Two years had passed since my best friend, Eric DeVant, gave me the promotion that I’d worked so hard for when I decided it was time to move on in life. Not that I didn’t enjoy my time at DeVant, the marketing agency that I had given my best years to, but seeing Eric and his wife Cassie so happy with each other made me crave something new.
Eric had decided to continue on in the background, and even though I had full control of DeVant, he had insisted on keeping the bigger office, leaving me with the smaller one down the hall. But thankfully, it had been much quicker to pack.
I packed the last of my personal items, including a picture that Sierra DeVant, Eric’s daughter, had drawn. The drawing was of me, still handsome even in stick figure form, standing on my dream boat in the middle of a big sea with fish jumping out of the water and puffy clouds over my head.
“She spent hours on that,” came a voice from across the room that took my attention away from the paper. Eric stood at the door with a half-hearted smile on his face. “My little girl put her heart into it.”
“I love it. Did you know it’s what has inspired me to move to Maine and pursue my lifelong dream of building my own boat?” Sierra had always been so amazing, and though I had never wanted children before, she made me wonder what I’d be like as a father.
Eric frowned. “In that case, I should ground her.”
He didn’t want me to leave the company, but he’d given me the opportunity of retiring at twenty-nine without ever having to work again. Who wouldn’t jump at a chance for that kind of life?
“Don’t be sore at me,” I said. “I’ll still come back and visit now and then.”
Eric shrugged it off and walked over to stand near the window, looking out at the city. Even though my office was smaller than his, I still had an amazing view. “Quit all you want, but do you have to move so far away?”
I took another look through my drawers, running my hand in the top one to see if I’d left anything that I didn’t want my replacement to have. “You and the girls can come and see me. Consider my place another vacation home.”
Eric chuckled, giving me a goofy grin. “Yeah, because I don’t have enough of those already. But I’ll take you up on it sometime.”
“You have to. I built enough rooms in my house for you guys to move in permanently.”
“We’ll vacation together somewhere. But careful what you wish for. Cassie loves Maine. She’s liable to pack us up and move us in. You wouldn’t know what to do with us.”
“Did I hear my name?” Cassie stuck her head in the door, and that winning smile of hers was as big as ever. As she walked into the room, I was reminded of how lucky my friend was. His wife was a knockout and had been for as long as I had known her. “I know you’re not talking about me.” She gave Eric a playfully narrowed glare, and he reached out for her as she approached, and suddenly, they were in each other’s arms like two magnets drawing themselves together.
It made me envious, to say the least. I wanted a love like that, to meet someone who was so compatible that the thought of being away from them was the only thing that made me ache.
“Nah, you know better,” said Eric. “I’m just watching my best friend pack up and leave me.”
I laughed. “And throwing out enough guilt that I almost feel guilty for moving. Almost.”
Cassie elbowed Eric. “Honey, don’t hold him back.”
“Please,” said Eric, rolling his eyes. “I couldn’t hold him back. He’s my wildest friend who could never be tamed, remember?”
She giggled. “Oh, I remember.” Her eyes had widened like she still blamed me for what happened with me and Katrina after her and Blaine, who was Eric’s little brother, had split up. But I wasn’t going to let it ruin the moment. Especially since that had been a disaster on the heels of the other. I had tried to remain cool about things, and we had ended things mutually, but maybe showing up at Eric’s with a new woman the next day wasn’t the best idea.
“He’s only having to move because there aren’t any women in New York he hasn’t loved and left.” Eric’s comment only made her roll her eyes.
If anyone else had pointed that out, I might have been offended. “Hey now. You’re giving her an even worse idea about me. And I don’t know why you two are busting my chops. I’m actually hoping to settle down. Maybe I’ll get as lucky as you and find my soul mate.”
Eric’s expression softened a bit. “I hope so too. She’s out there somewhere, buddy. Only I’m not sure you’re going to find her in Camden, Maine.” He had teased me about my choice of location for months now, ever since I’d told him that I had made up my mind.
“I loved that place as a child. My grandfather used to take me there, and I fit in just fine.”
“If you say so. I’m just not sure if they’re ready for your tailored suits and Italian shoes. They are a bit more laid back than that there, aren’t they?”
I didn’t dress in suits every day of my life, just the days they saw me. “Yeah, so I’ll have to wear jeans a bit more. Big deal.”
Cassie’s eyes widened. “You in jeans? You mean, you own a pair?” She and Eric shared a laugh. “Wow, I haven’t seen you in jeans since we were kids. Hell might have just frozen over.”
“I’m not that bad, and they might still have a nice gym and spa I could check out.”
“A gym and a spa?” Cassie laughed, holding her hand on her heart. “Oh, honey, you’re too much of a city boy. You’re going to be in a whole new world.”
I refused to let them get to me. “I’m going to be in heaven. It’s beautiful there, and my home is amazing. At least, I think it is so far.” I couldn’t wait to get to the water, to see my new house finally complete, and to meet the people.
“I guess anywhere is better than here, right?” Eric laughed.
