Delectable, p.4
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       Delectable, p.4
 

         Part #9 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson

  “Really? And what were those reasons?” Sara asked innocently.

  Since answering that question would only make her look bad, she decided to shift the focus back on Mikey and away from all the horrible things that she’d done as a child. “She shouldn’t have been out there.”

  “No, she shouldn’t have been,” Sara agreed.

  “And she shouldn’t have been talking with a stranger,” Kasey said, as she mentally tallied all the offenses that Mikey had committed last night.

  “No, she shouldn’t have-”

  “Reese isn’t a stranger,” the little convict said, as she tentatively walked into the kitchen, unsure of her welcome and thankfully no longer looking like she was on the verge of crying.

  Kasey blinked at her daughter. “Because he’s an old friend of the family that you’ve known since birth and therefore felt completely justified in sneaking out of the house so that you could be alone with him on the beach and out of screaming distance? Is that why?”

  “His name is Reese Bradford and he’s a cop,” Mikey said with a shrug as she opened the fridge and helped herself to some chocolate milk while Kasey stood there, rubbing the bridge of her nose, wondering if the state of Massachusetts considered spanking her child until her hand fell off child abuse.

  Probably, she mused with a sigh as she forced herself to focus.

  “And you know this how?”

  “Because he showed me his badge,” Mikey said with a shrug as she closed the refrigerator door and leaned back against the kitchen island, only to send Kasey a sheepish smile and a, “Sorry,” when the move caused another chunk of counter to break off and add a new crack to the collection marring the tiled floor below.

  “Wait. He showed you his badge?” Sara asked, as Kasey stood there trying to decide whether or not this new piece of information made this worse.

  Judging by the expression on Sara’s face it was worse, a lot worse.

  Mikey nodded as she grabbed one of the many baseballs that she kept lying around the house and started rolling it between her hands. “He works for the State police department,” her sweet baby girl said, as Kasey tried to wrap her mind around the idea that her ten-year-old daughter had taken down a cop.

  “What were you planning on making?” Sara asked, as Kasey rubbed her temples, for some reason having a difficult time seeing the bright side of things this morning.

  “Cupcakes,” she said lamely.

  “Might want to add a casserole to the mix,” Sara, always helpful, added as she returned to inspecting her manicure.

  “It’s the least we can do,” Mikey added solemnly.

  For a moment, Kasey considered making Mikey help her cook, but the poor man had already suffered enough. Trying not to think of everything that she already had to do today, she checked the fridge, made sure that she had everything that she would need to make lasagna. After that she started pulling the ingredients out for the cupcakes, knowing that they were going to have to cool before she could frost them and resigned herself to spending the next couple of hours cooking for Yummy.

  “What are we making him?” Mikey asked, as she leaned back against the kitchen counter, the part that wasn’t on the verge of breaking off.

  “Shouldn’t you be in your room?” Kasey asked pointedly, still trying to figure out what she was going to do with her. She wanted to yell, but she was afraid that once she started that she would never be able to stop. So, it was probably best for everyone concerned if Mikey spent the day in the safety of her room.

  “Yeah,” Mikey said with a small sigh while she looked down at the baseball as she rolled it between her hands before looking back up and making Kasey’s heart break for the poor kid when she saw how completely devastated she was by all this. “I didn’t mean to hurt him,” she said with a stubborn set of her jaw as her bottom lip quivered and her eyes teared up, struggling not to let them know just how bad she felt about what happened.

  “I know you didn’t,” Kasey said, pulling her into her arms and giving her a reassuring squeeze, praying that Mikey didn’t lose it, because she wasn’t sure that she could deal with trying to talk her down from the attic today on top of everything else.

  “I made sure that he didn’t throw like a girl first,” Mikey explained with a little sniffle after a slight hesitation.

  “I’m sure you did,” she said, somehow managing to keep a straight face, which meant that under no circumstances could she look in Sara’s direction, because she’d lose it if she did.

  “I didn’t throw my fast ball,” Mikey added with a little sniffle.

  “And we all appreciate it,” she said solemnly, thankful that her daughter had at least followed that rule last night.

  If only she’d followed the others, Kasey thought, biting back a sigh before she gave one last squeeze and nudged her in the direction of her room, where she would be spending the rest of the day. Once Mikey was out of sight, she threw an exasperated look in Sara’s direction and said, “This is all your fault.”

  “My fault? How is this my fault?” Sara demanded in outrage as she gave her manicure one last look so that she could return Kasey’s glare.

  “Because you encouraged her to play baseball!”

  “What?” Sara said, frowning in confusion before she snapped, “That wasn’t me! That was you!”

  Which of course, it had been, but since pointing fingers wasn’t going to help, at least not when it was her fault, she decided to change the subject.

  “Think he’ll be mad?” she asked, toying with the egg carton as she looked at her best friend, praying that for once that she would tell her what she wanted to hear.

  “You mean because your ten-year-old daughter split his head open? Why would he be mad about that?” she asked brightly before rolling her eyes, shaking her head in disgust and mumbling, “I really just can’t work with you sometimes.”

