Gabriel answered his phone, "Hi, Helena."
"Where's my cousin?" she demanded.
"Probably stuck in an exam. Why?" Gabe said.
"Okay, first, I heard she's acting weird. She and Simon are all steamy, and now she's being jumpy and cold around him."
Silently, Gabe's heart jumped around in his rib cage, cheering like a Philadelphian Eagle fan, or an Irish man at happy hour. "She's been like that since you made her go to confessional," Gabe replied, "Don't blame that on me. Father Santos probably said something."
"It's a bone I can pick later with you. Right now, she's supposed to take over babysitting for our other cousin," Helena said. "I have to be at work in twenty minutes."
"Right, Ana Raquel starts at the hospital today. She left a pregnant resident, returns a mother, and a doctor. I can do it. I just finished my last exam. I've only a debate tomorrow, and I've got that in the bag," Gabriel replied. "Just send me an address."
Dubiously, Helena asked, "You, babysit?"
Sounding hurt, he said, "I've cousins too. Plus, I've babysat the kids of people who do business with my dad, always a deal clencher. I can have three glowing recommendations by the end of the hour."
"It's fine, I'll text you the address," Helena said. A minute later, his phone buzzed.
"Ready, bunny runs for it, he's going, he's going, he's scores," Gabe pretended the stuffed animal ran, and shot a ball into a makeshift basket, just before Quinn burst through the front door, calling out, "I'm here. I'm here."
"Aunt Quinn is here," Gabe took the baby's hands gently, and cheered.
"What are you doing here?" Quinn asked, surprised.
"Babysitting for you," Gabe replied.
Looking abashed, Quinn murmured, "Sorry. I walked out of my exam, sat down on a bench, cried, and fell asleep."
Gabe laughed, and then looked at the baby, "Oh, he's got hungry face. Can you grab me a bottle from the refrigerator?"
"You know about babies too?" Quinn let her backpack fall, and moved to the kitchen. She had managed to change. Her backpack probably had Wednesday's clothes, and a bottle of perfume or whatever it was that made her smell like lavender and seashells. For some reason, though Quinn was never particularly tan, nor near the beach, she always smelled like sunkissed sand, and wild flowers.
He wanted to tear today's dress off, just as he had the rest of the week. Monday had been the blue dress, which he wanted to pull the strings loose, so it would fall off. Tuesday the yellow dress, and he wanted to tear off the spaghetti straps and let the loose frabic fall to the floor. Wednesday had been a white top that scrunched around her waist, and a dark purple skirt. He wanted to tear off both article's of clothing when he saw her, but he figured her physics professor would mind, even if her physics class didn't. Today was a pearl pink dress with a sheer outer layer. Though it had a stern neck that showed no chest and covered her shoulders, it didn't have sleeves, and it loosely fell midthigh so that the fabric swished as she walked from the refrigerator to hand Gabe the bottle, lamenting in a mock fashion, "I thought I knew everything about you."
"Know everything about Mr. Mysterious," Gabe joked. The way the skirt had rustled around her legs made him want to throw her on the couch. Instead, he scooped up little baby Martim junior, and cradled him in one arm. "That's not how I got my name, baby."
Her lips curled into a smile. "Mr. Mysterious?" she asked. "I bet I know more about you, than you know about me."
Quinn's eyes sparkled at seeing the way Gabe cared for her baby cousin, but to Gabe, it looked like she was just smiling at the baby. He instigated, "What do I get when I win?"
Dubiously, she asked, "What do you want if you win?"
Without thinking about it, he chimed, "You'll have to be mine for eternity."
"One night," Quinn bargained.
"Fine," Gabe relented, "But you can't deny anything I say, the whole night. Even if I tell you to run around the house naked while quoting Quentin Tarentino movies."
"No," Quinn said.
Instantly, Gabe insisted, "Yes."
"I'll never do that," Quinn answered. "You couldn't pay me to do that."
"Fine. Then you'll have to be mine for a whole week, and everything you're told. If you say no, I get to punish you," Gabe said."And if I win, I get to punish you tonight for doubting me."
