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Copyright: Although the main characters in the following do bear a strong resemblance to a cute couple with whom we are all familiar, all the characters in this work of fiction are the product of my own imagination and are therefore copyright to me.
For the rest of the disclaimers, please see the first chapter
by Helen Smith, (firstname.lastname@example.org)September, 2000
An hour later, Quinn threw down her pen in disgust. She had gone at the problem of who was threatening Ariel from every angle but nothing leaped into focus. She'd also drunk an entire pot of coffee and felt the need to do something about it immediately. Returning to the kitchen from the small powder room around the corner, she found Hairy sitting on the table next to her phone. Just as she sat down, the device squealed for attention, causing the kitten to shoot into the air. Calming him with one hand, she flipped the phone on with the other.
"Quinn, my dear. Good morning. How is Ariel today?"
"Good morning Edward. About as well as can be expected."
"That bad, eh? I didn't like the way she was looking last night after that incident."
"Me neither. And you're right--she's no better."
"Hmm." There was a pause. "A month or more ago, she and I talked about you two coming over for dinner. We were unable to arrange it then, but perhaps we should now."
"Oh, Edward, I don't know..."
"Quinn, listen to me. A horse throws you, you get back on it. Ariel needs to do something. The longer she sits there and thinks about it, the more paralyzed she'll get. You know I'm right. She should continue, as well as she can, her regular routine. It will show her that that was a special case - he knew the limo would be there, he smartly hired someone to create a diversion at the front of the museum, and the bonus came when that young idiot decided to play superhero and left his post. That's a bit different from getting to her in everyday life. You know I'm right."
Quinn chuckled. "Well, you're certainly persuasive. Tell you what. I'll check with her and see if I can persuade her, but I'm not dragging her over to your house."
"Fair enough. Give me a call back when you've got a yes answer and I'll call Sarah."
"Hop to it dear. Time's a-wasting."
Quinn made a face at the phone, then flipped it shut. "Ok guys," she said, addressing the kittens who were playing with her pen, which was once again on the floor, "you may be dining alone tonight since we have a date. At least I hope so."
She found Ariel reading in the lazyboy in the living room. "Edward just called. He's invited us for dinner tonight."
"Oh Quinn, I don't know..."
Quinn cut her off with a kiss, then handed her the phone. "If you don't want to, you've got to call him." Ariel glared at her as she let the phone slide out of her hand into her lap. Quinn leaned over and kissed her again then murmured "You know, you're beautiful when you're angry." That produced a small smile. "Hey-y-y! Teeth!" which wasn't quite true at first but was soon borne out as the smile widened. "So tell me," the dark-haired woman breathed, "is there, by any chance, a...tongue...in there too?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," Ariel murmured as she looked Quinn up and down suggestively. As leers went, it was a pale reflection of Ariel's usual lascivious, off-the-scale, if-you-weren't-wet-before-you-sure-are-now gaze, but, Quinn reflected, ruefully, it would do nicely.
"Well then," Quinn whispered, inches from Ariel's lips, "you'd better" she ran her tongue languidly over Ariel's bottom lip, "call him and say yes." So saying she picked up the phone from Ariel's lap, placed it in her hands and left, chuckling.
"Quinn, you bitch!"
"That's butch, sweet thang. Butch."
Quinn sauntered back to the kitchen. "Mission accomplished, Charlotte," she said to the black and white kitten tearing across the terra cotta floor in pursuit of Hairy. Locating her pen, which Grise was about to launch into the black hole under the stove, she sat again at the table, and stared at her notes. She became so wrapped up in her thoughts that when Ariel walked through the doorway a few minutes later, and dropped the phone into Quinn's lap, she actually jumped.
"They're expecting us at 7:00 o'clock."
"Hey-y-y, that's my girl."
"Yeah, well Edward thinks you should give up security and go into negotiating, you talked me into it so fast. But I told him I wouldn't let you use those tactics on anyone else."
Quinn's grin was cut off as Ariel suddenly straddled the taller woman's lap and rested her arms over her shoulders. The security consultant was uncomfortably aware of the cell phone in her crotch. Ariel shifted her hips slightly to emphasize its presence, and said "I told him that I, on the other hand, was even better at those tactics so if he hired anyone to negotiate, it ought to be me. Don't you agree?" she asked, while again giving Quinn a small thrust with her hips.
"Oh Goddess!" gasped Quinn.
"True, but on earth I prefer to go incognito. So you can just call me Ariel," she smiled, a smile that had the side effect of drenching Quinn's shorts yet again, then leaned over and gave the dark-haired woman the longest, deepest kiss they'd shared in more than a week.
Quinn was gasping for air when they broke apart. Ariel gave her another small thrust then leaned over and murmured in her ear, "And you know what I'd like to do right...(lick) about (nibble) now (bite)?"
"What?!" Goddess, this woman was hot!
Ariel surged up off Quinn's lap with a laugh, bent over one more time to kiss her now damp forehead, and said "Paybacks, Sweet Pea." then left the room. Quinn sagged in her chair. From halfway upstairs she heard Ariel call "I'll be down in a minute to do my laps. Gives you time to wipe down that phone!"
As the taxi turned up Edward and Sarah's street and slowed, Quinn observed Ariel from the corner of her eye. Although not as subdued as she had been earlier that morning, her lover was still not herself. She'd done her laps. They'd even made love, but something had been missing. It was as if Ariel had used up all her energy teasing Quinn and had nothing left. That was quite unlike her Ariel. Quinn very much hoped that a visit with Edward and Sarah would cheer her up.
