Mountains of drafts covered Dara's desk and floor. She sat with one leg curled underneath her as she scrolled through Nexis Lexis on her computer. She planned to file every motion that could help Sonny--er, her case. A glance at the clock on the bottom of the screen told her that she'd crossed over to the bad side of midnight. Then, the buzzer to her apartment sounded.
She frowned. Not this. Not now. Releasing a loud groan, she crossed the floor to the intercom and pushed the talk button. "Yeah?"
"You know it's me. Open up."
Dara pushed the release button. Seconds passed, then loud, official knocks pounded the door. She opened the door. "Why buzz when you have a key?"
She padded back to her desk where she resumed her previous position and her gaze returned to the computer screen. Dawn closed the door and headed for the kitchen. "I didn't want to walk in on a situation."
Dara heard the refrigerator door open and close. Her sister appeared a moment later with a bag of grapes in one hand and a wine cooler in the other. "What kind of situation?" Dara asked once they were face to face.
Dawn shrugged as she munched on grapes. "You know how things go with you and the Dapper Don. I didn't want to…interrupt."
"You're such a brat."
"Thanks, I try."
Dawn moved behind her to sit on the back of the sofa. "Why are you doing this?"
"Dawn…" Dara said her name as a warning.
"Look, this is just between us. Sister-to-sister. This is me, trying to understand. Are you still in love with him?"
Dara bristled. Her hand tightened around the mouse. "Who said I was ever in love with him?"
"Like you weren't."
Dara turned to stare at Dawn. "You don't have to fall in love to have sex. This is something you know, or are you under the impression that Detective Stabler will leave his wife and four kids for you?"
"Don't turn this around on me." Dawn took a swallow of the cooler. "Elliott and I are clear on that. Besides, it's done."
"Since when?" Dara arched an eyebrow. Somehow, she didn't believe her baby sister.
"Since five seconds ago. I'm not in love with him."
"Because of Fox."
Dawn's eyes narrowed. "Don't go there and don't do that lawyer thing. We're talking about you and Sonny."
Dara turned back to her research. "There is no me and Sonny. I will represent him in court, nothing more."
"But what if he killed her?" Dawn set the grapes and wine cooler on the desk near Dara. "Don't answer that. Promise me, you'll be careful. McCoy and Abby are good at digging. Your past could come back to haunt you."
Dara relaxed as Dawn hugged her from behind. "Don't worry about me, baby girl. I can handle them."
Dawn let herself out of Dara's apartment. She hoped something she said got through to her sister. It wasn't just that Sonny Corinthos was a major crime boss, but the draw he had over Dara. He could hurt her. Worse than he did the last time. Taking her career as well as her heart.
"Hey, Peaches, I thought you'd never leave." The voice jumped out at her as she hit the sidewalk.
"What are you doing here? Did you follow me?"
Fox gave her that slow smile that always caused her heart to stop. "Yeah. The streets are dangerous this time of night."
She released a rude snort. "And you'll protect me."
The smile transformed into a thin line of male pride. "I have before. Just because you carry a gun--" He stopped mid-sentence and tried again. "Let's pretend we're civil adults. I want to walk you home. Let me."
It was late. She was tired.
"I won't stop you."
He grinned like a schoolboy. "That's better than nothing."
They walked three blocks in silence. In the city that never slept, this night was fairly quiet. Dawn loved the fast pace and the crowds, but nights like this soothed her soul. And so did just being near the man walking beside her. She glanced at him out the corner of her eye and regretted the mistakes that ended their marriage.
"Wow, we're good," he commented with a low whistle.
"What are you talking about?"
"Us. Anyone looking at us wouldn't guess how much you hate me."
"I don't hate you."
He stopped in front of her, making her look at him. "Ah, the truth and you admitted it without threat of torture."
She tried to sidestep him, but he blocked her again. He pressed his hands together as if in prayer and begged. "Would you? I haven't had any in awhile and I hear that estranged sex isn't that bad."
He smiled as he let her pass and fell into step beside her. "And that's why you love me."
She didn't deny it.
"I'm not putting you out."
"Sonny," Lois said, her blue eyes fixing him with a hard stare, "for the last time, no! Of course not, my home is your home."
"What about Brook Lynn? She didn't say a word at dinner. She knows about the case."
Lois finished fluffing the pillows on the guest bed. "She's in the first grade. Your presence surprised her. I told her you were coming, but I've told her that before. Having you here live and in the flesh was a lot. Just you wait, in the morning she'll be all over you."
"If you say so." He sat on the bed and patted the empty space beside him. After she sat, he said, "Thank you."
She slipped her arm through his and rested her head on his shoulder. "I'd do just about anything for you."
"You haven't asked me if I did it."
"I don't have to."
He tilted his head, setting his chin against her temple. "Ned would have a fit if he knew I were here."
"Please, he's a father in check only. You're okay. If you weren't, you wouldn't be here."
"I miss Michael."
"Call him," she ordered.
He shook his head once. "'Hey, Mikey. I'm sorry I can't come home, but I've been accused of killing your mother. We'll talk after the verdict is read.'" Sonny drew in a harsh breath. "I can't, not until this over. Maybe not even then. They're accusing me of killing his mother. A boy can't forget something like that."
"Where is he now?"
"How's she taking it?" Lois squeezed his arm. "Hell, how are you taking it?"
He shrugged. "She's dead. I'm not sad. I feel bad for Michael." He moved to recline against the pillows. "Does that answer your question?"
"I'm surprised that you hired Dara Jensen to represent you. She certainly tried to put you away enough times."
"She came close a few times," he said, his tone noncommittal.
His good friend stared at him as he'd lost his mind. "And you trust her? Sonny, this is your life. It's on the line here."
Lois stood and headed to the door. "I know you and I know when something is none of my business. It's good to see you. If you need anything, I'm just a door away."