Hey, y'all! Again we are on the shorter side with another chapter, and this one is mostly filler! Anyway, I hope you all like it, and you're happy! Thank you all so much for the reviews; they make my day!
And patience young padawan, we are getting to Eliot and A.B sans Hank, I promise! Haha!
Disclaimer: as always, I own nothing, but wish I did!
I said I'd get 'er done, Sama! Here you go!
Eliot moved into the doorway. One hand settled against the frame the other on the door itself, a tight expression on his face.
"Why Eliot Spencer, If I didn't know any better, I'd think you didn't want me here," the blond man observed amused.
Eliot opened his mouth and closed it quickly. If A.B weren't sitting in the other room, Eliot would suggest Quinn take the hint. "Maybe you should take your own advice," he said anyway, careful to keep most of the edge out of his voice.
Quinn's smile just grew more prominent. "Who is she?" he asked after a moment. A guess but a good one.
"Now's not a good time," Eliot replied, admitting nothing.
"Should I go?" A.B asked, as if on cue, drawing both of their gazes to the doorway into the kitchen.
The corners of Quinn's mouth pulled up into that infuriatingly smug smile of his again; he used the distraction and pushed past Eliot.
Eliot shut the door.
"What or who do we have here?" Quinn asked, moving toward her.
A.B gave him a slightly bemused look even as a smile appeared on her face. Her attention moved to Eliot briefly. "Hi," she said, as her gaze returned to the other man's handsome face. The word came out more like a question than a greeting.
"I'm Quinn," he said, offering her his hand when he reached her.
"A.B," she said, taking it.
"Annabeth or Annabelle?" he asked all charm, his brown eyes scrunching up as an even more devilish light filled them. "Absurdly beautiful?"
Eliot snorted in disgust, and A.B simply stared at him for a moment, uncertain what to say to that absurdity. She busted up laughing finally. "Abigail Baker." She said, dropping his hand. "Do lines like that really work?"
"You'd be surprised," he said sagely. He held her gaze for a moment. "But not with you, I'm guessing."
She shook her head, no. A.B's attention passed between the men, before settling on Eliot. "I'll go. It's okay."
"Sorry," Eliot said. In ways he was relieved, the last thing he wanted to be these two spending any time near each other.
"I'll just grab my hoodie," she said, leaving the two men alone as she made her way back to the kitchen.
Arms folded over his chest, Eliot's gaze shifted from the doorway she had just disappeared through to Quinn. Quinn gave him a knowing smirk, hands shoved in his pockets. Neither said a word.
A.B stepped back into the living room, wearing her hoodie. For the life of her, the first thought she had was of crickets chirping. Despite not knowing exactly why they were so quiet, she couldn't help the smile that played around her lips. Eliot was obviously on the border of irritation and frustration and maybe an explosion. This Eliot, she was sure, was why Alec called him Mister Punchy. His companion was wholly and thoroughly amused, however.
Before she could say a word, the latter of the two stepped forward, retaking her hand. Quinn's eyes danced mischievously, and A.B smiled.
"It's been a pleasure," Quinn said, lifting A.B's hand to his lips again. He held it there longer than was necessary if you could even call kissing her hand necessary.
A.B looked up at him, a slightly bemused and vastly entertained smile on her face. She laughed. "Likewise? I guess?" she said as Quinn dropped her hand.
"I assure you it was," he went on, he glanced at Eliot before his attention returned to A.B. "If I'd known Eliot was hiding someone like you, I'd have dropped by a lot sooner."
Arms folded over his chest, Eliot glared at Quinn as their gazes met again, pulse throbbing in his temple. He was fully aware the other man was just trying to irritate him, but it was working. The look abruptly changed as A.B turned and looked at him. A slight smile played across her face.
Quinn cleared his throat, an amused grin on his lips. He didn't move, just watched.
A.B glanced back over her shoulder.
"Take all the time you need; I'm not going anywhere," he allowed.
Eliot glared at Quinn again. The idea of reminding the other man what a real beating felt like still was becoming more and more appealing.
