Eighteen months later...
S L O A N
“Mikah is getting the last of it, and acting like a complete child while doing it, might I add.” Hallie hurled a box that was much too big to be carried by just her to the kitchen table and slapped her hands together as a job well done.
Sloan eyed the box, taking note of the sharpie-written word of bathroom on the one side. The bathroom was located on the opposite end of the house. Boxes labeled kitchen belonged in this room, as it was the kitchen. The blonde in Hallie was really rearing its ugly head today. Not having it in her to even correct her for the tenth time this afternoon, Sloan picked the box up herself—needing to readjust it immediately to get a better hold—and began her journey to the hall. No use in complaining, she was just lucky to have the help today.
The bathroom wasn’t nearly as stunning as the one in the apartment above Mulligan’s, but it was definitely an improvement from the one her and Hallie had been sharing for the last few years. The home was aged—what Ollie loved to call a “fixer-upper”. It was good that he had a lot of enthusiasm about restoring it, because Sloan had never touched a power tool in her life. It was still beautiful though, and they got it for a steal. An old farmhouse on the outside of Chicago, sitting on three acres. They had a chicken coop, and Sloan, having never had a childhood pet, couldn’t wait to name the chickens her boyfriend had promised her. But that wasn’t the best part. The best part was that it was theirs.
Sloan dropped the box to the counter of the double sink—one that was definitely about to be ripped out due to the atrocious pink color—and began unfolding the flaps of the box. All of the contents inside were hers, ready to be mingled in with Ollie’s. There was something incredibly sexy about that, causing her to grin as she opened the medicine cabinet to place her tampons beside Ollie’s deodorant. The room already smelled like him. He’d moved in first a few days ago. Today was the first day that Sloan and Mikah both had the day off for him to assist with his truck. It was a good thing she didn’t have much stuff, because the poor guy not only had to move Sloan outside of town, but later he had to move Hallie into the apartment above Mulligan’s—the one that two brothers had been sharing since Mikah’s final split from Shelby. Hallie and Mikah had been at each other’s throats all morning. Sloan cringed thinking about them being roommates—even though Hallie was determined to be back out of the apartment as soon as possible. Sloan knew better. As soon as her best friend lays eyes on that bathroom, Mikah would have to put up a fight to keep it for himself.
Selecting her shampoo bottle with one hand and her bodywash with another, Sloan pivoted on her heel to add them to the shelves of the shower, instead finding herself dropping both to clutch her chest. ”HALLIE!”
Giggles from the hallway erupted. Her friend was already hunched over, clutching her stomach and unable to control the laughter. “I can’t believe you didn’t see it until now!”
“What the fuck do I need a blue one for?” Sloan pointed to the obnoxiously large, erect, blue-marbled dildo that was protruding from the shower wall. “I don’t use the other one, as it is.”
“His and hers!” Hallie’s smile couldn’t get any bigger, and tears had begun falling down her, more than happy, cheeks. “It’s a housewarming gift for Ollie. I wouldn’t want him to be jealous of Hulk.”
“He’s not into ass-play,” Sloan began to yank it from the wall, fairly certain that it was going to bring the frail tile with it. If anything, he could use the damn thing as a tool to pull the rest of it down.
“Not yet,” Hallie attempted to correct her as she left the room.
“Says the girl that’s never tried it herself!” Sloan called back.
It was too late. Hallie had already disappeared out of the vicinity. With a blue monster still in one hand, she gave a few tired yanks at Hulk before he popped free. She should have known that it was him that would pull a piece of tile with it. An entire tile was now stuck to his suction cup base. Sloan sighed, knowing that the bathroom just became the first upgrade.
“Where do you want...” Mikah stopped in his place, clutching a box while wide-eying Sloan’s current hold of two massive dildos. “You know what? I’ll figure it out.”
Sloan watched him awkwardly turn and rush out of the room as fast as he could. It was time he got used to seeing dildos. He was about to share a very small space with quite the expansive collection. Before she could even toss them to the counter top, the two roomies were already disagreeing about something from, what sounded to be, the living room. Being the third wheel to their arguments all afternoon made an already tiring day more exhausting. Thank goodness, this was the last box from the truck.
“These are mine!” Hallie was found at the end of the hallway, clutching two throw pillows in tight fists. “I told you that these go with my stuff to the apartment.”
“Must have forgot,” Mikah’s eyes rolled hard as two oversized pillows were shoved into his chest.
“They go back to the truck!”
“They’re going in your room,” he agreed. “I’m not bringing women home for them to get the wrong idea. It’s a bachelor pad.”
“Right,” her arms crossed over her chest. “I’m sure the guys I bring home will love to see that I’m living in a bachelor pad.”
"HA!” Mikah cackled, watching Hallie stomp her way through the front door. “What guys? I see the tools you leave the bar with! They probably have frilly pillows on their beds that match yours!”
Mikah followed Hallie out the door, tossing her pillows behind him and back to the floor of Sloan and Ollie’s front porch. Sloan didn’t even care that she was going to have to pick them up and hide them away for when she realized that they were gone. She was just happy that they were finally leaving her to finish unpacking in peace.
