Summary: An attack in town leads to new information and an intimate talk between MC (Alice) and Bastien (NSFW).
Notes: I used some of PB’s original dialogue and bedazzled it a bit.
CW: attempted gun violence, descriptions of other violence
New to the series? Catch up here: Part 1,Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8,Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13,Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54
The day before the wedding, Alice, Hana, and Olivia left the de Luca’s bridal boutique after Olivia’s final fitting for her dress.
“How are you feeling about the wedding?” Alice asked.
“Good,” Olivia admitted “Really good. Mostly, I just want to get married to Liam. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment for my whole life and now that it’s happening…I don’t know. It feels surreal, but in a good way.”
“It’s such a romantic story,” Hana said. “Childhood friends turned lovers. Of course, so is your story with Bastien, Alice. Did you know the press has been going wild talking about both of your relationships? Brides across Cordonia are calling themselves an ‘Olivia’ or an ‘Alice.’ It’s very reminiscent of the whole Jackie vs. Marilyn thing.”
“That’s kind of fun,” Alice said. “Although I’m pretty sure that after tomorrow, everyone is going to firmly be an Olivia after they see that dress. That lace from Lythikos is really something else.”
“Of course it is,” Olivia said.
“Modest as always,” Alice said as she rolled her eyes, smiling.
“Honestly though, part of me wishes Liam and I could have just run off and eloped or something,” Olivia admitted. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the wedding and I’m really appreciative of all the work you put into it, Hana, but I just feel like I don’t need anything else but Liam.”
“Olivia…are you getting soft on us?” Hana teased.
“Quick reminder that I have no less than four knives on my person right now.”
“And we’re back,” Alice said.
“Hey, is that Duchess Olivia?”
Alice turned to see a bystander pointing at their trio.
“And Duchess Alice! And Lady Hana!” another man said.
A crowd began to form around them as Mara and the other members of the security team attempted to establish a security perimeter.
“For the safety of Duchess Olivia and the others, please stay back!” Mara barked at the crowd.
“Duchess Olivia, I’m so excited for tomorrow!” the first woman who’d spotted them exclaimed.
“It’s sure to be a momentous day,” another man said. Alice looked at him, trying to place him. He looked familiar, but she wasn’t sure why.
“Thank you,” Olivia said to the woman as the crowd continued to grow. Mara and the other security members began to struggle to contain the commotion.
“Are we in danger?” Hana asked, leaning in towards them and keeping her voice low.
“No,” Olivia said, although there was something in her voice that sounded less than convincing to Alice.
“When will the link to the livestream of the ceremony be up?” someone asked.
“Lady Alice, over here! Can I get a picture with you?” someone else yelled.
“Should I call Bastien?” Alice asked. She looked over to see Olivia already had her phone out and was texting Liam.
“I’ve got it,” Olivia said.
Suddenly, Alice remembered where she’d seen the man in the crowd before.
“Hey, that guy over there in the striped sweater, at one o’clock,” Alice said. “He’s been working at the palace as part of the extra crew prepping for the wedding—I saw him there earlier and Maureen said something about how the workers would be there all day.”
“So?” Olivia asked.
Alice looked at him and they made eye contact for a moment. Seeing the recognition on Alice’s face, the man faltered for a moment before his expression hardened and he slipped his hand into his pocket. As he pulled it out, there was a glint of light against metal.
“Gun!” Alice shouted, throwing Olivia to the ground as she pulled Hana down with them, shielding them both as best she could. The guards sprang into action, two dropping to cover Alice and the others while others leaped for the man. The man turned and sprinted away, shoving his way through the crowd.
“Stop that man!” Mara shouted as she ran after him, gaining ground. She leapt through the air and barreled into him, knocking him to the ground.
“She got him!” Hana said as she craned her neck to look around one of the guards blocking them. “Is everyone okay?”
“Jon Snow, your knee is in my spleen,” Olivia said. Alice quickly moved off of her and helped her up.
“Are you okay?” Alice asked.
“I’m fine,” Olivia said. “Thanks to you. Did you seriously throw yourself in front of a bullet for me?”
“He didn’t actually shoot at you,” Alice said. She couldn’t tell if the adrenaline or the morning sickness was causing her nausea.
“I just…no one’s ever done that for me before who wasn’t being paid to do it,” Olivia said.
“Hey, I’m your maid of honor—it’s my job to make sure you get down that aisle tomorrow.”
“I just…thank you,” Olivia said. She cleared her throat and looked down, clearly uncomfortable. When she picked her head back up, the authoritative Olivia was back in control. “Who is that man?” she asked as Mara led him back towards their group in handcuffs..
“We found this in his pocket,” Mara said, holding a handgun. “Also this.”
She handed over a crumpled piece of paper to Olivia, and Alice and Hana both leaned over to inspect it.
