Flashback: Past, Present and Future

Disclaimer and rating - see first part.

Chapter 21: Free

Evening had settled on Genovia and the festivities of the day had ended. The Palace was quiet as all the guests had gone home. There was a small gathering in Mia’s suite that included Nicholas, Helen, Patrick, Trevor, and Lily. Joseph and Clarisse had popped in to say good bye as they were leaving for the airport.

“Are you sure you’ll be alright, Mia?” Clarisse asked, still concerned about her security.

“I’ll be fine, Gramma. You two go – have fun! I’ll try not to destroy the country while you’re gone!” Mia teased.

“Amelia! Don’t sass your grandmother – especially not about that. Now come and give me a hug before we leave.”

Mia embraced her grandmother, “Thanks for everything, Grandma, I love you!”

“I love you too, Amelia.” She separated from Mia. “Good bye everyone.”

Joseph and Clarisse made their way to the limo. Joseph opened the door and got in first, so she wouldn’t have to slide. As he got in the seat facing the back of the car, she followed suit and sat next to him. The driver closed the door behind her. “Joseph, I’m still worried about Amelia…oh, hello.” She had just noticed the couple sitting at the back of the limo.

They responded, “Hello, your majesty.”

She kept a smile plastered on her face as she had no idea who these people were and why they were in her limo. She decided to be diplomatic, “Will you be traveling with Joseph and I?”

Joseph chuckled as he interjected, “My dear, please allow me to introduce Julie and James. I’m sure you’ve noticed they have a striking resemblance to you and me?”

She hadn’t been able to take her eyes off of the couple, even as Joseph spoke, because she was contemplating just that. “Yes. I did notice that.”

“They are what we refer to as body doubles in the security business. They will accompany us to the airport and they will board Genovia One while we wait in the car. Then you and I will take separate transportation to the location I’ve selected for our honeymoon.” He noted the look of confusion on Clarisse’s face. “It’s just an extra security measure, my dear.”

“I see.” She turned back from Joseph to look at the couple sitting across from them. It was almost as though she was looking in a mirror. “You haven’t lived in Genovia for long, have you? I dare say with the striking resemblance you bear to myself and Joseph, I’m certain I would have heard about you.”

Julie smiled at Clarisse, “No ma’am, I actually live in England and James is from America. Joseph found us and flew us over here just a couple of days ago in anticipation of your departure. And, if I may, congratulations on your marriage and on your granddaughter becoming Queen. I’m sure you are very proud.”

Clarisse beamed as she replied, “I am very proud of her. Joseph and I both believe that she will be a great Queen. Thank you for your kind words. Also, thank you for doing this. I certainly hope that you will not be in any danger.”

“I’m sure she will make a fine Queen, your Majesty. Don’t worry, we’ll be fine; we are trained for such things; however, you’re welcome.”

They rode the rest of the way in companionable silence. Upon arrival at the airport, the limo pulled into the hangar. As it was late in the evening, they were aided by the cover of darkness which allowed Julie and James to board the plane without any worry that someone watching from a distance might recognize them as imposters.

Once Genovia One had taken off, Clarisse and Joseph climbed into his Jaguar and took off from the airport. Once outside the perimeter of the airport, Clarisse spoke, “So, would you care to explain what all of that was? I thought you assured me that those responsible for the attempted overthrow were behind bars?”

“Everyone that we know of; however, when it comes to your safety, I’m not willing to take any chances. I’ve spent a lifetime protecting you; and I don’t intend any harm to come your way now.”

“And what about Amelia? What of her safety? She was the primary target. How could we have left her there alone?” Clarisse was growing more concerned by the moment.

Joseph smiled slightly, “Clarisse, my love, Mia has Shades, Lionel and the entire complement of the Royal Guard, who is currently on high alert to look after her. I promise you, she will be safe.”

Realizing that Joseph would have covered all bases, Clarisse relaxed somewhat. “I’m sorry, Joseph, I was just alarmed when I saw those people – our doubles – in the limo. It was unexpected and slightly disconcerting.” She admonished him slightly.

He reached over and put his hand on her thigh as he continued to drive. “I’m sorry, dear; it had to be that way. No one could know they were in there or we would have lost the element of surprise. It was all probably entirely unnecessary, but I wanted to take all prudent precautions.”

“I understand and appreciate your caution.” She was silent for a few moments. Even though it was too dark to see outside the window, she stared out of it as she spoke her next words. “May I ask you a question?”

Her question and tone caught him off guard a bit. “Certainly, my dear, you may ask me anything.”

“I’m certain that you knew, in your head, that Mia was the one that Paul would shoot as she was the last of the bloodline to the throne. So why protect me and not her?”

He sighed. He knew this would come up at some point; but he had hoped it would be after they had been away for a while. “The heart does things for reason – that reason cannot understand. Right or wrong, Clarisse, I made the decision with my heart and not my head.”

“What if something had happened to Mia?” There wasn’t anger or even accusation in her question, just a hint of sorrow from concern over what could have happened to her only grandchild – especially if she had lived and Mia had not.

“I would have never forgiven myself. However, for the first time in my life, I considered the duty I had to myself. I had just found you, after a life time of waiting for you. I could not bear to lose you. I hope you can understand that.”

