Because now, he’s all mine.
And the way he stares at me—how his eyes drag up from my silver, strappy heels, over my curves beneath the snug, satin pale pink gown, to the blond curls piled high on my head—it seems like he’s lost his breath too.
He swallows hard. “You look like an angel, Ellie.” He lowers his voice and bends his head nearer. “Like a scrumptious dessert . . . and I’m going to eat you the first chance I get.”
Heat spreads low in my stomach—I’ll never get enough of him, or his wicked, adoring words. But then I blink, remembering why I sought him out, and that any eating will have to wait a while.
Aware of the guests wandering to their seats, I rise up and whisper in Logan’s ear that Olivia is in labor.
He wants to get the car, take her to the hospital immediately. But I talk him out of it—even while he insists that my sister is “fucking batty” to wait. Then he covertly makes his way up to the altar, where Nicholas stands as best man beside Henry, both of them looking regal and elegant in their military uniforms.
“What?” Nicholas shouts. His face goes rigid and a little pale.
The whole church freezes—staring at the prince—like the greatest mannequin challenge ever.
I hike up my dress and my heels click on the stone floor as I run up the side aisle, passing the dozens of marble columns that rise to the high arched ceiling. I scoot between Nicholas, Henry and Logan who are talking like a football team huddle planning the next play.
“It’s fine, guys. Everything’s fine. All fine.”
Now I sound like I’m on drugs.
Nicholas’s green eyes are wide and wild. “No—none of this is fine.”
“Olivia knows what she’s doing. She would never put the babies at risk,” I insist. “Please follow her lead on this, Nicholas.” I give him an encouraging smile. “Happy wife, happy life.”
He’s unmoved—his face grumpy—his jaw like granite.
“How’s Sarah?” Henry asks.
“She’s okay. Calmer, now that there’s a distraction to take some of the attention off of her.”
“Good.” Henry sighs, rubbing his hands on his slacks nervously. “That’s good.”
“And wait until you see her, Henry. You’re going to lose it.”
He chuckles. “I always do.”
Henry rests his hand on his brother’s arm. “The sooner we start, the sooner you can get on to the baby business. Yeah?”
Nicholas hesitates, but finally, he stiffly nods.
And everyone takes their places as Logan and I slide into our spots in the third pew. The music starts to play, and the wedding begins.
The Queen is escorted first, by her nephew, stoic and oblivious to what’s going on behind the scenes. The entire congregation bows and curtsies.
After the bridesmaids and tiny adorable flower girls, Livvy walks alone. Waddling and smiling. But the aisle is so damn long she has to stop twice to breathe through her tightening stomach—while still smiling. Whispers roll through the crowd like a killer wave, and you can almost hear the news stations shifting into royal-baby-watch level: hysteria.
Nicholas steps forward when she gets to the altar, taking her hand and helping her into a cushioned chair, which he ordered an usher to place on the right side of the alter. They speak quietly . . . argue quietly for a moment, then Olivia gently kisses his knuckles, soothingly placating her handsome prince. Nicholas rubs his jaw, but with a tight expression, takes his place to Henry’s right.
And then the bridal march begins.
The crowd glances at Sarah, nodding at how lovely she is—but then they return to chattering about the crazy princess who’s in labor. Sarah doesn’t take her eyes off Henry as she walks to him—and she doesn’t look even a little terrified.
She looks like a bride in love.
Henry steps close to Sarah as she approaches, gazing down at her tenderly.
Sarah grins up at him impishly. “Hello.”
“This is madness,” he whispers.
“It suits us though, doesn’t it?”
Henry offers her his arm and, elegantly, Sarah takes it.
And then, they get married—and it’s more wonderful than all the Disney Princess wedding ceremonies combined.
After the Archbishop pronounces them man and wife, when they’re supposed to turn and walk down the aisle together, Henry gestures to Olivia. “Women in labor and children soon-to-be born, first.”
Nicholas mutters under his breath, “About bloody time.”
Then he walks over to my sister, swoops her up into his arms and carries her down the aisle.
The sight is one for the history books.
Logan grabs my hand and we chase after them. Nicholas slides Livvy into the back of one of the Rolls-Royces and Logan tells the guard at the wheel, “Move over. I’m driving.”
On the way to the hospital, the hardest contraction, yet, hits. Olivia scrunches her eyes and breathes through it. After it passes, she collapses against the seat.
“Oh my God…this suuuuucks,” she says, like a true lady.
Because that’s my sister; the Royal Duchess.
Queens don’t wait in maternity waiting rooms. Neither do Crown Princes or their newly minted princesses or any royals. It would cause chaos. It’s not tradition.
The sister waits in the waiting rooms, with her boyfriend, and dad. I called my dad from the car, on the way to the hospital. There was a bunch of security—special badges, guards at every door. This hospital has delivered every royal since Nicholas’s father, so they know what’s up.
For the next eleven hours, we drink bad coffee, eat cold sandwiches . . . and wait. At one point, I fall asleep against Logan’s chest and I dream that he asks my dad’s permission to marry me.
I mean to tell Logan about it when I wake up. But before I can, Nicholas is there—walking through the hospital doors from the maternity ward, not looking like a prince at all. He looks young and exhausted, with disheveled hair and a ten-o’clock shadow on his chin.
He looks like a new father—ecstatic and amazed—with unicorns and rainbows practically dancing in his eyes.
“It’s a boy!” he tells the three of us—we’re the first to know. “And a girl!”
Logan shakes his hand and pounds his back, and he gets hugs from me and my dad.
The perk of actually being on the front lines of the maternity waiting room is that you get first crack at the babies. You see them, hold them, know their names before anyone else.
I hold Lilliana Amelia Calista Ernstwhile Pembrook first. And she’s perfect. Logan stands next to me and together we gaze down at her little round face, her patch of black hair, eyes shaped just like my sister’s, though it’s still too early to tell what color they’ll be—gray green or dark blue.
Then my dad and I switch.
And I fall in love with Langdon Henry Eric Thomas Pembrook. He’s just as perfect as his five-minutes-younger sister. His hair is just as black, but I think I see more of Nicholas in him around the eyes.
Olivia is sleepy, but so happy. She can’t stop looking at them, and I can’t blame her.
While my dad and I sit next to Olivia on one side of the bed, Logan and Nicholas move to the window and start talking about where the press will stand when they leave the hospital in a few days. The photographs that will be taken, the no-fly zone over the hospital. Because as perfect and beautiful and innocent as the twins are, these aren’t just babies.
They never will be.
Already, everyone wants a piece of them.
“I don’t like it.” Logan crosses his arms and shakes his head. “It’s too difficult to tell who’s there, who can get close.”
He was protective before, but Cain Gallagher’s breach of security has made him even more ferocious about protecting us, even though it’s technically not his job anymore.
“This is how it always goes,” Nicholas laments. “Leaving the hospital is a publicly viewed event. It’s tradition.”
“Start a new tradition. You’ve got a knack for that.”
My brother-in-law sits down in the chair next to Olivia’s bed, holding her hand.