Fire amp brimstone, p.13
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       Fire & Brimstone, p.13
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         Part #8 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson

  his eye that told her that he’d gave as good as he got, maybe even better.

  “So, why the pretense to get me up here?” she asked, in absolutely no mood to play anymore of these games with him.

  The women that he’d dated in the past might have been okay with this hot/cold treatment that he seemed to be dishing out to her, but she wasn’t. If a man wanted to be with her then she expected him to act like it, not ignore her unless he wanted something from her. The moment that he’d decided to act like she didn’t exist was the moment that he’d lost whatever chance he might have had with her.

  He watched her for a moment before he closed his eyes and dropped his head back against the couch. “I fucked this up, didn’t I?”

  “Big time,” she readily agreed.

  “I’m a fucking idiot,” he said and she honestly couldn’t agree more.

  “You said it, not me,” she said, getting to her feet and headed for the door, deciding that it would be for the best if they just let whatever this thing was between them die a quick, merciful death. “I have to get back to work,” she said, walking towards the door.

  “Before you go, could you do me a favor? Could I have a Coke?” he asked and even though she wanted to tell him exactly where he could shove that Coke, she couldn’t forget what he’d done for her.

  “Sure,” she said with a sigh as she headed right back into that meticulously organized kitchen, wondering why he was bothering with her now. He knew better. At least, she thought he did, but then again-

  “What the hell?” she mumbled as she opened the refrigerator door and realized that he might have a small problem with OCD, but also that he’d marked more than half the items in the refrigerator with a “Gluten Free,” label. Frowning, she shut the refrigerator door and opened the cabinet door closest to her and found the same thing had been done for all the dry goods.

  Why would he do something like this?

  “I wanted to make sure that you had something to eat when you were here,” he explained as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. “I fucked up and I’m sorry, Rebecca. The Fire & Brimstone has been my life for as long as I can remember. It’s always come first in my life and the fact that you make me want to forget that scares the hell out of me,” he whispered, holding her tightly as though he never wanted to let her go.

  Closing her eyes and telling herself that this was probably the biggest mistake of her life, she placed her hand over the arm that held her tightly and took the biggest risk of her life.

  “Don’t screw this up,” she said, knowing that next time it would be more than her pride that took a hit.

  Chapter 24

  “Are you on the verge of having a panic attack?” Rebecca asked teasingly as they stood in line, waiting to purchase snacks before they went into the theatre to watch the latest horror flick to appease her disturbing obsession with paranormal movies.

  “No,” he said, still surprised that he hadn’t tried to sneak off so that he could check his email or called the restaurant to make sure that everything was running smoothly.

  He’d never gone this long before without checking in to see how things were going back at the Fire & Brimstone, but then again, he’d never been out with a woman like Rebecca, who would happily drop kick him in the balls if he so much as touched his phone. At least, he was assuming that she would since she hadn’t actually said anything about it yet.

  He was basing this assumption on the fact that he’d seriously fucked up and needed to be on his best behavior and that meant no touching his phone when he was out with her. Rebecca on the other hand didn’t seem to feel the same way since she was currently checking her phone for the tenth time since they’d arrived.

  He was starting to see how people found this annoying. It was also really fucking insulting! Here he was, dotting on her and she was on the phone as though his company wasn’t good enough.

  What. The. Fuck?

  It didn’t matter that he’d done the same thing during every date that he’d been on since the invention of the smartphone. It was fucking rude and-

  “Patrick says that everything is running smoothly. I also checked on the orders you placed this morning and they should be delivered tomorrow morning,” she said with a mischievous little smile as she slipped her phone back into her bag.

  “You checked for me?” he asked, smiling as she wrapped her arm around his and leaned into him.

  “Couldn’t have you crying,” she said as she slipped her hand into his.

  “We wouldn’t want that,” he agreed as he entwined their hands together and stepped up in line to buy snacks for the movie.

  Normally he would buy one of everything, but he couldn’t do that with Rebecca since she couldn’t have most of the stuff that they had here. He didn’t feel right about eating something that she couldn’t have in front of her. So, already knowing that he couldn’t have his customary triple order of his beloved nachos, he took out his phone and checked with the gluten free app that he’d found to see what she could have.

  Just as he’d suspected, there was really nothing here that she could have. He was going to starve to death, he realized, trying not to panic, because he honestly couldn’t imagine going two whole hours without eating something. Maybe he could sneak out to use the bathroom and scarf down a few nachos and a hot dog without her knowing, he thought even as he realized that he couldn’t do that to her.

  “What are you getting?” she asked as she looked at the selection before them, no doubt already realizing that she couldn’t have anything here.

  “Nothing. I’m good,” he said, wondering why she was looking up at him with a frown.

  “Yeah…,” she said, not really sounding like she believed him, which was actually really fucking insulting. “Sure you are.”

