“ Wow . You look amazing.”
Andy eyed Sharon appreciatively from his position in the bedroom doorway, leaning casually against the frame as he watched her smooth the front of her dress down in front of the mirror. The soft material clung to every curve - enough to draw attention, but not enough to be considered trashy. The skirt stopping at mid-thigh showed just enough of those incredible legs, but not enough to be indecent when she sat. The neck was cut just deep enough to offer a hint at what lay beneath, but not deep enough to make her uncomfortable. It was perfect for her.
The colour was what he appreciated most, however. The deep red reminded him of her favourite wine, and it contrasted beautifully with her pale complexion and the bright emerald green of her eyes. His gaze raked over her as she brushed a non-existent piece of fluff from her neckline. Yes… Red was definitely her colour. The delicate jewellery that she wore complemented her outfit, drawing the eye back to her face, while her hair fell in careful waves, softening the look further. He took a deep breath. Keeping his hands off her was not an easy feat at the best of times, but looking like that…
Sharon glanced sideways at Andy, offering him a small smile as a light blush crept over her skin.
“I mean it.” He pushed away from the door and strolled slowly over to where she stood, still inspecting her reflection with a critical eye. “But then,” he murmured as he placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him. “You always do.”
He leaned down and brushed his lips softly against hers. She responded immediately, rising up on her toes in her bare feet, her arms curling around his neck as she deepened the kiss, humming delightedly as her body pressed against his.
Pushing him back slightly as they broke apart, Sharon reached up to fix his tie. It was the same colour as her dress with a delicate off-white pattern running through it. The contrast with the dark grey of his suit was striking, and was one of her favourite combinations on him. Although, to be fair, this man could make almost anything look good. She finished straightening his tie, running her fingers down the silk slowly, lingering as she traced the path down his body. She unconsciously pulled her bottom lip between her teeth as her hands drifted from the delicate material to run instead across his chest and up to his shoulders. He had yet to put his jacket on, so she took the opportunity to roam her fingers down his arms, dancing across the thin material of his shirt and revelling in the feel of the muscles underneath, eliciting a soft moan from him.
His own hands were not idle and he heard her sharp intake of breath as he stroked up and down her back, pulling her gradually towards him until she was surrounded by the heat radiating from his body and the intoxicating scent of his cologne.
“Remind me again why we have to go to this thing.”
Andy’s voice was a low rumble next to her ear and she closed her eyes in an automatic response to his sudden proximity, leaning into him as every cell in her body seemed to vibrate with need. What was it about this man that he could have this effect on her, every time? His hands came to rest at her waist, his thumbs lightly brushing against her belly, causing her to shiver with anticipation.
“Because Amy is our colleague and our friend…” Sharon murmured, struggling to find her voice as his tongue gently traced the shell of her ear. “It’s her birthday…” A moan escaped her lips as his mouth focused on the sensitive skin behind her ear. “…And she wants us to be there…” She moaned louder this time as his thumbs travelled up her body, grazing the underside of her breasts through the fabric of her dress. Leaning into his touch, she moved her hands back up his arms and across his shoulders, before threading her fingers through the short strands of his hair.
“We don’t need to arrive on time though, right?” Andy’s arms had come around her body now, one hand caressing her neck underneath the soft waves of her hair. His breath was hot against her skin, and pressed up against him like this, she could feel that he was just as needy as she was. “We can be fashionably late…”
A hum was the only response she could muster, the ability to form a coherent thought abandoning her as his lips ghosted across the exposed skin of her neck and his skilled fingers swiftly lowered the zipper of her dress, finding the warm skin beneath.
Oh yes, they were definitely going to be late…
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
Amy’s birthday party was being held at a country club close to her parents’ home. Apparently they liked to make a big deal out of birthdays and Amy, while rather embarrassed by all the fuss, had decided that this year she would like her colleagues to join them. Buzz had even offered to film the event for her and was currently wandering around the room with his camera, Mike in tow offering (mostly unsolicited) advice.
