Color Blind Ch. 18bybrightlyiburn©
Chapter Eighteen: Trouble
Quinn had to admit, spending the afternoon with Sada was helping him relax. Even though he didn't tell her about the trouble he was having, her easy humor soothed his nerves. It had started a few weeks ago, after his birthday, when he had received a visit from Melanie Rockwell. Quinn had told her, rather firmly, that he wasn't interested. And he'd thought, when she left, that she'd got the message. Except that she'd called him every night of the week since that day.
"…and I really just don't know what to do about it," Sada was saying. "I haven't learned enough yet to tell Alastair, but he's
"I would be too," Quinn told her.
Sada grinned. "So are you saying that if Xandri started disappearing, you'd get all worked up?"
Quinn scowled. He hated it when Sada said things like that; mostly because these days, she was right. His outburst of jealousy at the art show had been the first sign of it, but it was getting worse. I've never been possessive like this, he thought, shaking his head. More, he was absolutely not interested in other women anymore. Quinn had once thought that Melanie was the most amazing woman in the world. Now he found her boring and plain.
"You don't have to worry, you know," Sada said quietly. "Xandri only has eyes for you."
Quinn smiled slightly. "And you would know, because you can tell when a woman only has eyes for one man…"
"Like recognizes like," Sada agreed, grinning.
She'd become a really good friend, especially over the last couple of months. Grinning, Quinn threw an arm around her shoulders as they walked down the sidewalk. It was almost June and the air was pleasantly warm. When Sada had called him and asked to go shopping this afternoon, he'd decide to go along. Xandri had already told him that she had plans. She wouldn't be with another guy, Quinn thought. She's probably hanging out with Bea or something.
"Don't worry, Quinn," Sada said softly. "Xandri would never…"
"I know," Quinn said. He glanced at her. "So, what is it you're doing that you have to sneak around?"
Sada sighed. "You can't tell Alastair. It's a surprise."
"I won't," Quinn assured her, smiling. "Now come on…tell!"
Xandri had to admit, she'd been a bit hesitant when Janice had contacted her, asking if they could talk. Still, she'd planned to do some shopping, so she'd told Janice they could meet for lunch. After her debut at the museum in Paris, she'd received a couple of free-lance jobs for magazines. Xandri had contemplated looking into a new
apartment with her newfound income, but she was at Quinn's most nights, anyway. So she'd decided it was time for a wardrobe update.
By noon she was at her wits' end. Xandri knew very little about shopping for clothes and while she had found things she was comfortable in, all of it was simple and tomboyish. She headed to the café where she had agreed to meet Janice, feeling discouraged and grumpy. Janice was already there when she arrived, sitting at a table in the corner. Xandri approached warily and sat down, uncertain of what would happen.
"I suppose I deserve that look," Janice said, smiling sheepishly. "Xandri…oh, geez, girl, I don't know what to say…"
"I haven't heard from you in awhile," Xandri reminded her.
Janice nodded. "I know, I…took a break. I um…after that stunt I pulled."
"Stunt?" Xandri asked, her eyebrows raising.
And so she sat and listened as Janice explained how she had, months ago, been the one to turn off Xandri's alarm and cause her to miss her meeting with Quinn. Quinn never told me about this, she thought, frowning. In fact, that was the night he came and took me over to his place. No wonder.
"So, anyway," Janice went on. "I was talking to Cindy and Trina afterward, complaining…and they told me I sounded ridiculous."
Xandri frowned. "I haven't heard from them in awhile, either…"
"You've been hard to get a hold of, Xandri," Janice said, smiling. "I've been trying to get in touch with you for two weeks."
"Sorry," Xandri said, grinning sheepishly. "So…?"
"So, yeah, they thought I sounded horrible," Janice continued. "I was furious…I went to that club we usually go to and got really, really drunk."
Xandri's eyes widened. "Uh oh…"
Janice nodded. "Yeah. I was babbling to this guy there…and finally after awhile he stood up and yelled at me, and told me I was pathetic and stupid. He said I was a petty little bitch who wasn't worthy of having friends, if I treated them like that."
