To Produce an Heir
The original idea for this story belongs to an author on fanfiction.net called St. Clair. Back in 2005, she posted two chapters of a story entitled "To Get an Heir". I must admit that I was intrigued by the story line and was very persistent in my follow-up with her asking her to finish the story...I even offered at one point to help her write it if she would just tell me what ideas she had for it. Alas, she never complied...so, never being one to take NO for an answer...I decided to finish it myself. So credit for the first chapter and the original idea goes to St. Clair...after that, it is how I would tell the story.
Her contribution has been consolidated into one chapter and will be shared here. There are only a few minor changes that were made to coincide with what I had written; other than that, it is shared in its original form. I also changed the name...from "To Get an Heir" to "To Produce an Heir"
Disclaimers: I don't own the characters nor the original idea...everything else, however, is mine. The characters, of course, belong to Meg Cabot and Disney and I make no money from this work of fiction. I did, however, garner great joy and satisfaction from writing it.
Warnings: If you are not a fan of a story wherein Joseph is intimately involved in the creation of an heir for the throne of Genovia...then perhaps you shouldn't read. But if you are on the fence about the idea...why not read a few chapters and see what you think...*grin*
Special thanks to my beta, Dorthe, for trusting my judgment about this storyline and for multi-tasking at work so she could get the beta finished.
Thanks to my friend, Yolanda, for assistance with the Spanish.
Also thanks to Gina and Tay for your pre-screens, comments and encouragement to keep writing.
Without further ado…
To Produce an Heir
By St. Clair
Clarisse Gerard Renaldi, Queen of Genovia, stood frozen in disbelief as her husband’s words hung heavily in the space between them. Her lips parted as a breath shuddered across them. “My god, Rupert . . .”
Rupert quickly closed the short distance between them, desperate to make his wife understand the decision he had reluctantly come to. “Please, just hear me out, dear . . .” he began gently as he reached to caress her shoulder, smoothing his fingers across the pale blue silk of her robe, wishing more than ever that there had been some way to spare them both this conversation.
Clarisse jerked under his touch, startling him, shrugging out of his grasp and stepping just out of reach. She crossed her arms over her chest defensively, and for a moment, they simply stared at one another. Rupert guiltily tracked the faint blush of anger that started to creep up his wife’s pale cheeks.
Finally Clarisse shook her head, trying to collect herself and keep the outrage she felt in check, and asked, “How could you even suggest such a thing?”
“Clarisse . . . we’ve both seen the doctors,” he stated simply, turning away from her gaze to stare down into the fire. “We know where the fault lies.”
In her own mind, Clarisse couldn’t deny the truth of what he said, nor could she allow herself to accept his alternative. But as she studied the outline of his shoulders, watching as the usual broad and regal lines collapsed in defeat, she answered softly. “We’ll keep trying just as we have been.”
“For eight years, Clarisse. Eight.”
Rubbing his hand across his forehead, trying to assuage the dull ache that had settled there, Rupert turned to face Clarisse once again. “It’s time that we simply accept the fact that I will never father a child.”
Clarisse opened her mouth to speak but he cut her off, “No, let me finish.” He took a deep breath and declared, “Genovia needs an heir.”
“But it wouldn’t be a Renaldi heir,” she countered quickly.
Rupert chuckled sadly. “Darling, do you really think that in all those 500 years there were never any less-than-legitimate heirsI shudder to think just how many of my ancestors were conceived in some sort of sordid kitchen pantry tryst.”
“How can . . .” she began, suddenly seething at his attempt to make light of this, when after all it was she that was going to be the butt of the joke. “Do I get to choose?” she spat. “Or are you planning to select the lucky man yourself? The man who gets the honor of impregnating the queen?”
“Damn it, Clarisse!” he yelled, grabbing her roughly around the upper arms and pulling her towards him. “Do you think this is easy for me? It’s humiliating. The speculatingin the presshell, even in Parliament“
The glint of the solitary tear that slipped down her cheek brought his tirade to an abrupt halt. He swallowed hard, trying to force down the guilt and shame he felt as he watched those beautiful blue eyes, clouded with hurt, blinking back tears. He had never seen his wife like this before. In all their years of marriage, he could never remember her losing her cool facade. The Clarisse he married did not get angry. The Clarisse he married did not cry. She put duty to her country, to Genovia, before all else.
Rupert let go of her arms and wiped away the tear with his thumb. “How can you think that this doesn’t break my heart? To ask you to do this?” he whispered. “Clarisse, my darling, I love youyou know I do. You’re my best friendI’d never do anything willingly to hurt you.” He leaned slowly down and placed a soft kiss on her forehead.
Then, stepping back and squaring his shoulders, he added almost coldly, “But I have a duty to Genovia. And so do you.”
Clarisse closed her eyes and fought down the shiver threatening to overwhelm her despite the warmth from the fire.
Visibly, she collected herself and reassembled the mask she wore, as she stood tall, tilting her chin slightly in the air.
“You didn’t answer my question,” she said calmly and clearly, tucking a lock of errant golden hair behind her ear. “Who is it to be?”
“I’ve given it a lot of thought . . . and really only one person comes to mind, only one person we could trust enough to ask . . .”
The angry pink flush that moments ago colored her porcelain cheeks, drained from Clarisse’s face as the name passed his lips.
**The Next Day**
Clarisse stood by her desk, idly toying with the cup of tea she had just poured, swirling the dark liquid slowly against the painted china. She glanced up at the mirror hanging behind the desk and sighed. Despite her best efforts, it was still apparent from the dark circles under her eyes that she had not slept the night before. Her conversation with Rupert had left her shaken and confused. She had spent the night trying to figure out how she had come to this. What had gotten her to the point where she would have rather faced a thousand angry dignitaries than her most trusted friend? She felt her face flush again in embarrassment at what was about to happen.
She started at the quick rap at the door, sloshing a bit of tea onto the service. She sat the cup and saucer down with a clank, biting back the curse on her lips. Taking a deep breath, Clarisse smoothed her hands down the front of her suit, giving the mauve jacket a quick tug to straighten out the imagined wrinkles.
Clarisse exchanged a brief look with Rupert, who was sitting on the sofa folding the newspaper he had just been reading. She prayed her voice would sound steadier than she felt.
“You were wrong,” Joseph called as he entered; a quick grin lit his face, one that few people saw, but frequently appeared in the Queen’s presence. “The Bronte is definitely better than the Aus. . .” Joseph quickly followed Clarisse’s gaze across the room to settle on the King.
“Good morning, Your Majesty,” Joseph stated with a brief bow, his face slipping back into its usual unreadable state.
Clarisse felt a sudden pang of guilt as she watched Joseph’s expression change. She could have at least warned him. Here he was as usual at 7:30 to chat with her as she had breakfast and she had let him fall straight into Rupert’s ambush.
“Good morning, Joseph,” Rupert began. “I’m glad you stopped by this morning. I have something very important I want to ask you.” Rupert rose from the sofa and paced nearer Joseph. “Something of the utmost importance actually.”
Joseph said nothing but glanced over in the direction of the Queen for some indication as to what was going on. Her face revealed nothing but trepidation which did nothing to allay the fear that was slowly creeping up his spine. He turned his attention back to the King.
“It’s funny,” Rupert said shaking his head. “I make speeches almost every day and now I’m at a loss.” He met Joseph’s stare. “I’ll just come right out with it, Joseph. You know of course that Her Majesty, that Clarisse, and myself have been trying to have a child. Unsuccessfully.”
Joseph looked uncomfortably at his monarch, unsure where the conversation was going. He chose to nod noncommittally as answer. Of course he had heard the gossip among the staff, read the prattle in the tabloids. Joseph hazarded a quick glance at Clarisse, now standing rather stiffly behind a Queen Anne chair. He had seen the effects of the gossip written across Clarisse’s face often enough.
Rupert nodded again. “Yes, I thought you would have heard. Well, it’s my fault, I’m afraid.” He paused momentarily and then continued. “I’m sorry. I can only imagine how all this is sounding to you. I can’t father children. I don’t have to tell you that Genovia needs an heir, someone to carry on the Renaldi line.”
After the King’s rushed words, silence fell on the room. An awkward moment passed before Joseph realized that the King was waiting for him to speak. Though what he was supposed to say wasn’t coming to Joseph.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand what any of this has to do with me, sir.”
There was another pause. “I’d like for you to have a baby with my wife.”
Joseph glanced sharply at Clarisse, his eyes wide with disbelief and shock. She had been waiting for his reaction. Seeing the look on his face, she ducked her head, suddenly fascinated with the brocade of the chair. He looked back to Rupert.
“Your Majesty, excuse me, I must have misunderstood you. You--“
“I’m asking you to father a child, the next heir to the throne of Genovia, with Queen Clarisse,” Rupert answered solemnly.
Joseph continued to stare at him, dumbfounded. He looked to Clarisse herself again. She looked as if she wanted the expensive Persian rug below her feet to open up and swallow her. “And what does Her Majesty think of this?” He asked quietly.
Pushing a lock of already immaculate hair behind her ear, in her telltale nervous gesture, Clarisse looked from one man to the other. “I was reluctant at first,” she explained softly. “But it is the only way,” she said with an air of finality.
Without warning, she crossed the room to the French doors leading out to the gardens, resting her palm against the cool glass before turning and meeting Joseph’s eyes. “Please consider it.” With that she hurried through the doors before either her husband or her bodyguard could see the tears beginning to roll down her cheeks.
Joseph watched her disappear behind the hedge, knowing from experience that she was heading for her rose garden. He quickly lifted the two-way radio from the clip on his belt and issued instructions for a security member to assume responsibility for the “Eagle” before returning to the matter at hand.
“I’d like to think about this for a while.”
“Of course,” Rupert replied, seeming relieved that at least this conversation was over. “I know the two of you have grown close over the past few yearsthat you consider yourself friends even. As her bodyguard I trust you with my wife’s life on a daily basis. I know I can trust you to keep this between the three of usno matter what you decide.” Rupert knew that Joseph could be trusted, but still he made sure the warning in his voice was clear.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“And you would, of course, be handsomely rewarded . . .”
Joseph was no longer listening. It wasn’t every day that a man was handed everything that he had secretly wished for.
This portion written by Shakayla
Same disclaimers apply.
Joseph excused himself and wandered through the halls of the palace for an hour or so trying to fully grasp what had just happened. What the King had said was true speculation was running rampant about why the royal couple had not produced an heir. It had gone from the typical media joking and light harassment to a full blown concern among the people and Parliament in Genovia that perhaps they were seeing the last of the Renaldi line.
Could he allow that to happen if he had a chance to stop it? He and his ancestors had enjoyed much prosperity under the Renaldi rule. He, himself, had taken an oath to protect the Crown and to see that no harm comes to it. Did that extend to ensuring that the royal lineage continued even if no one but the King and Queen would know about it? The Queen…his Queen…his friend…would their relationship ever be the same if they went through with this?
He shook his head entirely too many questions and not any answers. There was only one way to figure this out…he had to talk with her. She held the answers he needed.
Of course he had no idea that she was asking herself many of the same questions…
**In the Queen’s Private Rose Garden**
Clarisse had been sitting on the padded bench in the middle of her roses seeking solace, comfort and wisdom as she pondered the cruel twist of fate that life had thrown her. She sensed his presence long before he said anything and she allowed the quiet moment between the two of them. Many things that had occurred that day were unsure; but there was one thing that was certain…the conversation she and Joseph were about to have would NOT be pleasant.
She finally broke the silence even though she did not turn towards him. “I fear Jenna is very upset with me as I have neglected my duties for the past few hours and have no intention of returning to them today.”
“I’m certain she will do a fine job of covering and rescheduling for you. Even Queens deserve a reprieve now and then.”
“May I speak with you, Your Majesty?” He asked softly and very officially.
She finally turned towards him, her expression unreadable which Joseph found very unusual and very disconcerting. “As my personal body guard, you are apparently at liberty to do many things not the least of which is to speak with me.”
He inwardly flinched at her tone and implied accusation. He had to take a couple of deep breaths before continuing to keep the hurt out of his voice. “Nevertheless, I ask your permission to speak with you about the matter the King mentioned this morning.”
Her voice continued to sound angry. “Do you have ANY idea what it’s been like the past eight years? The trying the hope the disappointment the frustration? Hearing people talk and say incredibly hurtful things, including your capabilities as a woman and your husband’s virility?”
He wasn’t sure there was an appropriate answer. “No ma’am.”
“And now…NOW he suggests that the solution to our problem is that I sleep with another man and not just ANY man…YOU!” She turned to face him, her visage discernibly upset.
“I can understand how that would be most difficult for you.” His voice remained calm and steady he knew she needed to get this out before they could talk.
Some of her diplomacy kicked in; but it seemed out of place in her tirade. “Not that you aren’t a wonderful man that any woman would be delighted to share a bed with; but I’m not just ANY woman, Joseph…I am married…and to the King.”
“Yes ma’am you are.” He decided to not comment on her statement about a woman being delighted to share his bed any statement either way on that could be seriously misconstrued.
“So what am I to do, Joseph?” Her look turned imploring.
He had come seeking answers from her and had ended up being the one who had to come up with an answer that would satisfy her. He took a deep breath and calmly answered. “Refuse.”
Her gaze snapped up to meet his, surprise evident on her face. “What?”
“It’s very simple, Your Majesty you refuse to do the duty the King asks of you. He is King; but you are his wife and he cannot force you to do this. Genovia’s laws protect any woman, royalty included, from being forced to have an intimate relationship with anyone.”
“And what of you and your duty to do as the King wishes?” She seemed perplexed and intrigued at the same time by the direction the conversation was taking; and perhaps a bit fearful that he may actually refuse and leave her to whomever her husband may select as his replacement. “I know you, Joseph; you would do your duty.”
“It would be a moot point. If you elected not to do this; my services to the Crown in this particular matter would not be needed; and, therefore, I would not be neglecting my duty.”
Her temper flared again. “Oh so this is all on me?!”
“Yes, Your Majesty, as I will not do this without your consent.”
“So if I refuse, what happens next? Since you seem to have all of the answers today…” Her voice sounded less angry; but there was definitely bitterness present.
“Well, I suspect that life will go on; you and the King will continue to try and conceive until your biological clock no longer allows that possibility. I, along with the rest of Genovia, will wait with tempered anxiety to see which family rises to power and how that will affect each of us personally. Genovia has enjoyed hundreds of years of prosperity under the Renaldi line; perhaps the next family will be as successful.” He delivered the possible future scenario as steadily as he would share the headlines from the front page of the Genovia Times.
“It will go down in history as my fault, won’t it? Even though you, Rupert and I know that he is the one that can’t father children society will assume it’s me, won’t they?” Her voice was more defeated and resigned now.
“Yes, Your Majesty, I’m afraid that is probably true since I know you are too loyal to the King to ever tell anyone different. Your love for him both as your husband and your King will not allow his name to be soiled, even at the cost of your own.”
She nodded and took a few deep breaths. “Well I can’t let that happen not when it is within my power to prevent it no matter how difficult the solution may be.”
The silence was palpable over the next few moments as they stood pondering what came next now that she had made her decision.
Her demeanor was calmer now the mask was fully in place. “So you agree to do this?”
“With some stipulations.”
Once again, his response caught her off guard. “I beg your pardon! You just spent the last thirty minutes lecturing me on doing my duty to preserve the Renaldi lineage and now you stand before me with stipulations? How dare you?!”
“I dare because it is vitally important to me just as important as ensuring the continuance of the Renaldi line is to you.”
Her cheeks were flushed with anger and her blue eyes sparkled with an intensity that would cause most men to cower in fear. “So what are these stipulations, if I may be so bold to ask? Or should I simply be so grateful that you are willing to bed me that I should just roll over and do as you ask?”
Joseph’s fist clenched in response to her hurtful comments; he had never seen her act in such a manner. She was certainly more disturbed by all of this than she had even indicated; he tried very hard not to take her statement personally. “I have two simple requests, if you will. One, I want to make sure that our professional relationship and friendship will survive this. I am under no illusion that it won’t change it; but I want to make sure that you agree that we can talk through things. I want to remain in the employ of the Renaldi family.”
She interrupted. “Surely, you wouldn’t think we would ask you to do something of such a personal nature and then send you away?”
“I don’t presume to know anything, Your Majesty. All I’m asking for is reassurance.”
“You have my oath, as Queen. I will also speak with Rupert.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty. Finally, I want nothing to do with any compensation in exchange for agreeing to do this. As you indicated, this is my duty to you and my country…to seek financial compensation for doing so would be wrong.”
The angry red on her face had turned to a highly evident blush; she was clearly embarrassed at having accused Joseph of being anything less than honorable. “Understood. Joseph?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“I’m sorry. My behavior has been inexcusable; I just find myself at a loss to make sense of all of this.” She returned to a seated position on the bench resting her head in her hands, a small tear escaping through the recently placed mask.
He sat down next to her, unsure of what would be appropriate comfort. Before this morning, he would have put his arm around her and pulled her into a warm embrace now it seemed awkward. He sighed. They hadn’t even gotten close to doing this and already things had changed.
She took some of the decision away as she leaned, just slightly, into him. “Forgive me?” She whispered.
“There’s nothing to forgive. You’ve had a terrible day filled with decisions that no one should ever have to make. We’ll figure this out and it will be alright the end justifies the means, right?” He offered.
Her eyes found his, a sad smile present on her face. “It’s ironic how often that statement has been used to rationalize a multitude of sins.”
His arm went around her shoulder, pulling her close. “Indeed.”
After several minutes giving and taking comfort, Joseph finally broached the subject that he knew would cause her stress to raise again. “So how are we going to do this?”
He bristled waiting for the sarcasm that he knew would be forthcoming. Instead she lifted her head off of his shoulder, a faint smile decorating her features. “I must be honest, Joseph, and admit that when the King and I agreed on you as our choice, we believed that you had a basic understanding of how reproduction occurred.”
His amusement was music to their ears as the discomfort he had been stifling over the past few hours was released through the healing balm of laughter. “I assure you, my Queen, that I am well versed in the practice of reproduction.”
“Not TOO versed, I hope.” She teased; but with a serious undertone to the comment.
This time his head went to his hands and he shook it gently. “I can’t really win in this conversation, can I? I’m damned if I have too much experience because that means I’ve been with more women than the King or Queen would like; on the other hand, you don’t want to have someone who has no idea what he’s doing either as that could be awkward for Her Majesty as well.”
Her hand patted his shoulder, “I’m sorry, Joseph, you’re right that was not a fair thing for me to say. It’s really none of my business anyway.” She turned away shyly.
He turned her back towards him so they were facing and he framed her face in his hands. “All’s fair in love and war…and duty. If you are to be intimate with another person, it’s only right that you should know about their past relationships. First, I assure you I have a clean bill of health…”
She interrupted again. “I never doubted that.”
He smiled. “Thank you. Secondly, there have been a couple of women that I have been very close to in my lifetime; but none since I started working in the palace. What about you?”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “I beg your pardon?”
There was definite glint of humor in his eyes as he prodded. “Oh so I share my history with you; but you get to clam up on me?” He teased.
She smiled, straightened her shoulders and responded. “I’ll have you know, sir, that I have limited experience…limited to just one. It’s not a good thing to be unfaithful if your husband happens to be the King- they don’t take too kindly to that.” She paused. “Unless, of course, they expect you to…”
Silence ensued as the curtain of tension descended once again…
“Maybe we should take some time to think about this and reconvene tomorrow to discuss?” He offered as a way to allow them both some time to absorb the full impact of what they had just agreed to do for their country.
Joseph bowed and left her to her thoughts as he retired to his suite after ensuring that she would be watched, discreetly from a distance until she retired to her rooms for the evening.
***Later that evening in the Royal Suite***
“I’m afraid Jenna was quite exasperated with me today.” Rupert offered as a way of breaking the ice after returning from eating dinner alone.
“It must have been a very difficult day for you.”
He sighed; but forged ahead. “So you and Joseph spoke? He agreed?”
“He had stipulations that you must agree to.”
“Intriguing. So what were they?”
She sighed this had to be the longest day of her life. “He wanted to ensure that he would be able to remain in our employ and that he and I would have open communication to preserve our friendship, even though it will be irrevocably changed after we do this.”
“I have no plans to send him away. I hope you assured him of that fact.” Rupert interjected.
“I gave him my oath and assured him I would secure yours as well.”
“Consider it done. What else did he request?”
“Nothing actually…he insisted that, other than his continued employment, he wanted no additional compensation for doing his duty.”
“He is an honorable man; we have made a good choice.” Rupert seemed satisfied with the way things turned out and sat down to enjoy his evening tea.
“There was one final question he asked me that I need your help to answer.” She took a deep breath and watched as he looked up from his evening paper.
“What is that, dear?”
“He wanted to know how we should do this. Have you given that any thought…dear?” She stressed the dear part. She closed the distance between then and knelt before him. “I mean should I call out your name or his as I reach the heights of ecstasy or should I make sure I don’t enjoy the encounter? Where should I allow his touch? What should I wear? How should I act? Will you ever want to touch me again? Will he ever want to look me in the eyes again? Tell me, Rupert have you thought about any of that?”
He stood pulling her up with him. “How am I supposed to answer that, Clarisse? You know full well I don’t have those answers!”
“But you expect me to? That’s just wonderful, Rupert. You come up with this great idea and then expect everyone else to work out the details well it’s not that easy. You can’t just delegate this away. I’m your wife not a trade negotiation!”
His mouth crushed down on her without warning as he pulled her body into his. She gasped as he lifted her body, carrying her until she was wedged between him and the wall. His kisses were insistent and deep…
Something inside of him snapped hearing her say the cold hard facts out loud. Realizing she was really going to be intimate with another man at his bequest…and not just any man, but their best friend. Before it seemed like an idealistic approach to a mutual problem…but this was really HIS problem the fault lay with him. He felt a primal need to claim what was his and prove his virility. She was light as a feather and he was a very powerful man.
He felt her softness meld to his solid mass as they reached the wall. He lowered her long enough to fumble with the buttons of her blouse for a few seconds until his patience expired and the tiny pearls scattered all over the hard wood floor. He kissed the fullness of her breasts as his hands lifted her skirt and made quick work against the small scrap of satin that remained the final barrier in reaching his goal.
Clarisse didn’t know how to react Rupert had never been this…assertive. She knew she had been playing with fire and she had set one to blaze deep within his psyche that was now threatening to burn her. She decided to keep quiet and ride out the current maelstrom of emotion he was displaying and then determine where to go from there. She heard his zipper and knew this would be a brief, but intense encounter.
He cupped her bottom and lifted her, thrusting deep within her body. He felt her nails through his shirt as she held tightly to his shoulders, her body pitched forward in an effort to protect her head from hitting the wall from the forward momentum of his body. There was no pleasure, no intimacy nothing but satisfying the male need to conquer and possess…
He finished as quickly as he started and leaned heavily into her as he caught his breath. He was not surprised by the sarcastic comment that followed. “Well, as…uplifting…as that was, I fail to see how that answers any of my questions.”
He knew she was right; but how could he explain? How could he make her see that this was just as hard for him having to stand by and wonder what would be going on. He honestly believed that was just as hard as it would be for her to be a part of it. He had never been good at standing by and idly watching others partake in life especially when their actions were specifically designed to rescue him no, his pride did not accept that well at all. “I’m sorry; I don’t know what came over me.”
