Chapter Nineteen

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The next morning, as I'm walking through Hyde Park on my way to Kensington freaking Palace, I don't feel any clearer on anything than I did last night.

What's worse, I already have my first assignment from Alistair: interviewing the crowd and posting photos to social media at Trooping the Colour.

I mean, that's basically what I would have been doing anyway and I was planning to go, so all this means is that I now get paid more than just ad revenue to do the same thing.

But still. The assignment isn't helping close up the pit in my stomach. Because now if I tell Alistair I can't do it, I'm leaving him in a lurch.

Well, maybe. He did say he has other freelancers he could tap. But my backing out definitely wouldn't look professional.

I'm so lost in my thoughts that I don't really pay attention to anything in Hyde Park until I find myself standing in front of the palace.

I take a moment to pull myself together – as if it's that easy – and head inside to go through all the security. Once I'm cleared, I again see Ava waiting for me. I smile and she waves, and we fall into step beside each other as she leads me down the hallway.

"How's your morning?" she asks.

"It's been okay," I say, trying to be cheerful, but not so cheerful that I'm obviously faking it. "Excited to try on a bunch of fancy dresses and hats."

"The selection is amazing," she says.

"Is it ever not?" I ask.

"Well, no," she says. "But sometimes it seems like more of the same. Emilia likes what she likes. It's nice to see some things that are a bit different."

"Is that because of me, or because she's branching out?" I ask, fully aware that the answer is perhaps both. She's been under some fire lately for having "boring" style. Not that her style is actually boring – it's just classic. But she probably could do with jazzing it up with some different colors. Do something different from the preppy, nautical whites, creams, and blues she normally leans toward. Get the fashion critics off her back for a bit.

Instead of directly answering my question, Ava says, "I think Natalie just requested a wider selection from the designers this time around."

"Makes sense," I say. "Do you know if any of them inquired about the fact that she's requested two different sizes?"

I see Ava involuntarily quirk an eyebrow and then say, "Not to my knowledge."

We arrive at a different door than either of the two that I visited yesterday, and when Ava opens it, I actually gasp at what I see: a posh, sumptuous dressing room complete with several three-way mirrors and what appears to be different types of lighting at each, luxurious, tufted couches in soft greys, and racks upon racks of dresses, enough shoes lined up side-by-side that they fill the length of two walls, and loads of stacked hat boxes.

"Good morning!" Emilia says from her perch on the couch by Natalie, looking expectedly flawless in a pair of jeans and a simple white T-shirt. If I had known I could get away with an outfit like that, I wouldn't have scrutinized every last item of my wardrobe this morning trying to figure out what in the world to wear to a polo match and fancy horse race fitting, only to decide on a boring black T-shirt dress.

"Morning," I say, wondering, somehow for the first time, if she and Ben already know about my offer from Huffington Post. "This is quite a closet."

"Tell me about it," Emilia says. "Ready to get started?"

"Uh, sure," I say, looking around, trying decide which racks might be meant for me, as Emilia heads directly toward a rack of pastel-colored chiffon and lace dresses.

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