The weeks until the Winter formal passed quickly. Soon enough, you stood in the entry foyer, the opalescent white satin of your gown shining in the golden light, the red and gold trim echoing Wilfred’s dress outfit. The king, queen, Wilfred and Claude were there, as well, awaiting the arrival of the cars that would take you all to Nobel Michel.
Wilfred slid a heavy shawl over your shoulders.
“You look beautiful tonight,” he said quietly.
“Thank you,” you answered, smiling. His touch no longer bothered you. It seemed that you had come nearly full circle, realizing that Wilfred would always have a special place in your heart, and that the two of you were inescapably bound together for the rest of your lives. You hoped he would find someone to make him happy, but you had learned the hard way, and accepted that said person wasn’t going to be you.
You held his hand as you climbed into the car, then slid across to the far door, putting earbuds into your ears and turning on some calming music as Wilfred and Claude climbed into the car, as well. Your forehead rested against the cool glass of the window as you watched the lights outside passing by.
You heard your name being called, and turned to face your prince, removing one earbud from your ears and pausing the music.
“Are you thinking about him?” Wilfred’s voice was quiet, though husky with sadness.
You weren’t really surprised that he knew, but you didn’t particularly care, either.
“Zander? No. I was just enjoying the view, and thinking on some dress designs.”
“Do you love him?”
Claude looked sharply between the two of you. Apparently the fact that you had taken a lover was news to him.
There’s a first time for everything, you thought.
You gave a sad snort of laughter.
“I’ve been taught that love is for fools. He’s a kind and attentive lover, and I’m very fond of him, but I don’t have it in me to love again.”
“I’m so very sorry, __________, for betraying and hurting you like I did. I don’t know why I did it, but it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse for what I did.”
“As we commoners say, shit happens. You either deal with it and move on, or let it drown you. I forgave you a long time ago, for my own sanity.”
You returned your gaze to the lights of the highway, until Claude cleared his throat.
“Your Highnesses, there’s something else that we must discuss. The question of an heir.”
“You should just put me aside,” you said. “Tell everyone I’m barren, and then go find one of your nobles to make you happy and give you babies.” Your voice was nonchalant. It was something you’d thought about often enough, even discussing the possibility with Zander.
“No!” Wilfred’s hand cut through the air. “You make me happy, ______. I don’t want anyone but you.” His voice was filled with more emotion than you’d heard from him in a long time. Pain and sadness were clear in his blue eyes. The eyes in which you had once drowned yourself.
You met his gaze coolly.
“For how long this time? The first time around, we didn’t even make to eighteen months before you were screwing someone else. You’ve just admitted you don’t know why you did it the last time. What’s to stop it from happening again if you don’t know the cause?”
“I understand what I lost last time. I understand the pain I caused you. Please, let me have the chance to regain your trust, to regain your love.” He had taken your hands in his, lain his forehead against yours.
“Please,_____, allow me to return to your bed, to your arms. Give me a chance to be the husband I should have always been.”
You were silent for a full minute, debating the pros and cons, deciding whether you dared, or cared, to trust this man that far again.
You recalled the conversation you’d had with Zander just yesterday, lying in bed, snuggled against the cold.
“Think you’ll ever get back together with His Highness?”
“I don’t know. There’s still the issue of an heir. I guess if he won’t agree to put me aside, we’ll have to do something about an actual reconciliation.”
He put a finger under your chin and tilted your head up, stealing a kiss.
“Philip needs the reassurance of the royal line continuing on. If he asks, swallow your pride, but don’t give up your autonomy and your power this time. And, if he’s stupid enough to pull the same stunt again, I’ll be here waiting for you.”
You snuggled deeper into his arms.
“You make me wish I’d met you back when I first came to the chateau.”
He chuckled, stroking your back.
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, my princess. All we can do is the best we can do, and let the rest go.”
You sighed, coming back to the limousine.
“I don’t want to go back to the chateau,” you said quietly.
Wilfred’s head shot up, his eyes desperately searching your face.
“What did you say?”
“I want to stay in the cottage.”
His smile was brilliant, lighting up the interior of the car.
“Of course, my princess. The cottage is yours, for as long as you want it.”
He wrapped his arms around your shoulders and placed a gentle kiss on your forehead.
“I swear, I will spend the rest of my life making you happy, _______. I love you so much. Thank you for this chance.”
You looked up to meet his gaze, a teasing smile on your lips. You put your hands on either side of his face.
“Don’t let me down again, chuckle head.”
“Never again,” he laughed, before gently kissing you.