  “Maybe I should make another casserole?” Kasey said, nodding to herself, definitely another casserole and maybe some cookies.

  “Yeah, that should make up for it,” Sara said dryly, making Kasey whimper pathetically and had her reaching for a bag of lemons as she resigned herself to putting off starting renovations for another day.

  Chapter 6

  “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Reese said, grabbing the pillow that was too damn soft and pulled it over his head in a useless attempt to block out the sound of the doorbell chiming, but the sound was already trapped in his head, echoing against his battered skull.

  Shoving the pillow away, he rolled over onto his side, gritted his teeth together and waited for the chime to stop playing so that he could go back to tossing and turning in peace. As the doorbell continued to play out its chime he laid there, staring at the pale blue wall and waiting for the abuse to his head to come to an end.

  As the chimes slowed down, he closed his eyes and slowly exhaled, noting that each passing chime was shorter than the one before until finally there was nothing but beautiful silence. Grateful that at least one thing was working in his favor, he rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling, noting all the imperfections in the plaster, the fact that the ceiling fan was slightly off-center, and the ceiling dipped towards the right corner.

  He started to sigh only to close his eyes and suck in a breath as pain shot through his head, alerting him to the fact that it was time for his next pain med. Pressing a hand against his forehead, he reached over, grabbed the pills off the nightstand and popped two in his mouth, laid back, and waited for them to kick in while he focused his attention back on the ceiling.

  He noted the uneven strokes, the spots that needed a touchup, the way the fan wobbled with each quarter turn and let his mind go. He thought about all the things that he could do to fix the ceiling to make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Then when he was done with that he rolled over onto his side, slowly breathing through his nose as he did the same thing with the wall, noting everything wrong with it, with the trim, the window, the choice in shades and one
by one, he slowly made the changes in his head until his breaths came a little easier and the pain started to subside.

  He’d been doing this since he was a little kid. Sometimes he did it when he needed to relax, he was bored, or simply because he couldn’t help himself. When he was little, his mother would put him down in the playroom so that she could chase after his twin brother. As he waited for her to return, he would sit there, reorganizing the playroom in his head, over and over again until he had it the way that he wanted it. Then he’d wait for Lucifer, his older brother, who just happened to have a little problem with OCD, to waddle into the room and then he’d point out all the toys that were in the wrong spot so that Lucifer would fix it for him.

  As he got older, it became something of an obsession. Everywhere he went he saw things that needed to be fixed, that weren’t right, that didn’t match, or that should have been done differently. When he was supposed to be paying attention in class and taking notes, he was staring off into space, calculating how much paint and tiles he would need to complete the imaginary project going on in his head, which had ended with his teachers sending notes home on a regular basis, strongly suggesting that he might benefit from a less strenuous environment.

  After a few strongly stressed words from his father, and his mother asking him to try harder, he slowly started to get his shit together to the point that he could do what needed to be done. He’d focused more on school, followed in his twin’s footsteps and joined the football team and the baseball team, anything to help him get his act together. He’d kept himself busy, only allowing himself to indulge his personal obsession when he couldn’t fall asleep at night.

  Since this bullshit had started, he’d been doing it a lot more than he liked. Over the past few months he’d seriously considered buying a rundown house, renovating it and flipping it. He’d actually found himself surfing real estate sites, looking for property that he could get at a steal and fix up, but in the end, he couldn’t force himself to go through with it. More than once he’d found himself parked outside his cousin Trevor’s house, staring across the street at the old Jackson house and more than a little tempted to find out how much they were asking for it.

  Imagining all the things that he would do if he had the chance was one thing, but actually doing it…

  Wasn’t going to happen.

  He had absolutely no idea what he was doing and no guarantees that once he fixed up the house that anyone would want it. He’d been working on houses since he was a kid, learning how to build a house from start to finish like most of the men in his family, but that was it. He’d never designed one or planned a renovation. The only thing he did was follow blueprints and did what his Uncle asked him, and that was pretty much it.

  But sometimes he wished that it wasn’t.

  He also wished that his cousins hadn’t decided to spend the day at the beach so that they could tell whoever was ringing the doorbell to fuck off. Head pounding, he shoved himself upright, ignored the rush of vertigo that threatened to knock him back down on his ass, and stormed off towards the front door, more than happy to kill whoever it was that couldn’t take a fucking hint.

  “I’m coming!” he yelled, wincing with a curse when they rang the doorbell again, sending a whole new wave of agony through his pounding skull.

  While he wrestled with the deadbolt, he heard someone mumbling, which only sent the pounding in his head going double time. When he finally managed to throw the lock open, he ripped the front door open and snapped, “What?” which immediately had him grabbing his head with one hand and the doorframe with the other.

  “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry that I hurt you!” a little girl cried, making him curse when he realized that it was Mikey standing on his doorstep, crying and looking absolutely miserable.

