Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Against the Odds - Chapter Three

The event went off without a hitch. Alex was by Harry’s side the whole time as he worked the room, speaking to clients of Alex’s, the staff, and to the media. He spoke to people in low, soothing tones, making everyone feel comfortable with his presence. Alex had seen him in action last week talking to people, but today was different. Last week she was nervous, hoping everyone was comfortable with him being there, with him intruding on their tight knot group. This week she could just watch him and admire.

When they got to the children’s group, he was a natural. Alex could swear up and down that he smelled like cookies, the way the kids gravitated towards him. He hugged all of them, played, asked questions, and laughed at their silly little kid jokes. It wasn’t the fake kind of laugh either, it was real, true laughter. To say Alex was impressed would have been an understatement.

And then came the speeches, with Harry was first up. Alex tried hard not to beam as he spoke about her program in his deep, rich voice; his words weaving around the room and capturing everyone’s complete attention.

“When I was presented with the opportunity to come here today, there was simply no way to turn it down. Since I started learning about Healing Families Through Friends, I’ve just been astounded at the way this program helps spouses and children who have lost their partners and parents to war. It has to be noted that while seeking professional help is always an incredible option, in conjunction with that help, being able to be around people who understand exactly what you are going through is absolutely invaluable.” He stopped to take a breath, and turned around to glance at Alex. “What I can tell you from meeting the incredible founder of this program, Alexandra Morgan, is that she truly cares about every single person involved. When Mrs. Morgan’s husband died in Afghanistan five years ago, there were no programs like this and she had the insight to draw on her own experience to build this one. Every single person I’ve spoken with has all said one thing about Mrs. Morgan, and that is that they all feel that without her, they would have not been able to come as far as they have. Thank you.”

The small crowd broke into applause when he was done. He turned and stepped back towards the group of people standing behind him at the podium, his eyes falling on Alex. She was watching him with shining eyes, tears gathered there from his words. He smiled slightly at her, not enough to gain any attention, but enough to simply acknowledge that he understood her. She blinked quickly, pushing the tears away, as it was her turn to step up to the podium.

Her speech was a short one, just touching on the reasons she started the program and how grateful she was that Prince Harry was bringing attention to it. She thanked her staff for working so hard and then thanked everyone else for coming before nodding and stepping back from the podium. She let a sigh of relief and then smiled a large, happy smile, so grateful that everything had gone so well.
Then it was over and the media immediately began packing up to go, quickly taking cameras down and heading out to hand over footage to the news organizations. Alex expected Charlotte and Harry to leave immediately, to move on to whatever the next thing he had to do, but she was surprised when they both stayed, chatting amicably to people around the room as she and the staff worked to clean up and put everything back together.

She was re-arranging one of the small tables over in the children’s play area when she felt his presence move in beside her. She thought how odd it was that she didn’t even have to see him, she just knew when he moved in beside her. She wondered if maybe that was something that radiated from him, because she certainly couldn’t be the only one who felt it.

“Hi,” she said when she turned to look at him, suddenly feel a little bit shy. “Thank you again for the lovely speech. Really, it was wonderful.”

He grinned. “It’s what I do; although, I meant every word.”

She couldn’t help but grin back. “I hope so. And…I hope I’m not ahead of myself here…but I truly hope you do consider becoming a patron. It’s really something that would mean a great deal to us.”
He faltered for just a second, a moment where the smile on his lips turned down slightly and his eyes registered the conflict he felt inside. It was miniscule, but Alex saw it.

“Oh,” she said quietly. “You’ve already decided against us then.”

“No,” he said quickly. “I haven’t decided anything.” He stopped and looked around the room, looking at the dozen or so people still around, knowing he couldn’t have this conversation in public. His eyes scanned for Charlotte and when he found her she was already watching him, waiting. When his eyes met hers she immediately sprang into action, striding over to where Harry and Alex stood.

“Alex! Darling, you were incredible!” she exclaimed as she moved up next to them.

Alex smiled warmly at Charlotte, even though she could feel her heart breaking a little bit at the thought of not being lent the Prince’s support. She was so sure he would agree to be a patron.

“Thank you, Charlotte. Really though, it was everyone in this room who made this happen,” Alex said, genuinely believing it.

“True,” Charlotte said. “But you are the real reason this whole place even exists. Speaking of, can you join Harry and me for a private moment in your office? We would like to go over some things with you.”

“Oh; um…sure. Yes, of course,” Alex said, a bit flustered. If he wasn’t going to be a patron, what else was there to discuss? Still, she supposed she couldn’t say no. She quickly directed Mia on what to do to finish cleaning up, and then led Harry and Charlotte downstairs to her office.

When they reached the door, Alex stood back so that Harry and Charlotte could proceed in ahead of her. Harry went in, but Charlotte stayed outside of the door. She winked at Alex and then said, “I think my boss wants to speak to you alone. I simply asked for him to avoid gossip. I’ll be waiting outside when he is done.”

With that, Charlotte leaned over and kissed Alex’s cheek, feeling a sudden fondness for the woman who was making Harry act like a love sick fool. It was something she had been dying to see for ages, and she was glad to play a part in helping push them together.

