A/N: So no, this story isn't dead! And I'm still stuck on a title, so still taking suggestions!
"Are you alright, Mr. Quinn?"
He knew it was bad when he hadn't even heard Sarah walking into the kitchen, and he couldn't blame it on the early morning hour or the lack of coffee. Two weeks hadn't been long enough to get Emily out of his mind, and it was distracting. Working the ranch could only keep thoughts at bay for so long.
He wondered how she was doing. If Spencer had managed to get her to a doctor for that leg injury. He still felt guilty for his part in what she'd suffered. Plenty of people might argue that there were varying degrees of violation, but he wasn't one of them. If a woman didn't consent, pushing anything was a violation, whether it was a kiss or something more invasive, and he'd done more than kiss.
He still hadn't been able to puzzle out why she was taken in the first place, and it was getting on his nerves. He didn't like unsolved puzzles. She was targeted, of that much he was sure, but why? His gut told him that she wasn't a woman who had enemies. Was she targeted because of her connection to Spencer? Eliot had said something about a video, maybe someone was trying to hurt Spencer by hurting her? Whoever had paid Harker to kidnap Emily and then set her up to be raped on camera definitely had a grudge against someone.
"I'm fine Sarah."
He was fine, mostly. His injuries from the fight with Eliot were mostly healed up. The ribs still hurt, but they'd only been bruised, not broken, so he was lucky. No, his injuries weren't the problem; his inability to stop thinking about a woman he never should have met was.
The problem, he decided, was that Emily was entirely the type of woman he'd like to meet, under normal circumstances. If they'd run into each other at a bar, or just on the street, he would absolutely ask for her number. Even if it couldn't go anywhere, that was company he'd want for an evening of drinks and dinner.
He wasn't fool enough to think that Emily would be agreeable to the idea, even if he was suicidal enough to contact Spencer. Not after what he did to her. He mentally ordered himself to keep it professional: Emily was nothing more than an unexpected retrieval. Too bad it wasn't working. If he was this affected by a lady he'd only known a few days, maybe it was time to start taking up some of those offers from the men to introduce him to some single women. He clearly needed more of a social life.
Maybe he just needed another job. He relished the time he spent working his ranch, but he started getting restless when he went too long between jobs. It was time to find something else to do. He'd had several offers since getting back from the Caymans. There were several offers in Europe, but he thought he might go to Marrakech. He'd never tried to retrieve a camel before. The buyer was offering more than he'd ever expect a camel to be worth. Sometimes he really didn't get why people were willing to spend the amounts of money on the things they spent it on.
"Jason just radioed, said to tell you that Astrid is foaling."
He almost spit out his coffee. That news was enough to drive Quinn from the house and out from under Sarah's feet. His housekeeper sure hated the disruption to her routine that came from his being home. He hurried to the stable where they'd isolated Astrid. He insisted on being present for any birth that took place while he was home. Once it was over he would have to let his sister know that her namesake had given birth. And she was not naming the new foal; not after naming the mare after herself.
"Boss," he was greeted when he stepped inside the building. The sorrel mare was lying on her side, flanks quivering with the effort of labor. He had no idea how long she'd been at it, but it looked like she was finally getting down to business.
"You should have called me sooner."
"No need for you to sit here for hours. You're in time for the most important part.
That was true. He had to admit that he was glad not to have been woken in the middle of the night for Astrid's labor. Sleep wasn't his most reliable companion at the moment.
Perhaps fifteen minutes passed before they saw the sac that enveloped the foal slipping through. A quick check verified that the foal was in the correct position; it was a front hoof pushing through. Quinn breathed a little easier knowing that the foal wasn't breeched. This was only Astrid's first foaling. They didn't want anything to go wrong.
The sac stretched and ripped open as the mare continued to labor, and after a few more minutes a head poked through. Looked like this foal was going to be a sorrel like its mama. If the rest of the labor continued as smoothly, Quinn would be a happy man.
"You didn't bring extra coffee, did you?" Jason asked, and Quinn shook his head. Jason would have been with Astrid since she started going into labor, so it had been a long night for the man. Quinn was going to send the man to bed once this was over.
Finally, finally, a gangly baby horse struggled to move around on its own, and stand on shaky feet. A little filly. She was such an adorable thing. It looked like he won the bet.
"She did well tonight, Boss."
"Yes, she did. She did really well."
"Any idea what you're gonna call this little filly?"
He hadn't really thought about it. The foal would need a name, but he wasn't ready to name her after his other sister. He'd have to give it a bit of thought before he decided.
