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Things We Left Behind: Chapter 45


Snippity-­Doo-­Dah

Lucian

Nash: Good luck today. Make sure you can still walk down the aisle next week.

Knox: Oh fuck. Today’s the day our boy becomes a man?

Me: Fuck you both very much.

Nash: I’m feeling unloved and used.

Knox: Yeah. Maybe we shouldn’t hold up our end of the deal until Lucy learns to play nice.

Me: I hate you both and plan to kick your asses at my earliest convenience.


I took a deep breath and straightened my tie in the mirror. On the outside, I looked cool, calm, perhaps a touch pissed off. On the inside, I was a roiling mess of…something. I narrowed my eyes at my reflection.

I was Lucian Fucking Rollins. I didn’t get anxious about shit. I made shit anxious about me.

I adjusted my cuffs one final time, nodded to the mirror, and headed out of the room to kick-­start my future.

My future was sitting at the breakfast bar, polishing off an omelet, looking both adorable and sexy in tight jeans and a red sweater with strawberry elbow patches.

“Let’s go,” I said, spinning the keys for the Jag on my index finger.

Sloane looked up, and I caught her quick grin. For years, her first reaction on seeing me was a scowl. I wasn’t about to take that smile for granted.

“You didn’t have breakfast,” she pointed out, glancing at her watch. “And it’s not even 7:30 yet.”

I pressed a kiss to her wrinkled brow. “We’re not going to the office this morning.”

“Where are we going?” she asked, looping her arms around my neck.

“It’s a surprise.”

She frowned. “You didn’t buy a castle, did you?”

“A castle?” I asked, ushering her toward the door. “No. Do you want one?”

“I’m not sure.”

Fifteen minutes later, Sloane looked even more concerned.

“The urologist? Listen, big guy, I’m great at peeing after sex. I swear I don’t have a UTI,” she said, eyeing the building in front of us as I locked the car.

“We’re here for me, not you,” I said dryly.

“Oh God. Did I break your penis with that spinning maneuver?”

“Not yet. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time,” I said, handing her the keys.

“Are you sick? Is something wrong?” Her eyes were wide and worried behind her glasses.

“I’m fine,” I assured her as I held the glass door open for her. The waiting room was all marble and leather and chrome. There were half a dozen men my age, most looking nervously toward the exit, with unread magazines in their laps.

Sloane trailed me to the check-­in desk where I gave the nurse my name and accepted the clipboard she handed over.

“Lucian, what the hell are we doing here?” Sloane hissed.

I turned to face her. “I’m getting my vasectomy reversed.”

What came out of her mouth wasn’t a sentence. It wasn’t even words. It was the garbled tongue of an ancient civilization.

“That was not the reaction I was expecting. That wasn’t even English.”

“Oh my God. You’re willing to have penis surgery just to make babies with me?” Sloane announced to the entire waiting room. She looked like she was about to faint.

I reached for her arm, determined to keep her upright.

“It’s more in the testicles,” a stranger in a golf shirt said, pointing to a helpful 3D model of a ball sack.

I waved a hand in front of Sloane’s face. “Pix? You in there?”

“I think she’s in shock,” the guy’s wife observed as she got out of her chair. “Come here, sweetheart. Let’s get you a drink of water.”

“Vasectomy. Babies,” Sloane murmured. “He’s going to unsnip whatever they snipped just because I want to have a family.”

The woman led her to the beverage center and pressed a paper cup of water into Sloane’s shaking hands. “Well, honey, some men surprise their wives with jewelry. Other men surprise them with surgery on their genitals.”

“Don’t be scared, buddy,” the husband said to me. “It’s in and out, bingo bango. You get to sit on the couch for the rest of the day icing the boys. Nothing to it.”

“Take it from him. This is his second vasectomy. Snippity-­doo-­dah,” his wife said, returning Sloane to me. “He’s a pro.”

“Say something, Sloane,” I ordered.

She was staring at me with glassy eyes and a dazed expression. I had never in my life seen her make that face before.

“If you don’t say something in the next ten seconds, I’m going to drag the nearest medical professional away from the nearest set of testicles to examine you.”

She bent at the waist and sucked in a dramatic breath.