He carried her into the bedchamber and slowly lowered her to their bed. With a gentleness that seemed strangely out of place considering the past few minutes, he removed her bra and skirt and sat down next to her. He slowly traced the outline of her face as he spoke. “To answer your question…No; I don’t want you experiencing so much pleasure that you feel compelled to cry out his name.”
His fingers moved to caress her swollen lips before he leaned down to kiss her. He knew how to kiss his wife he had had eight years of practice; and despite her disappointment with him today, within a few moments, she was responding. When he pulled back, he continued. “And no I don’t want him kissing you.”
She felt his hand slowly move down her neck to her breasts. He cupped each one and bent down to lave open mouth kisses before closing his lips and sucking gently on a taut nipple. Clarisse enjoyed the shards of pleasure that were now traveling through her body. They had spent the last six years having sex for the sole purpose of procreation pleasure was a luxury that they had not allowed themselves in a very, very long time. Her hands threaded through his thick, dark hair as he paid homage. She felt a distinct loss as he moved away. “And no I don’t want him touching or even seeing your beautiful breasts.”
He moved his hands lower to the flat plane of her abdomen. He lovingly caressed the area where he silently prayed a child would soon be and that the child would never know the sacrifices that three people were willing to give in order to bring him or her life.
She felt a small tear escape as she knew what he was thinking as his fingertips danced across her belly. She added a prayer to his that Joseph would be able to succeed where they had failed in the past- that all of this heartache was not in vain. His hands moved lower to slide down the length of her legs. “You have the most amazing legs, Clarisse. And no I don’t want to think about them wrapped around his body while you…” He let his voice drift off; he didn’t even want to say the words out loud.
His hands returned to the damp, blonde curls; gently probing and stroking enjoying the velvety feel of the flesh that lay hidden beneath. Clarisse’s breathing had deepened and her eyes closed at his intimate touch. She whispered, “God Rupert…it’s been so long…”
His response was barely above a whisper. “I know, love…and, to be clear, no I don’t want to think of him touching you here.” As he maneuvered himself so he could taste her and bring her the pleasure she richly deserved, he finished. “I want you to wear the most modest nightgown you have and act as a virgin on her wedding night.” He kissed the insides of her thighs before placing his hands there to open her even further to his touch. “He will look you in the eyes again because you have the most beautiful eyes that God ever bestowed on a mere human; and…” His tongue sought out the tiny pearl of nerves hidden beneath its protective layers.
Clarisse’s back arched and she grabbed a fistful of sheets as the warmth of his tongue flicked, kissed and suckled until she thought she might go mad from the sheer joy of the experience. Having been deprived of pleasure for so long, her body reacted fiercely to the encouragement and flew her over the edge. As she cried out her pleasure, the tears she had been trying to hold at bay for the past couple of hours escaped in a stream of emotion that would be stayed no longer.
Rupert’s head rested on her abdomen as he waited for her to quiet somewhat; he wanted to make sure she didn’t miss what he said next. “And, lastly…I fear most not that I won’t want to touch you; but rather that you won’t want me to touch you.”
**The Next Day**
“Three days? You can’t be serious, Your Majesty.” Joseph couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He had to be honest with himself and admit that other than the making love part of procreation, he knew precious little about the female reproductive cycle.
“Joseph, please, keep your voice down.” Clarisse rubbed her temple and sat back on the couch in her office. She had finally been able to schedule a “meeting” with Joseph to discuss the answer to his “how” question. Thus far, it had not gone well.
“Yes, Joseph…while it may only take one time for conception to take place, there is a period of three days during my cycle when I am most fertile. In order to increase our odds, we need to be active each of those three nights.”
Joseph stared at a spot on the wall across her office, trying to calm his body down. He had thought this was a one time thing he was being asked to do. Now he learned that they expected him to make love to her three times…not that it wasn’t something that any man wouldn’t love to do. It was just…he shook his head, no sense in even going down that path right now. “Understood three nights.”
He turned to look at her; he knew this was going to be a difficult discussion for her; but it had to be done. “So how do you propose we go about this?”
An hour later, they were no closer to an agreement. “No! That is not acceptable.” Joseph interjected.
“What do you propose I do to remedy that problem?” She asked, slightly frustrated by their lack of progress.
“I’m not sure that’s my decision to make, Your Majesty. As you’ve forbidden me from kissing you or touching you anywhere that might even be slightly construed as an erogenous zone, I fail to see how I can help you in this area. But I remain adamant that when the time comes, I won’t move forward if I don’t feel your body is ready; I won’t hurt you. My job is to protect you!”
Clarisse knew he would not be moved on that point. She took a deep breath and spoke calmly. “Fine; I will figure something out.”
They let their tension settle somewhat before Joseph quietly asked. “Do you have any idea, truly, how hard what you’re proposing to do is going to be on both of us?”
Her eyes closed…she knew. “What would you have me do?”
“Tell the King to trust me and stop sending mandates to me through his wife. He either wants me to do this or he doesn’t; I fail to see how he can have it both ways.”
She chuckled. “You do recall he is King, right? I think that answers your question. They are unaccustomed to not getting their way.”
“I suppose. So what about him? What role will he play in all of this?” Joseph had to know; although he wasn’t sure he wanted the answer.
“The silent partner.”
“He will be there to support me; but he has agreed to not ask any questions about our time together. I suspect that one side of him really wants to know…the other does not. He has also agreed to, shall we say…not pull rank on you and demand answers either.”
Joseph breathed a silent prayer of thanks. Being on the receiving end of the King’s wrath was NEVER a good place to be. While other elements of their tenuous agreement were suspect, he hoped the King would honor at least this portion.
Joseph rubbed his neck; he hoped he could live up to both of their expectations. “So do you know when these three days will start?”
“I’ve been monitoring my cycle for eight years now; I generally have a pretty good idea. It should be within the next week.” She replied, a hint of sadness in her voice that this had been such a big part of her life for so long.
He exhaled slowly; that didn’t give him much time to prepare. “Alright; just to confirm, you will let me know that day when the three days starts.”
“Correct. I will then come to your suite through the secret passageway between our suites.”
“Then we shall try to conceive a child without actually doing most of the things that accompany the creation of a child.” He couldn’t help it; it just had to be said.
She stood, sensing the most difficult negotiation she had ever been a part of was finally over. “I think that accurately sums it up.”
Their eyes met, speaking volumes. They remained that way for a few moments before he nodded and left to get Jenna.
**Five days later**
Joseph heard the doorway of the secret passage open up and the lump that had been in his throat all day dropped to the pit of his stomach. As agreed, he waited in his bedroom for her to come in. He was more nervous tonight than he had been his first time with Senorita Gabriella. This time was different more was at stake; plus all the rules were different. It would definitely be a night to remember; but he wasn’t sure for what reason.
Clarisse had been doing a decent job of keeping her nervousness at bay for most of the day. As she stepped into his suite and stood staring at the door to his bedchamber, she had to take some calming breaths and draw deep down for the courage to turn the knob and step inside. She stopped suddenly, deciding it would be appropriate to knock.
He heard her gentle rap on the door and smiled. “Come in; but if you aren’t the Queen, you should know that I have a very important meeting of sorts with her in just a few moments for which I can simply NOT be late.”
She opened the door, a bright smile on her face. The smile quickly faded as she surveyed her surroundings. The room was dark, except for a few scented candles strategically placed throughout the room; soft music was playing; and a bottle of wine was chilling. “Joseph…I thought we agreed…”
He followed her line of vision and cut her off before she could finish. “Please hear me out, Your Majesty. With all due respect to the ‘rules of engagement’ we agreed upon, this is a difficult situation for both of us and I am not a circus animal that can just perform on command. As the normal practices that would be followed in order to relax the participants and prepare them for what is about to occur is expressly forbidden, I wanted to create, not necessarily a romantic setting; but rather one that would be comfortable and assist us in completing our task.”
Clarisse sighed she knew he was right; their discussion regarding this had been a very stressful negotiation. Her encounter with Rupert had left her shaken as his words rang through her head…’No kissing no touching no…no…no.’ While she understood what he was trying to tell her; she felt like he was an invisible third person in the room who would know her every move even if she never told him. “Fair enough.”
Her eyes moved involuntarily to the bed. Joseph had been thoughtful and turned the sheet and comforter back; pillows were arranged for comfort well, except for the one that was about half way down the bed. It was smaller than the others; but definitely looked out of place. She moved towards the bed in an effort to move it to a more appropriate place when she heard him say, “That’s for you.”
She took the glass of wine he offered as he came to stand beside her. She smiled a bit as she responded. “Well, I’m not certain what you had in mind, sir; but I’m pretty sure my head won’t be that far down on the bed.”
Joseph chuckled lightly at her comment. “It’s not for your head, Your Majesty.” He decided to let this conversation play out a bit to help break the ice.
She took a sip of her wine; Joseph tried very hard not to think about how beautiful she was reflected in the candlelight. Her lips were wet from the wine and he was drawn to them like a moth to the fire. Her question fortunately interrupted his train of thought. “Then what is it for?”
He sat down and patted the area next to him indicating she should sit as well. “It’s an old wives tale, actually, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to try. The tale went that a woman trying to get pregnant should attempt to conceive while her uterus is angled upwards; they recommended various ways to do that; but, considering our circumstances, I felt the pillow would be the best alternative.”
“You really think it might help?”
“I don’t see how it could hurt; and one never questions the wisdom of the old wives.” He answered with a smile before taking a few sips of his wine. Secretly, he wished for some scotch; but had felt that would be inappropriate.
“Very true.” Clarisse took a deep breath. “So I suppose we should get started.”
Joseph sighed. He didn’t know how to explain to her that without being allowed to touch her or kiss her or really do anything; he wasn’t sure that he could just ‘start’. “I shall certainly try.”
Clarisse ventured a glance in his direction; he seemed very nervous. She knew it was up to her to provide a catalyst to get this started. “Why don’t you get under the sheet on your side and then I’ll see if there’s something I can do to, shall we say, get things started.”
He had no idea where she was going with this; but since he didn’t have a better idea at the moment, he followed her lead. The cool sheets were a stark contrast to his warm flesh; but it felt good and helped him to try to focus. He looked over to the other side of the bed. Clarisse was standing a couple of feet back, looking very regal in her deep purple satin dressing gown. The color was a perfect accent to her creamy skin and she was a vision of beauty bathed in the candlelight. His eyes locked with hers and time stood still for the briefest of moments before her mouth turned upward in a smile as she asked, “Do you plan on trying to do this with your boxers on?”
Again the odd nature of this encounter threw him for a loop. He realized that she was offering him at least pseudo privacy to undress under the sheet before she got into the bed. Steady man you can do this…just focus. He returned her smile and teased a bit in return. “Well, since I suppose you won’t be helping me with that, I guess I will have to do it myself.” He maneuvered carefully to remove the garment without revealing anything to her. Although, he noted, it seemed an odd precaution to take when, in just a little while, his body would be joined with hers in a most intimate and non-private manner. He held the boxers out and dropped them unceremoniously on the floor. “Better?”
Her smile and slight nod indicated her approval. She sat her wine glass down on the night stand and then checked to make sure she had his attention. “I know this is awkward; but I hope this helps you…well, you understand.”
At first he wasn’t sure he did, until he saw her hand go to the knot on the sash that held the robe tightly in place. His breath caught in his lungs as she slowly undid the sash and let the robe fall from her shoulders. There was considerably less underneath. The nightie was of the same deep purple hue; but the vee in the front dipped dangerously low to reveal an ample view of her bosom. Lacy straps held the gown in place and enhanced the delicate line of her neck and shoulders. The gown was made of the purest silk and fell just low enough to barely cover her bottom. Joseph felt his body respond to the visual stimuli. He swallowed hard and murmured, “Yes. Yes, that helps.”
His appreciation was written clearly on his face and he watched every inch of her body as she took the couple of steps necessary to reach the edge of the bed. She slipped in gracefully, pulling the cover over her lower half. She reached down and adjusted the pillow under her so her bottom was slightly elevated. The maneuver caused the hem of her gown to travel upwards enough to be practical for their purposes; she had not bothered with undergarments.
Joseph knew she had made the first move and the next was up to him. Since there was no foreplay allowed, despite his argument that some was needed to ensure her body was ready; he had come up with an alternative that he hoped she would go along with. While the purpose of this was not pleasure; under no circumstances would he hurt her or cause her any discomfort. He whispered. “Are you ready?”
Her hands were at her side and she was staring at the ceiling; but she nodded yes. He lifted the sheet up enough to allow him some space for movement and her legs parted to make room for him. Her eyes closed as she felt his slight hardness nestled up against her curls. Joseph noticed that she was opting to keep her eyes closed, at least for the moment; so he took advantage of that and allowed himself a much closer view of her breasts. He had to bite his tongue to keep from saying ‘beautiful’ and leaning down to place reverent kisses along her smooth skin. He made some minor adjustments for comfort and then asked softly, “Are you alright?”
Her reply was barely above a whisper. “Yes.”
He sensed the tension in her legs and throughout her entire body and knew that he had to do something or this night would end up very badly. He lowered his head to whisper in her ear. “Your Majesty…Clarisse…please, you need to relax; focus on the music, think of nothing but the melody flowing throughout your body bringing harmony and peace.”
Joseph waited for a moment and watched her face; he could see the mental shift take place as she let the music surround her. She loved to dance and music spoke to her; he knew that this would help. As she relaxed, he began to slowly move against her; just a gentle rocking motion, designed to help prepare both of them for the next step.
Clarisse felt him move in time to the music, gently leading her in the dance. His velvety hardness was growing steadily as it rubbed against her final barriers. She felt her body slowly begin to betray her as her legs relaxed and fell further apart allowing him to settle even deeper into their intimate embrace. She felt the tell-tale signs that her arousal…NO…her comfort level, she told herself, was increasing. She could feel the sparse hairs on his leg rub against the smoothness of her inner thighs. Her hands moved of their own accord to hover along his sides, just above his hips; she could feel the muscles rippling from his efforts just below the skin.
Joseph felt the shift and knew that her body was doing its job and was ready; but he decided to prolong for just a few minutes longer. Perhaps it was wrong; but he couldn’t deny the curiosity that had settled in the forefront of his mind. He opened his eyes momentarily to steal a quick glance. Her eyes were still closed and she had pulled half of her bottom lip into her mouth, apparently in an effort to quell her body’s reactions. He whispered. “Are you ready to dance?”
Clarisse had stopped listening to the music as Rupert’s instructions kept running through her head as she was trying to focus on bringing her body into submission before things got beyond her control. She was about to say something when she heard his whispered question. She opened her eyes to see a tender expression focused totally on her, waiting and watching. “Yes.”
Joseph closed his eyes, having memorized the deep pools of crystalline waters that were filled with concern; but under that was a deep seated trust she trusted him as she did no other: trusted him to keep their secret; trusted him with the future of their family reign; trusted him with the gift of her body. Tonight, for him, that was more than enough. He moved against her a few more times and then slipped inside her wet heat. He felt, more than saw, her quick intake of breath and her nails imbedding themselves slightly in his flesh.
Time stood still for the next few seconds as neither moved; both fighting for control of their wayward bodies. Joseph lifted up more for leverage and began to thrust deep within her body. He was torn…he didn’t want her to have to fight the biological response that he knew was building deep in her abdomen right now even though he knew with absolute certainty she would. On the other hand, he had to allow his body a certain level of response in order to achieve the desired goal this evening of delivering what they hoped would be life-giving seed to her womb.
Clarisse’s panic level was rising at an exponential pace. Joseph thrusts against the angle of her body did nothing to stem the flow of pleasure endorphins that were now careening through her veins and building momentum. Her nails dug further into his side as she sought an outlet for the pleasure. Her mind silently pled with him to hurry before her shame became painfully evident.
Joseph knew he had to focus; ironically, different from the standard where a man would want to prolong this as long as possible for the woman’s pleasure…he needed to get it done quickly. So he thought about the vibrant, beautiful woman whose soft body was cushioning and welcoming his. He thought of her breasts, full and beautiful clad in purple silk; the way he caught just a glimpse of her sexy bottom as she adjusted the pillow; her piercing blue eyes searching his and finding what she needed to see; her long fingers digging into his side in an effort to fight back her body’s response; and, finally, the one thing she couldn’t control…the clenching of her internal muscles as they welcomed his hard member into her most private sanctum. That was enough…his body responded to the stimuli and his hips jerked against her as he made good on his end of the commitment for tonight.
Clarisse felt Joseph’s climax throughout her body just before she lost control. His body collapsed onto her frame, exhausted from his efforts. She could feel his heart pounding in his chest and his lungs expanding and contracting in an effort to speed oxygen to his muscles. She continued to lie very still; her body was still humming with desire.
After a few moments, he rolled over so that he was right next to her. Neither spoke. Finally, Clarisse started to sit up; but Joseph touched her arm. “You need to lie still on the pillow for a few minutes…for the full effect.” He offered referring to the old wives tale they had discussed earlier.
“Seriously, Joseph.” Her tone was one of disbelief.
“So now you question my honor?” He couldn’t believe her.
He heard her breath exhale slowly. She said nothing; but remained by his side. “You shouldn’t feel guilty it was a biological response, nothing more.” He explained in a quiet voice.
Her retort was sharp. “You broke the rules.”
“Because you didn’t follow them either.” He countered.
“I…” She stopped; he was right.
When she spoke again, her voice was much quieter. “Do you think enough time has passed?”
“Yes, I believe so. Not being an old wife, I’m hazarding a guess, though.”
A faint smile crossed her face. She sat up and got out of bed, retrieved her robe and put it back on. She mustered as much dignity as she could. “Thank you, Joseph. I’ll see you in the morning?”
“And then we shall try again tomorrow night?” Her voice was hesitant.
“Yes, Your Majesty.” He was tired and wanted to be alone; the challenges of this evening had taken their toll on him both physically and emotionally.
Her eyes closed at the formality in his voice. She composed herself, then opened her eyes and offered, “Very well then, until tomorrow morning.”
He watched her leave as quietly as she had arrived. He sat up and poured himself some of his favorite scotch it was going to be a long two days.
Clarisse stopped in the tunnel long enough to change back into a more chaste white gown. She was certain Rupert wouldn’t have approved of her choice of wardrobe for her evening with Joseph; but she felt it was necessary to help them with their task. Rupert was asking a lot of them with a great deal of restrictions; she felt it was the least she could do.
She made her way to their bedchamber. She knew Rupert would be awake and she knew that she didn’t want to talk right now; there were physical needs that she needed addressed.
Rupert watched her cross the room and was slightly surprised when she pulled back the covers and crawled up onto the bed, straddling his nude form. He watched her lift the gown over her head and then lean down and kiss him with abandon; her lower body rocking against his flaccid member, bringing it to life. As curious as he was about what had happened, he wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass him by. One thing he knew for certain, based on her actions, she had honored his request not to allow the pleasure of the act with Joseph consume her.
Clarisse allowed the pleasure to course through her body uninhibited now; she felt guilty that Rupert was receiving the benefits of her arousal, even though Joseph had been the source of it whether intentional or not. She would have to sort out the emotional and psychological ramifications later right now she just needed the physical release that she craved so fiercely. Her body raised and then lowered quickly on Rupert’s now hard member. She leaned forward and commanded. “Take me.”
He needed no further direction or encouragement. His hands grasped her hips as he planted his feet on the mattress and began to thrust into her. He moved hard and fast, sensing that was what she wanted and needed at the moment. Within moments he felt rather than heard her climax as her body shuddered and trembled from the torrent overtaking her; he followed right behind her.
Their breathing was heavy and labored; she rested heavily on his solid form. His hands gently stroked her back as she took the long journey back down. He finally asked. “So all went well?”
“Joseph was very honorable.” Was the only reply or information he received.
“I suppose that is all one can ask.”
“You were gone for a long time.” It wasn’t an accusation; just a simple statement that he fully intended as a fishing expedition to garner more information from her.
She lifted herself off of his body and looked directly into his eyes; her tone was edged with a bit of hurt and disbelief. “It was a very uncomfortable situation, Rupert. We talked a little before hand as well as afterwards.”
“Pillow talk…I understand.”
“Not ‘pillow talk’ actually old wives tales were discussed.” She retorted.
“Old wives tales?”
“Yes. And if you are very nice to me the rest of the night and don’t ask any more questions, just like you agreed to, then perhaps I will share the old wives tale with you in the morning. Understood?” She was tired, mentally exhausted, and in no mood for anymore rule breaking tonight. They were only one night into this and already all three parties to the agreement had failed to follow through on their commitment. If this was a trade negotiation, everyone would be going home empty handed. She put her hand on her abdomen and silently prayed that she would not go away empty handed at the end of these three days.
“Yes ma’am. I’ll behave.” He smiled.
She swatted him as she got up to go clean up. “See that you do.”
**The next morning**
Joseph walked into the Royal Suite promptly at 7:30 a.m. Clarisse looked up from her morning tea. “Good morning, Joseph.”
Joseph nodded. “Your Majesty.”
She noticed he seemed very tense. “Did you sleep well?”
“As a matter of fact, ma’am, I did not. You?”
She sat her tea cup down and exhaled slowly. “Honestly, no.”
His tone remained even, but his words spoke volumes. “Perhaps you should have turned in earlier.”
She realized in an instant that he suspected what she had done when she left him. She closed her eyes briefly; it was going to be a long day. “Perhaps.”
He didn’t offer a reply or further comment so she finished her tea, stood and stated. “I suppose we should get started. Jenna will be waiting.”
Joseph opened the door and followed her quietly to her office.
The morning passed with a slowness that could only be equated to watching a Genovian pear grow. Finally, at noon, Jenna excused herself for lunch. As soon as the door was closed, Clarisse uncharacteristically slouched in her chair and rubbed her forehead in an effort to relieve the ache that had been steadily building all morning. “So are we going to talk about this?”
No response. She watched him debate with himself whether it was to choose his words or whether he was going to speak at all, she could not be sure. “I believe it was one of YOUR stipulations that we talk about things to ensure that the strain to our friendship would be minimal. I don’t know about you; but I’ve certainly felt a strain in that area today.”
He was quiet a few minutes longer before he asked. “Permission to speak freely, Your Majesty.”
She started to make a sarcastic retort that she could hardly deny him anything after what they had shared; but she opted for the path of least resistance. “Granted.”
“So are we going to talk?” She was trying to be patient; but her nerves were on edge.
Finally, he spoke. “So what would you like to talk about, Your Majesty? Would you like to talk about how you failed to uphold your end of the agreement before we even started? Or how I compensated for your failure and was scolded for taking care of things where you didn’t? Or how about AFTER I delivered on my commitment when you questioned my honor?”
Half way through his tirade, Clarisse had stood up and moved to stare out the window. She couldn’t look him in the eyes and hear the accusation in his voice it was too much to ask her to do both. She felt his presence right behind her, invading her personal space. His voice was barely more than a whisper next to her ear as he finished. “Or, Your Majesty, would you like to discuss how foolish your husband is to think that he could ask you to make love to another man and feel nothing?!”
She whirled around, her blue eyes blazing. Her voice was low, but firm. “We did NOT make love, Joseph.”
She turned back around and gasped as she felt his arm come around her body as he stepped in behind her. His hand splayed across her abdomen and he pulled her body flush against his. “Yes, Clarisse, we did. What we attempted to do last night was to create the absolute essence and embodiment of love. This child would represent the love a King and Queen have for their people and the love that their country feels for them. It represents the love of one man for his monarchy, for his country, and yes…for his duty his duty to ensure that both of those entities remain safe, secure and happy. There is more to love, Your Majesty, than a romantic notion between a man and a woman…surely you know this.”