"Jason, as soon as she's done and settled I want you to get to bed. I'll be back at the house if I'm needed."
He stopped briefly at the main stable to check on the other horses. The one they'd rescued had been fitted out with a stall of his own and a name, courtesy of the men that brought him in. Lady's Man was pretty well recovered and had easily blended into the rest of the herd. Quinn wasn't ready to put him to work yet, but figured that in a few more weeks they'd start easing him into some new tasks. Ordinarily he might try to re-home a rescue, but this one he'd decided to keep, and he wasn't deluding himself about why. After a brief internal debate that was resolved with a 'what the hell', he snapped a photo of the horse and texted it off to Eliot's cell phone number. It might piss Spencer off, but Emily deserved to know that the animal she'd been worried about enough to sleep in a stall with was doing so well. It wasn't like he expected either of them to actually respond.
That done he made his way back to the house and shut himself into the den with his laptop, allowing Sarah to continue her work uninterrupted. Later he would ride out to the south range with Randall, but for the moment he really wanted to focus on finding his next job.
He discovered two additional offers once he was powered up. He was fairly certain in his thoughts on retrieving a camel, but it never hurt to check on options. The first one he opened he immediately knew he would pass up. He had no patience for corporate espionage, which that offer boiled down to. Infiltrating a company to steal something someone was too lazy to create on their own was not his cup of tea. That was what set Spencer on the road to his band of thieves, and Quinn had enough of a taste of that crazy to not risk the same.
He deleted that message and moved on to the next one. Retrieval of a missing person. Six figures. He was still angling towards the camel, but-oh Hell. Quinn grabbed his cell phone and pulled up a number he never expected he'd actually call.
"You've got some damn nerve, trying to—"
"I'm not trying to get in touch with her, Spencer," he interrupted the other man before he could work into threats, "Someone's put out a contact for her. Six figures from her grateful family for her safe return. She said she has no family."
He knew he was right to be concerned when Eliot fell silent. Any doubt that Emily had been specifically targeted had to be wiped out by this offer. Someone was still after her, and considering what happened last time, whoever it was planned to hurt her.
"Take the job."
Quinn resisted the urge to shake his head, knowing it wouldn't be seen. Surely he'd misheard Eliot.
"What'd you just say?"
"Take the job. Find out who's after her. And send me that file so I can get Hardison to look into it."
"And if they're using a middle man like last time?"
"Don't kill them before you find out who hired them this time."
He supposed that made sense. Taking the job would be the best lead to finding out who was behind Emily's abduction. He owed the woman that much.
As soon as he exhaled his agreement, the call was dropped, and he turned his attention back to the message. His response was short; two quick lines accepting the job and demanding to meet with the 'family'. He'd done three kidnap retrievals, so this wasn't his first rodeo, but his policy was the same: meet, in person, the ones offering the money to make sure it was a legitimate claim. He'd had run-ins with other retrieval specialists who didn't have that policy, who'd ended up being the ones abducting someone. He might not have too many morals left, but that was one line that he did not cross: he refused to get in the flesh trade. Just thinking about it made his skin crawl.
Once he was finished, he shut his laptop down and slid it away. He needed to get clear of the entire operation. What he really needed to do was not think any more about Emily or her situation the rest of the day, so he headed off to find his ranch foreman. It was as good a time as any to check the fencing in the south field. Randall said some the sheep had gotten out, so there had to be a hole somewhere that needed patched. Quinn wanted several hours of physical labor to exhaust him beyond his ability to think.
Eliot swore when all of Hardison's digging still turned up no hints of Moreau's whereabouts. Up until Quinn's call, it had been a quiet two weeks. Damien certainly had to be out of San Lorenzo, but there was no indication he'd made it to the States yet. Eliot didn't like it.
He could only hope that the arms dealer was checking his messages. Emily had sent more than a dozen to let him know that she was safe and unharmed, but she'd received no reply. The fact that Emily heard nothing from her brother suggested Damien might be at sea, a fact that Eliot found truly worrisome. They could check arrivals at airports. It wasn't so easy for ships. A cruise ship might have photo recognition that Hardison could get into, but if Damien had booked passage on a freighter, it wasn't going to show up anywhere Hardison could track. Moreau could make it into the country without Eliot knowing.
"Start checking any records you can get your hands on for ships coming from that direction."
"You're really worried about this."
Parker sounded amazed. Eliot rolled his eyes. He didn't want to snap at her, but even Parker should understand why Moreau turning up was a bad idea for everyone involved.
