Landlord Wars: Chapter 34


Max

Kitty Burrows walked down the hallway of the hospital, black patent leather heels clacking against the linoleum, with a fruit basket in her arm.

“Mom? What are you doing here?”

She smiled at Sophia. “Hello again.” Her face grew serious. “Sorry to hear about your mother. I spoke to the doctor, and he says she’ll be released tomorrow. Don’t worry about the hospital bill. I’ve covered what wasn’t taken care of by your mom’s insurance.”

I groaned. “Mom, what do you think you’re doing?”

She looked at me sternly. “Making amends, Maxwell. Please observe.”

She turned to Sophia. “I want to apologize for the announcement at the ball the other night. I should have never gone behind my son’s back.” She shot me a sorry look before returning her attention to Sophia. “I also should have never listened to Gwen. It turns out she was the person behind the leak—”

“What?” My body tensed. If this was true, I had even more reason to hate my ex.

My mother adjusted her designer purse on her forearm. “Gwen wasn’t making any headway with you and thought to force your hand. It seemed she’d decided that being a part of a scandalized influential family was better than not being a part of it. But no need to fret, Maxwell,” my mother said. “I’ve taken care of everything. We might be broke—”

“You’re not broke,” I said.

“—but we have a handful of connections left, and connections are power. Gwendolyn is taking a nice, long trip across the Atlantic. Turns out she has family in rural Holland who can use her expertise in… Well, who cares. She’s gone.”

I stared at my mother, impressed.

“Thank you,” Sophia said hesitantly. “But I can’t let you pay my mother’s hospital bill.”

Mom waved her off. “Already done, dear. I expect you over for tea sometime next week, yes? I’d like to get to know the love of my son’s life.”

She might be pushy, but she wasn’t wrong. I looked down at Sophia and smiled.

My mother made an annoyed sound. “You two. I can see this will get nauseating quickly. I better meet your mother, Sophia, if we’re to spend this much time together.”

And like a bulldozer, my mother plowed through the middle of Sophia and me, forcing us to part or risk being run over by patent leather.

She entered the hospital room, a bright smile coming over her face at what I assumed was Sophia’s mother, but I couldn’t see past the privacy curtain.

Sophia blinked rapidly. “What just happened?”

“You’ve been added to the fold,” I said thoughtfully. This was indeed a plot twist. “That was my mother groveling.”

“Wow.”

It was wow. This was a big concession on Kitty Burrows’ part. I’d planned to pay the hospital bill, but my mother paying was…kind. She’d been thoughtful, in her own way, and that gave me hope.

I guessed I’d have to pay my parents a visit and thank them.

Sophia and I talked about her mom and the house she wanted to clear out.

“I have movers you can use,” I said. “I’ll reach out today.”

“Really?” she said. “One place I contacted never returned my call, and the other said they were booked for the next two months. I’d decided to pack myself, with Elise’s help, but it makes me dizzy just thinking about it. There’s a lot of stuff…” Her face crumpled. “As much as it pains me to admit, I need help. Especially if I want to get it done quickly and to replace the flooring and paint the walls. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to do maintenance on the house while my mom is being agreeable.”

“What will you do with all of her things?”

“Burn them in a bonfire?” she said with an impish look that quickly faded. “But that won’t fly with my mom, so I’ll put it in storage.”

“All of it?”

She seemed to ponder that a moment. “The furniture needs to be cleaned, but otherwise it stays, or my mom will have a heart attack after her stroke. If there’s anything else I don’t think she’ll miss, I’ll sneak it out, but most of it will go in boxes and storage until she’s ready to part with it.”

I pulled out my phone and typed out a text. “I’ll take the week off and help you.”

“What?” She looked distressed. “You can’t. What about work?”

“I already have, and the company will be fine. We’re in between projects, with Cityscape on hold indefinitely. I’ve emailed everyone I know to get it to move forward again, but it’s a waiting game right now. Besides, I haven’t taken a week off in five years. I could use a vacation.”

She gave me a dubious look. “And you’re going to spend it with me dumpster-diving through my mom’s home? That is awful.”

I pulled her back to my chest, exactly where she belonged. “Not awful. I’ll be with you. Besides, someone has to make sure you are properly supplied with chocolate and taco truck food.”

Her eyes lit up. “Ooh, tacos. Can we get some? I skipped breakfast.”

My mouth turned down. “We need to do something about your forgetfulness when it comes to feeding yourself. As soon as you move in, I’m hiring a chef.”

She pinched my waist. “I never said I’d move in.”

I laughed. “But you did. You sealed it with a kiss.”

“Stop using my weaknesses against me!”

The sound of my mother laughing floated out from the hospital room, and Sophia’s and my eyes grew round.

“What are they doing in there?” she said.

I glanced at my watch. They’d been talking for at least fifteen minutes while we chatted about the move, and it was making me nervous. “No good can come from those two together. You’ve seen my mom’s salon? She’s a high-end hoarder. They’re probably plotting a shopping spree.”

“Or to hit a garage sale.”

I sent her a panicked look. “Don’t joke. My mom has a guy who finds her ‘collectibles’ at estate sales.”

More happy laughter floated out from the room. “This is so weird,” Sophia said.

“Agreed.” I nodded toward the exit. “Let’s grab lunch while they’re busy plotting world collectible domination.”

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