~ Love Thy Neighbour ~
by Kelly Aten

Disclaimer: This story is an Uber romance with a little action. The characters of Chris and Cory may bear a slight resemblance to certain characters found on a show that is copyrighted by MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. I'm not trying to make any money here; I'm just a newbie bard trying to entertain a mass of ravenous fans. As far as I know, all my characters are original and are copyright Kelly Aten. I don't want anyone out there trying to sell this story or profiting from it in any way. (If I can't, you can't!) I don't mind if you copy if for your own private use or post it on a site but please be sure the disclaimers are included.

Violence Warning: There is some violence and bodily injury. Nothing you haven't seen on TV

Language: Fairly mild. Again, nothing you haven't seen on TV.

Sex: This is a romantic story featuring two women. There is some sex involved but it's not too graphic. Don't read it if this will offend or if it is illegal where you live!

Underage Warning: Just to cover my butt, you should probably be eighteen to read this. All you kids out there know who I'm talking about so scat!

Personal Note: Once again, I would like to thank Helen for being my beta reader. She always points me in the right direction when I seem to be going astray. Her help and support have made me confident enough to continue with my writing efforts. This is dedicated to my first real e-pal and friend. Thanks Helen.

Part 1

Moving Day

I'll never forget the first time I ever saw Cory. It was a beautiful late summer morning and I was busy moving out of my cousin's house and into my new upstairs apartment. I'd been staying with her since I split with my psychotic ex-girlfriend. Shannon was my cousin and best friend and she had offered the use of her spare room until I could find a place of my own.

It was 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning and I was already sweating my ass off. I remember thinking "There's something wrong with this picture" mainly because I usually tried not to do any real work on the weekends. I had finished loading the rest of my things onto my truck that morning before heading over to the real estate office to sign my lease agreement and pick up my keys. I'd been busy for the last hour at my new apartment unloading and I'd barely made a dent in the payload. Of course, some of the problem could have been the little blonde that was sitting in the grass outside the large old house. She was sitting under a big maple tree with her cheek resting against her up-drawn knees. Her eyes were closed and the early morning sun was shining through the leaves, reflecting off the red highlights in her short blonde hair. She was so utterly beautiful that I think my heart actually stopped for a second. With each trip back to the truck I found my eyes drawn to the petite woman and it was becoming difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.

She sat there quietly for so long that I thought she might have fallen asleep. When I glanced at the truck and saw that a quarter of the unloading was done I decided to take a break; after all, I had no one to answer to but myself. Besides, I was already feeling ornery because I was missing my cartoons; everyone should be able to watch their Saturday morning cartoons. As I sat on the tailgate sipping from a bottle of water, I watched her out of the corner of my eye. I wanted to talk to her, to get to know her but as unbelievable as it sounds, I was too shy. I have never been one to strike up conversations with complete strangers, especially beautiful ones. Oh, some people might say I was pretty good looking myself, with my long dark hair and blue eyes but I think my height intimidates most people; striking would be the word that probably describes me the best. You see I've been 5'11 since the eleventh grade and I've heard every tall joke there possibly is. If I weren't such a pacifist there would have been a lot of people with my knuckle prints on their faces. I can't help it if I'm all bark and no bite.

So anyway, there's this gorgeous woman, who I'm guessing is my downstairs neighbor, sitting only a short distance away and I can't even work up the nerve to introduce myself. Suddenly her eyes popped open and I was struck dumb. Ok, dumber. A few feet away from me were the greenest eyes I have ever seen, gazing straight into my soul.

"Hi" She said.

"Hi" I returned. See, I told you I'm not much for conversation, but then again, I was still partially frozen from gazing into her amazing eyes.

She slowly stood up and brushed off the seat of her jeans then stretched her arms far above her body. It took all my control not to start hyperventilating. Not only was she beautiful, but her petite little body was pretty ripped. Her short tank top rose just enough to give me a good view of some very tight abs. Don't get me wrong, she was definitely all woman, but you could tell she was in great shape. I let my eyes wander down her body while she wasn't looking, taking in her luscious curves. I barely got myself back under control when she walked over and held her hand out to me. I swallowed hard; man that was close, I was almost busted.

She smiled and said, "My name's Cory Pierce; you must be my new upstairs neighbor."

I smiled back and shook her hand. "Chris Johnson. Yeah, I just signed a year lease at the agency before I came over here." For some reason I didn't want to lose her company so I racked my brain trying to think of things to ask her. Fortunately she beat me to it.

"So, are you from around here?" She asked as she resumed her seat in the grass.

I sat back on my tailgate and said, "Yeah. I just moved from my cousin's house across town. I've actually been looking for a place for a few months and this is the first one that has become available." I took another sip of my water and nodded towards the apartment house. " What about you; have you lived here long?"

She nodded, "Yeah, I've lived here for almost ten years now."

I wasn't quite sure what to make of that statement. I mean, she didn't look any older than twenty-five. A very sweet looking twenty-five I might add. Something inside me was driving me to know more so I kept up the questions. "So? uh, is this a pretty quiet neighborhood?" Yeah, I know, I warned you I wasn't much of a conversationalist.

She chuckled, "Well, other than Saturday nights at the fraternity house on the end of the block, yes it is. All in all, it's a pretty nice area." She tilted her head to the side "Would you like some help unloading your truck, you've been out here for a few hours and you still have quite a bit left. It would go much faster with four hands instead of two."

I pretended to be hesitant while inside I was humming with excitement. I couldn't explain why, but I really wanted her to stick around. What is it about this woman that has me so fascinated? I haven't been this attracted to someone since? ugh, don't even go there! She's the last person I want to think about right now. "Are you sure? I mean, I don't want to impose. You looked so peaceful earlier, I'm sorry I disturbed you."

When she smiled back at me sweetly I knew I was hooked. "It's no imposition. I only come out here in the mornings because people are usually still sleeping or already gone to work. I like to sit in the grass and absorb the tranquility."

I couldn't help but tease a little. "Tranquility, in the middle of town?"

She just nodded her head. "I learned a long time ago to block out the noise of everyday living. I like to watch the sun come up and sometimes I stay out here and meditate for a while."

I was impressed. "Wow, that's amazing. I wish I could do that; it would really help on the nights I can't sleep."

"Well since we're going to be neighbors maybe I can show you sometime. It's only a simple matter of focus and concentration." She smiled, "It would be no problem to show you the basics. Besides, you might need it on the nights the frat house has their parties."

When I looked at her to gauge her sincerity I was once again caught in her gaze and was helpless to refuse either of her offers. "Sure, I'd like that. And yes, I think I could really use the help unloading. Maybe with your help getting it inside I'll have time to put it all away tonight."

I had the upstairs of a large house that had been built around the turn of the century and later renovated into two apartments. Many of the city's historical houses had undergone the same renovations to accommodate the enormous influx of students coming in every fall. The local University provided a large source of revenue for the community; you just had to put up with the occasional college party. Lucky for me the apartment was furnished; the only things I had that would be considered furniture were my desk and bookshelves. My books were my babies; I had over five hundred assorted paperbacks and hard covers. Yes, reading was my main passion and it showed; there was no way I would move anywhere without them. I suddenly looked up at all the boxes of books sitting in the back of the truck and felt a little guilty. It was going to be a lot of work, probably more than she expected since she didn't even know what we were going to be hauling up the stairs. "Um... are you sure you want to do this? These boxes are pretty heavy; more than likely you're going to regret helping me lug them up all the stairs."

She looked at me with twinkling eyes. "I don't think it's going to be a problem. I could probably out lift you in the gym any day."

I stared at her then grinned, "Well that's probably true, especially since I don't lift weights."

Cory blushed, "Yeah, well it's no problem really. I wouldn't have offered if I didn't think I could do it." She laughed and winked at me. "Let's just say I work out a lot and leave it at that."

