The Mirror's Reflection

Chapter 2

Two nights later those closest to Clarisse were seated around the table enjoying a birthday meal fit for a Queen, as the culinary people had shared with delight as they served each course. Joseph sat on one side of Clarisse while Mia occupied the other. Shades and Charlotte were also in attendance. The surprise guest had been André. Clarisse had given in to her granddaughter’s sad brown eyes when she realized this was her last night to see the young man.

Dinner conversation had been light hearted with a fair amount of banter. Dessert had been a surprise…to everyone but Clarisse that was. She smiled as the Chef placed a bowl of sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream in front of her. There was a slight mist in her eyes as she voiced her appreciation. “Thank you, Chef…it’s wonderful.”

He bowed slightly and added. “Happy birthday, Your Majesty.”

Mia tried to hide her disappointment that there wasn’t any cake…but she figured there was a good reason. She had to admit the strawberries were very good too. “OK present time, Gramma!” She couldn’t wait any longer.

Clarisse put her fork down. “Amelia, presents weren’t necessary. I’m just glad my closest friends…and their friends…” she nodded indicating André’s presence. “…could be with me tonight.”

“OK, yeah that’s nice and all…but Gramma…you have to have presents for your birthday!”

One by one, Clarisse opened her gifts: a beautiful silk blouse in a vivid teal color from Charlotte and a new pair of designer sunglasses from Shades, which received a chuckle from everyone at the table.

“Didn’t you bring your gift to the celebration, Joe?” Mia asked.

His smile was warm and affectionate. Just as he was about to answer, Clarisse’s voice cut in. “Amelia, I’m certain you didn’t mean your question the way it sounded.”

Mia was slightly abashed. “Of course not, Gramma. I’m sorry, Joe.”

“It’s alright, Princess.” He answered and then winked and whispered in a conspiring tone. “Don’t worry, though, I didn’t forget.”

Realizing in an instant that he wanted to give her Grandmother the gift in private, she relaxed. “Never crossed my mind, Joe. So does that mean it’s my turn?”

“Of course, dear.”

Her excitement was evident as she handed the small box to Clarisse. She took André’s hand and leaned into him as she waited to see her Grandmother’s reaction.

Manicured nails made a crease in the red and silver wrapping paper, delicately removing the covering. A slight gasp escaped her lips as she lifted the box to reveal the delicate necklace. “Oh Amelia…it’s beautiful.” She made no effort to hide the tears that fell as she looked at the pictures on the inside.

“Look at the back, Gramma.”

Clarisse turned the locket over and saw the inscription, “Love is Patient”

“I’m at a loss for words…”

“André helped…he got it inscribed for me, so it would be a surprise.”

Clarisse smiled through her tears and nodded at the young man who had brought such joy to Mia’s life. “Then I thank you as well for making the gift extra special.”

“It’s a one of a kind, Your Majesty; I assure you that.” André added.

Looking at the pictures inside the locket and thinking how the inscription fit so perfectly for both people in the pictures with her, she was very thankful for the gift of friends and family that life had given her. “Thank you all so very much.”

After the hugs and good-byes were exchanged, Joseph walked with Clarisse to her suite. “You look beautiful tonight.” He shared, taking in the black skirt and jacket ensemble that was transformed into pure elegance with the red satin blouse that she had paired with it. He also had noticed the long line of her legs that ended in the customary black high heels. Years of dancing had left her with strong, well defined and shapely legs.

“Thank you, Joseph.” She squeezed his arm gently.

“May I come by later to give you my present?”

“Of course, give me about fifteen minutes or so?”

They arrived at the door of her suite. Clarisse reached up to cup his cheek and felt a rush of pleasure as his hands went to her waist, pulling her into a kiss. His hands were warm under her jacket, holding her close to him. Clarisse reveled in the feel of the strong, yet soft lips that were now melding with hers. She could tell he was holding back a bit, but determined she would do what she could to change that in just a little while. All too soon, the kiss ended. “I’ll be back as soon as my rounds are finished.”

“I’ll be waiting.”


Less than thirty minutes later, Clarisse heard the knock on her door. “Come in.”

Joseph walked in, his breath immediately catching in his throat at the sight before him. Clarisse had discarded the jacket and shoes, leaving a fair amount of her upper body revealed to his gaze. He could see that the red blouse was more of a tank top with spaghetti straps now that the jacket was no longer providing coverage. Her arms were raised above and behind her head as she tried to put the necklace on that Mia had given her. “Are you just going to stand there looking at me or are you going to help me?” She teased.

Seeing the satin stretched across her ample bosom along with the spattering of freckles adorning her skin, disappearing below the straight neckline of the blouse, made him stop to consider his answer. “The view is very magnificent. If I didn’t know better, I would think it was my birthday.”

“Joseph!” She admonished.

