Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Thirty Nine Part One

"I get to put the star on top!" Emma squealed as Alex pulled the final ornament for their Christmas tree from its box.

"Yes you do," Alex smiled at her daughter. She turned to Harry and grinned at him. “Can you lift her up there? Normally we wait until Matt and my parents come in town to do this and Matt or Dad helps her up, but since you’re here…"

“Absolutely,” Harry grinned. He leaned over to Emma and lifter her quickly into the air. She giggled as he settled her easily on his shoulder and then reached for the beautiful gold star from Alex. “Thank you,” he said brightly and kissed her quick. Then, handing the star to Emma, he lifted her up over his head and she leaned forward and very carefully placed the star right on top of the tree.

"Done!" Emma clapped, as a huge grin spread across her face.
"Well done, Emma," Harry smiled as he lowered her back down to the ground.

"It’s perfect," Alex agreed." Now, are we ready to light it all up?"

‘Yes!" Harry and Emma exclaimed at the same time, drawing a peal of happy laughter from Alex.

"Ha! You are two peas in a pod, I swear." She shook her head slightly as she turned towards the light switch on the wall. “Harry, if you will it the switch on the tree lights, I’ll turn this one off. Ready?" At Harry’s nod she flipped the switch on the wall and the room was cast into momentary darkness. Alex heard the click of the switch for the power strip controlling the lights and the room lit up again, cast in the red, green, and white of the Christmas lights they had all strung on the tree.

"Wow…" Emma breathed, her eyes wide. “It’s beautiful.”

”It sure is," Harry murmured as he looked at the tree and then back to Alex and Emma standing so close together and staring at it them themselves. His heart was heavy with love for them and the fact that they had allowed him in on this tradition of theirs. “Thank you for asking me to help," he said softly.

Alex smiled wide at him, her eyes sweet on him. “Please. We wouldn’t have had it any other way. Plus, it’s not like you put together that perfectly decorated tree at your place. I know Kate had a hand in that," she winked.

"Ha!” He shook his head with his laughter, his eyes crinkling at the corners in that way she loved. “Yes, yes she did."

"Mummy?" Emma called out, turning her eyes to Alex. “Is it time for hot chocolate and Christmas carols yet?"

"Hot chocolate and Christmas carols?" Harry asked, his lips tugging up at the comers.

"Its tradition," Emma announced as she strode to him, took his hand, and immediately turned to drag him towards the kitchen. “We make hot chocolate and put on Christmas carols and sing along."

"Sounds fun," he grinned, winking at Alex as they passed. With a laugh she followed behind them.

"Oh it is, Harry. Sheesh, you should know by now that me and Mum are always fun."


"I cannot believe the crazy lyrics you made up to the Twelve Days of Christmas."

Harry’s head tipped back onto the couch behind him in laughter. Emma was tucked in bed and he and Alex were enjoying some alone time wrapped up together in a blanket on the window seat in her living room, watching the heavy snow fall on London. “What Alexandra, you don’t want twelve partying princes on the Twelfth Day of Christmas?"

"No so much," she responded with a twist of her lips. “One partying prince is quite enough for me."

"Awww. Now, come on, I’m not so much of a partying prince anymore," he pouted.

Alex nodded and then leaned further into him, her head resting against his chest as she turned her eyes up to him. “Although, you could always take me down to my bedroom and we could have a private party there.” She wiggled her eyebrows at him suggestively and then couldn’t help but giggle at the look on his face.

"Jesus, Alex," he groaned. “You could tempt a saint."

"Hmmm…" She turned her lips up to his, sighing softly as he pressed a soft, warm kiss to them. “Good thing you aren’t a saint then, Harry."

"Oh-ho!" he chuckled as his hands moved to her back and pressed her closer. “Your sass knows no bounds it seems." He kissed her again, longer and deeper, their tongues moving slowly against each other in that dance they did so well. “Alex…" he groaned when he pulled back from her detectable mouth.