I laughed along with her. "Sure, and thanks again for the help." Suddenly the perfect opportunity popped into my head. "Hey, why don't you let me buy you dinner tonight for helping me? It's the least I can do in return for your muscle and sweat, and believe me; you're going to sweat. Most of these boxes are full of books."

The little blonde groaned, "Now you tell me!" She glanced at the four six-foot bookshelves standing near the cab." I should have known it was going to be work when I saw the bookshelves. That'll teach me to open my big mouth."

I couldn't help but laugh; the woman was too much fun. "So, is dinner going to be enough of a repayment for helping me?" The gorgeous blonde sitting in the grass got an irresistible twinkle in her eye. I was momentarily lost and almost missed her reply. She had the cutest blush on her face when she answered my question.

"Well, you've never seen me eat." She chuckled ruefully. "I might end up owing you a favor if you're buying me dinner."

Hmm, I could think of a few favors she could owe me? stop it woman! You're so bad. But damn, I haven't even been here a whole day yet and I've already got a dinner date with a beautiful woman. Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. So what if she's my neighbor, and most likely straight, a girl's got to dream, right? I couldn't help the little happy dance my insides were doing as I grinned at her. "I'm sure we can think of a good favor if you clean out my bank account on dinner."

She laughed as she stood back up. While once again dusting off those tight little jeans she said, "I can tell you're going to be a lot of fun to have living upstairs. Not like the last guy, I think he was a few fries short of a Happy Meal if you know what I'm saying."

Now I had to laugh; where does she come up with this stuff? Not having anything more to say, I hopped into the back of the truck and started moving the bookcases to the edge of the tailgate. She came over grinning as she started to help me. "The sooner we get this puppy unloaded the sooner I get my dinner." I just laughed again and shook my head.

Four hours later found my apartment a partial mess but at least the truck was empty. We were both sitting on my tailgate drinking ice-cold bottles of water that I'd retrieved from a cooler in the cab. I looked down at my watch. "It's a little after four o'clock now, how about we both grab showers and meet in a an hour."

She looked down at herself. "What, you won't take me to dinner looking like this?"

I just looked at her. We were both covered with dirt and sweat not to mention the fact that we probably both stank worse than a pair of teenage tennis shoes. "Take you to dinner? I won't even let you in my truck looking like that. And although I'm not sitting close enough to tell, by the looks of you, you probably smell as bad as I do."

She laughed, low and musical. "Yeah, well you didn't mention the fact that most of those books were hard covers. And besides, we got a lot of your stuff put away, I saved you some time tonight."

She had a point, and she did seem to handle those boxes of books pretty well. Did I mention earlier that the girl has got some muscle on her? So sue me, I was watching a little while we were moving my stuff. "I really do appreciate the help. It would have taken me all weekend to do what we did today. Just to show how grateful I am I'll let you pick where we go for dinner, how does that sound?"

She got that, now familiar, twinkle in her eye and all she said was, "Steakhouse, prime rib."

I had to hold back a groan. She's not exactly a cheap date, is she?

The Dinner

"So, what do you do?" I asked the little blonde seated in front of me who was half way through a sixteen-ounce prime rib dinner.

She swallowed and licked her lips before answering. Did I mention she has highly kissable lips? "I'm a kickboxing instructor down at the gym. I also, occasionally, teach classes in self defense at the college and the community center."

No wonder she was ripped. "Wow, no wonder you look so good." Oh shit, did I just say that out loud? "Um, I mean, you're in great shape." I knew my face was red but I tried to ignore it. "I guess you weren't kidding when you said you worked out a lot." She just laughed at me, I think it was because of the blush that had taken up permanent residence on my, normally tan, face. I didn't mind it though. I loved the way she laughed and I knew that I would willingly suffer the embarrassment to hear it again.

Her eyes twinkled and she winked at me. "Yeah well, when you're my size you need any advantage you can get. In competition, size, muscle and speed can make all the difference. Since I fall a little short, literally, in the one category I try to make myself as fast and strong as possible."

I nodded stupidly and said, "Makes sense." I was finding it hard to think after she winked at me. Something about the thought of this beautiful little dynamo participating in such an aggressive sport really?turned me on. Yeah, that was definitely the feeling. I started when I realized that she was talking to me. For the second time that day I was lost in my lustful musings and didn't quite catch what she was saying. "Uh, what was that again? I just zoned out for a second and didn't hear you." Great, now she was going to think I was a flake.

She chuckled and shook her head. Meanwhile I wrinkled my forehead, was she laughing at me again? I was pulled away from my mental indignity when she repeated her question.

"So what is it that you do?" Did I mention that she was almost finished with her meal by now and kept glancing at the desert menu? Jesus, where the hell does the woman put it?

I took a drink of my Coke before answering. "I'm a supervisor at CirTech. I've worked there for the last eight years."

Once again swallowing she said, "They make circuit boards there don't they?"

"Yeah, we're one of the major manufacturers for this region." I smiled, "It's not an exciting job but the pay and benefits are good and so are the people." I looked over at her empty plate. "So, what's for desert?"

Have I mentioned how beautiful her eyes were yet? Well they positively lit up at the mention of desert. I had to shake my head in amazement at her never-ending appetite. Hmm? I wonder if that extends to all arenas? I mentally kicked myself and thought about baby bunnies until my lustful urges cooled. Neither one of us could really decide what to get so in the end she ordered the apple pie a la mode and I ordered the cherry cheesecake and we proceeded to split them between us.

When we got back to the house she invited me in to watch a movie on cable. I had told her earlier that I didn't have an antennae for my TV and she informed me that I wouldn't get any channels in without buying one or ordering cable for myself. I thought for a second, let's see, putting stuff away until all hours of the night or sitting down here with Cory and watching a movie. Yeah right, like it's a hard choice! Anyways, an hour later, we were sitting on the couch with sodas and popcorn watching GI Jane. Yeah, I know, she was eating again. We would occasionally comment on the movie and we even shared a few laughs. I pointed out how fit Demi Moore was and she enthusiastically agreed. Nodding her head she said, "Hair or no hair, that woman's got it going on." Yup, my insides just did that happy dance again. However, I was still on the cautious side.

I looked over at her and said, "Yeah, she seems to be everyone's dream girl." Still looking at her, I cocked my head to the side. "I don't know though, I think you've got at least as much going as she does. And you're a little more muscular." I waved my hand at the TV "I think you could probably do all that yourself."

She looked at me with that twinkle in her eye and winked again. "Yup, I think you're right!"

I stared at her for a minute before breaking into a grin. Why that cocky little shit! At least I was pretty sure now that we were playing on the same team. I threw the couch pillow at her and snorted. "You're pretty sure of yourself aren't yah, little missy."

She caught the pillow easily and gave me an evil little grin. "Yup I am, and with good reason too!" When she cocked her arm back, aiming the pillow in my direction I knew I was in trouble.

"Uh, heh, heh, I was just kidding. You don't really want to do that, do you?" In desperation I grabbed my soda can, hoping she wouldn't notice that it was empty, and scrambled around the couch. "Uh, you wouldn't want to make me spill this, would you?"

She just kept that grin on her face and continued advancing. I plastered the sweetest, most innocent smile on my face and held up the can.

She chuckled, "Chris? I know it's empty."

Oh shit! I swallowed and shut my eyes, preparing for the soft projectile. I waited for a full minute and still no pillow. When I cautiously cracked open one eye, I felt my knees go weak and my breath catch. She was standing right in front of me. Not a few feet away mind you, but standing so close I could smell her. She had the strangest look in her eyes and I was instantly hit with a wave of arousal when she licked her lips and leaned towards me. Was she going to kiss me? Part of me was thrilled at the idea but the other part, the practical one, questioned whether I should be doing this with someone I've only known a day and who is my neighbor to boot. So I guess I didn't know whether to feel relief or disappointment when she leaned in close and said in a husky voice, "Heh, heh, paybacks are a bitch!" before whacking me on the head with the pillow and walking into the kitchen.

