Old man Dixon didn’t play around. So, he’d been forced to choose, stay there and make things right and lose his balls or get the hell out and live to apologize another day.
As he walked past his brother, ignoring the sharp-numbing pain shooting through his feet every time he took a step, he became more furious with Mr. Dixon. Not because he’d forced Duncan to leave before he could apologize, but because the bastard had forced him to leave when all he’d wanted to do was to take Necie in his arms, hold her and promise to do whatever it took to make her stop crying.
Seeing her like that, because of him had felt like someone had knocked him on the ass. He never should have opened his mouth, never should have said anything so fucking cruel to a woman like Necie, but he had and now he felt like the biggest piece of shit in the world and there was nothing that he could do about it, but wait for a chance to talk to her without old man Dixon around.
“Are you planning on coming out of your room tonight?”
“No,” she mumbled into her pillow as she lay there, wondering how she could be in this much pain and still be alive.
It felt like her heart had broken in two and she couldn’t help, but wonder how she could feel this way and still be alive. She’d never experienced anything like this before and she prayed that she never did again. She’d lost her virginity to a man she’d thought she was in love with only to realize that she’d been nothing more than a way to pass the time.
“So, you’re planning on staying in there all night feeling sorry for yourself?” her grandfather asked, earning a murderous glare in the direction of where she was pretty sure the door was, but since she’d shut off all the lights so that her room matched her mood, she could have been glaring anywhere.
“Yes!” she snapped, offended that he was mocking her pain.
“I see,” he murmured, sounding thoughtful. “Then you’re fine if I order from Black Jack’s?” he asked, sounding hopeful and making her glare all the more.
“Not unless you’re willing to sleep with one eye open for the rest of your life!” she snapped, deciding that if she was going to be miserable, then so was he.
It was only fair after all.
“I’m willing to risk it,” he said, sounding like he really didn’t care, which of course only took her rage to a whole new level that couldn’t be healthy for either one of them.
Keeping her glare fixed on the direction of the door, she threw back the covers off her bed, making a mental note to strip her bed clean and burn everything later, and headed towards the door. As soon as she reached it, she threw the door open, pushed past the large bastard that she loved more than anything and stormed into the kitchen.
“Where are you going, my sweet little angel?” he asked innocently as though he didn’t know.
“To make your dinner!” she snapped, simply because it felt good to snap at someone.
“Steak?” he asked, sounding hopeful.
“Nope,” she said, letting the word pop and knowing that she really shouldn’t take her anger out on him, but…
What the hell?
He was around and Duncan wasn’t, and hopefully never would be again, she told herself sternly, firming her jaw as she thought over her decision and forcing herself to decide that’s what she really wanted.
She never wanted to see Duncan Bradford again.
“Meatloaf?” her grandfather asked, following after her like a puppy and sounding so damn hopeful that she almost caved and gave him the dinner that he deserved, but she loved him too much to do that to him.
“How about I whip us up two fresh garden salads with grilled chicken and sliced peaches for dessert,” she suggested, trying to sound upbeat, but judging by the glare that her grandfather shot her, he really didn’t appreciate the fact that she had his welfare in mind.
He didn’t say anything to her, but then again he didn’t need to, not with the way that he was glaring at her as he absently reached over, grabbed an apple and took a huge bite out of it, all while his eyes told her just how badly he wished that he could throttle her. Normally she would roll her eyes and torment him back, but today apparently was not going to be one of those days, because before she could stop herself, not that she really cared, she started to cry and once she started, she couldn’t stop.
Embarrassed that she was crying over some guy that normally wouldn’t give her the time of day in front of her grandfather, the man that she loved and respected more than anything in this world, because now he knew just how pathetic she really was.
“Open the fucking door!” the shout rang throughout the house as Duncan made a half-hearted attempt to steal the last slice of pizza, but his heart just wasn’t in it.
Danny’s apparently was since the unsupportive bastard snatched the last piece out of his hand and said, “I think it’s for you.”
“No, shit,” he said, tossing his crumpled up napkin at his brother as he headed towards the front door where his elderly, pissed off neighbor was banging on the door and demanding his head on a pike.
Sighing, because he really wasn’t in the mood to be lectured about something that he already knew that he had to do, he opened the front door and-
“Mother fucker!” he growled as he stumbled back.
“That’s for making my little girl cry,” Mr. Dixon said, inviting himself in and getting in Duncan’s face as Duncan absently wiped the blood away from his split lip.
If the old man felt better after getting a shot in, that was fine with him. He’d taken worse beatings in his life and could care less about a split lip if it made the old man feel like he was protecting his granddaughter. He’d probably do the same thing if he had a granddaughter so he just let it go. That didn’t mean that he was going to let the old man get another shot in.
He understood the first shot and was letting it go.
If the old man took another hit at him, because he hadn’t apologized to his granddaughter yet, then he’d be forced to restrain him, take him to the ground and promise the old bastard that he would apologize to her the next time that he saw her.