She didn’t respond – just continued to look out the window as they drove to their destination. Joseph decided he would give her time to work through everything. A lot had happened in a short amount of time; and she needed time to process it all. He left his hand on her thigh and gently caressed it as they drove on in silence.

About an hour later, she turned and looked at him, “Where are we going? As I recall, you never mentioned to me where we would be honeymooning.”

Joseph smiled. She really didn’t like surprises; and he had thrown a lot her way lately. “We are headed to a very private place where you and I can spend some much needed time together.”

“And where are our doubles headed?” There was a slight grin on her face as she asked the question.

Joseph returned her smile, “They are flying over to Paris, France. Upon arrival, they will be whisked away to a hotel room that has been reserved in our name. They will order room service and hang out in the room for two weeks until they fly back to Genovia and arrive at the airport around the same time we do. We will then take the limo home and they will, the next day, be flown back to their respective countries.”

She couldn’t help but chuckle, “Well, you certainly seem to have it all coordinated. Is there a reason they get to go to Paris and I’m apparently traveling to the ends of the earth in a car?”

“Not the ends of the earth, my love – just the ends of Genovia.”

“So I’m not even going to leave the country for my honeymoon?” She pouted.

Joseph’s hand moved to the inside of her thigh as his hand rested very close to her center, “Oh I plan to take you to a whole different world many times during the next couple of weeks.”

Her breath caught and she felt her body warm instantly at the intimacy of his caress. “Well, why didn’t you just say that?” she breathily replied. Feeling a need inside her growing quickly, she asked in the same husky voice, “Are we almost there?”

Joseph let his hand caress her leg and allowed his fingers to brush up against the now alert area. “Not too much longer now.” He continued his caresses as he wound through the back roads that would take them to their remote getaway.

He looked over expecting a verbal response. Instead her head was back exposing her long neck; he could see her breathing had increased. Her hands were gripping the arm rests on either side and her hips were instinctually moving against his hand. “Let yourself go, Clarisse. It’s just you and I. No one else around –no one to interrupt or judge…just let go – be free.”

She heard his instructions and considered his words. She wanted to…wanted to let go of her inhibitions; but years of being in the public eye - worrying about always saying or doing the right thing was hard to dismiss. She felt his hand continue to lightly touch her. He was slowly driving her mad with her own desires and needs. Something small inside of her gave away. It wasn’t anything that would result in a total shift in her mindset…no, that would take a long time to come about. This was just a beginning.

Her right hand went to the switch that would recline her seat and her left hand lifted off of the armrest to begin caressing her breast. Once the seat had reclined, her right hand joined the left to add to the pleasure she was giving herself.

Joseph did his best to keep his eyes on the road to avoid running them into a ditch; but watching her body move in response to both his and her touches was almost more than he could stand. His own body was beginning to respond as he heard soft moans of pleasure escaping from her lips. He forced himself to keep his breathing even. It was getting harder to focus on driving. He made a decision- he wanted to see how far she would go. He moved his hand from her juncture and covered her left hand with his. He moved her hand lower to where his had been only moments ago and began to caress again, but moving her hand instead of his. She brought herself out of her haze momentarily to look questioningly at him. His statement was barely above a whisper, “Take care of yourself, my love. I want to get us to our cabin quickly and safely; but I don’t want to miss this either.”

She seemed hesitant, “Joseph…I…I’ve never…”

He touched her face. “Consider it a gift for me. Please Clarisse – there are not words to adequately express how absolutely beautiful and desirable you look right now.”

Another little piece of her inner reserve broke away, “For you…I will try, my love.” She kissed his palm, laid back and then resumed learning her body and how to bring pleasure to it.

Joseph watched her out of the corner of his eye. He would have given anything to have been pulling into the drive right now so he could focus his full attention on watching his beautiful wife shed some of her inhibitions.

Clarisse kept her eyes closed and imagined that it was Joseph’s hands rather than hers roaming over her body. She rolled the now erect nipple on her breasts between her thumb and index finger which caused a primal sound to emerge from deep within her body. She increased the speed of her other hand as she was getting close. The thought of pleasing herself, out in the open, with Joseph watching was the catalyst that pushed her over the edge. She felt the pleasure surge through her body. She was sure she would have come out of her seat if not for the seatbelt holding her in place. “Ahhhh…Joseph…oh…” were the only words that she could form as she spiraled over the edge. She turned to look at Joseph, grateful the darkness that now covered the embarrassed blush that crept up her face.

He was the first to speak, “Thank you, love, that was a most beautiful sight to see. My only regret is that I could not give my full attention to watching you. Perhaps next time?”

She lowered her head before responding, “Oh, I don’t think I could do that again. It certainly wasn’t very proper.”

Joseph fought to hide his smile. Only a few moments ago, she was writhing in the seat, moaning, and bringing herself to climax. Now she was worried about being proper. “Well, I would never ask you to do something you didn’t find enjoyable.”

Her gaze quickly found his, “I didn’t say it wasn’t enjoyable…I said it wasn’t proper.”

He loved playing these mind games with her. He felt like it kept both of them young. “So, if I had been the one to bring you the pleasure a few minutes ago, that would have been proper?”

“I…” she paused for a minute trying to think this through. She knew he was setting her up, she just wasn’t sure how! “That would be different.” There, that was a valid argument… the best she could come up with at the moment. She found her mind was still a little hazy in her afterglow.

