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Chapter 29

“Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”
~Bob Goff


James

As much as I prayed he would, Will failed to recognize Annalise might have feelings for him.

In fact, he missed it by a long shot.

To be honest, neither Anna nor I believed Lorraine would last long. Will had a tendency to get bored with girlfriends. That I knew based on his history, and that I told Anna.

But to my complete surprise and utter dismay, Lorraine stuck around. Will’s parents met her first, which I found odd considering most people met their significant other’s friends before the parents. However, I reminded myself Will was the future King of Verona, and his parents’ opinions mattered more than mine and Annalise’s. Being such good friends with Will made me sometimes forget precisely who he was.

Will introduced Lorraine to the Griffiths next. A maid who overheard Patty and Walt talking told me they didn’t like Lorraine as much as they’d let on to Will. Seeing him genuinely happy with her, the Griffiths didn’t want to ruin his relationship with her.

Then came my turn about three months into the relationship. I wasn’t sure what I’d been expecting when I met Lorraine, because I hadn’t even seen pictures of her, weirdly enough. She kept out of the spotlight as much as possible. Hell, the world didn’t even know Will was dating her.

I was surprised to find Lorraine as a short, fiery redhead. I guess I figured Will would’ve gone for a blonde, someone who reminded him of Annalise, whether he did so consciously or not.

Lorraine was all smiles, and her brown eyes were full of liveliness. I liked her, even if I didn’t want to. I wanted what was best for Will, and if that was a five-foot-three girl from Hellena, then so be it.

Six months passed after I met with Lorraine, and to my bewilderment, I discovered Annalise still hadn’t met her. Nine months, and Will somehow managed to avoid having the two girls meet. If it’d been a couple months after they started dating, I would’ve thought it was merely a coincidence the girls hadn’t met. But nine months? That was definitely done on purpose, but I couldn’t understand why, and neither could Annalise.

“I keep asking Will to meet her, and he always says soon but never follows through. It’s bizarre,” Annalise said, munching angrily on her sandwich. We sat in her kitchen, eating dinner, and discussing the strangeness of the situation. “I want to meet this girl.”

“Lorraine seems nice enough,” I remarked. “Patty and Walt don’t like her much, but they say she makes Will happy, so they keep quiet.”

“They don’t like her, you do, the King does, the Queen doesn’t-”

“The Queen doesn’t?”

Annalise shook her head. “She came looking for Will a few weeks ago, and I told her he was with Lorraine. Trust me, the look on her face was enough to tell me Lorraine is not her favorite person. I think the King is just happy Will’s not dating me.”

“Then the King’s an idiot, then,” Mia said.

“He’s probably the only one who doesn’t like you,” I agreed. “As bad as this will sound, I think when Will and Lorraine make their relationship public, there’s going to be so much outrage from your supporters, they’re going to run her off.”

“Oh, God, I hope not,” Annalise replied. “I don’t want Will going through that.”

“And Lorraine?”

“I don’t know her, so I can’t make a decision on her.” Annalise braced her chin on her hand. “I’m frustrated. Will’s always told me everything. Why hasn’t he let me meet her? Or at least told me more about her? I feel like I know nothing other than what you and the Griffiths tell me.”

“You know if you ask, he’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

“Yeah, but should I even have to? I mean, if I was dating someone I really, really liked, I’d be telling you all about them without anyone asking.”

“The only thing I can think of is that he’s worried you won’t approve of her, and he’s waiting until the last minute to introduce you. Otherwise, I’m at a loss.”

“I have another theory,” Mia declared. Anna and I both looked at her expectantly. Mia pointed at her sister with a fry as she said, “He still likes you, and I bet he’s worried Lorraine will see right through him when he’s around you.”

Annalise shook her head. “That’s absurd. Will doesn’t still like me after all this time.”

“You’re an idiot if you don’t believe me. Mark my words, Will still likes you.”

“We’re going to go around in circles with this argument if I respond.” Annalise stood up. “I need to check my phone. I haven’t seen it in ages. I’ll be back.”

Mia waited for her sister to leave the room before saying, “Do you think I’m right? Do you think Will still likes her?”

