Three

A Dangerous Game




Earlier that night.


Quinn had time to kill. Carule, the God of Love, was busy elsewhere and wouldn’t be available until tomorrow morning. Just Quinn’s luck, really, yet he can’t say he was overly disappointed. Bridgeport had some of the best nightlife in the world. He wouldn’t be heartbroken over having to wait an extra day - or even two.


It was his night to people-watch. Perhaps if he got lucky he could pick up a girl to pass the time with, but Friday nights were rarely good for that. Everyone came in groups of two or more and rarely did they ever leave the boundaries of said group.


There were a few singles here and there, but nothing Quinn would look at. Usually if someone was alone on a Friday night at a nightclub then there was oftentimes something going on underneath the surface that Quinn definitely didn’t want to touch.


People-watching was fun for him anyways. It gave him a chance to hone his skills at deduction. The club he was in that night had nice music and decent drinks - on the off chance you could even get the bartender to look at you.


No, the bartender was too busy attempting to pick up one of the girls in the group across the bar. Quinn rolled his eyes - the bartender must be new if he expects to actually accomplish anything with those girls. Girls in gaggles very rarely left the pack on a Friday night, especially not with a bartender.


His eyes skimmed the crowd of people dancing when a pretty blonde caught his eyes. She was moving towards the bar alone. Strange - he didn’t remember seeing someone of her stature alone before. Had she broken off from her gaggle or had he just been mistaken? His eyes looked her up and down quickly before he moved his gaze elsewhere.


She was definitely gorgeous, perhaps she had a lower IQ to accommodate the expanse of her curves. He’s definitely dealt with worse before. He shrugged lightly. Something in the crowd caught his eye and he saw her other half - another woman she had come to the bar with. Groups of two were impossible to split, and the chances of them both coming with him…?


He felt his disappointment as he had to push that idea from his head. Her friend looked like a sloppy drunk anyways, for all he knew they were both that way. His eyes scanned the people around the bar area again, landing on a hopeless looking blonde woman who sat with her drink.


Nope, he thought, won’t touch that with a ten-foot-pole.


“I would avoid the blonde one. She’s been twisting a wedding ring around her finger all night before she put it in her purse fifteen minutes ago. Likely a new divorcee and those just scream emotional attachment problems.” Her voice caught Quinn by surprise - it was beautiful. Notably so, and he’s heard plenty of nice voices in his day. He spared her a quick glance to confirm that it was, indeed, the beautiful blonde he had been eyeing previously before giving up that dream.


As quickly as he looked at her he immediately looked back across the room and chuckled. New divorcee? Why hadn’t he thought about that? He was off his game tonight. “Something did seem a bit off about that one.” He carefully grabbed his glass and timed his quick sip.


Drinks were excellent social devices - they made everyone’s lips a little looser, but more than that, they made for a great way to measure conversations. Someone expecting you to say too much? Take a drink. Need more time to think about something? Take a drink. Want to signal that you’re finished speaking? Take a drink.


The woman’s eyes lingered on him for a moment and he took a moment to assess his disguise. Something about her gaze made him a tad uneasy, like she was assessing him in the same way he assessed the people in the room. She tipped her head slightly before speaking. “Honestly, the pickings are a little slim tonight. You’ll be as likely to get a good catch as I am a drink within a reasonable time.”


He let himself look at her now, something was interesting with her appearance. She had magic of some variety, but he couldn’t put his finger on what. She bit her lip before smiling at him and he briefly forgot what he was thinking about. She was talking to him now, perhaps he actually had a chance? A charming smile pulled on his lips and he extended his hand, the last name he used was getting tired, so he pulled another name from his hat. “Matt.”


The woman assessed him skeptically and Quinn’s eyes narrowed slightly. She reached over and took his hand. “Bullshit.” She smiled as she spoke.


He was knocked completely off-guard. He scrambled to find something to say in response. “What?”
“Esmerelda.” She said the word like that was what she had originally said in the first place, but he knew it wasn’t. Her face was unchanging as she spoke again. “And bullshit. Your name isn’t Matt.”


His eyes really narrowed in on her now. So much for the idea of her having a low IQ, he thought idly. Who did she work for? What was her game? Surely none of the gods would be interested in going after a silly enchanted pouch for Carule and his little matchmakers. “Oh really? You seem to know an awful lot about me.” How much did she know? “If that’s the case then… what’s my name?” He smiled at her with interest.


She rolled her eyes and looked away coyly. She wasn’t going to give up her source - or perhaps she didn’t have one. “You hesitated before you gave me your name, I could see your mind processing a question you shouldn't need to think about.”


Perceptive. He loved that in women. Time to play devil’s advocate and see just how perceptive she really was. “I could’ve had a decent amount to drink, thus causing me to not respond quickly.”


