into the chair, waiting to hear what they had to plan to do next. She knew it was going to be a long ordeal, but whatever needed to be done. Maria wanted it done.

Kyle began explaining parts of the discussion with Amy. “We can even get her on more things if we’re lucky.”

“Money,” Maria whispered. “I don’t have the kind of money to sue my mother. She’s worth millions. Not only that but I live under her roof. I have nothing to even leave with.”

The other three remained silent, trying to find an effective way to get Maria money and to get Angela for all her lies. It would be a struggle but all agreed that Angela deserved to pay for all the suffering and torture she put her daughters through.

An idea suddenly occurred to Amy. “If Maria marries without Angela’s knowledge then she can get the ten million.”

“That would work.” Kyle said leery. It sounded kinda of simple but it could end really badly, but Amy had a look on her face like a million ideas were popping up.

Maria huffed. “Who are you going to have me marry?” Kyle and Amy exchanged a look at Maria’s words. One Maria didn’t like, at all. “You two have an idea, spit it out already.”

Kyle chose to be the one to suggest the name. “Michael could work, he’s got more money to begin with and it would piss your mother to no end if you married a mobster’s son.”

“Valenti…”

“Come on, Michael. You and I both know you don’t spend half your money and this will help Maria.”

“I am capable of helping myself.” Maria muttered.

Amy softly spoke to Maria. “This could really work out. And you guys are mutual friends. Once everything has gone through you can just get a divorce. No one has to know it’s a fake.”

Michael sighed as he ran a hand through his wild hair. “Do you guys think it’ll work?” Amy and Kyle both nodded, showing approval to the idea. “I’m up for it, if you are Maria.”

Three sets of eyes stared at her, waiting for her answer. The whole idea was appealing, but it was so wrong at the same time. She knew what it could accomplish too. “Alright, I’ll do it.”

Amy smiled, knowing it could be the best thing for Maria. “Let’s get to work then.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

The setting up to make all the necessary adjustments to insure everybody was fooled by the fake marriage. No one besides Kyle, Amy and naturally themselves Michael and Maria were to know of the true identity of their marriage. And to make the entire marriage authentic, they had to create scenes, very public ones to enforce everyone, the world to hear and wonder what these new up and coming couple were up to, before the actual marriage occurred.

And this also allowed Angela the chance to be firmly against the affair and order her daughter to stay far, far away from the young troubled Michael Gurein. An effect of this Angela will attempt to tell Maria what to do; naturally Maria will ‘lash out’ at her dear mother and secretly marry Michael without Angela’s approval or knowledge.

The relationship between Maria and Angela was known for its flares and less than healthy mother/daughter relationship. And of course it would come as no surprise that Maria deliberately went behind her mother’s back.

For two to three weeks Maria was to create these scenes and many other openly known problems between her and Angela. She was to stay out all night making Angela believe she was ‘running around’ with Michael while Maria would just crash at Amy’s for the night.

No one would be the wiser. The four knew everything had to be planned accordingly and nothing, nothing to go out of order. Or everything could be ruined. There could be absolutely no slip ups; mistakes of any sort, no matter how tiny could blow their chance to nail Angela later. They wanted to throw everybody by surprise by Angela’s true behavior and to make the relationship between Michael and Maria completely believable. If everybody thought it was terribly fake and not realistic, they wouldn’t have the necessary funds to sue Angela later.

The timing was also a very big variable. Brian and Angela were to leave for some exotic island for a two week vacation a month after everything was organized to get Angela. This allowed Angela to be clueless that Maria had married Michael and Angela was powerless to try and take Maria’s money while in another country. It worked, perfectly to cause the wedding to be soon as well as the opportunity for Maria to do it before Angela or anybody else could object.

The plan they had created had so many factors that worked to their advantage in fooling everyone. The group prayed that no one would suspect everything was a hoax.

On Michael’s end, he had things a little tougher then some would imagine. He had to appear sneaky around his family. It was an important issue his family believed he married Maria for a good reason, not as some fling. Because the Michael they knew, wouldn’t go on impulse on something like that. Then on top of hiding around on certain issues he needed to catch their attention like he didn’t want to.

Isabel would be easy. His sister read every magazine known to man and she knew all her gossip as well. The minute she read a headline involving her brother with a Deluca daughter would catch Isabel’s attention immediately and she would of course bug her older brother.

In a natural order of things Isabel would confide in their sweet mother and make her curiosity grow of what her only son was up to. It was a chain reaction with the two women; their mother/daughter relationship was amazing. Isabel told her mother everything and trusted her completely and it worked to Michael’s benefit.

The youngest sister, Laurie and his father would prove the most difficult. Now Michael had to assume his mother, god bless her would say something to his father, saying Michael was dating. It was counting on a lot but Michael had to hope that his father would naturally not be pleased with him dating a Deluca. And with Laurie living at home, she would be bound to hear something; his parents weren’t known for being quiet.

Laurie would most likely pretend not to care, she had a lot of Michael’s silent traits and she’d become difficult to read these days as if she was hiding something. Michael couldn’t put his finger on it.

There it began. The extravagant affair between them slowly became know and publicized. Maria made the first move, by inviting Michael to an event held by her parents and the result was a big argument scene exchanged among Angela and Maria. Everything went better then hoped. A few days later the ‘new’ couple was spotted at a very popular restaurant and enormous amount of pictures were taken and seen everywhere.

Angela flipped, Isabel’s curiosity grew rapidly and she went to her mother informing her of the girl Michael was supposedly seeing. And she happened to bring it up in conversation with Anthony.

The relationship was developing and spreading like wild fire. Everyone was into this unique couple of a gangster’s son and diva’s daughter. The media fell in love with this troubled pair and created this idea the two found a comfort in one another, one they couldn’t find from their lives. It was all working to plan.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Maria.” Tess knocked on the door, which was already slightly open. Over the past week, Tess had remained silent as the arguments between Angela and Maria intensified. She was curious to why Maria’s feelings towards Michael increased so suddenly, but Maria had been to busy for Tess to even approach the issue.

It was obvious to Tess why Maria was so interested in Michael when clearly he was the type of guy she usually went after. Yet Maria had not bothered to go into extensive detail about the newly developed relationship sparking up in the papers.

Maria cocked her head to the right effortlessly as she smiled brightly at Tess while slowly sliding the sparkling powder blue and green gem dangling earrings, “Hey, what’s going on?”

“Are, you um going out with Michael tonight?” Tess felt awkward as she muttered the words almost with a pinch of jealousy.

Maria’s smile faltered for a moment as she paused to collect the perfect reply back to Tess. This was her sister, and she didn’t want to deceive her, lie to the one person who she cared most about.

She laughed lightly, brushing it as nothing to cover her tracks, “His parents are having this party thing, and insisted Michael had a date. So he asked if I’d go with him, just as friends of course.”

Tess saw something filter through Maria’s emerald eyes as she gently positioned herself on the chair located next to Maria’s posh vanity.

With a decent amount of trouble Tess tried to assemble her words without sounding rude or the obnoxious younger sister. “Is there something more between you and Michael than just friends? Mom keeps saying how you two keep popping up in the papers, and she doesn’t like it, Maria.”

Maria refrained from biting her tongue and smiled sadly at Tess as she took hold her hand. She couldn’t tell her anything, and it saddened her greatly but she had to try and make Tess feel better. So softly she whispered with pain evident in her voice, “When has our mother ever agreed or approved of something that makes me happy. I can’t predict the future, but I’m sure as hell not going to do something for her.”

It sounded laced with bitterness and more upsetting then she expected it to be, but even if it all was just a fake marriage, Michael treated her better then her own mother. It was an unhidden truth she could not deny. And even after they ended it, maybe they could be friends still. She could hope at least.

“I’ll let you finish getting ready,” Tess sighed. She knew better than anyone how touchy Maria could be and there were some things you just simply left be.

Maria felt bad for how it came across to Tess and tried to correct herself, “Tess, I didn’t mean it against you or anything. I was just saying how she is.”

“I know that, I do,” Tess smiled while shrugging her shoulders leaving Maria alone in silence to order her own thoughts.

Everything was changing and there was no stopping it.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“You’re late.” Michael raised an eyebrow as she hurried out of the car, hands flying and babbling something of it not being her fault.

He hated to admit, even to himself but she took his breath away. Her curly blonde hair was gently pushed back out of her face with a small clip, a few strands falling to the side of her face, emulating her emerald eyes. The little light green dress was simple, but elegant all in one. It suited her very well.

