The Obsession Page 30

She took another deeper drink of wine, blew out a breath, and read over the estimate.

So much work. The kitchen—she’d expected that price tag. And in fact, he’d bid a little under what she’d been braced for. The windows—there were so many windows, and replacing them added up. She’d done some research there, and his price was, again, slightly under what she’d calculated.

Contractor’s discount, she mused. He was passing some of that on, and that was more than fair.

She got up, walked up and down the deck, sat down. Read on.

The plumbing, the electrical, spray insulation in the attic. Nothing sexy there, but necessary. God, the floors. So much square footage. Why had she bought such a big house?

To answer her own question, she looked up at the view. The sun hung low, sparkling over the blue. A bird, white and wide-winged, just sailed over it.

She read through the estimate again. She could take on at least some of the painting. She wasn’t afraid of hard work. There was bound to be something else she could handle. And corners she could cut.

But she didn’t want to cut corners.

She leaned back, gliding slowly. She could get a lot of photos out of the demo, the rehab. Photos of workers, of broken tiles, of tools and lumber. If she played it right, she could pull in some income even while coughing up the outlay.

She had savings, she reminded herself. She’d lived carefully, didn’t need a lot to live. Her biggest expenses before the house had been her Hasselblad and her 4Runner. She could do this.

She looked out over the water again. She needed to do this. She’d been to every state, working her way. She’d been to Europe twice, working her way.

And nowhere had ever drawn her like this spot, this place.

She took out her phone, called Kevin.

“Do you need an ambulance?”

He made her laugh. She didn’t make friends easily, but he made her laugh. “I wished for tequila shots, but I toughed it out. When can you start?”

“What? Sorry, what?”

“Let’s go for it. When can you start?”

“I might need an ambulance. Wow. Wow. Listen, I’m kicking myself as I say this, but don’t you want to get that other bid?”

“I bought this place because it spoke to me, it said words I needed. You get that. I’m going to try to do some of this—like the painting. I might be able to help with demo or something, to cut it down a little. But I’m going for it. When can you start?”

“Monday. I’m going to draw up a contract, and I’ll put in that you’re taking on the painting. That doesn’t work out, we’ll sub it for you. I drew up the kitchen design you outlined, but—”

“Yeah, I saw it. We’ll go with it, and you can tell me where I look for the countertops, the cabinets, and all that so I can figure out what I want.”

“It’s a lot to figure.”

“Yeah, so let’s get started.”

“Naomi, I might have to kiss you on the mouth. My wife will understand.”

She hoped his wife was as, well, adorable as he was. “We’ll cross that bridge.”

“I’ll come by with the contract tomorrow.”

“And I’ll give you a check for materials, like it says here.”

“I’d appreciate it. You got a favorite color?”

“Sure. All of them.”

“Good enough. See you tomorrow. And thanks, Naomi.”

She went inside, topped off her wine. And toasted herself in her soon-to-be-gutted kitchen.

He brought the contract, along with his wife—the very pretty Jenny—Tyler, and four-year-old Maddy, a sweet, towheaded version of her father.

And he handed her a pot of rainbow tulips along with the contract.

“You said all of them. Favorite color.”

“They’re great.”

Then he took her by the shoulders, kissed her. Tyler covered his eyes; Maddy giggled. Jenny just beamed.

“He’s had ideas about what needed to be done to this place longer than I can remember. And he said yours ran right down the same lines. Kevin’s the best. He’s going to make it beautiful for you.”

“Jenny’s biased.” Kevin wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “But honest. I’ve got a Dumpster coming first thing Monday morning. The crew will be here by seven thirty. We’re going to be loud.”

“I’ll deal.”

“See you Monday then.”

They piled into a minivan, and like the dog, Kevin stuck his head out the window. “We’re going to rock this place!”

Naomi put the coffeemaker in her bedroom on the desk, filled her cooler with soft drinks, lunch meats, some fruit. She could set her Coleman stove on the deck. She’d put meals together in much less cozy circumstances.

Monday, she gave herself the day off and joined in gutting the kitchen and adjoining bathroom. She swung a sledgehammer, wielded a pry bar, helped haul out old counters, old cabinets.

And exhausted, aching, fell dead asleep before the forest swallowed the sun.

Every morning the hammering started. She’d get coffee, a granola bar, her camera. The crew got used to her, stopped posing.

She took pictures of callused hands, hands bleeding at the knuckles. Of sweaty torsos, steel-toed work boots.

Evenings, in the blessed quiet, she ate sandwiches and worked. She cropped a study of the kitchen floor, the linoleum jagged against the exposed hardwood. She played with filtering, considered other compositions, spent time updating her site, punching up her marketing.

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