Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Fifty Five

With all of the excitement and the amazing things that came with the engagement and the announcement of it, unfortunately there was one thing that Alex had to do that was harder on her than any of the other changes that came with becoming the next royal bride.

Although she had for all intents and purposes finished her role at HFTF just before the engagement announcement, her actual last day in the office was the day after. It was the day she cleaned out her office and turned it over to Susannah. It was the day she let go of all that she had built there, the day she turned it over to someone else and let it become something that helped give them strength in life.

It was a hard day.
Of course, there were happy parts in the day to go along with the tough ones. The small, intimate party that Mia and Susannah arranged that afternoon as a farewell for her brought so many smiles to her face she couldn’t have counted them if she tried.

She got to say good-bye to so many of the people who were currently seeking help through HFTF and people who had come in the past. She was touched beyond words at the things so many of them said to her; how she had helped them, how they were doing, and how truly happy they were for her.

Her eyes were already red rimmed from the tears that had come from all of their kind words when Harry showed up, smile on his face as he hugged and kissed her and then stuck right with her as she continued to talk to everyone, his face showing more and more pride as the afternoon turned into evening.

And when the party wound down and Alex had to say good-bye to her staff; to Sarah and Duncan and Susannah and even to Mia – who would be joining her as her assistant in just six weeks – Alex did her level best not to dissolve into a pile of tears. She truly loved all of these people like family; they were her family. And even though she would see them all again soon, the thought of not seeing them every day broke her heart.

But she put a brave smile on, gave everyone hugs and exchanged low, sweet good-byes, and then with her box of stuff firmly in Harry’s arms, she stepped out of the door and into the chilly night with him; slipping into the warm car that was waiting to take them back to Kensington Palace.

And as she watched the building disappear behind them, her heart hurt so badly that she could barely stand it.



She turned towards Harry, who was moving through the front door of his home behind her. He shut it and set her box down by the door as she set her bag on the round table in the foyer and kicked off her shoes. “Hmmm?”

He took a few steps toward her, his eyebrows raised. “Are you okay? You’ve barely said a word since we left.”

“Of course I’m alright,” she quickly assured him, though her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. “I’m just tired. It’s been a long week.”

His head tilted, he took a step closer, and he watched her defenses rise. He watched her tense up and cross her arms over her chest, her body’s natural way of telling him not to pry even though there was no way he was going to drop it.

“Alexandra, please don’t…” he began softly, but was interrupted when Emma came flying around the corner from the kitchen, a wide, happy grin on her face. Kate trailed behind her, holding Henry on her hip.

Alex turned towards her daughter with a wide smile, grateful for the interruption. “Hey Em!” she chuckled as Emma threw her arms around her waist. “Did you and Miss Kate have fun?” She looked up and smiled at Kate, who smiled back as she handed Henry over to Harry, who never missed an opportunity to cuddle with his nephew.

“We did!” Emma nodded. “We played with Henry and tried to teach him new words and she said that I can call her Aunt Kate now.”

“She did?” Harry grinned, turning his attention to his sister-in-law for just a moment.

Kate winked at him and then turned back to Alex and Emma. “I certainly did. But it comes with conditions.”

“Conditions?” Alex laughed. “Like what?”

“I have to promise to come stay at her house sometimes so that she can spoil me like aunts are supposed to spoil their nieces. Right Aunt Kate?” Emma said, bringing a round of laughter from the adults.

“Right!” Kate nodded, winking at Emma and giving her a thumbs up.

“I think that can be arranged,” Alex laughed.

Kate grinned and clapped her hands together. “Fantastic. Now, unfortunately, I do have to get home. It’s Henry’s bedtime and I’d like to avoid a cranky sixteen month old.”

