Rating: NC-17: For violence and scenes depicting intimate relationships between adults.
Summary: A story from Clarisse’s POV that shares some defining moments in her life from the time right before her marriage to Rupert to a short time after Amelia is crowned Queen.
Do you believe that a person has defining moments in their lives? Moments that singularly shape who they are; what they do; how they are viewed; in effect…the person they become? I believe moments such as these have made me for better or worse who I am today.
My name is Clarisse Renaldi and I am the reigning Queen of Genovia. I am a royal by marriage not by birth. However, a set of circumstances and defining moments that were far outside my control have fated that I have spent the last several years as the sole ruler of this small but great country. It has been a burden which I have borne, not happily, but with a façade of strength that would not have been possible had it not been for those moments.
You may find it ironic that I choose to characterize my outward appearance as a ‘façade of strength’ as some have, not so lovingly, referred to me as the “Ice Queen” or other such derogatory terms. They don’t know, however, what I am about to share with you. No one has known - for a woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets that often times must be kept to protect those around her; or, perhaps, for her own sanity.
Why am I going to tell you this now…after so many years? Possibly because I am at a crossroads in my life and confession is good for the soul…or so I’ve been told. It is my hope that by removing this burden perhaps I can finally take steps to truly put my past behind me. Just a few days ago, I told the only man that I’ve ever…I’m not sure what the right word is. I want to say “loved”; but I’m not certain that I truly know what love is - as it has been painfully absent from my life. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve experienced the love of my children; the love a nation feels for a kind ruler; and, most recently, the love a grandmother could have for a grandchild. I am, however, grossly uneducated in what it feels like to experience the love of a man; that is until now…
But I digress…
This first moment that I want to share with you set in motion a course of events that framed several decisions and shaped my character; and, I’m afraid, my “Ice Queen” persona. It all started shortly after my eighteenth birthday…
“Good night, Rupert. I had a wonderful time.” I offered as he looked expectantly at me as we approached the door to my suite.
“As did I.” He responded as he leaned in to give me a kiss.
His lips were soft as they touched mine and I pled silently with my body to respond in an appropriate manner. Please know that I had no idea, really, what an ‘appropriate’ response would be…I just knew that up to this point, he had not been entirely pleased with my reactions. I allowed my body to relax as he deepened the kiss. It’s not that it was unpleasant; it’s just that it wasn’t…anything. I felt as though I were giving an uncle or other older relative a gentle kiss. Try as I might, I could not muster up any sparks.
I felt his hand slide from its position on my hip upwards until is tentatively cupped my breast. The feel of it stroking my nipple through my gown felt wrong. I knew, though, that soon, he would have every right to touch my body here and other places even far more intimate. Negative thoughts crept unbidden into my mind and I had to suppress a shudder. In a little over a week, I would have to find a way to work through this that was then, however, and this was now. I placed my hand over his and broke from the kiss. “Rupert, please.”
I watched him contain a sigh of frustration. “Please what, Clarisse?” He asked me as his hand slid away from my body.
I tried to interject some humor in an effort to lighten the tension. “I’m saving myself for my wedding night my husband-to-be would not be pleased that I was allowing you such liberties…no matter how handsome you are.”
I was rewarded with a grin and a chuckle. He then let his eyes sweep up and down my body as if surveying what would soon be rightfully his. His eyes darkened with desire as he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “Your husband-to-be is a very lucky man, indeed. See that he appreciates that body as I know I do.”
He leaned in to kiss me one more time before turning to walk away. I breathed a sigh of relief and sagged against the wall. I had no idea how I was going to convince my mind to allow my body to do this. I opened the door to my suite and quickly decided that a nice shower would clear out some of the cobwebs so I could think. I had only a short time left to get my heart to fall in love with a man that I had, up to this point, only considered a good friend.
I let the heavy gown fall to the floor and removed the remaining garments before slipping into the short satin robe that had been given to me as a bridal shower gift from a princess from a neighboring country.
I started to make my way into the bathroom when I felt someone behind me. Before I could react, I inhaled a sickly sweet smell and then there was darkness…
When I awoke sometime later, my muscles felt heavy no doubt from whatever my attacker had used to render me unconscious. I made an effort to clear my head and move my limbs. I realized with a start that my arms and legs could not cooperate as they were bound with what appeared to be silk scarves. Further surveying my surroundings, I noted a dark room lit only by a few oil lamps. There were no windows, no discernible door and the only piece of furniture was the bed to which I was now secured as an unwilling occupant.
I tested my restraints and found there was no give to them. Although they were tight on my wrists and ankles, they did not cut into my skin as another layer of silk had been wrapped around them before the restraints were applied. I supposed that I should be grateful for the hospitality; but, to be honest, the adrenalin from the fear at my circumstance made me more annoyed than frightened at the moment. I made a mental note to speak with Rupert about the lack of security at the palace that would permit me to be abducted from my own room!
It may seem odd that I was having an internal conversation at a time like this; I was, however, trying desperately not to think about the situation in which I now found myself. It was obvious that I was not going to just be left here and I didn’t want to think about the alternatives.
I have no idea how long I laid there; I must have dozed off a bit. I was slowly roused from my sleep by the feel of a hand moving up my leg. I tried to keep my eyes closed to feign sleep but lost that battle when I felt the knot of my robe being loosened and the material moved away from my body. My eyes flew open and I fought to keep the rising bile down in my throat as I saw the look in the man’s eyes as he allowed his gaze to sweep over my now fully exposed body.
The man was wearing a short robe and something that resembled a ski mask which prevented me from seeing any part of his face except those menacing eyes. “What do you want?” I asked, trying to sound brave.
He didn’t respond, but continued to run his hands over my body. I felt a slight tremor run through my body as my mind started to accept what my body had known all along. I made one more attempt at diplomacy. “Please…stop. If you’ll just tell me what you want…I may be able to secure it for you.”
He continued to hold his silence as his hands moved to untie my right ankle. For a fleeting moment, I thought he might be freeing me. I quickly realized, however, that he was simply planning on securing a way to allow himself more room to maneuver. I suppose he misjudged my temperament as he released his hold on me for a brief moment. Never one to miss an opportunity, I kicked as hard as I could; my foot connecting solidly with his groin area.
I’ve been accused, from time to time, of being a bit impulsive; and this time, while I cannot deny the momentary pleasure I felt as my assailant doubled over in pain, it was short lived as the fury in his eyes was magnified by at least a factor of ten as he moved towards me. I cringed as I saw his hand reared back preparing to strike me. I could do nothing to deflect any blow as his left hand was holding the only limb I owned that wasn’t currently tied to a corner of the bed.
I wanted to close my eyes as I waited for the impact; but found that they were fixed on the raised hand. Before it lowered to inflict pain, another hand appeared out of nowhere and grabbed it bringing the strike to a stop. I had not seen any other people in the room when I had done my earlier survey; but I felt a flood of relief that I was being rescued. They exchanged some muffled conversation before the person I thought to be my savior retreated back into the darkness. I believe I also saw a third person hiding in the shadows; but could not have sworn to that fact.
My ankle was secured once again and my fear rose to new heights as the masked man moved his face close to mine, his hand hovering over the juncture between my legs. His voice was like steel as he whispered, “You should feel very grateful, Princess, that I have strict instructions not to leave any outward marks of our time here together - very grateful.”
I had a fleeting thought that this man was a half-wit as he didn’t even realize that I would not be a princess for another two weeks. The thought never completed because I cried out in pain as his fingers invaded my center resulting in a blinding pain. I could not stop myself from pleading for him to stop or for the hidden individuals in the room to help me. Once satisfied that he had given me sufficient retribution for my earlier antics, he removed his hand and dropped his robe.
My last rational thought was that just a few hours ago, I was worried about losing my innocence to a man whom I didn’t love. As I now struggled against an unwelcome weight pressing against my body, a tear slipped down my cheek as I realized my innocence was going to be lost to a man whom I didn’t know, but instinctively knew I hated.
The horror of my experience finally seeped into the recesses of my mind causing it to shut down to provide a comforting blanket of numbness that blissfully surrounded me. It was not a moment too soon as I felt the unmistakable physical pain that signaled my humiliation and violation was at its heights. The tears fell unrestrained now as he moved over me again and again. His heavy breathing resounding in my ears…I prayed that it would end soon.
I opened my eyes as I felt the movement stop. I silently breathed a sigh of relief as he quickly withdrew from my body. I only caught a brief glimpse, but I could have sworn that he had not…shall we say…finished what he started as his member still seemed to be erect. I was no expert on the subject; but I was certain that something was not right about all of this. I had no further time to contemplate this, though; as he returned only a moment later with a handkerchief that he placed over my nose and mouth. Once again there was nothing but darkness…
I awoke with a start some undetermined time later. I quickly realized that I was back in my suite. The events of the past few hours rushed to the forefront of my mind and I bolted to the bathroom in an effort to purge the nausea and horror that consumed me. I had no idea what happened after I blacked out the second time. That uncertainty caused me even further distress. Fear of the unknown was always greater than fighting a recognizable opponent. I have no idea how long I sat on the floor of the shower trying to wash away the feel of his skin against mine. After a long shower, I finally cried myself into a restless sleep.
The next days passed by in a blur. I spent a great deal of time alone in the palace gardens seeking solace among the beautiful roses. Their scent and delicate beauty had a calming affect on me which helped to ease my troubled mind. I spent the days going through the motions of preparing for my impending wedding and my nights trying to process what had happened to me and why. I think I was trying to compartmentalize the pain so it could be tucked away far, far away in my mind never to surface again. Because of my fragile state, Rupert believed me to be ill or having a severe case of cold feet, so he gave me some much needed space in the final days before our vows were to be exchanged.
The wedding day bustled with activity and I had no time to think of anything. It wasn’t until that night when a quiet peace settled over the palace, that my nerves found time and space to reassert themselves. I stood in my dressing room trying to decide on the right piece of lingerie to wear for my new husband. I couldn’t wear white I just couldn’t. I settled for a deep purple gown that fell just above my knees. The embroidered bodice had a v-neck cut with spaghetti straps. I turned slowly in front of the mirror knowing Rupert would be pleased. He had been so kind to me the past few days; I could only hope that I would be able to love him and let him love me as he deserved. I took a deep cleansing breath and made one last mental shove of my nightmares to the back of my mind and walked out to meet my husband.
As I walked into the room, I felt his gaze on me; his eyes emanating a heat that made my body flush under the intense scrutiny.
“Beautiful” was the one word he spoke, almost in a reverent whisper. My body relaxed and I felt a rush of affection for the man who was now my husband. I did not love him…of that I was sure…I did hold out hope, though, that someday we would find that feeling that for now escaped us.
He rose to meet me in the middle of the room. His hands gently clasping my waist as his lips lightly touched mine. We began to move together slowly to an unheard melody. The scent and faint light given off by the candles situated around the room added to the ambience and to my willingness to try to please Rupert as he expected tonight. He turned me in his embrace so that my back was pressed up against his chest. One hand rested on my abdomen, the other moved upwards to graze the underside of my breast through the satin material. A quick flash of another man’s hands caressing me there flickered into my conscious mind. I blinked hard to push it to the back of my mind where it belonged.
