Page 16 of The Other Man

I’d honked three times, loudly, but she’d slammed into me nonetheless, and later claimed I’d never honked.

And then she’d claimed we were equally at fault, that we’d backed into each other, even though I hadn’t even been backing up.

And then she’d claimed that, no, wait, she took it all back, because she was pretty sure suddenly that it had been me that backed into her.

The entire incident had been wildly frustrating for someone like me, who tended to stick to the truth, because her story had changed about three times before we’d settled the issue, but eventually the insurance company had ruled her at fault, and I’d just been avoiding her crazy ass since then.

The best way to describe the Dickhead Dillons would be to say they got off on conflict.  They enjoyed negative attention, of any kind, as far as I could tell.

They were the worst neighbors ever, but that being said they only rarely had the opportunity to bother me personally.

For the most part, they were more amusing than anything else, hell, they gave the rest of the neighbors something funny to talk about on a regular basis, but add to that the fact that I knew Deborah had sided with my ex in the divorce, and would tell him what she’d seen before the day was out, and, well, all amusement quickly turned into annoyance.

“Why don’t you like that woman?” Heath asked me when we’d passed out of her earshot.

Of course he would notice something like that.  I hadn’t said a word, hadn’t even made an unpleasant face, but I was sure my hand had tightened on his.

Where to start with that question?  I stuck to the pertinent issue at hand.  “She’s friends with my ex-husband.  She’ll be calling him to tell him all about seeing us holding hands by the end of the day, I guarantee it.”

“Will that bother him?  Is he still jealous over you?”

I looked for the right words, knowing it would be easy to put my foot in my mouth on this subject.  “Not likely.  It’s more that he’ll enjoy . . . rubbing your age in my face.  He’ll use it to say nasty things to me, I expect.”

“Want me to rearrange his face for you?”

I smiled, assuming he was joking.  I studied him for a moment, and the smile died.  “No, no, of course not.  My ex is a nuisance, nothing else.  He doesn’t even bother me anymore.  There’s certainly no need for violence.”

That seemed to settle the subject, or at least he let me drop it after that.

“Would you ever let me photograph you?” I asked him idly sometime later as I studied his stern face in the sunlight.  It made me long for my camera.

I shot a look at him as I waited for his answer.

His expression told me clearly that this would never happen.  “Not likely,” he said, and we both knew it was an understatement.

We were still walking hand in hand, had been for quite some time, sort of like a normal couple.  It was nice.

“I’d keep the pictures for myself.”

“No can do.  Sorry.”

He actually did sound sorry, so I dropped it.

“You know, if we wanted to be normal, we’d do something crazy tonight like leave my house and go out on a date.”

He stopped walking so abruptly that it jerked on my arm.

“You want that?” he asked.  I couldn’t read what he thought about the idea, not from his tone or expression.

My mouth twisted wryly.  “Most women like to be taken out on dates sometimes, Heath.  It’s pretty normal.”

He looked thoughtful more than anything, like he was taking it all in.  “What would this date consist of?”

Impossible man.

“Dinner.  Drinks.  Maybe dancing.”

He looked a little horrified by the last suggestion.

It was exasperating.  “Jesus, it was just an idea.  Hell, just take me out to dinner and a movie.  What is the big fucking deal?”

“You pick the movie.”

“I’d be happy to, just so long as you don’t complain when I pick a romantic comedy.  You probably only like action flicks, I bet.”

His face was caught somewhere between bewildered and stiff.

I found it endearing that something this mundane was stressing him out.

“I don’t like action flicks,” he finally said.  “I hate them.  Whatever you like.  A romantic comedy is as good as anything.”

I thought that was promising.

“And where would you like to eat?” he asked.

“Surprise me.  No fast food, though.  I do expect a sit down meal.”

He took in a deep breath, let it out.  “I’m just going to pick wrong.  If you could tell me where you want to go, we’d both have a better evening.”

I studied him.  This was a foreign process to him, I could see that.  And so I made it easier on him.

“Okay.  I’ll find the right show time, and I’ll pick the restaurant.  But you’re driving, mister.”

He flashed his teeth at me in what could only be called a sinister grin.  “Of course I am.  That was never a question.”

I’d suggested it, but the way he said it was a bit infuriating.  I wasn’t the least bit surprised by his statement, though.  He would be the type that always had to drive.

He hadn’t even let me hold my own dog’s leash on this walk.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

I’d taken my cell phone with me on the walk as there were a few clients I was expecting calls from.  When it started buzzing, though, and I saw who was actually calling, I cursed.

My fucking ex.

He would call today.  Talk about the worst luck in the world.

Or worse, had Deborah already called and told him she’d seen me and Heath?

Dammit.

“What’s the matter?” Heath asked tonelessly.  His eyes were on my phone, and I had this strange thought that he knew who was calling.

The lock screen had lit up with EDUARD CALLING, and it was likely he could have read it from where he was standing.

Instead of answering, I was studying him.

He was fascinating to me.  Expressionless, toneless, but all of it somehow telling me that he was agitated.

I tried to shake off the suspicion, but it just wasn’t working.

“So how much do you know about me?” I asked him slowly.  “How much did you uncover in your . . . background check?”

“I know that’s your ex-husband calling.  I know you divorced him because he’s a cheating piece of shit.”

Wow.  He’d apparently done his research.  I was torn on how freaked out I should be about that.

“Why’s he bugging you?” he asked, through his teeth.  “I know you don’t have anything to do with him anymore.  What does he want?”

I grimaced.  I really hated to talk about this.  “He does this every so often, calls to chew me out.  He thinks it’s my fault that his sons don’t want anything to do with him anymore.  But if I had to guess why he’s calling right now, I’d say it’s because of Deborah, that neighbor you noticed I don’t like.  Remember how I said she’d tell my ex about seeing you and me together?  I didn’t think she’d work this fast, but here it is.”

My phone started buzzing again.  Irritated, I answered with, “What do you want, Eduard?”  My tone was biting.

My ex-husband took immediate exception to my tone.  “Is that any way to greet the father of your children?” he shot back.

“What do you want?” I repeated.

He cut right to the chase.  “How old is he?”

Ugh.  He was so predictably unpleasant about everything.  Divorce brought out the worst in everyone, but Eduard had sunk to new levels of low over the past year.  “Have you been talking to your good friend Deborah?”

“At least older than our sons, I hope?”  He was in a mood.  Usually he didn’t escalate this quickly into straight asshole when he called.  Generally he tried cajoling first.

“Not doing this,” I bit out, already thoroughly annoyed.

“I had no idea you were such a cougar, Lourdes.”

“Not doing this,” I repeated, about a second away from hanging up on him.

“Maybe that’s why we didn’t work out.  I was too old for you.”

That was too much.  “It’s not a mystery why we didn’t work out.  You were sleeping with my ex-best friend.”  I caught myself, just barely, from resorting to name-calling.

“You never even let me explain about that!”  His voice was close to a shout in my ear.

Oh.  Ugh.  This man.  How had I been fooled by him for so long?

“None of this matters,” I said, voice going very blank and cold.  I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

I was starting to suspect that he enjoyed our hostile interactions.  Why else would he go out of his way to make them happen?

“Tell me why you’re calling,” I said slowly.  “And it had better be productive, or I’m hanging up in exactly five seconds.”

“You’re lucky, you know.  I could have pressed assault charges against both you and Rafael for what you did to me.”


Tags: R.K. Lilley Romance
Source: www.StudyNovels.com