by Sally Reeve
Danny wasn’t brooding, because Danny didn’t brood. Well, not any more. Life was too short; he’d learned that the hard way.
He wasn’t brooding, but he was…contemplating. The bombshell Jordan had dropped tonight had left him reeling in strange ways, and he needed some peace and quiet to process it before—
“Are you hiding?”
Matt. Of course.
“It’s the middle of the night.”
He pushed his glasses up onto his forehead. “Your point?”
Matt shrugged. “Fair enough.” He slouched into the room and threw himself into one of the visitor chairs. His ubiquitous tennis ball was at hand, being tossed thoughtfully back and forth. “What do you think of Lucy?”
Resisting the urge to bang his head against the desk, Danny said, “She’s…cute. In a weird, English way.”
“I said she’s—”
“I heard what you said,” Matt replied, sitting forward in his chair and studying Danny with that unnerving intensity he occasionally deployed. “I meant as a writer. What do you think of her as a writer, not a date.”
Ah. “That’s your department.”
Matt nodded, distracted again. “I was impressed,” he said after a moment. “Tonight? She and Darius really stepped up to the plate at the end there.” Danny was about to agree, when Matt pounced – almost literally; he was out of the chair and bouncing the damn ball on Danny’s desk. “You okay?”
“I don’t know. You look a little…odd.”
“Are you sick?”
“Do you need a shot?”
“No. I’m fine.”
“Yeah? Because the thing is, last time you weren’t fine you didn’t tell me until eight days later. So if you’re not fine again, I want to—”
“It’s not— God, it’s not that.”
Matt took a moment to digest the statement. “You look distracted.”
“I am distracted.” He cast a pointed look at the ball bouncing off his desk.
“No. I mean…” He frowned again. “What did Jordan want before? She didn’t stay long.”
“She was…” Looking away right then was absolutely the worst thing he could have done, but at the same time meeting Matt’s shrewd gaze was impossible. “She went home, she was sick.”
The ball stopped bouncing. After a moment’s silence, Danny looked up.
“What’s going on?” Matt asked cheerfully.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“I repeat, what the hell’s going on?”
“I don’t know why you think—”
“I’m a writer. I observe people. And I’ve observed a lot of you, my friend. So you can tell me what’s going on or I’ll go ask McDeere myself, because—”
Danny was on his feet. “Would you just—?” He moved around the desk and pushed shut the door.
“Is it the fifteen jobs? Because we can—”
“It’s not that, it’s…” He let out a deep breath, not sure if he even had the right to talk about it. But this was Matt… He didn’t have the right not to. “If I tell you something, you need to keep it to yourself. By which I mean, don’t tell Harriet.”
Matt frowned. “Okaaay. But if it’s about Harry…”
“It’s not. It’s about…” He pulled his glasses off and ran a hand through his hair. “Jordan’s pregnant.”
Matt’s eyebrows shot up. “Holy crap…”
“And you’re the – you know – the father?”
“It’s…? I mean, is it—?”
“No! What the hell?”
“I just assumed—”
“For the love of God, why would you assume that?”
“Because of the frisson!”
“The frisson. It means emotional excitement, a buzz, a tension that—”
“I know what it means!”
“Okay.” Matt scratched his head. “So, it’s not yours?”
“I think you’re the one who’s sick,” Danny muttered, retreating behind his desk and slumping down into his chair. “Very sick. You need help.”
Lowering himself into the guest chair again, Matt frowned. The penny, at last, dropping in the right direction. “So…this is bad for her.”
“She’ll probably be fired.”
“No she won’t.” And why the hell did that generate such a visceral reaction?
Matt was studying him again; it was like being under a microscope. “Danny…?”
“Would you— What?”
“You know how you said we’d be screwed if I still had…feelings…for Harriet?”
“You know what I think?”
Danny was on his feet again. “Matt, don’t even go there. I’m serious, don’t—”
“I think if she was fired, you’d be sad.”
“Just stop it.”
“No,” Matt was grinning now, turning to follow with his eyes as Danny paced the room; he looked like some kind of demented inquisitor. “You like her, don’t you? And when I say like, I mean—”
“I respect her,” Danny corrected, stopping in his tracks. “And she’s the first network president I’ve been able to say that about, so it’s a big deal. And you’re right, she’ll probably be fired – not because she’s pregnant, but because she’s trying to raise this network one damn inch above the swamp that everyone else is swimming in!”
Matt nodded. “Yeah, you got it bad. Really bad.”
“No, because it’s okay. I mean – God – compared to most of the trinkets you date she’s quite a catch.”
Really, there was only one way to handle this. Danny snagged his coat off the back of his chair. “Okay, I’m going home now.”
“I’m serious. Jordan McDeere could be good for you.”
He turned at the door. “She’s pregnant, Matt! She is with child!
“Yeah…” He gave a little half-smile. “That’s a problem, huh?”
“Yes! I mean, no. I don’t— ” Crap. “I mean, obviously I don’t – you know – now that I know she’s… you know.”
“But you did before?”
“Can we change the subject?”
“I’m just saying, Jordan’s okay. You’ve liked…worse. Hell, you’ve married worse. Couple of times.”
“I’m just saying.” He smiled again. “At least you wouldn’t have to pay her alimony. She’d probably end up paying yours.”
Turning away, Danny opened the door and strode out into the corridor. “Good night, Matt.”
With an exasperated sigh, he turned around. “What?”
“Jordan…” Matt was leaning against the door jamb. “She’s a lonely person.”
The instant denial died on his lips, because this was Matt and they saw the world through the same lens. “I know.”
“I’m thinking, right now, she could use a friend.”
He nodded and looked out over the deserted set. “I was thinking the same thing.”
Matt smiled his crooked smile again. “You know this has emotional disaster written all over it, right?”
“Yup. It really does.”
“I should…” Danny nodded toward the exit, and through it toward home and sleep. “It’s late.”
But Matt wasn’t willing to let him escape just yet and his forensic gaze was locked on his friend. “You’re the big shoulders, Danny,” he said. “But if… If you ever find yourself in too deep, come find me. Don’t— Don’t do the other thing.”
Touched, the emotion threaded through with perpetual guilt, Danny smiled. “Don’t worry about it.”
“So am I. Don’t worry about it.” But with a sigh, because he hated that Matt needed this – that he’d made Matt need this – he reluctantly added, “You’re my first phone call.”
“Make sure of it.”
Danny nodded and turned away, but he could feel Matt’s gaze on him until he’d walked right across the studio floor and out the other side. Matt might have his crazy theories about ‘frisson’, but the truth was Danny didn’t know what he felt – except a strange kind of protectiveness that was at odds with reality. Jordan was president of the network; he produced one paltry show. He couldn’t protect her from anything. And yet somehow she was always there, looking for his advice, seeking his approval. And somehow he found himself liking that. Liking her, with her dry humor and uncertain social graces. He had no idea what it meant, except that he thought he’d like his job a lot better with Jordan McDeere at the helm, rather than some stuffed shirt who thought Peripheral Vision Man was the funniest thing since Bosom Buddies.
And for now, all things considered, that was probably about as far as he could safely go.
But then, when had he ever been that smart…?
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed it, and feedback makes my day. :)