She shook her head before pointing to his drink. “You had just taken a very careful drink of your low-alcoholic beverage. You’re not new to this game. Sloshed guys usually go macho on their drinks.” She pursed her lips and then shrugged lightly. “Not to mention, up until this point you’ve only defended the fact that your name could be Matt, not that it is.” No master. He could tell just by the way she held herself. She only answered to herself. Esmerelda was a different breed of woman entirely.


Where was the catch? He conceded slightly. “Quinn. My name is Quinn.” He took another drink to allow him to think about his next sentence. Was she really intelligent, or just lucky and combative? He put his drink down and smiled at her cheekily. “Unless you’re going to contest my actual name not being mine this time?”


She laughed brightly, a musical laughter. If there were a bet, he would put money on that she was a singer. Slowly her head shook. “Nope. Quinn sounds nice.” Not combative at all - just intelligent and beautiful. He so rarely met women that were both to such a degree. He couldn’t waste this opportunity. He watched her eyes on the bartender as she tried to flag him down, yet the bartender returned to his futile hopes to winning the gaggle over.


“Fuck!” Esmerelda had cursed under her breath and Quinn stared at her with amusement. For someone who’s voice was so beautiful, it almost seemed strange hearing such foul language come from her lips. He was enjoying this more and more. She slumped back down against the bar and grumbled. “Are my tits not hanging out enough or what?” She stared down at her chest and laughed.


What a doll, Quinn grinned, she gave him an invitation to look at her chest? He would be a fool to waste the opportunity. He shook his head as he assessed her. She had bar hopping down to a science - just as he did. “No, too much more and you’d be the drunk floozy. You’ve got just the right amount.”

“Well, I’m glad I haven’t lost my game.” She sighed before pulling herself into the stool next to him. Internally Quinn smiled at his victory. She was fun to talk to - he would take what he could get.
“HEY… ES...ES-mer-EL-da!” Her friend drunkenly called from a few paces away. Part of him wondered why he had gotten his hopes up in the first place. How had he forgotten she hadn’t come here alone?


Perhaps she had forgotten too? He looked at her briefly before his gaze returned to her friend. Unlikely. He chuckled as Esmerelda’s friend nearly fell over. “Wow… I think she’s hit her limit.” And then reversed so hard that she doubled-back and smacked into it again; the woman looked a little too old to be that wasted in a club on a Friday night. Perhaps if she were a rookie, then maybe, but she looked well into her twenties. He carefully took another drink.


Esmerelda’s musical laughter captured his attention. She turned her gaze onto him - big, brown eyes looking at him warmly. “One martini, can you believe it?”
“Lightweight.” Quinn said back immediately with a smile. “Those are dangerous.”
Esmerelda looked at him with a smile of her own before she jolted slightly as her friend collapsed on her. “Ezzie! I… I gotta… I gotta call Eric!” Her friend slurred.


Ezzie. That was adorable. She didn’t look like an Ezzie though. She sounded like an Ezzie, but there was just something off he couldn’t place. At this point he didn’t even care, she was beautiful, funny, and more fun than he’d had in a long time. Esmerelda frowned slightly at her friend’s slurring. “No, sweetheart, you don’t need to call Eric.”


“But… but Ezzie… Ezzie you don’t understand! I… I love him… and I…” She stopped suddenly and her whole face went flat as she nearly fell over. She jolted back up standing before giggling. “I need… I need to tell him I love him, because… I do!”


Quinn wanted to laugh and Esmerelda patted the girl’s shoulder in fake sympathy. “I know, sweetheart; you’ll survive another six hours without him. I promise.”
She wasn’t here with her friend, she was here as a designated babysitter. He slowly took another drink. The woman being babysat began to whine again. “I… I don’t think… I don’t think I can!” She slowly lowered her head to the counter where she proceeded to pass out almost immediately. Quinn struggled to not choke on his drink. What did they put in that martini? Where could he get some of that? He laughed as he watched Esmerelda struggle to not do the same.


Finally, Esmerelda snorted and broke down laughing which caused her friend to jolt awake. The woman put her head into her hands before mumbling. “I’m… I’m going to call Eric.”
“No!” Esmerelda sighed, looking annoyed. “If you do that then you’ll just want to go back to the hotel. I know you, Mellie.”
Quinn watched their conversation with interest, but soon realized it was probably rude to watch them talk. Esmerelda’s friend - Mellie? - was obsessed with a man named Eric while Esmerelda tried to talk her friend down from leaving too early.


Early it certainly was. He came back into their conversation right as Mellie stumbled towards the elevator, mumbling about calling Eric. One martini? Surely that couldn’t be all she had. Esmerelda turned back to look at him and he started laughing again as he shook his head. “That’s impressive.”
She smiled and before he knew it she was laughing too. “She’s something, isn’t she?” She paused and shook her head. “Do you have the time, by chance?”



