The R.L. Mathewson Chronicles:
A Neighbor From Hell Christmas
“I never thought they’d fall asleep,” Haley mumbled into her pillow, too tired to turn her head so that Jason could hear her.
“Tell me about it,” Jason said as he fell onto the bed beside her, sounding as exhausted as she felt.
“Are they still here?” she whispered, afraid to raise her voice any higher out of fear that-
“What the hell are you doing in there?” Trevor, a man that she normally loved, said, making her whimper as she hugged her pillow tightly. Her only hope was that he would just go away and take the rest of the Bradford clan with him.
“Go away!” Jason snapped, sounding ready to kill his cousin, something that she would have normally tried to stop, but not tonight.
Tonight she was exhausted, beyond exhausted actually. For the past three days she’d been cooking non-stop while taking care of her babies, cleaning the house, finishing last minute shopping, wrapping presents, and calling up all the other Bradford wives to coordinate the massive meal as well as the food donation that they were making to the soup kitchen on Christmas Eve. Thankfully everything had worked out perfectly.
The kids had woken them up at five this morning and had been going every since. After they cleaned up the mess the kids made opening their presents, they had to start cooking breakfast and prepping lunch. Then they cooked lunch for thirty Bradfords, managed to grab a quick bite to eat before they had to clean up the mess, take all the kids outside to play with their new sleds and then came back to set up dessert, which was promptly followed by dinner for twenty Bradfords.
After dinner of course came a second course of desserts, playing with the kids again, catching up on everything going on in the family, getting all the kids cleaned up, reading them a story and spending a good hour trying to get the kids to calm down long enough to fall asleep and ignore the fact that they had about ten of their cousins sleeping in their room with them and an insane amount of toys that were practically begging for their attention. Once the kids had begun to pass out one by one, they’d quietly tiptoed to their room, shut the door and dropped onto their bed, praying that the rest of their family wouldn’t notice their absence. Now they just wanted to pass out and stay that way until sometime tomorrow afternoon, preferably late afternoon.
“What the hell are you doing?” Trevor demanded again, oblivious to the fact that he was seconds away from facing her fists of fury.
“Having sex! Now fuck off so that we can finish!” Jason snapped.
“Liar,” Trevor said, sounding close, really close for some reason.
Praying that she was wrong, Haley started to turn over only to find herself being pushed to the side as Trevor climbed onto the bed between them. At that point she would have loved to have been able to beat him into submission, but she barely had enough energy to whimper and mutter pathetically as she automatically shifted closer to Trevor to make room for an embarrassed Zoe.
“I’m really sorry about this,” Zoe said, looking just as exhausted as they were, which would explain why she was climbing onto the bed next to her instead of dragging her husband out of their room by his ear.
“Don’t worry about it,” Haley mumbled, used to the pain in the ass Bradford behavior by now. Gathering every last ounce of energy that she could find, she forced herself to sit up and crawl over the intruding bastard, making damn sure that her knees slammed into his ribs. Before she was even halfway over the bastard, Jason was reaching over and grabbing her. Within seconds, she was comfortably curled up by Jason’s side.
“What about the rest of them?” Haley asked, struggling to keep her eyes open.
“They’re downstairs talking about Danny,” Trevor said around a loud yawn as he settled back more comfortably against the pillow even as he pulled Zoe into his arms.
“I feel so bad for him,” Zoe mumbled softly.
“Me too,” Haley agreed softly, wishing that there was something that she could do for him.
He was a really good guy, a decent guy and he hadn’t deserved the life that he’d been given. She’d agree that he’d screwed up big time, but he’d been a kid. Instead of helping him handle his mistake, his father, Jason and Trevor’s Uncle Ethan, had let his anger and disappointment in his son cloud his judgment. He’d stood by, determined to let his son face the consequences of his actions like a man, thinking that his son would figure out that he’d screwed up and try again, but he’d underestimated his son. Everyone had, otherwise they would have beaten some sense into him before he’d run away and joined the Marines.
From everything that she’d heard about Danny at the time, he’d been cocky and too damn arrogant even for a Bradford. The ten years that he’d spent in the Marines had straightened him out, knocked some sense into him and made him into an admirable man. It had also come damn close to costing him his life.
A few months after Trevor and Zoe got married, Danny had been shipped home and placed in a VA Hospital where he’d been expected to die within a week. His father had brought down the wrath of God on the hospital and forced them to release Danny into his care. Within hours of arriving back in the States, Danny had been transferred to the hospital that his father worked in and placed in Intensive Care.
His father watched over him day and night, making sure that his son got the best care, the surgeries that he needed without wait and did whatever it took to make sure that his son not only survived, but walked again. Then he’d made the second biggest mistake of his life and stepped back once Danny had regained consciousness. No matter what anyone did or said, Uncle Ethan hadn’t approached his son since.
He’d made damn sure that Danny had everything that he needed while he recovered, food, money, medicine, rehabilitation services so that Danny could learn to walk again, but he hadn’t been able to give him what Danny really needed, his father. She could still remember the look on Danny’s face when he’d realized that his father wasn’t coming. It had been the saddest thing that she’d ever seen. It had been too much for her to handle and she’d been forced to leave his room and go find a ladies room before she did something foolish that would make it worse.
“Uncle Ethan is a fucking idiot,” Jason bit out, sounding just as pissed as he had that night when Uncle Ethan had walked away from his own son.
“No, he’s not,” Haley reminded him, pressing a kiss to his neck. “He’s terrified.”
“Of what?” Trevor demanded.
“Of saying or doing something to make Danny run away again,” Zoe answered and just like that, all of their anger evaporated.
Haley didn’t agree with the way that Uncle Ethan was handling this, but she could certainly understand it. She’d be terrified of losing her child again if she was in his shoes. It wasn’t an easy situation for anyone, but especially not Danny.
“He needs to stop hiding,” Trevor said with a tired sigh that she felt more than heard.
“Dad wants to make him a foreman, but Danny’s fighting it. He doesn’t want to do anything more than show up, do his job and go home to that empty apartment every night,” Jason added as he pulled her closer.
“We’ve been getting him to come to dinner twice a week,” Trevor said.
“It’s something,” she agreed, but-
“It isn’t much,” Zoe said, finishing her thought for her.
“It’s fucking pathetic,” Jason said and as much as she wanted to argue with him, she couldn’t. It was-
“What the hell are you doing?” Jared, her father-in-law suddenly demanded.
As one, they all raised their heads so that they could see the intimidating man glaring down at them from where he stood at the foot of their bed. She opened her mouth to answer him, but of course, Jason couldn’t pass up a chance to aggravate his father.
“Having an orgy.”
With a shake of his head and a sound of disgust, Jared headed for the door, only pausing long enough to say, “Well, hurry the hell up! Your mother’s refusing to let any of us have any brownies until you come back down.”
Zoe’s startled squeal matched her own as she suddenly found herself shoved aside and her large comfortable pillow shoving his cousin out of the way as he chased after his father.
“Those are my brownies, you bastard!” Jason yelled seconds before the bedroom door was slammed shut and the room was once again enveloped in darkness. Her mind raced to grasp the fact that she’d once again been ditched for food and after a moment, she decided that she was okay with that.
“Goodnight, Zoe,” she said, shifting onto her side and closing her eyes, already knowing that she wouldn’t sleep well without Jason in bed with her, but right now she’d take whatever she could get.