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       Checkmate, p.31

         Part #3 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
Page 31


  "I told you eight," she said, crossing her arms beneath her large br**sts and practically shoved them towards his hungry eyes. Did she know what that did to him? He sure as hell hoped not.

  "And I told you seven, Rory. "

  She simply shrugged as she gestured to the flowers in his hand. "What are those?"

  His irritation forgotten, he frowned down at the woman. "They're flowers. "

  She rolled her eyes at him. "I meant, what are they for?"

  "For you. "

  "Why?" she asked, eying the roses as if they were going to attack her.

  Christ, she was acting like she'd never received flowers before and it took him a second to realize that she probably hadn't. If he didn't want her brothers to come work for him so badly he'd be tempted to kick their asses for this bullshit.

  "Because that's what I do for my dates," he lied. He'd never bought a woman flowers before, but for Rory he made it a point to pick up the flowers on his way home even though it meant that he had to rush to get ready. It just felt wrong not to get them for her.

  "I'm not really your date, Connor," she pointed out as she took the flowers, looking and acting like she didn't care, but he didn't miss the pleased little smile or the way she smelled the flowers as she turned to place them on the small table next to the front door. Now he was kicking himself for not stopping off and getting her a box of chocolates. Next time, he decided as he stepped aside so that she could lock her door.

  "Um, what are you doing?" she asked as she looked down.

  "Holding your hand," he said, enjoying the feel of her smaller hand in his. He'd never been one for PDA, but with Rory he was willing to make an exception, especially if it got him what he wanted.

  "Why?" she asked, trying to pull her hand away, but he simply ignored her as he walked with her around his truck and opened the door for her. With an eye roll and a muttered, "I could have done that myself," she climbed in and buckled up.

  He had to bite his tongue as he closed the door for her. It always irritated him when he saw other men treating her like she was one of the guys, but it absolutely pissed him off that she had such low expectations of how she should be treated. Well, he'd fix that. He'd use this time to show her exactly how she should be treated so that when he was through with her, she would at least know that she deserved better. It was the least he could do for her after all, he decided as he climbed into the truck.

  "Would you stop doing that?" Rory asked a minute later as she tried to carefully pull her hand free, but he ignored her since he knew that she just didn't know any better, but she'd learn, he promised himself.

  "No. "

  "No?" she asked, giving up on trying to free her hand to glare at him.

  "No, so you'd better get used to it, Rory. For the next five months you're mine," he said, liking the idea more and more. It really was too bad that sex wasn't involved in this deal, but he'd have to settle for the small bonuses like holding her, touching her, and kissing her.

  "Ah, no. For the next five months, I'm going along with this sick and twisted charade while we're in public to get my project, which by the way I'm going to start soon since I've more than earned it by the way," she informed him, yanking her hand back and trying to take him off guard, but he'd been ready. He had her hand firmly in his and he refused to let it go.

  "When it's just the two of us I don't have to do anything but try to figure out how to get rid of the body without the police figuring it out," she said, giving her hand one more good yank that he easily ignored before she gave up.

  "No, I have to hold your hand to help stay in character," he said with a shrug as he turned into O'Malley's busy parking lot. He'd planned on taking her out to a nice restaurant and then out for a drink, but Rory apparently had different expectations for the night judging by her attire. That was fine, more than fine actually. He'd help build up her expectations so that when the next guy came around, and he'd probably beat the shit out of him just on principle alone, she wouldn't put up with cheap ass**les that refused to go out of their way to treat her the way that she deserved.

  "Stay in character?" she said slowly as if she couldn't quite believe what he said.

  "Exactly," he said absently as he drove towards the back of the large parking lot since he didn't feel like wasting twenty minutes waiting for a prime spot to open up. Besides, he didn't like taking those spots. He'd never feel right if he took a spot up front and forced a woman to park in the back of the parking lot where the street lights didn't quite reach and where any ass**le could be hiding in the woods that bordered the property.

  "I think we should set some ground rules," she said absently as she shot an anxious look over her shoulder towards the busy restaurant.

  Rory James afraid? He never thought he'd see the day when that happened and he couldn't help but feel satisfied that he was responsible for it. She was always trying to be tough and act as though nothing ever fazed her. It was nice to see her act human for a change.

  "You're absolutely right," he said with a firm nod of agreement. When she opened her mouth, no doubt to cut him off and start sprouting off a bunch of rules that he would only ignore, he decided to save them both a lot of time and aggravation by just explaining to her how this was going to play out.

  "For the next five months you're going to play my sweet, loving girlfriend. I don't expect sex," but he sure as hell wouldn't turn it down from her. "I do expect you to act like you enjoy being with me. If that means that I'll have to suck it up and hold your hand, have you sit on my lap, and kiss you in order to do that then that's just what I'll have to do," he said with a careless shrug that he knew would just piss her off.

  "Look," Rory practically hissed, "there's no need to continue with this sick and disturbing plan of yours. We can just call a truce and move on and eventually everyone else will as well. "

  He pretended to think that over. "You really think so?"


  "I guess we could do that. . . . . . ," he said, purposely letting his words trail off and biting back a smile when she sighed with relief. She really should have known better. "But we're not going to. "

  "I. Hate. You. "

  He chuckled as he opened his door. "You'll have to do better than that if you want that little project of yours," he reminded her before he shut the door.

  It wasn't exactly a surprise that she sat there fuming as she glared at him, her expression clearly telling him what she'd liked to do to him, but he simply ignored her since he was in such a good mood. He was just too pleased with himself to care. For tonight and for the next five months, Rory James was his.

  The only thing that would make this whole arrangement better was having her in his bed, but that would never happen. If she didn't like him before, and really at this point there was no questioning that, then she absolutely hated him now. In fact, he was willing to bet everything he had that she was even now considering the pros and cons of kicking him in the balls and being done with it.

  Then again, he knew that she would never risk her project. If her assistant hadn't spilled everything he knew about the project while Connor duct taped him to the chair then her designs sure as hell would have. They were meticulous, detailed and well presented and they'd made him feel guilty until he managed to once again shove it aside and focus. He knew that once he had McGill on board that his plan would work.

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