I felt Rupert’s lips begin to work their way down my neck and to my shoulder, the thin strap of my gown being slowly lowered as his mouth continued to move. As his hands caressed, I sensed the memories starting to surface again. I needed to feel like an active participant. I needed to…have something to keep my mind occupied. I surprised Rupert by turning quickly in his embrace and pulling his mouth to mine for a passionate kiss. Again, my impulsiveness was not thought through as what had started as a slow, gentle session quickly turned heated with my advances.
I felt his hands everywhere, both over and under my gown as he deepened the kiss. I tried to keep up with him; but the emotions were becoming too much for me. I finally broke the kiss and in a breathless voice said, “Rupert, please we must slow down.”
Seeing the frustration tinge his features, I continued. “I know I heated things up a bit; but I just wanted to feel like I was a part of this too. I want this to be about both of us.” I have no idea where I came up with that…it was the first thing that came out of my mouth. Years later, the ability to find the right thing to say at just the right time would prove very useful in negotiations with foreign leaders. For the moment, however, it bought me some respite and Rupert slowed things down a bit.
“I’m sorry, Clarisse. You have no idea, really, what you do to me - do you?” He asked as he let the palm of his hand slide down my cheek and onto my now bare shoulder.
I had no answer for him. I wasn’t sure, outside of the obvious physical affect, what it was that I did ‘do’ to him. With no words to offer, I simply placed my hand over his and stepped back into his embrace. This time my kiss was gentler, less intense. He got the message and resumed the slow exploration he had started earlier.
Things progressed nicely over the next several minutes. The earlier frenzied activity had caused my heart to race…in a good way…and I was truly trying to make this a pleasant evening for both of us. We had slowly made our way over to the bed and were now sitting as we continued to slowly explore each other through taste and touch. I felt myself being lowered to the bed and his hand slip between my slightly parted thighs. I willed myself to relax, but the similarities between his actions and that of my attacker served as a catalyst to make the flashbacks start anew.
I wanted to sit up, but his upper body covering most of mine made it impossible to do so without risking the potential for his frustration to surface again. When his fingers brushed against my curls, I broke from the kiss with a gasp…which he mistook as a sign of pleasure. His hand moved forward to deepen his touch. The panic surged through my body as I imagined myself back in that room, tied to the bed, unable to stop the violation of my body. But I wasn’t tied this time and I placed my hands on his chest and pushed against him as a scream tore from my throat. I cried out, “Rupert! Stop!”
I suppose it was an instinctive reaction on his part when his hand moved quickly to cover my mouth to stop my yelling. My eyes registered fear and I struggled against his weight holding me down. He spoke in a harsh whisper, “Clarisse! Be quiet! Do you want the guards to hear? Do you want them to think I’m hurting you? What the hell is wrong with you?”
I pushed against him again, my eyes pleading with him to let me up. He complied and I sat up, my breath coming in gasps as I tried to calm my racing heart. He must have sensed my distress as being beyond that of a nervous bride as he asked, much gentler this time, “Clarisse, darling…please tell me what’s wrong?”
“I…I…” I exhaled slowly…I couldn’t tell him what had happened. What would he think of me? Would he even still want to be married to me, knowing that he was not my first…that I had been taken forcibly? “I’m just not ready, Rupert. I’m sorry.” My shame was evident on my face in my eyes. I couldn’t even look at him.
He placed a finger under my chin and brought my gaze up to meet his. “Clarisse, please tell me what’s wrong. Whatever it is…you must tell me.”
I wanted to tell him I did…but I just couldn’t. My frustration level was growing. I knew that he had every right to demand that I give myself to him tonight; but I also knew that I couldn’t tell him the truth. He certainly was not letting me off the hook with my lame excuse…but I didn’t know what else to do. The frustration led to a slight hint of anger, which was evidenced in my voice as I responded. “I don’t know what else to tell you. I just can’t do this tonight.”
He stood up abruptly, the anger flashing in his eyes. “Let’s get one thing straight, I am under no illusion that you love me. At the present moment, I don’t love you either. But do you find my physical appearance or my treatment of you so hideous that you can’t fathom sharing my bed?”
My temper flared in response. “And are you so driven to fulfill your needs that you can’t understand that sometimes a woman needs more time?”
“We do not HAVE time, Clarisse. Don’t you understand? You have a duty we have a duty…to our country.”
I scoffed at his statement. “My country expects me to have sex with you TONIGHT?”
He smiled a bit at my rebuttal and my tone, but then shook his head sadly. “Our country expects us to begin the duty of creating an heir to the throne of Genovia tonight. You’ve been told these things, Clarisse. It is your duty what your personal needs or wants are, unfortunately, fall second to those of your duty to your country.”
The tears were intermittently falling down my cheeks now. “What of your duty to me, Rupert? Have you no thought or obligation to me? I know you are not in love with me, but surely you hold some affection for me.”
His eyes held a resolve that was borne of years of service to a duty which had been drilled in him since birth. I did note, with some relief, that they were tinged with sadness. That sadness, however, did not stop him from what he said next. “Sadly, Clarisse, no matter how much fondness I feel for you…my duty to you…will always come second to the duty I have to my country. I’m sorry I thought you understood that.”
Our eyes met and spoke volumes. He was not going to back down and he was asking me to let him make this an enjoyable obligation that we had to fulfill. I sighed as I finally conceded, “I understand that you must do what you feel is your duty; but I cannot promise that I will go quietly into the dark night.” I offered, quoting a line from my favorite Robert Frost poem.
He nodded his understanding as he led me back to the bed. He tried once again to be gentle and to soften my apprehension a bit before he moved forward. I tried not to flinch at his touch and, to his credit; he was gentle but moved quickly. I sensed he wanted this night to end as much as I did…but perhaps for different reasons. When I once again felt myself pressed into the mattress, my body involuntarily struggled. He was ready this time, though, and held my hands over my head as his mouth covered mine…effectively quieting any voice of protest that I might emit.
Moments later…for the second time in my brief experience, my body was taken against my will. I made no effort to stop the tears this time as I relived my nightmare in excruciating detail the only difference I could see this time was that I knew who was doing this to me and it was flesh and duty that held me captive rather than silk restraints.
When he had finished and rolled away from my now still form, I immediately made my way to the bathroom where any remnants of my dinner were purged from my system. I repeated my actions from a few weeks ago when I showered for an undetermined amount of time. I resurfaced to find Rupert lying quietly in the bed. He was not asleep and moved the covers back to ease my entrance. The lights were dimmed and he reached over and took my hand. He spoke quietly as he offered, “I am sorry, Clarisse.”
A tear fell down my cheek again as I countered just as quietly, “As am I, Rupert. As am I.”
As I lay there in the still of the night waiting patiently for sleep to overtake me, I made a decision. A decision that became a defining moment in my life: I decided that while some man may possess my body, no longer would he claim my soul. That was the night the so-called “Ice Queen” was born. I worked diligently from that moment on to consistently suppress my emotions and distance myself from them so I could endure the demands that duty had placed upon me. When one does not feel…one does not hurt.
As the next few months transpired, I retreated further and further from my emotions. I continued to carry on a “normal” life during the day; and at night, I became accomplished at shutting down in order to do my duty. Rupert seemed to accept my behavior as that of a woman who believed that she could not enjoy sex with a man she didn’t love. I think he was just grateful that I no longer seemed to be in emotional distress or physical pain during our time together.
At the end of our third month as a married couple, the entire country was delighted to learn that I was expecting. I, too, was excited as it meant that my “duty” was done for awhile as an heir was, indeed, being produced. The next several months passed by quickly and I felt somewhat at peace as I realized that sometimes good did come from bad things that happened to us. I couldn’t help but have a small sense of joy as I felt the baby’s first kick…knowing that meant there was a thriving, growing life inside of me.
It wasn’t until close to the end of my eighth month that I woke one night in a panic. The sheets were damp from my sweat and my heart was racing. Fortunately, Rupert was away on business for the night. My sweet dreams had been invaded by those dark, menacing eyes the ones I had thought sufficiently buried in my memory. Why was I seeing them again? Why now? A wave of nausea overtook me as the realization dawned on me that this baby might not be Rupert’s. Oh God…no…please…it has to be Rupert’s…it just has to be…
“Push, Clarisse!” was the mantra that kept being repeated over and over to me. I was tired every muscle in my body ached in a way that they never had before and, frankly, I didn’t need them to tell me to push. I wanted nothing more than to expel the sole source of my discomfort from my body. Their noisy interruptions were serving no purpose but to break my focus and concentration. I think people feel compelled to say something during this time as they have neither control over nor really any part of what is happening. Of course, neither did I really at this point. Nature was taking its course and this baby would be born…regardless of the amount of “cheering” going on around me. I closed my eyes and with one last forceful push, the next heir to the throne of Genovia emerged into the world.
I fell back against the pillows to rest for a few moments before I felt him being placed in my arms. I did a quick survey and noted with relief that he at least looked like Rupert. The hair color, the eyes they matched that of Rupert’s. DNA tests were unheard of in this day and time so I would have to rely on physical attributes to assure myself of my son’s parentage. Besides, even if there had been such tests, how would I explain the need for it? No, as long as no one questioned…and why would they…my word and belief would have to be good enough. Of course, my conscious nagged at me: other than the eyes and body type of my attacker; I had no idea really what he looked like. I quietly told my conscious to shut up and marveled at the new life resting quietly against my chest.
The next several years passed in a blur as my responsibilities within the workings of the monarchy and as a parent continued to increase. Two years after Pierre was born, I gave birth to my second and final child, Philippe. I adored both of my sons; their births had been shining moments in my life. They were the only ones that I would let through my emotional walls. I experienced such joy being their mother. As with any heartfelt relationship, there is both joy and pain. As the boys grew into young men, I must admit that my joy was mired with disappointment. I still loved them, of course, but decisions they made as they grew older demonstrated a blatant disrespect for the duty for which their father and I had sacrificed everything.
Our displeasure with our eldest son grew exponentially when Pierre decided to neglect his duty and join the church. When he announced this decision to his father and me, I had to question whether my conscious might have been right when it whispered to me on the day of his birth that perhaps Renaldi blood didn’t flow through him as I had originally believed.
Shortly after Pierre made his announcement, Rupert passed away unexpectedly. Personally, I think he died of a broken heart; he had invested so much into his country and to his duty…to have his son walk away from all of that…I’m just not sure he ever fully recovered.
I was completely numb by the time I learned of Philippe’s untimely death. We had not been close in the years prior to his death due to our disagreements regarding his American wife and the child he had fathered. He ultimately had chosen to let his love for his country overshadow his love for the small family he had created and returned to Genovia to assume his responsibility and, eventually, the throne. I often wonder, though, if his father had not passed away - would he have chosen duty over love.