“These are…wedding details?” Alice asked.
“The roles for the wedding, the place we ordered the favors from…” Hana said. “He’s clearly been spying on Olivia and gathering information about the wedding.”
“And you said you remembered him from the palace?” Olivia asked. Alice nodded.
“Yeah, I’ve seen him a few times over the last few weeks.”
The man spat at Alice, his saliva just missing her shoe. “You’ll never stop us. Cordonia’s true leader, Anton Severus, will prevail.”
“Take him to one of the palace’s holding cells,” Mara ordered.
“Wait,” Olivia said, holding up a hand. She took a few steps forward until she was eye to eye with the man. “You know who I am, yes?”
“You’re a traitor to your family,” the man hissed at her through clenched teeth. “But you’re little more than a means to an end. As soon as you’ve been bred for an heir for the true king, your usefulness will expire and you’ll be—“
He stopped suddenly when he realized Olivia was holding a knife to his stomach. Alice wasn’t sure when she’d pulled it out, but there it was, sharp and glinting evilly in the light.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve gotten yourself into?” Olivia asked him, her tone almost casual. “I am the reigning Nevrakis and my family has the reputation of steel and ice because we earned it. I don’t take well to cowards who hide in crowds and endanger the lives of innocent civilians, let alone my closest friends.” Olivia gestured over her shoulder to Alice without breaking eye contact with the man. “Do you know what happened to the last person who attacked Cordonia’s newest duchess? Her husband hunted him down halfway across the world, broke several bones, ruptured his spleen, and burned his feet. Do you know what happened next?”
The man swallowed hard, but said nothing.
“I asked you a question.”
“No, I don’t know what happened,” the man said, his voice devoid of the bravado it had held only minutes before.
“He was given to me,” Olivia said. “I hope you’re not overly attached to any of your toes. Or your teeth.”
The man took a deep breath. “Anton Severus will prevail.”
Olivia smirked at him. “You poor, naive idiot. Anton Severus is little more than a petulant child playing dress up. Your loyalty is wasted and I hope you’ve enjoyed the sunlight today, because this is the last time you’ll see it.” She took a step back and nodded to the guards, who dragged the man away.
“Fucking hell, Olivia, you weren’t even talking to me and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have nightmares for a week,” Alice said.
“You and your gangster husband aren’t ones to talk. Which, by the way, Bastien is going to be super pissed you threw yourself in front of me,” Olivia said.
“I know,” Alice said. “But he’s going to be even more pissed at the security team for not vetting the auxiliary workers better.”
“Oh, a lot of people are getting fired,” Olivia agreed.
Alice looked over and saw Hana standing there silently. “Hana? You okay?”
“Yeah…it’s just hitting me how close we just came to getting shot,” Hana said quietly. “And it occurred to me that if this guy had notes about the wedding plans, that means they’re more than likely planning to attack the wedding tomorrow. It’s a high profile event with all of Anton’s enemies on the guest list.”
“I really hate that smarmy little fucker,” Alice said.
“On the plus side, we know when they’re going to strike,” Olivia said as three of the palace’s armored cars roared down the street and screeched to a halt near them. “I’m also betting we can get some useful information out of our captive tonight.”
One of the doors opened and Alice could hear a voice from within. “Sir, we haven’t finished securing the area, it’d be safer if you stay in the—“
“Olivia,” Liam called as he jogged over to join them. He caught her in his arms and hugged her tightly. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Olivia assured him, but Alice also noticed her squeeze him a little tighter. “We all are.”
Liam finally let go of Olivia and went to hug Hana as Bastien came running towards them from the second car, stopping only when he’d reached Alice and pulled her into his arms.
“Oh my god, Alice, are you okay?” Bastien asked.
“I’m okay,” she said, hugging him back as she let herself melt into the safety of his embrace.
“I am really upset that you threw yourself in front of a gun and we are going to have a discussion about that later, but right now I’m just so relieved you’re okay,” he said.
“Haven’t we had this conversation before, but with the roles reversed?”
“We need to get you back to the palace,” Bastien said, finally letting go of her enough to lean back and look at her.
“I have to ask…how safe is that?” Alice asked. “This guy was on the auxiliary crew helping with the wedding. If he could get in, there’s no telling how many others could have done the same.”
“Before we left, Liam dismissed all of the auxiliary crews and all of the rooms are currently being swept by security teams hand chosen by Ian and me. At the moment, it’s the safest place in Cordonia.”
Alice nodded and took his hand.
Back at the palace, Alice and Bastien reconvened with Liam, Olivia, Drake, Hana, Maxwell, and Bertrand to hear the results of the interrogation.
“We searched the man in custody and found a flash drive with a detailed map of the wedding procession route, plus blueprints of the buildings along the way,” Ian said. “So now we know not only that Anton’s planning to attack the wedding, but that he plans to strike en route to the cathedral.”
