His BBN - Big Beautiful Neighbour (Sweet Alpha Brother Neighbour Series

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Chapter 7

“I don’t know about you but I’m starving.” Joshua looked at the mountain of purchases in both the flatbed and the space cabin. They literally couldn’t take a message more. And it was just as well as their list was complete. They had not even thought of how they were going to get it all upstairs to her office. She was one of the rare persons who lived alone and therefore had space to store things.

“I am too. I just realized that the last time I ate something substantial was breakfast. Let me make a quick call. Petra’s restaurant is just five blocks from here.”

He waited for her animated conversation to end.

“We’ve got a table at the finest Italian restaurant you will ever dine at in your life.”

“I live with a chef remember. Finest is relative.”

“Well considering I have yet to taste Marlon’s cooking I will be loyal to my BFF.”

They turned on to the busy street. Joshua followed her directions and soon parked in a reserved spot in front of a quaint green and white building. He had barely gotten down out of the truck and assisted Anabelle in her descent, when they were set upon with a flurry of activity. When the movement died down, he found Anabelle wrapped in the arms of a woman, who could only be described as buxom. She was almost as tall as he was and full-bodied. Her hair was so black it seemed blue in some places and it was pulled back into a messy bun. The t-shirt she wore looked as if it was strained to capacity as it was pulled tightly across her chest. It was tucked into the waist of jeans that looked as if they had been sprayed on. The jeans disappeared into the tops of combat boots.

“Petra love! Let’s get inside before you catch your death of cold.”

So, this was the famous Petra. The women embraced and made their way into the restaurant and he followed. They were ushered into a semi-private booth and two menus placed before them. Petra smiled down at Anabelle benevolently and looked at him then back at her.

“Oh! My bad manners. Petra, my neighbor Joshua. Joshua, my BFF Petra Collins who I’m sure can run circles around Marlon in the kitchen.”

“We shall see about that last part.” He rose and extended his hand. “Very nice to meet you Miss Collins.”

“Petra, dear. Just Petra.”

He could hear the slight lilt of an Italian accent in her voice. He smiled broadly and she smiled back. She winked at Anabelle and bent and whispered loudly.

“He’s a cutie! I say we keep him!”

Anabelle blushed and giggled and looked over at him.

“He’s just my neighbor.”

“Mmmhmmmm. For now, Hun, just for now. I’ll send Trish over to take your order in a bit.”

They both watched as Petra flounced off. He turned his attention back to Anabelle.

“So that’s the famous Petra.”

“That’s my Petra. We met in middle school when she and her folks came over from Italy. I’m sure you picked up the accent. She’s a year older but she got held back because her English wasn’t very good at the time. I taught her English and she taught me Italian. We’ve been friends ever since.”

“Wow.”

“Yup! Her parents decided to go back to Italy when she was just about to finish high school. She didn’t want to leave so she lived with my family that last year. She used her college money to open Petra’s and the rest as they say is history. Her parents sent her an inheritance from a rich uncle who died last year, and she bought herself a cottage about an hour from our complex. She used to live in a room above the restaurant until then. She wanted me to come live with her, but it was too far for me to commute to school. The complex is just a ten-minute drive you know.”

“Well I for one am glad that you didn’t move in with her. If you had I would never have met you.” He rested his elbow on the table and leaned a cheek into his palm, staring at her across the table. He smiled gently and she smiled back. He saw her take a deep breath and open her mouth. Any response she was about to give was swallowed up by the arrival of their waitress.

“Well?” Anabelle looked over at Joshua as he drove up to the resident’s gate and clicked the button on the dashboard. The gate swung open and they entered. He remained speechless as they parked and he switched off the engine. He had not spoken a word all through their late lunch save for an unintelligible grunt after he placed the first forkful of pasta in his mouth. He had remained speechless as he cleaned his plate. The chocolate rum cake that they had ordered as dessert disappeared in a flash. When Petra had come to bid them goodbye and had asked for his feedback on the meal his only response had been a series of exaggerated eye rolls and belly pats. She had thought he was being his usual over dramatic self but when the journey ended with still not a word spoken, she became alarmed.

“Joshua? Say something. You’re worried about me now.”

He took a deep breath. “What’s there to say? I feel as though I’ve cheated on Marlon and now, I’m torn between the two. I don’t know who is better. Marlon is… I mean… but Petra is… oh wow! I don’t know what to say.” He sighed. “But your girl can COOK!”

She laughed and clapped her hands in delight. “I’ll be sure to pass on your sentiments, dramatics and all.”

He vaulted out of the truck and came to help her down as he had been doing all day. This time, however, he set her down quickly and kept a discreet distance away.

“Don’t want to set tongues a-wagging madam president.”

“Appreciated. Let’s get this stuff upstairs.”

Together they worked tirelessly to haul the trees, wreaths and several other packages of both decorations and gifts as well as other odds and ends up the stairs. When at last the final box was stashed in her office, she breathed a sigh of relief and plopped down in the chair at her desk. He perched on the end of it just beyond her elbow as they surveyed the things in her office.

“I can’t wait until next week when we get all this out to where it belongs. I need my workspace.”

He picked up a bracelet she had made a few days before and had placed on the beadboard.

“This is pretty. You made it?”

