She hit the light switch and there was a flash just before it went dark. The flash was enough for her to see who stood beside the open window. She wondered how he got up the fire escape so quickly. She had stood in the lobby for only a couple of minutes and she had not heard him bring the ladder to the fire escape down. Still, he stood there as though he had a right to be there. She closed the door behind her and walked further into the room.
Her hand found the switch to a floor lamp not too far from the door and a soft light illuminated her living room.
“I did not invite you in,” she said to Quinn. She walked to the window and closed it.
“Yes, you did,” he said calmly to her, “three nights ago.” His eyes watched her as she walked away from him and toward the kitchen. She put down her purse and stopped before she went in to make coffee.
“So now you think you can come and go as you please?” she asked incredulously.
“Yes,” was his simple answer.
She stared at him as though he were crazy. No one was this egotistical, she was sure of it.
“Well you can’t!” she insisted. She turned her back on him. She thought of calling the police, but not only did she think it would be unwise since Quinn was on the force and she probably wouldn’t get much help there, but she realized she wasn’t afraid of him. She was pissed, but not afraid. If he wanted to do her harm he could have done that already. The only harm he was doing right now was raising her blood pressure a bit.
She began to make coffee and then stopped. She didn’t want any coffee. She asked herself what she did want and realized that she didn’t know. She was frustrated and walked back out to the living room empty handed. He was still standing there as though he didn’t realize he should leave.
“I want you to leave,” she told him.
“No you don’t,” he insisted and walked over to her. He stood so close she had to bend her neck back to look up at him. He was so breathtakingly handsome she couldn’t stand it. She wished she could remain mad at him, she knew she should not let him get away with being so intrusive, but she could not deny that she wanted him to be there with her. As she stood there looking into his green eyes she thought of kissing him. She had wanted to be angry at him, but now she only wanted to feel his lips upon her own. She felt her heart race as he lowered his lips to hers and fulfilled her unspoken request.
She closed her eyes and was lost to the sensations he evoked in her. His arms encircled her and brought her body against his tightly. She had the sensation of floating as his tongue ravaged her own. It felt as though they danced on air and her body grew pliant as he brought her even closer. She felt her back hit something solid and cool and her eyes snapped open. She was being held against her bedroom door. She wondered how he had done that. Did she truly have no control of her own senses when he kissed her she wondered?
She pulled back from his kiss as she heard the door opening. The door moved away from her and she was still held in his arms. He was looking at her mouth as though he could will her to kiss him back.
“I have no idea who you are,” she said in quiet gasps.
“Do you think that would change how you feel about me?” he asked.
“It could,” she said seriously.
She watched his eyes grow reflective as he considered it, and then they fell back to her lips as he dismissed such an idea.
“I don’t think it would,” he told her as he leaned in to kiss her again. She thought he might be right.
She felt as though she were falling and then felt the softness of her bed. This was dangerous; this was asking for trouble she was not ready for. He was too masterful, too seductive, too self-assured. She could not hope to resist him as his lips began to move along her neck and his hand glided across her breast. She gasped at the feeling his hand left and her mind begged that she allow him access to her body.
He was lying on top of her, but he felt weightless. She wanted him and could have him, but she knew it was not right. It was too soon. Her mind began to struggle against the vicious needs of her body. It became hard to breathe and the confusion of whether or not she should stop him was almost physically painful to consider.
“No,” she whispered and was surprised when he went perfectly still at her word.
She was afraid she had let it go too far. She wondered if he would be angry, or perhaps she should be angry, or embarrassed. She wasn’t sure what she should be feeling and she waited to see what he would do.
She saw him move and his face hovered above her own. He looked as though he was pained, and the passion was still in his eyes, but he was not angry. He moved himself off of her to rest beside her. She could hear his labored breathing as he attempted to gather himself and control his own passion.
“I want to stay,” he said then and she rolled over on her side to look at him.
“I don’t think that would be wise,” she said. She couldn’t believe they had gotten this far. She had never had a man in her bed, or near her bed before. Not like this. She knew she was susceptible to his charms, she knew she wanted him. Having him stay would be like telling him she wanted him to make love to her. It was what he wanted, and saying he could say might make him think it was what she wanted. She wasn’t sure what she wanted, or at least she felt confused about it all. She wanted him, but this was too soon and she didn’t feel right about that. She wanted to know him better. She cringed inwardly when she admitted that she didn’t even know his full name, but there he was next to her in her bed.
“I swear to you I will not do anything you do not want,” he said seriously. She knew she could trust him. She had said ‘no’ and he had stopped.
