Fire amp brimstone, p.7
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       Fire & Brimstone, p.7
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         Part #8 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson

  she cried.

  “It’s not in my head,” she said, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight. “It’s not in my head!” she cried on a broken laugh as he sat there, smiling, holding her tightly and not really giving a damn that he had absolutely no idea what Celiac’s disease was, not while she was holding onto him like this.

  “Thank you, Christopher,” she whispered as she pressed a soft kiss against his cheek and it was in that moment that he realized that he really didn’t mind being called by his real name.

  Well, he didn’t mind when she called him Christopher, but if anyone else called him that he would make them wish they’d never been born.

  Chapter 12

  He needed to leave before she died of humiliation. Then again, if he so much as thought about taking his hand away from her stomach she was going to have to kill him, she decided as she lay on the couch, breathing slowly through her mouth as her stomach continued its violent assault, threatening to send her running for the bathroom or a trash can.

  She wasn’t picky.

  She was however, a moron, she thought, cringing as she continued to pretend that she was asleep, but the death grip that she had on his hand most likely gave her away. What was wrong with her crying like that in front of him? It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if she hadn’t also decided to crawl onto his lap, wrap her arms around him and sob against his shoulder for an hour.

  Okay, so it was probably more like five or ten minutes before her stomach had started to act up again, reminding her that her stomach wasn’t happy with the food choices that she’d made earlier. When she’d been forced to wrap her arms around her stomach and curl up onto her side, Lucifer had laid down behind her, placed his hand on her stomach and somehow made everything worse.

  She’d tormented this man for her own entertainment for the past five years, taking great joy in seeing just how far she could go before he lost his temper and released one of those ferocious little growls that she thought was so cute. She’d purposely screwed with his head, simply because she hadn’t been able to help himself. There had just been something about him that drew her in and made her want to see just how far she could push him and that was the guy that had dropped everything to help her.

  There was absolutely no doubt about it…

  She was a complete bitch.

  God, she just wanted to curl up into herself and disappear, but the strong arm wrapped around her wouldn’t let her do that. He was keeping her safe and protecting her when she didn’t deserve it. He’d gone out of his way to help her when they both knew that he would have probably given anything and everything that he had if he never had to see her face again.

  She should apologize, but honestly, how do you apologize to someone for everything she’d put him through? It didn’t matter that she hadn’t done it out of spite or because she hated him, which she didn’t. She’d done it, because…

  Well, she really wasn’t sure why she’d toyed with him. The only thing that mattered was that she felt like a complete bitch now that he’d done everything within his power to help her. She should make things easier on him by telling him goodnight, that she was going to be okay and didn’t need him, but she couldn’t force the words out of her mouth, because she honestly wasn’t sure that she could handle being alone right now.

  Twenty-nine years of hell and it all came down to a grain. She still couldn’t believe that the solution to her own personal hell was eliminating one food source out of her diet. All those years thinking that there was something seriously wrong with her, secretly terrified that she was actually dying of cancer or something more horrifying if that was even possible and all this time the pain, exhaustion and believing that she wasn’t going to be able to make it through another day was all because of something she’d ate.

  She felt like an idiot.

  “Is your stomach worse?” Lucifer asked, sounding genuinely worried about her as he pressed his hand against her stomach a little more firmly.

  She really wished that he’d stop being so nice to her.

  “It’s fine,” she said, giving up the pretense of sleeping and opened her eyes so that she could stare at the blank television screen. “You don’t have to stay. I’ll be fine,” she said, not entirely sure that was true.

  “When’s your evil twin coming back?” he asked, shifting behind her so that he could hold her more tightly against him.

  “She’ll be back soon,” she said, having absolutely no idea if that was true or not since Melanie wasn’t exactly what she would consider a night owl.

  Melanie was usually home, in her pajamas, devouring a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and designing websites around this time. She was probably out devouring baked goods or crying over that asinine promise to go through this with her. As much as she appreciated the offer, she wasn’t going to let her best friend give up her precious baked goods.

  “Listen,” she said, placing her hand over his as she told herself that this was for the best and moving it aside so that she could sit up, “I really appreciate this, but I’ll be fine. I’m going to call it a night and get some sleep.”

  Throwing him a warm smile, she said, “Thank you for everything,” as she headed for her room, hoping that he understood just how much everything he’d done for her meant to her.

  “You’re welcome,” he said absently with a nod as he stood up.

