A/N: Sorry for the delay, but work and assignments have gotten in my way, so I've had to write this in the time I've had... I KNOW I said that there was only one chapter left, but because of my crazy life at the moment, there may have to be another chapter... and the last chapter will be the most romantic!
Thanks to all my readers and reviewers- you all rock!
The Princess Diaries doesn't belong to me!
"Does she have any idea?"
"No, although it hasn't been easy to organize, considering we've been virtually joined at the hip while we've been in Europe."
"So all is well between you two?" Only a few people could ask Joseph that question, and Sebastian was among them.
"As you would know, no relationship is easy and ever will be, but things have definitely improved, although I had no idea our marital problems were so obvious to everyone... except I did kind of let the cat out of the bag at that dinner!"
"Not everyone knew," Sebastian corrected. "It was only those who knew you that noticed... we didn't want to interfere but we were all concerned."
"We both appreciate your concerns," Joseph replied sincerely.
"However, I think tonight is going to definitely be a night to remember, and one particular lady is definitely going to be surprised!"
The palace was a hive of activity when Clarisse stepped into the foyer behind Mia (although all the staff pasued to welcome their past and present monarchs) and the activity instantly triggered something off in Clarisse's mind... there was something very familiar about all of this activity- it wasn't a ball or formal function, although the number of staff hurrying in and out of the ballroom (the doors closing behind them) indicated something big was going on or going to happen...
"Mia..." she began warily as she and the other two followed her up the stairs. "Is something going on?"
"Almost there, Grandmother dearest," Mia said before leading the way down the corridor to her suite. "Come on in," she invited as she danced through the open doors and Clarisse cautiously followed her in- she didn't know what was going on (a fact that was making her feel a little uncomfortable) but she had to wonder as questions began to fill her head.
It was only once they were inside, the women settled in the living room and tea having been served, when Mia turned to Clarisse with a broad smile.
"Are you finally going to tell me what's going on?"
"Yes!" Mia ignored the wary tone in Clarisse's voice. "I wanted to say something before, but I promised I wouldn't and would wait until we got back here."
"I promised Joe... Grandpa."
"You promised him what?" Clarisse was turning impatient.
"That I wouldn't say anything until now... well, Joe had been thinking that since you barely had a chance to celebrate your first wedding anniversary... what with the wedding and you acting as regent while we were away..."
"I didn't mind doing that and neither did Joseph," Clarisse inserted mildly. "Yes, we did have a quiet anniversary but it was just what we wanted," she said firmly, blushing slightly- their anniversary HAD been quiet, and while she had several meetings to attend, they had barely left their suite otherwise all day.
"Nevertheless, it wasn't the ideal celebratory first anniversary you should have had and Grandpa wanted to make it meaningful so tonight... in light of what has been happening, you're going to renew your wedding vows!" Mia finished triumphantly.
There was a long silence after the announcement as Clarisse struggled to absorb Mia's words, questions still filling her head- had Joseph really planned this? HOW had he planned it? Had he, Mia and Sebastian planned this together? If he had NOT planned it, where was Joseph? Had he really been serious about this? Whoever's idea it was, it was a lovely, romantic gesture...
"Grandma?" Mia's almost timid voice broke into her reverie. "Is something wrong? Should I have said something sooner?"
"Oh no darling," Clarisse swallowed hard, blinking rapidly to prevent the tears that were threatening to spill over. "If Joseph wanted you tell me now, then that's fine... I just can't believe it."
"It's such a romantic idea," Mia sighed dreamily as Charlotte and Sheila nodded in agreement. "I always suspected he was a romantic."
"You did?" Clarisse looked surprised and Mia nodded.
"He always has been," Charlotte affirmed, Clarisse shooting another surprised look in her direction. "Nothing was ever really obvious- Joe was always very discreet when it came to Clarisse," Charlotte gave Clarisse a tentative smile. "But one could always sense the bond between our Head of Security and our Queen... and the dancing and the looks... but none of us said anything, not that we ever woud have."
"I know that," Clarisse replied a little vaguely as she was still thinking about Joseph's surprise. "So... what happens now?"
"Well, you're going to be staying here until last this afternoon, the three of us keeping you company- as you can see, the palace is really busy preparing for this."
"No, you can't see Grandpa before hand- remember, it's bad luck to see the groom before the wedding- or even speak to him... you need to decide who will be your maid of honour and the other two will be bridesmaids... your dress is already hanging up in my closet... again, no you can't see it and don't ask how it was made up, Joseph has all the details..."
"I should have known."
"Your hairdresser (not Paolo) will be here at 4:30 to do your hair and makeup." Mia was getting more and more excited as she ran through the details that she had obviously known for weeks and Clarisse felt a little dizzy.
"So what will I be doing until then?"
"Why don't you just relax? Everything is all organized and all YOU need to do is get dressed and be at the doors of the ballroom at six o'clock.. We'll be here with you, you won't be alone... although I do need to speak to Charlotte and Sheila for a moment..."
"Go ahead," Clarisse said calmly, feeling both nervious and excited as a strong surge of love for Joseph coursed through her- she had always known he was a romantic with a big heart- the way he had romanced her had been slow, discreet but yet dizzyingly intense and she knew she wouldn't have settled for anyone else- she was his, just as he was hers...
"Just think," Mia commented over her shoulder. "The palace hasn't seen this much excitement in years- two wedding within a month of each other!"
"Except one will be much smaller than the other, and the presss won't be covering it!"
"Absolutely not! This wedding is special!"