Maria knew that look on his face, it was one of those she was talking far too much and to act just as irritated she glared him down and demanded, “What?”

Michael grinned at her slyly, and smoothly said, “Nothing.”

“It doesn’t seem like nothing.” She rolled her eyes. She hated how reserve he mange to be regardless of the situation.

He smirked at her, she was always curious, no matter what he said or did, and she had a question to add to every situation. He relished more then anything to strike her off guard. “You look stunning.”

Maria let out an awkward laugh and couldn’t suppress the redness which was creeping across her pale cheeks. And her insecurity flew brightly across the air as she rapidly asked, “I’m not over doing it? I wasn’t sure what I should wear and if this was far too dressy and…. does it look okay?”

Michael laughed and noticed the shock look grazing her skin smoothly, as the redness faded into nothingness. He recovered by adding, “I couldn’t catch all of that, I can only understand talking of half a mile per minute. Ten miles and I’m completely lost.”

“You’re a complete jerk as well,” She replied with the same sarcastic tone he greeted her with. He was a challenge and it perked her attention deeply.

Covering his heart with his hand, his smirk grew as he whispered, “You hurt my feelings.”

Maria laughed lightly, she couldn’t seem to resist him, inching closer she whispered back in a teasing tone, “Do you want me to kiss it better?”

“Would you be so kind?” He raised his left eyebrow.

“Depends.”

“Hmm, on what, my dear?”

Her lips curved into a devilish smile, raising a finger to her lips, pondering on her stipulations to torture him. Suddenly the idea stroked her as she let out seductively, “On how much of a good boy you can be.”

Michael rubbed his chin as he chuckled. She was full of surprises. “I think I’ve been a real good boy.”

“I’m not so sure.” She said in a teasing tone again, licking her lips.

When she licked her lips Michael realized how close they were, he could practically feel her breath as she giggled. He had to continue reminding himself it was just an act, nothing more. The fact he once saw what was under the little scrap of silk she decided to wear tonight was creeping its way back into his mind. He had to hold his breath so he wouldn’t gulp and make an even bigger fool of himself.

When Maria stopped laughing she came to grips of how close she and Michael were. And it was just another torturous thing she was becoming use to enduring. He look amazing, dressed up in a suit, it did something for her. He didn’t change his shaggy hair, but it worked for his messy but classy look with the tie not all the way tied up. She had a feeling he didn’t want to wear the thing but was told to.

Clearing her throat because the lump grew bigger in the past moment and let out casually like the fact they were so close had no affect on her. “We should be going.”

Michael nodded, smiling and going with her attitude of it was no big deal and escorted her to the car. It was going to be one long night.


Chapter Eight: a different kind of Life

Allison Gurein gracefully set a few plates onto the dark wooden table. Even at age forty-five she still held a timeless beauty, her blonde wavy hair had stayed its golden color, allowing Allison to still fool people of her true age. Her eyes were what shown the truth, the aging line curled around and her chocolate brown eyes held so much wisdom and pain, it was near impossible to not notice.

“Mom, where are you?” Isabel called as she entered the back door, realizing her mother was not in the kitchen as to be expected.

Allison took a quick glance of the dinning room, insuring everything was in its meant place and satisfied with the outlook she sweetly called, “I’m in here.”

Isabel followed the sound of her mother’s voice and leaned against the doorframe, inspecting her mother. She always consider herself fortunate to have such a strong mother in her life, it proved to Isabel she could live through anything. But the look grazing her usual happy smiling face made Isabel worry.

“You okay, mom?”

Allison smiled when realizing Isabel was watching her so closely. “I’m just tired; I’m getting to old for this party stuff.” She laughed lightly, as she passed Isabel entering the kitchen to continue baking.

Isabel wasn’t completely convinced Allison was fine, but she knew the stubborn woman’s ways. And just like Michael, you didn’t push the issue because they weren’t going to admit what they’re really feeling.

Isabel followed and kindly asked, “Do you need any help with anything?”

Quickly seeing Isabel, her ruby red long dress with spaghetti straps, a low cut showing her upper chest and the matching red heart necklace, with red diamond earrings dangling with on string ending with a heart. Her hair was pulled up in a twist leaving one strand of bangs to lay on the side of her forehead not in the way but noticeable.

Allison smiled. “I’m not letting you touch anything; you’re all dressed up, just sit and talk with me.”

Isabel smile, sitting at the table in the corner of the kitchen and obeyed her mother’s orders and started talking about work, Alex and everything else in between. “Michael’s coming right?”

Allison laughed. “You live with him.”

“Between both us working we never see each other. He’s been coming home like around three every morning. In one of those papers I saw him with Maria Deluca. Has he mentioned anything?”

Allison was rolling the dough up, and placing it inside a bowl as Isabel talked. “No, you know how your brother is. A mime talks more then him.”

“He tells you most things.” Isabel contradicted.

Allison sighed, her daughter was stubborn. She turned around and said, “He’s barely calling me. I just assumed he’s busy.”

“Is dad making him do more with the business?” Isabel asked fearfully. She saw the sad look filter across her mother’s face and knew she was afraid of the same thing.

“I don’t know, Isabel. I just don’t know.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

Laurie stared at the mirror. She felt awkward when she dressed up. She was determined to not wear a dress and went for black dressy pants with a blue, white and black top to match. It was classy but less work, and more comfortable. She wore no jewelry. She wasn’t that type of girl.

When she went to go get her purse the doorbell to the guest house rang. Her parents finally allowed her the small building by the side of the house. Michael had for the longest time but when Isabel broke up with Jesse and asked Michael to stay with her, the place was open. There were two bedrooms, a bathroom connected, and a small kitchen with a little living space.

“Hey.” She smiled when she opened it to a pleasant surprise. “Michael invited you for today?” She asked as she led her guest inside with her, knowing if they stood by the door, they could get caught.

“Yeah, said he needed to talk.” He laughed and watched her moving in front of him.

Laurie laughed and turned around seeing that look across his face, her smile grew a little bigger and she leaned closer to him, feeling his lips inches from hers.

“My dad might be mad you’re here.”

“Well I was kind of hoping to avoid him.” He smirked, knowing she was delaying the kiss, and decided not to wait, capturing her lips.

He cupped her face in the palm of his hands as her arms wrapped around his neck bringing him closer and the kiss just kept getting deeper and more intense.

When she broke apart to receive air, she leaned her forehead against and whispered, “We can’t keep doing this, Kyle.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

Michael hauled through the half circle driveway. He knew the house he called home for many years was no where near as big or as fancy as the one Maria was accustomed to, but he knew it was no where near poor. The house had a gorgeous private space and the guest house located right next to it, where he saw Laurie walking out and taking the separate pathway to the house.

He parked the car and ignored a quiet Maria. He knew he should be concerned because she was so quiet but that required talking and he knew she’d never shut up.

“You decided to show up!” Laurie yelled at him, as he emerged from the car, and saw out of the corner of his eye Maria followed the same suit.

“A party wouldn’t be the same.” He smirked and laughed, and held out his arms. Laurie smiled back and embraced him tightly holding onto him as if for dear life.

Maria awkwardly stood against the car, studying closer the interaction between them. Michael truly laughed and seemed so gentle, it was touching and comforting as well.

“What have you done to your hair?” Michael crossed his arms staring at her. Her once blonde hair now was a light brown, not really dark but Michael could see the difference.

Laurie laughed at him and shook her head before saying. “I wanted a change, nothing crazy and I’m sick of being a blonde.”

Michael noticed there was something different about her, she was happy and he could see an inner change. His little sister was growing up. “Who’s the guy?”

Laurie shook her head. “Michael Gurein, what am I going to do with you?”

“What?” Michael threw his hands in the air.

“Nothing, how about you introduce to me to your lady friend?” Laurie crossed her arms as she cocked her head.

Michael turned to Maria who was standing quietly. “Laurie, I’d like you to meet Maria. Maria this is my sister, Laurie.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Maria smiled brightly.

Laurie looked at Michael then back to Maria. “You too,” she pointed at Michael before saying, “What are you doing with him?”

“Laurie.” Michael’s voice was stern but she didn’t listen and Maria found it interesting how the two acted with each other.

