Three beers in, Sydney realized the giddy feeling she was having might be exacerbated by a buzz. Maybe, had she not spent the afternoon exploring the ruins of Glasgow and other related trails, she wouldn’t have wanted to drink so much beer so fast. Perhaps, were it not for the company she was keeping, she wouldn’t have been so eager.
To her frustration, Lankin, for all the fun he claimed to have had during the afternoon, was calm, cool, and collected. He drank his red wine, the first glass in a gulp, but, the second, patiently, and seemed completely unaffected. If queried, he may have given one of his aloof looks and mentioned something about living at altitude. She wanted to punch him to get a reaction. She wanted to kiss him.
She wanted …
They were shooting pool. Lankin ordered food, though Sydney could scarcely remember what it might have been other than something to eat. Having something on the stomach besides trail-mix and jerky might be a good idea. Something that resembled hunger pulled at her belly, which conflicted with the other sensations running through her body as she played pool with him.
He was just…Lankin. Nothing else. Up on the trails, out in Glasgow, Sydney tried to get a little further, but it was akin to asking a sphinx for a glass of water in a burning Egyptian desert; an enigmatic smile, if that, but little else. One had to content themselves with the riddle.
Food arrived; burgers, fries, and salads. Lankin made a gesture to eat, but said nothing. Instead, he watched, patiently, predatorily, as she gorged herself. She felt like such a pig eating like that in front of anyone. If he was offended, his gray eyes betrayed no reaction.
He ate slowly, almost in a reserved manner. Every so often, he made a motion offering Sydney more, which she declined more out of not wanting to appear gluttonous, than not being hungry. Lankin cleaned the plate, his manners nothing short of immaculate.
Their pool game resumed. From the speakers, a song from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers came on. They both smiled. Lankin mouthed along flawlessly with the opening lyrics;
“Will you be my Mary Magdalene?,
Would you be my American dream?
Will you mix your perfume up
Will you mix your perfume up
from diesel fumes and gasoline?”
With a wide, unthinking, smile Sydney’s hips began to sway. She found herself dancing, pulling herself closer to him. It seemed so wonderful to be dancing up on him.
In that same moment, something else happened; something deeper and defensive became aware. She was dancing up on some strange man in a small mountain bar in a small mountain town in the middle of Colorado’s High Country. Suddenly, her situation became very dangerous. She needed to stop. She needed to pull away.
“Baby ain't we a beautiful disaster?”
She was blocked. An arm; Lankin’s arm, came down over her probable escape route. Her gaze met his; her deep, dark eyes showing a primal fear she could neither explain rationally or try to talk about otherwise. His gaze showed only that damnable feline curiosity of his.
“You would like to get closer, but something holds you back,” Lankin said as if he was noticing the outside weather. “Strange.”
“Lazarus...?” Sydney tried, feebly, to start.
“It’s likely someone,” he continued, unconcerned. “Someone has given you reason to want to run like a frightened rabbit when you even think of wanting to get close to anyone. It’s why you ran away from Prague.”
She shuddered. There was nothing she wanted more than to get past his arm, even if she knew how strong and sure his embrace was, which was something she remembered with fond reassurance from Glasgow. But, there at the pool tables in Magpie Jack’s, all she wanted to do was run.
“I am not that person,” Lankin stated flatly. “Neither is anyone here. It’s rather unfair of you to put that on anyone other than the offending party. You need to remember that, Just Sydney.”
Without warning, he pulled away. He was walking away from her, grabbing his pack from one of the nearby chairs, and moving toward the door. At first, she was too shocked to react.
“Lazarus…!” She cried finally.
“You know I love
to watch them angels
fighting over you,
fighting over you,
they left me long ago…”
He spun around. The look in his eyes was that of when he pulled her from the Fitzpatrick Mine Shaft; one of anger, frustration, and disappointment. She felt very small under his predatory gaze.
“Please?” Was the only other word she could manage.
“What?” His gaze held her. “I could tell you I’ll look after you, that I’d never let anything bad happen to you, but that would be a lie. I’ve lost more than I want to count on my watch.” It was then he stepped forward. His movements ferocious and feral in their purpose, it was enough to get her to jump back. “But I cannot protect you from everything.” She almost fell over when his long finger pointed toward her brow; “I cannot save you from that.”