Title: In and Out of Shadows
Archive: my site and TQSC archive
Disclaimer: Disney owns them, not me. They wouldn’t let them do what I do!!
Summary: When Mia decides not to spend her Christmas holidays in Genovia with her grandmother, Joseph decides to cheer Clarisse up.
Notes: this story takes place the Christmas after the events in Princess Diaries. (note, that’s the first one, not the second! ;-) )
Also, I know at the end of the first movie, Mia’s writing in
her journal that she will be moving to Genovia.
However, in the second movie, we find out that she’s not spent a whole
lot of time there. So, as far as I’m
concerned, the moving to Genovia wasn’t happening until after college, and as
such, she only spent the summer in the palace before returning to
And lastly, extra special thanks to my wonderful and incredible beta, Jaya!
A soft knock sounded on the door before it opened and
“Your majesty,” the young aide said with a smile. “Princess Amelia is on the phone and wishes to speak with you.”
“Line one, ma’am.”
“Would you like me to leave?”
Clarisse looked up at the handsome, bald man beside her and smiled as she shook her head. “No…” she said as she reached for the phone. “You know as well as I do, Joseph, that Mia will want to say hello to you.”
Joseph smiled and leaned up against the wall just behind Clarisse’s desk as she lifted the receiver to her ear and pressed the line. He let his eyes wander over her profile as she conversed with her granddaughter. Joseph’s smile became one of appreciation as he took in Clarisse’s classic features… her strong jaw, high cheekbones, perky nose… and her lips. Full lips that begged to be kissed and were, if memory served him, soft and supple.
Their first kiss, Joseph thought, had been everything he’d hoped it be… exciting, thrilling, ‘All too brief,’ he said to himself. ‘And the only one,’ Joseph finished as he let his mind drift back to that night several months before.
It had been the night of the Genovian Independence Day ball. The night Mia had accepted and had publicly declared that she would take on the responsibility of becoming Genovia’s next queen. The night Joseph had taken Clarisse on a stroll through the embassy gardens.
‘The night I finally confessed to Clarisse that I’d fallen in love with her,’ Joseph remembered warmly.
“Charlotte truly did a wonderful job on the garden,” Joseph commented as he and Clarisse strolled, hands still clasped together, amongst the flora and fountains.
“I should give her a raise when we return to Genovia,” Clarisse replied. “She has been invaluable these last weeks.”
“Hard to believe she’s the same nervous intern you hired right out of college,” Joseph said. “The one who spoke so softly you had to strain to hear her.”
Clarisse chuckled and nodded. “Yes… she’s come a long way these last ten years.”
They fell into a comfortable silence, their many years of friendship making conversation unnecessary. When they came to the small gazebo, Joseph gestured for Clarisse to enter and within moments they were seated beside each other on the stone bench, gazing up at the stars through the clear glass ceiling.
“You’re staring again,” Clarisse whispered after several minutes, her eyes still on the night sky.
“I’m staring again,” Joseph confirmed in an equally quiet voice.
Clarisse smiled and couldn’t stop the blush from creeping up her chest to her face. Feeling Joseph’s eyes on her was nothing new. As her head of security, he was always keeping an eye on her and over the years she’d become quite adept at knowing when Joseph was looking at her. Even among a crowd of hundreds of people… all of them looking at her, Clarisse could always sense when Joseph’s eyes were on her.
This felt different.
This wasn’t merely keeping an eye on her… watching after her to keep her safe, as was his job.
No… this was more.
And even without looking at him, Clarisse could feel the heat in Joseph’s gaze as his eyes moved over her. Slowly, as if it was beyond her control, Clarisse turned her gaze from the stars and met Joseph’s eyes.
She swallowed hard and felt her heart begin to race at the look in his eyes. In all the years she’d known him, only once before had Clarisse seen Joseph look at her the way he was looking at her now.
His blue eyes were dark, and filled with obvious need, desire, lust, longing… and, Clarisse’s eyes widened… love.
It was the love, the undeniable love brimming in his dark eyes that sent a rush through her. Over the years she’d seen appreciation in his gaze, friendship, and on occasion glimpses of a little more… but this was the first time in over forty years that she’d seen the love.
Joseph reached up and caressed her cheek with the backs of his fingers, a feather-like touch before he cupped the side of her face. “I’ve fallen in love with you, my queen.”
Clarisse held Joseph’s gaze, and searched his eyes… his expression. They were open… more open than she’d ever seen them; not only had he just placed his heart into her hands, Joseph had also laid open his very soul to her, and in the space of a heartbeat, Clarisse realized that her answer would either make or break the man before her. The trust… the love he was showing in her humbled her to her very core, and in that moment, Clarisse knew there was only one way in which to respond to him.
“And I with you, Joseph…” she whispered her reply, and felt a rush of warmth flow over her at the brilliant smile that lit up his face. “But we…” she shook her head.
“Ssh…” Joseph’s thumb pressed against Clarisse’s lips to stop her. “I know…”
“It’s not yet our time,” Joseph paused and gently stroked his thumb over her lips. “I’m not asking you to have an affair with me…” he flashed her a sly grin, “although, I wouldn’t say no…”
Clarisse laughed softly.
“Seriously, Clarisse. I will not push you for more,” Joseph told her. “I am more than happy to wait until Mia is queen, and you are no longer ruling.”
“You are an incredible man, Joseph…” Clarisse said.
“No. I’m just in love, and you are worth waiting for.” Joseph replied and ran his thumb over her lips again. “Clarisse… my queen…” he whispered and darted his eyes between her mouth and her eyes, his tongue darting out to moisten his lips.
Clarisse nodded gently, wanting more than anything in this moment to have Joseph kiss her. Her breath caught and her eyelids fluttered shut as he leaned closer…
Joseph lifted his other hand and cupped her other cheek, his large hands framing her face as he brushed his lips against hers in the softest of kisses, his thumbs rubbing gently over her cheeks. He pulled away a little to see a small smile on her lips but just as he was about to move back in and kiss her again, the sound of someone approaching stopped him.
“I think that means we should return to the ball,” Clarisse told him in a quiet, shaky voice.
“I think you’re right,” Joseph replied as he stood then held his hand out to her and helped Clarisse to her feet. “Promise me… that we’ll share the last dance of the evening.”
Clarisse smiled and reached out a hand to cup his cheek. “I promise…”
Joseph shook himself out of his memories to see Clarisse looking at him with a bemused smile on her face.
“Sorry,” he murmured and looked at her expectantly.
Clarisse held up the phone, the receiver covered by her hand. “Mia would like to speak with you… well, with both of us actually.”
Joseph smiled and stepped closer. He took the phone from her hand, making sure his fingers brushed against hers, and was rewarded with a smile. “Hold on a moment, Princess. Let me put you on speaker,” he said into the phone then placed Amelia on hold.
“What were you daydreaming about?” Clarisse asked him as he placed the receiver in its cradle.
“I was remembering that night in the garden in
“Hey, Joe!” Mia’s voice came through the speaker. “How are you doing?”
“I am doing well, Princess. How are you?” Joseph asked and looked down at Clarisse when he felt her shoulder rub against his hip as she leaned on her desk to listen to Amelia.
Clarisse gave Joseph a tender smile as they listened to Mia regale them with the goings on at Grove High. She couldn’t help but think back to that night in the garden; the night Joseph had told her that he’d fallen in love with her… and that she’d admitted that she’d fallen in love with him too.
A warm feeling washed over her as she remembered later that evening, when Joseph had escorted her to her room.
Joseph opened the door to his queen’s bedchamber then turned to find her staring intently at him. He met her eyes, aware of the increase in the tension between them.
The tension wasn’t new. From the first moment they had met, all those years ago, there had been an awareness between them… a low-level current of sexual attraction that neither could ignore but one neither had ever acted on.
Their admittance of their feelings just a couple of hours ago had turned the tension up a notch or two.
They began together then stopped and laughed softly.
“This is ridiculous,” Clarisse said. “Nothing has changed.”
“Oh, something has definitely changed,” Joseph told her. “We’re not hiding our feelings any longer,” he said as the corners of his mouth turned up slightly. “At least… not from each other.”
Clarisse chuckled. “No… never again from each other.”
“I want so much to kiss you right now,” Joseph said in a low voice as he reached up to cup her cheek.
“…Joseph…” Clarisse whispered his name and took a step closer.
A sound from the stairs stopped them, and both sighed.
“Good night, Joseph.” Clarisse said in a wistful voice.
“Dulces sueños, reina mía.” Joseph replied as he caressed her lips with his thumb then turned and walked away.
Clarisse watched him for a moment, quite tempted to go after him, then with a deep sigh she entered her room and closed the door behind her.
A gentle bump on her shoulder pulled Clarisse from her memories, and she met Joseph’s knowing eyes. He gestured to the phone.
“What is it, Mia?” Clarisse asked, having heard the hesitation in her granddaughter’s voice.
“Sorry,” Mia paused, and they could hear her take a deep breath. “Would it be all right if I didn’t come to Genovia for Christmas? Mom and Patrick have decided to go skiing, and they’ve invited me along… and well, I would really like to go.”
If his eyes hadn’t been on her, Joseph would have missed the slight slump of Clarisse’s shoulders as she lowered her head and closed her eyes.
“Is it okay?”
“Of course it is,” Clarisse replied, and Joseph noted that her voice held none of the disappointment he could still see in her face.
“Thank you, Gramma!” Mia said happily. “I’ll call you on Christmas… and of course there’s still spring break… and…” A bell sounded in the background. “Oh! I… uhm… I gotta go, Gramma or I’ll be late for class.”
“Yes, of course…”
“Thank you again, Gramma. I’ll call you before I leave, all right?!” Mia rushed. “I love you!”
“And I you, my dear.”
“Bye, Joe! Love you too! Take care of Gramma for me.”
“I will, Princess.”
There was a click, and then the dial tone could be heard.
Joseph reached out and pressed the release button then turned to his queen who still had her eyes closed. She and Mia had grown quite close over the summer Amelia had spent at the palace, and Joseph knew how much Clarisse had been looking forward to Mia’s visit at Christmas. Truth be told… he had been looking forward to it as well, having grown quite fond of the young princess.
“Joseph…” Clarisse began in a quiet voice. “I wonder if you would gi…”
Before she could finish her sentence, Clarisse felt his hand on her arm. Her eyes opened just as he pulled her up out of her chair, and before she knew it, Clarisse found herself enveloped in his strong arms.
“I’m not leaving,” Joseph whispered against her ear.
At his softly spoken words, and the feel of his hands gently rubbing her back, Clarisse relaxed into Joseph’s embrace. She turned her head and nuzzled her face into his neck as she slipped her arms around him; taking the comfort he offered so willingly.
“I was looking forward to having her here,” Clarisse told him in a quiet voice.
“I know you were,” Joseph told her. “So was I.”
“This was going to be our first Christmas together. I…” Clarisse shrugged in his embrace.
“I could call Helen. See if it would be all right if we join them,” Joseph suggested. “I’m certain she wouldn’t mind.”
“No,” Clarisse shook her head. “It’s a family trip.”
“You are family.”
“Yes, I am,” Clarisse nodded against his chest. “But I’m still too new. No, she deserves to spend this time with her mother. After all, in a few more years, all her Christmases will be here.”
“This is true,” Joseph nodded in understanding. “But it doesn’t make it any easier.”
“No. It doesn’t,” Clarisse agreed then sighed. “I guess it’s going to be a quiet Christmas.”
“Let me take you away,” Joseph said quietly a few moments later.
Clarisse lifted her head from his shoulder and met his eyes. “Joseph… I… I’m not…”
“I know,” Joseph interrupted her. “I just thought it would be nice to spend the
holidays alone with you but I suppose we could do that here just as
easily.” He paused as he brought his hand
up to cup her face, brushing his thumb over her lips. “I meant what I said in
Clarisse smiled, grateful that Joseph was still being so considerate of her feelings. “Thank you.”
Joseph smiled. “Anything for you, my dear.” His thumb caressed her lips again. “I need to go or I’ll be late for the security meeting.”
Clarisse nodded. “I will see you later?”
“Of course,” Joseph replied as he released her.
Clarisse bit her lower lip thoughtfully as she watched him move towards the door. “Joseph!”
Joseph’s hand was on the handle when she called out to him. He stopped and turned. “Yes?”
“Just make sure it’s someplace where no one will recognize us.”
Joseph held Clarisse’s eyes, and seeing no hesitation or uncertainty there, nodded. “Of course,” he said, and then with a smile, he left.
The door to the suite opened, light from the hallway spilling in to illuminate a path as the woman entered and quietly padded across the room.
“Princess! Merry Christmas!”
“What are you still doing there? It’s Christmas Eve! Shouldn’t you be home with your family by now?”
“As a matter of fact, I was just getting ready to head out.”
“Good! Wish everyone a Merry Christmas for me.”
“Be here? What are
you talking about,
“News to me,” the sixteen year old replied. “I called Gramma two days ago and she didn’t say anything about flying over.”
“Are you certain?”
“Yeah,” Mia answered. “So, when did they leave?”
“This morning. Right after her majesty gave her annual
Christmas Eve address. She and Joseph
left in his… car…”
“Oh… yes, your highness. Sorry, I was just thinking.”
“They left in Joseph’s car… not one of the palace vehicles,”
“That’s not like Joe.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“In what sense?”
“You do think it!” Mia exclaimed at the prolonged silence.
“Oh come on,
“Charlotte, this is me you’re talking to,” Mia told her. After a moment’s silence, she sighed. “All right then, where are they? Why would Joe tell you he and Gramma are coming here when they obviously haven’t?”
“I don’t know…”
“Maybe they just wanted to be alone,” Mia
suggested. “It’s so… crowded… and
Gramma is always being watched…”
“I… I don’t know. Hold on a moment, Princess… I need to make a quick call.”
“I don’t know,”
“You’re right. But,
Clarisse glanced at her watch.
“What’s the matter?”
“Amelia should have called by now,” Clarisse answered.
“She’s probably lost track of time falling all over the
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Joseph.” Clarisse said. “I followed the instructions you gave me.”
“Just checking. I know you and your love for technology.”
Clarisse chuckled and reached out to grasp his hand.
“She will call, Clarisse,” Joseph told her and squeezed her hand. “She will call.”
“Yes! Sorry, your Highness.”
“Your grandmother took her cell phone.”
“She did? She hates that thing.”
“Why would she take…” Mia began. “Unless… they were planning to forward Gramma’s line to the cell.”
“And we both know how much her majesty loves doing that.”
Mia’s laugh sounded in
“More than likely, her majesty encountered technical difficulties while attempting to program…”
“Geez, Charlotte! All you had to say was that she messed it up,” Mia said in exasperation. “So… what do we do? Should I just call the cell?”
“I couldn’t agree more,
“Yes. Yes, I think that is the best way.”
“So do I,” Mia agreed. “Well… Merry Christmas,
“Same to you, Princess.”
Joseph glanced over at his companion, and smiled softly at the sight of her dozing against the passenger window. He returned his attention to the road just as the soft notes of ‘Supercalafragilisticexpialidocious’ sounded from the cell phone hanging on the dash.
The sound roused Clarisse from her light nap, and she straightened up then reached out for the phone. She smiled over at Joseph as she flipped the phone open and brought it to her ear. “Hello.”
Joseph kept his eyes on the road as he listened to the one-sided conversation.
“Merry Christmas to you too, my dear. Mmhmm…” Clarisse said then turned to look at him. “Amelia says Merry Christmas,” she told him as she tilted the phone away from her ear.
“Merry Christmas, Princess!” Joseph called out.
“Did you hear that?” Clarisse asked then smiled. “Because we are in the car. Why? Because Joseph and I decided to take a drive around the city to look at all the Christmas lights, and because we didn’t want to miss your call, I forwarded my private line to my cell.”
Joseph flipped on the wipers as it began to snow softly, and kept his ear on the conversation Clarisse was having with Mia. He chuckled when he heard Clarisse exclaim, “I’ll have you know, that I am not that technologically inept!”
“Oh hush! So how is everyone there?”
The conversation continued for a several more minutes, and with each minute, Clarisse’s voice grew louder.
“Mia! It’s getting harder to hear you… yes… the static is very bad here too. All right! Yes… I’ll call you on New Years. I love you too, my dear,” Clarisse said and caught the wave of Joseph’s hand. “Joseph sends his love as well. Good…” she lowered the phone to her lap. “We lost the connection.”
“Interference from the mountains,” Joseph told her. “You can always call her from the hotel if it will make you feel better.”
“We’ll see,” Clarisse smiled at him as she placed the phone back in the holder on the dashboard. “So, Señor Ferreira, where are you taking me?”
“To a little hotel I know on the coast,” Joseph told her then anticipating Clarisse’s next question, “We’ll be there in another hour… two if it keeps snowing.”
Clarisse nodded; not at all surprised that he knew what she was thinking.
“Why don’t you doze some more?” Joseph suggested. “You had an early morning, and it will help the trip go by faster.”
“I don’t want to… desert you,” Clarisse told him. “Besides, the window does not make a very comfortable pillow.”
“You won’t be deserting me,” Joseph chuckled as he reached out to grasp her hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I was going to put on some music, a little Gato, while you rest.”
“Of course,” Joseph nodded. “I know how much you like Europa.”
“Mmm…” Clarisse smiled as she unbuckled her seatbelt.
“What are you doing?”
Clarisse slid across the seat, making sure to secure the centre seatbelt around her waist before she shifted and laid her head on his shoulder. She curled both her arms around his, one hand sliding down his arm to lace their fingers together. “You make a far better pillow.”
Joseph grinned. “You won’t catch me arguing.”
Clarisse chuckled softly and at Joseph’s request, she reached out to turn on the stereo then snuggled back against him. “This isn’t interfering with your driving is it?”
“Not at all,” Joseph replied and the two began to chat quietly as the soft sounds of saxophone drifted around them. By the time the third song, Europa, started, Clarisse had fallen asleep. An affectionate smile graced Joseph’s lips and he couldn’t stop himself from tilting his head to nuzzle his cheek against her hair then turned his attention back to the road.
“This is one of our best suites,” the young bellhop intoned in French as he unlocked and opened the double doors then stepped aside for the couple to enter.
Clarisse glanced around the room, her eyes moving over the gas fireplace in the far corner, and right beside that, a small, fully decorated Christmas tree. She nodded her approval of what was obviously Joseph’s idea, while Joseph himself took in the room with the practiced eye of his profession; searching out and determining that everything was safe and secure for the woman who was both his Queen and the keeper of his heart.
“You can leave the bags there,” Joseph told the young man in perfectly accented French when he’d reached the centre of the suite.
The bellhop nodded and removed their suitcases from the luggage trolley then pulled the now empty cart with him towards the door. Joseph followed the young man and pressed a generous tip into his hand. “Merci, monsieur.”
Joseph closed the doors and locked them then turned to see Clarisse standing in the middle of the room watching him. He slowly walked over to her, and was surprised when she moved immediately into his arms, laying her head on his chest and wrapping her arms around him.
“This is lovely…” Clarisse murmured. “Thank you, Joseph.”
Joseph smiled as he hugged her to him. “It is I who should thank you for letting me whisk you away.”
“Thank you for knowing I needed to get away.”
“Well, it is in my job description to look out for you, and to cater to the needs of the crown,” Joseph replied.
“Mmm… and you do such an incredible job,” Clarisse said then turned her face and yawned into his chest. “Oh my… I’m sorry,” she said as she yawned again.
“Don’t apologize,” Joseph told her as he gently rubbed her back. “We’ve been in the car for several hours, and it is late, so maybe we should call it a night.”
“No…” she murmured and stifled another yawn into his shirt. “I’m quite happy where I am at the moment.”
Joseph chuckled softly and tightened his arms. “Who am I to argue?”
They remained locked in each other’s arms for several more minutes until it was all Clarisse could do not to yawn continuously.
“Come on,” Joseph took a step back but kept his arms loosely around her. “Time for bed.”
Clarisse nodded tiredly. “Yes, m’lord.”
Joseph favoured her with a smile as he leaned in and brushed a gentle kiss over her lips then stepped away from her. He moved over to their luggage, picked up the two pieces that belonged to Clarisse and carried them across the suite, into what was obviously an adjoining bedroom.
Clarisse remained standing in the middle of the lounge, and moments later, Joseph returned, moving across the room to stand before her.
“Your bed awaits, my queen.” Joseph told her with a dramatic sweep of his hand.
Clarisse gave him a small smile as she turned and began to slowly walk towards the room. She stopped in the bedroom doorway when she realized that he wasn’t following. Clarisse turned to find him watching her.
“Is something wrong, Clarisse?”
“No… but I thought… well, I assumed… that we… uhm…” Clarisse stammered uncharacteristically as a blush crept up her face.
Joseph watched the myriad of emotions play across Clarisse’s face; embarrassment, confusion, doubt, and even a little insecurity… all warring for dominance under his gaze until finally she shook her head, and with a whispered, “Never mind,” she turned and walked into the bedroom. Joseph dropped the bag he was holding and ran into the bedroom after her.
Clarisse gave a small surprised yelp when she felt Joseph’s hands close around her upper arms and then she felt herself being spun around and backed up against the wall next to the door. Before Clarisse could utter a sound, Joseph’s mouth was covering hers in a hungry kiss. She parted her lips under the insistent pressure of his tongue, a soft moan escaping into his mouth as his tongue teased and coaxed hers into a passionate dance.
Joseph felt like he was in heaven as the sweet taste of Clarisse finally washed over his taste buds. He groaned in the back of his throat and deepened the kiss as he pressed his body tight against hers, marveling at how well they fit together.
Clarisse could only cling to Joseph, her hands gripping his shoulders, as he continued to plunder her mouth. She could feel every hard inch of his body against hers, every hard, sinewy muscle as he pressed closer, as if trying to merge their bodies. Clarisse gasped into his mouth when she felt his hand close over her breast, her nipple growing hard beneath the heat of his palm. The heat she could feel through the silk of her blouse, and the lace of her bra.
Joseph rolled the pointed tip between his thumb and index finger before he once again palmed the heavy mound. She felt glorious, even through the layers separating her breast from his touch. Joseph coaxed her tongue into his mouth, and wrapped his around it, teasing and tasting before chasing the muscle back into the hot, sweet cavern of her mouth.
With a Herculean effort, Joseph broke off the kiss and took a small step back, breaking the contact of their bodies. “There can be no doubt now as to how much I want you,” he told her in a breathless voice.
Clarisse shook her head. No. There was no doubt. If the kiss they’d just shared hadn’t told her, the look in Joseph’s eyes at this moment would. They were dark, smoky, and full of desire. Clarisse licked her lips.
