Part #9 of Neighbor from Hell series by R. L. Mathewson
“I hope you’re hungry,” she said, adding a large glass of what he hoped was homemade lemonade in front of him.
“Starving,” he heard himself saying as he took in the food before him.
God, he’d never seen anything more beautiful in his life, he thought as he picked up a piece of fried chicken. He took a bite and moaned as a combination of flavors that he hadn’t even known existed hit his tongue.
“Oh, God,” he groaned loudly as he took a second bite, terrified that the first bite had been a figment of his imagination, but if anything that first bite had been nothing more than a hint of what lay ahead.
“Are you okay?” she asked with a concerned frown as she reached over and-
“Did you just growl at me?” she asked, amusement twinkling in her eyes as she placed another piece of fried chicken on his plate.
“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said, smiling easily as she pushed the platter of cornbread closer to him.
“As you should,” he murmured between bites, helping himself to a large piece of cornbread as she sat down and poured another glass of lemonade.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, gesturing towards his temple with her glass.
“Like I took a sledgehammer to the side of the head,” he answered with a shrug as he took a sip of the best lemonade that he’d ever had.
“I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head slowly and looking at a loss as to what else she could say.
“It was an accident,” he said, hoping that she would stop apologizing before his head exploded. “Next time I’ll wear a helmet,” he said with a shrug, helping himself to another slice of cornbread.
“Next time?” she asked, looking adorably confused the same time he heard a commotion in the hallway seconds before Mikey came sliding to a stop next to him. “Next time?” she asked, absently wiping at her red eyes as she waited anxiously for his answer.
Shrugging, he took a sip of his lemonade. “Your curve ball needs work.”
Mikey’s face scrunched up adorably as she considered his words. “I can’t control the release,” she admitted, surprising him.
“No, you can’t,” he agreed, placing his empty glass back on the table.
“I don’t think this is such a good idea,” Kasey said, worrying her plump bottom lip between her teeth even as she poured more lemonade into his glass.
“Shouldn’t you be in your room praying for mercy?” Kasey asked, shifting her attention to her daughter.
“Probably,” Mikey agreed, throwing him one last wistful glance before mumbling her goodbyes and walking away with her head bowed, sighing heavily as she made a dramatic exit that most of the men in his family would envy and damn near making him smile, but the woman now glaring in his direction promptly put an end to that urge.
She waited until Mikey was out of sight before she said, “Someone will get hurt,” which of course earned her a pointed look.
Waving it off, she said, “You know what I mean,” as she stood up, grabbed a pair of oven mitts and walked over to the stove.
“She loves baseball,” he said, pointing out the obvious as he took a bite of macaroni and cheese and nearly moaned in ecstasy before taking out his phone, snapping a quick picture of his plate and sending it to the two bastards that had mocked the shit out of him last night in the emergency room.
“That’s an understatement,” Kasey said, shaking her head in resignation as she opened the damaged oven door that hadn’t been like that yesterday and pulled out a large pan as his phone chimed, letting him know that the bastards had responded. Ignoring the mean bastards, he put his phone away.
“Is she on a team?” he asked, hating the fact that he cared so damn much.
He had enough problems and didn’t need to add any more bullshit to his already fucked-up life. If he had any brains he would finish his food, thank her, steal that platter of double-fudge brownies and cupcakes, and get the hell out of here so that he could spend the rest of his summer wallowing in self-pity. But, after spending the night in the emergency room with absolutely nothing to do but think about all the fucked-up choices that he’d made in his life, he realized that wallowing in self-pity was the last thing that he needed.
He didn’t want to sit around dissecting every fucked-up decision that he’d made in his life, second-guessing every choice that he’d ever made, or wondering what he could have done differently. He already knew that he’d fucked everything up and nothing that he said or did was going to change that. He needed to accept his fucked-up life, move on and do his best not to fuck it up again.
After spending the night in the ER, he realized something important, he was done following in his twin’s footsteps. He needed to start making some hard choices and sitting on his ass and whining about his life wasn’t going to change anything. It wasn’t going to bring back the last year and a half and it sure as hell wasn’t going to get his job back. He needed to stay busy and if what he’d overheard the nurses talking about last night was true then the woman cutting an obscenely large piece of lasagna could use the help.
“Technically, she’s on a team,” she said, placing the large slice of lasagna in front of him.
Wondering if she had any Italian bread, he asked, “How can she technically be on a team?”
“Because they wont let her play,” she said, sounding tired as she sat back down and rubbed her hands down her face. “The parents don’t want her on the team and the coach is terrified that she’s going to hurt someone. So, if she wants to practice, which is the only thing that they’ll let her do, Eric has to go with her and risk his neck so that she can toss the ball around.”
