Snow & Winter series
The Hunt Coda
I’d been wedged into Calvin’s too-small-for-two studio or surfing Pop’s couch for two months now, and it felt like there was no end in sight. After the Curiosities shitfest that’d included losing my apartment and everything I owned, me and Calvin decided to move in together.
But I’m picky.
A bit neurotic.
And I don’t like too much change.
So while running the Emporium, making myself useful at Pop’s in return for crashing his retirement, and spending quality time with my man, I’d also spearheaded the apartment hunt. Calvin’s list of preferences was frightening low, which I guess explained why he’d been living in that closet-sized studio for half a decade. He preferred laundry in-building but it wasn’t a deal-breaker, and of course it needed to be pet friendly for his dog.
And that was it. Myself on the other hand?
Easy access to the Emporium.
Walk-up preferable because I’m lazy enough as it is and don’t need an elevator to exacerbate it.
No ground floor apartments.
Laundry in-building because if Calvin thought for one hot second I’d drag my crap to a laundromat he was nuts—and those were just the minimum requirements.
When I was lucky enough to find a place, it always seemed to end up being right above a cheap pizza place and smelled of old marinara sauce. Or all the tenants were college students and I wasn’t about to be the sole adult in the building. Or it was nothing more than astronomically fucking expensive and at the end of the day, we were a cop and shop owner, not Wall Street bankers.
“What’s the plan tomorrow, kiddo?” Pop asked as he carried his plate to the sink.
“The same as every Monday, Pinky. I have a few apartments to look at.” I finished scrubbing the pan I’d cooked our taco dinner in, set it aside to dry, then took Pop’s plate.
Pop leaned against the counter. “You might need to ease up on your requirements a bit, Sebastian.”
“I don’t want to settle.”
“I’m aware. But sometimes life is about compromising.”
“It’s not a matter of compromising, Pop,” I continued, washing suds from the plate and setting it in the dishrack. “I’m pretty sure the place on Avenue A was owned by a mob family.”
“Seb,” Pop said with a weary sigh.
“The guy across the hall was screaming about ‘Tony owing him fucking money.’” I pulled the plug in the sink, washed the utensils, and dried my hands. “Something told me they wouldn’t appreciate a cop for a neighbor, and I didn’t want to wear cement shoes.”
“Now you’re being dramatic,” Pop chastised.
“The place on Thirteenth Street was nice,” I continued. “But that landlord was an asshole. Discrimination laws be damned, he was this close to telling us gays weren’t welcome.”
Pop took a step back, opened a cupboard, and removed a bag. “You don’t owe someone like that your hard-earned money. I agree with you there.” He took my hand and shook a few saltwater taffies into my palm. “Eat some candy.”
I smiled a little and untwisted the wax paper. “A shame about the place on St. Marks.”
“Didn’t want middle-age punks for neighbors?”
“No, that would have been great,” I corrected. “The apartments had shared bathrooms on each floor. I’m trying to move forward in life, not regress back to freshman year of college.”
That night, with the television muted and flickering too brightly in the dark room, I laid stretched out on the couch. I held my phone in both hands above my face, squinted, and scrolled through photos of places to rent.
At the start of all this, I’d jokingly told Max I was a few frustrated days away from living on a cot in the Emporium. How little I knew back in February that trying to find an acceptable apartment for two men and a dog in a city like New York, where I can have Indian takeout delivered by an Uber driver at three in the morning, would actually be really goddamn difficult. Harassing Realtors and creepin’ on every website known to man was my life now.
My cell started ringing. I startled, dropped it on my face, and cursed.
“Sonofa—!” I hissed out the rest when I remembered my father was sleeping in his bedroom. I picked the phone up, rubbed my face, and hit Accept. “Hello?”
“Hey, baby. I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“Oh, no. Sorry, I’m not wearing glasses and I smacked my face with the phone.”
“How are you otherwise?” Calvin asked with a smile in his tone.
“None the worse for wear. Did you just get home?”
“What time is it?”
I sat up on the couch. My neck ached from sleeping awkwardly on it for the last week. Naturally, I’d have preferred sleeping with Calvin. Preferred having my face smooshed into his armpit or me being suffocated by his hunky, bulking body….
“I miss your body,” I stated suddenly, cutting Calvin off from whatever he was about to say.
