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Chapter 77

“Anybody can have a once-upon-a-time or a happily-ever-after, but it’s the journey between that makes the story worth telling.”
~Chris Coffer


Annalise

One year later…

“Do you, King Willam Ward, take Annalise Stark to be your lawfully wedded wife?” The priest asked.

Will’s sapphire eyes glittered with excitement. Sliding the ring on my finger, he said, “I do.”

“And do you, Annalise Stark, take King William Ward to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

Grinning, I slid the ring onto his finger. “I do.”

“Then, by the power vested in me, I am honored and thrilled to announce you as husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride!”

Will cupped my face and eagerly planted a kiss on my lips. I returned it with the same amount of fervor, unable to believe I married my best friend. I could barely discern the crowd’s cheers- both inside and outside of the church- because I was too wrapped up in the kiss.

We only broke apart when we both smiled, unable to contain our happiness. Will and I faced the standing crowd, lifting our intertwined hands up victoriously. If possible, the cheering got louder.

We walked down the aisle with Mia, James, Everly, and Mark behind us. The citizens outside greeted us with deafening roars of applause and approval. Flowers were tossed at us, and I caught a few of them, waving at the people as I walked by. My face ached from smiling, but it was impossible to remove it. I couldn’t remember a time I’d been happier than today. For once, my life seemed picture-perfect, a real-life fairytale.

The carriage-ride back took half an hour as we took a roundabout way of returning to the palace for the reception in order to give the citizens a glimpse of us. I wish I could’ve met them all, to thank them for their support of my relationship with Will and for being kind to me in the media, but it was physically not possible. However, I had my first speech as queen soon, so I planned on thanking them then.

Arriving at the palace, Will and I took a breather while everyone else went ahead of us. We plopped down on a couch, and I rested my feet in his lap.

“I feel like I’m in a crazy dream,” I said, leaning my head on the couch’s back.

Will smiled adoringly at me. “You’re telling me. I never thought I’d get married, let alone to the girl I’ve been in love with since I met her.”

“Do you remember our first conversation?” I asked, flashing back to the day that changed my life.

“How could I forget? You said you didn’t date-”

“It’s time!” Patty announced, sticking her head in the doorway.

Will and I stood up, and he said, “To be continued.”

We entered the reception area, where the next two hours were another whirlwind. Will and I shared our first dance, followed by me dancing with Mark in place of the father-daughter dance, and Will dancing with his mom. Then came the meal and the toasts. Mia and Mark made us laugh with their jokes, Everly and James made me cry with their sentiments; even Will became misty-eyed. Afterward, we piled onto the dancefloor, and for hours, we danced and jumped and talked and laughed.

It was only around midnight that I received my first reprieve. I sat in my chair up front, eating my fifth slice of cake and watching everyone before me. Walt and Patty danced slowly on the outskirts, sharing loving glances with each other. Mia and James were doing some routine that definitely did not belong to the song playing, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Mark and Everly sat at a table with Reid, who watched with an avid interest in the party around him. He also snacked on pieces of cake Mark secretly kept handing him. Reid would most certainly be on a sugar high later. Queen Lillian danced with Will with the most joyous expression on her face; the Stewarts and Wallaces were getting more cake. We had plenty of it for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths.

I leaned back, reminiscing of everything I went through to end up here, a place I never thought I’d be. A commoner not just in a royal wedding, but the bride in it. The idea never would’ve even crossed my wildest dreams. I never wanted to be anything more than a provider for Mia, so she could live the life she deserved. This wasn’t what I planned for my own life, but as complicated and challenging as it had been, it led me to something incredible.

“Hello, beautiful,” Will said, striding up to me with an impish grin. He leaned on the table in front of me. “Tell me, do you have a boyfriend?”

Setting my empty plate down, I leaned forward to meet his gaze. “No, and I’m not interested in one.”

“Not even me? I could give you everything in your wildest dreams,” he whispered, closing the gap between us so that our lips brushed against each other.

“Sorry,” I replied, “but I don’t date children.”

“Then why did you marry one?” He teased, tapping my wedding ring. Taking my hand, Will kissed the back of it. “May I?”

“You may.” I allowed Will to escort me away from our reception to a private balcony overlooking the courtyard. Here, there were no party guests, no paparazzi, just us underneath the stars with the distant sound of music.

“What are we doing out here?” I asked, leaning my back against the railing.

Will braced himself in front of me. “I feel like we’ve barely had a second alone since the start of the day.”

“I know. It’s weird. For a day that’s all about us, it’s spent with a lot of other people. Although the honeymoon is all for us.” I gave Will a peck on the lips. “Which, by the way, I’ve been meaning to ask, where exactly are we going?”

“Nope, it’s a surprise. I told you this,” he said, returning the peck. “And don’t even think about searching my office for the tickets because you won’t find them there.”

“You hid them with Patty, didn’t you?”

“Only because she’s the one person you can’t sweet-talk into giving you a hint.”

“I hate how well you know me sometimes.”

“You hid my Christmas presents with my mother for the same exact reason, so the feeling is mutual.”

Chuckling, I turned around and stared up at the stars. Will wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me on the cheek, saying, “I love you, Annie.”

“I love you, too. Will,” I replied, leaning my head onto his chest.

“As much as I’d love to spend the rest of the night out here with you, we should probably head back to our party before our absence is missed.”

I smiled. “On one condition.”

“Anything.”

“After the party, you take me to bed or lose me forever.”

“It’s a good thing that was already my plan.” Will spun me around and took my hand. “Ready, Queen Annalise?”

“I’m all yours, King William.”

Hand-in-hand, we walked back to our reception and our happily ever after.

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