Sharon had been touched by Amy’s gesture. It was a sign that her team was gelled together as a unit - that they had reached the respect, trust and friendship that helped to make them among the best in the country. She smiled now as she watched the young detective mingling with her friends and family before turning and giving her colleagues a wave.
Provenza, Julio and Sharon were currently standing close to the provided food, Provenza having decided - for the second time so far this afternoon - that he was hungry. Andy had gone to the bar to fetch more drinks - again on Provenza’s orders. Sharon couldn’t help giggling as she listened to them bicker. They really were like an old married couple sometimes.
She saw Andy returning with a tray of beverages and moved slightly to let him pass. He placed the tray on a nearby table, motioning to Provenza and Julio that their refreshments had arrived. Coming to stand beside Sharon, he handed her a glass of red wine with a soft smile. She accepted it gratefully, her fingertips brushing his as she took the drink from his hand. He moved instinctively closer to her, his hand stroking her back before settling against her neck, underneath her hair. He rubbed her skin gently with his fingers and she leaned her head back into his touch, closing her eyes momentarily and releasing a barely audible hum of contentment.
It wasn’t often that they went anywhere as a couple like this. Oh, they dated - but attending an event together, with people they actually knew, was a rarity. She hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect, but she had to admit she was pleasantly surprised at how easy the afternoon had been.
A tug on her hand pulled her out of her thoughts and she turned to see Andy smiling down at her, an eyebrow raised questioningly. Placing her glass on the table, she faced him once more and touched her hand to his cheek, the fingers of her other hand now entwined with his. Leaning into him, she lifted her face to his for a kiss. He happily obliged, before looking at her with a slightly puzzled expression. She was not usually given to public displays of affection, particularly not around their workmates.
“Are you sure you want to do that here?” he asked, only partially teasing.
Sharon grinned and nodded. She wasn’t worried about anyone seeing them. They had been together for several months now and he had finally moved in to the condo a few weeks before. Her team was well aware of their relationship and had accepted it without question - all apart from Provenza, who had grumbled predictably for a while before grudgingly bestowing his blessing. They kept their personal lives out of the office - as had always been her preference, even before Andy. Today, however, they were not on duty. Today, they were simply two people among friends. Today, she wanted the whole world to know how she felt about this man.
”We are at a private event, not at work - and if I want to kiss the man I love, then I shall.”
Andy’s smile broadened at her words.
“That works for me.”
His hand came up to caress the back of her neck, his fingers threading through her hair as his mouth covered hers once more. Her eyes drifted closed as his tongue nudged her lips apart, sweeping her mouth as she pulled him even closer. Finally breaking the kiss, Andy wrapped his arms around her as she rested her head against his chest.
Glancing over the top of Sharon’s head, Andy noticed his partner scowling at them from where he was seated next to the buffet table. Provenza rolled his eyes when he realised he had been spotted, while Amy watched them from slightly further away, a goofy grin on her face. He chuckled and lowered his mouth to Sharon’s ear.
“You feel like getting some air?”
She hummed and nodded, taking his proffered arm and leaning into him as they made their way quickly to the exit.
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
They strolled through the grounds of the country club arm in arm, enjoying the warmth of the early evening that was tempered by a gentle breeze. Pausing for a moment, Andy stood in front of Sharon, placing his hands lightly on either side of her face before leaning down to steal a lingering kiss.
Humming into his mouth, she moved closer to him, sliding a hand around to the back of his neck so that she could run her fingers through his hair. He nipped gently at her bottom lip before running his tongue along it, moaning when she pressed her body more firmly into him.
“When can we get out of here?” he murmured into her ear as they finally broke apart. The gravelly undertone to his voice left her in no doubt as to the reason for his enquiry - good God, the man was insatiable!
