One Night Only by Samj Chapter 8

Republisher’s Note: Manny are still together during their night after their restaurant date when Danny’s phone rings.

One Night Only by Samj Chapter 8

I just fell asleep, Michelle protested wearily, but the persistent buzzing of the cell phone continued mercilessly. Please, she pleaded, shutting her eyes tight and willing the noise to stop.

“Damn it,” she groaned, her medical training winning out over her personal inclinations – no one at the hospital would care how tired she was, especially if they knew the reason why.

Her hand searched blindly along the night stand, her eyes still firmly shut. Before she could locate the offending phone, she felt Danny’s hand on top of hers, his arm draped over hers and his mouth just above her ear. “It’s okay, baby,” he whispered, his voice thick with sleep. “It’s mine.”

“Mmm,” she acknowledged, only vaguely comprehending his words but immediately abandoning her search and pulling her arm back under the warmth of the covers.

“Santos,” Danny barked curtly into the phone, moving to the far side of the bed in an effort to avoid further disturbing Michelle.

The moment Danny broke their physical connection, however, Michelle rolled from her right side to her left, laying her head on his shoulder and wrapping one arm around his waist. All she heard before she fell back into a heavy sleep was, “Nino, what the hell…”

“…are you thinking?” Danny asked, trying to focus on Nino’s words rather than Michelle’s steady breathing. “It’s,” he paused, taking the phone away from his ear long enough to squint at the illuminated dial of his watch, “almost four o’clock in the morning, and you wanted to meet now?”

Danny came more fully awake while listening to Nino, and grudgingly admitted to himself that several of Nino’s arguments were valid. More importantly, he realized that Nino’s proposal gave him a tactical advantage that Nino obviously hasn’t discovered.

“Yeah, of course I know where that is,” Danny answered, unconsciously rubbing gentle circles across Michelle’s back with his free hand as he spoke. “I’ll meet you there in thirty minutes.”

He laughed without humor. “Then you should’ve called me when I was already dressed. Thirty minutes.” With that Danny ended the call and placed the cell phone on the night stand next to him.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to extricate himself from the bed without waking Michelle, but as he sat up slightly and began pulling her away from his body her eyes fluttered open and she asked sleepily, “what’s going on?”

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” he apologized, lowering her back to the bed. “That call was business. I have to go.”

“Danny, it’s- ” Michelle propped herself up on her elbows to look at the alarm clock.

“Four o’clock,” he finished for her, brushing a light kiss across her forehead while holding his hand firmly between her shoulder blades to keep her from sitting up again.

“Listen,” he continued, remembering their last encounter and her hasty exit therefrom, “this should only take an hour or so. Promise me you’ll still be here when I get back.”

“I can’t promise anything,” she mumbled, already sliding towards sleep again.

“Okay,” he agreed reluctantly, standing up and tucking the covers over her. He walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower, his mind already going over the details of the plan he had been working on for weeks now.

The sound of the running water broke into Michelle’s consciousness, which now hovered somewhere in the light sleep she had learned to utilize during long hospital shifts. For a very brief moment she considered joining Danny in the shower, but she was too exhausted to even move. Instead she allowed her imagination to continue its journey, picturing the lights reflecting off his wet body as he ran his hands along it, lathering and rinsing. From there she replayed various parts of their second night together:

The twenty minute car trip from the restaurant to the hotel was filled with verbal foreplay so powerful that Michelle’s words actually caused Danny to suggest pulling over and making love right in the car. As it was, they were both so aroused that they barely made it into the suite before tearing at each other’s clothing, their intense need combining with a feeling of SOMETHING to create an almost reckless abandon. Danny tried to lead Michelle to the couch in the sitting room, but she objected between kisses that they would ruin it. Unable to wait any longer, Danny scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the desk, sitting down on the standard office chair with her in his lap….

Michelle’s dreams ended abruptly when she heard Danny turn off the shower, yet she continued to see disjointed images as she dozed – finally making it into the bedroom, ordering champagne and strawberries from room service, tickling Danny’s feet with a feather which came loose during a pillow fight….

