Flashback: Past, Present and Future

Disclaimer and rating - see first part.

Chapter 19: A Little Assistance

It was a couple of hours later when Joseph entered the suite he shared with Clarisse. He assumed that she would have retired for the night as tomorrow was a very big day at the palace. He entered quietly, not wanting to disturb her. He started to make his way into the sleeping area; but noticed a faint light coming from the sitting room. He gently opened the doors and saw her, still fully clothed in her red ball gown, standing in front of the fireplace. The dancing flames further intensified the red of her dress and created an even greater contrast to her fair complexion.

Her body still held its regal stance although her head was lowered slightly to allow her to gaze into the flames. From looking at her, however, Joseph knew her focus was far from the room or the beauty of the fire.

He came up to stand behind her, putting his hands on her shoulders. He placed a kiss on her exposed shoulder. “It’s done, my dear. Viscount Mabrey has been detained for questioning about his level of involvement, along with his father-in-law. We know that the father-in-law was one of the key players in the attempt to overthrow the Renaldi rule. We also brought the Von Trokens in for questioning to determine if they had any involvement as well.”

She didn’t speak, but simply inclined her head slightly to indicate she had heard. They stood there, in silence, for some time. She continued to stare blankly ahead; but finally, her voice broke the silence. “They killed them, Joseph. Rupert and Phillipe – they were murdered. And Pierre, dear Pierre, has been treated horribly. The entire family, even the country, lost respect for him because of his decision…it must have been so hard for him…keeping his secret for all of these years. I fear I said some terrible things to him. I have a call in to him to try to set things straight, but I was told he had secluded himself for prayer. Then Charlotte and poor Mia…what would I have done if...?”

Her shoulders slumped and she clutched her stomach as the terror of the evening began to finally seep into her consciousness. Joseph supported her frame and held her close as he whispered his support into her ear. When he sensed the initial reaction had passed, he spoke gently to her. “Clarisse, my darling, may I make a suggestion?”

She nodded her head slightly before leaning into him. She allowed him to lead her over to the couch and gently lower her to a sitting position beside him. He stroked the tender flesh of her shoulder as he continued, “In less than eighteen hours, Mia will be crowned Queen and will assume primary responsibility for the well being of the citizens of Genovia – a burden you have been carrying on your own for far too long. Until that time, though, the people need you to be strong. You just need to hold it together for just a little while longer, alright? When the news is received that the coronation has gone as planned, the evil men are behind bars awaiting their fate, and the former Queen is off celebrating her much deserved honeymoon, there will be a sense that all is well in Genovia once again.”

She smiled for the first time in hours – it was only a small smile, but it was there. Her voice was soft as she spoke, “I noticed you included the honeymoon in the series of events to take place tomorrow.”

“But of course, my love. The Queen has served her country well for many years. Starting tomorrow, her needs will be served by her ever faithful husband.”

She pushed aside the terror tenuously being held at bay in her mind to focus on the husky voice of her husband. “And what needs would that be, pray tell?”

Joseph smiled and adjusted his hold on her so she was now laying face up across his lap. He gently traced patterns along her forehead, lips, and throat. Her eyes closed as she finally allowed her body to relax some. “I’m afraid the Queen has many needs that must be addressed. The order of which will, of course, be up to her.”

He touched her forehead. “First, there are the mental needs. You see the Queen has been through a lot lately and I believe she needs someone to provide a listening ear for her to work through the many jumbled thoughts running around in her head.”

A small tear escaped from her closed eyes as she nodded, “Yes, I do believe there is much that she has to share…but only with you, my love.”

He then let his finger follow a path over the tip of her nose to her cheek to catch the tear that escaped. Finishing the trail, his finger lightly grazed her lips, down her jaw line and over to her heart where he let his hand rest. “Then there are the emotional needs. My Queen has been hurt by some very evil people and they have caused her a great deal of distress. And while she needs to contain the emotions for a short time longer; once on her honeymoon, she is free to express all of the hurt, anger, and any other emotion she so chooses away from the public eye.”

At his words, her hand covered his and pulled it to her lips. She placed a gentle kiss on his palm and then cradled her head in his hand. “I’m afraid that may take longer than the two weeks we have allotted for our honeymoon. I’ve spent a lifetime suppressing my emotions; I’m not sure I can reverse that in such a short span of time.”

