Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Forty Seven Part One

"It really feels like we were just in Texas, doesn’t it?" Alex said to Harry as they stepped out - with Emma and Charlotte in tow - of the terminal at the airport in Houston to the waiting cars.

"No, it doesn’t mummy," Emma answered instead, holding tight to Alex’s hand. “It was forever ago.”

Alex laughed and squeezed Emma’s hand and then watched as Harry reached up and wiped his brow for about the third time since they had stepped outside. “Hot?” She teased at him.
"You know," he laughed, “I’ve been to Afghanistan, I’ve been to Australia, I’ve been to some, hot, humid, tropical locations, but this is just…"

"Ridiculous," Charlotte groaned, lifting her hair off of her neck and fanning herself. “Jesus, Alex. No wonder you moved to England. How could anyone deal with this every day?"

Alex shrugged. “I grew up with it. It’s hot, but this isn’t even as bad as it gets.”

"Oh my God," Charlotte groaned. "Why are we standing here? Can we not get in the cars?"

"An you going to be like this the entire trip?" Harry laughed as he moved forward and opened the door for Charlotte to get in to the car. She grumbled as she moved into the car and climbed into the third row seat. Alex moved in behind her and let Harry and Emma take the middle seat.

"Miss Charlotte will be happier once she sees Uncle Matt," Emma said without a single hint of sarcasm.

Alex couldn’t help the snicker that fell from her mouth and Harry couldn’t control the way his shoulders shook with laughter and Charlotte scowled.

"Alex, you need to stop letting your kid hang out With Harry."

"No way," Harry laughed. "They can’t separate us now, can they Em? We’re a team."

"That’s right!" Emma called out just as the driver and one of Harry’s POs slid into the front seats of the car and they pulled away from the terminal.

Harry grinned and turned to Charlotte. “See. We’re a team.”

Charlotte rolled her eyes but decided not to argue any further. Besides, Emma was right and everyone, including Charlotte, knew it.


The arrival at the Emerson’s home went a lot like the arrival the previous year at Thanksgiving, except this time the comfort level was higher between everyone and it was all happy hugs and kisses with none of the nerves. Plus, Matt was already there waiting, as he had taken a half-day at work, and Alex watched with a smile when after hugging her, shaking Harry’s hand, and smothering Emma with kisses, he pulled Charlotte into his arms and gave her the biggest, happiest kiss Alex had ever seen. And Charlotte didn’t even protest one bit.

They all got settled in rather quickly and then, at Emma’s insistence, it was going to be an afternoon spent by the pool.

Harry smirked at Alex when they first stepped onto the pool deck, the memory of his first swim in that pool - if a swim is what you wanted to call it - popping into his mind.

Alex winked at him and then leaned into kiss him quickly. “That was a fun night, wasn’t it?” she whispered softly.

"I think mind mind-blowing is the description I would use," he murmured, his eyes sparkling at the memory.

"Harry!” Emma called from the pool, breaking the moment. "Come on! You promised you would race me!”

"That I did!" Harry called back. “I better go live up to my commitments. Where are Charlotte and Matt?”

“Charlotte said she was going to put on her swimsuit and Matt said he wanted to make sure she didn’t need any help and took off after her up the stairs,” Alex smirked. “I’m sure once they get that out of the way, they’ll be out.”

Harry laughed and shook his head. “He has no shame. Although, if I didn’t get to see you but every few months, I wouldn’t have any either.”

“You had no shame when you pinned me against the wall of that pool last year,” Alex said smugly.

“Ha! That’s the damn truth,” he agreed with a wink and then he leaned over and kissed her once more before moving to the pool, diving in and swimming straight to Emma.

Alex smiled and then moved over to the covered patio table and chairs were Mike was relaxing while Donna moved around the pool deck, gathering towels and placing them out.

"Not going to get in the pool, Boot?" Mike asked as Alex slid into the seat next to him.

"I will," Alex replied. "But I thought I’d spend some time with my dad whom I hardly see."

"Now see, if you were in high school, I’d be wondering what you want from me, but now I actually believe you."

"Ha. Ha," Alex rolled her eyes playfully.

"Seriously though Boot, it’s great to see you. I’m glad you could come out this summer. You haven’t been able to visit other than Thanksgiving in a long time," Mike said, his happiness evident in his voice.

Alex took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I haven’t come home as much as I should have, Daddy.”

Mike’s forehead knotted in confusion. “Honey, that’s not at all what…”

"I know," Alex smiled. "I know that’s not what you were saying. It’s just…I left at eighteen and got married and had a kid and never came back."