  Returning his nod, she headed towards the hallway that would take her to her bedroom, not bothering to show him to the door since he already knew how to find it. On her way to the bathroom she grabbed an old tee shirt and a pair of shorts so that she could change out of her clothes, which sometimes helped when her stomach hurt like this.

  Coke and a warm bath helped too, but since she was now out of Coke and too lazy to draw a bath, she was going to settle for sleep. That is of course, if she was able to fall asleep. With the way that her stomach felt right now she’d probably be up all night until she finally said the hell with it and either got off her lazy ass and drew a bath or walked down the street for some more Coke.

  Then again, if she was going to be up anyway, maybe she should consider making Lucifer breakfast as a thank you for everything that he did for her. It really was the least that she could do for him was the last rational thought that went through her mind as she walked back into her bedroom and spotted the large, and apparently half-naked, man in her bed.

  Frowning, she paused by the door and ran every word they’d exchanged in the last twenty minutes, which really hadn’t been that many, through her head. But, as hard as she tried, she just couldn’t remember inviting him to strip naked and take over her bed. Just in case she was wrong, she did it again, but nothing changed.

  “Would you hurry up? Some of us have to get up early in the morning,” Lucifer, who was clearly in the middle of some sort of mental crisis, said as he gestured for her to get her ass moving and join him in bed.

  Yeah, that really wasn’t happening, she thought as she reached behind the door and grabbed the baseball bat she kept for just such an occasion. Instead of jumping out of bed and apologizing for being an asshole as he ran for the safety of the door, he simply cocked a brow and waited.

  “Feel free to leave now,” she said, hoisting the bat up against her shoulder to show him that she meant business.

  “And feel free to stop being a pain in my ass and put the damn bat down before you hurt yourself,” he said, sounding a little too cocky for her peace of mind. So, she hefted the bat higher up on her shoulder before remembering that she was right-handed and swung the bat over to-

  “Ow!”

  Hit herself in the face.

  Sighing heavily while she gasped in pain, he threw back the covers, got up and headed for the door. Glaring at his back, she decided to put the bat down before she did any further damage and cupped her poor jaw.

  “Cocky bastard,” she mumbled grumpily as she walked over to her bed, climbed in and closed her eyes as she pretended that she’d meant to hit herse
lf in the face so that she could get him out of her bed.

  It had given her a tactical advantage to reclaim her bed from-

  “Here,” the man that refused to go said as he placed an ice pack on her face.

  “I’m fine,” she argued, as she grudgingly reached up and held the ice pack to her head.

  “Yeah, you’re doing great,” he said dryly as he crawled into bed next to her and without being asked, because at this point she felt that he owed her for all the bullshit that he’d put her through in the last ten minutes, placed his hand back on her stomach where it belonged.

  Chapter 13

  “Do you ever stop talking, woman?” he snapped, wondering how it was humanly possible for one person to talk so God damn much.

  Instead of getting insulted or bursting into tears like most women would, Rebecca simply pursed her lips up in thought while he laid there, wondering why he hadn’t left when she’d given him a chance.

  “Probably not,” she admitted with a shrug as she lay there, absently tapping her fingertips against the back of his hand as he continued to provide light pressure against her stomach.

  Despite the fact that he wanted to strangle her, his lips twitched.

  “You should probably give it a try,” he said, absently noting that the annoying woman was a blanket hog.

  “I have,” she said, sighing heavily as though her inability to stop talking somehow pained her.

  God, she would fit so well in his family, he realized with something close to terror before he managed to push that horrifying thought aside and just focus on how soft her skin was since he couldn’t help but notice how pretty she was when she wasn’t purposely trying to piss him off.

  “You didn’t answer my question,” she pointed out as he shifted more comfortably on his side, careful not to put any weight on his left hand.

  “Yet, you keep asking,” he murmured softly while he watched as the small, lightly tanned hand came to rest on top of his.

  “How else am I supposed to entertain myself?” she asked with a mischievous little smile.

  “By sleeping?” he suggested, still wondering why he was here when he could be in his own bedroom, enjoying the only downtime that he usually allowed himself.

  “I’m not really tired,” she admitted with a sigh, sounding bored while he lay there frowning, because he wasn’t tired either.

  He was always fucking exhausted.

  When he wasn’t at the restaurant, he was going over paperwork, trying to make the numbers work, trying to make schedules work, testing new recipes for the restaurant and reading everything that he could get his hands on about business, marketing and anything he could to make his business better. Everything in his life was about the Fire & Brimstone.

  Absolutely everything.

