Thanks again for the reviews, you guys are awesome! Not gonna lie… writing this chapter was about like pulling teeth… hopefully it's not awful to read! I appreciate any feedback (unless you're a jerk, of course.)
GrenGren – Sorry my updates take so long, I'm trying to juggle work, school and writing, and trying to figure out where I'm going with this story. Glad to know you're enjoying it!
Shivering Tree- Yes, I decided to go back and re-write/overhaul the whole thing!
Eris- You know me too well… your demands will be met ;)
Quinn's gaze travelled up, past the hand with its rough, tattooed fingers extended to her aid, past the further inked skin that covered a muscular arm, her brown eyes raking the Virgin Mary printed on his neck, the unkempt scruff on his strong jaw, and straight into dark circled, sunken in, piercing blue eyes. His sandy hair was untrimmed and tousled, his face somewhere between an apologetic and amused smirk. The one behind him was similarly covered in ink, but his own tattooed hand was over his mouth, shoulders shaking with silent laughter for only a second until he could no longer contain himself… and his sudden burst of cackling echoed through the barn. He stepped forward to offer a second helping hand, trying and failing miserably to regain any sense of seriousness… but the sound was infectious and Connor couldn't stop himself from joining in. The sight of this girl bailing on her ass couldn't be unseen… and Murphy found it pretty fucking hilarious.
Quinn could feel her face burning as she blushed bright red, both embarrassment and anger flushing her cheeks. She glared at them both as they gasped for breath, still offering to help her up and trying desperately to get control of themselves.
"Hey lass, y'alright?" The blond one finally choked out. Their lilting Irish brogue surprised her for a moment, quickly being overtaken by how pissed she was. Quinn pushed herself off the floor and tried to coolly brush off whatever hay or dirt was stuck to the backside of her jeans. The boys let their hands drop awkwardly, Connor wiping his on his pant leg, Murphy running his through his dark hair.
"I'm fine." Quinn snapped, turning to the yearling that had decided to (of course) wait patiently at the end of the lead rope she still held. "I'm guessing you're Paul's friends."
"Aye," said the blond one. "'m Connor, this is m' brother Murphy… really though, y'alright? That was quite tha fall…" Both twins let out an involuntary snicker and Quinn clenched her teeth.
"I said I'm fine!" Her voice was harsh and the darker one, Murphy, held his hands up in mock surrender.
"Jaysus we were jus' offerin' ta help, Ice Queen," he joked. Connor elbowed him.
"C'mon now Murph, no need t' pick on the girl anymore…"
"You two gonna fuckin' laugh about it all day or what?" She spat, tugging on the lead rope and heading out of the barn toward the white fenced pasture. The two men jogged after her, catching up as she was opening the gate, pushing through the herd of curious young horses and unclipping the lead rope. The yearling trotted off to a tasty patch of grass, clearly over the traumatic bathing experience.
"Look… Quinn? We're sorry, we didn' mean t' offend ya… anythin' we can do ta help around here?" Connor offered, frowning apologetically. Her pride still stung from the fall, but she did feel bad about how she had snapped at them... until she glanced at Murphy and saw his amused smirk. Her eyes flashed with anger, meeting his steady gaze, bright blue irises unnervingly taking everything in, her impossibly high cheekbones like Paul's, the few loose curls clinging to her face from the heat, her own plain brown eyes. She looked away, red tingeing her cheeks once again. There was something about him. He wasn't just the darker twin in appearance.
"I'm almost done here, I just have to set out feed for tonight and tomorrow. There's a trailer of hay behind the barn that needs to be unloaded if you wanted to do that." She smirked. Unloading hay sucked. If they wanted to show up and offer help, they were more than welcome to that job. It was the least they could do after laughing their asses off at her. The boys nodded, giving her a quick grin as they sauntered off toward the back of the barn. Murphy glanced back over his shoulder, make sure she was still within ear shot as he elbowed his twin.
"Look at ya Conn, all apologizin' and offerin' help and shite. We're outta that hole fer a day an' yer already chasin' tha first tail ye find."
For the seemingly eight millionth time she felt her face burning. She glared at them and flung the lead rope in a pile by the gate, stalking off back toward the barn. These boys were going to drive her crazy. Especially one of them…
"S'fuckin' hot!" Murphy groaned, straightening and peeling his sweat dampened black t-shirt off. His little used muscles ached as he tossed the bales to the ground and hauled them into the barn, but the ache was satisfying in a way. Connor swiped his face with the front of his own wet shirt, kicking the last bale of hay off the flat bed. His face was flushed with the heat and he soon followed Murphy's lead, tossing his shirt on top of his brother's. Murphy flopped down on the side of the trailer, dangling his legs off the side and squinting out at the view. The sun soaked the landscape with warmth and light, making the white fences that outlined lush green fields even more dazzling and bright. There were a few separate pastures as far as the boys could tell, all connected by a dirt path between them. The biggest one had five horses in it, including the one Quinn had let loose after he had knocked her over. Another slightly smaller field across from it held only three horses. Connor let a low whistle.