A few hours later found us sitting on the couch with the TV off while music was playing softly on the stereo. After the movie had finished we spent most of our time talking about our jobs and different interests. We found out that we had similar tastes in movies and music. She admitted that she wasn't much of a book reader; she preferred the more physical activities. When she said this she winked at me and I, once again, found myself thinking about bunnies. The more we talked, the more I trusted her. One thing led to another and I ended up telling her about my ex-girlfriend.

We were both sitting Indian-style facing each other from opposite ends of the couch when she asked why I moved out of my cousin's house.

I answered a tad nervously. "Well I was only staying there temporarily. She really didn't have enough room for me."

Curious green eyes looked into mine. "Oh?"

I swallowed. Just bite the bullet and get it over with. "Yeah, I just broke up with my psycho ex-girlfriend a few months ago. Shannon let me stay with her until I could find a place of my own."

She didn't react in any way to the news except to look thoughtful. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Um, sure go ahead."

"I probably don't want to know, but why do you call her psycho?"

I looked at her and grimaced. "Because she is! I mean, she was nice for the first few months we were together but then she changed. She got really jealous and possessive and she would have huge mood swings all the time. One minute she would be snuggling with me talking about her day and the next minute she was coming at me with a butcher knife. This went on for a few months before I finally confronted her on it. I told her that if things didn't change I was leaving." I laughed and shook my head. "She said I didn't have the balls to leave her and if I ever did, she would find me and bring me back. Can you believe the nerve of that woman?" When I looked over at Cory her expression was unreadable. I was a little scared that I had frightened her away with the story of my screwed up love life. I thought I had better break the silence so I said, "What's that look for?"

She looked at me seriously, "She actually came at you with a knife?" When I nodded she added, "More than once?"

I just nodded again. She was starting to scare me a little; her green eyes had turned hard with anger. "Um, Cory, don't worry about it. She was just crazy, you know? I don't even think about it anymore."

Green eyes bored straight into my blue ones. "Did she hurt you?"

I knew I couldn't lie to her, not when she was looking at me like that. I could only swallow and nod. "Yeah, a few times I had to get stitches."

I was caught off guard when she stood up abruptly. "What's her address?"

Huh, why in the world would she want her addr? oh no! I'm going to have to stop this. I decided to play dumb. "Uh, why?" I can't believe this woman that I'd only known a day was furious over what had happened to me.

She was pacing in front of the couch when she growled low in her throat, "Because, I'm going to go over there and kick her ass!"

How sweet! Okay, it's time to calm her down; I don't want any blood spilled on my watch. I stood and walked over to her and grabbed her hands. This stopped the pacing but I could still feel the tension radiating off her body. I looked straight into those gorgeous green eyes. "Cor you have to stop. I'm flattered that you want to protect me but I haven't seen her in over two months. She was just all talk, I'm sure she's probably found someone else by now."

Solemn eyes looked up at me. "Chris, if she hurt you she wasn't all talk. Someone should teach her a lesson, give her a little of her own medicine."

I squeezed her hands and tugged her back over to the couch. "Someone should and someone will but not you, ok? Please let it go, for me?"

She looked me in the eye then down at our hands and said quietly, "Alright, I'll let it go for you." When she looked back up at me I couldn't quite read her expression, I think it may have been honest worry and compassion. "I just hate to see any kind of abuse. I hate knowing that a friend has been hurt and I consider us friends."

I smiled at her as my heart did a little flip flop. "Yeah, I consider us friends too." I leaned over and gave her a quick hug, thoroughly embarrassing her.

With the cutest blush on her face she asked, "What was that for?"

I laughed, "For caring and for becoming a good friend as well as a good neighbor even though we've only know each other for a day." I gave her my sincerest smile. "Thanks Cor, it was really sweet of you to want to defend me."

She snorted making the mood a bit lighter. "Someone has to. I swear, for someone as tall as you are, you'd think you wouldn't be so much of a wuss."

"Hey" I said indignantly while grabbing the offending pillow from earlier and swatting her with it. "I'm not a wuss, just a pacifist. Just because I don't express myself physically doesn't mean I can't!"

She got that mischievous look in her eyes and said, "Oh, I'm sure you can." Dammit! There was that wink again. Someday soon I'm going to wipe that cocky little smile right off her face. When I glanced at the clock on her VCR and saw how late it was I instinctively had to stifle a yawn.

"Thanks a lot for helping me move Cory and thanks for making me feel welcome. I had fun today and it really means a lot to me that I made a new friend. Any time you need help with something just let me know. Right now I'm dead on my feet and I've got a lot to do tomorrow if I want to be ready to go back to work on Monday."

She smiled and walked with me to the door. "No problem, I didn't mind helping out at all. I hope you like your new apartment and if you need anything else just knock on the door. That's what friends are for, right?"

Yeah, yeah, call me a happy schmuck but she was so sweet! "Yup, that's what friends are for." Before I opened up the door I turned one last time and said, "I really mean it, thanks Cor."

She just grinned and winked at me before I stepped outside.

When I got up to my apartment I cleared a space on the couch and sat down with my feet propped up on a few boxes. I let out a long sigh and ran my hands through my hair. The more I thought about my neighbor, the more I knew I really liked her. She's cocky and charming but also sweet and funny. I don't like labels but even if I did, I couldn't put one on her. She's just?Cory. I drifted off to sleep that night still thinking about my little green-eyed neighbor.

A day at work

By the time Monday morning rolled around I had finished putting away most of my stuff. I wasn't looking forward to going to work but hey, who does? Things were business as usual with people not showing up and orders not getting filled. I was sitting at my desk eating my lunch when I was called to the main office. I really hate being called anywhere when I'm on a break and I especially hate to have my lunch interrupted. I considered ignoring the page but after the fourth one I finally gave in and headed up front. When I got there, I was surprised to say the least. It seems someone had sent me flowers. I had a brief thought that maybe they were from Cory but then cursed myself mentally for such a stupid idea. Like she would send me flowers! Well the secretaries wasted no time in trying to pry the senders name from me. I suspect the only reason they didn't know before I got there is because the card was sealed. Can you say nosey?

Sheila, the whiney blonde was the first to ask. "Hey Chris, who's your secret admirer?"

I just narrowed my eyes at her. "I'm surprised you didn't just open the envelope and find out for yourself."

Jane, the other secretary, laughed hysterically at my comment. I don't know what she thought was so funny; she's just as bad. Well, I better just open the damn thing; the suspense was starting to kill me too. Besides, I wanted to get out of the office before I hurt someone. It was bad enough that it was a Monday but now I have to feel stupid with these flowers sitting on my desk for the rest of the day. When I opened the card and read it, I felt all the blood drain from my face then just as quickly I got mad. They were from Terri, my ex girlfriend.

"Sooo?. who are they from?" Said the annoying blonde at the desk.

"Yeah, whoever it is, you sure don't look happy about it." Said the equally annoying redhead next to her. God, I think I had one nerve left and they were both getting on it.

I just glared at them both and dumped the flowers in the trash on my way out the door. Just what the hell was that woman up to? I glanced back at the card when I got to my desk.


I've really missed you baby. I'm so sorry for the way I acted but you just drive me crazy sometimes. I can't stand the thought of you with someone else; you have to come back to me. I promise things will be better; you just need to learn that sometimes I just can't help myself. If you didn't make me so mad, I would never hurt you. If you come back to me I'll try not to hurt you anymore, if you don't I'll just have to track you down. I know you moved out of your cousin's house. The little bitch wouldn't tell me where you moved to though. But sweetie, just come back to me and we can make it work. It's just not the same here without you. Call me when you're done reading this, that way I'll know how much you love me.



