MY BEST FRIEND’S EX by Meghan Quinn is live! ONE-CLICK now!
New Adult STANDALONE Romantic Comedy
I step out into the chilly Saturday afternoon air and quickly zip up my jacket. The weather has been decent all week but the day I have to move, it’s scattered flurries and nipple-tightening cold.
Before I head to the back of the truck, I take in the sweet and quaint neighborhood. All the houses resemble the Cape Cod-style but different from one another in their own right. All very well kept making it seem like the perfect little place to live, a neighborhood I would never have pictured Tucker living in. Seems almost odd, like a family belongs here . . .
Oh my God.
My heart feels like it falls out of my chest as my brain starts connecting the dots. This house, this neighborhood, it’s meant for a family, a family Tucker planned on having, a family he lost. My breathing starts to pick up, my throat closing in, just as Tucker pops out of the side door, hands tucked in his pockets as he approaches, a small smile on his face.
“Need some help?”
I push back the tears that want to fall for my friend and nod, knowing words won’t form right now.
Tucker starts to walk past me to the back of the truck when he stops right in front of me and lifts my chin so I’m forced to make eye contact. Please don’t see my sorrow; please don’t see the pain I feel for your loss.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, way too perceptive for my liking.
“Uh, nothing. Just chilly.” I sniff.
He studies me, looking between my eyes, searching for answers. The intensity is almost too intense, it’s breaking my walls, disintegrating me under his light touch.
“Is everything okay over there?” Logan calls from behind the truck, pulling both our gazes toward him.
I shake Tucker off and nod as I head back to the truck to start unloading. “Just cold, that’s all.”
Not buying it, Logan whispers, “Did he fucking say something to you?”
“What?” I ask, surprised. “No, of course not. I just . . .” I lean forward and say, “I thought of something, I’ll tell you later.”
Putting on a bright smile, even though it feels like there is a battle of emotions creating a war inside me, I start unloading, watching Tucker lift two boxes at a time, Logan following right behind him. Thankful for two strong men helping me, I lift a sitting chair my grandma gave me that I repurposed and follow them both into the house. We walk through the front where I’m greeted by a white fireplace off to the right, brilliantly beautiful oak wood floors, and a spacious living room that’s connected to a dining room by a sweet archway. The thick moldings and antique knobs give the house vintage character, making it more than charming. But with all its little bits and pieces of character, it’s lacking one big thing, furniture. There is absolutely no furniture in the house, nothing hung, not even a knickknack above the fireplace. Not that Tucker is a knickknack kind of guy, but a picture frame would have at least added some hominess to the space.
“Tucker, your house is so cute.”
“Thanks. Back here.” He leads us past the dining room that connects to the kitchen and a staircase leading to what I’m going to assume is the master bedroom, and off to the left, a small hallway. We veer off to the right and into a bedroom that is spacious, much more spacious than I was expecting. There are two large windows that span almost the length of the wall and the beautiful floors I can’t get over continue into the bedroom as well. The walls are a neutral grey, which is a nice calming tone, and the room right next to mine is a bathroom. The space couldn’t be more perfect.
“This is my room?” I take it all in. “Wow, I feel a little spoiled.”
Logan nods his head and it almost sounds like it pains him to say, “It’s nice.”
“Thanks.” Tucker sets the boxes down and says, “Unfortunately, there is one bathroom so we will have to share, so I hope that’s not a problem.”
“Not a problem at all. Just knock before you walk in.” I wink which brings a light smile to Tucker’s lips.
“Kitchen is around the corner, make yourself at home in there, pretty much everywhere.” He pulls on the back of his neck, his bicep flexing in the process and the strain in in his jaw concerns me. “Uh, I just ask one thing of you.”
“If you’re going to suggest walking around naked on Mondays and Wednesdays, I’m going to have to decline.” I joke but my humor barely reaches his eyes.
Instead of returning the humor, he says, “The room across from yours . . . it’s off limits. Please don’t go in there, don’t ask to go in there, don’t even ask me about it, just leave it alone.” He shifts in place, his eyes fixed on the floor beneath us. “Everything else in the house is yours to play around with, do whatever, set up yoga classes in the living room for all I care, please just don’t talk about the room across from yours, okay?”
“Okay.” I nod vigorously, wanting to convey to him he can trust me.
“Okay,” he repeats, letting out a pent-up breath. “Uh, I’ll go get some more boxes. You can start unpacking if you want so you don’t have to go out in the cold.”
He steps away, just as Logan calls out, “Right behind you.” When Tucker is out of earshot, he leans in and whispers, “What the fuck was that about? What’s in that room?”
I have a pretty damn good idea, but I’m not about to talk about it because the mere thought of what rests behind that door breaks my heart. And it’s abundantly clear it still breaks Tucker’s heart too. Oh God. Has he suffered through this alone?
“Nothing bad. I’m sure just something he doesn’t want to talk about right now. Go get some more boxes and stay away from my underwear.”
He scoffs. “You think so low of me, Emma. It burns my soul.” He holds his chest in mock hurt.
