Christmas from hell, p.17
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       Christmas from Hell, p.17

         Part #7 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
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  bastard was talking about.

  Then again, this was his cousin so…

  Everything they said was pointless, full of shit and meant to fuck with his head. He should just get up, hobble to the door, flip them off and walk home, but he wasn’t leaving without his little jinx.

  “What tragedy?” Trevor repeated with a horrified gasp that had Duncan ready to say the hell with it and break the bastard’s nose, uncaring that he’d probably end up with a broken jaw as a result.

  Right now he didn’t really care just as long as-

  “What’s that?” Jason asked, suddenly very alert.

  Trevor sniffed the air just as the scent of warm chocolate hit them all, teasing their senses and enticing Duncan enough to get up and wobble towards the kitchen.

  “It can’t be…,” Trevor murmured as he walked past Duncan and headed inside the kitchen.

  “Oh, my God,” he heard Jason gasp as he slowly, but surely made his way to the kitchen where the scents of baked goods grew stronger.

  Remembering whose house he was in, he knew instinctively that this had to be an illusion. There was no way that anything that smelled this good should be coming out of Zoe’s kitchen, but it was.

  The disturbing growl that Trevor made when he stumbled to a halt halfway in the kitchen told him everything that he needed to know.

  Someone had cooked something incredibly delicious and it sure as hell hadn’t been Haley.

  When he stepped inside the kitchen and saw the spread set out before him, he lost the ability to speak as did apparently his cousins, because all three of them just stood there, staring in awe and wonder at all the trays of baked goods covering the counters and table.

  “How?” Trevor whispered reverently as he gazed at all the baked goods tempting them into killing each other.

  “She was only in here for an hour,” Jason said hollowly as he too was lost in the wonder that was now Trevor and Zoe’s kitchen.

  The woman who had been able to create a buffet of desserts in less than an hour stood in the middle of the large country kitchen, wringing a towel nervously in her hands as she admitted, “I’m sorry, but I bake when I get nervous.”

  Which of course meant that he was going to have to make her nervous…a lot.

  Chapter 20

  Tuesday, December 8th.

  Very early in the morning…

  Very. Early.

  “Oh, God, just kill me,” the man who’d insisted on being dropped off with her a few hours ago said from what she was starting to think of as his table since he was curled up on it with a fresh ice pack, groaning, moaning and bitching while she was trying to work.

  “I’m sure that if you just called your brother, that he would come and pick you up,” she suggested again, trying to hide her impatience at having the big baby wreck the best part of her day, the time when she got to decide the day’s menu, prep for the day and savor the first aromas of fresh baked bread, muffins and donuts cooking before the bakery became packed with employees and demanding customers.

  Instead her normally pleasant morning was filled with a large male, who couldn’t seem to stop moaning miserably, but every single time she suggested that he either go to the hospital or go home, he would stubbornly shake his head and tell her that they needed to talk.

  She didn’t want to talk with him.

  In fact, she really didn’t want to look at him either, because every time she did she felt her heart tear open a little more and wanted to cry like some pathetic teenage girl that just realized that her first crush thought she was a joke. The comparison hit a little too close to home and she wanted him to leave before she did something incredibly foolish like started crying again.

  They didn’t need to talk.

  They were good.

  She’d even told him that, but the large jerk refused to listen to her. Every single time that she told him that it was fine and that she just wanted to move on and forget what happened, he would interrupt her, start muttering something, groan, cough, groan, cough some more and then if she was lucky he would doze off for a little bit.

  Praying that luck was finally with her, she looked up and thanked whoever was watching over her, because the annoying bastard that had taken over the best guest table in the house was now fast asleep. Relieved, she turned around, opened the oven and very carefully placed one of the large mini-bread pans inside. She added two more before she carefully closed the door and set the timer. Not that she actually relied on timers anymore when she could tell when something was done by the aroma as the food cooked.

  It was something that she’d been able to do since she was a baby. She could always tell by the scent of food as it cooked when it was done, the very second that it had stayed in the oven too long, and wasn’t up to her standards. Even though she could easily keep track of all twelve ovens going at once by scent, she still used the timer to make her grandfather feel better.

  She also used the timer just in case she had to leave for a call or deal with a vender so that she could make sure that the food was taken out at the precise moment when it was absolutely perfect. Yes, she was a perfectionist when it came to her cooking and her grandfather had lovingly teased her about it over the years, but she didn’t care.

  She believed that everyone was born with at least one special skill or talent that set them apart from the rest of the world and if they were lucky enough to figure it out, then they should embrace it. She knew how fortunate she was to have figured out her gifts at all, never mind at such a young age. She loved cooking, loved the way it made her feel, the way she could lose herself in it and pretend that all was right in her world. When she was cooking it was just her, the ingredients and a formula in her head to turn them into something decadent.

  Cooking truly was the love of her life, she realized sadly as she looked over at the incredibly handsome man laying in the fetal position, watching her every move like a hawk.