He chuckled and walked towards her. She lowered her arms and handed him the necklace. His body moved closely behind hers. He watched with intense interest as he let the locket slide slowly down her chest until it disappeared under the red satin to its resting place in the valley between her breasts. He connected the clasp before letting his hands slide down her arms while his lips began kissing each and every freckle.

Clarisse was slowly getting lost in his touch. It was warm and tender, paying homage to her exposed flesh. Fingers gingerly lowered one of the thin straps until it fell useless on her shoulder. Tongue tasting and teasing until she felt she could hardly stand. She whispered. “I thought you were bringing me a gift.”

He smiled against her shoulder. “Have I ever let you down?”

She turned in his embrace and smiled up at him. “Why don’t I get some champagne for us and you get my gift and we’ll meet on the couch?”

“You have champagne chilled? I was only gone for about fifteen to twenty minutes.”

She shook her head slowly, a faraway look descending on her delicate features. “No, I’m afraid this is the staff’s doing. It’s a tradition that started years ago…by Rupert. The staff can’t seem to let it go. So every year on my birthday, they always leave a bottle of chilled champagne with two glasses.”

“I see.” He was unsure whether that was a healthy tradition to keep or not…reminding her year after year of Rupert’s passing.

“At least they stopped leaving the strawberries, although Chef still insists on incorporating it somehow into the dinner.” She added as she poured the sparkling liquid into the stemmed glasses.

“Strawberries and champagne…I see.”

She felt slightly awkward discussing this with him; but felt like she was at an emotional turning point. She wasn’t getting any younger and she believed that Joseph was her soul mate. Although their relationship couldn’t be public, she no longer saw the value of not allowing herself the benefit of a deeper and more physical relationship with the handsome caring man that had said he loved her.

She shrugged her shoulders. “It was what he wanted…I saw no reason not to oblige. We rarely shared a physical connection after Pierre and Philippe were born; but there was something about my birthday that always seemed to…shall we say…inspire him.” She handed him a glass. “I’m sorry if I’ve upset you by sharing that with you…it wasn’t my intent.”

“As strange as it sounds, I’m happy to hear it. I hated the thought that you had not felt appreciated in a physical way.” He cupped her cheek with his free hand and let his thumb graze across the lips that he had kissed earlier. He whispered. “It would have been so very wrong if he had only made love to you to produce heirs.”

She took a long sip of the champagne, enjoying the way the bubbles tickled her tongue. “Perhaps…but that is history now.”

Joseph led her to the couch and guided her to a sitting position. She held up the now empty glass. “Would you be so kind?”

He obliged, refilling her glass and allowing her to drain the contents again before setting the glass on the end table. “Close your eyes, please.”

Clarisse laid her head back and closed her eyes. Joseph took the opportunity to really look at her. Her face was serene and, he was certain, must have belonged to an angel before. Her lips were still damp from the champagne, full and very kissable. The long line of her neck was exposed due to her head being reclined; her chest gently rising and falling as she waited for whatever surprise he may have arranged for her. Not wanting to wait one more moment to see her reaction, he took the flower and let the soft petals caress her. Starting at her forehead, down her cheek, neck, shoulder and then slowly over the gentle swell of her breasts.

Her eyes remained closed, but her breathing increased and she whispered. “Joseph.”

He repeated the action on the other side before sitting down next to her and holding the delicate flower under her nose for her to smell. Clarisse opened her eyes as she inhaled the sweet fragrance. “It’s magnificent.”

The rose was two colored…white on the inside and tipped with red. “It’s a hybrid rose called Double Delight.” Joseph explained.

“The colors are so vivid and clear.” She admired.

“It reminded me of you. I have arranged for three rose bushes to be planted in your garden tomorrow.”

Her excitement and approval showed clearly on her face. “Thank you so much!” She turned slightly towards him and pulled his body to hers, their lips meeting in a kiss that picked up from where they left off earlier. Her arms went around his neck as his left hand rested on her waist, the other on the back of the couch. Her head tilted as her lips slightly parted, engaging him fully in the kiss. He could feel her body pressing into his, their mouths fusing with unfulfilled passion.

Clarisse felt their mouths move together…a primitive dance that brought her desire ever closer to the surface. She felt him pull her lower lip into his mouth with a gentle sucking motion…a soft moan escaped from deep within her soul. The champagne, in addition to the wine she had had with dinner, had left her mind clouded and desperate to fill the loneliness that haunted her – especially on her birthday. It was the one time each year that she felt like a desirable woman; Rupert had made sure of that.

Wanting to feel that physical connection with another human being, she threw caution to the wind. Her tongue snaked out to seek entrance into the warm recesses of his mouth. They continued to move bodies and mouths together. She lowered her hand to her waist, her hand covering his. Deepening the kiss even further, she slowly moved his hand up until it cupped the fullness of her breast.