He nodded as he watched her, taking in her short spikey black hair, down to her baby pink tank top partially hidden behind a bright white apron before switching his gaze to glance around the terrifying kitchen they sat in as he ran everything that he’d heard last night at the emergency room through his head and couldn’t help but feel like a fucking asshole.
“She’s going to end up getting frustrated sooner or later,” he pointed out as he took a bite of lasagna and groaned.
“You like it?” she asked with a warm smile.
“It’s incredible,” he said, taking another bite and wondering how she’d learned to cook like this.
“I try my best,” she said with a smile and a wink that he refused to find sexy.
“There’s no point in her being on a team if they won’t let her play,” she said, getting back to the topic at hand as she shot a worried glance over her shoulder.
“And they won’t let her play until she gets a little more control of her arm,” he guessed.
“Exactly,” she said, taking a sip of her lemonade, looking a little lost and god help him, but he wanted to help her.
“I can help her with that,” he said,
“I can’t ask you to do that,” she said, shifting her attention to the battered side of his face.
“You’re not asking me. I’m offering,” he said with a shrug as he dug into his food.
“Why?” she asked, looking genuinely confused by the offer, which made two of them, because for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why he was really doing this. He considered telling her that he had nothing better to do, but she didn’t need to know that.
Instead, he shrugged it off and reached for another piece of cornbread, “We didn’t get a chance to finish our game.”
“Because she split your skull open and sent you to the ER?”
“There is that,” he conceded with a nod.
“And it was such a fun experience that you can’t wait to do it again?” she asked, blinking at him and giving him a look that clearly told him that he was insane.
She was probably right, but since admitting that would only be detrimental to his plans, he decided that it might be for the best if he didn’t voice his opinion on the matter. Instead, he said, “She’s got a hell of an arm on her and I’m curious to see
Sighing heavily, she refilled his glass with a sad shake of her head, “Something tells me that you’re going to regret this, Yummy.”
“Probably,” he agreed with a shrug, not really bothered, because there wasn’t much in his life that he didn’t regret.
“So, what are we watching exactly?” Sara asked, as she sat down on the towel next to her right around the time when Reese threw off his baseball glove and shook his hand off with a, “Goddamn it!”
“Sorry!” Mikey yelled, biting her lip and shifting nervously on the beach as they watched Reese try to breathe through the pain.
“It’s fine,” he promised her as he pulled his glove back on and gestured for her to throw another ball.
“I’m not really sure, but I think he might have a death wish,” she said with a sad shake of her head, because she could easily think of a hundred less painful ways to go. The only thing that was stopping her from putting an end to this, or cringing in fear every time Mikey threw the ball¸ was the fact that Reese had insisted on using a tennis ball instead of one of the hard baseballs that Mikey preferred.
“I see,” Sara said, gesturing towards Trevor and Jason, who stood a few yards away, glaring at Reese. “And what are they doing?”
She shifted her attention from the incredibly handsome man that had taken it upon himself to teach her precocious daughter how to properly throw a baseball so that she wouldn’t accidentally kill someone one day to the two men glaring at him.
“I think it has something to do with their wives,” she said, gesturing to the two women cheering for Reese and Mikey in between watching their kids play on the beach and discussing which was hotter, a police officer in uniform or one with tattoos.
Unfortunately, she was too busy cringing every time her daughter threw the ball so she didn’t voice her opinion. Since they seemed to be enjoying the effect that it had on their husbands, Kasey shrugged it off and tried not to think about the woman sitting silently on the other side of them, watching her every move.
“And the chick glaring at you?” Sara asked, stealing her Coke and finished it off as she gestured to the beautiful woman that had been quickly introduced to her as, “Mac.”
“I’m not really sure,” she admitted as she adjusted her bikini top, because she’d been wondering that herself.
Kasey was pretty sure that she hadn’t said anything rude, but then again, she did have a tendency to piss people off without trying. It was one of her many talents, one that usually filled her with such joy, but today it was a bit unnerving.
“Is she with Yummy?” Sara asked, as Kasey shifted her attention back to the man in question.
“Not really sure,” she said with a shrug and not really caring, because she wasn’t interested.
“He’s incredibly hot,” Sara pointed out as though Kasey had somehow missed that fact between dubbing him Yummy and shoving his semi-conscious body into a wheelchair outside the emergency room last night.
“I don’t have time for-”
“Oh, my God. Not this again,” Sara groaned as she shook her head in disgust, but since Kasey obviously needed to remind her friend of the decision that she’d made for the sake of her daughter and career, she finished.