Jesus, what a freak! She's deranged if she thinks I'd come within a hundred yards of her psycho ass. I still had the scars on my arm from that last incident. It's a good thing Cory didn't see that when she was helping me move. Hmm? It was really sweet that she got so protective of me. I'd never had someone want to beat the shit out of an ex for me. Well, once I'd made the decision to ignore the flowers I headed back to work.

It was only a few hours later when I got paged to the office again. I just hate this place sometimes. When I got to the office I had an unexpected visitor and I wasn't happy about it. "What are you doing here?" Of course, the secretaries were all ears so I herded Terri towards the door in the hopes of getting rid of her.

Once outside she latched onto me like a leach. What did I ever see in her anyways? I pushed her away and growled, "Keep your hands to yourself! Now tell me what you're doing here and make it fast; I have to get back to work"

She didn't look too happy about being pushed away but answered me anyways. "You never called me so I thought I'd stop by and see if you got my flowers."

"Yeah, I got them and I'm not interested. You just wasted your money and wasted a trip down here." Well, well, it looks like I finally got her attention. Unfortunately I think she's going to flip out on me.

She looked absolutely furious when she replied, "You can't turn me down, you love me!"

I just snorted, "Yeah right. Why don't you get a grip, Terri? You're nothing but a psychotic bitch! I don't even know why we stayed together as long as we did but I can tell you it wasn't so you could verbally abuse me and carve me up."

Her face was red when she said, "Psychotic bitch? You'll be sorry you ever said that, I'll make you regret the day you ever left me!" I should have been expecting it but I wasn't. She screamed and lunged at me. Now where did she get that knife?

"Shit! What the hell are you trying to do Terri? Put the damn knife down!" I was busy dancing around trying to avoid the lunatic when I noticed the secretaries gawking through the door. I yelled at them while I was dodging Terri's wild thrusts. "Jane, call the cops before she kills me!"

The little coward peeked out the door just long enough to say, "Already done Chris, they're on their way."

Just then I heard the sirens and they distracted me long enough for her to catch me on the side with her little knife. I sucked in my breath and hissed; damn that hurt. I couldn't even get close enough to hit her without risking more bodily injury. Lucky for me, one of the cops moved up and disarmed her with his nightstick. They wasted no time cuffing her and stuffing her into the back of the patrol car after reading the screaming woman her rights. One of the officers walked up to me to get my statement. When he noticed me holding my side then said, "You should get to a hospital ma'am. If you want, you can drop by the station later and give us your statement. I'm sure you'd like to press charges too."

By this time I was furious and in pain. "Damn right I'm going to press charges. I want to file a restraining order against her too, I don't want her any where near me!" Hell, she'll be lucky if my company doesn't press charges for her attacking one of their employees on their property. Just one of the reasons I like working here, they actually have upper management who cares.

The poor man tried to calm me down. "No problem, once you're at the station we can take care of everything." He looked back at my side with concern. "Do you need someone to drive you down to emergency?"

He looked so worried that I glanced down at my side. Wow, look at all that blood. Hmm? I guess it's a little worse than I thought it was. Suddenly I didn't feel so good. My last thought before everything went dark was 'Damn, Cory was right. I am a wuss.'

It wasn't that bad, I woke up only a few minutes later. The EMT told me I probably just fainted from the stress and shock caused by the attack. Well that was good to know; at least he didn't call me a wuss. They took me into the triage center that was part of the emergency room where I filled out the appropriate paperwork and received five stitches. Well that was a relief; at least she didn't hit any vitals. Because my little adventure at the hospital lasted almost two hours I didn't get back to the shop until about ten minutes before quitting time. I had to fill out another stack of paperwork then Joe, my boss, called me into his office. We'd been friends since I started working here; he was a pretty easy-going guy considering he was the manager. When I walked into his office I could see that he was worried about me. I sat down in one of the chairs in front of his desk. "So, what's up Joe?"

He gave me one of his looks; you know the one with the raised eyebrow. "You tell me."

I did feel kind of bad that I had caused such a scene in the parking lot. "I'm really sorry about that. I can personally guarantee that it won't happen again. Hopefully the cops will keep her for a while."

He looked at me and shook his head. "I thought you broke up with her a few months ago."

Joe knew all about Terri and about the problems I had with her. He was another one who was glad when I broke up with her. "Yeah, well she seems to have this idea in her head that I love her and want to come back." I grinned at him. "I think today might have changed her mind though."

His eyebrows rose to his hairline. Ok, they would have if his hairline hadn't been receding for the last few years. "She what? I can't believe that she thinks you'd go back to her after all she's done to you. I'm telling you, that woman's not playing with a full deck of cards."

I had to bite back a laugh. He must have read the same book of euphemisms that Cory did. "Hopefully I won't have to worry about it now. I'm going to press charges and request a restraining order against her." I thought about how today was just a perfect ending to such a hectic weekend and sighed. "I only just got moved this past weekend. I swear, sometimes Mondays really suck."

He nodded in agreement. "So, did you get everything moved alright then?"

Joe had offered the use of himself, his truck and his sixteen-year-old son, to help me move. I thought it was really nice of him but told him no because I only had enough for one truckload anyways. "Yeah, it was a piece of cake. My new neighbor even gave me a hand hauling everything up to my apartment."

"Good, I'm glad to hear you got settled in ok."

He sat there for a minute and I could tell he had something he wanted to say. "I know you've got something to say so just spit it out Joe."

He laughed, "Alright, I just don't want to make you mad."

I looked at him curiously. "What could you say that would make me mad?"

He suddenly got a serious look on his face. "Look, you've been through a lot this past week. I know the gash on your side wasn't bad enough for the doctor to write any restrictions but it's still going to hurt like crazy for a day or two." He took a deep breath and continued. "I know you still have all four of your vacation weeks left for the year, why don't you take a week off to get things settled?"

I gave him my own 'look'. He knew I hated taking my vacation days and usually saved them up and traded them in for extra money at the end of the year. Whenever I was single I always thought it was stupid to take a week off work to spend home alone. And I've never had a girlfriend that I wanted to spend a week's vacation with either. "Joe, I?"

He interrupted me before I could say no. "Chris, I really want you to do this. You know I can't force you to take your vacation but I think it would really be good for you. Please, for me?"

I didn't like it but I knew he was right. Besides, I'm such a sucker for my friends and what could it hurt anyways? "Well? I guess I could take a week off. Maybe do a little reading and stuff."

He actually beamed at me! "Great! Now get out of here, I don't want to see you until next Monday."

I laughed and shook my head. "Ok boss, whatever you say. I'll see you later." When I got to the door I turned back around. "Thanks Joe, it's nice to know someone cares."

He smiled and all he said was, "You're my friend Chris."

I knew Joe, and that was the only explanation I would get. He didn't really do 'mushy' very well. Even though my side was starting to throb, I left work in a slightly better mood. For some strange reason a picture of Cory popped into my head. Hmm? maybe having the rest of the week off wouldn't be so bad.

In case I never mentioned it, my orientation is public knowledge at work. It's not rubbed in anyone's faces but if someone wanted to know all they had to do was ask. That's one of the things that's so cool about where I work, they don't discriminate at all. Of course it could have something to do with the fact that the owner of the company is gay. Either way it works out good for me. I got my job based on my abilities and it feels damn good to say that. Well the point is that no one was really shocked that my ex-girlfriend showed up at work. Because of a little mishap at a company picnic, a few of my coworkers already knew how much of a witch she was.

By the time I got home my side was killing me. I had to stop at the police station to fill out that report and take care of the restraining order request. I agreed to press charges and they said they were a little backed up but they'd contact me sometime the following week. My second stop was to the drug store to fill my prescription. I had to wait until I got home to take any because the label said they might cause drowsiness. I wouldn't want to get into an accident and have to go back to that damn hospital again. It's bad enough the triage nurses knew me by my first name. Did I mention Terri really, really liked to fight with knives? I probably should have filed a restraining order months ago. I hope a little time behind bars teaches her a lesson.

