Christmas from hell, p.24
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       Christmas from Hell, p.24
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         Part #7 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson

  wasn’t that the key to their success? Blending in so well that they were usually the last person that you would ever suspect of doing something so psychotically outrageous that you just couldn’t believe it when you saw them spotlighted on the ten o’clock news?

  Then again, she thought as she looked down at her wrists and rubbed the slight tenderness away. It was clear that he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. So, that made her wonder why he was suddenly risking her grandfather’s temper and a police record to kidnap her.

  “God damn it, woman! Where the hell are you?” he asked, sounding more anxious with every passing second as she sat there, looking down at him, because this was just really sad.

  It wasn’t as if she had time to hide her tracks when she took him by surprise and took off running. As soon as he’d opened the door and helped her out, she kicked him in the shin, gave him a shove, tripped over her own two feet, remembered that her feet were bound as well, ripped the cheap tape apart, climbed to her feet and ran through the fresh dusting of snow, leaving behind a clear trail to this large tree that she’d settled on for a hiding spot.

  Seriously, all he had to do was to follow her messy trail marks to this tree and he would have had her. Well, that and if he had actually used something stronger than painter’s tape and not fallen for the oldest trick in the book, “I really have to use the bathroom,” and given her an opportunity to run away. By the time she was four years old her grandfather had taught her how to read tracks, find the best hiding spots and basically scare the living hell out of anyone that was foolish enough to play hide n’ go seek with her.

  So, she wondered as she shifted on the large branch to get a better look at him as he ran past the tree one more time, why exactly had he bothered to kidnap her? Her grandfather had to have helped him, not by much, but just enough to get her in the car and out of the state. If this had been her grandfather kidnapping her, she’d be screwed and a little concerned about his mental facilities.

  Duncan stopped close by the tree she was hiding in and sighed heavily. “Necie? Please come out?”

  Taking pity on him, not only because this whole thing was just too sad to even mention just to pass the time, but because he obviously had absolutely no idea how to do this, she shifted on the branch, swung her leg over and of course fell on her ass.

  “Oh, thank fucking God,” he said, sounding really relieved as he picked her off the frozen ground before she could give her ass a proper massage to ease the pain from the impact. “Don’t ever scare me like that again, woman!”

  “Then don’t kidnap me,” she said absently as she shifted in his lap, trying to figure out if she’d just broken her ass or not.

  It hurt, but it wasn’t an, “Oh, my God, my ass is killing me!” kind of pain so she simply shrugged it off, wrapped her arm around him and held on to him while he carried her back to the SUV.

  “I really didn’t have much of a choice,” he said, sounding irritated and further piquing her curiosity.

  “Why exactly did you have to kidnap me?” she asked as he helped her into the front passenger seat.

  Looking embarrassed, he admitted, “I needed two weeks to figure something out.”

  “And you couldn’t have just asked me to go with you?” she asked, stunned that he’d resort to kidnapping, something that he obviously had no experience with.

  “It was your grandfather’s idea,” he said with a shrug as he shut the door on her surprised face and slowly made his way around the SUV and climbed inside.

  “My grandfather’s?” she asked slowly, positive that she’d misheard him, because there was just no way in hell that the man that had taught her how to take down a stranger by going for his balls when she was four was going to help a man kidnap her, never mind suggest it.

  Something else was definitely going on here, she decided as she watched him closely, trying to figure out what was going on since he was obviously reluctant to tell her. When it became obvious that he wasn’t going to tell her anything else, she asked, “Where are we going?”

  Sighing, he started the truck and threw it into reverse, “This cabin that my cousin’s grandmother-in-law owns. It’s on the ocean and perfect for this.”

  “And what exactly is this?”

  “A romantic getaway,” he said with that charming smile of his, but something felt off about this whole thing. There was more to it, but it was obvious that he wasn’t going to tell her.

  At least not right now.

  So, she focused on other important issues.

  “As sweet as this is,” and she really wasn’t sure that it was sweet at all, “I can’t take time off right now. This is the busiest time of the year for us. With my help we’ll be lucky just to fill the orders that have already come in, never mind the last minute orders that we’re probably getting hit with right now.”

  He shook his head as though what she’d just said wasn’t a problem. “Don’t worry about it. Your grandfather has it covered,” he said, which actually scared the hell out of her, because that meant that by the time she got back she’d be lucky if the entire staff hadn’t quit or had hysterical mental breakdowns in front of the customers like last Valentine’s Day when she’d made the mistake of leaving Grandpa in charge while she’d made a quick run to the bank to make the afternoon’s deposit before it got too busy.

  By the time that she came back…

  She shivered as she did her best to block out the screams and pleas for mercy and forced herself to focus on this situation.

  “What about your job? I thought you were off suspension. Don’t they need you?” she asked, already the answer was yes since the holidays were the busiest times for fire fighters and EMS.

  “Had five months of saved time off and the highest seniority. I took a few weeks off to spend some time with my girlfriend,” he said with that charming smile as he reached over and entwined their hands together, confirming her suspicious that he was definitely up to something.

  Then again, she’d known that from the second that he said her grandfather was involved in this.

  Chapter 30

  Wednesday, December 15th.

  Groaning miserably, he rolled over on the small bed and tried to ignore the sounds of pots and pans being jostled accompanied by the most delicious aromas on earth, but he refused to get up and see what she was making.