His hold on her softened and he allowed one last loving touch of her stomach before he removed his hand. He whispered again, “and your husband is foolish to ask you to attempt to create the embodiment of such an intense love and feel nothing.”
He stepped back to a respectable distance and with a normal voice simply stated. “So I ask you, again, Your Majesty…what exactly would you like to talk about?”
Clarisse was granted a reprieve as there was a knock on the door signaling the return of Jenna with Clarisse’s lunch and Charles, who would relieve Joseph for his lunch break. Joseph made his way towards the door. Before leaving, he looked back at Clarisse viewing her lunch with disdain. “I will be back in one hour, Your Majesty.”
She looked up from her plate in time to see a quick half-smile flit across his face as he instructed, “I suggest you eat up you’re going to need your strength.”
He was out the door before she could formulate any response. Jenna and Charles didn’t seem to notice anything and Clarisse allowed herself a small smile. He had spoken his peace and had made his position known; and, for him today, that had been enough. She knew she had some damage repair to do to their relationship; but felt confident that she would find a way. With renewed interest, she surveyed the contents of her lunch and thought about the evening that was to come.
Clarisse knocked on the door to his bedroom and entered at his request. He was already sitting in the bed, with the sheet drawn up to his waist. A glass with amber liquid was in one hand and a book in the other. The candles were missing; but the lights had been dimmed to an appropriate level. A bottle of wine was chilling on ‘her’ side of the bed; the special pillow was arranged half way down the bed and some papers were placed on the pillows where her head would rest.
“Good evening, Your Majesty.”
“Good evening, Joseph.”
“I decided on scotch this evening; but your wine has been chilling for about thirty minutes so it should be an appropriate temperature. I also did some research during my off hours with regards to our old wives tale and found that it is recommended that you spend some time on the pillow both before and after in order to ensure maximum effectiveness. So tonight we will be delayed slightly; but tomorrow, you can do that ahead of time, if you prefer. Copies of all the relevant data are there, for your reading pleasure, to serve as support for my claim.”
He had shared this information in a serene, calm and efficient manner absent any sarcasm or bitterness; she found it all rather endearing. “Thank you, Joseph.”
“You’re welcome, Your Majesty. Please come and get situated so we can get started.” He patted the empty space on the bed next to him.
She smiled broadly. Her arms were still behind her back, holding fast to the knobs on the double doors to his room. “Before I do that, I owe you an apology. For what it’s worth, I did try to uphold my end of the agreement before I arrived last night. But, to be honest, I couldn’t think of a way to do it and still hold to some type of decorum or dignity. Fortunately, for me, my best friend is wise and resourceful and found a way to do both; thereby, once again, protecting me from myself. Additionally, you have never been anything less than honorable, I’m sorry that I ever allowed the slightest hint of doubt to creep in. I was out of line for my remarks and I apologize.”
Her gaze had never left his and Joseph felt a new appreciation for the inner strength of the woman who stood before him. “Apology accepted.”
She nodded her thanks and continued. “Finally, I must admit that I found no solution to the aforementioned dilemma. As your solution seemed to be highly effective, might I ask that we follow that course again tonight?”
“As you wish; now please, come lie down.”
He watched the robe fall gracefully off of her shoulders and his eyes darkened as the black negligee came into full view. A delicate strip of black lace adorned her shoulders and trimmed the bodice. Another strip ran along the underside of her breasts, lifting and separating creating a stunning visual effect. Once again, the silk fell just low enough to provide at least the illusion of covering her below.
She made her way slowly across the room, stopping long enough to pour herself a glass of wine. Joseph watched intently as the hem of the gown rose ever so slightly as her arm lifted to take a sip of the wine. She removed the papers on her pillows and then made herself comfortable as she slipped under the sheet and onto the old wives pillow, as she now referred to it.
They remained in companionable silence, enjoying the soft strains of the orchestra music playing in the background as they waited. After several minutes, she spoke. “What if this doesn’t work?”
He turned on his side, propping himself up on his elbow. He smiled. “One should never question the wisdom of the old wives.”
There was a sense of desperation in her voice. “I’m serious, Joseph, when does it all end?” She turned her head sideways to look at him. “My life has been about NOTHING else for the past six years. Now I am engaging in behavior that can only be rationalized by an ‘ends justifying the means’ argument. What happens if this fails? When is enough…enough?”
Joseph slipped his hand under the sheet and the black satin to rest over her womb. His voice was filled with resolve. He held her gaze intently and said, “This will NOT fail.”
“You can’t be sure.”
“I swear it to you that I am. In just a few months, you’ll be complaining to me about how none of your clothes fit.”
“And if you are wrong?”
“Are you questioning my honor again?” He lightly teased.
Her hands came to rest on top of his as her gazed turned back to the ceiling. “I just pray that you are right I don’t know how much more disappointment I can take; there is a whole nation depending on me…on us, Joseph.”
He fought the urge to pull her into his arms to hold her and reassure her. Instead he turned his hand upwards so he could clasp hers. “Their faith is not misplaced.”
“I hope not.”
He decided to lighten the mood and try to bring out one of her genuine smiles. “Besides, if this takes any longer…I’ll have to renegotiate my contract.”
She rewarded him with a smile and laughter. “You are incorrigible, you know that, right?”
“Just one of my many charms; so should we get started?”
“Yes, I suppose we should.”
“So how do you propose to…as you say, get things started?” There was a glint of humor in his eyes. His hand was still intertwined with hers and resting on her bare skin; he secretly hoped she didn’t realize that anytime soon.
“I don’t know if you noticed or not; but I’m very scantily clad in black silk and lace. I have been told, on occasion, that my figure is rather pleasing to look at.” She feigned indignance.
“I suppose…but I work with you every day so I’m more immune to your womanly wiles.” He teased.
She laughed. “Well, I certainly don’t dress like this every day at work.” She gestured to the lace bodice.
He just grinned and opted against mentioning that he had imagined her in something similar to this outfit on many occasions just as most men did once they met her. “Still…”
She lifted their hands until the palm of his hand was resting against her cheek. Her eyes closed as she drew on the warmth and strength it offered. “Thank you, Joseph…for everything.” She turned her head slightly and placed a gentle kiss on the palm of his hand.
He let his thumb graze over her lips; he just couldn’t resist. They were as soft as the silk caressing her body. He pushed those thoughts aside as he carefully lifted the sheet and moved into place as he had the night before. He lifted up slightly, waiting for her to open her eyes again. “Hold my hands?” He asked.
“I’m sorry, what?”
He extended his left hand first to intertwine it with hers then shifted his weight to take her other hand. He lifted both of them above her head and slowly began to move. The feel of her body arched against his served its purpose and his body began to respond. He could feel the softness of her chest moving against him as well as the muscles that defined her torso. She was much more relaxed tonight and the dance was progressing much smoother.
Clarisse could feel every move his body was making as hers was on high alert. Her spirit had been lifted by Joseph’s encouraging words and she truly believed that, perhaps, this time it would be different. She tried to encourage him through subtle movements nothing so overt that she would have to feel guilty; but enough to help him achieve what he needed to do as well. She felt her body prepare and she whispered, “Let’s dance.” to let him know she was ready when he was.
He moved his hips slightly lower and then thrust forward, sheathing himself fully in her wet heat. He was rewarded with a slight gasp of pleasure as her back arched more to accommodate him.
“Easy tiger.” She warned quietly.
“Sorry, I was inspired by the nightie.” He teased.
He felt the chuckle reverberate quietly throughout her body. His strokes were still firm; but easier than the initial one he had wanted to get her attention and hear an uncontrolled response he had not been disappointed. True to form, though, despite his efforts, she still fought to maintain control of her body’s responses. He could feel her nails digging into his hands as her body made its natural reactions to his efforts. There was a slight disappointment in his heart that his words to her this afternoon had not made enough of an impact to change her mind about this…
But, he had a job to do and he would do it as best as he could while trying to honor her wishes. He let his mind drift back to the image of her dropping her robe and the way her breasts strained against the lace as she arched under him, and finally the feel of her lips on his palm.
Clarisse focused inward to maintain her level of composure. She silently prayed that Joseph was right and that they were creating the ultimate embodiment of love even if she couldn’t allow herself to fully appreciate it…or enjoy it. His body spasmed as his climax overcame him. She bore the full brunt of his weight and kept his hands clasped in hers, enjoying the feel of his heart beating in time with hers…well maybe a bit faster; but still.
He released one hand and brought the other up to his cheek and held it there for a moment before kissing her palm. He quietly added, “Thank you for the dance.”
He moved back to his original position beside her; but stayed on his side and rested his hand back on the smooth skin of her stomach as they waited.
She inhaled and exhaled slowly; her body was not happy with her. She had deprived it of pleasure yet again and it was demanding release. While she enjoyed this quiet time with Joseph afterwards, it only delayed her final release. She focused on his words from earlier today…was he right? Was Rupert expecting too much? He was asking her to be intimate with her best friend…how could he not expect her to have feelings about that? Those thoughts were pushed aside as she tried to focus on the greater goal. “So you really think we will achieve success?” She asked one last time.
“Without a doubt. You must believe.”
She heard no hesitation or reservation in his voice. She couldn’t recall a time when Joseph’s intuition had been wrong, so she decided to remain positive and push the demons back into the deepest night for yet another day.
He watched her carefully stand up and retrieve her robe. She walked over to his side of the bed and cupped his cheek with her hand as she had done earlier that night. “I believe you.”
She walked to the door and opened it. Before stepping out, she turned and simply said, “By the way…I preferred the candles. Until tomorrow then?”
He smiled and made a mental note to make sure the candles were back in place for their last night together. “Until tomorrow; good night.”
Clarisse made her way back to her suite much slower tonight. Her body still ached for release; but her mind was preoccupied. She had one more night one last time to…was it making love? If Joseph was right, and she hoped beyond all hope that he was, then this love child had come at a very high price. The sacrifice and long reaching implications of what took place over these three days could affect their lives forever.
She picked up the pace, anxious to see Rupert. She felt a little more guilt about seeking release from him tonight after coming from Joseph’s bed; but he couldn’t have it both ways. He couldn’t expect her to subdue natural instinct and reaction and then not have an outlet for it that was asking far too much.
The suite was dark. The bed was turned down; but it was empty. There was no note or any indication as to where her husband had gone this late at night. She picked up the phone and dialed the security room. “Yes, Your Majesty.” Charles answered.
“Good evening, Charles. I was wondering where the King was at this late hour. I’ve been in a meeting myself and was surprised not to find him in our suite when I returned.” She hoped that had sounded plausible. Of course, if he mentioned it to Jenna the next day, she would be questioned as to the nature of her ‘meeting’ at such a late hour and the fact that Jenna had not been made aware of it.
“He’s having coffee with Prime Minister Edwards, ma’am. Is everything alright? Can I have someone get you anything?” He asked sincerely.
Clarisse had to stifle a laugh at the thought of saying, “Yes, Charles, I’m looking for someone who can relieve a little sexual tension do you have anyone specifically in mind?” Instead, she calmly replied. “No, thank you. I’m fine. Good evening”
“Good evening, ma’am.”
She was angry no she was more than angry…she was annoyed. How dare he go have coffee while she was walking a fine line between morality and propriety in order to give him a son? She left the black nightie on and sat on their bed waiting.
It was over an hour later before he entered the suite. He was greeted with an icy voice. “I hope that was a matter of national security.”
“I’m sorry, Clarisse. He called and asked; I couldn’t think of a plausible reason to say no.” It sounded lame even to his ears; even if it was the truth.
“You are the King tell him to make a damn appointment. How dare you? You ask so much of me yet you can’t even find a way to stay in the suite for a couple of hours.”
He moved onto the bed, reaching for her. She moved away. “Don’t you dare touch me not now; I needed you an hour ago, Rupert the moment has long since passed.”
She heard a heavy sigh and could smell brandy on his breath. “Were you drinking? I thought you were having coffee.”
“Just a little I didn’t have much. I was just trying not to think about what was happening on the other side of the wall.”
“It must be horrible for you; I don’t know how you make it through the day.” She was tired and hurt.
“Did you wear that tonight?” He suddenly noticed her attire.
“Perhaps if you had been here when I returned you would know whether that was the case or if I put it on for you.”
Rupert realized that he had made a serious error in judgment; one that he was likely to pay dearly for; one he could only hope to make up to her. He freshened up and then slid in next to her careful not to touch her. He knew she wasn’t asleep; but she was pretending to be. “I truly am sorry, Clarisse. I know I’ve been unfair and selfish…I’m certain this has been far more difficult on us than we could have ever imagined…and certainly more so for you than Joseph and I. My male pride is wounded and I’m behaving badly. Not tonight but soon, I hope you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Clarisse said nothing; but a solitary tear slipped unbidden down her cheek. She silently prayed for the…she had no idea how many times…that all of this sacrifice was not in vain.
The next day turned out to be a very busy day. There were meetings all day with visiting dignitaries as Genovia tried to secure various trade agreements along with additional military support, should it ever be needed. Joseph knew that the Royal Guard of Genovia was among the best in the world; but they would be no match against any outside force that might decide to cross into her borders.
He watched her carefully all day; she seemed preoccupied but only to those who knew her very well. The visitors were all enamored with her charm and pleasantly surprised by her intelligence and negotiating skills. She patiently handled the questions by well-meaning wives about the prospects of an heir, even though he could see the pain in her eyes that she tried hard to hide. The evening ended with dinner in the main dining hall.
Overall, it had been a very trying day for the Queen. Joseph was fairly surprised when he heard a knock on his door close to midnight. He put on his robe and opened the bedroom door. “I’m sorry I’m so late; it took me a while to finish tea with the Ambassador and his wife from Spain.”
“You’re exhausted; I didn’t even expect you to come.” He replied.
“I noticed no candles.” She smiled wearily.
He took her hand and led her to a sitting position on the bed. “Easily remedied; can I get you something to drink?”
“Mmm would you be willing to share some of your private collection of scotch?”
“Your Majesty?” He was surprised he didn’t know she imbibed in the harder liquors.
“It’s been a long, trying day; I just want something to help me unwind. Can you believe the insensitivity of some of those women? I swear, Joseph, it took all of my diplomacy not to slap them.”
She took the proffered glass of scotch from him. “Why don’t you get some rest tonight? We can do this tomorrow.” He offered sympathetically.
She shook her head. “Three days, remember that’s the optimal time for conception. I don’t have twenty-four more hours it has to be tonight. I’m sorry; I know you worked hard today as well.”
He smiled. “Yes, watching you all day was quite trying, indeed. I simply don’t know how I made it through.”
“Incorrigible that’s what you are.”
“Indeed. Now you sip on that and I’ll be right back.” First, he lit the candles that he had put out earlier but had not lit since he didn’t expect her. He then disappeared into the bathroom for a few moments.
Clarisse relaxed a little as the fiery liquid worked its magic. The truth be told, she was totally exhausted: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Her body had been through a lot in the past few days and today had been a true test of her will as she dealt with Rupert in addition to the diplomats. He was being overly attentive, out of guilt, and it had grated on what few remaining nerves she had left. She shook her head; she needed to relax and focus on the task at hand.
Joseph emerged quietly from the bathroom with a small bottle of lotion in his hand. “This is all I could find; but I think it will be enough.”
“Come here, please.”
She finished the contents of her glass and stood to close the distance between them. When she was standing just a foot in front of him, he spoke. “In the spirit of the events of today and the fact that this is our final night together, I want to renegotiate some of the terms of our agreement.”
She audibly sighed. “Seriously, Joseph, I am entirely too tired to play games tonight. What is it that you want?”
He smiled again. “What I want first is to give you a massage to help relax you.” He closed the distance between them and then leaned over to whisper in her ear. “And finally, I want to be able to tell you tonight how beautiful you truly are.”
She closed her eyes as the deep timbre of his voice filled her body. She was tired of rules and regulations; tired of trying to please everyone; tired of negotiating and diplomacy. Joseph had been the picture of honor and dignity throughout these past few days many men would have taken unfair advantage of the situation. She cupped his cheek. “A massage would be wonderful and I never turn down a compliment.”
He moved his hands to the sash of her robe and undid the knot himself. He placed his hands under the garment at her shoulders and slid it off of her body. He let an appreciative murmur slip from his lips. The deep burgundy of the gown was the perfect compliment to her coloring. The silk barely covered her breasts; but a delicate lace provided additional covering. The babydoll style of the short nightie was consistent with the other gowns, although he was certain this one was a bit longer than the others. He turned her slowly so he could see the back. It revealed the graceful line of her neck and back in its entirety. The creamy expanse of skin guided the viewer down to a scalloped, lace edge right above her hips. Thin spaghetti straps held the entire garment in place. “So very beautiful; I think this is my favorite.”
She would have spoken her thanks; but found she could not locate her voice so she simply nodded. Joseph took her hand and led her over to the bed and guided her to her stomach. He allowed himself a brief glance at the small part of her bottom that was revealed as the material gathered slightly under her. He took a steadying breath and brought the sheet up to cover her lower half before applying the lotion to his hands to warm it before placing them on her shoulders to begin.
She felt his hands on her shoulders and her nervousness faded quickly away as they began to work their magic. “Oh god, Joseph that feels heavenly.”
“Just relax.” He moved lower on her back, enjoying the way he could feel the toned muscles of her back that signified a strength that might go unnoticed as one got lost in the elegant lines of her body and the pristine smoothness of her skin. He was mesmerized by the contrast of his darker hands against her pale flesh. He could have done this all night.
He massaged a little while longer, relishing in her appreciative murmurs; before conceding to himself that they really should move on. “Ok, I need you to roll over and get on your old wives pillow and let me finish.”
She complied without argument or comment, for once; and Joseph was very grateful. She adjusted her gown to cover herself as much as possible; but she didn’t seem as preoccupied with it as he had expected her to be. Her eyes were closed and she looked more relaxed he hoped she didn’t fall asleep.
Clarisse couldn’t be farther from sleep. Joseph’s touch had relaxed her tired muscles; but had set a chain of events in motion that she wasn’t sure she could stop tonight. From being deprived of release last night to the exhausting events of the day, she no longer had it in her to control things that nature had deemed acceptable. Joseph had been right, Rupert was foolish to expect her to do this and feel nothing. She stopped thinking as she felt Joseph’s hand rubbing her foot sending tiny shards of pleasure throughout her entire body.
It was ironic, he thought. Tonight, HE was fighting to control his body’s responses and he sensed that she might be preparing to let go of the fight. He took some quiet, but deep breaths as he worked his way up her body with his hands. He couldn’t bring himself to go above her knee as he was certain that it would be crossing an unspoken line. He did allow himself to gently massage the outside of her thighs between her knee and the hem of her gown. “Better?” He asked.
She opened her eyes to see her best friend gazing down at her with affection. She extended her hand to his to guide him towards her. He stopped her for a moment so he could shed his robe. She averted her gaze to give him privacy which caused Joseph to smile; he would never understand women especially this one.
Since she wasn’t looking at him, he took a moment to look at her. Her thighs had parted to make room for him and he knew that he could be lost forever in those long, beautiful legs. He fought the incredible urge to lift her gown to place a kiss on her stomach; the urge to kiss her inner thighs; the urge to rest his head on her full breasts… He exhaled slowly, for some reason the sacrifice he was making for his country seemed much harder tonight than it had the previous two. Perhaps because this was the last night he would feel her softness under him and her wet heat welcoming his desire.
At least he needn’t worry about her helping him get aroused tonight. She was doing that without even trying. He slipped into the cradle of her legs, feeling as though he had found his way home again. He started to inwardly reprimand himself he had to get some control on his thoughts; but stopped as he felt her arms circle him loosely and her lower body making the gentle rocking motion he had initiated the past two times. His arousal grew as she whispered, “I think I found a solution to my dilemma…so if you give me a few minutes, I think I can get myself prepared.”
She could feel his grin on her shoulder at her words. Her face lit up with a smile as he whispered back. “It’s about time you figured it out…I thought I was going to have to do everything for you.”
Her nails scraped down his back in response which served to further enhance his excitement. He joined in her movements, providing a counterpoint to the rhythm adding a slight rotation of his hips which seemed to increase both parties’ excitement level.
Within minutes, their pulses quickened and breathing became shallow. Clarisse licked her lips and instructed, “Let’s create love, Joseph together…we can do this.”
He rose up slightly and gazed into her sapphire depths. “You are the most amazing woman I have ever had the privilege of knowing.” His eyes never left hers as he thrust his body deep within hers. She rewarded his effort with the feel of nails sinking into the muscles in his back. He broke one final rule by leaning down to kiss her on the forehead before moving slowly, setting a tempo that would give them both pleasure.
She felt her body respond warmly to his actions; whether her resistance was lowered from exhaustion or the scotch, she no longer cared. She wanted to create the embodiment of love that Joseph spoke of yesterday and she wanted to feel that love course throughout her body in celebration and affirmation of life. She lifted her legs to lock around his hips, following his movements as he drove into her body over and over again.
“Oh god, Clarisse…” was the response she received just before he increased his pace.
She could feel the coil within her tighten as tiny tremors of pleasure triggered an overload of her nervous system. She released her hold on his back and let her hands fall above her head; her lower body lifting to meet him thrust for thrust.
Joseph was overwhelmed at her display of affection and cooperation to make their last night together a night they would never forget. His love for her spilled out of him as he pushed forward one final time; her body convulsed in time with his as she let her pleasure consume her. Neither spoke a word; but each knew that their thoughts had only been for each other and for the child they were trying to create.
Clarisse pulled him to her and held him tightly. “Thank you.” She whispered.
“It is I who should be thanking you…for trusting me and believing in me.”
They stayed that way for a few minutes until their hearts returned to a normal beat and reality inserted its ugly head into their fantasy. Joseph moved over to lie beside her; they held hands, but said nothing more as they waited for the appropriate amount of time to pass.
“I suppose I should go now.”
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it gently. “I suppose.”
She sat up and leaned over and returned the kiss on the forehead he had given her earlier. “I believe,” was all she said before she picked up her robe. With one last glance and smile back to him, she left.
Rupert had been pacing the floor waiting for her return. He was certain she had been gone longer tonight than any other night; but he didn’t know if that meant anything significant perhaps there had just been more ‘pillow talk’…He was so glad this was the final night; he didn’t think he could take any more of this. He looked up as he heard her enter through the passageway. She looked breathtaking in the burgundy gown and he felt an instant pang of jealousy that Joseph had witnessed that beauty as well. He took a calming breath. “Welcome back, love.”
She gave him a tired smile. “Thank you.”
“Come to bed; let me do whatever necessary to take care of you.” He offered.
She was exhausted; she just wanted to crawl into bed and go to sleep. She knew, though, if she didn’t make love to Rupert tonight, his speculation and jealousy would be a force to be reckoned with. “Just give me a moment to freshen up?” She offered.
“Whatever you want or need.”
She smiled and made her way to the bathroom. She knew what he was doing; he was trying to make up for last night. While she appreciated that effort, she wasn’t sure she was up to feeding his ego tonight. She took a deep breath…it was her duty; and duty ALWAYS came before anything else.
He watched her walk across the room; he was mesmerized by the way her body moved under the delicate material. “You take my breath away.”
