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       Checkmate, p.12

         Part #3 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
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Page 12


  The fact that Connor seemed to be the only man on earth that remembered that she was a woman, even as he tortured the hell out of her, annoyed her. She didn't want him to notice her and she sure as hell didn't like the fact that on some level she liked it. She hated him and always would.

  "Where the hell are you going now?" he demanded as she shoved him away.

  "I need a drink," she bit out between clenched teeth as she headed for her trailer.

  "Hold up, we need to talk," he said, but she didn't stop. Oh no, she moved faster. If she didn't get a drink soon she was going to do something stupid like strangle the bastard. Then she'd lose the contract on Strawberry Manor and as good as she knew it would feel to do it, she couldn't. She'd waited too long for this project and she wasn't about to let him wreck it.

  By the time she reached her trailer her nerves were frayed and she was trembling with the need to kick Connor's ass. She stormed into the trailer, ignoring Jacob's questioning look as he spoke on the phone, probably handling one of the hundreds of boring things that she hated doing. She walked over to the coffee cart that she paid Jacob well to keep stocked and turned on the electric kettle.

  While the water was heating up, she scooped out a large amount of hot cocoa mix and placed it in a super-sized coffee cup. Once it looked like enough, she opened the small fridge and grabbed a small carton of coffee creamer and poured just a dab into the cup. She mixed the cocoa powder until the mixture was nice and creamy. Then she added a spoonful of fluff and mixed it until it was blended. When it was done she stood there with her hands on her h*ps as she glared at the electric kettle, urging it to hurry up.

  "I hate to tell you this since you're already in a bad mood," Jacob said as he stood up and approached her.

  "I'm not in a bad mood," she said tightly as she narrowed her eyes on the kettle, making all sorts of mental promises to sell it for scrap metal if it didn't hurry the hell up so that she could make her precious and much needed hot cocoa.

  "Then why are you having a large hot chocolate during a work day, hmm?" he asked, stepping beside her and with an amused smirk that she could have happily bitch slapped off his face at the moment, he reached over and plugged the kettle in.

  She clenched her jaw tighter as she fought against letting out a frustrated scream. Jacob smartly said nothing about the kettle as he leaned against the paneled wall.

  "I have some bad news. "

  "Does it have to do with the life wrecking bastard?" she asked, wondering just how much more she could take before she lost it. The fact that the first day wasn't even over and she was close to a breakdown wasn't lost on her.

  "No," Jacob said, shaking his head before frowning at her. "Are you ever going to tell me why you call him that?"

  "No," she said evenly while she continued to direct her attention on the kettle that was just now starting to release steam.

  "Alrighty then. I guess this is the part where I tell you that your father just called to let you know that he's on his way," he said, taking a healthy step back just as Rory's glare swung from the kettle to him.

  "This is how you tell me?" she demanded in disgust.

  Jacob shifted nervously under her murderous glare. "He just called," when she looked towards the door, wondering, heck hoping that she could make a run for it before her old man came, he added, "he was on his cell phone and less than two minutes away. "

  She couldn't do this. Oh god, she really couldn't do this. Not today. Not when Connor already had her contemplating manslaughter. Her eyes shot back to the kettle just as it began to whistle. Wasting no time, she picked up the kettle, filled the mug and stirred it until the creamy concoction was perfect. She picked it up, gave it the customary thirty second blow and sipped.

  When she felt the hot creamy chocolate go down her throat and into her stomach some of the tension in her body disappeared. Three long sips later and she felt close to being able to face the day. By the time half the cocoa was gone she was in her special place, the place where everything was fine and she could face anything including Connor and a visit from her dad. By the time she finished the rest of the cocoa she'd be able to keep this calm going for the rest of the day, but of course she needed a second cup. She quickly made another cup and was just about to take a sip when the trailer door flew open and Connor stormed inside looking pissed.

  "I told you that I had to talk to you," he said, tossing his hard hat on one of the guest chairs as he headed over to her. Her lips barely touched the rim of the cup when she found her large mug suddenly ripped out of her hands.

  For a moment she could only stare in disbelief as Connor drank, more like chugged, her cocoa down. When he was done he handed the empty cup back over to her and gestured for her to go into her office, but she couldn't move. She just couldn't.

  She looked down at her empty mug as her mind struggled with the knowledge that not only had he touched her hot cocoa, but he'd drained her mug, again. All those calm feelings she'd had a minute ago quickly vanished as she looked up and glared at the bastard who dared touch her much needed hot cocoa.

  "You. . . . . . . bastard," she bit out slowly in a harsh whisper as she took a step towards him, closing the distance between them. "Do you have any idea how much I needed that?"

  "She really did," Jacob agreed, retreating back to the safety of his desk and for good reason.

  "Too bad," Connor said, moving impossibly closer to her as he leaned down until they were practically nose to nose.

  Her fingers flexed by her side with the need to slap that smug look off his face. Just one slap, that's all she was asking for. She really didn't think that she was asking for too much. Connor's smile became knowing and her urge to slap him shifted to the need to throttle him.

  "I tell you what, Rory," he said in a seductive whisper that would probably make other women tremble with need, but only managed to set her rage off by another notch, "if you're really good I might just let you make me some hot cocoa instead of just fetching my coffee. "

  That was it! She was going to kill the bastard, she decided just as Jacob cleared his throat. She glared at Connor for about ten more seconds before she moved her glare to her assistant who had the balls to look amused.

  "I probably should remind you that your brothers said that they wouldn't bail you out of jail again for the next three years after what happened the last time and that if you kill him then you'll probably lose this contract," Jacob reminded her, which is of course why she kept him around. He kept the business running smoothly and kept her from doing anything rash, most of the time anyway.

  Fortunately, today was one of those days that he managed to stop her from doing anything particularly stupid like lose the contract for Strawberry Manor, because she killed the bastard.

  "Fine," she gritted out, hating the fact that she'd have to resist the urge to throttle the man until the project was done. "Then I'm going back to work," she said, moving to step around the jerk, but he simply shook his head, grabbed her by the arm and hauled her ass towards the office.

  "Let me go!" she snapped, trying to pull her arm away, but he refused to release her.

  "Not until you and I go over a few things," he simply said as he opened her office door.

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