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

  “You’re being ridiculous,” Rebecca said, doing her best to resist the urge to yank one of the dozen or so pillows shoved under Melanie’s head free and smother her with it.

  “Shut up. I’m dying,” Melanie muttered, sounding miserable as she curled up into a ball on the couch and pulled the comforter up to her chin.

  “You’re not dying,” she said with a sigh as she stood there, wondering how she was going to talk sense into her best friend when she was so damn determined to go through with this asinine plan of hers.

  She didn’t need to do this, but no matter how many times Rebecca tried to explain that to her, Melanie refused to budge. She’d made a promise and she was determined to keep it even if it killed her and judging by the last thirty-six hours, it just might do that.

  “Just let me die in peace,” Melanie demanded as she squeezed her eyes shut and placed a hand over her stomach even though her salvation was less than a foot away.

  Rebecca looked down at the pile of Hostess products that Melanie had declared upon reluctantly accepting the Celiac’s diagnosis that she would never touch again. She’d assured Melanie that wasn’t necessary, but Melanie was determined to support her. Granted, she probably wouldn’t have offered to do it in the first place if she’d known that she’d have to give up her precious baked goods or that she’d end up feeling like she was going to die.

  It was kind of funny, well, not for Melanie, but for the first time in her life, she didn’t feel like she was going to be sick. She actually felt a lot better than she had in years. She was still exhausted, but it wasn’t so bad that she thought that she was going to be sick if she didn’t lie down and close her eyes soon. She actually felt like she could function without getting bitchy and wanting to kill everyone and everything for existing.

  God, she was starving.

  For the past day and a half she’d only been eating Hershey milk chocolate candy bars and drinking Coke, because those were the only things in the apartment that she was one hundred percent certain were gluten free. After she’d woken up to discover that Lucifer had disappeared at some point during the night, she’d jumped on the computer and did a little research to figure out what she could eat and what she couldn’t, but after six hours, she’d felt like pulling her hair out and kicking something.

  There were so many things that she couldn’t have because they had some form of gluten in them and so many more things that she should have been able to have, but couldn’t because they were made in the same factory with gluten and now they were off limits. That was the part that sucked the most. According to the hundred or so websites that she’d scoured over, cross-contamination was a huge problem for Celiacs.

  It was the other reason that Melanie was determined to give up gluten for her. She didn’t want to be responsible for making her sick. Rebecca didn’t think it was going to be a problem as long as they were careful, but Melanie being Melanie was determined to make their apartment one hundred percent gluten free.

  “This is stupid,” Rebecca said with a shake of her head, because she was running out of things to say to convince Melanie that this decision of hers to give up gluten was a mistake.

  “Shut up. I’m being supportive,” Melanie grumbled as she curled more tightly into herself.

  “No, you’re being an idiot,” she pointed out, loving the fact that she had someone in her life that was willing to go through this with her even though she wanted to smother the life out of her if she didn’t eat a Hostess pie or a freaking Pop Tart soon.

  “Ungrateful brat,” Melanie bit out as she cracked open an eye simply to glare at her.

  “I’m not ungrateful,” she said, biting back a sigh, because as irritating as Melanie was being right now, and God, was she fucking irritating, she was also the only one that was there for her.

  She wasn’t counting Lucifer, because he’d abandoned her the other night, which she could have overlooked if he wasn’t acting like nothing had changed between them in the last month. When she tried to say hello to him, he ground his jaw and ignored her like he used to. When she tried to talk to him, he glared at her. She didn’t know what his problem was, but honestly, she wasn’t sure how much of it she was going to be able to take before she told him to go to hell and quit. So, as far as she was concerned, he was a prick and no longer worthy of her time.

  At least Melanie had stuck by her. Once she’d accepted the news with the help of a late night drive and a bottle of tequila, she’d been there for her, accepting the fact that she couldn’t eat gluten again unless she wanted to spend the rest of her life being miserable and chance an excruciating death from cancer. Even her parents, who she’d thought would be happy that they’d finally had some answers hadn’t given a damn. To them this diagnosis had just been the final proof that she was a hypochondriac.

  The second that she’d explained what Celiac’s disease was, they’d shut down, believing that she was grasping for straws. According to them there was no such thing as a gluten allergy. Gluten-free diets were just the latest diet trend and the fact that she was going around claiming that she was allergic to it only proved that there was something seriously wrong with her.

  They hadn’t been willing to let her explain, so she hadn’t tried. She’d simply cut her mother off when she’d started pushing for her to see a therapist and said goodbye. She didn’t know what she’d expected, maybe an apology, hearing them admit that they were wrong and that they’d regretted giving up so easily. She really should have known better.

  She’d told them and they hadn’t believed her. It wasn’t her problem and she wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. They lived their lives and she lived hers. Other than the occasional phone call, a birthday card and her parents randomly showing up with the name of the latest psychiatrist that they truly believed could help her, they barely saw each other.

