taught you nothing? Remember?

They’re not royalty of any kind. And neither are we.”

Abigail frowned and looked down at her new cowboy boots.

“You’re not a princess. You’re a very smart girl who’s going to go to col ege and live in an apartment and work in a big city. It’s so much better than being a princess.”

Abigail looked up with her long lashes. “So—after I work I’l meet the prince?”

Chloe sighed. This could take a while. “You might meet a smart man, and if you love him a lot, you might just ask him to marry you. Now come on, it’s time to go to your sleepover.”

Abigail went to a party that happened to have a princess theme and Chloe was having Emma over to watch the grand finale of what ultimately became How to Date Mr. Darcy on cable. Emma said she was bringing “a friend,” which usual y meant a blind date for Chloe, and they arrived before she could pour the appletinis and mojitos.

“Hi. I’m Dan.” Dan didn’t bow when he met her. He wore a Cubs hat and brought his own nachos with microwavable orange cheese. “It’s so cool to meet a reality star.”

Chloe shot a look at Emma as soon as she could, but Emma just shrugged. “He’s supernice,” she whispered. “Just give him a chance.”

“What’s for dinner?” Dan asked.

“Salad,” Chloe said.

Every episode of How to Date Mr. Darcy was like nails on a chalkboard for Chloe. She didn’t like seeing and hearing herself on TV, especial y her little freak-out over the confiscation of her cel phone that George had al owed to be plastered al over YouTube, the program’s website, everything.

Worse, she saw now how Sebastian charmed his way into every woman’s heart on the show—not just hers. He even seduced one of the chaperones, fifteen years his senior, in the weeks before Chloe joined. If anyone was “accomplished,” it was him.

“You kick ass, Chloe.” Dan ate with his mouth open, and talked with it open, too, so she could see the neon- orange cheese and tortil a chips mashed together in his mouth. “You’re number one!” He’d brought an oversized foam finger and brandished it every time Chloe did something

“cool” like leave Sebastian at the altar, dumbfounded.

In this final episode, after Chloe left in the taxicab, George announced that the tal ied Accomplishment Points were deemed irrelevant due to unforeseen circumstances. He’d done exit interviews with Grace, Fiona, Mrs. Crescent, and Sebastian. After each interview, the screen went black and a little update paragraph about each person appeared. Grace was back to work at her trading firm and dating a British politician. Fiona had set her wedding date with her fiance, who had come back ahead of schedule from his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Mrs. Crescent’s Wil iam had a successful operation and the lump was benign. Sebastian, thanks to the reality show, had accepted the leading role in a show cal ed The Libertine set to be filmed by England’s Independent Television, and, it turned out, was dating one of the milkmaids from How to Date Mr. Darcy. He shouldn’t have even been talking to the milkmaids. Then a photo of Chloe appeared on- screen and dissolved. The white type on the black screen read: Chloe Parker returned home to Chicago, where she turned

her business around to solvent. The court did move to

modify custody of her daughter, but only granted her ex-

husband custody for one month per summer. And the Na-

tional Trust thanks her for her generous donation to help

restore historic properties throughout England.

The show ended with a short clip about Henry. Chloe sucked down her drink.

“Miss Parker, I know you’re out there watching,” he said into the camera.

Chloe, in her faded blue jeans, propped up her knees and hid her head.

“It was a great pleasure to get to know you and I do hope that you and your daughter consider visiting Dartworth Hal sometime very soon. I quite miss you. You pierce my soul—and al that.”

“Aww,” Emma said.

Dan took a slug of beer and burped. “What was that supposed to mean?”

It seemed forever until they left. Chloe stood looking out the third-floor window of her brownstone. It was Saturday night and fireworks were going off at Navy Pier. Red, white, and blue lit up the night sky.

She’d been thinking about Henry a lot lately. About England. The fireworks dripped in front of her like fal ing petals, or tears.

Alistair sat on his haunches in the living room with his back to her, surrounded by the white, brown, and black feathers from a down pil ow he had just shredded. He was a mouser cat, and unless Abigail was home, he was bored.


He didn’t flinch; she clenched her fists.

“Alistair Cooke!”

He slowly turned around and his green cat eyes stared at her as if he knew al . He had a long white feather in his mouth.

Chloe’s heart pounded. At first she actual y thought it was a quil pen. She released her clenched fingers and he

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