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Breaking Even

By:C.M. Owens

and she leans back, trying to catch her breath.

“He's dead,” I hiss, doing all I can to come up with something as equally destructive to do to him. “Right after I get this damn blue off me. It had so better not be permanent, or you'll be the next one to suffer my wrath.”

Instead of cowering in fear—as she should—she only continues to laugh, and I storm into my bedroom to shower and plot my revenge.



“It's not so bad,” Maggie lies, biting back her grin as she looks at the remnants of blue that are still staining my hair.

“It looks like I have a lot of graying hair.” I could cry—if I knew how to cry. The blue faded to be a duller, lighter color, but it didn't all wash out. My clothes are ruined, and my hair... I'll kill him.

“It's really not so bad. Besides, I can make you a hair appointment with my girl. She'll have this fixed up in no time.”

She gives me an apologetic smile that I don't particularly find sincere. She's helping the enemy. How could she?

“Well, I have a date to get ready for,” she says when my scowl loses its effect. I suppose it can't lose its effect if it didn't have one to begin with. “So you're on your own with Mr. Sexy for the rest of the day.”

She turns to walk away just as I say, “You have an early morning date? So this is getting really serious?”

She grins as she walks into her room, not bothering to answer. It's barely six in the morning. But I have more important things to worry about than her breakfast date.

I quickly rummage the cabinets and see the baking soda. Genius strikes.

When I hear Maggie slip into the shower, I quickly make my way out the front door and across the lawn. Hopefully he’s not up yet. As long as he’s not waking up to gloat about my new dye job, I should be able to get in without detection.

He doesn't have an alarm on his house—I don't think. He swung the door open as soon as his footsteps made it there the other morning when I banged on his door. And I know I've seen him climb through the window before when he apparently locked his keys in the house.

Geez, I sound like a stalker.

Moving to the window I've seen him climb through three times, I push up, smiling when the window lifts without sounding an alarm. It's a little high, but fortunately I'm able to hoist myself up and fall in like the worst covert operative ever.

Staying still, I listen for any rustle of movement to say I'm busted. I look around at the living room I'm in. Damn. It's twice the size of ours. And it's really, really clean. So not what I was expecting.

I wish I had more time to snoop, but I don't. I have to hurry before he finds me.

His massive kitchen is easy to locate, and I take a second to marvel at all the marble surfaces. It looks like a picture Tuscany would envy.

Surprisingly, the copper accents and fixtures actually look good alongside the sleek stainless steel appliances. Guys don't deserve kitchens like this. I would love it, take care of it, and treat it with so much respect. It does smell good in here, so maybe he's utilizing it at least a little.

With a wistful sigh, I open the fridge, and that's when I melt a little more. It's something people should sing about. Crisp vegetables along with numerous other things are perfectly organized within the fridge. I want to move in and move him out.

Grabbing the ketchup, I offer one last look to the fridge, and then I sneak back out. This is going to be good.

After managing to get out the window with more grace than I entered, I sprint across the yard and head inside. It takes the ketchup a while to run to the top, but I wait patiently, never moving my eyes until the last drop has slid down. Then I flip it back up. Just as I grab the baking soda, Maggie walks in wearing nothing but her towel.

I ignore her as I focus on the task at hand.

“Why are you pouring baking soda into our ketchup bottle?”

Ah hell. This is making a mess. My excitement has caused my hands to shake and some of the baking soda spills over.

“It's not our ketchup,” I mumble absently.

“Whose is it? And why are you pouring baking soda in it?”

“Have you ever seen one of those baking soda and vinegar volcanoes people used to do at school?” I ask distractedly, still dedicating the majority of my attention on my revenge.

“Yes. Why?” she asks slowly.

“Do you know what the main ingredient is in ketchup?”

I screw the lid on with a proud smile on my face as the red coats the white and hides it from sight.

“No,” she says, acting as though she's worried about my sanity at this point.

“Vinegar,” I murmur, grinning bigger as I carefully move to the window, looking to see if anyone is outside that could tattle on me.

“And?” she prompts.

I turn around, my twisted mind reveling in the sheer excitement. “One thing that is very predictable about our jackass neighbor is that he barbeques every third Wednesday of the month. I can smell the burgers cooking from over here. I always feel hungry all day because of that damn scent. Tonight, he'll have a surprise.”

“The ketchup?” she asks, still seeming confused.

“Yep. Just like anyone else that uses a bottle of ketchup, he'll shake it first.”

She walks over just as I open the door, and she asks, “What happens when he shakes it?”



Wren and Tag deal the cards again just as I bring the burgers in.

Dane is sitting next to Maverick, though I don’t know why either of them came. Dane isn’t my biggest fan. But Tag and Wren keep trying to put us together.


“Your luck has to run out sooner or later,” Tag growls, glaring at me.

“He wouldn’t be winning if Raya was here,” Wren points out.

“She’s banned from the poker tables,” Dane says idly, picking his cards up.

“I refuse to even watch her play poker anymore,” Tag grumbles.

I just laugh. It feels good to finally have Tag over. He rarely gets out of Ash's ass these days.

I pull out more beers and all the shit we’ll need t