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Chili's Grill was the perfect place to relax after work and I thought it'd be a good idea for Michael and Danny to join Jesse and I for dinner. It took me about thirty minutes of nagging to convince Danny to show up, but he was finally here. We've all been busy doing our own things since Michael and I got back from our honeymoon a few weeks ago. Trying to pry Danny away from Serena turned out to be harder than I thought. It didn't help that the twins had kept him home most of the time when he wasn't at work. I should've been glad he stopped spiraling. But the truth was, it was only a matter of time before Serena did something to cause him to relapse again. Danny was one of my closest friends and I would hate to see him end up in rehab again. Which is what prompted me to arranged this secret double date tonight.
Jesse, Michael and I were already here, while Danny had just arrived, spotting us sitting at a booth near the bar. He strode his way towards us, reaching to kiss my cheek and bumped fists with Michael and Jesse. He plopped down next to her and looked around for his own menu, which I had conveniently hidden underneath my purse, so he'd be forced to look through it with Jesse.
"Where's my menu?" he asked, his tone impatient while I kicked Jesse underneath the table, gesturing towards Danny, hoping she got the message.
"We can share," Jesse mentioned, clearing her throat as she looked at me in confusion, while Danny leaned in to look at her menu with her. Michael's arm snaked around my shoulders, his lips leaning in closer to my ear.
"This is a bad idea," he whispered the words, but they flew right by my common sense. I smiled politely at my traitor of a husband and continued to skim through the menu myself. After we all placed our orders, we decided to start with the Triple Dipper appetizer, which consisted of chicken strips, sliders, and onions rings, sided with some dipping sauce.
"Oh, I love this song!" Jesse exclaimed, when a low tempo cover of a country song started to play through the speakers behind the bar.
"Is this Kenny Chesney? I have some of his music in my truck. If only I could find out where my kids put my damn iPod..." Danny trailed off as he continued to devour the appetizers, leaving none for the rest of us.
"Well, don't be rude, Danny. Ask the lady to dance," I encouraged and watched his eyebrow raise in suspicion.
"I don't feel like dancing," he countered, crossing his arms as he glared at me. He was catching on faster than I expected, and I had to think of something quick before he thought of an excuse to leave.
"It's just one song. And it's already halfway done anyway," Michael egged on, surprising me when he finally decided to play along. Danny and Jesse shared a look before they both shrugged and Danny scooted out of the booth to take her hand.
"Come on. Let's show them how it's done," Danny challenged us, flashing his cocky grin and while I was close to getting up myself and teaching him a thing or two, Michael's hand on my thigh stopped me.
"You have no idea what you're sending that poor man home to, do you?" Michael stated sharply and I sighed, disappointed he'd only helped me to get them to dance just so he could talk me out of my ideas in private.
"She's not his wife. She has no right to tell him who he can and can't be with anymore," I reminded him and he sighed into his hands and he rubbed his face and turned to look at me.
"Marley, I love you. But what you're doing is going to cause some serious damage with all parties involved. Now trust me when I tell you, this is not a good idea," Michael's persistence made me second guess my plan momentarily, but when I glanced up at the two of them dancing, I didn't understand how anyone could think there was nothing but friendship between them? Danny's hand was on the lowest point of her back, while her arms were wrapped comfortably around his neck, both of them smiling as they talked and enjoyed each other's company.
"See that? That's the kind of smile I want to see on his face more often. Don't you?"
"It's not our business, babe. Please let it go before you get that man killed," Michael pleaded vigorously, but I ignored him as the guests around the restaurant began to clap for the couples on the dance floor, and I joined them, cheering Danny and Jesse on.
By the time dinner was over, and we headed to the parking lot of the restaurant, it was barely ten past nine o'clock and we were all too busy laughing at one of my husband's crazy stories to realize we had all parked in different spots. Danny had offered to escort Jesse to her car, but she refused and said her goodbyes to the rest of us before walking in the opposite direction.
"Damn it. Jesse isn't making this any easier," I mumbled underneath my breath, and somehow, Danny had heard me. He cleared his throat, crossing his arms defensively and sent a glare my way.
"I know what you're doing, Marley. And if you don't stop, I'm going to go back to ignoring your damn phone calls," Danny warned and I rolled my eyes at his ridiculous threat. As if I wouldn't end up showing up at his house anyway. Before I could protest, we all heard a loud scream coming from the same direction Jesse had walked through. Danny was the first one to run towards the noise and Michael and I followed him. By the time we caught up to him, Danny was already punching the lights out of some guy on the parking lot floor, Jesse standing by the sidelines as she tried to cover what what left of the dress the creep on the floor must've tried to rip off of her. I hurried over to her, Michael offering his buttoned down shirt so she'd be able to cover herself, while he tried to pry Danny off the guy on the floor. I reached into my purse quickly for my phone, dialing nine-one-one, waiting for the operator to pick up the call, as Michael struggled to keep Danny steady enough to pull him back. The man on the floor who's face looked like it was a prop from a horror movie film, struggled to breath through the blood pouring out of his eye socket and mouth, while he tried to reach for something tucked behind his back.
"Watch out!" I tried to warn, but it was too late. Everything happened so fast. I had dropped my phone onto the floor, while Jesse held me back as the man with the gun aimed it at Danny, and shots were fired straight into his chest, a crowd of onlookers coming out of the restaurant to capture the entire gruesome situation on their phones.
I felt numb from all the crying I'd done on the way to Houston General Hospital. The guilt was eating away at me and it had only gotten worse when Serena marched through the emergency room doors, both of her boys at her side as she asked for an update on Danny's condition at the nurses station. I was too upset to tell her this was all my fault. Michael stepped in for me, squeezing my hand gently as he got up from his seat and walked over to her. Glancing over at Jesse, I could tell she was still in shock. The doctors had examined her for any injuries she might've sustained during the attempted rape, but she checked out fine physically. I was certain she'd never be the same emotionally though. Despite the asshole who had attacked her being sent to jail.
"I want to see him. I want to see him now," Serena's voice grew sharper and louder as she spoke to the nurse, while Michael tried to calm her and the boys down. The twins were on the tipping point of crying and I signaled for them to walk over to me, so I'd be able to provide some comfort to them while their mother continued on her rightful rampage.
"Miss, only family can see him," the nurse attempted to explain and before Serena could open her mouth to curse the woman out, Freddy stepped into the emergency room, glancing over at us before his worried expression turned towards Serena and Michael.
"I'm his cousin. She can be permitted in," Freddy informed the stubborn nurse, and she sighed as she nodded, giving them both visitor's passes. Serena's fury wasn't letting up any time soon. Her glare had found a new target and it was aiming straight at Jesse. Michael and Freddy held her back before she could lunge after her, and I covered the boys' eyes so they wouldn't witness a blood bath at such a young age.
"You're done. You hear me? You're done," Serena threatened, while Freddy pulled at her arm, insisting she needed to behave in front of her boys. Jesse's eyes filled with tears, her blank expression faltering as she broke down and excused herself from the waiting room.
"Is Daddy going to be okay?" Zander asked first, his brother helping him wipe away the tears with his sleeve.
"Of course he is. Your daddy's always been a fighter. He can come back from anything," I explained, trying to keep myself from falling apart long enough to keep a straight face around the crying boys, who might not have a father come morning light thanks to me.