"Far be it for me to stay where I'm not wanted," Quinn said, a twinkle in his eyes. He moved back to the double doorway. He leaned one shoulder against the door casing and crossed his ankles.
Eliot's eyes narrowed. It was one the tip of his tongue to say that was a first. But he kept it to himself. From the way Quinn's eyes danced more, Eliot had no doubt he knew what he was thinking anyway.
Eliot shot Quinn one more warning look, grabbed the door handle, pulled the door open, and waited for A.B.
A.B's attention passed between the two men, one wholly amused with himself the other more than slightly annoyed. A.B watched the latter for a moment, wondering why.
"Bye," she said to Quinn when her attention found its way back to him. The other man stayed leaning against the door frame. He smiled at her. "The pleasure was all mine," he reiterated.
Eliot snorted, drawing both their attention.
Eliot met her gaze for the briefest of moments as she stepped past him, stopping near the porch steps. Eliot followed her, closing the door softly behind them. Two kids of bicycles went by laughing, drawing both of their gazes. A.B leaned one hip against the wall.
"Sorry. Quinn's…" Eliot's words trailed off, his gaze fixed on a point over her shoulder.
"interesting?" A.B supplied for him, bringing his attention back to her.
The edge of Eliot's mouth picked up a notch, and he scoffed. "Yeah, that's one way to put it. Probably not how I would, but it is one way." He folded his arms over his chest.
A.B laughed. "He's pretty funny."
"If you say so."
She was silent for a moment. Her eyes drifted over Eliot's handsome face. "Thank you," she said. "I'll call you if I set the food or my kitchen on fire or something."
Their gaze held, and silence settled around them. That same piece of hair as early rested against her cheek. Again Eliot felt the ghost of a need to touch her. "You do that." Eliot said softly. "I'm sorry we didn't get to finish dinner."
"Me too," she agreed, biting her bottom lip. She shrugged. "Maybe we could do this again?" She suggested before she even realized she'd had the thought.
It could have been a trick of the light, but his eyes seemed to darken. He nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, we could," he said, his voice low and like sandpaper.
A.B felt a hint of that breathless feeling weave through her again, making her stomach flutter. She dismissed it, giving him her biggest smile. "See ya," she said and headed for her car.
"Have fun at your concert," Eliot called. She and Jenna were apparently going to see Blake Shelton Saturday night. A.B turned around, taking two steps backward, a bright smile on her face. "Will do," she said and spun back around.
Eliot watched until she was in her car and waved. A slight smile played about his lips. He didn't miss that for the first time; she didn't say see ya or similar words in the form of a question, but he didn't have time to contemplate that.
Eliot turned and grabbed the door handle. "What the hell are you doing here, anyway?" He nearly growled as he stepped back inside.
Quinn was standing near the bookcase holding the katana Nate and Sophie had given a couple of years ago. It was the first Christmas present Eliot had received in years besides an occasional one from a female friend if he had one through the holiday season. It had been so long the feeling had felt almost alien to him, and it still kind of did today. It was just another example of how much his life had changed in the last five years.
"This is a real Hanzo sword," Quinn said, impressed and surprised.
Eliot moved closer, a smirk on his face, and took the blade. "You better give me that before you hurt yourself." He placed it back on its holder.
Quinn cocked an eyebrow and grabbed a plate of food from the shelf where he had left it. "Funny, that's the same thing I was thinking."
"Why don't you help yourself," Eliot said sarcastically, ignoring the taller man's comment. He watched as Quinn took a bite of the steelhead he had just helped A.B cook.
"Aren't you nice?" Quinn asked, watching Eliot, that smug twinkle in his eyes. "An old friend comes to see you, and this is how you react."
Eliot folded his arms over his chest, far more amused than the scowl on his face implied. "Since when are we old friends?" He didn't comment on the other man's pilfered food again.
"Since I saved your ass."
"I don't remember you saving my ass, ever."
A thoughtful look appeared on Quinn's face, and he nodded his head as if he was weighing Eliot's words. "Fair enough. Since I kicked your ass, then."