“Which is why I am glad we still have a lifetime to spend together; we have all the time in the world, my darling.” His thumb brushed across her lips again before his hand journeyed downward. He covered her breast and his thumb gently teased the nipple through the silk of her dress. Her body immediately responded to his touch and her eyes flew open. His eyes were dark with desire as he held her gaze. “Finally, there are the physical needs. I know I am personally looking forward to meeting every desire that my beautiful and sexy wife may express.”

“And what if your wife has physical needs right now that must be met?” Her breathing had deepened as he continued to caress the taut nipple and her body was arching up to gain even more of his touch.

At her words, Joseph realized she needed him physically tonight almost as a bandage to help hold the demons at bay until she was free to deal with them. They needed to be staved off for just one more night and she was asking for his help to do that. “Then, as your dutiful husband, it will be my pleasure to meet those needs for you.”

She felt his hand move up to caress her face, her eyes closed in response to his gentle touch. She wanted to focus only on him and his touch. As his fingers grazed her lips, she drew one into her mouth, gently sucking. She heard his sharp intake of breath as she mimicked on his finger actions she had used before on another of his body parts. He pulled his finger out and let it create a moist trail down her throat and into her cleavage. She felt his hand continue downward over her silk covered stomach and down to her thigh. He tried to pull the skirt of her dress up to allow him easier access to the creamy flesh that waited underneath; but was being highly unsuccessful due to the fuller skirt of the gown.

She smiled as she heard him whisper. “Care to offer a little assistance, my love? I can’t seem to get past the yards of material that comprise your dress.” He offered her a hand as she attempted to get up.

Once standing, she turned her back to him and then looked back over her shoulder. “Care to offer a little assistance, my love?”

He smiled as he stood and began to undo the zipper of her dress. With painstaking slowness, he unzipped the dress, kissing her back as each inch of flesh was exposed. Once at the bottom, he placed his hands inside the dress and ran them back up to the top, letting his fingers graze the sides of her breasts as he moved up to her shoulders. With a gentle push, the dress fell to the floor in pool of silk around her feet. She stepped out of her shoes, away from the dress and moved in front of Joseph.

He drank in the sight in front of him. The shadows and light emitted by the fire gave her an ethereal look. The light created an incandescent glow against her skin and the red silk of her undergarments. “You look positively breathtaking, Clarisse.”

She blushed under his compliment. Her hands moved under his jacket and quickly removed it from his body. “And you look positively overdressed.” They made quick work of removing the remainder of his tuxedo which ended up on the floor next to her dress. Once he was clothed in only his trademark black silk boxers, she gently pushed him back to a sitting position on the couch.

She straddled him and captured his mouth with hers. Their tongues began dueling and fighting to possess the other’s mouth. Needing air, Joseph finally broke the kiss. He focused his attention on her breasts attacking them with the same intensity he had just used on her mouth. His hands slipped around and under her panties cupping her derriere. His hands assisted her as she continued to move against him. He continued his assault on her breasts – nipping, licking, and sucking each in turn. He noticed, however, that something was missing. Usually he could hear wonderful sounds emanating from deep within her as he paid homage to her body…


She felt Joseph break the kiss and move lower to her breasts. The sensations created from their kiss were starting to fill her mind. Without realizing, she let down the barriers she had constructed in her mind, which allowed the feelings both pleasurable and terrible to slip into her consciousness.

“…certainly look as if an illness had taken our King from us. No one would…more accurately…no one did…suspect foul play.”

She leaned in to Joseph, wrapping her arms around him, pulling him even closer.

“To kill you, your Majesty.”

Her nails scraped across his back and she increased her movements against him.

“It fairly guaranteed the success of a fatal accident…”

She couldn’t help it. Tears started to escape through her tightly shut eyelids.


He felt the moisture hit his shoulder. Just a few drops at first, then they were falling steadily. He pushed her back slightly, “What’s wrong, love?”

“I’m sorry, Joseph. I find I am unable to relax enough to truly enjoy this. My thoughts keep turning towards much less pleasant topics.”

He wiped her tears away with a gentle caress of his hands. “It’s alright, Clarisse. Come on, let’s go to bed. I have a few ideas to help you focus on more pleasurable topics.”

She nodded and stood. She was surprised when Joseph scooped her into his arms and began to carry her into the bedroom. “Joseph, what are you doing?”

“I do believe this is a customary tradition for newlyweds, is it not? I was feeling rather deprived that I had not been given the opportunity to do this yet. Besides, everyone needs a little picking up now and again.”

Her smile returned as she sought solace in the comfort of his strong arms and the steady beat of his heart. She remembered another dark time in her life when she had been granted a reprieve from her terror in Joseph’s embrace.

