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Christmas from Hell

R. L. Mathewson

  his ass out.


  Saturday, December 5th.

  “Wait, where are you going?” she asked, tightening her grip around him and making him chuckle.

  “Food. I’m starving and it will help keep us warm,” he explained as he reluctantly pulled away from her, still surprised how letting her go felt wrong somehow.

  “Oh,” she said with a thoughtful frown as she grudgingly released her hold on him and shoved the covers away, “that’s probably a good idea. Stay here. I’ll be right back,” she said as she pulled on an extra pair of socks and headed towards the bathroom.

  More than a little curious, he waited as she used the bathroom, washed up with cold water, combed her hair and made herself a little more presentable before she returned to the room, gestured for him to give her a minute and walked out the door. She closed the door behind her and apparently was expecting him to stay sitting on the bed, waiting for her to return with a few boxes of cookies and crackers.

  He should probably explain to her that thanks to his brother, they had emergency kits at his house. Boxes filled with chemically preserved food that tasted like shit on a good day. He wasn’t looking forward to eating that shit, but at least it would keep them alive and warm until the fire department and electrical department finally made it to their street and cleared the fallen wires and fixed everything.

  Then he would get her the hell out of here, because it was going to take a few more days to get an electrician to come out here and fix the connection to the house. Since he knew damn well that the electric company wasn’t going to pay for the wires ripped from their houses, that meant that they would still have to hire electricians to fix the damage before the electric company would reattach the lines.

  Hopefully by then her Grandfather would be back so that he could look after her instead, he thought idly as he wondered if he should just go get the boxes of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and tell her not to worry about trying to find something edible to eat. He wasn’t a big fan of MREs, but he’d rather eat those then have to eat a crumbly cracker breakfast followed by ice-cold water dessert. Even though he was a Bradford and would pretty much eat anything, he still had standards.

  Eating crackers, because he was bored or at a party while he was waiting for the real food to come out was one thing, but eating them as a meal? Not fucking happening. He’d never survive, and more importantly, neither would she.

  Now, he wasn’t saying that he would turn into a cannibal when he was on the verge of starvation, but then again, who could honestly say what they would do if they were on the verge of dying from hunger and their only means of survival was cannibalism? Since it had never happened to him, and he prayed that it never did, he really didn’t think that it was his place to pass judgment.

  With that in mind, he decided that it was time to get dressed and go grab the supplies from next door before he was faced with that decision. He grabbed his boots, jacket and gloves and headed for the door, accepting the fact that he was going to have to make multiple trips just so he wouldn’t have to explain to her grandfather how things took a turn for the worse and he was forced to-

  What the hell was that enticing aroma? he wondered as he found himself walking towards the bedroom door in a trance, scenting the air and nearly groaning with pleasure when he realized what he was smelling. Praying that this wasn’t the first stage of starvation, imagining delicious food being cooked, he walked out of her room and into the kitchen where Necie stood over the stove with a serious expression on her face as she carefully turned cubed potatoes in a heavy duty pan over, appearing as though she was double checking every single cube to make sure that they were all evenly browned.

  “What are you doing?” he asked, not caring that he was asking a stupid question since it was obvious that she was cooking, but the Bradford in him needed to make sure that what he saw was really happening.

  “Making breakfast,” she said absently as she picked up the salt, pinched out a small amount, narrowed her eyes and then with a quickness that impressed him, she evenly sprinkled the salt on a-

  “Oh my God,” he mumbled in a hushed whisper as he watched her season one of the most beautiful marbled steaks that he’d ever seen in his life before she carefully flipped it over with a pair of tongs.

  His mouth watered as he listened as the steak sizzled upon contact with the hot iron surface. He realized then that he should have asked if she had a gas stove so that they could cook up whatever perishables had survived the last two nights before. At the very least, he should have checked to see what kind of canned supplies they had.

  Apparently the little jinx had thought ahead, because here she was, cooking up a large meal that smelled incredible. He watched as she expertly cooked the steak while taking care of the potatoes and then began cooking a large pan of scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon while he stood there, no doubt drooling.

  When she was done, which was surprisingly quick considering how much food she’d whipped up, she shut off the stove, double checked that the gas was off and the flames were extinguished. Without a word, she grabbed two plates, loaded them up with food and carried them to the table. With a nod, she gestured for him to sit down as she grabbed some silverware, a teapot off the stove and poured coffee into two mugs.

  Already knowing that she was a gifted cook, hell, everyone in town knew that she was probably the best cook in town, he didn’t hesitate in digging in. When the first piece of steak hit his mouth, he closed his eyes and nearly groaned, but somehow he managed to hold it back mostly because he didn’t want to scare her off.

  As annoying as he’d found her presence, it had never been enough to keep him out of her family’s bakery. Except of course when he could con one of his friends, co-workers or someone in his family to go to the bakery and grab some food with him so that he wouldn’t have to worry about the little jinx crossing his path. When he couldn’t find someone to go for him, he sucked it up, accepted whatever bullshit was going to happen to him as a consequence of voluntarily going near her, and ordered his food, telling himself that it was all worth it.

  If he knew that she was on the grill, he made damn sure that he never missed a meal when she was cooking. He was always thankful that he didn’t have to deal with her when he was ordering, but when his food was cooking he watched her every move, awed by the way she moved in the kitchen and impressed by how quickly she could turn a few simple ingredients into a masterpiece.

  He could happily watch her cook for hours, he thought as he savored the first bite of eggs. She was one hell of a cook, and maybe not that bad of a neighbor, he started to realize as he attacked his bacon.

  Chapter 14

  Sunday, December 6th.

