“This is fucking strange.” Nick Fuller stood in the middle of the empty duplex, his eyes casing the room. It wasn’t a small place by any means, but it wasn’t a large one, either. It had two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. The front door opened into the living room. To the right of the living room was a decent sized dining room, and behind that a nice, large open kitchen, which had been the only thing he insisted on when getting a place.
He needed a lot of room when he cooked, and a great deal of counter space. The duplex had come with both, and even a little garage off to the left. It was only the second home he’d seen, and after one quick look, he’d known it was the one. The last thing Nick wanted was to be picky about where he moved. Now was the time for low-key, easy and convenient. It was Nick’s new motto. Or at least he wanted it to be.
Still, it was fucking strange to be standing in the first and only place that he’d gotten for himself, and by himself. He’d never even lived alone until the divorce, and then Jillian had moved out, leaving him in the house they’d picked together. Scratch that, the house Jillian had picked after months of searching. He’d been done with looking after about a week and had just gone with what she wanted.
Nick groaned and rubbed a hand over his face. He really fucking needed to stop thinking about his ex-wife in context to everything he did. It was an adjustment to only think of himself and what he wanted. His whole adult life had been about the two of them.
He and Jill had started dating when they were seventeen years old. It didn’t take him long to realize he was in love with her. It didn’t matter that they were young; Nick had known what he felt, and he wasn’t the kind of man to run from that. When you loved someone you did what it took to make it work, and they had.
That all shattered when she came home, divorce papers in hand, and admitted to multiple affairs. That’s what led him here.
Fuck. Why was he still thinking about his ex-wife?
Nick walked into the kitchen, going through the cabinets and mentally figuring things out as though they’d changed since he signed the lease a few days ago. Hell, he probably wouldn’t be spending too much time here anyway. Not with the hours he kept at his restaurant.
Deciding his kitchen hadn’t magically rearranged itself since he last saw it, Nick went to the sliding glass door, unlocked and opened it. The only downfall in the new place was the fact that he shared a backyard with whoever moved in next door. Yeah, technically they could divide it in halves, but really, they shared a yard.
The house next door was currently empty.
Knock, knock, knock. Nick turned just as the front door opened. “Nick? It’s Mom.”
“Fuck,” he groaned. He should have known she’d stop by. If she had it her way he would have moved home after the divorce. It had been hell living at home while he was in culinary school and dating Jill. There’s no way he could go back as a single, thirty-year-old man. “Back here, Mom.”
She was a small woman, with Nick’s brown hair and the same dark green eyes. Nick had gotten his height from his dad, who’d passed away a couple years ago. Everything else was all his mom.
“It’s a nice place. I like it.” She smiled at him, but he could tell she wasn’t fond of his new home. He was her only son. It was Nick and three sisters, and as ridiculous as it was, she very much believed nothing or no one is good enough for my son. She’d never liked Jill, for the same reasons Jill’s parents hadn’t liked him.
“I still don’t know why you insisted on rushing to get a place. I’m in that house all by myself. I would love to have you back home. Plus, it would have given you time to put some money away for a house of your own.”
A small stab of guilt hit him. It was almost a reflex to tell her he’d stay there, but then, he’d promised himself to make this time about him, and he needed to do that. He knew part of it was the fact that she didn’t want to be alone. He was the youngest, the oops child, so his parents were a little older than most his age. When his sisters moved out, she had Nick and his father. Now, she had no one. “You know you don’t have to keep the house, Mom. It’s a lot of space for you alone. Karrie already told you she and Eric would love to have you at their place.” Karrie was his oldest sister.
She waved him off and shook her head. “I raised my kids in that house. I’m not leaving it until I die, and when I do, my kids will get it. Considering I’m fit as a fiddle, it’ll be a while before anyone drags me out of my home.”
He chuckled. She was a strong woman, he had to give her that. And the thought of losing the home made Nick’s gut ache as well. “You’re right. I don’t know why I said that.”