Five minutes after Tim had left his apartment, Dom was in Samuel's office. To say he was angry would be an understatement.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Dom spat out, his wings waving so hard in his agitation that they blew some of the papers off of Samuel's desk.
Calmly, Samuel bent to retrieve the papers before asking with seeming innocence, "About what?"
"You know damned well—putting Deidre on Richard Lewis. You had to know she and I would run into each other at some point."
"I gather that happened. Given the fact you're here means she made contact with you."
Dom nodded. "I was worrying that Richard might stand Tim up. Then there she was, assuring me she'd make certain he didn't." Dom glared at Samuel. "I would have been quite capable of giving him a nudge in the right direction if needs be and you know it."
"True, but first he had to be convinced that he and Tim should be together."
Dom turned swiftly on hearing Deidre's voice from behind him. "Why are you here?"
She smiled slightly. "Undoubtedly for the same reason you are. To read Samuel the riot act now that our jobs are reaching a finish. I told you I didn't know you were involved until I saw you at the museum. I almost came back here then to tell Samuel he had to pull me off."
"Which wouldn't have occurred," Samuel said firmly. "What happened between the two of you to the contrary, you two were… are the best for what had to be done." He gave Dom a hard look. "If you hadn't revealed yourself to Timothy…"
"He needed a friend, not some stranger who couldn't show himself, trying to make him understand he has value in this world. That wouldn't have worked. I'm proof of that."
"If I'd showed myself to you instead of…" Deidre said quietly. "If you hadn't been so stubborn."
"Stubborn?" Dom jabbed a finger at her, stopping just short of poking her in the chest. "Stubborn? I was the reason they died. As a hostage negotiator, my job was to end the situation without any loss of life. I blew it. My… my…" Dom closed his eyes, fighting back tears.
* * * *
He would always remember the sound of the shots that took the lives of his family.
As the police department's hostage negotiator, he'd been sent in by his lieutenant, neither of them knowing who the hostages were. They only knew the two young men holding them had already murdered three people during the commission of an armed robbery. Dom's wife and son had walked into the convenience store seconds after the killings and moments before the first police officers arrived on the scene. The robbers had tried to use them to bargain for their freedom. Dom had done his utmost to talk them down—and failed. The guys used his wife and son as shields in their attempt to escape and carried out their threat to kill them when they realized escape was impossible—while Dom watched in horror. Seconds later, they died in a hail of bullets.
When Dom was sent for counseling by the department, he listened to the woman rattle on about how he had to talk about what happened. He listened, but he didn't talk. Her words were meaningless to him, as was the nagging voice in the back of his mind, telling him he had to keep going for the sake of his family—that he couldn't just give up. That they wouldn't have wanted him to. Three weeks later Dom committed suicide. Moments after he died, he arrived in the waiting room, destined to become another guardian angel. Deidre was there, begging his forgiveness for not saving his family. Samuel stepped in before Dom could grasp what she was saying. He took Dom into his office to explain why he was there.
When Samuel finished, he said, "You have a choice, Domingo. To become a guardian angel or"—he looked seriously at the devastated and disbelieving young man—"take your chances on where you'll end up if you don't."
"Which would be?" Dom asked, his hands clenched into fists.
"I can't tell you, because I don't know."
"Probably Hell," Dom muttered disconsolately. "So I guess I'll take the lesser of two evils." Then he frowned deeply. "Is she…" He nodded toward the door "Is she an angel?"
"She is. She was charged with protecting your son."
"Screwed that one up, didn't she?" Dom snarled. "Didn't do too well with me, either, if you set her on me once my family was dead." He tapped his forehead, remembering the voice he'd heard during the days before his death. The voice that until now he'd thought was his conscience playing games with him.
"I'm sorry to admit you're right. They, and you, were her first failures."
"Lucky us. Will she lose her job, I hope?"
Samuel shook his head. "Once you join us, it's forever. She'll be counseled about what went wrong and how she could have prevented it."
"A lot of good that will do now."
"Domingo, everyone fails sometimes but the wise ones learn from the experience."
Dom blew out a long breath. He was one of those who had failed. "Why do you want me to join you?"
"You have what every guardian angel has, compassion and a desire to help those who need it. I believe you will become one of the best of the best in time. You know what it's like to be so down that life doesn't seem worth living. You can help others—your charges—see that's not the truth."
Dom smiled wryly. "So you're going to put me with anyone who's suicidal. I'm not certain, given what I did, that that's your smartest idea."
"When needs be, yes, because I'm quite certain it is."
* * * *
Dom opened his eyes when Samuel said, "The two of you will finish your jobs, and if necessary, you will work together now that you each know the other is involved. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," Dom and Deidre replied.
"Very good. Now go back down and make certain Timothy and Richard don't blow it. A child's future depends on the two of you."
"Why?" Dom asked.
"That, I am not at liberty to say. Just believe that it does."
"Of course," Dom muttered. He smiled slightly, remembering Paddy's telling him once that what they did was like playing Jenga. If they screwed up, it was the same as pulling out the wrong block. The whole world—or some part of it, at least—would tumble into ruin. He glanced at Deidre. I wonder what part tumbled because she didn't save me and my family. Not that I'll ever know but…