“Just so I understand. It’s alright if I bring you to complete and utter fulfillment while driving down the road; but not for you to do that for yourself. Hmm…guess I have a lot to learn about how to be proper.”

She smiled, realizing that she really didn’t have a valid argument other than her own propriety and self-imposed barriers. “Yes. Well, perhaps we both have a lot to learn.” That was the most she would concede.

Joseph smiled, realizing that was as close to admitting he may have a point that he was going to get from her. He took her hand and kissed it, then continued to hold it. “Perhaps.”

Her hand now rested on top of his thigh. With her new found piece of courage, she let her fingers splay out towards his center. She was met with a hardness that surprised her. She looked up at him quizzically, “Joseph?”

He smiled at her again, “I did say that it was a beautiful thing to watch. I found it very…exciting.”

Her hand covered the bulge and she was rewarded with a sharp intake of his breath. The quizzical look was now replaced with a decidedly wicked one. “I should say so, love. Please tell me we’re almost there.” She was growing impatient. She had to endure this long car ride and a week of brief, stolen moments with Joseph after her wedding before enjoying the solitude and freedom of her honeymoon. Despite her reservations about what her future would hold, she wanted to embrace this new freedom and enjoy discovering this new part of her life.

She continued her caresses, much to Joseph’s chagrin; however, she kept them light enough to keep him very stimulated, but was careful not to “over do” it. Joseph continued to try to control his breathing and focus on the road. He spotted the driveway…and not a moment too soon. He pulled in and as soon as the car was in park and the ignition turned off, he was out and making his way around the car. Clarisse had opted, for the first time she could remember, to not wait for the door to be opened for her.

As she stepped out of the car, he had her by the shoulders and fiercely claimed her mouth. She moved back until she found herself delightfully sandwiched between the non-moving steel of the car and the hard planes of Joseph’s body. His tongue demanded entrance and she obliged. His hands were everywhere, covering as much of her body as he could. He broke the kiss long enough to speak as he pressed himself even further into her, “Do you feel what you do to me, Clarisse? Only you can create this kind of need in me…and only you can fill it.” Before she could respond, he claimed her mouth again hungrily and she found herself being swept away in the tide of sensations coursing throughout her body.

Suddenly she felt the cool night air on her back and realized Joseph had pulled her blouse away from its tucked position and was undoing the buttons on the front. She imagined they painted quite an interesting picture; and realized if she didn’t get them inside soon, she would become more of an exhibitionist than she ever thought possible. She broke the kiss this time, “Joseph...I think we should take this inside.”

He nuzzled her neck while his hands went to her now exposed lace covered breasts. “Ahhh...Joseph! Seriously, we can’t do this outside!”

He grinned as he whispered in her ear, “Clarisse, my love, there is no one around for miles and miles. Why do you think I chose…the ends of the earth…as you so eloquently put it?”

She fought for breath to speak as it was now coming in very shallow doses from her lungs. “Joseph. Please darling. I think I’ve stretched my boundaries enough for one day. Agreed?”

He smiled into her soft neck. He could feel, with his lips, her pulse racing just under the surface of her skin. “Indeed you have, my love. Come let’s go inside.”

They moved quickly to the door, continuing to touch and taste each other at intervals along with way. Joseph retrieved the keys from his pocket and finally was able to still his hands long enough to open the door. Clothes were dispensed of quickly and left strewn across the floor as they made their way to thick rug on the floor that covered the area between the fireplace and couch.

Anxious to finish what had been started over an hour ago in the car, Clarisse managed to get Joseph on his back on the floor near the couch. She wasted no time in straddling him and lowering herself on his very attentive member. “Ahhh!” Was the mutual cry that emerged from deep within both of their bodies. Clarisse waited a moment for their bodies to adjust before beginning. Using the couch to aid her, she lifted herself almost completely off of Joseph’s now prone body before thrusting her hips back down to meet his. After a few times, Joseph began to counter her movements with thrusts of his own. His actions sent lightning bolts of electricity straight through Clarisse. She felt as though he were reaching and touching the center of her innermost being.

Joseph knew he was close; but he wanted to make sure they came together. He reached in between their joined bodies and caressed her tiny bundle of nerves. His action served its purpose as he sensed it pushing Clarisse near the edge. He increased his movements and time stood still as their souls joined their bodies and minds uniting them completely just before spiraling over the edge and shattering their senses into a million tiny fragments of pleasure.

Clarisse collapsed on to Joseph’s body, a light sheen covering both of them due to their exertion. She was the first to speak. “That was…”

“Cataclysmic?” he offered.

“I was going to say intense, but I believe cataclysmic does it justice, as well.”

Both lay in silence for awhile as they slowly floated back to earth. Finally Joseph spoke, “Darling?”

She decided that she couldn’t even move to respond. She simply muttered, “Umhm” into his shoulder where her head now rested.

“I thought Queens did not lie on the floor.” He couldn’t resist teasing her on this.

She smiled into his shoulder and slowly pushed herself up so she could look him in the eyes as she responded, “I’m so sorry Joseph; I didn’t think it would happen that quickly to you.”

He was confused now, “What would happen, love?”

“Your losing your powers of observation within just a few hours of your retirement.” She was smiling broadly now.

“I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

“Well, first of all, my love I am not, technically, on the floor – you are; and I, am resting comfortably on you. Second, in case you have forgotten, as of a few hours ago, I am no longer Queen.”

