Noah woke up to the sound of pounding on his front door. He stumbled out of bed, sending Gray Lady flying as he pulled on some pants and hurried toward the sound of knocking. As he rushed over, he ran through everything in his mind. Was he late for a shift? Had he promised Liv he’d help with something? What did he do?
He opened the door and Liv and Andrew rushed in. Liv had Mia on her hip and threw her other arm around Noah, knocking him back slightly.
“They accepted the offer!”
Considering he’d been sound asleep thirty seconds prior, Noah didn’t think he could be blamed for the time it took his brain to catch up to what was happening.
The offer. Limerick. They were going to own the Limerick building.
He squeezed Liv, laughing giddily as he planted a kiss on her cheek. Then he let go and turned to Andrew, flinging his arms around him and kissing him on the cheek as well. Andrew was beet red when he pulled back, but he was grinning too.
“It’s ours,” Olivia said. “The realtor called about fifteen minutes ago. She said we’ve got a week to inspect it and give him an answer.”
“Oh, there’s definitely at least one inspector in town,” Noah said. “I’ll call around, that’s no problem. Oh my God, I can’t believe it.”
“Me either!” Olivia exclaimed. “I knew we were the only offer put in, but I figured someone would swoop in at the last minute. Or he’d pull out or there’d just be something, you know?”
“This is happening,” Noah said, shaking his head. “You’re getting your coffee shop.”
He noticed Andrew was hanging back a little now, and that spark of excitement faded out just a little. Was he having second thoughts? Andrew had promised he wanted to do this, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t get cold feet.
But then Andrew started laughing. The laughter bordered on hysterical after a few seconds and Noah glanced at him, uneasy. “Are you okay?” he asked.
Andrew nodded, but he didn’t stop laughing. His whole body was shaking with it and there were tears gathering in his eyes. “Fine,” he choked out, wiping his eyes. “I’m fine.”
Olivia and Noah exchanged a glance, but Olivia didn’t seem too concerned. Her eyes were shining and the sight of that almost made tears come to Noah’s eyes too. Then Mia started squirming to be put down. Olivia set her on the floor and Mia went straight for Gray Lady, who was winding her way around the sofa.
“I’ve got money for the first deposit ready,” Andrew said. “But the nearest branch of that bank in Greenfield. So I can mail it, but if we want to be dropping it off for security reasons, I’ll need some help. Unless a miracle happens, that is.”
“Yeah, yeah, I can get that, no problem,” Noah said.
He was watching Mia stroking Gray Lady’s back, the cat tolerating the toddler for the time being.
Olivia was looking at him with concern in her eyes now. He nodded quickly. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I’m fine. So what comes next?”
“We need to get it inspected,” Olivia said. “And as long as it’s in good shape, I guess we get ready to move in soon.”
“Have you called Cleo yet?” he asked.
Andrew shook his head. “I’m going to call in a minute,” he said. “She’s seeing her mom in a little bit, so we were thinking a bit of a celebration tonight.”
“Dinner and a fire,” Olivia added.
He didn’t want to notice the look on her face now because it really was going to make him cry. But she looked happy, beyond the ecstatic look that had been on her face since they’d come upstairs with the news a few minutes ago. This was it. It was happening this time.
“Alright, I’m going to call,” Andrew said, ducking down the stairs.
They listened to his footsteps fading down the steps, then Olivia turned to Noah. “I’m glad we’re doing this together,” she said.
She was hugging him before he realized what was happening, squeezing him tightly with her head reaching his chest. “I’m terrified,” he confessed.
She laughed, the sound muffled by his shirt. “Me too.”
“I hope you know how to cook. I’ll do the rest.”
She looked up at him and rolled her eyes. “I get by,” she said.
Noah laughed. “This is going to work.”
“And you’re good with Andrew?”
“Bit too late to worry about that now.”
She didn’t seem to appreciate the joke in there, so he smiled. “I promise.”
Before she could say anything else, he untangled himself and went to rescue his cat from Mia’s sticky hands. “Let me take a shower. Dr. Degas is taking off my cast in a couple hours and then I can run out and get anything we need for tonight. What were you thinking?”
Olivia shrugged. “I figured I’d cook unless there’s anything you want.”
“Only if you want to.”
Olivia thought for a second. “Pick up dessert while you’re out.”
