T-minus one day to the biggest wedding in the world. Standing on the sidewalk outside the Grand Hotel, Gwen Parker squinted into a surprisingly bright Friday morning in the center of London and confirmed her decision to give her latest crazy scheme a shot. “Crazy” had already proven to be surprisingly effective. She was having the best week ever of her career. There was no reason to back off now.
Gwen was no stranger to London, but in the run-up to the royal wedding between Prince Richard and his bride-to-be, American singer Meredith Bast, something special had happened to the city.
It wasn’t simply the novelty of seeing familiar haunts plastered with excessive amounts of springtime flowers, Union Jack bunting, and ridiculous commemorative souvenirs.
It was the communal sense of pure, unbridled joy.
Gwen tossed her empty coffee cup in a trash can and took in a deep breath, a little high on the vibe. She absently patted her camera, confirming it was still at her hip, and gave herself a moment to soak in this new version of London. It sure was nice while it lasted. The sunshine included.
The city was packed, with tourists and locals alike shoulder to shoulder at every corner, but everyone took the crowds in stride. Even a seasoned New Yorker like Gwen would have a hard time frowning at the fun and the fantasy of this occasion.
So, yeah, she’d walked these streets a hundred times before. She’d come plenty close to royals before. She’d gotten lucky with her photos from here in the past, although not as lucky as today. But there was something special about a divorced American celebrity marrying into the British Royal Family. Like anyone—even one who’d been as doomed in love as Gwen—could find their prince.
As she walked the popular route between her hotel and Buckingham Palace, she recognized more than a few fellow paparazzi. She called out a greeting as she passed a British photographer alongside whom she regularly shot celebrities and royals coming out of nightclubs and restaurants.
He made an X with two fingers as he barreled past her on the crowded sidewalk, shouting, “Nice get, Yankee.”
X? Ah, ex. She grinned and gave him a mock salute, acknowledging the praise. He wouldn’t hesitate to trample her for a great shot, but at least he gave credit where it was due.
Which meant Gwen was sure to score a free drink off him the next time the photog scrum met in the belly of the Hound once the wedding chaos was over; her shot of Meredith’s ex-husband entering a London hotel was currently featured on top of the Daily Mail’s website. Not to mention, she could probably get the photographer to spring for a side of Scotch eggs when he got around to seeing her credit on that sneak preview of Princess Georgina’s wedding hat too.
Between the two photos, Gwen’s bank account was going to be squarely in the black. Nice.
Maybe she should pack it in and take care of some other projects. Go rest on her laurels. Save some energy for the wedding day tomorrow. But there was still plenty of time to get one more winner, and make those other photog boys who liked to stand in front of her at shoots pay some overdue respect.
Being a paparazzo wasn’t rocket science, but Gwen didn’t just leave getting her shots to chance. She researched, she planned, she memorized diagrams and floor plans and timed things out. Doing all this homework had finally paid off with an unbelievable amount of success this week, and she had an idea for one more, the cherry on the sundae.
A shot of the wedding preparation from inside Buckingham Palace.
You could say she’d done her homework there, too, but she hadn’t planned to sleep with Jack Churchill last New Year’s Eve for strategic reasons. Meredith Bast hadn’t even received her royal proposal back then.
Nope, Gwen slept with Jack because he was tall, dark, and handsome with a swoon-worthy British accent and the sort of contradiction of personality that spoke to both mind and body: perfect manners at the bar and just the right amount of bad behavior upstairs in her hotel room. It was complete coincidence that he’d come into the Hound—a popular watering hole under her rooms at the Grand—that night for drinks with his buddies, all of them active-duty soldiers who’d received the honor of a stint with the Queen’s Guard.
She hadn’t asked Jack to practice his favorite military maneuvers on her after midnight because she was a paparazzo who liked to take pictures of royals and he had a key to Buckingham Palace. And it wasn’t because she had an inkling that a royal wedding was coming down the pike and she was setting herself up for a clear shot through her telephoto lens.
If she’d done something that gross, at least she would have done it properly and not snuck out of bed before he woke up in the morning.
It was because Jack...