Joseph growled and swooped back in to once again catch her lips in an ardent kiss. When the kiss threatened to grow out of control, Joseph pulled his mouth away from hers and moved away from her. “Dulces sueños, reina mía.” He whispered in a husky voice as he reached out and cupped her cheek. “Te quiero, Clarisse.”
“I love you too, Joseph.” Clarisse replied in a soft, throaty voice.
He smiled, and with a gentle caress of his thumb over her lips, Joseph turned and left her bedroom.
Clarisse pushed herself off the wall, and as she reached for the door, she watched Joseph pick up his suitcase and move into his room across the lounge. She shut the door and leaned back against it, her hand coming up to finger her lips as she sighed happily. Then with a happy smile on her lips, Clarisse pushed herself off the door and set about preparing for bed.
Clarisse rolled over on to her back and sighed. It was just no use. She couldn’t sleep. Her mind kept tormenting her by replaying the kiss over and over… and expanding on it. Her imagination showing her what could have happened if Joseph hadn’t ended things… hadn’t stopped the kiss, and left.
She wanted him. If she was honest with herself, she had wanted him for a number of years. The first time she’d met him, at the ball announcing her engagement to Rupert, Clarisse had felt an immediate attraction.
“Clarisse, my dear… I would like for you to meet my oldest and most trusted friend, Lord Joseph Ferreira.” Rupert smiled at the young woman on his arm. “Joe, this is my bride to be, Clarisse Beauvais.”
“Lord Ferreira,” Clarisse held her hand out to the dashing, albeit balding man before her.
“Please, milady, call me Joseph,” Ferreira said as he took her hand. “It is an honour to finally meet you.”
Their eyes met as Joseph bent to brush his lips over her knuckles, and Clarisse felt a jolt run through her as she looked into the soulful cerulean depths.
‘I got lost in his eyes,’ Clarisse remembered with a smile. ‘Such beautiful eyes.’
She rolled onto her side and curled herself around her pillow, the smile on her face growing as she remembered that several heartbeats had passed before they’d broken eye contact, and after a few moments of idle conversation, Rupert had pulled her away to meet other dignitaries.
It had been a long, boring ball, Clarisse remembered. Rupert had introduced her to so many people that night. Lord after Lord… Viscounts, Earls, visiting monarchs… so many different faces and names, she’d almost been overwhelmed. When the soft strains of a waltz had started, Clarisse had turned to Rupert with hopeful eyes, only to find him engaged in a heated discussion with a member of the Genovian Parliament.
“May I have this dance?”
Clarisse turned at the low voice and found herself drowning in twin pools of sparkling blue. “Lord Ferreira.”
“Milady…” Joseph bowed his head. “Would you do me the honour of sharing this waltz with me?” Joseph turned to face Rupert who had looked over at the sound of Joseph’s voice. “If it’s all right with you, Rupert.”
“By all means,” Rupert nodded then smiled at Clarisse. “You could not be in better hands…”
“If you’re certain?”
“I am. Go on… you’ll not find a better dance partner than my friend here.”
Clarisse nodded then smiled at Joseph. “I would love to share this dance with you.”
Joseph returned her smile as he offered her his arm then led her out onto the dance floor.
“And what a dancer he was…” Clarisse sighed happily as a small smile played over her lips. “Still is…”
She rolled back onto her back and stared at the ceiling. Joseph’s kiss had left her feeling restless.
‘And horny,’ Clarisse thought with a smirk.
There really was no other word for it.
Her mind kept focusing on the feel of Joseph’s lips on hers… his taste as his tongue danced with hers… As if knowing she was thinking about it, her still slightly swollen lips began to tingle. Clarisse’s tongue darted out unconsciously as images of Joseph’s lips moving and tasting other parts of her body filled her mind.
“Oh… God…” Clarisse moaned when she felt her nipples harden and the ache between her thighs grow. ‘All at the mere thought of him…’ she told herself as she clenched her hands at her sides. She closed her eyes and willed her mind to think of something other than Joseph… the feel of his hard body pressed against hers… the heat of his hand as he cupped her breast…
“Joseph…” Clarisse moaned again, the ache growing stronger. Before she could change her mind, Clarisse kicked off the blankets then quickly climbed out of bed. Not bothering with her robe, Clarisse stopped only to remove the few presents she’d brought for Joseph from her suitcase then made her way out of her bedroom.
Clarisse stopped just outside her door at the sight of Joseph’s door slightly ajar. ‘Ever the vigilant one, my love…’ she thought with a smile and shook her head affectionately as she tiptoed across the lounge towards the Christmas tree. At the sight of gifts already lying beneath the branches, Clarisse’s smile grew. She quickly added her packages then stood and made her way to Joseph’s room.
Clarisse paused at the door, suddenly unsure. She could turn around and return to her room… ‘And toss and turn all night thinking about him…’
“Just do it, Clarisse.” She whispered to herself and slipped into Joseph’s bedroom; padding quietly across the carpet until she was standing next to his bed. Clarisse gazed down at him, his features relaxed in sleep. ‘He looks so peaceful,’ she thought. ‘And so handsome…’
“Oh, Joseph…” she whispered without thinking.
Joseph’s eyes flew open as he suddenly sat up, causing Clarisse to jump back in surprise. He looked at her, concern written all over his face. “Clarisse? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing… I…” Clarisse began as her eyes fell to his bare chest. She felt her mouth go dry at the sight of the light sprinkling of dark, graying curls covering his well-muscled physique.
Clarisse shook her head and brought her eyes back up to his face. “I, oh… I’m sorry I woke you, Joseph. I…” she lowered her head, feeling suddenly shy and unsure.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she admitted quietly. “I shouldn’t have disturbed you… I’m sorry…” she said and moved to leave.
Joseph’s hand shot out and caught her wrist. “Is your bed uncomfortable?” Clarisse shook her head. “Your room too cold?” Again she shook her head. “Why couldn’t you sleep, Clarisse?”
“I… I could still feel your lips,” she whispered then met his eyes. A shiver pulsed down her spine at the more than obvious desire she could see in his dark eyes even in the dimly lit room.
“Clarisse?” All Joseph’s questions were expressed in the simple utterance of her name.
“I want to sleep with you, Joseph.” Clarisse told him. “I want to fall asleep in your embrace… feel your arms around me.”
A slow, soft smile touched Joseph’s lips and without uttering a word, he slid over and tugged gently on the wrist he still had grasped in his hand.
Clarisse returned his smile and slipped gracefully into the bed beside him. She lay stiffly beside him for just a moment, suddenly unsure. But at his softly uttered, “Come here,” Clarisse moved into Joseph’s arms.
Their lips came together in a loving kiss. When the kiss threatened to become more they broke apart, both breathless. Without saying a word, Clarisse shifted and settled into his arms, one arm curling beneath her, as she laid her head on his chest and wrapped her other arm around his waist.
“I’ve wanted to hold you like this for so long,” Joseph told her in a quiet voice as he tightened his arms around her, and pulled her closer; pleased when her legs tangled with his, bringing more of their bodies into contact.
Clarisse replied with a kiss to his chest, her hand sliding from his waist, over his chest to rest on his shoulder as she snuggled even closer. “I love you, Joseph.” She whispered sleepily.
“And I you, Clarisse.” Joseph replied.
Within moments, both were sound asleep, wrapped safely in each other’s arms.
Clarisse woke to the feeling of being cocooned in heat. As she grew more alert, she realized the source of the heat was a hard, male body whose chest was pressed firmly against her back. A smile touched her lips as memories from the night before came rushing back… not being able to sleep… stealing into his room… and, her smile grew, slipping into his bed and his arms.
Her eyes remained closed as she focused her senses on the man she was sleeping with… the man who was wrapped around her, holding her safe and tight within the shelter of his body. It was obvious they had shifted during the night, as Clarisse was lying on her side, on the other side of the mattress, with Joseph spooned up tightly behind her.
Clarisse felt as if she was being enveloped by Joseph; she could feel his breath on the back of her neck as he snored gently in her ear; his face obviously buried in her short hair. One of his hair-roughened thighs had worked its way between her legs and was pressed intimately against her center while his arm was wrapped around her, his hand closed possessively around her breast.
Joseph’s arms tightened around her as he shifted in his sleep, the hand on her breast reflexively squeezing the generous mound as he pressed his hips firmer against hers.
Clarisse muffled the low moan that rose in her throat at the feel of his morning erection pressing into her rear. She shifted back against him and was rewarded with an answering thrust. She pushed back against him again.
“If you keep that up,” a soft, husky voice sounded in her ear. “We will never make it out of this bed.”
Clarisse felt her body flush, both from embarrassment and the feel of his warm breath against her ear. “Sorry…” she whispered the apology.
“No need to be,” Joseph replied then pressed a kiss to the nape of her neck. “Good morning, my darling.”
Clarisse turned her head back towards him as far as she could in the position they were in. “Good morning.”
“Mmhmm… better than I can ever remember,” Clarisse answered. “You?”
“Best night’s sleep I’ve ever had,” Joseph replied as he shifted, propping himself up on his elbow so that he could lean over her. He smiled down at her as he lowered his lips to hers in a sweet kiss. As the kiss continued, Joseph gently kneaded her breast, pleased to feel her nipple harden and pierce his palm.
Clarisse moaned and arched into his hand, the heat from his palm spreading throughout her body, igniting a fire deep within her; a fire she realized that only Joseph could quench. Without realizing she was doing it, Clarisse clenched her thighs around Joseph’s leg and began to rock against him, grinding her centre against the hard appendage.
Joseph groaned, eased his leg out from between hers, and without breaking their kiss, eased Clarisse onto her back. His hand found her breast once again, his fingers teasing her nipple through the satin of her nightgown.
“…Joseph…” Clarisse gasped out of the kiss.
“Tell me to stop…” Joseph told her as he nipped his way down her jaw to her ear. “Tell me to stop now… before we go too far…”
“I don’t want you to…” Clarisse told him as she grasped his face in her hands and brought his mouth back to hers, kissing him hungrily.
As their kiss deepened, Joseph shifted his body over hers, and settled his hips within the cradle of her thighs. He moaned her name into her mouth when he felt her hands slide over his shoulders, her fingers dancing down his back to clutch at his rear. Joseph pulled his mouth from hers, and trailed a line of hot kisses down the smooth column of her neck to the upper swell of Clarisse’s breasts.
“Mmm…” Clarisse moaned as Joseph traced the lacy edge of her nightgown with his tongue over her breasts then cried out his name when he suddenly took her satin covered nipple into his mouth. “Joseph!”
Joseph smiled around the stiff peak in his mouth and drew harder on her nipple. He swirled his tongue around the pebbled point then gently nipped it with his teeth as his fingers teased her other breast.
Clarisse arched beneath him as the incredible sensations his mouth was invoking coursed through her body; sensations she’d never felt until this moment… with this man. She entangled her legs with his as she slowly ran her hands up along his back, her fingers massaging the firm muscles.
Joseph released her nipple and caught her mouth in another fervent kiss as his fingers hooked the straps of her nightgown to slowly pull the satiny material down. He broke off the kiss and rose up on his elbows to watch as the nightgown slipped off of her breasts.
“Oh god…” Joseph exhaled the breath he didn’t realize he was holding and cupped her now bare breasts. “So beautiful…” he circled his thumbs over her nipples, pleased when the already pointed tips ruched even more.
“Joseph!” Clarisse cried out as he lowered his head to her breast, his lips closing around the sensitive peak. Her hands flew off his shoulders to grab at his head, her fingers threading in the soft fringe of hair. Clarisse moaned as his tongue curled around her nipple, sending shards of pleasure through her body.
Joseph suckled hard; pulling as much of her breast into his mouth as he could while his fingers pulled and teased the nipple of her left one. He released the rosy tip with an audible pop; licking and kissing his way over to the other mound while his hand covered the now-neglected breast.
Clarisse squirmed beneath Joseph as he continued to feast at her chest, the sensations coursing through her body unlike any she had ever felt before. Rupert had been a considerate lover… the few times they’d actually had sex, but Clarisse could not recall ever feeling the need… the hunger and the desire she was feeling at this moment with Joseph… for her husband.
She drew one leg up and wrapped it around his hips as she arched beneath him, his firm stomach pressed tightly against her centre. “Jo… seph…” his name came out as a breathless moan when he pulled lightly on her nipple with his teeth, the feelings adding to the growing coil of pleasure low in her belly.
Joseph smiled around her breast at her utterance of his name, and pressed his body closer to hers; to the heat he could feel emanating from her core against his stomach. He pulled his mouth from her nipple, rose up on his elbows again and cupped the generous mounds in his hands.
“I love your breasts,” Joseph told her in a husky voice, circling her nipples with his thumbs as he pushed the globes closer so that the dusky, pointed tips were touching. “I could feast at your breasts for a lifetime…”
“I don’t think I could last that long…” Clarisse gasped as she watched him lean over and flick his tongue out against her nipples. “Joseph… don’t tease…”
“Yes, my queen…” Joseph flashed her a lusty smile then lowered his head and took both nipples into his mouth.
“Ooh… oh god…” Clarisse cried out and tightened her grasp on his head as twin bolts of sensation shot through her body. “…Joseph…” she moaned his name as she lifted her head to rain kisses over his smooth pate. “Joseph…” Clarisse murmured his name over and over as her lips moved over the soft skin.
Joseph groaned at the feel of her mouth on the top of his head, the sudden sensation shooting straight to his groin. He bit gently at her nipples in response as his fingers gently kneaded the full mounds, and then began to hum.
Clarisse’s head fell back to the pillow as the feelings coursing through her body grew. “Oh… Joseph… please! I…” All of a sudden her body tensed and a wave of intense pleasure rolled over her. Her hands fell from Joseph’s head to clutch at his shoulders as the swells of sensation continued. “JOSEPH!”
When he felt Clarisse’s body stop trembling beneath his, Joseph released her breasts and shifted up her body to capture her lips in an impassioned kiss.
“Oh… oh, Joseph…” Clarisse gasped as their kiss ended, silent tears spilling down the sides of her face. “I… that was…” she shook her head, unable to articulate what she was feeling. “I never knew… thank you…” Clarisse finished simply and cupped his cheek.
A small smile touched Joseph’s lips as he rested his forehead against hers, their breaths intermingling. “There is so much more I want to show you… to share with you…”
Clarisse moaned as Joseph shifted against her, the soft hairs on his chest abrading her sensitive nipples, and his more than obvious arousal pressing against her centre. She ran her hands down his sides then up over his back to his shoulders, and clutched Joseph closer. “Show me now…” Clarisse whispered against his lips.
Joseph nodded and gave her a soft kiss. “My pleasure,” he told her as he shifted and began to inch his way down her body.
“Not all yours…” Clarisse said with a smile as he trailed a line of kisses down her chest. “Joseph!” She giggled when he flicked his tongue out against each nipple then gave each berried tip a quick suck before continuing his journey down her body. “That tickled…” Clarisse told him when he raised an eyebrow at her.
Joseph chuckled then resumed his trek down her body. His hands pushed her nightgown down, revealing smooth, ivory skin to his questing lips as he moved lower. Clarisse arched beneath him and her hands fell to clutch at the sheet as Joseph licked and kissed a fiery trail across her belly.
“…Joseph…” she gasped when he circled her navel with his tongue then inhaled sharply, and held her breath when he moved lower still.
Joseph pushed her nightgown a little lower to reveal a small line of light auburn curls, and felt Clarisse’s body tense in anticipation. His lips just brushed the curls when there was a loud knock on the outer suite doors.
“No!” Clarisse cried out as Joseph dropped his head onto her stomach. “Who can that be?”
“Monsieur Ferreira! Room service,” a voice called out in French.
Joseph sighed and shook his head against her before he raised it to look at her. “That would be our brunch.”
“What? When did you…”
“Last night, before I went to sleep I placed an order. I figured that we’d be up about now, and ready to eat,” Joseph said as he glanced over at the clock by the bed. “I didn’t realize it was that late.”
Another knock sounded.
Joseph groaned and dropped another kiss to her bare stomach then quickly moved back up her body to press a quick kiss to her lips before he rolled off of her and out of the bed.
Clarisse shimmied to pull her nightgown back up, and curled up on her side around his pillow as she watched Joseph grab his robe off the bench at the foot of the bed.
“I’ll be right back,” he told her as he pulled on the robe and left the bedroom.
Clarisse closed her eyes with a frustrated sigh, and let her mind drift back over the happenings of the last hour. She’d known when she agreed to let Joseph take her away that they would, before returning to the palace, end up making love.
‘And we would be doing so now if it weren’t for room service,’ Clarisse thought with a wry smile. She felt her body flush, and a tingle shoot through her from her nipples to her centre at the memory of what Joseph had done to her.
For the first time in her life… Clarisse had had an orgasm.
Her smile grew. Joseph had been able to bring her to release just by suckling at her breasts. An ache grew between her thighs at the thought of making love to Joseph… at feeling him moving in and above her… his hands caressing her flesh…
Clarisse opened her eyes to find Joseph watching her from the doorway. She felt a blush creep up her face, convinced he knew what she’d been thinking about. “Yes?”
“Would your majesty prefer breakfast in bed, or shall I set the table in the lounge?”
“I think I would like to eat in the lounge,” Clarisse answered as she unwrapped her arms from around his pillow, swung her legs out of the bed, and stood.
Joseph watched Clarisse walk slowly towards him, the full skirt of her nightgown flowing about her legs with each step. He smiled when she stopped before him, and couldn’t resist reaching out to cup her cheek. “You are so beautiful.”
“Sure I am,” Clarisse gave a short, self-depreciating laugh. “Hair messy…”
“I like you with bed head…”
“No make up…”
“You don’t need make up. You are naturally beautiful,” Joseph told her as he stroked his thumb over her lips.
“Flatterer,” Clarisse smiled.
“I only speak the truth,” he said as he dropped his hand to catch hers, and led her into the lounge. “Come, let’s eat.”
“And then we can open our presents!” Clarisse said in a giddy voice, her face anxious.
Joseph laughed. “Yes, then we can open our presents.”
“So… what would you like to do now?”
“Hmm… I don’t know…” Clarisse answered in a soft voice as she and Joseph cuddled together on the love seat before the fireplace. “This is nice…”
Joseph chuckled and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
When they’d finished their brunch, they had moved over to the fireplace and Christmas tree, and had exchanged their gifts. Joseph had been thrilled with the beard trimmer Clarisse had bought him, surprised that she’d remembered his comment months earlier about having to get a new one as his was getting old.
In turn, tears had filled Clarisse’s eyes when she opened the smallest box Joseph had placed in her hands to find a fine gold chain with a delicate floating heart charm. It’d taken her several minutes before she was able to find her voice to thank him; she had been so touched by the gift.
Once the gifts had been opened, they’d moved to the loveseat and had been cuddling since.
Clarisse shifted slightly, turning her head to look out the window. “The sun is shining, and despite the snow, it looks like it is a rather nice day,” she lifted her head from his shoulder. “Fancy a walk?”
Joseph stole a glance at the window then looked back at her. “You did bring warm clothes, right? Slacks, sweaters… a warm jacket.”
“Then yes, I would indeed fancy a walk with you, my dear.”
Clarisse beamed and leaned in to brush a quick kiss over his lips before the two of them got up from the sofa, and disappeared into their bedrooms to change.
The door to the suite flew open, and two bodies stumbled into the room, laughing.
“I cannot believe you did that!”
“They were asking for it!”
“True, they were. But I still can’t believe you did that.”
Clarisse turned to face Joseph and placed her gloved hands on his chest. “Those kids interrupted a positively wonderful necking session, and had to be taught a lesson.”
Joseph laughed again as he drew her into his arms, and gave her a loving kiss. “It was rather enjoyable kissing my very own snow angel.”
They had ventured out into the small woods near the hotel, and followed the trail in amongst the trees. After half an hour of walking, Clarisse had pointed off somewhere to their left, and when Joseph had turned to look, she’d scooped a handful of snow off a nearby stump, shoved it down the back of Joseph’s jacket then took off running.
Joseph had immediately given chase, throwing soft snowballs at her as he went.
They’d ended up leaving the trail, and entered a small open meadow, where after several minutes of chasing and throwing snow at each other, Joseph dove after Clarisse. His arms wrapped around her waist, and he’d turned, making sure that she fell on him instead of the ground.
When Clarisse had pushed up on her arms to look down at him, and make sure he was all right, all thoughts of playing in the snow disappeared. Both had become immediately aware of the position they were in… and despite their cold surroundings, both had felt a surge of heat pass through them.
Within seconds their mouths had been locked together in an ardent kiss. Arms wrapped around bodies, and legs tangled together as they quickly forgot they were in the middle of an open field.
Things had just started to really heat up between the couple when through the haze of passion they’d heard whistles and catcalls from the line of trees. When Clarisse lifted her head to see what the noise was, the hoots got louder, followed by cheers of, “Way to go, Grandma!”
Clarisse had at first turned red with embarrassment, but then had climbed off Joseph and proceeded to pummel the kids with snowballs. Joseph, seconds behind her in climbing to his feet, had joined her in her fight, which sparked an all out snowball war.
“And it was quite enjoyable kissing my very own snowman,” Clarisse replied as the kiss ended. She shivered in his arms.
“We need to get out of these wet clothes,” Joseph told her.
“You won’t catch me arguing,” Clarisse said as she shivered in his arms.
“Come on,” Joseph grabbed her hand and led her into her bedroom. “Why don’t you grab your nightgown, and your robe,” he told her as he dropped her hand and moved into the bathroom.
“What are you doing?”
“Running you a bath,” Joseph called out from the bathroom as the sound of running water filled the air.
“I am capable of running my own bath,” Clarisse called back.
Joseph appeared in the doorway. “I know that,” he said and walked over to her. “But I want to pamper you…”
“You don’t have…”
“I want to. I don’t really get the chance to at the palace…” Joseph reached up to cup her cheek. “So, you’ll have to endure me doing so here.”
Clarisse covered his hand with hers and turned her face into his touch, brushing a soft kiss to his palm. “Well… if I must.”
Joseph chuckled. “Your bath awaits, Madame.”
“Merci, Monsieur.” Clarisse replied as Joseph stepped away from her and moved towards the door.
“I’m going to go turn the fireplace on, place an order to room service then grab a quick shower,” Joseph told her. “Is there anything in particular you would like for dinner? Traditional fare?”
Clarisse shook her head. “Surprise me.”
“All right,” Joseph nodded. “Enjoy your bath.”
“Thank you, I will. Enjoy your shower.”