She stood before him; forcing a smile, she asked. “Would you prefer my gown stay on or off?”
He let his hands run up her torso, caressing the sides of her breasts before answering. “As beautiful as this gown is, it doesn’t compare to you.” He lifted the gown over her head before bending to kiss her newly revealed breasts.
She let him taste and touch for a few moments before whispering, “Please, Rupert…I don’t need foreplay I need you.” She hoped this might allay any fears or concerns he might have about her time spent with Joseph.
He scooped her up and placed her gently on the bed. “You need never ask twice, love.” His body covered hers and joined them in one swift motion. He began slowly to let their excitement grow, concentrating on the feel of her body moving under his.
Clarisse closed her eyes and focused on the hope of a future child; on the love her husband had for her, even though his methodology was sometimes questionable; on her best friend; on a country that was placing all their hopes and dreams on her ability to conceive. She felt Rupert increase the pace so she refocused; she needed to be convincing tonight. Her eyes opened and looked at the man who was her husband and king; power emanated from every pore of his being and she allowed herself to be caught up in the allure of it. “Harder.”
He smiled at her apparent wantonness; she always had a way of turning him on and making him feel like the most desirable man on earth. “Your wish is my command, Your Majesty.”
For the second time that night although in a different way, she allowed her body’s natural responses to have free reign. She was close enough, so she issued her final command of the night. “Now!”
Rupert heard the command and responded; his body moved hard against hers taking them over the edge together. He moved over to her side as they both caught their breath. After a moment, he felt a gentle kiss from her. “Thank you, darling; that was wonderful.”
“Glad to be of service, ma’am.” He smiled and answered back.
She returned moments later from freshening up and snuggled into his embrace. He was battling with his own…he didn’t know if it was insecurity or just the not knowing. He knew it was pointless to ask and would only serve to anger his wife and that was never a good thing. Rupert thought about the difference between her the first night she returned and tonight there HAD been a difference. Clarisse had not needed him tonight like she had that first night. Of course, the reason for the difference could have been many things, the foremost of which was that she was exhausted. He saw that in her eyes, even before she left for Joseph’s. Of course, Joseph could be the reason.
He pushed the thoughts aside what was done was done; and she had done nothing without his permission, whether express or implied. He had secretly hoped that she would not have bonded even further with Joseph through this; but he also knew that it was the bond that they shared that provided Rupert with the comfort of knowing his wife would be well treated and their secret would be preserved to the grave. If Clarisse received some pleasure in exchange for her sacrifice, he supposed there could be worse things.
Clarisse felt Rupert’s arm come over her protectively. He whispered, “Do you believe your efforts were successful?”
She smiled in the darkness. “I believe.”
Life returned to some semblance of normal the next day; normal, yet different. No one involved in the secret plan to provide Genovia with an heir spoke again of the three nights that changed their relationship forever. There was an underlying tension; not because of what had happened but more for the waiting…it would be a few weeks before they would know if they had been successful. It almost seemed that the waiting was harder at least before they felt active; now there was nothing left to be done but wait and see if they had been successful. Unfortunately neither Rupert, Clarisse nor Joseph was very good at that.
**Three weeks later**
“Good morning, Justin.” Joseph offered to the guard standing outside the King and Queen’s private suite.
“Good morning, Sir.”
Joseph started to open the door when Justin stopped him. “Sir, the Queen has asked that you meet her in her office as she has a meeting this morning.”
He was caught by surprise usually he knew about all of the Queen’s meetings. “With whom?”
“She didn’t say, sir.” Justin was a bit uncomfortable; he didn’t like upsetting his boss.
“Fine. I will be in her office awaiting her arrival. At which point, I will discuss her lack of communication with me.” Before Justin could respond, Joseph turned and walked away. Justin couldn’t decide who he would rather have angry at him the Queen or Joseph…it was too close to call.
Joseph did not get his wish, though. By the time Clarisse made her way to the office, Jenna was right behind her, the day was in full swing and there was no opportunity to have a private moment. Around 11:00 a.m., the phone rang.
Jenna answered. “One moment, please.” She put the call on hold. “Line one for you, Your Majesty.”
Clarisse answered. “Yes. Yes. I understand. Thank you.” Her face remained unreadable during the call. Joseph had been slightly surprised that neither Jenna nor Clarisse had asked for the caller’s identity. It seemed odd, unless they were expecting the call…
She ended the conversation and returned to her paperwork. After signing her name to the countless documents on the stack in front of her, she stood and instructed. “Jenna, I am going out for a while. Please clear my schedule for the next hour, I don’t want to be disturbed.”
Jenna’s face held a look of resigned sadness and empathy. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
Clarisse moved to the door then turned to Joseph. “Are you coming or am I now allowed to wander about without my personal protection? And, Jenna, please remain here until I return. You are to speak with no one, is that understood?”
Jenna nodded her understanding. Clarisse looked to her right again. “Joseph?”
Joseph snapped himself out of his deep thought and replied. “Right behind you, ma’am.”
He followed her to the fountain hidden deep within the maze of hedges; there was a sinking feeling in his chest…followed by a tightening that he could not ignore. He started to put things together…the meeting this morning must have been with her doctor; then the phone call; and now she wanted to be alone. No, this did not bode well for the trio who had gambled so much. How could he have been so wrong?
Once they arrived at the fountain, she kept her back to him. “Are we alone, Joseph?”
“No guards nearby?”
“No ma’am guards are only posted if there is an event planned out in the gardens. Otherwise, personal security handles it for each member of the Royal family.”
“Good, thank you.”
Time stood still for the next few moments finally, he had to ask. “Is everything alright, Your Majesty?”
“The call this morning was from the Doctor.” She started.
“I suspected that, after giving it some thought.”
She turned and ran towards him her arms wrapping around him tightly. “We did it, Joseph!! We did it!”
He let out the breath he had been holding and returned her embrace. “I was so worried I thought you had received bad news. Of course, you did nothing to dissuade me of that notion over the past several minutes either.” He reprimanded.
Her face was lit up with an absolute glow. “I wanted you to know first and I knew that Jenna would suspect the results were positive if I showed any emotion. I will have to apologize to her later; but I didn’t want her running off to tell Rupert before I had a chance to tell you AND him!”
Joseph’s heart swelled in his chest as he realized that she told him first! He pulled her into an embrace again. “I am honored thank you.”
He felt tears of joy on his shirt and didn’t think there could be a sweeter moment than this. “It is I who should be thanking you you believed all along.”
After a few more minutes, they made their way back to the palace. Clarisse found Rupert while Joseph stood outside the door as she shared the news with him. Jenna was informed next and after that the palace grapevine worked its magic. By lunch time, everyone on the grounds had learned of the joyous news. By the time the evening news with Edward Kentworthy started, the entire country celebrated with their King and Queen; and, whether they realized it or not…with Joseph as well.
The next several months passed by in a blur and life settled into a general state of excitement throughout Genovia as they followed with unrelenting interest the progress of their Queen’s pregnancy. Because she was so thin, the subtle changes in her body showed earlier than even she expected. Both Rupert and Joseph had kept an eagle eye on her to make sure she ate enough and got plenty of rest; and, true to form, she had complained often to Joseph about her clothes not fitting her properly anymore.”
Right before she started her fifth month, Rupert was called away to some urgent trade negotiations. “I’m sorry, dear. I was hoping to not be away from you even one night during your pregnancy.”
She smiled at his worried expression. “Everything is fine, Rupert. Besides, it’s only for a few days. You must do your duty to ensure your son or daughter has a prosperous Genovia to rule.”
He kissed her with an intensity that surprised even him. “I swear to you that I will not rest until I have secured such a future.” He knelt down before her and kissed the place where life was marvelously growing inside of her. He whispered. “I will return soon, little one.”
She ran her fingers gently through his hair. “Come now, Rupert, you must prepare for your trip; your son and I will be fine until you return.”
Rupert felt a pang of emotion at her words. While he knew she meant them, they both knew that this was really only his son in name. He took a deep breath and quashed the negative emotions what was done, was done and could not be changed. No one but the three of them would ever know the truth and he would have to accept that as an acceptable course. There had been no other way. He rose and kissed her one last time. “I will call you every night.”
She smiled at him, having missed the exchange he had just had with himself. “See that you do.”
Two nights later, Joseph heard a knock on his bedroom door a little after midnight. He knew instinctively it had to be Clarisse and alarms rang loud within his mind. What on earth could bring her to his door at this time of night if something wasn’t horribly wrong?
He threw his robe on quickly, barely getting it secured before he threw open the door. “What’s wrong, Clarisse?” In his concern, formality was dropped.
She grabbed his hand and pulled it to her stomach. “Settle down and feel.”
Realizing that nothing was amiss well nothing short of the Queen being in his bedchamber once again, he took a calming breath and concentrated solely on the area beneath his hand.
Nothing happened for a few minutes, so he guessed. “Did you want me to feel that you own something besides silk nightgowns?”
She laughed. “Incorrigible. Now be still and be patient.” She held her hand squarely over his.
Almost in response to his mother’s laughter, Joseph felt movement under his hand. “Oh my god, Clarisse, the baby just moved.” He was mesmerized at the feeling of life that he was seemingly holding in the palm of his hand.
She turned and leaned up against him, still holding his hand in place. “I know. Isn’t it just the most wonderful thing you have ever experienced?”
He thought about the three nights he had spent with the baby’s mother in an effort to create this life and wondered if, perhaps, that might have come close to the awe he was now experiencing; but decided against saying anything to that effect. “Indeed.” He whispered.
They stayed like that until the baby decided it was time for rest again and stopped moving. She slowly stepped away. “I’m sorry for barging in so late at night and scaring you. Rupert was away; but I thought it fitting that you should be given the honor of sharing this with me. After all, it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for you.”
Joseph was torn. Her words rang true; but his heart also felt for the King. He had done his duty as well. True it had been different than what he and Clarisse had had to do; but it had been a sacrifice, nevertheless. “Thank you for that. Perhaps it would be best, though, if the King not know of this? He would be hurt if he thought he missed sharing this moment with you.”
He caught the emotion in her face at his words and moved quickly to reassure her. His hands cupped her face and turned it upwards to look at him. “Make no mistake, though, I am honored that you were both able and willing to share it with me first.”
She nodded imperceptibly and then whispered. “This is so hard, Joseph…I feel like no matter what choice I make, someone will be hurt.”
He took her hand in his and covered their child once again. “Some things are worth the sacrifice. We will find a way and we will all get through this. Duty demands nothing less.”
She smiled sadly as she thought about that one word. She may help rule a nation of thousands; but one word duty had ruled her life almost since the day she was born. She exhaled and pulled herself together. She touched his cheek and simply replied. “Understood.”
Joseph stood rigid with his hands crossed and held tightly in front of him. His dark glasses remained on, even though there was very little need for them. His heart raced in his chest and he stared pointedly at a fixed position on the wall across the hall.
“Damn this all to hell; this is crazy.” The King allowed himself the luxury of swearing as no one but Joseph was within ear shot. “How can you just stand there?”
“I spend the greater part of my life waiting, Your Majesty.” He forced his voice in an even tone, although he felt anything but calm at the moment.
“Well I am unaccustomed to such things and I find it infuriating.”
Joseph just nodded his head slightly; he had no desire to engage in a shouting match with the King.
Rupert let out a breath. “I know I’m being difficult and I appreciate your patience; this isn’t easy for either of us.”
Joseph nodded again but couldn’t help but add. “I’m certain this is much more difficult for her.”
The thought of his wife took all of his anger away and he sat heavily on the padded chair that had been provided for him. “You are right, of course.”
Another thirty minutes passed, the King seemed much calmer. He looked at Joseph still staring at the wall just to his left. He looked around and saw that no one was near, although he didn’t expect them to be as he had given strict instructions. “I never took the opportunity to say thank you.”
“Her Majesty extended your appreciation.”
He chuckled. “I’m sure she did.” He grew somber. “Nevertheless, I should have sought you out and done so personally. I fear I was plagued by self-doubt and perhaps a bit of jealousy that you had succeeded where I had failed.”
“You did not fail. You secured an heir to the throne of Genovia; that was what was required of you.”
“And you did what was required of you…honorably, I’m told.”
Joseph’s head snapped towards the King. How could they have violated THAT part of the agreement? He felt…he didn’t know what he felt. Before he had time to figure it out, the King’s hand rose in a defensive gesture. “That was all I was told; relax, Joseph. Clarisse never fails to uphold her part of agreements; whether made publicly or privately.” He smiled. “Although, I admit to trying to get her to tell me she was unmoved and would only say that you were honorable. So I thank you for that as well.”
Joseph let out a deep breath and then berated himself for ever doubting her. He decided not to mention to the King that, occasionally, the Queen did fail to uphold her part of agreements; but some things were better left unsaid. Someday he would have to apologize to her for the flicker of doubt; but it would have to wait for another day. “You are welcome, Your Majesty.”
Another hour passed in silence there was nothing more to be said. Finally the door opened and a man stepped out. “Your Majesty?”
Rupert’s head snapped up. “Yes?”
“You can go in now.”
Rupert shook his hand and practically ran into the room. The doctor stood by the door to give the couple a few moments before he went back in to check on his patient. Joseph’s hands clenched tighter as he continued to wait. Finally, he could take it no longer. He asked. “Is she alright?”
Joseph breathed a sigh of relief. “And the child?”
“Well, the young prince was certainly difficult as he made his way into the world; but yes he is fine.”
Joseph smiled for the first time in eight hours as he thought, ‘he gets that from his mother!’
The doctor disappeared inside the room. Joseph waited. He knew that he had to wait until the doctors and nurses had left before he could go in. Propriety would not allow for the bodyguard, even the Queen’s personal one, to be present at such a time…even if he happened to be the father…
Thirty minutes later, he was beckoned in and greeted with a hearty clasp on the arm from the King. Clarisse looked tired; but completely at peace as she held Prince Pierre in her arms. She smiled up at him. “Come, sit. I’m sorry you had to wait.”
“No apologies. I’m here now.”
“Would you like to hold him?”
He looked from her to the King. The King nodded. Joseph took the small bundle of joy from her and felt a warm rush of affection no that was not an adequate description…he felt love. “He is beautiful…just like his mother.” He spoke the words before he could stop them.
He felt the King’s hand on his shoulder. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Joseph smiled down at the tiny face and whispered, “the essence and embodiment of love and…” he added, “sacrifice.”
Clarisse reached out and touched him gently as she held Rupert’s hand. “Believe it.”
Clarisse leaned down and kissed her son on the forehead. His blonde hair held a slight glow from the pale moonlight streaming through his window. She smiled at the sweetness displayed on his sleeping form; he was such a gentle and loving child. She thought her heart might burst from the love she felt for him. She felt Rupert’s presence and his arms encircled her. “He’s beautiful, isn’t he?” She whispered.
“Almost as beautiful as his mother.” They stood there, just watching him as parents are prone to do enjoying how angelic their children look while they are sleeping.
After a few moments, Rupert softly spoke. “Come, love, let’s have tea before retiring for the night.”
She nodded and left the room, leaving Rupert to say his goodnights to Pierre as well. Once in the sitting room, they enjoyed their tea quietly for a while. Clarisse noted Rupert seemed a little distracted. “Is everything alright, dear?” She asked.
“Do you believe in premonitions? Gut instincts?” He asked.
“I think that there is an additional sense a warning signal, per se, that we each have that keeps us from danger or harm or give us a sense of the future. I’ve learned over the years that some people have a more developed sense of it than others.” She thought of Joseph and his unfailing belief that she would become pregnant two years ago.
Rupert nodded. “I agree. What is your opinion of my abilities in that area?”
Clarisse was getting concerned; anytime Rupert took a round about line of questioning to get to a point with her, she rarely liked the result. “Your instincts have served you well as King.”
“I am asking my wife not my Queen.” He insisted.
She sighed. “I don’t see you as two different men; only one with two different roles.”
“Fair enough; so then it is accurate to say you trust my sense of judgment and give credence to any concerns I may have premonitions about?”
“Rupert, it has been a long day; please just say what it is you want to say.” Frustration was evident in her voice.
He let out a deep breath. “I think it is important that we have another child; produce another heir to ensure the security and future of the Renaldi rule.” There he had said it.
The teacup clashed onto the saucer with a resounding effect as her statement was made in a very low voice. “I BEG your pardon?”
She knew he was waiting for her to continue. “Would you care to explain how you arrived at such a decision?”
He sighed. “It’s a feeling, Clarisse…I can’t explain it. I just get the sense that Pierre is not going to want this life; will not want to rule Genovia…his temperament doesn’t seem conducive to it…”
The ire in her voice was rising with each word she spoke. “My god, Rupert he’s TWO!”
“I know that, Clarisse; which is why it’s a feeling something that doesn’t make logical sense.”
The next words were spoken in anger and part of her wished she had been able to stop them; but they escaped. “Is this because he is not truly your son? You have decided that a son that is not from your loins is not worthy of the throne of Genovia?!”
Rupert bristled at the coldness in her words. He had two options: he could either respond by escalating this to a level that would lead to both of them saying things that they would regret and never be able to take back; or, he could try to diffuse the situation. Seeing the fury in his wife’s eyes, led him to choose the second option. He spoke quietly. “I can see how you might come to that conclusion; but I assure you that I think of and love Pierre as my own son, even if my blood does not run through him. Desire to serve a country, in any capacity, does not truly depend on your blood; but rather your personality and the training you receive from a small child. I assure you that Pierre will receive no less training because of the circumstances surrounding his parentage.”
The anger left as quickly as it had besieged her. “I’m sorry that was way out of line.”
He moved over and knelt in front of her, holding her close. “I know this is asking a lot, Clarisse. You must believe me when I say that I would never even consider such a thing if I did not strongly believe it was necessary. Don’t you know that? The thought of putting you…you and Joseph…all three of us through that again…” He let his voice drift off.
“How can you ask this of me?” Her head dropped and she sounded defeated.
He put his hand under her chin and lifted it up so she was forced to look into his eyes. “Because I must and I believe it is necessary.”
Her anger surfaced again. “So the rest of us have no choice?”
Rupert exhaled slowly. “I would rather not make it an order from your King; but if I must.”
She thought back to the first time she and Joseph discussed this and his statement that she could not be forced…perhaps not in theory; but in reality, it was rare that Rupert did not get what he wanted.
Clarisse stood up forcibly and met his gaze. Ice was flowing through her veins. “If His Majesty will excuse me, I apparently have a decision to make…or agree to…and I would rather not be in his presence while I consider it.”
“As you wish.”
She didn’t even bother to change; she grabbed her robe and left the suite quickly. Justin saw her leave and spoke quietly into his radio, alerting security to the direction the Queen was headed…and that she seemed to be heading there in a hurry. Within moments, Joseph was notified and exactly three minutes later, he was dressed and in the courtyard. He didn’t have to look; he knew where she would be.
He gave her a few moments to try and compose herself before he spoke. “So is it your custom now to run out to the palace grounds in your nightclothes just to see the fountain in the moonlight?”
“Not tonight, Joseph I am in NO mood to be humored.”
This was more serious than he had originally thought. “I’m sorry. Do you want to talk about it? Did you and the King have a fight?” He assumed that’s what it was; but didn’t want to speculate.
“I’m not sure it can be construed as a fight when he states his demands and expects full compliance.” There was underlying bitterness in her tone.
“Dare I ask the nature of this demand?”
She turned toward him; the moonlight softening the hard lines of her face somewhat. “You most definitely should…since it is a demand of you as well.” She waited for him to gain understanding of her statement.
He felt a small lump rise into his throat as recognition dawned. “He wants another heir.”
“Is there a reason?” Joseph couldn’t help but ask.
“He has had a premonition that Pierre will not want the throne; something to do with his personality.”
“He is two.”
“My argument exactly.”
She sat on the edge of the fountain, suddenly drained from all the anger and emotion. “I know him, Joseph; he will not be moved on this. I don’t know what to do.”
Joseph was battling with himself. On one hand, the thought of being able to make love to Clarisse again was not something he would consider a hardship. On the other, he didn’t like the idea that this decision was being made for her. “I’m sorry; I can’t make that decision for you.”
She laughed bitterly. “Apparently I can’t either.”
“Have you ever thought about a brother or sister for Pierre?” He thought he would try a different approach.
“I…I never considered it a possibility given the circumstances.”
“Forget the circumstances for a moment…in a ‘normal’ environment, would you have wanted a sibling for him?”
“Of course you know how much I love children.”
“Yes, I do.”
She seemed to consider his words and the scenario he presented. “And you would be willing to…play your part again?”
He smiled. “Well, it will be a hardship...” He crossed over to her and pulled her into his arms. “Making love to a beautiful woman…it is just a cross I must bear.”
His reaction garnered him a genuine smile. “You are incredibly brave.”
“So we are going to do this again?” He asked.
She took a deep breath and glanced up at the moon shining so brightly in the dark night. Joseph was certainly a bright spot in her life and was her knight, once again, riding in to rescue her. She cupped his cheek and let him hold her close. “It seems we are.”
“You will let me know when?”
She nodded. “Same rules as last time?”
He grinned. “We will negotiate that later.”
She slapped him lightly as she stepped back. “Incorrigible.”
He pulled her close once more and whispered. “Since our first child seems to have his mother’s ‘sweet’ personality; perhaps the next will be incorrigible just like his father.”
She laughed out loud, “God help us all if he is!”
“That man is insufferable, Rupert!” Clarisse was pacing around their suite, the color very evident in her cheeks.
Rupert was grateful that, for once, HE was not the object of her anger…at least not directly. He tried to placate her. “Apparently it was a slow news day, dear. There is no harm done.”
She whirled around, her anger now directed completely at him. “So you don’t think it is a big deal that, thanks to Edward Kentworthy, the entire country knows or thinks we are faithfully working on another heir?”
“That is HIS speculation; all they really know is that my beautiful wife went shopping for lingerie to wear that will please her husband.”
Her eyes were ablaze again. “That’s not entirely true, now is it…dear?”
He sighed. Apparently this WAS about him. “No one knows or suspects that; please don’t blow this out of proportion. Otherwise, you’ll only feed the media frenzy.”
She knew he was right; but it still annoyed her that she had NO privacy. “Well, he still annoys me! I can only hope that his daughter, Elsie, will not want to follow in his footsteps; she’s only two and already I find her annoying.”
“I’m sure you have nothing to worry about.”
Rupert stood in the doorway watching Clarisse prepare for her evening with Joseph. Her blonde hair was still damp at the ends from her shower; the scent of her lavender soap hung heavily in the air. The silk of her nightgown clung to her body accenting her soft curves; the jade green color trimmed in small jewels serving to clothe her in a manner befitting the royal that she was…which, he knew without a doubt, had more to do with who she was than the man she married.
He decided to see if she was still upset with him. “That’s a lovely gown, dear; is it new?”
She didn’t turn in his direction, but replied. “Thanks to Edward Kentworthy, everyone knows it is. New heir…new gown; I thought it would be appropriate.”
So she was still upset. He supposed he couldn’t really blame her; but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had regarding Pierre. He knew his words had upset her; she loved her son dearly as did he; but he couldn’t live with the fear that they would have sacrificed so much to not end up with an heir. Rupert could only hope that once she conceived and the excitement over the baby grew, she would truly forgive him for asking this of her yet again.