Back in time

She had been seeking peace in her private rose garden. Only a few months earlier, Rupert had died in his sleep. She was still mourning the loss of a good friend; and, as a citizen of Genovia, the loss of her King. She had been given little time to mourn as she had had to step in and run the country. Occasionally, though, she would convince Joseph to let her come to her private garden late at night. He would insist that she needed her sleep; and she would insist she needed the peace she found here. Tonight he had agreed and was standing, as always, a few feet behind her…just enough that he could be there in a flash if needed; but far enough away to allow her some privacy.

The fragrance of the roses were helping somewhat tonight; but she still felt troubled – as if something terrible were just looming outside of her grasp. Unfortunately, her instinct was right and a short time later Shades found them and shared the news that Phillipe had been killed in a car accident. The façade she had shakily constructed after Rupert’s death crumbled at this news and her body along with it. She sank to the ground; but rather than find the cold, hard earth, she found the warmth of Joseph’s body supporting her.

She couldn’t recall how long they had stayed like that. Finally she felt like she could stand and, with Joseph’s help, made her way to her feet. Before she could try to walk, though, he swept her up in his arms and began to carry her back to the castle.

“Joseph, what are you doing?”

“Just offering a little assistance to my Queen.” The strength of his embrace washed away any resistance she might have mustered. It seemed every eye in the castle had followed their steps that night – not out of curiosity or shock over breach of protocol; but rather out of sadness for the grief that now consumed their monarch and the royal family.

Joseph had stayed with her all night, just holding her and whispering words of comfort as she worked through the raw pain of losing yet another member of her family.

Present day

“I seem to recall another time when you provided this service for me. You don’t do this for every maiden you find in distress, do you? ” She spoke into his chest not wanting to even slightly break the contact.

It was his turn to smile, “Only for you, my love.” He placed her on the bed after removing her remaining clothing. He decided a direct approach would be best way to provide the greatest distraction. He moved between her legs and separated her curls. Even in the short time they had been together, he knew instinctively what brought her pleasure. His tongue began to work its magic against her silken folds. He flattened his tongue against her sensitive bud, caressing and arousing. It was as if her body was a musical instrument that he was a master at playing. He brought her to the edge again and again, creating a symphony that caused waves of pleasure to crash over her body. Her cries provided the crescendo to the masterpiece they were creating together. With each measure, he filled her with the music of his love and pushed away the demons to the dark recesses of her mind.

She had alternated between begging him to stop and pleading with him not to. One by one she had tossed the pillows from bed until only one was left. She used the final pillow to capture her release as he drove her to completion yet again. “Joseph…oh please…” Her words came in short pants as he had wrung every bit of energy from her body.

He kissed her essence one more time and then moved his body to cover hers. He filled her and together they finished, their hearts providing a rapid, pulsing beat to lead them to climax and the conclusion of their love song.

He saw the peace now present on her gentle features and knew that she would make it through. She snuggled against him and settled into a peaceful sleep. His arm went protectively over her and he closed his eyes to join her in sleep.

The next morning he awoke to find her missing from the bed. He found her in the sitting room taking her tea. She was already dressed in the gold dress that she would wear to the coronation.

“What time is it? He asked her as he leaned down to kiss her good morning.

“Only a couple of hours until the coronation, I suggest that you start getting ready, my love.”

He couldn’t believe it was that late – he never slept in. “Why didn’t you wake me, love?”

Her smile was priceless. “Well, I suspected that you were quite exhausted from all of your husbandly duties last night; and I wanted you well rested before your honeymoon that is scheduled to start later today.”

He grabbed a cup of coffee and a roll as he headed towards the shower. “Then perhaps you should request more coffee and see if Mia has any of those energy bars she’s always raving about from America as I’m certain I will need them to keep up with my wife’s insatiable appetite!”

She laughed at his statement. “Indeed. I shall check with her. Oh, and Joseph?”

He stopped before entering the bathroom, “Yes, love?”

“Thank you for last night. You are truly my knight in shining armor. I can’t imagine surviving the horrors of my past, the terrors of my present, or the loneliness that would be my future if you weren’t a part of my life.”

“And I cannot imagine my life without you. I love you with everything that I am, Clarisse.”

“And I you. Now off to the shower with you or you’ll be late to see your granddaughter crowned Queen.”

“I thought Knights to the Queen were never late…”

“Joseph…” her tone told him he needed to get moving and that the teasing would have to wait until later.