With that much loss in such a short time, I should have felt something; but the walls around my heart were strong. Either that or…I had nothing left to give…
Death has a way of providing us with perspective. Before his death, I had seen an unsupportive husband who had systematically forced himself upon me over the years. Now I realize that he had never asked anything of me that a husband would not normally expect from his wife. He believed fully in his duty to his country and never wavered from that responsibility. And despite the fact that he didn’t love me and knew that I didn’t love him; he never sought companionship outside the bounds of our marriage.
We did make a great team outside of the bedroom and that had been enough for the country. Well…that and the fact that we had produced two male heirs. Fortunately for the country, they had no idea that their Princes were conceived under less than ideal circumstances.
Ironically, in retrospect, I realized that the despite our sacrifice and the pain endured, Rupert and I had really not produced any male heirs to assume the throne of Genovia. Of course, I had no idea at the time what significance the young girl who would be my only grandchild would play in not only the future of Genovia but my future as well.
Now lest you think that my life has been all dark an unhappy, let me correct that notion right away. To many, I’ve lived a fairy tale life: living in a palace; all of the clothes, jewels and balls, the privilege that goes with being a royal. Admittedly, there were a few bright spots in my life; however, the quality of my personal life improved immensely several years ago. It improved one warm, sunny day the day that Joseph Romerro walked into my life…
I heard them approach and tried to pretend that I wasn’t the least bit curious or nervous. Rupert had insisted that I have a new bodyguard as my involvement in the monarchy had increased. I was traveling a great deal more and interacting with high level political figures. As such, he insisted that he provide the best possible security protecting me. That protection came in the form of Joseph Romerro.
“Clarisse?” Rupert interrupted my thoughts.
I turned away from my roses, planting a smile on my face. “Yes, Rupert?”
“May I introduce Joseph Romerro, your new personal security.”
I watched as the man in the dark suit took my hand and kissed it as he bowed and offered, “It is an honor both to meet and be of service to you, your Majesty.”
I realized, almost instantly, that this man was different, or more accurately, my reaction to him. It was the first time I could remember that a man’s touch did not require me to stifle a feeling of distaste. I must admit this caught me by surprise and I felt flustered in his presence. If he noticed, he was too much of a gentleman to give any indication. His sapphire eyes locked with mine as I replied, “It is a pleasure to meet you as well.”
As the days grew into weeks, months and years, I found myself trying to find reasons to spend time alone with Joseph. It wasn’t a sexual interest, rather it was a curiosity. Why was he different? Why did I feel as though I could let my guard down with him? He was unlike any man I had ever known…
Joseph became my rock that someone that I knew was there to protect me and support me and he seemed to expect nothing in return which was a totally foreign concept to me. In the world of politics in which I was quickly becoming more and more immersed, I learned that no one ever does anything from the kindness of their heart or simply because it is the right thing to do. No there was always an expectation attached. I found it refreshing that other than his continued employment, Joseph had no expectations of me.
I realized exactly how close Joseph and I had become the night Rupert died…
“I’m so sorry, your Majesty.” Joseph offered when he found me in the rose garden after being informed that the King had passed away.
My eyes found his and held his gaze for several long minutes. I finally broke the silence and offered, “Yes, the country has lost a great King.”
“And you a friend.” He softly countered.
I was intrigued by his choice of friend over husband. “Do you find it strange that I haven’t cried?” I asked wanting to hear his thoughts.
“We all grieve in different ways, your Majesty.”
“Indeed we do and for different reasons.”
“Yes, your Majesty?”
“Might I ask you to do something for me?”
“When we’re alone would you please call me Clarisse?” I had just crossed the professional line and we both knew it but I couldn’t find it in myself to care.
I will never forget what he said and did next. He reached up and cupped my cheek with his hand and stroked it gently with his thumb as he said, “It would be my honor, Clarisse.”
At his tenderness, all of my grief came to the surface and I fell into his warm embrace, drawing from the strength I found there, I mourned the loss of my husband, friend and King.
Our friendship continued to grow, but there were lines that were not crossed. I was elated to have a true friend that I felt comfortable around. I must be honest and admit that I never gave much thought to a more intimate relationship as that had never really worked out for me in the past.
I found his advice and support of the utmost importance to me as I was thrown into the sole leadership position of running the country until Phillipe was ready to assume the throne. Because I had been heavily involved in matters pertaining to the crown, the country seemed willing to accept me as their Queen until the day Phillipe was crowned King.
Unfortunately…that day never came…
I had been ruling for close to a year and had successfully guided the country through the loss of two members of the royal family. I was grateful that I had acquired the ability to compartmentalize and suppress my emotions as my people needed their monarch to hold the pieces together for them through such a difficult time.
I was under no illusion, however, that everyone in the country was satisfied with my leadership. Not because I wasn’t doing a good job; but rather because they saw this as their opportunity to usurp the throne.
The Von Trokens had been quietly sowing seeds of unrest and discontent among members of Parliament. Their quiet attack on the throne was gaining momentum and I knew it was just a matter of time before they staged a proverbial palace coup in an effort to wrestle the throne from the Renaldi line. I determined that I was going to do anything in my power, perceived or otherwise, to make damned sure that didn’t happen. I just wasn’t exactly sure what that “anything” was…
A few nights later, I sat up in my bed I knew what had to be done! I was so excited; the adrenalin was pumping through my veins at an alarming rate. I needed to share this with someone the thought that it was sometime in the wee hours of the morning did nothing to dissuade me.
I threw back my covers and ran to the special panel he had shown me a few months ago. He had told me about this hidden passageway to assure me that he was always close by. At first I had been troubled by the knowledge of a secret corridor not because of Joseph; but because I realized that that must have been how my attacker had gained access to my room all those years ago. I was comforted by the fact that Joseph was keeping watch on the other end now. I had no reason to fear as I knew he would protect me from harm at all cost.
I quietly opened the panel and hastened through the small walkway that would take me to my bodyguard and best friend’s room. I burst into his room calling his name. “Joseph! Joseph!”
As I had toured his quarters to approve the finishing touches before he moved in, I knew the precise location of his bedroom. I had barely opened the door when I collided with his solid mass.
“Clarisse, what’s wrong? Are you alright?” The fear was evident in his voice and his arms were circling me in a protective embrace.
“I know what we have to do!” I offered excitedly. “We have to find her!”
“Her?” He asked as he separated us slightly to look at me. I think he may have thought that I had finally cracked under the pressure.
“Amelia Philippe’s daughter; she is the Princess of Genovia a royal by blood. She can assume the throne and carry on the line of Renaldi rulers!” I was so excited to have vocalized my idea aloud that I threw my arms around Joseph and pulled him close. I whispered in his ear. “I just know that this is the answer, Joseph. Are you with me on this? Will you help me find her?”
His warm breath in my ear sent a pleasant shiver down my spine. “I’m always with you, Clarisse; and, of course I’ll help you. I will call my American contacts first thing in the morning to start the search.”
My spirits were high and I felt happier at that moment in time than I had been for a very long time. I became acutely aware of Joseph’s body pressed against mine. He obviously slept without a shirt as I could feel his light sprinkling of chest hair tickling the exposed skin of my chest. His strong arms enveloped me and his soft hands were warm against my back.
The air around us seemed to be charged with electricity and I knew that this was a defining moment in my life. I could release him apologize for the late night interruption and thank him for the promise of his help. Or…I could act on my feelings and cross over another boundary for which I knew there would be little hope of return.
With less than a heartbeat of consideration, I made my choice. I whispered in his ear, “Thank you, Joseph. I am sorry that I barged into your room, half-dressed, in the middle of the night.”
Joseph always had a way of intuitively knowing where I was and what I was thinking it’s what made him so good at his job. So he knew that I was preparing to cross a line. I had just offered my version of “bait” and now the choice was his whether to “bite” or not.
I felt a thrill run through my body as he slightly tightened our embrace and whispered his reply. “You don’t hear me complaining, do you?”
I could feel his smile against my neck and I experienced a rush of affection for the man who had been the guardian and protector of both my body and my soul. I pulled back slightly and then leaned in to kiss him.
His lips felt soft against mine and had a silky texture to them. He slanted his mouth over mine and took control of the kiss as his hands moved in slow circles over my bare back. Even though, comparatively, it was a very gentle kiss, it created a connection between us that I could feel to the very depths of my soul. As my hands tightened slightly on his upper arms in response, I experienced that spark that had been painfully absent in my relationship with Rupert.
We mutually broke the kiss and I looked up to meet his smiling face. “Thank you…that was…” I couldn’t find the words to adequately express the gift he had just given me.
He saved me from having to try to explain as he replied, “For me too.”
I then had to utter the words that I knew could potentially ruin the moment; but nonetheless had to be said. “Unfortunately, we can’t act any further on this until the succession of the Renaldi rule has been preserved. I’m sorry…”
His face was softly illuminated from the rays of the now rising sun streaming through the window of his room. I could see many emotions crossing his face; but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next:
His hands moved away from my back and he brought one hand up to cup my cheek as he had done on the night Rupert died. He then whispered, “Then perhaps I should do something to ensure that Princess Amelia’s ascension to the throne is as expeditious as possible.”
He used the hand holding my cheek to angle my head so the line of my neck was extended and available to his touch. He lowered his head and I inhaled sharply as his tongue flicked across a pulse point in my neck before he placed an open mouthed kiss on the same spot. My heart rate increased and the blood thrummed through my veins at this intimate touch. All of the electricity in the air seemed to localize and center at the point where his mouth touched my neck. My entire body responded to his touch as it never had done so for anyone before. As he gently adjusted the angle of my head to lavish the same attention to the other side, I expelled the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, freeing the electric currents to course through my body causing my nipples to harden. An unfamiliar but not unpleasant feeling, similar to the fluttering of butterflies, emerged in the pit of my stomach. With the last bit of my exhaled breath I muttered, “Oh Joseph…”
When his lips moved away, he pulled me back into his warm embrace. I could feel his heart beating solidly against the wall of his chest, matching the rhythm of my own. I was relieved and pleased that he had been as affected by this encounter as I had. I allowed myself a few more minutes in his arms before I pulled back and teased, “So what are we standing around here for? Let’s get started!”
His laughter was music to my ears. He released me and held out his arm to escort me back to my suite. “May I suggest that Her Majesty clothe herself a little more appropriately and allow me to do the same before we frighten the night watch as we make our way to my office to begin the search for Genovia’s missing Princess?”
“Your suggestion is noted and accepted.” I returned his laughter. “I’ll meet you in an hour in the security office and I will bring Amelia’s last known address.”
We walked the short distance to my suite in companionable silence. I turned to him before stepping inside and returned his earlier gesture by cupping his cheek with my hand. His eyes closed in response as though he were memorizing the feel of my hand against his flesh. “Joseph…I…”
Before I could say anything further, he brought his hand up to cover mine and softly responded. “I know…me too.”