Joseph wasn’t sure if this was heaven or hell. The only woman he had desired for years was kissing him with abandon, her body warm and her intent willing. She was soft and so close he could feel the rapid beating of her heart. His heart joined hers when she guided his hand to her silk-clad breast.

He knew he should stop; knew he should move his hand away…but the soft mass of feminine tissue filled his hand so perfectly, he couldn’t immediately find the strength to do what he was supposed to do. Instead his thumb slowly circled the tip, finding a primal pleasure in the way it hardened in response. A slight gasp from Clarisse broke their mouths apart, so he slowly kissed her trail of freckles.

Clarisse felt the feathery light touch of his lips leaving a tingling trail of desire down her front. She was certain he could feel the pounding in her chest as his kiss found the area over her heart. Her fingers trailed lightly over the fringe of hair on his head. Perhaps tonight her King would come to her once again…

It had been an eternity it seemed since he felt the pleasure of a soft, warm body melding to his. Hearing her soft murmurs of excitement and the feel of the gentle pillow of her breasts as they swelled under his touch was almost his undoing. Somewhere in his mind, though, he knew it was too soon. Yes, she was lonely tonight and yes there was no doubt that she wanted him. But in the harsh light of day…once the champagne and dark emotions weren’t coloring her judgment, would she regret that she had taken this step with him? There were still at least a year or more from Mia taking the throne. She wouldn’t be free to truly love him until that happened.

The cold reality of their situation spilled over him like a bucket of ice water. He kissed the gentle swell of her breasts one last time before reluctantly pulling away. “I’m sorry, Clarisse…I can’t do this…not yet.”

All of the pleasant sensations that had been coursing through her mind seemed to freeze within the walls of her heart. She forced her eyes open, the question clearly displayed in her blue depths. “Why not?”

“Because we aren’t ready…it’s too soon.” He tried to explain.

The suspended emotions morphed into another type of emotion: hurt and, of course, anger. She pushed against his chest so she could sit up. “Too soon? Joseph, you and I have been in love with each other for years. Unless, of course, I’ve been mistaken about that as well.”

He tried to remain calm. “Of course I love you. It’s because I love you that I’m holding back.”

She stood and walked over to where the champagne was still sitting in the ice bucket. Pouring another glass, she turned towards him…a unique mixture of hurt, anger and disappointment reflected in her eyes. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t quite share your sentiment on this matter.”

“Clarisse, please.”

Her back was turned towards him as she icily replied. “You know the way out.”

Joseph decided it was better to deal with this later…otherwise they both may say things they would regret.

“As you wish.”


Joseph stood outside Clarisse’s door for a few moments, trying to figure out what had gone so wrong. He started to walk slowly towards his suite when a voice interrupted his thoughts. “Excuse me, sir?”

He turned towards the voice. “Yes?”

“I was wondering…oh never mind…” the young woman’s voice drifted off.

He exhaled his breath slowly…it seemed as though his job never ended. He turned and faced Alexandra, the new ladies’ maid for the Princess. “Is everything alright?”

She sighed. “I needed someone to talk to…and well, some of the other staff said you were the best one to share with. I’m sorry, sir. I know it’s late.”

“If you need a listening ear, it’s not too late for that.” He seemed to be drawn to damsels in distress, especially blonde ones.

Her smile was hopeful when she heard him agree. “Thank you. Would you mind if we went to the kitchen? It’s been a very long day and I…well, I have a bottle of Glenfiddich single malt scotch whiskey that I’ve been saving for such an occasion.”

“That’s my favorite.”

“I’d be happy to share some in exchange for the listening ear.”

“You have a deal.” He replied as they headed towards the kitchen. Someone else’s problems and his favorite scotch whiskey…just the right combination to take his mind off of his current problems.


The next morning arrived entirely too early for the Royal family and staff. Mia had a fairly early flight and everyone had agreed to come to the airport to see her off. Joseph was driving since Shades would be going back with the Princess to America. She would be returning in five weeks for the summer. The group was fairly subdued. Clarisse sat quietly sporting the new shades that she had received as a gift. Joseph surmised that they might, in part, be to cover evidence of the unusual amount of alcohol she had consumed and the difficulty of the night. Mia was upset at having to leave André. Charlotte was disappointed to see Shades leaving. Dark circles colored Joseph’s eyes as well. He had actually found a decent distraction in scotch and conversation with Alexandra; but when the quiet and darkness of his suite surrounded him, sleep had not come easily.


Clarisse cringed slightly, her head pounding slightly from the unpleasantness of last night. “Yes, Amelia?

“If I finish my studies early and take all the necessary exams, can I return to Genovia sooner?”

“Do my ears deceive me or are you actually volunteering to work hard and come back early for your lessons here?” Perhaps she had had too much to drink last night.