Xandri's eyebrows lifted. She fought back a smile, not wanting to offend Janice. Sounds like something Quinn would end up saying, if you pissed him off enough, she thought. Although chances are he'd walk away long before he reach that point. That wasn't the sort of thing she would think Janice would take too easily, but to Xandri's surprised, she was smiling.
"I woke up the next morning with a major hangover," Janice said. "And all I could think about was this guy and what he'd said. And I started to think that he was right. I decided to stay away from you for
"What have you been doing all this time, then?" Xandri asked.
"Well, I went back to the club every night until I saw that guy again," Janice replied, her eyes sparkling with good humor. "It took
awhile to get him to talk to me, but when he did at last, I apologized for the way I'd acted. We spent the whole night talking…we've been dating for the last couple of months now."
Well, now, that I wasn't expecting, Xandri thought. She seems really happy, though. Perhaps if she'd been unable to find that guy and speak with him, Janice might have come back to plague her and Quinn. But now, like Xandri, she had someone who took first priority in her life. I can understand how that feels, Xandri thought, smiling to herself. I've been so wrapped up in Quinn lately, I've forgotten about everything else.
"Don't worry about it," Xandri said aloud. "Look…I'm not going to hold a grudge over this. Quinn was too perceptive for you, anyway."
"How is it going?" Janice asked.
They ordered lunch, then sat and talked while they waited and then while they ate. Xandri told Janice about most of what had happened; the art show, confessing her love to Quinn, Quinn's birthday. Of course, she left out some of the juicer details, but Janice's broad grin indicated that she could guess how far their relationship had
gone. I suppose I'm pretty transparent, Xandri thought, sighing
inwardly. I can't help myself.
"And now I've been trying to clothes shop, since I have the money," Xandri said, stirring the remnants of soda and ice in her glass with her straw. "But…I have no clue what to get!"
"Some things never change," Janice teased. "Tell you what, let's finish up here, then I'll help you. Have you ever been in Victoria's Secret?"
Xandri's cheeks heated. "N-no…"
"Then you must go," Janice said, grinning.
They finished lunch and paid for it, then left the café. Xandri had to admit, she was relieved that things were okay between her and Janice. While it was true that she'd never been very close with any of her friends, even Bea, she had enjoyed their company most of the time. And if anyone could help her with clothes shopping, it was Janice. Although I don't know about lingerie, Xandri thought. I…I mean, yeah, I did get something for Quinn's birthday, but…
They were heading down the street together, enjoying the warm air, when she noticed a dark-haired couple across the way. Xandri recognized Sada immediately and for the briefest second she thought that that was Alastair with her. But she knew Quinn; the way he moved, the way he stood, the differences in his body. What are they doing? she wondered, frowning. The had their arms around each other and were talking rather animatedly.
Quinn lifted his head suddenly and glanced across the street. Xandri looked away, hiding her face and hoping he wouldn't notice her. They're probably just hanging out together, she thought, giving herself a mental shake. Come on, Xandri, you've always known that they're close. That didn't make it hurt less, unfortunately. She was glad when Sada and Quinn passed out of sight, so that she didn't have to see them all buddy buddy.
"Something wrong?" Janice asked, raising her eyebrows.
Xandri shook her head and smiled faintly. "No, nothing wrong. Let's go shopping."
Quinn reclined on the couch, holding a book in his lap and trying to read. Xandri should be here any minute, he thought, pushing his reading glasses back up onto his nose. He wondered if they were going to end up getting into an argument. When he'd seen her out shopping, he'd realized she'd seen him and Sada together. Knowing how she was, Quinn feared that she was going to be upset when she arrived. He really didn't want to have to deal with that.
Her soft, tentative knock startled him out of his thoughts. Maybe it's time to get her a key… Quinn mused, as he set his book aside and rose to open the door. She was at his place more than her own, these days. He had to admit, he was a little surprised, when he opened the door. Xandri was wearing a pair of low-waisted, fitted jeans, so different from her usual baggy men's pants, and an off-the-shoulder top of a soft, woven, dark sapphire material. She smiled shyly up at him, and Quinn felt a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Have fun this afternoon?" Quinn asked, leaning down to kiss her as she stepped through the door.