"Beautiful place." Murphy nodded in agreement.
"Aye. S'nothin' like Southie," he said quietly, picking at loose strands of hay on the wooden floor of the flat bed. It was just a simple phrase, an observation. But Connor knew what his brother meant. It was nothing they were used too, it was quiet and bright and peaceful. Cars didn't go racing by, people didn't scream in drunken rage in the loft above or below, alarms and sirens didn't go off and shriek through the night. The only quietness that could compare would be on Da's farm in Ireland, and even that damp, gloomy silence was nothing like here. Despite how tired he had been, and how his own muscles ached, out here working was the best Connor had felt in a while. They could stay here. They could rest, and they could heal. Connor pulled out a cigarette and offered them to Murphy, who offered up his lighter.
"Maybe it's better that way."
Quinn sat on the big feed bin, her heels beating a rhythm against its wooden side. She was finished cleaning stalls, finally, and the sea of plastic buckets on the floor around her were all filled with different measurements and mixtures of grain and supplements. Her work was done for the day… except she had to round up two heavily tattooed young men, and head home with them. The thought made her laugh. Most girls wouldn't find that to be a problem.
"Hey." She snapped her head around toward the gruff voice, nearly falling off the feed bin in surprise.
"Jude! I was just setting out feed…" she stuttered, trying to collect the buckets around her. Jude raised one eyebrow and took a long drag off his cigarette.
"I could tell," he said, exhaling a plume of smoke. "What are you doin' tomorrow?" She looked at him quizzically.
"Going to the track to help you?" Jude shook his head, stamping out his cigarette on the cement floor.
"Big spring sale is tomorrow. I've gotta meet with some potential owners, I need you to go," he pulled a well-worn packet of papers out of his back pocket, handing it to her. She held it out gingerly, eyes wide.
"You want me to go to the sale?" She said slowly, turning the packet over in her hands. It was bound with staples down one side, and as she flipped through she could see certain pages had been dog eared, and checks had been paper clipped to them. All the checks were signed. The amount lines were blank.
"I circled everything, and wrote down the max bids. You'll be fine. I brought the six horse trailer and truck home from the track, just stop here and get it in the morning."
"Aye Quinn! We're done unloadin' the hay!" Connor's voice echoed down the barn aisle, he and Murphy coming into view a moment later, shirts in hand. Quinn's eyes found the floor and stayed there as Jude studied them suspiciously. The boys slowed when they saw Jude, quickly pulling their shirts on. Quinn tried to hide the disappointment on her face when the muscles of Murphy's torso disappeared under black cotton.
"Jude… this is Connor and Murphy… they're… friends… of my brother's…" she finished lamely. Great. Her boss showed up ready to trust her with a job he wouldn't let just anyone do, and she blew it within five minutes by apparently inviting two random men to come to his farm. Jude reached for the pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket and fished one out.
"Jude Patterson," he offered, lighting the smoke and then offering his hand. The twins took turns shaking it. "You boys unloaded all that hay?" They nodded in unison. Jude seemed to think about this with another drag on his cigarette.
"You gonna be around long?" Murphy shot Connor a look, who gave back a raised eyebrow. Murphy nodded subtly. Yet another wordless conversation that only they understood or were a part of.
"Aye, fer as long as Quinn'll have us," Connor smirked her way. She shot Jude a quick glance before intently studying the bucket in her hand.
"I'd like to hire you on. Need some extra hands around the farm here, unloading hay, fixing fences, you know. Maybe help at the track a few times a week as well. Anything you'd be interested in?"
"Sure, whatever ya need," Murphy nodded. Jude flicked an ash off his cigarette and turned to Quinn.
"Sale starts at twelve, better be there early to check out the stock." And with that he was headed out of the barn. Quinn tucked a curl behind her ears, and shoved the folded program into her back pocket, bending over to grab another bucket and handing one to each brother.
"Connor, yours goes in the last stall on the left, Murphy, yours is last stall on the right." Connor headed down the aisle, calling back as he went.
"Christ, known ya fer an hour and y'already got me takin' orders!"
