Authors: Debby Conrad
“And you never married a teenager by the name of Bambi. Did you?”
“No,” he said.
She crossed herself and mumbled something that sounded to Quinn like “Thank you, Lord.” Smiling again, she said, “I’m certainly happy to hear that. Now then . . . I’ve been trying really hard to like you since you’re Bailey’s choice.”
“Thank you,” he said simply. He wished he had the nerve to just tell her he wasn’t Stanley, and he was not Bailey’s choice. But right then the only thing on his mind was keeping Bailey safe. Those thugs had threatened her, turning Quinn’s blood cold. And that was the only reason he was here playing this little game. The other reason was that he’d promised Bailey he would behave himself in front of her mother.
“I want my daughter to be happy.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Quinn squirmed in his seat, wondering what was coming next.
“I’m delighted she’s pregnant. Although I would have preferred to find out after the wedding. But I’m not a prude, Stanley. I was young once too. And I understand how difficult it must have been trying to . . . restrain yourself.”
No, I don’t think you do
, he wanted to say, his memories of that afternoon in his apartment clear and vivid.
Quinn watched as she blotted the moisture beads from her glass with a napkin. “I want you to promise me something.”
Uh, oh. “I’ll try,” he said, already regretting his words.
“I want you to promise me that you’ll listen when Bailey talks to you.”
That wasn’t so bad. And besides, how could he not help but listen to Bailey when she talked? She was the type of woman who got right in your face and made sure she had the last word. “Okay, sure.”
listen to her. Don’t go dragging her off to another country to live just because she happens to say it’s beautiful there. Listen to what’s in her heart.”
Quinn looked at her, confused. “I take it you don’t like Ireland?”
Her chin popped up. “I love Ireland. I just don’t want to spend the rest of my life in exile, away from my daughters and grandchildren.”
“So, why don’t you tell your husband this?”
She waved a hand at him. “Because that thick-headed Irishman doesn’t listen to a word I say.”
Well, finally they agreed on something. “But--”
She stayed him with a hand. “This isn’t about
, and what
want. This is about
, and what
“What is it you think she wants?” Quinn hoped he was treading lightly.
“I think she wants you. That’s obvious. And I
she wants this baby.”
Quinn nearly choked. There was no baby. And Bailey certainly didn’t want him. Not for her husband, anyway. “How do you know that? Have you listened to what’s in
“I know my daughter,” she said firmly, refusing to budge an inch.
“I don’t mean any disrespect, ma’am, but what if you don’t know her as well as you think you do?”
“Don’t be silly.” She smiled, almost laughing.
Pushing forward, he asked, “What if Bailey doesn’t really want marriage and babies? What if what she really wants is a career?”
Mimi Maguire’s mouth dropped open. “There you go again, Stanley, with that comedian stuff. But you seemed to have forgotten something.”
“Yeah? And what is that?”
Her pale face flushed. “I saw the way Bailey looks at you. And believe me, she has never looked at another man that way before. I know true love when I see it.” After that eloquent speech, Mimi got up from the table, apparently done with her lecture, and left Quinn speechless.
Just how in the hell did Bailey look at him that would make her mother jump to such a ridiculous conclusion? No wonder Mimi was seeing a shrink. The woman must be psychotic.
But then, why should he be surprised? Like mother, like daughter, he thought.
For the second night in a row Quinn cooked dinner for the Maguires. Fajitas this time, because Dillon had suggested it. The boy had even surprised Quinn by eating three of them.
After dinner Quinn persuaded Dillon to help him with the kitchen mess. “I hate doing dishes,” Dillon complained as he wedged a glass in the top rack of the dishwasher. “This is girl stuff.”
Quinn raised a brow and handed the boy another glass. “Yeah? Says who?”
“I don’t know,” he answered, lifting his shoulders.
‘The way I look at it is, you eat, you help clean up. Simple as that. When I was growing up, I did the dishes every night.”
“You did? I bet that sucked. Is that why you like cooking and all that stuff? Because you had to do the dishes so much?”
Quinn smiled at the boy. “I like it because it’s therapeutic. When I’m cooking I reflect about my life.”
“Oh,” he said, sounding as if he had no idea what Quinn meant.
“Which reminds me,” Quinn said, drying his hands on a dishtowel and passing it to Dillon. “Have you been watching your mouth around your little sister?”
“I try to, but sometimes she makes me mad.”
“Last night, when I gave you that high-five, I was just playing around.”
Dillon scowled. “Yeah, I know. My dad said you were just being a jerk.”
Quinn nodded, trying not to look offended. “Your dad was right.”
“I asked my dad if you were such a jerk, then why would Aunt Bailey want to marry you.”
“And what did your dad say?”
A serious look fell on his face. “He said, sometimes people see the good things in someone that others can’t see.”
Quinn was about to comment when he saw Doyle standing in the doorway.
“I think your dad mentioned going for ice cream,” Doyle told his grandson.
Dillon grinned, wadded the dishtowel in a ball, and tossed it on the counter. He turned on his heel to leave, then stopped. “Uh, do you still need my help?”
