Teaser

"Danny, we've got shots fired on 22!" Mike screamed into the phone as he ran from the security room towards the elevators.

"I'm on my way!" Danny looked from Delinda to Derek, the awkwardness in the room still palpable.

"I've got to go. There's a situation."

"Danny, we should talk," Delinda said, reaching for him.

"You two need to talk first. I'll find you later," he told her, pulling his hand from hers as he suddenly felt cold.

Danny knew that Delinda was about to end her relationship with Derek and the thought left him both relieved and terrified. Was this what he wanted? He'd hoped she would make the decision for herself. That was why he'd tried to keep his opinions neutral on the subject because he really wasn't sure how he felt about her. He knew that he cared about Delinda a great deal; that her friendship was important to him and the thought of losing yet another person in his life had filled him with a sense of abandonment.

The question was did he love her? Did he really want to try to make a life with her? Somehow the thought of a future with Delinda left him feeling empty. Certainly not the way he'd felt when he'd thought about a life with… "Stop," he silently chastised himself, "you have to stop comparing every woman in your life to her. She doesn't want you anymore."

As the elevator doors opened on the 22nd floor, Danny held his phone close to his ear, straining to hear Mike as the signal faded in and out in the interior of the building.

"We think we've got the shooter, Danny. I've already called the paramedics because we haven't been able to make contact with Ed in his suite."

"I'm there now, Mike. Give me a second," Danny knocked loudly before using his passkey to open the door to the suite.

"I'm on my way up, Danny. I should be there in two minutes."

Danny snapped his cell shut and rounded the corner into the living room area of the suite, catching sight of his boss and mentor as he held his hands to a rapidly spreading bloodstain on his white tuxedo shirt.

"I'm alright, kid," Ed gasped a little and Danny could tell that it was hurting him to speak. Pulling Ed's hands away from the area of the wound he quickly guessed that the bullet had probably collapsed one of his lungs.

"The paramedics are on the way."

"Danny," Ed tried to speak again.

"Don't try to talk. I think the bullet took out one of your lungs so just take it easy."

"Shooter?" Ed asked, ignoring Danny's request.

"We got him downstairs."

"You sure you got the guy?" Ed asked again.

"We got him, Mr. D," Mike assured the injured man as he and the paramedics entered the room.

"I heard another shot," Ed rasped as Danny and Mike looked at each other confused.

"When?"

"After he shot me. He went out the service door and I heard another shot. Check the hallway, Danny."

"I'm on it." Danny headed towards the side door. All of the presidential suites had a service entrance from a private hallway so that the housekeeping and wait staff could access the suites without using the main entrances. Danny took a deep breath as he opened the door, hoping that he wouldn't find some member of the Montecito staff lying injured in the hallway… an innocent victim of circumstance and bad timing.

As he cleared the doorway his head immediately turned to the left; taking note of the empty hallway he turned his gaze to the right and saw her--the crumpled form of a woman, only her legs visible as her upper body lay obscured in the open doorway of a service closet. Danny approached slowly, silently praying for this unknown woman and her family. His mind raced with questions as he continued to make his way towards her, but as he reached the body and looked down everything stopped. At that moment in time he felt like he'd entered a vacuum. Every bit of air seemed to be sucked from his lungs as he stared at the lifeless body of his friend--the only woman he had ever loved–laying motionless in a pool of blood.

"NOOOOOO!" he screamed, collapsing beside her and immediately cradling her body to his chest. "SOMEBODY HELP ME!!!"

Having heard Danny's anguished cry, Mike was there in an instant. "Omigod," he gasped in disbelief, falling to his knees as his friend keened in misery, unconsciously rocking the woman in his arms.

"Mike, get the paramedics. We have to help her."

Still in shock Mike managed to reach a hand out, finding his way to the spot that should be pulsing with life, but that only felt still and cold.

"Danny, she's gone," he said, his voice breaking with emotion.

