A Second Chance

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Chapter 17

That wasn’t her home anymore.

As Nicole stepped out of the plane in San Francisco, she realized that that city was no longer her home. She still knew the streets. She still knew the little things that made the city unique. She still knew its smells and its sounds. She still had an apartment there and friends and a job, but it wasn’t her home anymore.

Her home was a person, now. Allison.

Nicole parked her car in front of the building where she had lived at for the past years and looked up, through the window. Everything looked the same to her and yet, everything seemed a little different, like a painting that’s been moved an inch to the side. Maybe she was the one to have been moved.

The apartment was cold and dark when she set foot into it. Her computer was still on the dining room table and there was a coffee-stained mug inside the sink, all evidence of her quick escape.

When she went to New York, Nicole had no idea how long it would take her to be back at that apartment. Had Allison closed that door in her face, she would’ve gotten in the first flight back. But she didn’t and now Nicole had to deal with something smelling bad in her fridge and her plants, which had withered away without proper sun and water. She knew she could’ve called Jake to take care of that while she was away, but doing so would mean telling him where she was and why and with whom and so many more details that she just wasn’t in the mood to give.

Jake was not the only one she ignored. When Nicole turned on her cell phone for the first time since she boarded the plane headed to New York, she found a few missed phone calls and more than a dozen text messages. She scanned through them quickly, deleting what didn’t interest her anymore and making a mental note to call her parents sometime during the week ahead. She was too tired to deal with them.

There was just one call Nicole made before she went to bed. She was already under the covers when she punched the numbers in, a giddy feeling running through her veins.

“Hi, honey.” Allison’s melodic voice sounded in her ears and, for a moment, she almost believed the singer was right next to her.

“Hey.” She whispered almost silently, not wanting to break the spell of their fake proximity. “I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier. I was just dealing with some stuff in the apartment.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. There was just something rotten in my fridge and I had a few week-old dirty dishes in my sink. It felt like I had run away from home.”

“Well, I have to say I’m glad you did.”

“Me too.”

The line went silent. What could they say that wasn’t already known? What could they say that would substitute their bodies together, on the same bed, tangled limbs and warm skin? What could they say?

“I miss you already.” It was Allison that broke the silence.

“I know. I miss you, too.” Nicole turned on her side and held one pillow in her arms, a poor substitute for the woman she wanted to hold. “But I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“I know that. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to get any sleep. I kind of got used to falling asleep in your arms.”

“Wow, Ally Strong being needy? I don’t think your fans know that about you.”

Allison chuckled on the other side of the phone and Nicole was reminded of the many nights she spent in college just like that, ending her day talking on the phone with her girlfriend. Even if it was just to say goodnight, they made an effort to call at least once a day. And before she left back to California, Allison made her promise they would resume their tradition.

“I don’t think of it as needy. I’m just in love.” Nicole believed she would never not smile when she heard Allison say those kinds of things. “Beside, you know I’m never Ally with you.”

“I love you, too, honey.” She yawned loudly, making Allison giggle. “Want to stay on the phone until we fall asleep?”

“Until you fall asleep on me, you mean? Sure, I’d love to.”

As promised, Nicole was at the office bright and early on Monday morning. She had a lot of work to do, but before she could get to that, she needed to talk to Dianna. There would be no concentration for her until she sat down with the woman and told her what she had decided before she boarded that plane a week before. Allison welcoming her like she did was only confirmation of what Nicole needed to do.

But knowing what she wanted didn’t make things any easier.

Dianna’s office door was open as usual and Nicole knocked on the wood to announce her presence. The redheaded woman looked up and smiled when she saw it was Nicole standing there.

“Come on in.” She pointed to one of the chairs opposite her and waited as Nicole sat in one of them. The journalist felt like she was trying to walk against the stream. “How was your week off?”

“It was great.” The knots in Nicole’s stomach got tighter. “Actually, that’s exactly why I came here.”

“Go ahead.”

For a woman of words, Nicole felt like she had been abandoned by them. She hadn’t known Dianna for that long, but it didn’t make it any easier to tell her that she wanted to quit her job and abandon her entire life to move across the country to live with her girlfriend, whom she had reencountered less than a month before, almost a decade after their break up. She knew it sounded absurd and rushed and she wasn’t ready to hear any of that.