Eliot scoffed, folding his arms over his chest. "That's not how I remember that either. What do you want?"
Adjusting the button on his suit jacket, Quinn said, "you owe me a favor if I remember correctly."
Eliot said nothing for a moment. "I do," he finally said. He wasn't one to forget a favor owed, but he was leary of the man standing before him. "What do you have in mind?"
Quinn sat the plate down on one of the bookshelves shelves and slid his hands in his pockets. "You could give me your friend's number, and we can call it even," he said, rolling back on his heels.
Eliot glared at Quinn.
"No?" the taller man asked with a nod. "I figured as much. I'm in town on a job, and I could use some help."
"What's the job?"
"Let's go for a ride, and I will tell ya."
A.B pushed her front door closed with her shoulder, a bag of takeout containers dangling from her hand. She hadn't even stopped to eat lunch today, and she had only gotten a few bites at Eliot's. A.B made her way toward the kitchen. She was going to text or call Joan and see if she was hungry, but A.B had decided just to buy enough for them both, and if Joan didn't eat it, A.B would tomorrow.
She sat the bag on the counter and pulled out the five take out containers inside. She opened up the Beef Chow Fun, sniffing it before she grabbed a plate and silverware from the dishwasher.
Her stomach growled loudly. Beef Chow Fun from Duck House was worth the wait and was one of her favorite foods.
A.B had just separated her chopsticks when the front door opened.
A.B looked up when her friend stepped into the room, her long thick dark hair, pulled up on top of her head in a bun. "Hey." A.B held up the box of orange chicken, "want some?"
"What do we have?" The brunette asked, dropping her brown leather bag on the table. She put one hand on the back of a chair and pulled off her ankle boots with the other. She wiggled her toes when they were set free.
"Duck House," A.B replied as she used her chopsticks to pull some beef chow fun onto her plate.
"Mmmmm," was Joan's only reply.
A.B opened the dishwasher and grabbed Joan a plate. A.B went back to putting food on her own plate. "I'm fucking starving."
Joan took the plate and started filling it. "I thought you weren't gonna be home for dinner tonight?" Joan hadn't been home over the weekend. They usually ate together four or five nights a week. A.B had texted her earlier, so Joan knew she wasn't planning on being home. Joan had planned to eat frozen pizza.
"I wasn't supposed to be."
"Oh?" Was all Joan said to her friend in a short reply as she dumped orange chicken onto her plate.
"Eliot ended up having company."
Joan looked up at her friend and grew still. "Eliot?"
"Yeah," A.B confirmed, lifting chow fun to her mouth with her chopsticks. "He was showing me how to cook steelhead some other way than slathered in mayo."
"I see." Joan said, taking a bite of her own food. The "I see" sounded more like speculation, however.
A.B smiled at her friend's tone. She was already aware of what Joan thought. "Before you give me shit. I wanted to do something nice for Hank for his birthday."
"So, having dinner with Eliot was something fun for Hank's birthday?" Joan asked, her brown eyes twinkling. "Sounds convenient to me."
"What do you mean convenient?"
Joan's smile broadened, she paused with her chopsticks almost to her mouth. "So, seems it's not convenient, when are you gonna set me up with Eliot anyway."
"The rules," A.B reminded her friend. That rule applied more than ever for A.B. Eliot was a lot more than just a friend. He was family, really.
Joan had seen the two of them together a couple of times now. She had also heard her best friend mention him a lot. Joan was pretty sure some of that childhood crush remained even if A.B didn't realize it. But really, the main reason she kept nagging A.B about setting her up was to annoy her. Not that Joan would complain if A.B did it. She meant what she said; he was an almost absurdly attractive man.
"Hey, so, mom and dad's anniversary barbecue this weekend," Joan said, changing the subject. "You and Hank are invited."
"Don't worry, it's Sunday afternoon," Joan added before A.B asked. She knew A.B had plans Saturday. They all knew A.B had plans Saturday night and had for months. Apparently, seeing Blake Shelton in concert for an Oklahoma girl was like Joan's old college roommate from Maine and Stephen King books and movies.