Clarisse knew her response had been a little childish; but she felt very self-conscious that he was standing there watching her getting ready for her evening with Joseph…it seemed odd and very surreal. She looked at him, a bit uncertain how to exit this conversation. “Well, I suppose I should be going.”
Rupert closed the distance between them and held her robe out for her to put on. She slipped into it and then his arms went around her to secure the sash. He kissed her neck. “I suppose you should; I’ll be waiting here for your return.”
She let out a slow, deep breath. “As you wish.”
Rupert closed his eyes briefly before releasing her she really was upset.
Clarisse knocked softly on the door and entered when she heard his call to come in. She looked around the room and noticed he was nowhere to be found. “Joseph?”
“I’ll be out in a minute; just make yourself comfortable, your wine is on the nightstand.”
After he freshened up, Joseph stood in the doorway watching Clarisse studying herself in his mirror. Oddly enough, she didn’t seem to be looking at her body; which he noticed right away. Rather she seemed to be staring in her own eyes, searching for something hidden in the very depths of her soul. “You won’t be able to see it.” He said quietly.
Hearing his voice, Clarisse was pulled from her thoughts. She turned her head slightly and asked. “See what?”
“What the rest of us see: Your perfection, inner beauty, courage and strength surrounded by a grace that leaves others wondering if an angel is missing from heaven.”
She chuckled. “My, we are in a flattering mood tonight, aren’t we?”
“There that’s better; I like your smile much better than the look of intense concentration that was on your face a few moments ago.” He replied, skillfully avoiding her question.
She nodded; but made no further comment. He walked over to where she was standing and moved behind her; his arms circled her and he pulled her into an embrace. He whispered. “So what were you looking for?”
Clarisse felt the comfort of his embrace; the support of a dear friend. She decided to be honest and tell him. “Understanding.”
“Wondering how your life brought you to this point? Understanding how things could have gotten so deeply out of your control?”
“More of how I arrived to having no choice over the course of my life.” She quietly stated.
“So make the choice now- don’t do this.” He held his emotion tightly in check; he wanted her to do this of her own free will- or at least an acceptance of the recommended course.
Clarisse turned slightly in his embrace. “Are you suggesting I tell Rupert no?”
“That would be your decision; or you could simply lead him to believe that conception the second time was not possible. You can come to me and we will visit during our time together without making love.”
She turned completely now and pulled away slightly. “Joseph! I’m disappointed in you. How could you condone knowingly doing that? It isn’t honorable.” She couldn’t believe he had just said those words.
“What would be an honorable alternative then?”
“When you agree to a life of service, doing one’s duty is always the proper choice!”
“Even if one doesn’t want to and is being asked to participate in activities they would not normally engage in?” He was setting her up; but she was too caught up in the moment to notice…yet.
“Duty is not easy and often comes at a high personal price; but there can be no compromise!”
“So what is your duty then, Your Majesty?”
She stopped; she realized what he had just done. She rewarded him with a half smile. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”
His smile lit up the room. “Perhaps.”
“My duty is to ensure that we have a viable heir to the throne of Genovia AND your duty is to help me complete that objective.” She closed the distance between them again.
He undid the sash of her robe and slid it off of her shoulders; his body immediately responded to the vision set before him. He let his hands caress her bare shoulders. “I shall do my duty - let there be no doubt regarding that.”
She gave him a quick hug and kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for convincing me of what I already knew…yet again. Shall we get started?”
“I thought you’d never ask!” He took her hand and led her to the bed where they would, once again, endeavor to do their duty.
Clarisse slowly made her way back to her suite; she knew Rupert would be awake and would be waiting for her. She felt a certain amount of guilt, although not as much as two years ago. Why that was the case, she was not entirely sure…and that bothered her more than she cared to admit to herself. She knew it would help to talk to someone but there was exactly no one with whom she could share her feelings and insecurities. Joseph would normally be the person she would confide in; but when it came to her guilt, he had always been adamant that she should not allow herself to feel that way.
She emerged into the darkness of the bedroom. “Good evening, love.”
“Good evening, Rupert.”
“Are you up to coming to bed? Do you need anything?” He was hedging again; waiting to see her reaction.
She walked to the edge of the bed and shed her robe and pulled the gown over her head before sliding in next to him. Her body was spooned against his and she spoke quietly into the darkness. “I’m not sure that you can give me what I need.”
Rupert’s heart caught in his throat. “I would like to try. Please tell me.”
“I’m trying to sort all of this out: My feelings, the relationship I have with you, my friendship with Joseph, my duty, the list goes on…” Her voice drifted off.
Although his heart was racing, his voice sounded calm as he asked the question that had plagued him since she left over an hour ago. “Are you falling in love with him?”
She thought long and hard before answering as she struggled to make sense of the emotions running throughout her body. “Not in a romantic sense; but I hold a deep affection and appreciation for him. He has been the only other best friend I have ever had, you being the first. The way he knows me and, for lack of a better word, handles me when I’m being difficult; the way he does his duty whether it is protecting us or helping us carry on your family name…all of those things make me love him in a way. Does that make sense?”
Rupert let out a slow breath. He was halfway there. “Yes it does. And your feelings towards me?”
She thought about that as well. They had an arranged marriage and she held a great deal of respect for him…he was her best friend. But was it romantic love she felt for him? She wasn’t even sure she knew what that was anymore…ten years ago she might have known, perhaps, but no longer. Her subconscious challenged her…if that was the case, how could she be certain about her feelings towards Joseph…? No, she didn’t think that she felt the same kind of love that a woman typically felt for her husband; but she didn’t think that the feelings she held for him were any less important.
Clarisse turned in his embrace. “My feelings toward you have not changed.” She spoke the truth while not being entirely truthful to the question he was really asking.
He adjusted them so her body was pinned between his and the mattress. “Then you should not worry that beautiful head of yours. Both Joseph and I are honorable men and we both care deeply for you in different ways. We are doing our duty and there is honor in that, Clarisse.”
She felt his lips on her skin and knew that she had chosen her words wisely. He seemed to have been able to make his peace with what she said. She had not lied about her feelings for Joseph…although she wasn’t sure she completely understood those feelings either. For tonight, she would have to accept his advice not to worry; but someday…someday she would have to come to terms with how she felt and try, once again, to make sense of all of this.
The next day was filled with a multitude of celebrations and diplomatic functions designed to further strengthen Genovia’s international relations. The King was tied up in a series of meetings with other leaders while the Queen was given a slight reprieve. She, along with other mothers and their children, were engaging in a tea while their children had a play date.
Pierre broke away from the play group and ran towards his mother. Joseph watched with delight as Clarisse picked him up and hugged him tightly before asking him in quiet tones if everything was alright. The child just held to his mother tightly and shook his head; while he couldn’t share what was wrong, it was obvious he felt safe in his mother’s arms and had no desire to return to the other children.
Joseph chuckled slightly as Clarisse tried to carry on her conversation with Pierre constantly fidgeting and trying to crawl even further into her embrace. She finally sent him the “please help me” look that indicated that although she would love nothing more than to play with her son and attend to him, she had been given a mandate by the King to interact with the other leaders’ wives in an effort to gain cooperation from them as well.
He walked over to where the women were seated. “Your Majesty…if I may?” He asked as he extended his hands out to take young Pierre.
Clarisse smiled her relief and offered. “Thank you, Joseph. We won’t be much longer.”
“No worries, ma’am. It would be my pleasure to have him help me watch over this group of beautiful ladies.”
A few muffled giggles were heard amongst the group in response to his flattery.
Clarisse pulled the young boy away from her a bit and asked. “Pierre, would you like to stay with Joseph for a while?”
Pierre smiled broadly and lifted his arms to be carried away by the man in black. They resumed Joseph’s original position and Clarisse could see Joseph pointing out different things and having a wonderful time interacting with him while still keeping his attention on the gathering.
“Where DID you find him, Clarisse?” Yolanda, the ambassador from Spain’s wife asked.
Clarisse smiled broadly. “I’m afraid he’s one of a kind, Yolanda…and, before you ask, no he is not negotiable as part of any trade agreement!”
The ladies laughed and then resumed their tea. Fortunately Clarisse was practiced at pretending to pay attention while most of her focus was on her son and…his father.
“You should know you were totally adorable today with Pierre and all of the women wanted you.” Clarisse teased as she rested on her old wives’ pillow.
Joseph laughed. “Wanted me as a babysitter or bodyguard?”
She turned her head so she could look directly in his intense blue eyes. “Oh I think they wanted the entire package…bodyguard, babysitter, lover…the list goes on.”
The intensity in his eyes smoldered a bit as they darkened. “You wouldn’t be jealous now would you, Your Majesty?”
She reached towards him and pulled him over to his resting place in the cradle of her thighs; his arousal was already evident and pressing against her heated center…apparently they would need little encouragement to get started this evening. “Not jealous protective. I told them you were one of a kind and that they shouldn’t even ask if you could be included in a trade agreement that was non-negotiable.”
Joseph slipped inside her warmth, enjoying the slight hitch in her breath as her internal muscles adjusted to his girth. “Fortunately for me, they don’t know how often you can be persuaded to renegotiate agreements.”
She felt his hardness move in and out of her body at a steady pace. While she didn’t fight as hard as she had in the past to stop the natural progression of things, she still could not free herself to let go completely. Despite what Rupert had said the previous night, she knew she was still uncertain about her feelings; and, until she could be sure, the guilt would remain.
Joseph felt her grip on his arms tighten as they neared the edge of their release; he thought of her smile as she pulled Pierre into her arms earlier and the look of possessiveness that had been in her eyes a few minutes earlier. He wished he could hear her call out his name…just once…in pleasure; but knew that would never happen in his lifetime. He settled for her body quietly shattering around him and pulling his with it. He rested heavily against her and felt completely content, yet empty all at the same time. Whether she realized it or not, she had ruined him for any other woman. After Clarisse, there could be no one else…
Joseph was exhausted. It had been incredibly poor timing that Clarisse’s most fertile time coincided with Genovia’s Independence Day celebration. This included parades, dinners and, of course, the Grand Ball on Independence Day. Unless you were in the security detail, very few people realized the amount of time and energy that went in to the planning and preparation to ensure the safety of the Royal family. Joseph felt like he hadn’t slept in a week.
Today, during the parade, a disgruntled pear worker had stormed the parade and had run towards the open royal carriage. All of their preparations had paid off and the security team responded seamlessly as Joseph jumped down from the carriage and ran towards the individual on foot while Justin moved from his position at the front to assume a rear defense position. Once the man realized he was being pursued, he changed directions and headed back into the crowd.
With a great deal of effort, Joseph and his team were finally able to apprehend him. He was unarmed save a few rotten pears he apparently had intended on throwing at the King and Queen; but he was arrested nevertheless. Joseph took seriously anyone who would threaten ‘his’ family in any way they would not be harmed on his watch.
The rest of the parade had passed without incident and then it was back to the Palace to prepare for the ball. By the time the last guest left, it was well after midnight and Joseph had been up since 4 a.m. He knew without a doubt, though, that Clarisse would come to him that night. This was the final night and she would not let anything prevent her from achieving her goal. She had the added benefit of confidence on her side this time as they had been successful in three days on their last attempt.
Joseph prepared the room and then removed his robe and crawled under the sheet. Within minutes, he was sound asleep. Clarisse knocked softly on his door; but received no response. She heard the music softly playing on the other side, but had not received a request to enter. She turned the knob slightly and peeked inside. “Joseph?” She asked quietly.
She noticed his form on the bed and opened the door the rest of the way. She felt a tug of affection as she watched him sleep. His face was as angelic as Pierre’s during slumber. The candlelight flickered and cast shadows over his well defined chest. She absently licked her lips as she thought about how it felt when those muscles moved against her; the sparse chest hairs tickling her through the silk of her gowns…and occasionally on the smoothness of her skin.
Her hand was drawn, almost of its own will, to caress the skin she had just admired. What would he think if he woke? Would he be upset that she was taking liberties that he had not been granted? She decided since this was their last night together, she would risk it.
Joseph was having the most pleasant dream. Then he realized it wasn’t a dream as he felt the sheet being moved down slowly and a soft hand roaming across his chest and torso. He decided to fake sleep for a bit more to see how far she would take this. Her lazy exploration continued as she gently used her fingertips to try to memorize every detail of his magnificent form.
She knew it was wrong; he was not her husband…but he had been thrust into her life BY her husband and she felt a genuine love not the romantic type but a much deeper sort that defied normal explanation. He had fathered a child and hopefully children soon that he could never lay claim to all because of a heightened sense of duty and love of sorts for his country and for the royal family. He had been a friend and confidante to her and always knew exactly what she needed to hear to make sure she did the right thing. It was for those reasons she loved and appreciated him. She hoped that although this was their last night together, the bond they shared would never be broken.
It was getting late and she knew she needed to move forward. A fun thought crossed her mind; tonight she would take the initiative to get things started. Plus, she decided, it would be a nice surprise for Joseph when he woke up. It was the least she could do for a man who had sacrificed so much for her and her family’s happiness. She let the white robe fall to the floor and then crawled onto the bed. She bit her bottom lip out of nervousness but forged ahead and lowered the sheet below Joseph’s waist. She silently prayed he had not left his boxers on as that would be most difficult to remove without waking him.
Joseph summoned every ounce of willpower he possessed to keep his body from responding the moment she lowered the sheet to reveal his manhood resting in a semi-erect state waiting to be called into service. He felt the warmth and wet heat from her curls as her body straddled his. He was certain he had died and gone to heaven as she began to rock against him.
She felt the biological and natural reaction of his body as it began to respond to her ministrations. She was just about to lift up and position him when she felt strong hands on her bottom holding her still. A deep voice filled with sensuality and, perhaps, a touch of humor filled the room. “I’m fairly certain this is against the rules.”
Clarisse opened her eyes to find his eyes, dark with desire, raking over her body. She was slightly breathless from her efforts and the excitement of being caught. “Do you like what you see?”
Joseph surveyed the angel above him. The white gown was different from the others she had worn in one key way; the white silk stopped just below the bodice the rest was a sheer material which allowed him to see every inch of her skin well except for her breasts which were being held captive by the more solid material. “There is no single word worthy of that answer.”
Her smile indicated her thanks at the sincere compliment. “Shall we proceed?”
His hands smoothed her bottom and then around to her thighs that were straddling his hips. “Not yet. I want to renegotiate…AND before you start to argue, I think your actions here this evening indicate a willingness to be open to changes in said agreement.”
She really couldn’t argue with that; there had definitely been a few lines crossed by her tonight. She could feel his hardness under her and didn’t want to delay. “I’m listening.”
“I want you to kiss me.”
“I’ve kissed you before.” She retorted; but she knew what he meant.
“You know what I mean. I will never have the opportunity again to hold you, touch you, or see you in all of your heavenly beauty as I will tonight. I want to seal all we have and will accomplish for the country of Genovia through our children with a kiss one that truly speaks of the devotion we have for them.” His hands gently caressed her legs as his thumbs slipped down ever so slightly to rub her inner thigh.
Her quick intake of breath at his more intimate caress, followed by his husky, “please” was her undoing. She leaned forward, her breasts meeting the hard planes of his chest. Her lips were scant millimeters away from his as she whispered, “You are incorrigible; but in the spirit of renegotiation…”
Time stood still for Joseph as her soft, moist lips came in contact with his for the first time. A throaty moan escaped from somewhere deep within his soul as his arms wrapped around her to pull her further into their embrace. Her head tilted and her lips parted slightly in response to Joseph’s body melding so closely with hers. Clarisse felt his head turn to deepen the kiss slightly causing the adrenalin and endorphins to pulse throughout her body.
Joseph let his hands stroke up her back to thread into her silken tresses as his hips began the rocking motion again. She moaned and broke the kiss, her swollen lips glistening in the candlelight. “Make love with me, Joseph.”
His hands lifted her hips until he could join them as one: one mind, one body, one spirit. Clarisse pushed against his chest until she was in an upright position once again. Joseph watched, mesmerized, as her body absorbed the force of his thrusts…over and over again until her muscles clenched his and he gave the final payment of his seed to the woman who he felt more for than any other person on the face of the earth, except his son.
She collapsed on him, their chests heaving from the exertion. She finally spoke. “If that doesn’t create the embodiment of love, there is nothing in this world that will.”
He held onto her as he rolled them over then kissed her gently on the lips again. His head bent to reverently place a kiss on the swell of her breast. He looked up at her. “Sorry, I wanted to do that two years ago and for the past two days…I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.”
Clarisse felt a chill as he moved away to lie beside her. He pulled the sheet up over her and then handed her the pillow that had become their constant partner during these sessions. She lifted and adjusted herself until she was resting comfortably.
“I also wanted to say thank you for protecting us today…even if it was just from rotten fruit. My heart was in my throat as you ran into the crowd after him…what if he had had a gun?”
He took her hand and held it for reassurance. “I know this is difficult especially in light of the special nature of our relationship; but I did my job today. My job is to protect you and your family…” he turned and put a hand on her stomach…”our family…at all costs. I will never, ever stop doing that. You must never ask that of me.”
Clarisse covered his hand with hers. “Never.”
As she opened the door to leave, he asked. “Do you believe?”
She smiled and repeated, as she had a little over two years ago. “I believe.”
Joseph couldn’t take it anymore; he realized he was crossing a line, but decided that the lines were so blurred where he and Clarisse were concerned that he could argue the logic later if she were upset. He opened the door and grabbed a cloth, wet it, and knelt beside her. He wiped her forehead and whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
She brought the cloth in his hand down to wipe her mouth. “You should be; this is all your fault.”
He smiled; but was careful not to let his mirth come through in his voice. “Without a doubt, it is.”
Clarisse slowly stood. “You said you wanted this child to be like his father. Well, he has definitely been incorrigible as I have been sick almost from the moment of conception.”
He caught a glance of her pale features in the mirror she really did look wiped out. He helped her over to the sink so she could brush her teeth. “I really am sorry.” He wished he could take some of her discomfort away and bear it himself.
She finished brushing her teeth. That helped somewhat and she now felt much better, she smiled up at him, cupping his cheek in her hand. “I will be fine; this is natural. I suppose nature gave me a break last time since it took so long to conceive. It will all be worth it when I hold him in my arms.”
He let her see his smile this time. “So you’re convinced it’s a boy?”
“I told you; this child is incorrigible just like you, I have no doubts.”
Joseph felt his chest swell with pride. He may never be able to officially claim this child as his own; but this young life was a part of him and no one could ever take that away. “I believe you; now let’s get you to the office before Jenna comes looking for you and wonders why I’m in the bathroom with you.”
The morning sickness finally went away as the months progressed. Rupert and Joseph argued with Clarisse often that she should rest more; but she always dismissed their concerns with a “Tosh! Women get pregnant and have babies every day!”
One late afternoon, the King was in session with Parliament and Joseph was watching Clarisse tend her roses. She had finally agreed to cut her hours back in the office to only half days; but still insisted on personally attending to her roses. They were enjoying the light breeze and the beautiful flowers when Clarisse doubled over in pain.
Joseph was immediately by her side, helping to hold her up and guide her to the bench. “Clarisse, what’s wrong?”
Clarisse waited for the wave of pain to pass before she responded. “Pain…very bad.”
“Not sure they seem more intense and different than last time.”
“We need to get you to the palace…NOW. Can you walk?”
“I think so.”
Despite her best efforts, when the pain hit again in a few minutes, she stopped. Joseph knew at this rate, it would take too long to get her back to where she could get help. He grabbed the two-way radio on his hip and touched the necessary button to get someone’s attention and spoke into the mouth piece. “Get the doctor to the palace NOW; I’m bringing the Queen back she’s in labor.”
Without another word, fully expecting his orders to be followed, he cut the link and picked Clarisse up. “Hold on; help is on the way.”
She didn’t even try to protest; but wrapped her arms around his neck and held on as he moved swiftly through the grounds to return her to the Palace. The King was running towards them as they neared the rear entrance. “Is she alright? What happened?”
Joseph gently but reluctantly handed Clarisse over to Rupert as he advised, “We were in the rose garden when she doubled over in pain. She thinks it could be contractions but says they are different than last time. I alerted security and the doctor should be on his way.”
Rupert nodded his head as he accepted the precious cargo and they resumed their course to the infirmary area of the palace. The doctor arrived moments later to find the King and Joseph sitting on either side of her, offering whatever comfort they could. “I’m sorry, gentleman, you will have to leave now.”
Clarisse received a gentle kiss on the forehead from Rupert and Joseph squeezed her hand tightly. The look on both of their faces showed deep concern and frustration that they had to leave her side. She whispered her reassurance. “I’ll be fine; the doctor will take good care of me while you are gone.”
“We’ll be right outside.” Rupert offered solemnly.
Time passed by so slowly; it seemed to stand still. The two men paced the floor in silence; the ticking of the grandfather clock at the end of the hall seemed loud and obtrusive into their private world of waiting. Their fists clenched in frustration when they heard a cry of pain from the woman they both cared deeply for; Joseph had to grab Rupert’s arm to keep him from bolting into the room. “Please, Your Majesty, I know this is difficult; but we have to trust the physician.”
Rupert’s face was pale and drawn, the worry clearly evident on his face. “This is my fault.”
Joseph didn’t even look at him when he replied. “I’m fairly certain she would disagree with you; she blames me.”
“For the problematic pregnancy…she told me the child was incorrigible; just like I am.”
Rupert crossed the distance and clasped Joseph on the shoulder causing him to look up into his King’s face. “She meant that in a good way; she never speaks but kind things about you. She would not blame you for this; I was the one who insisted on another heir.”
Silence fell between them again; they both knew that truthfully even though neither was really to blame, they both would bear their share of the guilt should anything happen. They continued to wait.
After an interminable length of time, they heard the beautiful sound of crying filling the air as young Prince Philippe joined the ranks of the royal family. The smiles were evident on both men’s faces and they shook hands to offer mutual congratulations. Another thirty minutes passed before the door opened to let the King in. He started in and then turned towards Joseph. “I think you should come in; she would want you here.”
Joseph was surprised. “Are you sure, Your Majesty? I’m not sure that would be appropriate.”
Rupert smiled. “You carried my wife all the way from the gardens; I think you deserve to be amongst the first to see her and the new prince. Besides,” he smiled, “there is a benefit to being King no one will question me when I bring you in with me.”
Joseph smiled. “It is good to be King; thank you, Your Majesty.”
Clarisse was pale and weak when they entered the room; but she smiled when she saw both men enter. She would remember to thank Rupert for his kindness and consideration for not making Joseph wait outside.
“Are you alright? What happened, love?” Rupert asked as he drank in the sight of Clarisse holding the dark haired bundle of joy that had just caused them all so much worry.
Clarisse cut Joseph a look as she smiled. “Well, he was a little incorrigible and decided to come out feet first.”
Joseph raised his gaze from Clarisse to the King. “I told you she’d blame me.”
Clarisse laughed weakly and then looked at the young prince. She placed a kiss on his forehead. “And as I told you, this is all worth it.”
Although it was Joseph’s day off; Clarisse knew that he would not be far from the Palace. In fact, he rarely left the grounds. He had once told her that everything he could ever want in life was within the Palace walls; there was no reason to leave.
She found him deep within the hedge maze at the fountain. He liked to go there and meditate, claiming the water was calming and gave him insight into problems that were sometimes elusive.
“Joseph?” She spoke quietly.
He turned towards her, smiling. “Your Majesty, what brings you here on a Sunday afternoon?”