“Does that mean the wedding has to be called off?” Hana asked.
“We know more about what Anton’s planning than we ever have before,” Olivia said. “Even better, he doesn’t know we have that information. You’ve read The Art of War, Hana—you know what an advantage this is.”
Hana nodded as Ian continued.
“Staging a trap for them worked for us once before. If we can do it again, we might be able to finally end this.”
“That trap involved using Liam and my wife as bait,” Bastien said. “I don’t love the idea of doing that again.”
“I don’t either,” Bertrand said.
“All of Cordonia is watching,” Alice said. “The crowd tonight was full of phones recording everything and it’s all over the news.”
“Exactly,” Olivia said. “If we call the wedding off now, it’s a sign of weakness. We need to show our allies and our enemies that we’re stronger than ever.
“They’re right,” Liam said. “Canceling now just means Anton wins in a different way. We have too big of an advantage to run away. I say we stand tall, secure the cathedral, and end this once and for all.”
“So…what do we do?” Maxwell asked.
“Ian, cast a wide net around the cathedral. Use Bastien as a resource. If anyone approaches, we’ll see them before they get anywhere close. Have Mara and her people work with my personal team to focus on ceremony VIPs—Olivia, Drake, Alice, Hana, Maxwell, and myself.”
“That’s long and mid-range coverage, but what about up close range attacks?” Bertrand asked. “We can’t expect Olivia and her knife skills to be responsible for all of that, no offense.”
“None taken, although I do have several stiletto knives prepared for just such an occasion,” Olivia said.
“Delegate a few members of the VIP team to stay with them at all times,” Liam said to Ian, who nodded.
“I can stay with the wedding party,” Bastien volunteered.
“I’d rather have you help Ian with the cathedral security,” Liam said. “No one knows the city like you and we need our outer barrier to be as secure as possible—I don’t trust anyone but you to help Ian ensure it’s done correctly. No offense, Ian.”
“None taken, I agree with you, sir,” Ian said.
“That should be everything for now,” Liam said as he rose to his feet. “Ian, Bastien, let’s head over to the security hub, I want to go over a few details with you two.”
Bastien leaned over and kissed Alice’s temple. “Have Bertrand walk you back to the room. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
She nodded and squeezed his hand before he left. Alice then stood up and walked around the table to sit in Liam’s vacated chair beside Olivia. “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine,” Olivia said. “I’m pissed, but I’m fine. I really hate that treasonous little shit.”
“You and me both,” Alice said. “Are you going to be okay for tonight? Do you want me to stay with you until Liam and Bastien are done with the security stuff?”
“Thank you, but I’m okay. I just want to go to bed and try to get some rest. You should do the same—I can’t have you looking like shit in all the wedding photos.”
“That’s what Photoshop is for,” Alice said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
Olivia smiled tiredly and stood up. “Night, Jon Snow.”
The rest of the group all said their goodnights and Bertrand and Alice headed towards Alice and Bastien’s room in the quiet palace.
“You’re sure you’re okay?” Bertrand asked.
“For the tenth time, yes, I’m fine,” Alice insisted. “That guy didn’t actually fire the gun and, honestly, Olivia broke my fall when we hit the ground.”
“On the one hand, I’m very proud of you for doing something as noble as throwing yourself in the line of fire to protect the future queen,” Bertrand said. “On the other, it’s taking a lot of restraint to not yell at you for intentionally hurling yourself into danger.”
“You sound like Bastien,” Alice said.
“Well, we’re both rather attached to you and we’d like you to stick around,” Bertrand said.
“Let’s talk about something else,” Alice said. “How are things going with Savannah?”
“Good. Really good, actually,” Bertrand said. “It feels like we’re finally being honest with each other and we’re moving forward together. I just…”
“I just still find it kind of hard to believe that she’s in love with me,” Bertrand said. “And I don’t mean it in a self-deprecating way,” he added quickly when he saw Alice’s eyes narrow and her mouth open to protest. “I mean it in a…I didn’t think I’d ever get this lucky kind of way. She’s so smart and beautiful and I’ve spent so many years focused on trying to keep House Beaumont’s head above water that I’d forgotten what it’s like to be happy.”
Alice put her arm around Bertrand as they walked and hugged him. “You deserve to be happy. You work so hard to take care of Maxwell and me and everyone else, and it makes me happy to see you this way.”
“Can I ask you something?” Bertrand asked.
“How did you know you wanted to marry Bastien?”
Alice considered this for a minute. “I guess I knew I wanted to marry him because I felt safe with him. It also never mattered where I was with him. We could be here or in Valtoria or New York or on a train or in the middle of the woods—whenever I’m with him, I feel like I’m home.”
Bertrand nodded. “That makes sense.”