“You stay the hell away from my little girl,” Mr. Dixon said, stepping closer to get in Duncan’s face.
“As soon as I apologize, I plan on leaving her alone,” he reassured the old man, but that wasn’t good enough for Mr. Dixon apparently, because he simply shook his head and said, “Stay away from her.”
And not apologize to her like some fucking coward?
Never fucking happening.
He took a step closer to Mr. Dixon, getting back in the older man’s face as he made things clear. “After I apologize to her.”
“Leave her alone. She doesn’t want anything to do with you,” Mr. Dixon said firmly.
“Bullshit,” he said, wondering why he was arguing with the man when he didn’t need his permission to talk to Necie and explain just how badly he’d fucked up and promised that with time and space, she’d be able to move on one day and find a guy that returned her feelings.
He just wasn’t the guy, he reminded himself as his eyes narrowed on the old man that he suddenly wanted to take a swing at while he ground his teeth together. He didn’t want to be that guy, the one that got to hold her at night, tease her, make love to her and get to know the real Necie, because he fucking knew without a doubt that the nervous, shy Necie that he’d seen over the past year wasn’t the real Necie.
No, that wasn’t the real Necie at all and he knew that because he’d held the real one in his arms last night and had seen the fire in her eye when he was purposely pissing her off to get a rise out of her. That was the real Necie, the one that some fucking asshole was going to get and not appreciate one day.
“Just leave my granddaughter alone,” Mr. Dixon said firmly, glaring up at him through those cold gray eyes that had terrified lesser men.
“I will, but only after I apologize to her,” he said, because if there was one thing that he was
sure about, it was that he was not the type of asshole to treat a woman like shit on accident and not man up and make it up to her.
Mr. Dixon smiled that cold smile of his, the one that sent chills down Duncan’s spine as he backed up towards the door. “You’re going to stay away from granddaughter and that’s final,” Mr. Dixon made the mistake of saying, because if there was one thing that galled a Bradford more than a buffet running out of food, it was being told what to do.
“Are you still pouting in there?” her grandfather demanded, sounding grumpy and making her feel kind of bad about ditching him after her, umm, minor breakdown, running to her room, locking the door behind her, crying in the shower for an hour, which had been followed by a pity party for herself on the bed where the theme of the party was her glaring at the wall, giving herself a headache as she tried to figure out the secrets to time travel so that she could go back in time and change the past forty-eight hours.
Once she’d accepted that her plan would never work simply because she’d failed tenth grade physics, she’d popped a few Advil, crawled back into bed and resumed her pity party, which was going well now.
“I’ll go to The Cabin!” he threatened from the other side of the door, earning a definite eye roll, because The Cabin and she had an understanding. They don’t supply her grandfather with any food that would lead to a trip to the ICU and she would continue to supply them with buttery dinner rolls, cakes, pies and those little cheesecakes that their customers seemed to love so much. So, she wasn’t all that worried about her grandfather getting his hands on something delicious.
“Fine!” she yelled back, not really caring if he spent the next five hours hopping from restaurant to restaurant, trying to get something delicious in his stomach, because she had connections everywhere.
The only thing that he was getting tonight was most likely that oversized salad that she’d made after she’d accepted that she’d never be able to build that time machine. At least with him out of the house she could relax, figure out how to play it cool when she saw Duncan and if that didn’t work, maybe she’d just move.
It was the simplest solution.
Unfortunately that would mean leaving her grandfather and she just wasn’t sure that she could do that. Then again, she could always move away from this part of town, move closer to the bakery and hope that her grandfather took it upon himself to ban Duncan from the bakery so that she never had to deal with him again.
A girl could hope after all, she thought with a wistful sigh as she heard the comforting sound of her grandfather’s truck starting and listened and he backed out of the drive away and headed towards a night of disappointments and garden salads.
Giving up on sleep, she looked at the clock and sighed. It was almost ten o’clock at night, which meant that it wouldn’t take her grandfather long to figure out what she’d set up behind his back. She really didn’t feel like being here when he returned so she climbed out of bed, grabbed a pair of warm, clean clothes and got dressed.
She had absolutely no idea where she was going to go since her options were even more limited, with not having a car and everything. It was freezing out, but at least the walkways had been cleaned and salted so she could take a stroll around the neighborhood until the freezing cold temperatures forced her to return home, drink a gallon of hot cocoa, enjoy a hot bath and hopefully that would be enough to lull her into a deep, dreamless sleep where she’d get to forget about everything for just a few hours.
Then, she would get up before the crack of dawn, catch a ride with her grandfather, who would probably still be pouting, and go to work. Then again, she might just say the hell with it and walk to the bakery. It was only two miles away.
The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea. She could walk to the bakery, prep everything for tomorrow, maybe make something special, and when she was too exhausted to continue, she’d take a nap on the couch in their office. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was something for now.