“Good luck, Alex,” Charlotte whispered after pressing a quick good-bye kiss to her cheek. And then she was gone, moving around the corner and out to the car to wait for Harry.

Alex shook her head. God, these people were so all over the place. She turned her attention back to her office, where Harry was standing just inside the doorway, waiting for her. She walked in, passed him, and turned around when he shut the door behind her.

“Harry, I’m not sure…”

Her words were cut off when he grabbed her hand, sliding his fingers around hers. Her eyes snapped up to his, instantly on high alert at the look of absolute resolve she found there. He brought her hand slowly to his lips, kissing her knuckles firmly, but gently. She felt the shock of it bolt through her, the heat seep through her skin where his fingers held hers. She took a sharp breath, her eyes never leaving his as his lips lingered on her skin.

“I’ve wanted to do that all damn day,” he said softly as his lips left her skin.

“You have?” she whispered, her eyes wide.

“Yes. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes,” she breathed. She was totally enthralled, she couldn’t even help it if she tried.

“Alexandra,” he murmured, his eyes slipping from hers down to her lips, full and parted to accommodate the deep breaths she was taking. Breaths that were labored because of him, because of the effect he had on her.

“Yes, Harry?” she answered softly. But even without him answering her, she knew. He was going to kiss her.

And she was going to let him.

“Alex, I’m going to kiss you,” he said, moving a step closer to her. His eyes moved back up to hers, gauging her reaction.

“I know,” she responded in a low, breathy tone.

He tugged on the hand he still held, pulling her up against him. He pulled her arm around his waist, wrapping his other arm around hers. Then he dipped his head, watching as her eyes closed in anticipation, desperately praying that he would keep some control once their lips met.

And then someone started banging on Alex’s door.

Instantly they jumped apart almost guiltily, both still breathing heavily.

“Shit,” he hissed, immediately turning to throw a look at the door.

“I’m in a meeting,” Alex called immediately, her voice somewhat shaky.

“Alex, Emma’s school is on the phone, you forgot to sign her permission slip for the field trip tomorrow, they said you can fax one over,” Mia called from outside of the door.

“Okay!” Alex shouted back before laughing in disbelief. “Of course I freaking forgot,” she muttered, half to herself.

He wanted to pull her back to him, but the moment was over, broken, and he knew it. They had been so close. Hell, he was still aching in his trousers from being pressed up against her.

“Harry…I…” she started, not really knowing where to go.

“Will you have dinner with me tonight?” he asked, deciding he had nothing to lose. Besides, he didn’t know if he would make it through another night not knowing what it was like to kiss her.

She looked up at him, startled. Of all the things she expected him to say, that wasn’t one of them. In fact, after what almost just happened, she was sure he would realize it was a mistake and bolt out of the door; but here he was, asking her on a date instead.

“I would like to…” she said, trailing off.

His face fell. “But you are going to say no? I understand…it’s a lot to take, with me being…”
She laughed, interrupting him. It wasn’t out of shyness or out of nervousness, but a true, genuine laugh. He stared at her. “What?” he finally asked.

“I wasn’t going to say no,” she said, trying to contain her laughter. “You can relax. I was just going to say that I have a five year old, so unless you want to have mac n cheese with cut up hot dogs, and have Disney Princess movie night with us, dinner is a no go for me.”

Why did it seem like every time she was uncomfortable or nervous he was so damn sure of himself, and then whenever he felt like the one faltering, she butted in, putting him at ease? It made him feel…even…with someone for once in his life. He couldn’t help but smile.

“Actually, mac n cheese and Disney Princess movie night sounds kind of fun,” he said, winking at her.
“Really?” she asked, raising her eyebrows. “Are you sure? Cause it is The Little Mermaid tonight…and Emma…well she loves to sing along.”

“Ha! And by Emma, do you mean you?” he asked with a chuckle.

“If you really want to come, you can find out,” she said.

He knew it was a silent challenge. She was basically telling him that was how her life worked. She was a mom and she wasn’t going to sacrifice Disney movie night with her daughter just to go out on a date with him. If he wanted to see her, he would have to play it her way. The respect he had for her grew about ten fold in that instant.

“You know, Alex, I would really like to come. Honestly. What time?” he said sincerely.

She raised her eyebrows, waiting a few beats before accepting that he meant it. “Six o’clock sharp. She has to be in bed by eight, so we start early.”

“Okay, I’ll be there at six. Can you write down your address for me?”

She smiled a wide, bright smile, and went to her desk, writing on a piece of paper. “Address and phone number,” she said, handing it to him.

“Phone number too?” he asked with a crooked grin.

She shrugged. “You know, just in case you have to cancel.”

He shook his head slowly. “I’m not cancelling. I can promise you that.”

“All I’m saying is, I’ll believe you’ll show up for our dinky little movie night when I see it,” she joked with him.

He laughed, tucking the piece of paper safely in his jacket pocket. He then leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. When he stood back up and looked down at her, pausing for a moment. “Alex, I promise I wouldn’t miss it for the world; especially since I’m going to kiss you at the end of the night. No interruptions this time,” he said in a low, throaty voice.

And then he was gone, leaving her wide eyed and her with her heart beating in anticipation.