It was eight o'clock by the time I trudged up the stairs to my apartment. I had just enough energy to take a pill, strip out of my clothes and crawl into bed. It had been a long, busy day ending an equally busy weekend. I remember falling asleep thinking about how much I hated Mondays.

The Warning

Six o'clock the next morning I was wrenched awake by the sound of a telephone ringing; it took me a minute to realize it was mine. Damn, now why did I plug that thing in? I failed my first attempt at rolling out of bed mostly because it felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my side. I stifled a groan; I must have pulled something too, surely a little gash couldn't hurt this much. All I could think about was smashing the phone and taking another pain pill. Half asleep, I finally managed to stumble my way out to the living room and answer the phone.

"H'lo." It was too early for anything more intelligible.

"Hey, Chris. What's the matter, are you running late or something? You sound like you just woke up." Oh goody, it was Shannon. That meant I could kill her later because she's family. She must have just got off work; she works third shift over at the meat packing plant. Every time I think about that place I'm tempted to become a vegetarian.

"Yes you just woke me up and no I'm not running late. I've got the rest of the week off so what's up, I want to go back to bed." My side was really throbbing by now so I headed for the bathroom to retrieve my pill; there's just no replacement for a cordless phone.

I winced when Shannon screeched over the phone. "What do you mean you've got the rest of the week off? What the hell happened?"

Great, now a headache was starting. "Do we have to do this now? Can't you just tell me what's up?" I popped my pill then washed it down with a glass of water.

Shannon mumbled something over the phone that I'm sure I didn't want me to hear before continuing in a normal voice. "Alright, I'll get to the point. Jesus, but you're grumpy this morning." I could hear her take a deep breath then let it out. Oh great, that means it's probably more bad news. Can my week get any worse? "I hate to tell you this Chris, but Terri has been asking around trying to find out where you moved to. She came over to my house yesterday morning demanding to know what your new address is. I told the bitch to take a hike, that you didn't want anything to do with her psycho ass." She chuckled over the phone. "That went over like a ton of bricks, let me tell you. Anyways, I just wanted to tell you to watch out, she's on the prowl."

I guess it was better late than never. I would've laughed at the irony but I knew it would hurt too much. "Thanks for the warning but she already got a hold of me. She showed up at the shop yesterday and had to be carted away by the cops."

She started in again when I finished talking. "Jesus Chris, spill it already! You didn't get in trouble did you? Damn, I can't believe that woman, she's such a bitch!"

I sighed into the receiver. If I didn't stop her she would rant for another half hour. She really hated Terri's guts and never missed a chance to tell me the whole time we were together. Maybe I should have listened to her. "If you'd shut up for a minute I'll finish the story."

"Fine, I'm done for now. Continue the damn story."

"Well, she sent me flowers yesterday with a note saying how much she wanted to get back together. She wanted me to call her when I got the message. Anyways to make a long story short, I tossed the flowers in the trash and didn't call. She showed up at the shop a few hours later telling me why I had to come back to her. When I told her I wasn't interested she went nuts and came at me with a knife. One of the secretaries called the cops and they showed up just in time to watch her slice open my side. Well, she got a trip to jail and I got one to the emergency room. To sum it up, I'm pressing charges, I filed for a restraining order, and I'm off work for the rest of the week because my boss was worried about me and practically forced me to take a vacation."

Shannon actually had the nerve to laugh. "Damn Chris, and I thought my love life was bad! Have you got bad karma or what?"

I couldn't help but laugh this time. I did seem to have the worst luck with women. "Yeah, what can I say; maybe I'm a psycho magnet or something; at least this time I only ended up with five stitches. Have I satisfied your curiosity yet? My side is killing me and I want to go back to bed."

"Aww, I'm sorry Chris, you should get back in bed. Do you need anything, because I can stop at the store a little later on? I know you probably don't have much to eat there since you just moved. If you want I can stop by this afternoon with some groceries and help you put some of your things away."

God, I'm a year older than she is and she acts like my mother sometimes. "That's alright Shannon, I've got plenty of food and my neighbor helped me put a lot of my stuff away. You can always stop by to visit though; I'll even give you the nickel tour." I knew I probably shouldn't have mentioned my neighbor; my nosey cousin will want to know everything about her.

"That sounds good. So? tell me about this neighbor." Did I mention Shannon's always trying to fix me up with someone?

I looked back at the clock and sighed. I knew that I'd been up long enough now that I'd never get back to sleep. I might as well chat for a while longer. "Well, her name is Cory and she lives downstairs. She helped me unload my truck Saturday and put a few things away and in return, I bought her dinner." I waited knowing that she'd want more information. Sure enough, she didn't let me down.

"So? what's she like and what does she do for a living? Is she cute, and more importantly, is she family? Spill it girl, you know I'll find out eventually."

You had to give her credit for enthusiasm. "She's really nice and has an off-beat sense of humor. She teaches kickboxing and self-defense and she's a five foot four inch, blonde-haired, green-eyed powerhouse. Any more questions?"

"So? is she?"

Her curiosity drives me crazy sometimes. Just to be annoying, I played stupid. Let her work for the information. "Is she what?"

She growled at me over the phone. "Jesus Chris, sometimes you're so dense. Is she family?"

I'll just draw it out a little bit longer. "Well, I've never met her before but she could be on your side. Maybe one of Aunt Ethel's kids."

"Chris, you know what I'm talking about! You're such a smart ass sometimes, just answer the question."

I laughed at her and luckily my pain pill was kicking in or else I would've probably regretted it. "Now who's grumpy in the morning? And yes, I'm pretty sure she's family. She's also the biggest flirt I've ever seen."

She laughed at me, why were people always doing that to me? "I bet you're not even going to ask her out are you?"

"Nooo?. She's my neighbor. Of course I'm not going to ask her out."

"It's not because she's your neighbor that you won't ask her, it's because you're a chicken shit."

Well, she had me there, but I had to defend myself. "Hey! I resemble that remark. Ok, you're right, I'm chicken. But that doesn't mean I can't admire her from afar and let me tell you, she's got a body to die for. And those eyes, Jesus Shannon, I don't think I've ever seen eyes that shade of green before."

She actually had the nerve to laugh at me again. "God, Chris. You've got it pretty bad, don't you?"

Huh? What the hell was she talking about? "What the hell are you talking about Shannon? Got what bad? She's just a nice looking woman, that's all. I honestly don't know where you come up with your ideas sometimes."

"Hah! Denial is more than a river in Egypt. Face it Chris, you've got a crush on your new neighbor."

Just who does she think she is? I snorted, "I do not!"

"Do too."

I swear she does this to me every time. "I'm not going to argue with you about this, you'll think whatever you want anyway. I'll be home all day, so anytime you want to stop is alright with me."

She sighed over the phone. "Alright, you're such a spoil sport. I'll probably be over around five o'clock. Maybe if you're nice I'll bring you a burger and fries. I'll see your later, cuz."

I couldn't resist getting the last word in. Just before she hung up I yelled, "Do not!" Yeah, I know it's childish. I guess old habits die hard, and we've been arguing since we were kids.

Since the pain pill never did make me drowsy and my TV would only pick up snow I opted to read a book for a few hours. I had a whole day to kill; hell, I had a whole week! As I settled down with a good Sci-fi story I couldn't help but hope I'd seen the last of Terri.

Meeting the family

I had finished the first book and read another by the time it was four o'clock and was starting to get stir crazy. My side was feeling a little better so I decided to take a walk around the block to burn off some excess energy. It's amazing what a little R&R can do for a person. I didn't want to go too far because I was supposed to be taking it easy. I really only had to worry about twisting and heavy lifting so I didn't think a short walk would hurt me, besides, I was hoping I might see Cory. I never did find out what hours she worked, I'd probably ask her the next time I see her.

