I have the work done in an area cordoned off by a black curtain, while Sarah waits, reading, on the other side. Because she’s especially beautiful when she’s surprised.
And I am not disappointed.
She gasps when she sees her face branded on my body, her pretty hand covering her mouth, making my cock go stiff and hard and aching for her.
I had new details added to the tattoos on my left arm as well. “The words have new meaning for me now,” I say as she rests her head against my bicep, her eyes glinting and her cheeks flushed—because my ink makes her so very wet.
Duty is written beside the royal coat of arms, Honor beside the military crest, and beneath Sarah’s picture, Love.
“Duty, Honor, Love,” I tell her. “But the greatest of these is love. The Bible said that.”
“Actually, First Corinthians says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I shrug. “Well then, I fixed it for them.”
She laughs, her eyes drifting to the wall of tattoo photographs—examples and suggestions.
“I want to get one too.”
“My grandmother is going to have a coronary.” I shake my head. “It’s one thing for the future king to have a tattoo; she’ll see the future queen having one as something altogether different.”
Her back straightens with quiet strength. “It’s the twenty-first century. And that means what’s good for the king is good for the queen. Her Majesty will come around.”
I kiss her forehead. “If you want one, sweets, then you’ll have one, whether the Queen approves or not. Do you have any idea what kind you’d like?”
“I do, yes.” She grins, excitedly. “But you’ll have to wait and see. No peeking.”
She disappears behind the curtain, speaking to the tattoo artist in feverish whispers.
A bit later she reappears, a small white square bandage on her right wrist. She takes my hand and pulls me closer, adorably giddy.
“I wanted it right here, so I can look at it and touch it anytime I like,” Sarah says. And then she peels back the bandage.
It’s a simple drawing, an open book with two blank pages, except for one word at the top:
“My story hasn’t been written yet,” she reaches up, tracing my jaw, “but I know it begins with you.”
And I’m so fucking honored and grateful, so absolutely in awe of her and so much in love with her I barely know what to do with it. So I do the only possible thing I can in the face of such a gift. I bring Sarah into my arms and kiss her.
In a blink, the morning arrives when I have to report for deployment—when I have to leave Sarah. I try to get her to stay at her flat, snuggled under the covers, but she pleads and insists on coming to the airport with me. I want every moment with her that I can have, so I give in.
The sun isn’t quite up yet and the air is frigid. On the tarmac, outside the plane that will take me away, Winston, the head of Palace security, meets us. I introduce him to Sarah.
“Sarah, this is Winston, the head Dark Suit. He’ll be making sure you’re looked after while I’m gone.”
Winston bows respectfully. “An honor and a pleasure, Lady Sarah.”
She gives him a nod, smiling graciously but shyly, as she tends to be with new people.
I squeeze her elbow and tell her I just need a private moment with Winston. And then I take him aside.
“You’re aware of Lady Sarah’s plans to join the BCA?”
“I am, Sir.”
“You’re arranging her security?”
“Yes, Prince Henry.”
My voice is as cold as the air. “Your job is to protect the royal family, to secure the future of the monarchy, is that correct?”
He nods, his eyes tireless and unyielding, like a machine. “It is.”
“Take a good look at her, Winston. Without her, there is no future for this monarchy, do you understand?”
He bows just slightly. “Completely, Sir.”
“I want her covered in security. Only the best men. If she chafes at it, have them go undercover, but I want her protected at all times. No matter what. Is that clear?”
Again, he nods. “Do not trouble yourself about it, Prince Henry. Lady Sarah will be as secure as the Queen herself.”
And a small measure of comfort slips into place. I’m not a fool, and there’s a terrible conflict that comes with being who I am and loving someone so much. A price. Because by loving Sarah, I’m bringing a level of attention and scrutiny—even danger—into her life that wouldn’t be there without me. The only reassurance is that I have the resources to protect her from it. Men like Winston and James, and the hundreds of other noble security men and women who would die to keep me, my brother, my sister-in-law, my grandmother—and now my Sarah—safe.
I tap Winston’s shoulder and with a bow, he heads toward the plane.
And I return to Sarah’s side, gazing at her face, burning this moment into my mind. I push up the sleeve of my coat and unclip the ID bracelet at my wrist, then I open Sarah’s hand and pool the platinum into her palm.
“Keep this safe for me, will you? It’ll be good to know the two things most precious to me are in the same place.”
She nods and smiles up at me at first, so lovingly . . . but then her face tightens and crumples as she starts to cry. She wraps her arms around me and I hold her close.
“I’m sorry,” she says against my coat. “I didn’t want to cry.”