"Harry…come back," she beckoned with a smile, her hand wrapping around his neck to pull him back to her.

He couldn’t help but grin as he reached up and pulled her hand from his neck and placed it back on his chest. “Alex, I will absolutely come back.” He shook his head with a soft chuckle when she pouted, her bottom lip stick out slightly. “I promise. But first I want to talk to you about something.”

“Okay…” she said slowly. “Am I in trouble?”

His lips tugged at the corners. “No. Quite the opposite, actually. I want to talk to you about Christmas, or really the day after Christmas.”

Alex’s forehead knotted. “The day after? You’ll be at Sandringham and Emma and I will be here with Matt and my parents.”

“That’s the original plan…” He took a deep breath. “But I’d like to see if you wouldn’t mind changing it a bit.”

“Changing it? How?”

“I’d like you and Emma to come to Sandringham the day after Christmas. It’s Boxing Day and we do the traditional hunt and…” His eyes went soft and his smile went wide. “And I want you to meet my grandparents.”

Alex blinked several times, trying to wrap her brain around what he said. “Harry, l…"

"Look Alex, l know Christmas is only in a week and a half and that your parents will be here and it’s not fair of me to ask you to take that time away from them…"

"No, no… " Alex interrupted. “It’s not that. It’s… Jesus, Harry. You want me to meet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh?”

"No," Harry chuckled lightly." I want you and Emma to meet my grandparents."

"Don’t you think it’s too soon? I mean, we’re been together what? Ten months? Didn’t Kate have to wait…"

"Now hold on," Harry broke in, his eyes wide, his face serious. He pulled back so he could look Alex directly in the face. “Don’t do that. Don’t compare yourself to Kate or anyone else. Will and Kate’s situation was different. They did this when it was right for them."

“And you think the time is right for us?” She asked quietly, her eyes searching his.

Harry took a deep breath and smiled. His smoothed his hands up over her arms and shoulders and moved to cup her face. “I think that you are the woman that I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, and when I told my granny that, she was happy for me and I asked to meet you. I suggested Boxing Day and she gave her permission."

"Oh My God, " Alex breathed, her heart pounding furiously in her chest.

"Listen love, if you really don’t want to do this, we don’t have to. We can arrange another time when there is less family around,” he offered gently.

Alex took him in, took in the hopeful, happy look in his eyes, she could see how hurt he would be if she let her fears and nervousness take over and let this chance slip by. And in truth, she wanted to do this. She wanted to meet his grandmother and grandfather. It was just a huge step; much bigger than in most families. But everything was different with him than it would be in most families; the rational part of Alex knew that and in the end the rational part of her won out.

“No, we can’t arrange another time,” she said softly, turning her head to kiss one of the palms that cradled her face. “Emma and I will meet your grandparents on Boxing Day.” She took a deep breath and smiled wide. “At Sandringham.”


“When will Mimi and Poppy and Uncle Matt be here?!” Emma squealed, jumping up and down on Alex’s living room floor as Alex finished tidying up in anticipation of the arrival of her parents and her brother. Christmas was less than a week away and Alex was terribly excited for the arrival of her family, loving that she got to see them so soon after Thanksgiving, but she was almost sure that Emma’s level of excitement outweighed hers.

“Don’t jump on the floor Emma. Remember, people live below us,” Alex said with a pointed look.

“Oops! Sorry,” Emma said sheepishly. “I forgot.”

“Ha! I suppose one day you’ll remember kiddo. Anyway, they will be here in under an hour.”

Emma’s face lit up in excitement and she almost jumped up and down again, remembering at the last second that she wasn’t supposed to. Instead she ran and jumped on the couch on her knees, bouncing up and down there. She did know that she could do that without getting into trouble. “And when will Harry be here?”