  No matter where he was, or what he was doing, he was focused on his business. It was the main reason that none of his relationships lasted more than a month and why his mother kept an extra fork by her side when he visited just in case she needed to discretely stab him beneath the table if it looked like he was reaching for his phone.

  He hadn’t really used anything that he’d learned yet, but he would. He just wanted to make sure that everything was perfect, but in order to do that he needed to have a plan and that was going to take time.

  “So?”

  “So, what?” he asked, suddenly feeling uncomfortable about lying here when there was about a million other things that he should be doing.

  “Why does everyone call you Lucifer?” she asked, shifting more comfortably against him. If it had been any other woman snuggling up next to him he would have just assumed that she wanted to be closer to him, but since this was the blanket hog, he knew that she was only trying to push him over so that she could hog the pillow.

  “Because they don’t want to die,” he answered, refusing to move over since he was comfortable right where he was.

  “So, you gave yourself that nickname?” she asked in a teasing tone that he refused to find adorable.

  “No,” he said with the glare that he found most effective in shutting someone up.

  Unfortunately for him, he was trying to use it on the only person in the world who could care less that he was seriously contemplating her death. Maybe he should gag her? he idly wondered as she shifted so that she could look at him during her interrogation.

  “So, then how did you get it?” she asked, folding her arm beneath her head to get more comfortable.

  Since it was obvious that she wasn’t going to give up until she got her answers, he decided that it was time to call it a night. Only thing was, he didn’t want to leave. For the first time since he could remember he wasn’t in a rush to get back to work. He didn’t want to go finish that article on time saving scheduling that he’d started this morning or test out the recipes that he’d been working on all week.

  The only thing that he wanted to do was to lay here with the adorable demon, hog the pillow just to piss her off and pretend that the only job that he had was to keep his hand on her stomach and keep her safe.

  *-*-*-*

  “Are you going to tell me?” she asked as Lucifer shifted to mimic her position, but careful to keep his hand on her stomach.

  “No,” he said flatly, but he didn’t have that homicidal glimmer in his eyes that he normally had when someone asked him about his nickname.

  “Then what are we going to do to pass the time?” she asked as she shifted closer to him until their knees and elbows almost touched and she could see that scowl marring that handsome face of his.

  Sighing, she reached up and gently ran the pad of her finger over the crease between his eyes, smoothing it away. “If you’re not going to tell me how you got your nickname then tell me something else about yourself,” she said, placing her hand beneath her head since he refused to let her have the whole pillow to herself.

  “Like how many people I’ve killed?” he drawled lazily, but the scowl didn’t return, she noted with satisfaction.

  “Thirty-five,” she said with a teasing smile, hoping to coax a smile from him, but the stubborn bastard refused to play along.

  Still…

  He answered so she took that as a win.

  “Thirty-six,” he said and she would swear to the day that she died that the corner of his mouth started to pull up into a smile.

  “What else you got?” she asked, happy to have something else to focus on for once instead of her own problems.

  “What else do you want to know?” he asked, honestly surprising her because the man was not known for his conversational skills.

  He was known more for glaring…shouting…and making grown men cry…and many other things that probably gave people nightmares.

  “Well, since you won’t tell me how you got your nickname, maybe you can tell me about those men that hang out in the parking lot every day calling you over a hundred different combinations of bastard?” she asked, biting her lip as she waited impatiently for him to answer, because that was one question that she’d been dying to know for the last five years.

  “Pass.”

  “Can you do that?” she asked with a frown.

  “Yes,” he answered with a mocking frown of his own, further surprising her, because she honestly never would have thought that he could be playful.

  She was definitely learning a lot about him lately, she inwardly mused as she tried to come up with something else to talk about, but it was proving difficult now that the pain in her stomach was starting to subside and the timber of his voice was lulling her to sleep.

  “Go to sleep,” he said softly as he removed his hand from her stomach and pulled the blanket up to her chin.

  “I’m not tired,” she argued even as her eyes began to close, calling her a liar and making it difficult to wrangle more answers out of him.

  Maybe just a few minutes of sleep, she thought as she reached over and placed a hand on his arm, hoping that he would stay just until she was asleep. She felt the slight hes
itation and then with a sigh he was pulling her closer and wrapping his arm back around her.

  She considered telling him to keep his hand off her ass this time, but given the circumstances that seemed kind of rude. So, instead she stopped fighting sleep, prayed that Melanie didn’t come in here to get more photos for her Facebook page and let everything go, knowing that for once, she didn’t have anything to worry about.

  Chapter 14

  Thirty-Six Hours Later

 
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