“Well, hell, Lucian. I didn’t know you were serious about this. I don’t know how to handle this.” She straightened and scrunched up her nose at me. “What if I don’t want to have kids with you?”

“You do,” I assured her smugly.

“Fair point. But if we have kids, we’re going to have to get married. Not that you have to be married to have kids, but because I want to. I want a partner. I don’t want to be a single mom with a baby daddy who sends a check.”

“Judging from the suit, it would be one hell of a check,” the wife mused in not quite a whisper.

“We’re getting married, Sloane. I already told you that.”

“Heh. He thinks he can tell her shit like that,” the husband wheezed in amusement.

“I–­I–­I just don’t know what’s happening right now,” Sloane said, pacing two steps away from me before returning to pinch me. “You feel real. You look real. Am I real? Did I slip into some kind of alternate dimension? Oh my God, am I the main character from The Midnight Library?”

“You’re not dying,” I said.

“You read The Midnight Library?” Her voice rose a full octave.

“I read all your book club picks,” I told her.

“But why?”

“Why? Jesus, Sloane. Why do you think? Because I love you. I’m in love with you. I’ve had the last twenty-­some years to obsess over you from afar.”

The wife elbowed her husband. “You never obsessed over me from afar.”

“That’s because the farthest afar you go is your sister’s book club meetings. Maybe if you went farther, I’d have some room to obsess,” he shot back.

Sloane brought her hands to her face. “Shit. I don’t know what to do or say. Last night, Emry told us to take some time. This isn’t time. This isn’t even a day later! Not that I wanted time because my fertility is probably dropping by the second. But I was so sure there was nothing you could do to prove to me that you meant everything you said. And now…” She trailed off and gestured at my crotch.

“Pixie.”

“Don’t laugh at me. I’m allowed to freak out over this. Damn it,” she muttered, rubbing her forehead. “I would have handled a castle better.”

“I’ll keep that in mind next time.”


“I still don’t see why you couldn’t recover at home,” Sloane said, marching me up the walkway to her front porch.

“I thought you’d like driving the Jag, and I am recovering at home,” I said. It was the truth. The Waltons’ house was the only real home I’d ever known.

“Rest. And ice. That’s what the doctor said,” Sloane reminded me.

“I had minor outpatient surgery. I’m fine,” I insisted as she walked backward up the porch steps, holding me by the biceps. I was sore and hungry, but mostly I was nervous as fuck about this next part.

She was so intent on helping me up the porch steps that she was ankle deep in cherry blossoms before she bothered to look down. “What the…”

I made a mental note to kick Knox’s and Nash’s asses. The Morgan brothers had outdone themselves to the point of insanity. The entire front porch was buried under four inches of cherry blossoms. It looked as if a florist shop had exploded.

“Sloane—­” I began.

“Okay. This is weirder than a pile of dead rats,” she decided, still holding on to me and frowning at her own blossom-­laden cherry tree. “Where did this come from?”

“From two possibly well-­meaning idiots who are about to meet their maker. Come here.” We waded through the avalanche of pink petals to the porch swing. There, on a table at least, was the champagne I’d ordered. Next to it was a bottle of bourbon that I hadn’t, and in front of both bottles was a greasy Dino’s pizza box.

I knew I should have called Stef, not Knox and Nash. But Stef was busy with his own grand gesture.

“Lucian, what the hell is going on?” Sloane demanded, opening the pizza box with suspicion.

A movement in the shrubbery caught my eye. Knox Morgan, wearing camouflage and green face paint, rose out of a rhododendron with his phone. He gave me the thumbs-­up.

“What. The. Fuck?” I mouthed to him.

“Video, asshole,” he mouthed back, pointing at his phone.

I leaned over the railing and shoved him back into the bush.

“Lucian?” Sloane repeated.

“There’s something I want to talk to you about,” I said, returning to her side.

My heart was in my throat. I could feel my heartbeat in my head as I closed the distance between us.

I had almost reached her when the opening bars of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” sounded from a fat spruce on the opposite side of the porch steps. I spotted the torso of Nash’s uniform peeking out from behind the evergreen. He was holding the speaker of his phone up to a bullhorn.

This was why people hired professionals.

“Why is there booze and pizza and a half ton of cherry blossoms on my front porch?” Sloane asked nervously.

