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“Edward!” I gasp. “Is this your pearl?”

“No.” He shakes his head. “It’s your pearl now.”

He takes the ring from the box, holding it between his fingers. His voice is rough and his eyes are tender. “Will you marry me, Lenora? Will you be my wife and let me be your husband? Not because your kingdom demands it, but because you want to?”

I’ve never been a crier, but it looks like that may be changing too. Because tears well in my eyes and blessed happiness clogs my throat.

“Yes, I will marry you, Edward, because I want to. And because I think my favorite title will soon be that I am Yours.”

He slides the ring on my finger and lets out a shout of joy. I laugh as he lifts me up, wrapping my legs around his waist and slanting his mouth across mine in a deep, sweet kiss that goes on and on.

And it’s perfect. A moment of perfect, pure happiness. The kind you remember and look back on and cherish your whole life.

But those moments of pure happiness are much like the cherry blossoms Thomas and I once admired in the garden. They’re so beautiful when they come, but you have to enjoy them while you can . . . because they don’t last forever.

“ARE YOU NERVOUS?” Michael Fitzgibbons asks, in the vestibule behind the altar in St. George’s Cathedral. In the last months he and I have become very close—good friends—and there was no one else I could imagine asking to stand beside me as my best man today.

I snort. “No.”

“Most grooms are usually terrified the day of the wedding,” he says. “And this is bigger than most weddings.”

I peer out the door—celebrities and royals and businessmen of every stripe pack the pews. Cameramen are stationed in the chorus box to convey every moment to the thirsty public. Outside on the pavement you can’t even move through the throngs of people waiting for a glimpse of her . . . of us . . . wanting to be a part of this day.

“I just want to get it over with. Have her be mine, officially.”

Michael smiles impishly. “The Queen’s a keeper, yeah?”

The anxious palace events secretary, the one in charge of this whole show, scurries into the room. “The Queen has arrived outside. Places, please, Prince Edward, Lord Michael.”

I tap Michael on the back. “She certainly is that.”

I stand at the altar, in my officer’s military uniform, spine straight, arms folded behind my back, the perfect image of a storybook prince. The music begins—the mournful notes of a piano first, then bagpipes, then strings and horns . . . all building and swirling together into a surging rendition of the bridal march.

The congregation stands and double doors open, and there in the center . . . there she is.

Wrapped in snow-white satin and lace, snug around her waist, long in the back, elegant through the shoulders and down her arms . . . she shines like an angel fresh from heaven. There’s a lace veil over her face, so I can’t make out her features yet, but the tiara on her head—a new one of emerald and diamonds that was commissioned just for this day—winks and sparkles as she walks. Alone.

Because she’s not being given away. She’s giving herself.

As she glides down the aisle to me, I press my hand to the breast of my shirt pocket, feeling the hard ridge of my brother’s glasses, and I send my whispered words out across the ether.

Thank you, Thomas.

Thank you for bringing us together. For seeing what my destiny could be before I did.

I was made for this . . . for her. To cherish her, protect her and challenge her, to guide her and follow her—to be the man she needs, so she can be the woman, the queen, she was always meant to be.

At last, she arrives by my side, facing me.

Slowly, I lift her veil, revealing the shimmer of her diamond eyes, the rose hue of her porcelain cheek, the delicate china of her tiny nose, and the soft swell of her pink lips. My voice is low, so only she can hear my whisper of rapturous awe.

“Dear God, Lenny . . . you take my breath away.”

Her answering smile is worshipful and lovely.

I offer her my arm, and she threads her lace-covered limb through mine, and we turn toward the altar and step up together to the Archbishop. The cathedral is bursting with thousands of guests—the wedding is televised, so there are millions more watching—but when the time for vows comes, it’s just she and I . . . Lenora and Edward. In this moment, together.

Surrounded by the glow of candlelight and the sweet scent of lilies, we look into each other’s eyes and pledge our lives—ourselves—to one another.

“I, Edward Langdon Richard Dorian Rourke, take thee, Lenora . . .”

“I, Lenora Celeste Beatrice Arabella Pembrook, take thee, Edward . . .”

“. . . to be my wife,”

“. . . to be my husband,”

“to have . . .”

“and to hold . . .”

“from this day forward . . .”

“for better or worse . . .”

“for richer, for poorer . . .”

“in sickness and in health . . .”

“to honor and cherish . . .”

“to honor and cherish . . .”

“till death shall we part.”

“till death shall we part.”

We slide simple bands of gold onto each other’s fingers, and it’s as though the words, the pledge, the promise is being wrung from the depths of our souls.

“All that I am is yours . . .”

“All that I am is yours . . .”

“all that I have, I give to you . . .”

“all that I have, I give to you . . .”

“with my body, I honor you . . .”

“with my body, I honor you . . .”

“within the sacred laws of man . . .”

“and the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”



The Archbishop clears his throat, and his voice echoes through the cathedral as he proclaims, “I now pronounce, henceforth, that they be man and wife. You may kiss your bride.”

I may . . . and I really, really must. Can’t wait another damn second.

I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her in close. I cup her cheek and bend my head and kiss my beautiful wife. Our lips move together with passion and tenderness, but more than that—with joy.

Then, to the sounds of the congregation’s applause, we walk together back down the aisle. Security didn’t want us riding in the open-topped carriage, because of the earlier attempt on Lenora’s life, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She insisted. The people will want to see us, celebrate with us, she said.

And when my stubborn girl makes up her mind, it’s futile to resist.

So I take her hand and lead her down the stone steps of the cathedral, through a hail of falling white petals. I help her step up into the cherrywood carriage and climb in behind her. Together we ride through the streets toward the reception at the palace, waving to our people, who are overjoyed for us.

And this time . . . I don’t mind the waving one bit.

ALMOST THE ENTIRE FIRST HALF of my and Edward’s wedding reception is spent taking photographs. Official photographs, private photos, portraits, exclusive photos for the press, shots with us together, shots with us alone, shots with the full wedding party and parts of the wedding party . . . photos with the page boys and flower girls. The marriage of a queen is a once-in-a-lifetime event, a historical occasion, so it’s to be expected.