"So, your first official engagement, huh?"
Emmy rolled her eyes at Taylor, shrugging off the feeling of dread that her words caused within her, as she took another chip in her mouth. "Don't remind me."
"Don't be like that, you'll be fine," Taylor said, smiling reassuringly. "What do you even have to do?"
"Um, I think it's just meeting people that have benefited from Coach Core."
"And what's that?"
Emmy smiled at Taylor's ignorant tone. "Well, it's an apprenticeship scheme that helps jobless young people through sport."
"That is such a textbook definition," Taylor teased.
"That's what they told me it is!"
"And you've learnt it word for word," she replied, grinning. "So what? You just turn up and meet people and leave?"
"Harry said there's going to be some basketball player there." Emmy shrugged. "And we have pictures taken and stuff. I don't know, apparently it's not too scary an engagement."
"Good," Taylor said. "It's a nice one for you to start off with."
"But I'm still nervous," Emmy added, grinning sheepishly.
Taylor groaned and rolled her eyes. "Why, Emmy? Did you not see how much people loved you at Christmas? Everyone's already looking forward to the wedding!"
"Did I tell you? We've got a date."
"For the wedding?!"
"No, to go shopping," she said sarcastically. "Yes, for the wedding."
"Ooh!" Taylor clapped her hands with excitement. "How exciting! I await my invitation."
"You're sure as hell getting one," Emmy laughed.
"And...is there any news on...maid of honour?"
She sighed, tucking her blond hair behind her ear and dropping her eyes to her food. "Not yet. I don't know how that's going to be."
Taylor's face fell. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know who they want me to have."
"Is it not your choice?"
"If it were-" Emmy said, then smiled shyly at her friend. "I'd choose you."
Taylor beamed. "I love you, Em."
"But I don't know if they want me to choose a member of my family, you know? I don't know if it's going to have to be Lucy."
She pouted. "Unfair! Lucy doesn't even care about you! No offence."
"None taken, I already knew that," Emmy said, then sat back and sighed. "I don't know how it is."
"You get no say? That sucks."
"I know," she said.
"Do you want another drink?" Taylor asked, getting to her feet to head out into the kitchen.
"No thanks, it's getting late, I'll have to be getting home," Emmy replied, checking her phone in her friend's absence. They'd spent the day shopping, looking for something decent for Emmy to wear to her "first official engagement", and then they'd returned to Chris and Taylor's apartment for food. Chris' sister Jenny lived there with them now but she, like her brother, was still at work.
"How are you and Harry doing?" Taylor called.
"Fine," Emmy said. "Coping."
"Not fucking each other yet?" Taylor was grinning as she re-entered the room.
Emmy rolled her eyes. "Nope."
"Do you even share the same bed?"
"Not when we're at home," she explained. "But at Christmas and New Year we had to."
"And what was that like?" Taylor giggled.
Emmy shrugged. "Fine. They were double beds so you barely noticed that you were sharing." No need to tell her friend about her getting drunk and trying to kiss him. "No big deal."
Taylor huffed. "Emmy, you shared a bed with one of the world's most eligible bachelors and you didn't fuck him?" She sounded more disappointed than surprised.
Emmy gestured to herself. "Virgin, I think you're forgetting."
"You'll have to lose it someday," Taylor said dismissively, rolling her eyes. "Why not lose it to the fourth-in-line to the throne?"
"Well, Tay, considering I'm going to be married to him for the foreseeable future, I probably will lose it to the fourth-in-line to the throne, don't you think?"
Taylor smirked. "When you do – you tell me everything."
Emmy rolled her eyes and ate her last chip, thinking of something else to talk about so she could change the uncomfortable subject of conversation.
The day was going so slow. Emmy did the housework, simply so she had something to do. It was remarkable how dusty the flat had gotten, but it still only distracted her for an hour, before she was back to sitting on the sofa once more, flicking through boring daytime television and the unsatisfying collection of films on Sky Movies, waiting for Harry to get home.
She was curled in a ball, staring glumly at the TV, trying to ignore the nerves raging within her, when Harry finally stepped through the front door. "Hey," he called out.
"Hello," she mumbled, sleepy after being laid on the sofa for the last however many hours. She pushed herself to her feet and hurried out into the hallway to greet him, relieved to not be alone and bored any more. "How was work?"