“The problem with it is that I can’t trust myself,” she said honestly. “I’ve never had a man stay in my home let alone sleep with me in my bed. Only you and you seem to have some kind of spell over me,” she teased.
Quinn smiled as though he could not help himself. He was pleased. He was pleased that she felt so drawn to him as to not trust herself and he was pleased that no other man had ever stayed the night with her. He wasn’t surprised by her admission; he knew she was a virgin so it stood to reason that a man had not slept in her bed. He couldn’t imagine a man sleeping next to her without wanting to make love to her. She was beautiful and soft and there was something alluring about her that he could not explain. He had not given it much thought and he looked at her with growing pleasure and found that he wanted more than ever to lie next to her this night. He wanted to be the first.
“What if I promise you we will do no more than sleep?” he asked. “Are you not curious?”
She was very curious. He made her curious about a lot of things. She wondered if he would be strong enough for the both of them. She had dreamed of him in her bed for so long now that it warmed her to think of him there. It would be the best of both worlds to have her fantasy, but to be safe from their obvious attraction to each other.
“Are you sure you can be strong enough for the both of us?” she asked him in a whisper. Her hand reached out and caressed his face and she ran her thumb along his bottom lip.
At that very moment he was not sure. He wasn’t sure if she were testing his resolve, or if she believed that he could be strong and so she felt free to think of wicked thoughts and bare skin. He was sure she thought of those things as he watched her eyes caress him. She was a sexual and passionate being, and he was curious to see what she would be like once he taught her the wonders of desire and physical release. He closed his eyes to force his own control. He could not continue to look at her wanting him and then promise he would control himself and her as well. He breathed in to relax and was full of her scent. This was maddening! He was the master here and he would not lose his control to an inexperienced virgin. He chastised himself and opened his eyes to prove his resolve was strong.
“I will be strong enough for us both,” he promised.
She looked at him thoughtfully and dropped her hand from where it had slid to his chest. He was going to be a gentleman and they were going to sleep together tonight. She would not press her luck, or his. She nodded and wondered if they would regret this before morning.
She got off the bed and went into the bathroom to change into her long white night gown. It was not revealing and went almost to her ankles so she thought it was the safest thing to wear. She brushed her hair and readied herself for bed, but she stood within the bathroom staring at the door. Her heart raced and she began to doubt her decision. It was not too late to ask him to sleep in the living room and she nodded as she resigned herself to doing just that. She walked to the door and opened it.
He was already in the bed. She could see his naked chest and her eyes followed the length of him until it reached where the sheet now covered him. Her mind raced back to the first time he stayed and she recalled exactly what lay beneath the sheet. It caused her to pause in her movement and she remained like a statue at the foot of her bed.
“Don’t be a child,” he said as he noted her reluctance, “Come to bed.” He smiled then daring her to come to him.
She wondered if her fears were unfounded and did not want to appear to be unworldly. She moved forward slowly and cast her eyes away as she wished she could cast her thoughts. He had pulled back the covers and she smiled timidly at him with her uncertain thanks. The sheets were so cool that his heat seemed to spread like fire in comparison. She did not want to touch him. She was afraid that if she inadvertently touched him he might see it as an invitation, so she took great pains to settle into bed as far from him as she possibly could.
She reached out for the light and clicked it off, leaving the room dark with the exception of a soft light that came in from the window across from where Bronte lay. She had pulled the curtains closed because the lights out on the street was too bright. She had never opened them again and now she wished she had. The darkness seemed to hold promises in it with him so close to her, and the light would have made her feel less afraid.
The opening in the curtain was only three inches, but it was enough that she could see outside. There was a tree that rocked gently with the wind and the leaves danced hypnotically about. A small portion of one street light was barely visible and the moon was only a sliver in the sky. The light ran across the floor and over the bed and beyond. She gazed at it and said nothing to Quinn as she tried to will herself to sleep.
The bed shifted and she heard the rustling of the sheets right before she felt his approaching heat. She was on her side looking away from him and closed her eyes to the light at the window when she felt his body align itself to hers and his arm slip around to pull her closer. She could feel every hard line of his body and hers relaxed against him. His chin rested comfortably on top of her head. She trusted him. He had promised to keep them safe from each other and she believed he would keep that promise.
“Good night Bronte,” he leaned down to whisper in her ear and then rested his chin on her head again.
“Good night,” she whispered.