“Sure, Gramma, that’s what I’m doing.” Mia offered unconvincingly.

Clarisse shook her head softly. She knew exactly what…or more appropriately who…this was about. “That’s up to your mother. Of course, I would love to see you sooner and I’m sure Charlotte will be happy for Scott’s return.”

“Thank you!” Mia saw at least a glimmer of hope. She thought back to last night.

“Thank you so much for helping me with my Grandmother’s present. She loved it.” Mia offered as she walked André to his car.

He pulled her into an embrace. “I know this sounds crazy; but I’m going to really miss you.”

Mia pulled him closer. “I’m going to miss you too. You have my email address and you promised to write.”

He began kissing her, slowly…his words being spoken between each tender kiss. “Of course…every day…and…I…will…call. Just promise…you’ll return…as soon…as possible.”

“Don’t forget your promise to find a way for us to have some privacy when I return.”Mia reminded him before drawing his mouth to hers again.

His hand caressed her cheek. “It shall be all I think of until you return.”

They kissed one final time before she turned, tears filled her eyes…she missed him already.

Mia bid each one of her “family” good bye before she and Shades boarded Genovia One for the trip back to America. When they arrived back at the palace, Clarisse advised Charlotte that she would be remaining in her suite for the rest of the day and she didn’t want to be disturbed.

“Certainly, Your Majesty.” Charlotte offered. “I’ll cancel your lunch with the Prime Minister and all of the paperwork can wait until Monday. The rest of the weekend is yours to relax and enjoy.”

“Thank you, Charlotte.” Clarisse started to walk to her suite. Joseph fell into step behind her.

“Are we going to talk about this?” He asked quietly.

“I think you made your position fairly clear last night.”

“Do you think that this is easy for me?”

She opened the door to her suite and before she could shut it, he stepped inside. “I don’t recall inviting you inside.” She was starting to get angry again.

She removed the glasses and started to move towards her bedroom. He followed. “We need to talk about this.”

Clarisse whirled around, her anger clearly displayed on her face. “We certainly didn’t talk about anything last night. You made the decision and expected me to abide by it. You’re no different than HE was…you get to decide when or if we make love. My wants or needs apparently don’t factor in.”

Her words cut through him like a double edged sword. His actions, while honorable in their intent, had hurt her far worse than he could have ever imagined. Joseph saw that she was staring intently at him…more aptly at his reflection in the mirror. She could see that her words had wounded him…but she couldn’t find it in her to try to soothe the hurt. Even though it was wrong, she was hurting deeply and wanted him to do the same.

He took a few deep breaths and then came to stand behind her; his arms on her shoulders. “Do you know what I see when I look in your mirror?”

“My head hurts entirely too much to play guessing games, Joseph.”

“I see a man and a woman. If that were all I saw, this man would take this woman into the next room and make love to her until she forgot everything else but him and his touch. I also see Clarisse and Joseph – two friends who have shared heartache and pain and a bond that should not allow one night of misunderstandings to end such a special connection. Finally, I see a Queen and her Head of Security. Neither of them is free to do all that their hearts desire. The time is nearing when they will be able to share with the people of Genovia the fact that love transcends all boundaries when they come out of the shadows to love freely and fully. I hope that if you look long enough, you will see what I see, too, and that the Queen will forgive Joseph and that the woman in you understands that I was not willing to risk all that we have and could have for one night…as memorable as I’m sure that night would have been.”

She desperately wanted to be left alone and to end the pounding sensation in her head. Joseph’s nearness and his uncanny ability to always be completely rationale was unnerving. She needed some space. “Please, Joseph…I need some time to see what you see. Right now all I see is the man that I thought loved me, whose kisses awakened me and touches set a fire inside of me that desperately needs to be tended to. A best friend who would start down a path and then stop abruptly, leaving me feeling more alone and lonely than I remember being for a long time. And a head of security who, after leaving my arms, sought companionship with a young, beautiful woman until the wee hours of the morning.”

“Clarisse! Surely you don’t think…” He was at a loss.

“I don’t know what to think right now. Please, Joseph…” She turned away from their shared reflection and stepped towards the door of her bedroom. “…just leave things for now.”

Joseph exhaled slowly. “As you wish, Clarisse. Please think about what I said.”

The next two weeks were very unpleasant around the Palace. The Princess was gone and the Queen was withdrawn. The tension between her and Joseph was palpable. The rumor mill continued to speculate about the nature of the relationship between Alexandra and Joseph. Even Charlotte was less than her normal pleasant self as she counted the days until Shades would return with the Princess.

Reporting update…the plan continues to progress nicely. Relationship between the Eagle and Wolf deteriorating…may have to step up time table or take steps to repair relationship somewhat. Need to ready final agent for movement in the next two weeks.