Authors: Jennifer Ann
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This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of writer’s imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
KELLY’S QUEST (NYC LOVE #2)
Copyright © 2014 Jen Naumann
All rights reserved.
Cover designed by Najla Qamber
A Treetop Fantasies book (a division of Phantom Owl Press)
For my dear friend Jody, someone who’s always there for me in addition to being my favorite travel partner. Looking forward to our next trip to NYC.
(NYC LOVE #2)
BEFORE NOW I DIDN’T HAVE a full understanding of what the saying “walking on clouds” meant, but I’m about to move into a brownstone in New York City with the love of my life, so...yeah.
For a Saturday morning, our small neighborhood tucked away in Murray Hill seems relatively quiet; the mixed odor of the city and summer smells thick in the stifling air. The little Irish pub on the corner, lined with dark hardwood inside like most of the others we’ve visited, doesn’t open until noon, though I’ve heard it doesn’t draw in much of a crowd during normal party hours. The constant hum of traffic along Park Avenue still takes some getting used to, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Aside from a few joggers, dog walkers, and residents going in and out of their brownstones, my best friend and I are the only two around.
I’ve only been here a few times since Adam first surprised me with the news that he purchased us our very own piece of New York with an inheritance he received from his beer mogul grandfather. We were quick to pack our things in Wisconsin and move into a rental for a few weeks while the final papers were processed for the brownstone. We spent the last few weeks picking out a college, findings jobs, and shopping for furniture as neither of us has owned so much as our own mattress outside of our childhood homes.
My face nearly splits in two when I take another long look at our new home. The narrow, tan building blends in with the others sandwiched beside it, but the dull shade of red I chose for the front door gives it a subtle kick from the other lower-level entrances. Our wrought iron gate is tall and rather heavy, giving me an extra sense of security even if the gate is only for show.
Inside is a work in progress with leaky faucets, cracked plaster, floors that need refinishing, and a kitchen that’s a complete eyesore. But it’s ours, and we plan to fix it up over time. The ground-level backyard is exactly the kind of getaway I’ve been dreaming of since I took the road trip to the city with Adam earlier this summer.
My best friend, Kelly, wipes at her sweaty forehead from the unrelenting heat the morning already brings. The incredibly short shorts and low-cut tank top she wears fit her curvaceous body like they were custom tailored for her. Without a stitch of makeup, she looks younger and exhausted. Her large brown eyes show the stress of the grueling weather wearing her down. She twisted her long brown hair into a sloppy bun this morning, but pieces have already fallen out around her supermodel-like cheekbones. Only Kelly could make natural look incredibly sexy. Whenever I try that kind of look, I resemble Whitney Huston during her days on crack.
I was somewhat thrown off when Kelly insisted on flying out to help us move. When I reminded her moving meant doing
, she mumbled something about getting away from her sisters. After spending her summer as a counselor at her family’s camp, I think the restrictions of being around her overbearing sisters really wore her down.
Kelly pushes her pouty lips out farther than usual. Moments like this I see why all guys seem to be drawn to her. “Does Adam seriously expect us to stand here and do
until he gets back? I don’t understand why we can’t just go in. I swear I’ve lost ten pounds in sweat.”
I nod, feeling my ratty Alice in Chains t-shirt cling to my chest. “You’re right. Let’s take a few things in. I’m sure it won’t hurt anything.”
I slide in next to her and unlock the back gate with the keys Adam had me hold on to until his return. The van is filled with a few dozen boxes, a bed for the guest bedroom, an armchair, and the dresser from my childhood. Most of our furniture was newly purchased, thanks to Adam’s inheritance, and should be delivered later in the afternoon. All I care is that we have our bed up by the end of the day. Tomorrow’s my fourth day working at the market down the street, and I want a good night of sleep. Standing on my feet all day has been particularly draining, considering it’s been over a year since I last worked at one of the clothing stores managed by my mom.
The first tangible object within reach is Adam’s flat screen. Together, Kelly and I wriggle the monstrosity free and shuffle toward the steps.
“Don’t even think about it!” a voice yells out. Theo, my relatively new friend, swoops out of nowhere to my side, grabbing my end of the TV. “You had strict orders not to go inside on your own, remember?”
I turn to him, smirking. He’s so predictable. In running clothes soaked with sweat, headphones blasting hardcore rap, it’s like looking at the same temporary neighbor we met just months ago in these same streets when Adam and I were renting a place and still trying to figure out what to make of our tumultuous relationship.
Considering Theo hit on me, buck-naked, mere
after we first met, it’s actually a small miracle to think just how good of a friend he’s become to both me
Adam. And I still laugh every time I see him dressed in designer suits for his swanky job as a television producer.
“Look who finally decided to show up to help,” Kelly snorts, struggling with the TV on her end. “Pretty sure you could manage to carry this whole thing on your own, big guy.”
Theo moves his hand down the flatscreen further until her face relaxes with relief. “That better, or you need me to carry you, too?” he teases with a playful smile.
Kelly rolls her eyes to the sky. “Back it down a notch. Not everyone is automatically charmed by your massive muscles.”
“Oh, I can charm the pants off anyone, Cavenaugh. All you have to do is ask.”
I moan, shaking my head. This has become their usual banter since they first met two days ago. Theo flirts, and Kelly pretends she’s not interested, although I caught her giving him some pretty dopey-eyed glances. I think a part of her is afraid of what will happen if she lets herself fall for him since she lives in Wisconsin. I’m secretly hoping something
happen between them so maybe she’ll decide to move to New York. It’s going to be hard not having my best friend around, considering she’s always been the one I can count on when things turn to shit.
Theo and Kelly disappear down the narrow steps to our newly acquired brownstone, just four streets down from Theo’s. Taking a deep breath of the heavy air, I study the peaceful neighborhood. A warm rush of pride and excitement fills my gut. Until now, I’ve never felt like I was exactly where I’m meant to be. My life suddenly feels right on track, like this is exactly how things are supposed to play out.
Theo and Kelly emerge from the ornate door, her bright giggles endless. Theo catches me smiling like a goober at the building behind the van and folds his massive arms. “Where
Loverboy this morning? I think this is the first time I’ve seen the two of you more than five feet apart in the last two weeks. Shouldn’t he be helping us?”
I snap from my trance and reach for the pile of blankets that were covering the TV, throwing them into Kelly’s arms. “It’s not like he can actually carry stuff anyway. And he had to meet with a professor.”
Dealing with Adam’s Type I diabetes was at first incredibly stressful on our relationship, especially when he was ready to accept possible death over being with me. By the time we met he’d been through so many surgeries and awful procedures—leaving him regrettably scarred and broken—that he didn’t have the mental strength to endure any more. Though he insisted that we’d never be anything more than friends, we fell in love and he realized our relationship was worth fighting for. He’s come a long way on his recovery, yet it’s still slow going.
Kelly snorts as she heads back to the steps with her arms full. “Who meets with professors on the
? He’s such a nerd.”
to make sure all his credits are accounted for before fall semester starts,” I scold her.
Kelly scoffs before disappearing. Theo crawls up inside the back of the van to sort through our sparse belongings.
“You should probably stick to the lighter stuff until James gets here,” I suggest to him. “I’d hate to see you develop a hernia while Kel is in town.”
Luckily, Theo wasn’t the only overly muscular, tattooed friend we made in the city. His buddy, James, was quick to volunteer his help when he heard we were moving.
Theo peers around the corner of the van, his expression broad with hope. “Are you saying she
into me? I mean, she’s a total knockout, and any friend of yours
to be worth my time. C’mon, give me something to work with.”
I shrug coyly. “I never said anything of that sort, though she did make a comment about your perfect ass, and the only time I’ve really heard her giggle is when she’s around you. If you say anything to her, though, I’ll totally deny it. I can’t have you breaking my best friend’s heart.”
“I don’t plan on breaking her heart, I just want to get to know her. C’mon, throw a guy a bone here.” He crouches down until we’re closer to eye level. “How can I impress her so she’ll agree to go out with me?”
A familiar pair of arms slip around me from behind, molding against me like it’s where they’re meant to be. “Offer to take her on a trip across the country. It worked for me.”
I whirl around in my gorgeous boyfriend’s arms. I didn’t see him sneak out of the rental this morning, but it’s no surprise he’s looking as hot as ever in a button-down that matches the hue of his steely blue eyes. His hair doesn’t have the usual spiky flip going, which is typical when he has to get up early. He’s growing stronger with every day and has more of the boundless spirit from when we first met. I lace my fingers through his hair and drag him close, pressing my lips to his for a deep kiss.
Theo coughs behind us. “You’d think that’d grow old eventually.”
Adam stops kissing me to beam at Theo. “Once you find the right one, it never grows old, my man. You wait. You’ll figure it out one day.” He kisses the tip of my nose. “Have you been inside yet?”
Theo jumps down onto the street with a big box in hand. “No, she hasn’t, and you can thank me. I caught her just as she was trying to sneak in.”
“I wasn’t trying anything,” I say, rolling my eyes with feigned annoyance. “The man’s a chronic liar.”
Adam’s eyes sparkle. “Are you ready for your surprise?”
I lean in to kiss him again. And again. “Does it involve locking Kel and Theo out to give us a little privacy?”
“I’m sure we could make that happen.” Adam smirks before sucking on my bottom lip.
“I’ve developed a whole new level of sympathy for your new neighbors!” Theo hollers over his shoulder.
We follow him inside, hands held, my excitement skyrocketing through the roof. The first level of our new place looks halfway decent sized without any furniture, but I know as soon as the couch and deep armchair we picked out arrive, the living room will shrink back down quickly. The wooden floors, bleached and cracked, just need a little TLC once we’ve saved up a bit more money. The kitchen, however, could use a wrecking ball. The crooked cabinets have rotted out in places, and small chunks of the laminate countertop are missing. It’s unattractive, but at least Adam was able to afford
in this neighborhood. After we’ve fixed it up, we’ll probably come out ahead
we ever decide to sell.
Adam’s adorable dimples flare when he pulls me toward the drapery-covered patio door, past our friends playfully arguing on their way back outside. Before Adam pushes the doors open, I already have an inkling of what I’m about to find.
What was once a small area with short, chain-linked fencing and the world’s saddest patch of grass has transformed into a backyard wonderland. Dozens of twinkle lights are strung beneath a draping canopy that does an excellent job of filtering the sunlight. Three outdoor sofas with red cushions circle a stone fire pit inside a new, walnut stained fence. Ornate stone covers the ground inside the intimate gathering area in a swirling pattern, with a patch of fresh sodding in the far back. It’s incredibly charming. I can’t believe it’s ours.