With a smile, and a slight bow, Joseph left her bedroom.
Clarisse hummed to herself as she gathered her nightgown and robe then moved into the bathroom. The smile on her face grew as the scent of lavender drifted around her, wafting up from the bubbles floating on the water filling up the large tub.
She partially closed the door then quickly shed her wet clothes and slipped into the tub. A deep sigh left Clarisse’s lips as she sank into the hot water. A few moments later, she reached out and turned the water off then closed her eyes and leaned back.
After a few minutes, Clarisse opened her eyes.
Something was missing.
The bath was wonderful. The combination of the lavender and the water were working to relax and warm her but still… something was missing. And Clarisse knew what that something was.
She heard the not too distant sound of a door flying open, followed by heavy footsteps and seconds later, her bathroom door flew open as Joseph rushed into the small room. He stood in the middle of the bathroom, his robe looking as if it’d been hastily pulled on and just barely secured, and scoured the room frantically.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
‘Always on duty, my love.’ Clarisse thought with a small smile. “Oh, Joseph! I’m sorry… nothing is wrong… well, not in that way.”
It was then that Joseph realized that Clarisse was in the bathtub. He let his eyes wander over her bare shoulders before he met her gaze. “Clarisse?”
“I… I was lonely.”
A small amused smile touched Joseph’s lips. “You were… lonely?”
Clarisse had the grace to blush slightly as she nodded. “It was too quiet… and I was wondering… if perhaps you would like to join me in my bath?”
Joseph’s eyes grew wide.
“That’s only if you want to, of course.” Clarisse said with a shy smile.
Joseph searched her eyes then after a moment he turned away.
Clarisse felt her heart drop but that was quickly replaced by an even stronger surge of joy as she realized that Joseph wasn’t leaving. She watched as he removed his robe, and closing the door somewhat, hung it up with hers, leaving him in just his boxers.
As he turned back to face her, Clarisse let her eyes wander down his chest, taking in the toned muscles covered in a light sprinkling of graying hair then followed that same line of hair down over his abdomen to the waistband of his boxers. Clarisse swallowed hard then licked her lips as she brought her gaze back up to his.
Holding her eyes, Joseph slowly pushed the silk shorts down over his hips and let them fall to the floor around his feet. His eyes remained on Clarisse’s face as she once again dropped her gaze from his, and was pleased to see a look of appreciation cross her features as she looked at him in all his glory.
Clarisse’s eyes once again traveled down Joseph’s chest, following the trail of hair to his semi-erect member. She licked her lips at the sight of him, as even not fully hard, Joseph was impressive. Clarisse felt a wave of pure lust wash over her as under her steady gaze, Joseph’s member lengthened and hardened, rising to bounce against his belly. The heat within her swelled, and she released a ragged breath then raised her eyes to his.
Holding her gaze, Joseph slowly stepped over to the tub. “Move up,” he told her in a low voice.
Clarisse nodded and scooted forward in the bath, wrapping her arms around her knees then watched over her shoulder as Joseph stepped into the tub behind her. His legs stretched out on either side of her and before she knew it, Clarisse found herself being pulled back against Joseph’s chest, his erection trapped between them.
Joseph wrapped his arms around her, and laid his hands on her stomach. “Relax, Clarisse…” Joseph told her when after several minutes her body was still tense in his arms.
“I’m sorry, Joseph…” Clarisse replied in a shaky voice. “I know I invited you to join me but I’ve never…”
“Neither have I,” Joseph whispered against her temple.
Clarisse shifted in his embrace and tilted her head back to look at him. “You haven’t?” She asked, a touch of disbelief in her voice.
“No,” Joseph shook his head. “Sharing one’s bath with another person is too intimate an experience to share with just anyone. And,” he lifted a hand from the water to caress her cheek. “I have only ever wanted to experience this with you.”
“Oh, Joseph…” Clarisse uttered his name softly and lifted her lips to his for a gentle kiss then settled back in his arms. She slipped her hands beneath the water and covered his where they rested on her stomach.
They relaxed in the warm, scented water for long moments in a comfortable silence, letting their thoughts wander.
“Do you remember the first time we met?” Clarisse asked Joseph quietly as she absently rubbed her foot against his.
“Oh yes,” Joseph nodded. “The ball announcing your engagement to Rupert. You were so beautiful that night. You took my breath away. I lost both my heart and my soul to you that evening… the moment I looked into your eyes.”
Clarisse tilted her head so that her temple rested against his cheek as she murmured, “I lost mine to you that night as well.”
“When we danced… it took every ounce of strength within me to return you to Rupert’s side,” Joseph admitted quietly. “My heart was yours the moment I looked into your eyes,” he repeated his earlier admission, “And when I took you into my arms to dance, I fell in love with you with every step we took. But Rupert was my friend. I loved him like a brother, and I could not do that to him anymore than I could do it to you.”
“Rupert and I were never in love.”
“I fell in love with you during that first dance too.”
“However, I could not ask you to choose between me,” Joseph continued as his thumb began to circle over her stomach. “A man whom you’d just met, and the man you’d been betrothed to since you were eight years old. It would not have been right.”
“If you had asked me then…” Clarisse rubbed her temple against his cheek. “I would have willingly gone with you.”
“Would you have really?”
“Yes,” Clarisse admitted in a quiet voice. “In those few moments, in your arms, I began to struggle between doing the duty I had been raised for, and following my heart.”
“And I returned you to your duty.”
“Yes…” Clarisse said sadly.
“No regrets, my love.” Joseph told her as he tightened his arms around her. “Events have unfolded the way they were meant to and in the years since that first night, you have become my closest friend and confidant.”
Clarisse smiled and shifted back against him. “And you mine.”
Several minutes of comfortable silence passed between them before Clarisse spoke again. “Why did you leave?”
Joseph didn’t ask her to elaborate, knowing immediately what she was asking. “I had to. I didn’t want to make things more difficult for you,” he answered. “I could see it in your face whenever our eyes would meet in the weeks following your wedding, and I knew… that as painful as it would be, I had to put some distance between us. You and Rupert needed that chance to see if anything could grow between you.”
“So you went off to join the French Foreign Legion?”
“To begin with, yes.
After my tour there, I traveled around some… taking jobs with different
firms… different monarchs… learning what I could in my chosen profession,”
Joseph told her. “At one point, I even
ended up in the
“You did all that in six years?”
“If your mother hadn’t gotten sick… would you have ever come home?”
“One day,” Joseph answered with a slight nod. “I was hoping that the longer I stayed away, the feelings I had would go away… or at least lessen…”
“And they didn’t.”
“No, they didn’t.” Joseph echoed. “I knew the first moment I saw you again… nursing Philippe…”
“You saw me nursing… when? I don’t remember nursing him with you around,” Clarisse said as she turned slightly in his arms.
Joseph gave her a small smile. “The day I arrived back in Genovia, after I visited with my mother, I came to the palace at Rupert’s request. When I arrived, I was told that he was in session with Parliament, and that it was running unavoidably late. So I decided to wander… I guess subconsciously, I was looking for you… and after several minutes, I happened upon you in one of the sitting rooms that overlooked the garden.”
Clarisse nodded, not finding that part surprising, as she had spent many hours in that one particular room after the boys had been born.
“I had just come to the door when I heard the baby cry. I watched you lift him from his bassinet and carry him back to your chair. I knew I should have looked away, but I couldn’t… I watched as you unfastened the bodice of your gown…” Joseph’s voice grew quiet as he gave voice to the memory surfacing in his mind. “…and revealed the most perfect breast I had ever seen. This one…” his hand slid up from her stomach to cup her left breast and squeezed it gently. “You then brought Philippe up to nurse… and I stood there transfixed, and watched…” Joseph opened his eyes and looked at her. “I had never seen anything more beautiful… and I knew in that moment, that I was still in love with you, and always would be.
“I don’t know how long I stood there watching you… one minute… twenty… before Rupert joined me,” Joseph told her. “He glanced into the room, and I remember a tender smile touching his lips before he motioned for me to follow him.”
“Joe, it’s good to see you again, my friend.” Rupert said, reaching out to pat Joseph on the shoulder as the two men walked down the corridor. “I’m sorry it’s not under better circumstances…”
“As am I,” Joseph replied. “But I will admit, it is good to be home.”
“How is your mother really?”
“Not well. The doctors are not optimistic that she’ll last the week,” Joseph said sadly.
“I am sorry, Joe.” Rupert repeated as they entered his office.
“Thank you, Rupert.” Joseph gave his old friend a grateful smile. “So, what did you want to see me about, your Majesty?”
“I know this isn’t the best time to ask you, but Vincent is hoping to retire at the end of the year…”
“And you want me to take over his job as your Head of Security.”
“I can think of no better man for the job,” Rupert replied then met Joseph’s eyes in a concentrated stare. “And I know you would do anything to protect Clarisse…”
Joseph’s eyes widened. “Rupert… I… I’m…”
“In love with my wife.” Rupert held up his hand to stall his friend’s protest. “Do not worry, Joe. I am not angry or upset.”
Joseph sank down into the nearby chair.
“I began to suspect it the night of our engagement ball,” Rupert said, as he walked over to the liquor cabinet. He poured two snifters of cognac and walked back over to Joseph. “Here,” Rupert held out one of the glasses to Joseph then sat down in the chair opposite his friend.
“Thanks,” Joseph murmured, and took a swallow of the brown liquid. “You said you suspected the night of the ball… when did you know for sure?”
“The day of the wedding,” Rupert answered then took a drink of his cognac. “It wasn’t me Clarisse was looking at as she came up the aisle.”
Joseph hung his head in shame. “Rupert…”
Rupert cut him off as he continued. “The whole time she was coming up the aisle, all I could think was how radiant she looked… and yet at the same time, how very sad. I realized then, that her eyes were not on me but on you. When I glanced over at you, and saw you looking at her with the same look in your eyes… that’s when I knew for certain.”
“I tried to fight it,” Joseph said in a quiet voice as he slowly raised his head. “I swear to you, Rupert… I tried.”
“I know, Joe.”
“And I promise you… nothing ever happened.”
“I know,” Rupert nodded. “You have too much honour to do otherwise. That’s why you left, isn’t it?”
“How did you answer?” Clarisse asked him.
“I told Rupert what I told you. That I left to give the two of you a chance to discover… to work at finding out if there could be more between you. I knew that although your marriage was arranged, there was still a chance that you would find love with each other.”
“What did Rupert say?”
“Rupert told me that he knew that was the reason I left, and that he was grateful…”
“I am grateful, Joe. But you shouldn’t have left,” Rupert told him. “I do love my wife… but I am not in love with her, and she is not in love with me. That’s not to say we didn’t try… but you can’t force those feelings. They’re either there or they’re not.” A small smile touched Rupert’s lips. “Like they are between you and Clarisse…”
“Rupert…” Joseph shook his head.
“It’s all right, Joe.” Rupert interrupted him. “I know you didn’t set out to fall in love with her, or she with you…”
Joseph’s head snapped up. “She’s not…”
“Yes, she is.” Rupert said.
“I shouldn’t have come back…”
“Of course you should have,” Rupert told him. “Your mother needs you, and so do I.”
“You’re still not serious about my taking over for Vincent are you?” Joseph asked. “Not knowing how I feel about the Queen?!”
“That is precisely why I want you for this position,” Rupert said. “I know you’ll protect Clarisse…”
“I would give my life for her,” Joseph admitted in a quiet voice then holding his friend’s eyes. “As I would for you… my friend, and my king.”
Rupert smiled and nodded. “I know you would, my friend.” He paused. “So, does this mean you’ll take the job?”
“You’re putting me in an awkward position, Rupert.”
“I know I am. I won’t deny it, but you’re the best man for the job, and the only man I would trust with the lives of my wife and children,” Rupert said.
Joseph took another sip of his cognac, swallowing the strong spirit slowly. After several minutes of silence, and several more sips of his drink, Joseph finally met Rupert’s eyes again. “All right. I’ll do it.”
Rupert sank back in his chair with relief. “Thank you, Joe. Thank you.”
“And the rest you know.”
Clarisse nodded. “I was so angry at you that night.”
“Me? Why?” Joseph asked as he reached out for the bar of soap on the edge of the tub.
“You came back… and you hadn’t been to see me,” Clarisse answered and dropped her head back against his shoulder as Joseph began to run his soapy hands over her body. “At the same time, I was also grateful, because I wasn’t certain how well I would have been able to hide how I felt for you from both you and Rupert.” She laughed softly. “Now I know he already knew.”
“It seems we both weren’t very good at hiding it,” Joseph commented as he once again lathered up his hands. “Sit up,” he told her softly and began to wash her back.
Clarisse hugged her knees. “I remember being surprised when Rupert told me that he had hired you to replace Vincent.”
“Because you are a member of the aristocracy,” Clarisse answered. “But then Rupert reminded me that you were not the oldest son and that unlike many of the other highborn families, you refused to live off your families’ wealth. You were determined to make your own way in the world… ooh, that feels good… you have wonderful hands…”
Joseph merely chuckled as he continued to massage the shampoo into her short hair.
“Do you remember our first meeting after you returned?” Clarisse asked him.
“Yes. It was at my mother’s funeral two weeks later… lay back,” Joseph told her and guided her down so that he could rinse the shampoo from her hair. When he was finished, he helped her to sit back up. “Despite my not wanting you or Rupert there.”
“I made him take me,” Clarisse told him as she shifted around in the tub to face him. She cupped his cheek with a soapy hand. “You needed someone to be there for you…”
Joseph nuzzled into her palm. “No… I needed you.
Clarisse smiled softly at him then reached for the soap.
Clarisse stepped around her husband to stand before their stoic friend. “Joseph…” she spoke quietly as she reached out and laid her hand on his arm. “Joseph, it’s time to leave.”
Slowly, as if in a trance, Joseph raised his head and stared at the woman before him with cold, blank eyes.
Clarisse felt her heart break at the sight of his normally dancing blue eyes so dull and lifeless. She rubbed his arm gently and gave him a small smile. “Come, Joseph… come back to the palace with us…”
Without warning, Clarisse suddenly found herself in Joseph’s arms as he buried his face in her shoulder, his body beginning to shake with his unsuppressed tears.
Rupert watched as Clarisse wrapped her arms around Joseph’s shaking form, not surprised that it was with her that Joseph finally gave voice to his grief. He caught Clarisse’s eye and motioned that he would wait for them at the car.
Clarisse nodded slightly then turned her attention back to the man she held in her arms. “That’s it, my darling… let it out,” she murmured into his ear as she rubbed her hands soothingly over his back. “Let it all out… I am not going anywhere.”
“I never did thank you for all you did for me that day,” Joseph told her, enjoying the feel of her soapy hands moving over his chest.
“No thanks were necessary,” Clarisse replied and placed a finger over his lips. “And they still aren’t. You more than made it up to me these last two years. I wouldn’t have made it without you.”
“Yes you would have. You are a strong woman, my love.” Joseph said as he reached for the soap again, lathered it, and began to run his hands over her arms. “You may not think so,” he continued at the doubtful look on her face. “But you are.”
Clarisse smiled. “I am only strong when I need to be… and when you are with me.”
“I know better,” Joseph said. “But I won’t argue with you.”
“Wise man,” Clarisse grinned as she rinsed the soap from his chest.
Joseph chuckled. “You know, as much as I am enjoying bathing with you… I think that we should get out before we prune.”
Clarisse nodded her agreement.
“Although…” Joseph reached out to cup her cheek, his thumb once again stroking over her lips. “The though of making love to you here amongst the bubbles is very appealing.”
Clarisse felt her heart skip a beat, and her face heat. “Very appealing,” she agreed.
“Next time,” Joseph told her as with a final caress of her cheek and mouth, he pulled his legs in from around her and slowly stood.
Clarisse inhaled sharply as she watched Joseph rise up out of the water, her eyes following the trail of suds as they coursed down his hard, naked body. Her gaze remained on him as he stepped out of the tub and reached for one of the towels.
Joseph quickly dried himself off, wrapped the towel around his waist then turned to face her. He smiled at the desire he could see swimming in her blue eyes and held a hand out to her.
Clarisse smiled, placed her hand in his and carefully rose to her feet then stepped out of the tub. She bit her bottom lip nervously as she stood before Joseph, aware of his eyes wandering slowly down then up her nude body.
“Exquisite…” Joseph murmured in a husky voice as his eyes swept over her body once more before he reached for another towel and began to dry her off. “You are beautiful, my queen.”
“I think when we return to Pyrus you should get your eyes checked,” Clarisse told him in a quiet voice as Joseph stepped close, flipped the towel behind her, and used it to pull her closer into his arms.
“My vision is perfect,” Joseph informed her as she snuggled against his chest, her arms winding loosely around his waist. “You ‘are’ beautiful, Clarisse. Do not ever doubt that,” he told her as he dried her back.
“You make me feel beautiful,” Clarisse replied as she inhaled the clean scent of him. “You always have…” she murmured and rubbed her breasts against his chest, enjoying the feel of his soft chest hairs tickling her nipples.
“Clarisse…” Joseph growled softly as she pressed closer and began to nuzzle his neck.
“Mmm…?” Clarisse moved her lips slowly up his throat to his ear. “Yes, my love?” She asked as she pulled his ear lobe between her lips.
“What are you doing?”
“Nibbling on your ear,” was her whispered reply.
“Are you that hungry, my dear?” Joseph chuckled.
“Ravenous,” Clarisse responded in a throaty voice as her hands slipped down to cup his towel-covered rear and gave the firm globes a gentle squeeze. She lifted her head and met his gaze. “…Joseph…” his name was filled with longing as it fell from her lips.
Joseph responded to her request and covered her mouth with his. He traced the line of her lips with his tongue then plunged it into the hot cavern of her mouth. His arms wrapped around Clarisse and pulled her body flush with his.
They moaned into the kiss as their tongues tangled madly. Towels fell to the floor, and hands caressed naked flesh as they sought to bring their bodies closer.
“Joseph…” Clarisse murmured against his lips as her hands curled around his head. “…Joseph… please…”
Joseph nodded and, holding her tightly against him, began to walk them back towards her bedroom. They’d only taken a few steps when there was a loud knock on the suite door.
“Oh god no…” Clarisse moaned and dropped her head to his shoulder. “Not again.”
“Room service,” a voice in French called out from the hallway.
“Tell them we’re not hungry,” Clarisse said as she turned her face into his neck and nipped at his tan flesh. “At least not for food.”
Joseph groaned and his hands tightened on her waist. “Clarisse…”
“I want you…” Clarisse told him as she caught his lips again in a hungry kiss.
“I want you too,” Joseph replied as he responded and kissed her back. His hands drifted down to clasp her rear as he ground his hips against hers.
Another knock sounded. This time louder.
“Damn,” Joseph swore and rested his forehead against hers. “I am sorry, my dear.” He told her as he brushed a kiss over her lips then stepped out of her arms. “I’d better…” he gestured out towards the main lounge as yet another knock sounded.
Clarisse nodded as she watched Joseph grab his boxers from the counter and quickly slip them on.
“I’ll get everything set up,” he said as he reached for his robe.
“I won’t be long,” she replied.
Joseph flashed her a smile then hurried out of the bathroom as he pulled on his robe.
Clarisse sighed and picked her towel up off the floor to finish drying off. She wrapped the fluffy sheet around her body then moved over to drain the tub. Clarisse then decided to take a few moments to finish her toilet before joining Joseph in the lounge for dinner.
“Your move,” Clarisse told her opponent as she removed her fingers from the rook she’d just moved.
Joseph nodded as his eyes dropped down to the chessboard to contemplate his next move.
Clarisse sat back in her chair and let her eyes wander over Joseph as he concentrated on the board. After a lovely, romantic, and decidedly untraditional Christmas dinner, Joseph had surprised her by suggesting they play a game of chess. While it wouldn’t have been her first choice of activities, Clarisse agreed, as she truly did enjoy their chess matches.
‘But right now… chess is the furthest thing from my mind,’ Clarisse thought as she watched his fingers drum quietly on the table. She remembered the way his fingers felt dancing on her skin, and bit back a soft moan at the thought of them once again touching her.
She lifted her eyes to Joseph’s face and a small smile formed on her lips at the utter concentration that filled his features. His eyes, the soulful blue orbs she often found herself getting lost in, stared thoughtfully at the chess pieces, as he pursed his lips.
‘Lips that brought me to such ecstasy this morning,’ Clarisse said to herself then felt her nipples tighten at the memory. Her eyes moved up, over his perfect nose to his high forehead. The smile on her face grew slightly as she realized that the amount of hair on Joseph’s head now was pretty much the amount it had been when they’d met.
‘But it certainly hasn’t hurt him any,’ she thought and licked her lips as the desire to rain kisses over his smooth pate washed over her. ‘No… it hasn’t hurt him at all.’
Clarisse then drew her eyes down to his torso… the broad, strong shoulders and equally strong arms. Arms that had in the past, offered her comfort in her grief… guided her in dance, and had only begun to hold her in passion.
Suddenly, Clarisse was no longer in the mood to play chess.
Joseph looked up from the chessboard when he heard Clarisse get up from her chair. “Clarisse?” He watched her walk over to stand in front of the fireplace, the full skirt of her red silk nightgown billowing about her legs. “Is something wrong?”
“No… I… I’m just no longer in the mood to play chess,” Clarisse answered over her shoulder.
“What are you in the mood for?”
Clarisse didn’t answer right away then, as a familiar piece of music began to play on the CD player, she slowly turned to face him, and in a soft, husky voice answered, “Dancing. I would very much like to dance with you.”
Joseph smiled, pushed himself up from the chair and walked over to her. Without saying a word, he held his hand out to her, and when she placed hers in his, Joseph twirled her into his arms.
“I would very much like to dance with you too,” Clarisse shivered as his husky voice sounded in her ear.
The piece of music they were dancing to was the same piece they had danced to in San Francisco after Joseph had given Mia her dancing lessons, and the dance they were dancing, while still sultry and romantic like the “wango” (as Mia had termed it) they’d danced then, was this time… something more.
“I love holding you…” Joseph whispered as he pulled Clarisse tightly back against him so that she could feel every inch of his hard body as they swayed, much slower but still in time with the rhythm of the music. “I love the way you fit against me so perfectly…” Joseph ran his fingers lightly down her sides then clasped her hips as he continued to lead her through the moves of their sensuous dance. “As if you were made just for me…”
“I was…” Clarisse replied breathlessly as Joseph’s hands moved off of her hips to slide across her stomach, criss-crossing his arms around her and pulling her closer. “I was made for you…”
“Shall I tell you all the things I want to do to you, my love?” Joseph asked, his voice still soft and full of desire. “Shall I tell you how I long to caress every inch of your body… from the tips of your toes… here…” his fingers brushed lightly over her mons, “and of course…” Joseph’s hands trailed up over her stomach to cup her breasts, “to here. First with my hands then with my mouth?”
