Standing outside his door was Haley in a cute pair of cut off jean shorts and a tank top. Her hair was pulled back into a messy loose bun and some of the strands escaped and teased her nape. It didn’t hurt that those glasses of hers made her look like a sexy little bookworm.
She smiled sweetly. “I am so glad you’re here!” He couldn’t bite back the smile from that declaration. Maybe it was time to forgive her. It was pretty funny after all and those cookies were damn good, not to mention that smile she was giving him made him rather happy.
“Brad, do you think you could give me a hand? I could really use a man’s help for a few minutes.”
His jaw dropped. He could hear Brad trying to stifle his laughter.
“If you need a man, I’m right here!” he snapped.
Haley blinked and then blinked again. “Oh, sorry I didn’t think of you. I need a guy with muscle and you....” Her voice trailed off while she looked him over and then shrugged. “Well, you know,” she said innocently.
“Know what?” he demanded.
She ignored him and focused back on Brad. “Do you think you could give me a hand? I’m having company and I can’t get the barbeque out by myself. It’s kind of heavy.”
Brad chuckled as he came to the door. “Sure. I was on my way home, but I can give you a hand since there’s no one around here strong enough to help you,” he said, sounding amused with a twinkle in his eyes.
“The hell you will!” Jason said as he grabbed Haley’s arm and practically dragged her towards her house. She threw a wink over her shoulder to Brad, who was still laughing and shaking his head in disbelief.
Brad strolled to his car while Jason gave Haley a lecture on his manliness and something about her being a bad grasshopper, whatever the hell that meant. He looked back over in time to catch Jason giving Haley’s ass an appreciative look without breaking from his lecture. His buddy might not know it yet, but he met his match in that little lady. If any woman could bring Jason to his knees it was that woman.
“That’s not enough,” Jason scoffed as Haley tried to put away the package of frozen hamburger patties and hot dogs.
“There are only three of us. How much food do you think we need?” she asked as she tried to sidestep him to put the food away. Jason swiped the packages from her and took out more food.
“What the hell?”
He shrugged. “I’m hungry.”
“You’re not invited.”
“Since when do I need an invitation?” he asked as he doubled the amount of hot dogs on the plate.
“Three weeks and we already have a set history? For five years I contemplated manslaughter.”
He merely shrugged.
He smiled, making her knees tremble. Damn him.
“Tell me who's coming? It can’t be any of your friends because you wouldn’t care if I was here since they all think I’m a prick and you get a kick out of watching them bitch me out.”
She sighed. “It entertains me so.”
“As it should. I am a very entertaining guy,” he said with a smile as he snuck a forkful of the potato salad she made yesterday. She considered bringing it with her today, but she knew how well it would have been received and decided to leave it here.
“Damn, that’s good, woman,” he practically growled.
“I’m glad you like it,” she said casually, but in truth it was really nice to have someone to cook for occasionally. Her friends were constantly on diets and glared at her when she offered them cookies or other baked goods. It seemed Jason hadn't found a food he didn’t like. She really was surprised that he wasn’t fat.
“So, tell me why you stayed less than an hour at one barbeque only to come home to have one of your own? Food suck or something?” he asked while sneaking another bite of the salad before she returned it to the fridge. “Or was there a family smack down?”
“It’s complicated,” she finally said.
“What’s so complicated about a family barbeque?”
“Just drop it. My grandmother is coming here with her helper. Actually, she should be here by now, but knowing her she stopped at store to get all her favorites.”
His brows flew up. “Your grandmother’s coming here? I didn’t think any of your family ever came to visit you.”
She gave him a sly smile. “Been spying on me have you?”
“Not really. I just picked up on things. I’m an observant guy after all.”
“Well, my grandmother comes here several times a year. I usually invite her when I know you’ll be out of town.”
“Afraid I’ll embarrass you?” he asked teasingly.
“Nope. Afraid she might kill you.”
“Puhlease, she’ll love me. Every woman loves and wants me,” he said sincerely.
She chuckled softly. “I’m glad to see you’re so humble.”
“That I am,” he said as Haley began to load his arms up with plates of food to take out to the grill. “So, you mentioned inviting her down. I’m guessing you’re close to her.”
“I am. She raised me off and on until I was ten and then took over full time,” she said, opening the screen door for him. "Anyway, I decided to cut my visit to my parent's home short today."
“Because I told her to. That’s why,” a woman’s crisp voice said.
Jason looked up to see an old woman in a wheel chair being pushed towards them by a wiry man with thinning gray hair. By the look of the man he was Haley’s grandmother helper or caregiver.
“Are you my Haley’s boyfriend?” her grandmother demanded. Wow, she was a no nonsense woman. Just like Haley, once she was out of her shell of course.
Haley felt her face burn as she waited for the earth to open beneath her and drag her under. Prayed for it was more like it.
“No, Grandma, he’s not my boyfriend. He’s my friend from next door.”
Grandma’s eyes narrowed on Jason. Haley was about to tell her Grandmother to cut it out. That look had sent many friends and boyfriends running scared, but to her complete surprise Jason didn’t cower.
He reached over and shook her hand. “My name is Jason Bradford. I’m the neighbor from hell.”
Grandma’s lips twitched. She looked over at her companion. “Chris, be a dear and go get the items we picked up.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, leaving Grandma with them. He sent Haley a smile before he hurried away. No doubt he was expecting Grandma to tear into Jason. Hell, that’s exactly what she was waiting for.
“You also work with my granddaughter, Mr. Bradford. Isn’t that correct?”
Without asking Jason pushed Grandma carefully to the table and locked the chair. “Yup, I make her life a living hell there as well.”
“You sound proud,” Grandma noted.
Jason walked over to the grill and started placing the meat on the grill. “I am,” he said, smiling.
Grandma did something she’d only heard when it was just the two of them. She laughed. It was soft and musical and immediately brought memories of a happy childhood to her mind making her smile in return. Jason caught her eye and winked.
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