As it turned out finding Amelia was the easy part; convincing her to embrace her destiny a little harder; and transforming her into the princess that I knew deep in my heart that she was…almost impossible!
After Paulo worked his magic, my heart softened considerably towards the young woman who was my granddaughter not because her outer beauty was more clearly displayed; but because of the inner beauty that emerged as she handled the reactions to her transformation from those closest to her. The “princess lessons” as she called them were progressing nicely. She had even managed to spin without hurting anyone at the end of her dance lesson. My heart swelled a bit as she informed me of just that fact with such pride in her voice. What happened next, though, almost made my heart stop beating.
Mia ran out of the room after I excused her and I was just thanking Joseph for his help when he crossed into my personal space.
“You’ve been wearing black too long.” He huskily proclaimed as his arm crossed in front of me to restart the music. We had both been so busy in our activities with Amelia that we had had precious little time to be alone. Because quality time together had been such an important part of our routine, we were both feeling the void. Fortunately for me, Joseph was never one to miss an opportunity.
I felt intense affection for him as he took my hand and led me out to the dance floor. I had danced this dance a thousand times; but this time, with him, it was different. Every movement every touch seemed magnified and filled with meaning. My eyes locked with his and the intensity and passion I saw there caused the sleeping butterflies in my stomach to awaken with renewed energy.
As the music stopped, we found ourselves at the back of the ballroom. I couldn’t bring myself to let go of his hand or move away from his embrace. The only sound in the room was our slightly labored breathing. How long we stood there I do not know. I just know that there was no other place I’d rather be at that moment in time. I finally broke the silence. “So you don’t think I look good in black?” I teased.
He smiled. “I think you look incredible in black. I just think it’s time you sent a signal to the country that their Queen is moving on and is preparing for a new era and they should as well. Besides, as I recall, you look amazing in a plethora of other colors as well.”
I closed the small distance between us and gently kissed him. Again, nothing that would go down in any record books; we were both acutely aware that we still had a long time before anything significant could really happen between us. As a result, it was important that we pace ourselves.
As I moved back a bit, I said, “Well then, for the good of our country and for your personal viewing pleasure, I shall see if I can add some variety to my wardrobe.”
“You are most gracious, my Queen.” He replied with that twinkle in his eyes. He kissed my forehead with a tenderness that melted my heart before he slowly pulled away.
The very next day, I kept my promise and started wearing colors that would show the world that life did…indeed…go on.
Though no one could tell, my heart was racing as I tried to stall for time. Amelia had yet to make an appearance and now Joseph was gone and out of contact as well. This night was NOT going as I had intended. “If she’s not here in ten minutes, I’ll make the announcement.” I advised to a very nervous Prime Minister Motaz and my aide, Charlotte.
The press continued to hound my staff prompting them to ask me, yet again, for an interview. I had to fight to keep from losing my patience. I couldn’t believe that I, no we…Joseph and I…had gotten this far only to have it all fall apart at the last moment. It seemed that history would repeat itself and my life would once again be changed for the worse by circumstances that, apparently, were outside my control.
When it became evident that neither Joseph nor Amelia were going to return in time, I swallowed my fear, took a deep breath and placed a smile that I most definitely was not feeling on my face. I gave one final look to Charlotte and Sebastian and then advised, “Then it’s time.” With those words, I went to confront a room full of people. Some who wanted very much for this night to end with the Renaldi rule secured and some who did not. I had never backed down from anything in my life and tonight would be no exception.
Fortunately, rather than the night finishing poorly for the Renaldi family tree, my knight in shining armor arrived just in time with my granddaughter. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of euphoria that soared through my body as I heard those precious words spoken by my only grandchild:
“So this morning when I woke up, I was Mia Thermopolis; but now I choose to be, forevermore, Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi Princess of Genovia.”
The tears glistened in my eyes as I realized that I had just kept my promise: to my duty, to my husband’s family, to myself. I had done what was needed in order to secure the future of the Renaldi rule. It was a defining moment in my life as I placed the crown on Amelia’s rain soaked head. I felt the Ice Queen softening a bit as I answered her question. “Because I recognized the same spirit in you as someone else I know.”
“Who?” she asked.
“Me.” Our eyes briefly locked and I realized that I was peering into the eyes of my future…of my country’s future. I could not have been more proud as I watched Joseph place the royal cloak over her shoulders. I offered my hand and we moved in front of the podium as she was presented, for the first time, as her royal highness, Amelia, Princess of Genovia.
I watched with an air of satisfaction as the Von Trokens hastily made their retreat. Their attempt to wrestle the throne away from the Renaldis had been sufficiently stalled…for the moment anyway. I was under no illusion that they would not try again. I was not going to let anyone ruin my evening, though, so I took the Prime Minister’s hand as we began to dance. I silently hoped that Joseph would find his way to me so I could end this night perfectly…in his arms on the dance floor.
It only took a few minutes before I felt his warm hands guiding me in a dance. We watched as Amelia and her date, Michael, made their way out to the gardens. Joseph surprised me by saying, “He had the same idea I had; but now the garden is occupado!”
I smiled and blushed fiercely at the meaning behind his words. The room now seemed very crowded and I was mentally calculating how quickly we could tastefully exit the ball without drawing any unwanted attention. I wanted to celebrate our victory privately with the man who I could not imagine living my life without.
Fortunately, Mia and Michael returned shortly and the party began to sway towards the younger generation. I gracefully made my exit with Joseph at my side. I watched from the corner of my eye as he dismissed the other guards and felt my excitement rise as he lifted my gloved hand and gently kissed it. My feelings of euphoria were still present and I found that I didn’t want this night to end. As we rounded the corner to head towards my suite, I softly offered. “Would you have a night cap with me, Joseph? I feel the need to celebrate and I’d rather not do that alone.”
He squeezed my hand softly in reply; I took that as an affirmative response. We made the remainder of the trip in silence. The only exchange that occurred during the walk was his thumb making gentle circles on the back of my hand. I found it to be a highly comforting gesture.
Once inside my suite, my nerves reasserted themselves slightly. I tried not to notice his eyes on me as I slowly removed one of my gloves. He moved to stand in front of me and whispered, “Mind if I help you?” he asked.
I swallowed hard and found my voice had left me as his fingers gently touched my upper arm at the point where my glove started. His fingers left a trail of heat as they slowly removed the garment. Once my fingers were exposed, he kissed the tip of each one. My only response was to lick my now incredibly dry lips. Once he kissed the last one, he asked, “So do I still get that night cap?”
I found my voice…where at I’m not sure. “Certainly, scotch?”
My hands trembled slightly as I poured the drinks. I would be grateful once the warm liquid found its way inside to provide me with a little courage to follow through on my wish to spend some alone time with Joseph. I sat next to him on the couch and offered him a glass. He raised it and said, “To initial success and to the future of Genovia.”
I smiled and touched my glass to his. “Here, here!”
We both took a long sip of the amber liquid. I don’t normally drink scotch; but tonight it seemed the perfect choice to celebrate with as it was Joseph’s favorite; and, without him, this night would not have been possible.
“I want to say thank you, Joseph, for all of your help and support over the past several weeks and especially tonight. If you had not brought Mia in when you did, well…the night would have turned out much differently.”
I watched as he emptied the remnants from his glass; I was mesmerized by his lips and couldn’t help but remember how soft they had felt against my skin. The sound of his voice brought me from my reverie. “You did well tonight, too. You demonstrated extreme courage in the face of a pending disaster; and when I saw your eyes brim with unshed tears at Amelia’s words, I was extremely touched. I enjoy seeing that side of you.”
“I have many sides, Joseph.”
“And I look forward to getting to know each and every one of them.” He smiled as he moved a bit closer to me. “I like to think of you as a beautiful rose, made up of many different petals; each one, while beautiful by itself, is part of a much greater and magnificent whole.”
My smile was a bit sad as I replied, “Not to sound too cliché, but even roses have their thorns.”
His hand cupped my cheek as he leaned forward to whisper in my ear. “True. However, if a rose is not held too tightly or mishandled, the thorns do not present any threat. I am willing to risk a few scratches to experience your full beauty.” He inhaled softly, right behind my ear where my perfume had been applied earlier that evening. His voice was very deep as he made his next statement. “Mmm- smells wonderful so far. May I?”
I wasn’t certain what he was asking permission to do; but decided it didn’t matter as I could not have denied him anything at that moment. I nodded my head, almost imperceptibly, and closed my eyes as I felt his fingers trace along my jaw line, down my neck and around to just under my hairline. The rest of the world faded away; my senses were attuned to only him the clean, masculine smell of his cologne; the smooth feel of his cheek resting against mine; the sound of his breath in my ear.
I realized after a moment that he was not kissing me; rather, he was unhooking the clasp of my necklace. I felt him move back slightly and I forced my eyes open. This was not an easy task as they felt very heavy with desire and another emotion which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I whispered. “Joseph?”
“As beautiful as the necklace is…I find it covers my favorite spot on your neck. We can’t have that; now can we?” He asked as his mouth moved towards the delicate spot on my neck that he had kissed that night in his room.
I angled my head to allow him the access he desired and responded. “No. We certainly…” I couldn’t finish my sentence as my voice left me when his lips made contact with my skin. His lips were as soft as the rose petals he had mentioned only minutes earlier as they moved skillfully across my skin, eliciting small sounds of pleasure from my mouth. I could feel a pleasant warm flush beginning to surface all over my body.
I wanted very much to return the pleasant feelings he was bestowing upon me. I adjusted our position slightly so I could capture his face in my hands and guide his mouth to mine. Our lips met with intensity, focusing all of our shared sensations in a very physical way. Unlike our previous kisses that conveyed promise, admiration, and deep friendship, this one was filled with the baser primal instincts of longing, passion, and desire. I knew I should fight against these sensations as we were a long way from being able to make our relationship public; but there was a part of me that wanted…for just a few moments…to allow myself to do nothing but feel.
I deepened the kiss, probing gently with my tongue. I heard him moan as he opened his mouth to welcome me. Our tongues began a mating dance that our bodies wanted desperately to follow. My hands held the back of his head and shoulder as his held my waist. Our seated position on the couch did not allow for a great deal of movement; Joseph broke the kiss and grabbed a quick breath before moving lower to pay homage to his favorite spot along my neck. His hands guided me gently back against the cushions as he started to kiss his way down the exposed skin of my front.
As he leaned against me, I felt a twinge deep within my psyche; it wasn’t the level of fear and panic that usually occurred when my intimate activities reached a certain level, but it was enough to send warning bells to the forefront of my mind. I ceased my movement and whispered, “Joseph” just as his lips reached the swell of my breast. He looked up at me with questioning eyes. My hand caressed his face as I stated, “We should stop before things get out of control.”
He sat up, pulling me with him. His forehead was resting against mine as we both fought to gain control of our rapid breathing. “I’m sorry.” I offered. “It wasn’t my intention to lead you on and then stop so abruptly.”