“Come on,” Laurie said, extending her arm for Maria to follow and Michael to trail behind.

~~~~~*~~~~~

The three entered the house. People were all over the place, mostly Anthony’s clients and business partners, a few friends and family scattered about.

Kyle came up them and looked at Michael. “We need to talk.” Michael nodded and the two went through the house to find a quiet place to chat.

Maria paused watching the two walk away, she suddenly felt so out of place. She wasn’t sure where to go. She began questioning herself on this whole situation. Maybe she and Michael never should have agreed on this whole thing. They came from two totally opposite worlds.

Laurie could see the lost look in Maria’s eyes, but she could also see strength. She knew this girl had something to catch Michael’s attention and Laurie was curious to see exactly what that was.

“Come on, we’ll go out in the kitchen with my mom.” Laurie started to lead the way and kept talking. “These parties are just a bunch of my dad’s friends, and they continue to drink and smoke and play cards. I’m not a big fan of gambling personally. And they talk about women and business. It’s so boring.”

Maria smiled, she liked Laurie. She was kind, funny and she had taste. “My mom’s parties are worse because the woman take part in it.”

“Oh dear lord,” Laurie muttered: she couldn’t believe it.

The kitchen was pretty big and had a certain home smell to it, of fresh fruits and home made bread. Maria stopped at the entrance and just surveyed the room. She never felt that way towards her own home.

Laurie hurried next to her mom and gave her a hug and a kiss. The entire family seemed at peace with each other, certain closeness, but Maria would soon realize how very wrong she was.

“What are you cookin’, Mom?” Laurie asked, taking in the wonderful smells that began to overtake the kitchen.

“The traditional, your father’s favorites, you know how he is for theses parties.” Allison smiled warmly at her daughter.

Maria noticed certain sadness in her twinkling eyes. She was beginning to see that more lay beneath the surface, more than any of them cared to admit.

Around that time Allison caught a glimpse of Maria, in traditional Allison Gurein style she put a hand on her hip and welcomed Maria brightly. “Now who do we have here?”

“I’m Maria Deluca.”

Allison spied her closely; this was the girl Isabel had mentioned. She seemed rather nervous and was dressed in a classy dress and looked very pretty. “I’ve heard some things about you,” Allison crossed her arms, trying to see how Maria faired under preying eyes.

Maria laughed lightly, realizing she needed to relax and impress this woman. She was to be her future mother in law, even if she didn’t know it yet. And Maria wanted to stay on excellent terms in order to keep Michael.

She glided further into the kitchen and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and said in a light voice, “Well whatever you’ve heard, are lies,” and flying her hands in the air for a dramatic flare added, “All of them.”

Laurie laughed, she had liked Maria intuitively but her creative character was more exciting and fun then she expected and she could see her mother was also a little surprised.

“So you’re not dating my son?” Allison raised her eyebrow slightly and it reminded Maria of Michael when he was testing or teasing her.

Maria bit her lip, knowing that one had caught her. “Okay, you got me there, but beside that everything else is a bunch of lies.”

“Then answer me this, Maria,” Allison said, not yet giving approval or friendliness towards Maria. “How on earth did my son find a girl like you?”

Maria relaxed at the childlike matter of Allison. Her eyes held twinkling mischief in them, knowing she had teased Maria pretty bad.

“I don’t know, Mrs. Gurein. Maybe it was fate.” Maria answered, finally at ease.

Allison laughed. “Child, please call me Allison. Don’t make me sound like my mother in law, that woman is old.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

“So what’s up?” Michael closed the door tightly behind him. He knew if any of his father’s business partners discovered this talking with a detective, Michael would be shot by his own father. He was sure of it.

“I’ve got the stuff.” Kyle said pulling out a velvet pouch and a few papers from his jacket, tossing them onto the bed.

Michael sighed, it all was happening so fast; he was barely catching his bearings. He almost gulped. “The rings?”

“Yeah,” Kyle nodded and continued his explanation of order of events. “Her mother and father are to leave Monday at three p.m. meaning we have three days. We’re all going to meet at Amy’s at five. She’s got a priest, we’ll do it on the beach and it’ll be a nice, sweet, quick service. The papers will all be signed and immediately afterwards we’ll go get the money and you two get the hell out of there.”

Michael wandered across the room and was looking out the window; he rubbed his chin as his mind took over. On some level he knew he wanted Maria, she probably didn’t want him, but he knew how he felt about her. This fake marriage would be a chance for him to show her how he could make her happy.

“Do you think I should buy a house or just get a penthouse apartment?” Michael surprised himself at how natural his voice sounded.

Kyle was taken by Michael’s question. “Do the house; it’ll make it look homey.” He knew how crapy it was that everything was done because of how the press would see it. “You two have done a good job with getting the press onto you guys, and it’s not weird or anything is it?”

Michael laughed as he turned to face Kyle, crossing his arms. “She’s a great person, and we’re friends, its fine.”

“Yeah, you guys made front cover.” Kyle laughed back as he scratched his neck. “Did something happen between you guys?”

Michael raised his eyebrow unsure of Kyle’s question, “What do you mean?”

Kyle’s voice got real low, trying not to accuse Michael of anything, simply asking the important questions. “You two seemed pretty cozy; I mean you two were kissing like a real couple, like there’s been practice.”

Michael ran a hand through his hair, his voice was lower then Kyle’s as he explained what had once happen between him and Maria. “It was a one time thing, when we first met at a party her mother hosted. Max dragged me to it and well we ended upstairs.”

Kyle nodded and remained pretty silent. He had questions about Maria; she was tentative, reserved but that last bit of information sparked curiosity in Kyle. “She’s pretty young, was she a virgin?”

Michael caught Kyle’s eye, and Michael responded with a quick, “No.” But Michael could see the wheels turning inside Kyle’s mind, it wasn’t boys being boys. It was Kyle playing detective. “What are you thinking?”

“Did Max sleep with her?” Kyle didn’t hesitate in asking.

“I don’t think so, he never mentioned it. Any how that entire thing is screwy.” Michael shrugged his shoulders and sat down in the chair nearby. Kyle wasn’t going to be done talking for a while.

“How so?” Kyle raised his eyebrow as he sat down on the bed, facing Michael.

Michael licked his lips, trying to form the words. “When I met Maria she said she threatened Max with if he ever touched her, it’d be the last thing he touches. Later that night I ran into Tess, she said Maria pulled a fast one and got out of the engagement, saying Max was a bad kisser. It seemed fishy.”

“Do you think that’s what Tess meant?”

“Honestly I don’t know. But Maria was timid that night, I don’t know, but there’s more there then she’s willing to say.”

Kyle nodded and collected his thoughts. “Do you think its possible Max raped her?”

“What?”

“Hear me out,” Kyle tried to calm Michael, but he could see the rage spurting out his friend’s eyes. There was no controlling Michael when he was that angry.

“You think Max raped her? How in god’s name did you get a fucked up idea like that?”

“How else would she get out, Michael!” Kyle screamed to try and catch his attention. Michael quieted realizing he was being harsh. “She tells Tess she pulled a fast one. Well what did she pull, simply telling Max he wouldn’t touch her? This is Max we’re talking about here. Now that we know the Evans’ are desperate for money, you think they were going to let Maria walk away when they were on the brink of losing everything unless Maria could get Max thrown away?”

Kyle sighed. “They probably had the idea of getting Maria pregnant. She’d have no choice but to marry Max. She wouldn’t deal with the embarrassment of being pregnant and unwed. So Max rapes her but because it’s Maria Deluca, she isn’t going to let him simply walk all over her. But Max was told by mommy and daddy to get the job done. So he does.”

“That doesn’t explain everything.” Michael added.

Kyle stood. “But she goes to a doctor saying she’s been raped immediately after, the doctor has the rape kit with Max’s DNA all over it. Maria could go to Max saying you let me go, or I sue you for raping me. Max has no choice but to end the engagement and probably held over Angela’s head, he gets the next daughter because the first failed.”

Michael absorbed the information, realizing Kyle could be right. It explained Maria’s hatred towards Max and her determination to free Tess. “What we do? We can’t bring this to her, we’ve got enough to deal with.”

Kyle agreed and suggested, “We leave it alone, focus on you two. When we start doing more research we’ll confront her, for now we leave it alone.”

Michael nodded the two shook hands, left the room and Michael escorted Kyle out and headed to the kitchen finding Laurie, Maria and his mother joking around. He felt an uneasy feeling settle over him. He didn’t understand why he hadn’t noticed it earlier. It explained so much.

“Michael, how long have you been hiding this one?” Allison grinned, she was enjoying Maria being around them and her good nature would be sure to rub off onto Michael.

“Not too long,” Michael smiled back at her, and hugged her tightly, kissing her cheek. He was a momma’s boy, and he was use to it. Michael whispered when he knew Laurie and Maria were talking to each and not paying attention to him. “She’s somethin’ isn’t she?”

Allison examined Michael closely. She had a feeling when she met Maria her son would had totally lost it for the girl and seeing his silly expression graze his usually tough face, she knew she had been right. “She is, you better not let that one go.”

Michael smiled softly turning to look at his mother. “I don’t plan on it.”


Chapter Nine: A promise never forgotten

Michael had decided to leave Maria out with Laurie in the guest house. He personally didn’t want to hear his father’s nagging voice about the new girl he brought with him. He could hear it now.

He found himself in the basement. It was not the typical basement, there’s was a pretty large bar, with tables surrounding, and then there was a door leading to another room. Where they all played cards, gambling.

“Hey Michael,” The bartender said. Anthony always paid someone to pour the drinks, mix them perfectly and pass them out.

That’s when Michael noticed the red dress, Isabel laying on one of the long couches, a drink still in hand and her gorgeous stilettos on the floor. “How long has she been down here?” His voice was soft; the frustration was just something he was use to.

“Your father kicked her out of the game when she started drinking too much. He thinks she can’t hold her liquor, well she had me keep pouring them even after she left the game.” He sounded sorry, like he wasn’t trying to disrupt anybody’s life. But Michael knew, it wasn’t the bartender disrupting Isabel’s life, it was his father.

