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"Maxie… you have to talk to me sometime," I groaned into the phone as I straightened my tie in the mirror. "I'm the best man, so we're bound to run into each other at the church tonight… I can't wait to see you… I just – I miss you so much."
It had been ten days since our fight, and Maxie had not answered a single correspondence I sent to her. I tried showing up at her house and her office, but she had been successfully avoiding me all week. I knew that she was angry, but I thought we would make up just like we had every other time we fought. We'd made it through the same argument many times before, but this was obviously different. I was scared that I wasn't going to get another chance. By wanting to keep everyone in the dark about our relationship, I may have lost Maxie.
"I'm so sorry, and I love you. I guess I just wanted you to know that before I see you at the rehearsal."
I hung up the phone and shoved it into my pocket. I glanced at the flask on my dresser, which I had filled that morning. Ethan's wedding was not going to be easy for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, seeing Maxie and knowing that she was not going to forgive me was going to be torture. Then there was the fact that I was going to be forced to socialize with my father's former mistress all weekend. I loved my brother, but it was still difficult to face his mother without hating my father for betraying my mother like he did.
"Lucky, I'm taking off! I'll see you at the church – don't be late! We need this rehearsal to go smoothly!" Lulu called up the stairs.
Lulu was the other reason I really needed to drink. The thought of her sneaking around with Dante made my stomach turn. I had every intention of confronting my so-called best friend about what I had overheard Johnny telling the guys, but Mac had sent him out of town on assignment. Lulu had barely been home long enough to shower, let alone sleep. Even if she had been there more, I don't know how I would have approached the conversation with her without starting a huge fight. The last thing I needed was another woman in my life hating me.
I picked up the flask and shoved it in my breast pocket, knowing that I would need it to get through the evening.
The cruelest thing about pregnancy was that they called it "morning" sickness. In my case, it was more like constant sickness. I was in the midst of setting up for Kristina's rehearsal when it hit me like a ton of bricks, leaving me sprawled out across the floor of the ladies room in the small church. I had been less than productive all week, and if nothing changed, I was going to wind up throwing up all over Kristina's designer gown.
The door to the ladies room swung open and Lulu walked in, frowning at the sight of me. She had been covering for me all week, accepting my explanation that I was fighting a nasty case of the flu. Even though I was good at twisting scenarios to meet my needs, I knew that she was suspicious.
"You should have stayed home," she began her lecture. "You're not going to do anybody any good from the floor of the ladies room."
"I was feeling fine when I left my apartment," I defended, pulling myself up so that I was sitting against the wall. "Then it just hit me."
She pulled her phone from her clutch and started dialing. "I'm going to call Robin…"
"No!" I argued. "I don't need a doctor. I'm not sick…"
She shot me a confused look. "What do you mean? Of course you're sick… unless…"
"No, you're right, I'm sick," I covered. "It's just not serious. Maybe I'm just dehydrated. Please don't bring Robin into this."
"I was just calling Robin to come pick you up," she responded with suspicion. "You shouldn't be driving, and I have several dozen guests showing up here in ten minutes, so I can't bring you home. Are you sure that there's nothing more going on here?"
"What? No, don't be ridiculous," I exhaled.
She shot me a look that I recognized, and it filled me with dread. The worst part of having a best friend was that it was virtually impossible to hide something so big from her. I had no idea why, but Lulu cared about me. There she was, sitting with me on the floor of the ladies room ready to drop everything and help me. And what was I doing? Lying to her face, sleeping with her brother and hiding a huge secret from her.
"Are you going to tell me, or are you going to make me say it?" she questioned.
I wanted to tell her everything – how I was in love with her brother and having his baby. But it wasn't right to tell her before I had the chance to break the news to Lucky. So, instead of spilling my guts, I stared down at my hands and focused on keeping my stomach calm.
"Fine, Maxie, you win…" she sighed. "You're pregnant."
It wasn't surprising that she knew. But as the words came out of her mouth, I felt a shocking sense of relief. I finally had someone to confide in – well, at least the parts that I could share. I nodded to confirm her statement and grabbed her hand, needing to feel her support.
"How far along are you?"
