When I found an eviction notice taped on my apartment door, I had two options: find a comfortable cardboard box to call home, or move in with Tucker Jameson.
Seeing that cardboard makes me feel itchy, I chose the latter. Which shouldn’t be that big of a deal since Tucker is one of my good friends. And because he’s still pining after his ex-girlfriend and I’m trying to finish my nursing degree, there is nothing to worry about in the romance department, making my last semester an easy one to conquer.
Rules are set, dinners are made, conversations are had, and a shirtless, swoony roommate walks around in nothing but a pair of black briefs, ruining me for every other man.
Before I know it, I turn into a panting, lust-filled woman begging for Tucker to kiss me, touch me, and show me exactly what is hiding under those briefs.
Tucker might be my friend and roommate but he’s also my best friend’s ex-boyfriend, making him completely off-limits. At least that’s what my brain is telling me, my heart is speaking an entirely different language.
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.