If I can find someone who looks at me half as adoringly as Henry Pembrook looks at Sarah Von Titebottum, I’ll be happy for the rest of my life.
I sigh. Because love is all around me. And I’m Ms. Lonely.
And then my gaze is moving . . . I don’t have to scan the room to find Logan, I know just where he is—it’s as if my brain has a 24/7 GPS on him.
But the crazy, awesome, amazing thing that gets my heart pounding so loud it drowns out the sound of the music? When I look at Logan St. James across the room, he’s not searching the crowd for threats. He’s not looking in front of him, so he’s ready for whatever may come.
Instead, when I indulge in my daily Logan stare-fest . . . he’s staring right back at me.
An hour later, I sip my second drink, and am on my way to an awesome buzz, while chatting with Sarah about her Wessco Blue Coats charity work. She started a reading program a few years ago, and though she won’t travel with them, now that she and Henry are engaged, she still organizes book drives and fundraisers. It’s surreal to think that she’ll be a queen one day. Crazy. Because she’s so . . . normal. But she’s also gracious, intelligent and genuine, all the qualities a country would want in a queen.
She giggles, telling me a story about her friend Willard and his wife, Laura, when all of a sudden she stops mid-sentence. And the color drains from her face—even her lips turn to chalk.
I put my hand on her arm. “Sarah? Are you all right?”
She doesn’t reply.
I’m not sure what to do. I know Sarah’s painfully shy and I don’t want to embarrass her. So I turn around and motion Logan over. He comes immediately and focuses on Sarah as soon as he makes it to my side.
“Lady Sarah? What is it?” Logan follows her gaze to where it’s frozen on the tall, gray-haired man across the room. “Him? The man by the door?”
Logan takes one step and Sarah grabs his arm in a panic. “Don’t! Don’t go near him. He’s . . . dangerous.”
I take Sarah’s other hand in mine—it’s ice cold. “It’s all right. He can’t hurt us. Logan would never let that happen. We’re here with you. You’re okay.”
She doesn’t blink, doesn’t take her eyes off the man, and I’m not sure if she heard me.
“Get Henry,” Logan tells me. “Now.”
I give Sarah’s hand a quick squeeze and leave her with Logan. Then I weave between guests until I find the blond prince talking with a small group of friends by the bar. I thread my arm through his, smile broadly and use an over-the-top Cockney accent when I say, “Beggin’ yer pardon, gents. Have to steal the Guvnah, here, for a minute.”
As I lead him away, Henry asks softly, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Sarah. Come on.”
We cross the room smooth and steady, so as not to draw too much attention to us. Henry smiles and nods along the way, but there’s a tension to his features—until he reaches Sarah’s side.
“The lord by the door,” Logan tells him. “Do you know who he is?”
Henry turns to look and his whole body goes stiff. “St. James, take Lady Sarah in the back room.”
“He’s smaller than I remember,” Sarah says, in a whispery, airy tone.
“Sarah . . .” Henry tries again.
“Do you think it’s because the last time I saw him, I was a child?” she asks. “Or perhaps I’ve built him up in my mind to be a monster, when really, he’s just a man. A terrible man.” Sarah covers her mouth with her hand. “My mother is here . . . Penny . . . they can’t see him, they’ll—”
Henry slides his hand into her hair and brings her face to his. “Go in the back with Logan and Ellie. I will take care of this.”
Sarah blinks, breathing deeply. Then she shakes her head. “No. No, I can do it. I need to, I think. Just . . . stay with me?”
Henry brushes her hair back. “Always.”
With a nod from Sarah, the future king and queen walk hand in hand toward the man by the door, with Logan and me following behind. They stop a few feet away. He bows to Henry and looks Sarah over in a detached, indifferent sort of way.
“Sarah. You’re looking well.”
Sarah squeezes Henry’s hand so tight, her knuckles turn white.
“You were not invited here,” she says, with slightly more strength in her voice.
The man adjusts his cuffs. “I’m the father of the bride. I need no invitation. I still have acquaintances in the city, how would it look if I didn’t attend?”
Sarah’s laugh is harsh. “Father? No.” She shakes her head. “No, you lost that privilege the moment you put your hands on my mother. And on me.”
My head whips around at the confession. Oh, Sarah. Logan’s face is immobile and his attention on Sarah’s father remains unflinching.
“You are nothing to me now,” she tells him. “You are not even a shadow in the farthest corner of my mind. I have put you behind me. We all have. And that is where you will stay. I’d like you to leave now. You need to go.”
The lord hesitates. “Now you see here—”
Henry steps forward, leaning in, his voice menacing and sharp—like a blade.
“Don’t go—run. While you can. If you speak to the press or to anyone—if you fucking whisper her name—I will know. And I swear, on my mother, I will bury you alive beneath the palace so Sarah can walk on your grave every day of her life.”
He stares back at Henry for a few tense beats. And then—without even glancing Sarah’s way—he turns around and walks out.
“I think . . .” Sarah almost wheezes, her voice soft and gasping. “I think I’d like to go in the back now.”
Henry nods and guides her away. Logan walks in front of them, clearing a path through the guests, and I follow. The room is small—a little sitting area with just one table and a pitcher of water, and a chaise lounge. A “fainting couch,” they used to call it, and I wonder if this is the room they used to bring the ladies for smelling salts, when their corsets were too tight.
As soon as Logan closes the door behind us, Sarah covers her face with her hands and sobs into them. Henry sits on the lounge and pulls her down onto his lap, holding her close, rocking her in his arms. I pour a glass of water from a pitcher and set it within his reach.
“I don’t even know why I’m crying,” she stutters. “It’s just . . . overwhelming.”
Henry strokes her jaw and kisses her forehead, whispering, “You did so well, my love. So brave. I’m so proud of you.”
“This is the last time, Henry.” Sarah looks into his eyes. “This is the last time I will ever cry because of him.”
Henry nods and tucks Sarah against him.
Logan and I discreetly slip out the door, and close it softly. I stay with him while he guards the door to make sure Henry and Sarah aren’t disturbed. Because even though the party hasn’t stopped, standing beside Logan is the only place I want to be.
OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS, Queen Lenora takes me “under her wing.” She says I have “potential” and she wants to see me reach it. I’m not going to lie, it’s exciting to have her attention, to be in her presence, and I’ve started taking notes on my phone on the little gems of advice she gives out. She’s so elegant, powerful—I’ve never met a woman with such a commanding attitude and self-possession. And she can compartmentalize like a boss. Queen, Grandmother, Diplomat, female version of General George fucking Patton.
I don’t know what her idea of my potential is, but if she’s thinking of me as the future in-palace psychologist, count me in. I could really sink my teeth into the issues of the royal family—relationship conflicts, political conflicts, passive-aggressive internal resentments galore. It’d be a dream job—better than Dr. Melfi analyzing mob boss Tony Soprano.
Nothing exemplifies this more than the recent afternoon we were having tea in the east garden—me, Queen Lenora, Livvy and a friend of the Queen’s, Mayor George Fulton. We’re surrounded by tulips and bluebells, at a white wicker table with butterflies flapping past, like a page straight out of the beginning of Alice in Wonderland.