... was it something I said? Something I did?
- Poison, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"
- Poison, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" "So."
Jared glared at Jo from the kitchen. She glared back at him before eyeing the food in the pot. "That looks deesgusteeng! ‘ow deed you become a cook anyway?"
"I needed a job. How did you become a golddigger?"
“I beg your pardon! I am not a golddigger, I just want a man who can take care of me, who can afford my lifestyle! Eet ees not my fault that they wanted to deevorce me! And none of that eez any of your business, seence you are not my type. Not at all!” "Keep telling yourself that," Jared muttered. "Not your fault they dumped you like a bad habit! Not your habit they didn't wanna support your lifestyle! Which is ... what? Getting trashed and coming home with men who aren't your type?"
"You! You! 'Ow about you, asking your leettle brother to 'elp you after luring an 'elpless woman to your deesgusteeng 'ouse! You are not any better!"
"Helpless, huh? I got ten scratches on my back that say you ain't so helpless!" "Yes, and I even broke my nail! Look! Do you 'ave any idea 'ow much eet hurt?! I do not understand why I let you buy me those dreenks, you are not a gentleman! Your poor mother must 'ave been very sad, you failed to learn any manners, unlike your brother! You should try to be more like 'im!"
At this, Jared stopped stirring. MORE ... like ... his ... brother? That spineless little twit? He sighed moodily and poured himself a glass of beer. Because now he was remembering all too well how he had met Jo--he'd wandered upstairs in his cook's clothes, passing through the gala that was still in full swing, and ordered a cold one from the bartender. His appearance had earned him more than one funny look from the society crowd, and one particularly lust-filled stare from a lady with a gold-rimmed glass in her hand. He'd cocked an eyebrow--she'd smiled--and he bought her a shot.
He couldn't mingle with guests while he was on the clock, but oddly enough she'd stuck around. She even came downstairs a few times and walked nonchalantly by the kitchen. He'd noticed. Hell yes he'd noticed. And then? More shots. More liberties taken. And she'd followed him to his motorcycle ... and then home. And …
But at least he'd had enough presence of mind to use protection. Thank god for that. He did NOT need any more kids. No sir. Now he just had to make her get out. He downed the contents of the glass and eyed her. She looked at him, irritated.
"Do you 'ave to dreenk that deesgusteeng stuff? Although your character improves a lot when you are drunk but thees smell ees getting een my nose!"
"Honey," Jared slurred, "lemme tell ya somethin'. You were just as drunk last night, you smelled just as bad, and you couldn't keep your hands offa me. Shut the hell up and quit bein' so uppity."
The none-too-subtle reminder of just WHY she was in his house to begin with set Jo off. She screamed at him in French until he kissed her just to make her shut up. Furious that he had done such a thing while reeking of beer and humiliated at herself for actually LETTING him, she slapped him.
A normal slap from a normal woman usually had zero effect on a guy like Jared Frio. A slap from a babbling Frenchie with an attitude problem while he was still sorta hungover? While she was in HIS house? Completely uncool. He slammed the empty glass down on the counter. "Get out."
"’ow do you mean get out?" she repeated, incredulously. She shrieked as he approached. But kick and scream as she might, he was picking her up and she was no match for him physically.
"You are an animal! Do not touch me, you deesgusteeng man! You ..." "... ooof!"
Jo immediately covered her nose. He had ... he had dumped her next to his garbage can! And whatever was in there, it STUNK!
She ran back to the front door and hammered on it, to no avail. He'd locked her out! "Jared!" she screamed, and went on screaming his name for so loud and so long that the next-door neighbor came over wearing a dark blue uniform. "Excuse me, ma'am? Is there a reason you're acting like a crazy person?"
"’e threw me out!" Jo shouted."Jared! Eef you do not let me back een I am telleeng your brother!" Beverly Tisdale half-chuckled, half-groaned to herself. So THIS was the one Connor had in his office earlier. No wonder he'd looked so annoyed when he came back in. And this one had gotten mixed up with Jared? ... bad times ahead. For both brothers.
"... ma'am? ... stop that, you'll hurt yourself. C'mon, I'll take you somewhere you can stay for the night."
So for the second time in twenty-four hours, Jo found herself riding around in a police car. This certainly wasn't the way she was used to being treated! She would be lodging some kind of complaint with City Hall as soon as she got back to her apartment! But in the meantime this woman was stopping the car in front of a modest house with another police sedan on the curb and a very sexy convertible in the driveway. Despite everything, Jo smiled. If this was Connor's house--and oh yes it was--this night wouldn't be a complete disaster after all! "Beverly!" Connor shouted in a whisper. "What did you bring her HERE for? I can't have that woman in my house!"
"I'm sorry," Beverly pleaded. "But she and Jared were having a fight so loud I could hear it at MY house. If I take her back over there, there'll be an incident. I'd take her in myself but there's just no room at my place."
"If there was any other way, I wouldn't be here. You know that, Connor."