"No," Quinn answered. "I won't agree to that, unless you burn your new espanador."
Evilly, his eyes glittered. "But there are so many other things I could use, and so many other ways to punish. Isn't the enemy you know better than the one you don't?"
Why did her dress have to band together at the waist, forming an hourglass figure? He wanted to tear at the seams of the waistband, and tear the dress in two. If he had her for a week, he'd make her spend at least a day naked.
Se rubbed her chin thoughtfully, "One thing I know Mr. Mysterious, is that he never makes a bet unless he's positive he'll win."
"One thing I know about my lovely Portuguese mama is mama don't bet unless she's beyond a doubt positive that she'll win," Gabe replied.
"Fine. I'll agree to your terms, if you'll do the same if I win," Quinn replied. "But if it comes out that either of us lied to win, then the liar will have spend two weeks as the other's slave."
"Deal," Gabe told her. "I'd shake on it, but I'm holding precious cargo. How is this game going to be done?"
"Whoever gets the most out of ten questions," Quinn replied. "We'll each choose five questions to ask, but we both must answer the question. If we both get ten out of ten, it'll go until sudden death."
"Fine. I'll start. What's my dream house?" he wanted to know, "Yours is on a spaceship that goes faster then the speed of light, and if that's not possible, then a house on one of Saturn's moons, because it will have a beautiful view of Saturn, and the galaxy."
"Yours is on the edge of an ancient, extinct volcano, so that you pretend it's your evil lair," Quinn replied.
His lips formed a line. "Very good."
He scoffed, "That's too easy. You want to be an astrophysicist like my mom, so that you can solve questions about antimatter, the big bang, what was the beginning, and what will be the end."
"You want to go into international politics as an ambassador, and either run the U.N, or have complete power over Interpol, because it's not the success of a large pay check that makes you happy, it's the ability to manipulate people, and even nations, into the position you want them to be in, mostly for peace, but you'll get off knowing you can make them go to war," she said.
"That was an easy one," he said, "Favorite memory involving just the two of us."
"In Barcelona when you were up to your tricks again, pissed off some powerful people in the underworld, and I pulled up just as you were running out the building, in one's of those persons' car, and told you to get in."
"I didn't know you could drive like that," he said, mesmerized in the memory. "My heart was pounding when you stopped for those nuns, and then it exploded when you went zero to a hundred, down those winding streets."
"You're one of very few people who could piss off both Italians and Russians, and have them catch up to you in Spain," Quinn replied. "But damn if I was going to let your mother know what you'd been up to. Best two hundred dollars I've ever earned."
"Fine, yours was that time we were camping in Canada, then visited that hot spring at night," he raised his brows suggestively.
Scoffing, she said, "What? No- okay, but that time in Brazil was a close second. Worst fear? Yours is being alone. That's why you cling to girlfriends long after you've stopped loving them, and why you're best friend is someone who's always been right behind you for your whole life."
"Yours is losing identity. That's why it's so important to you to cling to your Portuguese heritage, and why it makes you mad when people call you Latina and talk Spanish to you. You're too sensitive about having been a maid's daughter. Greatest turn on? Being completely dominated. You'll always be the smartest person in the room, but you like it when power is swept out from under you, or when you don't have to be in control. I'm not just talking about pinning you to the bed and having my way with you, or punishing you with an espanador, but someone who totally dominates your body, and your heart, who doesn't just use you, but takes care of you, who surprises you, and makes your heart melt, while he's holding a baby, feeding him a bottle."
"I'm not turned on right now," Quinn exclaimed, "And that kind of thing shouldn't be said by a man holding a baby, or around a baby at all."
"What did we say about lying, Quinn," he tsked and gave her a stern look.
Nibbling her lip, Quinn relented, "Fine. I'm a little turned on, but any woman would be by a man holding a baby. You're not special."
The way her teeth had pulled at her lower lip made him want to put his arm around her lower back, dip her off her feet and so he could kiss her, dominating that mouth, and giving it a punishing bite himself. Also something that couldn't be done with a baby. "I'm a little special. I'll let you off the hook this time, but try it again, and you're mine. Unless you just want to admit that I know you better than you know yourself."