I managed a quick trip around the block but it didn't do anything to alleviate the boredom. That's when I decided that a vacation spent by yourself was for the birds. What's a person supposed to do all day anyways? I had just come around the corner of the house when I saw Cory pull up in her Jimmy so I walked over and sat on the front steps and waited for her to get out. She grabbed a large duffle bag out of the back then walked over and sat down next to me.

"Hi" she said.

"Hey" I replied. I smiled internally; here we go again.

When she looked over at me I noticed that her hair was still wet from a shower so I figured she must have just finished teaching a class at the gym. She grabbed a bottle of water out of her duffle bag and took a large swallow before offering it to me. "So, aren't you normally working right now?" She asked before taking the bottle away from me, and putting it back in the bag.

"Yeah, but I used up some vacation days and took the rest of the week off." Uh oh, I never even thought about what Cory would do if I told her what happened. I looked down into sea green eyes and knew it was coming.

"Why would you go to work today then suddenly take the rest of the week off? Are you sick; you didn't pick up a bug this weekend did you?"

I swallowed and licked my lips. "Uh, no. I uh? had a little accident at work yesterday and uh, had to go to the hospital. It's nothing to worry about though, I'll be back to work by next Monday."

She looked at me and chuckled. "You can't tell a lie very well can you? So what aren't you telling me; I thought you said that place was safe."

I chuckled ruefully, "Yeah, well it is as long as a certain ex girlfriend doesn't show up"

"Terri was there? What did she do?"

I sighed and gave in. I found myself telling her the same story I told Shannon. When I got done she wasn't happy at all. As a matter of fact, she was furious again.

She jumped up and started pacing in front of me. "Christ Chris, that woman's going to kill you! So how long are the cops going to keep her locked up and when does the restraining order take effect?"

I looked over at her, amazed. She really was worried about me. "Well, they told me the restraining order should be good, starting today but unfortunately she'll probably make bail today too. I guess I'll just have to take the good with the bad."

She stopped pacing and sat back down next to me on the step. I tried to reassure her. "Don't worry so much Cor, it's no big deal. I've dealt with her in the past, I can handle it."

She looked me right in the eye and I was lost in a sea of green. "That's not the point Chris; you shouldn't have to handle it. People like her should be locked up where they can't hurt anyone." She put her hand on my shoulder and said, "I want you do be careful, ok? If you need anything at all just let me know." She grinned and said, "I don't want anything to happen to the only neighbor I've had in the last four years who I can actually get along with."

She really was a sweetie, no matter how tough she acted. "Yeah, I'll be careful. So you don't have any more classes to teach today?"

"Nope, the gym I work at gives me quite a bit of control over when I schedule my classes. Since I hate Mondays I try to limit it to just one class. Hey, if you're not doing anything right now, why don't I show you those meditation exercises."

Like I had anything else to keep me occupied today. "That sounds like fun. I have to try to change this bandage first though. It's more towards my back and kind of awkward to reach so how about I meet you back down here in twenty minutes?"

She grinned, "Sounds good! Hey, why don't I give you a hand? It'll probably be a lot easier for me to change it for you."

Hmm? could I handle her touching my bare skin? Nope, my brain says definitely not; unfortunately my body had other ideas. "Sure, help would be great, thanks. Follow me upstairs, the hospital sent me home with everything I'd need."

When we got upstairs I went to the bathroom to get the supplies then came back to the bedroom. Once I sat everything down on the dresser I wasn't really sure how to proceed. See, I'm a little body shy. I've been told there's no reason for it but I just can't help it. "So, how do you want to do this?"

She cocked her head to the side and looked at me seriously. "Well, it would probably be easiest if you just took your shirt off." She grinned at me; I thought to put me at ease. "We're both women here, it's not like you have something I haven't seen before. Unless it makes you too uncomfortable then we could probably find another way."

She actually raised her eyebrows when she said that last part. Was she daring me? We'll just see about that, you'd be surprised how fast my modesty flies out the window in the face of a dare. I chuckled and started unbuttoning my shirt. I had on a white, long-sleeved oxford with the sleeves rolled up. I love button up shirts; they're so comfortable. Besides, it was easier to put on a button up shirt than trying to pull a t-shirt over my head. It hurt to stretch my left arm up above chest level; it pulled at the stitches on my side. Once I got the shirt off I laid it on the bed then walked back over by the dresser. She already had the bandages and tape ready.

When she removed the old bandage she looked at my side. "Wow, she got you pretty good, didn't she?" When I nodded she said, "Could you raise your left arm across your chest? I think I'll be able to do this a little easier." I did as I was asked with only a slight twinge then held my breath in anticipation of her touch. I was mentally trying to focus on the task at hand but watching her hands wasn't helping me; the only thing I could think about was how strong they looked. When her soft fingertips finally touched my side to remove the tape, my breath caught in my throat.

She pulled back immediately with concern written all over her face. "I'm sorry, did that hurt?"

How could I tell her that her touch was anything but painful; Jesus, it even gave me goose bumps. "Uh, no. Your um? fingers are cold. It didn't hurt at all, sorry to worry you." Oh, man! Could I have come up with a lamer excuse?

She just nodded and rubbed her hands together briskly before continuing. I had to concentrate on taking deep breaths. Thinking about bunnies wasn't working anymore so I thought I'd try to strike up a conversation to distract myself from the feeling of her gentle fingers working at my side. "So what days do you work anyways?" Her touch was sending butterflies through my stomach and along the entire length of my spine. How can she not realize what she's doing to me? It was like exquisite torture and I was hoping that she'd hurry up.

"Well on Mondays I teach only the one class and Tuesday through Thursday, I teach three classes a day of varying age groups. If I volunteer at the community center it's usually on the weekends because that's the easiest time for the people there to attend classes. It works well for me, I generally get three day weekends so I can't complain."

She had just finishing doctoring me up when my doorbell rang. I started toward the door when she stopped me. "Hey Chris!" When I turned around she smirked and said, "Don't you think you're forgetting something?"

Huh? "Forgetting something? What am I forgetting?"

She looked pointedly over at my shirt on the bed. Whoops, I guess it wouldn't be good to answer the door wearing only a bra. "Heh, heh, I guess I did forget something."

When the doorbell rang again she laughed and said, "You want me to get that?"

"Yeah, if you would, please. Something tells me I'm not in acceptable attire for greeting company."

She got that twinkle in her eye and stopped in the bedroom doorway. "Oh I don't know; you look pretty acceptable to me." Then she winked and left me standing there shirtless and speechless. Damn, that woman was going to kill me! I suddenly had a bad thought; what if it was Shannon coming to visit a few minutes early? Oh great, I'll never live it down if it is.

By the time I made it to the living room I only managed to catch the tail end of the conversation. Shannon said, "So where's Chris at anyway?"

I felt my face turn red at Cory's reply. "She's in the bedroom putting her shirt back on. She was almost dressed when I left to answer the door so she should be out any second now."

Just then, both women saw me in the doorway with my face as red as it could possibly get. Cory was smirking up a storm and Shannon had a one eyebrow raised that said I was going to have some explaining to do. I groaned quietly and ran my right hand through my hair. "Uh, hey Shannon, I forgot you were coming. Um, Cory was just helping me change my bandage because it's kind of hard for me to reach. It's really tender still and I didn't want to risk tearing the stitches." I wonder if that'll satisfy little miss curiosity. I looked over at Cory and saw that she was still smirking. For that matter, Shannon still had her eyebrow raised. Okay? let's try a new tactic. I walked into the room and stood over by the two women. "Shannon, this is my neighbor Cory and Cory, this my cousin Shannon." I nodded towards the couch. "Come on in and make yourself at home. Either one of you guys want something to drink, I've got soda or water? Heh, heh, I haven't made it grocery shopping yet so the choices are slim."