Did he? He idly reached into his pocket and felt the smooth surface of his pocket watch. Yes, it seems he hadn’t forgot that piece of himself this time. He pulled out his favorite possession and stared at it. “Just after 9.” He carefully tucked the watch away.



“Classy.” She complimented and he smiled softly. She groaned then and he looked at her curiously. “That early? Well, there goes my fun.” He watched Esmerelda slowly stand up from the barstool, straightening her dress as she did so. “Well, Quinn, I wish you the best of luck with the hunt tonight.”



He was tempted to roll his eyes. “It’s a shame that I’m probably going to need it. That blonde is looking to be my best option after you leave.” Trying to convince her to stay wouldn’t work out, and he’d look a bit desperate at that point. Granted, for company like hers he wasn’t afraid to sink into desperate territory.



Esmerelda gave him a sweet smile before she winked at him. He watched her walk away, her steps timed to the music as she swayed with the rhythm. He turned back towards the bar hastily and drummed his fingers on the counter. On one of those ridiculous scales rating how pretty someone was, she was a 10.



No, she was probably closer to an 8, but she had the personality of a 10, which made her a 10. It made her an 11, even, in his books. He heard the elevator ding closed like it was the only sound in the room. It wasn’t, but it was like the finality of watching the first 11 he’d seen in ages walk out of his grasp made the music seem quieter.



He stopped drumming his fingers suddenly and scowled. “Fuck it.” He mumbled as he tossed down the rest of his drink and stood up suddenly from the bar. Maybe luck was actually on his side tonight? Unlikely, but he wasn’t afraid to try anyways.
He waited for the next elevator which took an excruciatingly long time. He imagined she would already be long gone by this point and almost gave in before the little bell chimed and the door came open.



By the time he stepped out into the night air he could feel his hopes sinking. He let out a breath when a chattery voice caught his ear. Mellie was stumbling around on her phone, chattering loudly. He felt a smile pulling on his lips and he looked around for signs of Esmerelda, only to find her threading her fingers through her hair as she leaned back against the side of the building.



He approached the wall she leaned on carefully and she didn’t notice his presence. He followed her gaze up to the sky and smiled. “It’s a nice night.”
Her gaze whipped to him suddenly and she smirked. “It’s hardly night, unfortunately.” Her gaze drifted back to Mellie who was still stumbling around on her phone. “Did you strike out with the blonde?”



He certainly hoped not, he thought as he watched her carefully. Finally he shrugged nonchalantly. “Nope. The only decent company left, so I decided it was time to pack it in for that place too.”
She half-smiled, sensing his compliment. “I should warn you, as tempting as your eventual offer would be - I’m babysitting Drunkee McWasted over there, assuming she doesn’t conk out on me for the night already.”



He chuckled before looking over at Mellie. “She talking to Eric?”
Esmerelda stared at him curiously. “Yes-sir.” She smiled slightly, though it didn’t touch her eyes. “My best friend is getting married soon, gods know why.” She paused in her speech. “Well, clearly I know why - she’s over the moon about him, which is better than her not being over the moon about him, I guess. Perhaps it’s just marriage I don’t get.”



It was Quinn’s turn to look at her curiously. “Can’t say I understand it, myself.” He did and didn’t. It wasn’t something meant for him. 1,000 years on this planet at least gave him that understanding of himself. Sure, sometimes he thought about it, but most of the time the idea that he would shackle himself to someone and lose his freedoms to go out at night just never seemed appealing at all.
Her face soured slightly. “Perhaps deep down I have this jealousy that I’ll never get that, but…” She sucked her lips before shaking her head and laughing. “Nope, actually, I just don’t understand why someone would give up their freedom to handle 9 o’clock phone calls.”



Quinn found himself staring at her, dumbstruck. Had she read his mind? Surely not. He was an expert on knowing when someone was in his head without permission.
Her gaze turned back on him sharply and she scowled. “What?”



He felt a smile pulling on his lips and suddenly she was smiling too. Finally he shook himself out of his thoughts. “I was just…” There was no way he could recover from this fast enough. He had to think quickly. He shook his head again. “No, it was nothing.”
She started to defend herself. “You think I’m bullshitting you? I honestly mean it-”



He was smiling as he shook his head now. “No, it’s just I would’ve used the same words for it, and I just had this weird moment thinking about it.” Way smooth. How rusty was he, anyways?
“Great minds think alike.” She spared him a slight smile as her friend approached her.



Suddenly she leaned on Esmerelda and giggled into her ear. “Ezzie!”
Esmerelda’s eyes bugged open and she jumped. “Oh shit!” She grabbed her chest and laughed. “Melanie you gave me a heart attack!”
Melanie. So that was this mysterious, drunken friend’s real name. Something was off about Melanie too, though he hadn’t cared long enough to stare at her until now. This one was quite a bit more obvious, as he could see magic radiating behind colored contacts. Melanie was a Werewolf. One of Goddess of the Moon's? He couldn't be sure.