“Thanks.” He picked her up, ignoring the drink the fell from her grasps and made a loud bang against the wood floor. He doubted any of the men heard it, too absorbed in their game, and simply left the stilettos.

He got her into her old bedroom, and laid her on the bed. He was use to Isabel’s attempts to impress their father, but she always ended up hurting herself. Anthony expected his girls to say nothing and look beautiful.

The glittering diamond on her ring finger grasped at his attention. He knew she always hid it in her purse, but she never wore it since the divorce became official. So why was she wearing it now?

He sat down on the bed, trying to think. Sure his life was no fairy tale, but he was sick of his father’s games, of his need to be the troublemaker. He never seemed to care who got thrown in his mess. When he asked for Michael’s help ‘running’ the business, his mother’s face about killed him, Laurie’s silence was unbearable and Isabel’s cries lasted him a lifetime.

So Michael told him, with legal stuff he’d help, getting money, talking to people. He refused to take part in the illegal part of his father’s gangster life. He refused to hurt the women in his life like his father had. They had endured enough pain to last a lifetime.

He thought his mother would be the worst, angry at him for even thinking of following his father’s path. For Michael had watched Allison spend too many nights crying when Anthony did not return home.

But it was Laurie who glared at him with her piercing eyes, and finally one day he begged her to say something. She said in a quiet voice, “One day when you finally meet a girl who can actually tame you, don’t, don’t you dare put her through what mom went through. Because if you really love her, you will love her more than that damn game, and get your ass out of there. She should be your life, a job, simply second.”

It cut right through him. He always expected more out of Laurie compared to Isabel. For Isabel was the soft one, not as strong as Laurie. Laurie was quick on her feet, and she never forgave easily, she pushed a person so far, just to make them prove themselves.

Michael always assumed it was because when things got really bad, Laurie was still growing up. And in the shuffle, she became stubborn, stronger than god intended and extremely independent.

So to hear his youngest sister say that to him, he knew one day he’d have to do that. He couldn’t let her down, for everyone else had. And she depended on him, more than she cared to admit.

“Michael,” Isabel’s groggily voice whispered, her head still laying down on the bed, as she tried to look at him.

Michael turned to face her than asking. “Hey, how are you feeling?”

“Like my head ran into a truck,” She grumbled, almost embarrassed as she remembered the pervious events.

“How much did you drink?”

Isabel rubbed her face a little, trying to remember. “I lost count.”

“Iz…” His voice trailed off, she was merely impossible.

“Michael, please don’t start with me. Yeah I probably drank way too much. But he basically called me a shame of a daughter anyway; why not add another to the incredibly long list he’s got going.” The last sentence came fumbling out in a low voice.

Michael raised an eyebrow at her, before asking, “What the hell are you talking about, shame of a daughter?”

Isabel seemed lost in thought, tears forming in her brown eyes. “The divorce,” She stated after a few moments, her head lowered as she tried to explain the situation. “He refuses to tell any of his friends that his eldest daughter couldn’t handle married life. He thinks it looks bad on his part.”

Michael avoided laughing for he knew no matter what he believed Isabel was still that little girl wanting to make her father proud. “Iz, do you really want to hold up to his twisted standards?”

Isabel turned to actually look at Michael. Her voice was weak as she said, “He believes I didn’t even try with Jesse, that I just threw in the towel. And maybe somewhere I did, but I may have understood he was a doctor, and late nights were a part of the job, but when he couldn’t be home on time, I knew, I knew what it was like to be mom and the reasoning for being late never could suffocate that fear, that bottomless fear.”

A soft sob escaped her lips as she look at Michael hoping he understood. “I loved Jesse, but I couldn’t deal with his job and he understood that, he understood how hard I tried to ignore it but it just wasn’t enough.”

Michael sighed deeply, understanding Isabel’s fears because he had seen it etched in his mother’s eyes, and he was thankful Isabel got out. Jesse may never had been unfaithful but the fear of if he was, would have destroyed Isabel in the end. “How about you just get some sleep, we’ll talk tomorrow.” He rubbed her back soothingly, as she nodded, smiling sadly.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Michael came through the door in a bit of a rush, ignoring a worried Maria and puzzled Laurie sitting on the couch joking. At least Laurie liked Maria; he made him feel a tad better about the entire situation.

He knew where the liquor was in the guest house, right bottom cabinet. He lived there long enough to know where his father stored a private stash where his mother could remain clueless.

The bottle was already half empty, Michael had a fairly good idea what had happened to the top off. Ignoring the idea for a moment, in haste he grabbed a small glass, pouring till the rim, he quickly opened his mouth to let the cool, poison dripping down his throat.

Laurie snatched the bottle from his hands as he went to pour another glass. She refused to meet his gaze as she went over to the sink, pouring the entire thing into the drain.

“I live here now, and don’t you dare drink that crap in my house.” Her voice was cold, and harsh.

“Laurie,” Michael attempted to defend himself, but he saw her once honest, welcoming eyes, become shielded before his own as she twisted away from him, retreating back to the living room, away from him.

Maria remained still as she saw the fight about to abrupt between the close siblings. She had suspected there was more their family than what met the eye, but she didn’t realize this much pain filtered through their daily lives. And Laurie’s once clear, innocent eyes filled with sorrow Maria was afraid to witness.

“No,” Laurie shot back at him, trying to stop whatever was happening. “I don’t want to hear excuses. I should have known better, known that despite everything it always came back to, like father like son.”

Michael couldn’t control the pain; he couldn’t stop his world from twisting into something he had avoided for so long. He just wanted his family to be alright. “Laurie, please listen to me, I was upset…”

“No!” She screamed this time, her eyes filling with tears, “I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want false sense of security anymore, Michael.”

Before Michael could stop her she grabbed her purse and fled the scene, a scene she had experience her entire life, filled with anger and hurt. Michael was beginning to realize he couldn’t save his family anymore. He couldn’t protect them anymore.

“Are you alright?” Michael stared at Maria as she inched closer to him, her voice sweet as her eyes held the deep concern she had for him, and for his sister. “Michael, are you okay?”

“No, no I’m not okay.” He hated admitting the truth but he was sick of running, he knew Maria was too kind to leave a man with a bleeding heart. Maybe she’d take pity on him; maybe she would allow him back into her bed, to seek comfort from the storm.

Her hand was gentle as she softly traced his face, desperately trying to soothe his pain away, and in a quick motion Michael captured her pouty lips against his own. She willing complied with his silent requests, allowing him to carry her…into the extra bedroom.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Laurie, what are you doing...here?” Kyle felt her lips against own before he could even finish his sentence, her small, but tough hands began rubbing his body, making the ache he had for her already grow, rapidly. She was making him beg for her, in whatever way he could get her.

She took his shirt off in a rush, her lips whispering her wants against his lips, still hungry for more. “Take me, Kyle. I’m sick of waiting, I’m tired of everybody having what they want, while I’m screaming for someone to hear me, please, Kyle, hear me.”

He tasted her tears before he realized what they were; he gently wiped the dampness on her pale face. Her eyes were puffy, red from plenty of tears. He had never seen her cry before, she was so tough, so strong…no one broke her.

“Laurie, what happened?”

“Nothing happened, Kyle. Please, you’re the only one I trust, please I’m exhausted of this feeling, its wearing on me, make it go away. Please.” Her voice breaking, her lips still aching for him to take her, make the bottomless pain in her gut go away, let everything go away.

“Laurie, you’re angry, upset. You need to calm down first, you need to breathe. Just rushing into this isn’t going to make things better, most likely worse, the backlash could cause more damage.” Kyle held her head in between his hands getting her eyes to focus on him.

Tears slide down her cheek, as she stared into his eyes, her voice cracking as she whispered like a small child, “There is no calm, not even before the storm.”

“Baby, come on, what’s going on, your talking in riddles.” He was scared, because the pain etched in her deep hazel eyes were ones he had never experienced before. Michael had always said, “Us, Guerin’s hold everything in, and never let it go.” Kyle knew she had broken, that everything she had hid was pushing the damn down, forcing her to feel everything—all over again and she was powerless to stop it, no matter how hard she tried.

“It won’t stop, Kyle. It’ll never stop; it’s a cycle that never sleeps. I can still hear her screams at night, and his voice pounding against the walls. Please make it go away, you’re the only person I feel safe with anymore, Kyle.”

She fell limp against his body as he carried her to his bedroom, grabbing an oversize button up shirt of his she could sleep in. He laid her gently on the bed, for the first time he realized how fragile she really was. How much pain she had endure, and it reminded him why he was so drawn to her, he wanted to protect her, and make her fears disappear.

He took her shirt and pants off; ignoring the strong effect she was having on his body, and put the shirt on her. Her eyes watching him closely, afraid to speak, and he smiled caringly at her, as he stroked her hair, kissing her forehead.

“How about you get some rest?” He slid himself onto the bed next to her, putting them under the covers, and she immediately went to his side, her face resting on her chest. “I’ll take care of you, Laurie. I promise.”

“Don’t promise,” She whispered. “Promises are always broken, don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

He continued to rub her back soothingly, “I’ll never leave you in the dark, Laurie. You won’t ever have to face things alone, not ever again.”

She raised her head to rest her chin on his chest, his eyes staring into hers, “I love you, Kyle.”

At first he didn’t realize what she said, and he felt a goofy smile on his lips. He hated seeing her in pain, but she came to him because she trusted him. “I love you too, Laurie, so much. If only you knew how much you make my world turn.” But she had already fallen asleep, safe in his arms, where nothing could touch her.