The buzzer rang out in the flat as if on cue. Emma clapped her hands together in excitement as Alex grinned and went to buzz Harry in, Emma following just behind her. Just a minute or two later the knock sounded at the door and Alex unlocked and opened it, smiling broadly at Harry as he stood in the doorway while Mark, his protection officer, did his usual walk through. Emma could barely contain herself and was squirming in anticipation of Harry being able to come through the door. Alex couldn’t help but giggle.

“I love when she’s like this,” she said to Harry across the threshold of the door, nodding down at Emma.

Harry chuckled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Me too.”

Luckily for Emma, Mark came walking through back then, giving Harry a nod for the all clear, and Harry stepped in. Emma immediately launched herself at him, not giving him time to even shut to door behind him before she was wrapping her arms around him in a big, giggling hug. Alex laughed as she moved to shut and lock the door behind them.

“Goodness, Emma. Just how much sugar have you eaten today?” Harry quipped as he lifted her up into his arms.

Emma blinked, confused by the question for a moment before she grinned and shook her head. “None. Mum wouldn’t let me.”

“Your mum is very smart. Looks like you absolutely don’t need any,” he grinned at her. He pressed a quick kiss to her cheek and then set her down, turning to Alex and smiling softly down at her. “Hi.”

“Hello,” she murmured back as she tilted her lips to his for a soft, sweet kiss.

“How long before your parents and Matt arrive?” he asked when he pulled back from her.

“Matt just called from the airport about ten minutes ago. They have to collect their bags, catch the train, and then get the car that you have for them at the station. It’ll probably be about an hour.”

“Excellent,” Harry grinned, clapping his hands together. He was just about to ask if she needed help with anything when the buzzer rang out into the apartment again, startling Alex and sending Emma into fits of excitement, thinking it was her grandparents and her Uncle Matt.

“Emma, calm down,” Alex chuckled. “That can’t possibly be them.”

“But what if it is?!” Emma drawled dramatically.

Alex shook her head with a laughing sigh and went to hit the buzzer again. “Hello?”

“It’s Charlotte.”

Alex flashed a look at Harry and Harry immediately burst out into laughter. “Oh God. She knows Matt’s going to be here soon.”

Alex’s lips pulled into a wide smile and she immediately buzzed her friend in. Harry moved Emma off into to living room while Alex waited for the door and when the knock sounded out, she opened it; a smug knowing smile firmly in place.

“Nope. Don’t even start with me,” Charlotte said firmly as she moved into Alex’s apartment.

“I didn’t say a word, Charlotte. I’m just wondering why you are at my apartment in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday?”

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Can’t I just come see my friend whom I adore?”

“Ha! Sweet talk won’t get you anywhere,” Alex laughed as she moved to take Charlotte’s coat and scarf and hang it by the door. “And you absolutely can come see me anytime. But I’d believe you more if you weren’t sleeping with my brother, who will coincidentally be here within the hour.”

Charlotte raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow and her lips twisted. “I’m here to see you. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

“Okay, okay,” Alex smiled. “I won’t push. Although Harry is in the living room, and you know he will.”

“Ugh,” Charlotte groaned. “He’s the worst sometimes.”

At Alex’s shout of laughter Charlotte shook her head and rolled her eyes. But she couldn’t help the smile that was creeping onto her face, a smile that Alex caught; a smile that very much said just how happy Charlotte was to be there, waiting for Matt to arrive.


“Mimi! Poppy!” Emma cried as Alex’s parents came through the door to her flat, Matt trailing close behind. The driver that Harry had hired for them would be continuing on to their hotel and dropping off their luggage and then would come back later to take them back to the hotel.

“Hey Bug!” Michael called out as he hauled Emma into his arms. Donna leaned and smothered her granddaughter’s cheeks with kisses as Michael hugged her tight, much to Emma’s delight.

Matt stepped into the foyer, a big grin on his face as he shook the snow from his blonde hair and unraveled his scarf. “Man, we landed just in time. It’s ridiculous out there,” he laughed as he shook Harry’s hand in greeting. He was just turning towards Alex, who was receiving hugs and kisses from their parents when a very pretty brunette standing to the side caught his attention. He raised his eyebrows, watching as her lips curved upward slightly. He flashed his eyes back to Harry and his lips pulled up into a smirk. “So, how much shit did you give her for being here to wait for me?” he asked low enough that he knew Emma wouldn’t be able to hear, but that Harry and Charlotte both would.

