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Roommate Arrangement: Epilogue

Payne

One Year Later

“Beau?”

I let myself into his apartment with the key I never returned, and even though he said he’d be ready to go … I have no idea where he is.

I check his bedroom and the bathroom, then get back to the living room and pause, looking around, wondering if he somehow forgot I was picking him up in the hour since we spoke.

A light breeze tickles my side, and I turn toward it, finding the sliding door to the balcony cracked open.

I approach, no idea what I’m going to find, but when I slide open the door … it isn’t this.

Beau’s got earbuds in, leaning over the rail where he’s got … I’m not even sure what that is.

I approach without him noticing and lean over to look too.

Ah.

Bedsheets.

I nudge him, and Beau almost jumps out of his skin.

“Shit, I didn’t hear you,” he says, removing one of his earbuds.

“Clearly.” I nod toward the sheet. “What are we working out today?”

“If it’s actually possible for someone to tie bedsheets together and climb down the side of a building.”

I blink at him. “And how are you planning on testing that?”

Confusion crosses his face, and he waves toward the railing. “By putting it into practice.”

Of course he is. I plant my hands on his shoulders before steering him back inside. “Yeah, we’re not doing that.”

“But—”

Here.” I give him a stern look. “After the party, we’ll head back to my place and test it out. The zip-line platform should be high enough, and I’ve got crash mats we can use and—”

He cuts me off with a kiss. “That sounds perfect.”

“Good. Now go get ready.” I smack his ass on the way past and hunt down the gift he bought for Soph to make sure we don’t forget it. Even though we’re a couple now and technically only have to get the one gift, neither of us wanted to deprive our nieces of being spoiled, so we both went shopping.

I find the gift bag in the laundry sink and hold back the urge to laugh.

He’s still as scatterbrained as ever, but since learning to write with music playing, he’s been able to get a cleaner in without it interrupting his work.

We hit the road and ten minutes later pull up out the front of Marty’s place. There’s a huge bouncing castle set up in the backyard and balloons dotted on the fence out the front.

To think, Lizzy was worried people would get lost.

Inside is the mayhem I’m expecting. My parents and Lizzy’s are here, but other than the occasional friend or school parent, we’re completely outnumbered by kids. They’re tearing through the house and the yard, shrieks matching the heavy pounding of footsteps on the hardwood floors.

Beau gives me his big help eyes, so I take both gifts and catch Soph on her way past us.

“Uncle Payne, put me down.”

I throw her over my shoulder. “I guess I could, but then I’ll have to keep these gifts we brought.”

“Presents? Gimme.”

Hey.” Lizzy plants her hands on her hips and gives Soph the stink eye. “What do we say?”

I place a squirming Sophie on her feet, and she morphs from energetic monster to sweet princess. She clasps her hands and bats her eyelashes at me. “Thank you so much. I’m sure I’ll love whatever you got me. It’s the thought that counts.”

Beau sniggers, and I shoot Lizzy a look.

“My children are such angels,” she says, rejoining one of her friends.

As soon as her mom is gone, Soph drops the act. “Can I have it now?”

Beau scoops up the gift bags and holds them out to her. “Happy birthday, sweetheart.”

“You’re supposed to wrap these. It’s more fun.” But wrapped or not, her face lights up in excitement when she pulls out the ninja costume, complete with weaponry that she had to have, and then my soccer goals and ball.

“Yes,” she squeals. “Will you play with me?”

“Of course.”

Then she drops the presents unceremoniously onto the floor and disappears outside with her friends.

“Did that go well?” Beau asks. “It’s always so hard to tell.”

“I think it’s the sugar.”

He packs the gifts back into the bags for us to leave in her room for later. I haven’t told her, but we bought the same soccer goals for my backyard for when the girls stay over on my fold-out couch.

My main concern has been setting up the equipment and accommodation for our business, but months of prebookings on the place was enough to get the bank’s attention, and as of last week, my loan to buy the place was officially approved.

The next step is extending the cottage so the girls have rooms of their own.

And maybe so kids of our own will too.

I’m nervous as I glance at Beau and then back to the groups of children who don’t. Stop. Moving.

“You know …”

He hums to show he’s listening.

“I’ve been thinking lately. I’m forty-one soon.”

His eyes light up when he turns to me. “Did that take a lot of thought to realize?”

“Hush, you. What I’m trying to say is that the business opens in a few months, and I have all that land, and we both have a lot of flexibility in our schedules …” Fuck, the nerves ramping up in my gut are making this hard. “I, uh, I’ve maybe been thinking I could see a kid or two ahead.”

He blinks at me, slowly looking from me to the backyard and back again. “You want that?” He hooks his thumb back toward the mayhem.

“At first, I wasn’t sure, but, yes. My own kid, shit.” My chest warms. “I can see it. And you. I think you’d be an amazing father.”

He sucks in a sharp breath. “You want a kid with me?”

Ah, fuck. I can’t read that tone. Is it … is that a yes or a hell fucking no? “Well, I don’t see you going anywhere in a hurry. And if it’s too much for you—”

“Are you kidding? Too much? Of course it will be too much. I’m an anxious mess the majority of the time, and you want to add a kid to that? I’ll ruin them. I’ll mess it up and cause the child issues, and holy shit why do I want to say yes?”

“You do?”

“More than I’ve ever wanted anything while being simultaneously terrified.”

I bark a laugh of pure relief. “That’s a yes?”

“Yes. Hell yes.”

I scoop him into my arms, overwhelmed at how happy I am, and kiss him just because I’ll never get enough of it. “I want you to move in. And to have kids with you, and to run the business with you, and to help you with your quirky book experiments. I want everything.”

“You want me to move in?” Beau’s smile is blinding. “Wouldn’t having a roommate at forty-one be more pathetic than forty?”

“Nah, I figure once you cross that milestone of forty, all bets are off.”

“Ice cream for dinner?”

“And breakfast.”

“Jumping in the fountain at the mall?”

“Only if I don’t push you in first.” I pump my eyebrows at him.

“Can I have a turn on your zip line?”

“Of course.” I pause for a second. “Once you’re forty-one. Please, Bo-Bo, you need to earn the awesome.”

“Why do I get the feeling I’ll turn forty-one and you’ll turn around and be like, ‘oh, did I say forty-one? I meant forty-five,’ and then I still won’t be at your level?”

I shrug. “Guess you’ll just have to stick around and find out.”

“I think I can do that.”

“Good.” I kiss him. “And you’re fooling yourself if you think I’m not the one punching above my weight.”

“Agree to disagree?”

“Never.” I screw up my face. “I read once that compromise was a terrible thing in relationships.”

He tilts his head. “Somehow that doesn’t sound right.”

I kiss him again. And again. Because fuck, I can’t stop. “So who gets to tell Marty and Lizzy we could have niblings coming their way?”

“Hey, I think I’m still regaining my ability to breathe after telling Lizzy we were together. You’re up this time.”

“I’ll allow it.” Because I’m realizing when it comes to Beau, I’ll give him anything.

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