Home > Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)

Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
Aurora Rose Reynolds

Chapter 1



After a sip of wine, I pick up the packing tape and close up another box. Leaning back on my heels, I look around my almost-empty living room. Who would have thought that six years of someone’s life could fit into a few cardboard boxes? The proof is stacked up against the wall, waiting for the movers, who will be here in the morning. The house phone rings in the kitchen, causing me to sigh. Only two people call the house line: my former mother-in-law and my ex-husband. The voice mail kicks on, and I cringe as my ex-husband’s voice echoes through the quiet house.

“Courtney, it’s Tom. I spoke with Mom. She said that the movers are coming tomorrow morning. I was wondering if you’d like to get dinner tonight. We should talk before you leave. Call me back.”

A loud beep fills the air. When I look down, I notice that my nails are digging into my palms. Talk? It’s funny that he always wants to talk now. Whenever I tried to talk to him during the last two years of our marriage, he was always too busy, always telling me that we didn’t have anything to talk about, that everything was fine. But everything wasn’t fine, because I found out he was a cheating jerk who knocked up his secretary while I was going through fertility treatments in hope of giving us the family we had talked about for years. I unclench my fists and pick up my wineglass, gulping the rest down before heading to the kitchen.

Once there, I turn on the faucet and fill the glass as I look through the window above the sink. I used to love standing right here and daydreaming about the day I’d see my children playing in the yard. This house was full of those kinds of dreams—dreams that kept me going when nothing else would. When Tom and I bought this house, we were young and in love, excited about the future, excited about our future together. I was twenty-three when we met. I had just moved to Boston from Albany, and I’d started working as a paralegal for a law firm downtown, where he was a lawyer. I don’t really remember how we got together, but I do know what drew me to him. He had a big, close family—something I had always wanted. He also seemed to have compassion for others who were less fortunate, which was a rare quality in the men I knew back then. When we met, he seemed like everything I had been looking for: he was kind and stable and accepted everything about me. Growing up in the foster system, I never had a solid foundation or anyone to lean on when times were difficult. He gave me those things. Well, he gave them to me for a while, anyway.

“It’s time to build your own foundation,” I remind myself out loud as I shut off the water and head toward the living room to finish packing.

Tomorrow I start my new life. Tomorrow I will be moving out of this house and to New York City, where I have a job lined up at a law firm that specializes in divorce. It’s sad to say that the end of my own marriage helped to get me the job, but it did. I hadn’t planned on fighting him for anything after I found out about his affair, but once I found out that his mistress was pregnant I lost my mind. I wanted him to suffer in some way. I wanted him to feel what I felt when he took my dream from me. I had given up so much for him. When we decided to start trying for a family of our own, I stopped working. I gave up who I was and became the wife he wanted me to be. I took care of the house and the groceries, made dinner every night, and made sure I was always available to spend time—or have sex—with him. I don’t necessarily blame him for that. I wanted to be a good wife to him. I wanted to make him happy, to be someone he was proud to have on his arm. I wanted him to know how much I appreciated him, which is why what he did killed me a little bit.

I didn’t have any money of my own, and I knew I couldn’t use a local firm to handle my divorce since so many of the lawyers in Boston were friends of Tom’s. Then I happened upon a newspaper article about someone from my past: Abby Snider, a divorce attorney in New York City. I was three years older than she was, but we had been in the same group home. I looked after her as much as I could before she was adopted at age eleven by a well-off family in New York City. We lost contact after that, but she never forgot me—the same way I never forgot her. The story claimed that she was a righter of wrongs and a voice for the women she fought for. I needed a voice. I needed someone to fight for me, and Abby did. When I contacted her, she remembered me immediately and agreed to help me out.

Tom and his family were affluent, but it wasn’t until I filed for divorce that I learned exactly how well Tom had done on his own. All I knew was that we were comfortable, we had a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood, we drove latest-model cars, and I didn’t have to clip coupons. In the end, Tom didn’t put up a fight. He gave me a little over $10 million in our divorce settlement without batting an eye. Maybe he felt guilty, but getting that settlement didn’t make me feel any better. I would have rather had the life he promised me the day we got married.

The sound of the doorbell brings me out of my thoughts. As soon as I see the shadowy figure on the other side of the glass, I roll my eyes skyward and stomp across the highly polished dark hardwood floors.

“Yes?” I ask after I swing the heavy wooden door open.

“I figured you were busy packing, so I brought dinner,” Tom says, holding up a brown paper bag between us like a peace offering.

I pull in a deep breath and watch him shift on his feet, looking uncomfortable. It’s weird that I don’t find him the least bit attractive now. When we got together I thought he was a good-looking man: he’s tall and lean with blond hair and brown eyes that used to make me melt when he looked at me.

“Shouldn’t you be home with your girlfriend and newborn?” I ask, not able to keep the bite out of my tone.

Since his daughter was born two months ago, he’s been doing things like this more and more. That is, showing up unannounced, asking me to meet for dinner, calling all the time. Which is why I decided not to buy Tom out of the house, but to put it on the market and take the job Abby offered me instead. Living in the same city with him has been hard. I hate seeing him. I hated running into his pregnant girlfriend at the grocery store, where I had to endure her catty looks. I hate that his mom lives across the street and still thinks it’s okay to stop by whenever she wants. Don’t get me wrong, I love his mom, but seeing her is a reminder of the family I lost. I also really hate that Tom seems to think that he still has some kind of right to my time, that he can call or stop by whenever he feels like it.

“She’s out,” he says, and there is no ignoring the slight tic in his jaw. “Can I come in?”

“I’m busy, Tom. I have a lot to do before the movers get here in the morning.”

