The room was filled with the Celtic Nu-Grass sounds of Tin Thistles. As he worked his way closer to the stage, Tarot could not help but smile bittersweetly at the sound of Whisper taking lead vocals. It had been almost two years since they broke up, but he could still remember how desperately he wanted to be hand-fasted to her. It was his dad’s death, and the mourning of it, which reduced them to just two very close friends. Still, when she would sing a song of love and loss, Tarot sometimes caught himself wondering if she was singing about, or even to, him.
The stage was by the pool tables and he found a familiar face to stand by that offered a good vantage point. Sydney smiled slightly toward Tarot, lifting her pint glass of stout in a wordless toast. It was a lively night at Magpie Jack’s, filled with good music and camaraderie. In that simple set of moments Tarot couldn’t be happier.
Seeing Sydney jump with a shocked expression changed everything. She yipped and spun around. It was obvious someone had touched her in a way she didn’t want to be touched.
“What the fuck?!?” She snapped. “Keep your hands off my ass!”
His dark-bordering upon obsidian-eyes held her. He didn’t so much smile at her as seem to snarl in a predatory fashion. There was no remorse in his expression as he took another step toward her, causing her to subconsciously step back. Tarot felt a knot form in his belly.
“Hey, hey,” he said quickly. “I’m pretty sure the lady’s already got a date.”
“Little Jimmy Tabor? Donnie Tabor’s boy?” The dark-eyed man’s gaze focused on Tarot. “Trying to act all grown up and gallant? How cute. Why don’t you go on now and play with your toys while we adults do our adult things.”
“Leave us alone,” Sydney said hoping the intimidation she was feeling didn’t catch in her voice. “I’d hate to tell Grizz that I had to glass some dickhead in his bar.”
“You’ve got spunk,” the dark-eyed man said, licking his lips. “How sweet.” He took another step forward. “I wager as sweet as candy.”
“Christopher Wolffe!” The voice behind him got the dark-eyed man to snarl in a more aggressive fashion as he turned around.
He stood casually. Dressed in hiking boots, a pair of camouflage cut-offs and a black t-shirt. In his left hand he held a pool cue, the heavier end pointed toward the floor. His gray eyes regarded the other man with feline detachment as he brought his right hand, holding a glass of red wine, to his lips.
“It’s been a bit,” he said, taking a sip.
“Yes, Lazarus,” Christopher muttered. “It’s been a bit. Still drinking Spanish reds?”
“Not exclusively, but I endeavor to avoid anything that comes out of a plastic jug,” Lankin replied making his way closer to Sydney and Tarot, his gaze never wavering. “I see your time away from Marrakech has done little to improve your manners.”
“Pretty little thing standing with a little boy in a mountain bar,” Christopher shrugged. “A man can get some ideas.”
“And young Master Tabor may have mentioned she was accompanied?”
“I don’t see anyone with her other than this pup who thinks he's a man now.”
With an annoyed sigh, Lankin stepped between Christopher and Sydney. His gray eyes narrowed and a growl resounded from deep within his wiry frame. The pool cue raised ever so slightly.
“I loath to be trite, Christopher, however, this young lady already has an escort,” Lankin said in slow even tones.
“Oh, I see.”
“I hope we are clear now.”
Christopher raised an eyebrow and smiled slightly, baring his teeth in a way that sent a chill down both Sydney and Tarot’s spines. Then he bowed his head, almost submissively as he stepped back a few paces. Slowly, he raised his eyes to meet the others’ gazes once more.
“I’ll see you later, Lazarus,” his voice just above a growl and it only softened slightly when he turned his attention toward Sydney. “And I’ll be seeing you again.”
Christopher melted into the crowd. Lankin’s gaze never flinched, even after the front door of Magpie Jack’s swung open and closed once more. He felt Sydney’s arms encircle his neck and her grateful kiss upon his cheek. Another growl resounded in his throat as he took a sip of wine.
“Not good,” Tarot mused. “If Christopher’s back in town than so are Thomas and Byron. Those Wolffes, they don’t go roaming around alone.”
“And I can barely contain my excitement,” Lankin muttered as he finished his wine in a single gulp.