While Olivia takes care of business, I approach my brother, leaning against the wall beside him, arms crossed.
“Congratulations,” he says, sulking. “Bastard.”
“Olive looks gorgeous. Prick.”
“She does. I’ll tell her you said so.”
“I’m really happy for you. Wanker.”
I laugh. “It’s going to be all right, Henry.”
He drinks from his flask, flinching as he swallows. “Easy for you to say. Prat.”
I squeeze his shoulder. “Are you ever going to forgive me?”
He shrugs. “Probably. Eventually. Of course I will. When I’m sober.”
“Any idea when that may be?”
“Henry, there you are!” our grandmother clucks from across the room. “We must speak about the memo I sent you…”
Henry lifts his flask and shakes his head. “Not today.”
Ellie Hammond intercepts my grandmother before she reaches us, blocking her path. She tries to execute a full curtsy, but the hem of her dress gets caught in the heel of her shoe and she ends up almost falling on her face. The Queen attempts to step back, but Ellie grabs onto her—wrapping her arms around Her Majesty’s waist and holding on like a baby sloth clinging to its mother.
Christopher jumps into action, trying to extract her. “Miss Hammond, please! We do not tackle the Queen—it’s not proper protocol.”
He manages to save her from the outrage. And Ellie steps back, fixing her hair, then bending her knees in a quicker, shorter curtsy and offering her apology.
With an accent.
“Begging your pardon, Mum.”
“We haven’t been formally introduced. I’m Ellie, Olivia’s sister.”
My grandmother looks down her nose at Ellie. “Yes, child, I’m aware of who you are.”
My new sister-in-law bubbles with excitement over the recognition.
“And I just…well…I wanted to thank you for the gown.” She smooths her hands down the champagne-colored silk. “Olivia said you paid for it and it must’ve cost a ton!”
Ellie cups her breasts in her palms, squeezing. “And it makes my boobs look great!”
The Queen turns. “Christopher, get me a drink.”
Ellie’s hands twitter as she searches for more words.
“And I’m just…I mean I’m so…”
Then she’s tackling my grandmother again. Flinging her arms around her neck in a miniature version of a bear hug. A cub hug.
“I just can’t believe we’re related!”
Over Ellie’s shoulder my grandmother’s face goes from shock to dry, begrudging acceptance.
“Neither can I.”
The trumpets blare on the balcony over the sound of the crowd’s cheers as each member of our wedding party, and then the Queen, are called out. Olivia and I are the only ones left. Bridget flutters around us, doing last-minute checks.
“No lipstick on the teeth, veil is straight, remember fingers together when you wave, yes, yes…” She brushes my hair off my forehead and tries to squirt an offending rain of hairspray.
I jerk my head back with a glare and she shuffles away.
Olivia giggles. And just a second later, I’m chuckling too.
“As I’ll ever be.”
Her gloved hand slips into mine as our names are announced.
“Prince Nicholas and Princess Olivia, the Duke and Duchess of Fairstone!”
We step out onto the balcony as twenty thousand white rose petals fall from the sky. And the people applaud and shout, hold up their cameras and take pictures. The blissful energy blows through the air, dusting everything in a sheen of joy and sparkle. We wave and smile for a bit, and then with my hand on her waist, I dip my head and kiss Olivia softly.
With her hands on my shoulders, she leans back. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.”
“All the pomp and circumstance, you mean?”
She shakes her head, her eyes adoring. “No.”
“Being a princess and a duchess?”
She reaches up, leaning closer.
“That I get to be your wife.”
Emotion hits me hard, making my heart feel too large for my chest. I stroke her cheek, because she’s so lovely—and because she’s mine.
Then I whisper, “Well, you’d better. We’re royalty. That means…we’re forever.”