Spend the next 40 years in prison or break her lease early?
Normally she’d be able to say that this one was a no-brainer, but things have definitely changed since she was forced to move in across the hall from Danny Bradford.
A lot of things……
She wanted to get through one day, just ONE day without Danny Bradford doing something to test the limits to her control, but with that damn smile of his and his habit of leaving her contemplating manslaughter, she didn’t see that happening anytime soon.
He loved his family, but some days…….
It was too much, but that was okay, because his small neighbor living across the hallway provided him with endless hours of entertainment. Not on purpose of course, but did it really matter as long she made him smile?
“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.
It was at that point that she realized that she needed to either move or find a good defense attorney. Sadly, with the current state of her finances a good defense attorney was out of the question and so was moving, she’d realized. She couldn’t afford to break her lease early and she didn’t have enough money to cover the first and last month’s rent for a new apartment.
Since she didn’t have many options available to her at the moment, she decided to try and talk her way out of her lease. Actually, she’d been hoping to have this conversation with Zoe, because she was pretty easy going and probably would have let her out of her lease without a fight. If Trevor hadn’t overheard their phone conversation an hour ago, she was pretty sure that she’d already be looking at other apartments.
Unfortunately for her, he did overhear it.
He scrubbed his hands down his face as he muttered, “I’m going to kill that fucking bastard.”
“If you do that I’d be willing to stay,” she pointed out helpfully.
He chuckled as he leaned back in his chair and she did her best not to cringe when the chair creaked in protest, again. “I like you, Jodi. You’re never late with the rent. You keep your apartment clean and you don’t cause trouble, but I can’t let you out of your lease.”
“Why?” she asked, her shoulders slumping in defeat.
“Because if you move out, my wife will just move another one of my asshole cousins in here,” he said with a heavy sigh.
“Well, they couldn’t be any worse than Danny. So-”
“Believe me, they are,” he said, cutting her off as he sat up, causing the chair to creak ominously with the movement. “What if I reduced your rent by a hundred bucks a month?”
“To stay?” she asked, tempted to say yes and give in.
She didn’t have much money in the bank and even though she actually did make a decent salary, she didn’t have much money at the end of the month once the bills were paid. Fifteen thousand dollars in debt had been her ex-fiancé’s parting gift for her, one that she couldn’t seem to return, and she desperately wanted to return that lovely gift. She’d been foolish when she’d agreed to open a credit card account in her name for him, and even more foolish for giving him access to her bank account, which he’d drained, legally according to the police department, mere hours before he broke the news publically to her that he couldn’t force himself to marry her.
“Two hundred?” he offered, sounding a little desperate.
“Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to let me out of my lease?” she asked, struggling with the urge to say yes and make things a little less financially tight for a while even if it meant putting up with Danny Bradford for ten more months.
“Three hundred bucks,” he said, not asked, she noted.
“Three hundred dollars?” she repeated, sure that she’d misheard him.
“Deal,” Trevor said with a firm nod as he stood up and headed for the door, leaving her sitting there struggling to figure out what just happened.
“Wait, what deal?” she asked, scrambling to get out of the chair and rush to the door and block it before he could make his escape, but sadly, her short legs just couldn’t manage it.
Trevor had the door open and was halfway down the hallway before she managed to catch up with him, well, get within ten feet of him anyway. “Wait!” she said, hoping that he’d stop long enough so that she could figure out what just happened.
With a sheepish smile, he did, but her relief was short lived as he walked towards her and then kept walking. Before she could ask him what he was doing, he was pounding on Danny’s door. Seconds later, and unfortunately before she could make it back to her apartment, Danny, wearing only jeans and looking fresh out of the shower with damp hair, a towel around his shoulders and his large muscles glistening beneath the hallway light, opened the door.
Having a really bad feeling about what was coming, Jodi took a step back, hoping to get to her apartment before-
“Ow!” Danny said, rubbing the top of his head. “What the hell was that for?” he demanded. His glare shifted away from his cousin and landed on her just as she’d reached her door and was about to sneak inside her apartment, where she planned on hiding until it was time to go to work in sixteen hours.
“Stop being an asshole,” Trevor said with a satisfied grunt before he turned around and headed for the exit only to pause and throw over his shoulder, “You still coming to dinner?”
Danny’s eyes never left her as he answered, “Yeah, what time?”
“Six,” Trevor said, continuing towards the door and leaving her to deal with his asshole cousin. “Bring dessert!”
Danny didn’t respond and Trevor didn’t wait for him to as he opened the door and stepped outside, leaving Jodi in a rather awkward position.
“Tattled on me again?” Danny asked in that deep voice that made her toes tingle.
It also reminded her of just how much she hated him.
Because of him she hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep all night. Now she was tired, cranky, admittedly bitchy, and had to work on re-writing a proposal for the library renovation that had taken her a month, in fourteen hours and without pay. All because the Town Council didn’t feel that the first proposal properly conveyed the importance of the library and its staff, meaning that she had to figure out a way to bring the budget for library renovations down by ten grand or start looking for a new job when they were forced to close the library.
“For your information,” she bit out, taking a step towards him and pretending that he didn’t have more than a foot on her as she glared up at him, “I was asking to get out of my lease. Not that it’s any of your business.”
For some reason that seemed to amuse him, because his scowl was instantly replaced by that smug grin of his that her palm was itching to slap off his face. “Trying to run away from your feelings for me, Tink?” he asked, bringing her rage to a whole new level.
“Did….,” she started to say, only to force herself to take a deep breath before she did something that would involve that defense attorney that she’d already decided she couldn’t afford. “Did you just call me Tink?” she asked with barely suppressed rage.
Oblivious to how close he was to certain death, Danny merely shrugged as he grabbed the towel from around his shoulders and dried his face and chest. “Mmmhmm.”
“That’s not my name,” she bit out, her eyes narrowing on that towel as she thought of a whole new way to get rid of the bastard.
“Well,” he said, pausing to rub the towel against the back of his head, “it really should be.”
“It’s not,” she snapped, knowing that if he called her Tink one more time that she would-
“As much as I’d love to stand here and chat with you, Tinkerbelle, I have somewhere to be,” he said with a wink as he shut the door, leaving her standing there, seething with rage and making her wonder how she was going to get through the next ten months without killing him.