“Not yet,” she replied firmly. “We arrived late, it would be bad form to leave early as well!”
Andy huffed in annoyance and used his thumb and forefinger to tilt her head up towards him. He dropped his lips to her neck and began kissing the underside of her jaw, sucking and nipping at the delicate skin but always careful not to leave a mark. He had learned the hard way how that was something she would not forgive easily.
Determinedly, and while she was still in control of all her senses, Sharon placed her hands on either side of his head, stilling his movements. He looked up at her, a devilish glint in those beautifully dark eyes. She pressed a kiss firmly to his lips and pulled back from him.
He pouted but gave in, tenderly brushing a strand of hair behind her ear that the breeze had caused to blow across her face. Wrapping her arms around his middle, Sharon snuggled into him, relishing the rare moment of stillness. She sighed happily as his arms came around her, his hand rubbing gentle circles against her back. Andy dropped a kiss on the top of her head and she leaned back to gaze at him, a beautiful smile lighting her face.
“I love you,” he smiled back at her, still in awe of the fact that she had chosen to be with him.
“I love you…oh!” Sharon’s eyes widened in shock as a noise almost like a firecracker echoed around the country club grounds.
The sound was so unexpected, so out of place here, that at first Andy didn't register what he was hearing. It wasn't until she dropped, going suddenly limp in his arms, that he realised that the loud pop had been a gunshot...and that she had been hit.
They sank to the ground together as he shielded her with his body against the possibility of more bullets, but none came. There was only silence. The shooter had already hit his mark. Pulling his weapon from its holster, Andy spun around, desperately searching for any sign of the gunman. He saw nothing. An eerie quiet settled over them. Even the breeze had stilled.
He lowered his firearm and grabbed his phone from his pocket, dialling 911 as he knelt down on the grass beside Sharon. She looked up at him, her green eyes pale and holding a fear that he had never witnessed in them before. He was already shrugging out of his jacket and he tried to smile at her reassuringly as he scanned her body to determine where she had been hit. Her dress was already soaked in blood - from a single wound in the left side of her chest, a few inches below her armpit - although the sight was disguised by the fact that the dress itself was such a dark red. Andy was almost grateful for that, for not having to watch the stain spreading across the expensive material, for not having to see how every heartbeat was pumping more of the dark red fluid out through the bullet hole beneath. He pressed his jacket against her firmly as he gave the operator their details, begging them to hurry as he tried desperately to slow the bleeding.
Hanging up the call, he dialled another number immediately.
“Louie…it’s me… Cut the crap and listen, Louie… we’re outside, Sharon’s been shot… I said she’s been SHOT!… In the gardens at the front of the club… Yes, of course I called them… No, I don’t see anyone, I think whoever it was must have left… Look, Louie, I don’t have time for this. Just get Mike and get out here, NOW!”
He dropped the phone to the ground and used both hands to press harder against the wound, trying not to see the blood that was seeping around and through the material of his jacket, staining his fingers and soaking into the ground underneath where she lay.
"It's going to be okay, Sweetheart. You're going to be fine.” His voice was shaking now, the horror and shock of the unfolding situation quickly catching up to him.
Sharon shook her head and smiled sadly up at him.
"No, Andy. I'm not."
“Sharon..." His dark eyes locked onto hers, silently pleading with her not to say what they both knew to be the truth.
"It's too late,” she whispered, her voice barely audible now.
"I'm bleeding out, Andy.” She swallowed hard against the metallic taste of blood rising in her throat. Placing a trembling hand over the top of his larger one, she entwined their fingers together. “Please, I don't want to die here on the ground. Will you hold me? Please.”
Andy shook his head frantically, barely able to see through the tears that had filled his eyes. His fingers gripped hers almost painfully, even as he continued to apply pressure to her chest.
“Help is coming, Sweetheart. They’ll be here soon, if I can just slow it down…” he choked out on a sob.
Her other hand came up to gently rest on his forearm, causing him to look at her instinctively.
