Checkmate, p.15
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       Checkmate, p.15

         Part #3 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
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Page 15


  Was it wrong that he enjoyed making Rory's life a living hell? He really didn't think so. In fact, he decided that if he was going to get her out of his hair then he was going to have to up his game.

  * * * *

  "This is a big project," her father needlessly reminded her quietly, but not low enough that she missed the familiar disapproval lacing his words. "Maybe you should step aside and let one of your brothers handle this just to make sure that it's done right," he said, confirming her suspicions.

  Even after all these years she still wasn't good enough in his eyes. Why she thought landing this project would mean anything to him, she didn't know. She was neither a daughter nor a son in his eyes, but something in between. When she was little she hadn't been girly enough in his eyes to be a daughter and growing up she hadn't exactly been boyish enough to be treated as a son.

  Nothing she did ever seemed to be good enough for him. When she was a kid she busted her ass just as hard if not harder than her brothers, but instead of telling her that she did a good job he simply grunted and told her that she needed to move her ass faster or work harder. When she mastered the skill saw and far surpassed even his abilities he made her practice more. It didn't seem to matter what she did, he always found a flaw or pushed her to do better. Nothing she did made him happy.

  When she started Shadow Construction she thought that he'd be happy that she was following in his footsteps, but instead of being proud of her, he sighed heavily and suggested that perhaps she should go work for one of her brothers instead. Her brothers, who had been proud of her, had all gone deathly silent at their father's announcement. Then, one by one they each told her that they'd be working for her and that she damn well better not try bossing them around or they'd kick her ass.

  It was one of the sweetest things her brothers had ever done for her.

  "I have it under control, Dad," she said, forcing herself to sound casual when all she wanted to do was scream at the man.

  "This is a big project, Rory," he mused as his eyes shifted to follow the life ruining bastard as he walked away. "Maybe you should let Connor take the lead," he said, shocking the ever loving hell out of her.

  She couldn't believe how much it hurt to hear her father say that. It was one thing to constantly have him second guess her, but quite another for him to suggest the one person on earth that he knew that she couldn't stand, to take over. In that moment she realized something, in her father's eyes she might not be good enough, but Connor was.

  "He's got a great reputation and as much as I hate to say this, his work is some of the best that I've ever seen. The boy has talent, Rory and maybe it would be for the best if you let him take the lead on this one," her father said, stunning her into silence, because really there was nothing to say to that.

  "Where are you going? I thought you were going to give me a tour?" her father asked as she walked away. She knew that she was being rude, but she couldn't help it. If she didn't get away from him now she knew that she'd do something stupid like cry and that wasn't happening. Her father might think that she was weaker than the boys, but that didn't mean that she had to go and prove him right.

  * * * *

  "Where's your sister?" Connor asked as he stepped into the once impressive kitchen, which was sadly nothing more than a room full of broken tile, rust and debris.

  None of the James brothers looked at him, never mind paused in demolishing the room and the connecting pantries. That really didn't surprise him since the whole family seemed to hate him. Not that he could really blame them. He did seem to go out of his way to make Rory's life a living hell. He was actually surprised that none of them had tried to kill him yet.

  "She's checking the attic," said the deep voice that used to give him nightmares as a kid. It was a little unnerving that the man still had the power to make him want to run and hide.

  He forced himself to relax as he turned around and once again forced himself to stay where he was when blue eyes very much like Rory's, but colder, so much colder, locked on him.

  "She shouldn't be up there by herself," he said, ignoring the disbelieving snorts from her brothers.

  "Oh? And why's that?" Mr. James asked in a bored tone as he crossed his still impressively large arms over his chest.

  "Because she could get hurt," he said with an annoyed sigh as the James boys once again snorted and chuckled. "She's also getting in the way and holding back this project," he said firmly, never taking his eyes off the man in front of him. He wasn't an idiot after all.

  "Oh puhlease," Brian said, chuckling. "You're acting like she's some chick. "

  Connor blinked. "Because she is," he said slowly, wondering what the hell was wrong with these men. Of course her brothers laughed while Mr. James considered him with a hard glint in his eyes.

  What in the hell was wrong with them? They overprotected her everywhere else in life except for this when they should be dragging the damn woman away from the tools and dangerous conditions. Hell, it was taking everything he had not to run up to the attic and drag her ass away from his job site. She had no business here.

  He wasn't a sexist pig or anything, okay, maybe just a tad, but Rory had no business working here. It wasn't because she was a woman, but because it was Rory. He had several women working for him that could easily keep up with the men, but Rory. . . . . . . . .

  For some reason he just couldn't stomach the idea of her doing this. Not only because she was going to get in his way, but because he didn't want to see the damn woman hurt. Sure, he liked to torture her and make her life a living hell, but he'd never done any permanent damage and that was really all that mattered.

  This was the biggest project of his career and if he could pull it off it would mean bigger and better things for Highland Construction, but that wouldn't be happening as long as Rory James was around. He didn't want her screwing with his site and he sure as hell didn't want to have to worry about the stubborn woman getting hurt. Judging by the amused smirks on her brothers' faces he was the only one that was concerned.

  Hell, he was never going to get any work done while she was around.

  The only choice he had was to drive her off, just her. He still needed her men and equipment if he was going to finish this project on time after all. With an inward sigh, he decided that he was going to have to go ahead and make her life a living hell.

  "Sunday," Mr. James said, interrupting his thoughts.

  "Sunday, what?" he asked, unable to hide his confusion even as he noted the looks of shock on the rest of the James men's faces. They'd all stopped working to stare at their father in wonder and shock.

  "Dad, you can't be serious," Johnny finally said.

  Mr. James never took his cold eyes away from him as he addressed his sons. "Last time I checked, I was still head of this family and if I decide that Connor needs to join us this Sunday then he's going to join us," he said firmly, giving Connor the impression that he wasn't exactly being asked to come, but commanded.

  Since this actually worked in his favor, Connor didn't argue. "What's going on Sunday?"

  "Every Sunday, rain or shine we go fishing as a family at six," his eyes narrowed ever so slightly as he added, "no women allowed. We take our fishing seriously. If you bring a woman you better make sure that she knows that she stays at the house with the rest of them. While we're fishing you can tell me about the plans you have for this old house. "

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