Shannon gave me an evil grin and plopped down on the couch. "Gee Chris, I'd have thought you would have at least offered Cory a drink before dragging her off to the bedroom. You're really losing your charm in your old age, aren't yah?"

Yeah you guessed it, I was blushing again. Tell me again why it's wrong to kill family; I seem to have forgotten since Shannon got here. "Shannon, don't even go there. I told you about Cory on the phone already, so give me a break!"

Cory grinned at me and I realized what I had said. Oh please, someone shoot me now and end my misery. Cory drawled, "So? you were talking about me on the phone, huh?" She turned to Shannon. "She tell you anything good?"

Shannon didn't help matters any when she gave my new neighbor a slow once over and said, "Oh, nothing I can't already see from here."

I groaned and both women turned and looked at me. When they saw my red face they both burst out laughing. Lucky me, they're like two peas in a pod. "I um? I'm just going to get us something to drink." I turned and walked into the kitchen as fast as I could without running. I knew it was probably a bad idea to leave them in there by themselves but what can I say? I'm a coward. I had my head in the freezer trying to cool the blush when a voice in my ear said, "Hey, need some help?"

I jumped what must have been a foot, and hit my head on the top of the freezer. In the process I also sent the ice cube trays clattering to the floor. I whirled around and came face to face with an angel. Ok, it was a green-eyed, smirking angel but so what? I stared for a second then tried to cover my lapse with words. "Shit Cory, don't sneak up on me like that!"

She chuckled, "Sorry Chris. If I had known you were so jumpy I would have warned you or something. Maybe called out from the doorway and stated my intentions before entering the kitchen."

I just growled at her, "Cor, did anyone ever tell you you're a smart ass?"

She laughed again and said, "Yup."

Hmm, I guess I better explain about Shannon while we're alone. "Uh, Cory?"

"Uh, Chris?"

Well, she wasn't going to make this easy but somehow I knew that. "I uh, just wanted to, uh, explain about Shannon. You see, she uh, likes to jump to conclusions." Damn, why was this so hard?

She had that perpetual twinkle in her eye. "Conclusions? What conclusions?"

"Uh, you know. Conclusions about us."

"What, that we're neighbors?"

"Uh, no. That we uh, that we're?" I trailed off, hoping she'd get the hint. I'm pretty sure by now that she was being purposely obtuse though.

"That we're what? Just spit it out Chris."

I groaned and ran my hand through my hair again. "You know, that we uh, have something going on between us."

Finally the little imp cracked up laughing and swatted me on the arm. "God, you're so much fun to tease. You should see your face right now, I don't think it could get any redder." By this time she was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes and Shannon came in to see what all the commotion was about.

She took one look at my red face and the hysterical Cory and grinned. "Hey girls, are we having a party in here or what?"

I just shook my head and started to bend down to pick up ice cubes off the floor. Through her laughter Cory told me to sit down and started picking them up for me. By the time she was finished with the task she had finally wound down and Shannon had already retrieved the sodas. Cory finished wiping the last of the tears and said, "I'm sorry Chris; I shouldn't pick on you so bad. Hey, how's the head? You didn't hit it too hard did you?"

I shook my head. "No, not too bad. It's just got a little bump." She still looked a little worried so I put on my best 'good sport' face. "Hey, I've got plenty of ice though, right?" I managed to get both women to laugh again, even if it was at my expense. I really love the way Cory laughs. I looked over at Shannon and changed the subject. "Hey, I thought you said you were going to bring me a burger and some fries?"

"Nooo? I said I might bring you a burger and fries but I didn't so deal with it."

Cory chuckled. I'm glad she thought it was funny but I was starting to get hungry here. I put on my best pout face and looked at Shannon. I must have worked because she stuck her tongue out at me and said, "If you're hungry Chris, why don't we order Chinese?" She looked over a Cory. "Unless miss muscles here only eats health food."

I had to laugh at that. "Yeah right! Shan, you wouldn't believe this woman's appetite."

Cory winked at me. "You haven't seen anything yet!"

For some reason Shannon thought Cory's comment was extremely funny. She laughed and said, "You better keep her around; I actually like her!"

I chuckled. "No problem Shan. I like her too."

She just laughed even harder. "I wasn't talking to you Chris, I was talking to Cory."

Great, now they were both laughing at me. "Just go order the damn food Shannon."

"Just as soon as you tell me what you want grumpy."

I just glared at both of them. "Yeah, well you'd be grumpy too if you were being tag-teamed by a couple of smart asses. Just get me the Sweet and Sour Chicken and two egg rolls."

My evil cousin looked over at Cory. "And for you?"

Cory thought for a second. "I'll take the Kung Pao Beef, four egg rolls and the Crab Rangoon."

I smirked when Shannon's mouth dropped open. "I told you so Shan, but you didn't believe me. Now hurry up and order the food, I'm starving here!"

"Alright already! I'll be right back so don't do anything I wouldn't do."

She walked out of the kitchen and I mumbled, "Yeah, like that really narrows things down."

Cory smiled at me. "I like her Chris, she's got spunk."

I smiled back. "Yeah, she's great. I'm only a year older than her so we've hung out together since we were kids. She's a great friend to have."

We never did get to that meditation exercise. The three of us ended up eating supper and playing cards until Shannon had to leave for work at eight thirty. I was feeling pretty tired by then so Cory said she'd be back at ten o'clock the next morning to help me with my bandages again. She also promised that she would teach me that meditation exercise when it was a little easier to concentrate. I wasn't sure if she was talking about my wound or about my reaction to her touch; I'm sure she had to have noticed. I wasn't about to come right out and tell her I was interested in her though. I mean, other than general flirting, she hadn't given me any indications that she was interested in me. I decided that I 'd probably think better after a good night's rest so I went to bed and promptly fell asleep, enjoying my green-eyed dreams.

Getting to know the neighbor

The rest of the week went pretty well. I hung out with Cory whenever she was home and in return she took me down in the basement and showed me her exercise equipment. I swear the woman has enough to start her own gym. She taught me how to meditate and relax under stressful conditions; that was the really toughest part. She knows that I'm not much of a fan of exercise but she offered me the use of her gym any time I wanted. She even changed my bandage for me every morning before she left to teach her classes.

Even though Cory was keeping me pretty well entertained, by Friday I was really bored so I decided to invite her and Shannon over to watch movies later that night. It was nine o'clock in the morning when I looked out the window toward the front yard. Sure enough, Cory was sitting under her tree so I decided to go down and say hi. When I got outside I walked over and sat down a few feet away from her. I waited a few minutes in silence until she opened her eyes and looked at me. I swear I could drown in her eyes for as long as I could still draw a breath. There's just something about her that draws me and I couldn't even begin to explain why. I suddenly realized I was staring and looked down self-consciously. "Hi" I said.

"Morning Chris. What's up?"

I looked back up at her. We'd become good friends in such a short time; it's hard to believe that we'd known each other for less than a week. "I was wondering if you wanted to come up tonight to watch a couple movies. I'm going to invite Shannon too since it's one of her nights off. I'll even throw in dinner."

"Dinner huh? So what are you making?"

I grinned and said, "Lasagna."

She laughed, "Consider me there, I love lasagna! So when are you going to go get the movies?"

"Well, I'll probably make a run to the video store around two o'clock that way I'll get there before all the movies are rented out for the weekend."

"Do you mind if I ride along when you go?"

I couldn't believe she actually wanted to spend more time with me; I thought for sure she'd be sick of seeing my face by now. "Sure, no problem." I stood back up. "Well, I'm going to go give Shannon a call."