The night was anything but good, at least for sleeping. She wasn’t used to sharing her bed and she was afraid that if she moved around it would wake him. She was afraid if she were to drift to sleep she might accidentally touch him, or perhaps talk in her sleep. There were a hundred worries on her mind and she finally gave in. She moved very slowly and quietly as she picked up his heavy arm and moved it behind her. She pushed the blankets down and put her feet on the floor. She stood up and looked back to his sleeping figure. The light stretched across his body, but she could not see his face. She walked to the bedroom door and out into the living room.
She felt relief immediately. She was so worried about waking him or disturbing him she just could not rest. She walked around the living room without turning on the lights. The window curtains were open fully and it gave enough light for her to find her way around.
She walked to the window to look out into the street. That was when she noticed the dark figure there. It was in the same place she had seen it before. She had thought that perhaps it was Quinn, checking on her, but obviously she had been mistaken. She found that she did not feel afraid. Quinn was in the next room and his presence made her feel safe. So she moved closer to the window in order to see the figure more clearly. The figure was that of a man, but he kept his face hidden. She stood there staring at him, wondering what possessed him to stand there. He was looking in the general direction of her building at first, but as she stood there staring at him she saw his head move and there was no mistaking that he was now staring back.
As she felt arms take hold of her she let out a startled cry. Her head turned and she caught sight of Quinn’s profile as he set his cheek against her own and looked out into the night. Her hands found his arms and she held on to them as though to tell him he should not let her go.
“The man on the corner over there,” she said as her eyes went back to dark figure, “he was there before. He was staring at me.” She felt somewhat relieved to have Quinn see the figure as well.
“You have nothing to fear,” Quinn promised, but his eyes were narrowing on the dark figure. “I am here and I will protect you.” He began to kiss her neck and she leaned her head so that he could have full access to her sensitive skin. She no longer cared about the dark figure. Quinn would protect her. A part of her was grateful that he had woke and searched her out. Now, whoever was down there knew she was not alone.
“I didn’t hear you come into the living room,” she said quietly as she continued to enjoy his lips on her neck.
“Because I am stealth-like,” he teased and she could feel his smile on her skin. “Come to bed. I cannot rest without you near me,” he told her and turned her around to lead her back to the bedroom.
She watched him as he took her hand and pulled her toward the room. His eyes cast one last glance at the figure outside and then lit upon her face.
“I felt restless and was afraid I would disturb you with all my moving around,” she told him.
“It is important that you learn to relax,” he said as they walked inside the bedroom and closed the door behind them. “You need to be comfortable and not worry about me.” He took her in his arms and brought her close. “It would never do if you were to grow tired and ill because you could not sleep with me in your bed.”
The way he said those words made her think Quinn believed he would be in her bed often. His eyes most definitely held that promise as he looked at her.
Bronte went back to bed and Quinn joined her. She gave another thought to the figure outside her apartment until he pulled her close. Her face was only inches from his and his arms kept her from moving away. He never said another word to her that night. She relaxed as he had suggested and the last thing she could recall was looking into his remarkable green eyes.
* * *
It wasn’t cold exactly, but she realized the heat she had enjoyed was gone. Her eyes opened slowly and adjusted to the darkness of the bedroom. It was a little lighter and she thought that perhaps the sun was up, but her back was to the window so she could not be sure.
She watched Quinn as he got dressed beside the bed. He had kept his promise. He was an honorable man. She thought she could trust him and he had not let her down. Her eyes caressed his naked chest as he left his shirt for last. As he began to button the shirt her eyes moved upward and found him looking at her.
“I have some work to do,” he said as he buttoned up his shirt. “I will be gone for the next couple of days, but when I return I would like to take you somewhere special for the weekend.” He sat on the bed then and took her hand in his. His hand was cold, but she barely noticed. He kissed her knuckles and put her hand back on the bed.
“Where?” she asked quietly. They were alone in the house, but the quiet of the apartment in the early morning hours made her feel as though she should whisper so as not to break the spell of peace around them.
He leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her lips. “It will be a surprise,” he said.
He straightened and waited for her answer.
“I’m not sure,” she hesitated as she wondered what it would mean to go away for the weekend with him.
“Come with me and I will tell you anything you wish to know about me,” he said, knowing it would entice her.
She smiled at him knowingly. She thought him wickedly sexy and far too knowledgeable for someone like her. She would have to be on her guard the entire weekend. The promise of knowing about him was too much to ignore though and she felt her resolve give way to curiosity.
“Everything?” she asked as she smiled up into his eyes.
“Everything,” he promised.
“I’ll hold you to that,” she said as acceptance to his invitation.
