Checkmate, p.33
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       Checkmate, p.33

         Part #3 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
Page 33


  Not that Rory could really blame the woman. The man did look especially yummy tonight, she decided as she was forced to walk behind him so that they could squeeze past a couple of tables full of gawkers. She used the opportunity to run an appreciative eye over the man.

  She'd seen a lot of good looking men in her life, but none were as hot as Connor. Of course, her brothers and cousins would argue that since they were all arrogant bastards, especially her cousins, she thought with a fond smile, but she didn't care. Connor O'Neil was the first boy she'd noticed and he'd only gotten better with age, she decided as she ran her eyes up his long legs, over his firm behind perfectly encased in light brown pants, and up his well defined back, wide shoulders and perfectly combed honey blonde hair.

  After she was done with her perusal, her eyes dropped back down to his backside while she fought back a groan of embarrassment. He was dressed up while she was wearing a tee shirt and jeans and for the first time in her life she wished she'd taken the time to find a pretty dress, shoes and done her makeup instead of just taking a shower, blow drying her hair and throwing on the first thing she found when she opened her bureau. She knew that she was beautiful and normally she didn't really care, but tonight she kind of wished that she'd played it up a bit.

  Not that this was a real date. It wasn't, but that didn't mean that she wanted this to look like he was going out with her out of pity. If anything, people should be wondering why she was out with him, not the other way around.

  "You look beautiful tonight," Connor said with a secret little smile as if he could read her mind and he probably could by this point, she thought as he pressed a kiss to her forehead before gesturing for her to slide into the small cozy booth.

  She fought the battle to look over her shoulder and lost several times. Sure enough, everyone in the bar was now watching them with rapt attention. Several people were actually leaning forward, resting their chins on their fists as they watched her and Connor like they were the best thing on television. She was used to people watching them as they waited to see if they were going to kill each other, but this was ridiculous.

  "Your waitress is, Susan," Amber said distractedly as she threw Connor a wistful look.

  Well, that was kind of insulting. As far as everyone here knew they were on a date. Granted, it wasn't a real date, but they didn't know that. She'd bet a huge cup of cocoa that Amber was going to find a way to slip her number into Connor's hand before the night was over.

  "I'm not interested," Connor said, dragging her attention back to him.

  He leaned back in the bench across from her and nodded towards Amber's retreating back as if she'd asked or cared. She really didn't. He could kiss every woman in town and she wouldn't bat an eye. Nope, it wouldn't bother her at all, she thought absently as she considered kicking Connor beneath the table and wiping that knowing look off his face.

  "So, you want to tell me why you're really doing this?" she asked, deciding that she'd had enough of his games over the past week. She knew that he really wasn't worried about how they were treated enough to force her to go through with this farce. She believed that it probably aggravated him as much as it did her and he'd probably be happy if it stopped, but she knew him well enough to know that wasn't his real intention. So, the question remained, what exactly was he up to?

  "I told you why," he said, reaching out and taking her good hand into both of his and for the moment she allowed it.

  For whatever reason, it was important to him that people believed that they were together and she really had no choice but to go along with it. Maybe if she figured out what he wanted, she could turn the tables on him and get her project free and clear.

  "Fine. Don't tell me the real reason," she said with a bit more attitude than she'd meant to, but she couldn't help it. She was tired, her ribs and arm were still a little sore. She’d missed her nightly hot chocolate fix when she got home, and to make matters worse, the way Connor was looking at her, kissing her and couldn't seem to stop touching her was seriously screwing with her head.

  Connor laced their fingers together as he gestured for Susan, a pleasant woman in her late forties, who used to teach the fourth grade until an unfortunate incident involving the two of them and a fire hose during a school assembly years ago ended her career. Rory had to admit that it was nice to see the woman smile again and the limp was barely noticeable these days. Not that she took the blame for the woman's injury. She didn't. To this day she still didn't know why the woman took off screaming when she spotted them.

  At least the woman was able to put her past behind her and move on, Rory thought seconds before Susan noticed Connor gesturing her over. Her smile quickly disappeared as an expression of pure terror took its place. She shook her head in disbelief as she stumbled back, mumbling to herself before she blindly reached out for Amber as the other woman moved to walk past her. Rory watched as Susan whispered something to Amber as she gestured wildly in their direction. When Amber nodded, Susan tore off her apron and took off running through the crowded restaurant.

  Rory really hated when that happened.

  "Do you want to dance?" Connor asked, drawing her attention as she watched Susan shove a couple out of her way in her desperate attempt to get away from them.

  "Dance?" she asked, shifting her eyes to the right to find everyone still watching them, but at least now they were trying to pretend that they weren't.

  It really shouldn't bother her, but it did. She didn't like being on display and although she would have normally jumped at the chance to dance since she didn't get to do it often, probably because no one ever asked her, she didn't want to tonight. She wasn't a very good dancer, probably from lack of practice and she really didn't feel like giving half the town something else to talk about.

  She was just about to tell him no when Phil walked up to their table and sighed heavily with obvious annoyance. "You have to leave. "

  "And why's that?" Connor asked casually as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze.

  "Two of my waitresses just quit and the other six are refusing to come out of the kitchen until I swear on my balls that I won't make them serve you," he said with a shrug.

  "See what I'm talking about?" Connor asked as he nodded and moved to stand, never releasing her hand as he did. It didn't surprise her that he didn't argue with Phil since it was pointless. They were being kicked out and nothing they said or did would change that.

  "It's only because we're in here together. If I had come alone, I would already be on my second cup of cocoa and making fun of you with the waitresses," Rory felt obligated to point out.

  Instead of glaring at her or getting pissed like he normally would have, Connor simply shot her a grin and a wink as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. They followed after Phil, who was making damn sure that they left. He seemed relaxed and carefree and heaven help her, but she actually liked him this way, which of course only made her want to kick his ass even more.

  He was up to something, something big and she wished he would just get it over with and stop screwing with her head. She didn't want to like him and with every touch and smile he was making that impossible to resist.

  * * * *

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