Michelle was dimly aware of Danny returning to the bedroom and standing beside her to grab his cell phone, but her eyelids seemed to heavy to lift. “Be careful,” she murmured so quietly that Danny almost didn’t hear her.

“Always,” Danny promised, clasping his watch around his wrist and then shoving his wallet into his pants pocket. Resisting the urge to touch her one more time, he picked up the briefcase he had hidden under the bed and quickly left the suite.

The muffled sound of the slamming door brought a different thought to Michelle’s mind – she was now cold and alone, naked and in the bed of a man she hardly knew. Wrapping the sheet tightly around her body, she climbed out of the bed and made her way clumsily to the desk. Fumbling for the lamp, she found a tablet and pen and began to write:

Dear Danny –
Last night was perfect.

She chewed on the pen, searching for the words that would make this easier for him. Something had changed between them, something she couldn’t explain, and for the first time she thought that he might be disappointed to find her gone. But she couldn’t keep seeing a man who caused her to lose control so completely, who caused her to break the promises she made to herself.

Last night was|a|perfect way to say good-bye. I know this doesn’t make any sense – none of this makes any sense – but you have to trust me that it’s the right thing for both of us.

A single tear fell from her eye and splashed onto the stationery.

I want you to know that I’ll carry the memory of our time together with me always.

Michelle

Replacing the pen in the desk drawer she brought the letter back into the bedroom and placed it on her pillow. Deciding not to risk a shower for fear of Danny returning too soon, she quickly retrieved her clothes from the closet and dressed. Her hand lingered on the doorknob, her eyes absorbing every detail of the room, before she finally turned off the light and closed the door securely behind her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A few hours later.

Michelle made her way quickly toward the waiting area of the surgical floor, rehearsing in her head how she would explain in layman’s terms the surgery which Mrs. Ramirez’s husband had just successfully undergone.

“Mrs. Ramirez?” she asked, sitting down next to the elderly woman and placing a hand gently on her shoulder.

“Si, I am Mrs. Ramirez,” the woman answered in somewhat broken English.

Michelle launched into her rehearsed speech, but Mrs. Ramirez soon interrupted her. “Slower, please,” she instructed, “my English is not so perfect as yours.”

Michelle responded in Spanish, trying to remember what she had learned in college. Knowing that the conversational phrases would not be enough to convey the medical details, she said sheepishly in English, “I’m sorry, my Spanish is terrible.”

“Perhaps I can help,” a somewhat familiar voice offered.

Michelle looked up to see Ray Santos, dressed this time in his collar and suit rather than a hospital gown, standing beside her.

“I think my Spanish is still pretty good,” he joked. Then he turned to Mrs. Ramirez and asked if she would allow him to interpret. She immediately agreed, thanking him profusely and firing off questions in rapid succession.

A few minutes later a nurse arrived to take Mrs. Ramirez to see her husband, leaving Michelle and Ray alone in the lounge.

“Thank you so much, Father Santos,” Michelle sighed in relief. “You certainly showed up at exactly the right time.” Michelle thought about Ray’s sudden appearance and grew concerned. “What are you doing here, Father? You didn’t pull out your stitches, did you?”

“I’m fine, Dr. Bauer, thank you,” Ray answered, catching one of her hands in his as she moved them around in agitation.

“Well, I’m very glad to hear that,” Michelle smiled. “And please, call me Michelle.”

Ray nodded in agreement and let go of her hand, which she ran briefly through her hair and then placed in her lap.

“So,” she continued politely, “are you visiting a parishoner here?”

Ray hesitated, remembering his hunch about Michelle and Danny and wondering if the two had spent any further time together. Either way, he worried about the impact this news would have on her. Finally deciding that she had a right to know, he treaded lightly. “Actually, it’s Danny – he’s in surgery.”

Michelle gasped in horror, her hand flying to her mouth as tears sprang to her eyes. “How…what…he isn’t…” she sputtered, her brain moving too fast for her words to keep up. “He promised me he’d be careful,” she cried, collapsing into Ray’s arms.

“When, Michelle, when did he promise?” Ray asked, trying to make sense of her outburst.

