Ethan awoke to a cool, dark room, the shades drawn and Natalie still holding him. Her parents were gone, and they were alone.
“Hi,” Natalie said. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I want to get married,” Ethan said. “Did I sleep through our wedding?”
“No, my love, we waited for you.” She chuckled. “Couldn’t really have the wedding without the groom.”
“You could have just propped me up and nodded my head for me when it was time to say, ‘I do’ and then brought me back to our room and taken advantage of me.”
“Nah, I’d like you to be an active participant in that part of the wedding.”
“Which part?” he asked with a chuckle. “The wedding vows? Or the love making afterward?”
“Both,” Natalie whispered and then leaned down to kiss the tip of his nose.
“I’ll try, okay?” He heard the vulnerability in his own voice.
“Sweetheart, you don’t even have to try if you don’t want to.”
“I want to. Believe me, I want to.” Ethan reached up and brushed her cheek with the back of his hand.
“Me too,” she said.
“Let’s go get married then, okay?”
“You want some help into your tux?” Natalie asked. She lifted him to a seated position and offered him a hand to walk with him to the bathroom.
“Is it weird for you to put this tuxedo on me only to take it back off in about twenty minutes?”
“We probably shouldn’t show up at our wedding in sweatpants,” she said.
“Or naked.” Ethan leaned down to kiss her neck and chin and cheeks and finally her lips.
“Get dressed, Your Highness, so we can go get married and come back to our room and get naked together.”
“If you insist.”
“I’m going to call my dad to come help you and I’m going over to my parents’ suite and my mom will help me into my dress.”
“See you at the altar,” Ethan said, leaning over for one more kiss.
“I’ll be the one dressed in white,” she teased.
“I’ll be the one undressing you with my eyes,” Ethan said with a husky voice.
A few minutes later, Miles Dolan wheeled Ethan down the hall to a small reception room on the same floor as their hotel room so they didn’t have to use the elevator. There was less chance Ethan would get dizzy or nauseous. He wheeled Ethan to the back of the room and Ethan rose from the wheelchair but sat on a beautiful chair decked out in white tulle, where he waited for his bride.
Natalie didn’t keep him waiting long. Miles had set the wheelchair off to the side then left the room to go retrieve his daughter. They walked in with Natalie’s arm tucked in her father’s and Ethan’s breath caught. Her dress was simple and elegant, understated and selected in haste. A golden ring headpiece pulled her strawberry blond curls into an updo in a way that almost looked as if she were wearing a crown. No princess had ever looked more beautiful.
When they stepped close enough, Ethan stood, and Miles lifted Natalie’s hand to rest it in Ethan’s. The officiator said a few words, just enough to legally bind them as husband and wife and invited Ethan to kiss his bride.
Ethan turned to the man. “Could I have just a moment with my wife first?”
The man stepped away, hopefully out of earshot and Natalie’s parents also respectfully took a few steps back.
Gazing into Natalie’s confused eyes, Ethan whispered, “Normally this would be done by our king, but I think he would make an exception due to extenuating circumstances.”
Natalie cocked her head to the side with an intrigued gleam in her eye.
Ethan took a deep, shaky breath and spoke so softly the words were barely audible. “Natalie Dolan Sayid, by the power vested in me by the kingdom of Madain Saleh, I do hereby crown you Princess Natalie Sayid of Madain Saleh.”
“Princess…” Her word was barely a breath.
“Normally I would place a crown on your head right now, but I’m fresh out of crowns at the moment.”
“Instead, simply bow your head subtly and you and I can envision the placement.”
The most evocative moment of Ethan’s life was the moment he imagined placing a crown on his bride’s head.
“Arise, Your Highness,” Ethan whispered. As she lifted her gaze, he pulled her close, more invigorated than he had been since before the fever ravaged his already weak frame. He leaned forward and their lips met in a chaste kiss that promised more. After their kiss, Ethan placed his mouth even closer to her ear and whispered, “Let’s go back to our hotel room and make love.”