Camilla and Charles were there to greet Maddie and Harry as soon as they walked through the door. The valet was quick to take their bags up to their room as they stepped into the opulent home. Maddie was enchanted; from the moment they turned up the long front drive, she had been enchanted. There appeared to be miles and miles of green plants and flowers and trees. They were certainly in the country and Maddie felt a sort of homey connection to the place—almost instantly.
Before he had moved their luggage upstairs, the valet had handed Harry a folded card. Harry scanned it quickly and excused himself. He had a phone call he needed to make that was of imminent importance. He kissed Maddie’s cheek with an apologetic look in his eyes, nodded to Charles and Camilla and slipped off to his room to make the call.
In a little under twenty minutes, Harry finished his phone call and hurried back down the stairs; eager to return to Maddie’s side. Finding the foyer empty, he began to make his way through a few rooms until he found Camilla alone in the study.
“Hello,” Harry stepped into the room.
“How did the phone call go?” She asked.
“Better than expected actually,” he shrugged and looked around. “Where are dad and Maddie?”
“Well,” Camilla sealed an envelope and turned to smile up at him. “She asked about the garden…”
“Oh God,” he glanced towards the windows nervously.
“And he started to tell her about the orchards…”
“Where are they?” Harry moved to the windows; his eyes squinting as he searched.
“They were going out through the Walled Garden and then over by the Tree house…”
“You let him take her to the Tree house!?”
“Let him?” She looked to him with a grin. “He’s your father…”
“I know, but…”
“Relax, Harry. She wanted to go. It’s not as though he dragged her out there.”
“Of course not,” Harry sighed at himself; relaxing a bit.
“She seems wonderful,” Camilla commented as she stood and followed as he walked towards the back of the house.
“She is,” Harry smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. Even as his mind debated staying in the house or heading out after Maddie and his father, the mention of her made him pause. “I honestly don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since she…”
And then, as clear as day, the sound of a shotgun echoed through the grounds; reaching Harry’s ears. His eyes went wide as he stood tall.
“Yeah, that’s it. I’m going out there.” And with that Harry hurried out the door with Camilla chuckling as he moved.
Moving quickly, Harry found them exactly where he thought they would be; standing in the Meadow with the trap shoot set up. Maddie had the shotgun in her hand as Charles pointed in a couple of places. Maddie was listening intently to what his father was saying. Harry could tell they were both somewhat mesmerized with the other. Harry waved so that they would see them.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” Harry stuffed his hands in his pockets as he stepped up to them.
“Your father was telling me about the biodegradable clay pigeons he ships in from Laporte and I asked if they flew the same as the others…” Maddie smiled at Charles, who finished the story.
“So I put a gun in her hands.”
“Sounds dangerous,” Harry chided.
“No!” Charles shook his head. “She’s an excellent shot. Go ahead.” He nodded at her encouragingly. Maddie smiled and moved the gun shoulder height.
“Pull!” Maddie called out; expertly aiming, shooting, and hitting the pigeon. Charles chuckled approvingly.
“Wow! I had no idea you were such an amazing shot!” Harry watched her in awe.
“Yes, well, I’m the daughter of a farmer,” Maddie shrugged, feeling the tiniest bit embarrassed. “There were coyotes that might stalk the animals and…my father made sure I could hit what I was aiming for.”
“Your father is a farmer?” Charles perked up.
“He…he was,” Maddie smiled warmly at the thought of her father.
“Oh? Is he retired now?”
“No,” she shook her head. “He died; almost two years ago.”
“Oh Maddie, I am terribly sorry to hear that.” She could feel Harry’s eyes on her, but she took a breath and smiled at Charles.
“Thank you,” she met Harry’s sympathetic gaze for a moment. “He would have loved what you’ve done to the grounds here, though; especially the delphiniums. They were his favorite.”
There was a moment then between the three of them; a moment where, despite the cool chill of the evening, it felt warmer. Maddie sighed as she thought of her dad, as she thought of Harry and his mother. And, sniffing back the impending tears, she raised her gun shoulder height and called out, “Pull!”
With a warm laugh, Charles looked to his son and smirked, “be sure to keep her away from your grandfather.”
To which Harry laughed loudly, “that’s great advice. Thank you.”
“So…” Maddie lowered the gun and turned to Harry. “Let’s see what you’ve got, Captain.”
“Me?” Harry grinned; eyebrows rising.