His smile matched hers now, “Touché, my love. Indeed you are correct – it was my mistake.”

“Would you like to sit up? I wouldn’t want to cause any lasting damage to your mature joints.” She teased.

He responded by tickling her rib cage causing her to sit up abruptly as she laughed, “Joseph! You are pure evil.” He had followed her up and she was now straddling his lap, his back up against the couch.

“And you love every ounce of me, don’t you?” He shot back at her as his arms went around her, pulling her into his embrace. Her blue eyes, now sparkling directly in front of his face, were tinged with merriment and love. “Oh yes, I do and I intend to spend the rest of my life proving to you exactly how much.”

“Oh Clarisse, I am the luckiest man alive.”

“Indeed. Now stop talking and make love to me properly.”

“Yes, ma’am; as you wish.”

With that, the verbal conversation ended and they began communicating their love through touch. They moved slower, more deliberately as they took time to learn each other; tasting, touching, pleasing. As they moved to allow each other the freedom to touch, Clarisse felt the plush material of the rug come into contact with her back. Her voice sounded very husky as she spoke, “Well, you’ve finally done it, Joseph. You’ve gotten me on the floor.”

His voice seemed to mirror her own, “Correction, my love, I plan on ‘taking’ you on the floor until you float above it.”

“Why didn’t you just say so? I would have let you “take” me on the floor much earlier then.”

“Now you tell me!” he growled before capturing her mouth in a searing kiss that left her senses reeling. Despite the fierceness of his kiss, his touch remained soft and their passion built at a gradual pace until Clarisse did feel as though she were floating on a cloud far above any hardwood floors – rising high above the universe, brazenly defying gravity.

She felt herself being raised, in reality, to the welcoming soft cushions of the couch. Joseph felt that, despite what she may claim, she really didn’t need to be between him and a floor. Queen or not, that was just too much to ask of his beautiful wife. Before she could protest, he claimed her mouth and her body in one quick motion. Once joined, Clarisse forgot all about where she was and focused only on her knight. She felt him move within her; touching her physically, emotionally and spiritually. Never had she felt as utterly and completely loved as she did by this man – the love of her life. She cried out his name as he took her over the edge yet again to her blissful release.

As they relaxed from their most recent activity, Clarisse realized that she had to tell Joseph everything. As much as she feared losing him or his recriminations for her activities, she didn’t want anything to come between them…ever again. She just had to find the right time to tell him.

The next several days passed with Clarisse and Joseph discussing the joy of their present and the promise of their future together. Joseph had decidedly steered away from any discussions of the past. He knew that when Clarisse was ready, she would bring it up.

“Let’s go riding on the horses along the beach today. Shall we, Joseph?” Clarisse asked, wanting to explore the beach front a bit. She loved the ocean and had always regretted that she got to spend little time there.

“I think that’s a lovely idea, my dear.” Joseph had a great idea and just needed to scout out the perfect spot. “I’ll get the horses ready and you get changed into your riding clothes. I’ll meet you in the stables in a few minutes, ok?”

Clarisse, giddy with excitement, grabbed Joseph and kissed him, “It’s a deal. I’ll change in a flash.”

Joseph chuckled. Clarisse rarely changed in a flash. Oh she could get undressed quickly when, shall we say, other priorities were demanding attention. The dressing quickly part, however, had always seemed to elude her. To his surprise, she made it out to the stables in about fifteen minutes dressed in her riding gear. Joseph stopped saddling the horses to admire her. The pants, tight by design, clung wickedly to his wife’s form. The white blouse was buttoned up, but she had opted to leave three, or possibly four, undone at the top which, when she moved just right, exposed a beautiful expanse of freckled skin. Her voice broke through his observations, “Joseph? Are you alright? You still feel up to going, don’t you?” Her naivety when it came to the effect she had on him was very endearing and he loved to tease her about it.

“Oh, I’m definitely starting to feel up…alright!” At first she was confused, but then caught his meaning.

“Joseph, really, it’s not like you have been deprived of late.” She tried to keep a serious face, even as she inwardly grinned, pleased with the effect her attire had on him.

He closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her pulling her close, “Ah, but I have many, many years of deprivation to make up for.”

She giggled as his mouth found the ticklish spot on her neck and nuzzled. “Joseph! Seriously, I want to go for a ride.”

Joseph ignored the possible double entendre of her words and offered a lift to her horse. She just laughed and placed her foot in the stirrup, swung her leg over the sturdy steed, and grabbed the reigns as she lighted gently in the saddle. “Do I seem incompetent to you in some way?” She teased.

He laughed out loud, “Most definitely not, my love; most definitely not!” He mounted his horse and came along side her. “Shall we ride?”

The two took off at a trot and slowly increased to a canter as they made their way along the beach. They rode in companionable silence, occasionally pointing out an interesting site or feature in the landscape. The sun sparkled beautifully off of the water creating a picturesque afternoon. As they turned to head back, Clarisse urged her horse into a gallop, enjoying the ocean air whip against her face. Joseph, too, followed in kind; but decided the view of his wife being so carefree was such a beautiful sight, that he kept a decent viewing distance between them.

They arrived back at the cabin, slightly winded from the pace but exhilarated at the same time. “Oh, Joseph, that was wonderful!”