A Werewolf though? They never travel outside of packs. What was she doing here alone? Was she alone? He looked at Esmerelda intensely, yet while she was magical she wasn’t a Werewolf. The alcohol in his system wasn’t giving him a clear head, and the way Esmerelda smiled certainly didn’t help.



“It’s so early sweetheart, are you sure?” Esmerelda responded. Quinn had missed an entire chunk of conversation on his muses. He looked at the women carefully.
Melanie pursed her lips. “I’m… I’m going to head back to call Eric again from the hotel phone. My battery… my battery is nearly dead.” She stared down at her phone sadly.
Eric must be the mate, then. Werewolves often had one person they would mark as their mate that they would be far more attached to than just your average couple.



It actually explained a lot. Esmerelda’s face shifted to something more resigned. “Alright, I’ll call us a cab.”
Quinn gritted his teeth slightly, not ready to say goodbye just yet - not when it was so early. Yet it was Melanie who saved the day this time. “No need! Eric is... calling me a cab. You should stay out and... have fun!”
Yes, she should. Quinn looked at her with a raised eyebrow as she contemplated the option. She wanted to say yes. Surely, she did. “I don’t know, Mellie…”



“Oh! Are you… are you worried about being-” Melanie hiccuped. “-alone? I didn’t… even think of that.”
Now was his chance. “It is a dangerous city, but you don’t need to worry. I can keep an eye on her for you.” He smiled charmingly.
Esmerelda shot him a glance, but she smiled still. If she wanted to leave she could, but he didn’t think she did - he was betting on it.



They stood at a stalemate until a taxi interrupted the silence by honking. Melanie jumped and then laughed. “Oh… that’s the cab!” She looked back at them with a devious smile. “Have fun, you two!” Oh, he planned to. Melanie reached over and drunkenly hugged Esmerelda. The taxi honked again and Melanie stumbled forward while shouting. “I’M COMING!”



Quinn lurched forward, aware of the familiar signs of someone about to let their face meet concrete in a drunken fall. When he looked up he saw Esmerelda doing the same thing and he chuckled.
He helped the lightweight Werewolf into the back of the taxi as Esmerelda gave the driver the address. He listened carefully and pursed his lips - he knew that hotel. Cheap and slimy, if he remembered right, but the breakfast wasn’t terrible there.



They closed up the taxi doors and Esmerelda watched the car vanish from sight. Quinn smiled at her. “You know, I know a bar about a block away with shit food and a bartender who owes me some money.” And his life, he added silently. He was one of Vinyx’s - the God of Debauchery, and he had gotten himself into far more messes that Quinn had to clean up.



She looked at him and smiled warmly. “Lead the way.”


<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

The bar was shady as ever and Quinn eyed Esmerelda’s face cautiously, wondering if she would freak out in such a seedy place, yet she showed no signs of discomfort.



The bar had a few stragglers in it, but it was mostly quiet. It usually didn’t pick up in here until closer to two in the morning when the dance joints would start closing up.



The man behind the bar eyed Quinn skeptically. “Can I help you?”
Quinn grinned deviously. “Jeffrey! You’ve still got your arms attached - this is good!”



Jeffrey Rain was a longtime Priest of Vinyx. They got stuck together on a strange mission one day and things went south. When they managed to survive together it developed into a strange friendship. A strange friendship which meant free drinks whenever Quinn was in town. “Shit, Quinn? Is that you? I didn’t even fucking recognize you, mate! Did your hairdresser run you over with a lawn mower?”
Jeffrey was asking about his disguise - about why he was wearing one. Quinn rolled his eyes, his head nodding briefly to Esmerelda. “What? That’s my favorite technique.”



“Bah.” Jeffrey shook his head, half rolling his eyes. “You going to introduce the lovely lady, or you going to continue being a rude prick?”
Esmerelda snickered. “I’m Esmerelda.” She smiled brightly, not needing Quinn to introduce her. Quinn gave her a wicked smile.
“Something wrong with your eyes, sweetheart?” Jeffrey leaned on the bar.



Esmerelda laughed. “No, I don’t think so.” She put her hands on her hips as she waited for the punchline.
“Then why the hell are you hanging out with this prick?” Jeffrey laughed and hit the bar counter as Quinn reached over to the nearby table that still had the dishwasher bussing it. He stole the sopping wet rag up and threw it at Jeffrey.



Quinn felt something on his shoulder and he turned to see Esmerelda perching her arm as she leaned against him. “Cause this prick looked at my tits only after he looked at my face. It must be love.” She laughed.



