49 Windward Cove, Bay View - 7:42AM
Alex awakened with a start. Disoriented, he slowly sat up and tried to get his bearings. This wasn't Dani's bedroom, even through his hazy vision that was obvious. The decor was masculine - maybe she hadn't gotten around to decorating it yet. He squinted when a ray of sunlight filtering through the blinds, hit him squarely in the face. His head was pounding but he wasn't so addled or hungover to not remember what Dani wanted from him, what she so courageously asked him for last night. A baby.
He had to clear his head. Turning on the shower, he stripped his underwear off and stood under the cascading water. As the hot water sluiced down his shoulders and back, he replayed the previous night in his mind. She opened herself up to him, opened her heart and laid it bare. She stood there, vulnerable but proud, ready to take on the consequences of his decision one way or another. It had always been clear to her what she wanted out of life, and she made it clear that a baby was going to be in her immediate future but what Dani wanted didn't always fit with his plans.
Dani, his Dani...her lower lip quivered when he gently turned her down but she did not cry, not one tear. She handled his refusal with the same quiet grace as she always did when he denied her. It would have been easy for him to take her to bed and pray that he didn't knock her up. He knew he could be a monumental ass, but he could not do that to her. Even then, he still tried to seduce her.
Alex turned off the shower, dried his body and wrapped the towel around his hips. Looking at his reflection in the mirror, he briefly wondered what a kid of theirs would be like, if they would have a boy or a girl. What price would that child pay having an absentee father with his lifestyle, what toll would that take on his career? What if some guy eventually came along who was willing to give Dani the life she wanted, a home, a family, a solid marriage...he didn't want some other man raising their child, some other guy being there for all the Kodak moments. Their child...
"Get a grip, Blade," he muttered to his reflection.
He padded toward the bedroom across the hall, knocked gently and then entered. Her bed was made, he wasn't even sure it had been slept in. His eyes fell on a collage of photos on her wall - their wedding photos. They had been so happy that day, so in love. It pained him to see these photos, knowing that happiness was gone and it had been his fault. She was always with him even now, always under his skin, in his heart, in the small things like the scent of a flower that brought her to mind.
She had not let go of their history either, their marriage, and he was stoking the fire every time he came to her. She put up with every woman that had come after they split. She comforted him, listened to him, mended his broken heart and soothed his ego with quiet grace. Alex swore under his breath and realized that telling her no, forcing her to follow through with her ultimatum, was the right choice even if it meant she might be with someone else. He never allowed the possibility to enter his head before and it killed him to think of her in another man's bed. Selfish bastard...
He dressed and went downstairs. Dani was in the kitchen making breakfast and his stomach lurched at the aroma.
"There's a mug of hot coffee on the counter for you. I thought you might be hung over so I added a shot of J.D. It always did ease the morning after headaches." She did not turn to face him, she must have heard his boots lumbering down the stairs.
"You always know what I need, don't you..."
She turned to face him then and Alex noticed the slight redness that ringed her eyes. He would give anything to make her pain go away. She smiled wistfully at him. "Yes, I always know what you need, Alex. I know what I need, too."
Dani walked toward him and placed a trembling hand against his face. Her voice was barely above a whisper. "I can't do this anymore, Blade. When you walk out the door, I don't want you to come back."
Brick House Tavern, Downtown Metro Area, South Beach 11:38AM
“Hair of the dog? Isn’t it a little early to be hitting the sauce?”
“It’s Happy Hour somewhere...what makes you think I’m hung over?”
Rob lifted his body onto the bar stool, flagged the bartender and signaled for two more shots. Checking the surface of the bar quickly, he leaned an elbow on it and studied him. “Fuck you, Alex. We were thirteen years old the first time I got you drunk. We’re long past who knows what and why.”
Alex swiveled around to face Rob and hooked a boot through the rung of the stool to steady it. The room began to spin and his stomach rumbled but he managed to hold it together. “If you’re here to gloat about your so-called date, I don’t want to hear about it. We both know it meant nothing.”
Rob fell silent. He took the shot. Ordered another and downed it before he slid his attention back and asked, “So that’s why you went running to Danica...because it meant nothing?”
“How did you know...never mind.” Alex flicked a piece of ice off the bar, stood leaning against the bar and frowned. How could he explain about Dani? He still hadn’t wrapped his head around the idea that she didn’t want to see him again. The thought left a hole inside him that was cavernous. He scanned the room quickly and in a subdued voice said, “She asked me to give her a baby.”
Rob shook his head and chuckled. “And of course you said no. Alex when are you going to admit you love the woman and be done with this Cooper business - which I might add is going to blow up in your face sooner rather than later.”
Not that again. Alex twirled his drink in his hand, considering the drink and considering Rob. Yeah maybe he'd been MIA and he'd had other things on his mind, but there wouldn't be any damned band without him. If he hadn't gone after Cooper, forced Rob and Duff to change things up to take him on, they wouldn't be where they were, climbing right up Coop's ass. Finding Beth Stanfield hanging out there, he would have been one stupid son of a bitch not to use something like that to knock Coop off balance, and she was unexpectedly appealing. He wasn't ready to give that up. Sliding carefully off the bar stool, he eyed Rob and, reluctantly, asked, "All right, I'll bite. What're you talking about?"
Rob stood as well, kicking the bar stool aside, a quick uneasy move, and straightened his sleeves before folding his arms. The Rob maneuver. Alex expected nothing more than a lecture but what he got instead surprised him. “Our date last night, which I might add was a dismal failure, ended with the two of us running into Queen Camilla and the man himself. It took all of about two seconds for Cooper to sweep your girl onto his white horse and ride off into the sunset. Normally I would not give a damn but I am bone tired, Alex. I have been holding all of this together with spit and twine, sacrificed everything I cared about for this band and what have you done?”
His first reaction was confusion, followed by anger. Rob must have pissed her off; she wouldn't walk off with Cooper like that, she hadn't even mentioned his name in weeks. "What the hell do you mean...what did you say to her?"
Rob hesitated, glanced off to the side and sighed. “He walked up and did what he does and walked off with her. She’s into him and for some damned reason he’s not going to stop running after her. Alex, make it work with Dani. You’re in love with the woman, don’t throw it away. There’s no way back, and there’s no substitute and you know it. I’m out of here. I’ll be at the studio.”
49 Windward Cove, Bay View - 1:56PM
Staying in shape was never a concern of Dani's. She worked out when she needed to, always watched her diet but was never fanatical about it. Today, however, there was nothing she needed more than a blast of endorphins shooting through her body. She did two circuits on her exercise bike, yoga and finished it off with a run on the beach. The sea spray hit her body with a cooling mist and she thought about going another mile when a shadow moved between the palms.
"You shouldn't have come back, Blade." He twined his fingers through hers and brushed the damp hair from her face.
"Not Blade - Alex. Yes, Dani...my answer is yes."