“It’s hard to tell. Will doesn’t tell me much about his love life anymore. Not for the last few years. But, I’ll agree that your reasoning does make sense.”

“All Annalise would have to do is tell Will she wants to date him, and he’d dump Lorraine in a heartbeat.”

“Anna would never do that.”

“No, but I can always dream. One of us has to have a love life at some point.” Mia waved the fry around as she talked. “You’d think one of us would have one by now, but no. I like a guy too old for me, and Annalise refuses to admit her feelings for Will to anyone, even to herself. We’re seriously shit at love.”

I nearly choked on my drink, not having expected Mia to swear, considering I’d never heard her do so before in the three years I’d known her. Mia laughed at my reaction and asked, “You okay there?′

“I’m not sure what shocked me more. The fact you just swore, or the fact Annalise has feelings for Will,” I said. “Really glad I didn’t spew my drink everywhere.”

“Surely, you knew about the latter?”

“I wondered, but I didn’t know for sure.”

“It’s obvious to me because I’m her sister, and I swear, I know her better than she does herself sometimes. I-” Mia shut her mouth as Annalise returned, appearing annoyed.

“I left my phone in the palace. I have to go back and get it,” Anna said. “James, you’re welcome to stay here and hang out with Mia, or you can come with me.”

“I don’t want you walking by yourself, so I’ll go with you. If you two are up to it, I can come back and make dessert?”

“Like you even have to ask,” Mia said. “I’ll take care of the dishes. You get going. And be careful.”

Anna and I left, catching a cab to Windsor Palace, neither of us in the mood to walk much after our big dinner. It didn’t take long to clear security and get inside the palace. Luckily, Annalise knew precisely where she left her phone, so we made a beeline for her office. As much as we loved Will, we didn’t necessarily want to be in the palace during our off time. We spent enough time here.

“Thank God it’s here,” she said, shoving it in her jean pockets. “Let’s-”

Annalise’s sentence was cut short by her running smackdab into Will and-

“Lorraine,” I said, stunned to see her. “Nice to see you again.”

“You too, James!” she chirped, although she barely paid me any mind. Her attention was solely on my friend. “You must be Annalise. Will has told me so much about you, it’s like I know you already! I’m Lorraine O’Connell.”

“I wish I could say the same,” Annalise said, giving the outgoing redhead a friendly smile. I noticed it didn’t quite spread all the way across her face. “Will’s been very secretive about you. I’ve been begging him to meet you.”

“Weird. Will talks about you all the time. He’s always saying how lucky he is to have you as a friend.”

“He’s not the only lucky one. I am too.”

Will appeared to gather his wits about him finally, and he asked, “What are you two doing here? I thought you left hours ago.”

“I forgot my phone and swung by to pick it up. I didn’t mean to intrude on your date.”

“Oh, don’t be silly. It’s hardly intruding when we barged in on you and James.” Lorraine rested her head on Will’s shoulders. “You’re welcome to join us for our movie night. We’re watching a horror movie.”

“We would, but I promised Annalise I’d make some dessert. I’m trying out a new recipe,” I said, saving Anna from having to make an excuse. I could sense her unease in the situation.

“Another time then,” Lorraine said.

“Yes, another time,” Annalise agreed, although I sensed she didn’t mean it. After we bade the couple goodnight, I took Annalise’s hand and hastily escorted her out of the palace. She took a deep breath when we stepped outside and said, “That was so incredibly awkward.”

“Tell me about it. I don’t know if you or Lorraine noticed, but Will looked like a deer in headlights when he saw you.”

“Yeah, probably because he didn’t plan on me meeting Lorraine just now. Makes me wonder if he ever planned on introducing us.”

“Thoughts?”

“She’s nice.”

“Nice?”

“Yes.”

“You’re a terrible liar.”

“I’m not lying,” Anna said. “But I barely know her, so I don’t know what to make of her yet. That’s all.”

I nudged her gently with my elbow. “You understand you can tell me anything, right?”

“Yeah, and when I figure out what’s going on in my own head, I’ll tell you. For now, let’s get back to my apartment. I’m feeling the strong urge to eat my feelings away.”

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