Charlotte rolled her eyes at the same time that Harry laughed loudly. “Not nearly enough, man,” Harry grinned.

“Good,” Matt chuckled and then bypassing Alex and Emma he strode straight to Charlotte, wrapped his arms around her waist and stood straight up, lifting her feet off of the floor.

Harry watched, a smile on his face, as Charlotte’s eyes widened and then softened as Matt pulled her face to his for a kiss. As much as he may tease her, he was actually really happy that Matt seemed to sticking around in her life. He was a great guy and as much as he and Charlotte may bicker and argue, Harry believed that she deserved some like Matt. And then his attention was diverted by Alex, who had finished saying hello to her parents, allowing Harry to move in and greet them both warmly, happy to see them again, and very happy that he was part of this holiday with them.


“When does Emma start her new school?” Donna asked as they all sat in the living room after dinner that night. Matt and Emma were on the floor by the tree, taking turns shaking the presents and trying to guess what was in them. Charlotte was sitting on the window seat near the tree, watching as she sipped the tea Alex had made. Michael and Donna were relaxing on the couch, and Harry was seated in a big, comfortable chair, with Alex on the floor between his legs, resting back against the bottom of the chair.

“At the beginning of January,” Alex answered with a smile. She took a sip of her wine and glanced at Emma, too occupied with presents to really be paying attention. “It didn’t make sense to enroll her in December when she would have only been there for a week. So, my lucky little girl over there has had pretty much the whole month off.”

“And where is the school you are sending her too?” Michael asked.

“Not too far from here. But the most important part is that it’s private and gated. There are quite a few other children of…” Alex wrinkled her nose. “Celebrities and nobility…that go to that school. It came highly recommended from Harry’s Aunt Sophie.”

“And you’re sure you don’t want us to help with her tuition?” Donna asked softly, her head tilting to the side. “You know we don’t mind Alexandra.”

“No, Mom,” Alex shook her head as she smiled back at her mom. “John’s inheritance will more than cover it. I’ve been saving it and there is plenty of it. He would have wanted that for her. Plus, the education she will receive is absolutely top notch.”

“Okay honey,” Donna nodded. “Just know that the offer is on the table.”

“Thanks, Mom. Actually though,” Alex said sitting up straight and leaning forward to set her wine glass on the low coffee table in front of her. “I’ve got a little change of subject. I wanted to ask you guys if it’s okay if we make a change in our usual holiday routine?”

“Yeah? What’s that Boot?” Michael asked, raising his eyebrows.

Alex took a deep breath and then glanced back to Harry, who gave her an encouraging smile. “On the day after Christmas, Harry has asked if Emma and I would join him at Sandringham for the evening. We would come back the next day, Harry with us.”

“Sandringham?” Charlotte called out from the loveseat, bringing Harry’s eyes turning towards her. “Harry but your…ohhhhh…” she trailed off when she realized what was going on, exactly why Alex and Emma would be going up north for that day. She grinned and winked at Harry. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. Continue.”

Harry rolled his eyes in her direction and then turned back towards Michael and Donna who were looking at him questioningly. He flashed them a wide smile and leaned forward, resting his hands on Alex’s shoulders. “I would really like Alex and Emma to meet my grandparents. My grandmother specifically requested the meeting and I asked if we could do it on Boxing Day. I realize that this takes them away from you for twenty four hours and believe me, if you have a single problem with that, I will cancel.”

“Wait a second,” Matt piped in from over by the tree, momentarily abandoning his quest to help Emma figure out the presents. “Your Grandmother? You mean the Queen of England?”