“I will be here for you Friday evening,” he told her as he turned to go.
She felt something stir in her heart as she watched him open the door to leave. He had not left her sight and she missed him. As ridiculous as it was she did not want him to leave.
“Will you think of me while you are away?” she asked before he could shut the door.
He opened the door a little wider to see her before he answered. “Almost as much as you will think of me,” his smile was all ego then and she heard him laugh as she threw a pillow and saw it bounce off the closed door.
* * *
Carol did not come to work over the next two days. Carol told their boss, Mr. Braun, that she would be out all week. The kindly Mr. Braun had been reserved about his opinion on the matter, but Bronte was sure he was not happy about it. He had set aside specific projects for each of them and now someone else would have to pick up the work intended for Carol.
By Thursday Bronte was so worried about Carol she went to her apartment after work. Carol wasn’t home so Bronte jotted down a note asking her to call.
That night Bronte packed her things for her weekend away with Quinn. She didn’t know what to bring so she brought a variety of things. She thought about bringing a weapon and then dismissed the idea. Later on that night she saw the dark figure standing outside her apartment building again and determined that it would be best to bring her gun.
Her gun was in a box with the books that still needed a shelf. Also in the box was a variety of other weapons that her mother and father had given her over the years. Bronte looked at each item and picked up a silver stake. It lay cold in her hand as she considered it. She had thought a lot about vampires lately. As a precaution she threw it in her suitcase next to the case that held her 9mm.
She left the case open and in her room. Before she shut off the lights she checked to see if the man was still outside, but he was gone. She checked the windows and door to make sure they were secure and even locked her bedroom door before she went to bed. This time tomorrow she would feel safe again, because she would be lying next to Quinn. That was the last thought she had before drifting off to sleep.
Her slumber was interrupted prematurely by the sound of her telephone. She opened her eyes as she tried to ascertain what had woke her. The phone was in the living room along with the answering machine and she decided to let the answering machine pick up.
When she heard the sound of Carol’s voice she threw the covers back and jumped out of bed for a mad dash to the phone. Before Carol hung up Bronte picked up the phone.
“Carol, where are you?” Bronte asked breathlessly.
“I’m with Seth,” Carol told her and Bronte felt the fear rise in her for her friend.
“Listen to me Carol,” Bronte said as she sat in the chair and realized she was cold, “Seth is a drug dealer and he is bad news Carol. You need to get away from him. Come here and you can stay with me till we figure things out,”
There was a pause on the other end of the phone and Bronte was afraid Carol had hung up.
“Carol, you there?” she asked and waited.
“Bronte, you’re wrong,” Carol said and Bronte felt even more fear at her denial. “It isn’t Seth. You’re boyfriend is not what you think.”
“Carol…” Bronte began, but Carol interrupted her.
“Listen to me Bronte,” she sounded almost desperate, “You are the one in danger here. Why don’t you ask your boyfriend who he really is?”
Bronte didn’t want to argue with Carol. She was obviously under Seth’s influence.
“Carol, just come over and let’s talk about it,” she pleaded. She wanted to get Carol to come over so that she could see for herself what was going on with her. She thought that if she could get Carol to come over she might be able to get her to listen.
“No Bronte, I can’t do that right now,” Carol said. “You’re my friend Bronte, and I am afraid for you. Stay away from that guy. He is more dangerous than you can imagine. He lies Bronte,” she said and her voice became hysterical, “By the time you realize I’m right it might be too late.”
“If you know so much about him why don’t just come over and tell me. I will listen to you Carol. I promise.” Bronte wanted Carol to stay on the phone. She wanted to try and talk to her until Carol could understand reason. It was obvious by Carol’s hysteria that she was not in her right mind.
“I can’t tell you anything Bronte,” she had calmed down and was speaking evenly now, “It is forbidden.”
“Come over Carol. I’ll take the day off from work,” she attempted one more time to try and save her friend.
“I can’t. I have to go. Be careful.” The phone went dead.
* * *
Bronte went to work, but her heart wasn’t in it. She found herself staring at the computer monitor unable to concentrate on her project. Mr. Braun came in and out of the office watching her closely.
“Are you ill my girl?” the kindly old gentleman asked.
“I’m okay,” she told him, but when he looked at her in doubt she added, “I’ve just had a rough morning. I’ll be fine, really.”
Mr. Braun wrinkled his already moderately lined face and the tip of his nose touched the top of his lip. His hair had already begun to become unruly as it always did. He looked so much like an absent-minded professor that Bronte found herself thinking of him that way all the time. She like him. He was hard not to like. There was just something charming about a man who wore a bow tie and she smiled at the face he made.