“It was wonderful and beautiful; both the scenery and my lovely wife.” He offered her a hand to dismount from her horse and pulled her close. Her hair was tousled by the wind, her cheeks flushed and she looked positively radiant. He wanted to drag her into the barn and have his way with her right then and there; but opted for a small amount of restraint as he had a very special evening planned. “Why don’t you go have a nice soak in the tub and change into something comfortable for this evening? I have a surprise for you.”

Her eyes twinkled at the mention of a surprise. While she didn’t care for them usually, she always enjoyed Joseph’s surprises for her. “Alright; what time should I be ready by?”

Joseph considered his answer carefully and factored in that she was usually late. He wanted to leave by 6:30 p.m. “Six o’clock, my love.”

Clarisse embraced Joseph and kissed him passionately. The euphoria she felt from her ride had freed her a little more from the restraints of duty that had held her for so long. She decided that she enjoyed this new sense of freedom and direction her life was taking. The fear she had been experiencing was being replaced by excitement. She didn’t know what the future held; but she knew it contained Joseph and it had the potential for more horseback rides along the beach and many other things she had wanted for so long. So much more…freedom than she had ever known in her life; and, that was enough for her to know right now.”

It was a strange sensation; but Joseph could have sworn he sensed something different in Clarisse. Nothing overt, nothing extreme; but a subtle shift in her demeanor. It was as if she was slowly releasing herself from those invisible bonds that had held her captive for so many years. He broke the kiss off as he knew if they continued down this course, he would not have her surprise ready in time. Her face was flushed and bright as he gazed into her beautiful eyes. The hand that rested on her cheek moved slightly so his thumb could graze over her lips. Her breathing and pulse had quickened in response to their kiss, “I love you, Clarisse.”

“I love you, too, Joseph. I suppose I should go and get ready now?” She wanted to stay and continue the course their kiss had started.

Joseph sensed where her thoughts were headed, “Yes, love, please. I promise it will be worth the wait and I’ll finish what I just started, ok?” He placed a kiss on top of her forehead.

She was disappointed; but knew Joseph was always true to his word, “I’ll hold you to that, mister.” She caressed his cheek in her trademark fashion and then turned toward the cabin to prepare for her evening.

An hour or so later, she presented herself for Joseph’s inspection. He had returned a short time ago from setting up the surprise and had quickly changed into black pants, which reminded Clarisse of loose, comfortable lounge pants. His black shirt was buttoned in the front; however, he had left a few undone to allow her a very nice view of his muscular chest.

She had chosen a white cotton sun dress that held itself on her frame with pink satin ribbons which tied above each shoulder. Small pink, satin bows provided decorative elements down the bodice portion of the dress. The skirt fell just below her knees. She had a soft pink, light fleece jacket draped over her arms in preparation for any night chill that may come her way. She had even taken the time, Joseph noted, to paint her fingernails and toes a soft, pearly pink to complete the ensemble. He placed a kiss on each shoulder, “You are as beautiful as the summer sky, my love.”

Her pink tipped fingernails grazed over his exposed chest and she leaned in to kiss him. “And you, my dear Joseph, are…mmm…incredibly sexy.” She accentuated the comment that was whispered near his cheek, with a nibble on his ear. Joseph felt every ounce of blood in his body race to a central location. This evening she knew exactly what affect she was having on him and decided that she enjoyed it very much. “Shall we go? You know how impatient I am when it comes to surprises and I have a surprise for you tonight as well!”

Joseph fought to remain control and took a few calming breaths, “I most certainly do, my dear.” He took her hand as they began to walk along the beach. As they began to stroll, barefoot, along the beach, he lifted her hand that was clasped in his and placed a kiss on the back of it.

She smiled, remembering the first time Joseph had kissed her hand in that manner the evening of the Independence Day Ball in San Francisco. That time the kiss had been sweet and celebratory, perhaps with a hint of promise about what the future might hold. Tonight it was filled with love and a promise as well that dealt with a much closer future.

They walked, hand in hand, for a while longer until Clarisse saw where they were headed – her surprise! About fifty feet ahead was an area that had been surrounded by candles that were situated in paper bags with sand to hold them steady creating the ambience of a candlelit dinner. The candles surrounded a blanket with a few pillows to assist “maturing” joints, as Joseph had put it. There was a picnic basket that contained their dinner and a bottle of wine chilling in a bucket.

“Oh Joseph, it is perfect! What a wonderful surprise!”

They made themselves comfortable and began to enjoy their picnic. They opened the wine and Joseph proposed a toast. “To our past, our present, and our future.”

“Hear, hear,” Clarisse responded as she clinked her glass with Joseph’s. “Now can we please eat? I’m starving!”

“As you wish, your majesty!” He laughed as he brought out the breads, cheeses and an assortment of veggies. They laughed and talked for a while as they enjoyed the spread of food. “Open wide, my dear.” Joseph slipped a cube of cheese into her mouth. She closed her mouth over the cheese and his fingers, sucking gently as he withdrew them. Joseph chuckled as he fought to maintain control, “You know, my dear, we’ve had about eight hours of foreplay today. When the time comes, I intend to ravish you completely.”

She blushed and smiled as she took a sip of her wine. A slight bit trickled down the corner of her mouth and Joseph couldn’t resist the opportunity to capture it with his tongue. He moved closer to take possession of her mouth. His tongue tasted the sweetness of the wine in and around her mouth. He found the combination of the wine and her unique taste highly intoxicating. He tried to lower her down to the pillows; but she resisted. “Clarisse, is everything alright?”

