Taking care of Dara the past two weeks had been great. Moments when she'd allowed her guard to fall were just like the early days of their young marriage. Mike had come by with a container of homemade chicken soup; Dara indulgently refereed the resulting argument over just which man's recipe was tastier. Her mood had lasted long after Mike's departure. So long, in fact, that Sonny ignored his instincts, bruised Dara's mouth with a blistering kiss and suggested that they conclude the evening together in bed.

He was now back at square one with Dara. Pointed silence, exaggerated politeness and deliberate distance stood between them.

Today, Francis had driven Dara to the MetroCourt for lunch. Sonny's top bodyguard did not enjoy reporting Dara's activities to his employer, but he did so without hesitation. As a result, Sonny sat in the back of his limousine speeding toward the MetroCourt, anticipating his wife's reaction to his sudden appearance there.

Sonny shook his head. It was funny. Stormy times with Dara made him feel more alive than the most blissful times he'd had with any of the other women in his life. Was it any wonder that he was determined to move heaven and earth to see the relationship continue?

“Boss,” Johnny's Brooklyn-accented voice said, “We're here.”

Sonny strode quickly through the lobby of the MetroCourt. His entire attention was focused on making his way to the hotel's world-class restaurant. He did not see the cautious gazes two of the security staff shared as he walked by them.

The two guards were also on Sonny's payroll. They'd gotten jobs at the MetroCourt and were Sonny's eyes and ears to all that went on in Carly's life. At first they were Sonny's way of staying connected to Carly. After falling for Dara, the two guards were just Sonny's way of making certain that his children were safe.

Sonny stepped into the restaurant's entrance just in time to see Dara share a quiet laugh with a strange man seated at her table. As the stunned mobster watched, Dara leaned in to murmur something that was pitched for the stranger's ears only.

Jealousy sent the blood pounding to the top of Sonny's skull. He could feel the throb of it beat out a rhythm there. Without ceremony, Sonny stalked over to Dara's table and stood glaring. “Who is this guy?”

Sonny locked gazes with Dara, already dismissing the other man's presence. “Come on, Counselor,” he sneered. “You can do better than this. Am I supposed to believe that you've already got some other guy lined up to take my place?” His jaw clenched. “Cause we both know that's not true.”

Other than an initial flash of surprise in her gaze, Dara showed no reaction to Sonny ‘s presence or anger. “In case you hadn't realized it already,” she turned to her lunch companion, “ this is Michael.”

“I see what you meant about him,” the stranger nodded.

“Get lost.” The two words, uttered by Sonny with complete calm, were no less frightening in their intensity.

Dara's guest was unfazed. “I am,” the man said conversationally, “your wife's law school mentor. Nasty, bloody divorces are my hobby. Yeah,” he nodded, “I thought that might get your attention, Mr. Corinthos.”

“The name's Sebastian Stark, by the way.”

James Wood