  He would not keep enabling her, he told himself as he grabbed what should have been her pillow and pulled it over his head, praying that it stopped those delicious aromas from penetrating his world and destroying his self-control. This madness had to stop and if that meant him laying there, refusing to eat whatever she was making then goddamnit that’s exactly what he was going to do!

  Ever since she asked him to stop at the grocery store on their way here yesterday, she had a particular look in her eye that truth be told, scared the shit out of him. When he asked her if she needed help, she gave him a sweet smile, nodded and simply stepped out of the car, leaving him to follow her and follow her, he did.

  God, if he’d known what kind of hell she’d had planned for him, he would never have followed her. Hell, he never would have stopped. When she asked him to stop at the grocery store he would have floored it instead, but foolishly he’d done as she’d asked.

  Right when he was about to ask her what she needed, she turned the sexiest, most alluring smile that he’d ever seen on him and after that he’d been putty in her hands. For three and a half hours, she’d had him dutifully following after her with a second carriage as she took her time finding the most tempting ingredients. By the time they were in the check out lane it had been too late, she’d had him by the balls and they’d both knew it.

  She’d simply acted on it.

  As their order was being rung up, she turned around, wrapped her arms around him, stood on her tippy toes to give his chin a teasing kiss and then simply asked, “What are you up to, Duncan?”

  When he’d tried to play it off that he wasn’t up to anythi
ng, she’d simply given him that smile that turned him into an idiot, shrugged off his answer as though it was of no consequence and proceeded to ask one of the bagboys if he wouldn’t mind going and getting her a few more pounds of sugar, flour, eggs and chocolate powder while they waited.

  Wondering what she was up to, it had never crossed his poor misguided mind to tackle the bagboy before he could aid the damn woman in his torture. After they’d paid for the food, loaded the back of the SUV and the back seat, she’d simply sat in the passenger seat with the calmest, most serene smile that he’d ever seen in his life.

  She didn’t ask any more questions or even seem upset that he’d kidnapped her. In fact, she seemed to be on top of the world and that had frightened the shit out of him. If her grandfather hadn’t warned him about that smile he probably wouldn’t have thought very much of it, but oh, he had and damn if the old man hadn’t been right.

  It really was the most frightening fucking sight on earth.

  Once they arrived at the cottage, she had the audacity to give him that sweet, adorable smile while they were unloading the car. He’d seriously considered making a run for it. He couldn’t explain why, but that terrifying feeling that something bad was going to happen kept hitting him harder and harder until he was nothing but a nervous wreck.

  She’d give him that smile and his heart would race in fear, his breaths would double and that small voice of reason that warned you when something was wrong started screaming in his ear for him to run. Instead, he simply continued carrying bags in like some kind of drone until there were no more bags to bring in and she had him cornered in the kitchen.

  At that point she’d given him that smile one more time, asked him what he was up to, but he kept his damn mouth shut like her grandfather had warned him, ground his jaw shut tightly and simply shook his head, refusing to say another word. She’d narrowed her eyes on him for thirty seconds, making him sweat like he was running up a three story tenement on fire and all he could do was stand there, waiting to see what she was going to do.

  When he still didn’t give in, and God, how he’d wished that he’d given in at the time and put himself out of his misery before she could start this line of torture, she’d simply shrugged, turned around and grabbed a mixing bowl. It was without a doubt the most terrifying moment of his life.

  For the next seven hours the crazed woman had baked, broiled and sautéed him to hell and back, but he refused to break, refused to tell her why they were really here and now as he smelled fresh baked cookies coming out of the oven, he realized that he’d underestimated the little jinx and now, they both knew it.

  *-*-*-*

  After she’d pulled out the last batch of her famous chocolate chunk cookies and placed them on the cooling rack near the cupcakes that she’d made, she looked around the kitchen, trying to figure out what she should make next, and of course trying to find a spot for it, when he finally came in the kitchen.

  She’d admit that he’d held off a lot longer than she’d thought he would. She definitely had to give him credit, because she’d been positive that he was going to give in when she pulled that meatloaf out of the oven. Instead, he’d simply backed away slowly, turned and practically ran towards the room they were sharing, shutting the door and locking it behind him.

  When he’d made his retreat she hadn’t worried, because she knew that it would only be a matter of time before he couldn’t resist temptation anymore and gave her the answers that she’d been waiting for. Ten hours, not bad. She would have probably broken her grandfather in less than an hour with a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate milkshake.

  As she tossed her oven mitts aside, she had to admit that she was definitely proud of him. He’d resisted for ten straight hours, but now…

  Now she was going to get all of her answers and there was nothing that he could do to fight it. She’d won and they both knew it. The look in his eyes as he took in all the food that she’d cooked told her that she’d won as did the way he licked his lips.

  She hated doing this to him, using his weakness against him, but what other choice had he left her?

  None.

  She’d wanted answers that he’d refused to give her so she’d done what any other self-respecting baker would do when faced with a stubborn Bradford, she baked up an arsenal of sweets to take him down.

  Giving him that sweet, innocent smile that she’d perfected when she was just a toddler, she looked up at him and-

  “Uh oh,” she said, too late when she realized that she probably should have made a run for it when he came into the kitchen instead of standing there gloating, because this was definitely not a man ready to call it quits.

  This man was about to fight back and she was pretty damn sure that she was in over her head with this one. Learning long ago when to call a retreat thanks to her Grandfather, she turned to make a
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