"Ugh, as ever," he said, then grinned. "I can't really wait to leave now. It's all become so office-based."
"Hmm." She watched him pull off his blazer and tie. "You'll be putting that back on in a minute."
"I know," he said, chuckling. "I'm just going to have a cup of tea before I start getting ready."
"I need to shower," she said. "What time are we leaving?"
"The car gets here at half five."
"At least you finished work early," she pointed out, smiling at him, recognising his fatigue from a day at his job. "And the reception is...what? An hour? Two?"
"About two hours," he said, nodding and yawning. "God, I could really do without it."
"How do you think I feel?" she said, trying to sound cheerful but instead alerting him to the nerves that had been festering within her all day.
"Try not to think about it," he said gently, throwing her a reassuring smile. "Honestly – it's going to be fine."
Emmy dragged in a huge breath, then nodded. "I'm trying to think like that."
"Good, be positive," he said, squeezing her shoulder in support as he moved past her to the kitchen. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," she exhaled. "I'm going to go get ready."
An hour later, Harry entered the bedroom to find her sat on the edge of the bed, her hair sleek and straight and pulled up into a simple but sweet half-up half-down do, sorting her make-up. He was wrapped in a towel, his hair still dripping from his shower.
"Your hair looks nice," he said, as he turned his back on her to dry himself. "Don't look."
"I won't," she murmured, as his blurred form in the corner of her eye dropped the towel and slipped into a pair of boxers.
"Okay, you can look now," he said. "I know that boxers don't make you uncomfortable."
"Actually, David Haye makes me very uncomfortable," she said matter-of-factly.
"Ha ha," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. Then his eyes went to her clothes hanging on the back of the wardrobe door. "These yours?"
"No, they're yours," she mocked.
"Enough with the sass," he teased, smirking at her before he began towelling his ginger hair dry. "So what did you do all day?"
"Nothing," she said. "Literally nothing. I cleaned the apartment, then I did nothing. Just waited for you to come home."
"Aw, I'm so touched," he taunted.
She rolled her eyes, returning her gaze to the mirror in front of her as she focused on her eyeliner. Harry sprayed his deodorant and pulled on his socks, using the slightest bit of gel to keep his hair in place, before moving to slip into his suit. Just as he did so, Emmy sighed.
"Do I look okay?"
He froze, paused, frowned. His eyes went to her leggings, to her baggy sweatshirt, and he raised an eyebrow, grinning cheekily. "Well I wouldn't wear that-"
"I don't mean that," she said, rolling her eyes as a smile tugged up the corners of her mouth. "I mean my hair and make-up."
"Yeah, it looks nice," he said. He didn't really know what else to say. What could be wrong with hair and make-up?
"Because I did it, you see," she explained nervously. "And I know Kate always gets a hairdresser but I just thought that I would straighten my hair but now I don't know-"
"Emmy," he said, his tone final. "It looks nice."
She smiled gratefully. "Thanks."
Harry buttoned up his shirt as Emmy started to dress. She pulled on a pair of sheer tights, then her blouse, then her midi skirt over that, before nibbling on her cheek as she examined her reflection.
"Pretty," Harry observed.
Emmy smiled as she blushed. "Thanks."
He himself was just tying his tie, already looking the part of the charming prince. He grinned at her. "Pa really made the right choice, didn't he?"
"What do you mean?" she asked curiously.
"Look at you. You're shy, you're sweet, you're beautiful, you're stylish." He smirked, but his eyes were hiding something, something that resembled sadness. "You're just like my mother. And everyone loved my mother."
Emmy looked away timidly, sceptical at his words. "I could never be anything like your mother. I'm too shy."
"You'll grow out of that," he said, then grinned. "You're still a little ickle girl."
She rolled her eyes and shoved him away. "Shut up!"
"You're so easy to annoy, it's great," he chortled.
"Hurry up," she said, changing the subject so that the jokes were no longer at her expense. "It's nearly half-past."
"You're like a snail," she taunted.
"And you're like a lion cub," he teased, smirking.
"A lion cub?" She arched an eyebrow.
"Yeah, but when you're drunk you're a full on lion."