“When he left this morning,” she answered, too upset to think about the fact that she was admitting to a priest what had happened. “He said it was business,” she managed through her tears, “and that it wouldn’t take very long. And…and…” hiccups punctuated her words, “he promised me he’d be careful.”

“Michelle, did he say anything else?” Ray coaxed, seeking any information Michelle could have. The circumstances surrounding Danny’s admission to the hospital were anything but clear. “Like what the emergency was? Or who had called him?”

Michelle sat up slightly, wiping the tears from her face with the handkerchief Ray handed her. “Um, he didn’t tell me where he was going, or why. I heard him say something about…Nino, I think.” She paused to blow her nose, focusing her mind on the little she’d heard. “Yeah, I think he was talking to someone named Nino. But I was so tired,” she apologized, “I fell back asleep instead of listening.”

“Nino?” Ray mumbled under his breath. Why in the world would Danny have anything to do with Nino? That was one of a thousand questions Ray couldn’t answer at the moment, but there was one question he could – what would happen to Nino if it turned out he had anything to do with this. True to his calling, Ray said a silent prayer for Nino’s safety, then turned his attention back to Michelle.

“It’s okay, Michelle, I’m not blaming you for anything,” he said soothingly. “What you’ve told me will help me piece this all together.”

Her mind finally caught up with what Ray had been saying. Something happened to Danny, it announced, to which she responded aloud, “But he said it wasn’t dangerous.”

“What did he say wasn’t dangerous?” Ray inquired, confused again by the seeming nonsequitor.

Michelle stared blankly at her shoes but answered the question. “His family business – he said he didn’t want to be a part of it, and I asked him if it was because it was dangerous and he said no.”

Ray knew in that moment that Danny hadn’t told Michelle the truth about the Santos family business, and that she definitely needed to know the truth right away. Ray couldn’t let her stand vigil for Danny without knowing exactly who he was and exactly what she was getting herself into.

“Michelle,” he began, waiting for her to make eye contact before continuing, “what did Danny tell you about the family business?”

Michelle wondered for a second why Ray would ask such a question at that particular moment, but it seemed to take too much effort to follow that thought out and so she simply parroted back what Danny had told her in the restaurant. “Security, a security business for companies in Chicago.”

Ray sighed, his suspicions confirmed. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but-” Danny lied to you and he’s actually in the mob. Yeah, that’ll work just fine, until she screams or faints or calls the cops. He decided on a different approach. “You know,Michelle, Danny’s family business didn’t actually start here in Chicago; it started in Springfield.”

Michelle looked at Ray as though he’d grown another head – Danny was in surgery, and Ray was going to tell her the history of the Santos family business?”Father Santos, as interesting as that is,” she started diplomatically, when she realized what Ray had just said. “Wait a minute – Springfield?” she asked, clutching his arm.

“Uh-huh, it’s a little town -” Ray began to explain, but Michelle cut him off.

“I’m from Springfield,” she announced, unsure what difference that would make.

Without pausing to consider the unique coincidence, Ray used her surprising declaration as a springboard. “Okay, well, do you know the name Carmen Sandoval?”

First we’re talking about the Santoses and now we’re talking about the Sandovals? Maybe Ray should be the one in the hospital. “Of course,” she answered, her confusion evident. “Everyone in Springfield knows about Carmen Sandoval – she and her husband are,” she dropped her voice to a whisper, “mobsters.”

Ray forged ahead, hoping that she would piece things together on her own. “Bernard Sandoval is Carmen’s second husband. Her first husband was Miguel Santos.”

Santos, her mind whispered. No, no, no, it couldn’t be, she protested immediately, but from the recesses of her mind came the blurry memory of a newspaper headline: Miguel Santos, reputed mob boss, found murdered. Along with the article had been a picture of the widow and her three children – Michael, Daniel, and Pilar. Michelle had been a mere child herself at the time, but she had felt immense sympathy for those children. Michael, Daniel, and Pilar, she mouthed silently, repeating it several times to herself

Finally she looked up, her gaze directly challenging Ray. “You’re telling me Danny’s in the mob?” she asked, her voice rising in disbelief. “Are you in the mob too?” She scrambled back against the chair in a symbolic effort to put distance between them.

