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       Checkmate, p.6

         Part #3 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
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Page 6


  "Thanks," she said, taking the empty seat next to Brian.

  "No problem," Sean said around a huge bite full of his cheeseburger.

  "Well?" Bryce demanded as he pushed a mug of steaming hot cocoa towards her while Craig gestured to Luanne, their waitress.

  "Well, what?" Rory asked before taking a fortifying sip of cocoa. Not as good as hers, but still doable.

  "Did you know he was g*y?" Sean hissed as Luanne placed a large cheeseburger platter with extra fries, onion rings and coleslaw in front of her.

  Connor O'Neil g*y? That was actually laughable. She snorted as she took another sip of cocoa and picked up her knife. Just as she finished cutting her burger in half, Brian reached over and took half of it. When she raised the bun of the remaining half, Johnny took her onions. Sean and Bryce took her french fries while Craig and Brian split her onion rings. When the only thing left on her plate was the coleslaw and half a burger, each man in turn dumped his side salad with extra creamy French dressing on her plate. It took a few years, but she had them nicely trained, she thought as she took a bite of her burger.

  "Why do you think he's g*y?" she asked, spearing a delicious looking French dressing covered cucumber slice onto her fork.

  "He keeps looking over here at us," Brian said, jerking his head in the direction behind him.

  Sipping her cocoa, Rory leaned to the left to look between two of her very large brothers. Sometimes she felt like she had her own entourage of linebackers. Having large muscular brothers did come in handy when she needed help moving or someone to open a pickle jar.

  "He's doing it again," Johnny said, moving to the side so she could get a better look and sure enough he was looking over at them. Actually, so were his little buddies. They were talking and gesturing towards them. No doubt the men were pissed at the news. So was she, but she was willing to suck it up as long as he stayed the hell out of her way that is.

  As if he sensed her thoughts, he turned his eyes on her and narrowed them dangerously. She narrowed her eyes on him. Everything around them disappeared as they glared at each other. Sure it was childish, but she would not look away first damn it! Even when people walked between them neither looked away.

  The glaring was actually starting to make her feel dizzy, but she would not look away first! Not this time! She would-

  "They're probably just gloating. It's okay, baby girl, we'll get the next one," Craig said, pulling her attention away from the glaring bastard. She looked away, but not before she caught his triumphant grin.

  The bastard!

  "We got it," she said, taking a quick sip of cocoa.

  The men actually stopped eating to frown at her, which was pretty amazing since there was still food on the table and these were the James brothers.

  "What do you mean we got it?" Brian asked.

  She shrugged. "I signed the contract less than a half hour ago. It's ours. "

  The men looked over their shoulders and then back at her in unison. "Then why do they look like they're celebrating? I can't imagine Connor being happy about losing to you," Bryce said, staring longingly at the burger left on her plate. So maybe they hadn't entirely forgotten about the food, she thought.

  "Yeah, he looks damn happy for a man that just lost a million dollar contract," Johnny said as his hand inched, almost as if it had a mind of its own, towards her burger. Before it touched her plate, Craig reached out and slapped his hand away.

  Johnny gave her a sheepish smile and a shrug. She knew he couldn't help himself. It was something she understood even when they were kids. Her brothers could eat their father out of house and home by the time they were six and often did. Considering that by six they were the size of twelve year olds that wasn't too surprising. If it hadn't been for Craig, she probably would have starved to death. He kept his younger brothers in line and made sure that she had enough to eat.

  "Yeah, well, he kind of sort of got the contract too," she said quickly, wincing in anticipation of their reaction.

  Instead of cursing and slamming the table with their fists like she expected, they just sat there staring at her. Finally Bryce spoke. "You're kidding, right?"

  She shook her head, taking another sip of cocoa. Again her brothers looked over their shoulders and this time the life ruining bastard had the balls to salute them with his beer and a cocky grin.

  Rory discretely flipped him off. Connor's cocky smile quickly turned to a tight frown as his eyes once again narrowed on her. Her brothers turned their attention back to her, clearly wondering what she'd done. She just gave them an innocent smile as she sipped her cocoa.

  "I don't understand," Sean said. "How did you both get the contract?"

  Darting her eyes away, she said quietly, "We both got the contract. We'll be working with Highland Construction on this job. "

  Stunned silence met her announcement. She chanced a glance back up at her brothers, who were now looking at her as if she'd grown an extra head. She cleared her throat nervously and continued.

  "We each got the contract with a twenty percent markup and a nice bonus if we finish by the November deadline," she said, watching as the information sank in.

  Each of the men cursed vividly as they turned and shot another scowl to the man that once again smiled smugly in their direction. Slowly, her brothers turned back to face her, glaring.

  "Why didn't you tell them we could do it without Highland Construction?" Sean demanded. This time when Johnny tried to snag her burger, Craig didn't stop him.

  Great, the big babies were mad at her. Whatever. They'd get over it.

  "Does it look like I want to work with him?" she asked, making them frown. "I didn't have a choice. Even if we hire extra men we won't be able to train them in time for them to be useful. We wouldn't make the deadline. If we did this alone we'd also blow our profit on extra equipment. Extra equipment I might add that Highland Construction has. All we have to do is go in, work our asses off just like any other project, meet the deadline and that's it. The only downside is that it will be with the bastard, but if I can handle it, then so can you. "

  Her brothers looked thoughtful as they considered what she said. Finally with a shrug, Craig said, "Fine, as long as he leaves us alone to do our job and lets us lead we won't kick his ass. "

  Chapter 3

  "That's it, boy," Connor cooed as the hundred and fifty pound pain in the ass cocked his head to the side and studied Connor. "Come on, big guy, you know you want it," he said, holding the hot dog he dipped in peanut butter up higher as he moved it slowly from side to side.

  The demon spawn that Rory liked to call a dog licked his lips hungrily as his eyes zeroed in on the tasty treat. Grinning, Connor leaned over and reached for the laptop bag that he'd foolishly set down on the ground ten minutes ago so that he could grab his briefcase and the stack of files only to turn around and find the pain in the ass lying across it.

  Connor tossed the tasty treat onto Rory's property. The dog sent him one last glare before he took off. Connor wasted no time in grabbing his laptop, knowing the damn dog would be back. Sometimes it seemed as though the damn dog liked screwing him over more than Rory did.

  He was just about to head inside his house when a familiar red four door sedan pulled into Rory's driveway. Hadn't he already chased this loser off? It had been what. . . . . three or four weeks since he last saw this ass**le sniffing around Rory? Then again, most of the men Rory dated, all losers in his opinion, stopped coming by her house shortly after meeting him, which was the way he liked it.

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