  That probably wouldn’t change, she realized, forcing her mind away from that depressing thought as she grabbed a Hostess pie and tore it open. Melanie wasn’t going to listen to reason, so she wasn’t going to waste her breath. They both knew that she wasn’t allergic to gluten thanks to the fact that she actually felt sick from giving it up. Aidan had explained that anyone that gave up gluten unnecessarily usually ended up feeling sick. In turn, she’d explained that to the stubborn pain in the ass, but Melanie refused to listen.

  So, now Rebecca was done talking.

  “What the-” Melanie started to scream, but the Hostess pie that Rebecca shoved in her mouth muffled out the rest of her bitching.

  Melanie was going to eat every damn crumb or Rebecca was going to beat her to death. With a glare, and a hungry little whimper, Melanie took over and devoured the rest of the pie all while glaring accusingly at her.

  “Eat the damn pie and shut the hell up!” she snapped just in case Melanie decided to argue with her.

  Judging by the way that Melanie angrily tore into her pie as she glared at her, it was probably for the best if she stopped putting this off and moved her ass. Grabbing another pie off the pile, she tossed it at Melanie, uncaring that it hit her in the face before she grabbed the shopping list that she’d made with the help of Google and headed for the door.

  “Mojo!” she groaned pathetically a few seconds later when her little baby plopped down in front of her and inadvertently tripped her, but thankfully she managed to catch herself at the last second and didn’t end up smashing her face into the wall and needing to make a quick trip to the emergency room for stitches, again.

  They were really going to have to work on that whole dropping thing at some point, she decided as excitement coursed through her.

  She was going food shopping!

  Okay, so it probably didn’t sound exciting to anyone else but her, but she’d been looking forward to doing this since last night when she’d devoured her last chocolate bar. She was going to finally have food that didn’t make her want to beg for death.

  At first she’d been a little depressed that she had to give up a
lot of her favorite foods, but after spending some time reading posts on several Celiac forums, she wasn’t too worried anymore. Gluten free foods had apparently come a long way in the last decade and they now had everything from gluten-free bread to cookies and everything in between. She just needed to know what to look for and now that she did, she was going shopping!

  *-*-*-*

  Two Depressing Hours Later…

  She was going to starve to death, she thought miserably as she stood outside the downstairs door, hugging her grocery bag filled with baby carrots and Hershey candy bars against her chest. Who would have thought that grocery shopping could lead to a major depression? She certainly hadn’t seen this one coming, but here she was, numb and staring blindly at the keypad that stood between her and the stairs that would lead her to her apartment where she would have to deal with a fridge full of food that she couldn’t eat.

  Instead of entering her security code, she somehow found herself walking towards Lucifer’s office, hoping that he wasn’t there so that she could lie down and feel bad for herself for a little while until he kicked her out. When she arrived at his office and found it locked, she breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that at least one thing was going her way today.

  Knowing that he could have locked the door for privacy, she knocked on the door and waited for him to tell her to get her ass back to work, the greeting that he normally used when someone bothered him. She waited a few seconds before she grabbed her keys, let herself in and headed for the couch. She tossed the bag holding the only two things that she would ever be able to eat again and dropped down on the couch with a miserable moan.

  This sucked, she concluded with a scowl as she curled up on her side, wondering why Lucifer couldn’t have been considerate and left a blanket and pillow on the couch so that she could be bitchy in comfort. Then again, she mused a few seconds later when Lucifer walked into his office with an incredibly beautiful woman by his side, perhaps she should have been more concerned with pushing him too far, again.

  Of course, if he killed her then she wouldn’t have to worry about how she was going to survive on carrots and chocolate for the rest of her life and just like that, she’d found the upside to Lucifer’s homicidal tendencies.

  Chapter 15

  “Use the envelope opener,” the woman who was going to be responsible for his conviction to a federal prison said, sounding helpful as she gestured towards the vicinity of his desk.

  “What the hell are you doing in my office?” he snapped even though this wasn’t exactly out of the ordinary for the little pain in the ass.

  She was always where she wasn’t supposed to be, finding new ways to push his buttons just to see what it would take to drive him over the edge. He swore that sometimes he could see her holding back a little smirk of satisfaction, confirming his suspicions that she was the devil and not just one of his minions.

  But, she wasn’t biting back a smile now.

  Right now she looked like she was seconds away from screaming or crying. Hadn’t he fixed her, he wondered with a frown, because he was pretty sure that he’d just fixed her. Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t help but wonder why she wasn’t cooking him a home cooked dinner or quitting and promising never to bother him again as a thank you. Some groveling and worshiping him as her personal savior wouldn’t go amiss either.

  “Get out!” he snapped as he tossed the application that he was holding on his desk, barely aware that he’d startled the woman that he was supposed to be interviewing and not really caring. After he’d almost seriously fucked up everything the other night, the last thing that he wanted to do was to see her vulnerable like this.

  “Fine,” Rebecca said, sighing heavily as she reluctantly sat up, grabbed a badly abused grocery bag and headed for the door, all without arguing with him or trying to screw with his head.

  He should just let her walk out the door and go pout somewhere else. He should, but something about the way that she’d given in so easily didn’t sit well with him. Calling himself a fucking idiot, he reached out and placed his hand on her arm to stop her.

