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You, with a View: Chapter 33

A Year and a Half Later

I can’t wait to fall facedown on the bed and sleep for forty-eight hours straight,” I groan as I lug my suitcase up the stairs, my arms and legs screaming against the weight of three weeks’ worth of clothes, toiletries, and gifts packed to the brim.

“That sounds less fun than other things you could be doing facedown on the bed,” Theo says from behind me.

I give him a look over my shoulder, but he’s too busy staring at my ass. When I don’t respond, those deep blue eyes make their way to my face. He grins unabashedly at being caught.

“We’ve been traveling for nineteen hours, Spencer. If you’re planning to do anything other than sleep, I invite you to start talking sexy to your hand now.”

After flying in from Milan with a stopover at JFK, carrying all of our stuff upstairs is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. I heft my bag onto the landing with an exhausted huff.

Theo drops his suitcase next to mine and immediately pulls me into his arms for a lingering kiss.

“Nooo. I smell like airplane and airport and staleness.” Despite my protest, I melt against him, looping my arms loosely around his waist. He steps in closer, deepening our connection.

He lets his hands roam, stroking absently over the curve of my lower back, his fingers splaying wide, up along the valley of my waist until he finally reaches up to cradle my cheeks. I’m surprised at the intensity of his touch. We’ve been stuffed on an airplane together for nearly a day, and traveled all over Italy for three weeks before that. But he’s kissing me like he’s either memorizing me or this moment.

I’ve had a lot of time over the past year and a half to catalog his moods. I watched the melancholy he had to shake off with the change of his job status and the distance it brought to his friendship with Anton and, to a lesser extent, Matias. I intimately know the spark that returned when he decided to try again nine months ago, and now I regularly see it when he’s on a call with the travel nonprofit focused on local community impact he’s been working with. I recognize the calm affection he reserves for Paul when they’re bantering, the disgruntlement I have to distract him from after a phone call with his dad, and the warm amusement he shows my family.

Sometimes it’s frustration when I push him too hard to share before he’s ready, and I have to give him space. I love the quiet pride in his eyes when I come home from a job. My TikTok engagement grew exponentially after our trip, and it’s afforded me opportunities I’ve only dreamed about.

But this mood of Theo’s is my favorite: when we’re in the middle of a moment he clearly wants to remember. He’ll pull me into his arms just like this, kiss me for a minute or two or five. He makes sure I’m breathless before he pulls back. Sometimes he’ll tell me how happy he is; other times he’ll simply press a kiss to my forehead.

He does that now, then sweeps his thumbs over my cheeks and says, “Welcome home.”

The first time he said that to me when I moved into his place a year ago, he got the goofiest smile on his face. It’s become his thing—every time I walk in the door, he’ll call it out to me, even if I just walked down to the corner store. And when I get up the stairs, he’s wearing that same smile, dimple shamelessly on display.

I never get tired of hearing or seeing that, and after three weeks away from home and all the people we love, it feels like a moment I want to memorize, too.

“I love you,” I say. My life with Theo is like finally slipping into a space that’s shaped just for me. My path to get here was long, and often disorienting as hell, but the payoff was worth it.

I wish Gram were here to see. But somehow, I think she knows.

“I love you, Shepard,” Theo murmurs against my lips.

I check my watch over his shoulder—it’s after nine, but I’m starving. “Did you say Thomas and Sadie dropped off groceries earlier or did I dream that?”

“They were here,” he says cryptically, his mouth curling up as his gaze moves beyond me. I start to turn, expecting to see them standing behind us with confetti poppers, but Theo palms my cheek and brings my attention back to him.

I lean back, still in the circle of his arms. Underneath his sun-bronzed skin, his cheeks are flushed. His eyes are bright, a little wild, which I assumed was from overtiredness. He barely slept the entire ride home. In fact, he kept me up with a nearly constant bouncing knee that I threatened to put out of commission permanently.

“Are they . . . still here?” I venture.

He laughs. “No.”

“Are you worried they went through our stuff or something? Mas is nosy as hell, but Sadie knows to keep him away from bedrooms and vibrator stashes.”

“No,” he repeats. “I just don’t want you to look behind you until I tell you that I did something while we were gone. Or I had Granddad and your family do something while we were gone, with my direction.”


“You’ve been meaning to put up new photos on the wall, right?” He nods his chin over my shoulder, and I start to turn. Again, he directs me back to him.

I push against his palm with my cheek, but he holds fast. “Oh my god, let me look!”

He laughs, his chest shaking against mine, pressing closer. I can feel the beat of his heart. How fast it’s going. “Holy shit, you’re impatient. Let me set it up.”

“I’m going to be old and gray by the time you do.”

Something shifts in his expression, from amusement to hope so raw it wraps a fist around my heart. “I can’t wait to see that.” Before I can respond, he continues, “You wanted to put new photos in the frames on the wall, but you’ve been so busy I wanted to take that off your plate. I thought it’d be cool to come home to it already done.”

“You chose the pictures and everything? All on your own?”

He nods, biting at his lip. “I picked some that I know are your favorites. Kind of a mixture of trips we’ve taken, shots of our families, that kind of thing. I even got a few from Italy.”

Everything inside me melts. “You really are the best, do you know that? If it didn’t benefit me so much, it would be annoying.”

He doesn’t even return with a smug quip. Instead he grins. “Okay. Now you can look.”

