We will not fulfill any book request that does not come through the book request page or does not follow the rules of requesting books. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Comments are manually approved by us. Thus, if you don't see your comment immediately after leaving a comment, understand that it is held for moderation. There is no need to submit another comment. Even that will be put in the moderation queue.

Please avoid leaving disrespectful comments towards other users/readers. Those who use such cheap and derogatory language will have their comments deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked from accessing this website (and its sister site). This instruction specifically applies to those who think they are too smart. Behave or be set aside!

You, with a View: Chapter 31

Thank you so much for everything, Noelle,” Eunice, the resort’s marketing director, says as she ushers me back into the lobby. “I can’t wait to see the final product. The shots you just shared are beautiful.”

“It’s not hard to do when you’re working with a view like this.” I gesture out the floor-to-ceiling window, which looks out to a massive deck, a sparkling pool, and beyond that, the towering trees and craggy mountains that make Lake Tahoe so picturesque.

“Seriously, though.” She pushes her black bangs out of her eyes. “When I tell you my boyfriend and I stayed glued to our phones while you were traveling, I’m not exaggerating. We fell in love with your story, and your photography is so captivating. Not to mention your social engagement is phenomenal, so you were an easy sell to my boss.”

I’ve read comments saying similar things, but to hear it in person is wild. I’ll have to pinch myself later when no one’s around. This day has been surreal.

I wish I could share it with Theo. Yesterday he texted me: good luck in Tahoe, Shep. You’re going to blow them away. I sent him a shot of the sunset falling behind a thick copse of trees, but only got a hearted picture in return.

Blinking away from the memory, I say, “That’s really nice, thank you. I had such a great day with you.”

“Right back at you. You’ve been a rock star.” Glancing down at her watch, Eunice frowns. “I have to get going, but I wanted to check with you about something. It’s half business, half personal.”

“Of course.”

“I have a friend in San Francisco who’s opening up a coffee shop. He’s looking for someone to shoot his space and menu for all his social platforms,” she says. “I’m not sure what your schedule is like, but would it be okay if I passed your information over to him?”

I work hard to keep my cool, getting out a “Yes, that’d be great.”

Meanwhile, inside my body there are firecrackers going off and car alarms blaring. That I could have a potential job as I’m finishing this one is . . .

It’s everything I was too afraid to reach for before. Theo’s voice echoes in my head, smug and proud: I told you so. I’d give anything to hear it in person.

“Amazing!” Eunice chirps. “Well, then, I’ll let you get to the rest of your night. Thanks again for everything. You’ll be in touch with the final images? And let’s rereview your sponsored content schedule on Monday.”

“That sounds perfect.”

We exchange our goodbyes, and I walk to the elevator, restlessness growing in my chest.

It means something that Theo is the first person I want to call right now, doesn’t it? It’s his support I want. He’s given me so much in response to everything I’ve told him, and I know that’s real. I hate that he didn’t tell me what he was going through, but he didn’t hold himself back from me completely. I saw enough of him to fall in love. That’s real, too.

Paul told me it takes Theo three times as long to admit to his happiness, because he didn’t know he was allowed to have it. Now, I realize it must take him half as long to admit to his perceived failures, because that’s all he heard about.

I think of all the years I had Enzo’s voice in my head, telling me that I wasn’t good enough to be a photographer. That was after only a year of working with him, and the result was devastating and lasting. Theo’s dad has been telling Theo he isn’t enough his entire life. How deep must his voice be in Theo’s mind? In his heart? Did he hear that in my voice, too?

I think of my own family, who accept all my failures, perceived or real, with love and support. Who don’t judge me for it. When I went to Theo on Monday, I failed to recognize that, aside from Paul, he’s never had someone who accepts him for who he is. Who loves every corner of him, both bright and shadowed.

And then I think of his text from the other day: I want to be the person you said you need. I told him he already was, to trust that. But there’s so little he’s been able to trust, and now, not telling him why he should trust that feels like a grave error.

I exit the elevator, my heart thumping. I’m supposed to leave tomorrow morning, but there’s so much I need to tell him and none of it can wait.

My camera bag bounces against my hip as I speed walk down the hall, bursting into my room. I make a beeline for my phone, ignoring the texts from my parents, Sadie, and Thomas for now.

Instead, I pull up the text thread between Theo and me and start to type.

I meant it when I said you’re already the person I need, but I didn’t tell you why and I want you to hear how amazing I think YOU are.

