Checking his watch for the tenth time in just as many minutes, Kylo tapped his steel-toed wingtips against the foyer floor. At this rate, they would definitely be late.
Not that he wanted to go to this goddamn thing in the first place.
“Serena,” he called up towards the balcony. “How much longer will she be?”
The elderly seamstress had been putting the “finishing touches” on Rey’s gown for the better part of an hour. “Just a minute, Your Majesty.”
Absent-mindedly, he wondered what she would look like in anything other than her shapeless air force fatigues. Even as a blushing bride, she’d opted for military regalia instead of a dress… But tonight’s gala was their first public appearance as a couple, and the Queen Mother had insisted that she be fitted for “something more elegant”.
With a sigh, Kylo crossed his arms – the fabric of his silk jacket a touch too snug along the shoulders. Since the wedding, he had thrown himself into fencing – his favorite childhood sport – four hours a day, seven days a week. That, paired with eating everything under the sun, had clearly translated into a couple additional pounds since he’d last worn this particular tux.
And it was no coincidence that he hadn’t fucked a woman in just as long.
Kylo’s marriage was, for better or for worse, a purely political one – a last ditch effort to put to rest a millennia-old war between two nations that otherwise could not be won. And though other men of his station would have simply shacked up with a mistress, their nuptial agreement – a hundred-page long contract co-signed by legal counsel across the aisle – clearly specified that infidelity of any kind would result in immediate dissolution of truce and treaty.
And thus, here he was – six months celibate, with only himself to blame.
He’d met Rey for the first time during a negotiation summit two years prior; she’d recently been elected prime minister and he, a newly appointed king. A military woman by training, she’d been aggressively honest – rejecting the platitudes of diplomacy in favor of forthright discussion… And despite the badges that lined the breast pocket of her uniform – tangible proof of a lifetime of hardship, she’d had a wholesome goodness about her that he’d found curious.
Unfortunately, the conference had been fruitless, and the months that followed had been difficult on both their states and their citizens. The following year, Kylo had proposed a mutual ceasefire, but advisors on either side of the conflict had been uncertain; without considerable collateral, they’d noted, there was no guarantee that it would stick.
And thus, in a haze of desperation (and with a touch of masochism), he’d suggested their union… And Rey had (reluctantly) agreed.
Ultimately, they’d decided to spend six months a year in each of their countries, ruling both together – as peacefully as possible… And thus far, they’d been remarkably successful. Though they disagreed on nearly every point of business, they’d learned to compromise – little by little.
And that alone made a lonely bed worth it. (That’s what he told himself, at least.)
The sudden rustle of satin stirred Kylo from his reverie. Finally.
…But as he turned towards the grand staircase, his mouth went dry.
She was a vision.
The sleeveless design of her gown showcased a pair of sun-kissed arms, and clever cutouts accentuated the swell of fertile hips. Stark white and completely unembellished, it clung to her every curve and left little to the imagination.
Why hadn’t she worn that on their wedding day?
“Kylo?” His name sounded like a faint twinkle as it fell from her lips.
Had they always been so pink, those lips?
…Because all he wanted now was to kiss them until they were bruised and crimson.
What the hell had gotten into him?
“Did you hear me?” she tried again, a delicate crease forming across her forehead.
It was only then that he realized he’d been staring. Shit.
Averting his gaze, he offered her his elbow and hoped she hadn’t noticed. “Ah, yes. Let’s get going, then.”
As she slid into the limousine, Rey crossed her legs and rearranged her pleats to cover the subtle slit that slashed up the right side of her dress. She’d had no choice but to do without undergarments, leaving her breezy, bare, and… Self-conscious.
When Kylo failed to follow her in, she peered out the door and saw that Arty, the Ren Estate butler, had sprinted down to the garage from the main house. He panted as he produced a large velvet box. “I’m very sorry Your Majesty, but this really isn’t your decision.”
“Damnit, Arty.” With a scowl, Kylo popped open the clasps of the reticule and gingerly extracted the crown that lay within it.
After haphazardly affixing it amidst a crest of unruly black locks, he strode towards the car – broad back straight as a jet wing and jaw set with contempt… And as soon as he’d settled into the seat kitty-corner to hers, Rey was reminded of just how massive of a man her husband was. The suspension visibly sank under his weight, and she would have felt claustrophobic had she not been so distracted by… Him.
Though she hated to admit it, he looked nothing short of majestic in the Ren Family diadem.
It wasn’t until after he’d rapped on the barrier and urged their driver to get a move on that he caught her lingering glance with his. “What’s the matter?”
A flush quickly spread across her face. “Nothing. I’m just a bit out of my element dressed up like this,” she deflected, adjusting the tiara that sat slightly askew atop her chignon. “And Arty’s been giving me etiquette lessons for weeks, but to say that I’m underprepared would be an understatement.”
To her surprise, his eyes briefly softened – and irises she’d once thought were brown reminded her of warm toffee pudding. “You look beautiful, Rey.” It was barely audible – and if the slightly stunned expression on his face was any indication, he hadn’t meant to say it out loud… But before she could respond, he’d cleared his throat and barreled forward. “It may come as a shock, but I'm not fond of all this either,” he continued. “Including this hunk of metal on my head, for that matter.”
Rey let out a bark of laughter. “That hunk of metal could easily feed half the people in this country, Kylo – for a year at least, maybe more.”
“Hm,” Kylo hummed to himself as he reached into the chiller to his left. Out came a bottle of vodka and two ice-cold tumblers.
“That’s not a bad idea,” he said as he poured three fingers worth. “I find that drinking beforehand helps. Rocks?”
“What’s not a bad idea?” She reached for the crystal. “No, neat. Helps with what?”
He chose to ignore her first question. “We’ll be there in about half an hour, and we can’t leave until after cigars and cordials. That means roughly five hours of putting on airs and making small talk…”
But before he could finish his thought, Rey had already shot the contents of her glass and handed it back to him. “Got it. Fill 'er up, Ren.”
By the time they arrived at the museum, Rey was pleasantly buzzed – and far less insecure in her outfit than she had been when they’d started their journey… So much so that when Kylo helped her out onto the red carpet, she didn’t mind the length of leg she flashed the cameras that awaited them.
His arm wrapped tightly around her waist and gave it an encouraging squeeze as they waved at the paparazzi. Bending to whisper in her ear, he sent a shiver down the length of her spine. “A few more minutes and then we can go inside.”
“Your Majesties, how about a kiss?” a photographer shouted above the commotion.
…And within seconds, the crowd was chanting, “Kiss the King! Kiss the King!”
Kylo leaned down again. “What say you, my Queen?”
But this time, his murmur was laced with a challenge.