Chapter Ten: when feelings get involved

Michael laid there in the dark, hearing Maria’s breathing echoing in the small room. He probably should have held back. Of all the places to pick to be with her, this place was the worst. Some days he was thankful Laurie was kept in the dark about their father’s games and Isabel was protected from more disappointment.

He felt shame flooding him. Was he following in his father’s ways? Was he staggering down a road that would only hurt his family more, faster? In the dark he searched for his old sweat pants he had left there once. Putting them, he headed out of the room, to think, to clear his head.

Laurie never returned the night before; he was worried, but upset at the same time. Did she go out all night and no one notice anyway? In this family, he wouldn’t be surprised.

It was hours later when the sun began to rise, Michael had fallen asleep on the couch and Maria found him there, looking peaceful in the morning glow. She didn’t regret or wish to change the previous night, it worked to her benefit much to even her own surprise. She went to cover him with a blanket, when he shocked her by grabbing her hand.

“Oh, I didn’t realize you were awake.” Maria gasped a little, still clutching the blanket tightly, as Michael sat up a little.

“I was just lying here; Laurie never came home last night.” Michael whispered it bothered him; where did she go? Who was she with? What was she doing?

Maria nodded, sitting down next to him. “I’m sure she just stayed at a friend’s house, there’s no need to get worried. From what I see about Laurie she’s a good a kid, you got nothing to worry about.”

Michael nodded, his head bowed as he said gently, “About last night, Maria. I’m sorry I got a little carried away, I should have had a little more self-control than that.”

Maria grabbed his hand softly. “Look, its fine. I was thinking this morning, if anything it’s taught us something. Michael, we’re going to be married Monday, and we have no clue when this will be over. The trial could take a year, if we find more evidence, and on top of that, we can’t just get divorced immediately after, or its going to be obvious it was a setup.”

She sighed. “I figure, we’re going to be married for a while, and we can’t do that with other people, or people are going to think some things wrong with the marriage. So if we agreed, if either of us needs sex, or that type of comfort, we both can get what we want from this arrangement.”

She never was a big sex talker, or even that huge on a lot of it. She was starting to realize the feelings in her body every time Michael touched her, and no matter how bad it sounded, she didn’t want him to stop touching her, regardless of the reasons. If he believed it was just about sex, so what? She could enjoy the time she had with him.

“Maria, are you sure? Really, I can control myself a lot more than I was last night,” Michael sighed. She offered him sex, whenever he wanted it. This woman was going to kill him, and he was beginning to think it was a better alternative than living the slow torture of having her so close, but so far away.

Her hand fell on his thigh, a small smile on her lips. “There may be a moment where I need comfort; it’s not just a one way street you know. We might as well get something out of this.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

Kyle groaned as he shifted a little. His body was not agreeing with actions from the previous night at that moment. He forgot what happened every morning when he woke up next to her, with her small, tough body pressed to his, her light brown locks flowing around her like an angel, her eyes closed, showing how peaceful she could sleep causing an impossible ache growing, along with an erection.

Laurie snuggled closer, knowing he was being tortured at the moment. She giggled a little as she kissed his neck, whispering against it, “What time is it?”

“I don’t know, and I sure as hell don’t care.” Kyle pulled her closer to him, knowing she could feel his little friend, and her giggling continuing, proving to Kyle, she was alright, and she always would be, maybe having him in her life helped that.

Laurie laughed openly at him, her hands covering his face, rubbing the smooth skin, realizing how much she did love him. He understood her, gave her space when she needed it, she was glad he didn’t let her do anything stupid, but now, there was ache building inside of her, begging to release it. “Kyle.”

He held her tightly against him; her voice was husky as she whispered his name. He could feel his blood boiling. She took him to places he never been before. He had heard being with a virgin added an extra thrill when you weren’t, but he didn’t believe that. It was her, just her personality, the way she moved her body against his. She was a born natural.

“Oh, Laurie,” He kissed her mouth, hearing his name fall lightly out of her lips against his. His body burned, ached, screamed out for her.

“Hey, Valenti, open up!”

The pounding voice scared both of them. “I take it my brother enjoys visiting you in the morning, is there something I should know?” Her humor didn’t go over well with Kyle.

“Jesus Christ, he’s going to kill me, stay in here, I’ll deal with him.” He kissed her quickly, scurrying out of the room. His days were numbered, his body hurt, and it was not pleasant. “What the hell do you want, Gurein. You pick to come bug me now, first thing in the morning?” Kyle acted annoyed, hoping to hide the fact he was actually hiding something.

“What? You got a chick in here?” Michael smirked walking past Kyle into his apartment; Kyle had been acting strange, well stranger than usual.

“What do you want, Michael? For your information I was sleeping, anymore questions?”

“Sorry, Detective, I wasn’t trying to twist your panties in a bunch. You really haven’t gotten laid in a while have you? How about I take you out and you can at least enjoy my bachelor’s party, which I’m not really going to experience, for we’re the only two who know about the wedding, so I’ll take you out, get you drunk, and get you plenty of women.”

Kyle caught his throat, Laurie could surely hear their conversation, and he was counting the seconds until he truly did die, it would all come to this, this final moment, and he hadn’t even been able to experience everything about Laurie yet. His life was flashing before his eyes.

“Valenti, you okay man? Look we’ll find you a chick to bag later.” Michael eyed him, he was worried, and Kyle didn’t look real well. But Michael didn’t hear the bedroom open, and he didn’t see Laurie with her arms crossed, leaning against the door jam.

“He can’t be having sex with other women when he has a girlfriend.”

Michael whipped around, seeing her standing there, and than looking at Kyle. He couldn’t process a single normal thought. “What the hell is going on? And why the hell are you only in a shirt?” His mind ran, his little sister, in Kyle Valenti’s bedroom, he knew Kyle too well.

Laurie let her hips stand up as she strolled up to Michael. “It’s called something comfortable; people tend to do that when they’re sleeping.” Her gaze kept his in a glaring match.

“Yeah, sleeping with Kyle, nice one kid, now you’re all grown up,” Michael let a soft clap erupt between his hands. He was being sarcastic, but she was playing the game with the wrong man, he knew tricks and he knew insults, but he didn’t count on her being as good at the game.

Laurie smirked a little. “Actually I’m still the cute, innocent girl our father wants, in every sense you men make count. But now that you think about it, I’m sick of living by his rules, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to playing with Kyle.”

Michael couldn’t control the growl. “There’s no way I’m letting that happen, you’re not sleeping with Kyle, final.”

Laurie rolled her eyes. “So you’re getting married, when ya planned on telling the family? Did you knock her up? It wouldn’t surprise me. What do they say, like father like son? You’re really getting good at doing that, and once you will have a nice wife to be on your beck and call, Dad will let you do more and you can completely be his bitch.”

“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” Michael snapped, she was being a smartass and he hated when she twisted the tables onto him. He always wished she never understood what was happening growing up, that she was shielded from it, but he was beginning to realize she had been subjected to it, and the backlash was stinging.

“And neither do you!” Laurie shouted. “You come in saying I’m sleeping with Kyle, when you were teasing him about not getting laid, a little idiotic don’t ya think. And even if I was having sex with Kyle, I have the right to do it, it’s my life.”

“That’s it, both of you.” Kyle couldn’t take it anymore, he knew them both too well, and the similarities were frightening. Laurie proved to be just as tough as Michael, something no one expected.

Laurie smacked him upside the head. “And you didn’t even give a clue to me about my idiotic brother and his plans. You couldn’t have given me a little warning?”

Kyle stared at her, she was hurt and he could see it. The two men she trusted in her life disappointed her again. He had worked so hard to let her trust him, where she felt safe, and he could feel her pulling away.

“Laurie,” Michael said gently, it wasn’t Kyle’s fault. That much he could say. “It was because of me he couldn’t tell you. No one knows I’m marrying Maria, besides Kyle and her Aunt, mainly because if her mother found out, it could ruin everything. It’s a long story, but the only reason I’m marrying her is to get her inheritance, her grandparents set it up so once she got married she could have the money. She needs to sue her mother for forcing her to marry Max and making Tess do the same thing.”

Kyle felt his heart release a little, and Michael could see that. The distress look in his eyes proved how much Kyle cared. “There’s so much more than that, but if anyone finds out this is a fake, it could ruin everything, Laurie, we need to be able to trust you.”

“So you are getting married?” Laurie asked timidly.

Michael smiled lightly; he hadn’t said it out loud really, not telling someone especially like this. She had a look in her eyes, shinning her approval. “Yeah, I’m getting married.”

Laurie walked back over to him, hugging him tightly. “I’m sorry for the way I acted today and last night. I’m still not okay with drinking but for marrying Maria, I get the situation and I have no room to say anything.”

“And about Kyle?” Michael asked rising his eyebrow to show her his confusion, and during they’re embrace, Kyle had snuck out to take a shower.

“Maybe I should have said something sooner, but I’m not going to apologize for being with him, I love him Michael, I really do.”

For first time in her life, Michael had seen a genuine smile graze her lips, with her eyes sparkling. She was right; she was in love. “Kyle, of all people?”

Laurie laughed softly. “I didn’t expect it either. I kind of brushed him off for the longest time, and somewhere things changed. Now here we are, eight months later.”

“Wait…eight months you’ve been dating my best friend? Eight months, and I had no clue. How did you two managed to keep a secret, especially like that?” He was shocked, stunned, to rambling.

“Details are not something I plan on sharing with my brother. What about Maria? You have so gotta explain this situation better. Are you two actually dating, or was this all one major scam?”

Michael sighed. “It’s a long story, one I’m not getting in to with my sister.”