At this, Connor looked defeated. He turned away and went inside without another word, and Beverly motioned to Josephine to go in before she left the scene. Connor was waiting in the living room. Jo took note of the tacky furniture and the collection of wine bottles at the narrow entrance of the galley kitchen (there was NO way a house this small had a proper kitchen). Connor's money had clearly gone toward different items: the rather expensive-looking paintings, the flat-screen TV, the enormous bookcase.
"Rosalind, honey," Connor called in a tired voice. "Come up here, I want you to meet someone." Jo tried to imagine what this 'Rosalind' must look like. A guy like Connor probably went for the standard corn-fed prom queen type, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, busty ...
Well, at least she'd gotten the "busty" part right. "Baby, this is Jo."
"Okay," Rosalind said in a voice so clearly uninterested that he might have been asking her to take out the trash. "Why is she here so late at night, and why should I be okay with this?"
Jo turned away, completely offended. The nerve of this ... mannish-looking woman!
"Look ... just ... get her a nightshirt, please?" Rosalind led the way to a small room and fumbled through the dresser. She offered Jo a black, well-worn t-shirt. "Okay, Miss Jo. Here you are."
Jo took at the shirt with distaste."'Stone Temple Peelots?' What ees thees nonsense?" Rosalind gave her a withering look. "Listen up, you dumb bunny. I can put up with you being in my house because you couldn't stay in Jared's, that might have even been a smart move. I can put up with you checking out my husband's butt. But STP is one of the best bands of all time, and you'd better take a bath and wash all that cruddy makeup and stink off your little skinny behind before you put my shirt on. If you mess up my shirt I'm gonna mess up your face." She went out, slamming the door behind her. Needless to say, it wasn't a good night for anyone. Something about waking up from a bad dream in a strange bed wearing someone else's stupid band shirt made Josephine positively furious. She barely said two words throughout all of breakfast which was really too bad because the crepes were excellent, far better than anything Jared could have cooked. But watching those two disgusting lovebirds flirt over the coffee somehow ruined her appetite. She was glad to push her barely-eaten food away so that Rosalind could wash dishes. Rosalind gave her a rather irritated look. "Connor says you probably shouldn't wear that dress for the third day in a row, so I'm gonna let you borrow some clothes."
"Pssh," Jo snapped. "I would rather go naked."
"Go for it."
"Rosalind, stop that. Jo, you need to get dressed. I made some inquiries last night, I'm still trying to find your apartment."
"Nice to see some people steell take pride een their jobs," Jo said, which prompted Rosalind to roll her eyes. She was about to speak too, but a look from Connor told her that it was probably a bad idea. She settled for giving Jo dirty looks which were happily returned. In the end, Connor went to work and Rosalind took Jo shopping. The tension between them was suffocating, especially when Rosalind 'accidentally' gunned the motor on the little convertible and practically nailed Jo to the seat ... ... and even more so when Jo and a salesclerk laughed over how ugly and tacky a particular couch was and how no decent person should have it in their house. Perhaps it was a coincidence that that very couch was in Rosalind's house, and perhaps not.
In any case, the call from Connor didn't come a moment too soon. By great good luck, Jo's apartment was in the same building as the high-end shopping center. The center took up floors 3-6, and floors 7-15 were all apartments. Jo was renting unit F on floor 12. "So she's in room 6 on floor 13," Rosalind said with an evil smile."That figures."
"Honey, behave, please. Take her to her place and leave. Don't say anything else to her."
"My lips are sealed," she assured him. She and Jo rode up to floor 12 and approached unit F. The door was wide open. Jo dropped the bags and screamed. Rosalind, true to her word, did not speak. The apartment was stripped bare. The people who had stolen the goods hadn't been in any sort of rush--they'd even taken the time to remove the light fixtures from the wall, take the food from the refrigerator and mop the floor so that there weren't any tracks. Jo wailed at the top of her lungs. Rosalind hadn't stopped laughing yet.
"Shut up! You stupeed woman! You see that I ‘ave been robbed and all you can do ees laugh?"
"Call me stupid if it makes you feel better, but my ugly, tacky furniture is still IN my house." By now security was on site, alerted by all of the racket. The guard did what neither woman had bothered to do--that is, call the police.
An officer showed quickly enough and investigated the area, immediately concluding that the door had not been forced, so either the crooks either had a key or Ms. D'Haleine had never locked the door to begin with. It soon became very obvious who was at fault when Jo could not identify her house keys on her key ring after ten minutes. Mortified, Jo blurted out that a woman could not expect better when the entire police force was corrupt and on the take. Rosalind laughed. And the police officer sighed. "Ms. D'Haleine, you're welcome to come fill out a police report down at the station--"
"What for?! What ees the point when you do not take a woman's deestress seriously? What kind of ‘orrible people take a woman's curtains? And peellows? And ... mon Dieu, the paper towels! They ‘ave taken the paper towels, for ‘eaven's sake!"