He laughed. “Got it.”
She leaned down and scooped up Mia, who rested her head on Olivia’s shoulder. “I’m going to get this one dressed. See you downstairs later?”
He nodded. “I’ll be there.”
They left a second later, the apartment suddenly empty as Noah was left alone. But it wasn’t a heavy loneliness. Instead, he felt hopeful. This wasn’t the end by a long shot, he could still feel that itch to stop for a bottle of whiskey on his way home tonight. But there was a path forward, the way Liv was always talking about.
That evening, Olivia still couldn’t believe they’d accepted the offer. It hit her multiple times as she was putting dinner together. Her coffee shop. It was going to be a real thing.
Her coffee shop was going to be a real thing. Oh God, now she really had to do a good job with it.
She took a deep breath as she pulled the chicken out of the oven. Of course she could do this. She’d been a manager for seven years at Keegan’s. She knew how to run a shop and she knew how to cook. And she had two partners to work with.
Maybe Cleo would be interested in coming on board. Olivia laughed even as she thought it, but there was a part of her that couldn’t help envisioning the four of them together again, just like when they were in high school. Though the reality was much more likely that it would be Noah and Olivia doing the day-to-day operations and Andrew working behind the scenes wherever he ended up once he got out of New Winslow. Probably Boston, despite everything he said.
Boston was nice though. Olivia wouldn’t want to live there, but she’d go visit him if he went back. Maybe she could grow to love it too.
There was a knock at the front door and a bolt of fear slashed through her. But it dissipated as the door opened and Cleo walked in. “Congratulations!” Cleo called, kicking off her shoes and hurrying into the kitchen.
She didn’t even bother to take off her coat and hat before sweeping Olivia into a hug. “Oh my God, I’m so happy for you,” Cleo said, squeezing her tightly. “You own a coffee shop!”
“Not just me,” she started to say, but Cleo squeezed her again, cutting her off.
“Of course not, but it’s your vision, isn’t it?”
She let go and beamed at Olivia. “It’s going to be so good.”
Cleo glanced around the room and lowered her voice. “Don’t tell Andrew because he’ll get a big head if he hears it. But he’s fantastic at sales. Once he has your advertising going, you’ll be golden. And I’m coming in for coffee all the time.”
“You’ll get free coffees,” Olivia said with a laugh. “Speaking of, there’s some in the pot if you want it.”
“Yes, please,” Cleo said, making her way over to the counter. “Today was rough. Thankfully my dad has her tonight so I know she’s in good hands. But it was hard.”
“Are you alright?”
Cleo’s smile faded a little, but she nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine,” she said. “It’s just a lot, you know?”
She glanced out the window as she took a sip of coffee. “They got the fire going,” she said.
Olivia glanced out. Sure enough, Andrew and Noah were standing by a quickly growing flame in the firepit. They were standing so close together that she couldn’t see the fire between them, just around their silhouette frames.
“Is there something going on there?” Cleo asked.
“I don’t know,” Olivia admitted. “I don’t think so? I know Noah’s still seeing Jude, but he insists that’s not really a thing.”
Neither of them spoke for a second, but Olivia could tell that Cleo felt that same unease that she was feeling. They’d all grown in the past seven years, but Andrew wasn’t staying. And remembering the way Noah had fallen apart last time, Olivia couldn’t help being concerned. Especially now that she was extremely invested in a future that involved both of them.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” she said. “Want to go out? This has to cool anyway.”
Olivia grabbed her own coat and they went outside into the cold air. The snow crunched under her feet as she hooked the baby monitor onto her jacket pocket. It was a cool night, but there wasn’t much wind and as she looked up, the sky was full of stars.
Cleo greeted Noah and Andrew with hugs and congratulations. As they sat down in the chairs around the fire, Noah tossed a wadded-up newspaper into the flames, where it burned brightly for a brief moment before settling into a comfortable glow.
“I’m itching to get in and see what needs to get done,” he said. “I’m definitely going in with the inspector, so I can handle all of that unless anyone else wants to come.”
He started listing off some of the repairs he’d already noticed, seemingly not concerned if anyone else was listening. Andrew was looking into the fire, but looked up when he felt Olivia’s gaze on him. He smiled warmly and she smiled back, still somewhat in disbelief.