I sit down in the chair, pulling her onto my lap. She toys with the back of my hair, thinking it over.
“I want to go to the movies with you. And to the park. Even if security has to tag along. And I want us to lie around in bed all day and order takeout.”
“And walk around the apartment naked,” I add helpfully.
Olivia nods. “All the normal things couples do when they’re dating.”
“It would be an interesting change of pace for us.”
Olivia’s fingers massage and rub at my neck. Feels amazing.
“So, we’ll take things…slow?”
I bring her head down closer, whispering just before I kiss her, “Sounds perfect. I like slow. And you are going to thoroughly enjoy how I do…slow.”
Eight months later
SLOW DIDN’T EXACTLY WORK OUT…
“I now pronounce, henceforth, that they be man and wife. You may kiss your bride.”
I don’t have to be told twice.
I lift the gauzy veil trimmed with lace, cup her beautiful face in both hands, and press my mouth to Olivia’s. Reverently—at first.
Then I kiss her deeper. Hungrier. Lost in the taste and feel of my sweet new wife.
Olivia giggles against my searching mouth. Henry whistles inappropriately beside me, and Simon coughs to try to cover it. Then the church bells ring, rattling our bones, the congregation stands, and I escort Lady Olivia down the aisle. Her dress is a strapless, lace confection, cinched at her tiny waist, long in the back—the train taking up almost the entire length of the aisle, carried by half a dozen little flower girls.
Outside, the crowds cheer, waving silk flags and white flowers and banners. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and doves are literally flying through the air. It doesn’t get more perfect than this.
I lead Olivia down the gray stone steps to the open, gold-trimmed horse-drawn carriage—we only take them out for really special occasions these days. Once she and her gigantic train are nestled in, we wave our way through the streets, celebrating with the entire country.
And this time, I don’t mind the cameras. Not even a little.
Eventually, we pull through the palace gates and I help Olivia down. Twenty footmen—in full military dress—flank us. Their swords sing through the air when they’re unsheathed and raised, forming a silver bridge that glints in the sunlight for us to walk beneath. Then it’s upstairs, to the gold ballroom—where hopefully we’ll be able to eat and drink something before we both die.
After that, we’ll step out onto the main balcony of the palace, where the Queen will officially present us to the country with our new titles.
From then on it’s pretty much a public make-out session, if all goes well.
My grandmother was spot-on about the magic of a royal wedding—which is why she didn’t give us even a little resistance when Olivia and I told her we were getting married three months ago. All she asked was that she be allowed to take care of the arrangements. Considering we weren’t sure if we’d even be able to pull off a city hall wedding in such a short time, we gave the Old Girl free rein. And she came through spectacularly.
Winston discovered it was Lucy who had leaked the story to the Daily Star—her way of punishing me for the way she felt I’d failed her when we were young.
But since then, the press has had their hands full with positive reports on the royal family—I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good “abdication of the throne for love” story? And the people are overjoyed. They adore Olivia—not quite as much as I do, because that would be impossible, but close.
Olivia, her father, and I have turned Amelia’s into a nonprofit in the States. A string of “pay what you can” restaurants, where anyone can come in, sit at a table, and enjoy good food. They can choose to work off their bill or leave what money they’re able to—or none at all. We’ve opened a second restaurant in the Bronx, with two more on the way next year.
With the public firmly devoted to their royals and the media for once on our side, Parliament in Wessco fell into line and passed the legislation my grandmother and I had been working for. Employment and wages began recovering and have been climbing steadily ever since.
It’s a happily ever after for everyone.
I spot my brother in the corner, scowling and sullen. It’s the only look he wears these days. Not in the self-destructive way like when he first came home; more in a bratty way that doesn’t overly concern me.
“Okay,” Olivia announces, handing me her glass of Champagne, “before we head out to the balcony I’m going to attempt to use the bathroom.”
We both look down at the miles of fabric that make up her dress.
“Do you want some help?” I ask.
“No—the bridesmaids will take care of that. Women have a natural instinct for how to get these things done. Although, besides Franny, this is the first time I’ve met any of those ladies. And now I’m going to pee in front of them.” She reaches up and pecks my lips. “Being married to you is weird.”
“It’ll never be boring.” I send her off with a swift pat to her arse.
On her way, Olivia passes her father, who is chatting with Simon. Eric Hammond isn’t a tuxedo man—I can tell by the way he rolls his neck a bit and tugs at his collar. But the stiff formal wear does nothing to dim the pride and love shining in his eyes as he watches his daughter. Marty, on the other hand, wears his silver-grey tux like he was born in it. Olivia walks by, giving him a smile and a thumbs-up. He winks at her—then goes back to flirting with Christopher, my grandmother’s secretary, who’s shamelessly reciprocating. I don’t think I’ll be the starring act in Marty’s fantasies for much longer.