"Please. Please just hold me. I’m so cold.”
Andy fought with himself for a moment longer before he acquiesced. He couldn’t just leave her lying there. He gathered her into his arms and cradled her there, one hand still pressing his jacket to her wound in an attempt to stem the blood flow. An attempt he knew was futile, but he just couldn’t bring himself to concede defeat, not yet.
“Why are you giving up?” he whispered, hugging her tight to his chest.
“Andy. Look at me.” He forced himself to lower his gaze until he was met with her piercing stare. She was looking right into him, seeing all of him - willing him to see her, too. “I’m not giving up. But this is bad, Honey. You know this is bad.”
Searching her gaze, Andy saw that she was telling the truth. That light in her eyes, the one that spoke to strength and courage and spirit - it was still there. It was weak, but it was there. She wouldn’t go without a fight…but she was also prepared that this was a fight she may not win.
She was trying to prepare him, too.
Sharon took a sharp breath in, burying her face in his chest as the movement caused her to cough violently. She moaned in pain and he nuzzled her hair gently as he shifted them so that she was slightly more upright.
"It's okay, Sweetheart. I've got you.” Her fingers clutched at his shirt, the pain robbing her of the ability to speak. He stroked her hair softly. “I’ve got you.”
Fighting back the pain and her rising panic, realising that she didn’t have long now, Sharon touched her palm to his cheek, her thumb stroking his face lovingly.
"I need you to listen to me, Andy. This is important.” He nodded through his tears. She coughed again and there was so much blood now. She was fading right before his eyes and where was that damn ambulance? Where was the rest of her team? “Will you take care of Rusty for me? Please? He’s going to need you now.” Andy nodded again, unable to speak now. His throat ached with the sobs he was struggling to contain. “Tell my children that I love them,” she continued quietly. “So very, very much."
“Don’t talk any more.” The tears were flowing down his cheeks now and he couldn’t have stopped them even if he tried. She was breaking his heart. He ran his fingers through her hair, his thumb stroking her temple tenderly. “Save your strength.”
She inhaled a ragged breath, continuing regardless. She didn’t have a choice now. There were things she needed to say, before it was too late.
“Andy, I need you to be strong.” Her voice was weak now, but firm at the same time. Determined. Commanding. And so very Sharon. “Don't ever forget the man that you are. Don't let this break you. Promise me."
He refused to meet her gaze as he answered.
A tiny smile tugged at her mouth.
“Honey, I need you to mean it.”
He lifted his head and looked her directly in the eyes, then.
The response was shaky, but it would have to do. There was no more time.
"And Andy...please don't forget me."
Her eyes slipped closed and she was struggling to catch her breath now, her skin so pale that she almost didn't look real.
She forced her eyes open, a single tear slipping down her cheek as she looked up at him. His eyes were closed, his lips placing kisses across her face when he felt her fingers, cold as ice now, caress his cheek once more.
"Open your eyes for me," she whispered. "I need to see you.”
He did as she asked, before brushing his lips across hers in a painfully tender kiss. She took his bottom lip into her mouth, running her tongue across it softly before releasing it and looking deep into his eyes once more.
"I love you, Andy Flynn.”
He watched as the light that he loved slowly faded, her hand dropping to her side as the last of the strength left her broken body.
“I love you, too,” he whispered.
She smiled up at him, before her eyes closed for the final time.
Andy cradled her lifeless body in his arms, his forehead pressed against hers, his eyes screwed tightly closed against the pain ripping through his chest. Maybe, if he just kept them shut…and if he just prayed hard enough…then maybe this nightmare wouldn't be real.
As he sat on the hard ground, clutching the woman he loved to him tightly, Andy was oblivious to the wail of the ambulance siren as it screeched into the country club’s driveway…to the remaining members of her team racing down the steps and across the lawn towards him…and to the slowly dying light of the early evening sun.