Two Wrongs Make a Right (21 page)

BOOK: Two Wrongs Make a Right
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“So you want to make Molly, I mean Quinn, suffer?”

He poured a drink and Sim moved to take it from him. “You’re drinking too early and not giving this enough thought. Wait a few days. Let the news soak in and then decide your next move. You could set a meeting and work with her instead of against her.”

“Why are you defending her?”

“I’m not, but she hasn’t contacted you for child support. She hasn’t asked for anything. A judge or jury will give her a lot of points for that. Doesn’t sound like she’s a conniving person.” Sim waved her hands around the room. “Face it, you’re not rich, but this house proves you have resources, and if her apartment is as lousy as you said, then why wouldn’t she try to get money from you? Besides, Mom and Dad will be
thrilled
about the baby.”

“No. She didn’t give me a choice, and I’m not giving her one. She’ll marry me, or I’ll threaten a custody suit,
and
I’ll get Megan fired. That should be enough to convince her.”

“Okay, but I’m going on record to say you’ll regret this.”

“Not likely. I want you to draw up a pre-nup. I didn’t protect myself that night, but by God, I will from now on.”

 

~~*~~

 

After drinking himself into a stupor the night before, he arrived at Quinn’s apartment, hungover and pissed off ten ways to Sunday. When he knocked, no one answered. There was no car parked in front or in the drive. No lights or sounds came from inside, so he assumed she wasn’t home, unless Megan blabbed and Quinn left town to avoid him. If so she couldn’t run forever.

Hurrying back to his car, he hopped in to wait. Rain surged and waned but showed no sign of stopping. He scanned the area. The low hanging clouds made it look worse than yesterday when he’d seen it in the sunshine. Her building needed paint, and although her small yard was neat, the rest of the units still had summer weeds, now bent and brown. Compared to his house, she should jump at the chance to leave here.

No child of his would live in this place. It was unsafe with no fences, where would the kid play? Not in the street. That was for damn sure.

 

 

~~*~~

 

Quinn struggled with her umbrella. Why didn’t the thing work? She either fought to open it or wrestled prongs to close it. Any other time she wouldn’t be out in this weather, but when her editor requested a face to face, how could she refuse? She couldn’t. Not with the Ask Alice Anything column on the line. And just as she thought, that was the subject of the meeting, but it’d not gone the way she’d hoped.

Turned out, owner of the paper, Mr. Bartlett, had tossed his niece Jilly’s resume in for consideration. The girl didn’t even graduate college until May, but he’d felt no need to wait. Quinn was out. Not totally out, but the boss demoted her from staff writer to freelance, which meant no regular salary. She’d submit articles, and if accepted, she’d be paid per piece.

What the hell kind of name was Jilly? Short for Jillian, but still, who wanted advice from someone who sounded so juvenile? They should change the column to
Seek Suggestions from Silly Jilly. Jibber-Jabber with Jilly. Get the Juice from Jilly.

Okay, now she was being silly—about Jilly. Damn, she couldn’t stop herself. She needed to let it go. There wasn’t anything she could do.

A church clock chimed four musical notes. Later than she thought. The costume party began at seven, and it took a while to get into that disco ball. It was the perfect outfit for her bulging belly, but not very comfortable.

No complaints. At least not to Megan and Raynie. Since it was a movie theme party, they’d researched to find a film that worked for all of them.
Saturday Night Fever
fit the bill. Megan portrayed John Travolta’s character, Tony Manero, and Raynie, his dance partner, Stephanie.

Quinn looked forward to the event. Thanks to Megan’s invitation, it was the one time a year Quinn got to attend a fancy affair with the best hors d’oeuvres and alcohol. This time she’d have to pass on the drinks, but the finger foods would be excellent. She hoped they had some of those little weenies wrapped in bacon and sprinkled with brown sugar. Her mouth watered.

Wind whipped, and the umbrella didn’t keep her from getting wet. It was hard to see through the curtain of rainwater, but she swore she parked in front of the bakery, because she’d planned to buy some yeast rolls. Strange, the car wasn’t there. She walked almost to the end of the block thinking she may have been so pre-occupied by the meeting, she’d forgotten the location. Nothing. She turned around and went the other way. Maybe she’d parked at a fire hydrant, and gotten towed. Great. Just what she needed. A trip to the impound lot in the middle of a monsoon. Not to mention the hundred-dollar fee.