“We will be closing early today,” he told her.
“I didn’t know,” she replied and looked at him as though she was doubtful.
“Well, now you do,” he smiled at her and the twinkle in his eyes told her he was making it up, but she didn’t mind. Leaving early on a Friday was what everyone around the country dreamed of she decided.
She couldn’t help herself and she laughed. She nodded and looked behind him at the clock on the wall to see that she had only two more hours to go. He caught her looking and turned to see the clock.
“You see?” he smiled, “Already you want to go. Go! Go on,” he said as he pulled her chair out for her and made motions with his hands as though he were shooing her away.
Bronte didn’t argue. She got up and gave the older man a quick hug which won her another wrinkled look. She picked up her sweater and headed home.
She traded daydreaming at work for daydreaming at home and found herself no more motivated there. She sat on the couch and then lay there looking up at the ceiling and thinking of her conversation with Carol.
She was worried. She worried that Carol was lost to her. She worried that she could not help her. She worried about the things that Carol had said.
Although she continued to tell herself that Carol was under some kind of outside influence, be that Seth or his drugs, she couldn’t help wondering why Carol would go so far out of her way to discourage her from seeing Quinn. Her best guess was that Seth was afraid of what Quinn would tell her and what she might tell Carol about him. It was the most plausible excuse she could think of. Still, Carol had sounded so sure. Of course Carol also sounded hysterical at one point. Bronte felt confused. What she knew for certain was that she was going to find out more about Quinn this weekend. If he had any secrets she would find them out. She was young and inexperienced, but not without intelligence, and not without courage. She knew a little something about investigating people. Her mother was a private detective and she had learned much from her. She hoped she would get to see Quinn’s home this weekend. She was sure she would find out about him that way.
Bronte let her mind wander and think of Quinn. She wanted to see him. Despite what Carol had said she still trusted him. He would not harm her, she was sure of that. He was genuinely interested in her. He wanted her and she wanted that. She wondered if perhaps her feelings for him blinded her as Carol’s did for Seth. Of course Quinn hadn’t tried to drug her or keep her from her friends. It just didn’t add up. Carol was wrong. She had to be wrong.
* * *
Bronte had two suitcases sitting next to her apartment door. She looked at them and wondered if it was excessive. They weren’t big, but she had always been taught to travel light, so it seemed like a lot. She had no idea where they were going so she had brought clothes for different climates. The smaller of the two suitcases had her personal effects including her gun and the silver engraved stake. She had removed the silver stake when she thought about the dark figure and how whoever it was would not likely follow them. Then, at the last minute she changed her mind and put it back. Things had just been too strange lately and it was better to have more than you could use, than to be caught needing something you didn’t bring. She would, of course, hide the weapons from Quinn. There might be too much to explain if he saw the stake. Even the gun might cause him to question her. She hoped they weren’t going to an airport. She doubted it, not for just a weekend. If they did she would have some explaining to do.
She looked at her watch and then glanced out the window. The sun had set an hour ago. It was officially evening.
The knock at the door brought her to her feet. She walked over and opened it to find Quinn standing there with a single rose this time. Their eyes locked and she could feel the attraction between them as though it were physically tangible. He handed her the rose and then picked up her bags.
“Thank you,” she said timidly as she smelled the flower.
“Thank me later,” he smiled at her and backed away from the door so she could come out and lock it behind them. She brought the rose with her and they walked out to the same long black limousine and Felix, the driver.
“Okay Quinn,” she smiled at him as Felix came and took her bags to load them up. “What is up with the limousine?”
At first he looked perplexed by her question, but then became thoughtful. He opened the door for her while Felix was closing the trunk and she got inside. He followed her and sat beside her, resting his hand on her thigh possessively.
“I have a friend who owes me a favor,” he finally explained about the limousine. “As a matter of fact we will be going to one of his homes for the weekend.”
“Oh? Where would that be?” she asked as her hand fell to his on her thigh and she felt her heart skip as their fingers entwined there.
“Washington DC,” he told her and saw her surprised expression. “We will be taking his private jet. That is where we are going now.”
She couldn’t help but feel surprised. She worried a little about running into someone she might know there. Her parents, her god parents and her uncle had homes in Washington DC, but as far as she knew none of them were there right now. She wasn’t prepared to explain why she was in another city for the weekend with a man she barely knew to any of her family; her father especially.
She was wondering about what her father’s reaction would be when Quinn leaned over and kissed her gently. Her mind let go of that thought and centered on him now.