“I know, I know…off to the shower with me. Would you care to offer a little assistance?”


Chapter 20: End of an Era

The entire palace was buzzing with excitement over the coronation. The members of Parliament had arrived, representatives from the church were there, Helen, Andrew with Lady Alyssa, Nicholas…everyone was anxiously awaiting the beginning of the ceremony. Television sets were tuned in all over Genovia to see their beloved Queen transfer the power to rule the country over to her granddaughter. News of the events of last night had spread quickly and there were nervous currents running throughout the entire population.

There was a sense of calm, however, inside the royal suites. Mia had visited with Nicholas earlier in the morning and was now being tended to by her lady’s maids. Paulo had already been to see Mia and was now tending to Queen Clarisse. Joseph watched as Paulo used his magic to remove any lingering signs of the stress from the last twenty four hours that Clarisse had been through. Even though she seemed more at peace today, there were still some residual shadows that would have been evident if not for the skillful work of the expert. Paulo had seemed uncharacteristically quiet as he worked. He seemed to understand the importance of what was to take place today.

“Paulo is finished, your Majesty” he announced quietly after tucking the last strands of hair into place before putting the small crown on her head.

She exhaled and turned slowly to see herself in the mirror on the dresser. Seeing proof that all evidence of what was hidden below the surface was carefully concealed, she smiled up at him. “Much better, Paulo. Thank you.”

He took her hand and gently kissed it once. “The honor is all mine, your Majesty. It has been a privilege to serve you and your granddaughter today.”

Paulo, along with Olivia, left to give Clarisse some time before the ceremony began. As they were leaving, Charlotte entered. “If I may have a moment of your time, your Majesty?”

She smiled at her assistant. “Of course, Charlotte, how are you feeling today?”

“Much better, thank you. As long as I don’t have to run in any marathons, I should be fine.”

“That is good news, indeed. And I’m certain there are no marathons on the schedule, correct?” she smiled as she asked the question.

“Yes ma’am, that is correct.”

Both women stood looking at each other. Joseph sensed that perhaps he should give them a few moments alone. He stepped toward Clarisse and kissed her gently on the head. “My dear, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll check one last time on the security before the ceremony begins.”

She recognized that he was bowing out gracefully to allow her some privacy. She cupped his cheek, “I think that’s a wonderful idea. Thank you, Joseph.” Her hand lingered for just a moment as she closed her eyes in silent thanks for the wonderful man that stood before her. He turned his head and kissed her palm. “Until later then, my love.”

He squeezed Charlotte’s shoulder and smiled at her as he exited. He knew this would be a difficult day for both women as they were saying good bye to an era. Although Charlotte would continue to serve in her official capacity, the service would be to Queen Mia rather than Clarisse.

As the door closed behind Joseph, Clarisse gestured to Charlotte. “Would you like to sit down?”

Charlotte shook her head no and tried to find the right words to say to her friend, her Queen. The tears threatened to spill from both women’s eyes. “Come now, Charlotte. Paulo will not be happy if he has to come back in here to do my face again.”

Their laughter broke the seriousness of the moment, “Well, we mustn’t let that happen, your Majesty.”

Clarisse turned very serious as she looked tenderly at her assistant. “Charlotte…I…I find I am at a loss for words to convey my thoughts at this moment.”

“I understand, your Majesty.”

“Yes. Yes, you always have. You have been a wonderful assistant and an even better friend. Next to Joseph, there is no one who has known and understood me as well as you. You went well above your job requirements. I will never be able to thank you for the way you took care of me and tended to the millions of details that I could have never handled on my own. Your loyalty, devotion, and friendship…well…I am forever grateful.”

“It has been my honor to serve you, your Majesty. And, although I shall enjoy serving Princess Mia…well Queen Amelia, I shall miss you terribly. I…” the tears spilled from her eyes.

Clarisse closed the space between them, putting her arms around her and drawing her into an embrace. “I certainly hope that we shall remain friends.” She separated a bit from her. “As a matter of fact, I was hoping that our friendship would continue to deepen. I’m afraid I’ve grown quite fond of you.”

“And I you, your Majesty.”

“Of course, we’ll have to work on you calling me by my name rather than ‘your Majesty’.”