“Are you thinking of proposing to Savannah?”
“Yes, I am. I’m worried that it’s too soon, that maybe we haven’t done enough counseling or that our relationship is still too new, but I’m thinking about it anyway.”
“I’m obviously not really a good person to talk about what’s too soon or not,” Alice said. “But, for what it’s worth, it’s not like counseling has to stop if you get engaged. In fact, it’s probably better that it not. Lots of couples who are doing well continue therapy together to help head off any looming issues on the horizon. Think of it like going to the doctor for a check up, but you’re going every week instead of once a year.”
“Actually, our therapist just had us graduate from once a week to every other week,” Bertrand said. “She’s very happy with our progress thus far and doesn’t feel like she needs to see us as often.”
“That’s great news,” Alice said. “Are you sure she isn’t just trying to avoid etiquette lectures?”
“I only did that once!” Bertrand protested, making Alice laugh as they reached her door.
“Hey, thanks for walking me back,” Alice said as she gave him a hug.
“Of course, I’m happy to escort you anytime,” Bertrand said. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow for the big day.”
“You will indeed,” Alice said as she unlocked the door.
“And…well, I’m really glad you’re okay after what happened tonight,” Bertrand said.
Alice gave him another hug before he left and she closed the door behind her, taking care to lock it securely.
A couple hours later, Alice heard Bastien’s key in the door.
“Hey, you’re still up,” he said, surprised to see her wearing one of his shirts while sitting up in bed with a book. “I was hoping you’d be asleep.”
“I tried, but I couldn’t,” Alice said. “It’s hard to fall asleep without you here, the bed feels too empty.”
Bastien kicked off his shoes and removed his jacket and tie before he lay down beside her on the bed. “Since you’re up…can we talk about what happened tonight?”
“Sure,” Alice said as she put her book down on the nightstand. “For what it’s worth, Frankie already called me about it and there was lots of yelling and expletives. I think she set up a Google alert for me.”
“She did, she asked me to help her do it when she was here,” Bastien said.
“Dorian…I’m sorry that I scared you by doing what I did, but I’m not sorry that I did it. I saw someone with a gun and I just…I couldn’t let him hurt Olivia, especially not the day before her wedding.”
“I know,” Bastien said as he took her hand in his and kissed her palm. “I get why you did it. Honestly, your reasons for doing it made me fall even more in love with you, which I didn’t think was possible. But at the same time, it scares the shit out of me when you do things like that because I need you to stay safe. Alice, you are my whole world. I can’t even think about what it would’ve been like if you—“ He stopped, blinking back tears.
“Hey,” she said softly as she touched his cheek with her fingers. “I’m okay. I’m right here.”
“You almost weren’t.”
“But I am,” she said. She took his hand and placed it on her chest so he could feel the beating of her heart beneath his fingers. Alice leaned forward and kissed him softly, curling her hand around the back of his neck. She deepened the kiss and Bastien opened his mouth to her, tongues folding together as he pulled her closer, needing more of her.
Alice gently rolled him onto his back and straddled his hips before pulling off the shirt she wore, dropping it off the side of the bed. Bastien sat up and kissed her, hands trailing up the curve of her hip as she took her time unbuttoning his shirt before pushing it from his shoulders. She pulled his undershirt up and over his head before tossing it away, his hands flat on her back as he captured her lips in another kiss. Alice rocked her hips gently against his, eliciting a soft moan from Bastien. He kissed his way across her skin, lips dragging down her neck to kiss the hollow of her throat before moving lower. Her head dropped back when he took her nipple in his mouth, tongue flicking against one, then the other. She reached down between them, fingers pulling at his belt and unzipping his pants until she could release his cock, thumb caressing the tip before massaging down his hard length. Bastien groaned, thumbs hooking into the waistband of her panties.
“Take these off,” he said, his voice gruff and heavy.
Alice climbed off of him long enough to slide her underwear off as he pushed down his pants before reaching for her, guiding her back on top of him. She lined him up at her entrance before slowly sinking down onto him inch by inch. He held her close to him as she set a rhythmic pace, her hips rising and falling on him. Bastien slid a hand between them, his thumb tracing slow circles around her clit as she moaned softly in his ear. He took his time with her, even when he felt her hands tighten in his hair, drawing out each moment as long as he could.
When he felt her start to flutter around him, he captured her lips in a searing kiss as he let himself go, pulsing inside of her, claiming her, keeping her here. Her hands were everywhere, in his hair, nails clawing at his back, his arms, pulling him tighter as she climaxed around him. He closed his eyes, consumed by the sensory overload of her, wrapped in nothing but her.
When they finally stilled, Bastien dropped his head to her shoulder as she gently ran her fingers through his hair. She tilted his face up to her, brushing his hair back from his sweaty brow.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I promise.”
He nodded. “I know.”