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“Do you want more?” Edward asks against my lips.

“Yes,” I breathe out. “Teach me.”

He looks down at me, his green eyes dark, almost black with hunger.

“Open your mouth for me. Give me your tongue, Lenora.”

I’m nodding mindlessly, and his mouth swoops down and the press of his kiss comes back again. This time I open for him and his firm, hot tongue plunges between my lips, slowly stroking my own. And I feel brave and beautiful . . . and wanted. I stroke back, rubbing my tongue against his, mirroring his movements.

He groans deep and hard from his chest. And even with a crown on my head, I’ve never felt so powerful. That sound. I want to make him make that sound again. Longer and lower.

The flesh between my legs is throbbing now and my hips swivel against him, all on their own. The strong bands of Edward’s arms wrap around my back, lifting me off my feet so my face is above his. And still our lips move on each other’s and our mouths press and our tongues swirl and I never want it to end.

My hands wrap around his shoulders, his neck, his corded muscles contracting under my palms. I sink them into the golden silk of his hair and he groans again—making me feel more like a queen than I ever have before.

His chest expands against mine hard—both of us breathing heavily. Edward tears his lips from mine, and they rake across my chin, my jaw, to my neck. I feel the decadent wet lick of his tongue and the bite of his teeth on my skin.

Yes . . .

And I gasp senseless words, but Edward understands.

Please . . .

Then I’m falling as he sits back on the sofa, taking me with him. His lips return to my mouth and his hand slides into my hair, cradling my skull, turning me how he wants me. I feel the touch of his palm on my face and I cover his with mine, wanting to touch him in every way I can. Wanting to burrow closer, feeling a pull in my chest from my heart to his.

My Edward . . .

A voice whispers in my head—it’s the first time I’ve thought of this man I’m going to marry as mine.


What a lucky girl I am.

Edward’s lips slow, and then with one final kiss, they still. And our foreheads press against each other’s and we look into each other’s eyes, panting, breathing the same air.

“Did you like it?” he asks.

I smile and laugh giddily.

“I liked it so much.”

I move forward and Edward pulls back, teasing me—making me chase his lips.

“How much?”

“So much . . . I want another lesson.”

He chuckles, then pulls me close across his lap and we begin all over again.

And it’s as if something inside me—some joyous part of me that I didn’t even know was sleeping—has finally been awakened, with his kiss.

FOR THE LAST TWO WEEKS, Edward and I have been practicing our kissing. In my office, the gardens, the library . . . one time in the chapel, God save our souls. And judging by his reaction—the manly groans that my stroking tongue pulls from his throat, the way his fingers grasp at me desperately, the way he grows thick and hard and thrusts his arousal against me—I think I’m getting the hang of it. Sometimes, we combine the touching and the kissing, over our clothing, and it is . . . incredible. A whole new world of sensations and feeling.

Everything with Edward is incredible.

Tonight, there’s a dinner party at the palace, a pre-wedding celebration. It’s a small affair, only about three hundred guests. Alfie is there with his children, and Michael as well—he’ll be serving as Edward’s best man. But dinner parties are my least favorite sort of event—because of the rules, the protocol. No one is allowed to start their meal before the Queen takes her first bite, and when I place my fork down across my plate, no one is allowed to take a bite afterward. So basically, the entire evening is spent with every eye on me, and it’s all traditions and rituals.

And during after-dinner cocktails—politics, of course. Even on a night meant to celebrate the upcoming royal nuptials, politics reigns supreme.

“I respectfully ask you to reconsider, Your Majesty. All of our neighboring nations have contributed troops.”

Lord Strathmoore, a slick, greasy-looking marquis who never met a war he didn’t like—or profit from—disagrees with my recent decision to reject joining an international military intervention in Malaya. Many of the lords disagreed with me, but none as vocally as Strathmoore.

I sip my liqueur and shake my head. “And if all the nations jumped off a bridge, would you ask Wessco’s boys to hold their noses and jump as well? No. I don’t believe it’s our battle to fight.”

Edward stands beside me, his arm almost brushing the sleeve of my burgundy satin dress. From the corner of my eye, I see his chin dip slightly and though we haven’t discussed international issues in depth, I believe he agrees with me. And I value his opinion—not because we’re going to be married, but because he’s an intelligent, experienced and worldly man.

“We will be a laughingstock.”

I shrug. “Man’s greatest fear is being laughed at. Women don’t share that worry—we’re laughed at practically every day of our lives.”

Edward lifts his glass to me. “Well said, Your Majesty.”

Strathmoore shifts his gaze. “You fought in the war, Anthorp. What is your opinion on military intervention?

Edward’s voice is firm and confident, but low with an almost reverent tone. “War is . . . surprising.”

“Surprising?” Strathmoore repeats.

“A man goes into it thinking he knows what to expect. Guns and bombs, cannons and killing. But the actual brutality of it—watching the life fade from a young lad’s eyes, seeing men lose their limbs and others lose their souls to barbarity—it’s surprising. Something that has to be experienced to be truly understood.”

“Have you become a pacifist, then?”

“Not at all. I have no objection to going to war for a just cause, a noble cause. But as the Queen said, risking the lives of boys you send to a fight that is not ours, just to show that you can, displays more fear and cowardice than strength.”

Later, when Strathmoore has moved on to another conversation and Edward and I stand alone, I look at him. Letting my eyes stroke over the way his black tuxedo molds to his muscular form, and his thick, blond hair—now shorter than when we first met—still has a few strands falling forward over his forehead, hinting at his wild, roguish side.

“You’re very dashing tonight, Edward.”

Yesterday, Miriam told me all about flirting, and shared some pointers—so I’m giving it a go.

“And so well behaved. Following all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts.’”

His eyes alight on me.

“And does that turn you on, love?”

My heart does a little flip, but I give him a daring smile.

“It does.”

He brings his glass to his lips, smirking.


Edward has been staying in Guthrie House—the previously empty residence of the Crown Prince or Princess—since he arrived at the palace. But after dinner, after I dismiss my maid for the evening and walk into my bedroom, Edward is there. Reclined on my paisley chaise longue, his arms folded behind his head, his long, powerful legs stretched out.

I really ought to be appalled that he’s here without permission . . . but I’m really not at’all.