They all exchanged goodbyes as Kate took Henry back and both Harry and Alex made sure to give the chubby little boy sweet snuggles and kisses, loving his sweet baby laughs as they did so. And then Kate was gone, making her way back to her apartment with her son in tow. And although Harry was dying to talk to Alex, to understand why she was closing him out, it seemed it was going to have to wait. Emma had homework to finish and then it was time for a bath and then bed. Gus needed to be walked, fed, and played with. And Harry had pressing work in his office that he couldn’t ignore, phone calls he had to make before the day was over.

It wasn’t until later in the evening that the house finally settled. Harry had finished up his work and, taking over for Alex after bath time, he had tucked Emma into bed. And the first thing he thought of as he stepped from Emma’s room was Alex, of how he needed to know what was on her mind, of why she had been so withdrawn.

He found her in the living room, curled up on the sofa with a snoring Gus next to her. She was watching something on the television, although he could see that she wasn’t really paying attention.

“Hey,” Harry said softly, drawing her attention to him. A small smile moved across her lips when she turned her gaze to his and she reached for the remote, flipping off the TV as he moved to sit next to her. Gus stirred at the jostling movement on the couch and with a look at Harry that clearly stated how he felt about being disturbed, he rose and jumped from the couch, moving over to his bed on the floor and flopping down onto it with a huff.

“Spoiled pup,” Harry laughed with a shake of his head before he turned his attention back to Alex. Their eyes met and he smiled at her, soft and sweet as he settled into the couch and closer to her. “What’s wrong baby?” he asked softly, reaching for her hands and pulling it into his. “What happened at the going away party?”

And before Alex could even get a word out, her lip trembled and her eyes welled up and a small sob escaped her mouth.

“Hey…” Harry breathed, his eyes going wide. “Come here.” He pulled her into his arms and wrapped them around her, holding her tight as she began to cry in earnest. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she buried her face in his neck.

He let her cry it out against him. His hands smoothed up and down her back and he whispered soothing words in her ear, trying to comfort her the best he could. When she finally stopped, when her quiet sobs became just small hiccups of air, he felt her body relax against his and she pulled her face from his neck, looking up at him with puffy, red-rimmed eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered with a sniffle.

Harry turned to reach for a tissue from the end table next to the couch and then turned back to hand it to her. “Don’t be sorry, love. I’m just worried about you.”

“You shouldn’t be worried,” Alex sighed as she wiped the tears from her face.

Harry’s eyebrows lifted. “Are you sure? Because the second we left HFTF tonight, you went quiet and withdrew completely and now you’re crying. And it’s not at all the same type of crying that was going on while we were there. I’m a little worried, Alex. I’m worried that you’re not happy with your decision to leave your organization…”

“No,” Alex cut him off with a firm shake of her head. Her hands moved to his cheek and she pulled eyes to hers. “I’m happy with my decision. I’m so incredibly happy I’m marrying you. Please don’t ever doubt that.”

Harry smiled softly and reached up, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “Then why are you so upset?”

Alex took a deep breath and then let it out, trying to find the words. “Harry, when I created HFTF, it came from a place of so much emotion, from something that impacted my life in such a huge way. It’s…hard for me to let go of that.”

"Oh baby, I’m sorry," Harry murmured. "I should have realized."

Alex laughed lightly and shook her head. “No. I should have said something. I felt ridiculous. I mean, look at me…I have everything I could ever want. I have a beautiful, sweet daughter and a fiancé who loves me so much…”

"Hey…" He cut her off. His hands moved to her face and he cupped her cheeks, his thumbs running softly over her skin. "You’re more than allowed to be upset. You are leaving the huge chunk of your life behind to step into my life and you’re doing it without question.”

"I know," she sighed. "But…"

"No buts Alexandra Mae. If you are sad or upset I want to know about it. I want to do what I can to help you. Whether it just listening or…whatever you need…don’t worry you are being ridiculous. I don’t doubt that this will probably be hard on you"

Alex held his eyes with hers for a long moment and she saw just how much he meant what he said, how much he really wanted to be there for her. And finally she sighed and let her body relax against his. Her arms moved over his shoulders and a smile moved to her face.

"Thank you, Harry Wales," she said softly as his arms moved around her. "I love you."

"I love you too," he murmured as he leaned forward to press a kiss to her lips.

It was meant to be a sweet kiss; something gentle and loving in the wake of Alex’s sadness and Harry’s anxiety over it. But when Harry went to lift his lips from her, Alex was nowhere near ready to let go of him.

Her hands slid up into his hair and she held him to her, not letting his lips go, not wanting his mouth anywhere but joined with hers. She felt his momentary surprise, felt him smile against her lips, and just like that, his intentions for that kiss were turned.

His arms tightened around her waist and she adjusted around him, moving her legs so that she was straddling his lap. His mouth opened under hers and his tongue tipped out, teasing her lips open and then sliding inside of her mouth, bringing a moan from deep inside of her that made his hands tighten on her, sliding down to her ass and pulling her closer; tighter.

“Harry,” she gasped into his mouth as warmth seeped through her entire body. She was always amazed at how fast she wanted him, how the moment he pulled her into his arms it was like lighting a fire in her belly and she had to have it. Right then. It was as simple as that.

And Harry was no different.

“I want to make love to you,” he breathed as his mouth left hers only to begin a slow, hot journey down her jawline to the soft skin of her neck.

“Yes,” she sighed as her fingers tugged in his mess of red hair. “Yes, Harry…”

He groaned and then because he needed her just as badly as she needed him, he moved into action. With Alex held firmly in his arms, he rose from the couch and went straight for the stairs, wanting nothing more than to get the beautiful, sweet, warm, giggling woman in his arms into his bed.

And in the end that day wasn’t about the sadness that came for Alex when she left HFTF. It was about leaving one era of her life behind for another. It was about moving forward. It was about embracing the change. It was about knowing that she loved her new path in life just as much as she did her old one.

And maybe it was a little about the incredibly sexy red-headed man who took her to his bed and made sure she was well loved, well into the night.


“Are you two settled in for the night?”

“Yes,” Alex said, balancing her phone between her cheek and her shoulder as she spread out blankets on the floor of her apartment. They were due to move out officially the following day and she had wanted to spend one last night with her daughter in the apartment, in the place where it had been just the two of them for so long; so they had decided on a campout in their living room, complete with any Disney movie Emma wanted to watch. “The Pizza is on its way and Mona gave me the ice cream you sent over with her for us,” she continued with a smile, loving the thought he put into the little things for her.

“She did?” Harry chuckled through the phone. “And who says it was from me?”

“Are you telling me that there is someone else in my life that would fly over Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream from the states for me and Emma?”

“Ha! You do realize that you could literally place one call to my office and yes, someone would do exactly that?”

Alex laughed and shook her head. “That’s insane, Harry.”

“It’s just how our world works, baby.” He grinned, picturing the look on her face.

“Yeah yeah,” she smirked. “Okay, I need to finish setting up and then Emma and I are going to start. Do you want to talk to her?”

“Of course!”

“Alright,” Alex giggled. “I’ll hand the phone over. I love you, Harry.”

“I love you too, baby,” Harry answered and then Alex pulled the phone from her ear with a big smile and held it out for Emma.

“It’s…it’s your dad, Em.”

Emma dropped the pillow she had in her hand and rushed over to Alex, her smile about a foot wide as she took the phone from her mum. “Hi Daddy!”

Alex couldn’t help the way her heart beat fast when Emma said those words, at how easy they seem to flow from her mouth. After she had asked Harry if she could call him daddy and after they had told Emma that he wanted to adopt her, she had moved into calling him her dad as if it were second nature.

A knock at the door jolted Alex from watching Emma talk to Harry and she left her daughter chatting animatedly on the phone and went to answer it. She looked through the peephole and then flipped the locks, smiling at one of her POs as they stood there with the pizza.

“Now Patrick, how badly did you scare the delivery guy?” she teased as he held out the pizza box for her. It was extra-large and topped with extra cheese and pepperoni; they fully intended to pig out.

“Not too badly, ma’am,” he answered with a slight smile. “I think the generous tip you instructed me to give him took any fear away.”

“I thought it might,” Alex laughed. “Thank you. I’ll let you and Mona know when we are turning in for the night.” As they weren’t on palace grounds, one of the POs would have to be in the apartment with them while they were sleeping and one would keep watch at the door. It was a strange arrangement, but Alex understood it.

“Excellent,” Patrick nodded, and then pulled the door closed behind him.

Balancing the pizza box in one arm, Alex flipped the locks on the door and then made her way back into the living room, finding Emma just hanging up the phone with Harry.

“Did you have a good talk?” Alex asked, moving to put the pizza box on the coffee table.

“Yes!” Emma giggled. “He’s so funny. And he said that on Sunday while you’re at lunch with Granny we can start painting my new room!”

“Did he now?” Alex grinned. “Well that sounds fun. What color are you going to paint it?”

“Pink! Duh Mum!”

“Oh of course,” Alex laughed as she plucked two paper plates from the table and passed one to Emma. “How silly of me. I should have known better.”

“You really should,” Emma nodded seriously and it made both of them giggle as they each pulled a slice of pizza onto their plate. Alex handed Emma a napkin and then they both settled into the giant pallet of blankets and pillows they had made on the floor. All of the furniture had been wrapped up to protect it when the movers came and pushed to the side, so the entire floor area was theirs for the evening.

“So what movie did you pick, Em?” Alex asked as she picked up the remote and pressed play for the DVD player.

“The Little Mermaid,” Emma said around a mouthful of pizza, the stringy cheese hanging adorably from her mouth.

“Ah. Always a favorite,” Alex nodded and then took a bite of her own slice.

“It’s the first movie we watched with Daddy,” Emma answered, very matter of fact.

Alex’s lips pulled into a wide smile and she turned her gaze to Emma. “That was my very first date with him.”

“I know, Mummy,” Emma’s little blonde head bobbed and she reached for her can of soda. “Now shhhh. The movie is starting!”

“Sorry,” Alex laughed and Emma giggled and together they settled in for one of their favorite movies.


Three hours, two Disney movies, and way too much pizza and ice cream later, the night was winding down. Emma was coming down from her soda and ice cream induced high and Alex couldn’t deny that her eyes were heavy as well. It had been a long week, one of the biggest weeks of their lives, and she was looking forward to snuggling up in the mountain of pillows and blankets with her daughter for their last night in the apartment.

Alex had put the rest of the pizza away – they would undoubtedly have it for breakfast the next morning. She had brought their ice cream dishes into the kitchen and washed them and put them out to dry so they would be ready to pack up the next morning and put in a box with the rest of the dishes. She had let the PO officers know that they were settling in for the night and they had taken their places. And now she was snuggling up next to Emma in the dark, quiet living room, and it really was like they were two teenagers at a slumber party; telling little stories and jokes and giggling at each other.

Alex would never be able to explain just how much she cherished these moments.

“Hey Em,” she said softly after they finished another fit of giggles. She reached out from under her blanket and tucked a piece of blonde hair behind her daughter’s ear. “I have a question for you.”

“Okay,” Emma nodded and smiled up at her mum.

“When Harry and I get married, I want you to be in the wedding…”

“Really?” Emma’s eyes flew wide and her grin got so big Alex genuinely thought her daughter’s face might split into two. “I was hoping I would be!”

“Of course you will be,” Alex laughed. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know your role would traditionally be flower girl, but I was hoping you might want to do something else.”

“Like what? Would I still get to wear a dress and pretty shoes?”

“Yes, silly goose! And you’ll have an even bigger part in the wedding, the most important part for me.”

“Okay Mummy are you going to tell me what it is or not? Because this is torture!” Emma sighed dramatically.

“I want you to be my Maid of Honor, Emma Rose. Will you do that for me?”

Emma blinked and then she climbed out from under her blanket and wrapped her arms around Alex’s neck, hugging her tightly and making Alex tear up. “I love you, Mummy,” she whispered into Alex’s hair and Alex had to swallow at the lump of emotion in her throat. “I’ll be your Maid of Honor.”

“Thank you, Emma. I’m so glad,” Alex whispered, squeezing her daughter tighter for a moment. “I love you too, baby. And you’ll make a wonderful Maid of Honor.”

They stayed just like that for a few moments, hugging each other tightly and eventually Alex just pulled her own blanket up around them both, not passing up a single opportunity to cuddle up with her daughter.

Emma turned to her side and away from Alex and Alex wrapped an arm around her, her eyes getting heavy and starting to close almost instantly. Emma was always such a comfort to her and it seemed to be exactly what she needed right then.

They settled and quieted and Alex was just seconds away from sleep, when suddenly Emma stirred and her voice broke the silence in the room.



“Umm…what does a Maid of Honor do?”

And Alex couldn’t help but dissolve into a fit of giggles.


Harry clapped his hands together as he pushed open the door to the apartment, the sound seeming to echo off of the now empty walls. “Alex! Baby…the truck is closed up and the movers are ready to go,” he called as he moved from the entry to find her. “It’s time to…” He trailed off when he found her. She was sitting cross legged in the middle of the hallway that ran between Emma’s bedroom and hers and when her eyes swung to him, they were filled with tears. He immediately knelt down beside her, brushed a piece of hair from her face and then in a soft voice he asked, “Hey…are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she smiled, making an effort to blink back the tears, to breathe through it as Harry moved to sit beside her on the floor.

“Now, I’m not sure I believe that,” he smiled, although she could see the hint of worry in his eyes. He reached for one of her hands and pulled it into his lap and other hand moved to her face and he brushed a tear from her face with his thumb. “Why are you crying, Alex?”

Her eyes held his for a moment, a moment where she couldn’t believe just how much she loved him, and then finally she took a deep breath, her eyes swept around the empty hall, and then they turned back to him. “It’s just…this was my home…for a long time,” she began, the emotion clear in her voice. “This is where John and I spent our short time together. This is where I found out about Emma. This is where I brought Emma home to…where so many memories of her are…”


“This is where we had our first date,” she continued with a soft smile, a few more tears sliding down her cheeks as she kept pulling the memories up. Harry’s lips turned up with hers and he pulled her hand to his lips, kissing her palm as she turned to fully face him. “This is where we had our first tea party with Emma, this is where we first made love, where we fell in love, where you proposed…and I just…”

“Do you want to keep it?”

“What?” Alex couldn’t help the surprised laugh the pushed from her lips.

He nodded, his eyes serious. “We can keep it, Alex. I don’t know what we would do with it. If you just…wanted to hold on to it…”

“Harry…” she shook her head and giggled, wiping at the last of her tears. “You hold on to pictures, to mementos. You don’t hang on to entire apartments.”

“Ha!” Harry laughed and then looked at her, biting his lip slightly. “I mean. You’ve met my family right? We do hang on to entire apartments. We hang on to entire estates.”

She looked around again. She took it all in; she imprinted every single dent in the wall and scratch in the floor in her memory again. She catalogued everything that had happened there; how much her life had changed over the years in this one, single, solitary space.

And then turned her gaze back to Harry, smiled wide, and took a deep, steadying breath. “No. I don’t want to hang on to it. I just wanted to pay my respects to all that happened here.” She stood up then and looked down on where he still sat, smiling up at her, his handsome face full of love. She squeezed his hand where it still held hers. “And now I want to go home. Take us home, Harry.”