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CHAPTER 3

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They were silent as they drove through the streets of uptown Manhattan where curious stares followed their limo. In hindsight, Nick realized what an overly ostentatious choice their mode of transport was. He'd only chosen it as a pathetic attempt to add some romance and glamor to their otherwise empty marriage. There was no reason they couldn't try make the day special. Thinking back on it, Nick could only shake his head. There was no romanticizing their situation. He proffered it that way - void of any romance.

Once the limo slowed to a stop outside his building, he turned to Annabelle and said, "This is me."

He watched her light eyes bulge and stare in wonder towards the bold building. He didn't think the doe eyed look could be so appealing but, she made it work. "You live here?" Nick smothered a smirk with his hand and nodded. She hummed. "Makes sense you'd live in your family's hotel."

"Actually, I own this one. I stay on the top floor." He said casually with a shrug. Nick tried to stay out of his parents' company as much as he could but, there was an allure to owning a majestic hotel that he couldn't avoid.

Annabelle's mouth shot open. Her hands shot to her head as though trying to keep her thoughts still. "This is too much."

He nodded. He couldn't begin to imagine how overwhelming it all was for her. "Would you rather I have the driver drop you off at home? We can always try moving you in here at a pace you're more comfortable with."

Her face softened as she smiled up at him. "That's very thoughtful of you." He looked away. "I think I'd rather stay here tonight."

Nick's head shot around in surprise. "Are you sure? I wouldn't want to force you."

She shrugged casually. "We're married and you live in a hotel. Those are better reasons than to go home alone to my place."

"Where do you stay?"

Annabelle's gaze avoided his. "Downtown." Her tone was soft, and Nick knew better than to ask for more.

"Well, in that case, let me show you to your new home."

"For the next five years," she said quickly.

He laughed and indicated for the driver to continue towards the underground reserved parking. "I've organized some night clothes to be sent up for you." He said while looking down at his phone as the manager's reply came through.

"Um." He looked up at Annabelle. She looked apprehensive. "You don't have to. I'll be fine in my work clothes." Nick said nothing more except to scoff.

They fell silent again as the car parked and they walked together towards the private elevator. There were three buttons. One was for the underground parking another was for the first-floor reception and the last was to his home. The ride up the many floors was quiet except for the gentle chime of the soft music in the cube. Nick let time pass by reading though some emails. Some were faculty related, others were regarding the many foundations he was a part of. He made a mental note to respond to the urgent ones once he was in his study.

His first order of business was to show Annabelle around.

When the elevator stopped and opened, it opened right to their floor and a closed front door. As Nick proceeded to open his front door, he kept Annabelle in his sights. She walked slowly behind him and played with her fingers. She kept her head down as she watched her feet move. Nick noticed how she curled her body inward. It made her look smaller than she already was.

He cleared his throat and opened his door. He stood taller when Annabelle lifted her head.

~~***~~

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