"I don't know exactly. I haven't gone to see a doctor yet."
"Maxie!" she scolded. "You have to see a doctor. This is a big deal… what about the father? What does he think?"
The father. Of course she had to go there.
"He doesn't know yet. I haven't figured out how to tell him."
"Who is he?"
I bit my lower lip. Up until that point, I had not had to lie to Lulu's face… at least not often. Mine were lies of omission, which barely comforted me. But this lie… this was huge. It could rip apart our friendship. However, telling the truth could kill my relationship with Lucky.
"I'd rather not say…" I murmured. "At least not yet. I should tell him first."
"Fair enough," she sighed, squeezing my hand before getting up and helping me to do the same. "Just promise me you'll make an appointment to see an OB as soon as possible. You have to take care of yourself, not to mention my little niece or nephew."
"Niece or nephew? Wha-why would you say that?"I practically choked out.
"Well, I know we're not related, but I assumed that being your best friend gave me the right to be Aunt Lulu to your kid," she explained, pulling me into a hug. "Seriously, Maxie, I am going to be here for you every step of the way. So even if this mystery man turns out to be a real asshole, you'll have someone to help you."
Tears stung my eyes as I hugged my best friend. She was being so supportive. I just hoped she would still feel the same after she learned the truth.
I was finally home after what felt like the worst trip in history. Not only did I get nowhere with the case I was working on, but I was out $500 for a plane ticket home after my squad car broke down on the way home. Because it was a last minute booking, I got stuck in a seat on the plane in front of a screaming infant, his 3-year-old sister and their mother, who obviously subscribed to a rather loose disciplinary policy.
After taking a shower, I walked into my kitchen and pulled a beer out of the refrigerator. My plans for the evening consisted of just that – beer, takeout and lounging on my couch. They weren't incredibly exciting for a Friday night, but I had never planned on spending the entire week on assignment in the middle of Arkansas.
I took a seat on the couch and caught a glimpse of the Yankees jersey that Lulu had given me across the room. She had been on my mind constantly since I left town. Unfortunately, Mac sent me away before she returned to Port Charles, so the only communication we had was through a few random text messages. It was hard to know exactly what to expect with only a few short sentences.
I picked my phone up off the table and dialed her number, but was unable to press send before I heard Kristina's frantic voice outside my door, accompanied by incessant knocking.
"Dante! Are you in there? I really need your help. I'm having a major crisis!"
Without a second thought, I raced to the door and opened it, preparing myself for a terrifying sight in front of me. Instead, I found Kristina looking beautifully dressed and ready for a night out on the town. She threw her arms around me and sighed. "Thank God you're here!"
"What's wrong?" I questioned, pulling back from her and looking her up and down for any sign of injury.
"I was already running late to my rehearsal, and I get this phone call from Milo saying that my dad has him on security detail on the docks for the next three days, so now I'm down an usher for the wedding. I swear, my dad is just doing this to mess with me! He wants to ruin my wedding, but it's not going to happen!"
"Okay, just breathe," I coached, masking my desire to laugh at what constituted a major crisis in her mind. I knew as little about weddings as I did about physics, but the loss of one usher seemed far from catastrophic. "I'm sure this can be fixed."
Her lips turned rolled into a smirk. "So you'll do it!? Oh, Dante, thank you so much! You have no idea what this means to m-"
"Wait, you want me to be a part of your wedding?" I had already sent in a response card stating that I wouldn't be able to make the wedding. I put a gift in the mail for Kristina and Ethan and had planned to go to the station the next day to catch up on paperwork. I liked Kristina and Ethan, but the wedding was going to be full of family members who had no idea I existed. Beyond that, Lulu would be there. I had not planned to share her attention with work and 300 guests for the conversation we needed to have.
"Well, you're one of the first people who accepted this engagement," she explained, "And I think you'll be able to fit into the tux we got for Milo. Please, please, please, please, please?"
The way she had me wrapped around her little finger made me wonder if deep down she knew that I was her brother. Even though I had a million reasons running through my mind why I should not give in, I shook my head and sighed.
"Sure, just give me a minute to change."