“I uh…” She stretched the vowel, searching for the right way to start. “I wanted to… It’s just that… You see--”

“You want to quit.” Nicole looked up with wide eyes. She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, but no sound came out. “Am I right?”

“Y-yes. But how? I mean, how did you figure it out?”

“Come on, Nicole. I didn’t get to where I am because of my blue eyes and my beautiful smile. It wasn’t exactly hard to do the math.” As Nicole remained stunned in her chair, Dianna continued. “First of all, I know you went to New York after you left my office and I know Ally lives there. Second, you told me you used to have a relationship with her in the past. And third, you asked me for the week off right after submitting that story? That was practically a love letter.”

Nicole sat there, in front of Dianna, stunned. They had only been in the same room for a few hours at the most, if they counted every single one of their interactions and yet, Dianna knew exactly what Nicole had done and why.

“How did you know I went to New York?” It was the only thing she could think of asking.

“You used the same travel agency the magazine uses. They called me to know if they should bill your plane ticket to your credit card or to us.”

The only sound Nicole could make was a murmured ‘oh’. She felt silly. She knew her feelings for Allison had been obvious to those that had been around them – as Jake loved to point out – but she didn’t think Dianna would pick up on that. Nicole honestly believed that she would be able to feed the editor some half-truth, like she just wanted to give her career a change or be closer to her parents. All of which would happen, but none of those reasons would be strong enough to get her to leave San Francisco.

“Look, Nicole, can I give you some advice?” Dianna stood up from her chair and rounded the table, leaning against the corner nearest to the reporter. “I can imagine you and Ally must be ecstatic to have found each other again and you probably feel more in love than you did when you two were together. But, I want you to really think about what you decide for your future. This isn’t a decision that should be made on impulse. And I don’t say that as your boss. I’m saying it as someone who is older than you and who has lived more.”

“I appreciate your concern, Dianna, but I have thought things through.”

“And have you considered what being with Ally might mean for your career?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“Well, Ally is a very public person, which means people will know about you and will know important things about you, including potential bosses and colleagues.”

Nicole looked at Dianna in silence for a moment, stunned for the second time during that conversation. She tried hard not to read between the lines and let her mind go straight to the place where it tried to go in regards to Dianna’s comment, but it was hard not to. It was hard not to think that Dianna was trying to shove her back into the closet.

“I have absolutely nothing to hide.” There was no space for questioning in her voice. “Besides, Allison has always protected her privacy. I have no reason to believe she won’t do the same with mine.”

“Very well.” Dianna seemed to swallow something else she wanted to say, but Nicole simply ignored it. “I guess the only thing left for me to do is wish you luck and ask until when you’re with us.”

“Thank you. And I was hoping to stay only until the end of the week. My part on the next issue will be done by then. But if you want, I can fulfill my two weeks’ notice.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary. I’ll talk to HR and let you know.”

“Perfect. I’ll get back to work, now.”

On the hallway outside Dianna’s office, Nicole found Jake pretending to read something on his phone, trying to disguise the fact that he had been watching the door for the moment she left the room. Nicole hugged him from behind, startling the man to the point he dropped the phone on the floor.

“You are the most curious person I know on the face of the world, did you know that?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He answered turning the phone in his hand, looking for any scratch and trying to hide the curl of his lips.

“Come on, Jakie.” He sent a glare in her direction when he heard the nickname. “Do you really think I didn’t see you walking from one side to the other on this hallway as I talked to Dianna?”

“Okay, fine, I admit: I’m dying with curiosity. But, can you blame me? I mean, after our last conversation you submit your story a week early, ask for the week off, send me an enigmatic text and vanish. Your cell was off, you weren’t answering your emails. I was officially worried.”

“Worried, Jake? It’s me you’re talking to. And you know pretty damn well where and with whom I was. It was your idea! You were just dying to hear the details and I know it.”

Nicole gave a little punch to Jake’s shoulder. She would miss their easy friendship when she moved to New York. She just hoped he could understand her decision.

“That’s just a minor detail, Nic. But, come on. Tell me. I wanna know everything.”

“Not now, Jake. We both have work to do, remember?” The first answer she got was a disgusted face.


“Lunch.” Jake looped their arms together and they walked like that to his work station. Nicole had her head leaned on his shoulder when she looked around and had an idea. “You know, I think I’m gonna suggest Dianna transfer you to our gossip magazine. I believe you’ll fit right in.”