“Did you miss me?” he asked with true curiosity in his eyes.
“Not that I would admit to,” she laughed at him. “And you? Did you miss me?” She felt light-hearted sitting there next to him. The things that weighed so heavily on her mind and her heart were washed away by his presence.
His free hand came up to caress her jaw and his lips kissed her lightly again before he answered her.
“Much to my surprise, I missed you very much,” he admitted and it made her heart do funny things in her breast, her stomach felt the beginnings of a million butterflies and it caused her to forget to breathe for a moment.
“Did you think of me at all?” he asked and smiled as he noticed the effects his admission had on her. He was glad he had admitted it.
She forced her breathing to appear normal, but she felt anything but that. He was exactly what she had dreamed of all her life. He was handsome and charming and he truly seemed to care about her. She felt some of her self control slipping and did not want to make a spectacle of herself as she mooned over him like a school girl. She preferred it that he be the one to think of her, and although she had done little but think of him she was not going to tell him that. It was bad enough that he saw the effect he was having on her.
“I was awfully busy,” she teased him. “I really didn’t have time to think of you.” She was being coy and knew he was aware she was teasing him.
He leaned in closer to her and again she forgot to breath. He smelled wonderful and exotic and his eyes pierced hers so that she was unable to move. His breath was hot against her lips and she knew that this time it would be no gentle kiss.
“Little liar,” he accused and brought his lips against hers. He moved both hands to her face to hold her still as he deepened their kiss and set out to ensure that she would indeed think of him this weekend, every moment of it.
Her arms came up around his neck and she held him to her. She opened her mouth to his hot invasion and returned his kisses. She wanted to taste him, to feel him and she wanted to please him. She had thought about his kisses many times over the last few days whether she admitted it to him or not. She had even wondered how long she would have to wait until he kissed her again and now that she was getting her wish she wanted to make the best of it. She pressed up against him as she let her hands run through his hair. She heard him moan his approval and felt a feminine satisfaction with it.
This time he was as breathless as she and the desire in his eyes was almost her undoing. Had they been alone in her apartment she might have felt frightened by the feelings he evoked in her, but in the relative safety of the car she felt bold. She had no doubt that he would not wish to take her for the first time in the back of a car. She counted on it, and let herself give in to her own private desires. She had wanted to kiss him, she wanted to put her hands in his dark hair, she wanted to touch him and she felt free to do so.
“I see that I have influenced you,” he teased her as he let her catch her breath.
“All of it bad,” she accused in mock anger.
“I am glad to see that,” he smiled and it made his eyes shine. She could have looked at him forever like that.
He took her hand in his and rested it again on her thigh. He loved the way she looked when she desired him. He loved the way he felt right at that moment looking at her. It was invigorating, it was empowering, and it was surprising.
They pulled in to a private driveway and Bronte looked out to see that it led to a private runway. The runway was well maintained and she could see the one and only plane there. That would be the private jet they would take to DC.
The car pulled in close to the plane and Felix got out and opened the door. Quinn was closest to the door and got out to turn around and help Bronte out of the car. She looked at the small jet and watched as a man in his mid-thirties came out and walked down the stairs of the plane. Felix had the suitcases and met the man at the foot of the stairs. Bronte wasn’t sure what they were discussing, but the man nodded and she watched as Felix carried the baggage on board.
Quinn led her toward the man and then made introductions.
“Bronte, this is Captain Norman Fields, our pilot,” he said. Bronte shook the man’s hand and then Quinn led her on board with Capt. Fields following them and closing up the plane once they had sat down.
The plane was incredible on the inside. It was clean and well organized. It was made for luxury and Bronte wondered about Quinn’s friend and what Quinn might have done to deserve such a favor.
Once the plane was in the air they moved to a section of it that had plush chairs and a bar. Bronte turned down any food or drink. She couldn’t possibly think of anything but the coming night.
Quinn sat in a large overstuffed white leather chair. He watched her every move as though he were unable to do anything else. She was a little unnerved by it and tried to act as though it did not make her nervous. She sat in a smaller chair only two feet across from him. There was nothing between them but that small space.
“Tell me what you did while I was away,” he said to break the silence.
She was grateful to have something to talk about, but it brought the memory of her conversation with Carol to her mind and she felt her smile slip. He noticed it right away and became even more attentive.
“What is it?” he asked gently and his hand reached across to her and took her own.
“Carol called me today,” she told him. He squeezed her hand gently to let her know that he understood how difficult that had to be. It gave her the strength to continue. “She was hysterical part of the time. I tried to get her to come to my place and talk to me, but she wouldn’t do it.”