“Miss yours too.” And Calvin said that without missing a beat—without a note of hesitation.
“A lie I can live with,” I replied.
“Uh-huh.” Clothing crinkled and rustled over the line.
“Did you call to cocktease me?” I asked.
“I’ve been in this suit for fifteen hours,” Calvin answered. “I’m multitasking.”
“Are you still up for open houses tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” I heard the distinct schhhk of Calvin pulling his tie off.
That one-handed sexy move Calvin did when it came to his neckties was enough to give a guy a chub. Or at least a guy like me, who appreciated a gorgeous, brick wall of a man taking off a tailored suit. But sitting alone in my dad’s living room, on the couch, in the dark—it was kind of embarrassing that my dick couldn’t go a full week without wondering where Calvin’s hand was.
Or… you know.
“I was thinking,” Calvin said, and I realized I wasn’t sure if he’d just started speaking or if I’d been zoned out for a while. “After these open houses, we could—”
“Whatever you suggest, yes.”
“And if I told you I wanted to get the car washed and vacuumed?” Calvin asked, drawing out the question.
I shrugged to myself. “I’ll do 101 domestic chores if it meant spending time with you.” I cleared my throat and picked at a stray thread on my pajama pants. “You know. It’s just… I don’t always get to see you at the start of a new case.”
“Or when I’m in the midst of one.”
“And wrapping it up,” I concluded before laughing quietly, mindful of Pop. “I’m happy you’ve got some well-deserved time off coming.”
“So I guess I won’t have to twist your arm tomorrow when it comes to dinner and spending the night?”
I got out of the passenger seat of Calvin’s car the next morning, shut the door, and looked up at the classical architecture of a small residential building we were checking out with a new Realtor. “Not bad,” I murmured.
I turned toward the building’s front door and a big man with a big smile, dressed in a bigger suit, came at me with his hand outstretched. “Ah, yeah. That’s me,” I said, reluctantly shaking his hand.
“Timothy Thomas, licensed real estate agent. It’s a real pleasure!” He just about dislocated my arm.
All right, Starry-Eyed, Steve. It is eight in the damn morning and I’ve only had one cup of coffee.
Luckily, Calvin stepped onto the sidewalk before I had the chance to tell Boy Scout Bill to calm down.
“And you must be Mr. Winter,” Timothy said, shaking hands with a man who could handle that ridiculous, meathead grip. “Are we excited to see our dream home today?” he asked next.
“I’ll reserve my judgement until I’m holding the keys,” I answered.
Calvin nudged my arm. “We haven’t had the best of luck so far,” he said more tactfully.
Timothy made a grand gesture with his hands. “I understand. I understand perfectly. But I’ve just the place. It’s huge, spacious—great for a family.”
“We only have a dog,” I added quickly.
Timothy smiled his big smile again. “And this apartment could easily fit a Great Dane. Come on.” He motioned for us to follow, walked to a small gate, and started down the steps to a basement dwelling.
“Uh. Hang on,” I called, rushing after. “Tim? No first floor apartments. That was my biggest no-no.”
Timothy glanced back at me while pushing open the door. “This is a basement apartment.”
“If I didn’t want the first floor, what on Earth makes you think—”
“Just go look,” Calvin whispered in my ear, coming up behind me.
“Jesus Christ,” I muttered. I walked down the steps like a chastised child, following Timothy into the darkness.
“What’d I say?” Timothy asked. “Huge! Am I right?”
“Yeah. A real cave,” I replied, deadpan. I mean, I admit it was nice on my eyes, but there were no windows. Even I needed a bit of sunlight now and then.
I heard a heavy thud and turned around. Calvin was wincing and rubbing the top of his head while it was awkwardly cocked to one side. “Did you…hit your head on the ceiling?” I looked back to Timothy. “We’re going to need a taller place.”
The hunt really went downhill from there. And it wasn’t even due to my pickiness. I mean, it’s like Timothy had gathered up every short, dank, weird little shithole he’d been absolutely unable to get off the market and said, here you cranky sonofabitch! This is all you get to pick from!
“This apartment isn’t wide enough, Tim,” Calvin said.