Maddie nodded and, with great ease, Harry stepped up to the plate. He managed to hit a few before they were called back to the house; dinner was at the ready. Maddie, needing to change before they were seated for dinner, excused herself.
“Thank you for allowing me to show off some of the grounds,” Charles took her hand in both of his; pressing a kiss to the top.
“It was quite an honor, Sir,” she blushed slightly before she nodded to Harry and turned back to the house.
“Did you enjoy showing Maddie around the orchard?” Harry looked to his father as they gathered up the shotgun and headed in.
“I did,” Charles nodded with a smile. “Did you know that she grew up on a farm?”
“Yes, I did.”
“She has a great appreciation for the land,” Charles looked out at the grounds. “She knew most of the plants by sight and she gave me this great tip on how to…” Charles trailed off, noticing the wide grin on his son’s face. “She’s really quite something,” he offered words for what Harry was feeling.
“Yes, she is Sir,” Harry agreed.
“She’s met your brother and Kate. She’s come to Highgrove for the weekend,” Charles watched his son closely. “It seems serious.”
“It feels serious,” Harry looked off over the grounds; his pulse beating faster. “Does that make me crazy?”
“No, no.” Charles was quick to shake his head. “You’ve always known what suited you best; what you wanted. Clearly you want to be with her.”
“I really do,” Harry nodded.
“This might be completely overstepping my bounds,” Charles took a risk; a risk that was spurred on by the never-seen-before look in his son’s eyes.
“Oh-kay,” Harry stopped walking; his focus shifting to his father who now seemed completely sincere as he smiled wide and spoke softly,
“Nothing, nothing in your private life—or your public life to some extent—is as important as choosing your mate; the person to stand next to you,” Charles swallowed the lump in his throat that had grown as he thought over this incredibly hard learned lesson. “Nothing.”
Harry was speechless for a moment; his mind spinning as he thought about what his dad said, why his dad said it and what…what exactly it was he was supposed to do with that. It made his skin shiver and his heart swell; the heaviness of it weighing on his entire body.
“Is that…” Harry cleared his throat, meeting his father’s eyes. “Is that some sort of warning or omen or…”
“It’s encouragement, it’s support, it’s…” Charles patted Harry’s shoulder. “She’s lovely son.”
“Yes,” Harry took a deep breath. “Yes she is.”
And together, the two men began walking back to the house.
Dinner with Harry’s parents was as warm and soft as the candlelight that flickered from the table. Maddie had changed, touched up her makeup and twisted her hair up and back in a soft, loose bun. Simple, classic, understated; much like the guest suit to which she had been assigned. She smiled to herself as she wondered where Harry was going to be sleeping that night.
On her way down the stairs, she glanced at the art work hanging on the walls; the family photos that were mingled throughout. And, as she stepped into the study where they were all waiting; dressed and smiling, the two men rose to their feet instantly. Camilla followed them, linking her arm through Charles’ as they followed the young couple in to dinner.
The rest of the night was relaxed and familial. Maddie shared stories of growing up on a farm; drawing them all in to some of the hilarious occurrences. Charles offered entertaining tales of Harry as a child, threatening to pull out photo albums. While Harry blushed, Maddie loved seeing the interaction between father and son. And it was incredibly clear to Maddie that Camilla adored the both of them.
Following dinner, the four moved into the study for after dinner drinks. Due to Maddie’s light prodding, despite Harry’s pleas not to, Charles broke out old record albums and the conversations continued. And when, finally, Charles and Camilla retired to bed, Harry smiled lovingly at the opposite end of the couch where Maddie sat. Reaching down, he pulled her feet into his lap; tossing her shoes to the floor.
“Mmmm…” She relaxed as he began to rub them. “I could get used to this—all of this.” She waved her hand out towards the property.
“You like it here,” Harry pointed out.
“I love it here,” she corrected taking a sip from her glass.
“Well, I am sure I heard my father extend an open ended invitation so…” He took a deep breath. “It appears you can stay as long as you would like.”
“He’s lovely,” Maddie nodded in the direction that Charles and Camilla had gone. “Your father, he’s absolutely lovely.”
“Hmmm…” Harry agreed with a nod. “He’s not here, you know. You don’t’ have to go on and on and on…” His eyes were playful.
“Oh is somebody jealous of the attention?” She nudged him with her toe.
“Not at all,” he laughed softly. “I think he likes you too.”