  “I’m not done yet,” Necie said, biting back a smile when his eyes narrowed dangerously on her, something that would have flustered her a year ago, but after sleeping in his arms twice now, waking up both times to find herself being felt up and realizing that she could handle him as long as she didn’t stare into his eyes for more than thirty seconds at a time or think about his lips for more than five seconds, then she was fine.

  “You’ve had that magazine for over twenty minutes,” he said accusingly as he reached for it, but since she was still reading an interesting article on gluten-free flour, she felt obligated to slap his hand away and continue reading.

  “What the hell was that for?” he asked with a pout as he cradled his “injured” hand against his chest and shot her what most people would probably call, “A puppy dog expression,” but instead of making her feel bad for him enough to hand over the magazine, she simply shook her head and returned to the article she’d been reading.

  She’d been discussing the possibility of offering a gluten free menu with her grandfather for a while now, but they weren’t sure that the time that it would take to train everyone or the cost to add a gluten free section in the kitchen would be worth the extra cost. No matter how they looked at it, it was going to cost them a pretty
penny to do it, but she thought it was worth it even if it helped out just one family who couldn’t have gluten.

  Her grandfather, who was a sweetheart in secret, had thought over this one for a long time until finally he’d been forced to shake his head and tell her that it wasn’t possible. At least not right now. In a few years when they had enough money in the bank and could either afford a bigger bakery or second one, that’s when they would add the gluten free section and they would make sure that it offered the best gluten free menu, as well as the safest, in the city.

  The game plan was to master certain things like gluten free dinner rolls, pies, breads, baked goods, etc. so that they could help cover the costs of all the upgrades by offering their gluten free menu out to other restaurants, stores, etc. It would take a lot of work and time, but then again, since she didn’t have a life that wouldn’t exactly be a problem.

  Not only was she interested in expanding their menu for customers with gluten sensitivities and Celiac’s disease, but it was a challenge and if there was one thing that she loved, it was a cooking challenge. She could actually start practicing converting recipes and creating new ones for gluten free items as soon as the power was put back on, she thought with an excited little smile.

  There were already a ton of recipes that were naturally gluten free, but she wanted the challenge of making the impossible, possible. Maybe if she was able to perfect gluten free cooking then they could look into opening a bakery that was one hundred percent dedicated to gluten free items. It was something that she would love to do and she knew that her grandfather would back her up once she was able to perfect gluten free cooking.

  It was definitely something that she wanted to-

  “I’m starving,” the large man lying next to her in the bed that she’d somehow forgotten about, announced with what sounded like a pout, breaking into her thoughts and making her bite back a sigh of her own.

  “We just ate an hour ago,” she pointed out with another sigh and a shake of her head as she turned the page, making sure to dog-ear the page so that she could find it later and moved onto the next page.

  “And I’m already on the verge of starvation!” he snapped, sounding kind of bitchy and for some reason making her lips twitch.

  “You had four helpings,” she felt obligated to remind him, since that much food should hold him over until at least tonight.

  Granted, that much food would have probably held her over for a day or two, but apparently not him, which was a little concerning, she had to admit. He’d eaten several large steaks, at least two pounds of bacon, two-dozen eggs, and somehow during all of that, he’d suckered her into making him more home fries.

  Not that she minded, because she really enjoyed cooking and was somewhat limited as to what she could cook at home because of her grandfather’s diet restrictions. It was a nice treat cooking for him, but it was also a bit frightening. Before she wasn’t worried about running out of food, because of all the freezers and refrigerators hooked up to the generators that the insurance company had insisted that they purchase to protect the food that they used for private functions.

  Every one of the ten freezers and refrigerators downstairs was stocked full of food and should be more than enough to feed several hundred people, but with Duncan here…

  She wasn’t sure that the food would last another week. It was definitely a frightening thought, so she decided to return her attention to the magazine in her hands and pray that he forgot about food for the moment and distracted himself with one of the hundreds of books and magazines that she had stacked around the-

  “Holy shit!” he said in such a way that dread shot through her stomach before she even managed to look up and once she did, she couldn’t seem to look away.

  Or speak for that matter, but she was able to pray and pray she did, for a quick, painless death, for him or her, it didn’t really matter just as this moment was long forgotten.


  He should have put the book back down, should have pretended that he hadn’t seen it, but once he’d picked the book up and realized what he was holding, he couldn’t contain his reaction.

  She didn’t say anything, but then again he had a feeling that she’d lost the power of speech the moment that she’d realized what he was holding, but she did make a mad grab for the thick hard covered book that would forever be burned in his memory. It was definitely not something that he’d expected to find in her room or even something that he would have thought she knew about, but damn if he wasn’t holding the biggest book on Kama Sutra that he’d ever seen.

  As she tried to yank it out of his hands, he just sat there, staring down at it numbly as he tried to wrap his mind around everything. The somewhat shy little jinx that had been making his life a living hell for the past year had the biggest book on sexual positions by her bed and-

  “Thank God,” she said, sounding really relieved when he suddenly released the book, but that didn’t last for long.

  Needing to know, more like dying to know, he immediately turned his attention to the nightstand by her bed, reached for the top drawer and grunted in pain when the surprisingly strong woman put him in a headlock and took him to the ground.

  Doing his best to ignore the small woman on his back, no doubt trying to kill him, which again he was surprisingly okay with, he moved his ass, needing to know more than ever what was in that drawer.

  “Oh, my God! Please don’t! They’re not really mine!” she screamed as he placed his hand on the drawer handle, making him hesitate until he realized what she’d said.

  When her words registered, God himself backed up by the army,