She walked over to the fountain and sat on the edge. “Would you join me?” She patted the empty space next to her.
Joseph sat next to her. They listened to the sound of the water splashing in the fountain behind them. “Is this about the phone call you received from America earlier today?”
Clarisse chuckled. “You don’t miss a thing, do you? Even on your day off.”
“Occupational hazard, I guess.”
“Indeed. Yes, it was Philippe. It appears we have a granddaughter, Amelia Mignonette Thermompolis. Helen gave birth this morning.”
“You don’t seem very excited.” Joseph observed.
“A part of me is; but the reality is that this is a less than ideal situation and I will more than likely never have the honor of meeting my granddaughter. As a result, I suppose that I am saddened more than excited.”
Joseph didn’t speak for a long time. He finally broke the silence. “Sometimes, Clarisse, our children or grandchildren come to us in ways that we would not have planned; that doesn’t make them any less a part of our lives or who we are.”
Clarisse knew he spoke from personal experience and she felt guilt over not realizing that she should be celebrating in the joy of today and what she had gained, rather than what she didn’t have. She took his hand in hers and held it for a few moments. “You are right, as usual. I will call Philippe this evening to share in his joy and see if I can talk him into sending us some pictures.”
He squeezed her hand. “Hopefully she takes after her Grandmother in both looks and personality.”
“Actually I’m told that she resembles her father…so you know what that means.” She smiled at him.
He laughed. “Incorrigible.”
Joseph carried Clarisse to her room; she clung tightly to him, not caring if he thought it inappropriate or not. She welcomed his strength and knew that the passage of time had not lessened the bond that they shared. It had been a long time since she felt the strength of his arms around her. He laid her gently on the bed, his palm caressing her cheek.
She whispered. “Joseph…”
“Shhh…it’s alright, you don’t have to say anything; I’m here.”
“You’ve always been there for me.”
“That will never change.”
“Of course.” Joseph sat down next to her on the bed and pulled her into his embrace. Her arms went around him and pulled him even closer; his hands tangled in her hair holding her tightly against him.
After a few minutes, her piercing blue eyes found his. “Rupert was right about several things.”
He gently tucked some stray strands of her hair behind her ear. “Such as?”
Clarisse stood up and went to gaze out the window; she turned slowly, her look inviting him to join her. Joseph could never resist that look. Once he took up a position behind her, she pulled his arms around her. “Pierre. He was right about Pierre. He said that he would not want the throne.”
Joseph pulled her further into his embrace. “Yes, he was right about that.”
“He was right about something else.” She turned and put her arms around him, enjoying the warmth and strength that emanated from his body.
“What’s that?” His voice was muffled as he spoke into her hair.
“He suspected that I had feelings for you that went beyond a normal friendship.”
“He said something to you?”
“Not in so many words; but a woman knows these things.”
After several minutes, she pulled away slightly to look at him. “I have to tell Pierre and Philippe.”
“I will go with you; you shouldn’t have to tell them this alone.”
“What am I going to say? How can I tell them this?” She sought direction deep within his gaze; praying that he would have the right words to guide her.
“You tell them the truth.”
Silence hung heavily in the air as they both contemplated how to share the news with the two young men that would change their lives forever.
Joseph stood close by and silently watched as Clarisse shared the news with Pierre and Philippe that their father had lost his battle with his illness. He was so proud of the young men as they circled their mother and supported her while they all grieved. Tears slid quietly down their cheeks as they processed the information and understood what that meant to each of them individually and to their beloved Genovia.
He reflected on the past several years as the boys had grown to men. True to their word, neither the King, Queen nor Joseph had spoken again of the actions they had taken to bring these young men into the world. It had been an odd partnership they had forged and regardless of any private insecurities they each may have experienced as they struggled with their emotions and choices, each had played an integral part of Pierre and Philippe’s life.
He had no idea, truly, how Clarisse felt about him as they had agreed…no, that wasn’t true…she had stated and he had reluctantly agreed as he had no choice, really, to keep their friendship at an appropriate level. There had been mixed emotions and a level of fear in her eyes as they spoke about it.
“Joseph, I want you to know how much what we have shared means to me…” She started.
“But…” He interjected as he knew that word was coming.
Her eyes lifted to meet his. “But, we have to return our relationship back to a ‘safe’ level.” She hesitated, uncertain how to define the parameters of their relationship as it was before versus what it was now.
Joseph’s hurt came out in an angrier tone than he had intended. “Is this the bidding of the King?”
Surprise registered across her face. “No. No. He has not spoken a word to me regarding this matter.”
He could see in her eyes that she had spoken the truth. “So then this is you, alone, deciding that what we shared means nothing!”
He started to turn and walk away. She was right behind him and grabbed his arm to turn him around to face her. They shared an intense, emotion filled moment as their eyes locked and her blue orbs pled with his for understanding. Her hand reached out to caress his cheek. His eyes closed at her touch so he didn’t see the look on her face as she spoke quietly. “On the contrary, I’m afraid it may mean more to me than my present situation will allow. I know it is selfish; but I can’t bear the thought of you not being a part of my…of our lives; but neither can I allow myself to go down a path that I know with unwavering certainty will have an unhappy and painful ending. That unhappiness will not be just for you and I, Joseph; but also for our children and a country and their King. As I told you when all of this started, Kings do not look kindly upon unfaithful wives.”
He echoed her words from their previous conversation. “Unless they ask you to…”
She didn’t respond; they both knew it was an impossible situation. Time passed by, how much he wasn’t sure. He finally spoke. “Duty demands nothing less. I shall try that is all I can promise.”
“As shall I.” She closed the distance between them and put her arms around his neck. She needed to feel his body against hers one final time; to feel the love she knew he felt for her in his kiss; to say good bye to a brief flash in her life that had brought her an odd mixture of happiness and sadness, tears and joy, pleasure and pain.
Her mouth was so close to his, he could almost taste the gloss that covered her lips. “Kiss me goodbye.” She whispered.
His hands pulled her even closer as his lips fused with hers. He needed to tell her with his actions, because words would fail him. He had to let her know how much she meant to him; how much he loved her. Loved her enough to live an arms length from her even though his soul cried out for more.
When they finally pulled apart, Joseph whispered. “Duty can be a cruel mistress; but I shall endeavor to please her.”
Clarisse touched his cheek again and nodded her head before she turned and walked away. From that day forward, they had both worked hard to do their duty…hiding their deepest feelings well within the shadows of their hearts
For his part, he had focused his energy and emotions towards the two young boys making sure he passed along his knowledge and, as much as he could, his heritage; which, whether they knew it or not, was their heritage as well. The boys had often teased that they could never get away with anything because between their father and Joseph someone was always there to make sure they behaved.
A tear slipped down his cheek as he was pulled from his thoughts by the feel of large hands clasping his arms and back. “I’m sorry, Joe; I’m sure this is difficult for you as well. You’ve been a part of our family since before I was born and I know my father held you in high regard. He trusted you with the safety of our family that is not a responsibility he would bestow on someone he did not have the utmost faith in. Thank you for always being there for him, for my mother…for us.” Pierre offered in a somber tone.
Joseph couldn’t find words to reply. While it was true that the relationship he shared with his sons had not been the “norm”, he WAS a special part of their lives. He loved them with every ounce of his being. He pulled both boys into an embrace and whispered. “It has been my honor to be in service to the King and the Renaldi family. King Rupert…may he rest in peace.”
Joseph felt a stabbing pain in his heart. He had just received a call from the local police force that would change the lives of thousands. But he wasn’t worried about the thousands…he was worried about the one; the one whose heart would shatter into a million pieces when he shared the news. How would he help her through this when his pain was just as intense? He couldn’t focus; he couldn’t breathe. His son, his flesh and blood, had been killed in a tragic car accident…could there be a greater loss in any person’s life?
Her name floated to the top of the chaos and pain swirling through his body. How could he tell her? How could he add to the grief she was still dealing with over the loss of her husband? Thinking of her pain only added to his…it was more than he could take; he dropped to his knees and let his grief consume him.
Clarisse was worried when Joseph didn’t come back from lunch; it wasn’t like him to be late. “Felix, do you know where Joseph is? He’s usually back by now.”
Felix touched a button on his wrist and communicated with the security room. “Shades said a call came in about fifteen minutes ago asking for him; they routed it to his suite.”
The hair on the back of Clarisse’s neck stood on end. “Something’s wrong, Felix.”
Felix was caught off guard. “I’m sure everything is fine, Your Majesty.” He tried to reassure her.
As the words came out of his mouth, Clarisse was on her feet and hastening to the wing that housed the private suites. Felix followed behind at a respectable pace…if the Queen wanted to go look for Joseph; he certainly wasn’t going to be the one to stop her. She opened the main door and saw no sign of him; she carefully opened the door to his bedroom. What she saw made her heart drop to her stomach; Joseph was kneeling on the floor, his head in his hands and his body was quietly shaking from his emotion. She ran to where he was and knelt before him. “Joseph! What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
Joseph heard her voice through the fog in his mind. Hearing the worry in her voice caused tears to fall again and he pulled her close. His voice was nothing more than a hoarse whisper. “It’s Philippe…he’s…our son…car accident…no survivors.” There was nothing poetic or fluent about his statement; but the message was heard.
Tears started to fall before her mind fully comprehended the impact of what he had just told her. “No…no…there must be some mistake…” She felt Joseph’s arms wrap around her as she crumpled to the floor with him. Her nails dug into his flesh as raw grief ravaged her body…
Neither recalled how long they stayed there; they cried until there were no more tears left to give. They were still sitting on the floor, leaning against his bed. Clarisse finally spoke. “What happened?”
“They’re not exactly sure yet; but his car was found at the bottom of a steep ravine.”
“How long ago?”
He stopped to consider that; but had to admit that he had no idea what time it was now so he couldn’t accurately determine. He realized, suddenly, she was worried about the citizens of Genovia learning the truth before the Palace staff could be notified and then issue a statement. He admired her ability to focus under such strain perhaps that was an occupational hazard for her. “The officer assured me he would keep this under wraps as much as possible; but I suspect we won’t have much more time before the news spreads throughout the country.”
She nodded her head. Shock and numbness settled deep within their spirits; there would be more private grieving later for the two of them; but now they had a country to console.
“I supposed we failed.” Clarisse offered.
“To produce an heir, Joseph…we failed.”
“Might I have a moment of your time, Your Majesty?” Joseph asked as he returned from his lunch.
She looked up at him and forced a smile; the worry lines were beginning to take up permanent residence on her soft features and the haunted look in her eyes matched the blackness of her attire. “Of course, Joseph; what’s on your mind?”
Joseph looked towards Charlotte sitting at the desk on the other side of the office. “In private, please?”
She was concerned by his request and searched his eyes for some clue as to what he might want to speak with her about. The burden of ruling Genovia had rested squarely on her shoulders for the past nine months since Rupert and Philippe had died and she was starting to feel the pressure from several different fronts. Add to that the fact that her heart hurt so deeply from the loss of her son that at times she could hardly breathe; there was nothing more than a carefully constructed façade that she was using to hold it all together. Joseph had been steadfast and true; but she had tried not to lean too heavily on him as she knew he was grieving as well. “Charlotte, could you give us a moment, please?”
Charlotte looked up from the papers she had been working on. “Of course, Your Majesty.”
Once they were alone, he asked. “Are you alright, Clarisse? I’m worried about you.”
She closed her eyes briefly, wishing she could give herself a few moments rest in the comfort of his arms. “I’m surviving, Joseph; that’s all I can manage right now. You?”
“Is that what you wanted to discuss?” She didn’t want to sound impatient; but she had a lot of work to do and precious little time to get it all accomplished each day.
“I don’t believe we failed; and I need you to believe as well.” He challenged gently, referencing her statement to him after Philippe died.
His choice of words attempted to reach through to a younger, happier Clarisse who once believed in the possibility of a brighter future. “I’m not sure I have that kind of faith any longer, Joseph. What is there left to believe in?”
Joseph knew this was a moment of truth; he had to convince her that there was hope to be found. “Our granddaughter; Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis…SHE is an heir to the throne of Genovia.”
Clarisse’s gaze shot up to meet his as recognition dawned. Why hadn’t SHE thought of this? “She is, isn’t she?”
He smiled. “Yes, she is.”
“It’s been so long almost sixteen years. How will we find her? Unless…do you know where she is, Joseph?” There was just a faint glimmer of hope surfacing in her voice as she got up and went to stand in front of him.
“As a matter of fact, Your Majesty, I do.”
She surprised him by leaning into him and putting her arms around his waist, an uncharacteristic show of emotion from the Clarisse she had become since the death of her husband and son. His arms pulled her closer and they held each other for a few moments drawing strength. She looked up at him, tears brimming in her eyes. “I’m sorry.” She whispered.
“For losing hope; for not believing; for doubting you.”
“I doubted you once before, as well; I never apologized for that.” He admitted.
She chuckled a bit. “You mean there was only one time? I’ve doubted myself countless times.”
He lifted her chin so she could look into his eyes. “Only one time and just for the briefest of moments; but I regretted it instantly.”
“When?” She was curious.
“The day Pierre was born. The King and I had a lot of time for conversation. He mentioned his gratitude that I had played my part honorably. I incorrectly jumped to the conclusion that you had shared details with the King, who immediately defended you. He advised me that you would never fail to uphold an agreement you had made. Before his defense of your honor had barely started, I had already realized the error of my ways.”
She smiled fondly, remembering how upset she had been at Rupert for even asking.
There was a twinkle in his eyes as he shared this information. “Don’t worry, though, I did not share that you occasionally fail to uphold your end of an agreement and had been known to renegotiate from time to time.”
She pulled away and smacked him gently on the arm. “Incorrigible!”
“You wouldn’t have me any other way.”
“So, should I call Charlotte and ask her to start making plans for a trip to America?” Clarisse asked, her voice already sounding lighter and more hopeful.
He pulled her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it. “Yes, Your Majesty, you should. We have an heir to bring home.”
“Shut up!” Mia exclaimed after hearing from her Grandmother that she was Princess of Genovia.
“I beg your pardon…shut up?!” Clarisse was appalled; she found it hard to believe that her granddaughter would speak to her or anyone in such a manner.
After receiving some reassurance that Amelia was not being disrespectful, they continued. The exchange between them did not improve and ended with Amelia running off. A moment later, Joseph emerged from behind the hedge. Other servants were present, so Clarisse kept her exchange with Joseph very formal, asking for his help in watching over Mia. They would have to discuss the problem their granddaughter just presented them with later…in private.
The next day Clarisse found herself having tea with the woman whom her son loved enough to consider giving up the throne of Genovia in order to live with her and his daughter in America. She found herself both impressed and frustrated that she once again had to defer to a “renegotiation” this one initiated by Helen. It ended in an agreement by both Clarisse and Mia to defer a final decision until the ball.
Joseph watched as Clarisse and young Amelia made their way out of the loft. He saw so much of Philippe in her; it caused him a bit of sadness as he thought about the young man who was so quickly taken away from them. Within moments of officially meeting her and spending time with her, he felt a strong connection and a soft spot for her in his heart.
Nothing happened to change that over the next several days. The day of the dance lesson was memorable for several reasons. First, he had the privilege of dancing with his granddaughter. When he cupped her face to stop the ‘doggy on the dashboard’, he felt a rush of affection for the young Princess and was excited that he would get the chance to be a part of her life…even if she didn’t know their true connection.
His pride was evident when she was finally able to master ‘spinning without hurting anyone’ as she explained it to her Grandmother. Joseph enjoyed the genuine smile, perhaps tinted with a bit of relief, as Clarisse acknowledged Amelia’s achievement.
Clarisse was very happy that things were moving along in a positive manner; Joseph was so patient with Amelia. She kept stealing glances out of the corner of her eye to watch their progress. Joseph looked so very handsome in black, she thought; then, just as quickly, wondered where that thought came from. Her heart picked up a few beats when he came near to her; she felt a rush of adrenalin at his proximity to her body. His husky voice almost made her melt as he offered. “You’ve been wearing black too long.”
She let him lead her onto the dance floor, her smile broadening as she knew that soon she would be swaying in his arms. Her mind tried not to think about all the possible implications of what they were about to do. Her body understood perfectly and betrayed her willpower as it moved seductively against his. It was as though it remembered the nights they had spent together almost forty years ago and wanted to rekindle the fire that had burned just below the surface of their earlier encounters.
The dance ended; but the chemistry and electricity between them remained. Their faces were so close that if either leaned in just a bit, their lips would be touching. Joseph wanted nothing more than to do that; but he didn’t want to push her. He wanted the next move to be from her.
“Thank you, Joseph.” She whispered. “For the dance, for working with Amelia, well, for everything.”
He leaned forward, but at an angle and whispered his reply in her ear, sending pleasant chills throughout her entire body. “The quickest way to a Spanish heart...is through dance.”
Clarisse watched him walk away; she struggled to make sense of the feelings and sensations…it had been so long…could it be possible? Was it possible that her feelings for Joseph were becoming more defined? Was that a luxury she could allow herself? Was that a luxury the people of Genovia would allow her to have? She shook her head and berated herself for day dreaming…there was much work to be done!
Personal thoughts were set aside as they both focused on Amelia. Paolo’s transformation had brought on many reactions; some good from her grandmother; to some bad from her best friend, Lilly. Joseph thought his heart would break when he saw the tears form in his granddaughter’s eyes. He sought to give her some advice that might help her through and refrained from requesting permission from Clarisse to hang Ms. Lilly in the courtyard by her toes!
“It broke my heart, Clarisse, to see her cry; it took everything I had not to say something to Ms. Lilly.” Joseph confessed to Clarisse.
They were sitting alone in the kitchen enjoying a cup of tea. Clarisse reached over and placed her hand gently over his. “I’m certain that was difficult. From what I understand, she and Lilly were able to come to an agreement.”
“This is harder than it was before…I think because she’s a girl I feel very protective.”
Clarisse smiled tenderly at him. “It’s your nature you can’t help it. I think it’s rather sweet.”
He was staring out the window, lost in thought. “Perhaps.”
They sat in companionable silence; his thoughts a million miles away, hers only a few feet away. He was right this was harder than before. Trying to understand the feelings she held for him and sort them out…was much harder. Amelia had brought them closer and had also helped her see a different side to him. The last few years had been very hard on them: Rupert’s fears had been confirmed when Pierre abdicated the throne to join the church; they had lost their dearest friend when Rupert died; they had aged considerably and lost a part of themselves when their son died such a short time later; and they had worked hard to guide their country through those tragedies as well.
Now, however, they shared the joy of getting to know their granddaughter; and while that held its own special challenges, at least they knew they had each other. They could share both the joys and sorrows when they were alone. She had kept herself so busy with everything else that she rarely gave herself the luxury of exploring her own feelings, wants and desires they had always been subservient to the needs of her country and to her duty. But in quiet moments like this, she gazed on the man who had been such an integral part of her life and couldn’t help but wonder…’what if…’
Any thoughts of herself that she might have entertained were roughly shoved to the back as the anonymity of her granddaughter vanished thanks to Paolo. She was grateful that Joseph had discovered the source of the leak within thirty minutes of the papers hitting the news stand. She had to be very firm in her direction that he was not to harm Paolo for his indiscretion. “You must allow me to deal with this, Joseph.” She had advised.
Later that day, Joseph found himself ironically giving similar advice to his Granddaughter that he had given to her Grandmother decades ago. “No one can quit being who they really are…not even a Princess; now you can refuse the job…” And, just as her grandmother had realized that she couldn’t refuse to do her duty; neither could Amelia.
The state dinner didn’t turn out as expected and Clarisse felt poorly that Amelia had had a very difficult night. She had put aside being a grandmother that night in the interest of salvaging the dinner; but she knew Amelia had been hurt by the way things turned out and knew she would need to make it up to her.
She endeavored to do so the next day by putting the Queen and the Princess lessons aside and spent the day with her granddaughter. They spent a lovely day together and Clarisse even participated in activities that she would never have considered before…even eating an item called a ‘corn dog’.
“So did my father always want to be a Prince?” Amelia asked her as they stood in an area that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.
Clarisse turned towards her. “Oh yes except once…about fifteen years ago; he seriously considered renouncing his title, because he met a lovely artist who showed him wonderful things about how life could be how he could be.”
Mia turned her gaze upwards to meet Clarisse’s she needed to know the answer…to know why her father had chosen to leave them. “But?” She asked.
Clarisse knew she owed her the truth. “But he had a decision to make; and no one could make it for him. Not I though many people thought I did.” She remembered back to the discussion she had had with Joseph before talking with Philippe…
“Joseph, if we allow him to do this…there will be NO heir to the throne of Genovia. We, the three of us, sacrificed so much; how can we just let this happen?”
“Each person must make their own decisions, Clarisse. The King, you and I we were all free to choose. We chose duty; our son must make that decision for himself. You can share with him your views; but you must let him decide for himself. You remember what it was like to feel as though you had no choice, don’t you?”
Once again his carefully chosen words had helped her to see reason and make the right choice. She had met his gaze evenly and had come as close as she ever had to revealing where her true feelings toward him might reside. “I made my choice…duty over love; I suppose Philippe deserves the right to make his choice.”
She brought her thoughts back to the future. “Philippe knew that my first born, Pierre, wanted to abdicate…which he did eventually, to join the church. Your father realized that the love he could have for one person…” she looked lovingly towards Amelia, “…or even two could not make him forget the love he felt for his country and its people.” She gazed off into the distance remembering how painful the decision had been for him…to leave his child behind. “It was the hardest thing he ever had to do.”
The joy they experienced at their bonding…even over the trolley fiasco, was diminished by the beach party which turned out to be a public relations nightmare.
“You can come in now.” She said without even looking up she knew he was close by; she always knew.
He was displeased with the situation and, admittedly, with Clarisse. “If I may say so…that did not go well.” He started.
Clarisse was annoyed she was fighting off the feeling that yet another heir was slipping through her fingers. “Is this the way a Princess should act?” She asked in frustration as she looked once again at the pictures gracing the front page of the paper.
Joseph immediately jumped to Amelia’s defense. “My information tells me that boy was using her; the kiss was merely a device…so that he could get his fifteen minutes of fame. And, her friends didn’t help either…Anna, Falana, Banana, Bandana, Montana…”
Clarisse looked up at him; a small battle of wills was taking place. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Why didn’t she have enough common sense to deal with this?”
Joseph didn’t back down. “She’s only fifteen; but today she acted beyond her years.”
Clarisse looked out the window; recalling the day Joseph had been upset with her after the first night they had attempted to produce an heir, she noted that this must be an avoidance technique she used when he was displeased with her.
He continued. “She showed great respect…and gracefully accepted your criticism.”
She turned back towards him and challenged. “You’re saying that as a Queen I was too harsh on her?” She stood and walked towards him. “I was critical of the next person who could become ruler of my country.”
Joseph noted that she had stepped very close to him only leaving a foot or so of space between them. He did not let her proximity stop him from finishing. “No. I’m saying as a grandmother…you might have been too harsh on your granddaughter.” His voice softened as he spoke the last sentence.
Clarisse sighed…he was right. She found his eyes and stared intently into them, searching for reassurance. “Do you think she can do it?”
Joseph smiled inwardly at this minor victory he had just experienced. “Oh I have no doubts, ma’am.”
