"I heard you took quite a fall today," he said, squirting some shampoo into his hand and massaging it through her hair.

"It was just an accident," she said, sniffling.

He didn't believe that for a damn second, but he bit his tongue. Screaming at her wouldn't help, besides it would kill him if he was the reason for her tears. So for a few minutes he didn't say anything as he rinsed her hair and washed her body.

Without a word he drained the tub and held up one of the extra large fluffy towels he knew she liked. She gave him a small trembling smile as she stood up and allowed him to wrap her up.

"Why don't you sit right here?" he said softly, leading her over to the chair by the bathtub. "I'm going to take a quick shower and then we can talk, okay?"

Worrying her bottom lip even as more tears streamed down her beautiful face she gave him a reluctant nod. He turned his back on her as he quickly stripped, knowing she probably wouldn't appreciate the hard on he was sporting at the moment. She was so damn exhausted and he knew it was his fault, but they had another matter he'd ignored for way too long that they needed to deal with tonight.

After a quick shower he wrapped a towel around his waist and sat down on the edge of the tub. Zoe sat on the chair, looking so damn miserable that it made his chest ache. Shoving away useless feelings that wouldn't help either one of them out, he reached into one of the bags and grabbed the two small bottles of orange juice, glad to find that they were still cold.

"Here," he said, passing her one of the bottles.

"I'm not thirsty," she said with a small shake of her head.

He simply ignored her refusal and pressed it into her hand before he grabbed the small turkey grinder he picked up for her and passed it to her. When she tried to refuse it he decided the bullshit was over.

"Eat it," he said softly.

When she shook her head again he met her eyes. "I know you passed out today, Zoe. I also know that you've been starving yourself for the past few months," he said, not bothering to soften his words.

She worried her bottom lip for a minute before she responded. "I'm not starving myself. I just count calories."

"You're starving yourself, Zoe. You don't eat meat. You've cut everything your body needs out and you're losing weight too damn fast," he said, praying for patience, because if this didn't work he had no idea what the hell he would do.

She looked down at the drink and sandwich in her hands. "I don't like being fat," she said, sounding depressed.

Cursing softly, he moved to kneel on the floor in front of her. When she refused to meet his gaze he gently cupped her chin and raised her face.

"Hey, you're not fat, Zoe. You're curvy and sexy as hell, but you're not fat," he said firmly. "But you are starting to scare the hell out of me and if you don't start eating I don't think we can continue this."

Her eyes narrowed dangerously on him as she processed what he said. "You're cutting me off?"

"If you keep up this bullshit diet," he said, shrugging as if the idea of going without her luscious little body didn't bother him.

She considered him for another minute before she said, "You're bluffing."

"Am I?" he asked, feigning disinterest. "I'll just have to go somewhere else," he said, knowing damn well that wouldn't be happening. Until he was done with her, and he wasn't even close to being done with her, she was his and no one else would do.

"Okay," she said, wiping away the rest of her tears that he noted had thankfully stopped flowing, "if that's what you want I guess I'll have to look elsewhere as well."

His eyes narrowed dangerously on her. "What exactly does that mean?"

She gave him a little shrug and an innocent little expression that he wasn't buying for a second.

"You're saying that if I end this arrangement that you'll start one with another man?" he asked with barely controlled rage. He didn't like the thought of her with another man.

Not at all.

He glared at her for another moment, waiting for her to falter in some way, but when she just sat there looking innocent he snapped. "Fine! But you're going to start eating, Zoe, or I swear to god I'll spank your ass!" he said, noting the gleam of anticipation in her tired eyes at his words and remembered who he was talking to. "And not in the good way either."

"Fine," she sighed heavily. "I was already starting to rethink my diet anyway," she grumbled, toying with the sandwich wrapper, but not opening it and eating, he noted.

He reached out and took the sandwich and juice back, placing it in the bag with the rest of the food and stood up, holding his hand out to her. "Come on."

Her eyes widened almost comically as she looked between him and his hand. "I know we have an agreement, but I really am tired," she said, sounding close to crying again.

"Shh," he said soothingly, leaning down to press a kiss to her forehead as he took her hand into his. "Come on," he said, giving her hand a gentle pull.

After a slight hesitation she allowed him to lead her into the bedroom where he quickly pulled on one of the pair of jeans he left at her place and found her a pair of panties and a one of his Yankees tee shirts to wear. With an exasperated eye roll and a cute little smile she took the shirt and pulled it on.

"Come on," he said, grabbing her hand once again and pulling her towards the door.

"Where are we going?" she mumbled around a small yawn.

"I thought we'd watch a movie with our dinner," he said, leading her down the stairs, into the hallway and into his apartment. He didn't bother shutting the door behind him since he knew it would only make Toby cry. The dog wouldn't accept anything less than the run of the entire house.

"Have a seat and I'll be right back," he said, placing the bag on the low coffee table. After making sure she did as he asked he ran upstairs and grabbed a pillow and one of the large quilts his grandmother had made him over the years and headed back downstairs to find Zoe starting to doze off.

"Oh no you don't," he said, tossing the pillow and quilt at the opposite end of the couch. "You need to eat, Zoe."

"God, you're bossy," she mumbled, but he didn't miss the look of anticipation on her face or the way she licked her lips. Poor thing, he thought. He really couldn't imagine living on nothing but green veggies and sticks, but somehow she'd done it, not healthily, but she'd done it.

Maybe he should have picked up a couple of steaks with the works, he thought and then quickly dismissed the idea. Zoe would have balked at breaking her diet like that. Once she realized she could eat regular food, but with healthy choices she'd be fine.

Tags: R.L. Mathewson Neighbor from Hell Young Adult
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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