“…Joseph…” Clarisse moaned as he gently pulled at her nipples, teasing them into hard aching points. She arched into his hands and pressed her bottom against the growing evidence of Joseph’s arousal. “Love… please…”
“For years I have dreamt of this…” Joseph lowered his head and began to rain soft kisses to her bare shoulder, his lips pushing the spaghetti strap away to hang loosely on her arm. “Dreamt of holding you this close… of touching you…”
Clarisse tilted her head back towards him as he trailed his lips back along her shoulder to her jaw.
“Of loving you,” Joseph finished as he caught her lips in a hungry kiss.
Clarisse moaned as his tongue moved in sure strokes against hers, teasing and tasting her sweetness before drawing her tongue into his mouth then starting the dance all over again. She reached behind and clutched at his rear as she ground hers against his erection.
Joseph groaned and broke off the kiss. “Clarisse…”
“Joseph…” Clarisse countered as she turned in his arms, grasped his face in her hands and pulled his mouth back to hers.
They kissed with a wild abandon, both totally forgetting about dancing as hands sought to pull bodies closer.
“I want to make love with you,” Joseph whispered against her lips.
“And I with you,” Clarisse whispered back as her fingers made short work of the buttons on his pyjama top then quickly slipped her hands inside.
“Your room or mine?” Joseph asked on a moan as her fingers played with his flat, male nipples.
“Neither,” Clarisse murmured in reply as she dipped her head to run a series of hot kisses over his collarbone and pulled his top off; letting it fall unheeded to the floor.
“Right here…” Clarisse replied as she flicked her tongue against his skin.
Joseph glanced down, and seeing the thick, white, bearskin rug lying in front of the fireplace, he guided Clarisse the few steps closer. He stepped back then lifted his hand to cup her cheek. “Are you sure?”
Clarisse nodded as she turned her face to press a kiss to his palm. “Very sure.”
Joseph smiled as his hand dropped from her cheek to her shoulder and brushed the remaining strap down her arm. He brought his other hand up and then holding her gaze, Joseph slowly eased the bodice of her nightgown down over her breasts then let the red silk fall to a puddle at her feet.
Clarisse felt her body grow warmer under Joseph’s heated gaze as his eyes caressed her now naked form.
“Let me reiterate my earlier words,” Joseph said in a low voice as he let his eyes wander over her body again. “You are exquisite, my Queen.”
Clarisse flushed. “And you are over-dressed,” she told him with a pointed look at the pyjama bottoms he still wore. “I think you need to lose those.”
“Is that so?”
“Oh yes,” Clarisse nodded then took a step closer.
“…Clarisse…” Joseph groaned when she cupped him through the silk pants.
“Yes, my love?” Clarisse asked as she released the button on the bottoms and slipped her hands inside.
Joseph closed his eyes and let his head fall forward as Clarisse slowly stroked his erection.
“You feel like silk covered steel,” Clarisse whispered, her voice filled with wonder as she blindly learned the feel of him.
“My queen…” Joseph reached down and covered her hands. He opened his eyes and met hers. “If you keep that up, I won’t last long…”
Clarisse smiled at him and allowed Joseph to pull her hands away from him then watched as Joseph pushed his pants down off his hips. She unconsciously licked her lips at the sight of his engorged member standing tall and proud against his belly.
Wordlessly they moved into each other’s arms, their lips coming together in a surprisingly gentle kiss.
“…Jo… seph…” Clarisse murmured against his lips. “Please tell me you’ve not ordered anything else from room service!” She asked in between kisses.
Joseph chuckled softly as he pulled his mouth away from hers to shake his head. “I’ve not ordered anything else,” he answered as he slid his hand up to cup her cheek. “There will be no more interruptions…” his thumb brushed over her lips.
“Oh good…” Clarisse nodded as she captured his mouth once again in a fervent kiss.
Their desire grew. Slowly they slipped down to their knees onto the fluffy white carpet, and then before she realized it, Clarisse was on her back with Joseph stretched out over her, his naked body pressed full-length against hers.
Joseph pulled his mouth from hers and blazed a trail of hot wet kisses along her jaw, over her throat to her breasts. “Love your breasts…” he murmured as he pulled a dusky peak between his lips and suckled hard on the tip.
Clarisse moaned and arched beneath him as his hand covered the breast that wasn’t being loved by his mouth. Her hands clutched at his head, holding him to her as she gave in to her earlier desire to rain kisses all over his smooth pate.
A soft whimper left her lips when Joseph abandoned her breasts and began to ply soft, open-mouthed kisses to her abdomen as he shifted lower. He flicked his tongue out against her skin and his hands caressed her sides, arousing her with every touch.
As she had that morning, when he’d done it the first time, Clarisse giggled when Joseph’s tongue ringed then dipped into her navel. She met his eyes, not surprised to see them sparkling with amusement. Joseph winked at her then continued to move lower.
Clarisse gasped when she felt the first touch of his fingers against the curls covering her centre. “Joseph…” she said in a shaky voice.
“It’s all right, my love…” Joseph told her then pressed soft kisses to her creamy thighs.
“I know…” Joseph smiled up at her as he combed his fingers through the light auburn curls before him, pleased when Clarisse’s hips lifted slightly off the floor in a silent request for more. “I promise you… you will know nothing but pleasure…”
“Jos… oh god…” Clarisse moaned at the feel of Joseph’s fingers pulling her open followed by his mouth covering her sensitive flesh. She felt Joseph drag his tongue over her as if he were licking an ice cream, and clutched at the thick fur of the rug as sensations she’d never felt before coursed through her body. “Jo… seph…”
Joseph smiled inwardly as he loved Clarisse with his mouth, moaning as her unique flavour washed over his taste buds. He pulled her swollen clit between his lips, and sucked and teased the hard nub with his tongue as he slowly circled the entrance to her centre with his finger.
Clarisse writhed on the bearskin then gasped as she felt Joseph slowly slide a finger inside her. “Mmm… Joseph… oh yes…” she moaned and arched beneath him as he thrust the long digit gently in and out of her.
As Joseph added a second finger, Clarisse bit her lower lip in an effort to stifle the moans falling from her lips. Her senses were on overload as Joseph; his mouth sucking and pulling at her sensitive flesh, his fingers thrusting into her, pushed her closer and closer to the edge.
Joseph continued to love her with his mouth, ignoring his body’s desire to bury his aching member deep inside her… to feel her tight, hot sheath surrounding him like a slick glove. This time was for Clarisse. He’d waited too long to be with her to rush things now. His release could wait until after he’d shown her the pleasure… the rapture she’d never known.
Clarisse was mindless with pleasure, her sole being focused on the man between her legs and the incredible sensations his talented mouth and fingers were creating in her body. “Jo… seph… oh, Joseph…” Clarisse began to pant his name on every breath as she reached out and wound the fingers of her right hand in the fringe of hair on his head, and arched against him as she unconsciously began to fondle her breast with her left. “…Joseph…”
Joseph could sense her release approaching and doubled his efforts. He sucked harder on her clit as he plunged his fingers inside her as deep he could then stopped to curl them within her. He grinned against her when Clarisse gasped his name and bucked beneath him. Joseph curled his fingers again, rubbing against the walnut-sized kernel of sensation he’d found.
“Mmm… oh yes…”
Joseph began to hum.
“Joseph… oh, Joseph please… I… oh god…” Clarisse cried out to him and hooked a leg behind his back. “I…” she shook her head. “…Joseph…”
“Give in to it, love…” Joseph told her in between long, hard licks to her pearl.
“Come, Clarisse…” Joseph murmured against her. “Come for me…”
Clarisse cried out to him as he began to hum again, his fingers once again thrusting in and out of her. She could feel the coil of pleasure growing and tightening, threatening to pull her over the edge as he licked and sucked at her swollen flesh. “Oohmm… Joseph…”
“My queen…” Joseph lightly grazed her clit with his teeth.
“…SEPH!!” Clarisse screamed his name as her release washed over her, molten hot sensations shooting through every nerve ending in her body. She bucked beneath him, his name a mantra on her lips.
Joseph pulled his fingers out of her, bringing them up to take over stroking her throbbing flesh as he slid his mouth lower. He groaned as her essence flowed into his mouth and dipped his tongue into her to coax more of her sweet nectar. Joseph was in heaven, her voice calling his name still ringing in his ears as he worked to prolong her orgasm.
Clarisse was overwhelmed with a pleasure unlike anything she’d ever felt before, every fibre of her being felt as if it were singing when suddenly an even stronger wave of sensation washed over her. She cried out Joseph’s name as his continued oral ministrations caused her to shatter with a second orgasm.
Joseph smiled internally as another wash of her juices flowed over his tongue. He greedily lapped at her, consuming all her body had to give him as she rode out her second release.
“…Joseph…” Clarisse called out to him hoarsely several minutes later as she once again became aware of her surroundings. She tugged gently on his hair. “Joseph… love, come here…”
With one last, loving kiss to her sex, Joseph quickly slid up over Clarisse, nestling his aching member between her swollen folds as he settled his hips in the cradle of her thighs.
Clarisse grasped his face in her hands and pulled his mouth to hers. She pulled back immediately, her eyes wide at the unfamiliar taste.
“That is you, my love…” Joseph told her in a husky voice and licked his lips. “That sweet honey is all you,” he leaned down and brushed his mouth over hers. “I could love you like that all the time, Clarisse. I love how you taste…”
Clarisse moaned and pulled his lips back to hers in a hungry kiss, surprised that the taste of herself on Joseph’s tongue only added to her pleasure. As they kissed, Clarisse could feel Joseph’s hands glide slowly up and down her sides from breasts to thighs, the soft touch fanning the embers of her desire.
Joseph broke off the kiss and buried his face in her neck as Clarisse began to gently rock beneath him; the friction against his throbbing shaft almost too much. At the quiet utterance of his name, he lifted his head to meet her gaze.
“Joseph…” Clarisse whispered his name. “Be with me now…”
Joseph gazed down at Clarisse, her need and desire more than evident in her bright blue eyes. He nodded slowly then pushed himself up onto his arms. Joseph grasped his arousal, already wet with Clarisse’s juices and brought the broad, purple head to her waiting entrance. With a whisper of her name, Joseph held her gaze then slowly, very aware of how long it had been for both of them… and especially for Clarisse, began to press his length inside her.
A softly gasped “Joseph!” escaped Clarisse’s lips as Joseph continued to fill her, inch by throbbing inch, until he was seated fully inside her. She clutched at his hips, the pressure from Joseph’s girth, while not unwelcome, overwhelming her senses beyond anything she’d ever felt.
Tears sprang to her eyes and she blinked them away as Joseph dropped to his elbows and threaded his fingers through her short hair then asked in a quiet voice. “Are you okay?”
Unable to find her voice, Clarisse merely nodded. Never in her life had she felt so utterly possessed. It wasn’t just a physical possession… but an emotional one as well. The tears returned just as she found her voice. “I love you…”
“I love you too,” Joseph echoed as he brushed his lips over hers, blinking back his own tears. “I have waited so long to love you this way… to make love to you… to make you mine…”
Clarisse cupped his cheek. “I have always been yours, Joseph…”
“And I yours…” Joseph whispered and caught Clarisse’s mouth in an ardent kiss.
“Love me now…” Clarisse broke off the kiss to command breathlessly, and rocked her hips beneath him to emphasize her point.
“Yes, my queen…” Joseph replied and pushed up onto his arms.
Clarisse moaned as Joseph pulled out of her until just the tip remained within the heat of her body, and she cried out softly as he slowly slid back into her. “Jo… seph…” she moaned again as he withdrew and sank back into her a second time.
Joseph smiled down at Clarisse, the sight of her… his Queen… his best friend… his love… lost in the joy and pleasure of their lovemaking; both humbled and exhilarated him. He continued to thrust into her… slow, deep, penetrating strokes… over and over until Clarisse caught his rhythm and answered back with thrusts of her own.
Clarisse ran her hands along Joseph’s sides as their bodies slowly moved against each other. She caressed the firm cheeks of his rear then slowly trailed her fingers up his back, kneading the sinewy muscles. Her hands soon clutched Joseph’s shoulders, and Clarisse then pulled him down to her, filled with an overpowering urge to have his lips on hers.
At her urging, Joseph lowered his mouth to Clarisse’s. Their tongues tangled together, thrusting into each other’s mouths in time with the thrusting of their bodies. Joseph groaned when Clarisse broke off the kiss and nipped her way along his jaw to his ear, a softly uttered, “Joseph…” sending hot shivers down his spine.
In a move that surprised her, Joseph slipped his arms beneath her back and rolled, pulling Clarisse on top of him. She broke off the kiss. “Joseph?”
“We’re making love to each other…” Joseph told her with a smile as he reached down and gently urged Clarisse to bend her legs up on either side of him. “There is more than one position to make love in…”
“I’ve never…” Clarisse shook her head as he grasped her upper arms.
“I know,” Joseph told her with a reassuring smile and gently pushed her up so that she was straddling him then dropped his hands to her hips.
“Oh… god…” Clarisse moaned at the feel of Joseph pulsing inside her from such a different angle. “…Joseph…”
“…move…” Joseph uttered softly, and thrust his hips up slightly beneath her.
“Rock your hips, my queen… follow your instincts…” Joseph told her then groaned when Clarisse, instead of rocking her hips, slowly circled them. “Oh… lord…”
Clarisse stopped. “Was that…?”
“Wonderful… do it again…” Joseph interrupted her. He moaned her name when she repeated the movement. “Oh, my queen… never before have I enjoyed serving under you more than I do at this moment.”
Clarisse blushed, and playfully slapped his chest. “Joseph!”
Joseph chuckled then thrust up against her. “Rise up, my love… please…”
“Like this?” Clarisse asked as she rose up slightly on him then sank back down.
“Oh yes…” they groaned together.
Clarisse repeated her earlier move; only this time she rose up a little more, paused for a second then took him back inside her body; a soft moan escaping her lips at the delicious sensations working their way up her body.
Joseph gazed up at her as she once again lifted herself up; allowing his member to slip partially out of her then lowered herself back onto him. He groaned at the pleasure of feeling her body encasing him.
Clarisse heard Joseph’s low moan as she moved against him, and laid her hands on his chest, stopping her movements. She looked at him, uncertainty written across her flushed features. “Joseph?”
“It’s all right, my love… you’ve not hurt me,” Joseph told her. “In fact… I feel incredible,” he ran his hands up her sides from her hips to cup her breasts. “And so do you…”
“You don’t feel so bad yourself,” Clarisse replied with a blush on her cheeks as she squeezed her internal muscles around him.
Joseph groaned. “Where did you learn that?”
“I’m sorry… I just… it felt…” Clarisse shook her head as her blush grew. “Did I hurt you?”
“Lord no!” Joseph told her. “That felt wonderful… oh god…” he trailed off in a loud moan as she squeezed him again.
“I think I like being on top,” Clarisse said in an amused voice as she circled her hips then contracted her inner walls.
Joseph groaned again then smiled at the look of wonderment that filled her face as she realized the power she held as a sexual being. His smile turned into a grin and he gently pinched her nipples, teasing the hard points. “It feels good to be in control this way… doesn’t it?”
“Oh yes,” Clarisse responded as she combed her fingers through the hair on his chest and found his flat, male nipples. At Joseph’s sharp intake of breath, she played her nails gently over them until, like hers, they were hard little nubs. “Yes… it feels… incredible…”
Joseph chuckled then groaned as Clarisse once again rose up over him. “…Clarisse…” her name passed his lips on a strangled breath as she sank back down on him then repeated the motion again, and again. “Oh yes…”
Clarisse continued to move on him, rising and falling on his rigid staff over and over. She cried out his name when Joseph suddenly thrust up beneath her just as she was sliding back down onto him.
It wasn’t long before the room was filled with the scent and sounds of their passion as they moved together… thrusting, driving, pushing each other closer and closer to the edge.
“…Joseph… oh, please…” Clarisse begged softly, knowing that he alone could help her find the release her body craved.
Joseph dropped a hand from her hip, and his fingers slipped between her swollen folds to unerringly find and stroke her clit. He continued to thrust up into her, matching the pace of his hips with the circling of his fingers.
“Ohgodohgodohgodoh… JOSEPH!” Clarisse cried out suddenly as she thrust down hard onto him, and her orgasm exploded over her. Her nails dug into his chest as the shimmering heat curling in the pit of her stomach consumed her in white-hot flames of pleasure.
Joseph wrapped his arms around her when she collapsed on top of him, her face buried in his neck. “Hang on, love…” he whispered a moment later in her ear then rolled over so that she was once again lying beneath him. “Wrap your legs around me, Clarisse.”
Clarisse did as he asked and wrapped her legs loosely around his hips then groaned his name as it allowed him to sink deeper inside her. Moments later, with Joseph’s arms beneath her, and his hands curled around her shoulders, Clarisse felt Joseph begin to move against her.
Joseph heard her soft gasp of his name, felt her hot breath against his cheek as he thrust heavily into her, striving for his own release. It didn’t take him long. Having watched, and pushed Clarisse through her two orgasms, Joseph was more than ready to give in to his arousal, and lose himself in sexual nirvana.
Clarisse ran her hands up and down his back as she felt his body grow tighter and his thrusts grow erratic. She moved her mouth to his ear, pulling the lobe between her lips as she whispered in a husky voice, “Come, Joseph…”
Joseph groaned, and as Clarisse issued her command again, his body tensed then with a loud, hoarse cry of her name, Joseph came; his seed leaving his shaft in long, hot, pearly ropes to splash against her womb. “Oh… god…”
Clarisse moaned softly as a small tremor passed through her body, and wrapped her arms around him as he collapsed on top of her and buried his face in her neck. She eased her legs down from around his hips and entangled them with Joseph’s long limbs as she held him close. Clarisse was surprised when she didn’t feel the need to push Joseph off of her as she had done with Rupert when they were married… but then, as she told herself… she hadn’t been in love with Rupert, and their joining had little to do with love, and everything to do with procuring an heir.
Joseph nestled deeper into Clarisse’s embrace, feeling her heart beat wildly against his chest… his own heart beating in perfect cadence. Never before had he experienced the level of excitement, nor force of release like he just shared now with Clarisse.
“I love you, Clarisse…” Joseph breathed against her damp skin, and pressed a soft kiss to the pulse point behind her ear. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” Clarisse replied in a breathless voice as she began to rub her hands over his back. When she felt him shift as if to move off of her, she tightened her arms around his back, one leg sliding up to lay over his thighs. “Stay…”
“Clarisse… I’ve got to be too heavy for you,” Joseph said as he pushed up onto his elbows to look at her.
Clarisse shook her head. “No… you’re not…” she told him. “I can’t explain it… but I’m just not ready for you to leave me yet,” Clarisse said with a slight shrug. “Does that make any sense?”
Joseph gave her a tender smile and stroked her cheek with his fingers. “It makes perfect sense. I have never wanted to remain in one place as much as I wish to remain in your arms… locked within the warmth of your body… enveloped by your love…”
“Oh, Joseph…” Clarisse blinked back the tears that that sprang to her eyes.
“You are the other half of my soul, Clarisse. Without you I have no life,” Joseph continued. “And now that I have tasted you… loved you… I need you to survive.”
“And I need you… I have always needed you. You have always held my heart, and now you’ve completed my soul,” Clarisse spoke through her tears. “I cannot imagine my life without you…”
“And you will never have to,” Joseph told her. “I will never leave you, Clarisse… never!”
With that, Joseph swooped down to cover her mouth in a passionate kiss. They moaned together as desire flared to life between them once again. A desire they both gave in to.
“Will you marry me?”
The question broke the comfortable silence in the room.
“Will you marry me?”
“Are you serious?”
“When have you known me not to be?”
“I… you’re really serious?”
“Yes, I am.”
After several moments of silence, Clarisse lifted her head from where it laid on Joseph’s chest and met his eyes. “Well?”
Joseph smiled up at her. “I would love to marry you. I have wanted nothing more since the day we met,” he reached up to stroke her cheek. “But you are the Queen, my love… and while I am not just a commoner, most of Genovia either does not know, or forgets that I am anything other than your Head of Security. How would it look to your public if you were to marry me?”
“I don’t care how it would look,” Clarisse told him. “I love you, Joseph. I have always loved you. For so long I have put duty ahead of myself… ahead of my wants and needs…” she shifted so that she was laying on top of him, criss-crossed her arms on his chest and propped her chin on her arms. “It’s time I do something I want. And I want you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you… loving you…”
“I want that too, Clarisse. More than you know,” Joseph replied. “I want to go to bed with you held tight in my embrace each night. I want to wake up each morning to find you still in my arms. I want your lips to be my first taste each day. I’ve waited almost forty years just for this moment… just to be able to tell you I love you, and to show you I love you,” he said. “This alone is a dream come true for me.”
“Then say you’ll marry me. Make me your wife,” Clarisse said earnestly.
“Oh, my love…” Joseph rubbed his thumb over her lips.
Clarisse gave him a coy smile then nipped his thumb. “Would it help make it easier if I simply ordered you to do it?”
Joseph laughed and then in a move that surprised and delighted her, he wrapped his arms around Clarisse’s back and rolled them over, pinning her beneath him. “My queen… I do so love you.”
“I’m glad,” Clarisse replied as she wriggled slightly under him, grinning at his low moan.
Joseph gazed down at her, and felt his heart swell. He loved her with his entire being, and had for more than half his of his life. The thought of her as his wife… Joseph swallowed hard. He’d only ever dreamt of such a thing being possible. And now here she was… lying beneath him… naked, the scent of their lovemaking still clinging to her skin, her eyes glowing with a love that had previously been hidden in shadow.
Clarisse’s hand on his cheek pulled him out of his musings. He blinked and met her eyes.
“Where were you just now?”
“Here, darling. Right here with you,” Joseph answered then brushed his lips over hers. “And the answer is yes.”
“Yes?” Clarisse’s eyes widened and she looked at him hopefully.
“Yes,” Joseph nodded.
“Oh… oh, Joseph…” Clarisse was too overwhelmed to speak. Tears ran down the sides of her face as she reached up, entwined her hands behind his head and pulled his mouth down to hers. She kissed him with all the love, and passion in her heart. “I love you. I love you… love you… love you…” Clarisse murmured over and over against his lips as they continued to kiss.