No, she recalled reading the bakery specials in the window as she pulled next to the curb. It should be there. Someone had stolen her fifteen-year-old relic. There was no other explanation. She ducked into the bookstore to get out of the rain, gather her wits, and call the police.

An hour later, soaked to the bone, she hauled herself out of the taxi, traipsed to her front door, glad to be home. She set her purse on the counter along with her new job description forms and police report, then went to the bathroom to dry off. The pink chenille robe felt good against her damp skin. Once she’d finished with the cops, the job dilemma no longer concerned her. Now she was without a vehicle and since she only carried liability, there’d be no insurance to collect. This was turning out to be the worst Halloween in history.

Taking a mug from the cabinet, she filled it with water, and stuck it in the microwave. While it heated, she grabbed a pouch of instant cocoa. The timer sounded. Mixing the powder into the cup, she took a long sip. Drinking something hot should help get rid of the chill.

Someone knocked on the door and when she opened it, Raynie stood in full costume. “Why aren’t you dressed? You’re not sick are you?”

“I’m having the most horrific Halloween.
Shania
was stolen.”

“That’s the best trick ever,” Raynie sputtered a laugh.

Quinn slumped back onto a chair. “I’m not kidding. First, I basically got fired. Then I come out to find my car gone. You know everything happens in threes, so I’m wondering what other bad news is coming.”

Before her friend responded, someone else knocked. “And here we go,” Quinn said. “This can’t be good, unless they’ve found my car.” This time, the landlord stood holding a stack of envelopes. He handed one to her.

“What’s this?”

“No time to explain. I have to deliver the rest of these. Read it and if you have questions, there’s a number you can call.” He moved away and headed toward the next apartment.

She tore it open, then paused as she read. Air rushed from her lungs. “Oh my God. He’s sold the units. The new owner is taking over in thirty days.”

Raynie adjusted the neckline of her dress and swiveled her shoulders as if trying to realign her bra. “That’s good news, right? They’ll make improvements.”

“Yeah, they are, and they’re also going up on the rent by two hundred-dollars a month.” Quinn dug her fingernails into her palm to make sure this wasn’t a dream. Nope. She felt the pain. It was real. Job gone. Car gone. Apartment gone. “The monthly increase isn’t the worst part. I have to move while the renovations take place. I can’t believe this.”

Raynie ran her hand around Quinn’s shoulders. “Look on the bright side. That completes the trifecta. Go get ready. Let’s not deal with this now. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss all your options—the job—car—apartment. Tonight, you need a good time.”

Quinn added the letter to her stack of bad news. “With everything that’s happened, I’m not sure a party without alcohol will be a good time. I’ll be right back.” She stomped to the bedroom and struggled with her metallic leotard. Gathering her hair to the top of her head, she clipped it, and stretched on the silver glittery wig. A wave of nausea turned her stomach into a roller coaster ride. She wondered if the baby experienced the sensation. The room spun. She sat on the edge of the bed and cried. What was she going to do? She had to have a job, car, and housing. Soon, she’d have another mouth to feed. Moving in with dad wasn’t an option. His house wasn’t big enough. She couldn’t move in with her mother. Texas wasn’t big enough.

Suddenly, she felt drained, but she dried her eyes and straightened her shoulders. There was no need to spoil the evening. Raynie worked hard on the mirrored costume, so for tonight, Quinn would try not to be Debbie Downer.

She took the ball into the living room for help. A few minutes later, her mood was better, and she was in full costume. She gathered her purse, but before they could leave, another knock. Maybe the landlord had forgotten something. It couldn’t be more bad news, she’d had her quota.

This time, the police officer she’d dealt with earlier stood in the opening, rain dripping from his hat. He looked her up and down, then smiled. “Sorry to disturb you, Ms. Dorsey, but I was in the neighborhood so thought I’d come by and tell you we’ve already located your car, but I’m afraid it’s totaled. A couple of juveniles took it joy-riding and wrapped it around a tree.”

“Oh my gosh! Are they all right?”

“Yeah.” He handed her a paper. “Here’s where they towed your vehicle. They’ll bag everything from inside and the trunk. You can pick up the contents at your convenience.”