“A downright gentlemanly prick, I’ll say.” Jeffrey laughed.
“Damn straight.” Quinn nodded and he gestured to the room. “So, my lady, where would you like to sit?” He gave her a cheeky grin.



“Oh, you’re letting me pick?” Esmerelda feigned surprise and honor as she fanned herself. “Let’s do a booth!”
“Of course! Jeffrey, we’re stealing your finest booth.” Quinn said with a heavily faked accent.
“I’ll have you know, they’re all my finest booths.” Jeffrey shot back.
Quinn rolled his eyes. “Polish a turd, it’s still a turd.”



Jeffrey scoffed, waving away the comments and Quinn nodded in a direction that he began to walk in. “Shall we?”
“We shall.” Esmerelda smiled brightly.



They sat opposite of each other in the booth, grinning. Quinn did his best to repress his smile down and go back to being serious - yet something about this encounter made him feel younger and less... jaded. It was a strange feeling to be in like-minded company - it made him strangely giddy. He pulled himself together and tipped his head. “So, what’s your poison?”



Esmerelda straightened her face, leaning back in the booth as she crossed her arms. “I don’t know, you tell me.”
A challenge? Quinn raised his eyebrow before chuckling. “Me?”



“Yeah, you.” Esmerelda’s look continued to challenge him. “Let’s see how good you are.”
“Oh, I’m very good.” He leaned forward and gave her a smirk.
She laughed and shook her head. “I dare say, are you coming onto me, Mr. Quinn?” She feigned shock.



“Depends. Is it working?” He wiggled his eyebrows.
Esmerelda laughed harder, her laugh was perfect - musical and airy. She leaned forward and pinched her fingers close together. “A little.”



“A little? Then yes. I am.” He shook his head. “No, but you don’t seem like a fruity drinker.”
He watched her make a slight face at him. Was he wrong? His eyes narrowed. “Or perhaps you’re going to prove me wrong?”
She smiled brighter. “It was a trick question, I suppose.” Her smile was devious now. “I like all drinks with alcohol.”
“A woman after my own heart.” Quinn teased. “Any preference for tonight?”



Esmerelda tipped her head to the side with mischief in her eyes. “I have an idea - a game. Interested?”
“Do tell?” Quinn was just enjoying the expressions she made. Did she have any idea how experienced he was with alcohol? She seemed to earlier - or had she forgotten?



“Shots, a line of them. Something strong. I prefer Vodka usually, but it depends how much cash I have on me for the night.” She shrugged. “Then we play a game similar to two truths and a lie. We each say a statement about ourselves or the other person. If I say something about myself, you can call me out on bullshit. If I was bullshitting you, I take a drink, if I was being honest, you take a drink. If I say something about you and I’m right, you take a drink, if I’m wrong, I take a drink. We go back and forth until we’re sloshed.” She shrugged.



“Does it matter if it’s about ourselves or the other person?” Quinn was intrigued - he would love to get underneath her mask and into her interior. Perhaps she was truly working for someone else? It would be highly unlikely though. She was too erratic.
Or perhaps he was just telling himself that because he was trying to picture her naked on top of him.



Esmerelda shook her head at him to answer his question. “Nope, it’s more for variety, and after a point it gets hard to lie when you’ve got so much strong drink in you.” She grinned.
Quinn leaned back. “Alright, I’m game, though I’m more of a whiskey person.”
She laughed. “So you really are an old man!”



He looked at her, perplexed. “Old man?”
Esmerelda leaned forward on her hands. “How old are you, really?”



Quinn frowned, he wasn’t sure exactly how old he was. He couldn’t remember the year he was born in and his time as a slave was spent in a genie lamp. He knew he was born in the Era of Havoc… but that Era spanned 900 years before turning into the Era of Prophecies which they’ve been in for almost 1000 years. “27.” He lied.
“You’re lucky we don’t have the shots yet, mister.” Esmerelda pursed her lips.
He felt himself scowling. “I am not an old man.”


“There you go again, proving my point by the way you deny things. You’re interesting, you know?” She smiled warmly - no harm intended, she had backed off the subject completely.
Quinn felt his dark feelings fading away and he returned her gaze. “I could say the same about you.”
She leaned her head on her hands, smiling. “Whiskey is fine by me, but before we begin, I need to amend something.”



He laughed. “‘Amend’ is such an interesting term to use.”
“Yeah, well, I’m an interesting lady.” She spoke evenly. “So you see, you’re clearly not a lightweight - and while I’m tougher than your average football player… I know I can’t keep up with you, so for this game, my one shot equals your two.”



