Recently divorced and retired, Neil moves to a new house that needs a great deal of work to make it truly a home. When Marshall, his neighbor, offers a helping hand, a friendship develops between them.
That Marshall is gay and thinks Neil is straight could keep them just friends, despite Marshall's developing interest in Neil.
Then a shocking discovery beneath a trapdoor, and Pattie, a sweet, meddling neighbor, change everything. As they try to solve the mystery of the bones, the question becomes, can Pattie convince Neil to reveal his own growing feelings for Marshall or will he deny them and lose Marshall in the process?
Neil stretched then bent to touch his toes, working out the kinks from packing up the last of his personal belongings in the office that had been his for the past twenty years.
Twenty-two actually. He grinned at the thought then sighed. Now it and the company belong to someone else.
He'd been twenty-six years old when he'd founded Payne Architecture, using money inherited from his grandfather. The company had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, turning what had been a small, local business into a profitable, nationally known architectural firm.
He'd also been newly married. His mother's comment on that had been the classic 'marry in haste, repent in leisure'. Both he and Alicia had repented as the years passed. Neil suspected they would have divorced long before now if she hadn't liked the money he made, which she spent with reckless abandon. For his part, he had been so busy running his company, he didn't have the time or the energy to do something about his personal life--what there was of it.
Their final argument happened when he'd told her he was planning on selling the business and retiring. She'd blown the proverbial fuse.
"You mean I'll be stuck with you hanging around the house day and night?" she'd said. "Underfoot, trying to tell me how to run the household?" She'd gone on like that for two hours, pointing out every flaw she could see about his decision, until finally she announced she was filing for divorce. "We never should have married in the first place. You were never around and when you were..." She shook her head in disgust, stalked out of the room saying, "There are plenty of men who will appreciate what I have to offer," and she had called her lawyer.
Neil had been tempted to reply, "Which is why you don't want me retiring. Your men friends won't be able to drop by in the middle of the day for a little afternoon delight." But he didn't.
He had actually been relieved when, a year ago, he'd found out she was carrying on with the mailman, the repairman, and any other male who came by the house--or so it seemed. The sweet, and very nosy, older woman who lived next door to them had let that bit of information drop one Saturday morning while he was helping her out by mowing her lawn, a chore he'd volunteered for after she'd fallen and broken her hip. He'd been less surprised than he thought she'd expected him to be. After all, he and Alicia had had separate bedrooms, at her insistence, for the previous five years and they rarely shared one or the other of them. Their sex life, as most of the rest of their life together, had slowly but inexorably become a chore rather than a pleasure.
Now as he sealed the last box, he had a vast feeling of relief. "It's time to start my new life," he said aloud.
"A new life in a new place," Teri, his perky, blonde personal assistant said from the doorway. She smiled when he gave a start of surprise. "You really are ready to get out of here. You're so concentrated on packing up you didn't even hear me open the door."
"Yeah, I guess I am," Neil replied with a trace of embarrassment. "I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'll miss everyone..."
"But you will keep in touch," she said sternly.
"Of course! The company is my... my child, I guess, and you're all part of it."
"If you want my honest opinion, I think it's a good thing it's the only child you have. That witch would have made a lousy mother."
Neil laughed. Teri had never been one to pull her punches, especially where Alicia was concerned. He's always suspected one of the reasons she disliked Alicia so intensely was that she had a bit of a crush on him, despite the fact she was ten years his junior. "Yep, my ex-wife would never fall into the 'motherly' category."
"Not in this lifetime," Teri muttered. She crossed the office to where he stood, looking up at him. "I'm going to miss you."
"I know," he said softly. "I'll miss you too. As I said, I'll miss everyone here." He knew instantly from the look on her face he shouldn't have added the last bit. "But more than anyone, I'll miss you." He gave her a quick hug then stepped back. "Now I should get all of this"--he swept his arm out to encompass the boxes--"down to my car."
"Let me get a couple of guys to help."
"Just because I have some gray hairs, do you think I'm too old and weak to haul them down myself?" he asked with a grin.
"Not even! The gray at the temples just makes you look distinguished, not old."
"Thanks for that." He picked up one of the boxes, looked at the others, most of them filled with his books, "Okay, maybe one guy?"
She laughed. "You got it."