~~~~~*~~~~~

Maria entered the house through the back. Michael dropped her off at her Aunt’s and Maria drove her car home. Hopefully no one knew she was gone, she certainly didn’t plan on sleeping with Michael. It was becoming habit. A habit she was becoming comfortable with.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Angela called from behind Maria.

Maria turned recovering quickly. “I was just getting some fresh air, but my door locked, so I came in this way.”

“I’m going to make myself extremely clear, Maria. I do not want you around that Gurein boy. Your father and I are leaving Monday and when I return, I expect him to be out of your life, or you out of this house, you chose.” Angela walked causally past Maria, as if telling her daughter to leave was no big deal.

Then Maria knew, after Monday she was never coming home again.


Chapter Eleven: breaking free

Maria searched through her drawers. She was leaving in an hour and Kyle was to pick her and her luggage up, and drive her to her own wedding.

Her wedding, a moment filled of joy, happiness for all of eternity. It was the start of her freedom, a world where she no longer needed her parents. Where being stuck in chains would no longer be her feelings. She could be Maria, who she was.

She was trying to let go, throwing a few various items into her bags. As she went through her life, simple items she was discovering; she wanted nothing to do with them. The world around her wasn’t hers anymore. She was becoming Maria Gurein, living a different life.

The knock at the door startled her and when she glanced up she saw Tess standing there, with tears filling her eyes. She had seen the bags and heard their mother’s threats.

“You’re leaving, what are you going to do?” The words fell out fearfully.

Maria quickly recovered herself as she rushed over to Tess. They were sisters who shared everything, and this was one thing they weren’t going to share. “Michael and I are getting married.” She hadn’t planned to tell Tess, but she deserved the truth. With what little she could tell her.

“What?” Tess whispered, and turned Maria’s hand to see the sparkling diamond on her ring finger—an engagement ring.

“He asked and after what Mother said… Tess I can’t stay here anymore. I can’t be who she wants me to be. I’m sorry, I’m leaving for your sake, but we’ll see each other again. If you need me you can always call Aunt Amy, but I can’t do this Tess, I can’t be someone I’m not.” Maria could feel the tears starting to form.

Tess nodded, hugging Maria while her own tears started falling. “Does he make you happy?” Her voice was small as she asked the simple question—one Maria should have had a hard time asking, but she didn’t.

Her heart knew the answer.

“Yeah, he does.” Somewhere she knew she was lying, but in reality she wasn’t. Michael made her feel things she didn’t know what to do with. He protected her, and saved her from her nightmares. No one had ever put her first and he did.

Tess pulled away, somehow the situation made her feel a little better. Maria was in love. “Then I’m happy for you.” Her smile was weak as she felt more tears rising; she was still losing her sister.

Maria nodded. “I need to get going.” She stopped, feeling her heart break at Tess’s face. “Promise me you won’t let her force you to do anything you don’t want to do. If you need a place to stay, don’t hesitate. It’s your life, Tess. Not hers, don’t you ever forget that.” Maria couldn’t keep her tears in check as she hugged Tess again, tighter. Walking away from her childhood home would be easy, but leaving her baby sister in it was harder than she imagined.

“Go be happy,” Tess said, letting her tears subside. She watched silently as Maria grabbed the few suitcases. She knew in her heart there was little Maria wanted or needed from the mansion. When Maria left, she shut the door. Tess looked around the room, feeling the sobs rack her body. She was beginning to understand Maria’s feeling of being trapped.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Maria made her way down the stairs, the maid Julia was standing at the door where Kyle also stood. He was early and by Julia’s face, Maria knew her mother had ordered the woman to have her under control.

The bags fell with a loud bang, and Julia’s face remained in tact. “I know she told you to stop me from seeing Michael, but Julia, I beg of you, tell her I snuck out during the night, left without a trace, and you didn’t want to ruin their vacation, deciding to wait till they were back, to break the news.” Maria felt more tears forming, “I can’t do it anymore, I can’t play by her rules, and don’t make me stay in a place that’s a prison that should be my home.”

Julia noted sadness in the woman’s eyes. “I watched you grow, Maria. I’ve worked here since you were a baby, and many times I’ve wondered why you stayed this long. I think for Tess’s sake you stayed, not realizing your own strength. I applaud you for leaving. Of any woman I’ve meant, you deserve happiness and I doubt fame and fortune will make you happy.”