"Never. Besides, your turn on is a girl who can dish everything all your dominance back, because the best high for someone who loves manipulating people is the work that goes into it. Hunting is not that much fun once you've slain your prey. Who did we want to be when growing up? You wanted to be a secret agent pirate," Quinn stated.
"You wanted to be a mermaid in space," he said, and they laughed.
Blushing, Quinn admitted, "Yeah. I assumed I would have gills for breathing hydrogen."
"Worst nightmare. You used to dream you were genie in a bottle for eternity."
"You dreamed about being eaten by a serpent with a split tongue that had metal spikes over it," she said. "What's gives you the most euphoria? It's a tie between pulling off the crime of the century, or soft touch of lips dragging across your skin."
Baby Martim let it be known that he was done with his bottle, and Gabe put it on a table. "Yours is the way someone gently drags their finger tips across your skin, while kissing you so deeply, you melt into one with that person. That or bbq pork."
"I do love pork."
"What should our last question be?" Gabe asked, moving in a way that looked like slow dancing. It allowed him to move in a way that comforted the baby to a rhythmic motion, while keeping the baby secured protectively against his chest.
"As if the world doesn't know you're weird, and like oatmeal, chocolate, raisin."
"As if you're not a stiff-necked traditional who likes plain chocolate chip cookies, which are satisfying, but unimaginative."
"I'm a simple man," he groaned, "The only organ more simple than the heart, is the stomach. Though right now, in my simple heart, I have a simple desire for a simple dishtowel, so I can burp this baby."
Rolling her eyes, Quinn took the bottle back to the kitchen, and returned with a towel. Gabe positioned it on his shoulder, then moved the baby, and carefully patted, and rubbed his back. "How many kids? For you, three."
"You want four, two of each, like they're collectibles or something. Most important value in another person?" Quinn asked. "Yours is loyalty."
"Yours is honesty," he said. "We need something deeper."
"Hey, favorite cookie is highly important," Quinn mocked.
"Something only one other person should know about someone else," Gabe said.
"You find a hundred dollars on the street," Quinn said, "You give twenty to the first homeless person you see. Give a random couple a bottle of wine, and spend the rest on a game of poker, or invest, or something where you can turn it into more cash."
Martim Junior burped, and Gabe put the dishtowel on the table, and cradled Martim again. "You spend a ridiculous amount of effort trying to return it. You also refer to your breasts as the sirens when you think you are alone."
Quinn blushed furiously, "You call one ball cupid, the other mars."
"There is a baby in the room," Gabe chided. "The oldest thing you own is your grandmom's bracelet. It was passed down for generations, and out of all your cousins, she chose you."
"Yours is your dad's pocket watch he gave to you on your fifteenth birthday. To you, courage is trusting someone."
"To you, courage is standing beside them, no matter what happens. And you like it when I use the espanador."
"You like it when I hit back. You touch your ear, and straighten your shirt when you're lying."
"You bite your lip and fiddle your fingers."
"Your biggest regret is letting me date someone else."
"Yours is that you won't let yourself love me."
"Because I don't," Quinn professed. She was so used to asserting it, that she couldn't stop herself from saying." Not romantically."
"That's your second lie."
"Tell me who's in your heart right now. If it's Simon, then I'm wrong and the deal is off. Tell me that it's not me, but remember, there's only one person who always knows when you're lying."
Crimson cheeks turned away, even her eyes were hot with pooling liquid. "Your problem is that you can't even admit it to yourself. You're afraid of being the help for life. You're afraid I'll move on, and treat you like all my other girlfriends, but I treated them like that because they weren't you. Though I think I've been pretty kind to Sara, considering she cheated."
"Technically, you had an emotional affair the whole time. It's not exactly fair to lie to someone about loving them," Quinn stated.
"Starting tomorrow, at noon, for a whole week, you're mine, querida," he passed little Martim off to Quinn, who was happy for a distraction. She couldn't even deny that she hated hearing querida on his lips, or that it was just her heart that shuddered at his words.