He looks over my shoulder, into the house, before looking back to me. “I can help.”

“I don’t need any help,” I state, blocking his way when he starts to take a step forward.

“Courtney, I . . .” His words trail off as he runs his fingers through his hair.

I used to find it endearing when he would do that as he tried to get his thoughts together, but now I just find it annoying. Really, I find everything about him annoying.

“Tom, just go home.” I sigh, shaking my head.

“Can you cut me some slack here? Try to understand what I’m going through?”

“Cut you some slack?” I shake my head in disbelief. “I think I cut you too much slack, if you ask me. And what exactly are you going through?” I question snidely, not able to stop myself.

“My wife is leaving the state. I think I have a valid reason to be upset.”

“Ex-wife.” My jaw clenches as I spit out that reminder.

“I still love you.”

“You got another woman pregnant while we were married. While I was going through fertility treatments. So I’m sorry, but I don’t think you do love me. Really, I don’t think you ever did.” I’m tempted to shut the door in his face.

“You know I was going through a lot at work. With you trying to get pregnant . . . things weren’t easy for me.”

Inhaling sharply, I tighten my grip on the doorknob as I try to control the sudden fury that is coursing through my veins. “Screw. You.”

I cannot believe I was married to this man. I can’t believe that I didn’t see him for the selfish asshole he is. I really must have been blind.

“Shit, I’m sorry.” His eyes close briefly. “I didn’t . . .” He shakes his head. “My head’s all messed up. I want us to be friends. I miss you. I miss talking to you.” Again with the talking. The last two years of our marriage, I did all the talking, and felt like I was losing my mind, like I was being unreasonable wanting time and attention from him.

“I don’t want to be friends with you, Tom. Really, if I never saw you again it would be too soon.”

“You don’t mean that. You love me.”

“Loved. I loved you. I don’t love you anymore. I don’t even like you.”

“So this is it? You’re moving to New York, and I’ll never see you again?”

There is no denying the sadness in his voice, but I no longer care about his feelings.

“I wanted forever with you,” I say quietly. “I wanted forever, and you took that from me. So yes, this is it. I don’t want to be friends, and I don’t want anything to do with you.”

His eyes drop to his feet.

“You will never know how sorry I am,” he tells me, meeting my gaze once more. He looks like he’s really hurting, and my heart—which he already destroyed with his carelessness—crumples in my chest. I hate that he’s in pain, but he didn’t think about how I would be affected by what he was doing to me.

“Bye, Tom.” I close the door on him and this chapter of my life.

“So what do you think?”

I’m looking around the house . . . Okay, maybe house is too loose a term, since the inside is completely bare. There’s no kitchen or bathroom, actually; there aren’t even walls. The structure is an outer shell that sort of kind of resembles a house.

“Ugh.” I scan the room again, wondering if I’m missing something. John, my Realtor, laughs. John is a couple of years older than me. He’s handsome in a Prince Harry sort of way, with copper-colored hair that makes his green eyes seem even brighter, a strong build, and an ever-present smile.

“I get it. It’s not much to look at, but it’s a great price. In this neighborhood, you won’t find a deal like this again.”

“It’s over a million.” I look around. “And there aren’t even walls.”

“Think of it as a blank canvas.” He smiles, showing off a small dimple in his left cheek.

“I don’t really have any other way to think of it, since there is nothing here.” My lips start to twitch when he laughs again.

“I know a great interior architect. He’s new to the city, but all of his work has been amazing. I’ll set you up with him if you decide that this is the house for you.”

“You really think this is a good investment?” I look around again.

“I showed you the comps for the neighborhood. Most of the houses on this street have been going for five million or more. I’m guessing that it will probably cost you eight hundred thousand or so to renovate. So yes, I really think this is a great investment.”

Never in my life would I have thought that I would be talking about spending a million dollars on a home—or about so much for renovations. But here I am, standing in the empty shell of a house and thinking about doing just that. Just the thought of spending that kind of money makes me want to break out in hives, especially after a childhood during which my whole existence could fit into a carry-on suitcase.

“It’s a cute neighborhood,” I say out loud, more to myself than to John, as I walk over toward a window that overlooks a quiet street in Riverdale, a cute area in the Bronx.

“It’s a really nice neighborhood. If you decide to have kids one day, the schools around here are some of the best in the city.”

Kids. That dream is long gone. If I do get this place, I would get a dog—or maybe a few of them—to keep me company. “How long do I have to think about this?”

“I’d love to tell you to take all the time you need, but this place is going to go fast. The developer who bought it and started fixing it up wants it off his hands as quickly as possible, which is why it’s priced like it is.”

“So I need to make an offer,” I say, turning around to face him. I feel anxiety rush through my stomach. I’ve never been good at making decisions without a lot of time and thought.

“If you’re going to make an offer, I’d say do it sooner than later.” He nods, shoving his hands into the pockets of his pressed slacks.

I turn and take in the empty space. I love the area, and I know he’s right. Homes on this block are going for a lot more than I would be paying, even including renovations. It would be an investment, probably a good one. I need to start my life over, and part of doing that is making a home for myself.

“Okay,” I agree.

His head tips to the side.

“I’ll make an offer, but promise me that if it’s accepted, you’ll get me in touch with your guy as soon as possible.”

I don’t mind the place that I’m subletting, but spending close to five grand a month for rent makes me feel nauseated. Then again, there aren’t too many places in the city in decent areas for less than that.

“You got it.” He grins, showing off his bleached-white smile. “Now come on. I’ll take you out to lunch.” He closes the door to the house behind us as we step out onto the front stoop.

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