“Well, the Queen of Great…” He stopped and chuckled with a small shake of his head. “Sorry, that doesn’t matter. Yes, my grandmother the Queen. And my grandfather as well; actually most of my family will be there, some of whom Alex and Emma haven’t met yet.”

“And it will most likely be quite a while before your family is all together again, no?” Donna asked quietly, her eyes moving from Harry to Alex and then back again. “I mean, they won’t have to chance to be introduced to these family members all together for some time?”

Harry grinned at Alex’s mother’s understanding. “Probably not for another year.”

“Well, I think that Matt and his lovely Charlotte over there can probably entertain us for an evening while you and Emma go meet Harry’s grandparents,” Donna smiled at Alex before turning to her husband. “Don’t you think Mike?”

“I think you shouldn’t tell Matt that he’s entertaining, it will only encourage him,” Mike quipped, bringing a giggle from Alex and a shout of laughter from Charlotte.

“Thanks Dad,” Matt called out dryly right before he shot a look in Charlotte’s direction, which only served to make her laugh harder.

“I only speak the truth son,” Mike returned. “And for heaven’s sake, would you quit encouraging Emma with shaking the presents? If you guess everything that takes the fun out of it.”

“Did I just get in trouble?” Matt grinned.

“I think you did,” Emma chimed in, still holding one of her presents in the air, as if she weren’t a part of the mischief they had been causing.

“Listen you little stinker,” Matt laughed. “You had no problem diving right under that tree when I said we should shake the presents.”

Emma gave Matt a wide eyed, innocent look that fooled absolutely no one in the room and then said, “It was your idea, Uncle Matt.”

Laughter filled the room as Matt snatched Emma into his harms and began to tickle her, her squealing giggles fueling the laughter of everyone else, including Alex who still sat on the floor between Harry’s legs, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes as she watched her brother play with her daughter.

“Hey,” Harry said low into her ear, turning her attention to him. Her eyes swung up to meet his and his lips pulled wide, loving how happy she looked. “Since this is the last night I’m going to see both of you before you come to Sandringham, how about we do Emma’s presents now? It might cool some of the present frenzy Matt is working her into.”

“Sure,” Alex smiled up at him. “Can she give you hers too?”

“She got me a present?”

“Of course she did,” Alex chuckled with a slight roll of her eyes before she turned her attention from him and to Emma. “Hey Em.”

Emma’s gaze swung around to Alex. “Yeah?”

“Harry wants to exchange presents with you right now, what do you think?”

Emma’s eyes went wide and she totally abandoned Matt and bounced over to Harry and Alex. “Ohhhhhh please! Can we?”

“Absolutely,” Harry grinned. “Can you grab the two presents I left for you under the tree? I put them…”

“I know where they are!” Emma squealed before she made a beeline back to the tree, Matt having to lean out of her way to avoid being run over.

“I’m just going to move over there,” Matt chuckled and pointed towards Charlotte as he pulled himself from the floor.

In no time flat Emma was back to them, not only holding the two presents that Harry had brought over a few days before that were already wrapped and ready to go for Emma, but also carrying a beautiful gift bag that was addressed to him. “Here Harry, this one is for you,” she said with a bright smile.

“Thank you,” Harry smiled softly as he took the bag from her, touched that Emma had something for him.

Alex slid from her spot on the floor and when Harry looked toward her she motioned that she was going to move over to the couch and he nodded, understanding that she was giving him and Emma the moment together, even if all of the eyes in the room were on them. Alex settled in on the couch in between her parents and turned to grin once at her mom before turning her attention back to Harry and Emma.

“You first,” Emma said to Harry. “I’m so excited for you to see it.”

“Really?” He lifted his eyebrows. “Are you sure you don’t want to go first?”

“No,” she said with a shake of her blonde head. “I can’t wait for you to open it anymore.”

Harry chuckled and he grinned as he pulled the delicate paper from the bag and then reached his hand inside, finally locating something soft. He pulled it out and set the bag on the floor before pulling the paper from around the soft object. His lips tugged up at the corners and he turned to Emma. “It’s a hat.”