The last box that Mikah brought in was unmarked, making it understandable as to why he didn’t know where to put it. It had been left on the couch instead. Sloan told the Google Home to play her favorite playlist and began pulling the miscellaneous items from the box. There were two things, specifically, that she knew were packed in this box that were important enough to already have their own place in the house. Ollie had made sure to already hammer two nails into the drywall of the hallway for them. Carefully, Sloan hung a picture of her and Steve on their wedding day beside a picture of Ollie’s dad pushing him on an old tire swing. Two years ago, this would have broken both of their hearts to see. Now, after a lot of grief therapy, they understood why it was important to remember two people they missed. Especially since, without them both, Ollie and Sloan probably wouldn’t know each other. Lastly, Sloan hung a frame beside Ollie’s degree. Only this one proudly displayed an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts...with her name on it.
“Hey, homeowner!” Mick slapped Sloan’s back as she entered the busy kitchen of Mulligan’s.
“Thank you!” she grinned.
Homeowner was becoming a very fun word to hear. That was definitely not something that she ever imagined that she’d become. It had been a busy month with graduation and buying a house. As excited as she was for her very own graduation party tomorrow in the banquet room behind the stage of the restaurant for their friends and Ollie’s family, Sloan really just wanted a sweet night in with Ollie at their place. They had many of those in their future though, and as he looked up from the stew he was stirring, his dimples said that he felt the same. His wink made her knees weaken.
“Shouldn’t you be unpacking?” Todd nudged her as he passed.
Sloan moved to Ollie’s side where an arm was wrapped around her shoulder and she was pulled in closer to the kitchen’s executive chef. “I missed my guy. He promised me fries for unpacking all day without him,” Sloan lifted herself to her tip toes to receive a pair of warm lips against hers.
“I missed you last night,” he kissed her back.
“Liar,” she giggled, dropping back to flat feet. “I saw those beer bottles in the sink. You and Todd were playing poker.”
“Busted,” Todd called out behind them.
The two had a knack for setting out to complete a project on that house, only to need “beer breaks”. Beer breaks involved poker, snacks, and a dent in the fridge’s liquor supply. She loved giving them a hard time about it, but really, she loved that the two had rekindled their friendship. Sloan was finally experiencing the kitchen the way it was when Ollie and Mikah’s dad was here. Now she could see why these guys never left Ollie’s side when he hit his dark times.
“Let’s just say that we might hold off a month before we rip out the bathroom.”
So, now wasn’t the time to tell him that Hulk ate the shower. Got it.
“Taste,” a spoon arrived in front of Sloan’s face. Ollie’s brows lifted as he waited.
“Pretty sure you got me here with the promise of truffle fries, and there are no fries in this kitchen, sir.”
“Just taste it.”
She rolled her eyes and wrapped her mouth around the spoon, first greeted by the burning of her tongue, and second by a bland gravy wrapped around even blander meat. Sloan held her hand to her mouth, shaking her head no. That stew was horrible.
“Don’t like it?” he questioned, holding back a laugh at how she was overexaggerating the need to get it out of her mouth and into a napkin ASAP.
“Where’s the flavor?” she gagged.
“What do you mean?”
“There’s no flavor! It needs salt!”
“You think everything needs more salt.”
“There’s none in it!” she argued back.
“I’m not adding more sodium, Sloan.”
Sloan removed herself from Ollie’s hold. Fine. But he was adding something. That was the most disappointing creation that has ever come out of this kitchen with him cooking. Soy sauce wasn’t going to take the dish in the right direction. That left one option, in her opinion. Sloan opened the fridge to fetch their favorite ingredient. When she pulled the brown bottle, she was surprised at how little effort it took to lift it. When normally it sloshed, it rattled. Sloan held the bottle up in the air with the hopes that the overhead lighting would show what it was.
“What’s in this?” Sloan squinted at the bottle, seriously worried that she’d been using this to prepare food served to their customers. The liquid was already brown. Was it necessary to put it in a brown bottle too?
Ollie arrived at her side, also looking up to the barely lit bottle. “Hmph,” he squinted, helping the petite girl by his side lift the bottle up higher towards the light. “Looks like it’s your engagement ring.”
“What?” her eyes widened, turning to Ollie with the need for him to repeat what he just said.
“It’s not a gift!” he instantly clarified, dropping the bottle in front of her face. “I know you hate them. This isn’t a gift; it’s an investment in our future.”
Her vision instantly blurred as she took the bottle back from him, holding it close to the heart that was beating heavily for Ollie right now. “Our future?” the tears burst free. “You want to marry me?”
His dimples reappeared as he grabbed her waist and pulled her into him. “Absolutely,” he beamed. “What do you say, Chef? How about we ditch that generic last name from the state of Illinois, and I make a Mulligan out of you?”
There was no other name in this world that she wanted more. Her head was frantically bobbing yes as Ollie placed one hand on the back of her neck to pull her forward and press his lips to hers. They couldn’t be any closer due to the bottle that was pressed against both of their chests. Ollie took it from her hands while they continued kissing to the sound of their coworker’s claps and cheers.
Ollie pressed his forehead against Sloan’s, laughing while holding the bottle up. “There’s no salt in that stew. I needed you to find this.”
“How did you get that into the bottle?” she eyed it closely, dying to see the ring he’d picked out for her. “And how the hell do I get it out?”
“It’s all yours,” Ollie grinned wickedly, holding it in front of her face and rattling it as a tease. “If you can pronounce it.”
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