Part Eighteen A

  Quentin had just finished lunch at the coffee shop when he heard someone remark, "The early bus from Ellsworth just got in. Well. I'll be. Look who's come back to town?"
"Wondered how long it'd be before that man she left with sent her packing. Deserved to be taken down a peg or two, I'd say. Might've been a local girl once, but since she moved up -" Another woman shook her head, indicating Quentin's presence.
He looked out the window to see a familiar auburn haired woman standing alone at the bus stop as the mud-caked vehicle pulled away. "Maggie," he breathed, then stood up and paid his bill before leaving. She was looking around, as if trying to decide what to do when he came up behind her. "Hello, there."
She turned, her smile uncertain. "Hello, Quentin."
"This is a surprise. The last letter you sent Elizabeth was from Los Angeles. What happened? Got tired of the glamorous life?"
"In part. I just realized how homesick I was."
Aware that their conversation was being observed, Quentin picked up her suitcase and placed a hand beneath her elbow. "Let's go somewhere more private. Every gossip in town is watching us."
"Collinwood?" Maggie suggested. "I wrote Mrs. Stoddard that I'd be arriving lataer, but -"
The last place he wanted to take Maggie was to Collinwood. He didn't want her anywhere near Nicholas Blair. "How about the Old House? I'll explain my reasons on the way out. My car's over there."
Maggie was still in a state of shock as she watched Quentin't strong hands on the wheel of the sports car. "Nicholas is back? And - Barnabas is married?"
"I'm sure Elizabeth wrote you about Barnabas anyway, but I suppose the letter missed you."
"Probably. I've been trying to get home for a week. I was beginning to think I'd never get here."
"What happened?" Quentin asked, reaching out to take her hand.
"It just wasn't what I wanted anymore. I don't think it ever was, really. Sebastian had- other interests as well."
Quentin understood. "I'm glad you came home. I never could understand why you left in the first place."
Maggie shrugged. "I felt -neglected, I suppose. I wasn't seeing Barnabas anymore, and you were so - distracted by something else - I suppose Sebastian's attention was like a balm to my wounded pride. I guess I hoped that you - or Barnabas might try to stop me from leaving with him."
Quentin squeezed her hand. "If I'd had anything to offer you, I wouldn't have let you go anywhere." He smiled at her, then parked the car. "Let's go inside."
She caught up with him quickly. "Quentin, why did you say that?"
"I don't know. For some reason I say things that I shouldn't when I'm around you. I can't offer you anymore than Shaw. Less, probably. I'm not a - stayer, Maggie. I'm too restless to stay anywhere for very long. Even Collinwood."
Maggie shook her head. "I not asking for a commitment, Quentin, and I'm not even sure that I'm ready to rush headlong into another relationship. But I would like for us to be friends."
"That, I think I can manage," he said, grinning at her. “Of course, there’s no telling how CLOSE that friendship might be.” He turned toward the house.
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