Rolling my eyes, I push him toward the door as he laughs and walks out to the truck to help Tucker, leaving me in my new space all to myself. Spinning around, I take it all in. Not a bad place at all to spend my last semester in college. I’m already half in love with the little house. Tucker chose so well. As much as I know Tucker and Sadie weren’t right for each other, seeing this very vivid manifestation of his commitment to Sadie, my heart breaks a little more. I didn’t grow up in a house like this, and just in the few moments, I feel myself growing attached. I can’t help wonder if it’s because of the powerful gesture behind it’s purchase though.
But that’s nothing I have to worry about now. I have a warm, lovely place to stay. The unease in my heart about living with Tucker starts to unravel as realization sets in, I have my own space for the next few months, a comfortable space with an old friend. An old friend I desperately want to reconnect with because even though I’m here to study, I also want to help Tucker, I want to know everything about him and learn about everything I missed out on this past year.
“How’s it going in here?” Tucker stands at the doorway, his hand gripping the top of the molding, his shirt lifting just high enough that I get a peek of his boxer briefs.
“Good.” I scan my bedroom and chuckle. There are boxes, books, clothes, and pictures scattered all over the space. “It looks like a giant mess right now but I know what I’m doing.”
“I sure hope so, because your floor looks like a nightmare.”
I wave a hand of dismissal at him. “Controlled chaos, that’s all it is. But, I finally figured out where to put my furniture. What do you think?”
He takes in my set-up and nods. “Looks legit to me, but what do I know? My furniture consists of a bed and a TV upstairs.”
“I’ve noticed.” Biting my bottom lip, I contemplate asking him about the other furniture, which is non-existent. Will he get offended? Only one way to find out. “I really like what you’ve done with the place. Keeping it very light on the furniture, great idea.”
He chuckles, his chest rising with the sound slipping from his mouth. “Yeah, I haven’t really gotten around to decorating. Sorry about that.”
“No need to apologize. I’m so grateful for you offering your house to me. I would be happy sitting on cardboard boxes if I had to. I’m just glad there is a roof over my head right now.”
His brow creases, irritation masking the smirk on his face. “If you were in trouble, you should have called me, Emma. You know I would have helped you out.”
Ashamed, I look down at the clothes in my hand. “I never would have called you, Tucker.”
“Why the hell not?” He steps into the room, his irritated presence making the room feel smaller. Squatting before me, he forces me to look at him.
His unruly hair looks like he’s been running his hands through it all night and his eyes, they are bloodshot in the corners, like he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Unable to lie to him, especially when he only speaks the truth, I say, “Because, I haven’t really heard from you in a while. I didn’t think it would be appropriate to just call you up and ask for a place to live. Plus, I uh, I didn’t know you had a house. I honestly had no idea where you were living.”
Still squatting in front of me, he searches my eyes. I feel intimidated under his watchful eye as if there is a certain way for me to react but I have no clue what it is.
Standing, he reaches out to me, his hand extended for me and says, “Fair enough. I guess it’s time we reconnect. Come on, I ordered pizza.”
Smiling brightly, I grab his hand and allow him to help me to my feet. He starts to head to the kitchen when I stop him and point to a box by the door. “That’s kitchen stuff, you interested?”
He scans the box and then smirks at me. “I don’t know. Do you have a bottle opener in there?”
“One in the shape of a lobster.”
Chuckling, he picks up the box and says, “This I have to see.”
He leads us to the kitchen where there is a pizza box resting on the counter and a six-pack of Angry Orchard. I eye the alcoholic beverage and give him a questioning look.
“Seemed like a chick drink you would enjoy and I would tolerate.”
When he sets the kitchen box down, I dig through it quickly, find my lobster bottle opener, and snag two bottles from the six-pack. I pop them open and hand him one. “For the record, I’m a whiskey girl if you want to drink with me.”
“Whiskey, huh?” A lazy smile spreads across his face. “Damn, Emma, I never would have guessed. You’ve always been the girl drinking lemonade with a touch of vodka at parties.”
“I’ve ventured out in college. It’s hard to drink heavy alcohol when I have to deal with you hooligans blowing crap up and severing limbs.”
“I don’t remember limbs being severed, but you didn’t always have to be the one to take care of all the drunk idiots. You could have had fun too, Emma.”
“I did.” I flip open the lid of the pizza and grab a slice. Grease drips off it, just like every other New York-style pizza as I fold it length-wise and bring it to my mouth. “I’ve just had a little bit more fun in college.”
Before he grabs a piece of pizza, he steps forward, encroaching on my space and places his hands on my hips, his fingers igniting a wave of heat in my body.
Before I can ask what he’s doing and get too distracted by the delicious smell of his cologne, he lifts me up on the counter and then steps toward the pizza box to grab a slice for himself. He sits on the counter across from me and says, “Well now that you’re living under my roof, I demand that you have fun these last few months you have in college. No more of this taking care of people shit. We are all grown-ups, if we decide to sit in a pile of poison ivy, that’s our own damn fault.”