All of a sudden, Joseph found himself on his back and before he knew it, Clarisse was taking his erection into her body as she straddled his hips. He groaned and reached out his hands to grasp her hips. “Clarisse…”
“We can finish talking later,” Clarisse told him as she began to undulate above him. “I think we should celebrate our engagement now.”
“Who am I to argue?” Joseph replied as he thrust his hips up under her.
The next week and a half was a blur for the two lovers, as they lost themselves in a world of their own making.
Clarisse enjoyed her relative anonymity by being free and open with her affections for Joseph. She would steal a kiss when they took long walks in the nearby woods, hold his hand when they dined in the hotel restaurant, and pressed herself as close as possible when they danced on the dance floor in the small bar.
Joseph too was enjoying their relative freedom, and delighted in being able to touch his queen as much as, and whenever he wanted. He would stop them in the middle of their walks just to kiss her up against a tree, reach over the table during dinner and cup her cheek, and hold her tight against him as they danced in the bar.
When they didn’t leave their suite, they talked, made love… talked some more… then loved some more.
On a morning they had planned to venture into town and do a little shopping, Joseph surprised Clarisse in the shower.
She had made comment, before what quickly turned into an impromptu lovemaking session, that for the first time in her life, she actually felt desirable, and even… she had blushed deeply as she’d admitted it… sexy.
Joseph had grinned at her as he lifted and pressed her back against the shower wall, and told her that she was indeed desirable and sexy. “And, an insatiable sex goddess…” he had whispered against her lips as he made her come, screaming his name into the spray of the shower. “My insatiable sex goddess…”
They hadn’t made it out of the suite that day either.
The day before New Year’s Eve, Joseph and Clarisse strolled arm in arm down the main street of the little French town, just on the border of Genovia. They paused in front of various store windows, peering in at the goods on display, and even ventured into a couple of the shops.
“Oh, Joseph…” Clarisse gripped his arm excitedly as she pointed to a delicate set of silver hair combs on display in a small, antique jewellery store. “Look at this…” she laid her hand on the glass display and leaned closer to look. “This would be just perfect for…”
Clarisse beamed at him and nodded. “Exactly. She does so much for me, and I would like to get her a little something to let her know just how much I do appreciate her.”
“I think she would like the combs, my dear.” Joseph said just as the shopkeeper appeared before them.
“May I help you?” The gray-haired woman asked in French.
“Yes,” Clarisse answered, also in French. “We’d like to purchase these please.”
“Of course, Madame. This is a lovely set. Very old too,” the shopkeeper told her as she unlocked the display and pulled out the combs. She placed them on the counter for Clarisse to look over.
“They’re perfect,” Clarisse said as she reached out and lightly ran a finger over one of the combs. “Yes,” she nodded. “We’ll definitely take these.”
“Very good. Shall I wrap them while you continue to browse with your husband?”
Clarisse glanced over at Joseph, and the two shared a smile before she turned back to the shopkeeper. She smiled and nodded. “That would be wonderful, thank you.”
With her arm once again hooked through his, Joseph and Clarisse moved deeper into the deceptively large shop. As they moved further into the store, they moved away from the display cases and into the room where the antique furniture was showcased.
“Oh my…” Clarisse gasped at the sight of the extremely large four-poster bed that dominated the far wall of the room.
Joseph stepped up behind her, wrapping his arms loosely around her waist as he moved his lips to her ear. “Can’t you just imagine the two of us together on that bed? Our bodies entwined… moving, thrusting… driving each other towards that glorious moment when our souls merge in rapturous ecstasy…”
“…Joseph…” Clarisse moaned softly at the erotic image Joseph painted.
“And afterwards… after I’ve pleasured you…” Joseph continued in a low, husky whisper. “I would tie you to the bed… your arms spread to either side, secured with the finest silk scarves… and then I would lick and kiss every inch of your body until you begged me to take you again…”
Clarisse sagged back against him as a wave of lust, so strong, washed over her. She turned her face toward him, and was not surprised to see that his eyes were dark with desire. The desire she could feel pressing against her bottom.
“What do you say we go back to hotel?”
Clarisse nodded and allowed him to lead her back through the store to where the shopkeeper was waiting with the now wrapped combs.
“Have you seen anything else you like?” The shopkeeper asked as she began to ring up the purchase.
“Just that magnificent bed in the back,” Joseph replied.
The shopkeeper smiled and nodded. “Ah yes. That is one of our oldest pieces. It dates back to the seventeenth century, and once belonged to King Louis XIV.”
“Which would mean it is very expensive,” Joseph said with a chuckle.
“Very,” the shopkeeper nodded with a smile then turned to Clarisse. “That will be two hundred euros.”
Clarisse lifted the small purse from her shoulder, opened it then stopped. She didn’t carry money. She never carried money. She didn’t even carry a credit card. She was the queen… and it just wasn’t done.
“Is there a problem, Madame?”
“I… uhm…” Clarisse turned to Joseph. “Joseph?”
Joseph couldn’t help but chuckle as he pulled his wallet out of his jacket, and removed his credit card. As he handed it over to the shopkeeper, an item in the display below his hand caught his attention. “Excuse me,” Joseph said to the woman before she swiped the card. “May I please see that there?”
As the shopkeeper pulled out her keys and unlocked the display, Clarisse leaned against Joseph to see what he wanted to look at. Her eyes widened when the woman placed a small velvet box holding two antique rings before them. She glanced up at Joseph when he picked up the smaller of the two rings and began to examine it.
“Exquisite craftsmanship,” he commented as he turned the ring over. His eyes suddenly grew big and he quickly picked up the matching ring. “Oh my…”
“Look at this,” Joseph held the first ring he picked up out to her. “Read the inscription.”
Clarisse took the ring from Joseph. She brought it up close to peer at it then held it out at arms length before she slowly brought it closer again, the whole time squinting as she tried to read the inscription.
At Joseph’s barely concealed chuckled she sighed and pulled her reading glasses out of her pocket and slipped them on.
“It’s all right, my love… I play a little trombone myself now. And…” Joseph told her with a smile. “I didn’t fall in love with you for your eye sight.”
“It’s a good thing too,” she told him then turned her attention to the ring. She began to read. “To C, all my love forever, J.”
“This one says, ‘To J, all my love forever, C.” Joseph told her.
“That’s just… what are the odds of this?”
The shopkeeper looked back and forth between the two, curiosity more than obvious on her face. When the balding man, Joseph she’d heard the woman call him, spoke next, she understood.
“Where we are concerned, Clarisse…” Joseph said with a smile. “The odds are pretty good. After all…” his smile grew. “You fell in love with me.”
Clarisse reached out and cupped his cheek as she whispered, “Yes, I did.”
Joseph turned his face into her hand, and kissed her palm.
“Shall I add the rings to your purchase?” The shopkeeper asked in a quiet voice, afraid to break the spell the two had created between them.
Joseph glanced over at the shopkeeper and nodded his head as he handed her back the rings.
“Would you like this wrapped as well?”
“No thank you,” Clarisse said as she stepped closer to Joseph and took his hand. “Do you know the story behind the inscriptions?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.” The shopkeeper nodded, and as she boxed the rings she began to tell them the story of how John, the son of the richest man in the town had fallen in love with Catherine… the daughter of the family’s housekeeper.
John’s father had been furious when he had found out about the relationship, and had forbade John to see Catherine ever again. However, John did not listen and continued to meet Catherine. He went so far as to propose to her, and commissioned the local jeweller to fashion the wedding bands.
“Catherine is the one who went to the jeweller first, and asked him to inscribe the inside of John’s ring,” the shopkeeper told them. “When John found out, he asked the jeweller to do the same to Catherine’s ring.”
She continued by telling them of how when John’s father learned that his son was intending to marry Catherine that he disowned him. John did not care; as he had saved all the money he had earned working in his father’s vineyards, and had purchased a small plot of land, intending to start his own vineyard. There he planned to live with Catherine.
“Two days before John and Catherine were to be wed, John took Catherine day-sailing. Out of nowhere a storm blew up, and they were lost.”
“Oh no,” Clarisse whispered, and gratefully took the handkerchief Joseph slipped into her hand. She dabbed at the tears that had suddenly glistened on her lashes.
“There are stories that they actually survived, and merely decided to settle elsewhere and marry,” the shopkeeper said as she handed Joseph the credit card slip to sign. “But the more romantic ending of course, is that they died together on the water. Either way… they were, and are together.”
“And the rings?” Joseph asked as he passed the slip back to the woman.
“John’s father wanted nothing to do with them, and the jeweller… my great great grandfather, kept them on display for years. They’ve been passed down through the generations, and for the last fifty years they’ve been for sale. But with the inscription inside…”
Joseph and Clarisse nodded understandingly.
“However, in your case…” the shopkeeper smiled. “Perhaps, that is why we’ve not sold them. They were meant to belong to the two of you.”
“Perhaps,” Clarisse returned the woman’s smile and accepted the small bag with the rings and combs in it. “Thank you so much… both for your assistance, and for the story.”
“You are most welcome,” the shopkeeper replied.
Joseph and Clarisse said their goodbyes and left the store. They walked, hand in hand, in a comfortable silence back to their hotel. As they were passing the local chapel, Clarisse suddenly stopped.
“Clarisse?” Joseph looked at her curiously.
“I don’t want to wait, Joseph.” Clarisse told him.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I know we agreed to wait… wait until Mia’s coronation before we married and went public with our relationship… but that’s five years away,” Clarisse said and glanced to her side at the chapel. “I want to be your wife now, Joseph. We’ve both waited so long already.”
“Clarisse… my darling… you know I want nothing more than to marry you,” Joseph said as he reached up and stroked his fingers over her cheek.
“Then let’s do it. Joseph, let’s get married now,” Clarisse told him as she covered his hand with hers and held it against her cheek. “I know you’re concerned about my safety… about how the people will react…”
“And I’m also concerned about what Parliament will say. I know that not all the members are completely sold on Princess Mia. I do not want to rock the boat and give them cause to reject her claim to the throne.”
“Then we’ll keep our marriage a secret,” Clarisse said. “Joseph, we’ve kept our feelings hidden from the rest of the world for almost forty years… and while I do not want to hide how I feel about you any longer… if being your wife means we have to love in the shadows for a few more years, then I am willing to do that.”
“Clarisse, are you certain? It will not be easy.”
A wry smile touched Clarisse’s lips. “My love… it’s never been easy for us.”
Joseph chuckled. “That is true,” he agreed. “I just do not want you to regret this.”
“How could I ever regret following my heart?” Clarisse asked him. “I can’t be without you any longer. I cannot live without your touch… without your loving. I love you, Joseph, and I want to spend the rest of my life loving and being loved by you.”
Joseph gazed at her thoughtfully. “Are you sure you have an appropriate dress?”
“Oh, Joseph!” Clarisse flung her arms around Joseph’s neck and kissed him. “Thank you, my love.”
Joseph smiled. “I can deny you nothing, my queen.”
They shared another loving kiss then hand in hand, they walked up the walkway into the church.
“This is lovely,” Clarisse remarked in a hushed voice, glancing around the small church as they made their way slowly down the aisle.
Joseph nodded his agreement.
“May I help you?”
They turned at the sound of the voice to see an older priest standing before them.
“Hello. My name is Joseph Ferreira. This is my fiancée, Clarisse…”
“Renaldi! Your majesty,” the priest bowed his head in deference to the monarch. “It is an honour.”
Joseph and Clarisse exchanged glances.
“I know who you were?” The priest asked with a smile.
“I am Genovian. Born and raised,” he answered. “However, for the last twenty years, this has been my home.” He paused then offered his hand to Joseph. “Forgive my manners. I am Father Garret Beaulieu.”
Joseph shook the man’s hand. “Father Beaulieu.”
“I was not aware that you were visiting our little town,” Garret said as he gestured for them to sit in the nearby pews.
“Well… we’re not here in an official capacity,” Clarisse answered then glanced at Joseph. “We’re… on holiday.”
“I see,” Garret nodded. “Which would explain why you chose this town to visit.”
“Exactly,” Joseph said. “We were also wondering if you would be willing to marry us.”
Garret’s eyes widened. “Marry you?”
“Yes. Tomorrow if possible.”
“Yes,” Clarisse answered. “However, we would like to keep our marriage a secret.”
“May I inquire as to why?”
Clarisse and Joseph shared a look before she returned her attention to Father Beaulieu. “To be honest, we would prefer to shout it from the highest mountain in Genovia. I love Joseph very much, and can think of no greater honour than being his wife. However, there are those in Genovia… in parliament that would not look too favourably on our marriage, as they see Joseph as merely my Head of Security.”
“They are not aware that you are a lord?” Garret asked.
Joseph’s eyes widened. “How did you know that?”
Garret smiled. “I’ve always been fascinated by the monarchy and the peerage. I’ve studied it since I was a child, and can tell you the names of all the great houses of Genovia. For example, while you are a lord, it is in actuality your brother who is the Viscount.”
Joseph couldn’t help but smile. He appreciated a well-learned man, and Father Beaulieu certainly was that. “You’re quite right. The majority of parliament, as well as the people of Genovia are unaware of my familial connections, and it is something I have always preferred to keep quiet.”
“As the Queen’s Head of Security, I can understand that.” Beaulieu nodded.
“With the loss of the crown Prince, and now Princess Amelia’s acceptance of the throne, there are certain members who are not as taken with the Princess as the rest of the country is,” Joseph told him. “The queen and I do not wish to… rock the boat, so to speak.”
“Father Beaulieu, the truth is… Joseph and I have been in love for almost forty years. We fell in love the night we met, at the ball announcing my engagement to Rupert,” Clarisse told him.
“I see,” Garret said slowly, an uncertain tone in his voice.
“Neither Clarisse or myself ever betrayed Rupert,” Joseph told the priest, knowing that thought was occurring to the other man. “I loved him like a brother, and while I was deeply in love with Clarisse, I could not ask her to betray her wedding vows. I even went so far as to leave Genovia… to give them a chance to find out if the arrangement could lead to love.”
“It did not?”
Clarisse shook her head. “I did love Rupert, Father. I was just never in love with him, and he was never in love with me. We grew fond of each other, became the dearest of friends, but that was all. We tried… but our hearts were else where,” she told him then reached out to clasp Joseph’s hand. “Joseph held my heart the moment we were introduced, and try as I might to fall in love with my husband, I just could not do it. But not once in all the years I was married did I betray my vows.”
Clarisse continued. “We were planning on waiting until after my grand-daughter was crowned queen…” she turned to look at Joseph, and a loving smile graced her lips. “But I no longer wish to wait to be with this man. Four decades is long enough. Even if we have to keep our marriage a secret… I want to be his wife.”
Garret looked thoughtful then nodded slowly. “I have no qualms about marrying you; however, to be honest, I do have some misgivings about the whole secrecy issue.”
“As we mentioned earlier,” Joseph said. “We would both much rather not hide how we feel. We’ve done so for far too long already… but I simply do not want to risk there being any danger to either the queen or the princess. I love them both too dearly for that.”
“We would prefer to marry in a church, Father.” Clarisse told him. “But we will go for a civil service if we need to.”
There was a moment of silence then Father Beaulieu stood. “Give me a few moments, would you? I need to check on something. I will give you my answer when I return.”
Joseph and Clarisse watched the priest walk away.
“What do you think he’ll decide?” Clarisse asked Joseph.
“I think he will do it,” Joseph answered. He prided himself on being able to read people, and his instincts were telling him that Beaulieu would agree to marry them.
Twenty minutes later, Clarisse was pacing back and forth before the alter while a bemused, yet equally frustrated Joseph watched.
“What on Earth could be taking so long?” Clarisse asked for the hundredth time in as many minutes. She stopped suddenly and looked at Joseph, her eyes wide with fear. “What if he says no? Oh, Joseph… what if he won’t do it? What will we do?”
Joseph quickly got to his feet and closed the small distance between them. He pulled Clarisse into his arms. “He won’t say no. And even if he does, we’ll still find a way to be married. I promise you.”
Clarisse wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his shoulder. “I love you, Joseph. I love you so much… and all I want is to be your wife. Is that too much to ask? After all we’ve been through… is that really so much to ask?”
“No… it is not too much to ask, my love.” Joseph told her in a soothing voice as he gently rubbed her back.
Unbeknownst to either of them, Garret stood just out of sight and was watching them. He’d heard their quiet declarations of love, and smiled. He’d made the right decision. Clearing his throat, he stepped out of the shadows and walked towards them. Garret was pleased to note that while Clarisse moved to stand beside Joseph, neither one let go of the other.
“Forgive me for taking so long, but I had to iron out a few wrinkles,” he told them.
“And…?” Clarisse asked in a quiet yet anxious voice.
“Would tomorrow, at six o’clock in the evening, with the Mayor and his wife as witnesses be all right with you both?”
An audible sigh of relief left Clarisse and she sagged against Joseph.
“That is more than all right with us,” Joseph told him. “Thank you.”
“How did you manage to arrange things so quickly?” Clarisse asked, aware that in many places, procuring a marriage license could take up to forty-eight hours.
“I, and you’ll have to forgive me, told the Mayor who you were,” Beaulieu answered. “When I explained to him that you wanted to marry tomorrow, and keep your marriage a secret… he was more than happy to issue the license himself. So, naturally…”
“You asked him to be a witness.” Joseph smiled and nodded appreciatively.
Garret smiled as well. “It seemed the appropriate course of action,” he said then rubbed his hands together. “Now tell me, are there any special readings you would like? Are you planning on reciting your own vows?”
“Well, this really is spur of the moment, even if the wedding isn’t until tomorrow,” Clarisse replied. “So I think we’re safe leaving it in your hands.”
Joseph nodded his agreement.
“Very well,” Garret nodded. “I will prepare something appropriate for you both. Do you have rings?”
“As a matter of fact, we do.” Joseph said with a loving smile at Clarisse.
“Good,” Garret smiled. “Then all you need to do is show up tomorrow.”
“Thank you,” Clarisse and Joseph replied together then grinned at each other.
Joseph stuck out his hand. “We really do appreciate this,” he said as he shook Beaulieu’s hand. “More than you know.”
“I can see that,” Garret replied. “That is why I could not refuse.”
Clarisse smiled at him, and held her hand out to Garret as well. “Thank you,” she said in a quiet, grateful voice as she shook his hand.
Garret nodded then led them down the aisle to the doors. “There is just one thing,” he said before they moved to leave the chapel. “The only request I have is that upon your return to Genovia, you inform the Archbishop of your marriage. I feel that it is only right that he is aware of it.”
Joseph and Clarisse glanced at each other and nodded. “We promise.”
“Very good,” Garret replied. “I will see you tomorrow then.”
They thanked him yet again then left the chapel. As the doors closed, a large smile came to Garret’s face at the twin shouts of joy that reached his ear.
A soft sigh echoed through the bedroom.
“You know… you do need to sleep at some point.”
“Not having second thoughts are you?”
“Oh no… I most definitely want to marry you tomorrow.”
“It’s after midnight. We’re getting married today.”
Clarisse turned around in Joseph’s arms so that she was facing him. “I still cannot believe this is really happening. I keep expecting to wake up and find myself all alone in my bed at the palace. That the last two weeks have been just one glorious dream.”
“I keep expecting to do the same,” Joseph replied as he rubbed her back then pulled her closer. “It is no dream, Clarisse.”
“Thank God!” Clarisse smiled at him in the moonlight.
“Trust me,” Joseph grinned. “I have been.”
“So, tell me Señor Ferreira…” Clarisse twirled her fingers in his chest hair. “Are you still wanting to sleep?”
“That depends, soon to be Señora Ferreira…” Joseph answered.
“Señora Ferreira…” Clarisse sighed wistfully then gave in to an uncharacteristic giggle as she clenched her hands against his chest. “Oh… Joseph!! I cannot wait!”
Joseph chuckled. “Neither can I, my darling. Neither can I,” he said and caught her lips in a loving kiss. It didn’t take long for the gentle kiss to grow into a hungry exchange of lips and tongues, and before Joseph knew it, he was flat on his back with Clarisse on top of him. “Clarisse…” he murmured against her mouth then moaned as she trailed her lips over his chin, and down his throat to his chest.
Joseph’s eyes closed and he hissed inwardly in pleasure as Clarisse flicked her tongue out against his nipple then nipped the small, hard tip with her teeth. “You are wicked, my queen…” he groaned when she repeated the action on his other nipple.
“I learned from the best,” Clarisse replied as she laved her tongue fully over the protrusion then blew a stream of cool air over him.
“My best pupil…” Joseph gasped. “Clarisse…” her name came out as a rush of breath as he felt her lips begin to move down his chest. “What are you…” he swallowed hard when he felt her breasts rub against his thighs and erection. “Clarisse… you don’t have to…”
“I want to,” Clarisse replied in a husky voice as she continued to inch her way down his body, her lips following the trail of hair down over his abdomen. “I’ve never… but I want to with you…”
Joseph watched in the moonlight streaming in from the window, propped up on his elbows as Clarisse settled herself between his legs and took his hardened flesh in hand. “So hard… so soft…” he heard her murmur as her fingers gently danced over his length.
“I love the way you feel…” Clarisse told him as she wrapped her hand around him, and slowly stroked him up and down. “You’re so hot…” she gently squeezed him then repeated her earlier words. “… so hard, and yet so soft at the same time.”
A soft groan sounded deep in Joseph’s throat as he watched Clarisse continue to explore him with her hands, one continuing to stroke over his shaft, the other reaching down to cup his balls. His eyes widened, and his breath hitched in his throat as Clarisse leaned closer and flicked her tongue against the plumy head.
Clarisse could feel Joseph’s eyes on her as she nibbled her way down his arousal then meeting and holding his gaze; Clarisse gave the underside of his shaft a long, lolli-pop lick.
“Oh shit…” Joseph swore and fell back against the pillows.
A low chuckle filled the room as Clarisse continued to discover, and learn his sex… his scent… his taste… the feel of him. After several long minutes of licking, nibbling, and stroking, Clarisse wrapped her lips around the head of his shaft.
“…sh… Clarisse!” Joseph groaned as she began to move him in and out of her mouth, alternating between sucking gently and laving him with her tongue. The sensations shooting through his body were incredible, made even more spectacular by the fact that it was Clarisse doing this to him.
Clarisse continued to love him with her mouth; feeling herself growing more and more aroused with each lick… with each taste of Joseph. She stroked him with one hand while the other massaged his heavy sacs, learning by the sounds he made what he liked and what he didn’t.
