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“And you must tell him.” Her voice breaks. “You have to tell him every day. It’s very important. He’ll be so sad inside if he doesn’t know.”

A lump of gravel clogs my throat, strangling me. “I will, I swear—I’ll tell him every day.” I kiss her hand, her knuckles. “We’ll tell him together.”

She closes her eyes then, breathing deep, slowly expanding her lungs. Wetness clings to her lashes like swollen raindrops, but when she opens them again, she’s calmed.


The kind of resignation people have when they don’t know what’s around the corner, but they’ve already accepted whatever it may be.

She presses her hand to my face. “I love you, my Edward. I’ve loved you all this time. I was afraid . . . but I’m not afraid anymore.”

I’ve tried to show Lenora all she means to me—I’ve worked at it, because actions always mean more than words. And I’ve given her words—sweet words, candid words, fervent words . . . but I’ve never given her those words. I didn’t know they mattered so much to her.

“Lenora, I—”

But the nurse has already placed the mask on her face and Lenny is so drained, she goes right under in the blink of an eye.

“She’s out, Doctor,” the nurse says.

His voice changes to snapping, clipped commands. Urgent orders.




I don’t let go of her hand. And I don’t stop looking at her. Her coloring is terrible . . . her lips the color of chalk. I watch her breathe because there’s a horrific, stabbing worry that if I look away, she might stop.

I hear the drone of their voices, the humming quick chatter of the nurses and doctor. And a slap of wet skin smacks the air.

And then . . . a baby’s cry. It’s loud and lusty and absolutely fucking furious.

“Wessco has a new prince,” the doctor says.

Wetness streaks from my eyes, down my face, and I don’t even care enough to wipe it away. I move in close to her, whispering, “It’s a boy, Lenny. It’s a boy. We have a son.”

She doesn’t answer. She doesn’t move.

And the realization seeps in that something is wrong in this room. Off in the air. A new, healthy prince has just been born, but there is no sense of joy. The nurse’s eyes above their masks are darting and alert. There is tension, apprehension . . . but no celebration.

Slowly, I stand and look over the curtain down below Lenora’s waist.

And the bones in my chest contract and collapse and crumble to dust.

I’ve been to war. I’ve watched men die because they lost too much blood, and what Lenora is losing now . . . is too, too much. It soaks the table beneath her and puddles on the floor. The doctor is hunched between her legs, working with quick movements, and the nurse snaps instruments into his gloved palm—but nothing he does slows it down.

“Is she hemorrhaging?”

“You need to leave this room,” the doctor answers, without raising his eyes.

A nurse takes my arm. “Come with me, Your Highness. You can hold the Prince in the next room.”

I jerk my arm away, willing strength and authority into my voice.

“What’s happening?”

“Go with your son, Prince Edward.”

“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s happening to her!”

“The Queen is losing too much blood,” the doctor snaps, still focused on his work. “Her uterus is not contracting; there may be a rupture. If the bleeding can’t be stopped, I have to operate and I cannot do that with you in here—so get out!”

“Please, Your Highness . . .” a nurse soothes. “Let him help her. Come on now. This way.”

And I don’t fight. I let them lead me from the room. Because I’m not there anyway. I’m somewhere else.

I’m in the woods around Anthorp Castle, watching a beautiful girl on a horse trying to catch the wind.

I’m in the foyer, a laugh in my throat, watching her raise her brow and cross her arms . . . completely enthralled already.

I’m holding her hand on a blanket.

I’m kissing her in her office.

I’m not afraid.

I’m kneeling for her in her bedroom.

I’m watching the lightning flash in her eyes on a rooftop.

I’m giving her a ring, waiting at the altar . . . loving her beneath a magical sky.

“Edward? What’s happened?”

Alfie Barrister’s worried voice calls me back. I look around the dark paneled walls of the hall outside the Capella Suite, where I’m sitting on a bench beside Michael. Miriam is here too, standing next to Alfie.

“Edward?” Michael coaxes.

“There were . . . complications,” I say. “The doctor’s sorting it out.”

I stare down at my hands, not seeing them. I see only the mistakes, the regrets, playing out like a soundless reel of film.

“I was cruel to her when Thomas died. I . . . the things I said . . . that she didn’t care. Why did I say that?”

“Edward . . .”

My voice is a distant shadow. “And I left. I left her for weeks.”


“All that time, all those days, I’ll never get them back now. I’ll never . . .”

“Edward!” Miriam squeezes my hands, snapping me out of it, bringing my eyes to hers. “She’s strong. Our girl is strong. You have to hold on to that.”

A nurse approaches, standing just behind Miriam, speaking to me. “Would you like to hold the baby, Your Highness?”

“No, not yet. I’ll . . . I’ll hold him when his mother holds him.”

“I’ll sit with the baby.” Miriam stands. “Lenora wouldn’t want him to be alone.”

She follows the nurse to the next room over, but the door is open and I can hear as she talks to my son.

“Hello there, little Prince. I’m your Auntie Miriam. We’re going to have lots of fun—I’m going to teach you all the things you’re not supposed to know.” The sound of wetness rises in her throat as her voice clogs and cracks. “Your mummy has been counting the days to meet you. She’s just . . . she’s just been held up a bit longer. So . . . you and I will sit here together and wait for her.”

And that’s what we do. Each of us. For the next few hours, we wait.

She looks like a fairytale princess under a spell. Like Snow White after she bit the apple and fell into a deep sleep—with her dark hair, pale skin, thick lashes, silver nightgown and lips that have regained a hint of their rosy hue.

The doctor was able to stop the bleeding in time. Lenora needed three transfusions to make up for the blood she lost, but they didn’t have to operate. They moved her to an adjoining room for recovery—a more fitting room—with velvet drapes and antique furniture and a four-poster bed with satin sheets and mounds of pillows. And now she sleeps, from the anesthesia, from the blood loss, from the trauma of the birth.

I sit at her bedside—her thoroughly enamored prince. I wait and watch and will her to wake up. My stubborn girl takes her time, of course.

But eventually, she sighs deeply and opens her bright eyes, blinking up at the ceiling. Her head turns toward me and before she makes a sound, I kiss her hand and give her the words.

“I love you, Lenora. I have loved you all this time and I will love you for all the time after this. And you will know it, every day. Every day.”