She nodded her head in agreement…she had known all along; but always felt better when Joseph agreed with her. “I thought so too…”
Clarisse turned and walked towards the window once again; she turned her head slightly silently pleading with him to join her. Charlotte was busy with the final preparations for the ball and they had a rare moment of privacy. He stood close behind her; but not so close that it could be seriously misconstrued if someone were to walk in unannounced. She felt his strength and warmth and fought the urge to lean back in to him. After a few moments, she spoke softly. “We must not fail; Joseph…Genovia needs their heir.”
He broke from protocol and let his hands go to her waist, pulling her back ever so slightly as he leaned in to whisper in her ear. “We will not fail; you must believe.”
She didn’t respond verbally; but brought her hands up to cover his and squeezed gently in affirmation. She wanted to believe and, for now, her faith in the man that stood behind her and his belief in her and in their granddaughter would get her through another day.
Clarisse was quiet as they rode over to Amelia’s house. She had gotten to know her granddaughter over the past week or so and her heart was aching that not only would she return to Genovia without an heir; but she would also be leaving her granddaughter behind. She knew Joseph was saddened by this as well; he had been unusually quiet. She squeezed the pouch that held the diary she was going to give to Amelia for her birthday; it had been a gift for her from her father. A solitary tear slipped down her cheek as she grieved the loss yet again. She would apologize for the harsh words she said to her about the beach incident and would implore her, gently, one last time to consider a future as Genovia’s Princess and, ultimately, her Queen.
Joseph waited outside with Mr. Robutusen; he had wanted to go in with Clarisse, but knew that this conversation had to take place between just them. He knew things had not gone well the moment she stepped outside. He followed her and then stepped quickly around her to open the door. She didn’t say anything so he moved to the driver’s side and began the drive back to the consulate. He couldn’t take the silence anymore. “Should I pick Amelia up at seven tonight?”
He studied her in the rear view mirror. She seemed preoccupied. “…and I couldn’t bear to disappoint you again…” Amelia’s words tore at her heart. She had lowered her guard for one moment and embraced her wholeheartedly after assuring her that first and foremost she was her granddaughter…her only grandchild. The grandchild that she did not meet for fifteen years and would most likely not see again after she left…the tears slid unbidden down her cheek.
Joseph couldn’t take it anymore. He pulled over, got out and slid into the back seat next to her. “Come here.” He instructed as he pulled her into his comforting embrace.
Clarisse allowed herself the tears; she needed to get the emotion out so she could then pick up the pieces and try to move on. Joseph held her while she cried and whispered consoling words to her. After several minutes, Clarisse looked up at him; her blue eyes shimmering with more unshed tears. “This is my fault.”
“I fail to see how that could be so.”
“I was too hard on her; I pushed her and expected too much. And now, her fear of disappointing me and the rest of the country is keeping her from choosing to accept her destiny.”
Joseph used his thumbs to brush away her tears. “You mustn’t give up hope. Only when she formally renounces her title will there be no hope left. Until then, you must still believe.”
“You didn’t see her, Joseph; didn’t hear what she said. I…” her voice trailed off, she couldn’t even vocalize how much she would miss her; her head bowed in resignation.
He lifted her chin so she was forced to look into his eyes once again. “You wouldn’t be questioning my honor again, would you?”
She smiled faintly; but it didn’t reach her eyes. “It seems far more complicated than that now, Joseph.”
His tone was firmer. “Have I ever been wrong about something this important before?” He challenged.
She heard the resolve and belief in his voice and remembered when he had the same tone as he assured her they would be successful in creating a child. She acquiesced. “No. No you haven’t.”
“Then, until there is nothing left to believe in…you must believe.”
She nodded her head and buried herself in his embrace once again. He was the one constant in her life; the one person who had always been there for her; the one who had never let her down; had never been wrong about anything this important. Her voice was muffled; but he understood as she spoke into his leather jacket. “I believe…if, for no other reason, than because you said it.”
Clarisse walked with Joseph away from the crowd and the excitement of the dance. The evening had turned out much better than it had started and she felt a definite weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. She felt her hand being lifted and a rush of warmth spread through her body as his lips touched her gloved hand. Her head turned as her lips curved upwards in a smile as she saw the look of affection and perhaps something more shining in his eyes.
Joseph held her hand the remainder of the way to her suite. They entered through the doors and stood there for a moment, trying to determine how to say good night to such a wonderful evening. He saw her look up at him; her blue eyes were shining brightly and reflecting more vibrancy and life than he recalled seeing in a long time.
She wanted to thank him; to let him know exactly how much his presence in her life meant to him. Her hand moved up to cup his cheek; his skin was warm and soft to her touch, his eyes closed in response. His lips looked velvety soft and she remembered the kiss they had shared so many years ago…almost as though it was yesterday. Remembered the way his arms had circled her body; the moan of pleasure that had slipped from his carefully guarded control; the way their bodies had melded and reacted to the kiss.
Joseph felt her hand slip from his cheek to his neck and pull him slightly towards her. He kept his eyes closed because if this was a dream he didn’t want to wake up. Her sultry whisper was his undoing. “Joseph? I find myself wanting to kiss you.”
He closed the distance between their mouths and felt a small sigh of pleasure from her as their lips, at long last, met once again. They tenderly explored, learning slowly the taste and feel of the other. Her mouth was as soft and warm as he remembered. He let his hand slip up her back, relishing in the feel of soft skin against his hand. She allowed him to pull her even closer; their bodies just barely touching…but it was enough. Enough for desire to dust itself off and rise to the surface; one hand remained on the middle of her back while the other tangled in her hair. She angled her head to deepen the kiss; her heart was racing and blood was pulsing through her veins…she didn’t remember it being quite this intense before. When they pulled apart, their foreheads rested against each other as they held onto the magical moment for just a bit longer.
Joseph finally broke the silence. “I told you to believe.”
Her hand cupped his cheek. “You may be incorrigible; but you do seem to always be right; I won’t doubt you again when it comes to matters such as this.”
He held his hand over hers and smiled softly. “See that you don’t.” He turned his head slightly to kiss the palm of her hand.
“I’m not sure what this means.” She offered honestly.
“Only time will tell; and, fortunately for you, I am a very patient man.”
Her smile lit up her entire face. “Very fortunate for me; good night, Joseph and…thank you.”
“For always believing…and for making me believe as well.”
**Five years later**
“Joseph, be safe. I’ll miss you.” Clarisse offered as she stood watching him finish his packing for the trip to America to see Amelia graduate from college and then bring her back to Genovia to make the final preparations for her to become Queen at the end of this year.
He stopped packing and walked over to her, pulling her into his embrace. “I shall miss you, too. I wish you could come and see her graduate.”
Clarisse melted in his arms. While their physical relationship hadn’t progressed much further than dancing and kissing, they both knew the promise of a future together was a possibility. They had focused much of their time and energy on Amelia and had enjoyed getting to know her even more during the time she spent in Genovia. The watchful eye of the public had prevented much more than that…but, true to his word, Joseph had been patient. Clarisse spent many nights awake, still trying to sort out exactly what her feelings were for him and whether or not they were appropriate. Ironically, all doubt seemed to fade away when he was nearby especially when he held her like this.
She sighed. “Unfortunately, Parliament doesn’t agree. Given the current political climate here in Genovia and the uncertainty they feel about Amelia taking over the throne this year, I felt it best not to upset the pear cart.”
His hand caressed her face. “I know…and I will miss you.”
Joseph pulled her towards him and their lips met in a familiar kiss. Clarisse responded fervently to his touch; she was finding it harder and harder to be apart from him. Her love for him was still based in their bond and the trust they had shared for over forty years; but something about it seemed to be changing. She still wouldn’t admit that it was romantic love…she had given up on that a lifetime ago. But it was something…she couldn’t deny that she possessed very strong feelings for Joseph; but then again, she always had Her sigh came out as a murmur of pleasure and she focused on the feel of his mouth on hers. She had never been good at sorting out her emotions; and, it appeared that was not going to change.
He couldn’t wait to see her. Even though he had only been gone a few days; he had felt a loneliness that could only be filled by her the woman with whom he had spent his entire life, fathered two children with and spent every day by her side; a woman whom he had never actually told that he loved more than life itself. But he had his granddaughter, Princess Amelia with him and in a short period of time, she would take over the throne of Genovia and then, and only then, would Clarisse be free to pursue a life with him.
Her face lit up when she saw him standing there looking so handsome in his black tuxedo. Feeling slightly flirtatious, she twirled around to give him the benefit of the entire outfit. Her efforts were rewarded with a “beautiful” and a kiss on her hand. Joseph was back and she couldn’t be more pleased about that; he belonged by her side and she felt safe when she was with him. Was it more than that, though? She wasn’t certain if she would ever find that out as she had settled into a contentment in their relationship that brought her more peace and happiness than she had ever known.
Joseph chuckled; Clarisse was not pleased at his response. “You actually told Viscount Mabrey to shut up?” His eyes were filled with mirth, even though he knew that the moment her eyes found his, they would be filled with irritation. “I wish I could have been there.”
Her eyes bore into his; she failed to see the humor. “This is NOT funny, Joseph. The Renaldi line is being threatened…” she came to stand before him, her eyes softening. “We sacrificed too much to see it all lost now over some ancient law.”
Joseph sobered and replied. “Of course, Your Majesty; the matter is not humorous…only the picture in my mind of you saying shut up. You must go talk to Mia.”
Clarisse sighed. “I know…I just can’t decide if her grandmother should talk to her…or her Queen…”
Joseph watched as Amelia left the ante-room to return to Clarisse’s suite. He found Clarisse staring at the picture of her and Rupert on the wall. She knew he was watching her. “I couldn’t lie to her, Joseph. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I couldn’t tell my granddaughter that I loved her grandfather; the best I could offer was fondness…I’m afraid that wasn’t very convincing for her. I did love him; but not in the manner she was referring to I felt it would have been wrong to tell her otherwise.”
“One must never apologize for telling the truth.” He waited for a few moments more; she continued to stare at the painting. “So what did Mia decide?”
Clarisse looked at Joseph, a small but proud smile on her face. “She wants her chance to make a difference as a ruler. She has agreed to an arranged marriage. She spoke like a true Queen.”
Joseph watched her intently. “That sounds like the Queen; what does her grandmother think of all of this?”
Her face turned solemn and she thought of the duty that had been her constant guide and companion and ruling force in every major decision she had ever made in her life…even down to agreeing to share her bed with another man in order to produce an heir. She sighed. “Her grandmother worries that she may never be truly happy unless she is allowed to find true love…on her own timetable and in her own way.”
“So what do we do next?” The choice had to be hers.
She glanced around the room at all of the rulers that had come before her and then came to rest on the man who had been her constant companion and counselor. She repeated the words of wisdom he gave her concerning Philippe. “We give her the freedom to choose. For today for now, she has chosen duty over love; we must honor that choice.”
A week later, Clarisse’s world, which was already in a state of chaos due to the whirlwind romance and engagement of her granddaughter, was turned upside down.
“Clarisse, my dear, forget the wedding for a moment. In less than a month, you will no longer be Queen and I will no longer be your head of security. I think it’s time we bring our friendship out of the shadows.”
She couldn’t believe it…he was proposing. She couldn’t muster any other response than “Oh Joseph…I”
“Yes, my dear, I would kneel if it weren’t for my knee replacements.”
He took her hand and they sat in the gazebo. Her mind was spinning…she had never been asked for her hand in marriage…the last time everything had been arranged, the truth be told, her consent wasn’t even necessary. She needed to stall for time until she could sort this out…She realized, of course, that she had been trying to sort this out for years; she had no idea how she would figure it out in the next thirty days. “Joseph, there’s a wedding to be planned. Mia needs to win over the people of Genovia all in less than thirty days.”
“Perhaps its time to consider the duty you have to yourself.” He offered solemnly.
“Oh…” She withdrew her hand and looked away.
“Clarisse…my darling, please think about it. Please.”
He supposed that she gave him as much as she could when she cupped his cheek with her hand and quietly whispered. “I will.” It wasn’t a resounding yes…but it wasn’t a no. He wanted to believe in his heart that she couldn’t live without him and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him…but perhaps he had overestimated the feelings and emotions she had for him. He let out a deep breath…only time would tell.
Time was no longer on their side as one mishap after another seemed to make the prospect of Mia becoming Queen farther and farther from reality. The incident with the Royal Guard review disturbed Joseph on many levels. He sought out Clarisse that evening to speak with her. This time it was he who knocked on the door to her bedchamber. He heard rustling around and then she opened the door. “Joseph?”
He couldn’t help himself; his eyes wandered over her body. She was still clad in silk; but instead of a nightgown, she was in pajamas. “Did you stop wearing gowns?” He asked absently.
His question caught her off guard. “I…not entirely…Joseph, what are you doing here?”
“I almost slipped today…”
“What do you mean?”
“When I came up to the horse to try and settle it down; I was thinking only of my granddaughter…not the Princess. Then later, I threatened Viscount Mabrey.” He admitted.
Clarisse was shocked; Joseph had always been the calm one out of the two of them. “You threatened him?”
“I told him that he may not be aware of what my job entails as royal head of security. That my job is to protect the crown to make sure no harm comes to the crown.”
“That seems reasonable.” She added.
He continued. “To step in when someone toys with the crown’s emotions…” Joseph decided to leave out the Viscount’s response about how the whole country knew exactly how much he catered to Clarisse’s emotions…she didn’t need to hear that right now.
“I told him that if he hurt my girl…he would answer directly to me.” He walked over to stand by her. “I didn’t say…if you hurt the Princess or anything similar…I specifically said “my” girl…”
“You have always been very protective, Joseph…I’m sure he didn’t pick up on that miscue.”
“I don’t trust him, Clarisse.”
“Neither do I; but until we have proof, there’s nothing to be done” She touched his arm gently. “Just be careful…he is an evil, driven man.”
“I pray his nephew does not follow in his footsteps.”
A few days later, the tension in the Palace increased yet again with the Garden Party fiasco; the stress on the Queen became too much…she lashed out at Mia; she lashed out at Joseph…well, his security team; but he bore the full brunt of her rage at the turn of events.
“I asked you to watch over her and Lord Deveraux! So how is it that they could both end up at the fountain…alone…and then IN the fountain. How did that happen, Joseph? You have been my personal security guard for over forty years and I have never been given enough space to do half of the things she has gotten away with. So I ask you again, how did this happen?”
Joseph took some calming breaths. “Perhaps, unlike her Grandmother, Amelia is incorrigible and can be rather elusive when she wants to be. As I recall, I’ve never had to chase you down…you’ve remained a few feet away from me our entire lives together.”
Her head shot up to see if there was a double meaning in his words; but his mask was fully in place. She knew he was patiently waiting for her answer regarding making their relationship public…but she couldn’t deal with that right now. Right now, she had to find a way to convince everyone, maybe even herself, that Mia truly was fit to be Queen.
Clarisse suddenly felt tired. “That will be all, Joseph.”
He couldn’t believe this…she had yelled at him and was now dismissing him. “As you wish, Your Majesty.” His reply was formal and he stormed out of the room.
By the end of the night, both Joseph and Mia were upset with her and she was alone. She may not know much about her true feelings…but she knew one thing…Clarisse Gerard Renaldi did NOT like being alone…
The next day brought a glimmer of hope and Joseph and Clarisse shared a smile as Mia allowed the children from the orphanage to join her in the parade it was proud moment for both of them. Their happiness continued as Mia came up with the idea for converting one of the Palaces that was currently just being used as a perk for politicians into a larger orphanage.
“I haven’t felt this young in years, Joseph.” She admitted as they took a late evening walk through the gardens. “I actually mattress-surfed tonight and sang with Princess Asana.”
He smiled. “So I heard.”
They walked along a while longer. “I’m sorry I was so upset the other day and I’m afraid I took out the majority of my frustration on you.”
“Yes, you did.”
She stopped and turned around to face him. “If it makes you feel any better, I yelled at Mia more.”
He chuckled. “Well that makes me feel better…that my Granddaughter was tormented by you that night as well.”
He took her hand and squeezed it; he couldn’t stay mad at her. He wanted to ask her if she had been thinking about them…but thought he knew the answer. Life had been a little crazy for her…he could wait a little longer.
The next day he found the perfect opportunity…they were alone, they were dancing, she was in his arms. “Have you been thinking about us?” He asked as her head rested on his chest.
She slowly lifted her head, a lump forming in her throat. “Yes, I have.”
The look on her face told him all he needed to know…she did not want to spend the rest of her life with him…well correction she didn’t want to spend it as his wife. “I see.” He gazed at her a moment longer, the hurt evident in his eyes. “If you’ll excuse me.”
She ran after him and grabbed his hand and pleaded with him to understand that she had to focus on Mia and her duty. It was ironic, he thought, that at one point in their lives…duty drove her to his bed; now it was taking her away from him what a cruel twist of fate… “You were never just my Queen, Clarisse…you were the someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But, if you prefer that I see you first and foremost as my Queen…I shall oblige.”
Clarisse felt an unreasonable fear spread throughout her body…she was going to lose him. She reached for his cheek. “No, Joseph.” Her eyes pled with him for understanding.
His head bowed as he formally stated. “Your Majesty.” With one last crestfallen look, he turned around and walked away from her…the cold, emptiness that she felt was unlike anything she had ever experienced before. In a flash she realized, that she loved him honest to goodness, make your heart flutter and your foot pop kind of love. In the instant he walked away, it all became clear…and it was just an instant too late.
Clarisse added to her despair the next morning when her incorrigible granddaughter and Elsie Kentworthy apparently conspired together to ruin yet another day in her life. She had not liked Elsie’s father, Edward and the way he meddled in her personal life; and now Elsie was doing the same to Amelia. Fortunately, Andrew was a man of honor…like Joseph… Clarisse sighed at the small voice inside of her head that would not rest. She shook her head trying to focus her thoughts. Fortunately Andrew was an honorable man and was still willing to go through with the wedding. Charlotte had told Clarisse about the conversation Andrew and Mia had had out in front of the Palace and her heart broke for her granddaughter…
Clarisse found Amelia gasping for air as she hid behind some trees that provided shelter from the public’s glaring eye and curiosity. “Oh my dear, Mia.”
Hearing her grandmother’s voice, she stood up quickly. “Grandma, I’m so sorry…I’m sorry…I just need a minute to…”
Clarisse interrupted her. “No.”
“I can do this!”
“I can’t do this…”
Clarisse reached out and touched her briefly. “Darling, listen to me. I made my choice…duty to my country, over love. It’s what I’ve always done it seems. It’s been drummed into me my whole life. Now I’ve lost the only man I ever really loved.” She had just made the admission as easily as she said her name…it was a shame she had not been able to admit it to herself and Joseph in a more timely manner.
She glanced over her shoulder to see Joseph standing just on the perimeter. “Mia, I want you to make your choices as a woman. Don’t make the same mistakes I did; make your own mistakes. There’ll be plenty of them, believe me….whatever choice you make, let it come from your heart.”
Fifteen minutes later, Mia had bid Andrew goodbye and secured her first victory with Parliament by securing a vote that would abolish the three hundred year old marriage law. In an unexpected turn of events, Clarisse now found herself standing in front of the Arch Bishop asking him to marry her and Joseph.
She felt Joseph slip the ring on her finger as he said, “With this ring, I thee… finally… wed.”
The kiss was brief; but it held the promise of more to come. They turned and smiled at their friends, family and constituents. Today had turned out to be far better than she could have ever imagined; and, looking at the smoldering passion in Joseph’s eyes…tonight would be even better.
Shades opened the door to the limo to let the newly wedded couple inside. Knowing how she hated to “slide”, Joseph got in first. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her as she sat down next to him. He was looking forward to the ride back to the Palace. “Finally a…”
“Ah…hello, Charlotte.” Clarisse interjected.
Joseph turned to see Charlotte sitting shyly at the very edge of the seat opposite of them. She smiled hesitantly. “I’m so sorry, Your Majesty, Joseph, all of the other limos had already left and this was the last way back to the Palace. I apologize.”
Clarisse smiled with a grace that had helped define her reign. “That’s quite alright, Charlotte. There’s entirely too much to do in the next week to leave mine and the future Queen’s personal assistant stranded at the reception hall.”
Charlotte nodded. “Thank you for your understanding. Just pretend I’m not here.”
Joseph laughed. “I don’t think you really mean that, Charlotte.”
His words created a slight blush in both women. After a few minutes, Charlotte spoke. “Your Majesty, I took care of that special request you asked about earlier.”
“Wonderful, thank you for taking care of that on such short notice.” She replied.
Joseph looked from Clarisse to Charlotte; neither seemed willing to share any additional information. “So I’ve been married to you less then three hours and already you are keeping secrets from me?” He teased.
Clarisse turned and smiled. “No secrets, darling…surprises.”
“Well I have a surprise for you as well.” Joseph countered.
His wife’s face indicated she didn’t believe him. He leaned over and covered her ear and whispered. “There will be no agreements, arrangements or conditions tonight save one thing.”
She replied in a normal voice. “Oh and what might that be?”
As Joseph leaned in to whisper his reply, Charlotte watched as her Queen’s face blushed even deeper whether from embarrassment or arousal, she wasn’t sure. Perhaps it was a combination of both. Charlotte was decidedly uncomfortable at having witnessed this exchange. She forced herself to look out the window and away from the couple.
Clarisse was more excited and aroused than she could ever remember being…of course, it HAD been a long time since she had even thought about it; but she was thinking about it now and she wanted nothing more than to be alone with Joseph. She ventured a quick glance over to Charlotte who now seemed very interested in the Genovian countryside rolling by outside the window.
At long last, they arrived at the Palace. Charlotte escaped first, extending her congratulations one final time to Joseph and Clarisse before hastening to find Amelia. “I think I embarrassed her.” Joseph observed wickedly.
“Incorrigible.” Clarisse retorted.
He grabbed her hand and held it tightly as they walked into the Palace. “But you love me that way.”
She stopped him in the middle of the corridor en route to their suites. Her face was serious as she answered. “Yes, I do…love you very much.”
Joseph used their clasped hands to pull her into a recessed entry way that blocked them from view of anyone looking down the corridor. His eyes were dark with unmasked desire and his voice was low as he stated. “I find that I want…no I NEED to kiss you right now.”
She didn’t answer, but slid her hands under his tuxedo jacket and pulled him towards her as she backed up to the wall. His hand caressed her cheek and he whispered. “I love you too,” before he pulled her mouth to his.
Their lips met with a gentle pressure that quickly rose to a new level as their minds sent the news to their bodies that, for the first time in their lives, there was nothing to hold them back; no reason to stop. They were free to love each other with all of the passion and love they had subdued for a lifetime. Clarisse felt the cool marble behind her and Joseph’s hardness in front of her; his lips soft and insistent all at once. She let an “mmm” escape from somewhere in her body in response to the pleasure she was experiencing.
Joseph was in heaven. Clarisse was soft, warm and willing…willing to give him all of her. Her body was soft; she was so close he could feel her breathing and heart beating. He was just about to let one hand glide up her waist to cup her breast when he heard it…
Mia was trying to find her Grandmother and Joseph before they adjoined to their suite for the night. Charlotte had located her fairly quickly and demurely suggested if she wished to speak with them she needed to move quickly as the couple seemed very interested in being alone. The blush that had adorned Charlotte’s face as she explained all of this to Mia had told her more than she had really wanted to know.
She had headed down the corridor to try to get to the suites quickly and then check with the guard to see how long they had been there before she went in…they had waited a long time to be together and she didn’t want to be responsible for delaying that for one moment. Her footsteps were light but quick and she would have missed them had it not been for an “mmm” she heard as she was approaching the entranceway to the grand ball room.
