Ben paced up and down the stable courtyard, glad his sisters had whisked Alice away. All he wanted was to find Sally. Damn his mother backing him into a corner. No wonder Sally had looked so horrified. It must have seemed as if he’d been forced into making a semi-proposal.
Worse, he’d not actually told her how he felt. He hadn’t said that he loved her.
And he did. Maybe he always had. She gave his life the meaning it had never had before, the meaning he’d been searching for. He’d never resented the title or the responsibilities that came with his birthright, but had felt pressure to prove himself as more than his inheritance, first through academia, then with his company. With Sally and Alice he was free to just be himself. It was liberating.
His chest tightened in relief as he saw her making her way towards him, swathed in the coat he’d given her for Christmas, pale but determined. Relief gave way to trepidation. Her life’s trajectory had been irrevocably altered by his family. She had to have freedom to choose.
He just hoped she chose him.
‘Hi,’ he said.
‘Hi.’ There was no answering smile. Instead she took a visible breath. ‘Ben? How do you feel about me? The truth.’
There was only one answer. ‘I love you, Sally. I think I have loved you since I first saw you surf into shore, hair like a halo, so graceful and strong. That summer was the best time of my life, but it scared me, how much I felt for you. I thought leaving our future to fate gave me control, but I was a coward.’
‘We both had dreams and we were young and ambitious and didn’t understand compromise. It was all or nothing.’
‘I still want it all. I want to be a proper family, Sally. I want to wake up next to you, with Alice in the next room. I want Alice to have brothers and sisters and to hear them quarrel over little things and know how lucky I am. But if that’s not what you want, then I can compromise, for Alice. But I want you to know how I feel. I love you.’
Her mouth trembled, green eyes luminous with tears. ‘I love you too. And I want us to be a family with all that entails. But are you sure I belong here?’
‘You belong anywhere you want to be. I know how much you gave up to raise Alice…’
‘I never minded.’
‘But I still want to make it up to you, whether that’s through supporting you if you want to return to university or if you wanted to take on a role here, whatever you want. All I ask is that you’ll consider being my countess one day, that you love me.’
‘I do. I love you, Ben, not because of all this, but because of how much you care, how you make me feel.’ And then she was in his arms and as his mouth claimed hers, Ben knew that although they might have taken a long and winding way to get there, their future was together.
If you loved this story, stay in Cornwall and Asturia with half-sisters Clem and Princess Arrosa’s life swap in The Princess Sister Swap duet!
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