The car pulled into the curb and they got out. After Quinn used plastic to pay the charge, the uninhabited vehicle pulled out into the street and departed. They had opted to use a taxi for safety's sake, since the message left on the limo might be construed as an intention to use a bomb or otherwise tamper with Quinn's Mark 5. Although Quinn had been checking it carefully each time she'd used it since the arrival of the first threatening message, she decided that the safest course would be to have it towed to a garage to be gone over minutely. For emergency use only, Kris and John had dropped a car off in the neighbourhood--Quinn had the key but the would-be assailant had never seen her in or near it so there was nothing to link her with it. Until the person threatening Ariel was caught, therefore, they'd have to get along with taxis for daily trips. Quinn hoped they'd get the fucker soon because she'd already had enough of this taxi nonsense.
The security consultant kept an eye on their surroundings while Ariel rang the bell. Edward opened the door almost immediately.
"Ariel, my dear. And Quinn. Please come in."
"Edward. Thank you for inviting us."
"Not at all, Not at all. We're always glad to see you two."
"Indeed we are," said a small white-haired woman just coming into the hall. She quickly kissed both women in greeting and paused to give Ariel a quick hug of support.
Edward ushered all into the family room and took drink orders. As he was filling the requests, Sarah excused herself to return to the kitchen to put the final touches on dinner. Although she and Edward could easily afford help around the house, Sarah would not hear of it, believing that home-cooked meals for loved ones, which was what Ariel, and later Quinn, were to her and her husband, needed much tender loving care in their preparation.
Edward set the drinks on the coffee table and then distributed them. "The media got wind of the incident at the launch," he said. "They called me this morning."
"I told them it was nothing. Hooligans only, out for a good time. Have you been disturbed?"
Quinn shook her head and looked at Ariel with a raised eyebrow.
"Not me. Good. I guess they believed you then. I don't think I could cope with media prying into that too."
Edward nodded. "Save your energies to concentrate on the task at hand." Then he smiled beatifically and continued "which is making lots of lovely, lovely money."
Ariel gave him a small smile but declined to comment.
The publisher turned to Quinn, casting about for another topic. "What about you, Quinn. What have you been working on in addition to keeping the lovely Ms. Pedersen here safe?"
Quinn stretched her legs out in front of her and crossed them at the ankle. She knew Edward was trying to change the topic now that he had found out that he'd been successful with the media. "Well, like usual, a little of this and a little of that. Warehouses are big these days. Home security. As I say, the usual. Which reminds me, it's time to pester you again about an alarm system." This was a running debate between them. Edward insisting they didn't need one, Quinn equally adamant that safe was better than sorry.
"You know, I'm glad you brought that up. A house just one over from us was burglarized the other night and Sarah chewed me out for not getting one installed before this."
"I hardly did that, dear," said Sarah who had just returned. "I merely pointed out to you that the extra safety afforded would be worth the cost."
"Which from Sarah, is the strongest possible reprimand," smiled Edward.
The white-haired woman laughed. "Oh you. Well, speaking of chewing, dinner is ready if you'd like to come this way."
Everyone got to their feet and Ariel followed Sarah out. Edward stopped Quinn just as she was about to follow. "Anything further on the incident, Quinn? I know the police were conducting inquiries to see if anyone saw anything."
"Nothing from them, Edward. I had the substance on the windshield analyzed and as we thought, it was lipstick. Very likely a shade called Passion, from Rubinstein-Factor-Disney."
"Well, if you hear anything else, please let me know. Now, shall we join the ladies?"
Dinner, as usual, was delicious. A vat-grown sirloin tip roast, the focal point of the main course, was accompanied by potatoes, carrots, green beans and a salad, and two bottles of a very dry, red wine. By the time they got to dessert, a cake that Ariel had contributed, she was a little more her old self. Quinn was sure that the wine had helped relax her, but it was the good conversation that really made her forget the uncertainty of the future and just enjoy the present. Edward was in his element, telling stories about his experiences in the publishing business. Although he was very much a modern publisher, his management style often harked back to the days when publishers were gentlemen first and entrepreneurs second. Sarah, his wife of 40-some years, contributed her own stories of the early days of the business, when she had worked beside her husband to build it into the well-respected publishing firm it now was.
As they lingered over coffee and liqueurs in the family room, Quinn reflected that Edward had indeed been right: this evening was just what Ariel needed to give her some respite from worry. Goddess knew she'd have plenty of worrying to do in the coming three weeks as they crisscrossed the continent.
Quinn suddenly became aware that Ariel was saying they should leave since it was getting late. After Quinn phoned for a taxi, Sarah extracted a promise from her that she'd be around in the latter part of the morning, her last day before accompanying Ariel on tour, to appraise the security needs of their home. Within five minutes the car pulled into the lane and Edward and Sarah hugged both women in farewell. The publisher also took the opportunity to assure them that he was reachable 24 hours a day while they were traveling if there was anything at all they were concerned about. The two were still in the doorway waving as the taxi pulled out into the street.
Ariel snuggled close. "Quinn?"
"Do you think we'll be like Sarah and Edward in 40 years? I mean, they're still so much in love."
Quinn kissed the top of Ariel's head, which was just under the taller woman's chin. "I'm sure of it," she said.
"Good." Ariel settled down and seemed to go to sleep.
Forty years eh? thought Quinn. At least she's taking the long view again. Quinn smiled, and relaxed for the rest of the trip home.
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