“Yup!”

“Cool. Is it just a hobby or do you make them for sale?”

“It’s kind of a hobby that has turned into sales, put it that way. The piece you’re holding needs a matching set of earrings and necklace and then it’s off to a loving home.”

“Hmmmm. So, if I wanted something for my sister and mother for Christmas, would you be able to make it for me?”

“I should be able to. Tell me what you want, and we’ll see if it can happen.”

He replaced the bracelet and reached out to caress her cheek. He smiled gently as she looked up at him. There was an awkward silence as they both just sat staring at each other, his fingers stroking her cheek. The jarring of her cell phone broke the silence and she breathed a deep sigh of relief. She didn’t think she would be able to not find herself in bed with him if he had kissed her the way he had in the parking lot. As she answered the phone he straightened up and collected his things.

“Hi!” She nodded and followed him to the door. He placed his hand on the knob and kissed her other cheek then was gone.

She closed the door and turned her full attention to Petra. She put the call on speaker so she could move about freely. Her voice came over loud and clear.

“So is Mr. Hot and Hunky Joshy gone?”

She palmed her face.

“Yes, Mr. Hot and Hunky Joshy is gone.”

“So, dish girlie dish! When you told me, you had a new neighbor I never dreamed he would be that side of beef you waltzed in here with today. What’s the deal with you two?”

“There is no deal. He’s just a neighbor and we happen to be working on the same committee to decorate the complex. What you saw today was simply that.”

“Nuh-uh. What I saw today were two people who are feeling a little something for each other.”

“Well I do kind of like him...”

“And he does kind of like you…”

“You don’t know that…”

“Yes, I do.”

“He could be just trying to cop a feel and a quick fuck.”

“If he was, I’m sure you would not be within a ten-mile radius of him. You’re a smart girl and very good at heading off the one-night-standers at the pass. Remember Gary?”

“He was just a perv.”

“Yeah. And you knew it right away. But what’s your gut saying about Joshua?”

She circumvented the question.

“His gut loves your food by way. I couldn’t get a decent word out of him until he got here. His brother is a chef, so he is now torn between you both.”

“That’s nice. What’s your gut saying about him?”

She was clutching at straws and she knew it.

“He saw a sample of my jewelry and wants to order something for his mother and sister for Christmas.”

“Bella? Don’t make me ask a third time.”

She sighed and groaned as she placed the phone on the coffee table and dropped into the sofa.

“Tell mama Petra everything.”

And just like that everything that had happened that day and especially that afternoon came spilling out. Petra listened in silence until she ended with the kiss on the cheek goodbye just as she called.

The line was quiet.

“Pet? Are you there?”

“I’m here Bella. I’m here. It sounds to me like the dude feels just as attracted to you as you are to him.”

“Or maybe he just wants to get me in bed and that’s the end of that.”

“And again, I ask you if that is what your gut is saying.”

“No.” she pouted.

“Stop pouting. What is your gut saying?”

She sighed and closed her eyes.

“I don’t want to listen to my gut right now. It’s only going to get me into trouble.”

“And it’s the best kind of trouble too. Do you want my opinion?”

She sighed again.

“Nope. But I’m sure you’re going to give it anyway.”

“Today I saw two people who had eyes only for each other. I’m not saying you’re in love or anything like that. I’m not even saying you’re in like. What I am saying is that there is a noticeable attraction between you two and it is something worth exploring. It may not amount to anything. It may amount to everything. But you won’t know if you don’t give it a chance. Remember, every experience we have is either a…”

She finished the philosophy by which Petra lived, “…lesson or a blessing.”

“A lesson or a blessing, Bella. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s the latter.”

“I hope so too, Pet. I do. I’m just not the playing the field type and I’ve had two strikes so far.”

“Oh please! Those two jokers? We’ll call them practice shots. Joshua is the real deal and where we start keeping score. But as you said we hope he’s the first and the last. But on to other stuff. I’m setting my restaurant schedule so that I can give you guys a hand on Christmas Eve. But now that I hear that there is this big-shot chef on board and all I’m not sure if common little me will be needed after all.”

“Of course, I still need your help Pet! You wouldn’t dare wimp out on me. I lost count at five hundred in terms of the number of persons we’re catering for, the homes and the complex combined.”

Petra laughed. “I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that Bella. You know I’ve got your back. just tell Auntie Pet what you need, and it’s done, ok?”

“Ok?”

The line was silent for a while. Then she sighed and spoke again.

“Pet?”

“Yes Bella?”

“I’m going to give it a shot. He must make the moves though. I’m not going to chase him.”

“He strikes me as the type who gets what he wants, and he wants you. The only reason he has not had you yet is he’s giving you time and space to warm up to him, that’s all. But take it from me, as soon as he gets the signal that you will accommodate his attention, he will be all over you like beads at Mardi Gras.”

She chuckled at Petra’s choice of a synonym. Her grasp on that concept never ceased to fascinate her.

“Bye Pet. And thanks for the chat and advice.”

“By my Bella.”

With a click the call came to an end. Anabelle sat staring into space for how long only goodness knows. When she finally moved the evening, shadows had already started to get longer. She was still full from lunch so needed only a light snack. She showered and hunkered down in her office for the rest of the evening.

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