The pinch she received on her ribs was well deserved and her laugh could be heard all over the office.

The scenery was the same as the one of a couple of weeks before. The same restaurant, the same table, the same friends and the same curiosity shining in Jake’s eyes. Only Nicole’s disposition had changed. If the photographer had to practically force her to tell him what was going on the other time they were there, now the journalist wanted to scream her happiness. Not that she would, but her broad smile gave it away.

“Well, I don’t even need to ask if you two are back together, it’s written all over your face. So, let’s just skip to the sordid details of your week of love in New York. I wanna know everything.”

“And you’ll keep wanting.” Nicole didn’t even bat an eyelash. She knew he was going to ask that. “It’s like you don’t even know me.”

“Still the same old boring woman.”

“And you’ll miss me terribly when I move to the other coast.”

“What do you mean, move?”

“I thought a lot about what we talked before and I want to build a life with Allison.” Jake noticed that saying the singer’s name always put a smile on Nicole’s face. “We’ve been away from each other for too long to even consider waiting or taking things slow. After spending this past week together, the only thing that makes any sense is for me to move there.”

“Hearing you speak like that… you’re not the same person I found after Ally left.”

“That scared, little girl grew up.” Nicole reached across the table and took Jake’s hand in hers. “All thanks to you.”

“You deserve to have all that happiness painted on your face. After knowing you for so long, I think this is the first time I’m seeing you truly happy.”

“It’s not like that, Jake. I was happy with Lauren.”

“No. You were content with her. But truly happy, like at this very second? This is the first time.”

There was a smile permanently perched on Nicole’s face since that rainy night she arrived in New York and it only grew bigger when she heard Jake’s words. As much as she didn’t want to, Nicole had to agree with him. Her relationship with Lauren had always been nice, but her ex-girlfriend had never been able to make her happy like that. There was something really special about her relationship with Allison.

“Now, talking about more practical things.” Nicole made an effort to stop daydreaming about Allison and pay attention to what Jake was saying. “Have you talked to Dianna, yet?”

“That’s what I was doing this morning, when you decided to take a stroll in the office.”

“I was not taking a stroll.” Jake sat up straight and placed a hand over his chest. “I was meditating about the future of the global economy.”

“Right. And did you reach any conclusions?”

“None yet, so you can go on. How was your conversation with her?”

“It was alright.” Nicole decided not to mention Dianna’s weird concerns. “Surprising, too. She already knew about us and guessed I was there to quit.”

“I told you you were being obvious, didn’t I?”

“You did. And I was, wasn’t I?” Nicole grimaced a little and Jake nodded. “But you know what? I don’t care.”

“Now, that’s the way to go. But, seriously now. Until when will stay in the magazine?”

“Until the end of the week. It’s enough time for me to finish my stories for this issue and set up a few other things.”

“God, that place will not be the same without you there.”

“Hey, I’m not dead, okay?” She flicked him on the arm. “I’m just moving. Besides, I have a favor to ask you that will guarantee we will have to be in touch.”

“I knew you would need something from super-man over here. Tell me, what is it?”

“I won’t even comment on the super-man thing.” Jake looked pleased and upset at the same time. “But me and Al, we’re thinking about keeping my apartment here. She could use it if she’s in town and it would be like a getaway home for us.” It was Allison’s idea to keep the place in San Francisco. She listed all of the benefits of keeping it, but in reality, all she wanted was for Nicole to go back to New York quicker. “But for that to happen, I’d like to ask you to keep an eye on it. It wouldn’t be nothing much. Just go there every now and then and check things out.”

“I guess I can do that.”


“If I can throw a party every once in a while.”

“I knew there would be a catch.” Nicole sighed and leaned back on her chair. “You can have your parties. But,” she added when he started doing a happy dance on his seat. “No one goes inside my bedroom, you clean everything after and, if anything gets broken, you’re paying for it. I know how your parties usually end.”

“Deal. Now let’s start planning your send-off.”

Nicole was exhausted. When Jake had said he would organize her send-off, she had thought it meant a small gathering with some of their closest friends. Eight or ten people, at the most, drinking at one of their apartments. She did not imagine it meant a full blown party. Jake invited over sixty people to one of the hottest bars in the city, some of which Nicole hadn’t talked to in almost a year.

