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Chapter 32

"It is not the pain, it's who it came from."
~Drishti Bablani


Will

I woke up the next morning from a sleepless night, plagued by nightmares of how I’d treated Annie.

Deep down, I knew she couldn’t have done this, but I came to my senses too late and let Annalise walk out of my door and out of my life. Now, Annalise wouldn’t answer any of my phone calls or respond to any of my texts, no matter how much I tried…

All I wanted to do was go see her, get down on my knees and beg for forgiveness, but duty called. I had a press conference to address the rumors about my dad to the public.

I dreaded facing him more than the press conference. He wanted Annalise’s head for the situation. Mom managed to calm him down enough before he did something rash, but only barely. I’d tried helping her, but I couldn’t get my argument with Annalise out of my head. Even twenty-four hours later, it still repeated itself obnoxiously loud in my head. Specifically, her response to Lorraine about me being the future King.

God help us when that happens.

God help us when that happens.

God help us when that happens.

Maybe Annie said it knowing it’d hurt me, or perhaps she said it because it was true. Regardless, she voiced my worst fears, and every bit of confidence I’d scraped up in regards to my future as King shattered in an instant.

I deserved it.

My alarm blared again and telling myself I couldn’t get out of this, I rolled out of bed. I donned a grey suit and prepared to leave for the office when someone knocked on my door. I said they could come in, and Lorraine slid quietly into the room, giving me a soft smile.

“Hey, how are you doing this morning?” she asked.

“I feel like I got run over by a train. Repeatedly,” I confessed, slumping down onto the chair in front of my mirror. Lorraine took it upon herself to start styling my hair for the conference. I let her, knowing full well I would do a shit job in my current state.

Appearances weren’t all that important to me at the moment.

“Have you spoken to Annalise?” Lorraine asked, running her fingers through my hair.

“No, and considering she won’t answer any of my attempts to get in touch with her, I’m pretty positive she wants nothing to do with me.”

“She’ll come around. She can’t ignore at you forever.”

“You don’t give Annie enough credit. She’s one of the most stubborn people you’ll ever meet. If she wants nothing to do with me, then she’ll have nothing to do with me.”

“But you were her best friend! How could she do that to you?”

“I did turn my back on her and accuse her of leaking my father’s condition to the public.”

“That was in the heat of the moment. While I find it hard to believe someone could’ve framed her, it’s still possible she was set up.”

“When I find the person that did this to her, I’m going after them with the full extent of the law, and I want maximum punishment for what they’ve done. This isn’t just an attack on my family’s image; this is a personal attack on my dad and Annalise. They don’t deserve this.”

Lorraine fell silent, styling my hair. It was a few minutes before she said, “You loved her, didn’t you?”

“What?”

Lorraine’s hands dropped to my shoulders. “Annalise. You loved her.”

“Of course. She was my best friend.” It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the full truth either. I didn’t want to get into this with Lorraine right now. I also saw no point in bringing it up when it wouldn’t change anything.

“You know what I mean, William.”

I sighed, wishing I could disappear from this line of conversation, but I couldn’t. All I could do was be honest. “Yeah, I loved her. However, I realized she’d never love me back in the same way, so I accepted that and moved on. Then I met you, and I’m so happy I did.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. Now I need to go get ready for the announcement. I’ll see you later, my love.” Kissing Lorraine on the forehead, I went to my office, which had been transformed for the broadcast. A few select reporters were there to record it. They were all in the good graces of my family, and mom trusted them not to put any negative information toward Annalise in their reports. Or at least I hoped that would be the case…

Surprisingly, neither of my parents were there, but Patty and Walt were, pouring over a script. The moment Patty saw me, she rushed over and said, “Here, this is for you. It’s not the finest because I didn’t have much time, and I don’t have Annalise’s writing talents, but it’ll do.”

“This’ll be perfect. Thank you, Patty.”

“Fix this, and I’m not just talking about this fiasco with your dad’s health.”

“I know. I’m working on it,” I assured.

Taking a deep breath to calm my nerves, I read over Patty’s script. It was good, a hell of a lot better than anything I could pull off on such short notice.

“Your Highness, you’re on in five,” the director announced. I nodded, making my way to the desk chair. Placing the script in front of me, I prepared myself for what was to come. Patty and Walt stood to the side away from the hubbub, staring at something on Patty’s phone. When Lorraine came in, Patty hastily put her phone away, making me wonder what she was doing.

“All right, Your Highness,” the director began, “you’re on in three… two… one…”

“Good morning, Great Britain,” I said, perfectly poised. “Late yesterday morning, news about my father’s health was unlawfully leaked to the press. I’m here to answer the questions I know many of you are wondering. First, is it true?”

I paused, glancing down at the desk and pushing the knot down in my throat before continuing. “Unfortunately, my father does have Alzheimer’s. While we’re doing everything possible to ensure he stays as healthy as possible, we’re also aware the disease will take over one day. Therefore, we’ve been making the necessary preparations for when that day comes.”

I took another pause, another breath, before pressing on. “Another question you may be wondering is about Annalise Stark. The media reported it was she who told them about my father’s condition. I can confirm Annalise knew this secret because I told her. However, I also know many in the palace were aware of the secret. Anyone who knew it is under suspicion until proven otherwise. While I truly believe that Annalise couldn’t have done this, unfortunately, we must pursue every angle about who could’ve done this. We will find out who did this and punish them with the full extent of the law.”

I took one last look at the script. “Lastly, I mentioned earlier we were making preparations for the day that my father is unable to rule. We’re unsure of when that day will be. Alzheimer’s affects people differently. These plans could be put into motion next week, next year, or in the next decade. But one thing is for certain: they will be put into effect, which means I’ll be taking over as King… I know I haven’t been the best prince, nor has my behavior in the past represented this country in a positive light. I’ve made many mistakes, and I’d be lying if I said I won’t be making more. But I promise this: I will always try my hardest to make sure that whatever I do is for the good of this country. My country is my life. It is the people of Verona that make this country so great, and I’m honored to be your future leader.”

The speech was almost over. I was dying for a glass of water, but I needed to finish this. “We’ll try to keep the public informed of any updates in the investigation. That being said, if you have any information regarding who could have done this, please get in touch with your local law enforcement agency. They will relay the information to us, and we will follow all leads. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to me. Have a good day, Verona.”

The director gave me my cue that the camera had stopped rolling, and I high-tailed it out of that chair, relieved to be out of the spotlight. Making my way over to Patty, I said, “Thank you for writing this. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.”

“You seemed to do quite well, considering you didn’t follow half of it,” she remarked.

“What do you mean?” Lorraine asked.

“That part about Will believing Annalise is innocent. I didn’t write that.”

“It’s true, though,” I said. “I’m hoping that if Annie sees this interview, she’ll at least pick up the phone and give me a chance to apologize for my inexcusable behavior.”

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