I could hear the smile in his voice even though I couldn’t see it. “You didn’t take me anywhere I didn’t want to go. Perhaps I even went further down the road than you were prepared to. It is I who am sorry, Clarisse.” Even as he spoke his apology, his next action demonstrated that he was anything but sorry. He would later confess to having no idea where his boldness came from as he let his hand slide from my shoulder downward over the swell of my breast which was amply displayed thanks to the cut of my dress.
My sharp intake of breath at this intimate caress expressed exactly how aroused and far down that road I had journeyed with him. Somehow I found my voice and explained. “Make no mistake, just because I cannot go there with you tonight…doesn’t mean I don’t want to go there with you, and only you, someday.”
His kiss was gentle this time, conveying the promise of things to come. He stood and extended his hand to assist me. “I shall look forward then - to someday.”
I put my arms around his neck and pulled him close; the nearness almost undoing my resolve to wait. He stepped away with a groan. “Clarisse, if you keep doing that, I will have to spend the entire night under a cold shower.”
I smiled and cupped his cheek. “You won’t be the only one, darling.” Before I could say anything further, there was a knock on the door signaling the arrival of my ladies’ maids. He kissed my hand and said, “Until next time then…” and quietly slipped through the private corridor to his room.
I asked my maids to return in a few minutes. I needed time to compose myself. I caught sight of my appearance in the mirror. My skin was flushed; my lips swollen from our kisses; my hair mussed; and my nipples were still taut and proudly straining against the material of my bodice. I most certainly needed a few minutes to set myself back into sorts.
While I tried to focus on the pleasantness of the evening, in the back of my mind I remembered that old feelings had started to surface…feelings I thought long buried and gone. I really believed Joseph was different that he was the one that I could finally experience all the pleasure that an intimate relationship had to offer. I was afraid, though, that the demons of my past would never free me from the bonds that apparently still held me captive…
As strange as it sounds, the next five years passed by very quickly. Joseph was working hard to ensure both my and Amelia’s safety. This required him to be away for long periods of time. Each time he left, I found myself missing him more and more; he was such an integral part of my life. While he was keeping us safe, I worked hard to prepare Amelia and the country for each other. It had been a long time since the country had had such a young ruler and I wanted to be sure that it transpired with little to no hiccups along the way.
Before we knew it, the day had arrived; Amelia’s twenty-first birthday was upon us and a huge celebration ball was being thrown in her honor. I had selected my dress carefully as I knew I wanted to please Joseph. He had been away for weeks this time as it was the last time before Mia would come to stay in Genovia and shortly begin her reign as Queen. I was ready…ready to step down…ready to start my new life…ready to go down a long awaited road with Joseph.
I stepped from my suite, garnering an appreciate gaze from both the doorman and my ladies’ maids.
“You look stunning, your Majesty.” Felix offered before he pressed his earpiece and added, “The Eagle is flying.”
I smiled my thanks to him, nodded and then hastened down the hallway to where I knew Joseph would be waiting for me. As I rounded the corner, I saw him. He looked positively stunning in his tuxedo. I decided to be a bit flirtatious and spun around to offer him the full effect of the dress. My efforts paid off as he took my hand and simply stated, “Beautiful.”
Before I could say anything further than murmur my appreciation for his compliment, he continued. “But you’re late, your Majesty.”
I smiled grandly and explained. “A Queen is never late everyone else is…simply early.” I couldn’t help but reach out and touch his cheek, my affection for him clearly evident on my face. Charlotte was such a dear and quickly averted her gaze to provide me with at least the illusion of privacy.
I could feel the heat from both his stare and his hand as he guided me into the ballroom. I felt a small thrill run through me as I knew the end was in sight…Within a very short time, Mia would be crowned Queen and Joseph and I would be together. Less than twenty four hours later…I realized exactly how wrong that thought had been…
To say my situation went from bad to worse…would be a serious understatement. Starting with my trouble with Parliament…although I must admit that responding to Viscount Mabry’s assertions about his nephew with Mia’s trademark “Shut up!!” was fairly satisfying. My satisfaction was fleeting though as Mia’s trials and tribulations continued to add up to spell disaster for her future as our Queen.
Those worries, along with having Nicholas now living at the Palace and Mia’s seeming inability to stay away from the young man, weighed heavily on me and I asked Joseph to accompany me for a walk.
“I’m told this Lord Deveraux is a native born Genovian…recently graduated Cambridge, gourmet cook, plays polo and rugby, and is known as quite a ladies’ man.” Joseph explained.
“She was in a closet?” I couldn’t believe the rumors I had overheard.
“With him. Yes.”
I sighed. I had to know his thoughts. “Does she have the makings of a Queen?”
He didn’t hesitate before answering me. “Well, she’s young, but I’ve always believed in her!”
“The wedding invitations have been sent out. She and Andrew make a fine pair, I think. She’s very set on it, you know.”
We arrived at the gazebo and I noticed Joseph seemed a little distracted. “Clarisse, my dear, forget the wedding for a moment.” He cleared his throat. I could tell he seemed very anxious in my presence, which was very odd. “In less than a month, you will no longer be Queen, and I will no longer be your head of security.”
I nodded my head in agreement at his statements. I was totally taken aback by what he said next. “I think it’s time we bring our friendship out of the shadows.”
I wasn’t sure what to say…with all of the drama going on in the palace, my personal life had taken a back seat. Joseph and I had spent precious little private time together. I found it hard to speak. “Oh, Joseph, I…”
“Yes? Yes, my dear. I would kneel if it weren’t for my knee replacement.”
He was such a dear and always made me smile no matter the circumstances. I cared deeply for him; I just wasn’t sure that now was the best time. With the Viscount breathing down my neck, threatening to wrestle the throne away from my family…it just didn’t seem that the timing was right. I tried to explain my hesitance. “Joseph, there’s a wedding to be planned. Mia needs to win over the people of Genovia, all in less than thirty days.”
“Perhaps it’s time to consider the duty you have to yourself.”
I withdrew my hand from his. My face was a mixture of sadness and resignation…I had never been good at the duty I had to myself it rarely seemed to outweigh the duty I had to others. Also, I remembered with astounding clarity, how my body had responded the last time Joseph and I had allowed ourselves to “lose control” somewhat. While I believed in my heart of hearts that he was the man for me; I was afraid that history might repeat itself and then I might lose Joseph forever. I couldn’t think of one intelligent thing to say, so I simply replied, “Oh…”
“Clarisse…my darling, please think about it. Please?”
My heart saddened considerably as I cupped his cheek, his eyes closing in response, reminding me of happier times that we shared. I gave him a small promise it was the best I could offer. “I will.”
Things continued to worsen over the next week; the situation with Mia and Nicholas continued to escalate. This turn of events led me to do something I hadn’t done in years…I raised my voice; at my own granddaughter, no less. I didn’t want to do it; but my kind cajoling and guidance had not done the trick. I was upset with her lack of control; I was upset with Joseph and his security team for not doing a better job of keeping Mia out of trouble…although I had to admit they should not have to baby-sit a future Queen. Most of all, I was upset with myself. Everything was falling apart at the seams and I found myself, once again, pushing myself in an effort to hold it all together.
A few days later, I gave the ultimate sacrifice as I told the only man that I had ever really cared about that I couldn’t allow our relationship to go to the next level. I saw the hurt in his eyes and it broke my heart. I watched him walk out of the room. I knew at that defining moment that unless something drastically changed, he would be walking out of my life forever.
I didn’t want that to happen God knows I didn’t; but I also didn’t know what else I could do. My past still haunted me and I feared that I would never escape it. Then there was my duty that horrible word that had plagued me my entire life and forced me to endure things that no one should have to experience. My duty dictated that I push my personal feelings aside and move on.
I promised myself I would make every effort to do that…but I would do that tomorrow. Tonight, I would grieve for the loss of the other half of my soul.
Mia’s wedding started out in what I had come to accept as true “Mia style”. From her staying out all night with Nicholas only a couple of days before her wedding, to her hasty retreat out of the church. I followed her, asking Charlotte to handle the crowd. My heart broke as I found her, crying, obviously torn between the duty she had to her country and the duty she had to herself. I could relate well to that dilemma…
I knew I had to let her know that the choice was hers…this was a defining moment in HER life and she needed to choose carefully. “I made my choices duty to my country over love…and now I’ve lost the only man I ever really loved.” I turned to follow Mia’s gaze and found Joseph standing nearby, ready to protect us from the crowds or provide whatever assistance was needed. My dear Joseph…even though he would be leaving soon and his heart was broken, he still upheld his duty.
I refocused on my granddaughter. “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.” I smiled at her. Perhaps I couldn’t repair all the damage I had done to my own personal life; but I could certainly do everything in my power to ensure Mia had a better chance at happiness.
“Now you can go back into that church and get married or you can walk away. Whatever choice you make, let it come from your heart.”
Less than thirty minutes later, my granddaughter my future Queen had successfully won her first vote in Parliament; overturning a law that had been in existence for hundreds of years. I was impressed to say the least.
I watched as Mia summoned Lionel; a moment later Charlotte handed me her earpiece. I heard her voice confidently proclaim. “Grandma? Just because I didn’t get my fairytale ending…doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!”
What was Amelia thinking? I just couldn’t ask Joseph to marry me…right here right now! Could I? I had spent my entire life trying to ensure that everyone else got what they needed. Should I, for once, go after what I wanted? What I needed? I decided I would see if Charlotte had any thoughts on this. She was, after all, my best friend next to Joseph, of course. “Did you hear that?”
Charlotte beamed at me; but was of little help. So this was it…a defining moment…possibly my last chance at happiness. I threw caution and my fears regarding my past to the wind and walked over to the center aisle. “Joseph.”
I watched him come to stand before me. He bowed slightly as he knew all eyes in the church were now upon us. “Your Majesty.”
I wanted him to know that I was not addressing him as his Queen; but rather as his friend the “someone he had wanted to spend the rest of his life with…” as he had informed me only a few days ago. I softened my features and smiled. “Dear Joseph.”
His eyebrow cocked slightly to indicate his confusion. “Am I too late to ask you to accept my hand in marriage?” My voice was soft; but confident. If I was going to do this…I was going to do it right. Well, at least as right as it could be under these circumstances.
I held my breath and waited for what seemed an eternity. I couldn’t blame him if he rejected me. I was hoping, though, that he would not respond with the same sentiment I had expressed previously to him. He cleared his throat and said, “Well, I thought you’d never ask!”
My smile reached new heights as he took off his top hat and earpiece and turned to his second in command. “Shades, you’re in charge now. Good luck with Lionel. I’m going to a wedding.” He took his place beside me and extended his arm to escort us down the aisle.
I felt the stares of what seemed to be a thousand eyes watching us. I felt compelled to say something…anything to lighten the mood. “I know it was short notice; but you were all dressed.” In retrospect, it was rather lame; but what’s done is done. Even a Queen is allowed a less than shining moment now and again.
