The Boy Next Door - Sierra Hill


Jordan Rhoades was not my high school sweetheart.

Oh no. Far from it. He was anything but a sweetheart to me.

He may have been my next door neighbor and my mother’s best friend’s only son throughout childhood, but that did not make us friends.

Jordan was my nemesis. My tormentor. The bully who competitively tried to beat me at everything. And he did most of the time because he was my complete opposite in every way possible.

There were moments when I hated Jordan Rhoades. And I don’t use that word lightly.

He was like the worst case of poison ivy. The irritant who caused me itchy twitches of anxiety pretty much all throughout high school. Living in a small town and right next door, there was no escaping his constant ridicule and incessant teasing back then.

But I wasn’t a snitch. I didn’t go running to my mother to complain.

Whenever Jordan got it in his craw to tease me - whether it was about my weight, my braces, glasses, or my geeky nerdiness – I held my head high and usually dished it back.

Because deep down, hidden so far below the surface that no one, not even my best friend Ava would have ever guessed, I had a crush on Jordan Rhoades.

And sadly, it was my downfall.

Yet here I sit, ten years after he left town to make his big name in professional baseball, waiting for the boy I once knew and secretly longed for.

And it pisses me off because he’s late. Once again, making me feel like a complete and utter fool.

Jordan’s the one who scheduled this meeting at The Wine Cellar, the bar and bistro in our small town of Merlot. And of course, he’s late, making me wait for his sorry ass even though he was the one who scheduled this in the first place.

The time on my phone ticks a quarter past the hour, and I’m just about ready to up and leave. I’m done with waiting on Mr. Pro Baseball Player Jordan Rhoades to show up and grace me with his presence.

I’m only here because my mother asked me to call him and speak to him about a job.

The job I’ve been dreaming about since I graduated from college with a degree in chemistry.

But that dream might just end up a nightmare job because it just so happens to be working for Jordan. The now retired professional baseball pitcher just bought a winery in Sonoma wine country where we live. And he needs someone with experience, like me.

I glance down at my empty wine glass and scowl. I don’t know why I don’t just get up and leave. Why should I waste my precious time when he obviously doesn’t have good manners and thinks the sun rises and sets on his gorgeous ass?

Goddamn him for being hot and entitled.

I don’t know why I’m subjecting myself to this treatment once again, sticking around like an idiot just so he can stand me up again, just like he did ten years ago.

I’m ten years older, wiser, and with a hell of a lot more experience than I was back then, and he shouldn’t be able to hurt me again.

“Hey, Amelia. Would you like another glass of cab while you wait?”

I lift my head and plant a smile on my face to find the waitress, Briar Clarke standing at the table next to me. She’s younger than me by several years, and I think she might have a young daughter that I see in town every now and again. Nice girl.

Glancing down at my phone for the fifth time in less than ten minutes, my blood boils, and indecision roils within my belly. Should I stay, or should I go?

Great, now that tune will be playing on repeat inside my head the rest of the day. Damn you, Jordan Rhoades.

My anger seethes through me like a hive of wasps as I inhale and exhale, breathing out a deep sigh of decision.

“No, thanks, Briar. Just the check is fine. It appears my meeting got canceled.”

She tilts her head and gives me a sweet smile of sympathy. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ve been there myself. Well, it’s their loss, then. I’ll be right back with your check.”

Briar walks away toward the back, and I pull out my credit card while I wait. While I didn’t mention who I was meeting or why I was here, I’m sure she’s heard the rumor swirling around town about the newest vineyard owner scouting to hire