Emmy huffed and turned away. "Shut up! Stop mentioning me getting drunk!"
"Oh, I have to tell your POs," he said.
He burst into laughter as she shoved him once more, her attempts weak and pitiful but endearing nonetheless. He stepped away, reaching for his blazer and pulling it over his arms and shoulders. "There, I'm ready."
She raised an eyebrow, dropping her gaze to his shoeless feet. "Really?"
"Fuck," he hissed, scrambling to pull his shoes on. Then he straightened up and smirked. "Now I'm ready."
Emmy couldn't help but giggle at him, and she shook her head as she turned away. "Do we have to walk downstairs?"
"Yeah, we should find Edward somewhere along the way." He reached for his phone, slipping it into his pocket, watching her gather her clutch bag. "Em?"
"Hmm?" She glanced at him.
His face was full of concern for her. She sighed, straightening up and forcing herself to nod. "I have to be, don't I?"
"You'll get used to this," he explained. "You'll get used to the nerves, trust me."
She didn't look convinced. "Are you nervous?"
"Of course," he said, reaching for her hands to give them a reassuring squeeze. "I'm petrified, Emmy. I always am. The thought of going into a room where I know no one, it just..." He paused, his fear engulfing him for a few moments, and his words caught in his throat. He swallowed, his eyes closed. "It scares me."
When he opened his eyes, her wide blue orbs were fixed on his face. "It's okay," she said, somewhat shyly. "You have me now. You're not on your own anymore."
Harry smiled; it really was a relief knowing that she'd be with him, that he'd have someone there to turn to, someone to concentrate on. He knew that he'd be worrying about her all evening, worrying that she was alright, worrying that she was coping, even worrying that she wasn't going to let something slip about their "situation". But he was still glad she was going to be there.
"Good luck hug?" he said, raising an eyebrow and spreading his arms wide.
Emmy smiled shyly as she moved into him, wrapping her arms round his chest and hugging him tightly. His hands snaked round her, held her to him, wanting to reassure her as much as he could, wanting to let her know that she wasn't alone for this. He kissed the top of her head.
"You'll be fine," he said. "We both will."
Emmy nodded, moving away so that they could begin to make their way down to their waiting car.
Edward walked a few steps ahead of Harry, leading him and Emmy down the corridor towards the hall where the reception was taking place, and with each step Emmy had to force herself to breath. The closer they got, the more nerve-wracking it became. Occasionally Harry glanced back at her, sparing her a reassuring smile or a playful scared face. Behind her, Rick, Jamie and her own PO Kev brought up the rear.
"Here we are," Edward said quietly, pushing open the door and gesturing inside. "Good luck, Harry."
Harry moved into the room, and instant flashes of cameras met Emmy, still in the corridor. As she moved to follow her fiance, Edward whispered, "Good lucky, Emmy," and winked.
She managed a smile, before she was momentarily blinded.
The first thing she was saw was the small group of photographers there, snapping pictures, evidently hired for the event. She cast her eyes over a group of people who were gathered on the far side of the room, the graduates and their families. Before she could look any further, someone's hand was at the small of her back.
It was Harry, of course. Gently ushering her forward to meet the man stood before them.
"Miss Farrington, ma'am," he said, bowing his head with respect as he shook her hand. "My name is David Jameson, I am in charge of Coach Core."
"Nice to meet you," she said shyly.
"It's an honour to have you here," David replied.
"It's an...honour to be here," she answered, not knowing what to say. "I've heard a lot about Coach Core."
Harry stepped in then, noticing she was struggling. "I've told Emmy all about why it was set up with The Royal Foundation and everything that it does. You were very impressed, weren't you?"
Emmy smiled and nodded, endlessly grateful for him and his many years of experience. "It's amazing. Inspiring."
David chuckled, his face shining with pride. "Thank you, Miss Farrington." Then he moved away, gesturing for them to follow, towards a tall black man. He must have been seven feet tall, and even Harry was dwarfed beside him, let alone Emmy. "This is Carmelo Anthony."
"Knicks star," Harry said, grinning widely and shaking his hand. "Pleasure to meet you."
"Honour to meet you, your royal highness," Carmelo said, in his American accent. "Honestly can't believe I'm here."
