Checkmate, p.51
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       Checkmate, p.51

         Part #3 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
Page 51


  "Oh, f**k," Andrew groaned, dragging Connor's attention away from the most incredible weekend of his life in time to see his oldest friend stumble away from the truck and make his way towards the overgrown brush surrounding the woods where Andrew proceeded to lose his lunch near a patch of poison ivy.

  "Stop," Andrew said on a gasp when Connor moved to help him.

  He wasn't sure what he hated more, watching his best friend slowly lose this battle or feeling helpless. It wouldn't be so bad if Andrew wasn't being so damn pigheaded, but he was. Andrew refused to ask for help and Connor feared that the man's pride was going to get him killed. He knew that it was Andrew's choice, but he wished the man would ask for help, scream for it, but he wouldn't. Andrew was leaving his fate in God's hands and Connor didn't think that was enough, not for this.

  "You need to go home," Connor snapped, sick of this bullshit. The man didn't belong here, especially if he wasn't going to put up a fight. If this was it, he'd rather see his oldest friend go out with a bang, but Andrew refused to act like anything was wrong.

  "Are you still going to pay me?" Andrew asked, sitting back on his haunches as he dropped his face in his hands, no doubt fighting another wave of nausea from the expensive medicine that was supposed to help him.

  "Yes," Connor gritted out, already knowing where the stubborn man was going with this.

  Sure enough, Andrew shook his head as he slowly got to his feet. "Then I'm staying, Connor. I'm not a charity case," he said, pressing a shaky hand to his stomach as he walked back to his truck.

  "No, you're a f**king idiot!" Connor snapped as the fear that he'd been fighting for the last year crept up his spine. He couldn't lose his best friend. They'd been friends since they were little kids and had always been there for each other. Andrew was one of the best people he knew. The man was kind, considerate and put up with his bullshit and helped keep him in line. Without him. . . . . .

  Hell, he didn't want to think about that because it wasn't going to happen. Andrew was going to beat this damn thing and that's all that mattered.

  "Love you too, man," Andrew said with a forced smile as he placed the used syringes in a canister and placed it beneath his seat. Andrew carefully stored the cooler on the floor, grabbed his hardhat and clipboard while Connor wracked his brain, trying to figure out a way to fix this. He refused to believe that there was nothing that he could do.

  "Let it go, Connor," Andrew said softly.

  "I can't. "

  "You're going to have to, Connor," Andrew said, sounding tired as he walked away.

  Connor cursed up a storm as Andrew stumbled on his way back to the site. He wasn't too surprised when Andrew couldn't make it past the flatbeds before he needed to take a break. He was supposed to rest for three hours after taking his medication, but he never did. Andrew didn't want to be sick and didn't want to face what lay ahead of him and Connor couldn't blame him, but sometimes like now, it was too much to bear.

  He wanted to yell at Andrew, scream at him until his voice was hoarse and then do it some more. He needed to shake some sense into his friend, tell him how unfair he was being by making him feel this f**king helpless, but he couldn't. Andrew didn't need to hear how scared he was. It wouldn't be fair, but then again nothing about this situation was.

  * * * *

  "We don't have to do this if you don't want to," Rory said casually even as her stomach fluttered in dread.

  "You're not getting out of having dinner with me tonight, Rory," Connor said with a hard glare as he caged her in against her Jeep’s driver’s side door.

  "I'm not trying to get out of anything, Connor," she explained, reaching between them and hooking her fingers through his belt loops.

  "Then why do you keep asking if I changed my mind?" he asked, frowning down at her as he reached up and lightly traced her jaw with his finger.

  "Because you've been acting like you have a bug up your ass all day and haven't said more than two words to me since lunch," she said, liking the way his lips twitched as some of the sadness seeped away from his expression.

  She shouldn't care if he was upset. This was only a deal after all, albeit a deal that now included incredible sex, but a deal nonetheless. Not to mention that this was Connor, the bastard who jumped behind the student driver's ed car while she was taking her driver's test and made it look like she ran him over, causing her to fail the test and her instructor's breakdown when Rory may have “inadvertently” tried to run over Connor. If she was smart, she'd figure out what caused him to lose that easy going smile of his a few hours ago and exploit it to get her project free and clear and get out of this deal.

  Apparently she was an idiot, because not only did she not want to get out of this deal like any sane woman would, but she was afraid that she was falling for him. She should be wringing his neck and going for his ni**les for stealing her project and dangling it in front of her like a carrot on a stick, but instead she wanted to do whatever it took to make him smile in that way that curled her toes and made her heart race. Maybe her brothers should have her committed, she thought as she used her slight hold on his belt loops to pull him closer.

  "Is this your way of telling me that you missed me?" he asked softly, his features softening as he smiled.

  Yes, unfortunately for her and her sanity, and not to mention her pride, she had missed him. Her brothers, who apparently were not speaking to her at the moment, spent most of the day glaring daggers at Connor and teasing her like she wasn't standing less than ten feet away from them. When Johnny started chanting, "Connor and Rory in a tree" she decided that it was time to go around and check up on the rest of her men, right after she tarred Johnny's ass to the roof.

  "Nope," she lied, her focus moving to his lips, "not at all. "

  Slowly, his lips pulled up into the cocky grin that she had to admit looked good on him. "You missed me, Rory. Just admit it. "

  "It's just so sad that you think so," she said, reluctantly forcing her attention away from his lips as she released her hold on him and gave him a gentle push that got the point across.

  With a chuckle, Connor stepped back, giving her, her much needed space, but he didn't go far. When she moved to the side to open the driver's side door, he was already there, opening it for her. Not that she was surprised or anything. Even when Connor was going out of his way to make her life a living hell, he always seemed to remember that she was a woman. It was something that used to aggravate her, but now she had to admit that she kind of liked it.

  "I'll pick you up in an hour," Connor announced as she climbed into her Jeep.

  She pretended to think that over. "That's really not going to work for me. Better make it eight," she said with a shrug, moving to turn around. By the time she sat down, Connor was there, resting his forearms against the hood of the Jeep as he leaned in and pressed a quick, too quick, kiss against her needy little lips.

  "One hour," he said, moving to step away.

  "Sorry, not gonna happen. I need at least two," she explained, which was true.

  She really did need at least two hours to do everything. She had to take care of Bunny, clean up her house a little bit, take a long hot shower to relieve her sore muscles, enjoy a hot cup of cocoa on her patio, and get dressed. Actually, what she really needed was a night to herself so that she could get all of those things done plus run a few errands that she hadn't had a chance to do over the weekend like grocery shopping.

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