Maria ran to Julia hugging her tightly. “Thank you, thank you.” Her tears falling as she realized, this woman had said everything she ever wanted to hear.

Julia smiled at Maria, tears filling her eyes. “Let happiness shower you, Maria.”

Kyle grabbed her bags silently, and Maria smiled at Julia as the two left. Her new life was beginning. Her marriage maybe a façade, but she never felt more alive.

~~~~~*~~~~~

A few hours later, Maria was finishing the final touches of the wedding with the help of Laurie, who she asked to be her maid of honor. Laurie accepted; it was a true step towards a sister-in law relationship. Laurie had picked up a simple white, sheer dress. Its spaghetti straps showed off Maria’s skin beautifully, and hung around her ankles. Her curls falling freely; Maria felt like she was herself finally, no dramatic makeup, over done like a doll. She was simply Maria.

Laurie sighed softly as she watched Maria. “Kyle just told me Michael’s here, we need to do this so you guys can pick up the money.”

“Do I look alright?” Maria asked, slipping on a pair of white sandals.

Laurie knew that despite both Michael and Maria’s protests about feelings towards each other, she couldn’t help but feel like she was watching a woman in love. Not only that, but this woman loved her brother. “You look stunning.”

The two girls walked out together, to where Amy, Kyle and Michael stood with the priest. The sky was bright outside, but the signs of clouds were coming, preparing for a storm off in the distance.

When the door opened Michael turned to see the two girls and stopped in his tracks, stunned by her beauty. His black slacks and white button up shirt didn’t feel worthy of Maria’s affection. He had to remind himself it was simply a false marriage and that he was not truly being with her, but somehow he let his heart enjoy the moment she stood beside him, preparing to be his wife. Soon the ceremony started as did the rest of their lives.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Michael drove them to their next destination. They had stopped at her bank for her trust fund, dumping the entire account into a separate account she made, with the name Maria Gurein as his wife. A simple phrase that was so very wrong, but felt so very right all at once.

“Where are we going next?” Maria asked, her eyes met Michael’s. The ceremony had been beautiful, and even though it was a fake she never could have imagined a more perfect wedding. He was full of surprises; she had been learning that for a while now. She was still trying to believe everything that was happening. She was finally out of her mother’s house, and now a married woman. Everything changed in a span of hours.

Michael smirked at her. She was beautiful and he was beginning to realize he wanted to make her happy. The marriage may start out false but he wasn’t going to let it end that way. “Close your eyes, we’re almost there.” She obediently did as told. Once Michael parked the car, he hurried over to the other side to let her out, walking her gently with him until they stood in front of the house he had bought he then whispered in her ear, “Open your eyes.”

She slowly opened them to see a gorgeous house with a wrap around porch, and she could see from their spot, the ocean was behind the house. “How did you…” She trailed, at a loss for words.

“Kyle suggested I buy a house and your Aunt said you adored the ocean. I knew it was going to be a difficult adjustment, I wanted to make it easier.”

Maria’s sparkling emerald eyes told him everything he needed to know.

He sighed as he let her wandered towards the back. Her eyes were telling him she needed to adjust; she needed to be okay with everything, so he let her be alone.

Maria felt the cold wind blow against the ocean; wrapping her arms around herself to keep warm; the material of her white dress was not enough to keep her body warm, she shivered as the wind barraged on by, causing her pale skin to decrease in temperature. Closing her eyes she tried to hold herself together; she was finally out but she could only feel guilty for leaving Tess in that situation. Everything was perfect and she was crying. Was she never satisfied; that despite everything her mother was right.

She was a prisoner to her own heart.

She flinched when she felt the hand on her shoulder, and she spun around quickly to come face to face with Michael. He had left her alone with her thoughts, but he was there now, when she needed him.

His eyes held concern, she was positive he could see the tears in hers, but she didn’t want to think about her unhappiness, she wanted to feel something real. In haste she raised her lips to his, her hands cupping his face as he pushed her small body closer to his. His hand holding her at the small of her back, as her mouth hungrily attacked him. His other hand massaged through her soft curls, griping her head gently, welcoming the feel of her body.

Michael finally stopped her long enough to catch his breathe, and he could feel her own shallow ones against his chest. The feeling she pushed through him felt so right, so perfect.

“Maria,” His rough voice said against her ear. “What are we doing?”

Maria closed her eyes; a few tears found a pathway down he pale face. Licking her lips, she whispered back. “I don’t know and I don’t care. I just don’t want to think anymore.”

“Maria,” He whispered against her lips. He knew he should ask more, be more concerned but considering the situation, she was upset. Could he blame her? And a second thought occurred to him, could he deny her?

She could feel his lips so close, feel his breath. “Please, Michael, please.” In her mind she was screaming for him to take her suffocating pain away; for him to take away the feelings she had felt for years. Take away everything bad from her life. And underneath that she was screaming, “I need you.”

He kissed her softly and passionately; he couldn’t hold out any longer, not when it came to her. Her responses to his touches made him burn, the way she gently touched him made him never want to let her go. In a desperate manor he pushed her up on his hips, still trying to kiss her as he walked into their house.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Kyle rummaged through his drawers, looking at folder after folder. He had almost everything set for Angela, and Max was still debatable, there was still more to deal with. Both men agreed the issue with Max could be held off for a little while until it became necessary. However Kyle knew it might become necessary quicker than Michael expected.

Sighing, he glared at the folder sitting on his desk. Max never seemed to stop amazing him. His office door swung open and Max Evans smirked as he leaned against it, straight behind him was a frantic Liz Parker. Kyle knew trouble was only the beginning.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Valenti. He came in here, not even giving me a chance to warn you. I am truly sorry sir. Would you like me to call security?” Her voice was still genuine, and despite the situation she managed to look professional.

“No, that’s alright, Liz. I understand,” Kyle said in his natural tone. Max Evans was not getting the best of him, not any more, too much had happened. “Please leave me alone with Mr. Evans.” Liz nodded, obediently shut the door.

Max strolled into the office further. “Mr. Evans? There was a time when you referred to me as ‘friend’ when I entered these doors. I help you get where you are today, Kyle.”

Kyle paused, closely examining Max. Help? Kyle wanted to laugh at that for the only thing Max helped was making his job harder. He needed to choose his words carefully though, and he couldn’t stop himself from saying the next phrase. “Things change, Max. Time goes on and people can’t stay the same, it’s a fact of life.”

Max laughed and crossed his arms. “I never expected you a traitor though. I knew things would change the older we got but loyalty, that’s something I can’t believe you lost.” His tone sarcastic; he didn’t take any of Kyle’s words seriously.

“I didn’t lose loyalty, Max. You lost morality; you lost the ability to think of your consequences and who you affect in the process,” Kyle spat out. The man in front of him wasn’t one of his high school buddies; he wasn’t the Max Evans he knew. This man was distasteful, lying, and a criminal bastard.

Max stared Kyle down, thinking of how little differences were between the three. “All three of us are known for a love of women, the countless ones we’ve encountered. I don’t understand why I am suddenly treated differently. We were friends, we shared the same goals, to divide and conquer.”

“At what costs, Max? At the stake of who’s life? What you’re doing is not right.” Kyle shook his head, here was his truth. “I’ve ignored it for months, your behavior, but this is the last straw.”

Max smirked at Kyle’s reaction. “You won’t get me.”

“Watch me, I’ll expose you for the fraud you are and I’ll make sure you never get away with anything ever again. I’ll put you behind bars.”

“On what type of charge Kyle, nothing is solid proof. Everything I’ve done has been easily mistaken, or fixable.” Max smiled to himself, believing Kyle had no information.

“I’m not the only one angry, Max. I’m not alone in this,” Kyle said, not wanting to unleash his anger completely, he wanted surprises for Max; he wanted him to take the blows, hard.

Max shook his head. “Michael is not going to be much of a problem. His new wife will keep him plenty busy, but you know how he is when it comes to women better than me. They’ll control his life, and little Deluca will easily manipulate him, take him for every dime. And he’ll use her body as if it was a piece of candy, love never works for Gurein.”

“You wish you knew what you were talking about,” said the voice from behind Max.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Michael laid her on the bed, pushing her white dress up further on her legs, feeling the smooth skin under his rough fingertips. Her fingers gripped at his neck, as their mouths fought a losing battle, each trying to take control.

Maria pushed him onto his back, wanting access to his neck, letting herself become lost in his body. Her slim fingers undid the buttons on his shirt, as his eyes never left her, inspecting how careful she was, how she took her time. He learned that was how she was every time; she never wasted a moment like being with him meant everything, and he couldn’t understand that.

He raised himself a bit so she could let the shirt fall from his shoulders, as she tossed it over into a corner. His lips crashed against hers, tired of not tasting them again. Her soft fingertips traced his face, and his hands continued wrinkling her once perfect dress.

She looked like an angel in the sunset. The curtains were still unfasten, allowing the breathtaking view be her background. The ocean’s waves crashed against the shoreline as the bright sun found its way to bed, but the dark clouds rolling in were seen from a distance, but Michael ignored them, enjoying only her beauty.

Michael smirked against her lips as his voice spoke huskily, “We need to get this dress off of you.”

He wanted to feel her completely, wanting to relive the magic of being with her. The other two times had their perks, but for the first time she didn’t feel afraid. She felt completely safe with him.

Maria nodded, feeling his fingers against her back. He slowly let the zipper slide down and carefully she allowed her arms out of the holes and forced the thin dress off her completely, dropping it on the floor next to their bed. Michael’s hands wandered over her bare skin. His hazel eyes made her feel beautiful, worthy of being loved.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Max turned sharply at the voice and was shocked to see Laurie Gurein standing behind him. He took in her attire; she was wearing a long satin dress. Her once blonde hair seemed darker in the shadows of the doorway as it lay on her shoulders.

“Don’t you dare act like you know anything about Michael’s marriage to Maria, because you don’t know a thing,” Laurie shouted slamming the door behind her, her eyes fiery red.

Max turned back to look at a frozen Kyle and went back to Laurie. “I’m sure you’d like to believe your brother ‘loves’ her, but I can assure you, loves got nothing to do with it.”

Laurie got right up to Max, glaring into his eyes. “How would you know anything about love, Max? I doubt you could experience anything pure as love.”

Max crossed his arms. “Why are you even here, Laurie? Playing in Kyle Valenti’s office, sleeping with his best friend is going to make your brother’s blood boil.”

“Michael was alright with it when he found out,” Laurie enjoyed the surprised look at Max’s face. “And to be technically sleeping with his best friend, I’d actually have to have had sex with Kyle. That hasn’t happened yet.”

Max looked her over. “You’re a Gurein it won’t be long.”

“That’s uncalled for, Max.” Kyle said firmly. The true issues were being ignored, and he was not letting Laurie in the middle of this mess. “Laurie, get the hell out of here.”

Laurie stared at him, her arms crossed. “Excuse me? I’m not walking away from this, I’m a part of this.”

“You heard me, get the hell out of here.”

“Let her stay, Kyle. It’ll be fun, won’t it darlin’?” Max smirked when he saw Kyle’s face getting frustrated. Max let his arm go around Laurie’s waist. He didn’t expect Laurie’s reaction as she smacked him in the face.

“Don’t you touch me,” Her voice cold as she stared at Max; his hand was holding the cheek her fist came into contact with. “Don’t you come near my family, Max, or I’ll make sure you regret it for the rest of your fucking miserable life.”

Kyle kept his silence while Laurie’s face filled with fury, and he prayed he could solve the world’s problems. He saw Max’s surprised look at Laurie’s attitude but he saw the smirk returning.

“We’ll discuss things again, Kyle. I’m not done with you yet.” Max left with that and Kyle felt a chill run down his spine. Max wasn’t making ideal threats and that, was the scary part.

Once the door turned Laurie’s mouth immediately opened. “What the hell was that about? Max has no power in this, what is going on?”

“Other than you putting your nose where it doesn’t belong, nothing,” Kyle shot at her, “What makes you think you can come in here like that? Acting like that is not going to help the situation, and on top of that, you could have given away your status. You couldn’t just stay the hell out of my case?”

Laurie rolled her eyes. “I wouldn’t have given away my status, and you know it. Max is too stupid to figure out my involvement in any of this. Besides that, what does Max have to do with my case? I’m trying to deal with organized crime, Kyle. Mind explaining how that involves Max and how that involves you?”

“Laurie,” Kyle said sternly. “I don’t care how pissed you are, I don’t want you messing around with Max Evans, do you hear me?”

“No, I don’t,” Laurie said calmly. “You’re not answering my questions; this is my family, Kyle. Max has never been dangerous, so why now? What the hell aren’t you telling me?”