“I know it’s a strange design, but you don’t actually lose that much floorplan!” He turned and pointed down the long, awkward setup with both hands, and motioned like he was aiding an oversized truck backing up. “See how far it goes?”
I did see how far it went.
Calvin stepped around us into what I guessed was the bedroom, a room with no door that seamlessly rolled into the room even further in behind it. “I don’t think a bed can fit in here.”
“Oh no, it can!” Timothy insisted.
Calvin held his arms out and put his hands on either wall. He looked at me.
I shook my head.
“What else is there?” he asked Timothy.
“Why is the shower in the kitchen, Tim?” I asked.
“Where is it going after they’re done?”
“The bedroom is in a loft,” Timothy explained.
I pointed at the ladder and shook my head. “No.”
“No?” he echoed.
I raised my hand and ticked the points off on each finger. “Legally blind. Mornings. No coffee. I’m going to kill myself.”
“I’m going to have to say no too,” Calvin murmured while staring up at the loft. “I’d really like a place where I can stand up straight when I get out of bed.”
I’ve got a great place in Midtown.”
“Just a block away from Times Square.”
“Tim, I think we’re done.”
“Don’t worry, baby.”
“I’ve been searching for two months, Cal,” I protested while shifting on his bed, back against the wall to make room. “How can the best we find be the five foot, eleven inch tall basement cave?”
Calvin snapped his fingers at Dillon and the dog jumped off the foot of the bed. He climbed in, wrapped his arm around me, and pulled me against his chest.
“I mean—I get it,” I continued, mumbling against his warm skin. “It took a bomb to get me out of my perfect apartment. But still. Still. This is killing me.”
“I know, sweetheart.” Calvin combed his fingers through my hair and massaged my neck.
I raised my head and rested my chin on his pec. “What’re we going to do?”
“Keep looking,” he said simply.
I rolled my eyes, although he probably didn’t see in the dark. “I just want to have an apartment where my neighbors aren’t weirder than me, where my darling father won’t walk in on us getting frisky, and if I fall out of bed I’m not already in the kitchen.”
Calvin’s chest rumbled with a low laugh. “Be patient. Something will open up.”
“Filthy liar,” I muttered. “Don’t you want to have a new home with me?”
“Home is anywhere you are.”
Calvin chuckled again. He tugged me up, put a hand on the back of my head once more, and brought me down into a kiss. “Do you not want me to be romantic?” he whispered.
“Now, I didn’t say that….” I kissed his gentle mouth a few times before biting Calvin’s neck.
Calvin growled in response. He moved his hands down my body and hoisted me up to straddle his hips. He slid his hands into my pajama pants and kneaded my ass. “Want to fuck?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Calvin sat up abruptly. He brought his hands up, moved them underneath my T-shirt, and yanked it over my head. He tossed it across the room before kissing me again. “If I had to go one more day without you, I was afraid we’d have to resort to phone sex.”
I laughed at that and draped my arms around his neck. “I’d sooner play an X-rated game of Monopoly than have phone sex.”
“Hmm… like… I’ve Boardwalk with a hotel.”
“I owe you two grand? And here I’ve already lost the shirt off my back.”
“I’ll accept an IOU and your pants,” he said.
“You drive a hard bargain.”
I woke up to Dillon barking that happy puppy bark dogs do when they know there’s a walk and some peeing on trees in their immediate future. Calvin shushed him in response. I rolled over, grabbed the spare pillow, and inhaled wisps of Calvin’s cologne in the fabric. I nearly fell asleep again with the comforting scent close by, before I realized I was in the bed alone.
“Where’d you go?” I slurred.
“I’m out of coffee.”
“Heathen,” I muttered.
I raised my head, rubbed my eyes a bit, and looked across the room at the blurry gray blob near the kitchen counter. “Are you buying a can of Folgers or going to Starbucks?”
“House brew with cream,” he replied. “I know what you like.”
That gave me a weird feeling in my gut to hear Calvin say. Like—holy shit it’s serious love when your guy knows coffee particulars.
And this perfect man was honest to God going to move in with me?
Sebastian Andrew ‘My Morning Breath Right Now Could Kill an Animal’ Snow.
I knew from the start that Calvin would have his name on the apartment lease alongside mine, but it was like the reality—the gravity of our impending future together—only just occurred to me.
I was going to move in with my boyfriend soon.