“That may take some time; but perhaps some day.” Charlotte backed away, took Clarisse’s hand and kneeled before her. “Today, however, you are still my Queen and I have always been and will forever be your faithful servant. It has been an honor to be of service to you, your Majesty”

Charlotte touched her forehead to the back of Clarisse’s hand signifying the deep love and respect she had for her Queen. Clarisse clasped her other hand over Charlotte’s and pulled her to her feet. She smiled and nodded her gratitude recognizing the symbolic gesture Charlotte had just made to her. They hugged one more time before Charlotte excused herself to make the final preparations for the Eagle to fly for the last time.

Clarisse put on the jacket portion of her dress and made her way to the throne room. She spun slowly looking at all the portraits of the Renaldi monarchs who had gone before her and noted the space left for those who would come after her.

For a moment she allowed herself to swell with pride at being part of such a great tradition and for the courage she had displayed in making the decisions and sacrifices that would allow the Renaldi rule to continue.

She sighed…her sacrifices had been many. From denying herself true love for so long to almost losing herself completely to duty and the monarchy. She walked over to the throne and ran her hand over the intricate carvings. She sat, for the last time, on the throne remembering the many hours she had spent in this place. She had listened to and cared for the people of Genovia for so long…she wasn’t sure how to let that go. She sat back on the throne and closed her eyes…just remembering.

She didn’t hear or see him come in – had no idea how long he had been there. When she opened her eyes, he was there – kneeling before the throne. She sat up straight and looked at him with love in her eyes.

“If I may? I would like an audience with the Queen, your Majesty.” He spoke quietly.

“What is your dilemma, young man?”

“I fear I have been deceiving a woman I love very much for many years now.”

“I see. What was the nature of the deceit?”

“I’m afraid I was less than honest with her about my reasoning for decisions I made a long time ago. This resulted in harm to our relationship that lasted for far too many years.”

“That is not good, young man. However, if the reason for your deceit was honorable…perhaps there can be restitution.”

“They were most honorable, your Majesty. I deceived her to protect her. Do you think she will forgive me?”

“Hmmm, that depends. What have you brought for my table?” Her mouth curled into a small smile as she asked this question.

He smiled in return. “I’m afraid all I have is a blessing to offer – for continued prosperity and success to the Renaldi family.”

“I think that is more than sufficient, my dear.” She stood and practically ran into his arms. “Oh Pierre, I’m so glad you’re here! I tried calling several times. I wanted to apologize for the horrible way I’ve treated you over the years because of your abdication. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

Pierre relished being in his mother’s arms again. He felt cherished and loved as if he was a small boy again receiving the love that only a mother can give. “Of course, Mother. All is forgiven. I’m just glad you’re safe and that these men are finally behind bars.”

She hugged him again. “So, let’s go find Joseph. I know he would love to see you and we haven’t much time before the ceremony begins.”

Pierre laughed. “How do you think I found you, Mother? Joseph told me where you were.”

“But, how did he know where I was? I was alone when I came here from my suite.”

Pierre smiled at her, “Mother, you should know by now that you’re never alone and Joseph always knows where you are – even when he’s not around.”

Her countenance brightened ever further as she thought of her beloved husband and the way he was always watching over her. “Indeed, my son, I should know. Come. Let’s get you settled in. I’m afraid I must get to my appointed place soon or both Charlotte and Joseph will come looking for me!”

“Ah, but I thought Queens were never late, Mother.” Pierre couldn’t resist teasing her.

She put her arm through his as she replied, “I’m afraid that today may be the one exception, my son. Better not to chance it.”

Mother and son walked out of the throne room with locked arms. Just before exiting, Clarisse turned and looked at the room with a slight sadness that, in a few hours, things would never be the same again.

A short time later, Clarisse found herself standing at the entrance way to the balcony that she would enter on and then descend the staircase in sync with Mia to the lower level where the ceremony would occur.

She gave the signal that she was ready and through the small devices that Charlotte and the security team kept in their ears, they communicated that fact to each other. Joseph was waiting with her and would remain upstairs for a short time before joining her on the main level.

She heard the cadence of the Royal Guard begin as they marched in. The excitement in the air was almost palpable. She turned and faced Joseph, taking a deep breath as he placed the formal, heavy crown on her head.

“Good luck my dear; and, may I say, it has been an honor to serve under you as your head of security.” He leaned in to kiss her on the cheek and then whispered in her ear, “And, as your husband, I look forward to serving under you later tonight!”

She blushed as she thought of her upcoming honeymoon Although it wasn’t like they had waited over this past week, it would be the first time they would be together without any interruptions, duty, or responsibility to get in the way. She had to admit that the thought of that frightened her more than a little; but, she would deal with that later. It was now time for Genovia to crown a new Queen. “You are incorrigible, Joseph.” she replied as she swatted him playfully on the arm.

