Playing for Keeps

Chapter 1

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no!” Haley murmured in disbelief as she watched her pink, white, and yellow tulips being yanked viciously out of the ground. She shoved back from her computer desk and stormed towards the front door. She was going to kill him this time there was no doubt about it.

After five long years of juvenile nonsense he’d finally gone too far. Her college roommate hadn’t even been able to aggravate her this much, even when she went through her six month period of not showering, or using deodorant to “save the planet.”

Five years ago she’d been proud to buy her first house at the ripe old age of twenty-four. She'd worked her butt off to buy her dream home, a one level two bedroom ranch. The experience of owning her own home was better than anything she could have ever imagined.

She spent countless hours picking out the perfect color scheme for each room, cleaning, organizing, and hitting every yard sale within a thirty mile radius, trying to turn wood and plaster into a real home. None of that work could even begin to compare to the countless hours she spent on her lawn and garden. With countless blisters, cuts, bee stings and back aches she turned her dull yard into a paradise.

Her enjoyment lasted for all of four months. That’s when he moved into the house next door. At first she was excited to have a neighbor, one that wasn’t elderly and well, cranky. All of her enjoyment ended the moment she met Jason Bradford.

Within the first ten minutes of his arrival he’d backed into her mailbox, spilled fast food wrappers from his car onto his property, which quickly made their way onto her immaculate lawn, and relieved himself on the great old oak tree in his front lawn with a sheepish smile and a shrug in her horrified direction.

The man was a barbarian.

For the next five years he turned her picturesque life into a nightmare. She wasn’t sure how one person managed to take so much control over her happiness, but he did. Over the years she dealt with paintball pellets decorating the laundry hanging on her clothesline and the side of her house, loud music, parties, twice she found naked people trying to climb the fence to skinny dip in her pool, three a.m. drunken basketball games, women throwing hissy fits on his front lawn and sometimes on hers when the jerk refused to come out and deal with them.

What made it worse was that they both worked at the same private high school, in the same department, with adjoining classrooms, and parking spots. It didn’t take long for him to turn her dream job and house into a nightmare. At work she had to deal with him constantly “borrowing” things from her room like paper, pens, books, and even her desk one time.

He seemed to think he was the most charming man on earth and had no problem with using it to get his way, leaving her with extra work and responsibilities while he got to be the laid back teacher. It didn’t take her long to figure out that she would have to suck it up at work. There was no way at her age she was going to be able to land a better job. She'd been lucky to land this one. So the only option left for her was to move.

After the first year she tried to sell her house, unsuccessfully. Every time a prospective buyer came around he scared them off by just being Jason. She gave up the idea