House Hunting

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Rey had forgotten how stressful looking for a new house was. When she first moved to Mythic, it was easy - there were only a few houses available in her price range. Now, with the economic downturn, there were many more. It was difficult to weed out the overpriced junk from the properties that were truly a good deal - if you didn’t mind putting a bunch of work (and/or money) into them.

She’d eventually narrowed it down to two, but when she called to arrange appointments to see them, the realtor told her one of them had just sold. Rey just shrugged, and made the appointment for the other one.

The house was located in South Mythic, an area that’s officially a Mythic City address, but in reality, it’s the verge where Mythic ends and Santa Fe begins. It was also near the southwestern most boundary of the land claimed by the Golden Mesa, and practically next door to the pack’s territory. The neighborhood, built in the early 1900’s, was filled elegant houses with large lots (half an acre to a full acre), set in what used to be the country-side outside of Mythic.

According to the realtor, the neighborhood is been in a relatively graceful decline for the past 20 years, except for the house Rey is going to buy. The house has been a rental property for a long time, and neither the people living there nor the people who owned it have taken much effort to keep it up. It’s been vacant for at least ten years, and is now owned by the city, who took possession of it after the previous owner failed to pay property taxes. The city was eager to sell the house, and it was reflected in the asking price, which Rey thought was too good to be true. The catch for the deal was that the price was conditional on either tearing the house down and building new, or bringing the house up to code by a specific date.

Rey didn’t think she had much to lose. She was reasonably handy, and had friends she could call on to help out once in a while. When she finished speaking to the realtor, she called Chase to see if he was busy, and if he’d like to go look at a house that afternoon she’s thinking of buying. He was and came over soon.

After they met, they drove down to see the property. Along the way, Chase grumbled a bit that Kiera wasn’t at Mira’s apartment anymore. He’d found out from Zeke, the new packmaster, or alpha Stormfront, that she was under pack protection now. It didn’t sit well with Chase. He stewed and Rey knew what was bugging him, but he put it aside for today.

Even without seeing the address, Rey knew what house they were going to see just by looking at it. All the other houses on the street were old but kept in reasonably good condition, but this one looked like something out of a horror movie. They couldn’t see much beyond the 6-foot stone wall that surrounded the property, but the gardens were obviously overgrown and wild, and while the walkway gate was closed, half the driveway gate was hanging almost off its hinges. The for sale sign attached to the wall was old and faded and hung slightly off-kilter. The only bright spot was the realtor’s car parked on the street in front of the house.

“Are you sure we haven’t walked onto the set of one of those bad ghost-hunting ‘reality’ shows?” Chase asked. “‘Cuz that right there is a classic look of a haunted house. Or maybe a place users go to do drugs.”

“I’m sure it’s not as bad as it looks from outside,” Rey said, determined not to dismiss the place without seeing the house itself. The list price was just a couple thousand over what she’d paid for her little place over by Iron Mountain, and being preapproved for the mortgage, she knew she could afford the payments, including some extra money to get started on some of the major repairs. As long as those major repairs didn’t turn the house into a money pit.

The realtor greeted them with a smile so brilliant and cheerful Rey couldn’t tell if she really was that perky, or if she thought the perkier she was, the more likely she and Chase would be to not noticing how bad the house really was.

Rey’s first guess about the yard was correct - it was badly overgrown. She had no idea how much could be salvaged until she had a closer look at it. As she and Chase followed the realtor, the woman rambled on about the size of the place, that the foundation and all the stonework was in excellent conditions, and that the house had great “bones”.

When they stepped into the entrance hall, Rey’s heart felt. The place almost smelled like it was dead. It had been abandoned for so long, there was little life to it. They toured the ground floor, and there they could see, except for the kitchen, most of the work that needed to be done was cosmetic, the result of squatters or who knows who else done to the place. A couple doors had to be replaced, and the kitchen would have to be completely redone, except for the sink. Against all odds, not only was the sink in good condition, but the water was on and the thing worked properly - no leaks, no scary-colored water, no odd odors or sounds.

Chase wandered out into the back yard again, partly to avoid Miss Perky Pants and partly because he wanted to know what kinds of things frequented this property. He returned 20 minutes later, after Rey had gotten a review of some of the bedrooms upstairs.

“Well,” he said, “strays aren’t the only thing that’s run through the back yard, but it’s fixable. I think there is a family of raccoons living in the attic, too. The garage is roomy, though.”

“There’s a workshop attached to it,” the realtor offered.

“That’d be handy for tinkering on your bike,” Rey said, just thinking about possibilities for the space. She certainly wouldn’t be doing any work on her car; that’s what repair shops were for.

He looked at her. “My tools wouldn’t be here,” he pointed out. “There’s one positive thing about this place, though.”

“What’s that?” Rey asked. She was a bit surprised at the pang she felt when he made the comment about his tools not being here, but she told herself to forget about it. She didn’t want to move faster than he was ready to, though the idea of them living here, together, felt surprisingly good. Safe. And that, perhaps, was the biggest surprise of all. She no longer felt completely safe alone, even with the pixies there. Knowing someone she trusted so much could be there might make all the difference.