Xandri sidestepped him and moved further into the apartment. "It was fine. Did you?"
"It was great," Quinn said, biting back a growl of frustration. "Xandri…"
"I can't stay long," Xandri said, talking over him. "I haven't been home much in the last few days, I should probably clean out my fridge, it's been left so long, and I think I might have had an open box of crackers in the cupboard and I'll end up with ants and-"
"Shut up!" Quinn snarled.
Xandri clammed up immediately, her eyes widening. Quinn caught
hold of her, pulling her into the bedroom despite her protesting and struggling. She shrieked as he pushed her down on the bed. Catching her wrists in his hands, he pinned them down to the bed and held on as she thrashed beneath him, trying in vain to push him off. Quinn waited until she had worn herself out and was panting, trying to catch her breath.
Xandri's cheeks were red from exertion and her hair was tousled. Her eyes were glassy with unshed tears. She's never going to trust me, Quinn thought, letting her go and sitting up. Why won't she trust me? I haven't looked at another woman in… God, he couldn't even remember. He sat on the edge of the bed with his back to her and dropped his head into his hands.
A few moments later he felt the bed move as Xandri shifted. Quinn jumped slightly when she laid her hand on his shoulder, but he didn't push him away. He sighed as her fingers stroked through his hair. Somehow she'd figured out how much he enjoyed that. Xandri pulled his hair out of its ponytail and buried her fingers in it. Quinn groaned softly and sank back against her, imagining he now knew exactly how it felt to be a spoiled, pampered cat.
"I can't help it, you know," Xandri murmured. "I love you…"
He turned in her arms, his weight carrying her down to the bed. Xandri squeaked, then laughed softly. Quinn pressed his mouth to hers, teasing her lips open with the tip of his tongue. He was surprised when she pushed him away and wriggled out from underneath him. Xandri slipped off the bed and headed for the door, pausing in the doorway to look over her shoulder at him.
"I'm going to get something I bought today," Xandri explained. "I want to show you. But you absolutely can't leave your room."
Quinn laid back on the bed and stretched out, flashing her a grin. "Won't move an inch, little Xandri. Promise."
She closed the door, leaving him to his curiosity. What could she have possibly thought? Quinn wondered, tucking his hands beneath his head. And what the hell got her to change her mood so suddenly? He wasn't certain she wasn't still upset about seeing him with Sada this afternoon, and that had him worried. Things had been going very, very well since his birthday, with the exception of Melanie's harassment, and Quinn was hoping for things to stay that way.
Fifteen minutes later he was starting to get impatient. Finally he heard the door creak open and sat up. Well, Quinn thought, his eyebrows raising. Xandri leaned against the doorway, her arms folded shyly across her chest. She wore a sheer, black, short nightie over a pair of lacy panties. A pink Victoria's Secret bag hung from one finger.
"I thought you went shopping for clothes," Quinn said, unable to look away from her.
"I did," Xandri responded, slowly lowering her arms. She wore nothing but those panties beneath the nightie. "I went shopping for a few other things, as well…"
"Now, little Xandri," Quinn began, gesturing for her to come closer. "Was it not you who was, mere months ago, complaining that we didn't spend enough time talking? How to you expect me to focused on a conversation when you come into my bedroom dressed like that?"
Laughing softly, Xandri set down the bag and went over to him, slipping into his lap. Quinn slid his hands along her sides, down to her hips, savoring the silky feeling of the sheer material beneath his palms. He leaned down, brushing his mouth gently against hers, his teeth closing gently on her lower lip. Xandri's arms closed around him, bringing her tightly up against him.
"Perhaps I shouldn't have changed into this…" Xandri said quietly, her voice holding a teasing tone. "I could put my clothes back on…"
"Don't you dare," Quinn growled playfully. "You'll regret it."
Xandri shrieked as he tumbled her to the bed. Her laughter was
sweet and musical, rising in pitch whenever his lips hit a ticklish spot along her neck. Quinn held her down, enjoying the way she squirmed beneath her. She's delightful, he thought, sighing and burying his face against her neck. I could drown myself in the softness of her skin and the sound of her voice… The thoughts were frightening in their intensity and they set his heart pounding.