  “I’m fine,” he lied, wishing that he’d grabbed something before they’d left, but he’d been in such a hurry to get his paperwork done so that they wouldn’t miss the movie that he’d forgot to have customary pre-date snack.

  Shaking her head and mumbling something that he couldn’t quite catch, she returned her attention to the cashier waiting on them and with a smile, said, “We’ll take one of everything and could we please have two Cokes? One extra large and a small, please?”

  “Sure,” the cashier said, throwing him a nervous look, no doubt well acquainted with a few of the other Bradfords in town.

  “You didn’t have to do that,” he said as he pulled out his wallet, praying that she didn’t listen to him and cancel the order, because honestly, he was fucking starving and wasn’t sure that he’d survive the next two hours without food.

  “And risk you passing out on me during the best part of the movie?” she asked with a smile that told him everything that he needed to know.

  He couldn’t risk fucking this up again and losing a woman like her.

  *-*-*-*

  “Are you sure that’s going to be enough?” he asked as she settled the big tub of extra buttered popcorn on her lap.

  “More than enough,” she promised him, still wishing that they’d at least had some plain M&M’s, but this was better than nothing.

  As soon as she’d spotted the snack selection on display she’d realized that her days of enjoying high calorie/high fat snacks at the movie theater was over. That is until the manager overheard Lucifer mention that she couldn’t have gluten and he’d suggested the popcorn. The popcorn was safe to eat so at least she had something to snack on while she watched bimbos get torn apart by zombies.

  It really was the little things in life, she thought with a wistful smile as she nibbled on some semi-warm super buttery popcorn. While Lucifer systematically devoured every last morsel of junk food that she’d ordered for him, they sat there in silence as they watched all the previews. It was the first time that she’d ever been out with a man that she didn’t feel the need to fill the silence.

  It was actually really nice to be able to sit here and not worry about that horrible
awkward silence setting in. She hated that, but it always seemed to happen. That didn’t seem to be the case with Lucifer.

  She was actually enjoying herself, she realized as she popped another small handful of popcorn in her mouth. A few bites later she was regretting only getting a small Coke to wash away the taste. For a second, she considered stealing Lucifer’s soda, but she didn’t want to risk cross contamination or losing her hand since he did have a really unhealthy obsession with his food that occasionally turned violent.

  She wondered if that was hereditary as she ate more popcorn and finished off her Coke, which lead to other questions about his diet. How much food did he actually consume in a day? What was his food bill like? God, she’d probably die of a heart attack if she ever found out. She…

  Oh, no.

  “Are you okay?” Lucifer asked as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat, trying her best to ignore the violent cramping tearing through her stomach.

  “Yes,” she lied through her teeth, giving him what she hoped was a reassuring smile as she sat back and folded her arms over her stomach, hoping that he didn’t notice the move.

  He looked at her for a few more seconds before he reluctantly returned his attention to the big screen, but she wasn’t fooled. She could tell that he was keeping an eye on her.

  When that position didn’t help, she shifted a little bit to the right and winced when that made it worse. She tried telling herself that this wasn’t from gluten, but she was all-too familiar with the cramping and nausea surging through her body.

  As discretely as possible, she pulled out her phone and Googled, “movie theatre popcorn,” hoping that her hunch was wrong. It wasn’t. Apparently regular popcorn cooked in real butter, air popped or in oil was safe, but movie theatre “butter topping,” wasn’t. It not only didn’t contain real butter, but bleached flour was one of the first ingredients, which explained quite a bit at the moment.

  “What’s going on?” Lucifer whispered, leaning in close to her as she sat there, trying to ignore how badly her stomach hurt and the way that the movie theatre suddenly felt like it was a hundred degrees hotter than it had been only a few minutes ago.

  “Nothing,” she whispered back, telling herself that she could make it through this move.

  Apparently, she was a lying bitch, because she’d barely lasted five more minutes before she was slapping a hand over her mouth and running for the bathroom, ruining their first, and probably only, date in a matter of seconds.

  Chapter 25

  “Mr. Bradford?”

  “What is it, Patrick?” Lucifer asked as he tossed another folder on the stack of folders currently taking over a corner of his desk.

  “I can take care of that if you want,” Patrick offered, letting him know that it was that time of night again when he normally settled in to catch up with work before going upstairs and trying to sneak in an hour or two of sleep before he had to get up in the morning, but not tonight.

  “That would be great, Patrick. Thank you,” he said, already heading for the door and barely registering the look of shock on Patrick’s face.

  He considered going over what needed to be done, but he had somewhere to be. Besides, this was Patrick’s job and he should know what needed to be done by this point. Telling himself that everything was in good hands, he headed to the back door, punched in his security code and went upstairs, hoping that he hadn’t already fucked this up again.