“Nah, I love DeVant, and it’s a great company. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, the legacy I’ll leave, and I’ll cherish the time I got to work with you and your father. But honestly, it’s not any fun with the two of you gone.”
It had been hard losing Mr. DeVant, who had always been like a father to me, and then when Eric had left things in my hands and I no longer had him to look after, the days had dragged out much longer, and the lack of joy from having my best friend to hang with had started to get to me.
It was just time for a change. Time to make my life what I wanted it to be. To settle down and stop being with one woman after the other, night after night, with no meaning. I hadn’t had a relationship since Cassie’s friend Katrina, and I gave it a three-day go before realizing that our partnership wasn’t going to survive casual fucking. We were just too much alike.
There was a melancholic look in Eric’s eyes. “Well, looks like you’re all packed anyway. I see you’re taking the office supplies.”
“Hey, I’m still on your payroll as an advisor, and I expect these fools around here to need me now and then.” I put the picture in the box and sealed it up.
“They will,” Eric assured.
“Speaking of those fools, I should get back downstairs. I’ve got to make my rounds before we leave.” She kissed Eric and then walked over to give me a hug, which she backed away from with tears in her eyes. “Don’t be a stranger. Sierra needs her Uncle Greyson.”
“I promise I won’t. You take care of my boy.” I gestured at Eric.
“Oh, don’t you worry about that. And I will keep in touch and let you know how things are at the café. Katrina says sales are up, so that’s good news.” She let out a long breath and wiped her eyes. “Okay, enough sappy tears. I’ll see you.” She hurried out, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“She’s great.” I wanted one just like her but tailored to fit me.
“Yeah, she is. You meet anyone in your new neighborhood yet?”
I picked up the box and carried it to a stack of others by the door where they were ready to be carried down and loaded into my car. “I haven’t had time. I’ve let the contractor do so much of it. I haven’t even seen it finished yet.”
“Damn, that’s trusting.”
“Well, I drove over about a week ago when my things arrived and did a walkthrough, but they hadn’t finished the small details, and one of the feature walls wasn’t finished, some cabinet work, and the exterior paint. I also had ordered some carpet and furniture that should have arrived. I hope it’s all the right color. I chose a gray palette to go with my last name. I can picture it now: Greyson’s Grandview.”
Eric chuckled. “That’s quite a name. I’m surprised you allowed them to do the work without you. You’re such a control freak.”
“Well, it’s all I could do. I had to finish up things here, and that included selling my place and making sure all of my shit was packed and ready. It’s been a nightmare. I don’t want to move again.”
“Never say never. You meet the right woman, and there is nothing you won’t do for her.”
“I would argue with you, but I’ve seen how Cassie has you by the balls, and sadly, I’m jealous.”
Eric walked over and clapped me on the back. “Your day is coming, my friend. Just promise me something, brother. If you ever want to go back to work, you’ll come back here first. Don’t go to the competition. The door is always open.”
The fact he felt he had to ask made my chest feel heavy. “Thanks. And you know better. But I guess you heard that Prescott called me.”
“Yeah, I did. Not much happens that I don’t hear about, but you know that.”
“I know, but no worries. I think someone here made it out to be a money issue; the reason I’m leaving. And we both know that’s not the problem. I just want to find something for myself.”
“And I’m really proud of you, man. I really am. I want you to be happy, wherever life’s journey takes you. You’ll always be my best friend, my family, and the godfather of my children.” He pulled me into a tight hug, and I patted his back as he squeezed me so tight, I thought I might shit out my liver.
“Damn, son. You’re wrinkling the suit.” I nearly lost my balance as he let go of me and laughed.
“Yeah, you’re going to have to invest in some casual wear as you work on that boat. And I want to be there for the christening and its maiden voyage. I can read the headlines now: DEVANT AND FORMER CEO LOST AT SEA.”
He’d been telling me my boat was going to sink since I said I wanted to build one. “Very funny. But I’ll invite you anyway.”
“I can’t wait to see it.” His phone pinged, and he glanced down at it.
“Is that your ball and chain?”
“Yeah, and as your best friend, it’s time to warn you.”
“Warn me?” I asked.
“Yeah. We’ve been friends since we were kids, and I’ve never, in that time, known you to like a surprise.”
As soon as I heard him mention a surprise, I realized why he and Cassie had insisted on coming down to see me off. “You didn’t let her, did you?”
“I’m sorry. She would kill me if she knew I told you. But she insisted on a going-away party.”
“That’s why she cut out of here, isn’t it?”
He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me out of my office. “Yeah, I’m afraid so. She and Katrina are down there. They brought a cake and some pastries and coffee from the café and invited the entire building.”
“Thanks for the warning.” I walked down with him to the elevator, and when we stepped off, the entire lobby had been turned into one big celebration with balloons and a banner that read, “We’ll miss you!”
As much as I’d miss them all too, it wasn’t enough to change my mind. I had a whole new life ahead of me, and I couldn’t wait to begin it.