Beautiful [Beautiful Series]

Epilogue

Jensen

The plane touched down, and I woke Pippa with a gentle shake. She startled: jerking upright, inhaling sharply, and looking around her.

I watched as it all came back to her in pieces: getting on the plane, seeing me, our talk in the tiny airplane bathroom, the declarations, getting kicked out of the bathroom for takeoff, and then the mostly wordless cuddling in our seats. She’d fallen asleep about an hour into the flight, leaving me to think through all of it.

I liked to be prepared.

If she didn’t get a job in Boston, we could move to England.

Or she could move here with me, find something else to do over time, without any rush. But Pippa was pretty independent and spirited; I wasn’t sure how she would respond to my suggestion that she let me earn the money and she could take care of making our lives interesting.

Then again, part of me suspected that was Pippa’s dream job: Adventure Incorporated.

“Did I drool on you?” she asked, voice a little hoarse from sleep.

“Only a little.”

She grinned. “I improve with every shared flight.”

Cupping her jaw, I bent and kissed her once, briefly. “This one was pretty great.”

We moved off the plane, along the winding hallways to baggage claim to retrieve her suitcase.

“Tell me your schedule,” I said, putting my duffel bag on top of her roller bag and leading her toward the parking garage.

“What day is it?” she asked, rubbing her eyes. “Tuesday?”

“Yes.” I glanced at my watch. “Tuesday at 4:49 p.m. local time.”

“I’ve got an interview tomorrow at ten, and then two on Thursday. I think.” She pulled her phone out of her purse and squinted at the screen. “Right, that’s it.”

I looked questioningly at her phone, remembering she’d said she’d shut the service off. Understanding, she said through a yawn, “Mums. New phone and lunch money before they sent me off.”

I couldn’t wait to meet them. “Have they put you up at a hotel? The interviewers, not the Mums.”

She nodded. “The Omni.”

We fell quiet as we walked to my car. On the one hand, I didn’t want to rush things. On the other, I’d flown to London to profess my love, and before that we’d had sex in every conceivable manner. It seemed a little late to worry about rushing.

“Want to stay over?”

She looked up at me as I loaded our bags into my car. “Either that or you’re at my hotel,” she said, grinning. “Don’t you belong to me now?”

It was only about fifteen minutes without traffic from Logan International to her hotel, but it was about a half hour to my house.

The benefit of the hotel: speed.

The benefit of my house: my bed, more food delivery options, and more flat surfaces for sexual activity.

My phone rang over Bluetooth as we curled around the streets, Pippa’s hand on my leg. Glancing at my screen, I saw Hanna’s face.

Pippa grinned, excited, but I put my finger over my lips to indicate we should keep this a surprise for now. I also suspected if Hanna knew Pippa was with me, she’d talk us into coming over, and . . . no.

“Hey, Ziggs.”

“Look,” she said, voice panicked and bursty, “I’m sorry I missed your call on Friday, but then you didn’t answer and I’m feeling really guilty about something and—”

“Honey, it’s okay,” I said, laughing. “I called you on my way out of town and have been . . . a bit busy since then.”

“Oh—you’re out of town?” she asked, confused. The only person who knew my calendar better than Hanna was my assistant.

“I’m home now. I wanted to tell you—”

“No, wait. Let me get this out first,” she said. “I didn’t tell you something and now I’m all twisty over it.”

My brows pulled down in confusion. “You didn’t tell me something?”

“Pippa will be here,” Hanna said. “In Boston. If she’s not here already. She has job interviews.”

She sucked in a gulp of air as she said the last word, and then there was nothing but silence. Like she’d dropped a grenade and jumped back, hoping to be spared the explosion. Pippa’s hand was clapped over her mouth.

I’d wanted to surprise Hanna by bringing Pippa over myself, tomorrow maybe, but now I wasn’t sure how to handle it.

“Don’t be mad,” Hanna added with a little peep. “I wasn’t sure how you’d react. I know you didn’t want me butting in anymore.”

I smiled over at Pippa, who silently worried her lower lip between her teeth and said, “I’m not mad.”

“I just wanted you guys to work so badly,” she said, “and I hope that I get to see her while she’s in town because I already love her so much—”

“I’m sure you will.”

“But,” she continued, “I promise I won’t if it’s weird for you.”

“It’s not weird for me,” I admitted. “I love her, too.”

Beside me, Pippa beamed. Hanna went very, very quiet before whispering, “What?”

“Ziggs, I’ve got to get home, but is it okay if I come by for dinner in a couple hours? I have a surprise, too.”

Walking up the steps to my place felt a little surreal. Would we eventually live together? Would we live here? It wasn’t so much that I was pondering each question as that I had a flurry of them spinning inside my head—when would we live near each other, when would we live together, was this forever, what job would she get, would she need a job—but everything went quiet and still when the door closed behind us.

Pippa looked around the living room. “I didn’t pay much attention when I was here last time.”

I could see her pulse in her neck, beneath the smooth skin over what was at once a delicate and strong throat. “Now may not be the time, either.”