Mia was waiting for us at the front of the church. She smiled at me as she took the bouquet Charlotte had given me at the beginning of our walk. I knew it was up to me to keep the ceremony moving. “My Lord Arch Bishop, I would like to take this man as my husband…if you please.”
Laughter resounded from the audience and Joseph and I were somewhat shocked as the Archbishop responded by lifting his eyes to the heavens and simply replying, “Finally!”
Our vows were exchanged and my breath caught in my throat as Joseph took my hand, slipped the ring on my finger, and said, “With this ring…I thee, finally, wed.”
The rest of the world faded away as I heard the Archbishop instruct, “I pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
I stood surveying my reflection in the full length mirror. Joseph would be returning any moment and I wanted to be ready. I felt as nervous as a schoolgirl on her first date; my expectations were high. I really believed that tonight would be the night I would finally put the pain and ugliness of my private past behind me and move forward to a wonderful new life with Joseph.
My champagne colored negligee had a v-cut front with tiny jewels sewn into the bodice; the criss-cross pattern lifted and accented everywhere my body needed that extra little help. The skirt portion fell to just above my knees and wrapped around leaving a nice slit up the side of my leg. I nervously tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and made my way back to the sitting room. I was slightly startled as I heard a husky voice state, “Oh Clarisse…you look amazing; far better than my dreams.”
I turned in the direction of his voice and found my breath caught in my throat as I took in his masculine form. His short black robe was tied loosely at the waist allowing me a magnificent view of his well defined chest. Years of security work had ensured that he had kept his body in top form; I was thrilled that soon I would feel the hard planes of his body against the soft curves of mine. The black silk boxers gave way to muscular, tanned legs. I let my eyes drink in his form from top to bottom. “You look pretty good yourself, sir.”
He closed the distance between us and gently kissed me; his hands caressing my back. I broke the kiss and looked up at him. “Dance with me?”
“Here? Now?” He asked.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled his body flush with mine. My voice was low and seductive as I swayed against him. “Yes…here…now.”
His arms encircled my waist and held me close as he moved with me. “Yes, ma’am.”
As we moved in time to the music, hands and mouths lightly explored any available areas slowly building the fires of passion. I felt something else building in me that I had not experienced before: Need. I needed Joseph unlike I had needed anything else before in my life. I felt a slight sense of desperation…if I could not find happiness and peace with Joseph; I knew I would never experience it in my lifetime…
Our touches became more urgent as the fire burned brighter deep within our souls; his advances bolder as his lips sought the familiar territory of my neck. My fingertips explored the broad expanse of his chest; enjoying the feel of his muscles rippling under my touch. My mouth sought out his “sweet spot” and the butterflies in my stomach began to beat their wings in time to the beat of Joseph’s heart against my tongue.
I gasped as his strong arms scooped me up and carried me into the bedroom. The adrenalin rushed through my veins as he carefully laid me on the bed. He sat beside my prone from and began to gently caress my body. My eyes closed to focus on his warm hand slowly making its way over my body. Small whimpers and breaths escaped my lips as my pleasure mounted.
Suddenly and without warning, an image from long ago flashed unbidden in my mind. Sinister brown eyes drinking in the sight of my exposed body while foreign hands touched my virgin flesh. My eyes shot open and I was relieved to find soft blue eyes watching the contrast of his darker, tanned skin against the pale white of mine. His eyes found mine and he simply whispered, “My beautiful rose.”
I reached up to cup his cheek and smile softly at him. He leaned down to kiss me while his hand resumed its exploration. My hands fell to my sides as he deepened the kiss and moved his body further onto mine. The images flashed again and I vividly recalled my attacker’s body pressed up against mine. I had no idea why, after all these years, the memories would surface again with such intensity this was over forty years later.
I silently cursed my mind and body for betraying my heart while pleading with myself to fight the panic that was slowly rising, threatening to ruin what was supposed to be the start of a new chapter in my life. My hands clenched the comforter as my efforts were diverted from pleasure to prevention…I did not want a repeat of my wedding night with Rupert. As Joseph broke the kiss, his lips sought access to my throat, alternating from kissing to whispering terms of endearments into my ear. I could no longer hear his voice; only the heavy breathing of my attacker as I relived my night of terror.
Such was my desire to hang on and get through this that I hadn’t noticed that Joseph had stopped his activities. Through the fog in my mind, I heard the sound of my name being repeated, like a mantra. It took a moment for me to register that it was Joseph. “Clarisse? Clarisse!”
I forced my eyes open as the nightmare faded to black. I rolled onto my side away from Joseph’s gaze; tears forming in my eyes as I realized that my one hope had just washed away like a wave washes into shore. His hand went to my shoulder. “Clarisse, what’s wrong?”
I tried to compose myself. I laughed bitterly. “I told you, Joseph, every rose has its thorns.”
I sighed. “No. It is I who am sorry. I’m afraid I always have this reaction. I had hoped it would be different this time; but, alas, it was not meant to be.” I sat up, took a deep breath, and faced him. “If you just give me a minute, we can try again. You’ll find it easiest if you just ignore me and, as they say, forge ahead.” I attempted a smile, but he did not seem amused.
“Are you suggesting that I take you against your will?” he asked; the disbelief very evident in his voice.
I took another breath and tried to explain. “It’s not against my will, Joseph. Please understand I want to be with you; my body just won’t cooperate…it never has.”
“I prefer that all of you be willing, Clarisse. And for you to think I would…”
It wasn’t anger that I saw reflected in his eyes; but rather an intense hurt that I would even think he was capable of such atrocities. How could I explain to him that it was all I had ever known?
“I’m sorry.” I offered.
“I don’t want your pity, Clarisse. I want to know what happened to make you so afraid of me.”
“It’s not you…it’s me.”
“I won’t do it, Clarisse.” He stated with firm determination.
I stood and walked towards the bathroom. I turned and faced him, the sadness set deep within my features. “Then perhaps it would have been best if you had turned me down today; I won’t be able to make you happy or be the wife you need.”
I didn’t hear his soft reply and, to be honest, was surprised to find him waiting for me in my bed. He lifted the blankets to provide me with easy access to my side of the bed. We laid there, in silence, for several long minutes. I feared that despair would grip my heart and never release me. Total despair was denied, though, as I felt Joseph’s arm slip under me and pull me over to snuggle against his chest. I couldn’t think of anything further to say that wouldn’t make the situation worse; so I simply let my tears fall slowly onto his chest as his hand provided a comforting caress on my arm.
After several long minutes, he spoke. “I may not know many things, Clarisse; but I do know you. And I know that up until the very end, you were responding passionately to everything that was happening. I don’t know what caused the sudden change; but I will be by your side and we will figure this out. I have spent the greater part of my life protecting you from harm and I have no intention of stopping now.”
I must have fallen asleep at some point during the early hours of the morning as I awoke to the pleasant sensation of Joseph’s heart beating steadily under my cheek. His arm was curled protectively over my back and I had to fight the urge to wake him with kisses. Every fiber in my being begged me to follow my instincts and try intimacy again with the man who had been the only one able to bring me any level of physical pleasure. My mind, however, reminded me of the disaster of the previous night and I knew it would not be fair on my part to lead him down a path that had no destination other than pain and hurt.
With that unpleasant thought, I carefully disengaged my body from his, ordered some tea and made my way to the shower. Wanting to distract myself from any further thoughts on the current sad state of my life, I flipped on the television and began to absently watch my least favorite media person, Elsie Kentworthy. As she started her next segment, my hand began to tremble as I recognized with alarming clarity the eyes of the man who was the focus of her story.
My heart dropped into my stomach as I knew, without a doubt, that those eyes belonged to the man who had been my attacker. A sickening feeling began to rise in my body as I thought about the number of times that this man had touched me and even kissed my hand over the past twenty years. The teacup fell from my trembling hands and shattered on the floor. I vaguely remember Joseph running in from the bedroom calling my name. I couldn’t answer though as I was in a complete state of shock. Part of me was relieved that I finally knew who had violated me; the other part was sickened by who it was. I quickly made my way to the bathroom as I felt sick…very sick.
Joseph was right behind me; holding me as I waited to see if the nausea would pass. “Clarisse, what’s wrong? Are you alright?” The concern was evident in his voice.
I took a few deep breaths. “Yes. I’m feeling better now. Thank you.” I said as I rinsed my face off with some cold water.
“You look like you saw a ghost. You want to talk about it?”
“Not really.” I stopped any further questions from him by putting my hand on his cheek, my eyes pleading with him for patience. “Perhaps later? I’m very tired right now.” I made my excuse.
He kissed my forehead. “Alright, as long as you promise to rest while I check on the security plans for the coronation.”
He followed me back to the bedroom and tucked me in as you would a small child. I would have been upset at being treated that way if he had not done so with such tenderness and love that I couldn’t find it in myself to muster a protest. Also, I was very tired; the emotions of the past twenty-four hours had taken their toll on me. He sat next to me on the bed, gently caressing my face. My eyes closed at the soft touch and I was lulled to sleep after several minutes.
My sleep was fitful as menacing eyes, now associated with a familiar face, were prevalently displayed in my mind. Flashes of my encounters with this vile man from the past decades were running like a bad movie stuck on repeat. I felt pressure on my upper body and shoulders and I fought against it I would not let this happen again…”No!” I shouted as my eyes flew open. Instead of dark brown eyes, I saw Joseph’s blue orbs peering cautiously down at me.
“You were having a nightmare.” He stated with concern. His face showed that he wanted to probe further; but already knew that I didn’t want to talk about it. I’m not sure how long we sat there; but finally my heart calmed down. “Thank you.” I offered.
He kissed me tenderly on the forehead. “Would you like some tea?”
I gave him a slight smile. “That would be wonderful.” We enjoyed a cup of tea together, avoiding the aforementioned events as a topic of conversation. He brought me up to date on the coronation plans and a few other matters of government that Charlotte had handled while I was resting.
The mood was a bit lighter in the room when he suggested, “Why don’t you go change into something comfortable? I’ve been giving some thought to last night and I’d like to try something…if you’re willing and you trust me.”
I eyed him warily. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to accomplish; but I knew that I trusted him…and that, for the moment, had to be enough. I nodded my head slightly and indicated, “I’ll go freshen up and change; but, Joseph…I can’t make any promises.” I didn’t want to disappoint him again…or myself for that matter, but I felt I owed it to him to at least try.
I emerged about fifteen minutes later in a silk, button up pajama top that had matching shorts that were secured with a weaved pattern of ribbon that tied in a small bow at the top. It wasn’t overly sexy; but it was comfortable. I noticed Joseph had changed into his trademark black, silk boxers and was seated in the middle of the couch. “That’s perfect, my love. Care to join me?” He asked.
I made my way across the room; again noticing how incredibly handsome he looked. I dreamed of losing myself in his touch and in his love; but there was nothing in my past that would provide even the smallest ray of hope that my dreams could become a reality. Once standing in front of him, he took my hands and guided me into a straddled position across his lap. “Joseph?” I questioned; this is certainly not what I was expecting.