~~~~~*~~~~~

Michael kissed her lean shoulder, and he could feel Maria’s hands starting to remove his pants, unbuckling his belt, taking her time. His hands were tangled in her long hair, much like his heart was when it came to her. She was his wife, but only in name. He needed to figure out how to change that. Soon.

Maria felt dizzy; the feelings swirling around her body were overwhelming. Her hands messed with his pants, desperately trying to get them off. All the other times had been fast and quick, she had a feeling this time wasn’t like that. She was scared of what it would be like, because it was appearing it’d be intense. Somewhere she wanted that more than anything, but the other part of her, the part with some sense left, knew her life would never be the same, that she’d never be the same. He changed her, and she was afraid it’d make her paralyzed.

He rolled her over onto her back, taking her by surprise; a small laugh escaped her lips, allowing her a carefree moment in all the intense feelings, and her breath taking smile shined through, making Michael remember why she was controlling his heart. He couldn’t stop from kissing her lips, feeling her smile against them, and soon feel the passion exchanged. He released her lips to glance over her; her swollen lips, traces of her pale pink lip stick from earlier, her emerald eyes carefully watching him, her curls falling all around her, and the small smile still placed on her lips.

She felt nervous; he was just watching, waiting for something perhaps? She wasn’t sure, and his deep gaze made her feel….different.

“Michael, what is it?” Her voice sounded concern but she could still hear her own uneven breathing, she could barely keep up with him.

Michael shook his head, her gentle voice breaking him out of his thoughts. He couldn’t tell her, not now. It was too soon, too quick. His heart wasn’t listening.

~~~~~*~~~~~

“Oh my god,” Laurie whispered, looking over the files Kyle had given her. After a good hour of fighting, he came to his senses. “How did you even get onto this, Kyle? I mean Max has covered himself well.”

Kyle took a long sip of his beer. He was thankful Laurie suggested getting a drink; his nerves were shot as it was. “The women, its classic but it wasn’t until the debt I knew that Max was up to something in order to keep up his lifestyle.”

“Have you gone to Vicky? Why haven’t I been notified on this new information? It could be valuable to my case.”

“I wanted to hold off on Max,” Kyle explained. “I don’t want him to suspect we’re onto him and on top of that, I want to drag in Angela first. Her issues need to be addressed today.”

“But if Max is behind bars that solves the problem of the Max and Tess wedding doesn’t it?” Laurie asked.

Kyle shook his head. “I don’t want Max desperate. Off guard yes, but if he thinks he could lose this money, I don’t know what he’ll do to Tess.”

“What do you mean ‘do to Tess’?”

“Some things I can’t tell you, regardless,” Kyle sighed. “Laurie, I want you to hold off on this, if anyone finds out you’re an undercover cop, we’re screwed. Your job is to observe, not prosecute.”

Laurie took a sip of her drink, calming her anger. “What about Michael and Maria? They are clueless to all of this; this is my family, Kyle. You cannot expect me to just hold off.”

Kyle reached for her hand. “This time I need you too, I know you’re good at your job, considering how long you’ve been doing this and no one has a clue, you’re amazing. But leave Michael and Maria to me, I’ll protect them.”

“Do you think they’ll make this marriage real?”

Kyle laughed; trust Laurie to turn it to a less serious note, “I’m not sure. He’s your brother, what do you think?”

“It’s not Michael I’m worried about,” Laurie smiled at Kyle’s confused face. “You can see the love he has for her written all over his face; it’s Maria that worries me.”

“How so?”

“She loves him, but she doesn’t seem to be able to trust that. And Michael has his problems with that of course. Maria though, will most likely hide the true identity of her feelings from the one person that should know, afraid of what could happen, because she’d have to admit she has these feelings, to stop making them seem false.”

Kyle allowed himself to enjoy the peaceful way Laurie talked; she was philosopher at a young age. One of the many reasons he loved her, “What’s gonna change that, what will make Maria trust these feelings? Trust her love for Michael?”

“She’ll have to be willing to put her heart on the line.


The End



*********


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