Page 24

Her stomach rumbled approvingly at the thought of an oily peanut butter and olive dip smothered over dry brittle saltine crackers so she quickened her pace only to stop abruptly when she passed the open double doors of her living room. Knowing, hell, praying that she was wrong, she backtracked until she was in front of the open doorway. She took a deep, calming breath and slowly turned around until she was facing her living room.

"They cleaned you out," Connor said as he stared intently down at his computer screen, which was now on her oak coffee table with about a dozen files scattered around it.

"What the hell are you still doing here?" she demanded as she walked into the living room.


"I told you to get out," she reminded him as she crossed, well, tried to cross her arms over her chest, but her left arm apparently wasn't happy with that move. She settled for propping her hands on her h*ps and glaring down at him as he continued to ignore her.

"I did," he said.

"No, you didn't!"

With a heavy sigh, he sat back on the tan couch and finally looked at her. "You told me to get out and I did."

"No, you only left the bedroom," she pointed out, sounding a little irritated. "I told you to get out so you should have left the house."

"You didn't clarify that," he pointed out with a shrug.

"It was implied," she snapped.

"It really wasn't.

"Get out!"

"Sorry, can't do that," he said, shrugging.

"Why not?"

"Because I'm waiting for my food to be delivered and you and I have some work to do here since you decided to lounge around all day," he said, gesturing to the computer and the files before he flicked his hand lazily in her direction.

"I was not lounging around!"

"What do you call sleeping until one in the afternoon then?" he asked with a frown as he once again focused on his computer, clearly dismissing her.

"I call it being knocked out by painkillers, you jackass!" she snapped even as she desperately tried to reign her temper in, but it was always a difficult thing to do where Connor was concerned.

Her stomach wouldn't stop rumbling, her head was starting to pound and her damn arm was killing her. All she wanted to do was get something to eat, grab some aspirin and go back to bed, but she couldn't do that until her unwanted guest left. If he didn't get off her couch and get out of here soon she was going to-

"Come over here and sit down before you pass out," Connor said, concern coloring his tone as he stood up and gestured for her to sit down, taking her off guard.

"I'm fine," she said, casting a discreet look around the living room as she wondered what his game was. Connor O'Neil was not nice to her, never had been and as far as she knew, he never would be. So she obviously found this little act of concern a little unsettling.

"I need you conscious so that we can get some work done," he said on an exaggerated sigh as if that much should be obvious. While he took her elbow and led her to the couch, she guessed that maybe it should have been. The man wouldn't do anything unless it somehow benefitted him. Still........

Having Connor nice to her for any reason was unsettling so while he settled back on the couch next to her, she cast another look around the room, looking for hidden dangers. Maybe he was going to get rid of her once and for all so that he could have Strawberry Manor to himself, she thought.

"There's no poisonous spiders or snakes ready to leap out at you," Connor said, sounding amused as he handed her a bottle of aspirin. When she remembered a certain incident at summer camp when they were twelve and he laced her chocolate chip pancakes with laxatives she hesitated in taking the bottle from him.

With a sigh and a few muttered words about her being a big baby, he opened the bottle, popped two pills in his mouth and swallowed them dry as he handed her the bottle. Reluctantly, she took the bottle. When he handed her a bottle of water she glared at him and swallowed her pills dry as well.

"No trust," he said, shaking his head in disgust as he took the bottle from her and handed her a file.

"What's this?" she asked, opening the file and nearly groaned when she realized he'd handed her a spreadsheet. Since looking at numbers aggravated her eyes she shoved the file back at him and settled for bringing her knees up to her chest and hugging them while she laid her head against her arm.

She couldn't believe how badly her head hurt. It seemed with each passing moment that it became progressively worse. Between that, her arm and ribs, she really wasn't in the mood to deal with Connor's bullshit today. She suddenly felt tired, so tired. Hadn't she just slept all night and most of the day away, she wondered as she felt herself drift off, but she fought it with everything she had.

There was too much to do today. If she gave in and fell asleep then she'd have to deal with a ton of paperwork on top of all her other duties tomorrow and she simply didn't have the time or patience for that. She needed to stay awake, throw Connor out on his ass and get some work done.

"Shhh, go to sleep, Rory," Connor said soothingly as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer, but she resisted until she was too tired to fight. Then with a soft sigh, she allowed him to pull her close. Once her head rested on his chest she found that she didn't want to fight it any longer. He felt too good to push away and oddly enough she felt safe in his arms. That should have frightened her, but she was too tired to do anything more than curl up against him.

"I always knew that you wanted me," Connor said, sounding smug so of course she called up her last reserve of energy and did what any woman in her position would do.

"Ow! Leave my ni**les alone, woman!" he snapped and she fully expected him to push her away. Instead, he pulled her closer, mumbling something about rules and ni**les as she fell asleep.

Chapter 12

"No," Rory said as she snatched the slice of mushroom and meatball pizza right out of his hand.

"What the hell do you mean by 'no'?" he demanded, snatching back his slice of pizza. He took a huge bite out of it, making his claim on the slice, but of course the damn woman snatched it right back and took a bite out of his pizza. If that wasn't bad enough, she washed it down with his Coke.

"I don't think that's going to work," Rory said, gesturing to his laptop's computer screen with his slice of pizza.

Glaring, he snatched it out of her hand and took a huge bite out of it as he pointed at the design he came up with while she’d slept. He still didn't know what he'd been thinking. He should have just sent it to McGill without showing it to her, but he needed her co-operation. If he was going to keep her under his thumb then he had to play nice, or at the very least pretend.

"What about the generator?" she asked, stealing the pizza crust out of his hand and nibbled on it as she gestured to the blueprint he designed earlier while she'd slept. Well, he did that and of course he had a look around.

He just couldn't resist. Not that he tried to resist all that hard. For years he'd been dying to know what her house looked like and when she conked out and he really had to use the bathroom after a few hours of holding her in his arms he may have taken a detour and explored her house.

The master bathroom had been a bit of a shock. It was a rather pleasant surprise after all these years to discover that there was a secret side to Rory, a very feminine side. Instead of having a straightforward bathroom that met minimal needs like his bathroom, a guy's bathroom, Rory's was without question a woman's dream bathroom.

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