“Alexandra Mae, you were always such a willful child, much like the little one dragging your boyfriend around the pool there…” He trailed off when Alex laughed and settled her eyes on the scene in the swimming pool. “When you wanted to go to England, you found a way and you did it. When you wanted to marry John, you did it. And when you lost him and had to raise a baby on your own, you did it and did it so well. We weren’t about to try to make you leave a place that you seemed to need to be.”

Alex’s gaze moved back to her dad and her eyes filled with tears. “England has done so much for me, Daddy,” she whispered.

“I know,” he nodded. “And I would suspect that in that not so distant future, we will be seeing you standing right next to that young man over there and doing a lot for England.”

Alex’s eyes widened. “What? Did…did Harry say something to you?”

“No,” Mike shook his head with a soft chuckle. “I just wouldn’t be surprised if he did sometime soon.”

Alex stared at her dad for a good, long second and then finally sighed and leaned back into her chair. “We’ve talked about it,” she admitted.

“I would expect that you have,” he chuckled.

“What are you two talking about?” Donna asked with a smile as she came over and sat down, having made sure that everything was taken care of around the pool.

“I was actually just about to give Alex the rundown on the campsite in New Braunfels,” Mike said casually, changing the subject. He would tell his wife all about the conversation he’d just had with Alex, just not in front of everyone else.

“Oh yes!” Alex grinned, clapping her hands together excitedly. “I’m so excited. I haven’t been camping and tubing down the river since high school.”

Mike chuckled at his daughter’s excitement and gave her a rundown of what they would be doing. The next morning – Friday – they would leave bright and early for the three hour trip to the Guadalupe River. A very large campsite was booked right on the river and Harry’s security team had contacted the owner of the campsite in advance to make arrangements and get specifics. Everything was approved and would be ready for them when they arrived.

They would tube down the river on Saturday and then pack up on Sunday to come back to Houston. Harry, Alex, and Charlotte had to leave on Monday, but Emma would be stay an extra week as she always spent two weeks in the summer with Mike and Donna while she was out of school.

Just as Mike finished up his explanation Matt and Charlotte stepped out on to the deck and Alex had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Charlotte’s previous tense shoulders were relaxed and she was smiling and Matt was grinning like an idiot as he moved past his girlfriend, smacking her on the ass as he moved to jump in the pool with Harry and Emma. Charlotte rolled her eyes but the smile never left her face as she pulled off her cover up and stepped into the shallow end and took a seat on the pool steps.

And Alex couldn’t resist.

“I’m going to go join the gang in the pool,” she said with a smile at her parents who nodded waved her off, wanting her to have fun. She stood and pulled off her own cover up, tossed it on top of Charlotte’s on one of the lounge chairs, and then she stepped into the warm water of the pool, sliding in next to her friend on one of the pool steps.

“Shut up,” Charlotte said immediately and Alex couldn’t help the laughter that burst through her lips.

“Aw come on,” Alex said low, bumping her shoulder against Charlotte’s. “If you let me tease you, I’ll make sure Harry doesn’t.”

Charlotte snorted. “You are full of shit.”

“Seriously though,” Alex laughed, ignoring Charlotte’s snark. “You couldn’t even make it half an hour?”

Charlotte chuckled and shook her head as she ran her hand into the pool water and splashed lightly at Alex, who immediately splashed back.

“Look,” Charlotte smirked. “You see your boyfriend all the time. I haven’t seen mine since March. So no, we couldn’t make it half an hour.”

Alex grinned wide. “Fair enough.”

“Hey Gossip Girls! Stop with the chit-chat and come play with us,” Matt called from the pool where he had Emma balanced on his shoulders, ready to launch her into the air.

“Yeah, come on Gossip Girls!” Emma mimicked with a giggle.

Alex laughed and pushed away from the wall towards Harry and Charlotte made her way into the deeper water as well, towards the laughter and fun.

It was going to be a great weekend.


Everyone was up very early the next morning, including Matt and Charlotte who arrived at dawn from a night spent at his house, and they all immediately started loading up the rented SUVs and Matt’s SUV with camping gear, food for the weekend, coolers of drinks, and luggage.

Before long they were on the road, a caravan of SUVs carrying seven very excited people looking forward to great weekend.

Emma rode with Mike and Donna and told them all about her new puppy she had gotten for her birthday and how she had been working very hard to train him, even though he had chewed up two pairs of her mother’s shoes and demolished several large sections of the baseboards in Alex’s apartment.

Alex and Harry rode in another SUV, although things were quieter there, with both of them catching some steep in preparation for the weekend; one of the times that Harry was grateful the security team preferred driving for these long trips.

And Matt and Charlotte rounded out the group in his SUV, enjoying the time they got to spend together and alone after three long months apart.

“Do you think that Matt and Charlotte are in love?” Alex asked Harry as they neared New Braunfels and they were both fully awake as excitement for their destination took over any need to sleep.