"NO! She's not gone. Get the goddamn paramedics, Mike. Why are you just sitting there?" Danny pleaded as he pushed the blood-soaked hair away from her face so he could drop kisses onto her forehead.

"Danny, I'm sorry," Mike whispered. "I'm so sorry."

Hours later the group of friends sat silently in a tiny waiting room at Summerlin Hospital. Ed had made it through surgery with little damage and Jillian had been ushered away by the doctor only moments earlier. Despite the news of the man's assured recovery, a sense of despair still hung heavily over the room. All of them were in shock at the events of the day--a day that was supposed to have been a joyous occasion, but had turned into a nightmare for all of them; no one more so than Danny.

"Danny, honey, why don't you let me find you something to change into," Delinda asked, her hand gently caressing his face. All eyes in the room looked their way, but were quickly cast downward again, unable to bear the sight of the blood which soaked his shirt.

"No," Danny said through gritted teeth as he pulled his face away from Delinda's touch. He couldn't bear to change--to wash her away, the only traces he had left.

"Danny, I know you're hurting. We all are, but you'll feel better if you get out of those clothes, splash some water on your face. Come on," she stood up, tugging on his hand. "I'll go with you."

"NO!" he yelled, the boom of his voice filling the room and startling everyone out of their misery.

"You think splashing some water on my face is going to help, Delinda? Mary is dead! She's DEAD!! And you think that I should just change my clothes and move on."

"I didn't say that, Danny. I just thought," Delinda trailed off, her eyes filling with tears.

"What was she doing upstairs?" Danny asked, his voice low and menacing as he turned to face Sam. "What was Mary doing upstairs? She was supposed to be with you, Sam. Why was she outside of Ed's suite?"

Sam looked at Danny, but couldn't quite bring herself to meet his eyes and she did something she hadn't done in years--she looked to Casey for support.

"She wanted to talk to Ed about taking some time off," Casey responded, realizing that his ex-wife was in no shape to have this conversation.

"Why? Were you whisking her away on some exotic trip? Why was it necessary for her to talk to Ed less than an hour before the wedding?"

"She was upset," Sam finally responded quietly, her head still down.

"Why?" Danny demanded, his eyes taking on a crazed look. "What the hell did you do, Manning?!" He leapt at Casey then, slamming him against the wall of the waiting room and wrapping his hands around the man's neck, not allowing him to breathe.

"Christ, Danny!" Mike yelled, grabbing his friend from behind and trying to get him to let up on their boss.

"Why was she so upset you son of a bitch? Did you hurt her?" Mike finally pried Danny's hands loose and pulled him away, positioning himself between the two men.

"I didn't hurt her, Danny!" Casey spat, struggling to catch his breath as Delinda and Sam both helped him to sit. "You did!"

"What are you talking about?" Danny asked, stunned.

"She found out about your little fling with Delinda! She found out that every one of her friends had been keeping it from her and she was devastated! She needed some time away and she went to Ed to ask for it so if you want to blame someone for this whole mess--someone besides the man who pulled the trigger–then blame yourself, you self-righteous, hypocritical bastard."

"Oh, God," Delinda cried, burying her face in her hands as her body shook with sobs.

The room was spinning as Danny paced back and forth, mumbling to himself, listening to the sounds of Delinda's wails. "This isn't happening," he said. "What have I done?"

He should have been honest with her from the beginning. He should have told her how much she meant to him. He should have never let her walk away that day on the floor. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. He'd spent his whole life afraid of losing her and now she was gone. She was really gone and he'd never get another chance.

"Danny, man, it's going to be okay," Mike tried to tell him. "It's going to be okay …"

His friend's voice was fading as flashes of light and color filled Danny's vision. He could hear yelling and gunshots and a distant explosion as a searing heat and pain took over his senses. He couldn't feel his body anymore, couldn't feel anything but the pain and the loss and the heat…the damn heat. And then suddenly everything was black.