“I can’t,” Sara said, shaking her head as she grabbed an overpriced bottle of water out of her bag and took a sip. “I just can’t.”
“It’s just not in the cards right now,” she said, shrugging it off as she swiped her friend’s bottle of water and took a sip, noting that it tasted like tap water.
“It’s never in the cards,” Sara said with a sigh as she gestured towards Mikey, who appeared torn between smiling and cringing as she threw the ball. “She looks happy.”
“Yes, she does,” Kasey said, unable to stop herself from smiling.
Mikey looked more than happy. She looked relaxed, which probably had something to do with the fact that she was playing with someone who wasn’t crying, diving out of the way, praying for God to save them, or yelling at her to be more careful. Kasey wasn’t a hundred percent positive, but it looked like her throws had improved a little bit.
As she sat there, watching her daughter playing catch, she couldn’t help but wonder what Michael would have thought about their daughter having an arm that terrified most grown men. He probably would have bragged, she thought with a wistful smile. The two of them would have been inseparable; watching games, playing catch, and driving her out of her mind by talking about baseball every minute of the day, but she would have loved it because it would have meant that Michael hadn’t died and left her to do this all alone.
God, she missed him.
She missed hearing his laugh, seeing his smile, and feeling his arms around her, but then she just had to look at Mikey and it felt like he was still with her.
“Hey, I thought we were supposed to be working,” Sara said, nudging her with a smile, knowing her better than anyone else.
Returning her smile, she gestured to Mikey. “Let’s give her a few more minutes.”
“Fine,” Sara said, sighing and sounding absolutely bored as she shifted to get more comfortable. “Do you think she’s his wife?” she asked, returning to their previous conversation.
“No clue,” Kasey said with a shrug as she leaned back on her elbows and watched as Reese showed Mikey how to move into the throw.
“Probably,” she said, not really caring and hoping that Sara dropped the subject, because she wasn’t really in the mood for this.
“Do you want to go change?” Kasey asked, hoping to distract her.
“What are you talking about?” Sara asked with a frown as she looked down at the designer tee shirt and hundred dollar jeans that she was wearing.
“What do you mean, what am I talking about?” Kasey asked with a pointed look at her best friend’s ensemble. “We’re gutting a kitchen.”
“I know,” Sara said, not really looking like she did.
“Umm,” Kasey said, taking in her best friend’s freshly pressed clothes and manicure as she rubbed the bridge of her nose, wondering if she might be better off asking Eric for help instead, but then remembered what he’d done to the kitchen the other night and decided that she wasn’t in a position to be picky.
“What about you?” Sara asked, cocking a brow in question.
Frowning, Kasey looked down at herself and shrugged. She was wearing a black bikini top, cut off jeans and flip-flops. “It’s the equivalent of a guy working shirtless,” she pointed out.
“True,” Sara murmured in agreement, leaning back on her elbows and tilting her face towards the sun while Kasey shifted her attention back to Mikey.
“Okay, kiddo, you’ve got five more minutes before we have to call it a day,” she said, giving her daughter fair warning, something that she’d learned years ago was absolutely necessary when it came to all things baseball related.
Mikey looked like she was going to argue, but then seemed to think better of it, probably realizing that she was in no position to argue and nodded. “Five more minutes.”
“Can she stay for a little longer?” Reese asked, taking her by surprise. “I was hoping to see her fast ball.”
She opened her mouth to answer when the two men glaring at Reese did a double take. “That’s not her fast ball?” Jason demanded, sharing a look with Trevor, one that she had seen too many times and one that would most likely end with someone spending the night in the emergency room or the I.C.U.
“Not even close,” she said, as Mikey admitted with a shrug, “I’m not allowed to throw my fast ball.”
And for good reason.
“Oh, I’ve gotta see this fast ball,” Jason said, grinning hugely.
“Yeah, I really don’t think that would be such a good idea,” she said, coming to her feet.
Jason looked like he was about to argue,
“Maybe tomorrow?” she said, not really comfortable with leaving her ten-year-old child alone with a group of people that she barely knew.
“Mom?” Mikey said, worrying her bottom lip and trying not to look too excited, but Kasey knew that this was a treat for her since she was normally regulated to playing catch with Eric, who couldn’t throw or catch to save his life.
Thankfully she was with Sara, who didn’t mince words. She turned her attention to Reese. “You’re a police officer?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Reese said, looking a little surprised, but before Kasey could wonder about that look Sara had already moved on.
Delectable by R. L. Mathewson / Romance & Love have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on43 votes