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He nodded even as he thought that over. Huh, no Rory......that could actually work for him. He'd be able to get her old man on his side and work on starting to convince the James brothers that their lives would be so much better if they came to work for him. This could really work in his favor, he thought as he looked at the men in question and had to bite back a smile. Oh yeah, the James boys were as good as his.

* * * *

"We're having Dad committed," Bryce said in way of a greeting as he climbed up the rickety steps to the enormous attic that she was even at that moment making plans for. The client wanted the roof fixed, a new attic floor, fix the stairs and update the utilities, but they were passing up a golden opportunity with this space and she was going to convince them to allow her to make three very large, luxury suites out of the space and she was going to make damn sure that Connor stayed away from the area.

It was going to be her signature touch to the hotel, the thing that drew people to this hotel and the thing that came to mind when Strawberry Manor was mentioned. It was going to be Shadow Construction that got all the glory. She had a meeting set up this Friday and she was going to convince them to stretch their budget just a little more to accommodate her dreams.

While other little girls were day dreaming about their wedding she'd been thinking about all the things that she would do to this large old mansion to make it perfect and now that it was all hers, well, half hers, to remodel she was going to make damn sure that it lived up to her dreams.

"Did you hear me? I said we're having Dad committed," Bryce said as he carefully stepped up onto the plywood she laid down for safety and glared at her.

"Yeah, I heard you," she said distractedly as she looked at the ceiling and frowned at the structure beams that were going to have to be replaced. She'd hoped that they could salvage some of them to help get the new roof on faster, but it looked like they were going to have to tear the entire roof off and start from scratch. Actually, that could work for her because-

"Don't you even want to know what he did?"

"Nope, just tell me where to sign," she said, wondering if she would be able to convince some of Connor's men to do a little side work for her, only the ones that met her standards of course. She didn't tolerate sloppy work and she sure as hell wouldn't tolerate substandard work on this project. Unfortunately, she already had a feeling that she was going to have to have some of her guys double check Connor's men's work.

"You really don't care?" he asked, eyeing her cautiously as he stepped up to stand beside her.

"Not at all," she said as she considered using skylight windows and just as quickly dismissed the idea. The whole point of this project was to give it that eighteenth century feel and placing modern day skylights on the roof would wreck the effect. No, it was better to go with her original plan, she decided.

"Fine. Then I won't tell you," Bryce said, clearly fighting back a smile as he crossed his massive arms over his chest.

"Uh huh," she said absently, earning a loud drawn out sigh of annoyance from Bryce and probably an eye roll.

"Shouldn't you be working?" she asked as she checked her watch. It was a quarter to five and she was too excited to call it a night. Not that she would and she doubted that her brothers would either. They'd probably put in another three or four hours until hunger forced them to head home.

"Probably," Bryce mused.

"Is there a special reason why you're not working?" she asked as she turned to face him.

He shrugged. "We wanted to know if you wanted us to handle Connor's men the next time they pull any bullshit or just let him deal with it," he said, reminding her of the earlier mutiny that she'd been forced to handle in front of their father.

"What the hell happened?" she asked, walking over to a rotting post and to grab her bottle of lukewarm water. "And most importantly, why didn't you guys handle it?"

He gave her a “duh” look as he said, "We had our hands busy with the fire inspector."

"The fire inspector was here?" When he nodded, she gave him her own version of the “duh” look. “Why the hell didn't someone come get me?"

"Because they were all fighting over petty bullshit. It wouldn't have been too bad, but Connor's foremen are incompetent and started bitching about being in charge. We got sick of their bullshit and decided to let them beat the shit out of each other while we made sure that we weren't shut down."

She bit back a groan. Being shut down this early in the game would kill their schedule. They needed to get off the ground running. "Did he shut us down?" she asked, trying to stay calm.

Bryce snorted. "He almost did, but lucky for you Dad showed up."


"Yup, seems the fire inspector wasn't too happy having to duck out of the way of morons shoving each other and leaving equipment running and unmanned. Lucky for you that dad took him aside and convinced him to ignore the bullshit. He's coming back Monday so I suggest that you and Connor come to some sort of an agreement before this bullshit gets us shut down."

She sighed heavily as she ran her hands down her face. "I don't want to have to deal with Connor. Can't you do it?" she asked, knowing that she was whining and not really caring.

Bryce chuckled as he reached out and hooked his arm around her neck, pulling her tightly against his side as they headed for the stairs. "Relax, Rory. I don't think it will be that bad."

"But I hate him," she mumbled pathetically. "He makes my life a living hell."

"I know, but if it makes you feel any better, I think that you do a fair job of making his life a living hell, too."

Well, that was something, she thought as she carefully stepped over a missing step.

"At least you'll probably get a break for the next five months from all of his bullshit," Bryce said, sounding hopeful. "He'll be too busy with this project to give you a second thought."

"Oh, I'm sure I can make time for you," Connor drawled from the bottom of the stairs. Their gazes locked and in that moment she knew, just knew that there would never be a break from the daily bullshit. In fact, if that little wink he sent her way before he sauntered off was any indication, she could count on it getting worse and there wasn't a damn thing that she could do to stop it.

Chapter 8

Later that night.......

"Looks like he let the air out of your tires," Sean said, chuckling as he pulled up in front of Rory's house.

"That's not too bad," she mumbled, shooting glances around her dark property, wondering what else he had in store for her. At this point in their lives, letting air out of her tires was child's play and she knew, just knew, that he wasn't done. Oh no, not Connor, especially not since that look he shot her earlier told her as much.

That was fine, more than fine actually. She could handle anything he dished out and probably do worse. She no longer got nervous at the prospect of Connor settling a score, because she knew that he would at least make sure that he didn't do any permanent damage. That was something at least, she mused as she grabbed her lunch cooler and empty hot chocolate thermos.

"Are you going to need a ride in the morning," Sean asked, sounding amused.