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The Good Neighbor

RIVER

“River—” My heart pounded so hard that I had to breathe. He was so achingly beautiful even if his lips were pressed into a thin line. 

We stared at each other, waiting in silence for the first one to speak up.

“I know that you’re just trying to play a good guy here because of a promise or whatever you and your sister have agreed on. You don’t have to. Let’s face it, you still hate my guts, always will. I could see it in your eyes every time you looked at me. I really wish I could go back to that time and undo what I did to you. And I apologize for that. You seem a good person, but what you did to me was also terrible.” Gah, I was a mess. I knew that now. I walked away from him before I could say something foolish. I needed a moment to myself to think of a plan. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do or how to deal with my stalker without him hurting the people I cared about.

“River, wait!” On the other thought, maybe I asked the right person after all, and maybe he would be willing to help if I made the right deal.

I stopped and faced him. “I need a job.”

His eyes narrowed, confused. “What?” 

“I need a paycheck, and you don’t have to deal with my aggravating and nagging self every damn time.”

He huffed, eyes burning with anger, but still, he managed to radiate pure sexual power. “How could you even go out when someone is stalking you? That doesn’t even occur to you until now? That you have to stay off his radar? And you haven’t been here for an hour, you’re already a pain in the ass.” Ouch! 

I managed not to flinch at his insult. I guessed, I just had to suck it up whatever he would throw at me, good or bad. That was the price I had to pay for walking into the lion’s den. 

“Let me work for you then.” I thought my eyes just sparkled with hope.

Krew rolled his eyes. “Let’s talk about it later. Come with me.”

I did as he said, and I rode a bike with him. It was noisy and a little bit uncomfortable, but I felt free, and I got to touch the sinewy hard muscles of his abs. This man was nothing like the playboy Kai and free-spirited Krystyn. Krew was quiet, yet magnificent. 

“You okay?” he asked me as we rode through the endless road. He offered me his helmet, and now he wasn’t wearing any. I was a little bit worried about him, but I could feel that he could ride safely with confidence and eyes closed.

“I think I’ll live. After all, I can’t be choosy. Where are we going exactly? Are you sure you’re not gonna sell me to the highest bidder or throw me back to that asshole?” I joked as I tightened my arms around his narrow waist when he smoothly turned the bike off the road to the secluded gravel path. 

“I thought of that. Twice actually.” I knew he was kidding. At least he tried to lighten up the tension between us. He might have noticed how frightened I was as I clung to him as if my life depended on his driving expertise.

“Touché.”

“You just have to trust me if you wanna stay at my house.” I honestly did. Besides, I should not have gone to Krys and asked for help if I didn’t trust her. What an odd? After what I did to her brother, she still welcomed me with open arms.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” The bike stopped. I realized I was still holding tightly onto him, my face pressing against his back.

As I fluttered my eyes open, I slowly unwrapped my arms around him and got off the bike. Thanked God, I’m still alive. “That was the most dangerous and outrageous ride I’ve ever had, but it’s undeniably thrilling and gratifying,” I admitted with my knees were still shaking. 

“Dangerous for someone who wears a helmet.” 

We argued earlier for a few minutes before I rode with him because I felt like I just sealed my fate and punched my death card if I tried riding with that thing. I had never been an adrenaline junkie. I would rather have my internal organs and bones inside my body than doing something dangerous. But if there was one thing I learned yesterday, that I should take a risk sometimes to experience and learn life the hard way.

“You okay?” 

I met his worried gaze. My lips spread into a wide grin. “That’s the third time in less than an hour, Selik. If I haven’t known you resented me, I would have thought I started to grow on you.”

“Don’t be so sure about that. I might have wrung your pretty little neck in your sleep,” he said without remorse, making me flinch. At least he called my neck pretty.

I may have made a huge mistake for running away, but I might be able to get through this if Krew could set his anger aside and help me instead, but at this moment, I had to suck up his overbearing attitude.

“I know you would learn to like me eventually, Selik. Krystyn likes me, you know.” I followed him to the wooden gate named Uphill Luncheon. 

“It’s because you two have a lot of things in common.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. What do women love doing nowadays besides you two have stalkers? Stalking celebrities on social media? Posting selfies, taken in the bathroom? Showing the fucking disposable paper cups to the world while half of the population are causing global warming and the others are sleeping with an empty stomach.”

Wow! Note to self: Don’t fall in love with your knight. I burst out laughing. Oh, that feels nice. “You sound like an old man. A very wise old man.”

“An old man?” Surprisingly, his brow quirked up. His eyes squinted with a slight amusement curved up his lips.

Before I could reply, a fifties something woman pulled him into a tight hug. “Hey, darling. You have the entire kitchen all you want.”

“The entire kitchen?” I asked incredulously, shutting my mouth quickly the moment they froze.

“You brought a friend. That’s a first.” The woman inspected me from head to toe, and she didn’t bother hiding her first impression on me—she did not look so happy.

“Hi, I’m River. A friend of Krystyn.” I held my hand out. 

“Odd name. Welcome to my little Uphill Luncheon. I’m Anna.” She shook my hand firmly.

“Thank you, Anna. Nice place you have here.” I looked around when they walked inside the Inn. My eyes widened to the view. There were a few wooden tables with chairs scattered around occupied by chatty customers, and they looked like they were not from around here—vacationers? Then a vast land took my breath away—it was the vineyard, huge garden from the other side, then trees—lots of them. I thought they were fruits. 

I found Krew waiting for me. “How did you find this place?”

“I owned this. I changed my mind about developing it into a commercial area. My brother wasn’t exactly impressed with my idea, but who cares? I hired Anna and her husband to take care of this land while they made profits on their own.”

“So, you’re really one of a few good samaritans left.” For some bizarre reason, his kind heart to Anna and the mother Earth warmth my heart.

“I help who deserves.” 

And where would I stand in this? I held that thought when I saw a sign. “I think I just found a job.”

“What job?”

“That.” I pointed at the wanted server posted on the wall.

“No.”

“Why not? This is an Inn. I waitressed before, remember? I could probably use a small room instead of going back to your house after the shift.”

“You replaced your friend for a night. And no. Let’s go to the kitchen.”

“Krew, I need a job.”

“I heard you the first time, River.” He groaned in annoyance, but I could care any less. This would be awesome to work here with a good view and fresh air. Or I could entertain customers. 

“Good, because I need one.”

“Starting today, you work for me. Now could you give me some serenity even just for a few minutes?”

“I just—”

“Just shut it, River.”

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