“No, I’m not,” he answered emphatically. “I’m a priest. But Danny…well,” he tried to move closer to her, but she shrank even further away, “Danny is a part of his family’s business.”

She laughed shortly. “You mean he’s in the mob,” she pressed. “That is what you’re trying to say, right?” She bit her lower lip to stop it from trembling. “I can’t believe…” she struggled to pin down her thoughts. “He lied to me,” she whispered, more to herself than to Ray.

“Michelle, I’m sorry,” Ray offered lamely, unsure of how to proceed. “I know this can’t be easy for you.”

No, “easy” really isn’t the word I would use. Absurd, maybe, or nightmarish, but not easy. Her mind clung desperately to that last possibility. Maybe it’s just a dream. I’m still asleep, and this is a dream.

“Michelle?” Ray called, concerned when she didn’t blink, let alone respond.

She shook her head, fighting back a fresh onslaught of tears. “I’m okay, really.” She took a deep breath, her medical training once again serving her well as she regained control of her emotions. “You still haven’t told me what happened,” she realized. “What have the doctors said?”

Relieved at how well Michelle seemed to be taking the news of Danny’s mob connections, Ray willingly moved on to the new topic. “He was shot, Michelle,” he answered matter-of-factly, such incidents common in his family, “and he needed surgery to remove the bullet.”

Michelle nodded, her mind going through the technical details of bullet wounds and surgeries even as her heart beat faster at the thought of Danny being shot.

“That’s all I know right now,” he apologized, staring at his hands as he pictured his cousin in the operating room. “I didn’t really understand most of what the doctor said.”

“I could sit with you for a while,” Michelle suggested, slowly taking a compact from her coat pocket and surveying the damage her earlier tears had caused to the minimal makeup she wore while on duty. “To translate what the doctor says,” she clarified, dabbing foundation around her slightly swollen eyes.

Admiring her compassion, especially in light of everything he’d just dumped on her, Ray accepted with a ghost of a smile. “Thanks, that would be great,” he agreed without enthusiasm.
~~~~~~~~~~
The silence in the waiting room was broken a short time later by the crisp click of high-heeled shoes. Michelle looked up from the rosary Ray had given her to find herself face to face with Carmen Sandoval, probably the most feared woman in Springfield. She swallowed around the lump in her throat and willed herself not to run away.

“Ray!” Carmen exclaimed frantically, “where’s my Daniel? How is he? What happened?” Pausing to take a breath, she noticed Michelle for the first time. “Who is this girl and what is she doing here?” she asked suspiciously, not wanting to expose Danny to any danger from law enforcement.

“Aunt Carmen, please,” Ray soothed, standing and taking his aunt’s hands in his own, “this is Dr. Bauer. She’s a resident who was assigned to me the last time I was a patient. She didn’t want me to wait by myself.”

Michelle breathed a sigh of relief that Ray hadn’t told Carmen about her personal connection to Danny.

Carmen immediately turned back to Michelle. “Thank you for taking such good care of my nephew,” she said sincerely. “I didn’t mean to be rude, I’m just so worried about my son.”

“It’s okay, Mrs. Santos” – the name was fresh in Michelle’s memory because of the newspaper article – “I completely understand. Your son has one of the best surgeons in this hospital, I’m sure he’ll be just fine.”

Mrs. Santos, Carmen thought absently. It’s been such a long time since anyone’s called me that. Her mind drifted back to the early days of her marriage, when Miguel had called her Mrs. Santos at every opportunity, relishing the very sound of the words. Why would she…? she began to ask, then realized that Michelle would naturally assign to her the same last name as Danny and Ray.

“Thank you,” Carmen repeated, distracted by her ignorance of her son’s condition. “Ray, can you please tell me what’s going on? How is Danny?”

Before Ray could speak Michelle squeezed his arm lightly and told him, “Now that your family is here I’d better get back to work.” She handed back the rosary and added, “If you need me for anything, just have me paged.”

Ray gave a short nod and turned his attention to Carmen, helping her into a nearby chair then sitting beside her.

Carmen Santos is actually a real human being, with real concern for her son, Michelle was astonished to admit as she walked towards the elevators. The thought scared her more than anything.

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