Harry chuckled. "I get that feeling a lot. Carmelo, this is my fiancee, Emmaline."
Emmy stepped forward, intimidated beyond words by such a large, strong-looking man. "Nice to meet you," she murmured.
"The pleasure is all mine," Carmelo said. "It's amazing to be here in London. Especially for such a great cause."
Harry and Carmelo then enveloped themselves in a discussion about how each had gotten involved in Coach Core and how each had heard about it, while Emmy stood beside Harry and listened, not entirely sure what to do. Was she supposed to join in? Was she supposed to go off and speak to other people on her own? That thought terrified her, and she swore to herself to stay next to Harry, to never leave his side.
After the introductory conversation, David led the three of them through to another room, where rows of seats were laid out, facing towards the stage, the backdrop of which was a white screen emblazoned with the words The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. There was a podium, and already in the seats were the families of the graduates. They turned to look at them, to see the royals and the world-famous basketball star, their eyes widening with awe and excitement. Emmy ducked her head, moving slightly closer to Harry.
It turned out that the three of them would present each award, and after a speech from David, they began. Emmy found herself stood on the stage, desperately trying to ignore her stage fright and the dozens of people gazing up at her. Beside her, Harry shot her a reassuring smile.
"You okay?" he whispered, as Carmelo was handed the first certificate he would have to award.
"No," she breathed, her eyes wide as they went to his.
"You can do this," he murmured back, discreetly slipping his hand into hers for a reassuring squeeze, before their digits broke apart once more.
One by one the graduates stepped onto the stage, receiving their certificate and handshakes with each of the guests of honour. Harry was, as ever, his cheeky and joking self, while Emmy shyly gave them a few encouraging and congratulatory words. She tried to think of different things to say to each young person, but they ended up being pretty much the same.
She just wasn't good at this. She couldn't think of funny things to say on the spot. She could barely think of anything to say at all, her brain focused on the amount of people watching her. She could barely remember to smile, although she was. And that smile was her saviour, for it would trick the cameras and everyone watching into thinking she was comfortable with the engagement, comfortable with the countless more times she'd have to do things like this.
Eventually, Carmelo led her to her seat in the audience while Harry stepped up to make his speech.
Emmy had no idea how he did it. His nerves didn't even notice, his composure didn't crack, his smile didn't waver – until necessary – and his charm didn't falter. Everyone listened, enthralled and captivated, and she could sense him working his magic, getting and capturing the attention of everyone in the room. She was impressed to say the least, and envious of his skill, of how natural he looked up there, glancing at his notes and speaking to the room and to the cameras, his eloquent tone never pausing, never stammering. As he finished talking, the crowd erupted into applause, and Emmy copied, knowing he deserved it.
"You're one lucky girl," Carmelo whispered to her, grinning.
Emmy actually laughed. "I know," she said without thinking. For that moment, she was insanely proud to be engaged to Harry. Even if it was only for show.
"Come on Arsenal!" Skippy shouted, getting to his feet to give his cry more impact. "Come on you fuckers!"
"Skip," Harry chuckled, shaking his head at his best friend. "What was that?"
"They're not winning," Skippy growled, scowling at the pitch.
"We're only five minutes into the game, twat," Harry replied.
Emmy was sat between them, hugging herself against the cold despite having dressed for the weather. She shivered in her thick coat. "When does it start getting interesting?"
Harry scoffed. "I thought you liked football?"
She shrugged. "I like interesting football."
"Arsenal is the best football team," he told her. "It'll get interesting in a minute."
"I thought Manchester United or Manchester City were the best?" she said innocently.
He glared, playfully saying, "How dare you say that?"
She giggled. "It's true. They won the league."
"Say that a little louder, Emmy," Skippy said. "Someone might just come and beat you up. Would that make it interesting for you?"
Again, Emmy smiled, amused. She took a Quaver from the bag and popped it into her mouth. "This is boring."
Skippy scowled at her. "This ticket was wasted on you. We could've invited Jake!" He was looking at Harry.
"I wanted Emmy to come," Harry said dismissively, his eyes on the pitch.
"Just so I could be the third wheel, huh?" he replied. "Thanks."
Harry grinned. "If Emmy and I are getting married, she has to learn to enjoy football."