Quinn waved him off. “Go ahead. I can handle the rest by myself.” Turning his back on Doyle, he went back to the dishes.
“He’s a good kid. Smart too.”
“Uh, huh.” Quinn slid a dinner plate into the bottom rack.
“So,” Doyle said, “who gave you the other shiner?”
“Nobody you know.”
“That’s the way it’s going to be, huh?”
Quinn gave the man a sideways glance, but didn’t bother to respond. What did Maguire think? That they were going to be good buddies, now that they shared a secret?
“What I can’t figure out is, why you’re going to all this trouble; cooking for all of us, working in the kitchen. Who are you trying to impress? Bailey? And if so, I want to know why.”
Turning off the faucet, Quinn turned to look fully at Doyle. “I’m not trying to impress anyone, especially not Bailey.”
Doyle squinted his eyes at him. “You could have fooled me.”
Quinn picked up the towel and ran his hands through it. “Look, I’m concerned about her, that’s all. And I plan on hanging around for awhile, so you’d better get used to it.”
“Does Bailey know that?”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Quinn said, “She knows.”
“I see,” Doyle said. After a moment’s silence, he picked up a mug from the counter and placed it in the dishwasher. “I may as well help with the dishes. Everybody else went for ice cream.”
“What?” Quinn stammered, flying out of the kitchen to see for himself. “Damnit, I told Bailey not to leave my sight!” He realized too late that Doyle had heard him. Releasing his breath in a whoosh, Quinn pushed past the man and went back to the kitchen.
“Maybe you’d better tell me what’s going on here.”
* * * * * * * * * *
“What are we looking for again?” Doyle whispered, shining his flashlight at the door to Stanley Davenport’s house.
Looking over his shoulder, Quinn said, “Diamonds. And maybe a lead to where Stanley the Jerk disappeared to.” Reaching under the mat on the front porch, he pulled out a key and slid it into the lock.
He’d come clean with Doyle. Told him about the thugs and the trip to the FBI. But he’d left out the part about almost making love to Bailey in his recliner.
“What if Stanley’s dead? What if Stanley’s inside? And dead?”
“If he was dead, Harry and Shorty wouldn’t have been looking for him,” Quinn said matter-of-factly, turning on his own flashlight. The front door made an eerie squeaking sound when he opened it. Stepping inside the foyer, he waited for Doyle to follow, then shut the door.
A huge built-in aquarium illuminated the far wall of the sunken living room. The sound of the pump hummed, tiny mountains of air bubbles exploding on one side. A dark polished Steinway grand piano took up most of the space in the room.
“I can’t see,” Doyle complained. “Turn on the lights.”
“No. No lights.”
“Well, how are we supposed to search for dead bodies and diamonds in the dark?”
“That’s why we brought flashlights.” Quinn shined his down the dark hallway. No sign of any dead bodies or diamonds there. “You take the upstairs, and I’ll look down here.”
“Oh, sure. You’ll be closer to the door that way, in case those thugs show up.”
Quinn gaped at him. “If you hadn’t been looking all over town for me this morning, those guys wouldn’t have found me and mistaken me for that piece of slime Davenport.”
“All right,” Doyle said. “You’ve made your point. And I’ve offered to help you. But only because I don’t want any harm to come to Bailey, or my grandchild.”
Jesus. Bailey, the pregnant virgin. “There is
baby. Bailey concocted that whole story.”
“Bet you’re relieved.”
“I’m only going to say this once more, Maguire. Your daughter and I are not . . . involved.”
Snorting, Doyle said, “Yeah, right. What do you think, I’m blind? I see the way you look at her. I used to watch Mimi the same way.”
Quinn wanted to scream at the top of his lungs. What was all this crap about the way he and Bailey looked at each other? Okay, so he liked looking at her. So what? That sure as hell didn’t mean anything. And the fact that he’d almost made love to her earlier didn’t mean anything either. He’d gotten carried away, was all. Bailey had been right. He’d probably been confused, delirious even, after he’d had his face smashed in.
“I guess I’ll take the upstairs then,” Doyle murmured, traipsing up the stairway. “You want me to yell if I find Stanley stuffed in a closet?”
Quinn shook his head and made his way down the hall to the kitchen, the beam of his flashlight bouncing off the walls, countertops and floor. On one counter sat a glass fish bowl. Inside, two goldfish swam as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Bach and Beethoven. Spotting a container of fish food, he picked it up, held it upside down over the bowl and gave it a couple shakes. “Now, don’t be pigs,” he said quietly. “Save some for later.”
He nosed inside cupboards and drawers, not really expecting to find anything, but hoping just the same. Nothing. As he moved through the dining room, he heard the floorboards creaking softly above him. Doyle.
Where Bailey’s house was mostly stark white, Davenport’s house was trimmed in oak and decorated with blacks, browns, dark greens, and a jungle accent. He’d never seen so many potted plants in one place, he thought, shining the flashlight at a Boston fern, taller than him. Finding nothing of interest in the formal dining room, he made his way into the oak study. Animal heads made of clay, he assumed, adorned the walls. A rhinoceros, ram, giraffe and panda stared back at him in the dark. Quinn turned on the computer and, while waiting for it to boot up, rifled through drawers and papers.