I sat up, shaking my head. I was not awake enough to reflect on these uncomfortable emotions.
I looked up, although it’s not like Calvin was any more clear. “What? No, nothing. I only asked because if it was Starbucks, I’ll get clothes on and come with.”
“Make it snappy. Dillon’s about to wag his butt off,” Calvin said by way of answering.
I stepped out of the dangerously overcrowded Starbucks and approached Calvin and Dillon standing beside a USPS postal box. I tried to nudge my sunglasses up with my arm while holding the coffee cups—which didn’t work—and instead some hot droplets of house brew dribbled down my hand and wrist.
Calvin reached forward, took his latte, and then pushed my sunglasses up my nose with his other hand. “Thank you,” he said.
“Oh sure.” I took a drink of the blessed hot water and bean concoction. “What time is it?”
Calvin looked down at his watch. “7:30 a.m.”
I grunted and began walking. Calvin fell into step alongside me.
“Do you need help at the Emporium today?”
“No, no. Don’t be silly.”
“It’s not silly of me to ask.”
Fuck. How does Calvin do this to me at the most random and seemingly innocent moments?
I slid my free hand around his arm, holding lightly. “Correction. I appreciate the offer, but I want you to enjoy your time off.”
“Call if you change your mind.”
I took another sip of coffee. “Maybe we should consider Brooklyn,” I said with a bit of reluctance.
“Do you want to live in Brooklyn?”
“No. But I’m ready to give up on the East Village.” We stopped at the end of the block and waited for the light to change before crossing. “Max keeps pushing for us to move out there.”
Calvin laughed. “Max just wants a buddy to live closer to hang out with.”
“I’m a decade older than Max.”
“You’re still his friend.” Calvin came to a stop before we reached the end of the next street. He let Dillon sniff a tree. “If you want to stay in your neighborhood, then we won’t stop looking. Got it?”
“Got—” I glanced to my side as a woman stepped out of a front door, cursing while staring at her phone. She was dressed in a smart suit with her hair pulled back in a bun. “—it.” I watched her put the cell to her ear, wait, and then hang up on the call. “You okay, ma’am?”
She glanced up. “Are you Mr. Johnson?”
“Ah, no, sorry.”
She frowned again. “My apologies.” She pocketed the phone. “I organized this early-morning viewing and my client has apparently bailed on me.” She put her hands on her hips. “I got up at 5:00a.m. for this.”
That’s when I noticed the sign behind her on the front door.
I let go of Calvin’s arm and stepped toward her. “Are you a Realtor?”
She raised an eyebrow, but instinctually pulled a business card from her coat pocket. “Kelly Green. I’ve only had the job a week though.”
I took the card and brought it closer to study the small text.
“I’m not off to a hot start,” she added a bit glumly.
I stared at her again and waved Calvin over, unaware if he was even looking our way. “This is the place?” I asked, nodding my chin at the building.
She turned and pointed up. “Yeah. It just went up for rent. It’s an older building, but on the fourth floor, the apartment has been renovated into a huge, gorgeous loft with stairs. It has giant bay windows overlooking the street. It’s a real steal. I can’t believe that fuc— ah— Mr. Johnson didn’t show.”
I grinned suddenly. “Can we see it?”
Kelly turned to me once more. “Sorry?”
I felt Calvin step close. I motioned to the two of us, her business card still in my hand. “We’ve been trying to find a new place in the East Village for two months. I’m desperate.”
“Don’t you want to know the cost? Additional fees? About the neighborhood?”
“Oh no,” I answered. “Cost— whatever. Fees—we’ll pay them. Neighborhood—I got it.”
“O-Okay,” Kelly drew out. “Sure, then. Come inside.” She unlocked the front door, led us past a wall of small mailboxes, and to the stairs. “If you do happen to like it, we’ll have to run a credit report of course.”
“We’ve both got good credit,” Calvin said, bringing up the rear.
Kelly stopped at the second floor. “I didn’t get your names.”
“Pleasure to meet you both.” She seemed a bit brighter and more enthusiastic by the time we reached the fourth floor. “The super is very helpful. There’s laundry machines in the basement. Ah, here it is, 4B.” Kelly unlocked the door and let me step inside first. “What do you think?”
I let out a breath. “Hot damn.”