She turned her face to me, smiling widely. “No?”

“No.”

I moved to her, and she reached out, using the hem of my shirt to pull me closer. “So, we’re going straight to the sex, then.”

Nodding, I said, “Straight to the sex.”

“Bedroom?”

“Or couch,” I suggested. “Or kitchen counter.”

She stretched, kissing me leisurely. “Or shower.”

Shower sounded pretty good.

I turned us, walking backward toward the stairs before taking her hand and leading her to the master bath. “Your hair looks great.”

I felt her giggle as a vibration from her throat against my mouth. “I thought you’d never say anything about it. I assumed you hated it.”

“I noticed it,” I told her, “but it didn’t totally register until you were sleeping on me. I think I was just so excited to see you, and so nervous, that it didn’t entirely compute. I like it.”

She tugged my shirt up and over my head, dropping it on the floor near the shower. “That’s a good answer.”

“Is it?” My hands came up to her shoulders, coaxing the fabric there away.

Her dress pooled at her feet, and she stepped out of it. “Yeah. Grandpa would like you.”

I pulled back, staring blankly at her. “Grandpa?” I looked to her hands as she worked my jeans down my hips, taking my boxers with them. “We’re talking about your grandfather right now?”

She smirked up at me. “I’ll tell you the story some other time.”

“Sometime over sandwiches and soda,” I said, laughing. “Not when we’re . . .”

She stood naked with her back to me, reaching into the shower to turn on the water. And fuck, it was like everything sort of slotted into place.

We were headed toward sex in the shower. And not for the last time before we said goodbye, and not with some sort of agreement that it was temporary, but with the assumption that it wasn’t.

Pippa curled up closer to me on the couch, her wet hair tickling my neck as she took the remote from my hands. “I’m not watching Game of Thrones.”

I pouted down at her. I’d recorded the entire previous season and was ready to binge. “I thought you were just going to sleep on me.”

“I’m not tired anymore.”

“But—”

“I’m sure it’s amazing,” she said, “it’s just too bloody and rapey for me.”

“I guess that also means you’ll veto The Walking Dead? Because I have that recorded, too.”

She laughed, stealing my beer to take a sip before putting it back in my palm. “Right-o.” Looking around, she hummed a little. “You need more color in here.”

“My ruse is up.” I bent, kissing her temple as she chose Trainwreck on iTunes. “I really just brought you back here so you’d redecorate.”

“Anything you’re particularly attached to?” I followed where her eyes landed, on an old, funky lamp in the corner.

I shook my head, swallowing a sip of beer. “Nope.”

“Free rein?”

“You can do whatever you want with me and my house.”

She stole my beer again, her eyes on the television and the opening credits.

“But not my beer.” I reached for it with a grin.

She pulled her arm back, moving the bottle out of reach and laughing. “I’ll probably come in here and turn everything upside down.”

“Hope so.”

“I’ll complain when you work too much.”

“You’d better.”

She tilted her face up to me. “I hope I get a job here. I want this.”

“I want it, too.”

She pouted a little. “I like your shower—there’s tons of space in there for my million shampoos. And your bed is so comfortable. Hanna is here, and I love all the New York friends. And this, just curling up like this, I dread not having it now. Especially you.”

The vulnerability there made my heart twist. “Whatever happens with the interviews, we’ll find a way to make it work.”

Her eyes cleared as something seemed to occur to her, and she sat up a little. “Weren’t we supposed to go over to Hanna’s?”

I bolted upright. “Oh shit.”

I fumbled for my phone on the coffee table, nearly dropping it into Pippa’s lap. But as soon as I turned on the screen, I saw the single notification there: a text from my sister.

Can’t do dinner tonight. We’re headed to New York. Everyone is meeting there. Come join us ASAP.

And after that was a baby emoji.

“What . . . ?” And then it hit me. “Oh. Ohhh . . .”

Pippa looked at me. “What is it?”

“No dinner at Will and Hanna’s tonight,” I said. “But, before I tell you, I just want to be sure that you’re ready for me, and everything that comes with my family, and my friends . . .”

She scooted closer. “Yeah, crickets, I want all of it.”

I turned my phone so she could read. The same confusion and then dawning understanding came across her face.

“Do you want to go?” I asked.

“Fuck yeah!” she said, grinning up at me. She turned, bending to pull her phone from where it rested inside her purse on the floor. “Hanna texted me, too.” She scanned it. “She’s apologized for likely missing me on this trip.”

I grinned at her. “Or maybe you’ll show up and surprise her.”

Looking back to her phone, Pippa’s eyes teared over. “Ruby texted, too. She doesn’t want to miss it. Is everyone going down there to celebrate?”

“Probably. And normally I’d stay up here, buried in work. But if you’re in, I’m in,” I said. “They’re insane and overbearing, but . . . I think you’ll fit in perfectly.”

She pulled back in mock insult. “You think I’m insane and overbearing?”

“No. I think you’re fun, and smart, and wild.” I leaned forward, kissing her nose. “I think you’re fucking beautiful.”