At first he didn't even realize that some of that pounding was someone knocking on the apartment door. Frowning, Quinn slid of the bed, motioning for Xandri to stay in the room. As he slipped into the living room, he could hear her moving around in the room behind him. He closed the door and went to open the front door, to see who could possibly be here. Quinn was not at all happy to find Melanie Rockwell staring up at him when he opened the front door.
"What the hell do you want?" he demanded, scowling.
Melanie pouted. Once upon a time he'd found it sexy, but now it just grated on his nerves. "That's no way to talk to me, Quinn," she said, shaking her head and tsking softly.
"I told you I'm not interested," Quinn said, gritting his teeth.
"I meant it."
"Oh, stop that!" Melanie laughed, tossing her hair back. "I don't understand what's going on with you. You've always welcomed me back before."
Quinn opened his mouth to give her a scathing reply, but never got the chance. The bedroom door open and Xandri slipped out, wearing his robe. It hung slightly off one shoulder and he could see a hint of sapphire beneath it. His guess: she'd been changing back into her clothes when she'd heard Melanie's voice and come out to investigate. Damnit, Quinn thought, feeling his stomach drop at the look on her face. This is not turning out to be a good day.
"Who is she?" Melanie asked, her eyes narrowing on Xandri. "Is
this the little tart who's been modeling for you? You're too kind, Quinn, honey. She doesn't look anything like you paint her."
"Get out, Melanie," Quinn growled, keeping his eyes on Xandri.
The tears gathering in her eyes had him near frantic.
Melanie sighed. "Come on, enough of this. Tell her to be on her way so we can get…reacquainted."
"No!" Quinn snapped, whirling at last to glare at Melanie. She took a step back, startled. "You're the one who's leaving!"
"Is this girl your girlfriend, Quinn?" Melanie demanded. "Is she?"
"That's none of your damn business!" Quinn growled.
He was handling this wrong; he knew that. But he wanted Melanie gone so badly. Quinn heard soft footsteps as Xandri turned and fled back into the bedroom. Why is this becoming so difficult? he wondered, sighing inwardly. Before she'd been bothered by so little, rarely showing any sort of jealousy. Now it was upsetting her constantly. And worse, it was upsetting him. Quinn felt so uncertain and helpless, and he hated that.
"You ungrateful bastard!" Melanie hissed. "Get rid of her…or you'll regret it!"
She turned on her heel and walked away. Sighing, Quinn shut the door and turned to go back into his bedroom. He found Xandri, still wearing his robe, struggling to pull her jeans on with shaking hands. Catching her around the waist, he took her jeans away from her and picked her up, carrying her over to the bed. She didn't protest as he slipped beneath the covers, bringing her with him, but she didn't snuggle up to him like she usually did, either. Quinn ran his fingers through her hair, uncertain what to say.
"I…should get home…" Xandri said quietly.
"I don't want you to go," Quinn told her, closing his arms around her and dragging her close. "Forget about what she said, little Xandri. She is a brain-dead twit."
"You…you and her used to…I mean…oh hell!" Xandri groaned. "I don't want to fight again, Quinn. I'm just…confused."
"Stay here tonight," Quinn murmured softly, kissing the curve of her ear. "And tomorrow night…and the night after that…I want you here…"
He felt her tense, then she turned in his arms and snuggled close to him, pressing her face against his shoulder. Quinn slid his hands beneath the robe she wore, opening it, running his fingertips along her skin. Xandri made a little cooing sound and tightened her grip on him. He tangled his legs around hers, bringing her hips up against his, and settled himself more comfortably.
"I'll make you a key," Quinn said quietly. "So you can come here
whenever you like…"
"Really?" Xandri asked, looking up at him, her eyes shining with hope.
Quinn smiled. "Really. It's much more convenient to have you here…especially when you start buying lingerie like that…"
Her teeth closed on his shoulder, causing him to laugh. Sometimes Xandri saw right through all his brass, all his attempts to remain completely detached. Sada hadn't truly seen it until the last moment, when she'd had that fight with Alastair. Xandri saw it every single time. She pays so much attention to me, Quinn thought, closing his eyes and pressing his face against her hair. No one has ever made me feel as loved as she does…