  “What’s going on?” he asked more softly as he forced himself to ignore how good it felt to run his fingertips over her baby soft skin.

  “Nothing. It’s fine,” she said, giving him a forced smile that told him everything that he needed to know.

  His normally chipper and annoying tenant/employee was anything but fine, because she was usually better at bullshiting him than this. Keeping his eyes on her, he reached back and threw the door closed.

  “Hey! Wait!” someone cried as the door slammed shut.

  Rebecca’s fake smile shifted to a frown. “Umm, who was that?” she asked, gesturing towards the door.

  “Who was who?” he said, wondering what she was talking about.

  This time when she smiled, it was real, beautiful and made him feel like an idiot, because he had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. “The woman that was with you,” she explained, nervously chewing on her bottom lip as he stood there, trying to make sense out of what she was saying.

  Frowning, he glanced back over his shoulder at the door and shrugged. He had absolutely no idea what she was talking about and really didn’t have time to play any games with her today.

  “You going to tell me what’s going on or do I have to go upstairs and ask the other pain in the ass what’s going on?” he asked, hoping like hell that she didn’t make him go upstairs and talk to Melanie, especially after he’d been forced to listen to Aidan, his normally sane brother, bitch up a storm about her last night.

  Who knew that his brother was capable of getting that angry? He’d barely had a chance to tell his brother to fuck off so that he could hang up on the whinny little bastard.

  “It’s nothing,” Rebecca said, shaking her head as she stepped away from him and headed for the door. “Don’t worry about it.”

  He should just let her go, but…

  Fucking hell!

  He was truly a fucking moron, he decided as he reached back and pushed the door shut before she could walk out. When she opened her mouth, no doubt to continue bullshiting him, he decided that he’d had enough bullshit to last a lifetime and snatched the bag away from her.

  “Hey!” the little pain in the ass said in indignation as she tried to take the bag back, but he just ignored her, opened the bag and-

  “Carrots and chocolate?” he said, completely at a loss, which wasn’t exactly something new when it came to her.

  “Yes!” she hissed as she took back her bag. “It’s my dinner tonight,” she snapped defensively as she pushed past him, threw the door open and stormed out of the room, leaving him standing there, hating himself because he knew that there was no way that he was going to be able to let her walk away like this.

  Sighing, and wishing that she didn’t have this effect on him, he went after her, forced to glare at some woman standing in the hallway until she moved out of his way. Once she’d moved, and God, people were so fucking rude, he was jogging to catch up with the little demon. He caught up to her before she could punch in the final number of her security code.

  “Seriously?” she demanded on a tired sigh when he threw her over his shoulder and brought her back to his office, thankful that the inconsiderate woman loitering in the hallway jumped out of his way this time.

  “Wouldn’t have to do this if you’d stopped fucking with my head and just told me what was going on,” he pointed out as he deposited her back on his couch.

  “It’s none of your business,” she said, grabbing the bag of baby carrots and ripped it open with a pathetic little sigh.

  “What’s going on?” he asked, not bothering to argue with her, because she was right. This wasn’t his business, but for some seriously fucked up reason he kept trying to make it his business even when he knew that it was time to step away.

  “Rebecca?” he said, reminding her that he didn’t have all day as he was forced to snatch the carrot out of her h
and when she took a bite and immediately gagged, apparently forgetting that she had a sensitive gag reflex and that raw vegetables were not her friend.

  “God, that’s gross,” she said, reaching desperately for the bag and grabbed a candy bar to chase the taste of carrot away.

  “Then why are you eating it?” he asked, tossing the carrot aside.

  She groaned pathetically as she took a bite of chocolate and let her shoulders drop in defeat. “It’s the only thing that I can eat,” she mumbled, sounding crushed as she took another bite of chocolate.

  “What the hell are you talking about?” he asked, slightly confused because according to the internet there was still a lot of choices out there for her.

  “I couldn’t find anything,” she admitted on a mumble as she placed another piece of chocolate in her mouth and sighed dejectedly.

  Reaching over, he helped himself to a piece of her chocolate. “Did you ask for help?” he asked, wondering why she’d had so much trouble when there were plenty of gluten free options available now.

  “They told me that I would have to check the packages,” she said with a shrug.

  “Why didn’t you buy some fruit at least?” he asked, already knowing that fruit and vegetables were completely safe for her.

  She sighed heavily as she sat back against him. Since he was comfortable, and only because he was comfortable, he didn’t move. “They had baked goods displayed throughout the produce section right next to everything that I could have.”

  He didn’t have to ask to know that she’d been worried about cross-contamination. He’d read about it last night, because he’d been curious about the changes that she was going to have to make. He also knew from his late night search that it was going to take some time and practice to learn how to shop gluten free.

  He glanced up at the clock. He had a lot of shit to do today, but he could probably get away with killing a few hours. Besides, he could always use more groceries. Decision made, he reached over, snatched the rest of her candy bar out of her hand and devoured it in one bite.

  “Hey!”

  “Let’s go,” he said, getting up and taking her with him.

 
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