The Dark Man

Scene 1

"I just don't see why you have to go there now." A faint petulant tone crept into Nate's voice as he continued his protest, still from the front room.

Mel folded a pair of black dress trousers and laid them in the suitcase on top of a stack of jeans. She tried not to giggle as Jelly made faces and mimicked Nate from the monitor on the desk.

"I have to go," Mel answered, grabbing a stack of tshirts and a handful of panties. "We've been through this."

"But," he sighed heavily. "We have Vale in barely over a week!" he whined.

Mel paused, trying not to tap her toe and prop a hand on her hip. "I am so very sorry that my mother's death has potentially disrupted your vacation, Nate. But that's just the way it is."

A shuffle came from the living room as her tone motivated him to get off the couch. On the computer screen, Jelly did a duck-lipped Egyptian routine with her black-framed glasses knocked comically askew.

"I have to go. I have to." Mel stomped her foot, that crying feeling prickling behind her eyes, which happened way too easily these days. "No one has been there in over 20 years! There's no telling what the place will look like."

He walked in the bedroom in just his gym shorts, all shirtless and pretty. "Come on, babe. I didn't mean it that way. You know."

She blushed, flustered and confused. Reaching into the dresser drawer, she grabbed a handful of panties and threw them in the suitcase. She'd never realized losing someone meant everything would make her cry. Or horny. Those seemed to be her two responses to life. Seriously, what the hell was she going to do without her mom?

Nate got behind her, wrapping one arm around her middle and one around her shoulders. He smelled as warm as he felt. As his breath tickled her ear, she shivered but hadn't realized she'd been chilled. "Just stay here with me. We'll list the place as is."

Mel shook her head. "And what if some yard work and a coat of paint would boost the price ten grand? Are you willing to walk away from that? It's that much more for our wedding. Or a bigger down on our house." She shook her head again, and pulled away from his arms.

"So, we'll send someone over," he sighed, exasperation showing around the edges of the charm. "I know a guy. Now, get dressed and we'll go to dinner. There's this new Indian place I want to try. The menu is totally vegan and organic."

"You know a guy?" Mel laughed, turning away from her dresser. "You know a guy in Karriston, Michigan." She shook her head, opening her tshirt drawer. "No one knows anyone in Karriston, Michigan."

Nate shrugged, shameless. "I know a guy who knows a guy."

Rude laughter burst from the speakers as Jelly sprayed sarcasm. "I cannot believe you are going to marry this guy. Seriously?"

"Angelica," Nate muttered her name under his breath like a swear, and then turned to Mel with a pout. "I thought we agreed not to Skype in the bedroom?"

Mel frowned. She grabbed a stack of tshirts and yanked two shirts that would do for dress in a pinch, shoved them into the suitcase and slammed it closed. "We agreed not to Skype in the bedroom when one of us was in here sleeping. You weren't even home when Jelly called."

He crossed his arms over his chest and stuck his chin out, looking like a toddler. A beautiful blonde Adonis of a toddler with a perfectly cut six-pack. "So, are we going to dinner, or what?"

Mel stopped, in the middle of hefting the suitcase off the bed, blinking at him. "My plane leaves in less than three hours."

His chin thrust out further. "It's supposed to be really good. And you still have to eat. Plane or not."

"I have to go. I'm meeting the lawyer in the morning." She shook her head and hauled the suitcase down. Looking at the computer, "Can I get a ride to the airport?"

"Ten minutes," Jelly said with a nod, and the call shut off.

"You could take a later flight," Nate muttered. "Wait. What lawyer?"

Mel sagged for a moment, and then snapped her spine up and the luggage handle out. "Jesus Christ on a stick, Nate! You were sitting right there with me yesterday!"

He looked at her, blank and blinking. His stomach rumbled, and she growled.

"We were going through the last of mom's papers? We found the deed to a house? And there was a phone number on a sticky note?"

He blinked, gave a little shrug. "Okay. So, you're not coming to dinner? What if I said your friend could come with?"

She gave up talking to him at this point. Jelly would be there any time, and she still needed shoes. And her purse, of course. "Maybe a jacket?" she said out loud. "Do you think it's still cold in Michigan? It is May, already."

"I'm sure I wouldn't know," Nate said, flouncing onto the big leather sofa and jabbing the air with the TV remote as he hyper-surfed.

Her hands balled into fists and she bit her bottom lip until it hurt. The doorbell rang. "I really need shoes." She stepped into some flats in the hall closet, stuffed a pair of runners into the side pocket of her carry-on, grabbed her purse and jacket and opened the door.

Jelly stood there, brilliant in her lime green yoga pants and with her keys in hand. "Ready?"

"Yup," Mel smiled.

"Ticket?" Jelly asked.

Mel patted her purse, to make sure she had her cell. "Yup." Sports something blared behind her, a protest of masculinity. "I'll call you when I get there," she yelled over her shoulder.

"Maybe I'll just go to dinner with your girlfriend, then. How would you like that, Angelica?" he yelled back.

"No, you won't," Jelly laughed, grabbing Mel's suitcase handle. "Pam hates you worse than I do."

Mel closed the condo door, before those two really got into it. Then she'd surely miss her plane.

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