I pause, embarrassingly out of breath from my dash down the hall and from fear and exhilaration, waiting to see if any text bubbles will pop up. There’s nothing, so I continue.

So much happened today. I took kickass photos. The marketing director loved me. She’s giving me a referral to someone in the city who may hire me. It was a pinch-me moment, a perfect one except for one thing—you’re not here for me to share it with. You were the first person I thought of calling. You’re the one I want to tell everything to. I don’t regret sharing what I did with you, even if it seemed like it on Monday. You make me feel safe. I just want that feeling for you.

My knees are shaking along with my hands. I sit on the edge of the bed, chewing at my lip. Still nothing. I take a deep breath and dive back in. God, this is so long. It’s turning into a—

A letter. A love letter. But I’m going to say the most important things right to his face.

I was supposed to come home tomorrow, but I’m driving home right now and I’m going to show up at your door. I know I said I was scared to give you any more of my secrets until you gave me something back, but these aren’t secrets. It’s just the truth. You have 3.5 hours to decide if you want to open the door when I knock.

He still doesn’t respond. No bubbles to indicate he’s even seen it, either rolling his eyes or with hearts in them. I need to see his face to determine which way this is going to go.

My bag is packed in minutes, fueled by the frantic pace of my heart, and I tow my suitcase behind me as I throw open the door.

“Fucking hell!” I shriek at the tall body in the doorway, reeling back. My heel catches on the edge of the suitcase and I’m tipping over backwards—

But Theo reaches out. He grabs me by the arm, holds on tight, and pulls me until I’m steady on my feet.

“Not the reaction I was hoping for,” he murmurs.

“Are you kidding me?” I pant out, dropping my purse and lowering my camera bag so my hands are free to check if he’s real. I press my palms to his chest, feeling the heavy, fast beat of his heart behind his ribs. “I was about to drive back to you!”

He smiles, but there’s anxiety behind it, the corners of his eyes tightening. “Beat you to it.”

“That’s so you,” I croak out around my thick throat.

“You invited me up here, remember?” he asks, stepping closer. “Or has that invitation expired?”

“N-no. Not expired.” Even with my hands on him, it’s hard to believe he’s here. “How did you find me?”

“Thomas and Sadie.”

Oh god. Thomas is going to be smug about this forever.

Theo’s expression turns solemn. “I have so much to say.”

“I do, too.” My fingers curl into his soft gray shirt, encouraging him to come closer. He does, the movement as tentative as the hope on his face. “I texted you a novel, basically.”

“I saw it right after I parked.”

“Theo, I—”

“Me first,” he interrupts, but it’s so gentle that my eyes flood. “Since I came all this way.”

“Typical of you to try to take first, but—” I break off with a smile when he laughs. “Go ahead.”

Theo sobers immediately. “I’m sorry for what I said on Monday and how I shut down. I’m sorry for not explaining myself better when I said our situations weren’t the same. I didn’t mean our job losses, Noelle. I meant what happened after them.”

I nod silently, so he knows I’m really listening.

He makes a frustrated noise from the back of his throat. “You have a strong support system, and I’m used to being alone. It’s . . . it’s been better for me, historically, to be that way and now my default is processing bad things by myself. It’s hard for me to trust that it won’t be used against me. I didn’t think you’d want me if you knew what had happened, so I thought I was delaying the inevitable by not telling you.”

“I do want you. No matter what.”

“I know. It took me a while to get there. I had to process what you said and realize that you want to be with me, even with the shit I’m going through.” He lets out a soft breath that stirs the hair at my temple. His words move over my heart the same way—a cool whisper that brings relief. “I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”

“I’m sorry, too,” I say. “For not recognizing that it might take you longer to trust me with something this significant and pushing you to share before you were ready. I made an already shitty situation worse.”

“You were hurt.”

“So were you. My pain doesn’t supersede yours.” Emotion swells in my throat at the look in his eyes—a powerful affection I recognize but want him to name. Theo waits, as patient as I should have been with him, his hands sweeping up my arms. “Clearly we still have a lot to learn about each other and how we respond to things, but I want to learn your—” I shake my head. “I’m not going to call them secrets anymore. Your truths, I guess, when you’re ready to give them to me.”

“Funny you mention that.” His eyes dart past me, further into the room. “Can I come in?”

I push back against him as he steps forward, tilting my chin back. “Can you give me a proper hello first?”

He raises an eyebrow. “Is that the price of admission, Shepard?”

Yes,” I say impatiently, smiling when he laughs quietly.

