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The house looked like something from Superman’s birth cave, all ice and angles and unrelenting glare. Hester hated it with an unnatural passion. She stared up at the monstrosity that was now her closest neighbor and frowned deeply. Six months ago they had come in and torn down Mrs. Panetti’s perfectly good little red brick bungalow and planted this monster not ten feet from her house. It sat to the South of her and blocked all the sun with its angles and glass and modern metal crap. Her garden was ruined, her beloved vegetables would never grow in this shade. Her kitchen was dark, the hulking house blocked all the sun that used to stream in her windows. And she had spent the last six months fighting construction workers and their trucks blocking the shared driveway between the two houses.
She lived in downtown Chicago because she liked the combination of the old homes and the big leafy trees and still being walking distance to the little urban village at the end of her street. The houses, all built in the 1920s, were close to each other. They were a throwback to a time when families lived in each other’s back pockets- kids shared rooms with their siblings, women would exchange gossip while they hung their laundry out to dry. It used to be a working class neighbourhood, humble, well-built, meant to last. But recently too many people had started buying the beautiful old homes only to tear them down and build a McMansion instead. Her new neighbors, whoever they were, were a classic example of this new mentality- too much money and not enough sense.
The rain splattering around her didn’t help to her melancholy mood. She knew she looked odd standing at the front of the house, head craned upward, scowling. But she couldn’t help it, this was awful. And now it appeared it was about to get worse. The idiots that built this were moving in, the first truck had arrived this morning as she’d been leaving for work. They’d delivered a flat screen television that took four workers to carry in the house. The TV had been as big as her bed.
Hester didn’t own a television.
A hushed growl pulled up behind her and she spun to see what made the surprisingly seductive sound. A sleek, steel grey Mercedes had parked in front of the entrance to the driveway. The engine was cut and the driver’s side door flung open. Before Hester could formulate a reasonable opinion her brain fired off a series of unwanted impressions- long muscular legs, thick reddish brown hair, faded denim eyes and a big smile directed right at her.
Her new neighbor. The asshole.
The house was perfect. Big. Modern. Walking distance to the rink.
Mike had finally made the decision to move out of the condo right in the heart of the financial district. He’d bought the damn thing when he was 20 and just newly drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. Now 35 he was team captain and established enough that he should’ve bought something bigger years ago. He would have actually, but nothing had ever compelled him to move. Until a year ago when his nieces and nephews started asking why there wasn’t a bedroom at his place that they could sleep in.
How did you explain “bachelor pad extraordinaire” to a seven year old?
To say that his sister and her kids would be thrilled with this new place was an understatement; there’d be enough room for all of them to stay with him now. They’d probably visit more often. Good.
This was going to be his first night in the new place and he was hoping the bare amount of furniture that he’d had in the other place had arrived and been set up like the real estate said it would. And it even seemed as if the neighbours had come out to meet him. Well, one neighbor actually.
One scowly, hardcore granola-type neighbour. Who was looking at him like he was a disease on legs.
She was dressed in red rain boots that went up to her knees, jeans and a big grey turtleneck sweater that obscured any impression of what her shape might have been. Her almost black hair was long and wild and there was a small leaf tangled in it close to her ear. Her eyes were angry and colored to match; dark grey with flecks of green.
“Do you own this house?” She demanded pacing closer to him.
He wasn’t about to step back. Hell, he outweighed her by 75 pounds.
“This is your house, right?” She had stopped about six feet from him and was looking at him with a mixture of anger and hurt? What the hell had he done?
“Yeah, it’s my house.” His smile had long vanished and this prickly woman was starting to piss him off. “Is there a problem?”
Her eyebrows shot up and it looked like she might just launch herself at him. Then she huffed out a breath and…appeared to lose steam. The wild look died down a bit and she was left looking somewhat defeated.
“No. No problem,” she grimace-smiled at him, turned on her heel and marched down the narrow single driveway between the two houses. He watched her with trepidation and interest. Weird little thing.
She stopped at the bottom of the slightly inclined laneway and turned back to him.
“This is my driveway too,” she called out. “You can’t leave your car at the top like that. It’s a shared drive.” The you asshole was left unsaid but he still heard it loud and clear.
Welcome to the neighborhood.