  Before he could say anything she was mumbling another apology, sobbing harder, and running away, leaving him standing there, feeling like the biggest asshole on the planet.

  *-*-*-*

  “Mikey, come down!” Kasey yelled as she gave up on trying to find what she needed and dumped her “miscellaneous” box over and continued her search for whatever that tool was called that she needed.

  There was a sob and then a choked, “N-no,” that followed her demand for her ten-year-old daughter that had run crying into the house and straight up into the attic a few minutes ago to climb back down.

  Then again, they both knew that Mikey wasn’t going to be able to get down until she figured out a way to shimmy the ladder door open. As she grabbed what she was pretty sure was a screwdriver, she shoved the wobbly kitchen chair beneath the attic access door that had jammed like it always did when it was closed too fast, she really couldn’t help but wish that Mikey would find a better hiding spot.

  “Oh, crap!” she gasped when the chair wobbled, threatening to drop her on her ass before she managed to shift her weight and force the chair to behave.

  Shaking her head, she reached up and tried to shove the metal end of the screwdriver into the crevice and-

  “Oh, what the hell?” she groaned when the metal part broke off in the crevice, leaving her standing there, holding the hard plastic end and shaking her head, because this was the last time that she bought tools from the Dollar Store. Muttering to herself, she tossed the plastic end aside, climbed off the chair and started rummaging through her miscellaneous box, looking for something else that she could use to pry the door open.

  “Mikey?” she said, needing to make sure that her baby girl was still okay.

  “I hurt him, mom!” Mikey cried.

  “I know, baby girl. I know,” she said absently, not finding what she was looking for.

  Maybe she should look in her car, she wondered, but she knew the odds of actually finding something that she could use were slim. As soon as she managed to get Mikey out of the attic she was going to nail that damn door shut, she decided.

  “Keep talking to me, sweetheart,” she said, wiping her hands off on her apron so that she could get a firm hold of that metal thingie and-

  “Oh, crap!”

  -somehow manage to break it in half.

  “I really hurt him, mom. You should see his face!” Mikey cried as Kasey stared down at the piece of metal in her hand, shaking her head in wonder.

  Mumbling in disgust, she tossed it aside, reached for the small piece of metal still embedded in the ceiling and-

  “Mom? Mom, are you okay?” Mikey yelled, shifting closer to the attic door and trying to budge it open by the sounds of it when Kasey promptly lost her balance, fell off the chair and landed on the carpeted floor with a painful thud.

  “I’m fine,” she lied, biting back a groan and praying that she hadn’t just broken her ass. She shifted to the side, determined to get back up on that chair that was probably going to cause her to break her damn neck and-

  “You’re in the way,” Yummy growled, and really there was no other way to describe that terrifying snarl, as he helped her to her feet and ushered her out of the way before he reached up and managed to do what she’d failed to do with a screwdriver and five years of experience on her side and ripped the attic door open and lowered the stairs.

  For a moment she just stood there, unable to do anything else as she took in the large man in front of her with the incredibly sexy Celtic tattoo on his chest, golden muscles flexing with every movement and the cargo shorts that hung low on his hips. God had definitely brought his “A” game when he’d made Yummy, she mused with an inward sigh.

  Somehow resisting the urge to reach out and trace that tattoo with her finger, she shifted her attention and sighed with relief when she spotted Mikey kneeling by the top of the ladder. Her relief was short lived when Mikey took one look at Reese’s face, mumbled, “Oh, no!” and promptly disappeared, leaving her alone with the man that didn’t look particularly happy to see her.

  Chapter 7

  “What the hell just happened?” he asked, rubbing his hands down his face only to curse when the motion pulled
at his stitches.

  “She’s gone into hiding,” Kasey said with a sympathetic wince as she pushed his hand away and checked his stitches. “Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

  “I was,” he said, deciding not to mention that Mikey was the reason that he was out of bed since the poor kid was in enough trouble as it was.

  “You need to sit down,” she said, already dragging him towards the kitchen that he’d hoped that he would never see again.

  “No, I need to lie down,” he said, pulling his arm free as he turned around and-

  “What’s that smell?” he asked with a frown, uncaring that the action pulled at his stitches as he scented the air, positive that his mind was playing tricks on him.

  “Part of our apology,” Kasey said, gesturing for him to follow her into the kitchen that he’d fantasized about taking a sledgehammer to last night while the doctor had stitched him up.

  Slowly, he took a step closer, barely paying attention to Kasey as she moved around the kitchen, telling him how sorry she was about everything while he stood there, taking in all the platters of food covering the kitchen island and table and couldn’t help but wonder if he’d died and gone to heaven. Not that he really cared one way or the other right now, not when it meant that he was surrounded by all this food.

  He shifted his attention back to Kasey to find her rushing around the large room, piling fried chicken and baked macaroni and cheese onto a plate while apologizing for not knowing what he liked as she added more food to the plate than it should have been able to hold. Seconds later, he found himself sitting at the kitchen table, a fork slapped in his hand and the plate overflowing with food placed in front of him.

 
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