"Yeah, I am. Let me know when you find somethin'."
He had to pick Emily up from work. He didn't trust the woman with a car just yet. She'd tried taking off three times in the two weeks since he'd brought her. The only think keeping her in Portland at the moment was the fact that he was holding her dog hostage. Dahlia was getting a kick out of Murphy, seeing the dog as a live stuffed animal. Fortunately, the beagle mix was dopey and good-natured enough to take the baby's grabbing and ear pulling in stride.
His truck certainly stood out in the parking lot full of BMW's and Mercedes'. Lawyers just loved driving fancy cars. He didn't really get the appeal. Some of the people leaving the office for the day were giving him funny looks, but he just glared at them as he waited beside his truck.
He felt a moment's alarm when he saw her walking with two men he didn't recognize. His reflexes calmed, however slightly, when she didn't let them get too close, though was one trying his best until he saw Eliot glaring. The suites gave them away. Very few hitters wore suits. Apart from the men in Moreau's employ, the only other hitter he'd seen in a suit was Quinn. No, these were lawyers, or paralegals. People Emily worked with now. He growled at the one who'd been getting too handsy, and took no small amount of satisfaction in watching him scurry away. It was absolutely worth the glare Emily gave him.
"You know, if you're going to stick me in Hell, you could at least not alienate the people I have to work with."
"This isn't Hell. It's Portland."
"It's Hell, with fluorescent lighting."
So it was going to be one of THOSE days. Emily seemed to have only two moods since coming to Portland: attempting to adapt, and telling the whole world to go to Hell. Today must have been a 'go to Hell' day.
"Did one of those lawyer guys do something?"
"They're lawyers. That's enough. You could have at least let me teach instead of doing this."
Eliot swallowed a sigh as he pulled out into traffic and pointed the truck towards home. So they were back to this argument gain. He got it, he really did, but that didn't mean he wasn't tired of hearing all of this over again.
"You know why you can't do that. Anyone looking for you would start looking for new teacher hires that fit your description. It's what I would do. You can't do anything you did in Boston."
"And what makes you think that anyone other than Damien is still looking for me?"
This was exactly what Eliot didn't want to tell her. Not when he had no news on who might be behind it. He wanted her safe, but he didn't want her jumping at every shadow. It was a fine line to walk, and he was worried about coming down on the wrong side of it.
"Because—because someone just put out a contract for you. They're offering a lot of money to the person who delivers y9ou to them. I'm sorry Emily, but you're still in danger."
"Who is it?"
"I don't know yet. But we're going to find out, and I'll take care of it."
"How long will I have to pay for being Damien's sister?"
The question was asked so quietly, Eliot wasn't certain that he was meant to hear it. But he could practically see the world of frustration behind it. He worried about the same thing: that one day Newt, or Emma, would have to pay for being dear to him. He was pretty sure that every criminal worried about that at some point.
"Once we get to the bottom of who's behind this, it should get better. My team's looking into it, and so is Quinn. It shouldn't' be long before we find an answer."
"What does Quinn have to do with this?"
"He just took the contract to find you. He's gonna find out who ordered it."
"You involved him?"
"He involved himself. He's the one who told me about the contract. By the way," he pulled out his phone while they were stopped at a red light, "why the hell is the man sending me pictures of a horse?"
Emily practically snatched the phone out of his hand to stare at the picture. The horse Quinn had rescued—the man really had adopted him. That was definitely a surprise, but the picture didn't lie. The animal looked a lot healthier, and he was in his own stall. Quinn really had cared for him.
"I may have spent the night in a stall with that horse. I guess Quinn just wanted to let me know that it was alright."
"You slept in a stable?"
Eliot put the truck into park, unmindful of the traffic behind him.
"Alright. You're gonna tell me the truth about what happened at his place, right now. What'd he do to you?"
When he found out what Quinn had done to scare her so badly that she left the safety of his house to sleep with a horse, he was going to kill the man himself. Something must have happened that neither party had told him.
"Nothing happened, Eliot. Quinn didn't lay a hand on me after the island. Not the way you're thinking."
"Then what way did he lay a hand on you?"
"Assistance: helping me off a plane, out of a stall, that kind of thing. And that's all. He didn't hurt me, I swear."
"So you spent the night with a horse for no reason?"
He returned the honking behind them with a rude gesture. The way he felt, he almost wanted someone to decide to pick a fight with him.
"You decided to leave the safety of Quinn's house, at night, for no reason? Damn it Emily, you know better than that!"