Harry’s eyes widened and he turned towards his girlfriend with a questioning look. “I…I don’t know, Alex. Do you think that they are?”

"I know that Matt is in love with her," Alex said quietly.

"Did he tell you that?"

"No," she shook her head. “But I know my brother. And he loves her.”

“Wow,” Harry breathed. “I mean, I knew they were enjoying things and…I don’t know, Alex. Are you asking me if I think she loves him?”

“Well, has she ever been like this with anyone before?”

“Never,” Harry answered immediately. “I’ve never seen her interact with someone like the way she interacts with Matt. He really enjoys exactly who she is and she appreciates that. But listen, Charlotte’s family life…” He trailed off, unsure if he should say anything.

“What?” Alex prodded gently.

Harry took a deep breath and adjusted in his seat. “Part of the reason that Charlotte and I became such good friends early on is because both of us had parents who were in shitty marriages. The difference is that the entire world knows about my parent’s marriage, and while the Blakely’s troubles are no secret, it’s not something that people outside of our circle are interested in. And Charlotte doesn’t talk about it to anyone…with the exception of me.”

Alex bit her lip. “Do you think Matt knows?”

“Honestly? No, I don’t think he does,” Harry sighed. “And not because I think he would care, but because Charlotte won’t talk about it. Charlotte thinks she doesn’t have it in her to love because she came from two people that didn’t love each other, and didn’t ever show her that they loved her. It’s wrong and it’s sad, but that’s how she is. If anyone could make her see differently, I think that person is Matt…but I don’t think they’ve gone there yet.”

Alex frowned. “I hope that they do.”

Harry smiled softly and moved his arm around Alex, pulling her into his side. “I do too, baby.”


Their arrival at the campsite was smooth. Even though it was a weekend during the summer and the river was busy, they had secured a large enough space to be spread out and still have enough room that Harry’s security team could secure a firm perimeter around them. The head of Harry’s security team, Mark, made sure to give them all the rundown on security measures; the dos and don’ts. Even trips up to the public bathroom had to be cleared with an officer so they could keep tabs on everyone in the group.

Once the safety briefing was over, the task of setting up the campsite was under way. Mike, Matt, and Harry took on the task of setting up the tents for everyone while Donna, Charlotte, Alex, and Emma made the short walk down to the water so that Emma could swim, which was pretty much the only thing she was interested in at the moment.

And that is exactly where Harry found them an hour later.

The girls had pulled the portable chairs down to the water and were all sitting there, feet immersed into the cool water while they chatted and watched Emma play with a group of kids she met from the next campsite over who were being watched by a very bored looking teenage girl.

"Hey you,” Alex grinned, squinting against the sunlight and shading her eyes as she watched Harry wade into the water. He had changed into swim trunks and a t-shirt and had his favorite panama hat firmly perched on his head.

“Howdy,” he grinned back, the word sounding adorable to Alex in that British accent of his. ”I think I’m going to go play with Emma,” he said, nodding towards the splashing pile of kids about ten feet away.

"Are you asking my permission?" Alex smirked.

Harry laughed and shook his head before pulling the hat from his head and plopping it down on hers. He tugged off his t- shirt then and held it out to her.

"Will you please hold on to this for me?"

"Only in exchange for a kiss," Alex smiled sweetly. Her smile grew into a laugh when Charlotte groaned from the seat next to her. Ignoring the brunette rolling her eyes at them, Harry leaned down and gave Alex a soft, quick kiss and then handed her the t-shirt with a wink.

"Thanks love," he grinned before he turned and waded over to Emma.

"He sure does love to hang with her," Donna observed with a smile.

"They seriously entertain the heck out of each other," Alex laughed. "And they chatter away. They will sit there and talk about anything and everything for hours."

"On God," Charlotte suddenly snorted, her eyes focused on where Harry had gotten involved in a game of catch with the kids Emma was playing with. “Watch this.”

"What?" both Donna and Alex asked, their eyes swinging in the direction Charlotte was looking.

Charlotte just grinned. “This teenage girl glued to her phone is on the cusp of figuring out who Harry is. I love it when this happens.”

Donna turned wide eyes to Alex and Alex just laughed and shook her head, well aware of what was about to happen.

"She’s going to snap a picture, Alexandra," Donna whispered.

"I know, Mom," Alex nodded. "Did you think we were going to make it through the entire weekend without someone snapping pictures?"

“No,” Donna shook her head. “I just didn’t think it would be so quickly.”

"Shhh…" Charlotte hissed, her eyes trained intently on what was about to happen and both Donna and Alex both started laughing, covering their mouths in an attempt to keep quiet.

But Harry heard them and turned around, curious as to what was going on. His eyes caught Charlotte’s intense gaze and he turned towards it, curious as to what she could be so interested in.