“What did she want?” he asked evenly.
“I’m not really sure,” she answered. “She told me that I was in danger.” Bronte’s eyes sought Quinn’s to gauge his reaction to what she was about to tell him. “She said that you lied to me. She said that you weren’t what you appeared to be.”
He showed no sign of surprise or guilt. He looked very serious and let go of her hand to lean back in his chair.
“Why would she say that do you think?” he asked. She could not tell by his expression what he was thinking.
“I don’t know,” she finally said. “Do you?” She did not want to sound accusatory, but she wanted to see some kind of a reaction. All she was getting now was a cool gaze.
Quinn looked thoughtfully at her. He began to tap his right index finger gently against his lower lip. He put his hand down and leaned forward in his chair.
“Don’t let Seth turn you against me through Carol,” he said in such serious tones that Bronte wondered what exactly was between Seth and Quinn.
“Why would Seth care?” she couldn’t help but ask.
“Seth would do much to hurt me,” Quinn told her and the way he looked when he said it made her fearful, but she wasn’t sure why. “Taking you from me , or turning you against me, would do that.”
The admission was interesting and Bronte thought about it. She wondered if he thought it would be endearing to her. It was and it wasn’t. She was glad that he did not want to have anything come between them, but the relationship was too new for him to feel so strongly about losing her. It didn’t add up and that thought made her uncomfortable.
“Quinn, I’m not so easily influenced,” she tried to assure him. “And I don’t think you could be so easily hurt.”
He looked at her and she could see him tense. She didn’t understand it, and didn’t know how react to it. She would just have to let it go for now. His expression changed and he thought to change the subject all together.
“Tell me Bronte,” he began, “What would you do if you could live forever?”
“What?” she asked startled by the question. Her parents were immortal and the game he chose was too close to her so it took her by surprise.
Her father was born an immortal hundreds of years ago. He was a king to immortal people. He had made her mother an immortal and with that she was conceived. There had been much speculation over her birth, but when she was born without the powers that had been predicted of her many people lost interest. She was glad of it really. She had seen the world her father lived in and she wasn’t sure she had the courage for it.
“It is a game,” he explained. He watched her closely and was glad to have the issue of Seth forgotten for now.
Bronte thought of her parent’s lives. She wondered what they would be doing in a hundred years; long after she was dead. She had wondered this before and it did not make her sad. She knew that in a hundred years they would still love her. She knew that in a hundred years they would still be in love with each other. That was something that was never in doubt. Her parents loved each other more than anyone she had even known. She took great pride in knowing that. She was happy to be a part of that. They loved each other and in her they saw each other and it had given her more love than she could have ever hoped for. Her father was old fashioned and overly protective to the point it drove her crazy sometimes, but she had no doubt of his love. There was no doubt that he would do anything for her and her happiness, no doubt that he would die for her if he could. Her mother was the greatest mother a daughter could hope for. Bronte could tell her mother almost anything. Of course her mother told her father unless Bronte swore her to secrecy, but she didn’t do that often. Her parents didn’t like to keep secrets from each other. It was a rule. Her mother had lots of rules.
“I would only want to live forever if I had someone who loved me,” she finally answered.
“I would venture to say that you would find many to love you as often as you liked,” he said and it made her look at him. He wasn’t teasing her and she wondered why he said such a thing.
“I meant a soul mate,” she corrected him. “If I were to live forever I would want someone who could live forever too. Someone who would have a history and a future with me.”
“Forever is a very long time,” he said. “I would think that you would grow weary of just one person after a time and you would look to find someone new to make you feel alive and bring excitement to your life.” She felt the weight of his words, but he was being reflective as well, she could hear it in his tone. She wondered if he had been heartbroken, or if something else had caused him to be so cynical about love.
“You’re wrong,” she said with conviction. “I have a loyal heart, like my parents, and I might have to struggle and fight for love to last, but I would never just give it up for excitement and temporary reprieve.”
“I think you have no idea what forever would feel like,” he said thoughtfully as he considered her words. “Forever is an accumulation of time and time begins to take on a life of its own when you know it so intimately. I think one would grow tired of everything that represents the infinite. Including a soul mate,” his words stung her, but she wasn’t sure why. Was it his cynicism about commitment, which is what she thought they were really talking about here, or was it his apparent skepticism about a soul mate?
“I’m sorry you feel that way Quinn,” she said to him and she heard the truth of her words in her voice. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to have all that time, and not have it filled with love and hope and home.” She looked away from him then. She thought he might laugh at her naïve beliefs. She was surprised when he spoke as though she had posed a question.