“Clarisse…” Joseph gasped her name and reached out a hand, entangling his fingers in her hair, as he felt his release closing in on him. “My darling… I don’t… I won’t last much longer…” he tugged gently on her hair.
His words seemed to spur Clarisse on. She clamped down harder with her mouth and the hand wrapped around his erection began to stroke him with more intent. She felt his balls tighten in her palm, and knew he was very close.
“Cla… oh shit… I…” Joseph moaned incoherently as Clarisse began to hum, the vibrations shooting straight through him. “Clar… I’m going to…” he tugged on her hair again.
Clarisse resisted him then felt his hand clench almost painfully in her hair as he cried out her name with his release. She moaned softly at the warm jet of fluid that burst into her mouth. Clarisse felt Joseph’s thumb and forefinger slip beneath her hand and squeeze the root of his shaft tightly. She slowly raised her head, allowing his member to slip out of her mouth with an audible pop.
Joseph growled at the sight of her glistening lips and hauled Clarisse up over him, and caught her mouth in a devastating kiss; groaning at the taste of himself on her tongue. He quickly rolled them over and without hesitation, buried his arousal inside her slick heat in one smooth stroke.
Clarisse gasped out of the kiss. “Did I… was that okay?”
“My darling… that was better than okay,” Joseph told her as he circled his hips against her.
Clarisse smiled then moaned. “I’m… oh god, Joseph… glad… I’m glad… mmm…”
“Clarisse…” Joseph murmured her name as he kissed a line down her neck.
“Yes?” Clarisse responded as she shifted beneath him and wrapped her legs around his hips.
“Do you want to talk or…” Joseph thrust hard against her.
“Or! Definitely or!” Clarisse replied and pulled his mouth to hers, kissing him hungrily.
The ringing of the phone pulled Clarisse from the pleasant dream she was having. “Joseph…” she murmured sleepily. “Joseph… the phone’s ringing.”
As the phone continued to ring Clarisse reached out, intending to nudge Joseph, and get him to answer it. When all she encountered was empty bed, she opened her eyes, and looked around in confusion. “Joseph?”
There was no answer, save for the phone, which was still ringing.
With a sigh and a frown, Clarisse shifted over to Joseph’s side of the bed and reached for the phone. A smile replaced the frown on her face at the single red rose that lay propped up against the annoying appliance.
“Hello?” She spoke into the receiver.
“Hello, Sleeping Beauty.”
“Joseph…” Clarisse’s smile grew as his husky voice came through. “Where are you, my darling?”
“I am close by, never fear.” Joseph replied. “Did you sleep well?”
“Mmm… I did,” Clarisse settled back against the pillows and brought the rose to her nose. “So why is it that I am not waking up in your arms?”
“Because a groom is not supposed to see his bride before the wedding.”
“Joseph!” Clarisse chuckled. “Don’t tell me you’re superstitious.”
“I’m not,” Joseph answered. “But that is not the only reason.”
“What is the other reason, and why did it necessitate your not being here in bed with me this morning?”
“After noon!?” Clarisse sat up and squinted across the bed to the clock sitting on the nightstand. “What time is it?”
“One o’clock,” Joseph answered.
“One o’clock! Oh, Joseph! How could I have slept so long? Why did you let me sleep…”
“There is so much that I need to do.”
“I have to shower then do my hair and my nails and my makeup and…”
Clarisse stopped. “Yes?”
“Relax, my dear. I’ve taken care of everything. If you go into the bathroom, you will find the tub filled, and the water should be just right now,” Joseph told her. “Go… soak… relax. When you’re finished, call down to the front desk, and they will send someone up to pamper you.”
“Oh, Joseph…” Clarisse whispered. “You didn’t need to…”
“I know I didn’t need to, but I wanted to,” Joseph said. “So again, go relax in your bath, and when you’re done call the front desk. After you’ve been pampered, it will be time for you to get dressed…”
“I will be there to escort you to our wedding.”
Clarisse pulled in an excited breath. “Our wedding! Oh, Joseph… I can hardly wait.”
“Me either, my love. Me either,” Joseph replied in a voice strong with emotion. “Just a few more hours…”
“And we will belong to each other forever.”
“Forever,” Joseph echoed, and a moment of silence fell between them before Joseph coughed softly. “I’m going to hang up now. I have a few things I need to take care of before our wedding. I will see you at five, my darling.”
“I will be waiting.”
“I love you, Clarisse.”
“I love you too, Joseph.” Clarisse replied then held the phone to her ear until she heard the click from the other end. She placed the receiver back in its cradle then slipped out of the bed, padding naked across the room to the bathroom.
At the soft knock, Clarisse opened the door.
“Ms. Beauvais?” A young woman in her early thirties smiled warmly at her. “Your fiancée, Monsieur Ferreira has arranged for me to treat you to a massage, and also to do your hair and make up for you.”
Clarisse nodded and gestured for the young woman to enter the suite. “Won’t you please come in?”
“Thank you,” Genevieve said as she picked up the large case beside her then walked through the door. She walked to the middle of the room, placed the case on the floor then turned to face Clarisse. She extended her hand. “My name is Genevieve.”
“Clarisse,” Clarisse replied. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Well, Clarisse… I was told to treat you like a queen, so why don’t we get started!?”
Catching her lower lip between her teeth in an uncharacteristic show of nervousness, Clarisse stood before the full-length mirror in the bathroom, and took in her appearance.
She was amazed at the change she could see in herself.
She was happy.
For the first time in her life, Clarisse Mignonette Beauvais Renaldi, soon to be Ferreira was truly happy.
So happy in fact that it could be seen in her very person. Her skin glowed, her hair shone, and her eyes sparkled with a light that had never before been present.
And it was all because of one man.
“Joseph,” Clarisse spoke her love’s name with a smile then permitted a small excited giggle to escape.
In just over an hour, she would be married.
Only this time, she would be marrying for love… not duty. True, they would be hiding their marriage from the rest of the world… but she would know. And Joseph would know. And that, more than anything, is what mattered most.
Clarisse’s smile grew at the sound of Joseph’s voice. “I’ll be right out, darling.”
She quickly checked over her appearance one last time then hurried out of the bathroom, grabbed her cloak off the bed and threw it around her shoulders then left the bedroom.
Joseph looked up as Clarisse breezed into the room, and smiled. “You look gorgeous.”
“Oh tosh… you’ve not even seen the dress,” Clarisse replied with a light laugh.
“I could care less about the dress…” Joseph told her as he stepped over to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “You are gorgeous.”
“You are crazy… but looking very handsome,” Clarisse said with an appreciative glance down his body. “You look too good in black, Joseph.”
Joseph merely arched an eyebrow and smiled then leaned in to give her a gentle kiss. “Are you ready to go?” He asked in a whisper against her lips.
“Oh yes…” Clarisse replied.
Joseph brushed another kiss to her lips then stepped away. He offered her his arm; through which she slipped her own and then together they left their suite.
“Your Majesty, may I present the mayor of our fine little town, Monsieur Lionel Beaudet, and his lovely wife Juliette,” Father Beaulieu made the introductions.
“Your Majesty,” Lionel bent slightly at the waist as his wife curtsied.
“Monsieur Beaudet. We thank you,” Clarisse smiled at Juliette, “both of you, so much for agreeing to do this for us, and also for rushing through the marriage license.”
“It was my pleasure, Your Majesty.” Beaudet replied then grinned. “If I hadn’t have done everything in my power to assist you, my wife would never have forgiven me, and I would be making my bed on the sofa.”
Clarisse and Joseph chuckled softly then Clarisse squeezed Joseph’s hand. “I need to go freshen up…”
“The powder room is this way,” Juliette Beaudet gestured towards a small hall off to their right.
“Thank you,” Clarisse said.
“Don’t be too long,” Joseph told her.
“I’ll be waiting for you… up there…” Joseph pointed through the narthex into the church to the chancel. “Waiting to join my life to yours.”
Clarisse smiled a teary smile and brushed a quick kiss over Joseph’s lips then with a wink, she turned and disappeared down the hall, the mayor’s wife following.
Joseph watched her until she disappeared into the washroom then turned to Father Beaulieu, and Mayor Beaudet. “Well, gentlemen… shall we take our places. When Clarisse says she won’t be long… she means it.”
“She is a unique woman then,” Lionel remarked with a chuckle.
Joseph’s smile grew. “She is indeed.”
“A wedding is the celebration of the highest we know in love, the pledging of the deepest fidelity, the expression of the highest aspiration, a relationship so sacred that it must not be entered into casually, but thoughtfully and deliberately,” Father Beaulieu spoke in a clear voice. “A wedding is also a recognition that love and marriage are not always easy, and that along with tenderness, newness and joy in a marriage, a marriage must overcome many forces that might destroy it. Out of this tangled world, you two have been drawn together, two people bound firmly by the sure insights of love. I charge you, Clarisse and Joseph,” Garret looked at each of them in turn, “with the responsibility to keep your love alive… to grow, to change, to maintain the capacity for wonder, for spontaneity, for humour, to remain flexible, warm and sensitive. Give fully to each other, show your real feelings to one another, save time for each other, no matter what demands are made upon your day. I charge you to nurture each other to wholeness, realizing that at times each of you will need to bring strength and support and worth to the other.”
The priest turned to face Clarisse. “Are you, Clarisse, ready to enter this holy relationship, and to accept the responsibilities of a wife, to be Joseph’s loving, faithful, and supportive partner whether in days of success or adversity?”
“I am,” Clarisse said.
Garret then turned to Joseph. “And are you, Joseph, ready to enter ready to enter this holy relationship, and to accept the responsibilities of a husband, to be Clarisse’s loving, faithful, and supportive partner whether in days of success or adversity?”
“I am,” Joseph said.
“Now if you know of nothing legal or moral to forbid your union, and you wish to take the vows that will join you together, indicate that by facing each other, and joining hands.”
Joseph and Clarisse turned to face each other, and with soft, loving smiles, they reached out to take the other’s hands.
“Clarisse,” Garret looked to her first. “Repeat after me. I, Clarisse…”
“I, Clarisse, by the life that courses within my blood, and the love that resides within my heart, take you, Joseph, to my hand, my heart, and my spirit to be my chosen one. I promise to love you wholly and completely without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, forevermore. I shall not seek to change you in any way. I shall respect you, your beliefs, and your ways as I respect myself,” Clarisse finished repeating her vows with a hard squeeze to Joseph’s hands.
With an approving nod, Garret turned to Joseph. “Joseph, repeat after me. I, Joseph…”
“I, Joseph, by the life that courses within my blood, and the love that resides within my heart, take you, Clarisse, to my hand, my heart, and my spirit to be my chosen one. I promise to love you wholly and completely without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, forevermore. I shall not seek to change you in any way. I shall respect you, your beliefs, and your ways as I respect myself,” Joseph finished repeating his vows as he circled his thumbs over her hands.
Garret smiled at the two. “Now, Joseph… I believe there is a little something you wanted to share with Clarisse at this time.”
Joseph nodded, and his smile grew at the mix of confusion and curiosity on Clarisse’s face. He squeezed her hands gently as he began to speak. “I found this poem earlier this year by accident when I was surfing the net for some new security vests for my men. How I ended up on a website for civil celebrants I do not know, but as I was about to click away, something caught my eye, and I stopped to read. What I read that day has stayed with me all this time, as I prayed this day would come to be, and I hoped to share it with you,” Joseph told her. He cleared his throat before continuing in a soft yet clear voice, which was full of love.
“I stand beside you, my dearest, dearest friend,
And as we make our sacred vows, my thoughts of you transcend.
I give you my heart, my hopes, my dreams, Accept these gifts of mine.
They are so precious and fragile. They need your care divine.”
Clarisse suddenly began to speak, quoting the last two stanzas of the same poem.
“Treat my trust with gentleness. Treat me with loving care.
I can but grow with patience and love as long as you are there.”
“I too have read this poem before,” Clarisse told him with a smile at the delighted surprise on Joseph’s face. “And like you, it was one I had hope to share with you on our wedding day.”
They grinned at each other as Garret then asked for the rings. Lionel and Juliette each stepped forward and placed the gold bands on Garret’s outstretched Bible.
“From the beginning of time, the golden circle has been a symbol of wedded love, made of pure gold to symbolize pure love. Being one unbroken circle, it symbolizes unending love. As often as either of you see this golden circle, you will be reminded of this high moment and the unending love you promise,” Father Beaulieu told them then turned to Joseph. He held the Bible out to him so that he could pick up the ring he was to give to Clarisse. “Joseph, place this ring on Clarisse’s finger, and repeat after me…”
Joseph met and held Clarisse’s eyes and slowly slipped the wedding band on her finger as he spoke in a husky voice. “With this ring, I thee wed, and pledge to share my life with you, loving and caring for you through all life’s varying experiences.”
Clarisse released a shaky breath as silent tears began to stream down her cheeks. She reached for the ring Garret held out then in a soft, emotion-filled voice began to speak, repeating the words Father Beaulieu spoke to her. “With this ring, I thee wed, and pledge to share my life with you, loving and caring for you through all life’s varying experiences.”
Joseph and Clarisse held each other’s gazes, as each caressed the other’s ring, and it was with great difficulty that they pulled their eyes from each other to look at Garret as he began to speak again.
“You have now shared your love for and special commitment to one another. Explore this love well with a deep reverence. Explore it with joy and hope and perseverance. Clarisse and Joseph… I now pronounce you husband and wife, according to your own promises, and the exchanging of rings and in the sight of the Lord.” Garret paused and a smile formed on his faced as he spoke to Joseph. “You may now kiss the bride.”
Slowly turning to face one another, Joseph and Clarisse couldn’t help the joy-filled smiles that formed on their lips as they leaned in towards each other.
They whispered to each other just as their mouths came together in a loving kiss. Mutual sighs sounded in the chapel as the newly wed couple forgot about everyone and everything but each other and the kiss they were sharing.
Their arms slipped around each other and they pulled each other closer as they deepened their kiss. Their lips parted and their tongues met in a slow waltz of tastes and touches. After several long, dizzying minutes, Clarisse and Joseph slowly broke out of the kiss. They turned, almost sheepishly, to face Father Beaulieu who merely smiled at them.
“Let us pray,” Garret said, and once the two couples’ heads were bowed, he continued. “Oh God, who gives life to all people, and meaning to every moment, we pray that Clarisse and Joseph may remain faithful to the vows they have made this day. Give them strength and keep them forever in your love. May their home be a place of peace, joy and love in which all may share, and be with them to defend it from every evil that may threaten, from outside or within. May the happiness of today remain with Joseph and Clarisse as they walk in your ways. We ask this in Jesus’ name, and in his words continue our prayer saying… “Our Father…”
Clarisse and Joseph as well as the mayor and his wife joined in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. When they were finished Clarisse and Joseph glanced at each other before returning their gaze to the priest.
“Today is a new beginning in your lives. May God’s peace and love go with you as you continue life’s journey,” Garret smiled then continued in a strong voice. “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance unto you, and give you peace.”
Realizing the ceremony was over; Joseph pulled Clarisse back into his arms and kissed her again, much to the delight of their small audience. At the sudden flash, they broke apart, and looked around to see Madame Beaudet holding a camera, a sheepish smile on her face.
“I thought you would enjoy at least one wedding picture,” she told the couple.
They smiled at her.
“All we have left to do now is sign the license… to make it legal in the eyes of the State, and then we’re finished,” Garret told them. “I know it’s a little backwards… but seeing as how this is such a small, hushed ceremony, I didn’t think you’d mind leaving this part until the end.”
“Not at all,” Joseph replied as his arm slipped down and around Clarisse’s waist. He pulled her closer as they walked over to the small table set up just to the side of the altar. Within minutes, the needed signatures were affixed to the marriage license in the appropriate spots to make the marriage legal and binding. “You’re stuck with me now, my queen.” Joseph told her in a quiet voice.
Clarisse gave him a brilliant smile. “Mmm… thank God.”
“I have… several times today,” Joseph replied to the amusement of the others.
“Your majesty, Lord Ferreira…” Father Beaulieu held out a white envelope to them. “Here is your marriage license. Just remember your promise to see the Arch Bishop.”
“We haven’t forgotten,” Clarisse told him.
“Your Majesty, Monsieur Ferreira… would you care to join us for dinner this evening?” Lionel asked.
“Lionel, really!?” Juliette turned to her husband in surprise. “I am sure that her Majesty and Monsieur Ferreira already have other plans for this evening.”
“As a matter of fact, we do.” Joseph replied.
“Of course, of course. How silly of me,” Lionel said with a smile. “Naturally you would have plans. This is your wedding night after all.”
“But we thank you for the offer,” Clarisse smiled at the man. “And we thank you again for doing this for us,” she glanced at Joseph. “We truly do appreciate it more than you will ever know.”
“It was our honour, your Majesty.” Juliette replied with a smile. “But before you leave, how about a couple more pictures… for your album. It is a digital camera, so you can take the memory card with you. This way, only you will have any copies of the pictures.”
“That would be wonderful, thank you!” Clarisse’s smile grew.
Fifteen minutes later, the memory card safely in his inner jacket pocket, Joseph helped Clarisse slip into her cloak then grasped her hand tightly in his. “Well, Señora Ferreira…” a silly grin formed on Joseph’s face. “Are you ready to head back to the hotel?”
“Oh yes, Señor Ferreira… I am quite ready.” Clarisse returned the silly grin and nodded. She turned to the Beaudets and Father Beaulieu. “Happy New Year to you all. Thank you again.”
“Happy New Year,” the three chorused then watched as the happy couple left, arms wrapped securely around each other.
Soft, romantic music floated about the room, as Clarisse and Joseph lay naked in each other’s arms in their bed. With their legs entwined, they shared long; soul searing kisses as their hands roamed over each other’s bodies; gently caressing and slowly building their arousal.
After the ceremony, they had returned to their suite, where Joseph had had an exquisite meal laid out for them; foods designed to satisfy one appetite, yet whet the more base appetite. In between sips of champagne, the newly wed couple had fed each other with their fingers… each taking every opportunity presented to caress and tease the other… to build on the low level of arousal that hummed through their veins constantly when in each other’s presence.
Once the food was gone, Joseph had pulled Clarisse into his arms where for the next hour or two, they had simply swayed to the music drifting about the suite. Little by little, as they moved together, they had each methodically stripped the other until they had been dancing naked before the fireplace.
Words had been limited, the last two weeks loving each other having given the couple a new way to communicate… they talked with their hands, and more importantly… with their bodies. Each dance of fingers, every caress of lips… each and every rub of a body, had all meant something new… something exciting… and spoke of a deep, soulful connection.
With an hour left before the New Year, Clarisse had led Joseph from the lounge into the bedroom, where they had continued their long, sweet seduction. As they laid on the bed, they had taken turns bringing the other closer and closer to orgasm but never over the edge.
“It is now, one minute to midnight!” A voice in French broke through the music on the radio. “Grab your loved one and prepare to say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new.”
Joseph rolled, pinning Clarisse beneath him, and settled his hips in the cradle of her thighs; his arousal nestled against her moist cleft. He rose up onto his elbows and gazed down at her as the countdown to the New Year began in earnest on the radio.
“Mi esposa…” Joseph whispered, his voice husky with the emotion so plainly visible in his dark blue eyes.
“Mi marido…” Clarisse whispered back, her voice just as husky, and her eyes filled with the same strong emotion.
Joseph shifted and slipped easily into Clarisse; seating his throbbing erection completely within her hot, wet sheath in one thrust as the announcer’s cries of “Happy New Year!” filled the air.
“Feliz Año Nuevo, mi amor…” Joseph told Clarisse as he began to slowly move within her.
“Happy New Year, my love…” Clarisse replied and wrapped her legs around his waist even as she slid her hands behind his head and pulled his mouth down to hers.
As their kiss grew more passionate, Joseph and Clarisse began to undulate against each other, establishing the now familiar rhythm between them. The slow, steady thrusting of their bodies quickly grew more pronounced… more wild… as they drove each other towards the inevitable conclusion.
It wasn’t long before Clarisse was clutching at Joseph’s shoulders, and gasping his name as wave after wave of intense, mind-numbing pleasure washed over her. She begged him over and over, with each thrust of his hips, to make her come… to take her to and over the edge to where she knew the most exquisite sensations lay… to where their souls would join in the ecstasy of their own making.
Joseph felt Clarisse’s body tighten around his, as her release grew closer, her inner walls contracting around his plunging shaft, as he continued to drive himself into her. He felt her cling to him, her arms and legs wrapped around him, her lips pressed against his ear, whispering over and over again to give in… to push them over the precipice and into nirvana.
Their thrusting grew harder… faster… their breathing grew laboured, as they neared completion. When Clarisse’s teeth nipped his earlobe, Joseph groaned her name loudly and came hard. His orgasm triggering hers, Clarisse cried out Joseph’s name as a kaleidoscope of sensations exploded within her; traveling from her core, and up through her body.
Moments later, still clinging tightly to each other, the two lovers gasped then cried out again, in unison, as another powerful wave of sensations washed over them. They wept tears of joy as their souls met and wrapped around each other, merging more completely than ever before.
Clarisse awoke slowly, not surprised to find herself lying on top of, and still intimately joined with her husband. ‘We’ve not been asleep long,’ she thought to herself with a wry smile as she opened one eye to peer at the nearby clock. ‘No… not long at all.’ She closed her eye then turned her face into Joseph’s neck as she snuggled closer and rocked her hips against him.
“If you keep that up,” a soft, husky voice sounded in her ear.
“I’m in for a little morning treat…” Clarisse spoke against his neck.
“Does this feel little to you?” Joseph asked as he thrust his hips up beneath her.
Clarisse moaned and pressed an open-mouthed kiss to Joseph’s throat as she rubbed her legs against his. “Mmm… Joseph…”
“Good morning, my love…” Joseph murmured against her ear as he ran his hands over her back to the bare cheeks of her bottom and pulled Clarisse closer.
Clarisse trailed her lips along Joseph’s jaw to his mouth. “Good morning…” she replied as they kissed lovingly. Several moments passed, and just as the kiss was threatening to grow out of control, Clarisse broke off the kiss and once again buried her face in Joseph’s shoulder.
“Clarisse…? My darling, what’s wrong?” Joseph asked; sliding his hands up to caress her back.
Clarisse shook her head.
“Clarisse, tell me.” Joseph slipped his hands into her hair and tugged gently until Clarisse lifted her head to look down at him. “What is it, my love?”
“I don’t want to leave,” Clarisse whispered.
“You do not want to return to the palace?”
Clarisse shook her head.
“Why not?” Joseph inquired.
“Afraid? Of what?”