I put my car in park and stared at the apartment building in front of me. This was the last place I planned to wind up after surviving Ethan and Kristina's rehearsal dinner. It had been one of the longest days of my life, leaving me a heap of exhaustion and anxiety.
Hearing my best friend confirm her pregnancy would have been the most stressful part of my day any other time, but when Kristina showed up at the rehearsal and introduced Dante as her newest usher, my nerves went on overdrive. I knew that he was ready to talk about whatever we were to one another, and had I not been so stupid at Kristina's bachelorette party, I would have been excited for the conversation. Instead, I was making myself nauseous with worry that I had blown apart our relationship before it even started.
Blurting out that Dante was Sonny's son in front of Michael's girlfriend was beyond stupid. Even though I convinced Starr to give me a little time before telling Michael everything, I knew she was struggling to keep up her end of the bargain. She looked like she wanted to crawl out of her skin when Dante and Michael were socializing at dinner.
Even though every muscle in my body ached, I knew that this was going to be my last chance to make things right with Dante before everything blew up in my face. I had to tell him about my slip-up with Starr and pray that he would still speak to me. I choked back my fear and knocked on his front door. Within seconds, he appeared in front of me with a smile on his face that melted away all of my apprehension.
"Thanks for coming," he started, ushering me into his living room. "I know you're really busy, especially with Maxie sick. Is she going to make it to the wedding tomorrow?"
"God willing," I sighed, pacing behind his couch. My stomach surged, telling me that if I didn't say what needed to be said in the next few seconds, I was going to lose it completely. "Can we just skip the small talk?"
"Uh, sure," he nodded slowly, moving into the room and taking a seat on the couch. "Do we have time for you to sit down?"
"Sorry," I shook my head and joined him, "That came out wrong. I just – we have a lot to talk about, and I feel like if I don't get it out right now, I'm going to lose my nerve."
"I couldn't agree with you more."
Before I could get a word out, I felt his lips crash against mine. Emotion overtook reasoning, and instead of cutting off the kiss to discuss what it meant, I went all in. I parted my lips and allowed him full access, letting his movements soothe my anxiety.
Kissing Dante was unlike anything I had ever experienced. There was so much passion, so much intimacy. So when he pulled away, I was left feeling exposed. My wits slowly came back to me, and I knew exactly what I was going to have to do.
"Sorry," he whispered, running his fingertips along my cheek. "I just had to see if it was still there."
"What?" I asked, barely able to speak.
"The spark that happens when I kiss you… the one that has left me breathless for the past three months."
He was saying all of the right things, but the guilt I was feeling caused my heart rate to increase with every sweet thing that came out of his mouth. I would have given anything to take back that drunken night on Sonny's island.
"I have to tell you something," I started.
"No, you don't owe me any explanation," he shook his head. "I treated you terribly on my birthday, and you didn't deserve any of that. I was jealous of Johnny, even though I had no right to be. After that kiss on Christmas, I was too much of a coward to talk about my feelings. So I can't really blame you for having a love life. I guess I thought we could go on just being friends. But every time we have been in the same room, it's all I can do to keep myself from kissing you again. Even when you're being stubborn about my family… I know it's complicated for so many reasons, but I want to try and figure out what this is between us. What I need to know is if you want that, too."
I kept my gaze on my fingers, which he had intertwined with his own. I knew that the moment I looked into his dark eyes, I would be a goner.
"More than anything," I whispered. Before I could continue, he pulled my body against his and kissed me again. I melted against him, losing my will to tell him everything with every passing second. Several minutes passed before he broke off the kiss, leaving my lips swollen and my breathing ragged.
"Let's just make this a fresh start," Dante proposed. "We can take our time and decide together when and how we are going to tell Lucky about us. But what's done is done, and we can both agree that we haven't handled this the right way. How does a clean slate sound to you?"
I finally looked him in the eye, praying that I could somehow forget telling Michael's girlfriend that Dante was a Corinthos. If we were truly starting with a clean slate, then it could be that easy. As long as I figured out a way to keep Starr from telling Michael, I could explore a relationship with Dante. Maybe it was all for the best.
"It sounds perfect," I smiled, leaning in to rekindle our kiss and start forgetting about everything else.