She stopped quickly and quietly; her eyes wide at the sight before her. Mia’s hands quickly went to her mouth to stifle any noise that might slip out. Her heart softened as she saw the exchange of love occurring before her eyes; forgetting momentarily that it was her grandmother that she was watching. Their movements spoke of a lifetime of caring and commitment to each other; a deep seated trust that was finally being allowed to shine fully in the light of day. Mia felt a sense of pride that she had, at least in a small way, helped that to occur.
When she noticed that things seemed to be heating up, she felt it best to stop them. “Ahem.”
Joseph heard it first and he tried very hard to not be angry at whomever didn’t have the decency to just walk by and give them a few moments of privacy. The voice of his granddaughter broke through his haze. “Don’t you have a room or two?” She teased.
Clarisse spoke first, though she didn’t look in her granddaughter’s direction. “Was there something you needed, Amelia?” She smiled warmly at Joseph. “We’re rather busy here as you can see.”
“Definitely can see that…” Mia replied. “Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you, Gramma.”
Her words caused Clarisse to turn to meet her gaze. “Whatever for, dear?”
“For giving me an out today; I know you’ve always done your duty no matter the cost. Today you were willing to let me choose from my heart rather than from a sense of duty, which gave me courage to do all that came after our conversation. I know that came from my Grandmother and not my Queen so…”
Before she could finish, Clarisse had taken the few steps necessary to bridge the distance between them and pulled her into a warm embrace. “I love you, Amelia, and I’m sorry that I was absent from your life for fifteen years. You must believe me when I tell you that I thought it was what was best for you…perhaps it was; but my heart thought of you and missed you every day.”
Mia remembered her words from five years ago when she accused Clarisse of ignoring her for fifteen years; she hadn’t realized the impact those words had had on her. “I know, Gramma, everything is alright now, I promise.”
Clarisse stood up straight and looked at Mia and then at Joseph. She smiled warmly as she offered. “Yes, Amelia, everything is…alright now. Thank you for the part you played in that as well.”
Joseph walked up to embrace Clarisse from behind and added. “Yes, Princess, thank you.”
Mia beamed at their praise. “Just one more thing and then I’ll set you two love birds free. This may sound a little corny, though.”
Clarisse chuckled slightly…more than one “corny” thing had slipped past Mia’s lips in the time that she had known her. “Yes dear?” She asked, almost afraid to hear what she was going to say next.
“Actually this is a question for Joe.”
Joseph lifted his head from Clarisse’s shoulder where he had been secretly enjoying the fragrant scent of her perfume and wondering if it would smell differently if she didn’t have this damn dress on. “Yes, Princess?”
“I was wondering since you married Gramma today if it might be ok if I called you Grampa every once in a while?”
Joseph thought his heart might burst; he squeezed Clarisse gently to share this moment with her. Mia would have no idea how true her words were or how much they meant to the man who stood before. He had been father and grandfather for the past several decades; but had never been called that by name. He smiled gently at her. “I would be honored, Princess.”
Mia smiled brightly. “Thanks…Grampa! Do you think you might call me Mia then?”
“Actually, I think of Princess as my nickname for you but if you prefer…”
“No…Princess is good; as long as you continue to call me that after I’m Queen.” She interrupted.
“Deal.” The three exchanged hugs and then Mia left them to find Charlotte to discuss plans for the upcoming coronation. Since she wasn’t spending her wedding night with a husband…thank God…she might as well get some work done!
Joseph nodded to Felix as they entered the Queen’s suite who responded. “Congratulations, sir.”
Once they were in the sitting room, Joseph pulled Clarisse against him, his mouth crushing down on hers. His hands threaded in her hair as he felt hers slip inside his jacket and up his back. His tongue demanded entrance and she obliged; a low groan of satisfaction emitted from his throat as he was able to taste and experience the warm cavern of her mouth.
The need for breath pulled them apart. Joseph commanded. “I’m going to my suite to get ready meet me there in fifteen minutes.”
“Not even married four hours and already you’re giving me orders.” She teased.
Joseph just smiled and kissed her on the cheek before exiting through the secret doorway. He grabbed the ice bucket housing the bottle of champagne that had been left for them. She heard him call out as the door shut. “Fifteen minutes!”
Clarisse smiled and then set about getting ready; Joseph obviously didn’t understand women at all if he thought she could get ready in just one quarter of an hour…what was he thinking? She paused for just a moment- she knew exactly what he was thinking; they had waited long enough. Remembering his words to her in the limo caused the blush to deepen on her already colored skin. She shed her jacket and struggled to reach the zipper on her dress. After a few moments, she successfully discarded all of her garments from the wedding and was applying a faint amount of perfume to pressure points on her body.
She found the gown Charlotte had arranged to be ready for her; it looked beautiful on the hangar, she only hoped her body would do it justice. She ventured a quick glance in the mirror. While the years had been very kind to her…there had still been a lot of years that had transpired since the last time she and Joseph were intimate. And, for the first time, he would be seeing all of her…or at least she assumed and hoped he would.
Joseph turned in the direction of the door as it opened; his breath caught in his throat as she came into his line of sight. It was as if the hands of time turned back forty years to the moment he first saw her in that gown: The deep burgundy of the gown was the perfect compliment to her coloring. The silk barely covered her breasts; but a delicate lace provided additional covering. The back revealed the graceful line of her neck and back in its entirety. The creamy expanse of skin guided him lower to a scalloped, lace edge right above her hips. Thin spaghetti straps held the entire garment in place.
She watched him watching her and whispered seductively. “I believe this was your favorite?”
Joseph stepped closer to her and let the back of his hand slide from her shoulder over the swell of her breast; Clarisse’s eyes closed in response. “It most definitely was my favorite; but how?”
She smiled slightly. “Sometimes it is good to be Queen…with your own personal seamstress.”
“Indeed. I can’t wait a moment longer to touch you…to taste you…to love you, fully.”
Clarisse drank in her surroundings; the room was filled with scented candles and Joseph was…well he looked magnificent. She remembered how much she had enjoyed her stolen touches that last night they shared. “Ladies first.”
Joseph tried to remember to breathe as she closed the distance and her fingers made quick work of the loose knot in his robe. Her hands slid up his chest and over his shoulders causing the robe to fall away like chaff from grain. “Magnificent.” She praised as her hands slowly explored his muscular chest. When her tongue moved over a taut nipple, he thought his knees might forget how to hold him upright.
Her hands trailed lower as she began to circle his body; fingers slipping just below the waistband of his boxers. “Clarisse…” her name was spoken as a praise for all that is good in the world. Her touch left a trail of fire all over his bronzed skin.
She let her hands smooth over the strong muscles of his back and followed her touch with the faintest of kisses. Continued caressing brought her touch once again to his front as her arms circled him from behind. Joseph could feel the soft cushion of her breasts pressing into his back as her fingers nimbly teased his front. “Do you have any idea what you do me?” He asked huskily.
Feeling sexy and brazen, Clarisse let her left hand slip lower to stroke his hardness through his boxers. “I think I have an idea.” She teased.
Joseph quickly grabbed her wrist. “Easy tiger.” He cautioned.
Clarisse chuckled slightly, remembering when she had uttered that warning to him. “I was inspired by the boxers.”
Joseph lifted her hand and placed a kiss on her inner wrist before turning around in her embrace. “My turn.”
He took a couple of slow deep breaths to calm his racing heart from her touches and the excitement of knowing that within the next hour, every desire of his heart would be realized; that knowledge filled him and brought him the deepest feeling of contentment and satisfaction he had ever experienced in his life. The pads of his fingertips gently traced her jaw line and neck; her skin as soft as the silk that covered her. With a slowness that belied his body’s eagerness, he slipped one strap off of her shoulder until it fell useless on her arm. The material covering her breast on that side dipped slightly revealing more of the precious flesh.
Clarisse held her breath as his hand moved lower; coming to rest at the side of her fullness, his thumb gently circled the tip until it strained proudly against the silk still holding it captive. His actions were repeated on the other side, leaving both aching for more. Following her lead from earlier, he moved around her body until he was standing behind her. Gentle kisses were rained all over her back as his hands circled around and caressed the silk covering her body. At long last, Clarisse exhaled the breath she had been holding as his hands moved upwards to cup her breasts. Both whispered, “finally” as Joseph’s hands covered them.
He kept his hands still for a moment, enjoying the weight they now supported. His lips were paying homage to her graceful neckline. Wanting to drive her as crazy with desire as he was, he began to massage the tender flesh, occasionally rolling the tight tip between his thumb and forefinger.
Clarisse gasped as her body started reacting to the stimuli it was receiving. Between his soft lips, caressing hands, and male hardness pressing her from behind, she was slowly losing control…that was both exciting and frightening at the same time. She had never let herself be completely free with Joseph; with anyone for that matter. She now understood the difference between the feelings she had for Rupert and those she harbored for Joseph. While she had loved Rupert as a dear friend; what she felt for Joseph was far more intense in all aspects, including the physical. Clarisse raised her arms over her head and behind her to return his caresses in whatever way she could; her actions also served to push herself even further into this touch.
His right hand continued to stroke and caress while his left slipped lower; he couldn’t deny the rush of pleasure he experienced at the thought of stroking her through her soft curls. The hem of her gown was lifted enough to allow him the access necessary to achieve that goal. His hand slipped lower and encountered more silk. He couldn’t help it, he chuckled slightly. “Tonight…” he emphasized that word, “tonight you decide to wear undergarments?”
Her response stifled any laughter that had started. She turned her head slightly so she could look at him; her eyes were dark with desire and her voice was thick with seduction. “I thought you might enjoy removing them.”
His body answered for him as he imagined the pleasure he would receive from slowly undressing her and revealing her body inch by glorious inch. Clarisse felt his arousal harden even further at her words. She faced forward again. “I thought so.”
“Raise your arms.” He quietly instructed. She complied and watched in the mirror on his dresser as his hands slid down her body to the hem of her gown. He lifted the material until it covered her vision as it was raised over her body and arms and then unceremoniously discarded on the floor.
Joseph reveled in the feel of her skin against his and the vision her reflection cast in the mirror. His hands still held hers over her head; he let his slide down her arms and over her breasts and torso until they were at the waistband of her panties. He hooked his thumbs in the wisp of material and slowly lowered the garment to the floor.
As he stood back up, he allowed himself the luxury of enjoying the feel of the long line of her legs; the muscles of each calf well defined thanks to years in high heels. Her thighs strong and smooth and he felt a rush of adrenalin at the though of them wrapped around his body once again. He resumed his position behind her with the right arm snaking around to the front to caress her chest while the left ventured lower once again to resume his effort to touch her.
Clarisse gasped as she felt his fingers gently thread through the curls offering the last vestiges of protection to her innermost sanctum. She opened her eyes…she needed to see what his response to her revealed body was. As she lifted her gaze to the mirror, their eyes met in the reflection. The candlelight offered muted illumination which was sufficient to see the passion and desire in both of their eyes. They could see his eyes wide and dark with love and appreciation for the vision of beauty before him; could see the rise and fall of her chest, now partially concealed by his dark arm, his hand cupping and caressing her breast; could see her legs slightly separated for balance and to give unspoken permission for him to enter into the previously forbidden domain; could see his other hand poised and ready to do its part to bring them both pleasure.
“Beautiful.” He whispered as his fingers began to gently stroke.
Clarisse lowered her arms to her side and then reached back to hold him close to her. She gazed at their reflection and thought it had to be the most erotic thing she had ever seen or experienced in her entire life. Her knees grew weak and her head fell back against him as she felt him increase the pressure. “Joseph” His name escaped her lips in a whisper.
“That doesn’t count,” he whispered. “I promised to make you cry out my name in ecstasy and I intend to make good on that promise.”
She was ready…she wanted more, needed more. She placed her hands over his and gently dislodged them from her body before turning around in his embrace. Her arms went around his neck and her body was pressed up against his. “Then I suggest you make good on your promise; it is never good to keep your wife waiting.”
Joseph stood perfectly still as she slid her hands inside his boxers and gently began to lower them until they fell freely around his ankles. He stepped out of them and then, in one swift movement, swept her into his arms. “I always keep my promises.” He offered as he turned and took the few steps necessary to place her gently on the bed. He joined her, immediately kissing her as his hand slid down her body to pick up where he had just left off.
Clarisse kissed him passionately, letting herself have free reign to respond. She needed no further encouragement as one leg bent and moved away, opening herself even more to his intimate touch. Her actions were rewarded as a finger slipped behind the hood of protection and stroked the velvety flesh that lay hidden underneath.
She gasped, breaking the kiss, and her hips arched in response. Joseph moved his head lower and began to kiss, lick and suckle her breasts as his fingers pushed even deeper exploring her innermost recesses. Clarisse gave up any pretense of rational thought as she got carried away on a wave of emotion and sensation that could not be stopped.
Joseph was in heaven; he was living out his every fantasy as he felt her moans of pleasure and her body respond whole heartedly to his touch. He could feel her nipples contract and harden even further as his tongue moved over them; could feel her inner muscles beginning to contract around his fingers as he dipped into her juices and then used them to create a heated friction on the tiny bundle of nerves that was completely exposed to him; could feel the tell-tale sign that she was nearing her climax as her legs twitched in response to the need growing strongly inside of her, looking for an escape route through her nervous system.
Clarisse was completely awash with sensation; her hands were moving from Joseph’s head to his shoulders as he paid homage to her breasts. Her lower body was undulating under his touch and her mind could focus on nothing else but the coil that continued to tighten deep within her abdomen. Just when she thought it would break…he stopped.
It took a moment for her to register that he was not moving; the only sound in the room was their breathing. She forced her eyes open, not an easy task as they felt so heavy with desire she thought they might never open again. Before she could ask anything, he started again. He brought her to the edge again and then stopped. She was throbbing with desire; every pore of her being was crying out for release and demanded he bring an end to their suffering.
He could feel the blood thrumming through her body and knew she was close. He wanted nothing more than to give her the release; but he wanted to make good on his promise and wanted to make sure that she would cry out his name over and over again. He heard her voice, tight with need. “Joseph…please…”
She felt his lips join hers again as his fingers began the maddening pace that had been the pattern for the last several minutes. She decided to up the stakes and licked his lips as her hands went to his head to guide him in the kiss. She felt his mouth open to hers and their tongues began to battle. The movement of his hand increased to match the heated passion of the kiss as he circled the tiny bud.
The coil tightened quickly until it snapped with a force that Clarisse had never experienced before sending shards of pleasure throughout her entire body. Her mouth tore away from his as her hips arched and bucked against his hand. A smoldering look of satisfaction crossed his face as he heard her cry out his name. “Joseph!!”
He continued stroking, slowing slightly to let her start to come down before he increased the pace again sending her spiraling to the heavens again. “Oh god…yes Joseph - ahh…Joseph!”
As she cried out his name the third time, her hands found his and covered them, silently pleading for a reprieve. “Can’t…take…please…”
He took advantage of the position of her legs and slipped in between them. He fulfilled another fantasy by placing soft kisses on her inner thighs as they quivered from the force of her orgasms. Emboldened by her body’s response to him, he held her open as his tongue made one long stroke along her womanhood, enjoying the taste and scent of his beautiful, sexy wife. Her back arched as her knees bent and she lifted herself slightly on her elbows as she felt his tongue stroke her intimately. “Joseph. Make love to me; let our bodies fulfill what our souls have known all along…we belong to each other.”
He allowed himself a few more flicks with his tongue, enjoying the way her body jerked in response. She watched as he kissed his way up her form until his mouth mingled with hers once again. She could taste her essence on his lips and parted her lips slightly to allow his tongue to dance with hers. As his tongue pushed forward to explore the warm cavern of her mouth, she slowly allowed herself to fall back until her body was covered with his and he was nestled, once more, in the cradle of her legs.
She loved that she could feel every inch of him pressed against her. She held him there for a moment before bending her knees and initiating a rocking motion with her hips. Joseph felt a sense of déjà vu as he felt her move under him; it was the same yet different. She was making love to him but would not be leaving; she was responding and she was making no effort to stop it; and, her entire body was revealed to his intense gaze. He thrust deeply into her, reaching her innermost core; she cried out as he entered her and he stopped, afraid he had hurt her. “Are you alright?”
Clarisse felt complete; his arousal was buried completely within her welcoming body. She let her hands move to his chest and thread through the sparse hairs there, captivated by the strength she felt moving under his skin; her eyes were filled with passion as she answered. “I’m wonderful.”
Joseph heard her; but wasn’t sure he quite believed her. He resumed his action; but at a much gentler pace. He felt Clarisse’s hands caressing him and her legs wrap around him; he wanted nothing more than to drive into her softness again and again; but he held back for fear of hurting her.
She knew he was holding back and wanted to convince him. She grudgingly removed her hands from the warmth of his chest and lifted them over her head. “Hold my hands?” She asked.
Joseph remembered making the same request of her in what seemed another lifetime and lowered his upper body to kiss her and then take her hands in his. Her eyes were closed as she felt his hands clasp hers so he ventured a glance in the mirror. His eyes grew even darker with desire at what he saw: her body was arched provocatively under his, her legs were gliding up and down the back of his legs and thighs in encouragement; her profile portrayed that of a seductress who was luring him further into her web…and he couldn’t be more pleased with that.
Her voice held the perfect accent as she broke into his musings. "Mi amado, entregate a mi." To emphasize her request, she lowered her legs and planted her feet and started to thrust against him.
Joseph could feel the softness of her breasts cushioning his body and her slick heat pulsing around his hardness as she initiated the tempo. His voice was husky as he answered her. "Me entrego. Soy tuyo, mi cielo"
He shifted slightly for more leverage; his thighs pressing against hers forcing them even further apart before he began to drive deep into her. Clarisse countered his movements ensuring that he was buried completely within her hot sheath. The sounds of pleasure grew in frequency and force as they were released from the point their bodies joined to soar throughout their bodies. When Joseph felt her nails embed in his hand as her body began to convulse around him, he withdrew almost completely before claiming her one final time as he shouted the name of the only woman he had ever truly loved.
Her shout was music to his ears as he knew, for the first time in their relationship, she had honored him with a verbal acknowledgement of the feelings he created in her when they made love. He collapsed onto her frame, completely spent from his efforts.
After a few moments, he started to move to her side when he felt her arms hold him tightly to her. “Please don’t go.”
He lifted himself slightly to look in those mesmerizing blue eyes. “I’m not going anywhere; I just wanted to make sure you could breathe.” He smiled.
“Before, I always felt so…” she sighed. “Anyway, you aren’t crushing me, darling. I rather enjoy the feel of basking with you in our afterglow.”
Joseph needed to hear what she wanted to say. “Always felt what, my love?” He adjusted himself so his head was resting on her chest, the rest of his body sprawled across hers.
Clarisse gently stroked his head as she thought about how to answer him. “I felt empty when you pulled away from me. Please don’t misunderstand I know circumstances forced you to do so; at least I hope that’s what it was…” Her voice drifted off.
Joseph rolled to her side and then pulled her on top of him. He kissed her deeply, letting his body tell her exactly how much he loved her. He cupped her face in his hands to ensure that he had her undivided attention. “If fate had been kinder to us, I would have been in your bed every night and would never have left your side. You are my heaven.”
She kissed him soundly. “And you are mine.”
They lay there for several minutes, their bodies entwined in a lover’s embrace. She spoke first, in a teasing manner. “And what of those other two women what were they to you?”
Her question caught him off guard for a moment before he remembered their conversation about his prior experience before bedding his Queen. “I’m afraid I may have exaggerated my experience a bit…” He answered.
Her head was resting on her hands in the center of his chest. Her eyes sparkled with mischief. “How so?”
Joseph couldn’t resist. “I was a virgin when I slept with you.” He offered with mock seriousness.
Clarisse’s eyes widened in response then she grinned. “Tosh! I don’t believe that for a second.”
He laughed. “Why thank you, I’m glad you felt pleased with my abilities.”
Her voice took on “that” tone that he was finding harder and harder to make his body ignore. “Indeed.”
He fought the urge to make love to her again at that very moment; instead he stroked her cheek and answered. “There was only one woman before you, Senorita Gabriella. She was from my home town in Puerto Rico; a few years older than I and I’m afraid I had quite the crush on her. She was very patient with me and schooled me in how to treat a woman, both in and out of the bedroom. Everything I know…well up to this point anyway…” his hand cupped her cheek and his thumb grazed across her lips, still swollen from their kisses. “I owe to her.”
“Then I owe her a debt of gratitude which I shall never be able to fully repay.”
Clarisse pushed against his chest to bring herself to a sitting position. Inwardly she groaned a bit, thinking that it had been much easier to perform that task forty years ago. She was touched by the candles that he had thoughtfully placed around the room. Everything was so much the same…yet so different. Rather than duty, it was love that brought her here tonight and would keep her here for the rest of her life. She was about to extend her gratitude to the man who was gently caressing her thighs as he watched her when she saw it…
She couldn’t believe it. He still had it. A tear of remembrance slid down her cheek. “Clarisse? My love, what’s wrong?” Joseph asked, concern filling his voice.
“The old wives’ pillow…you still have it?” Emotion filled her voice.
Joseph smiled tenderly and reached over to the edge of the bed where the pillow had been tossed during their lovemaking. He handed it to her watching as she hugged it tightly to her form. “I’m afraid I couldn’t part with it. I found it to be a pleasant reminder of the time we shared together and of what we accomplished. I found a great deal of comfort in it during very lonely nights.”
“It represented hope to me…a hope that the sacrifice we were making was worth the suffering we all had to endure over the years.” She added.
Joseph gently took the pillow from her and guided her gently back down to where he could reach her. He looked lovingly in her eyes as he added. “It was a difficult time…for everyone; and, without a doubt, it was worth it. That was our past, Clarisse, and this…” he let his hands glide over her body until he could lift her left hand. He gently stroked the ring what adorned her finger signifying their public commitment to each other. “…is our future. There need not be any further sacrifice or denial of the love that flows deep within our veins.”
Her mouth was just a breath away from his. “All that remains is the duty we have to ourselves.”
“I suggest we get started on that right away.”
She heard his husky reply and could feel his body start to come alive under hers. She began to rock against him, imitating her actions from decades ago. His hands moved to cup her bottom and guide her in their movements. “I think that’s the best idea I’ve heard in years.” She silenced in response he may have offered with her lips as they endeavored to honor the duty they had to themselves.
Clarisse took Joseph’s arm as they watched their granddaughter make the short walk through the raised swords of the Royal Guard. “Presenting Her Majesty, Amelia Mignonette Thermompolis Renaldi, Queen of Genovia.”
Joseph took her hand in his as they followed the procession out of the Grand Foyer into the Ballroom where the festivities would continue. He pulled her aside into a room and kissed her hard. She responded immediately with her whole heart and body; their arms held each other tightly. She broke the kiss, the smile on her face was beaming…it filled the whole room and lit up her eyes as a thousand stars on a dark night. “We did it, Joseph…it took over twenty years longer than we thought and an extra generation; but we did it.”
His smile matched hers. “Yes, my love, we finally produced an heir.”
"Mi amado, entregate a mi." "Entregate" - “My lover…give yourself completely, with abandon to me.”
"Me entrego. Soy tuyo, mi cielo" - “I surrender to you. I am yours, my heaven.”