"What, you think someone was going to find their way onto that property? You think someone was really going to go to the trouble of sneaking onto that ranch to find me, when no one knew I was there to start with?"
The fact that those were the only dangers she was considering just made Eliot want to shake her. How could the woman have such bad self-preservation instincts?
"How long are you going to sit her pissing off the cars behind us?"
One horn had turned into several, so Eliot shifted back into drive and pulled through the intersection.
"You should have been more worried about wild animals roaming the property, or some ranch hand that might've been a little too drunk to realize that you were Quinn's guest. Wandering around a strange place in the night is dangerous Emily. And you know that."
"I couldn't sleep," she finally answered quietly after a long silence. "I tried, but nightmares kept waking me up, so I took a walk. I just—I couldn't sleep."
Damn. The tremor in her voice suggested tears might not be far behind, which made him feel like an ass. Emily wasn't much for crying, so the fact that she was on the verge meant she was even more stressed than Eliot had thought. If Damien found her in this state, heads would roll. Possibly literally.
"If you hate the law firm that much, you can come work at the pub."
"Are those my only options?"
"If you didn't want to deal with lawyers you shouldn't have gotten a law degree. It's the only other thing you're qualified for."
"That degree was Damien's idea, not mine."
"It's your fault you did so well at it."
The smile could barely be called such, as it wasn't much more than a lifting of the corners of her mouth, but it was there. Eliot counted that as progress.
"If those are my only options, I'll stay with the blood-sucking lawyers. We both know I'd pour hot coffee on the first drunken idiot to get grabby with one of your wait staff."
"Blood-suckers it is, then. It'll get better, Emily."
By the time they made it to the house, it looked as if Emily was done with the tears, or the potential for them. Eliot stood aside as she fussed over Dahlia and the dog, pleased to see she finally seemed to relax. He followed his nose to the kitchen, where Newt was reheating the taco meat and shells from the night before. At least nothing smelled like it was burning. She was finally getting better at very minor cooking.
"Oh good, you're home. Food should be ready in about ten minutes."
"Smells good. Dahlia escaped again."
Newt cursed when she looked around and didn't see a child in the kitchen with her. Ever since she'd gotten mobile, Dahlia had become an escape artist, managing to get out of almost everything they used to corral her.
"Emily has her, so they're good."
"How was she today?"
He dropped a kiss on her cheek as he stole a pinch of the shredded cheese.
"It's an 'eff off' kind of day. Be cautious.
Her expression shifted from curious to concerned as she looked to the living room, where they could hear Emily playing with dong and child. Eliot was just as worried as his wife the Emily seemed to have more 'eff off' days than adapting days. She wasn't settling down, at all.
"Are you still sure hauling the woman across the country was a good idea?"
"There wasn't another option," he sighed as reached into the fridge for a beer, "There are people still after her, and the fact that she was found at all means that cover was blown. That means moving."
"I just hate it for her. We chose to move, after Nate burned Boston. She didn't get a choice in it."
"I know. But I think being here will be good for her. She was all alone in Boston."
"At least that limp is healed up. There won't be any physical reminders of what happened."
"Are you sure about that?"
"I'm sure. There won't even be scars from the handcuffs."
That leg might be healed, but there was still one big possibility they had to deal with. He'd gone through Emily's medicine cabinet to make sure not to leave behind anything important, and he didn't find any form of birth control. He highly doubted that Quinn carried condoms with him on the job, so if she didn't have an IUD, pregnancy was a very real possibility.
"If she thinks she needs to take a pregnancy test, she'll let me know. She already gave her word on that."
He hoped to God she wasn't, but he couldn't pretend it wasn't possible. Not that it was possible to forget something like what Emily went through, but a baby would be a daily reminder.
"I think the odds are pretty slim that she's pregnant, but if she is she won't be alone. She has us."
That was true. Emily wouldn't be left on her own if the worst did happen. She would have all the support the team could give her, which was considerable.
The announcement that supper was ready meant Eliot was on retrieval duty, and he snatched up Dahlia before she even knew what was happening, depositing her in her high chair. Murphy was banished to the living room so that he couldn't beg for table scraps.
Meal time was time to decompress, which was accomplished listening to stories of Newt's day dealing with snot-nosed kids trying to get out of taking tests, and gym-class injuries. Since she wasn't ready to quit working and be a stay-at-home mom, on-call doctor at a private school was the best job she could have taken. Regular hours meant they didn't have to worry about nights, or twenty hour emergency surgeries. Eliot was pretty sure she was already bored of the job, but so far she wasn't complaining.