This is an excerpt from Historically Yours, the second book in Jessica Degarmo’s Johns Creek Second Chances series. The Storm Within, the first in the series, is available now, and the second will be published later this year by Taylor Street Publishing.
On impulse, Chloe stopped by the grocery store and picked up a little pound cake to take to her irascible neighbor. She had no idea if it would work, but it was worth a try. The way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, right? And sometimes, being nice worked much better than being rude. He couldn’t hate her if she didn’t give him a reason to, could he? A small piece of her subconscious demanded to know why she couldn’t just avoid him, but she chose not to answer it, not because she didn’t know, she assured herself, but because she was just being neighborly, and there was nothing wrong with that.
She peeked into his office window and saw him bowed over his desk, seemingly concentrating on some invoices. She knocked on his office door and waited for the maelstrom. The door opened and Chase scowled when he saw here there. “What the hell do you want? One tongue-lashing a day isn’t good enough for you?” he growled, glaring at her.
“Nope. You could say I’m glutton for punishment. I brought you something. Sorry I didn’t bake it, but I’ve been a little busy in my kitchen. It’s not quite ready for culinary works of art yet,” she informed him.
“You can take your cake and go right back where you came from.”
“That’s not very neighborly of you, neighbor,” she said with a grin.
“Yeah, well, if I had my way, we wouldn’t be neighbors.”
“You know, you’re very cranky.”
A chuckle shot out of his mouth before he could control it.
“You’re the first person who’s said that,” he admitted.
“Hmm, so everyone else just thought it, then?” she returned, the picture of innocence.
“No, no one winds me up the way you do.”
“So, what does that tell you?” she asked pointedly.
“I still don’t want your cake or your company, Chloe,” he said firmly.
“Well, at least we’re on a first-name basis.”
“Why do you insist on harassing me?” he asked as a pained expression crossed his face.
“I was minding my own business that day when you barged into my house, remember? And again today at the library?” she asked teasingly, no trace of anger in her voice.
“I plead the Fifth.”
“Not going to help you. I have witnesses, you know.”
“Oh, yeah? Who?” he asked, mystified despite himself.
“About four hundred spiders, mice and dust bunnies, and all the wildlife that inhabits Front Street.”
He struggled to maintain a straight face. “Unreliable at best. They’re horrible on the witness stand.”
“I’m willing to take my chances. So, truce?” she asked, holding out the pound cake.
“Why do you want a truce?”
“Because I don’t like fighting, and I’m actually quite nice once you get to know me. Plus, I’ve had enough turmoil and drama to last me a lifetime, and I was hoping my new life here would be peaceful.” She smiled up at him beguilingly.
But it appeared he wasn’t going to let her off the hook so easily. He retorted, “So, you never told me why you decided to rope my brother into helping you.”
She sighed, the long-suffering sigh of someone used to dealing with idiots on a regular basis. “He came to me and offered to help. At this point, I’ll take all the help I can get. I’m all alone here, Chase, and I need help. I understand my being here isn’t convenient or pleasant for you, and I’m sorry for that. But I’m here to stay, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop harassing me.”
His scowl deepened. “Listen, I’m sorry for your trouble, I really am, but where the hell else am I supposed to put my parking lot? The one I have is way too small for the store, and the townsfolk are complaining about the on-street parking. I need your lot to expand. I’m sorry if I can’t roll out the welcome mat for you. You’re in my way.”
“No, Chase. You’re in your own way. There’s always a solution, if you’re willing to look. And by the way, I don’t care if our ancestors fought like cats and dogs. That was the past, and this is the present. Let’s let bygones be bygones, shall we? I’ll stay out of your way, but you can’t keep giving me a hard time, alright? Enjoy the cake.”
She walked away and left him there holding her offering.
Next week, R.C. Bonitz is presenting some more flash fiction!