"I told you, I don't mind it," she said. "But not this. Nothing's happening."
"Give it a chance," he said to her. "We're only five minutes in."
"Feels like I've been sitting here longer than five minutes," she mumbled, pulling her thighs up to her chest and resting her chin on her knees.
"I know, right?" Skippy said, then got to his feet once more. "Come on, Arsenal! You motherfu-"
"Skippy," Harry hissed, reaching over Emmy to grab his friend's shirt and tug him back into his seat. "You little shit! Do you want people to notice us?"
Skippy looked innocently at him. "I was just trying to make it interesting for your fiancee, Harry."
Harry glared, not missing his best friend's teasing tone and smirk. "That's so considerate of you, Skippy, I barely recognise you."
"Ooh, look!" Emmy said, pointing at the pitch, just before everyone in the stands around them erupted into a euphoric roar. "Goal!"
Harry and Skippy cheered too, celebrating with the rest of the Arsenal fans, and Emmy clapped her hands and laughed in delight. But once the crowd had settled, Harry and Skippy scowled at each other.
"You made me miss the goal!" Skippy said. "Hell, I probably caused that goal. The players heard me yelling at them and they thought 'huh, we better step this up a notch'-" He cut off at Harry's glare.
Emmy laughed lightly at them both, before turning to Harry to tease him. "You missed the goal, but I saw it."
"Shut up," he muttered, fighting a grin at her mocking as he turned away.
They watched the next few minutes of the game in silence, all three completely concentrated on what was happening on the pitch before them. The opposition had definitely been outraged by the goal, and that only spurred them on, leading to more attempts and a lot more pressure on Arsenal's goalkeeper. At one point, there were so many shots at the goal that Emmy watched through her fingers and Harry prayed with bated breath.
But Arsenal were good, and they continuously kicked the ball away, achieving another goal before the whistle blew, signalling half time.
"I need the loo," Emmy said, putting her feet back on the floor and stretching as, around them, people got to their feet to go get drinks. "Either of you coming?"
Both the men were fine, so Kev led Emmy away, through the crowd already swarming towards the exits, leaving Rick and Jamie behind to watch Harry's safety.
"So," Skippy said once she'd left, sitting back and stretching. "How's it going with you two?"
"We're good," Harry said. "Really good. Getting on well."
"Even with all the wedding talk?"
"Yeah," he said. "I think it makes it a little harder on us, both of us, though. The thought of it is...scary." He grinned sheepishly.
"Don't worry, Harry, I bet it is," Skippy replied. "Hell, I wouldn't get married in Westminster Abbey even if you paid me. Not with that many people watching."
"Don't remind me."
"But you're both okay?"
Harry rolled his eyes at his best friend's grin. "No. No feelings."
"You sure about that?" Skippy teased. "She's hella hot and you're probably hella horny."
"Fuck off, Skip," Harry said, fighting a grin at his mocking.
"I'm just saying, I know it's been quite a while since you got some."
"So, mate, you're only a man. There's only so much men can take."
He raised an eyebrow, sceptical. "I'm not having wet dreams about Emmy."
"What the hell, Skip?" Harry said, grinning. "Why are you so interested?"
"I'm not interested, Harry," Skippy replied honestly. "I'm just letting you know that I'm here for you if you need someone to talk to about it all. And I know Jake is as well. Guy...is pretty busy but I'm sure he'd be willing to listen."
"I'm fine, really Skippy," Harry said. "But thanks."
"Just here to help, mate."
"Actually," he said. "You might be able to help."
"Her birthday's coming up."
"Yeah, the 28th. And I have no idea what to get her."
"Give her a nice long night of loving," Skippy said, dragging out the last word and smirking, wiggling his eyebrows.
Harry scowled. "Let's be realistic here, Skip."
"Right. Sorry. What you thinking?"
"No idea," he said. "I got her a Pandora bracelet for Christmas and some charms, but I don't really want to get her another charm for her birthday. It's going to get boring."
"Well, jewellery is always a good idea."
"What kind though? I don't know shit about jewellery."
"I've never seen her wear a necklace."
"Maybe that's because she hasn't got one," Skippy teased, then grinned. "Earrings? Chicks love expensive earrings."
"Hmm," Harry said, biting his lip as he thought. "I could get her some earrings."