His hands continued to hold mine as he explained. “I’d like to test a theory of mine; but I need your cooperation. I want you to take control; lead our dance, if you will.”
My head was shaking slightly. “I’ve never had the lead in this dance, I’m afraid. I would have no idea what to do.”
“There is no right or wrong; this is about what you want. If you want to simply kiss, we will do that. If you want to “make out”, as the younger generation calls it, then that will be the objective. If you want to take it further, that is your decision. I will make no moves without your express guidance and approval...without your lead.”
I was very frustrated and I shared those feelings. “As I said, I have NO idea what I want. It has never been about what I wanted.” The sadness and perhaps a bit of anger were evident in my voice.
He released one of my hands and brought it up to cup my cheek. “I cannot answer for your past, my darling. I can, however, promise you that your future can be different…if only you will trust me and try.”
I took a deep breath and held his gaze. I saw nothing but sincere love reflected in the shiny depths. I returned his gesture and leaned forward a bit so I could whisper in his ear. “Then for you, my love, I will try.”
He smiled, dropped his hands to his sides and then simply waited for me to start. My hands lightly traced the contours of his face and the small fringe of hair surrounding his head. His eyes closed and a small “mmm” escaped his lips. I gently kissed his forehead as my hands continued to explore his upper arms and shoulders. I wanted to memorize each contour, each rippling muscle; and I reveled in the feel of his body responding to my slight touch.
My hands finally worked their way back up to frame his face as my lips found his. The kiss was soft, more of a gentle exploration. I had never been afforded the opportunity to take my time and let MY wants dictate the pace. I decided I rather enjoyed it. I sucked on his bottom lip and was rewarded with another small moan. My tongue snuck out of its hiding place to gently taste the velvet softness. His mouth opened slightly; just enough to grant access but not enough to insist on a particular course of action.
My pleasure was slowly growing and I felt a strange pull…something inside of me wanting to increase our connection. My tongue pushed into his mouth exploring the warm depths. This time the sounds of pleasure were coming from deep within my body as I became lost in our kiss. Joseph’s tongue skillfully played with mine; true to his word, though, his hands had not moved from their initial position. My body cried out its protest that it was not being properly attended to and I knew it was up to me to remedy that situation.
I broke the kiss and caught my breath. Joseph’s breathing was as labored as mine. My nails scraped lightly over his sculpted chest and I smiled as he inhaled sharply when they grazed his hardened nipples. Watching the pleasure on his face as I continued to explore his body was highly erotic. I knew I was ready to receive some of that pleasure myself. My hands moved down his sides to clasp his hands. I guided them over my thighs and up my front to cup my breasts. I removed my hands from his to return to his face as I was already missing the taste of his kiss. Between the kisses that were growing in intensity with each passing moment and the feel of Joseph’s hands gliding over my silk covered front, I was falling deeper and deeper into the abyss of feeling.
I stopped kissing him for a few moments and arched my back to push my breasts even further into his hands. He had massaged, kneaded and teased them until they were aching with need. My nipples were on fire with a thousand nerve endings begging to be ignited. The sensations were beginning to overwhelm me…but in a good way. I felt that strong pull of need again…I needed more.
Right before I covered his hands to stop him, Joseph rolled my taut buds between his fingers and pinched slightly causing a cry of pleasure to erupt from the back of my throat. My hands flew to his and held them still. I took in a few deep breaths before opening my eyes. His eyes held a slight question to them…I think he was afraid he had crossed some invisible barrier. I lowered his hands to rest on my thighs.
His breath caught in his throat as he watched my hands move upwards to slowly start to unbutton my night shirt. I felt a surge of adrenalin course through my body as I felt the evidence of his desire begin to grow under me as inch by inch of my creamy flesh was revealed. I let the garment fall from my body. He released the breath he had been holding and offered sincere praise. “Breathtaking.”
I was quickly becoming lost in the moment; I wanted to feel his hands and mouth all over my body. I guided his head to my newly exposed flesh and gasped as his mouth covered a berried tip. “Oh God Joseph!” I cried out as my fingers dug into his flesh. He continued his exploration as I slipped further down the path of desire. My mouth sought his and my tongue slipped back into his warmth, engaging in a primitive dance. My hips began to undulate in response to the stimuli my body was receiving.
My butterflies had taken flight and were soaring through my body. I had never felt such intense pleasure in my entire life. I felt as though I were on the edge of something amazing…something never before experienced. I wanted more…I needed more. I pulled back, effectively stopping the activity. “Joseph?” I panted.
“Yes, mi amore’?”
“I need…” I wasn’t sure what exactly I needed or wanted; I just knew that it could only be filled by the man breathing heavily under me. “I want to…lose myself...I don’t know how to explain it…I just know it’s you.” I offered.
His breathy reply sent another surge of pleasure through my body as I contemplated his offer. “Then show me.”
I was so close to experiencing more pleasure than I ever thought possible. There had been no ugly flashbacks, no feelings of panic or fear; there was only the pure bliss that came from sharing such a physical encounter with someone you loved more than life itself. I pushed against his shoulders so I could rise up on my knees. My hands trembled as I slowly undid the ties holding my bottoms in place. I pulled the material apart enough to allow room for exploration.
I brought his right hand to my cheek before turning my head slightly to kiss his palm. Our eyes locked and time stood still as I guided his hand down my neck and over the swell of my breasts. The journey continued until our joined fingers were hovering over the soft flesh of my abdomen, just above my damp curls. I whispered, “Release me, my love, from all of the chains that hold me captive. I want to lose myself and experience only you.”
With those words, I moved his hand under my waistband and into my most private sanctum. Once my actions conveyed exactly my intentions, my needs, I removed my hand and clasped his shoulders to assist me with keeping my balance as the tension began to slowly mount through my body.
He gently combed his fingers through my damp curls, lightly testing my reaction. A small gasp let him know that my desire was there and building. A moment later I felt his fingers seeking out my tiny bud of desire. The world around me faded into a haze at his first stroke of my sensitive nub. He continued this pattern of gentle stroking until I let out the breath I had been holding in a rush and simply pleaded. “Oh God, Joseph… Please. Please!”
I moved my hands to the back of the couch and moved closer as one of his arms circled me to hold me steady as the other delved deeper into my slick, wet heat. At the same time, his tongue began to flick at my berried tips. His mouth continued its assault on my highly sensitized breasts as his fingers worked their magic. Over and over again he dipped into my juices and used them to create an enticing friction on my core of desire. My cries and pleas climbed at an uneven pace as my body fought to understand the multitude of sensations coursing at an alarming speed through my veins. I felt like my entire life was hanging in the balance as I rode the crest of the wave, just waiting for it to roll like thunder onto the shore.
“Oh yes…Joseph…mmm…oh…yes, Yes, YES!!” In one glorious defining moment, my body bucked against his hand and my head tossed back in sensual abandon as I experienced the pure, unadulterated bliss of my first orgasm. He removed his hand and allowed me settle further on his lap as I felt an intense need to be close to him. My body was grinding against his erection in an effort to prolong my pleasure. His hands were making soothing motions along my back as I floated effortlessly into shore.
After the most intense sensations had passed, I continued to hold him close whispering my love and thanks. Tears fell as I experienced immense gratitude for the one man who had been able to find a way; who had been patient, understanding, and creative. There would be no words adequate to sufficiently express my gratitude.
Silence hung heavily in the room; but a peaceful silence. Sweet tears of joy began to slip down my cheek as I heard Joseph quietly recite a poem from our youth. “An hundred years should go to praise, thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast; But thirty thousand to the rest; An age at least to every part, And the last age should show your heart.”
I finally felt strong enough to move back on his lap a bit. I saw his cheeks were slightly stained with tears as well. I cupped the side of his face with my hands and used my thumbs to wipe away any evidence of his tears. I didn’t say thank you that seemed inadequate. So I spoke the words that my heart demanded I say. “Make love to me, Joseph.”
We held hands as we walked in silence to the bedroom. His arms went around me and his hands slipped underneath the waistband of my shorts to cup my bottom. He pulled me into a searing kiss that left me breathless. The activity caused my shorts, which were still untied, to fall effortlessly to the ground. Although it took a little more effort, I made quick work of divesting him of his boxers as well.
I started to lie on the bed; but he pulled me back to a standing position. His lips nipped and sucked on my earlobe sending small chills throughout my entire body. He huskily whispered, “You’re leading this dance, remember?” With those words, he released me and climbed onto the bed. His hand extended as an invitation to join him.
Once settled above him, I let my fingers comb through the sparse hair on his chest. My efforts were rewarded immediately with his sharp intake of breath and the feel of his nipples hardening against my palms. My eyes found his and my breath caught as his sapphire eyes darkened with desire. I felt a rush of pleasure center on my core and knew that my orbs were as dark as his. I let my gaze survey our bodies; the stunning contrast of my creamy, white flesh against his tanned chest was highly stimulating. I leaned forward preparing to kiss him; but first I offered, “Feel free to kiss or touch anything you want, my love. I am going to be a bit busy driving you mad with your desire for me.”
His chuckle was smothered by my heated kiss and his hands began caressing anywhere and everywhere they could reach. I began a small rocking motion which had the combined effect of the tips of my breasts moving across his chest and my dampness coating his arousal. His fingers were moving up and down my back, applying just enough pressure to send tiny shards of electricity throughout my body. Our tongues were dueling for supremacy in the kiss as our passion became more and more intense.
Joseph tore away from the kiss; his voice was deep as he exclaimed, “Oh God, Clarisse. Please…please let me lose myself in you. Lead me, my love.”
I needed no further encouragement as the tension had reached a breaking point within my body as well. I lifted up enough to position him at my entrance and then, in one swift movement, completely welcomed him into my tight, hot sheath. The intensity of our joining almost sent us both over the edge; mutual cries filled the room and his hand moved to my hips to hold me still. After a few tense moments, I teased. “That’s what you get for letting a woman lead.”
His laughter sent splinters of sensation throughout our bodies, originating from where we were joined. “Very true, my dear; very true.” He replied once his laughter subsided.
I smiled. “Would you like to take the lead from here?”
His eyes grew dark as he replied. “I thought you’d never ask.” At his words, he led me in a dance as old as time. Slowly, at first, finding the rhythm until the heat coursed through our veins. He continued to increase the pace until I could no longer hold myself upright. I leaned over his body and kissed him feverishly as he plunged into me again and again; our tongues matching the movement of our lower bodies.
All of my butterflies had now joined at the center of my body and their wings were beating at an exponential pace. They were begging for release. The pressure built until, with a few final thrusts that touched the innermost part of my being, the damn burst and the butterflies soared towards the heavens. I collapsed onto his body, completely sated and exhausted.
As we lay basking in the aftermath of our lovemaking, I felt the healing power of his love wash over me. In that moment, I made a decision: I would tell him the truth. My heart would break if he rejected me after learning what had happened those many years ago; but I consoled myself with the fact that at least once in my life, I had experienced what love was truly like.