"I'll ask Hank, but I'm sure that's fine," A.B said, grabbing a Coke out of the fridge. "Want one?" she asked.
"What should we get them?"
"Mom would say nada. Kara and I got dad a new smoker and mom, an embroidery machine."
"You know what I've got it" A.B had seen this neat green depression glass candy dish in one of the stores downtown. Joan's mom loved that sort of stuff. "There's a candy dish into Sandies. It's that green your mum likes so much. I'll get that for her and let Hank find something for your dad."
"Or you could just give them both the candy dish," Joan said with a laugh.
A.B shrugged. "Yeah, I'm not giving your dad a candy dish."
"If you were really my best friend, you'd get me a date."
A.B laughed, ignoring the vaguely knotted feeling the idea placed in her stomach, just as she had a few seconds ago. "Do you want to make some extra money in a couple of weeks?" A.B asked, changing the subject. It wasn't uncommon for Joan and the others to help work the promotional stuff A.B's bosses did for local events.
"Rodeo stuff?" Joan asked.
A.B nodded. "Yup."
Joan was quiet for a moment, then shrugged, "sure."
Eliot looked around the dimly lit rundown hotel room. The room was not a surprise after seeing the outside of the place. Something about it had an eerie feel. Though there was no creepy Victorian house sitting on a hill behind it, the place had a Bates Motel feel; it was secluded, and there was a flickering neon light outside that announced vacant rooms. Faded yellow wallpaper with a brown pattern covered the walls. Thick multi-colored shag carpet blanketed the floor. Two rickety old double beds set against one wall, an equally rough-looking dinette set sat against another. It did feel like something from a slasher movie and the sort of place his friend here wouldn't frequent without a good reason. The room had the smell of stale tobacco smoke, and urine and rounded everything off, adding to the overall air.
"So, where is your job?" Eliot asked, almost afraid of the answer. For just a moment, the shower scene from Psycho filled his head.
Quinn made his way to the closet and opened the door.
"You put him in there?" Eliot asked, looking at the kid somewhere in his early twenties, tied up on the small space's floor.
Quinn reached past Eliot grabbing the kid by the rope tied around his chest. The kid instantly started struggling. "Yeah, he refused to do as I asked," he explained like it made perfect sense.
Eliot opened his mouth, sputtering for a moment; this was some Parker level shit right here, as was Quinn's response. Eliot grabbed hold of the kid as well, helping Quinn pull him out of the closet. "Are you sure this is what his father meant by "keep him safe?"
The kid continued to struggle; they lifted him under his arms, one each side. They carried him to one the chair's where they unceremoniously dropped him. He struggled to his feet or as close as he could get. Quinn pushed him back down and shrugged. "Well, if he won't listen, what choice do I have?"
"How'd you get him to stay quiet?"
"I told him if he didn't, I'd shoot him."
"It would appear, he listened." Even if he hadn't, Eliot wasn't so sure this was the type of place where the sounds of someone struggling were altogether uncommon.
"Hmm," Quinn said with a nod. "I guess he did.
A.B climbed between her sheets, sinking into the soft mattress as she finished rubbing in her hand lotion and situated herself. She grabbed her phone from the nightstand when she finished. It was ten-thirty. After she and Joan ate, she called Hank and then they'd watched a movie. Hank was coming in tomorrow night and wanted to go out with friends for dinner. He'd asked about The Brew Pub. He wanted to try Eliot's chili they had on the menu. Hank had also asked her to invite Eliot. A.B said she would ask, but the thought made her anxious.
She didn't tell Hank she had been with Eliot tonight, she didn't even mention she'd seen him. She couldn't tell him without an explanation, and the reason she had wasn't one she wanted to share just yet. Or so she told herself, ignoring the pit forming in her stomach and the slight flutter she felt in the chest.
A.B opened her contacts and found his name.
Hey, I left my cooler at yr house! Also, hank wants to go to The Brew Pub tmrrw nght for dnnr. He asked me to invte u. U shld cme, she typed and hit send.
Thanks for reading!