It was a good way to say good bye to that part of her life and Nicole had a great time, but it meant she had even less time to finish packing. Earlier in the week, after she had gotten most of her life sorted out, Nicole bought tickets to New York for Saturday morning. Since they’d be keeping her apartment, she didn’t see the need to spend any more time in there. She would just pack her clothes and some essentials and she would deal with whatever else later.

There was just one slight problem with her plan: Nicole hated packing. Always did. When she was still a player, it was the one part about it that she didn’t like, the constant packing and unpacking. Once, she even tried paying her roommate to do it for her, but when she got to Maine and only found her uniform and bikinis in her suitcase, she decided she should do it by herself. It didn’t mean she liked it, or that she didn’t do it in the last minute possible.

At the moment, Nicole stared at the two opened suitcases in her bed. There was not a single piece of clothing inside either of them and she wondered if they would magically float from her closet and into the suitcases if she focused hard enough. Nicole closed her eyes and scrunched her face for a moment, but when she opened them and found both suitcases still empty, she sighed. She would have to pick and fold and put away every single thing she wanted to take.

After the pants and shorts session, Nicole decided to take a break. She was still feeling the effects of the alcohol she had consumed during the party and the last thing she wanted to do was arrive in New York hung-over. It couldn’t be a great start to their lives together. She pushed back one of the suitcases and sat on the bed with her tablet. Jake had already posted online a few pictures of the party and she was hoping to check them out before going back to her torture.

There was a big image of her and Jake on the screen, laughing at something she couldn’t remember what, when the picture was substituted by an incoming request for a video-chat. Erica Black was calling.

“Hi, mom.” Nicole greeted as soon as her mother’s face appeared on the screen.

“Hi, sweetie. I’m sorry for calling so late, but it was the only time I’ve been able to get a hold of you.”

“It’s fine. I’ve just been very busy.”

“I know, Nicole. But you know you have got to make some time for yourself, honey. And to call your parents. We won’t last forever, you know?”

“Mom, you know I hate talking about that. Can we please change the subject?”

Every time they talked on the phone, it was the same thing. Erica would always find a way to make Nicole feel guilty for not having more time for her parents. The first few months after college, Nicole actually felt guilty whenever her mom said something. But after years of the same complaints, they had lost their effect.

“Of course. Do you want to talk about your trip?”

Nicole’s eyes widened. How did her mother know she had travelled to New York the week before and was about to go back there the following day? She tried maintaining her face neutral, even though her heart was hammering in her chest. She had dreaded this conversation since she had made the decision to move. She had also been avoiding her parents.

“What are you talking about?”

“I can see the suitcase behind you. Are you coming or going?”

Before she answered, Nicole turned on the bed, so her mother would no longer see her suitcases. It was bad enough that she was being forced to have that conversation before she was ready – she doubted she would ever be ready – she didn’t need to have it with evidence as her background.

“Going. I’m flying to New York tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, New York? That’s exciting. Will you be working on some big story over there?”

Nicole actually considered lying for a moment. She considered telling her mom she was right and that she needed to get to bed because she had an early flight. It would buy her some more time, but she would have to tell her parents eventually. Might as well seize the moment.

“No, actually. I’m moving there.”

“Moving? What do you mean moving?”

“Mom, is dad around? I’d like to talk about it with both of you.”

It was the only thing she could think of that would buy her some time. After her mother’s face wasn’t staring back at her, Nicole took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She needed to get herself together and plan what she was going to say to them.

Less than a minute later, Anthony Black’s face filled Nicole’s screen. She waited until her parents got situated on their side to start talking. By the frown on her dad’s forehead, Nicole guessed her mother had already broken the news.

“Your mother told me you’re moving to New York. What happened? Did you receive a job offer?”

“Not exactly.”

“What do you mean, not exactly? You either did or you didn’t.” Her father was a very straight to point kind of man and he expected the same from anyone he talked to.

“I didn’t.” Nicole sighed and decided it would be best if she simply ripped the band-aid off. “I got back with Allison and I’m moving to New York to live with her.”

There was only silence as an answer. Her parents were never shy to let Nicole know they weren’t fond of Allison, especially since they believed the singer would never be a part of their lives again. After the fight between them after the accident, they were quick to blame Allison for everything and Nicole never made an effort to correct them. Eventually, hers became an unspoken name in their house.

