Tangled Vines Excerpt © Nicole Flockton 2015
Kyle’s stomach rumbled, reminding him it had been a long time since he’d eaten something. He glanced at the house and sighed. Maybe he could get her to leave after he’d sampled some of the food she’d prepared.
He followed the same path Jordan had taken moments ago. Of course, after succumbing to the call of his stomach and eating her food, getting her to leave would not be an easy task. He hated to admit it, he quite enjoyed sparring with her. It had been a long time since a woman had answered him back—if ever.
The smell of bacon, eggs and toast greeted him in the kitchen.
“Ah, so you decided to join me after all. Isn’t that nice.” Sarcasm dripped from her every word.
He shrugged a shoulder, as if she hadn’t won the battle of wills going on between them. “I’ve never been one to say no to food I haven’t had to cook. It tastes so much sweeter.”
“I bet your mother is really happy to hear you say that after she’s slaved over a meal for you.”
Images of his mum laughing as she cooked the Sunday family meal slashed him like barbs from razor wire. The way she would always drop a kiss on his head before she slapped his hand away from the morsel of food he attempted to steal.
One more chance. That’s all he wanted. One more chance to talk to her. To tell her he loved her. Tell her he was sorry.
“Are you okay?” Her fingers touched his back. Kyle shrugged them off. He didn’t want sympathy. Nor pity. He didn’t deserve it.
Words were impossible so he grunted in response and picked up a plate and helped himself to the food set out on the counter.
“No wonder you get on so well with my father. He struggles with conversation, too.”
Kyle ignored her and concentrated on eating. The repetitive motion of putting food in his mouth helped to keep away the thoughts of his last conversation with his mum and dad.
The aroma of rich, freshly brewed coffee teased his senses. He lifted his eyes from the diminishing pile of food and connected with sparkling green ones.
“You look like you need this,” she said quietly as she pushed the steaming mug toward him.
“”Just be careful you don’t spill it.” Jordan tilted her head toward his bare chest. “You wouldn’t want to burn yourself.”
Kyle rocked back on his chair. “You don’t need to worry about me. All you need to worry about is packing your bags and going back to your house instead of encroaching on mine.”
To his annoyance, Jordan sat down at the table opposite him. A part of him had to give the girl her due for standing up to him.
“Wish I could. But I can’t. I don’t have a house to go back to. I moved back here from South Australia just before Dad’s accident.”
His chair landed with a thump. “What do you mean you don’t have a house? Why aren’t you staying in Ted’s apartment?”
A harsh laugh erupted from her. For the first time since he’d encountered her naked body in the bathroom, bitterness and anger entered her eyes.
Jordan sighed, picked up her coffee cup and took a sip. “I’m sure your assistant Shey explained why I’m living here. She said it was okay when I spoke to her about it on Monday.”
He recalled Shey saying there was an issue down here, but he’d told her to deal with it—just so long as he wasn’t disturbed while he was in residence he didn’t care. Shey assured him she would handle it.
Now he wished he’d questioned her further. He had no plans to let Jordan know he didn’t know everything.
“Remind me.” His words came out as a command.
Jordan’s eyes narrowed at his tone. He waited for the tongue-lashing he was sure she wanted to lay on him.
“The hot water system in Dad’s apartment over the garage broke and flooded the whole place. The apartment now needs to be refurbished, starting with paint and carpet and new appliances. However, with Christmas almost upon us, the job is going to take twice as long to complete. This is why I’m staying here.”
Kyle bit back a groan. Why was this happening to him? All he wanted was to be alone at his house. Only now he had an unwanted visitor.
Hell, he’d pay for her to stay in a hotel. Anything. He’d do anything just to get her to leave.
“Look, Jordan, I need you out. I need my privacy. Go see John at the Margaret River Inn. He will hook you up with a room. Tell him to send me the bill.”
“I don’t need your money to go to a hotel, thank you very much. But bad news, buddy.” As Jordan lifted her cup of coffee again, Kyle knew he wasn’t going to like what she had to say. “It’s going to be near impossible to get any accommodation at any of the local hotels. It’s school holidays and it’s Christmas. Everything is going to be booked. Looks like you’re stuck with me.”
Kyle pushed his chair back. “This is unacceptable. This is my house, Jordan. You don’t have any right to be here. Regardless of the arrangement you’ve made with Shey.”
He held up his hand as she went to speak. “In the caretaker arrangement I have with your father, it’s extremely clear that every year your father is to vacate the property from the third Wednesday in December until the second Sunday in January. I appreciate you taking over your father’s position while he recuperates from his broken leg. But you are bound by the same contractual arrangement. Which means you shouldn’t be here.”
Kyle tamped down the annoyance building inside of him at the sight of the smile that broke out over Jordan’s face. He didn’t want to acknowledge the way his heart beat a little faster as the smile lit up her whole face. He needed to remain angry with her. It was the only way. He couldn’t afford any other emotion with her or anyone. He didn’t feel anymore. It was safer not to feel. Safer to go to work and come home to an empty house and no one waiting or relying on him.
“Well, I believe I may have a different employment contract than my father. There’s nothing in mine that mentions I have to vacate the caretaker’s apartment in December and January.”
The anger he fought seconds ago bubbled up inside of him. He grasped it with both hands.
“That’s easily fixed. You’re fired.”