Going Home

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The place was modest to say the least. Maddy had to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen, and the bathroom was in the back of the house.
But with a little imagination, she could probably make it habitable. Maybe even cute. Since deciding on her move to Nugget she’d put off house hunting until the last minute. At least this little duplex apartment would only be temporary. As soon as the contractors spiffed up quarters in the soon-to-be-renovated Lumber Baron Inn, she’d move in there so she could supervise the entire overhaul. In the meantime, she could walk to the inn from here.
“So you taking the place?” The guy who’d introduced himself as Rhys Shepard, the duplex owner’s son, leaned against the doorjamb.
“Maybe,” she said, noticing the way his shoulders filled the doorway. Maddy suddenly wished she’d put on makeup, maybe even wore her hair down instead of piling it up on top of her head like a mop.
She gave the apartment one last walk-through, staring out the windows at the breathtaking views. She could see the river, snow-covered mountains, and the town, which from here looked almost quaint.
“Did the Donner Party come through here?” she asked. Ever since her brother, Nate, had found her holed up in her Pacific Heights Edwardian, inconsolable over her husband’s deception, and had dragged her to Nugget, she’d become obsessed with the tragedy. She stared out at a distant mountain peak and thought maybe it happened there. Maybe that’s where the snowbound pioneers started feasting on the dead.
She’d have spatchcocked Dave, that’s for sure.
She turned to face Rhys. “Is that why this street’s named Donner Road?”
“Yeah . . . I think so. If you’re not interested--”
“I’ll take it.” She reached in her purse for a checkbook. “Deposit and first month’s rent, right?”
“That’ll do you.” He continued to stand there while she wrote the check. “So, you’re fixing up the old Lumber Baron place?”
“Yes. How’d you hear about it?” she asked.
He grinned, showing a nice set of white teeth against his tan skin. “The whole town’s talking about it. No secrets in Nugget.”
She caught him checking out her wedding ring as she handed him the payment.
“Let me get you the key.” He disappeared into his dad’s side of the building and returned a few minutes later. “Here you go.”
“Thanks. I probably won’t need it until Monday,” she said, stashing the key in one of the zippered compartments of her handbag. “That’s when the movers are bringing my stuff.”
“You know what time? Mine’s also coming Monday. I don’t think there’s enough room in the driveway for two trucks.”
Her curiosity must’ve shown, because he gave her a tight smile and said, “I’m your new neighbor.”
“I thought your dad lives here?” The apartment barely had enough space for one person, let alone a second, tall, really built one.
“Me, too, now.” He didn’t elaborate, just jutted that strong square jaw of his at her in a way that said, Wouldya answer my original question?
“Hopefully in the morning. What time’s yours scheduled?”
He shrugged. “They’re coming from Houston, so whenever they get here. Maybe it won’t be a problem. We’ll have to play it by ear.”
“Texas, huh?” Curiosity was killing her. “Job transfer?”
“Something like that,” he said, and Maddy thought she detected a tint of bitterness in his voice. “When’s your husband arriving?”
When he’s done screwing our best friend’s widow. For all Maddy knew Gabby had already joined Dave in Paris. “I’m not sure yet,” she answered, gazing out at the railroad tracks. “Do the trains run frequently?”
“Only every four or five hours.”
Super!
As if reading her mind, he said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it,” and flashed those pearly whites again.
Maybe it was just Maddy, but the smile seemed slightly sadistic. She got the feeling that moving here didn’t rank high in his top picks of places to live and you know what they say . . . misery loves company.