I turn. The wall is big enough that it can handle close to twenty frames in various sizes. I start from the top left and work my way across. There are new photos from our road trip with Paul, replacing some of the ones that were there before. Photos from weekend trips we’ve taken, dinners out with friends, one of Paul and my dad, who have turned into hiking buddies, my favorite snapshot of Gram and me, and—

Nestled in the middle are four framed pictures of Theo and me, ones I haven’t seen before. It takes me a second for my brain to realize what I’m looking at, but my heart catches on right away, beating furiously.

In the first picture, we’re on a private boat tour in Positano and I’m facing away from the camera, my hair flowing out behind me. Theo is in the foreground, faced toward the camera, a small smile on his face. He’s holding a piece of paper that says: WILL.

The next picture, we’re at dinner in Florence and I’m gazing out toward a cobblestoned square where a band is playing. Again, Theo’s holding up a piece of paper, a little smirk on his face. It says: YOU.

“Oh my god.” Tears are already falling from my eyes. I move on to the next one.

We’re at the beach in Taormina and I’m staring out at the ocean, hand shielding my eyes. Theo’s a few feet behind me, wearing only swim trunks, looking gorgeous. I can still feel the heat of his skin against my palms when we came back to our hotel and got tangled up in bed. In the picture, Theo’s sign says: MARRY.

In the last picture, we’re in front of a coffee shop in a narrow, picturesque alleyway in Rome. Theo has me wrapped up in his arms and my face is tucked into his neck. He’s looking at the camera, his eyes filled with so much love I can’t help letting out a sobbing laugh. I remember that moment, when he pulled me into a hug so sweetly affectionate. I closed my eyes and soaked it in and thought god, my life is so good.

There’s a ring pinched between Theo’s fingers in the picture, and a piece of paper is held up against my red dress. It says: ME?

In the reflection of the framed glass, I see Theo behind me, kneeling.

I turn around, my hands over my mouth, and stumble to him. He’s holding the ring from the picture between his thumb and forefinger.

“Are you kidding me?” I cry, kneeling down with him. If we’re doing this, it’s going to be together.

He smiles, his eyes crinkling at the corners. I love him. I want to watch those lines deepen with time, until he’s old and gray, too.

“I know we don’t use the word perfect, but the past year and a half has been as close as I’ve ever had,” he says, his voice going hoarse as he fights against the emotion welling in his eyes. “And I know we don’t do secrets, either, but it’s not a secret that I want to spend the rest of my life with you, right?”

I let out a wet laugh. “No, you’ve been pretty obvious.”

He grins, a tear slipping down his cheek. “No one loves me like you do, Noelle. I wake up every morning thinking it can’t get better, and then it does. It’s never going to be perfect, but we can spend the next sixty years or so making it really damn good, if that’s what you want, too.”

“Sixty years, huh?” Even two lifetimes don’t feel like enough.

“At least.” He runs a finger over my wet cheek, then asks quietly, “Will you marry me?”

I throw my arms around his neck, and he teeters with a laugh, wrapping his arms around my waist to keep us steady.

“I will marry the hell out of you,” I say, pulling him to me for a kiss that’s all him laughing, me crying.

“I love you,” he whispers once, then again as he slides the brilliant diamond onto my finger. I say it back, against his mouth, his cheek, right up against his ear so he never forgets this moment and what he’s given me.

After a few minutes of dizzy, euphoric making out, Theo pulls me to a stand.

I gaze at the pictures, imagining someone finding them someday. Wanting to know our story. “How did you do all this without me knowing?”

His hand moves up and down my back in soothing strokes as he appraises them. “I worked it out in advance with someone, depending on where we were—sometimes it was days in advance, like with the boat tour, and sometimes minutes, like that picture in Rome. I gave them my number so they could text me the picture afterward.”

“Who printed them out? Who put them up? My whole family was involved?”

Theo nods. “Thomas and Granddad got them printed. Everyone, including your parents, came and swapped out the old pictures with these.”

That explains the FaceTime call I got from my family two days ago. They were all giddy to the point of hysterical laughter. I chalked it up to a boozy brunch, but now I know they were just beside themselves with excitement.

“You are all so sneaky, oh my god.” I press my hand against my forehead, feeling the cool metal of the ring against my heated skin. “How am I ever going to beat this?”

Theo turns to me, pulling me back into his arms. He gazes down at me, pure happiness and unabashed affection written all over his face. “It’s not a contest, remember?”

I stare down at my ring, mesmerized, before blinking up at him. “Is this real? This is my life?”

“Shepard,” he says, grazing his lips against mine. “It’s ours.”

His glancing touch turns into searching kisses, and I push him back toward our bedroom, yanking at his shirt. He lets me pull it over his head, laughing, bringing my hand up to his mouth so he can kiss my finger right above the ring he just gave me.

We’ve had all kinds of sex many times over—frantic, slow, intense and rough, the makeup kind after a fight, the sneaky type in places we could get caught—but engaged sex is going to be my favorite. I can already tell by the way he grips my hips tight in his hands, by the need in his eyes.

Theo backs me into the wall next to the bedroom, dipping his mouth to my throat. He presses it right over my steadily beating pulse and smiles against my skin. “Where should we go on our honeymoon?”

I consider it, but only for a second. Then I smile, wrapping my arms around his neck. “How about a road trip?”


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