The Last Boyfriend(9)

By: Nora Roberts

“If you’ve got a minute, Mom said there were some things you wanted put up on the second floor.”

“And the first if we can squeeze it in. The more shipping boxes we empty, the easier it’ll be to clean, and the smoother the load-in should go.”

“That’s a good point.” The woman, he thought, spoke his language. “I’m your man. Anything you need done in here?”

“I’ve got some shelves I need to hang.”

Oh well, he thought. It was the Day of the Shelves. “I’ll hang them for you.”

“I’d appreciate it. They’re over at the other apartment. I can get them later.”

“I can send somebody over for them.”

“Sure, if you can spare someone. But we can deal with what’s on-site first. I’ve got everything Justine wants hung back in J&R.”

His language, he thought again.

“Want a coat?” he asked as she got off the stool.

“I’ll be fine. It’s a quick trip.” But she pulled the sleeves of her sweatshirt down to her wrists. “I talked to Avery this morning,” she continued as they walked toward the back of the building. “She’s frazzled with so many of her crew out. I’d hoped to go over, give her a hand tonight, but it looks like we’re going to be in here most of the evening.”

When they went out, she slapped a hand on her bandana before the wind whipped it off. “As cold as it is I’ll bet she’s slammed with deliveries tonight. Who wants to go out in this?”

She nipped into Jane and Rochester, rubbed her hands together. “So we can hit W&B first. Or since we’re right here, we could work back to front on the second floor. Starting here, with the bathroom shelves and mirror.” She tapped the carefully labeled boxes. “Bathroom mirror.”

She ran through the items for each room, working down to the first floor.

“That ought to keep me busy. Let’s save steps, start where we are.”

“Good. Why don’t I show you where everything goes, then get out of your way. You can send someone up for me if you have any questions.” Taking a folding knife out of her pocket, she slit open a resealed shipping box.

“I like a woman who carries her own knife.”

“I’ve filled out my tools since I moved here. I nearly bought my own nail gun, then realized I’d gone too far.” She took out two curved copper shelves. “So I compensated with more office supplies. What is it about new file folders and color-coordinated Post-its?”

“Preaching to the choir.”

They chatted amiably as she directed the height, the space, as he measured, leveled, and drilled.

“It’s perfect. Look how the antique gold of the mirror frame plays off the tiles, and the copper of the tub, the shelves. Wait until Justine sees this.” Turning a circle, she aimed for the bedroom again. “I can’t wait to dress this room. All the rooms. With the fireplace and that amazing bed going in here, I think it’s going to be one of our most popular.”

She pulled a notebook out of her pocket, checked off items, made notes.

He grinned when she tucked it away again. “It’s nice to have somebody on my team for a change.”

“Writing things down saves time in the long run.”

“Again, preaching to the choir.”

Together they gathered boxes, carried them to the porch door and through.

Hope started into Eve and Roarke, and nearly walked straight into Ryder.

“Mom wants the ceiling light up. Where the hell is it?”

“I’m carrying it,” Owen told him.

“Then you install it.”

“That’s the plan. Hope’s got some things over at her apartment for her place upstairs. Why don’t you go over and get them?”

“I can get them later,” Hope began.

“What are they? Where are they?”

“Shelves, wall shelves. Bath and living room. They’re in marked boxes in my storeroom. In the second bedroom,” she amended. “I’m using it as a storeroom.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“You need the key,” she said when he started to walk away. She reached into her front pocket, offered it.