Quinn looked at her grinning while shaking his head in disbelief. She was something else entirely. ‘Interesting lady’ didn’t even begin to cover it. “I don’t know… you can’t go and change the rules now…” He teased.
“Two shots for you and one for me, or no dice.” Esmerelda said flatly. “Are you in or not?”
She played a dangerous game. Did Quinn really want to risk her being another god’s follower? He met her gaze levelly. Who was he kidding? He knew squat about what his master was doing and with good reason - his master was nuts. Anyone thinking they could get information out of him about Majnun had to be out of their own minds. Quinn tilted his head towards Jeffrey behind the bar. “Hey Jeffrey! Hit me with some shot glasses and a bottle of whiskey.” His gaze came back to Esmerelda who looked at him with a wide smile. “You’re on.”



The shot glasses were gathered and Quinn sat with his in front of him. He and Esmerelda were staring each other down with intensely competitive looks. Quinn gestured in front of him. “Ladies first.”
“What a gentleman!” She beamed as she tapped her chin in thought. Finally she looked at him intensely. “You’ve never been married before.”



He kept her gaze for a long minute before sighing and drinking down his two shots quickly, the alcohol burned in a familiar way and he closed his eyes as he enjoyed the sensation. By the time he opened his eyes and snapped his gaze towards her he was ready. “Your hair color isn’t really blonde.”
She grinned at him and took a shot, as she sat her glass down she shrugged. “I like experimenting with things.” Her fingers drummed against the table. “You’re a collector.”
He scowled at her fiercely before pouring out and taking two more shots, he coughed this time. Too much, too quickly - she was good at this. “How did you know?”



“The pocket watch.” Esmerelda smiled brightly. “Classy, and not many people carry those these days - not with phones picking up speed.”
Quinn nodded and cleared his throat. “You’re a musician.”
She narrowed her eyes at him and carefully fingered her shot glass. In one motion she downed it and placed the glass roughly down on the table. “What gave me away?”
“Beautiful voice.” Quinn responded immediately as he filled the glasses again.



She rolled her eyes. “I don’t sing.”
“Bullshit.” Quinn responded immediately. “Drink.” He pointed to her glass.
“What? That wasn’t my turn!” She protested.
“It’s bullshit, you do sing. You know the lyrics to half the songs that played at the bar and you’ve got the nicest voice I’ve ever heard. Bullshit you don’t sing. Drink.” He pointed again to her glass.
“That doesn’t count! That wasn’t my turn!” She laughed all the same as she shook her head. “I refuse to drink when that wasn’t my turn!”



“A-ha! So you do sing! You were lying! Drink!” Quinn laughed and continued pointing.
She scowled at him and he only grinned more. She was an 11 when they came in and now she was starting to look like a 13. Did the charts go up that high? They did in his books. She carefully took the shot and downed it again and Quinn was already refilling it as she set it back down.



What kind of woman was she? The quiet good-girl? Daddy’s rebel? “You’ve got some secret tattoo that your daddy doesn’t know about.” He looked at her with a cheeky grin.
She crossed her arms and smirked before pointing to his shot glasses. “Drink up, mister.”
“No? Well, damn.” He carefully picked up the shot glasses. “Are you sure? Is there a penalty for you lying about something like this?”



Esmerelda rolled her eyes and turned around in her seat, roughly picking up her hair. “Two tattoos, both of them my papi know about.”
The symbol was staring him in the face and he swallowed hard.



“Your future has that bird all over it, it seems.”



“Hey!” Esmerelda was waving her hand in front of his face now as Quinn came back to the conversation. “You ok there, dear? We can call it quits if you’ve hit your limit.” She teased.
“Me? My limit?” His voice cracked and he cleared his throat before laughing. “I’m fine.”
“That’s another two shots for you, mister.” She chided.



“What?” He groaned. “No, that’s not how this works.”
Esmerelda pursed her lips and frowned slightly. “Fine, fine. Who’s turn is it? Mine? Right!” Quinn stared at her and wondered if there was any significance to their meeting. Something in him felt a bit spooked seeing that symbol again. He swallowed as he tipped his head - there was something off about her appearance. Something behind those warm, brown eyes - hiding in the depths. There was someone screaming in there.
He would know because he was that way too.



Esmerelda set her head on her hands as she looked at him knowingly. “Ok, I’m really starting to worry about you.” She laughed.
“Sorry - can you repeat the likely-false statement?” Quinn gave her another cheeky grin. She had been spot on most of the time, which was surprising.
She pursed her lips. “You’re older than 27.”
He looked at her flatly before sighing and taking his two shots.



“I KNEW IT!” She laughed as her hand lightly slapped the table-top. “The pocket watch, the fondness for whiskey, the way you size-up everyone in the room. It definitely isn’t your first shindig.”
She’s magical. He needed to say it. That should be his next pick. You’re magical. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to say it. He could spook her if he brought it up too quickly.