“Allison? How?” It was her father who broke the stunned silence, but his voice didn’t give away how he felt about the news.

“Yes. A couple of weeks ago I had to interview her. It lasted for a few days, but I don’t know. We got close again and I still love her.”

“Are you out of your mind?” And there came the Erica storm. “Allison? Did you forget what she did to you?”

“No, mom. I didn’t. But we were both kids when it happened and we were both at fault.”

“It wasn’t your fault. She left you.”

“And I drove her to it.” Nicole closed her eyes for a second to prevent herself from flying off the handle. It wasn’t in her best interest to do that. “Besides, we have talked about it already and have cleared the air.”

“Oh, you have cleared the air. That’s so good to know.” She really hated when her mom turned to sarcasm. “Does Lauren know you have cleared the air?”

“Lauren broke up with me before anything happened between me and Allison.”

“What about your job? Or do you plan on becoming a housewife to her?”

“Of course I don’t, mom. Come on, you know me better than that.” Her patience levels were dropping dangerously low. “But there are a number of magazines and newspapers in New York. I’m sure I’ll be able to find work soon enough.”

“So, you’ll just drop everything you have built for yourself over there just for that woman.”

“Not for just that woman, mom. For the woman I love. And I think she’s worth it.” She tried smiling, but it turned weak. “I’m so happy, you guys. Can’t you try to be happy for me?”

“I won’t say I understand or like your decision, Nicole.” Anthony’s voice boomed over the speakers. “But, you’re an adult. And that means your decisions are yours to make. And the only thing we can do right now is respect that and hope that she doesn’t break your heart again.”

“Thank you, dad. I promise you I know what I’m doing. And I can assure you that she won’t hurt me. Not intentionally, at least.”

The wheels hit the tarmac with a thud, but it was no match to the tightening Nicole could feel in her stomach. She had talked about this moment with Allison every time they were on the phone. She had dreamt about it and planned every single detail of what needed to happen, but when the moment to leave the plane and start her life with the woman she loved arrived, Nicole was buzzing with nerves.

She wasn’t nervous about being with Allison. That was the easiest part of it all. Nicole was nervous about all the changes she was making in her life with a single movement. She would have to look for a new job, get used to a new neighborhood, a new house, make new friends. From the moment she set foot in that airport, everything in her life would be new, except for Allison.

In fact, even Allison. They had spent a decade apart and Nicole wasn’t naïve enough to think the singer hadn’t changed at all. She couldn’t think that when she had witnessed so much of that change herself. But less than a week in San Francisco and a week in New York hadn’t been enough for her to see all the ways Allison had changed and become a new person. So, in some ways, even Allison would be a new thing in her life.

Nicole was the last person to leave the plane and she went through the motions inside the airport on auto-pilot, her thoughts never straying too far from her new life. She picked up the two heavy suitcases she had taken with her and was rolling out when she spotted a man holding a sign with her name on it. He was dressed in a suit and tie and his face was stoic, observing every person that came out of the double doors, but not seeing their faces.

“I think you’re waiting for me.” Nicole said as she approached him and waited until he looked down to continue. “I’m Nicole Black.”

“Welcome to New York, Ms. Black. The car is just outside. Let me get these for you.” Before Nicole could protest, he had taken the handles of her two suitcases and was pulling them behind him. After she had caught up to him and they were a little away from the crowd, he looked down at her with a mischievous smile. “Ms. Strong is waiting for you in the car.”

Earlier in the week, Allison had said she wanted to pick up Nicole from the airport. She wanted to do the whole romantic scene, with Nicole running to her opened arms and Allison spinning her around before kissing her soundly. Nicole laughed on the phone and told Allison the idea was lovely, but highly unpractical. If the singer set foot in the airport, she would probably have a swarm of fans around her before Nicole’s plane could even land. Not to mention the hordes of paparazzi photographing her, asking what she was doing at the airport.

They had agreed that they would keep their relationship to themselves for a while. Not because any of them was embarrassed to be with the other, but because they wanted to enjoy their time together.

Eventually Allison agreed with Nicole that she shouldn’t pick up the journalist from the airport, but she still wanted to send her a car. Nicole tried convincing her that she would be perfectly fine catching a cab, but apparently Allison didn’t like that idea.