“Of what’s going to happen to us. What are we going to do? I’ve gotten used to sharing my bed with you… to sleeping in your arms…” a blush worked its way across her cheeks. “…to making love with you. We haven’t really discussed how we’re planning on doing things once we return to the palace.”
“We are going to be fine, my dear. I promise.” Joseph told his wife.
“But…” Joseph laid a finger across Clarisse’s lips to silence her.
“Joseph…” Clarisse spoke against his finger.
“Do you trust me, Clarisse?” Joseph asked her.
“With my life, and with my heart,” Clarisse answered without hesitation.
Joseph smiled as he moved his hand to once again cup her cheek. “Then trust me when I tell you that I have no intention of not sleeping with you every night. I too, have gotten rather used to sharing my bed with you… holding you, and making love with you each evening, and I do not intend to stop now,” he told her then lowered his hand to run his finger over the gold band encircling her ring finger. “Especially not now.”
Clarisse smiled. “So, how will we do this?”
Joseph’s smile turned enigmatic as he suddenly rolled them over, taking care to keep their bodies joined, and pinned Clarisse to the bed. “I take it her majesty is not aware of the secret passage that connects her suite to her head of security’s?”
Clarisse’s eyes widened. “You’re not serious!?!”
“I most certainly am.”
“It’s been there for centuries,” Joseph began to explain. “When I accepted Rupert’s offer to become the head of security, I explored the palace, and discovered more than a dozen secret passages. When I discovered the one between our rooms, I went to Rupert, and he told me he’d known about it all along, and that it was the reason he’d housed me in that suite.”
“Yes,” Joseph nodded.
“Do you think…?”
Joseph nodded. “Rupert was aware that we had feelings for one another, and this may have been his way of giving us his tacit approval… but I also know that he knew that for as long as the two of you were married, nothing would happen between us… even when your marriage became one in name only.”
“So we will use this secret passage to spend our nights together?” Clarisse asked with a smile.
“If her majesty approves, yes.”
Joseph chuckled. “I am glad to hear that.”
“But now…” Clarisse nodded then wrapped her legs around Joseph’s hips and raked her nails teasingly down his back. “No more talking. I would much rather use what little time we have left here in more productive pursuits.”
Joseph began to slowly thrust his hips against her. “Whatever you wish, my queen…”
As the small car came to a stop, a large sigh sounded inside.
Joseph turned to his wife. “Clarisse?”
“I’m all right, Joseph.”
“You don’t sound very convincing to me.”
Clarisse closed her eyes and released another deep sigh. “I’m scared, Joseph.” She admitted in a quiet voice.
“I know you are,” Joseph told her and reached out to grasp her hand. “But there is no need. We’ve already jumped one hurdle… the Arch bishop. He understands our reasons for wanting and needing to keep our marriage a secret, and has agreed to do so.”
“I had a feeling he wouldn’t be that hard to persuade,” Clarisse told him as she opened her eyes and turned to meet his gaze. “No… he’s not what I’m worried about.”
Joseph reached up with his free hand and cupped her cheek. “You’re worried about the staff?”
“Yes,” Clarisse answered then leaned into his caress. “Oh, Joseph… how are we going to do this?”
“With a lot of patience, a lot of willpower… and a lot of extra meetings in your office.”
Clarisse couldn’t help herself and laughed. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Joseph replied. “And we will be fine. I promise you.”
“How? How am I supposed to not want to reach out and grasp your hand? How am I going to be able to stop myself from wanting to be in your arms? How do I resist the urge to kiss you?”
“You don’t. You just hold off until we’re in private,” Joseph told her. “You’ve done it before.”
“That was before we both fully acknowledged the feelings between us,” Clarisse told him with a smile then squeezed his hand. “But you’re right. We can do this. We may both end up exhausted…”
“But we can do this.”
“We can do this,” Joseph echoed. “It won’t be that bad, my love. I promise.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Joseph smiled and brought her hand to his lips then pressed a kiss to her fingers. “Ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
Clarisse sighed, and for the hundredth time in as many minutes, reached behind her head to fluff her pillow. She glanced over at the clock on the bedside table and frowned in the low light of the room.
The red numbers glowed almost mockingly at her. What with the drive back to Pyrus, and their meeting with the Archbishop, was it any wonder that it was well after midnight.
Clarisse shifted on the bed and tried to get comfortable. ‘This bed is just too bloody big,’ she thought to herself as she kicked the comforter off her legs then seconds later pulled it back on.
Another sigh filled the room.
It’d been over an hour since she’d retired for the evening, and she had expected Joseph to be with her already. His last words to her were to tell her he would not be too long in joining her. She hoped he wouldn’t be much longer. She was tired, but also knew that sleep would not come to her until she was in his arms.
All of a sudden, the silence in the room was broken by the sound of something scraping in the vicinity of the fireplace. Clarisse sat up and watched with fascination as the far right panel beneath the mantle swung away and her husband stepped out.
“Remind me that I need to dust that passageway,” Joseph told her as he cleaned off his robe.
Clarisse laughed softly.
“I’m sorry I’m late, my darling. I was unavoidably detained in the security office,” Joseph said as he walked across the room to the bed.
“It’s all right, Joseph. I more or less guessed that is what happened,” Clarisse told him with a yawn as she watched him pull his cell phone out of his robe’s pocket and lay it on the nightstand.
“I have my line forwarded to my cell,” Joseph told her. “This way if anyone calls…”
Clarisse nodded in understanding. “And what is that other thing?” She gestured to the small black object that looked almost like a television remote control that Joseph had laid next to his cell.
“This,” Joseph brushed his fingers over the object in question. “This is just a little something that I picked up from a friend in Interpol. It will let me know if someone knocks on my door in the night.”
“I thought so,” Joseph grinned then dropped his robe.
Clarisse smiled appreciatively at the sight of her husband’s naked body and lifted the comforter up in an inviting manner. Joseph’s smile grew and he quickly slipped into the bed and gathered his wife in his arms. Their mouths came together in a hungry kiss.
“Mmm…” Joseph murmured against her lips. “Did you remember to lock the door?”
“Oh yes,” Clarisse replied as she slid her body on top of his. “It would not do for Olivia to walk in on us in the morning.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” Joseph said and ran his hands down her back. His fingers gathered up the silky slip she was wearing and in one fluid movement, he pulled the garment off and flung it away. “As I expect you will be quite busy.”
“Mmm…” Clarisse moaned as their naked bodies came together. “I certainly hope so.”
“Don’t look so glum, my love.” Joseph told his wife as he folded and placed a black shirt into the small suitcase on his bed. “I won’t be gone for more than two days, and when I return, I will be bringing Mia home to Genovia.”
Clarisse, from her seat on the corner of the mattress, nodded sadly. “I know. And I am very much looking forward to having Amelia home but…” she sighed deeply, not finishing her sentence.
“You’re upset about not being able to attend her graduation,” Joseph finished.
“Of course I am,” Clarisse replied. “This is a big step for her, Joseph. And as her grandmother, I should be there. Not wasting my time with some damned trade agreement.”
“You know as well as I that you’ve been working on this agreement for months, and it’s taken almost that long just to nail down the meeting date,” Joseph told her as he zipped up his suitcase then moved it to the floor. “Mia understands why you can’t be there.”
“I know she does. But… Joseph… it’s not fair.”
“I know it’s not,” Joseph said as he sat beside his wife and pulled her into his arms. “That’s not all that is bothering you, is it?”
Clarisse shook her head as she laid it on his shoulder.
“You’re going to think I am being silly,” Clarisse replied.
“I would never think that.”
“I… it’s just… oh bother…” Clarisse uncharacteristically stammered then buried her face in the crook of his neck.
“Oh, Joseph… we’ve not slept apart since our wedding!”
“And my stay in the hospital…”
“Doesn’t count,” Clarisse told him.
Joseph chuckled softly then grunted when Clarisse punched his chest. “I am not laughing at you, my dear.” He told her as he grabbed her fist. “Truth be told, I was thinking the same thing.”
“I don’t think I can do this, Joseph.” Clarisse said in a quiet voice. “I… our bed will be too big… too lonely without you.”
“I’m not looking forward to sleeping without you either, my love.” Joseph replied. “I enjoy holding you far too much.”
Clarisse lifted her head and gave him a small smile. “Thank God, you are only going to be gone for two days then.”
“I already have,” Joseph quipped then swooped down to brush a quick kiss against her lips.
“What time does your plane leave?” Clarisse asked.
Joseph glanced at his watch. “Seven.”
“What time is it now?”
“Three thirty. Why?”
Clarisse smiled at her husband as she shifted in his lap so that she was straddling him. “I want to give you a proper send off,” she said and began to slowly unbutton his shirt.
“You won’t catch me complaining,” Joseph grinned as he busied himself with the buttons on her shirt. “No… not at all.”
“I didn’t think so.”
“Why the delay?”
“Say no more,” Joseph told
“In her majesty’s suite. The guest room has already been made up.”
“Very well,” Joseph nodded, even though
“The headache has turned into a migraine,”
Joseph frowned. His wife was prone to migraines. Had been for as long as he’d known her, and if Clarisse had taken to her bed then the migraine was a severe one. He’d have to find a way to slip into their room and check on her.
Mia’s voice brought Joseph out of his thoughts. He ended his conversation with
“Does Gramma have one of her migraines?”
“She has these migraines a lot, doesn’t she?” It was more of a statement than a question. Amelia had been witness to her grandmother’s headaches over the last few years.
“Yes, she does.” Joseph replied then gave Mia a rare smile. “But don’t worry. Your grandmother is a strong woman, and will be fine.”
“I know…” Mia said then turned to look out the window as she thought to herself. ‘And you’ll be there to take care of her.’ A small smile played on her lips. She didn’t have any proof, but Mia was convinced there was something going on between her grandmother and Joseph. ‘Maybe living here now, I will find out if I’m right.’
“Your highness… we’re home.”
Thirty minutes later, with the princess settled into her room where she promised to keep the noise down, Joseph strode determinedly down the hall to his suite. He had left strict instructions with his security staff that he was not be disturbed, telling them that he was going to catch up on his sleep, and that he would check in again when he woke up.
When he reached his suite, Joseph stepped inside and locked the door behind him. He released a weary sigh as he made his way across his lounge to his little used bedroom.
His bedroom doors were closed, and he hadn’t closed them before he left. At least he did not remember doing so. A small grin pulled at the corner of his mouth. He had been in a rush to leave two days ago, as he and Clarisse had lost track of time in saying good-bye, that he could have very well have pulled the doors shut.
Joseph shrugged then. He wasn’t overly concerned, as there was a standing order for the maids to leave his suite untouched any time he was away from the palace. So Joseph knew there was nothing truly amiss in his suite.
His thoughts once more turning to his wife, Joseph opened the door to his bedroom and stepped inside. He was surprised to find the room shrouded in darkness; the heavy curtains on the windows pulled closed to shut out the mid-morning sunlight. With the light from the lounge spilling into his bedroom, Joseph glanced around then smiled.
Curled up in the middle of his bed, arms wrapped tightly around one of his pillows, and dressed in one of his shirts, was his wife. Sound asleep.
Joseph dropped his suitcase then closed the door, once again plunging the room into darkness. He paused a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim light then slowly made his way across the room to the bed, stripping his clothes off as he went.
Clad only in his boxers, Joseph gazed down at his sleeping wife. While she was asleep, Joseph could tell that it was not a restful sleep.
‘Oh, it’s a bad one,’ Joseph thought to himself as he watched Clarisse wince in her sleep then slipped into the bed, and curled up behind his wife. He carefully slid one arm beneath her and wrapped the other around her waist as he tucked his legs up against hers.
Joseph buried his face in her soft hair. As he inhaled deeply, and Clarisse’s unique scent flooded his senses, he felt a wave of peace wash over him.
Clarisse shifted in her sleep, instinctively burrowing deeper into her husband’s arms and released a deep sigh. Her eyes fluttered open and she turned her head back slightly. “Joseph?” She murmured sleepily.
“Yes, my love. I’m home,” Joseph whispered. “Go back to sleep.”
“I… my head… it hurts so much, Joseph…”
“I know, love.” Joseph said as he brought his hand up to cup her cheek, his fingers gently massaging her temple. “You can relax now… I’m home. Mia is here too, safely asleep in her room. So close your eyes… go back to sleep. I will be here when you wake.”
“Mmm… good,” Clarisse smiled tiredly. “I love you…”
Joseph returned her smile then lowered his head to brush a soft kiss over her lips. “I love you too.”
The smile remained on Clarisse’s mouth as she drifted off back to sleep, once again safe and secure in her loving husband’s arms.
“I’m told this Lord Devereaux boy is a native Genovian. Recently graduated
“She was in a closet?”
“With him. Yes.”
Joseph and Clarisse walked slowly down the garden path, Maurice, Clarisse’s Christmas present from Joseph two years earlier, trotting happily ahead of his owners as they conversed.
“Does she have the makings of a queen?” Clarisse asked her husband, valuing his opinion more than anyone else’s.
“Well, she’s young, but I’ve always believed in her,” Joseph answered.
“The wedding invitations have been sent out…”
“She and Andrew make a fine pair, I… I think…” Clarisse continued, her uncertainty evident in her voice.
“Yes, they do.”
“She’s very set on it, you know…”
Joseph sighed and knowing the garden workers had all slipped away when they saw them approaching, led his wife to the gazebo. “Clarisse, my dear… forget the wedding for a moment.”
Clarisse regarded her husband curiously as he cleared his throat… somewhat nervously in her opinion.
“In less than a month, you will no longer be queen, and I will no longer be your head of security,” Joseph said to which Clarisse nodded. He could tell she was wondering what he was up to. “I think it is time we bring our ‘friendship’ out of the shadows.”
“Oh, Joseph, I…” Clarisse began. She’d known that this had been on his mind ever since Mia had returned to Genovia for good. She just hadn’t been expecting him to spring it on her now.
“Yes… yes, my dear. I would kneel if it weren’t for my knee replacements,” he grinned at her as he grasped her hand and guided her down to sit on the bench beside them.
“Joseph, there’s a wedding to be planned. Mia needs to win over the people of Genovia, all in less than thirty days,” Clarisse told him, her thumb running over the tips of his fingers of their clasped hands.
Joseph nodded. “Perhaps it is time to consider the duty you have to yourself.”
Clarisse dropped her husband’s hand and looked away. “Oh…”
“Clarisse…” Joseph spoke her name, and when she turned back to face him he continued. “My darling, please think about it. Please.”
Giving her husband a small, but loving smile, Clarisse brought her hand up to cup and caress the side of his face. “I will.”
Joseph gave her a hopeful smile and took her hand in his once again. “I know this is not the best time to be asking you this, my darling… but it’s been running through my mind for the last two weeks. I think it’s time the country knows about us, and learns about our marriage,” he paused. “I feel we’ve hidden long enough… don’t you?”
“Yes,” Clarisse admitted. She was tired of hiding how she felt about Joseph from the world. “I feel the same way. I truly do, Joseph. I just…”
“Need time to think about it. I understand, Clarisse.” Joseph smiled at his wife and squeezed her hand. “I understand.”
“He said that to you?” Clarisse asked her husband in a quiet voice as they curled up in bed.
“Mabrey actually had the nerve to say that the whole country is aware… that you cater to the crown’s emotions?”
“He’s right though,” Joseph said with a wry grin. “I do cater to your emotions, as well as all your wants and needs.”
“But you’re my husband… you’re supposed to,” Clarisse smiled at him.
“They don’t know that,” Joseph chuckled.
Clarisse’s smile fell away and she held his gaze, her eyes suddenly serious. “But they will. They will know, Joseph…” she suddenly pushed Joseph onto his back and shifted her body on top of his. “I promise you. One day soon, we will no longer have to hide in shadows.”
Joseph slid his hands up his wife’s back and into her hair. “I know, my love. I know,” he said and pulled her mouth down to his. He whispered against her lips, “One day…” before he claimed them in a hungry kiss.
“With only two and a half days left, Olivia, I’m beginning to feel rather frantic,” Clarisse told her lady’s maid as they descended the stairs into the main foyer of the palace. When she reached the bottom of the steps, she held out Maurice’s leash to Olivia. “Would you take Maurice out for me, please? I have to check the orchestra selections.”
Olivia took the dog’s leash with a nod then gestured to the elegantly laid out table off to the side of the room. “And they asked you to approve a place setting for the reception, Your Majesty.”
“Very well,” Clarisse said and gave Maurice a pat on the head before walking over to the table. With a small sigh, she reached down to turn on the small stereo sitting on the end of the table.
A woman’s voice came from the speakers. “Our selections for dancing at the royal reception.” Her words were followed by a soft waltz.
Clarisse walked around to the side of the table, and fingered the design in one of the place setting choices before turning away to sway to the music. Her hands were clasped against her chest, a wistful expression on her face as she thought about her husband, and wished he were there with her now.
‘I cannot wait to dance with him at Mia’s wedding,’ she thought. ‘Joseph is such a marvelous dancer.’
With that thought in her mind, and unaware that she was being watched, Clarisse gave in to the urge, and began to dance as if she were in her husband’s arms.
Unbeknownst to his wife, Joseph stood just inside the patio doors and watched his wife. He’d been on his way to find her, when he heard the music start, and had instinctively known Clarisse was there.
Joseph smiled to himself as he watched Clarisse begin to sway to the gentle melody. He loved to watch her. Always had. It had been, and still was the highlight of his job… keeping his eyes on her body.
When Clarisse lifted her arms, as if dancing with a partner, Joseph could no longer resist. He quickly but quietly closed the distance between them, and when she turned in her waltz, Joseph slipped into her arms.
“Oh!” Clarisse exclaimed, and a brilliant smile filled her face as Joseph chuckled and they immediately began to move in sync.
They gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes for long moments before Clarisse laid her head on Joseph’s shoulder. She inhaled deeply, his familiar scent calming and comforting her; helping to ease her frazzled nerves.
Joseph rested his cheek against her temple as he held her close. The scent of her hair wafted up to his nostrils and filled him with a sense of peace.
“Have you been thinking about us?” Joseph asked her in a quiet voice.
Clarisse stopped dancing. She lifted her head from his shoulder, met his gaze and answered in a voice that held a tinge of regret for what she had to tell him. “Yes, I have.”
“I see,” Joseph blinked as he dropped his arms from around her. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said as he turned and walked away from his wife.
“No, Joseph…” Clarisse hurried after him, reaching out to grab his arm. She clasped his hand in both of hers. “You had to know what I was going to say…”
Joseph held his hand up, not wanting to hear her excuses.
“I… Mia needs me now more than ever before. It’s the monarchy… I mean, as queen, it’s my responsibility… you know how it is.” Clarisse implored him to understand.
“You were never just my queen, Clarisse.” Joseph told her. “You were the someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.” Clarisse went to speak as she reached out to grasp his upper arm but Joseph continued on before she could. “But, if you prefer that I see you first and foremost as my queen… I shall oblige.”
“No… Joseph…” Clarisse lifted her hand to cup his cheek.
Joseph stepped away from her touch, and bowed his head. “Your Majesty.” He held her eyes for a moment more before he stepped away completely.
Clarisse swallowed at the formality in his voice as she watched him turn and walk away, through the patio doors and out of the ballroom. She clenched her hands together against her chest, as she remained rooted to the spot for several moments.
All of a sudden, the music that had been weaving a romantic spell became smothering. Clarisse stepped over to the table and slapped her hand down on the stereo. The music stopped.
‘I will talk with him tonight,’ Clarisse told herself. ‘I will explain… make him understand…’
“No, I… I… uh… Princess Mia doesn’t need to…” Clarisse waved
her hand at her secretary. “Not now,
“Did you wish dinner to be served in the dining room?”
“No! I just want one…
second… for myself!” Clarisse covered
her face with her hands. After a few
moments she dropped her hands and looked up at
Clarisse sighed and turned to look longingly out the patio door. ‘Joseph…’ her heart called out to its mate.
Sitting on her bed with her arms wrapped around her drawn-up knees, Clarisse looked back and forth between the clock on her nightstand and the fireplace as she waited for her husband to join her.
She was anxious to explain… to make Joseph understand…
“Mia still needs me,” Clarisse said aloud. “Joseph wasn’t there… he didn’t see the way Mabrey put her down. I can’t do that to her.”
Clarisse sighed and glanced at the clock again then back to the fireplace. She bit her bottom lip.
‘He should have been here already,’ she thought, and fought back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. “Oh, Joseph… how can you think I want to continue keeping our love amongst the shadows!?”
Clarisse moved off the bed, grabbed the glass of hot milk she’d brought up from the kitchen off of her night table, and took a sip as she began to pace.
‘How could he not know how much I long to be able to freely express how I feel about him? Doesn’t he know… doesn’t he realize that I would love to be able to walk along the streets and simply hold his hand?’ she asked herself. ‘I would love to be able to be in his embrace… to hug him… kiss him, and not worry about who sees?’
Clarisse swiped a rogue tear off of her cheek and stopped pacing. She looked over at the clock and sighed. She knew Joseph was hurt, and even upset about their earlier conversation, but not for one moment did Clarisse even consider the possibility that Joseph would not show up for bed.
They’d both vowed when he’d returned with Mia from college at the beginning of the month, and endured the two days apart, that they would never sleep apart again. Neither one had slept well… and had missed being held by the other immensely.
“Well, if he won’t come to me…” Clarisse walked over to the fireplace. She placed her now empty glass on the mantle then reached out for the hidden switch that would open the door to the secret passage. The door swung open and she stepped into the tunnel connecting her bedroom to Joseph’s then closed the door behind her.
A few minutes later, the door on the other end of the passage opened, and Clarisse stepped out into Joseph’s barely used bedroom.
“Joseph?” She called out her husband’s name in a loud whisper as she quietly walked about the room. “Darling… are you here?” Clarisse checked in the bathroom, hoping maybe that he was taking a shower. When she didn’t find Joseph in the bathroom, she made her way to the lounge.
“Oh, Joseph… where are you?” Clarisse asked the empty lounge as her tears once again threatened to fall.
Fighting her tears, Clarisse quickly made her way back to her own bedroom. She climbed into her bed, and grabbed Joseph’s pillow, burying her face in the softness just as she lost her fight with her tears.
“…Joseph… I’m sorry…”
“…mmm… Joseph…” Clarisse moaned her husband’s name as she felt his hands glide down her body. “…Joe…”
The alarm clock suddenly sprang to life, its annoying buzzer interrupting the pleasant dream Clarisse had been having. She rolled over and smacked the bothersome device until it turned off then rolled back into the middle of the bed, and pulled the pillow over her head.
