Checkmate, p.8
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       Checkmate, p.8

         Part #3 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
Page 8


  The real battle wouldn't begin until tomorrow and she was more than prepared to win. So, if he wanted to play these pointless little games now that was more than fine with her. After she mixed up her special hot cocoa, took a sip and sighed happily, she grabbed the top folder and made her way through the house.

  If she didn't absolutely adore her house she would have sold it and moved the hell away from Connor, but she did so she couldn't. This was her house, her baby, and nothing and no one was ever going to make her give it up. As she restored the house to its original condition she'd fallen in love with the large old house and couldn't imagine living anywhere else. Her only hope was that Connor got sick and tired of these games and decided to sell his house and move far, far, far, far, far away.

  Just the idea of having a Connor-free day made her giddy. Now if it would only come true she might actually cry tears of joy, she thought as she headed up the back stairs to her room. As she walked across her large bedroom she wondered if Connor was going to use their new situation to his advantage and make her life a living hell even more over the next five months. Then she snorted at her own stupidity.

  Of course he was going to try. He'd been doing it for over twenty-five years now and wasn't showing any signs of boredom yet. Every single day for twenty-five years the man went out of his way to make her life a living hell. It didn't matter what she was doing or where she was, Connor found a way to leave his mark on her day.

  She still couldn't forget her eighteenth birthday. It started off great. Her brothers woke her up at two in the morning by tying her up and gagging her, a James tradition and one her father tried to make her brothers skip that year. Thankfully they didn't throw her in the trunk of Craig's car as tradition dictated. Instead, they tossed her in the backseat and threw a black pillowcase over her head and teased and tormented her for ten hours by refusing to tell her where they were going.

  When they'd finally pulled the hood off her head and she saw where they'd brought her, she squealed happily as she gave all of her brothers bear hugs. Really, how many brothers were sweet enough to bring their sister to Canada on her eighteenth birthday to get her drunk?

  Best. Brothers. Ever.

  For the first four hours everything had been perfect. After she ate, because her brothers refused to let her drink unless she had food in her stomach, she tried beer, wine and hard liquor. Her brothers took turns watching her, but by the time the first hour had come and gone she was too drunk to really care.

  She was happy and giddy as she danced to every song. Well, she danced when she wasn't drinking. All the men at the bar were super nice, too. They bought her drinks so she didn't have to spend a cent of her own money and jumped at the chance to dance with her. The night was going perfectly until she thought she spotted Connor lurking in the corner, watching her.

  When she couldn't find him again, she just shook it off to an overactive imagination and yummy alcohol. A little while after that, things kind of got fuzzy. From what little she did remember of that night she knew it was all Connor's fault that she woke up the next morning handcuffed to him on a bench while a Mounty with a fresh black eye glared at them from across the room.

  If it wasn't for Connor, she wouldn't have needed to be placed in a cell while her father tried to plow through a dozen officers so that he could wring her neck. The only pleasure she got out of that whole awful experience was watching her father take a swing at Connor, who must have been hung over, because he just stood there and took it.

  "Stay," she told Bunny as she pushed back the dark thick curtains and unlocked the sliding glass door.

  "Took you long enough. "

  "What the hell are you doing on my porch?" she asked, not really caring. As long as he didn't break into her house, and surprisingly he didn't, then she really didn't care.

  "For our meeting," he said, leaning a hip against the banister as he sipped his beer.

  "We don't have a meeting," she said even as she allowed her eyes to quickly and discretely run over his rather impressive chest and a set of abs that most men would kill for. While her brothers were huge and muscular, Connor had the type of body any Hollywood leading man would kill for. Not that she would admit it to anyone, but he was by far the best looking man she'd ever seen.

  Her eyes moved back up to his chest and paused at the almost black Celtic tattoo that started on the left side of his chest and ended at his shoulder. It was large, beautifully drawn and unbelievably hot, the tattoo, not the man. She hated the man, but on any other man she would have been hard pressed not to trace it with her fingers or better yet, her tongue. As she forced her eyes elsewhere they landed on part of the tattoo that to this day remained a mystery.

  She knew that she wasn't the only one who wondered who “LRJ” was and why the man had the initials placed in the middle of that tattoo. There were a few betting pools going around about the identity of LRJ, but as far as she knew no one had been able to figure it out. Connor certainly never told anyone. If someone asked, and damn near everyone asked at least a dozen times, well everyone but her, he simply shrugged it off like it was nothing.

  "How many men do you have working for you full-time?" Connor asked, drawing her attention away from her rather disturbing thoughts.

  "Fifty and I have another ten men that I already screened and interviewed for the job," she answered, not caring if he knew any of this. They were working together, kind of, so they'd have to share a few things.

  Connor nodded as he digested the information. He placed his now empty beer bottle on the banister behind him. "How many are certified?"

  "All of them. "

  "Can paint?"

  "All of them. "

  "Interesting," Connor mumbled, but she didn't think it was. Her father made damn sure that she knew how to build a house from top to bottom and she made sure that all of her employees did as well. If they didn't know how to paint, drywall, put up siding, or do masonry work then she made sure they learned. Since every man that worked for her knew how to do every job she didn't have to put up with delays or waste money by hiring outside help. She also didn't have to waste time stressing over schedules or try to figure out who knew how to do what since all of her men were trained to do whatever was needed of them.

  "Anything else?" she asked, itching to get back inside and go over the plans.

  "Are you in a rush?" Connor asked, chuckling.

  "No," she said, shrugging. "I just don't like you. "

  "I'm the best part of your day and you know it," he said and she knew that he truly believed it.

  "Whatever helps you sleep at night, big guy. Are we done yet?"

  But Connor wouldn't let it go, he never did. "Admit that I'm the best part of your day," he said, crossing his arms over his chest as he gave her a cocky smile.

  "I can honestly say with absolutely no hesitation that you, Connor O'Neil, have never been the best part of my day," she said, wondering, not for the first time, what horrible things she'd done in a past life to deserve having him in her life.

  "Puhlease, that's bullshit and we both know it. I bet you fall asleep every night thinking about me and wake up every morning smiling and eager to see me," he mused, sounding smug, too damn smug.

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