He looked at Perky Pants. “Mind if we have a moment alone?”

The realtor nodded, and said she’d be out on the front porch when they were ready.

“You know, this place is quite away from my apartment up near Iron Mountain. But, I guess that doesn’t matter now.” He sighed, as if he hadn’t really wanted to say this but needed. Rey’s anxiety rose a bit.

“Thing is, me and Zeke had a talk. I decided to go ahead and join up with Stormfront. Kind of a gesture of support, I guess. But it means I’ll be moving, too. Santa Fe. I think you know where,” he said.

Rey just looked at him for a moment. That was so not what she’d expected him to say. “So,” she said softly, almost afraid to continue. “This would mean we’d be relatively close, and have a place for privacy when we want it.”

He broke into a smile. “Now you probably think I have lost puppy syndrome. Put my trailer in storage and moved into an apartment close to you, now you are moving and I say I’m going to live with the Stormfront pack…”

Rey shook her head. “No, of course not.” She tilted her head slightly and looked in his eyes “Unless you want me to?” A teasing little smile danced on her lips.

He chuckled a little, then grew serious. “But I have to ask. Why a home here, near Santa Fe and before you knew I was joining Stormfront? Is it because of that guy?”

Rey knew who Chase was talking about and shook her head. “I’ve made some decisions about my future, and I need a larger place, if only so the pixies aren’t always underfoot. The neighborhood didn’t matter. The price point did. This house being close to the pack is just a benefit.”

Chase studied her. “So you aren’t worried about it? I thought it was really odd, myself. Thought maybe part of the reason for the move was so you could keep watch on things.”

“Okay,” Rey said, puzzled. “I don’t think we’re talking about the same guy. Do you mean Remy?”

“Might be his name,” he said. “I saw him before a year or two ago fighting rogue ‘wolves. Then he shows up that night at the canyon and he’s awful comfortable with your best friend. Are you good with that?”

“No,” Rey replied honestly. “But it’s not like there’s anything I can do to stop it, short of alienating her. She thinks he and his circle of friends are her friends, and she has so few of those, especially since she’s with the other group of fae. I tried once to get her to understand how dangerous he was, to get the heck away from him. It didn’t go over well.”

“Well, I get the feeling that those two together spell trouble, so I wondered if maybe you also took that in mind when you went looking for a new place.”

“That wasn’t near the top of my list of reasons,” Rey said. “And it’s dangerous for me to be in Santa Fe proper. Kind of like you strolling through a different pack’s territory. But I’m still going to try and get her to see the light, so to speak.” She didn’t add she didn’t hold out much hope. She’d have to find a way to show Mira exactly what kind of monster Remy was to have any chance to make Mira realize he wasn’t the kind person he presented himself to be.

“I never thought you’d join up with the pack,” she said softly. “I always thought you preferred to be solo.” Though she was talking about his being a lone wolf, she also thought it applied to how he lived - alone. Sure, Kiera shared his apartment for a while, but that was different. What did Zeke say to him to change his mind?

He shrugged. “He’s a decent guy. I’ll give him a chance.”

Rey nodded, agreeing with Chase’s assessment of Zeke. “I think I will buy the house,” she said. “It’s going to be a hell of a lot of work, but I can make it beautiful again.” She smiled, her words a bit wistful. It needs a family too, she thought to herself as she glanced around. Someday. Maybe. “Does the ranch have a place you can use for your tools, or are you going to keep the garage you’ve got now?”

“Probably both, really,” he replied.

Rey nodded again, and relegated the repairs to the garage to near the bottom of the list. She didn’t want to start belaboring the point, or try to keep fishing to see if he’d even consider living with her here. And she needed to make sure she didn’t think of it as “their” house, until it really was.

“So, other than the kitchen, it’s the upstairs bedrooms that need the most work. Lots of drywall needs to be repaired or replaced, and all the hardwood floors will need to be refinished.” Rey looked at him with a little smile. “There’s two bedrooms upstairs with fireplaces. The master bedroom even has an ingle nook. Not sure what an ingle is, but it’s probably fun to use it, or do it, in front of the fire.” She chuckled.

He smiled. “Then you best make an offer. And I suppose this means you’ll be wanting some help moving.” He raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” Rey agreed. “But I was going to ask you, not expect you to help. I may need to hire movers anyway. Most of my furniture is rather heavy.”

He chuckled. “Thanks for the warning.”

“You’re welcome.” She smiled. “There will, of course, be beer and pizza for anyone who helps. Or burgers, if we get my grill set up quick. And a certain wolf might even get a little something extra.” Rey put her hand on his chest, over his heart.

His smile widened as he thought of all kinds of things that might be “extra”. In a moment of unexpected maturity, however, he kept that to himself.

“So,” Rey said. “Time to talk to the realtor before she thinks we escaped out the back.”