Vinnie explained; Farah beseeched.
And to varying degrees, Quentin listened.
The requirements were few but mandatory. A legal agent had to preside over the ceremony. Vinnie offered her mother’s good friend, a very respectable retired judge. Papers needed to be signed and filed, but those details would be handled by her family’s exceptional attorney. Meetings with an immigration officer came every six months—perfunctory interviews to satisfy official curiosity. Some shared address was critical, but a rented box at the post office was good enough. The pitfalls were few. Since the foreign national was female, nobody would care what the couple were doing and not doing. Vinnie found various ways to make that promise. And once the marriage survived two years, citizenship was forever. Then they would have a civil divorce, amicably balanced on two more signatures. And the final point: Quentin should find his own lawyer, although Vinnie knew several good ladies. "A binding prenuptial agreement," she said. "That'll protect all of your considerable wealth."
That last bit deserved a hard laugh.
During these explanations, Farah would pick her moments to touch his hand or his knee, inserting little statements about how much she loved Queensland and its good people and how thoroughly she despised her homeland. “Old and sick,” she called Persia. “Frail and angry. Women are secondary citizens, if that. When I am there, I’m property. To my father, to any prospective husband, I’m a bad cook and a wasted womb.”
Exhausted by his importance, Quentin lifted one hand. The women didn’t notice immediately. But once their words stopped, he asked, “Are you a couple?”
They were. Seeing her chance, Vinnie crossed to the sofa, linking arms with her most recent lover.
Farah squirmed between them. She seemed like a shy person, which made her endearing. Or she was acting this way because she wanted to charm this strange man. It was impossible to know what the dipped face and abrupt silence meant, and he had no clue about the thoughts roiling inside her.
Another obvious question demanded attention.
Quentin could have guessed the answers: He wasn’t married or engaged. He didn’t have a criminal record, and Vinnie couldn’t recall any dangerous rumors. So obviously, if he was bad, at least he was discretely wicked. Which was perfect. Keeping the private private was important, and Quentin made the appropriate noise about doing just that. Which led to some introspection, each person quietly dwelling on the nature of secrets.
Then Vinnie slipped her arm around her girlfriend. The exotic face smiled while the feminine body slowly leaned back, allowing Vinnie’s long hand to brush across her blouse and rounded breast.
“I need to think,” Quentin confessed.
Braced for that response, the women nodded, perhaps hoping another twenty seconds of reflection would allow him to properly align his mind.
But no, he said, “I’ll have to dream on this.”
Panic was the next strategy. “We have deadlines,” Vinnie blurted. “With the applications and necessary forms, we need to start soon.”
But Farah took the role of understanding soul. With reassuring pat, she agreed, “This is an enormous thing to ask.”
It was an awful lot, yes.
“But you are our best hope.”
Jealousy pricked. “Is there another candidate?”
Hesitation. Then Vinnie insisted, “There’s nobody but you.”
Because someone else had turned them down. That’s why the timetable, the urgency. But what man would agree to this? The women gained a lot, while the groom walked away with nothing but the chance to play the charitable angel.
“Tomorrow,” seemed like the perfect promise.
“Thank you,” his potential bride gushed, hugging him, arms smothering, warm and damp with perspiration. Then Vinnie reached over Farah to stroke his back, and because he could get away with it, Quentin let his hand slide up the silky blouse, fingering the broad strap of the bra and the padded cup, and behind it, the hardened beginnings of a broad nipple.