A black limo came into view and Nicole knew at that second that Allison was waiting inside for her. That would be just so Allison. The driver – his name was Matt, Nicole thought she heard him say – pulled the door open and motioned for her to get inside. She thanked him and took a deep sigh. She wasn’t sure why, but she was nervous to get inside that car.

Allison was watching her every move with a smile on her face. She had on jeans and a white button down. Her hair was held back by the sunglasses that were perched on her head. She looked simple in every sense of the word, but there was something radiant about her.

“Welcome home, love.” She pulled Nicole forward and kissed her on the lips. “I missed you so much.”

“I missed you, too.” Nicole kissed her one more time and leaned her head Allison’s shoulder. “You didn’t have to come pick me up, you know? I could have taken a cab.”

“I know that. But I wanted to pick you up and this was the next best thing, so…”

“Thank you. I loved the surprise.”

“Good, because I have two more surprises for you.” Before Nicole could question her, Allison leaned forward and picked something inside her purse. “Here.”

Nicole’s breath hitched when she saw what Allison was holding in her hands. She had a small, black velvet box resting in the palm of her hand. Nicole looked up with wide eyes.

“What’s this, Al?”

“Open it.” When Nicole didn’t make a move to take the box from her hand, Allison looked up to see the expression on her face. “Relax. It’s not what you think.”

The motion of the car merging with the traffic shook Nicole out of her stupor and she stretched her hand out to take the little box from Allison’s hand. She could feel her skin was clammy as she popped the lid open. Inside, instead of the ring she had feared she might find, there was a key.

“That’s the key to your new home.” Allison provided when Nicole removed the key from the box and held it between her fingers. “Well, one of them, actually. That appartment has a bunch of keys and codes, but I thought this would be more romantic than a heavy keychain.”

“Thank you. I love it.”

“Good. I’m glad.”

“What about the second surprise?” Nicole had never liked waiting for surprises.

“You’ll have to wait until we’re home for that one.” The journalist huffed, eliciting a small laugh from Allison. “Don’t pout, honey. I promise you’ll like it. Why don’t you lean back and enjoy the ride?”

The rest of the drive was uneventful. Nicole spent all of her time in Allison’s arms, soaking up her warmth. At some point, she must have dozed off, because the next thing she knew, the singer was whispering in her ear and kissing her hair line. Nicole sat up and stretched a bit, before getting out of the car.

They were already inside the garage and Nicole turned around in a circle, trying to guess what the outside of the building looked like by what she could see on the inside. Allison called out her name and she followed her girlfriend to the elevator. The car was big and it screamed luxury. It was very different from what Nicole was used to, but it was one of those things that came with living with Allison.

“Do you want to use your new key?”

Allison’s question pulled Nicole out from her thoughts. She could see the excitement buzzing just beneath the singer’s skin and it made her chuckle – Allison looked like a little kid who couldn’t wait to open her Christmas presents.

As soon as the door was open, Nicole felt fingers wrapping around her wrist and dragging her through the apartment. She didn’t even have the time to notice the brightly lit foyer or the floor to ceiling windows on the living room or the pictures that hung on the wall. Allison had purpose on her steps and Nicole allowed her to steer them in whichever direction she wanted. When she finally stopped, they were standing in front of a closed door that didn’t have anything special about it, but Allison didn’t seem able to contain her excitement. She was bouncing on the balls of her feet, a giddy smile on her face.

“Go on. Open it. This is your surprise”

The handle gave in easily and Nicole walked inside to find an empty room. The walls were painted white and there was no furniture to be found. The light bulb was bare as it hung from the ceiling and there was a big window on one of the walls. It had a clear view of the city’s skyline and it illuminated the entire place.

“I don’t get it.”

“This will be your office.” Allison walked to Nicole and held her from behind, lacing their fingers on her stomach. “This isn’t just my home anymore. It’s ours. And I want you to feel at home in here and like you can do anything you want to the house. And I thought maybe you could start with your office.”

“You are amazing, do you know that?” Nicole turned around in Allison’s embrace and looped her arms around her neck.

“I try.”

“Thank you for this, honey. I love it and I love you.”

“I love you too.” Allison stood on the tips of her toes to kiss Nicole. “Do you want me to give you that tour now?”

“Why don’t you start with our bedroom?”

“I like the way you think.”

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