He found a title to a ‘98 Five-series BMW, two unpaid parking tickets, and dozens of used airline tickets. The concert pianist had not only been to Ireland in the past year, but he’d also been to Spain, Singapore and Johannesburg, South Africa, not once but twice. Wasn’t South Africa where all the diamond mines were?
In the top desk drawer, Quinn found a Smith and Wesson revolver. A .38 Special, similar to the one Harry had threatened him with, and similar to the one Quinn kept behind the bar. Just in case. But why would a concert pianist need a gun?
Sitting in the chair in front of the computer, he tried to log on, but failed repetitiously trying to guess at passwords. “Damn.”
Leaving the computer on, he started across the hall when he heard a noise outside. Looking up, he saw Doyle coming down the stairs. The old man must have heard the same noise because he switched off his flashlight and stayed still. Quinn followed suit, flattening himself against the wall.
Because of the light from the aquarium he could see the doorknob turning slowly, then opening. The loud squeak echoed as a man’s shoe touched the gleaming marble. Quinn dove for him and pinned him to the floor, before the second shoe touched down.
“I’ve already called the police,” the man yelled beneath Quinn, squirming to get free. “They’re on their way.” The man’s voice sounded familiar. Sort of like Bailey’s brother-in-law, Mark Lowell. Shit.
“Mark?” Doyle said, turning on his flashlight and shining it in both Quinn’s face and Mark’s.
“Dad? What are you doing here?” Mark asked.
Quinn rolled off him, and got to his feet. He found the light switches on the wall behind him and flipped one on.
“Stanley?” Mark pushed off the floor and stood, brushing imaginary dirt from his khaki slacks and white oxford shirt. The marble foyer was so shiny you could eat off it. Not that he had any intentions of doing so. “What are you guys doing? I saw flashlight beams through the window when we came back from getting ice cream. I thought someone had broken in. I told Bailey to call the police.”
Great. That was all he needed, to get arrested for breaking and entering.
Doyle came to the rescue. “I was just helping Stanley find something he’d lost.”
“In the dark?” Mark asked, blinking at them both.
Quinn shifted his eyes to Doyle, waiting for him to get them out of this mess.
“Yeah. It’s one of those glow-in-the-dark thingamajigs. He wanted to show it to the kids, but then he couldn’t find it . . .”
“Yeah, whatever,” Mark murmured, looking put out. “Tell it to the cops when they get here.”
Suddenly the door flew open. “Dad?” Dillon poked his head around the corner. Mark whirled on him. “I told you to stay at Aunt Bailey’s.”
“What’s going on?” the boy asked, ignoring his father. “Did you catch the burglars?”
“No, they got away.” This from Doyle.
“Darn!” Dillon stepped in front of the window, pressing his nose to the glass. “Cool! Here come the police.”
Outside, blue lights flashed, probably alerting the entire neighborhood. From the window, Quinn watched as the squad car pulled into the drive. An instant later, two uniformed policemen hurried to the door, guns drawn.
“Everybody get your hands up in the air!” the officer with the flattop ordered.
Dillon threw his hands up, grinning broadly. “Cool!” he said again.
“Officer, there’s been a mistake,” Quinn intervened.
“I said, get your hands up!” Flattop yelled. “That means everyone.”
Quinn, Mark and Doyle raised their hands. Quinn could see it now. Standing behind bars, cursing the day he’d first laid eyes on Bailey Maguire.
While Flattop kept his eyes pinned on Doyle, the officer with the huge mustache spoke, pointing a finger at Dillon. “You,” he said, “You look like the only one in the bunch who can be trusted. What’s going on here?”
Dillon beamed brightly. “My dad thought he saw burglars over here and so my Aunt Bailey called you guys. But when we got over here, my grandpa and my Uncle Stanley--well, he’s not really my uncle yet, but I still call him uncle--they were already here, and they scared the bad guys off. This is my uncle’s house.”
“Uh, huh. You can put your hands down now, kid.” Dillon dropped his hands, looking a little disappointed. “Which one of these guys is your uncle?”
“That one,” Dillon said, pointing proudly at Quinn.
Quinn forced a smile and lowered his hands.
“Get your hands back up!” Mustache yelled. “No one said you could drop ‘em. I said the
.” He glared at each of the adult males, then raised his eyes to Quinn’s hands above his head. “Why the flashlights?”
“I--” Quinn stammered, not quite sure what to say.
“They were looking for the glow-in-the-dark thingamajig,” Mark said. “They were worried the burglars might have gotten it.”
“Who are you?” Flattop asked Mark.
“Mark Lowell. I’m his lawyer, and future brother-in-law,” Mark answered, nodding in Quinn’s direction.
Quinn couldn’t believe how easily the Maguire family lied. In fact, he’d never told so many lies himself, until he’d met Bailey. But he was tired of it. Tired of the whole stinking mess. He should just come clean with these guys. Certainly they’d understand once he explained.