“It would be colorless,” he said. “It would be… knowing the world is so large, and feeling that you are alone it in.”
There was a sadness to him just then that made her forgive his cynicism. It made her want to reach out to him and she thought to do so. But he was in his own private world just then and she wasn’t sure she would be welcomed there just yet. He was no longer looking at her, nor did he appear to want to look at her anytime soon. She watched him close his eyes and close her out. She sat back in her chair and thought about their conversation. The minutes passed by and she closed her eyes as well. She wasn’t sure when it happened, but she dozed off and did not wake until the plane was jolted announcing their arrival in Washington DC.
* * *
Little was said as they disembarked the plane. They had arrived in another private airfield and a town car was waiting for them. Bronte was mildly surprised to see Felix walk out of the cockpit of the plane with the pilot. She had not realized he was with them. She decided that Felix must be employed by Quinn’s wealthy friend. The man smiled at her and it seemed genuine. Knowing now that Felix was going to be with them longer she felt she should get to know him better, but when she tried to speak to him he was nothing but professional, so she thought it best to follow his lead.
Everything was transferred to the town car and Felix drove them toward the city. She had been to Washington DC, but not in many years. As they drove she was reminded of how beautiful it was near the Capitol. She loved history and this city was rich in it. It was also rich in power and deceit and her father warned her of such things the last time she was here with her parents. It was sad that a city could evoke such wondrous feelings and hide so many secrets.
The Circle of Seven had its home here. Power following power was how her father explained it. Kings and politicians with more power than accountability leant to the illusion that all was right in the world. This was where innocence was lost; real innocence. Lost among the powerful along with hope, not in a bed with silk sheets. Bronte knew about power and she wanted nothing to do with it. She had watched her father fight with other kings, with other powers to ensure that a single bit of justice was realized, and once it was, there was no one there to thank him for it. She had seen sadness in his eyes when he would come back from DC. She didn’t know the details and found that she did not want to know them. She was happy that he had her mother. Her mother could always take the sadness from him and it was because of her love that their home was happy, because of their love together.
“What are you thinking?” Quinn had been watching her stare out the window. He wondered if she had memories from this place. He thought it was likely. He knew more about her than she probably knew about herself. He had taken great pains to learn all he could of her. There wasn’t a lot to know, but that wasn’t because she was boring or simple. She was honest. Her life was honest. And she was young, so very young. She hadn’t lived enough to give him so much to learn. He wished that it could remain so, but he knew it could not.
“I thought you were angry with me,” she said as she turned her attention toward him. He hadn’t spoken to her very much at all after their conversation on the plane. He had been so attentive at first that when he stopped speaking to her she thought she had somehow offended him.
He knew he had become distant, but he had to fight his instinct to shut her out. He had let her get too close, he had shared too much. Still, he could not leave her now, he wanted her here, and he was so close to having everything. He would have to get over his own feelings of vulnerability; feelings so very foreign to him.
“I could not be angry with you,” he said as he gathered her into his arms.
“Don’t say that,” she teased lightly, “Once you get to know me better you’ll eat those words.”
“Perhaps,” he conceded, “But I would forgive you anything as long as you continue to grant me access to those lips.”
She laughed softly at him. “Is that supposed to be charming, or seductive?” she asked.
He was thoughtful as he smiled at her. “Charming when I say it,” he said as he leaned closer to her, “Seductive, when I prove it.” He claimed her lips to prove his point and it was well taken.
The tension had changed to something she was familiar with when Quinn was near. He was no longer brooding and unhappy, but full of charm and undeniable sexuality, just like she liked him.
The ride was long as they left the city and headed toward Virginia. Bronte was content to be held in Quinn’s arms as they quietly made their way to a remote road amongst the trees. Once they turned on the road it was another hour before she saw the house. She had almost fallen asleep again and had to sit up and blink hard to clear her eyes when the large house came into view. There were lights on in the front that made it appear inviting, but the house was dark and in the night it held a foreboding about it.
It was an old southern mansion that reminded Bronte of Gone with the Wind. It was huge. It was the largest house she had ever seen and she wondered how many others would be there.
“Who else is here?” she turned to Quinn and asked.
“It will be only you and I and Felix,” he said and she was amazed. The house could hold a hundred people she was sure of it, and there would be only the three of them. She wasn’t sure if she found it romantic or frightening. She wondered what the weekend would bring, and what secrets resided in the ominous house.