My body was still half covering his and my head rested on his chest in the crook of his arm. I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to look him in the eyes as I made my confession. I slowly released a deep breath and said quietly, “About forty years ago, the night of my eighteenth birthday celebration, I was abducted from my suite. When I awoke, I was tied to a bed and then raped.”
His grip around me tightened and I held my breath waiting for his response. After what seemed like an eternity, he slowly sat up and pulled me in a tight embrace. “Oh my God, Clarisse; what a horrific experience!”
A few more moments passed as the enormity of what I had just told him seeped into his mind. “What did the King say when you told him?”
I adjusted myself enough in his tight embrace to lock eyes with him. “He said nothing…I never told him. I’ve never told another soul…until today.”
His only response was to pull me back in his embrace and just hold me. After a few moments, he quietly asked, “Do you want to tell me about it?”
“Yes. I think I do.” And so I recounted in as much detail as I could recall the nightmare that had haunted me for the greater part of my life. When I finished, I felt as though a burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. There was some truth to the old adage that a shared burden is much lighter.
Joseph lifted my chin to look him in the eyes again. “I’m so sorry, Clarisse. So sorry for what happened; so sorry that you carried this burden by yourself; just sorry.”
I repeated his words from the previous evening as I stated calmly, “I don’t want your pity, Joseph. I want justice. I want the man responsible, along with whomever his accomplices were, to be held accountable.”
He smiled a bit at my response; not because what I said was funny, but rather because he loved it when I got fired up about something. “Do you know who is responsible?” He asked.
“Ironically, I didn’t up until this morning. Perhaps the scene with you the night before and my subsequent nightmares opened a part of my memory or recognition and I realized to whom those evil eyes belonged.”
“Just give me a name and I will see that this is handled discreetly.” He knew that after keeping my secret for over forty years, I would not want this made public knowledge.
I pulled him close and whispered the name of the person that had been my nemesis for as long as I could remember. His eyes widened at hearing the name and he asked, “You’re sure?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I’ll be right back.” With that, he walked over to phone and dialed the extension to the security office. I overheard him ask Shades to arrange the pickup of the man I had named and to detain him until he arrived. Once he was assured that this would be handled expediently and discreetly, he climbed back into bed. “As soon as Shades confirms that he has him in custody, I will handle the questioning. I promise you, Clarisse, I will make him pay for what he has done; and I will learn the names of his partners in crime.”
A slight chill ran up my spine at the steel in his voice. I was comforted by the knowledge that Joseph always kept his promises and that soon a very ugly chapter in my life would be closed. I snuggled up against him as he pulled the blankets over our still nude bodies. “Thank you, Joseph…for everything.”
Five days later, everything was ready. Joseph and I had spent the last few days making love. For the record, I learned quickly how to lead and was now very, very good at it. We had also spent a great deal of time talking about the past and planning how the coronation day would be handled.
We spoke of my fears regarding Pierre and the identity of his biological father. While I had always wanted to believe that he was Rupert’s, my heart told me that no true child of mine and Rupert’s would turn his back on his duty to the crown and Genovia. His heart had never seemed to be interested in anything to do with the monarchy or carrying on the proud tradition of the Renaldi name. Joseph assured me that he could learn the truth by checking the blood types. We both agreed that no matter what the results were, no one but the two of us would ever know.
“You look beautiful, your Majesty.” Charlotte proclaimed, tears shining in her eyes.
I embraced the young woman, who was also my friend. “Thank you, Charlotte. Everything looks wonderful. You’ve done an excellent job, as always. Amelia is very blessed to have you. I am so glad you agreed to stay with us.”
“There’s no place else I could ever want to be.” Charlotte offered seriously.
I smiled at her. “There is, however, some place I need to visit before we get started. You don’t mind giving me a few minutes, do you?”
A concerned look crossed Charlotte’s face. She never liked when plans did not go as she scheduled them or when things happened that she was unaware of. “Of course, your Majesty, whatever you wish.”
“I won’t be late; I promise. Don’t let them start without me.” I teased.
I walked into the throne room just a few minutes before Joseph was scheduled to arrive with our guest. I ran my hands lovingly over the hand carved wood of the throne. It had been such a big part of my life; no it had been my whole life. I wasn’t sure how I would feel now that caring for the thousands of people in my country would not be my sole responsibility. I knew there would be some adjustments; but thankfully I had Joseph. I knew without a doubt, that he would be enough.
As if on cue and reading my thoughts, he entered with the man at his side. Our guest looked tired and his eyes no longer held the sinister glint of my nightmares. They were dull and lifeless. I suppose that is what happens when a lifetime of wrong choices and using people for your own personal gain would garner a person. We all knew why he was here, so I skipped any preliminary speeches or conversation.
“I just have one question: Why?”
“Does it really matter now?” came the flat response.
I allowed my impulsive nature along with my rising anger to win over and I raised my hand and slapped him hard against his cheek. Joseph’s eyes grew wide; but he made no move to stop me. “You bastard! Of course it matters. I was eighteen! You robbed me of my innocence at the tender age of eighteen. I think I deserve to know why.” In truth, I already knew; but I wanted to afford him an opportunity to tell me in his own words. The desire of his employers to ensure there were no heirs to the throne chief amongst the reasons. Apparently they had seriously underestimated both mine and Rupert’s willingness to fulfill our duty at all costs. I was not surprised when he remained silent.
I moved very close to him so I could lower my voice. Although it was hushed, there was steel in it as I said, “I think you have a right to know…he is not yours.” I lied.
That phrase got his attention and he looked somewhat shocked…the first emotion I had seen on his face since he walked in the room. I continued. “You’re a smart man. Surely you did the math and wondered from time to time over the years if he was really YOUR son rather than your King’s. Didn’t you?”
He said nothing; but now seemed lost in the past. My next words brought him back to the future. Joseph placed the crown on my head and I spoke in my most authoritative voice. “As your Queen and ruling monarch, I forever banish you, Arthur Mabrey, from the country of Genovia. You are hereby stripped of your title of Viscount and you will be escorted out of the country first thing tomorrow morning. If you ever EVER step foot on Genovian soil again, I will have you arrested for crimes against the crown and me personally. Is that understood?”
His head was already bowed and he quietly answered, “Yes, your Majesty.”
I watched with pride as Amelia took her oath and was proclaimed the new Queen of Genovia. My granddaughter was Queen and Joseph was my husband; life was very good. There was only one more matter to address. As people began to make their way to the Grand Ballroom, I asked Joseph. “Are you ready to finish this?”
He squeezed my arm. “I am; if you are.”
I nodded and excused myself while Joseph took the final steps to bring my nightmare to an end. About fifteen minutes later, I had once again made my excuses to Charlotte and walked into the room where Joseph and the two people he had detained were present.
I smiled sweetly, looking both of them in the eye before I began. “I wanted to tell you, in person, that in exchange for a lifetime of banishment instead of a life sentence in a Puerto Rican prison; Arthur Mabrey has provided me with the names of those who hired him. That, of course, would be you.”
I must be honest and admit that I enjoyed the look of shock and fear that crossed their faces. I’m sure they were certain that after all of these years, their crime had long since been forgotten. I continued. “I can understand your desire to secure the throne for your family and your willingness to make sacrifices and do whatever is necessary to achieve that. I understand because I, too, have made my sacrifices and taken action to preserve the Renaldi line. My willingness to do whatever it takes, however, did not include standing by idly listening to the screams of a young woman as she was violently robbed of her innocence. Nor have I ever ignored the pleas of someone begging for my help.”
I took a deep breath and moved forward into their personal space. “You could have stopped it…at any time. You were only a few feet away. How could you just stand there and do nothing?”
The man finally spoke. “We did what was necessary.”
I fought the urge to smack him. Instead I stood up straight, shoulders back and made the statement that would finish this. “So must I…do what is necessary. As my final act as the Queen of Genovia, I hereby forever banish you, Baron and Baroness Von Troken, from the country of Genovia and her allies. You will be escorted to your home by Captain Kelly. He will wait for you to gather whatever possessions you can carry with you; he will then escort you to the airport and accompany you to the destination of your choice. Of course, those destinations do not include any of our allied or neighboring countries. If you ever, EVER step foot on our soil again, I will have you arrested for treason and crimes against me personally.”
Not being a very smart man, Baron Von Troken thought it wise to point out to me that I was no longer the Queen. My pleasant smile returned as I explained. “Actually, until my official seal is placed on the coronation documents, I am still the reigning monarch of this great country.” I turned to Joseph and asked. “Joseph, have I placed my official seal on the coronation documents yet?”
He returned my smile. “Not yet, your Majesty. You did not want to keep the Baron and Baroness waiting so the necessary paperwork has yet to be completed.”
I flashed a brilliant smile in their direction. “So you see, I am still the Queen; and possess all the powers afforded to her by this great nation.”
His face was very pale as he whined. “But…this is our home.”
“No longer and never again.” I was done with this conversation and I never wanted to lay eyes on either of them again. “Joseph…please have them escorted from the Palace and out of my sight!”
A few hours later, the celebration had ended and everyone had gone home. Joseph was seeing to the last minute details and was working with Shades for the “transfer of power” as Head of Security. I had spent some time with Amelia in her suite just talking…about life and love. I kissed her good night and told her how proud I was of the woman she had become and the Queen I knew she would be. I then excused myself and hastened back to my suite. I wanted to be ready for Joseph when he got “home”.
I watched with glee as he stopped short in the bedroom, unable to take his eyes off of me. “To what do I owe this pleasant surprise?” He asked. His gaze fixed solidly on my body provocatively covered in black lace and satin.
“We are celebrating, my love; the close of one chapter and the start of a new one.” I was half sitting on the edge of the bed and I beckoned him with my finger to join me. I offered him one of the glasses of champagne and toasted. “To our future.”
He clinked my glass and replied. “To this moment.”
We quickly emptied our glasses and I slowly unbuttoned his shirt. As I undid each button, I asked in my most seductive voice. “I’d like to test a theory of mine; but I need your cooperation. I want you to take control; lead our dance, if you will.”
I pulled his body close to mine and kissed him before lowering myself onto the bed. He stood there for a moment looking down at my prone form. “Are you sure?”
My heart almost burst with love for the man standing over me. “I believe my fear is gone; the nightmare is over, Joseph. I have nothing left to be frightened of except not knowing what it feels like to be completely covered in everything that is you, my love. I’d like to at least try…” I moved back some so I was now in the center of the bed and I waited as he decided on whether this was a prudent course of action.
Finally, he smiled and said, “Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had to lead; but for you my love, I’m willing to try.”
He climbed on to the bed and settled himself between my legs as he rained kisses all over my chest. I closed my eyes and focused on the sensations. There was no fear; no panic; nothing but the precious weight of my lover surrounding me. I smiled and lifted my face to the heavens breathing a short prayer of thanks and relief. I knew in this defining moment that Joseph and I would live…happily ever after.