“I hope so,” she looked down in her glass, her mind sorting through all of the emotions that she was feeling; her attachments to Harry, her growing attachments to his family, the way her heart ached when she thought of the decision she was going to have to make soon.
“You know…” Harry dropped her feet and moved to sit closer to her on the couch. “This evening, when you were shooting and my father asked about yours…you smiled.”
“Oh?” Maddie lifted her eyebrows.
“Yes,” he took her hand in his, playing with her fingers. “You used to get sad when people would mention him. But tonight you smiled.” When his eyes lifted to meet hers he could see a mixture of sadness and memories and warmth there.
“It was nice,” he kissed the top of her hand. “To see you smile.”
“It was nice to remember him…” Maddie let her fingers run along his jaw. “Especially here. He really would have loved Highgrove. He would have loved to see what your father has done here and I think…imagining his reactions…made me happy. I love that being here reminded me of him.”
“Me too,” Harry watched her as she sighed and smiled. “You know, you should invite your mother out sometime. If this brought on this kind of reaction for you, I’m sure she would it enjoy it as well.” Maddie felt her heart clench at the thought. Bringing her mother here, to England, to Harry—to Harry’s family home. That was quite the thought.
“Hmmm…maybe.” Her smile was lazy; tired. But her mind was reeling. Despite the meaning behind his offer, he was right. Her mother would adore Highgrove, and Harry. Catching her yawn, Harry rose to his feet, pulling her up behind him.
“Come on Doctor,” he grinned. “Let’s get you to bed.”
“Whatever you say, your highness.”
With muffled laughter, they held each other close; his arm wrapped around her shoulders, hers around his waist and they made their way upstairs. Though the valet had unpacked their items in separate rooms, Harry insisted on staying with her.
Though Maddie pushed him away, telling him that they were probably placed in separate rooms on purpose, Harry insisted—assuring her that was all for show and that his father would most likely not be checking in on them.
Harry endured and Maddie finally relented—allowing him to slip into her bed.
But that was where the concessions ended. As they pulled the covers up over them, she made it incredibly clear as to just what side of the bed his hands were to remain on.
Pushing his luck, he pulled her to his side where she cuddled close and with a sleepy smile, drifted off to sleep.
Harry woke before her the next day, just before her. Not moving an inch, he pressed his lips to the top of her head; inhaling her shampoo. Maddie’s eyes blinked open and she stretched awake—snuggling closer and closing her eyes.
“Good Morning,” he breathed in her ear.
“Not ready to wake up,” Maddie groaned through smiling lips. Harry chuckled; her hair puffing up from his breath.
“Oh my yes,” Maddie nodded. “It must be the fresh, country air here.”
“It must be.”
“And this bed is amazing. It’s like the whole purpose of it is to keep people in bed as long as possible.”
“Ha!” Harry laughed. “Well, we don’t have to leave. I can call up for breakfast and we can eat right here.”
“Shouldn’t we dress and join your father and Camilla for breakfast?”
“No, they left first thing this morning, remember.”
“Ah yes,” Maddie recalled with a frown. “I feel bad that I didn’t say good-bye.”
“Well, now that they’re gone,” Harry ran his fingers along her spine. “Maybe you’ll let me on your side of the bed?”
“Not a chance,” she slapped at his hand.
“Fine.” He laughed and rolled over, reaching for the phone.
When breakfast arrived, the valet pushed the tray into the room and informed them both that Charles had left a note with the small bouquet of hand cut delphinium lying next to the food before stepping out of the room.
“Hey, it’s for you,” Harry handed her the envelope with her name on it.
“Oh?” She smiled, looking at the beautiful bunch of flowers that she was almost certain he had cut himself. Pulling the card from the envelope, she read.
Harry watched as her eyes teared up.
I am terribly happy to have spent time with you this weekend, happy to have met you, and happy that Harry has found you.
You are a wonderful young woman and I am absolutely certain that your father would beyond proud to call you his daughter.
Please enjoy the rest of your stay here and know that you are welcome back here any time.
“Wow…” Maddie brought her hand to her mouth as she held the card out to Harry. She reached for the delphinium and was incredibly touched by the gesture.
“Smooth,” Harry shook his head in awe. “My father is incredibly smooth.”
“Must run in the family,” she winked at him.
“You think I’m smooth?”
“You? Oh no,” she shook her head as she moved to his coat pocket, successfully locating what she was looking for; two pieces of her Christmas candy. She tossed one in the air to him and unwrapped the other. “No. You’re not smooth at all.”