As she stepped onto the balcony, her heart filled with pride at the beautiful sight her granddaughter made as she entered from the opposite side. Mia wore the customary white gown with gold accents. The white signifying, as it did in weddings, purity and a new beginning. The gold representing the royal blood which flowed through her veins. Clarisse’s dress was entirely gold in color representing her reign coming full cycle and that the time had come to turn the rule over to another.

She locked eyes with Mia; and, for a moment, they stood there communicating silently all of the joy, hope, and fear over what had and would transpire as Mia took her rightful place among the Renaldi rulers.


Clarisse stepped out of the side room and walked to the top of the stairs. Across the room, Rupert had entered in a similar manner. Although very young, he exuded a power that she found exciting and terrifying all at the same time. They had been married only two weeks earlier and had just returned from their honeymoon. Now he was being crowned King of Genovia and she, Queen. He had warned her that their reprieve from duty would be brief…she just had not realized at the time how true his words had been. From the moment she uttered the words, “I solemnly promise so to do.”, her life had been changed forever – duty came first; and, often, was all that mattered. For over 40 years, there had been only duty. And now as soon as Mia uttered those same words in just a few minutes, her life would change forever again.

She mentally shook herself and smiled at Mia before they turned to head down the stairs. She took her place next to the throne and felt the weight of the crown being lifted from her head and placed on Mia’s. She felt it was appropriate that it weighed so much as it symbolized the burden of duty and responsibility that came with wearing the crown. It also represented the end of her reign and the beginning of her life with Joseph.

Mia turned to look at her grandmother before speaking her oath. Clarisse beamed with pride and there was a glint of humor in her eyes as she recalled the day she told Mia she was a princess.


“You are a princess…”

“Shut up!!”

“I beg your pardon?”

Indeed they had come a long way from that day. This time Mia responded with something more appropriate than “Shut up!”

“I solemnly promise so to do.” And just like that, an era ended. She felt Joseph come to stand beside her and take her arm. She decided that while it may be the end of one very long chapter in her life, she was excited about how the next chapter would be written. It was starting with a honeymoon with the man she loved more than anything else…how bad could that be? They both smiled at each other as they watched Mia make her way to the end of the Royal Guard while Genovia’s national anthem was being sung by all the guests – including Lionel (who had insisted on being released so he could attend), Elsie Kentworthy (Clarisse had wanted to revoke her press pass, but Joseph had talked her out of it), and even the Von Trokens. Then the final announcement that made it official:

“Presenting her Majesty, Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi…Queen of Genovia.”

Several hours later

“Good bye, Prime Minister.

Thank you for your continual support over the past several years. I would not have wanted to attempt to take on Parliament without you. It is good to know that Mia will have you by her side.”

“I look forward to it. I suspect there will never be a dull moment.”

Clarisse and Joseph laughed at the Prime Minister’s statement especially since, they decided, he had no idea how true that statement really was.

“Well, my dear, that was the last of our honored guests.” Joseph put his arm around her as they made their way from the grand ball room.

Mia walked along beside them. “So are you two leaving tonight for your honeymoon?”



Joseph and Clarisse responded in unison. Mia laughed, “It’s good that you two have this all worked out and have communicated so well!”

“Joseph, what do you mean that we are leaving tonight? I couldn’t possibly get ready in such a short time.”

“Darling, you’ve had a lifetime to get ready; and, besides, Olivia and Priscilla have packed everything as I instructed.”

“Well suppose I had something special that I wanted to bring along?” she teased.

“Then I can wait a few minutes while you run up and get it!”

“You most definitely are incorrigible! I did want to spend some time with Pierre, though.”

“I’ve already spoken to him and he will be staying for an extended visit, so there will be plenty of time for visiting and catching up when we return.”

“So I have nothing to say in this matter? Only three hours since turning the crown over to Mia and already my authority is gone.”

“Oh, Gramma, you’ll always be our Queen; but when it comes to your personal life, we just have to help push you in the right direction.”

Clarisse made one of her faces she had become known for when she didn’t like the turn of events; but, to her credit, she didn’t comment further on it. Instead she locked her arms through Joseph’s and Mia’s and, arm in arm, the Royal family made their way back to their private suites. As the doors to the ballroom were opened to allow their exit, she tossed one quick look back at the throne sitting in the middle of the room. She looked to Mia and then to Joseph and then led them through the doors as, together, they ushered in a new era.