And as he turned his face came into full view of the teenager whose mouth completely dropped. Her eyes went wide and then darted around quickly. She laid eyes on Alex and then Emma and that was all of the confirmation she needed.

“Oh my God,” the girl rushed out, frozen in her spot.

“And there it is…” Charlotte chuckled, leaning back in her chair just as Alex saw the tiniest bit of irritation flash on Harry’s face before he pulled it back, before the gracious, polite, and understanding Harry smiled slightly and waved at the teen, acknowledging that she had recognized him.

“Aw,” Donna breathed. “Look at him. That’s so sweet.”

"You’re…you’re…can I get a picture?" the girl squeaked, holding up your phone with shaking hands.

"Um…" Harry started, his eyes flashing to Alex.

Alex smiled slightly and stood, knowing Harry felt like he should oblige her. Most people didn’t even ask; they just held up their phones and snapped, not even thinking that the person they were snapping a shot of might not want to actually be photographed.

"Here," Alex said, moving through the calf-deep water until she reached the girl. "Let me take the picture. I’m Alex," she said, extending her hand to the teen. "What’s your name?"

"Um… Amanda," the girl said nervously as she reached out to shake Alex’s hand.

"Nice to meet you, Amanda," Alex said warmly. "I’d be more than happy to take your picture with Harry, but can you promise me something?"

"Sure," the young girl nodded, feeling a little more at ease.

"Can you wait to post it on Twitter or wherever until Sunday? I know that’s a lot to ask but it would sure make our day easier tomorrow if…"

"Of course," Amanda nodded, amazed not only at her luck but with the grace the situation was being handled. “I understand. I won’t post it at all if you want.”

“I think if you just wait until Sunday we will be fine,” Alex smiled wide, her gut telling her this sweet young lady would live up to her word. She turned to Harry then and waved him over. “Harry, this is Amanda. Would you do me a favor and pose for a picture with her? She promised not to post anything on social media until Sunday, which I’m really grateful for.”

The grin was immediate on Harry’s face and he nodded and turned to Amanda. “Hi, I’m Harry.”

“Oh God. I know…I mean…” Amanda blushed and shook her head. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too,” Harry smiled kindly as Amanda reached over to hand Alex her phone. He moved in next to Amanda and put an arm around her shoulders and Alex had to press her lips together in order not to giggle at how red Amanda turned. She quickly snapped the picture and then went to hand the phone back to Amanda who, with a bite to her lip, decided to take one more chance.

“Do you think I could get a picture with you too?” Amanda asked softly.

Alex’s eyed went wide. “Me?”

Amanda nodded hopefully and Alex didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t at all expecting anyone to want a picture with her. Harry, sure…but not her.

But Harry understood, he knew that Alex had garnered fans, even if she didn’t see it, and so he stepped in. “I’ll take it,” he said, holding out his hand for the phone. “Same rules apply though, right? No posting until Sunday?”

“Absolutely,” Amanda nodded, grinning wide as she moved towards Alex who was still a little shocked. But she recovered quickly and smiled for the picture. Then, saying good-bye to Amanda with a smile and a wave she moved off with Harry, blinking a few times at what just happened.

Mike and Matt had joined the group in the water when Alex and Harry made their way back over and Alex smiled sheepishly as they all stared at her, except for Charlotte, who couldn’t help the smirk on her face.

Matt was the first to break the silence.

"Wales, I think my sister just stole a fan from you right there."

Harry laughed and cast a loving look down at his girlfriend. “I think your sister just realized that she has fans.”

"Shut up," Alex laughed with a roll of her eyes. "I don’t have fans."

"Yes, you do," Donna piped up, pulling a shocked glance from Alex. "Are you serious, Honey? You don’t know that there are people who…"

"No, I know…” Alex shook her slightly. “Can we not do this though? I just…I don’t want you guys to think of me that way and I certainly don’t want to think of myself that way. I’m normal here. Harry is normal here. Emma is normal here. Let’s just…be normal,” she finished with raised eyebrows and soft smile.

"Fair enough," Mike said knowing that Alex needed to be normal following moments like the one she had just had. "Besides, it’s time for dinner. I’ve got the grill all set up. Want to help me cook, Boot?"

“Sure!” Alex grinned.

Harry watched as she moved from the water and slipped her flip flops back on before moving to follow her dad back up to the campsite to help him.

He couldn’t have been more proud or more in love with her in that moment. Her ability to retain as much normalcy as she could and her refusal let the surreal moments define her life with him gave him such a sense of calm about where their relationship was heading. He wasn’t worried about how she would navigate a life with him in the public eye because through the craziness and the hoopla and the ridiculousness that came with his world, she would always bring herself – and him – back to this. Back to normal.

Just as she always had.