The officer looked at her with a vaguely patronizing expression. "May I remind you, Ms. D'Haleine, that YOU are the one who did not bother to lock your door. First line of protection against any thief is a deadbolt." "Why should I ‘ave to? Thees ees supposed to be a private building! Reeff-raff are not supposed to be een ‘ere! There are guards at the front desk, were they asleep when I was being robbed?"
She went on in this vein, blaming the circumstances, the building security, the robbers, the neighbors, the police force, until Connor himself showed up. He took the officer's report and walked over to Jo, who immediately brightened at the sight of him. "Oh, Officer Connor! Now that you are ‘ere, maybe work weell actually be done!"
"Maybe," Connor said dryly.
He skimmed the report. "Looks like they managed to take ... 'everything.' And you estimate your 'everything' to be valued at §864,000. How'd you come up with such an exact figure?" Jo explained. She'd started with a solid million. §100,000 of the money had gone towards moving costs (the handling fees to ship solid crystal were positively outrageous), getting the apartment to begin with and setting it up with new furnishings such as her 18K silverware sets, her crinoline silk rug, her Waterford glasses, her fashionably ugly modern paintings, her Egyptian cotton drapes--
"You like your stuff on the pricey side," Connor interrupted. "I get it."
--and various bribes for various reasons. She'd transferred §86,000 to a debit card as "spending cash," much of which she'd gone through today. The remaining cash was sitting in a wall safe ... and the thieves, in the interest of being thorough, had taken it as well.
Connor gestured to the bags on the floor."So if you've spent your spending money, does that make you broke?"
"Of course not! You are going to find my theengs for me!" "Ms. D'Haleine, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but even if we recover your physical items, the odds are slim to none that you'll ever see any of that §864,000 again. Criminals don't usually hang on to cash for long, they spend it or hide it. Unless we take them in the act, that money's pretty much gone."
He looked at the bags again. "I REALLY hope whatever you bought can be returned, you're going to need to do so and quickly." "Nope," Rosalind said smugly. She'd been in the corner the whole time, smothering laughter. "She cleared out the 'last chance clearance' section. No exchanges, no returns."
Jo shouted, "Everyone een thees town ees psychotic! You watch what I buy but no one bothers to call the police while my ‘ouse ees being picked clean!"
"No one understood you were being ROBBED, you dummy! You didn't lock your door! Your neighbors probably figured you were moving out!" Jo leaned against the nearest wall and cried. This was, perhaps, the most horrible day EVER! In just 48 hours she'd gone from a millionairess to practically broke. And if this damn woman didn't stop LAUGHING at her ...
"Ms. D'Haleine. If you want to continue to stay in this unit, I'd highly recommend that you change the locks and install a security system. Otherwise you should probably begin making arrangements for a hotel." "Non!" Jo blurted out. "'otels cost money. I do not 'ave any more. Take me back to Jared, I will stay with 'im!"
... and there was silence, except for all the snickering. "Hellllllll yeah!"
Jared celebrated his winning dart throw with more beer. The "deegusteeng stew" sat on the stove, forgotten and uneaten. He didn't really have the heart to finish cooking it and it was too much for just one person to eat ... except there were THREE people coming up to his door. And one of them was his lousy brother! And another was Jo ... damn it! And ... Rosalind? Since when did Rosalind ever come to his place? ... never mind. He opened the door and parked himself right at the top of the steps.
"Tell him," Connor said, and nudged Jo forward. She flinched. "Jared, I need to stay 'ere," she mumbled at last.
"I thought you found your apartment!"
"But I've been robbed!"
"Not my problem." "Jared," Connor began. Jared turned on him in fury. "You keep outta this! You said I had to let her stay for the night!"
"And you threw her out after two hours," Connor finished.
"You listen here, jerkface! You specifically said I had to let her stay while you found her place. YOU FOUND HER PLACE! There was no mention of having to let her come back in case she suddenly got scared of the dark or didn't like the view or whatever! People get robbed all the time, they don't get to just move because of that!" Jo panicked. She knew all too well that she couldn't stay with Connor. She couldn't afford a hotel. And she couldn't go back to Riverview. Oh ... this was SO distasteful ... but ...
"Jared! Please let me stay. I ..." She gagged on the inside and maybe just a little on the outside, but quickly covered it all up with the biggest smile she could manage.
"... I love you."
That brought the arguing to an immediate halt. "…"
"Ewwww," Rosalind muttered.
"This is getting too deep for me," Connor agreed. They went back to the convertible and unloaded the trunk while Jared stood there frozen to the ground. Once the last bag touched the driveway they vanished into the dusk. Jo and Jared looked at each other, surrounded by her shopping bags and a very awkward silence.
“Say something, mon amour,” Jo begged at last.
Jared stared at her, finally turning away to mumble, "... I think I'm gonna puke."
Unhappily Ever After: Part Three
Jul 9, 2011 by spladoum
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