The flight from England to the United States was accomplished with relative ease the next day, then Nanny, Wilkes, Eloise, Kay and Eric were alighting from a taxicab in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Maggie was sitting in her carriage across the street and Eloise waved madly at her, and cried out excitedly, "Nanny and Sir Wilkes are MARRIED now, Maggie!"
"Really? Sure and that's wonderful news!" Maggie called back, her face shining happily.
"Thank you, Margaret!" Nanny mouthed, smiling widely before taking Wilkes' arm and turning towards the entrance to the hotel.
Charlie the doorman, naturally having heard Eloise's shouts, greeted Nanny and Wilkes with hearty congratulations, and he hurriedly called for porters to take the baggage in. Kay hung back a bit, fussing with something in her purse, for once not claiming the limelight and letting Nanny and Wilkes have their moment of glory. Eric put his arm around her and hugged her close, kissing her cheek in appreciation for her efforts to reform in whatever small way she could. Eloise ran ahead into the Plaza, pushing through the roundabout doors, yelling at the top of her lungs, "Coming! Coming! Coming! Honeymoon couple coming through!"
Wilkes looked at Nanny and his eyebrows raised as his eyes twinkled at her red face. He whispered, "We are coming as often as we can, aren't we, Nanny?"
Scandalized, she shushed him and they pushed through the doors. Eloise by now was at the front desk banging on the bell, and when Mr. Salamone hurriedly stepped up to the counter, he covered the bell protectively and slid it out of the child's reach. "Welcome back, Eloise. May I help you?"
Then Miss Thompson came hurrying up as well, saying, "Welcome back, Eloise! WHO got married? Your mother?"
"No, no, no! Not yet, for Lord's sake! Papa's still too, too, too busy! No, Maman and Papa are getting married next month in Spain. No, Nanny and Sir Wilkes are married now!"
"Nanny and...?" "WHAT are you talking about?" Both Mr. Salamone and Miss Thompson were dumfounded. Then they caught sight of the happy couple, arm in arm, hesitating just inside the doors.
"Sir Wilkes! Nanny!" Mr. Salamone gushed, rushing out from behind the counter. "I am so sorry for that outburst. So good to see you again! As far as what Eloise just said is concerned, let me assure you that no one, I repeat NO ONE will believe this. We all know that Eloise's imagination is..."
"Aoww, Mr. Salamone, it's all right," Nanny assured him. "I AM married to Sir Wilkes now..."
"Yes, Lady Anne agreed to be my bride and we were wed in England this past week..." Wilkes added.
Pandemonium ensued, and Kay and Eric slipped into the lobby almost unnoticed.
"So Nanny and Sir Wilkes absolutely HAVE to have the honeymoon suite, Mr. Salamone!" Eloise finally almost shouted over the babble.
Mr. Salamone looked unhappy, as only he could. "It is my job to take personal care of every guest at this hotel. They're all treated like... royalty! There's no compromising on our service. But as far as the honeymoon suite is concerned, regretfully it is already occupied!"
Wilkes said hastily it was quite all right, his suite was more than adequate for himself and Nanny, and he added that he supposed he should inform Mr. Salamone that since he and Nanny were moving to England permanently, they would be out of the suite by the end of the month. "If... if that is satisfactory, of course!"
"You're leaving us?" Miss Thompson had been standing near and she was looking as unhappy as Mr. Salamone at the news. "I mean, I'm very, very happy for you that you are married, of course..."
Mr. Salamone rushed into speech. "And of course we do wish you both much happiness in your future life together, but you will be greatly missed here at the Plaza! Yes. Of that, I am sure."
"Er, to celebrate our marriage and, well, as a going away party, too, we hoped to have a grand ball here in the Versailles Room with all of our Plaza friends and a few of my, you know, business associates," Wilkes began.
"Sir Wilkes, as you know, I strive for perfection at the Plaza. You see, the Plaza is a five-star hotel and I take pride in that. I live by what those five stars stand for. Nothing will interfere with your plans. Absolutely... nothing! Rest assured, I will be on top of every detail, including..." Mr. Salamone's gaze slid to Eloise, who was standing with her mother and Eric while Kay was speaking to an apparently woebegone Walter, the concierge.
"Thank you, Mr. Salamone. And I'll try to keep Eloise out of your way in the meantime, but..." Nanny began, then her voice trailed off when Wilkes frowned slightly at her.
"Eloise is to be given carte blanche for our party," Wilkes said, firmly. "She is a most remarkable child, and I trust her completely. I would ask that Miss Stickler be informed that she is not to interfere in this case. In any case, Nanny and I will speak with you tomorrow, at your convenience, to make further arrangements."
Mr. Salamone winced, then said, "Yes. Yes, Sir Wilkes. Absolutely. No problem. I will take care of it immediately. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow." He turned, Miss Thompson at his side, and as the two walked away, both Nanny and Wilkes heard Mr. Salamone say to Miss Thompson, "I want magic in the form of flowers in their suite tonight and every night until they leave us, utter perfection in every morsel they eat..."