  *-*-*-*

  “So,” Duncan said as he carefully jumped up on the counter a few feet away from the woman working with the largest industrial mixer that he’d ever seen in his life, “when did you know?”

  “When did I know what?” she asked absently, seemingly unaware that she’d said anything or that he was even there. All of her focus was on the insanely large bowl of batter that she was making.

  “That you were an artist,” he said, adjusting the large bag of ice on his sore balls as he watched her.

  “I’m not an artist,” she said in that absent tone as she picked up a gallon sized bottle of pure vanilla extract and began slowly pouring the liquid directly into the bowl big enough to fit a couple of kids.

  He watched her face as she poured, the way her eyes watched the brown liquid pour into the batter as though she could see every single drop and her lips moved as though she were counting those drops. When she suddenly stopped the flow of vanilla with a smooth flicking action of her wrist, he knew that he was definitely watching a true artist in the midst of creating a masterpiece.

  “Yes, you are,” he said with a smile as he reached over and gently replaced a falling lock of black hair teasing her cheek back behind her ear where it belonged.

  When the touch didn’t seem to phase her in the least or even register on her face, he knew that the klutz that she’d been showing him for the last year wasn’t the real her. Right now, he was seeing the real Necie and he had to admit that he was definitely intrigued.

  *-*-*-*

  Surprisingly, she didn’t want to kill him.

  Not that she normally had homicidal tendencies, but when she was cooking for some reason, she did. Always had even as a child. Her grandmother, God bless her soul, used to love to watch her cook and see what she would create next when all Necie had wanted was for the woman to allow her to place a lock on the kitchen door so that she could work in peace. For whatever reason her grandparents made a big deal about leaving a three year old operating a stove and using chef’s knives unsupervised.

  S
ince she hadn’t had much of a choice, and yes, she’d argued for those damn locks for years, her grandparents always made it a point to be in the kitchen when she was in there, or to work the bakery when she was working a shift, just to watch her work. It was sweet and all, but it also irritated the ever-loving hell out of her.

  She hated when people watched her, hovered over her, asked her how she did this or that, asked if they could lick the bowl, try a sample, or how she knew how much flour she used without using a measuring cup. When she tried to explain that she just did, they would take that as an open invitation to ask her even more questions, demanding that she teach them her “tricks,” so that they could cook as well as she did and when she refused simply because she had no idea how she did it, she was suddenly just a selfish bitch.

  So, after a while she’d stopped trying to explain herself and simply ignored everyone and everything around her and focused on the one thing that she loved to do. Unfortunately, that hadn’t stopped people from trying to hover, ask questions or get in her way. Sometimes she ignored them, sometimes she used the glare that her grandfather had shown her to scare people off and other times, the man himself would step into the kitchen, focus his glare on the person bugging the shit out of her, wait until they got the hint and left her or alone or he would…

  Okay, she really didn’t like to think about what he would do when they didn’t take the hint the first time, because sometimes just thinking about theirs cries of pain or pleads for mercy terrified her and she really didn’t feel like dealing with the nightmares later. They were unsettling and made her feel-

  “Go out with me,” the man that up to this point she’d been able to ignore, said, reminding her of his presence and the fact that she been able to work comfortably with him hovering around her.

  It had surprised her how comfortable she’d been with him around, watching her, but then again, her response to his command probably surprised them both.

  “No, thanks,” she said, barely sparing him a glance as she reached past him, grabbed the bowl of eggs that she’d prepared and dumped them into the mixing bowl before she turned on the mixer, destroying the awkward silence that had followed, which was probably for the best, she decided as she returned her attention to adding the second bowl of eggs to the mixer while Duncan stood there, gawking at her.

  Yup, she’d definitely taken them both by surprise, but what shocked her more was that she meant it. Her grandparents hadn’t raised a fool and it would definitely be foolish to give him another chance to hurt her.

  Once had been more than enough.

  Chapter 21

  Wednesday, December 9th.

  “Walk away,” Darrin said firmly to his right as Reese stepped up to his left and said, “Now.”

  “Not fucking happening,” Duncan said, ignoring the implied threat that the dozen or so large Bradford males standing between him and Dixon’s Bakery represented.

  “Just turn around and go home, son,” Danny, his brother and one of his best friends said sternly as he leaned back against one of the trucks they’d used to block him from entering the bakery and kept his glare locked on Duncan, daring him to try something.

  “I’m not leaving,” he said, keeping his attention on the front door of Dixon’s bakery as he waited for the woman that had obviously lost her fucking mind to come out so that they could finally have the talk that he’d been trying to have with her since yesterday when she’d lost her fucking mind.

  That was the only way that he could explain it.

  He’d asked her out and she’d flat out turned him down without batting an eye. For a minute there, he’d been too stunned to react. He hadn’t expected her to say no, especially that fast, so he’d waited, giving her a minute or two to realize what he’d asked her, reward him with one of those beautiful blushes of hers, jump up and down for joy, get down on her knees, sob a little bit and thank God that this day had finally come.

 
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