“I made it,” Emma said quietly, her eyes holding his.

“You made this?” Harry asked incredulously.

She nodded slowly, her little fingers fidgeting in front of her nervously. “Granny has been teaching me how to knit. I wanted to make something for you. That’s what Mummy and I do. I get regular presents from Santa, but Mummy and I always make gifts for each other so I wanted to do the same thing for you. Is that okay?”

“Is that okay?” Harry chuckled. “Of course it’s okay. It’s more than okay. It’s amazing. I mean, look at this,” he grinned, admiring the knitted beanie hat that she had made. Of course, it wasn’t the most professionally knitted hat in the world, but all that mattered to Harry was that Emma had taken the time to learn the skill and make this for him. He winked at Emma as he pulled it on his head, pulling it down snuggly. “How does it look?”

“Fantastic!” Emma grinned, elated that he liked it.

“Excellent,” Harry smiled back. “Now your turn, Em.”

“Which one do I open first?” She held up both of the beautifully wrapped rectangular packages.

Harry pointed to the one in her left hand. “That one.”

As Emma was carefully peeling back the paper on the gift, Donna leaned in to Alex’s ear. “What did he get her?”

“I have no idea,” Alex responded with a small shrug. “He wouldn’t tell me. I honestly don’t know if I should be worried or not.”

Donna smothered a chuckle with her hand and Alex bit her lip to keep from bursting out into giggles herself. But both of their attention was diverted back to the center of the room when Matt suddenly called out into the room.

“Dude. You did not actually buy her a castle did you?”

“What?!” Alex squeaked, her eyes wide as she sat straight up on the couch as she watched Matt stare with wide eyes at the eight by ten picture of a beautiful castle that Emma was holding.

“I’m sorry, did you just say a castle?” Mike choked out from beside her.

Harry’s gaze swung wildly between all of them before he finally burst out laughing at the look of utter disbelief focused solely on him. “Okay, no. I did not buy Emma a castle, everyone,” he finally managed to choke out. “Emma,” he turned to her. “I’m sorry, I did not buy you a castle.”

“I know,” she said quietly, looking a bit confused at what had just occurred. “You bought me a picture of a castle. A really pretty castle.”

“It is a pretty castle,” he nodded. “It’s called Neuschwanstein Castle and it’s in Germany. It’s actually the castle that the Cinderella castle was modeled after. And the reason I bought the picture is picture I wanted to show you that I’m going to take you there next month. I figured you might want to see the real life Cinderella castle.”

“Wow…” Emma breathed. “That’s so neat. I can’t wait to go! Thank you, Harry!” She turned to set the picture down carefully on the coffee table before she turned back and wrapped her arms around him for a hug.

“You’re welcome, Emma. Now, open your other one.”

“Okay,” she giggled, pulling back and reaching for the other package. She carefully pulled back the paper, just as she had on the other one until it was all pulled away and she was holding a framed picture of beautiful horse, dark brown in color and on the small side. “It’s a horse,” Emma said with a smile. “Are you taking me to see a horse?”

“No,” Harry grinned as he took a deep breath. “That is your new horse.”

“What?” Emma whispered, her eyes flashing wide. “Mine?”

“Oh my God…” Alex whispered from her spot on the couch. Harry’s eyes flashed to hers for a moment and he gave her a small smile before turning back to Emma.

“It’s yours. I bought him for you for Christmas. He’s still very young and he lives at Zara’s for right now. But after Christmas you’ll start to train with him and help to raise him. Zara said you are a very gifted rider Emma, and I wanted you to be able to have this – to own your own horse – which will only help you get better.”

“Thank you so much Harry!” Emma cried as she launched herself at him, hugging him as tightly as she could. “I love him already,” she said quietly. “This is already the best Christmas ever.”

The thing was, Emma really had no idea just how right she was; it was going to be the best Christmas they had ever had. And it had only just begun.