Chapter Forty-One

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Meredith waited in her room as she returned upstairs after her duty night. She still had a two hours left before she off the clock, but sleep wouldn't come easily. How had Jack gotten a flower to her? He said he was seeing her soon; was he being let out? Why hadn't Harry told her? Perhaps Harry even know?

Staring at her cell phone, she had sent numerous text messages to him, yet he hadn't texted back. It was five in the morning in London, so he wasn't awake yet. But she continued to send more and more messages. He didn't respond; he didn't call.

When midnight hit, Meredith went on her next round. Her fingers curled into her clipboard as she suddenly became careful as she walked, like Jack hid around each corner. Meredith flipped on the lights as she looked into the kitchen and laundry room of Crownhart. She turned off the lights. Each floor was quiet. Coming back to her room, it was quiet.

Grabbing a pair of scissors, Meredith watched the door, waiting for Jack to come in. Her head pounded as she felt another migraine coming up. Already her stomach cramped. She wanted to vomit.

Half past midnight hit, and Harry called her. Meredith stayed still and put FaceTime to her. She didn't look at him, only at the door. Groggily, it was almost six in the morning in London, and Harry probably didn't want to wake up this way.

"What aren't you telling me, Harry?" Meredith asked. "What's this secret?"

"Mere--"

"Does it have to do something with Jack Campbell?"

Harry sat up alertly. "No. Why?"

"I received a rose from him today-- yesterday-- Valentine's Day," she said. Harry's eyes widened, obviously shocked by this new information. "He said he was going to see me soon. He can't get out, right? He's not being extradited to the U.S., right? He's not getting out soon. This isn't happening." Meredith stood up and put the scissors down again. The door was locked, but she shoved a chair in front of the door. No one could get in.

"No, Mere, he's not--"

"How did he get a rose to me, Harry?" she asked, almost screeching. "How did he do that?"

"I don't--"

"He must know someone. Maybe the paparazzi and him are working together. Maybe I'm being followed, more than just the paparazzi. Maybe it is--"

"Mere," Harry said sternly, "listen to me."

Heart beating quickly and chest almost hurting, Meredith sat down at the desk. She met the gaze of Harry. Slowly, her stomach relaxed. She took a deep breath. At the sight of him, Meredith felt better. Yet, her migraine persisted.

"I'll call the prison, and I'll get someone to look into it. I'm going to figure all of this out. I will find out what's happening." Harry didn't blink. "I will know and how he got the rose to you."

"He's doing this to torment me."

"I thought he cared about me more."

"No." Meredith shook her head. "It's changed. I don't know why-- but it's changed. He's after me." She bit her bottom lip. "He knows he can't be with you and he know he can't be like you, so I'm his closest bet. He can't get near you, Harry. Though you two are technically closer, you have a bodyguard. You live in a gated palace. You're constantly followed. He wants to make this personal," she listed. "I'm easy-- I don't have limitations."

"Mere." He wanted her to take a deep breath, but he couldn't make her do anything from so far away. If she was close, if he was with her, Harry felt he could protect her. Meredith might hate it, but at least she wouldn't be alone. Meredith didn't do well when she was by herself. Though she loved to read and do other things by herself, Meredith was more of an extrovert.

"Harry, what's the secret?" Meredith asked. "Just fucking say it."

Harry swallowed. "I've been working with the social media coordinators and other people within the monarchy to make myself more accessible. Hopefully, it'll take the pressure off of you."

"People will know your business." She arched an eyebrow. He was giving up a lot of privacy.

"Only a little bit more, but it is all about making the monarchy more modern."

"And how do I fall into this?"

"Hmm?"

"You weren't telling me this because...?"

Harry sighed. "I'm also trying to boost your image in the media and around the world."

"People don't like me?"

"I wouldn't say that."

Meredith arched an eyebrow, waiting for him to continue.

"As you know, you don't really fit into the normal princess-like behavior. Some people don't like you for this. You do well with the younger generations; they think you're cool. However, the die hard monarchists, the old generations find that you are abrasive, at best, and at worst," he sighed, "the worst thing that could happen to the monarchy."

She rolled her eyes. "They have very low standards then."

Harry smiled. "I know they're dramatic, but we need to clean up your image. Perhaps you need to be made more ladylike."

"Bullshit."

"Ladylike," he repeated.

In a higher voice, Meredith responded, "Bullshit."

He laughed brightly, filling in the room with happiness. God, Meredith missed his laugh. It had been too long since there was this much joy. She wanted all of it. It was like sunshine, and Meredith wanted to bathe in it. The week of them together hadn't been long enough; she wanted forever. It was so tempting to forget her old life and go and join him. But she had goals, and Meredith refused to leave it all behind for him. Looking at him now, she remembered why she did it all for him: he was Harry; he was the man she loved; he was the man she would spend the rest of her life with; and to the end of her days, Meredith would stand beside him.

"Mere, are you okay?" he asked, suddenly concerned.

Her eyes burned as tears threatened to spill out. "Yeah. I just have a migraine." She sighed. "It's been a long night."

Harry nodded. "How long until you're off duty?"

Meredith checked the time. "A few minutes, and then I'm off to bed."

"Will you be able to sleep tonight?"

"It would be easier if you were here, but yes." Meredith stood and took the chair away from her door. Jack couldn't get to her; he was across the world.

"Soon," Harry promised.

The hair on Meredith's body arose. Swallowing, Meredith turned back to Harry. "I'll speak to you later. Have a good day."

"Sleep tight," he murmured. "I love you."

"I love you." Meredith turned off FaceTime and immediately felt her eyes burn. Pushing it all back inside, her throat began to burn, but it was better this way. Leaving the duty phone at the desk, Meredith climbed the stairs to her room again. It was another quiet night in Crownhart residence hall. Locking the door behind her, Meredith changed into her pajamas and rolled into bed.

Pulling the covers up to her neck, hot tears streamed down her face. She made no sound. Silent sobs filled the still room. Her head continued to pound. Meredith felt like she was drowning. "You aren't weak. You aren't weak. You aren't weak," Meredith repeated to herself. "I'm not weak. I'm not weak. I'm not weak.Closing her eyes, she thought of him. She dreamed of him.

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