He should spook her away, but at the same point he didn’t want to. He wanted to enjoy this night with her - this was the first night in such a long time that he’s felt alive. “You’re 24.” He knew he was wrong. He always guessed under when it came to ages.
She shook her head. “25. Nearing 26, unfortunately.”



He took his two shots willingly and was finally starting to feel the buzz. He sucked in a breath to try and cool the consistent burning in his throat. “Damn, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt a buzz like this.”
Esmerelda leaned on her hands and she looked at him skeptically. “You… were… engaged once before.” She murmured.
Quinn smirked. As if. He shook his head. “Never.”



“Fuck.” Esmerelda breathed before she took her shot, coughing slightly after she swallowed it. “Went… down… the wrong… pipe.” She choked.
Quinn chuckled. “You ok there, Nightingale?” It slipped out before he could even stop it.
She stared at him wide eyed, mild horror on her face. This wasn’t like hitting a sore-spot, this was like hitting the self-destruct button. “I’m… I’m sorry?” She breathed, not quite believing what he had said.


Quinn cursed himself internally. “I’m sorry, just a strange moment I had. Your tattoos… they’re birds... and Nightingales are my... my favorite bird." He managed to choke out. "I think… I think the alcohol is getting to me.” He rubbed his head.
She seemed to ease before nodding. Carefully her finger brushed the rim of a shot glass. “My mother used to call me that.”



Used to. Likely dead, if Quinn had to guess. “I… didn’t mean to hit a sensitive subject. Would it make you feel better if I took two shots?” He gave her a hopeful grin. Did he just blow this from a simple slip-up? He would let everything drop if the world just gave him one chance to enjoy this night with her.
She laughed and shook her head. “No need, though I need another fucking shot after that.” She teased as she downed another shot and shook her head vigorously.



He had almost smoothed things over, but he needed to offer up a chunk of himself to compensate her. Normally he would just fudge something up, but she was far too good at sniffing him out - and with all the shots he had already taken he was going to get less reliable with his lies. “Alright, I’ll offer this up - my mother and I had a very close relationship.”



She looked at him flatly but smiled at his gesture. “I suppose that’s not true, now is it?” Her voice came out slightly exaggerated and playful.
“She sold me when I was six. I don’t even remember what she looked like.” He shrugged and took two shots. “Since I was such a shit liar, I’ll throw in the third shot for free.” He poured the whiskey into his glass and felt the burn run down his throat as he drank it just as quickly. He gave her an apologetic smile. It was not in his nature to apologize to someone, but he’d be damned if he had to give up this opportunity due to a stupid slip of his tongue.



She laughed and nodded. “Six is such a shit age to be, isn’t it? My mother died when I was six… your mother… sold you?”
Quinn nodded slowly. Had he really just told her that part of his life? Would she ask to whom he was sold? Would she dig in and start the pity party? Everyone always did. “I’m so sorry! That must have been horrible!” It made him want to gag and then kill someone.
Perhaps not in that order.



“Well… fuck.” She took a shot.
“What was that for?” He looked at her, confused. Was she lying about something? He didn’t get the feeling that she was.
She coughed and shook her head. “Nope, just needed booze to process, that’s all.” She giggled a little lighter now. “I also wanted to compliment you - you seem to have your shit together for someone sold when they were six.” She tipped her glass towards him.



He filled the glass she held out before his own. He tapped his shot glass against hers and they both drank in solidarity. No questions. No pity. He could kiss her right now if there wasn’t a table between them.
No, wait. He hadn’t had enough to drink yet. Kissing was never something he was big on, but at this rate she challenged everything and he was ready to throw everything to the wind for the night. Isn’t that what freedom was about?



The room was blurring a little as he looked around. He had forgotten what it felt like to drink to this point. His gaze flickered back to Esmerelda who was looking at the ceiling with the same expression on her face. He grinned widely, unable to stop it. “You feeling it, too?”
She looked at him, caught, before grinning back and laughing. She nodded along with her musical laughter. “Just a little, it seems. It’s been… quite some time since I’ve felt it.”



“The night’s still young, maybe we should get some food?” It was nearing midnight, according to the clock on the wall.
She gave him a hopeful smile. “I know a good food truck right around the corner.”
Quinn’s smile was devious, “does it come with E-Coli on it already, or do I have to order that on the side?”



Esmerelda laughed again, nodding. “It comes with it all over that shit.
“Perfect.”
Esmerelda fumbled with something under the table, making a face as she did so before her eyes went slightly wide and she scowled. “Shit.”



Quinn looked at her curiously, tempted to look under the table himself to see what she was fiddling with. “Everything ok?”
She laughed. “Sorry, yeah. I’m just wearing the wrong shoes tonight and I forgot about it.”
He laughed with her, though still thoroughly confused, but she reached up into her dress neckline and pulled out some cash she appeared to be keeping there.
“I usually keep my money in my shoe.” She shrugged matter-of-factly. “Forgot I was pulling a trashy-girl tonight.”



