Mr. Dark 5

By: Lauren Landish

"Yes," Tabby said, lifting her head. "I just... I can't fall asleep without thinking he's going to be there. I know Mark took care of him, but still, it's hard."

"Then tonight you come home with me," I said. "We're watching The Crow, and if you haven't gotten sleepy after that, I'm soaking you in my bathtub until you feel like nothing but silly putty. Oh, that and we're both stuffing our faces and having a girl's night. If Mark comes home in the middle of it, well, he can be our man servant and paint our toenails or something."

For the first time, I saw Tabby smile, even if faintly. "You boss him around like that, huh?"

I smirked and rolled my eyes. "Not quite, but I can get away with it sometimes. When it's important. He's a pretty good sport like that."

"Deal," Tabby said, letting go of me to pack her bag. "So what's got you two out so late anyway?"

"Big plans," I said. "I'll tell you about them at home."

I led Tabby down to the parking lot where she saw as I put my hand inside my purse as I walked. It was one of the little tricks Mark had taught me. "What's in there, anyway?" Tabby asked after she had gotten into the passenger seat of my Jaguar. "Don't tell me you're carrying."

I sat down in the driver's seat and started the engine, which growled with muted power. "Not unless I plan on using it," I said, "but it sometimes pays to look like I am, even if I’m not. Here, take a look."

I handed over my bag and pulled out while Tabby rooted through my little purse, which contained nothing more than my Sophie Warbird driver's license, a box of Tic-Tacs, my phone, and seventy three dollars in bills. "No credit card even?" Tabby asked.

"The phone's got a chip built into it, I can use it as a credit card or even access a Paypal account if I want to," I said. "But as you can clearly see, no 007 Walter PPK or even a knife in there."

Tabby relaxed and chuckled, closing my purse and setting it on the floor between her legs. "You know, I should get you to give me a ride in this thing more often. You know I took the light rail to work today?"

"No, but I'm not surprised," I said. "Your place is less than two blocks from a station, and there's a station a block from here. It's gotta be cheaper than a car."

"It is, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the luxury of Italian leather seats," Tabby replied, leaning back and closing her eyes.

She was silent for the rest of the drive, so much so that I thought she had fallen asleep by the time I pulled in. When I shut down the engine, I saw that Tabby was looking at me with a look I had seen before in her eyes. "Why do you keep doing this, Sophie?"

"What's that, Tabs?" I said, hitting the button for the automatic garage door. I waited for the door to close and the extra locks to engage. Yes, the door was solid, and was technically rated against an F-5 tornado, although our city hadn't had a tornado recorded in the past century. Just another Marcus Smiley quirk that conveniently doubled as a good security feature.

"Why do you keep looking out for me? You win the lottery of all lotteries in life, finding a wonderful guy who loves you for who you are, is totally loaded in addition to being a hottie and good in bed, and you could have run away with him anywhere on the planet. But you came back, have saved me twice now, and have set me up for career success. Why?"

"Because I love you," I said simply. "What other reason do I need?"

I got out of the car and waited for Tabby to get out. I could see the questions in her eyes, and I took her hand. "Tabs, you're a wonderful woman, I've said that so often I feel like it's running on repeat in my head sometimes. I pray every day that there is someone out there for you like Mark is for me. I'm sure there is, I have no doubt. Until you find him, I'm here for you."

Tabby swallowed and nodded, smiling at me with a bittersweetness that broke my heart. "I know. Trust me, I know. Thank you.”

I decided to deflect the situation with some levity. I could tell that she needed to relax and have some fun. "Good. Then let's get some sweats on, a bit of cheesecake, and Brandon Lee on the big screen. Did you know Mark outfitted one of the rooms in here with super sized two person bean bag chairs, a HD projector and surround sound?"

"Oooooh. You know just how to speak my language," Tabby said, her smile more relaxed and natural.

"Excellent. One more thing," I said as we went inside the main portion of Mount Zion. "We're giving you back your natural red, or at least something approximating it."

"Why? If you get to go purple, why can't I go black?"

"Because our friendship demands at least one redhead, and if I do it, it's going to be fire engine red."

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