“I love my wife. ”
“Yes, but-” Jodi started to say only to get cut off once again before she could explain why she desperately needed to be released from her lease.
“I love my wife,” Trevor Bradford, her landlord and a man that she suspected was as close to committing murder as she was, stressed for what had to be the hundredth time since he’d arrived at her apartment five minutes ago.
Jodi released an exasperated sigh as she shifted in her seat and tried to think of another way to explain to the large, and basically decent, man that if he didn’t let her out of her lease ten months early that she was very much afraid that she would end up killing his cousin with her bare hands. Since she was pretty sure that a full confession would only come back and bite her in the ass later, she decided to go with a more subtle route to get out of her lease.
“I need to be released from my lease, because your cousin is an asshole and he’s making my life a living hell,” she explained in a calm and efficient manner, neglecting to mention that she’d already thought of twenty-nine different ways to kill the large, and annoying, bastard.
For a moment, Trevor didn’t say anything as he studied her from across the small eighteenth century country kitchen table that she’d inherited from her Great-Grandmother Rose. His eyes narrowed on her in an assessing manner as she did the same to him, refusing to be intimidated. When it became obvious that intimidation wasn’t going to work, he tried another tactic.
“Which cousin?” he asked, feigning ignorance as he leaned back in his chair. Jodi just barely bit back a wince when the chair creaked in protest at having to support such a large man. If she had to guess, she’d have to say the man weighed well over two hundred pounds and every last ounce of him was pure muscle. She really wasn’t sure how much more abuse her poor chair could take before it finally cracked under pressure.
It would probably depress her for a day or two to lose such a treasured item, especially since she couldn’t afford to replace it, even with a cheap knockoff from Wal-Mart on her new salary. Then again, if it meant getting out of the lease from hell and away from the most annoying man on earth then she would just have to suck it up and deal with the loss, she decided.
“You know which one,” she bit out, knowing that he knew damn well which one of his cousins was driving her to the point of no return.
“There are five of them renting apartments here,” he pointed out, not sounding happy about that fact, but not willing to make this easy on her. “I’m afraid that you’ll have to be a little more specific. ”
Granted, all of his cousins that rented here seemed to be arrogant bastards, but only one of them was a complete asshole. The rest of his cousins amused her and yes, they could annoy the hell out of her, but not to the point where she was contemplating murder. That reaction was reserved solely for one man and one man alone.
It was actually kind of funny, because before she’d moved here, she’d thought of herself as a pacifist. Just the thought of a puppy whimpering, or accidentally hurting anyone’s feelings would have had her hitting a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and sobbing hysterically over a Lifetime movie. Before Danny Bradford she’d never gotten truly good and mad. She’d never even held a grudge before she’d met him. She usually let things go pretty quickly and didn’t waste her time on nonsense, but that all changed the day that she moved in and met the bastard living across the hall.
Then again, a lot of things had changed in her life over the last few months, and some of those things might be influencing her reaction to Danny Bradford. But, she was pretty sure that even if she hadn’t been dumped the night before her wedding, lost her job at the museum, been forced to take a job as the town librarian, and humiliated in every way imaginable by her ex, that she would still be developing an all-consuming hatred for the man living across the hall from her.
He was arrogant, cocky, a jerk, too good looking for his own good, a jerk, an asshole, really annoying and did she mention that he was a jerk? It seemed as though he lived to screw with her. It was bad enough that she had to deal with all the crap that he put her through, but that damn cocky smile of his that he wore while he did it just pissed her off in too many ways to actually count. She hated that smile, probably not as much as she hated the man, but it was a close second.
“Danny,” she bit out, glaring at the man as she silently dared him to continue sitting there pretending that he didn’t know that his cousin had been having a heck of a time making her life a living hell. He knew, oh, he knew. A week didn’t go by that she wasn’t forced to call him and explain as calmly as possible that if his cousin kept up his bullshit that she would be forced to kick him in the balls to wipe that cocky smile off his face.
Normally when she was forced to make those calls, which made her feel like a tattling child, Trevor would listen for all of ten seconds, sigh heavily and hand the phone over to Zoe, his wife and the unofficial manager of all the rental properties that they owned. Trevor usually only got involved as a last resort or if his wife was too exhausted from taking care of the couple’s children to muster up the energy to deal with tenants. Actually, she preferred to deal with Zoe, because she would listen, sympathize, and after Jodi finished getting it off her chest, the short plump woman would give her a hug, tell her to hang in there, walk across the hall and slap Danny upside his head.
Then with a satisfied sigh, Zoe would smile and go, leaving her to deal with Danny, that damn cocky grin of his, and the knowledge that she’d somehow just set down a challenge for him. Every time Zoe paid him a visit, he always upped his game to drive her insane.
Like last week when she’d been forced to complain about Danny getting her placed on another restaurant’s delivery banned list. Zoe had come right over, this time not bothering to see her first before she knocked on Danny’s door. When Danny opened the door while eating her hot wings, she’d like to point out, Zoe sighed, reached up and slapped Danny upside his head.
Instead of getting pissed like she would probably be if someone kept slapping her upside the head, Danny had simply shrugged it off and picked up another hot wing. Just as he was about to take a bite, Zoe snatched the wing and the takeout box out of his hands, scowled up at him for all of ten seconds, turned around and stormed off.
That’s when Danny finally reacted.
It was also the moment that she’d really wished she hadn’t chosen to come out of her apartment to check the mail. Before she could move to make an escape, Danny glared accusingly at her as though she’d been the one who’d stolen his, well, technically they were hers since she’d ordered them, hot wings.
He hadn’t said a word as he closed his door. He didn’t need to say anything, because that glare had said it all. She’d spent that night tossing and turning in bed, torn between apologizing to save herself from his bullshit, shrugging it off while trying to tell herself that there was nothing to worry about, and getting good and mad at herself for obsessing over something so stupid. When the alarm clock forced her to drag her butt out of bed the next morning she’d wanted to kick his ass as well as her own for wasting the entire night lying awake worrying instead of sleeping.
Thirty minutes, a lukewarm shower, and three cups of burnt coffee later, she’d still been kicking herself for her own stupidity as she’d left her apartment and mentally prepared herself for the next ten hours of dealing with meetings, committees, story time with the kids, craft hour and a book vendor event. All thoughts of the hectic day that awaited her slowly evaporated from her thoughts when she’d caught sight of the five-foot high cinderblock wall that surrounded her parking space where her car had been parked the night before.