Trashy? Her? The thought alone made him laugh. He had met and even slept with many 'trashy' girls in his day. She was probably the furthest thing from it.
“Are you judging me? I think I can feel you judging me right now.” She narrowed her eyes at him playfully.
He held up his hands. “Nope! No judgement here; though we do have a problem, it seems.”
Her face shifted to confusion. “What’s wrong?”



All the stops, he thought, he needed to pull them all out. “You seem to think you’re paying for something when you’re most certainly not.” He smiled charmingly.
She relaxed back in the booth and let herself smile back at him. “Oh? Is that so?” She folded the cash she had so it disappeared into her grip before leaning forward.



He leaned forward on the table as well, their faces closer than he had been with her all night. “Absolutely.” Her eyes had a sparkle in them - a playful, devious one he could see clearly as he held her gaze.
“Well, I’m not about to turn down someone’s generosity, but I do need to ask... what strings are attached?” Beneath her playful gaze he could see the cold calculations. She had been burned before, it seems. Who hasn’t in this world?



Quinn quickly ran through his options. He wouldn’t be too eager. Of course his goal was to have her in a hotel room later, but if he said that now? He could kiss those dreams goodbye. He leaned back and feigned hurt very dramatically. “You would accuse me of trying to get you in bed with me that way? Do I look like some petty, 21-year-old, hormonal bastard to you?”
“I hope not.” She leaned back as well, giving him a skeptical glance.



He shook his head. “Call me old-fashioned, but wooing the lady is half the fun.” Especially in this case - she was a particularly fun lady.
She seemed to be pacified by the statement and she nodded. “I’ll accept that answer.”
He wanted to laugh, but he resisted and grinned instead.



“You ready?” She moved to stand up smoothly - either she was just as good with alcohol as he was, or he was imagining her to be smoother than she really was.



Or both. He decided not to think too hard about it. “Ladies first, then?”







<><><><><><><><>

Playlist
"It Girl" by Jason Derulo
"Bottoms Up" by Trey
"Gentleman" by PSY
"Hangover" by PSY

7 comments:

  1. I'm glad that you decided to give Quinn and Esmeralda their own story.
    Quinn is perfect! Esmeralda is fabulous! They are gorgeous together!

    But PSY!? I went to Youtube to think of other possibles, watched En Vogues' "You're Never Gonna Get It (My Love)," then have been watching kpop concert videos. Oops, never mind, lol.

    Looking forward very much to the next update. I love their banter, the way they read each other, everything!

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    1. <3 I love those two together so much!
      Yes, definitely PSY. The two in "Gentleman" absolutely reminded me of Quinn and Ezzie (in how she ripped his chair out from underneath him and they just goofed off with each other the whole time).

      I'm excited to get the next update up, but holy crap is the Reapers update kicking my hiney. Ugh. Still posing for that as we speak so I haven't had time to work on the poses/update for SotN!
      (Shame on me)
      It's also finals time and I'm *dying* inside.

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  2. Where's the next chapter, Liv? you can't just leave us hanging like that O_O lol brilliant story with amazing characters and I can't wait to see what's next #hint #BringItOn

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    1. Agh, sorry! I'm in-process on working on it. By that I mean - the chapter itself is done, I just need to make poses and get pictures... but...
      THE REAPERS UPDATE IS KILLING ME.
      Once I get this war update out I'm going to be able to breathe again.

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  3. Ahhhhhh haha, you can imagine me clutching my face and grinning!
    I didn't expect to see it all from Quinn's view, but I loved it! It was perfect. He's so enamored with her it's adorable.
    These two get along so well, and I loved seeing the calculation behind every phrase.

    Hehe, I see the foreshadowing as well. Quinn has to go to Carule for Majnun, and Esmeralda has to go to Carule for Melanie. Another opportunity for a future meet-up?

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    1. They're so perrrffect I know! *squealing* Ugh they're my second favorite couple of all time, *happy dancing.*
      The first you've already met, but not officially met. ;)
      I seriously love how deeply these two just GET each other. It just comes naturally to them and I get to squeal and die over it every time I write them.

      Hehe you have such a good nose, it makes me feel good knowing my foreshadowing is being noticed. :D Eeeeeep you're going in for one heckuva ride!

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  4. Emily from The Wolfe Legacy here.

    THIS CHAPTER IS ABSOLUTE GOLD.

    Esmeralda and Quinn are so freaking fun. I love how we got to see it from both points of view as well, I found that getting to see Quinn's thought process after reading the initial scene was really interesting and definitely added to it. I love how he views her, slightly intimidating but mostly just really intriguing. I love how bold Ezzie is. I. just. love it! This was super fun to read, thank you!!

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