This snippet is from Quinn's POV!
I smiled, too, and shook their hands. The chorus of nice to meet you, heard so much about you, and sorry about the knee melted into a giant soup of chatter. Together, Teddy and I worked the room for another half an hour before I excused myself, expressing a desire to peruse some of the art for sale by my classmates.
Everyone in the vicinity smiled indulgent approval, but Teddy’s eyes darkened. “The dedication is in twenty minutes. Out here.”
“I’ll be back before then.”
I escaped without a backward glance, not intending to upset him but needing some time to breathe. For all of the parties and people constantly in and out of my house, crowds got under my skin unless they were neatly seated in stadium rows. It had gotten me a bad rep as a player who avoided autographs on the tour, but the crush of humanity pressed around me, shouting my name and sticking shit in my face, really wigged me out.
The clean, wide hallways displayed artwork and provided a less clogged space. People spoke softly in front of different pieces, commenting on brush strokes or color or possible inspiration. The lighting back here was softer, aimed at the walls instead of beating down like spotlights on a stage. It helped me relax, and the art took my mind off my father for five minutes.
Until I turned a corner and found myself in a nearly empty alcove. A girl with long dark hair pulled up into a knot sat alone on a bench. The bare, slumped shoulders were the color of toffee and when I closed my eyes I could smell them again.
I almost ran. Maybe I should have, but we were going to have to face one another sooner or later and we might as well get it done alone. “Emilie.”
She turned slowly, standing to face me, and the sight of her in the cherry red gown literally took my breath away. It hugged her waist on its way to the floor, strapless but tasteful, baring an enticing hint of what I’d held in my hands only days ago.
Unspilled tears shone in her dark eyes and she wiped at them hastily. I pulled the off-white handkerchief square from my breast pocket and handed it over.
Emilie wiped her eyes a few times, then glared at me. “I’m not crying about you.”
“I didn’t assume you were.”
The quiet snuggled around us like a cocoon until her sigh whispered against my ears. “I haven’t sold a single piece.”
“The night is young.”
She shook her head. “Plenty of the others have sold canvases already. It’s me. My father was right about this being a stupid life decision. It’s time for me to face it.”
My arms ached from holding still; I wanted to reach out and tug her against my chest, keep the pain of failure away. No one could do that, though, not for any of us. Sometimes you got your ass kicked, but it didn’t mean you got to walk off the court before the match ended.
“It’s hard to create, Emilie. You put your heart onto canvases and let other people look at it. They can love it or they can trash it, but you’re not an artist until you share your work. It’s brave.”
“Kind of like relationships, no?”
A challenge ignited in the center of her intelligent black gaze. It burned a hole through my skin until I felt exposed and I shrugged. “Some might say that.”
“There are people who will appreciate your work,” I said, changing the subject. “Maybe they’re not here tonight but it shouldn’t stop you.”
“You really like my work?” The surprise in her voice cut like a knife.
“I told you I did.”
“Yeah, but after what…happened I assumed you were just saying that.”
“To what? Get you into bed?” Anger tightened my jaw. “I’m not a liar.”
She walked toward me, the lithe movement reminding me of how supple and acquiescent she was underneath that dress, and I closed my eyes briefly as the summery smell of her washed over me. Her hands reached out and so help me God I would rip that dress off her if she touched me.
They only straightened my bow tie, then returned the dampened hanky into my pocket.
“I know you’re not.” Her smile was hesitant and sad, but not over the two of us. It looked more similar to the pity for me she’d displayed the night we met. “At least, not when it comes to the things you tell other people."
There you have it! What do you think about Quinn after this??
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