==== Chapter One - Nat ====
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“That does it!”
That statement was followed by the loud bang of a frying pan hitting the countertop. I would have jumped if I weren’t so amused. Hey, when the person wielding the frying pan is only a bit over 5’2” and you stand a whole foot taller...well, lets just say that I wasn’t exactly afraid for my life. Besides, Sheila couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when she was aiming. Lord knew she’d taken enough swings at me throughout our lives for me to know. I also knew that her temper had the life span of a mayfly.
Right on cue, Sheila became quiet. She was gripping the abused counter tight enough to turn her knuckles pale, but at least she wasn’t swinging the pots and pans again.
“Nat, you know I love you, right?” Sheila sighed before squaring her shoulders and looking back up at me.
I nodded cautiously. When Sheila got that look in her eyes, she was more stubborn than a Missouri mule. Her brother Todd used to say that once Sheila got her back up about something, only a direct missive from God, handwritten in triplicate, could get her to change her mind. Having been best friends with her brother and an unwilling witness to that iron will many times had taught me to tread lightly.
"Then please take this in the spirit in which it is intended. Get out. Go home. In the immortal words of Billy Joel, 'go ahead with your own life and leave me alone'."
"No. Now where do you want these towels?"
I knew my response would be like setting a match to gasoline, but no way was I going to be forced out the door. The sooner Sheila realized that, the easier our afternoon would go.
"I'll tell you where you can put them."
Her reply was muttered, but I had good hearing and had been expecting it. I hid my smile behind the stack of towels I was currently holding. If Sheila knew how amused I was by her, I would be shown the door faster than a door-to-door salesman with a bad product.
Feigning deafness and counting on Sheila's innate politeness was my best line of defense. I arranged my face into respectful confusion before saying anything.
"What was that?"
When I finally looked into Sheila's face, I was treated to a look of pure frustration.
"Nat, are you trying to piss me off? Why are you here?" Sheila held up a hand before I could get a word out in defense. "Nevermind. I know why. One of my brothers asked you to look after me, didn't they?"
After that opening salvo, I never had a chance before Sheila launched into her favorite rant.
"I knew it." Sheila slammed down another pan. "Was it Todd who told you to come over? Why can't my brothers just leave me alone? They act as if I'm 12 years old. I'm 24 and well able to live by myself without having someone watching over me every damn minute of the day! And you!"
I was suddenly looking at my reflection in the side of a frying pan leveled at my face.
"It's bad enough I have 5 older overprotective brothers without adding to the numbers."
I sighed silently and figured it would be a good idea to derail her train of thought.
"As entertaining as your paranoia is, Sheila, your brothers did not force me to be your pack mule today."
I had volunteered. And there was no need to let her know that each of her brothers had also asked me to keep an eye on her.
are older brothers and understandably worry about you. They love you and just want to see you safe. I feel the same way."
Let her chew on that one.
The reply was pure Sheila. "Great. Another brother – just what I need."
I never got a chance before Sheila's own conscience pricked her.
"Nat, I'm sorry. I really do appreciate all your help today. I still belong, don't get me wrong. I just need my own space. All the big stuff is in and now I just need to unpack. I'll be fine, I promise. Please go home."
Looking down into her pixie face, I knew I didn't stand a chance. Sheila was bound and determined to do this and do it alone. Remembering the look of pride and accomplishment on her face when we first entered the tiny apartment made up my mind for me. No way could I take that sense of achievement away from her. She'd get her space. For a while.
That thought in mind, I allowed Sheila to start maneuvering me toward the door.
"All right already. I'll go. Stop manhandling me, woman. If you wanted me to leave, you should have just said so." That earned me an outraged squeak before I wrapped my arm around her and hugged her to my side. "Remember to lock the door behind me. And call if you need me."
I dropped a quick kiss on the top of her head and sauntered out the door. I resisted the urge to look back at the expression on her face over my last minute instructions. I already knew that those bright green eyes would be shooting sparks. Besides, I had plans to make.
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