“What a day!” Ally sighed happily, curled up next to Max on the sofa, head resting on his shoulder. She was tired, but too happy to want to sleep.
“Indeed,” he agreed, eyebrows flicking up in amusement, giving her a little smile. He was doing that much more often and Ally loved being able to bring that out of him.
The Christmas Gala had ended and they were all alone, waiting for Fergus to retrieve Ally’s luggage from the inn.
“You were absolutely breathtaking tonight,” he told her seriously.
Ally’s cheeks turned a bit pink at the compliment.
“That was Mrs. Claiborne’s doing,” she said lightly, remembering with a tingle the way he’d looked at her when she’d made her big entrance. “She loaned me that gorgeous gown. I had every intention of hiding in a corner all evening.”
“I wouldn’t have let you,” he replied, thumb running over her hand as it was clasped in his. “You’re too amazing to be kept secret.”
Ally snorted. “Even though I can’t curtsy without falling over and accidentally punt Christmas ornaments at you?”
They both chuckled.
“Part of your charm,” he teased, blue eyes twinkling at her.
“Thank goodness you have a sense of humor,” she declared. “I could have ended up fired again and stranded here.”
“That would have been the second worst mistake of my life, only behind marrying Celia,” Max told her, with a hint of a grimace.
“Was she....very upset with you?” Ally asked hesitantly. She’d seen how possessive the woman had been when it came to him.
“Yes,” Max said shortly. “But all it accomplished was confirming my decision was the right one. She didn’t want anything to do with my daughter.” He sighed. “I never should have let it drag on this long.”
Ally squeezed his hand in support and the the two fell silent for a moment, just enjoying basking in the joy of new love.
“Fergus told me you told off the chancellor.”
“Another long overdue conversation,” the king sighed. “He may end up resigning. At this point, I find I don’t care. There will be other chancellors. There’s only one Theodora and only one you.”
He kissed her again and Ally forgot everything else for a good minute.
“Wow,” she gasped out. “I—I’m speechless.”
“A rare achievement.” Max commented, earning himself a fake swat.
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Ally responded, unable to hide her grin. Admittedly, there were very few things that could shut her up. Max was one of them; more specifically, his kisses. It was quite surprising what the normally reserved king was capable of expressing.
She sighed happily remembering that moment on the steps of City Hall, when he’d told her she’d had him at sewing kit and kissed the daylights out of her. How quickly she’d gone from heartache to happiness in those moments.
“What was that for?” Max wondered quietly.
“Just happy,” Ally replied sleepily. “Very, very happy.......” Her eyelids drooped shut.
When Fergus returned, he was quickly silenced by the king putting a finger to his lips, motioning to a sleeping Allison.
The butler nodded knowingly and said in a whisper, “Miss Evans’s luggage has been returned to her rooms, your highness. Do you require further assistance?”
“No, thank you, Fergus,” Max replied. “I can manage.”
With a nod, the butler withdrew, leaving the door open. Doing his best not to disturb the sleeping woman, Max hoisted her gently in his arms and made his way up to her room. She barely stirred as he tucked her in.
“Good night, Ally,” he murmured, brushing a light kiss on her forehead. She looked so serene and peaceful, he couldn’t help but smile again as he left her.
Fergus deserved a raise for hiring her in the first place. Thanks to Ally, he’d seen just how he’d been neglecting Theodora and becoming uncomfortably like his own father in that area. One of the many reasons he’d fallen for her was her willingness to tell it like it is. She’d been spot on in her assessments, too.
He shuddered a bit when he considered how close he’d come to proposing to Celia. Theodora’s mischief had been very well timed, for once. When he’d seen how distraught she was and heard Ally selflessly begging to take the blame for it, he’d known there was no way he could go through with a loveless marriage to someone who would pit his own daughter against him.
His father might have been disappointed in him, as the Chancellor often reminded him, but he was sure his mother would have loved Ally. He set the small box back in his nightstand. It’s time would soon come.