"Make sure they're expensive."
He rolled his eyes. "What type though? I don't know what she likes-"
"How about-" Skippy said. "You get her some earrings that match her engagement ring? That way she can wear them with anything, because they match, you know?"
"Huh," Harry mused, then grinned. "What do you know, Skip, you actually came up with a good idea."
Skippy smirked. "I'm not just a pretty face."
Emmy returned just before the second half began, bringing with her three bottles of water and a few packets of crisps. She sighed as she returned to her seat, and Harry grinned at her.
"Yeah," she said, smiling. "Football's actually fun. Although someone in the ladies toilets recognised me. I had to take a selfie with her."
He raised an eyebrow. "I hate selfies."
"That's because you're old and uncool," she said matter-of-factly, before taking a sip of her water.
"Hey," he said, pushing her gently so the bottle moved and water dribbled down her chin, splashing onto her coat.
"Harry!" she hissed, pouting.
He and Skippy chuckled. "Who's old and uncool now?" he teased.
She looked away, straight ahead at the players that were filing back onto the pitch, and Harry and Skippy shared a glance. Skippy made a circle with his thumb and index finger of one hand, then put his other index finger through the circle, wiggling his eyebrows. Harry scowled and looked away, fighting a grin at his best friend's stupidity.
"Sir." Rick had leant forward from his seat behind the prince to murmur in his ear. "Remember what Edward said? As convincing as possible."
Harry paused, then sighed, nodding. Emmy also heard, and she turned to him, smiling faintly.
Before the game, Edward had given them a quick 'pep talk', as he'd called it. He'd told them to take advantage of their time in public together to give the paparazzi a few PDA moments. And, as much as Harry wanted this day to be as normal as possible, he knew he had to obey his secretary.
His arm snaked along the back of Emmy's chair just as the game restarted, and Emmy moved slightly into him, their heads close. At one point, knowing it would make Edward so happy he'd probably have a heart attack, he kissed Emmy's temple.
"Oi," Skippy said at that moment. "Stop making me feel like a goosebury."
"You are a goosebury, if you haven't noticed," Emmy replied, laughing.
"At least you're not snogging each other's faces off, like Guy and Liz," he said. "Honestly, we went out for dinner the other night and I swear they ate each other's faces more than they ate their food."
Emmy's nose wrinkled, while Harry chuckled. "Bet you loved that," he teased.
"I just kind of sat there like "So what have you guys been up to"," Skippy said, making an awkward face, then shuddered. "One of the worst nights of my life."
"Worse than your night with Eva Williamson?"
Skippy's gaze turned dark, and horror filled his eyes. "Never. Mention her. Again. That was our deal!"
Harry chuckled, shrugging. "Just wanted to see if you still remembered."
"How could I ever forget that psycho?" Skippy hissed.
"Who's Eva Williamson?" Emmy asked, curious.
"Someone that you don't need to know about," he replied hastily, then glared at Harry. "Don't you dare tell her!"
"Aw, come on," Harry said, grinning. "How can I keep something from my fiancee?"
"I don't care how, just do it."
Arsenal, to Skippy's luck, scored then, and again the three of them accompanied the crowds and cheered, celebrating their inevitable win now that they were three-nil up. Before long, however, the game was over and Skippy, Harry and Emmy were ushered out a side exit, with the two men still singing victorious songs.
"Okay, I'll see you soon, Emmy," Skippy said, grinning at her. "Try and keep him under control."
Emmy laughed lightly. "I'll try."
"And Harry," Skippy said, looking at his best friend. "Good luck with...what we spoke about."
"Thanks," Harry said, nodding.
They watched Skippy walk away, heading for his car, before Rick led them to the Range Rovers. Harry took Emmy's hand – last chance at showing their "affection".
"Did you enjoy the game?" he asked her.
"I did," she said, smiling widely. "I'll have to come again."
"Even though you were bored," he teased.
"Even though I was bored," she agreed, then laughed. She truly had enjoyed the day. It had been nice and fun to spend it with Harry without having to act for the cameras – even if Edward had asked them for a little PDA. She had been there with one of her best friends, and one of his best friends and, for the first time in a while, the thought of the wedding was well out of her mind.