“In all the years I’ve been assisting you with the removal of your crown, I never dreamed I’d someday be instructing my sister on the proper procedure.” Standing behind his prince, Kadin rested his hands upon Eli’s shoulders and met his gaze in the mirror with an amused grin.
“Oh, come on, Kadin,” Eli teased his advisor. “You’ve known we were in love since we were little children.” Eli winked at Savannah, who was standing beside her brother.
“I certainly never connected these particular dots.” Kadin stepped aside and invited Savannah to come forward. “Your Highness, you may do the honors—okay, that sounds really weird calling my little sister by that title.”
“Little sister? I am older than you,” Savannah teased. Eli could see in the mirror how Kadin was almost a head taller and understood the reference.
Eli had grown up loving Savannah’s spunk and fire, her willingness to slide down the bannister of the grand staircase and run down the palace hallways chasing a soccer ball because the desert heat discouraged outdoor play. He loved the early teen years when she had been awkward and chunky and insecure. He loved the way she blew them all away in math and science and could write poems and love stories and read historical fiction while acting out the voices and lifting her chin like a graceful lady at court on an English countryside.
And then she grew up and became a lady.
And then a princess.
The jeweled crown that rested on Savannah’s ebony hair sparkled in the mirror. Her eyes sparkled with excitement. She was elegance personified. Sheer white lace and beading danced across her bosom, subtly concealing her graceful neck and full figure.
This new and exciting chapter beginning for the two of them was better than any romance novel ever written. The love story playing out in his mind would make their great-grandmother blush. He could never read this story out loud. And yet tonight they could act out the scenes in vivid detail. There was no need for imagination. But there was the need to get her brother out of the room.
“Could the two of you hurry this process along?” Eli asked. “I’d really like to remove that white dress along with her crown, and I know you don’t want to be here for that.”
“I’m restraining myself from holding a knife to your throat for even suggesting such a violation of my sister,” Kadin said in jest. “But seeing as how you have a marriage contract and the blessing of the monarch legally allowing that, I’ll let the comment slide.”
“I’m also legally allowed to order you from my suite,” Eli teased right back. “Now get this crown off my head so I can kick you out of here and make love to my wife.”
Kadin made a gagging noise and closed his eyes with a shudder. Turning to his sister he offered instructions. “The removal of the crown should be performed with reverence. Stand behind your prince and meet his gaze in the mirror.”
All three of them erased the lighthearted banter from their countenance as Savannah stood behind Eli and they almost seemed to breathe as one for just a moment.
“The velvet and mahogany box should already be resting on the dressing table, and open, before you begin the ceremony,” Kadin said, nodding toward the table. “We’ve already prepared that. Now, with both hands, clasp the sides of his crown and lift the band in one sure movement and carry it over to rest in the box.”
Barely breaking eye contact in the mirror, Savannah did as she’d been instructed, and laid the symbolic adornment within the box and slowly closed the lid. Nothing in his life had ever felt more provocative. He’d had his crown placed and removed dozens of times since his coronation years ago, but this was a new experience.
“Now His Highness will remove your crown, princess,” Kadin said, no longer teasing his sister but addressing royalty. And not just any royalty; the wife of his prince. Until Kadin married, his sister was now the most important woman in his life.
Eli rose from the settee and Savannah took his place. Standing behind her and gazing into the mirror, Eli wanted to lower his face and kiss her. He restrained his desire for a moment more.
Kadin didn’t need to use words to offer Eli instructions; he merely needed to wait.
Eli lifted the crown from Savannah’s head and carefully placed the band of gold in the velvet box. Nesting the box on top of his, he placed them both in the leather bag where they would stay until needed again.
In another symbolic gesture, Eli lifted the leather bag from the dressing table and handed the bag to Kadin, who stepped over to the closet and tucked the bag just inside the door. Without another word, Kadin bowed to his prince and princess and quietly left the room.