It was finally here. Six a.m. on the morning of the royal wedding. And all Gwen could think was: Madness. This is madness. Heart-pounding madness.
Madness to be here, situated so perfectly in front of the church, yards away from where the prince and his fiancée would be getting married.
Madness to think she might actually prefer to be somewhere else, with someone else.
Madness to think Jack would come for her. Except that the last picture she’d taken of him in uniform, on duty and unable to speak, still gave her hope.
She was having a hard time keeping her mind on her job when her thoughts kept wandering back to that cupboard, to Jack’s mouth on hers . . . another moment of heart-pounding madness. Unfortunately, she was jolted out of that reverie by the uncomfortable sensation of something large and hard jamming against her.
Gwen huffed. Sure, this is what you had to do to stake out a decent spot. But still. “Is that your telephoto lens poking my ass or are you really excited about this wedding?” Gwen asked, shooting daggers at the lanky photographer wearing Canadian credentials who was trying to hone in on her space.
“Sorry, Gwen,” the Canadian said with a grin. He stepped back maybe a centimeter before cocking his head and shooting her a look of faux-sympathy. “Must be tough being short.”
She rolled her eyes. “Wouldn’t matter if everybody behaved.”
“I don’t care how well people behave as long as they shower,” he said. “You’re lucky I’m so civilized.”
“Ha ha,” she muttered, wincing a little as the Japanese fellow in front of her stepped back on her toe. He bowed a quick apology and then turned back toward the church, fiddling with his flash.
“I’m surprised you’re in such a shit mood this morning given the pictures you’ve already nailed this week,” said the guy on her left. Ah, her British pal.
“Maybe I just need that drink you promised,” she answered. Or maybe I just need Jack.
Gwen craned her neck. Her mind was focused on looking for the first wedding guests to arrive. Her heart was looking for the Queen’s Guard. No sense looking for a uniform, though. He’d be in civilian clothes, off duty. She sighed.
What if he’s here and can’t find me? What if he’s not here at all?
The jostling and bumping and shouting started in earnest. Gwen saw a couple of boring administrative church types head through the doors. She didn’t even raise her camera.
Her heartbeat raced. He’s never going to find me here.
“Hell, Gwen, if you’re just going to stand there, get out of the shot!” someone yelled from behind her. Tension swelled as activity in front of the church picked up. The weather was lovely—good for the wedding, not so good for the paparazzi. The sun was in everyone’s eyes.
“Over here, over here!”
“Get your sweaty armpit out of my face, will ya?”
“Do you want a punch in the face?”
It had begun. The photographers were ramping up, and nobody wearing a dress had even arrived. That’s when it would turn into a real mosh pit.
Gwen raised her camera and zoomed in. She halfheartedly started taking pictures, trying not to let the prick of tears in her eyes turn into something more. She wished it were raining so she could cry in earnest without anyone seeing her.
Someone put a hand on her shoulder. She steeled herself to turn and deliver a shove or a punch or whatever the situation might require. But in the next split second, she knew. Her body, her mind, her heart knew. The rest of the world might be going crazy, but when Gwen turned around to find Jack Churchill smiling down at her, everything made sense.
“Hi,” she breathed more than said.
Jack looked down at her with those warm brown eyes. “Hi.” He looked as good in civilian clothing as he did in uniform. He had a sweater on over a dress shirt, his jeans hugging his thighs.
“I didn’t know if—”
“You knew,” he whispered. “We both knew.”
Gwen barely had time to smile before his mouth came down on hers in a long, lingering kiss. Jack took her in his arms, his warm breath against her ear as he held her close. And then—damn it all to hell—his phone rang. He didn’t look too pissed off when he took the call, and it was over quickly. When he hung up, Jack tucked a strand of Gwen’s hair behind her ear.
“I’d like nothing more than to take you straight to the nearest cupboard to finish what we started,” he said. “But I’ve got a friend who needs help with an elaborate romantic plan. I could use your help, actually. Will you come with me?”
Gwen grinned. He came back for me, she thought. He...