Maddy was exhausted. She dragged her suitcase up the steps of her and Carter’s house, her shoulders aching. She’d spent the last two weeks going from city to city, helping start the first round of Purely Pleasure scavenger hunts that were part of the subscription box rollout. Each Hunt had gone amazing, the response had been fantastic and Maddy was feeling better than ever about her skills.
But oh god, her feet hurt so bad from racing around New York and Chicago and San Francisco and Philadelphia in three inch heels. She should have listened to Nat and packed a pair of boots.
Damn my love of stilettos, she thought, turning her key in the lock and opening the door.
She’d left her car at the airport, so she’d driven herself home. She hadn’t wanted Carter to have to lose half a day driving to the airport, when she’d left, he’d had that look on his face that told her he was on the verge of a breakthrough. Since he’d stepped down as CEO, he’d been flourishing as a scientist and had teamed up with a friend of his, Aiden, who owned an energy company. Together, they were working on some sort of solar battery that made Carter light up when he talked about it.
“Babe?” she called. The foyer was dark, which was a little strange. She left her keys and suitcase in the hall, heading towards the kitchen. “Carter? You here, babe?”
Thinking maybe he’d gone for a walk in the greenbelt behind their house, she greeted Peaches and Kelvin, who were curled together the same cat bed and were thoroughly uninterested in her.
“Brats,” she said affectionately, going over to the french doors that opened out onto the deck.
That’s when she saw it, a single rose, dangling from a string on the porch.
She frowned, walking out onto the deck and towards the rose. There was a little tag on the string holding the rose that said: Pull me.
“What in the world?” she asked, but nevertheless, she reached out and tugged.
There was a whirring sound, she turned around, just in time to see the watering can, affixed to a rope, tilt forward, beginning to water a pot of daisies, which was slowly lowering down as the pot’s weight increased. She watched, amused, as the pot’s weight triggered a series of croquet balls racing in all directions on a special track that she now could see was laid out across the deck.
Each ball had its own mission: Maddy looked on in delight as the complicated Rube Goldberg machine worked its science. One croquet ball bounced down the deck stairs, hitting the button on a machine affixed to the bottom, filling the air with the iridescent bubbles. Another raced across the deck railing, tapping against the stereo, and music filled the air. George Gershwin. From the old movie musicals she loved. He’d watched every single one of them with her and had even thought it was cute when she sang along.
A smile spread across her face as another croquet ball triggered a broom to fall across the light switch near the window. Twinkle lights, wrapped around the trees, around the porch railing, lit the air, illuminating the backyard—and Carter, standing there, waiting for her.
She hurried over to the deck railing, her hands curling around it as she leaned over, peering down at him.
“This is quite the homecoming,” Maddy said. “You either really missed me or you were really bored.”
The smile on his face was so big that it made something inside her flip over. She glanced over her shoulder—he seemed to be looking at something over it—and just…froze.
Because the Rube Goldberg machine Carter built had finished its sequence. And where the rose had dangled, there was something else tied to the string now.
A very shiny diamond ring.
Oh. My. God. She was getting proposed to. With a Rube Goldberg machine.
The smile spreading across her lips felt like it might break her face and she so didn’t care. She heard his footsteps pounding up the steps and she whirled around, half-intending to throw herself in his arms.
“You built me this?” she asked, gesturing around her. There were bubbles everywhere. They were floating around them like magic fairy wishes. There were twinkle lights! Gershwin! She felt transported to the most her place anyone had ever taken her and she just loved him so much, that he’d do this. That he’d build something that was him and her and them.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
That’s when she did throw herself at him. She ran full-tilt into his arms and he swept her up, their mouths coming together, laughing and so happy. “I love it,” she said. “I love you.”
He twined his fingers with hers, his thumb stroking over her ring finger. “Until you, I always felt like I had to put on an act,” he said. “People expected me to be one way. And if I wasn’t…it just never worked out. And then you…you saw me for who I was. A brother. A son. An inventor. Your partner.” He kissed her hand. “I love you for loving all of me. The good and the bad. Because I know I’m not always great after 72 hours straight of lab time.”
She laughed. “I’ve been known to do a few 72 hour work marathons myself.”
He smiled. “But I’ve never had that, Maddy. That acceptance. The openness that we have. I love you so much. You bring so much to my world and I just…I want to keep living this life with you, forever.”
“Me too,” Maddy said, tears in her eyes.
“Then you’ll marry me?” he asked.
Like he even needed to ask. “I will marry you,” she said. “I will marry the heck out of you.”
She kissed him, pouring all the love, all the hope into the kiss while the bubbles floated and popped and the music soared in the air, the promise of their forever bright and new and so, so good.