She smiled for him and nodded; but years of watching her told him that something was bothering her. “Dance with me?” She asked.

Joseph was confused, but would never refuse a dance with his wife. “Certainly, love.” They stood and moved off the blanket. He took her in his arms and they began to dance to a tune that originated from deep within their souls; a perfect melody and harmony combined for beautiful music.

Finally, she spoke, “This was all so wonderful, Joseph. I’m afraid I don’t deserve such things.” She had turned her head to look out at the moon reflecting on the ocean.

He put his arm around her shoulder and gazed out in the same direction, “Why would you say something like that?”

It was a few moments before she responded, “Earlier, you toasted to our past, our present and our future. I’m afraid, however, that there are some things in my past that make me undeserving of such a wonderful future with you.” There she had said it. She knew it had to be done and she hated to ruin what was promising to be a beautiful evening; but she didn’t want to go another day without clearing the air and trying to free herself to love and be loved completely.

His mind was racing. He had known Clarisse for the greater part of their lives and couldn’t imagine anything she could have kept from him that would change his mind about how he felt. “I find that hard to believe, my love.”

“That’s because, despite what you may believe,” she found herself quirking into a small smile as she looked up at him. “You do not know everything, my dearest.”

Joseph followed her lead and tried to keep the mood light, “Then please enlighten me, oh wise one.”

She caressed his cheek as she often did, took a deep breath and began. “The night King Rupert, may he rest in peace, died, I was with him.”

“That’s a good thing, is it not?” Joseph was a bit confused.

She continued, “I spent the night with him, Joseph.”

“You often spent time with him. It is good that he was not alone the night he died.”

He wasn’t making this easy on her. “Joseph, please pay attention. I was naked, as was he, in his bed the night he died.”

Joseph tried to block the images those words conjured up in his mind. Before the anger could surface, however, he realized that it was totally irrational. He pulled her down to sit next to him at the edge of the water. “Well, he was your husband.”

Clarisse was frustrated now. “Yes. Yes, he was. However, you know as well as I that we never shared a bed except when we were trying to produce an heir.”

He turned and looked at her, unsure of what she wanted from him in this exchange. “So why were you there…in his bed…unclothed?” He figured since she broached the subject, he would ask the question.

She returned his gaze, “Quite simply…because he asked.”

Joseph couldn’t stop the words that came out next, even though he knew he’d regret them the second they left, “So that was all it took?”

If it had been anyone else, Clarisse is certain she would have slapped the offender. However, she understood Joseph’s anger after being turned away for so many years. His words stung, though, and likewise she couldn’t stop her retort, “As I recall, I once offered my bed to you and you refused.”

“That was different…and you know it, Clarisse!”

“No. No it wasn’t, Joseph. He needed me that night just like I needed you. The only difference is…I didn’t say no to him.”

Flashback: The night the Queen learned of Philippe’s death

Shades found them in the rose garden 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.

When they arrived at her suite, Joseph had placed her gently on her bed and started to leave. “Joseph! Wait, please. I can’t sleep like this. Could you please help me?” She asked through teary eyes.

“Of course, your Majesty. Would you like me to get Olivia?”

She shook her head no. “Please, can you help me?”

Joseph swallowed hard and began to help her undress. Gone was the strength of his monarch, replaced by the vulnerability of a young woman who had just lost almost everything she ever loved. Once her dress was removed, she was left only in her undergarments. She crawled under the covers and pulled Joseph to a sitting position on the bed. Her eyes shone brightly with unshed tears. “Stay with me, Joseph. Make love to me.” She rose up from the pillows and caught his mouth with hers.

Before his mind could process what was happening, his body responded and he kissed her back. He felt her soft skin and the small sounds that were escaping her as his hands sought to caress every inch of her. Several minutes later, he was unsure of exactly how long, his mind caught up and he pushed her back. “Clarisse. No, we mustn’t. It would not be right of me to take advantage of you in this state…no matter how desperately my body may plead with me to do so.”

“Damn you, Joseph…” the words came out more as a sob than a curse. The grief overtook her as she lay back on the pillows and allowed it to consume her.

Joseph 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.

“It would have been wrong and you would have hated me for it, Clarisse.”

She sighed, she really didn’t want to fight, “Perhaps, but I guess we’ll never know. My point in all of this, Joseph, was to be honest with you and tell you that I granted a dying friend his last wish. I’ve felt guilty all this time for it; but, truth be told, if faced with the same set of circumstances, I’d make the same decision. He gave me a gift that night – a gift of pleasure that he had never given me before. And he did it…knowing full well, that the entire time I was thinking of you.”

Joseph stood up and began to walk back toward the blanket. Alarmed, she called after him, “Joseph?”

He turned back to look at her and smiled, “Don’t you want dessert? I know I do.”

She grinned slightly, “Alright, I suppose dessert would be appropriate.” She wasn’t sure how to take his response; but decided that he would reveal how he felt in time.

He brought back a small blanket, pillows, and a container that held, she assumed, dessert. He put the blanket at the edge of the water and gestured for her to get on it. “Lie down please.”


“Do you want dessert or not? Trust me.”

She moved to the blanket and reclined on the pillows. As she lowered herself, she held his gaze and replied, “With my life, I trust you. You now know all my secrets, Joseph.”

