“Yep.” He pushed the door open, revealing a large bedroom. “He always planned that at some point more than one generation of the family would be living here, so there’s actually three master bedrooms. This is one of them. It has a walk-in over there. There’s the bathroom.” He gestured to a set of double doors to our right. “Can’t complain. Lots of good space.”
“Whoa.” I looked around, seeing little bits of Nick. A dark shirt on the bed. A pair of boots in front of dark wood dresser. A stack of magazines on one of the nightstands. “This is nice. Where are the other two masters?”
“One is downstairs in the basement. It’s virtually its own apartment—kitchen, living area, and all that.” He reached out, catching a strand of my hair and tucking it back behind my ear. “The other one is upstairs. A more traditional master, I guess. It’s my grandfather’s room.”
I turned to him, smiling as I lifted my chin. “Your grandfather built a very beautiful house.”
Grinning, he backed up. “You haven’t seen the bathroom yet.” Wheeling around, he stopped in front of the double doors and pushed them open.
Nick stepped aside as I peered in. My mouth dropped opened as my eyes widened. “Wow . . .”
The master bath was the size of my bedroom. A Jacuzzi tub was pristine, as if it had never been used before. A slivery chandelier hung over it. The shower was large enough to fit three people, and the tan tile reached the ceilings. There was a rain showerhead.
“I could live in this,” I whispered. “And I sort of hate you.”
Nick chuckled as he walked up behind me, circling his arms around my waist. His hands flattened across my belly. “This house is big.”
“I can tell.”
He kissed my cheek. “Big enough for a family.”
I started to point out that was once again obvious, but as his lips blazed a path down the side of my neck, what he was saying sunk in. Big enough for a family—for him, me, and our baby. Like ninety percent of me wanted to do a crazy happy dance in the middle of the obscenely spacious bathroom, but the remaining ten percent of me was filled with restlessness.
“Or just for a guy and a girl,” I heard myself say.
Nick didn’t respond as his hand moved in a slow circle over my belly. I turned around in his embrace, my gaze meeting his. I wanted to stay something, ask him what he thought about us, but the words wouldn’t form on my tongue.
He lowered his head, kissing the tip of my nose before he pivoted around and went back to the bedroom. I briefly squeezed my eyes shut. When I reopened them, he was tugging a henley thermal on over his head.
What a shame.
I roamed out of the bedroom and into the study, immediately drawn to the books lining the built-in shelves. There were a lot of books, and as I made my way down the shelves, I came across several dusty photo albums.
Glancing over at the doorway, I saw Nick standing there, arms folded. I grinned as I pulled one of the thick albums out. “What?”
“Of course you’d find the photo albums.”
“It’s my hidden talent.” I walked over to a comfy-looking love seat and plopped down, cracking open the album. Several of the pictures were old black-and-white photos of dark-haired people.
Nick sat beside me, sighing. “My great-grandparents.”
I turned the page carefully, as some of the photos were slipping out from under the film. “They look very happy,” I commented.
“I didn’t know them, but I assume they were.”
Eventually the photos gave way to newer ones. His grandfather as a young man, smiling that half smile at the camera. “Very handsome.”
“I take after him,” he replied, picking up a piece of my hair.
“Have I ever told you how incredibly modest you are?”
He chuckled as he twisted the strand of hair around his finger as I kept turning the pages. “That’s my grandmother,” he explained when I stopped on an old wedding photo. “She passed away when I was only a couple of years old. Cancer.”
Nick said nothing as he unraveled my hair and then started to curl it again, and he remained silent as I turned the pages, eventually finally a young woman and man who bore a striking resemblance to Nick. “Your parents?”
My thumb smoothed over the photo of them sitting at a kitchen table. Both had dark hair and olive skin. The woman was very pretty, smiling while she held a long, thin cigarette in her hand. His father was behind her, curling an arm around her slim shoulders. There were more pictures of them. “They . . . they looked really good together.”
“They did.” He reached over after he stopped messing with my hair and flipped a few pages ahead, stopping on a big photo of a baby on its back, with a head full of dark hair. “And there I am. Adorable, huh?”
I grinned. “Yeah, you were adorable.”
I snorted. “You look like you’re about to scream bloody murder.”
“Probably. Mom said I cried a lot. There’s something for us to look forward to.”
He laughed as I turned the pages, and at the tips of my fingers, Nick grew from a tiny, red-faced baby to the kind of handsome teenager who would’ve gotten me into loads of trouble. Along the way, I watched his parents grow until his father disappeared from the family photos and then his mother. When I reached the end of the photo album, I really didn’t know what to say.
Life and loss categorized in one forgotten dusty tome.
Closing the book, I glanced over at Nick. He wasn’t looking at me, but staring at the closed album. “You haven’t looked at any of these pictures in a while.”
“It’s not . . . particularly easy to see things the way they used to be,” he admitted.
I returned my attention to the black cover of the album. “I didn’t look at pictures of my dad a lot, not for years after he died. It’s like I wanted to . . . erase all evidence of his existence. I know that sounds terrible, but it was easier not seeing reminders all over.”
He was quiet for a moment. “What changed it?”
“I . . . I missed him.”
Nick took the album from me and then stood, placing it back where I found it. “You want to see if he’s awake?”
Pushing up from the love seat, I nodded.
He took a deep breath. “Sometimes he gets more agitated late in the afternoon, so—”
“It’s okay.” Instead of waiting for him to take my hand, I took his and squeezed it gently. He led me upstairs and down the hall, to another set of double doors that were cracked open. With one hand he pushed them open, then walked in.
The room was bright and had a certain antiseptic scent to it. Everything was neat, but I wasn’t really paying attention to anything but the bed at the center. Propped up on pillows was a very frail, older man who barely resembled the man in the pictures.
As Nick guided me to the chairs beside the bed, I started to notice the other things in the room. Lap trays. Clean bedpans. A walker that appeared untouched for quite some time. Medical equipment I didn’t quite understand. My gaze went back to the bedpans, and it struck me then how much Nick was really dealing with.