“Thank you, officer.”

“Yes, ma’am. You have a good evening.” He took one more cursory glance, smiled, and walked away.

Quinn added the report to the others. “What’d I tell you? Worst Halloween of my life. It even beats the one where we got egged.”

“Yeah, those junior high years were hell, weren’t they?”

Quinn headed toward the kitchen, but stopped when there was another rap on the door.

Raynie giggled. “Go ahead, answer it. The way your luck is running, it’s probably the Grimm Reaper.

 

~~*~~

 

Dak sat in his car, and watched the rain turn to drizzle again as a taxi pulled to the curb. A woman exited and trudged up the sidewalk. Her clothes clung to her body and water dripped from her purse. She wrestled with her umbrella, and he wasn’t sure at first if it was Quinn until she turned and he saw her belly.

His pulse jumped. Damn. Just the sight of her stirred feelings he’d not had in months. Rain pelted once more and blocked out everything but gray haze. He settled back against the seat. No hurry. She was in for the night. Nobody in their right mind would get out in this unless they had to. He chuckled. Keywords,
right mind
.

A few minutes later, a woman arrived and went inside. Then a man came to deliver something. After him, a cop. Lousy part of town or not, this place was busy. Dak wondered what the policeman wanted. Since the patrolman only stayed a few minutes, and didn’t take her into custody, it couldn’t have been anything too serious.

Dak’s chest tightened. He didn’t understand why he was nervous. He had the upper hand. She’d marry him or else.
Or else what?
The empty threat made his lungs hurt more, and his plan to punish her gnawed his gut. He closed his eyes and went back to Memorial Day weekend, when they fished in his pond, and how Molly…Quinn had baited her hook without complaint, and screamed excitement each time the bobber dipped in the water. The tiny fish she caught thrilled her as much as if she’d landed a ten pounder. He’d loved her enthusiasm and the lilt to her voice when she talked to Homer.

Heat rushed over Dak as he recalled how his skin tingled from her touch, and how she lost her breath each time he kissed her. There had been something between them. He thought she’d felt it too. But turned out, she was just a good actress.

Even her lies didn’t belong to him. They were for Justin. He was the one she’d wanted. That’s why she bolted when the bartender gave the drink to Dak.

That was the reason for the crazy rant. She’d been trying to convince him to leave, but he’d been too stubborn. She’d intrigued him and the attraction was too strong for him to let her go, but he should have.

As much as he wanted to punish her, he needed to be smart. Sim was right. Ultimatums didn’t get good results most of the time. He’d be up front with her, but he wouldn’t be her whipping boy. He got out of the car and strode across the street steeled and ready to face her.

When she opened the door, she gasped, and he spoke the line he’d rehearsed. “Hello, Molly, or whatever the hell you’re calling yourself this week.”

She stumbled backwards. He reached out to her, but her visitor rushed to her side.

Quinn was pale, and looked as if she’d been crying. He fought the urge to take her in his arms and comfort her. That surprised him. In all the scenarios he’d played out in his head over the last twenty-four hours, none had included physical contact. But he wanted to hold her.

A disco ball wrapped around her mid-section, and the light reflecting off the tiny squares caused iridescent spots to dance across her face. A beautiful face. Even more so in the dim glow.

He looked at the guest, then back at Quinn. “We need to talk.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” the stranger said.

Quinn shook her head at the woman. “It’s all right.” She focused on him again. “Come in. I’ll be right back.” She took her friend by the hand, led her down the short hallway, and disappeared into a room.

He gave the counter a quick once over, then grabbed the stack of papers and shuffled through them. Damn. Stolen car. That explained the cop. Job termination, and a notice to vacate the premises during renovations. His eyes wandered around the open area. An old sofa covered in some type of nubby avocado fabric looked like it might collapse if he sat on it. In the kitchen, beneath bright yellow cabinets, tiles in at least twenty different colors formed a backsplash. Old stove. No dishwasher. He didn’t know much about decorating, but unless she was going for a retro style, he was pretty sure harvest gold appliances went out during the Nixon administration. He wondered why she’d not contacted him, if for no other reason than to get out of this dump. She should jump at his offer.

BOOK: Two Wrongs Make a Right
11.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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