"So was yours," Clarisse retorted, her mind drifting back to the previous month's wedding between Queen Amelia and Lord Nicholas Devereaux...
Once Clarisse and Joseph had returned to Genovia in April, Clarisse immediately got swept up in wedding plans, much to Joseph's amusement and satisfaction.
"Just as long as you don't try to sneak back into your former study to try and do some work!" he joked warningly but she had only laughed as she stepped into her shoes on their first day back- she was due in Mia's suite to begin immersing herself in plans- Mia had done some work but Clarisse's return had been timely as she was getting too busy with official duties.
"That's something I won't be doing," she said ruefully. "I think I'm going to be too busy to even think about anything except the wedding!"
"As long as you remember me from time to time," he reminded her and Clarisse only smiled as she leaned over the seat he was sitting in, wrapped her arms around his shoulders and dropped a kiss onto his neck.
"I'll try..." she teased before stepping away smartly as Joseph reached around for her.
As it turned out, their return had been necessary as Mia was incredibly busy with parliament, paperwork and official engagements (and enjoying every minute), and so Clarisse completely took over the wedding arrangements and, she had to admit, she preferred planning the wedding to running a country, as she admitted to Mia as she was having a fitting for her wedding dress.
"I don't know how you managed to do both last year!" Mia said admiringly, not adding (but both of them knowing) that there had been an additional pressure on her shoulders- her relationship with Joseph.
"Years of training!" Clarisse joked. "You'll get used to it... is Lily planning another bachelorette for you?"
"No, not this time- I'm just having something simple in my suite and you're more than welcome to come."
"I will... what about Nicholas?" Mia shrugged.
"No idea... Grandma," she said after a moment, looking unusually serious. "I'm a little worried..."
"About what?" Clarisse was immediately on the alert- if Mia was nervous, worried or scared, she was going to listen.
"I'm just worried... what if we end up like you and Rupert?" she asked in a small voice and Clarisse didn't hesitate to move across the room and take Mia's hands in hers, gripping tightly- she had wanted to hug her but with the fitting, it wasn't the right time.
"You and Nicholas will NEVER be like Rupert and I, do you understand me? Yes, you will inevitably disagree at times and you won't be like other couples with you running a country, but you and Nicholas are marrying for love, not as an arrangement and that makes all the difference... besides we both know you and Nicholas are different to us and neither of you will let your marriage founder."
"I'm sorry yours did Grandma," but Clarisse only shrugged it off with a slight smile.
"We were, in a lot of ways, best friends, but an arranged marriage is hardly an invitation to love."
"But you're happy now?" Mia seemed anxious at this question.
"IAM," Clarisse empathized the words strongly. "Very, very much so and while we definitely had a rough start, I think things are definitely much better between us."
The improved relationship was on display to the rest of the country on the wedding day itself, although Mia and Nicholas definitely stole the show and were radiantly happy from the moment they set eyes on each other at opposite ends of the church upon Mia's arrival.
Clarisse's planning and efforts were also on display and while everyone made the point of praising the former Queen, she was far happier remaining out of the spotlight (although she had to greet guests) and sitting demurely next to her husband after he escorted her up the aisle just before Mia.
"Does this bring back memories?" he teased as the sat down next to Patrick and Helen and his wife of nearly a year blushed slightly as the hands that were hidden from pulic view met and entwined at their sides.
"Some... but thankfully we've been legally married for nearly a year, so we don't need to relive them, particularly in front of the rest of the world."
Joseph himself was feeling conspicuous as he sat beside Clarisse, waiting for the bride to arrive- almost this time last year, he had been broken hearted over Clarisse's rejection and in charge of supervising at least thirty men and ensuring that nearly two hundred guests were 'safe' and now he was a guest ("an honoured guest," Clarisse said earlier as she straightened his tie, something she thoroughly enjoyed doing, admitting that it made her feel "like a real wife"), Clarisse's husband, at the wedding.
He could feel the eyes burning into him but he ignored it, especially once Mia arrived and the ceremony commenced, and after they were pronounced husband and wife, he couldn't believe that the shy, awkward 15 year old he had met nearly seven years ago was now Queen and a wife- he had always believed in her and this wedding, along with the coronation, was vindication for his faith in her.
He was so absorbed in his thoughts of Mia that he barely noticed everyone watching them as they followed Mia and Nicholas and their bridal party out of the church, and Clarisse noticed his mood but couldn't ask until they were on their way back to the palace.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine... I just can't believe how grown up Mia is now- Queen and wife!"
"I had the same titles at her age."
"But you were ever so much more mature than Mia, much as I love her, and I could always see you in those roles, as well as mother... I can't imagine Mia as a mother!"
"But she will be... and you will be a great-grandfather!"
"Great grandfather!" he almost sputtered- the title sounded so unfamiliar, he was barely used to the title grandfather, but it would happen eventually."That means you will be a great grandmother!" and he burst out laughing at her expression. "Now how does it feel!"
"True... it sounds strange..." she laughed ruefully...
"Grandma? Grandma?" came from a great distance and, for the second time since she had arrived back in Genovia, Clarisse found herself being brought out of her reverie but her granddaughter, and she suddenly realized that Charlotte, Sheila and Mia were surrounding her- and that lunch was waiting for them at a nearby table.
"I'm sorry, dear... must be a touch of jet lag," Clarisse said apologetically as she stood up and followed the other women to the table.
"Well maybe you'll have to have a nap because you cannot be tired tonight!" Mia jokingly chided and Clarisse again felt a ripple of excitement and nervousness rush through her- if she was right about tonight, it certainly was going to be a night to remember!