  He should have never left her side, but the stubborn woman had insisted that they call it a night. She’d been embarrassed about what happened at the movie theatre. Not that he could really blame her, because he couldn’t. He only wished that she’d given him a head’s up that she was going to be sick so that he could have warned her that she was running into the men’s bathroom.

  Live and learn, he thought with a sigh as he let himself into her apartment, not exactly surprised when he spotted Melanie curled up on the couch, wrapped in a pile of blankets and playing on her computer while she nibbled on some kind of baked good.

  “The men’s room, huh?” she said without bothering to look up from whatever she was doing on her computer.

  “Hell of a good time,” he said dryly, grabbing two glasses and filling them both with ice before helping himself to a six-pack of Coke.

  “I bet,” she murmured absently while he was forced to step over Mojo, who at some point in the last thirty seconds had dropped down behind him and started snoring.

  Without another word to Melanie, or an explanation of what he was doing in her apartment, he headed towards the back bedroom, making note of the sounds of a shower running. He stepped into Rebecca’s semi-chaotic bedroom and closed the door behind him so that he could strip down to his boxers since comfort was important.

  By the time that he was stripped down to his boxers and climbing into the small bed, Rebecca was walking into her room, looking absolutely miserable in her oversized The Walking Dead tee shirt. When she saw him waiting for her, her lips pulled up into a shy little smile that made him feel like a fucking king.

  “What are you doing here?” she asked, not quite able to meet his gaze and letting him know that she was still embarrassed about earlier, but she would have to get over that, because he wasn’t going anywhere.

  “Finishing our date.”

  *-*-*-*

  “You didn’t have to do this,” she said as she lay down beside him and desperately tried not to think about what happened two hours ago.

  One thing was for certain, she decided as she accepted a glass of Coke from him and took a small sip to settle her stomach, she was never going to that movie theatre again. Not because she’d been banned or anything, but simply because self-preservation demanded that she never set foot in that place again out of the fear that she would die of mortification.

  “Yes, I did,” he said as he took the glass from her and placed it on the nightstand and then before she could ask, he was placing his hand gently on her stomach.

  She groaned with relief because one touch from him did what a hot shower, three Advils and a Coke hadn’t been able to do. Her stomach didn’t stop hurting, but at least she wasn’t on the verge of crying anymore.

  “What do you want to watch?” he asked as he pressed a kiss against her temple, making her stupidly want to smile.

  He really was a sweetheart, she thought as she settled in closer to him so that she could swipe the remote from out of his reach. Definitely a sweetheart, she thought as she turned on the television and went to Netflix, making sure that she didn’t get stuck watching sports or something sports related.

  “Horror movie?” he asked with a heavy sigh that said it all.

  “Yup,” she said with a nod as she found a particularly gruesome movie and hit Play.

  “Of course you’d pick another zombie movie,” he murmured as he settled in next to her and closed his eyes, taking the coward’s way out.

  At least that’s what she thought until she took a good look at him. He looked exhausted, but that wasn’t anything new. He always looked tired…and grumpy, but tonight he looked like he’d finally reached his limit. He really needed to cut himself some slack and let someone else help him, she thought as she lowered the volume on the television and cuddled up next to him, wondering why he was so hard on himself.

  Fire & Brimstone was a huge success. In her opinion, it was the best restaurant in town. It had taken some time, but it now had the highest reviews online, was constantly packed and had the best food and staff in town. It was also packed every night of the week and in her opinion, could probably use an edition or a new location to help manage the demand. She liked the fact that he was always trying to change it up to stop it from becoming boring, but at some point he needed to realize that he’d struck gold with the Fire & Brimstone and stop being so damn hard on himself.

  As she lay there next to him, she couldn’t help but smile as she looked at his handsome face. She wondered if anyone would believe her if she told them that he was actuall
y kind and funny. They probably wouldn’t believe a single word out of her mouth and that was actually okay with her.

  She liked being the only one who knew that he wasn’t an asshole, but a seriously sleep deprived man with a possible problem with OCD. It made her feel special as well as entertained her when she watched as everyone paled whenever they heard his name.

  It really was the little things in life that made her happy, she thought as she leaned closer so that she could kiss him goodnight. She brushed her lips against his as gently as she could so that she didn’t wake him. As she pulled back she couldn’t help but smile as Lucifer followed her, keeping his lips on hers.

  “What are you doing?” he whispered against her lips, sounding half-asleep.

  “Saying goodnight,” she whispered back as her head touched the pillow and Lucifer shifted so that his lips never had to leave hers.

  “What if I’m not ready to say goodnight?” he asked, teasing her bottom lip.

  “You’re exhausted,” she reluctantly reminded him since there was nothing that she wanted more at this moment than to repeat what they did last week in his truck.

  Christ, she couldn’t even think about his truck without
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