Nanny smiled at Wilkes and leaned into him, hugging his arm tightly with the hand she had linked at his elbow. "We've certainly stirred them up, 'aven't we, love?"
It felt very different for Nanny, after going up to the sixteenth floor in the elevator with a silent Max who pretended to ignore Eloise's chatter but gave Wilkes the thumbs up sign when he and Nanny exited after the other three, to pass by Suite 1627 where she had lived for six years and proceed to Wilkes' suite which she had never entered before. Thankfully, she felt right at home when she slipped into Wilkes' arms that night and exchanged passionate kisses with him, certain that he had changed her life dramatically and definitely for the better!
Despite Mr. Salamone's worries, the party planned by Nanny, Wilkes and Eloise was a smashing success. The marriage of Nanny and Wilkes was celebrated, the new lives both for Nanny and Wilkes AND for Eloise, Kay and Eric were toasted... and the departure of the four former inhabitants of the Plaza was mourned... Nanny and Wilkes more than the other two, Mr. Salamone privately lamented to an understanding Miss Thompson later that evening.
Wilkes arranged to continue to pay for Mrs. Thornton's stay in the Plaza for as long as necessary, Nanny looking upon him as heroic for something he considered a mere trifle. He did not, however, trivialize the rewards for his generosity she gave him in the privacy of their suite night after night... and even occasionally during the day if they had some time to themselves. Both found that although the calendar, the number of their years and society as a whole SAID they were 'old', they by no means felt old or 'past it' when it came to making love! Indeed, their love and their displays of public affection, not to mention their own private sessions, seemed to increase daily.
Eric had had his way with regards to getting Eloise enrolled in a boarding school in England, both Eloise and Nanny being very pleased that it was not too, too, too far away from Wilkes' castle. Then Nanny managed to get her few personal possessions she was keeping from Kay's suite into Wilkes' for packing with his, and Kay hired movers to pack her personal effects and Eloise's, and gradually the day of departure drew nearer. Kay, Eric and Eloise flew to England the day before Nanny and Wilkes, Eloise having exacted the promise that she could come visit the castle in the first break of her school.
"I pinky promise, promise, promise, Eloise!" Nanny vowed, hugging the child tightly.
Wilkes made an extra effort in loving Nanny that night, proving to her once and for all that she was worthy of being his wife, that Felicity was lucky to have found her older sister and that Nanny was a fitting sibling for the elegant countess, that whatever his nephew Cecil or others of like mind thought or said, it was of no importance to anyone Wilkes cared about and never could be. "We may have our share of trouble in the future, as everyone does," he said, "but we will always be able to renew our love here in bed, won't we, Nanny? And as long as you are with me as my loving wife, I can face anything and anyone!"
"My stars, stars, stars, Willy..." Nanny breathed, almost seeing stars after their lovemaking. "Willy, I just 'ave to ask one more time... I'm so, so, so sorry... but... why me? Out of all the women you could have had...?"
His expression turned serious, and his hand cupped her cheek while his thumb stroked over her bottom lip in a way that made her quiver. "Because I've come to realize that I can't do without you, Nanny. I love you. I need you to make me a better person. I need you to shield me from the irritation I feel when Cecil is around, which I hope will be much less often in the future now that we'll be living in our own place. And because helping you gain a sense of self-worth has made me feel better about myself than I've ever felt before. I'm a happier man, now, my love, and I don't want to lose this happiness ever."
At last Nanny and Wilkes were back at their castle and alone again. Nanny revelled in the thought, sitting on the edge of her seat in the limousine almost the whole way from the airport to their castle. They arrived shortly after noon. Wilkes said, with a chuckle and loving kisses, that he would call Jimmy and Lois... and a cook... and gardener... in a few days... or weeks... or perhaps even months... Nanny added that she would call Felicity and Peter then, too... and they grinned happily at each other.
Lois had managed to arrange for the 'master' suite and bath to be cleaned and ready for their arrival, so that afternoon the two concentrated on cleaning the library which Nanny felt would make a wonderful study for Wilkes. That first night, after a light meal and a visit to the tower to view the sunset, the two fell once more into bed, loving one another as passionately as if they were both forty years younger. Nanny had been particularly encouraging this first night in the privacy of their own home.
Panting and still trembling violently with the force of her release, Nanny collapsed on Wilkes. Her arms were around his neck and her face was buried in his shoulder while he held her tightly, one hand gently smoothing over the damp skin of her back to soothe her.
When she finally managed to catch her breath and her heartbeat came somewhere back into the normal range, Nanny mumbled, "Aoww, Willy, my stars, stars, stars! I never, never, never knew... never dreamed... that was... absolutely divine... My sainted Aunt Fanny, it's plain to see our 'ormones don't realize we're old!" she added with a chuckle.
Wilkes smiled and said huskily, "Tosh, tosh, tosh, Nanny, we're not old... we're now immersing ourselves in hitherto neglected areas of our education. Our love has made us young again!"
Together they cuddled into the bed where, over the next few days, months and even years, they managed to express their love in many ways. Nanny's castles in the air were no longer imaginary, nor was the knight of her dreams.