He reclined next to her and pulled a chocolate covered strawberry out of the container. He held it to her lips and watched as her lips covered the fruit and bit into it causing juice to run down her chin and throat. He lowered his head to lick, very slowly the juice that had escaped her mouth.

His action caused tiny goose bumps to surface all over her skin, “Oh…Joseph.”

He smiled in the curve of her throat, “Mmm – this is the best dessert I’ve had in awhile. I think I’m ready for more. You?”

“Oh yes! Please.” Came her husky answer.

He pulled another strawberry out; but this one was not covered in chocolate. Instead Joseph dipped it into another container that had melted chocolate in it that he had been keeping warm. He waited for a moment and then dangled the strawberry over her lips. The excess chocolate dripped onto her waiting lips. She slowly licked the chocolate from them before partaking of the strawberry. “This is absolutely heavenly, Joseph. You really should try it.”

His eyes were dark with desire, “Oh, make no mistake I intend to sample my share.” His hand traveled to her shoulder where it slowly undid the pink ties that held the top of her dress in place. He reverently lowered the bodice to reveal her breasts. He retrieved another strawberry and dipped it. This time he let the chocolate drizzle into the valley between her breasts. Clarisse enjoyed the contrast of the warm liquid on her ocean breeze cooled skin. Her breath caught in her lungs and her nipples hardened in response to the feel of his hot tongue on her flesh. He finished licking the chocolate and moved up to capture her mouth, his sweet tongue offering her a taste of the delicacy he just sampled.

Repeating the action, this time drizzling the sweetness over her erect nipples. Clarisse’s arms went around his neck as he began to nip and suck the chocolate from her sensitive tips. Joseph felt nails scrape at his back and enjoyed the gasps and moans of delight emanating from her as he continued enjoying his dessert.

He fed her another strawberry and let his hand slide down her length seeking access to other hidden treasures. As his hand skimmed back up her leg, bringing the material of her skirt up with it, she parted her legs to allow him access. As his hand neared her center, he pulled back from the kiss. “Clarisse?!”

She laughed, “Surprise!”

“When you said you had a surprise for me, this never crossed my mind.” He chuckled.

“Well, if you knew what I was going to do, it wouldn’t have been a very good surprise, right?”

“Indeed!” He decided at that moment in time that he was the luckiest man in the world. He had a beautiful woman who, daily, was learning to shed her inhibitions and experience new things. They were on a beautiful beach; and in her current state of undress and desire, he determined that there was no where else on the planet he wanted to be than by her side.

“So tell me, my love. Have you ever gone out in public without your undergarments before?”

Her hand went to his face and she looked at him with such love and tenderness, Joseph thought he would melt just like the chocolate he had been enjoying. “No, my love, now please do something that will make me feel it was worth the risk and potential embarrassment.”

His mouth claimed hers at the same time his hand combed through her curls, finding her wet and wanting. His tongue, along with his fingers, demanding entrance. She willingly acquiesced to both of his demands. His tongue explored in tandem with his fingers creating a dichotomy of sensations that were growing at a pace that would soon result in every nerve in her body coming alive with feeling. The evening tide was coming in which allowed for a gentle lapping of water at her lower legs.

She felt herself began to spiral out of control as her hips rose seeking more of his touch. He continued his caressing, slipping in and out and adjusting the intensity to bring her maximum pleasure. His head slipped down to catch an extended nipple with his mouth, grazing it with his teeth. Her back arched and she cried out as everything else faded away and there was only Joseph and his touch in her world.

“Oh Joseph…ahhh….YES!” Her body convulsed as she climaxed and soared over the edge of ecstasy. Joseph continued feather like touches over her body as she slowly descended back to reality. When she regained her composure and breath somewhat, she slowly rose to a standing position. She pulled the bodice of her dress back up and tied the pink ribbons at her shoulders. She extended her hand to Joseph indicating she wanted him to join her; he complied. Without saying a word, she undid the buttons of his shirt and removed it. His pants followed suit and he was now standing unabashed in the moonlight before her. She reached down and retrieved the container of melted chocolate. She turned her gaze to his dark eyes, “I believe it’s now time for my dessert.”

Joseph didn’t say anything but watched as she dipped her fingers in the chocolate and traced his lips with the creamy substance. He had to fight the urge to lick it off of his own lips before her tongue flicked out to do just that. “Mmm…” was all either could say.

His breath caught in his throat as her fingers retrieved more chocolate and then found his attentive nipples. Her tongue licked the chocolate off as though she were enjoying a lollipop. “Oh Clarisse…” was his only response as his hands went to her shoulders to help balance himself.

Nothing he had ever experienced before would prepare him for what she would do next. She dropped to her knees in front of him and liberally applied the chocolate to his now very erect member. “Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy chocolate?” She asked, gazing up towards his face.

He could not find a voice to answer her question. He simply threaded his hands in her hair in an effort to brace himself for what he knew was coming. He faintly heard her chuckle a bit at his expense; but all was soon forgotten as she began licking and sucking to clean off every drop of chocolate that she had just applied. She continued to taste and tease until Joseph thought he would die, very happily, from her efforts. Finally, he could take no more. “Clarisse, please, come up here?” He didn’t wait for her to comply but gently tugged at her shoulders to get her to rise. “I think it’s time we clean up after dessert.”