My little green-eyed kick boxer grinned. "Doesn't she normally sleep this time of day?"

I chuckled evilly, "Yup, and I'm going to enjoy waking her up for once. I still owe her for Tuesday. Don't worry about her though, she'll just roll over and go back to sleep when she hangs up the phone."

Cory laughed and shook her head. "You two are crazy sometimes, you're more like sisters than cousins."

I laughed along with her, "Yeah, I know. We love it though; she's been my best friend for as long as I can remember. So, I'll see you around two o'clock?"

She stood up and stretched and you could have knocked me over with a feather. Why does she have to wear such short tank tops and do stuff like that? Unfortunately green eyes popped open at that exact moment and caught me staring. I could feel the blush creep up my face but all she did was wink at me. "Yeah, I'll be up around two; right now I'm going to work out for a couple of hours." She patted her delicious abs for emphasis.

Why me? I've never acted this way around anyone before so why do I do it around her? I decided the best thing to do was retreat. "Alright, I uh, guess I'll see you later. Have fun." I think I heard her chuckle as I was walking away.

When I got back inside my apartment I sat down in the recliner that was next to the couch, and propped my feet up. I had been trying, since I woke up that morning, to figure out why I was so taken with Cory. I just didn't understand it though. I mean yeah, she's good looking and she's in great shape but other than that, she's not my normal type. Ok, so I don't really have a normal type unless you could count the fact that some of them turn out to be a little mentally unstable. I think part of my problem with relationships is the fact that all of my girlfriends eventually want a more permanent commitment. I've never met anyone that I wanted to get really serious with though; I'm talking about the rest of my life kind of serious. I mean, how do you know who 'the one' is. Does it hit you all of the sudden or is it a gradual realization?

I shook my head. If this is the kind of stuff I'm going to think about when I have too much time on my hands I think I'll definitely take cash instead of the rest of my vacation days this year. My life is simple, barring crazed ex girlfriends, and I like it that way. I growled in frustration and jumped up out of the chair then grabbed the cordless off the charger and headed for the kitchen. If I wanted to be able to wake up Shannon I'd have to call now. I listened to the phone ring on the other end; I counted seven times before the line was picked up. I had to laugh when I heard Shannon mumble on the other end, "I swear Chris, if this is you, you're dead meat!"

I chuckled, "You can't kill me, I owe you for Tuesday. I don't know what you're complaining about anyways, it's not like you're dealing with five stitches after being attacked by a ex-girlfriend from hell, like I was when you called."

I heard her laugh over the phone, "Yeah, you do have a point. So what was so important that you had to call me this early?"

"Well I was just wondering if you wanted to come over tonight for lasagna and movies. Cory already said she'd be here."

"Hmm? Cory huh? I'm not going to end up feeling like a third wheel if I come over am I?"

I sighed, "Shannon? I told you before, we're just friends. The woman's not even interested in me anyways, so I can personally guarantee that you're not going to feel like a third wheel. So are you coming or what?"

She laughed at me, the little witch! "Well? as much as I'd love to spend the evening watching her flirt with you, and you act clueless as usual, I have a date."

Clueless? What in the hell is she talking about? "Shannon, I do not act clueless!"

"Do too!"

"I do not? hey, wait a minute, I hate it when you do that! You mentioned something about a date?"


I sighed again, this time louder. "Sooo? are you going to tell me who it is?"

She giggled. "It's John Fisher. You know, the guy who owns The Music Centre."

I had to think for a minute then I remembered the small music shop on the corner of Main Street and Elm. Shannon plays the guitar in her spare time and must have met him when she went in for new strings or something. "Yeah, I know who you're talking about. I won't grill you for details right now but you can be sure I'll talk to you tomorrow. You better be prepared to fill me in!"

"Don't worry, I'll give you all the gory details tomorrow and you better be prepared to do the same for me."

Huh? "The same for you? What are you talki?" I stopped when I realized what she meant then growled, "Dammit Shan! How many times do I have to tell you? There's definitely, positively, absolutely nothing between us but friendship. You're so annoying sometimes."

She mumbled something about 'protesting too much' then chuckled, "Whatever! Listen, I'll talk to you tomorrow. Right now I'm going back to sleep, I need my beauty rest for my date tonight."

Oh, she just fed me the perfect set up. "Heh, heh, I guess I better let you go then because you'll need all the help you can get."

She growled over the phone at me. "You better watch it Chris. You might be six foot tall but you're still a wuss and you know I can kick your ass any time I feel like it."

Dammit, I am not a wuss! What do I have to do, take kickboxing lessons for people to believe me? Hmm? that sounds like fun though as long as it's with a certain kick boxer I know with sea green eyes.

"Uh, Chris are you there?"

Whoops, I guess I drifted for a minute. "Yeah, I'm still here. Sorry about that I was just uh, thinking about something." I think I covered that up pretty well.

"Yeah ok, whatever you say." She laughed, "I can't believe you didn't even defend yourself at the wuss comment. You must have been thinking of something pretty good to let that go without a fight."

Oh yeah, definitely something good, but I'm not going to tell her that. It would just give her more ammunition. "Uh, I guess so. Well I'm going to go start that lasagna now and if you're lucky, there might be some left over tomorrow when you stop by."

With a voice dripping sarcasm she said, "Gee thanks; I love you too. I guess I'll see you tomorrow, maybe sometime around three?"

"Yeah, sounds good. And Shan??"


"Good luck on your date tonight. I hope you have fun."

That little imp just chuckled at me and said "Yeah, you too!" before hanging up the phone. I could just kill her sometimes. I mean, really, where does she get her ideas from, from a Cracker Jack box? I hung up the phone and looked at the clock. I decided to make the lasagna now, that way I could just throw it in the oven later on. Once the lasagna was finished I wrapped it and put in the refrigerator. I kept busy for the next few hours cleaning the house and working on a list of chores I'd made. It was one thirty by the time I got everything done that was on my list. I was feeling a bit grimy from cleaning so I took a quick shower before getting ready to go to the movie store. Luckily the doctor had said I only had to wait a few days before getting the stitches wet and that wait was up yesterday. I was really looking forward to next Tuesday when I would get them out completely. It was pretty warm still and my side was feeling a lot better so I decided to throw on navy tank top and a pair of light blue jean shorts.

Cory didn't come up by two o'clock so I headed down stairs to her front door. There was no answer when I knocked so I just walked in calling out her name. "Cory!" I could hear music coming from the basement so I headed downstairs figuring that was probably where she was. When I got to the bottom of the steps, I was amazed by the sight of her marvelous body dancing around a large punching bag. She moved gracefully, spinning, kicking and weaving her way around her target. She'd alternate her kicks with punches and you could tell by the fine sheen of sweat covering her body, that she'd been at it for a while.

Suddenly, her green eyes met my blue ones and both of us froze. I could now see that she was only wearing a sports bra and a pair of running shorts. After looking at her nearly naked, perfect little body I was hit by a wave of desire. It was the strongest physical attraction I'd ever felt. My mouth felt dry so I licked my lips and said, "Do you still want to ride to the video store with me?"

Her eyes got wide and she said, "Oh shit, I'm sorry Chris! Yeah I still want to go; can you wait a minute?" When I nodded she added, "Let me run and get cleaned up. Have a seat on the couch and I'll be right back, it will only take me a second to jump in the shower."

She was up the stairs in a flash with me following slowly behind. Upstairs, I sat on the couch and true to her word; she was back within a few minutes. She was wearing a clean tank top and shorts and her damp hair was barely tousled into some semblance of order. She was definitely cute; there was no doubt about it. "All set, let's go."

I laughed "Wow, that was fast!"

She winked at me and said, "Only when I have to be. I usually prefer to take most things slow that way I can thoroughly enjoy the experience."

I swallowed and headed for my truck. I had a feeling it was going to be a long night.

Continued in Part 2.

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