chapter 1 - Perfection (Neighbor from Hell #2) by R.L. Mathewson

Chapter 1

"You stupid bitch, you ruined my life!"

"Mrs. Sands, wait!" Zoe cried, holding her hands in front of her face as she desperately tried to back up in her small cubicle only to bang into the cheap off-white colored plastic wall, leaving her with nowhere to go and a seriously pissed off woman holding the extra large iced coffee Zoe bought ten minutes earlier, coming her way. "Please don't-"

Her words were cut off by a stunned gasp as twenty-four freezing ounces of her much needed caffeine fix hit her in the face, neck, and chest, instantly drenching her.

"You'll pay for what you did!" Mrs. Sands screamed, pulling her hand back to slap Zoe. Thankfully someone, probably Mr. Sands, already called security and the two large burly guys that she passed every morning in the downstairs lobby grabbed Mrs. Sands and yanked her back before she could make good on the murderous glare she was sending Zoe's way.

"Bitch!" Mrs. Sands screamed, kicked, and screeched as she was carried off the tenth floor.

With a shaky hand, Zoe reached out and grabbed her wobbly office chair and carefully sat down, making sure to keep most of her weight off the front left side wheel. When the chair didn't collapse and deposit her ass on the floor, again, she counted herself lucky.

"I told you to keep your mouth shut," John, the office ass**le, said in a bored tone as he walked past Zoe's cubicle.

Yeah, he really had and she was kicking herself for not listening to him when she had the chance. With a groan she dropped her face into her hands and wondered if anyone would notice if she left work a little early today. Of course they would, she thought miserably. The penny pinching management watched their employees like hawks, never missing a thing and ready to swoop in and attack at the slightest blunder.

She'd lost count of how many times she'd been written up for "excessive office supply waste" for not reusing paper clips, leaving her computer running for two minutes while she used the bathroom, throwing away paper that could be used again no matter what was printed on it, and her absolute favorite, using more than one staple on a packet. If she tried to leave even one minute early they'd know and for the next week they'd double her workload to get back the time they believed she owed them.

After three long years she was too tired to argue or care. At this point she was resigned to come in at eight-thirty on the dot and put in eight and half hours and work through her unpaid lunch break as was required and then go home to the new hell that she was beginning to hate.

Two months ago when her landlord unceremoniously evicted her so that his eighteen year old daughter and her thirty-two year old boyfriend could have her apartment, she'd been desperate to find a decent apartment that she could afford on her meager salary.

When she found a beautiful two level townhouse located in a decent neighborhood for two hundred dollars less than her old apartment she'd been ecstatic and snatched it up quickly, hoping that it was a sign that maybe things were going to start looking up for her. Of course she really should have known better since nothing in life ever seemed to go her way.

The first clue should have been when she found out the other tenant in the two family townhouse was the landlord's nephew. Over the years she'd dealt with that situation enough that she really should have known better. In her experience landlord's relatives were ruder, louder, and had a huge sense of entitlement, making the rest of the tenants' lives a living hell. She learned early on not to complain to the landlord when his or her kid had all night parties, had shouting matches until three in the morning, or when their grandkids detonated water balloons in her mailbox. The result just wasn't worth it.

So when her new neighbor, Trevor Bradford, parked his pickup truck halfway into her parking spot, leaving her with no choice but to park on the street and risk a parking ticket, she shut her mouth and sucked it up, knowing complaining would do little good. Whenever he did something to piss her off like steal her paper, blast his television, or track mud into their small hallway and all over her cute welcome mat with puppies, she bit her lip and kept her mouth shut, reminding herself that even with the jerk next door the townhouse was still the best place she'd

ever lived in.

"What are you still doing here?" a harsh voice demanded.

Zoe looked up, half-afraid that she'd find Mrs. Sands standing there ready for round two. Instead she found the woman's husband, Mr. Sands standing in her cubicle opening, glaring at her with open disgust. That was a little unexpected considering she was the one who realized that five million dollars had been embezzled over the past six years and found the proof that linked Mrs. Sands to the theft. Then again she could certainly understand why he was in such a pissy mood since his wife had just screwed him over.

"I asked why you're still here, Miss. O'Shea. Your employment was terminated an hour ago. I expected you to leave immediately," he said coldly.

"W-what?" Zoe asked, jumping to her feet quickly, too quickly. Her chair fell back with a loud groan and two of the wheels popped off and rolled off somewhere beneath her desk. "Why am I fired?"

It didn't make any sense. Most bosses would appreciate finding out that someone had stolen from them, right? She didn't expect them to be happy, but grateful wouldn't exactly hurt, especially right now.

With a drawn out sigh, Mr. Sands gestured for one of the security guards who'd dragged Mrs. Sands away to step forward. Zoe automatically took a nervous step back.

"Please remove her before she destroys any more company property," Mr. Sands ordered, stepping away.

Destroying company property? With a frown she looked down at the chair that had given her nothing but problems over the past three years and by this point consisted mostly of duct tape. Before she could tell him that the chair was given to her already broken the large security guard had her by the arm and her worn black purse in the other hand and was dragging her towards the elevator.

"Hey!" she said, desperately trying to dig her feet into the cheap paper-thin carpet. "Why am I being fired?" she asked, reaching out to grab the wall of one of the cubicles only to have the security guard yank her away. She grabbed another wall. Damn cheap plastic walls, she thought as her hand slipped off the cubicle wall. "I don't understand why you're firing me. I'm not the one that stole!" she cried as she was dragged into the elevator. She reached out and slapped her hands against the edge of the elevator door to stop the doors from closing so she could get her answer.

Mr. Sands shrugged. "Because you should have found it sooner," he said, leaving her absolutely stunned.

Her hands dropped away, allowing the elevator doors to close and her world to crumble.

What the hell was she going to do now?

"I would have kept my mouth shut," the security guard mumbled.

Zoe sighed unhappily. "I really am an idiot."

"Yup."

************

"Please, please, don't be in my spot," Zoe chanted softly as she slowly turned the corner, wishing she knew how to change or at least temporarily fix her windshield wipers as she did her best to squint through the heavy downpour.

A moment later she slowly stopped in front of her house....at least she thought it was her house. With a small groan, she pressed the button to roll down the driver's side window and tried not to cringe when the window emitted its usual grinding noise. Once it was down, Zoe leaned out the window and tried to make out the color of the townhouse, pale blue, not hers, but at least she now knew that she only had two more houses to go.

Just as she was pulling back, a car sped past her, crashing through a large puddle and further soaking Zoe. This day could not get any worse, she thought, wiping mud out of her eyes and jumping when somebody behind her blasted the horn. With a resigned sigh she started driving once again, but apparently not fast enough for the people behind her, who accompanied her twenty yard drive with continuous horn blasting.

After the day she had she wasn't too surprised to find Trevor's pickup truck parked in the middle of their short double wide driveway. With a groan she did her best to park across the street, trying to ignore the cars that sped past her, telling her off, and adding a special blast of the horn just in case she didn't quite get the message the first time.

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