He took her hand and pulled her into the water until they were immersed to their rib cages. Clarisse’s dress was now clinging to her in a highly revealing way. The white material, when wet, left nothing to the imagination and created a stimulating visual image. Joseph’s hands palmed her breasts through her dress, his thumbs circling the taut nipples. Their mouths met hungrily as their limbs began to intertwine below the surface of the water.

Joseph’s hands went lower and lifted the material of her dress enough to allow her body to be lifted. Her legs circled him and his hands grabbed her hips and thrusting forward, guided her body to join his.

“Joseph! Mi amore’” She cried as they became one. Her arms held tightly to him as the buoyancy of the water gently lifted and lowered them. Normally Joseph would have stayed like that much longer; but his desire was far too powerful at that moment to stay still very long. Working with the waves and using his hands resting on her hips to provide resistance, he began to thrust. He quickly decided that, while it seemed very romantic and sexy, it wasn’t highly practical.

He carried her into the shallow water and carefully lowered both of them to the soft, wet sand. Having a solid surface below them provided the needed foundation to drive both of them into a frenzy. He thrust in time with the water that flowed over them after the wave hit the surface of the sand a few feet behind their position. The combination of her muscles tightening around him and the sight of her, totally abandoned and consumed with desire, sent him over the edge pulling her with him. Their shouts of release were drowned out by the crashing of the waves all around them in the otherwise still night.

After a few moments, they sat up and quietly watched the moonlight reflecting over the wide expanse of the ocean as the water continued to stroke them rhythmically in time with the waves. Finally, Joseph broke the silence. “Whatever may have happened between you and Rupert that night needed to happen. You deserved to be loved by him. The fact that he didn’t realize that until his death bed is his loss.” He turned to face her. “He was your past, Clarisse. I am your present and future.” His expression mirrored the same love and tenderness he had seen in hers earlier. He smiled as he moved in for a gentle kiss, “Whether you like it or not!”

She kissed him back feeling her heart swell with love. “Oh, I like very much, Sir Joseph.” There was a slight pause before she continued, “And, you were right.”

He couldn’t resist teasing her, “About?”

Her smile grew and then she became serious again, “About…not making love to me that night. I was certainly not thinking straight and would have come to regret it once things settled down. If you hadn’t stood up to me and stopped things, it could have jeopardized everything. Thank you for always doing what’s best for me…even if I don’t realize it at the time.”

He stood and pulled her up next to him. “It was, is and will be my pleasure. Just remember that the next time you’re disagreeing with me when I’m looking out for your best interests!”

Her arms went around him and she pulled him close. “I love you, Joseph Romero.”

“And I love you, Clarisse Renaldi-Romero.” He kissed her lovingly one last time while surrounded by the beauty of this most perfect night. Finally, they separated. “Speaking of your best interests, I think we should pack up and get you into the dry robe I brought for you before you catch your death in that wet dress.”

She looked at him with mock surprise, “You brought a robe for me? You mean you planned to drag me into the water to ravish me all along?”

He grabbed the bottom of her dress, pulling it over her head until she stood naked in front of him. He reached into the bag and pulled out a silk robe and a towel. He lovingly dried her off and then slipped the robe over her frame. He placed a kiss on her nose, “Surprise! Yes, my love, I did.”

She laughed and then helped him dry off and get dressed. “Well, you’re certainly not too worried about me catching my death if you brought me this flimsy robe to keep me warm.”

“Well, my thought was that you would look incredibly sexy walking along the beach dressed in only that robe; and, it is warmer than your wet dress, correct?”

She slapped his arm, “You know you are incorrigible, don’t you?”

“Yes ma’am, I do. However, I do promise to warm you up with my incorrigible self when we get back to the cabin if you help me pack up.”

“You’re on, mister!” With that, they cleaned away the last remnants of their surprise evening and walked back to the cabin, hand in hand, with the knowledge that, finally, the air was clear between them and the past dealt with for once and all.

One week later

“That’s the last of it, love.” Joseph said as he packed the remaining luggage into the trunk. “Are you ready to leave?”

Clarisse was staring out at the ocean taking in its magnificent beauty one last time before she had to leave their remote little paradise. “Do you think I’ll be able to keep it?”

Joseph was confused again. He was hoping at some point in the future, he would be able to keep up with her when she made statements out of nowhere like she just did. “Keep what, love?”

“This feeling…the feeling that I’m free. I know it sounds corny; but here I feel free to be…well, me. I’m not sure when we return to the palace that I’ll be able to hold on to that.”

“I would be lying, Clarisse, if I told you that everything will be the same. I do think, though, that now that you have experienced this freedom, you will find ways to enjoy the newly discovered you more. You don’t have to be the same woman who left two weeks ago. Actually, I will be disappointed if you are.”

“Me, too.” She turned and cupped his cheek with her hand. “Thank you for loving me…all of me.”

He kissed her conveying all of the love, respect and trust he held for her in the simple gesture. “No thank you, my love. Without you, my Queen, my love, my life, I would be nothing.”

“Nor would I, love. Shall we go?”

“Back to the future we go, my love!” He opened the door for her, kissing her one last time before they headed back to reality.

They pulled away from their honeymoon haven. Joseph decided that he would wait until her birthday to tell her that he had purchased the cabin and that they would return often for “freedom retreats”.