Six months later
“Do you solemnly promise and swear to govern the People of Eldorra according to their respective laws and customs?”
“I solemnly promise so to do.” Bridget sat in the coronation chair, her face pale but her hand steady on the King’s Book as she took her official oath. Her grandfather stood beside her, his face solemn but proud, and the rest of the cathedral was so quiet I could feel the weight of the occasion pressing into my skin.
After months of planning, the big day was finally here. In a few minutes, Bridget would be crowned Queen of Eldorra, and I, as her fiancé, would officially be the Prince Consort in waiting.
It wasn’t something I’d ever dreamed of or thought I wanted, but I would follow Bridget anywhere, from the smallest, shittiest town to the grandest church. As long as I was with her, I was happy.
I stood with Nikolai, Sabrina, Andreas, and the other von Aschebergs in the front row, closest to the coronation. The ceremony took place in the sprawling Athenberg Cathedral, which was packed with thousands of high-profile guests. Heads of state, foreign royals, celebrities, billionaires, they were all there.
I clasped my hands in front of me, wishing the archbishop would speed things up. I hadn’t talked to Bridget all day, and I was itching to get to the coronation ball so we could have some alone time.
“Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgments?” the archbishop asked.
Pride seeped through me at Bridget’s strong, clear voice.
She completed her oath, and a collective hush fell over the cathedral when the archbishop lifted the crown from Edvard’s head and placed it on hers.
“Her Majesty Queen Bridget of Eldorra,” the archbishop declared. “Long may she reign!”
“Long may she reign!” I repeated the words along with the rest of the guests, my chest tight. Beside me, Nikolai dipped his head, his face shining with emotion; next to Bridget, Edvard stood ramrod straight, his eyes suspiciously bright.
The archbishop finished the ceremony with a few verses from the King’s Book, and it was done.
Eldorra officially had a new ruler and its first female monarch in over a century.
A low, electric hum replaced the hush. It skittered through the soaring hall and over my skin as Bridget rose for the exit procession; judging by the way the other guests shifted and murmured, I wasn’t the only one who felt it.
It was the feeling of watching history being made.
I caught Bridget’s eye during her procession, and I flashed her a quick grin and a wink. Her mouth curved into a smile before she tamped it down, and I fought back a laugh at her overly serious expression as she left the church.
“That was the longest ceremony ever.” Andreas yawned. “I’m glad I wasn’t the one who had to sit up there.”
“Good thing you’ll never sit up there, then.” My relationship with Andreas had developed into something resembling genuine friendship over the months, but his personality still left a lot to be desired.
He shrugged. “C’est la vie. Let Bridget shoulder the burden of a nation while I live like a prince with none of the responsibilities.”
Nikolai and I exchanged glances and shook our heads. While Andreas and I never missed an opportunity to sneak a dig at the other, I had a much easier relationship with Nikolai. Another brother, albeit by marriage rather than blood, and I didn’t want to murder him half the time.
After the formal exit procession, the guests filed out of the cathedral, and soon, I found myself in the palace ballroom, impatiently waiting for Bridget to arrive.
Only five hundred people received invites to the coronation ball compared to the thousands at the ceremony, but that was still too many people. All of them wanted to shake my hand and say hi, and I indulged them half-heartedly while eyeing the door. At least my lessons with Andreas came in handy—I remembered everyone’s titles and greeted them accordingly.
My pulse kicked up a notch when the Sergeant at Arms’ announcement finally rang through the ballroom. “Her Majesty Queen Bridget of Eldorra.”
Triumphal music played, the doors opened, and Bridget swept in. She wore a lighter gown than the ornate affair she’d donned for the ceremony, and she’d replaced her crown with a more wearable tiara.
She waved to the crowd, her public smile firmly in place, but when our eyes met, a hint of playfulness crept in.
I excused myself from my conversation with the Prime Minister of Sweden and made my way through the crowd. For once, I didn’t need to use my height or build—everyone parted when they saw me approaching.
The perks of being the future Prince Consort, I supposed.