As Murphy took the bucket from her outstretched hand, his unnerving blue eyes met her shy gaze. With a quiet smirk he whispered.
"Didja like what ye saw?"
Funny thing, there was still a lot about that red bucket she hadn't noticed the first time.
Even laden with multiple grocery bags, the boys still laughed and pushed each other around up the steps to Quinn's door. She tiredly pushed it open and stepped out of the way as they rough housed each other through the frame, cursing and calling each other every name in the book, finally resting their heavy loads onto the kitchen counter. Quinn had made it very clear she didn't cook dinner, and had sat in the car in front of the local grocery store as they picked out God only knew what to sustain themselves for a few days. When they had come back out with arms full she had shook her head… how much food did they need? She kicked off her sneakers and settled onto a stool at the counter top, watching them unload the plastic bags. Frozen pizza, chips, white bread, beer, more pizza, more beer…
Murphy pulled open the refrigerator door and pushed around what little Quinn had in there to fit he and his brother's purchases. Quinn gritted her teeth.
"Jaysus Conn would ya look at this shite… Salad and fruit… fuckin' rabbit food!" Connor laughed and made his contribution to the fridge, a twelve pack of some darker than sin beer.
"How do ya survive lass?" He grinned, heading to the living room and collapsing on the couch. In one deft move he snatched the remote from the coffee table and clicked on the TV, already clicking to the menu before it barely had time to turn on. Murphy had abandoned the graveyard of plastic bags on the counter and was already digging around for a pan for one of the frozen pizzas. Quinn glanced at the clock.
"My show's on, switch it to channel ten," she called, rubbing her temples with her fingers. God she was so tired… and irritated. The chattering from the TV sounded nothing like Trackside Live. She looked up to see Connor completely engrossed in whatever was on.
"Um… Channel ten. Anytime now…" she snapped. Connor held up a finger, and Quinn swore her blood pressure rose. Murphy slammed the oven door and pressed start, leaving the empty pizza box on the stove top. He sauntered into the living room and collapsed into the recliner.
"Connor come on, ya can't be serious yer watching this again…"
"Fuck ye, I started watchin' it in tha shit motel, 's a good show!"
"At least ye can't get any more fuckin' stupid ideas from this one," Murphy grumbled. Connor chucked one of the decorative pillows at his brother's face.
"Channel ten…" Quinn seethed from her spot in the kitchen. The brothers paid no attention as they tossed her couch pillow back and forth. This is the shit that sparks a tri state killing spree.
"Go ahead, make yourselves at fucking home!" She spat, snatching the empty bags off the counter and shoving them into the trash.
The boys stopped their pillow toss and stared at her. Connor offered a smirk.
"C'mon Quinn, jus' come watch Degrassi an' relax!" Quinn spun to face him and the smirk died off his face. It was funny how the stupid little things always set people off…
"Is there anything else you'd like to take while you're here? Really… was taking my brother not fucking enough for you?" She could feel her voice rising into a shrill octave as her anger spun out of control and she couldn't stop it. She looked from one to the other, taking in the shocked look on Connor's face and coming to meet Murphy's gaze. His blue eyes snapped with anger, a bright sky hue that spat what the fuck do you want, the alpha wolf silently staring her down for dominance. But she was beyond being silenced by merely a look, and she continued to yell, stepping forward as she went.
"I lost my brother for almost two years because of you! Then you show up and take over my house, my job… " The boys stood at the same time, Murphy to move towards her and Connor to stop him.
"Las' I checked yer brother was alive, don' fuckin' tell me about losin' someone," the darker twin's tone was deadly quiet. Quinn took an involuntary step back, brown eyes meeting icy blue, both full of hurt and loss. Connor reached his brother's side and put a hand on his shoulder, both support and to keep him from moving forward. Murphy's gaze never left Quinn.
"Yeah, he is alive, but he's all for making sure you're ok and that you have everything. What about me? I lost my brother, the only person who understood everything we went through growing up, the only person who has always been there for me, and he gave that all up for you! What the fuck made you so special?" She could feel the tears coming behind the rage, and it pissed her off even more, that her voice was breaking and she couldn't stop it, that she was weak enough to let this man's glare make her feel so angry and so self-conscious at the same time.
Behind her the front door opened, and there stood Paul, smart ass grin on his face, hair slicked back, khakis and a button up shirt with rolled sleeves, how she always remembered her big brother, holding two black duffel bags.
"You kids playing nice?"
Quinn spun away as the tears that had been welling up spilled over, not even meeting Paul's questioning gaze as she pushed past him and walked out the door.