I took a deep breath. “Loving you has been a touchstone for more than half my life. But being loved by you? That’s a fucking miracle. You, Pixie, are my fucking miracle.”

Sloane took a shuddery inhale and shook her head. “I’m not mentally ready for this, Lucian,” she whispered.

“Yes, you are. And so am I. Marry me, Sloane.”

She brought her hands to her eyes, still shaking her head. “What?” she croaked.

“You heard me. I’d get down on one knee, but I don’t know if I’d be able to get back up right now. Marry me. Be my wife. Remind me every day that I’m better than I think I am. Show me what it’s like to be loved by you. Because that’s all I ever wanted. To be good enough for you.”

I skimmed my hand over her cheek, then threaded my fingers into her hair.

She let out a choked sob.

“Don’t cry, Pixie,” I begged, brushing my lips to her forehead. “It kills me when you cry.”

“Don’t be so sweet then,” she said accusingly.

“Just hold on a little bit longer and we can go back to hurling insults,” I promised.

“Okay,” she said on a hiccupping little sigh.

“Sloane Walton, I have loved you for so long I don’t remember what my life was like before my heart was yours. It’s changed over the years. But I’ve loved you as a friend, an enemy, a lover. It would be my greatest honor in this lifetime if you would let me love you as my wife.”

Tears slid down her cheeks one after the other.

“Marry me, Sloane. Be my wife. Let me share your life up close. Let me protect you and love you like I’m ready to.”

I let go of her to retrieve the box from my pocket. It opened with a quiet snick.

The noise that came out of her mouth was a wheezing, keening moan that sounded like a bagpipe running full speed into an accordion.

A second later, she hurled herself into my arms, knocking me back a step.

“I’m taking this as a yes?” I said between the kisses she landed on my cheeks and mouth.

She pulled back and cupped my face in her hands. “Yes!” she shouted.

I chuckled softly. “Let me put the ring on you, Pix.”

“God, I wish you hadn’t just had a penisectomy,” she said, holding out one shaking hand.

We would be editing that out of the engagement video, I decided as I slid the cool, smooth band onto her finger.

“Jesus. It weighs, like, five pounds,” she said, reverently holding her hand up so the greedy diamond could catch the spring sunlight.

“I’ll get you another one to wear on the other hand so you’ll be even,” I promised as a joy I’d never known bloomed inside my chest.

“Lucian?” she said, her voice breaking.

“You’re not having second thoughts already, are you? I thought the whole vasectomy reversal thing would buy me until at least tomorrow before you started panicking.”

She shook her head, fresh tears falling. “There’s something you need to know.”

I held her by the upper arms. “What? I’ll fix it or buy it or destroy it.”

“I love you.”

Her words, the sincerity behind them, had my stomach throwing itself off a cliff.

“Say it again,” I ordered gruffly.

Her smile was a sunbeam that warmed the darkest corners of my heart.

“I love you, Lucian Freaking Rollins. I always have. I always will.”

I kissed her. Hard. I crushed my mouth to hers as I yanked her body to mine.

“Chief, we’ve got a 10–­91A of the rooster variety at the Pop ’N Stop again.” The static-­filled radio announcement drowned out Shania.

“Shit, sorry, Lucy,” Nash said through the bullhorn.

Sloane grinned up at me, and once again, I basked in the feeling of being the hero instead of the villain. “Your smile makes me love you even more,” I confessed.

“Back at you, big guy.”

“I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and remember this,” I admitted.

“I love you, Lucian. Even if you wear suits to bed and are snooty about peanut butter brands.”

“And I love you, Sloane. Even if you drive me absolutely insane twenty-­four hours a day for the rest of my life.”

“I really wish we could have sex right now,” she said. “But I appreciate the long game.”

“I’ll make up for it the second the doctor or Google gives the okay. Whichever is first.”

I kissed her again, long and hard.

“Naomi is gonna kick my ass for not telling her about this,” I heard Knox mutter distantly.

“Just tell her it was man code,” Nash advised.

“My mom is going to freak out,” Sloane predicted.


Karen: Welcome to the family, my favorite soon-­to-­be son-­in-­law!

Maeve: Don’t fuck things up.

Chloe: Uncle Lucian, as junior bridesmaid, here are a few of the designer dresses I think I would look best in for the ceremony and reception.


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