But our amusement is short-lived. He cups my jaw, his fingers fanning over my cheek to bring me to him. His touch ignites me, and this close, he can see it. His mouth curls up right before it brushes against mine.

I let out a quiet, needy sound, fisting his shirt in my hands. He sighs out my name, kisses me softly once and then again. I push in closer, but he keeps it light. Patient.

“Hi,” he murmurs against my mouth.

“Hi,” I manage to get out.

“Today went well?”

My eyes fill. Of course he’d ask about that. “Yes, it was amazing.”

I get his dimple, a brilliant, proud smile. “I knew it would be.”

“It makes it more real now that I’ve told you.” A tear starts to fall down my cheek, but Theo’s there to catch it.

“I’m about to know the feeling,” he says with a private smile I wonder at. But he just kisses me again, lingering like he wants to make sure this is real. “Let’s go talk.”

Leaving my luggage at the door, he leads us to the couch, setting down a bag I didn’t notice before.

“How are you feeling about work?” I ask.

He slides me a look and pulls out a folder, then circles my wrist to pull me down onto the couch.

“It’s a lot, but I’ll be fine,” he says. “I had an oddly civil talk with Anton and Matias and a rough one with my dad.”

“What happened?”

“I told him about the trip Granddad and I took with you. He wasn’t thrilled about our family business being splashed all over the internet.” I grimace, but Theo just shakes his head, looking surprisingly unruffled about it. “I knew he’d hate it. But I didn’t. Those two weeks meant everything to me—and to Granddad—and that matters.”

My heart squeezes at the steel in his voice.

“Anyway, he moved on from that to focus on what happened with my job. He’s having a harder time letting go of the dream than I did, but I told him he has to. I’m not going to talk to him until he does. His voice can’t be louder than mine in my own head, you know?” His gaze locks with mine. “And I’ve got people in my corner who’ll help drown it out, anyway.”

I scoot closer to him, my chest tight. It’s a massive step, and I can see in his eyes that he knows it, that some weight has been lifted by finally erecting that boundary. “I’m so proud of you.”

“You didn’t say that like you were about to throw up like last time,” he says, grinning. “Progress.”

I roll my watery eyes, then appraise him, letting my gaze run over his face. “You’re really okay?”

His voice is pitched equally low when he says, “Better now.”

We get caught in an extended moment that weaves between us, a thread added to all the ones we’ve made these past weeks. Invisible. Unbreakable.

There’s so much more I want to hear, though, so I nudge us out of the moment, running my hand up his thigh. My fingers brush against the folder in his lap. “Tell me what you’ve been doing with all your newfound freedom.”

“I, ah,” he starts, scrubbing a hand over his jaw with reluctant amusement, “I actually spent yesterday trying to figure out how to make a TikTok.”

My eyes widen. “What? Why?”

“I wanted to make one for you.” His expression turns self-conscious. “It’s harder than it looks to make something as good as yours, so I eventually gave up and moved to plan B.”

“What’s plan B? Actually, I’m not even sure I understand plan A.”

He laughs softly. “Plan A was a video where I basically laid my heart on the line. Plan B is the same, but hopefully with less trolls in the comment section.”

My throat is so tight, my heart so impossibly full. “No promises.”

Theo grins, a hopeful thing that quickly dissolves into a gentle curl. “I went to see Granddad on Wednesday. Well, you saw me, so you know.”


“We had a long talk.” He runs a hand through his hair, leaving it mussed. “Very long. So long that he ended up canceling his poker game. He had a lot to say, which won’t surprise you.”

“Zero percent surprised.”

His eyes move over my face like he’s taking a mental snapshot. “You and Granddad both gave me a lot to think about. How I view my success, how others view it, what I think I deserve and how I sabotage myself because of how I grew up.” I reach over to take his hand, and he looks down as his fingers weave through mine. “But it wasn’t until Granddad took me into his darkroom and showed me the pictures I want to show you that I really understood what I was at risk of losing if I didn’t get my shit together.”

My hand tightens around his. “You weren’t going to lose me.”

“I could’ve,” he says quietly. “Maybe not right away, but eventually. I want to be that guy for you, but I want to be it for me, too. We both deserve to be with someone who wants us exactly as we are, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” I whisper, my eyes filling.

“Did you ever notice how my granddad took pictures of us?” he asks suddenly.

I frown. “Vaguely.”

“He took a lot, the stalker, because he knew what he was capturing before we did.”

“What do you mean?”

His smile is so tender it looks like it could break, and I hold my breath, not wanting to disturb it. “Let me show you.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode