Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Sixty

The holiday season could not have come at a better time for the Wales household. Coming off of the near devastation the man who pretended to be Alex’s husband inflicted, it was wonderful for them all to have the warmth and cheer that Christmas brings.

In the middle of December, right as London was lit up with lights and a heavy snow had blanketed the ground, Alex’s first official engagement as Harry’s fiancée took place when they attended a charity gala for one of his favorite charities, Walking With the Wounded.

“You look beautiful,” Harry said, reaching over to squeeze her hand in his as they sat in the car on the way to the Grosvenor House hotel for the gala.

“Thank you,” she smiled up at him sweetly as her fingers linked with his. “Though that’s about the tenth time you’ve told me that, and while I’m not complaining, why don’t you tell me what you really want to say?”

He couldn’t help but chuckle at how well she could read him. “Am I that obvious?”

“Yes,” she nodded, her lips curving into a soft smile.

He took a deep breath tugged her hand to his lips. “You seem a bit nervous,” he said, pressing a kiss to her hand and then tipping his head to the side.

“Of course I’m nervous,” she laughed lightly. “You’re so used to all of this…”

“The attention? The cameras?” His eyebrows rose. “So are you.”

“I’m used to paparazzi and keeping my mouth shut and just soldiering through it all until I get into private,” she corrected. “I’m not used to…actually being expected to smile and…” She laughed and shook her head. “To speak.”

“Alex…” he said, his face falling a bit at her words.

“No no,” she shook her head, her smile brightening as her fingers pulled at his. “That didn’t come out right. Sorry. It’s just…something different. But it’s something wonderful, because I’ll be there with you…officially.”

“Ah,” Harry nodded. “And you see, that’s why it’s different for me too, Alexandra. For the first time in my entire life, when I step out in front of those cameras, when I shake all of those hands, when I listen and talk to these people…the entire time I’m not alone. I’ve got you beside me, doing all of those things with me.”

Alex’s head tilted to the side and her lips pulled up at the corners. “Wow.”

“What?” he chuckled, amused at the look on her face.

“Do you remember when we were in the car right before we went public at Wimbledon?” she asked, her face growing a bit soft as she thought of it.

“Yes,” he drew the word out, wondering where she was going with it.

She smiled and squeezed his hand. “You were anxious about going in because it would be letting everyone in the world in on our relationship. After I talked you down, you told me I had this way of telling you to knock it the fuck off.”

“Ha!” Harry’s head tipped back with his laughter as he remembered. “Actually, love,” he said, turning sweet eyes back to her. “You said the knock it the fuck off bit.”

“Whatever,” Alex shrugged with a grin. “You knew what I meant. My point with that though is that you do the same thing for me, you know.”

“Yeah?” Harry looked a bit surprised before it inevitably gave way to smugness. “Well, don’t tell anyone that I can be sensible on occasion.”

“Aw, Harry…” Alex’s lips twisted. “You’re marrying me; everyone already knows how sensible you are.”

“Of course,” he chuckled and shook his head just as the car began to slow. He turned to glance out of the window and looked back to her. “Alright baby, we’re here. You okay? Ready to do this?”

“Absolutely,” she said, her smile pulling wide and bright, feeling much calmer knowing that he was excited about the two of them doing this together; that he would be right by her side all night.

And he was. He was right there with her all night. They worked as a team as they attended first a private welcome reception with the soldiers and other supporters of the charity before they moved on to the main gala benefit.

If Alex had been nervous, it had fallen away the moment she started to meet the men and women who had taken part in Walking With the Wounded expeditions, who’s stories were so incredibly inspiring. And Harry watched her with pride and a bit of wonder as she seemed to fall right into her element as she spoke with people at length.

Aside from the event that had brought them together so long ago, he had never really seen her work. Her work at HFTF had been incredibly private and of course he wasn’t privy to how she conducted herself when she was working with the men and women who came to her organization to help them recover from losing their loved ones in the line of duty. He had always known she had a special way about her, something that people opened up to, but to see it happen as she spoke to person after person was incredibly meaningful to him.

And when they settled back into the car later that evening, both tired but incredibly amped up from the evening, he felt as though a certain part of him had been completed, like a puzzle piece had been slipped quietly into place inside of him.

There was no doubt that he had found his partner in her, the person he would live with and work with for the rest of his life.


As had been the custom since Emma was a tiny baby, Alex’s parents made their way to London several days before Christmas. Unlike previous years however, this time they weren’t staying at a hotel, they were staying in Alex and Harry’s guest bedroom and Alex was absolutely thrilled to be able to do have them there; especially since this would be the last Christmas Day that she would spend solely with them.

Although Alex and Harry had considered arranging their Christmas plans as they had the previous year, with Alex and Emma coming up to Sandringham the day after Christmas to spend time with him and his family, ultimately a different plan was decided on.

Harry would leave for Sandringham on the 23rd, as he always did; while Alex and Emma would stay in London and spend time with her parents, Molly, and Matt and Charlotte. Then on the 27th, everyone – including Molly – would travel from London up to Highgrove where they were set to meet Charles and Camilla for the first time.

“We’re doing what?!” Donna asked when Harry and Alex broke the news of the plan to them, once they had arrived and were comfortably settled in from their trip.

Alex giggled as Harry moved to assure Donna that it was not something to be worried about. “We just wanted you to meet before the wedding,” he said, a reassuring smile on his handsome face. “Papa is very much looking forward to it, as is Camilla. And since Will, Kate, and Henry are going to spend Christmas at the Middleton’s this year, I believe they are going to join us at Highgrove as well.”

“Careful Harry,” Mike snickered. “You don’t want to give her a heart attack before she actually meets your family.”

“Hey!” Donna laughed, reaching out to smack her husband’s arm. “I can be nervous about this. We’re talking about the future King and Queen of England – actually, two future Kings and Queens.”

“Three,” Harry called out, bringing a snort of laughter from Ale.

“I’m sorry?” Donna’s forehead furrowed in confusion.

“Henry,” Harry grinned, his eyes dancing with mischief. “My nephew is also going to be King someday.”

Both Alex and Mike burst into laughed and Donna narrowed her eyes at Harry, well aware that he was intentionally giving her a hard time.

“Don’t be nervous, Mimi,” Emma chimed in; looking up Donna from the book she had her nose buried in while she snuggled next to her Poppy on the couch. “Henry is just a baby, Uncle Will is really funny, and Grandpa Charles is so very nice. He’ll like you. And he always has candy in his pockets.”

“Your granddaughter is absolutely right,” Alex smiled at Donna.

“Except for the part about Will being funny,” Harry said dryly, bringing another round of laughter from the group. “And Emma, don’t eat Papa’s pocket candy. I’m almost certain some of those pieces have been around since I was your age.”

Emma giggled and pulled a face just as a knock sounded out at the front door.

“That’ll be Matt and Charlotte,” Harry said, watching as Donna and Mike’s faces both lit up.

“Hello?” Matt called out into the house as he opened the front door and stepped in with Charlotte, having been given clearance by security to go on in per Harry’s instructions.

Donna appeared instantly from the living room into foyer, with Mike following right behind and they both moved to wrap Matt and Charlotte up in warm hugs. They had missed Matt quite a bit, not used to not having him around all the time and they were incredibly happy to see Charlotte and to dote on the mother of their newest grandchild-to-be.

“I’m sorry we weren’t here when you arrived,” Charlotte said with a smile as she pulled off her scarf and Matt helped her with her coat. They moved to step into the living room, greeting Harry, Alex, and Emma with hugs and kisses as well before they took a seat on one of the sofas. Mike and Donna settled back on the other with Emma while Harry slid into a comfy chair and Alex lowered herself to the floor at his feet. “We had an appointment we had to go to.”

“What kind of appointment?” Donna asked, before her eyes flashed wide. “Wait. Was it a baby appointment?”

Matt chuckled, having known his mother would react exactly like that. “Yes, Mom. It was a baby appointment.”

“You did?!” Alex broke in, just as surprised as her parents at the news.

Charlotte shook her head at Alex, amused as always at the way excitement rolled through this family she had somehow become a part of. “We did,” she nodded as she reached for her purse and pulled out a small, wrapped present. “And then we stopped to get this for you.” She smiled as she leaned across the low coffee table and handed the package to Donna. “Merry Christmas…Mimi and Poppy.”

“I hope you aren’t handing her than thinking she’s going to wait until Christmas to open it,” Mike joked. “Especially if it has to do with the baby.”

“She can open it now,” Matt laughed. “Or you can…it doesn’t matter. It’s for both of you.”

“What is it?” Emma asked, intrigued as she leaned over Mike’s lap to see.

“I don’t know, Em,” Donna winked at her granddaughter. “Why don’t we open it and see?”

“Okay!” Emma nodded in excitement.

Donna peeled open the paper, a big smile lit up her face, and tears moved to her eyes. “What is it with my children trying to take me down today?” She sniffed at her tears as she peeled the paper all the way off and revealed a framed copy of Matt and Charlotte’s first ultrasound picture. She turned to Mike, her smile a mile wide as she handed it to him. “It’s our new grandbaby’s first photo.”

“Well, would you look at that,” Mike said softly, his fingers gentle as he took the frame from his wife.

And Alex couldn’t help herself; just as Donna stood from the couch to go hug Charlotte and Matt, she moved from her own spot on the floor to the couch where Mike still sat and she slid in next to him so she could look at the picture.

“Aww,” she sighed, her fingers reaching out to touch the frame. Her eyes rose to Matt and Charlotte as Harry moved to stand behind her so he could take a look as well. “So everything is good with Baby Emerson?”

“Everything is perfect,” Charlotte nodded, her lips pulling into a grin as she glanced to Matt and they exchanged an adoring look. “Our little one is coming along perfectly.”

“Okay, I don’t get it,” Emma said, her little brow furrowing in confusion at the picture. “I don’t see a baby. All I see is…blurry stuff.”

Alex couldn’t help the chuckle that fell from her lips as she leaned forward and pointed at the picture. “Do you see that tiny little spot right there?”

Emma squinted. “That?” she pointed to the tiny little black dot in the picture.

“Yep,” Alex nodded. “That’s the baby.”

“Are you sure Mummy? That doesn’t look like a baby.”

“It absolutely is,” Alex giggled along with the laughter that moved through the room. “I have a picture of you when you were this small too.”

Emma sighed and sat back with a shake of her little blonde head. “Well, I’m just going to have to see that to believe it.”


“I can’t believe you are having your first fitting for your wedding dress in your living room,” Molly shook her head in amazement at Alex as they pushed furniture aside in Alex’s living room in anticipation of Alex’s designer.

Alex laughed as she stood up and looked around, satisfied that the area was clear enough. “Well, I can’t go to them. It will get out instantly and they'll get mobbed. Plus, since it’s only three days until Christmas no one really expects me to be meeting with a dress designer right now, so the gates won’t be watched as much. As we get closer to the day it’ll get more cloak and dagger.”

“So tell me the truth, Alex,” Donna called out as she walked into the room holding a tray of snacks while Charlotte moved in right behind her with refreshments. “How many designers were begging to be the lucky one?”

Alex’s eyes widened as she remembered the slew of calls, lookbooks, and samples that had been sent her way. “It was…overwhelming. That was Mia’s first week with me too; when we had to wade through it all and narrow it down. Poor thing – having to deal with all of that while trying to learn how my life works now. But she did amazing.”

“She really did,” Charlotte agreed. She had been working with Mia, training her on certain things. She was smart, responsible, loyal, and she knew Alex incredibly well. Just like Charlotte had been and still was an asset to Harry, Mia would be a great asset to Alex. “At first I thought she might be shy or timid, but she really isn’t at all.”

Alex snorted. “You thought I was shy and timid at first too.”

“No,” Charlotte corrected, holding up her pointer finger. “I thought you were sweet; which you are.”

“So are you going to tell us or are you going to wait for them to show up and let us guess who they are?” Donna called out, bringing the conversation back around to the designer Alex chose.

Alex took a deep breath, her eyes travelling around the room to three of the women she loved most in the world. “I’ll tell you, of course. But, I have to say this first…” She smiled and pressed her hands together as she looked to all of them. “I trust all of you implicitly. None of you has ever breathed a single word about me to anyone and I know that seems trivial because it’s just a dress, but seriously, you can’t tell anyone. You can’t tell them you were present for a fitting, you can’t tell them you know who the designer is, you have to just…not talk about it at all if people ask. No one but you three, Emma, and Mia will know who it is. Not Harry, not Dad, not Matt…just you.”

“Oh we would never,” Molly said firmly, holding up her hand. “I swear.”

“I know,” Alex nodded, letting out a breath and relaxing a bit after saying her piece. As much as she knew they would never talk, she also knew that she had to say it, to relay how important it was that it would remain between them. “That’s why you’re all here. You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know that.

“Alright then,” Charlotte said, raising her eyebrows. “Out with it. Who’d you choose?”

Alex’s took a deep breath and then her smile pulled wide. “Stewart Parvin.”

“Yes!” Charlotte immediately called out, throwing her hands in the air and making Alex laugh.

“Excellent choice, darling,” Molly added with a bright, proud smile.

Alex grinned and then turned towards Donna, who shrugged her shoulders with a slightly sheepish look. “I honestly don’t know who that is, but judging by Molly and Charlotte’s reactions I’m thinking that he’s a good designer.”

“He is,” Alex nodded with a laugh. “He’s a favorite of Harry’s granny and he also designed his cousin Zara’s dress.”

“And he has a Royal Warrant,” Charlotte added, very matter-of-fact.

“I have no idea what that is either, but it sounds official,” Donna quipped, bringing giggles from the other ladies. “Anyway, when will he be here?”

Alex glanced at her watch. “He’s coming with his assistant and they’ll be here in about fifteen minutes or so.”

“Well, I suppose I should go get my sleeping granddaughter up,” Donna said, clapping her hands together as she turned from the room and headed towards the stairs to go get Emma, who had been so worn out from the flurry of activities since her Mimi and Poppy arrived that she had voluntarily went to her room for a nap in the middle of the day. Alex was almost sure that was the first time that had ever happened.

“I’m going to go use the loo again,” Charlotte announced, wrinkling her nose. “I swear I thought the need to pee all the time wasn’t until later in pregnancy.”

“Everyone is different,” Alex giggled as Charlotte made a face at her and then moved off towards the downstairs bathroom. Then she turned and flopped onto one of the couches pushed against the wall, taking a moment of rest before all the craziness began again.

“Alex?” Molly’s voice was quiet as she slid in next to her on the couch.

Alex turned towards her with a smile. “Hmm?”

“I just wanted to thank you,” Molly said softly, her eyes growing a bit moist. “For including me today.”

Alex blinked, a bit surprised. “Why wouldn’t I include you? You’re…”

“I know, I know,” Molly laughed softly as she reached up to smudge at her damp eyes. “I’m Emma’s granny and we’ve always remained close…”

“Molly,” Alex interrupted, sitting up a bit straighter with a smile on her lips. “You know you’re more than just Emma’s granny or John’s mother. You’re my mother too.” She reached over and squeezed Molly’s hand with hers. “I love you, Molly, and I wouldn’t dream of leaving you out of any of this; not after everything you meant to me. You’ll be as much a part of this as my mom and dad; Harry and I will make sure.”

“I got lucky when my son married you,” Molly said, standing and moving to one of the pushed aside end tables for a tissue.

Alex blinked at her own tears, but a wide, happy smile moved across her face. “I did too. Incredibly lucky.”


The dress fitting was a flurry of activity and fabric and lots of laughter. Stewart had brought sample pieces and they started off by mixing and matching different styles and materials to get a general idea of what Alex wanted for her dress.

Once they had some good ideas formulated they moved on to talking about Charlotte and Emma’s dresses, which Stewart would be designing as well. He was delighted in how much input Alex let Emma have in what she wanted her dress to look like and was very easygoing about working on something with Charlotte that would easily adapt to however large her baby bump was in May, while still creating something to her taste.

All in all, Alex was incredibly happy with how it went and excited to keep working with Stewart and his team.

But more than anything, she was so grateful that her mother and Molly had both been able to be there for the meeting. Having them there to offer their input and advice meant the world to her, as it did to them as well.


“Okay, I’m exhausted,” Alex said with a quiet laugh as she dropped onto the couch in their living room. It had been a long day with the dress fittings and all of the craziness that usually came with her family being in town. She sighed as she relaxed into the soft cushions and kicked her shoes off. Emma was tucked into bed, her parents had retired for the evening, and now it was just her and Harry for the remainder of the evening.

Harry chuckled as he moved through the room, turning off all of the lights except for the Christmas lights, casting a warm, soft glow throughout the room. Then he moved to her, sliding in next to her on the couch and wrapping an arm around her, pulling her into her side. “It was a long day, huh?”

“Mhmm,” she nodded, closing her eyes as she tucked her legs under her and snuggled into his side. “But it was a fun day.”

He smiled to himself, glad she had enjoyed her time with her mother, Emma, Charlotte, and Molly. He leaned his head to the side and rested it on top of hers, both of them quiet as they enjoyed the peace and the soft glow of the room Alex had so meticulously decorated.

“Can I talk to you about something?” he finally spoke, his voice soft, not wanting to disturb the feeling in the room.

“Is it about how I don’t have a glass of wine in my hand right now? Because I’d like to talk about that too…”

He chuckled and pressed a kiss to the side of her head, loving her humor. “If you let me talk to you about this I’ll get you all the wine you want.”

She giggled as she sat up and looked at him. “Okay, Wales. I’m listening.”

He shifted a bit, turning so that he could face her. “With everything that’s happening; the wedding, adopting Emma, I’ve been thinking about my career quite a bit…with whether or not I should continue to fly the Apache.”

“Oh wow…” Alex’s eyes flashed wide. “But Harry, you love flying the Apache.”

“I do,” he nodded, his lips pulling into a smile. “I do love it. But, I love you and Emma more.”


“Alex,” he interrupted, his voice growing serious and pulling all of her attention snapping to him. “I have to consider the very real possibility that if I keep flying the Apache, I could get deployed again.”

She sucked in a breath at his words and her lip pulled between her teeth. “I know…I’ve known that was a possibility, Harry. We’ve done it once. We could…”

“I have a family now, Alex,” he cut her off with a shake of his head. “I have two people here that my entire world revolves around, that I would anything to protect. How can I justify knowingly putting myself into harm’s way and leaving you two potentially alone without me?”

Alex blinked several times and swallowed hard, a bit stunned. She would have never expected this from Harry, not with the way he loved his job. “So you’re just going to…quit the Army?”

“No,” he smiled as he reached for her hand, pulling it over to his lap. “I’d be moving into a position here in London. It’s more of a desk job…”

“A desk job?” she asked, her eyes narrowing a bit. “You know you wouldn’t be happy in a desk job.”

“Just listen,” he chuckled, pulling her hand to his lips and pressing a warm kiss to her fingertips. “It’s more of a desk job, but it puts me in London full time; no more days and nights away during the week on base.”

Alex couldn’t help the way her lips pulled into a slow smile. “Okay, well I can’t deny how much I like the sound of that.”

“Me too,” he nodded, his smile matching hers.

“Alright,” Alex took a deep breath, amazed to find that a tiny part of her relaxed a bit at the thought that Harry wouldn’t get deployed again. “So what would this new job entail?”

He smiled and Alex couldn’t help but notice the spark of excitement in his eyes. “I’ll be coordinating major events involving the military in London,” he said. “Like Trooping of the Colour for example.”

“Oh wow,” Alex grinned, instantly understanding why this job change appealed to him. It was broader and bigger and a huge challenge; basically something Harry would be dying to sink his teeth into. “I think you’d really enjoy that.”

“I do to,” he replied, his own smile pulling wider. “When it was brought to me, it just seemed to make sense, Alex. I can be in London full time with you and Em and I can try something new, something I think I could be really great at.”

“And you’re sure you’re okay with giving up the Apache?” she asked, her eyebrows lifting with the questions. She wanted to be sure that he was doing this for himself and not for her.

He smirked. “I honestly didn’t think I’d have this much trouble getting you on board with this, love.”

“Ha!” Alex laughed, her head tilting back before she pulled up and looked at him with bright, happy eyes. “I’m on board,” she said as she shifted, moving to his lap and settling her legs on either side of his. “I just want you to give up something you love for me.”

His arms moved around her, hugging her against him. “And I appreciate that; more than you know. But let me ask you this. Why did you quit HFTF, Alex?”

“Because I couldn’t work there and marry…ahh,” she laughed, pointing a finger at him. “I see what you did there.”

“You’ve given up so much, baby,” he said, leaning up to kiss her lips softly. “What makes you think that I wouldn’t do the same for you?”

“I love you, Henry Wales,” she whispered against his lips, knowing that he would absolutely do anything for her that he could.

“I love you too,” he replied with a grin as she wrapped her arms around his neck and settled around him.

“Mhhmm,” she smiled, her eyes moving over the handsome face she loved so much. “What time do you have to leave for Sandringham in the morning?”

“Early,” he offered with a soft smile. “The car will be here at seven.”

“Ugh,” Alex groaned and her shoulders slumped. “I know I shouldn’t be such a brat about this, but I hate that we can’t spend Christmas together.”

“You’re not being a brat,” he chuckled, his arms tightening around her. “I’m not thrilled about it either.”

She sighed as she looked down on him and her fingers moved to play in the soft hair at the base of his neck. “I know you do.”

His lips pulled up at the corners and leaned up to kiss her again. “But the good news is that this is our very last Christmas apart. This time next year…”

“We’ll be married,” she finished for him, everything about her brightening as she said the words.

“And you’ll be cursing yourself for marrying me when you’re changing clothes for the fourth time on Christmas Day.”

Alex giggled and shook her head, smiling against his lips as they met hers again. “Why on earth do you have to change clothes so many times?”

His hands moved up into her hair and he pulled her closer down to him. “Do you really want to talk about all the royal protocol for Christmas day, or would you prefer to…” His mouth found hers again, his tongue teasing out against her lips, asking to be let into her sweet mouth and then pushing in to find her tongue with his, running long, slow strokes against it.

“But Royal Protocol is so damn interesting,” she teased, her eyes dancing with her humor.

“Okay,” he laughed as he moved to stand and move towards the stairs and to their bedroom, keeping her wrapped up in his arms as he did. “Now you’re actually being a brat.”

Alex buried her face in his neck to muffle her laughter as he moved them up the stairs and past the rooms of her sleeping daughter and parents, her mood once again lifted by this happy, loving, incredibly sexy man who was about to spend a better part of the night making up for the days they would be apart.


“Alex…wake up baby…”

Alex’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of Harry’s voice and the feeling of him rubbing her back gently. She turned her head over her should and smiled sleepily when she saw him standing over her, dressed in a warm sweater, his hair still slightly wet from his shower. “Hey,” she murmured, her voice hoarse from sleep.

“I’m leaving now,” he whispered, his fingers reaching up to brush her hair from her face.

“Okay,” Alex replied with a soft smile as she turned over and moved to her knees on the bed so she could hug and kiss him goodbye.

“Oh, I’m going to miss you,” he groaned as he wrapped his arms around her and inhaled her scent.

“I’ll miss you more,” she mumbled against his neck, bringing a chuckle from him. His hands ran up over her shoulders and to her neck, cupping her face in his hands, pulling her back and meeting her eyes for a moment before his lips descended on hers, slow and warm and full of love.

“I have to go,” he finally said as he reluctantly lifted his mouth from hers. “I’ll see you in four days, love.”

“I hope you make it that long,” she teased, earning her one more kiss. “Make sure to stop and kiss Emma good-bye on your way out.”

“I wouldn’t dream of forgetting such a thing,” he said, his smile pulling wide.

And then, with one more kiss to her forehead, her nose, and finally her lips, he winked at her and stepped away. He moved out of the door, shut it softly, and Alex watched with a smile, knowing this would be the very last time they would ever have to do this; spend this holiday apart.

And with that thought, she snuggled back down into her covers, closed her eyes, and drifted back to sleep.