She’d not slept well, which told her that Joseph had not come to bed at all.
Tears welled in Clarisse’s eyes as she squeezed them tight, willing herself not to cry. Her eyes hurt enough, and she did not want to cry anymore. She knew Joseph was hurt by what he perceived to be her denial of acknowledging their relationship. And Clarisse knew, that if she was given the chance to explain to him, Joseph would understand.
It was not going to be never… it was just going to be a little longer.
It took several minutes before Clarisse felt she had sufficient control over her emotions, and the strength to drag herself out of her bed. She pulled the pillow from her face and stared up at the ceiling.
‘I can do this,’ Clarisse thought to herself and slowly sat up. “In fact, I think I will go see if Amelia would like to spend some time together today… then I will talk to Joseph this afternoon.”
With a nod of approval for her plan, Clarisse slipped out of her bed and made her way into the bathroom to start her day.
Dressed smartly in white slacks, and a white cardigan, Clarisse slipped quietly into Mia’s suite, and called out softly.
Clarisse walked over, sat down on the edge of the bed, and placed her hand on Mia’s shoulder. “Good morning, my love. I know it’s a little early, but I’ve been thinking…” she sat up straighter. “Things have been so pressured lately. I was wondering whether we should spend…” Clarisse’s voice trailed off as Mia turned over, and the blanket fell away to reveal, “Lilly?!”
Lilly reached up and pulled her hair back off her face. “Good morning, Your Majesty.”
“What… what are you doing here?”
“I just wanted…” Lilly began then stopped as Mia rushed into her room.
Clarisse turned around on the bed to face her granddaughter. “Mia,” she said as she stood and stepped towards the young woman. “What’s going on?”
At that moment,
Genovia’s most annoying, and best-known television personality, Elsie Kentworthy was speaking as images of Mia waking up with Lord Devereaux under a tree on the far edge of the palace grounds filled the small screen. “And here’s the royal exclusive I promised,” Elsie was saying.
Mia cringed and wrapped her arms around herself in a protective manner as she moved to sit on the small step leading to her bed.
Clarisse stared at the television as Elsie’s voice continued.
“After generations of boring royals who never misbehaved, Genovia finally has a world-class scandal. Proving that we should have brought in an American long ago.”
Clarisse sat down on the bench at the foot of Mia’s bed, Lilly having already scooted to the end as well. She raised her hand to her temple then quickly dropped it to her lap.
“Will Andrew Jacoby, Duke of
“I’d like to tell her what she can do with her eggs…” Lilly began but was cut off by the queen.
“Lilly!” Clarisse said, even though on the inside, she was very much in agreement with the young woman. “Could we have a moment alone?”
“Yes,” Lilly replied and climbed off the bed then left the room.
Clarisse got up off the bench and sat down beside her granddaughter who had her head buried in her arms. When Clarisse settled in beside her, Mia lifted her head, revealing tear-swollen eyes. “So?”
Mia closed her eyes again, and shook her head as she answered. “I got played.”
Uncertain for a moment what Mia meant, Clarisse looked thoughtful until realization dawned. “A-ha…” she replied. “Well, the big question is…” Clarisse asked. “Do we still have a wedding?”
Mia sighed. “I don’t know… I…” she turned to her grandmother. “I’m so confused, Gramma…”
“I didn’t expect… I mean… Andrew is a great guy. He really is… it’s just…”
“You’ve fallen in love with Nicholas,” Clarisse finished softly.
Mia nodded as more tears filled her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. “Oh, Gramma…” Mia cried and threw herself into her grandmother’s arms.
Clarisse held Mia tightly as she sobbed, and felt her own eyes filling with tears. She knew exactly what Mia was going through. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact, that it appeared that Nicholas had just been stringing Mia along, Clarisse would have sworn that events now were mirroring her own life forty years ago.
After several long minutes, Mia’s sobs finally began to slow down, and eventually stopped. She lifted her head from where it was pillowed on her grandmother’s breast and wiped the tears from her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Gramma, for… well… for everything,” Mia apologized. “It seems I can’t manage to do anything right. I knew it was a bad idea to go with him last night… but he’d told me earlier that he was giving up… that he was backing off… and then he was throwing pebbles at my window… and… and…” Mia’s voice trailed off and she looked down at her engagement ring sadly. “I guess I just wanted one night of romance before…”
“I understand, Mia.” Clarisse told her. She reached out to slip her fingers beneath Mia’s chin and raise her head. “I truly do understand.”
Mia looked into her grandmother’s eyes and gave a weak smile at the genuine empathy in Clarisse’s eyes. “Thank you, Gramma.”
“Anytime, my dear. That is what grandmothers are for,” Clarisse told her as she reached out and wiped an errant tear from Mia’s cheek. “Now… might I suggest that you shower then go find Andrew and see if you can smooth things out.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Mia nodded. She gave Clarisse a kiss on the cheek then climbed to her feet and walked across her room. Mia paused in the doorway. “Thank you again, Gramma.” She said then quickly ducked into the bathroom.
Clarisse remained sitting for a few moments, mulling over the realization of a few moments ago. Events now were indeed eerily similar to events forty years ago. The only difference is that Mia had the courage to at least take one night with the man she loved… whereas Clarisse had been too afraid.
‘You would not have married Rupert if you had,’ a voice inside her head told her. ‘You would have run off with Joseph.’
The thought of her husband, and the current state of things between them, brought tears to Clarisse’s eyes that she thought she’d gotten under control.
Clarisse stood. She needed to find Joseph. She needed to find him and explain.
Clarisse entered the small maze-like garden that led to the back entrance of the palace after her walk about the palace grounds.
“She’s getting married today, Maurice…” Clarisse told the poodle in a sad, tired voice before he bounded off ahead of her to the back steps.
While she was proud of Mia for going through with the wedding to Andrew, Clarisse was beginning to wonder if she was doing the right thing. Was forcing her granddaughter into a loveless marriage the right thing to do? Mia and Andrew were friends… much like Clarisse and Rupert had been when they had wed. But was it enough? Was it worth doing to Mia what her parents had done to her?
She’d had a good marriage. She would never say otherwise. ‘But it is nothing compared to what you and Joseph share,’ the voice in Clarisse’s head told her. ‘With Joseph you have passion… a deep soulful connection… love.’
Clarisse felt her heart ache at the thought of her husband.
Despite her resolution to speak with Joseph yesterday, Clarisse had been unable to get a minute alone with him. Everything and everyone seemed to need her attention, and it wasn’t until she was tumbling exhausted in her bed that she realized she still hadn’t spoken with her husband, and explained.
So, not caring that she only wore a slip of a nightgown, or that she could barely keep her eyes open, Clarisse had once again slipped through the secret passage to Joseph’s suite… to find it empty. She’d stumbled back to her room; her vision obscured by tears, and had fallen into her bed sobbing uncontrollably.
She didn’t remember falling asleep, but she had. And she had slept alone once again.
She missed her husband. She needed to speak with him…
“Perhaps at the reception…” Clarisse said to Maurice as she walked up the back stairs. “Perhaps then I can make Joseph understand, and apologize to him.”
Standing high on the parapet of the palace, Joseph watched his wife approach… returning from a morning walk, with a longing look on his face.
Joseph felt his heart ache at the sight of her.
He missed her.
He knew he was being an ass. A stubborn ass at that, but his pride was such that it would not allow him to listen to anything Clarisse had to say.
He was hurt.
Hurt that she refused to bring their relationship out into the open.
‘Did she really say that?’ A little voice inside Joseph’s head asked.
“Yes…” Joseph began to answer then stopped. The more he thought about it, the more he began to realize that maybe, just maybe, Clarisse had been asking for just a little more time.
‘And if you had let her explain, you would have been sleeping in your bed with your wife in your arms these last two nights,’ the voice said again.
Joseph watched Clarisse navigate the small maze-like garden after Maurice who bounded energetically ahead of her to the back entrance of the palace.
“Perhaps at the reception…” Joseph said to himself. “Perhaps then we can talk… and I can apologize.”
The door swung open to reveal Mia in her wedding dress.
“Thank you,” Mia replied.
“Your carriage awaits.”
Mia nodded and swept out of the room, Charlotte following
quickly behind her. “
“Of course, Princess.”
“Have you… do you know what’s going on with Gramma and Joe?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because they’re acting funny, and while they’re both smiling… I can tell that they’re both miserable,” Mia answered. “Did they have a fight or something?”
“I… I have no idea, Your Highness.”
Mia stopped and looked at
“It’s not my place to say, Princess.”
“Just tell me what you know…” Mia told her.
“I… I’m going to need a minute or two,” Mia said aloud to the congregation and handed her bouquet to one of the guests then turned and hurried out of the church.
At the front of the church, Clarisse glanced at Helen who had her hands full with the baby. “Let me,” she said and quickly made her way up the aisle. “Please, be seated. There’ll just be a momentary interlude,” Clarisse told the congregation. “Thank you.”
“Do we rush after her?”
“No, we never rush. We hasten,” Clarisse told her aide with a hand on her shoulder. “You’ll take care of this?”
“Oh, my dear…” Clarisse cried out to her granddaughter who was crouched down, hiding from the crowd, with her arms wrapped protectively around herself. “Mia!”
“Oh, Gramma… I’m sorry,” Mia said, standing as Clarisse hurried over to her. “I’m so sorry. I… I just need a minute…”
“I can do this.”
“I can’t do this!” Mia said, her hands falling in defeat to her sides.
“I know,” Clarisse nodded then reached out to grasp Mia’s upper arms gently. “Darling, listen to me,” she paused and dropped her hands to her sides. “I made my choice. Duty to my country over love. It’s what I’ve always done it seems. It was drummed into me my whole life.” Clarisse glanced down for a moment, a sad wistful look flitting across her face before she returned her gaze to her granddaughter’s. “Now I’ve lost the only man I ever really loved.”
At that moment, Clarisse saw Mia look over her shoulder at something that had caught her attention. Instinctively she knew what, or rather who, had caught Mia’s eye. She turned slightly and felt her heart give a lurch at the sight of her husband standing, as ever, nearby and watching over them.
Mia caught the anguished look on her grandmother’s face and realized then that her suspicions had been correct. There was indeed something between Joe and her grandmother.
Clarisse turned back to Mia, ignoring her heart’s desire to run to Joseph and throw herself into his arms. “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.” Clarisse told her with a smile. “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.”
Clarisse watched as Mia pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, and shook her head as she mulled over her grandmother’s words. Then with a soft growl, Mia rushed forward and hugged Clarisse.
“Thank you, Gramma.” Mia whispered then released her. “I know what I have to do.”
Clarisse smiled. “Good.”
Mia took a deep breath and with her head held high, she left the terrace. She gave Joe a small smile as she passed him and climbed the steps back into the church.
Joseph watched the princess until she disappeared into the church, and then knowing she was safely in the hands of his security team, he turned his attention back to Clarisse. He watched her take a deep breath then turn around to follow Mia.
Their eyes met and both swallowed at the sadness they could see in each other’s eyes.
‘Not yet,’ the voice inside Clarisse’s head told her. ‘You need to check on Mia first… then you can make things right with Joseph. As much as you don’t want to… duty still must come first.’
Clarisse sighed then much like Mia had moments before, she squared her shoulders and left the terrace with her head held high. She caught Joseph’s eye again as she passed him then knowing he was right behind her, Clarisse hurried into the church just in time to see Mia hurrying down the aisle to Andrew.
She watched Mia return Andrew’s ring then ascend the pulpit to address the congregation. “Welcome…” Mia began as Clarisse listened intently, her pride and admiration for her granddaughter growing with every moment that passed of Mia’s speech.
“I stand here, ready to take my place as your queen,” Mia said then focused her attention on the pews where the majority of the Parliament members were seated, “without a husband.”
Clarisse smiled proudly up at her granddaughter.
“Every time…” Viscount Mabrey stood up from his seat in the front pew and turned so that he was facing the congregation. “Every time this charming young lady opens her mouth, she demonstrates a contempt for the customs of Genovia. The law clearly states an unmarried woman cannot be queen.” Mabrey turned to face Mia. “Fortunately, there is another heir.”
“No there is not.”
From the back of the church, Clarisse watched in surprise as Nicholas appeared, and in a show of what Clarisse could only describe as chivalry, publicly gave up his claim to the throne.
“Besides,” Nicholas continued as he gazed up at Mia. “Just think how lovely she’ll look on our postage stamp.”
“Lovely on a postage stamp!? You would look lovely on a postage stamp!” Mabrey exploded as he watched his nephew take a step back then turn and leave the church. “Don’t you walk away from me, sir! You have a duty, sir, to Genovia!” Mabrey stumbled out of the pew, knocking over the small pedestal of flowers and pulling down the bunting as he sought to stop Nicholas. “He’s, uh… he is very distressed. Your duty, sir, to the country! To me, sir!”
Seeing Mabrey fast approaching his wife who was standing in the middle of the aisle, Joseph quickly stepped in front of Clarisse. His hand slid down her hip as he eased her behind him.
Clarisse turned her head away, not deigning to acknowledge Mabrey as he scuttled by, bowing repeatedly until he was past them.
“To Genovia!” Mabrey continued to bellow once he had moved beyond the queen. “For your father! Nicholas!”
Clarisse, realizing that Mabrey had left the sanctuary, leaned close to Joseph. “The doors,” she said quietly in his ear and watched as he sprang into action.
“Shut the doors, quickly!” Joseph told the guards standing just outside the sanctuary.
“What is happening here?” Lord Peroit stood up and asked.
“Who’s next in line for the throne?” Lord Crawley asked. “The Von Trokens?”
Baron and Baroness Von Troken jumped to their feet. “We accept!”
Prime Minister Motaz stood up. “Sit… down!” He told them in a deep voice then hurried over to Princess Mia.
Clarisse watched from the back of the church as Motaz not so subtly urged Mia to make a motion, and before Clarisse knew what was happening, all the members of parliament had voted out the old marriage law. She beamed up at her granddaughter proudly.
“Hmm?” Clarisse turned slightly at the sound of Charlotte’s voice.
“The princess would like a word,”
Clarisse glanced down at the earpiece, up over the heads of
the congregation to Mia then back down at the little receiver in
Clarisse pulled the mic right to her ear as she heard Mia’s voice come over the tiny speaker.
“Just because I didn’t get my fairy-tale ending, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t.”
Clarisse’s eyes widened.
“Oh… uhm…” she slowly lowered the earpiece then turned to
“Not if you didn’t want me to,”
‘This is it,’ she thought to herself. ‘The perfect way to show Joseph I am not ashamed of being his wife, and to tell the people of Genovia of our relationship.’
Clarisse squared her shoulders and took another step forward then called her husband’s name. “Joseph?”
Joseph stepped in front of his queen. “Your Majesty.” He bowed his head and waited for her to speak.
Joseph gave Clarisse a wary look as she smiled softly at him.
“Am I too late… to ask you to accept my hand in marriage?” Clarisse asked him, her eyes filled with hope but anxiety evident in her voice.
Joseph’s eyebrows shot up in surprise as he cleared his throat. “Well… I thought you’d never ask.”
A relieved smile filled Clarisse’s face at his response and she turned, almost shyly to face the aisle as Joseph called over to Shades.
“You’re in charge now,” Joseph told the younger man as he handed him his top hat and pulled off his mic. “Good luck with Lionel,” he said and shifted closer to his wife. “I’m going to a wedding.”
Joseph lifted his arm to his wife, who with the happy smile still on her face placed hers on his. Clarisse met Joseph’s eyes when he covered her hand with his free one, pulled her closer and curled her arm around his.
“Ready?” He asked her in a quiet voice.
“Oh yes…” she replied.
At a subtle nod from Mia, the choir began to sing once again, and the congregation stood as Joseph and her grandmother began to walk up the aisle.
“I know it was short notice,” Clarisse told the audience happily, “but you were all dressed.”
Joseph grinned as soft chuckles met his wife’s exclamation, and before he knew it, they were climbing the steps up to the altar.
“My Lord Archbishop,” Clarisse addressed the cleric. “I would like to take this man as my husband, if you please.”
The Archbishop gave a quick heavenward glance as he uttered a quiet, “Finally.”
Joseph and Clarisse exchanged surprised looks that quickly turned into knowing smiles as the Archbishop continued.
“We have come together for a different wedding. Joseph and Clarisse, today you celebrate one of life’s greatest moments and give recognition to the worth and beauty of love, as you join together in vows of marriage,” the Archbishop paused and looked at the queen. “Do you, Clarisse, take Joseph to be your Husband? Do you promise to love, honour, cherish and protect him, forsaking all others and holding unto him?”
“I do,” Clarisse replied in a clear voice.
“And, Joseph, do you take Clarisse to be your Wife? Do you promise to love, honour, cherish and protect her, forsaking all others and holding only unto her?”
“I do,” Joseph answered in a strong voice.
The Archbishop smiled. “Please, face each other and join hands.”
Clarisse quickly removed the glove on her left hand, noticing with a small smile that Joseph was also pulling his gloves off. As their hands came together, Clarisse also realized that Joseph had slipped his wedding ring off his right hand and pressed it into her palm then gently tugged her band off as well.
The Archbishop noticed this and his smile grew. He continued, “Clarisse, place the ring on Joseph’s finger and repeat after me…”
Clarisse grasped Joseph’s hand and slid his wedding band onto his ring finger. “With this ring, I thee wed.”
Joseph smiled. It felt good to have his wedding ring back on his ring finger where it belonged. (Both had agreed, five years ago when they had eloped, that Joseph would wear his wedding band on his right hand to allay suspicion.)
The Archbishop then turned to Joseph. “Joseph, place the ring on Clarisse’s finger and repeat after me…”
Joseph held his wife’s hand and gently placed her ring back on her finger as he held her eyes. “With this ring, I thee…” he glanced over at the Archbishop, “finally,” Joseph returned his gaze to his wife, “wed.”
“Joseph and Clarisse, just as two very different threads woven in opposite directions form a beautiful tapestry, so can your two lives merge together to form a very beautiful marriage. To make your marriage work will take love. Love should be the core of your marriage; love is the reason you are here. But it will also take trust… to know in your hearts you want the best for each other. It will take dedication… to stay open to one another; to learn and to grow together even when this is not always so easy to do. It will take faith… to always be willing to go forward to tomorrow, never really knowing what tomorrow will bring. And it will take commitment… to hold true to the journey you both have pledged to share together.”
Clarisse and Joseph clutched each other’s hands, their eyes never leaving the other as they listened to the Archbishop.
“And now, Joseph and Clarisse, in so much as the two of you have agreed to live together in Matrimony, have promised your love for each other by these vows, the giving of these rings and the joining of hands, I now pronounce you man and wife.”
Clarisse released a relieved breath and smiled at Joseph as she returned yet another squeeze of his hands. A small smile played over Joseph’s lips; his eyes bright and full of love.
The Archbishop leaned in a little, and looked at Joseph. “You may kiss the bride.”
Clarisse glanced at the Archbishop and Joseph inclined his head as they lowered their clasped hands between them. They leaned in close, Clarisse closing the distance between them quickly and bringing their lips together.
The kiss was not as passionate as the kiss they’d shared at their wedding five years earlier, as they were in a far less intimate setting, but to both Joseph and Clarisse, it was just as profound as that first kiss. It sealed their renewed commitment to each other, and also declared to everyone present that they were in love and together.
They pulled apart with Mia’s loudly exclaimed, “Woohoo!” and turned to face the congregation, both beaming broadly.
“Friends…” the Archbishop smiled behind the happy couple. “I give you, Joseph and Clarisse Ferreira. Husband and wife.”
The audience before them began to clap and cheer louder even as a low murmur began amongst the members of Parliament. One member in particular smiled up at the bride and groom then gave Joseph a slight nod. Joseph returned the gesture with a grin before he and Clarisse began their walk down the aisle.
The moment they left the sanctuary, Joseph tightened his grip on Clarisse’s hand, quickened his pace and pulled her with him as he ducked around the corner.
“Joseph!” Clarisse exclaimed. “What are you… Joseph?!”
Joseph did not answer as he moved with purpose a couple of feet down the hall then dashed through the nearest door. He tugged Clarisse into the small room with him, and before Clarisse could utter a sound, Joseph pulled her into his arms and caught her mouth in a hungry kiss.
Clarisse moaned into her husband’s mouth as she responded immediately to his demanding kiss, snaked her arms around his waist and clutched at his shoulders.
After several long minutes, they pulled apart.
They laughed softly as they spoke simultaneously then kissed again.
“I… it was never my intention to not bring our relationship out of the shadows…” Clarisse murmured in between kisses. “I am proud to be your wife… I have been for the last five years.”
‘Five years?!’ Mia’s eyes widened then she shook her head. ‘No… I must have overheard wrong.’
“I know…” Joseph replied as he moved his lips along her jaw. “I shouldn’t have pushed… I should have let you explain…”
“I should have gone after you…”
“I know you came to my room…”
“Only when you didn’t come to ours…” Clarisse murmured as she nibbled on his earlobe.
“Ours?” Mia mouthed as she peered around the corner. Her eyes widened even further as she watched Joe’s hands slide down to cup her grandmother’s rear and pull her closer.
‘Oh my god!’ she thought as her grandmother reciprocated and grabbed Joe’s butt.
“I was stubborn…” Joseph admitted as he nibbled his way down her neck.
“We both were…” Clarisse moaned softly as she tilted her head to the side to grant his lips easier access.
“I was afraid…” Joseph’s lips found the hollow of her throat, “…afraid you’d tell me our marriage these last five years was a mistake.”
“Never!” Clarisse exclaimed, and pulled back to look at him. “Our marriage is the one constant in my life. The one thing I can depend on without fail. Never have I thought of it as a mistake!” She grasped his face in her hands. “I love you, Joseph! I have always loved you! You know this. You and no else but you!”
“I know,” Joseph nodded. “I know… I let my pride get in the way of sensible thought…” he slid his hands up her back and cradled her head. “Forgive me, my love?”
“Always…” Clarisse smiled, her eyes bright. “Always.”
“Te quiero, reina mía… mi esposa…” Joseph espoused in his native tongue as he caught her lips in another fervent kiss.
Joseph moved his lips along her jaw to her ear as his hands slipped into the gold overdress she was wearing, and cupped her breasts.
Mia’s eyes grew even wider when Joe’s hands disappeared inside her grandmother’s long coat, and at the queen’s moan, she realized where Joe’s hands were.
“Mmm… darling… we have to… oh God…” Clarisse groaned as her nipples hardened under his teasing fingers. “Joseph… we have to go…”
“Yes…” Joseph nodded and trailed his lips down along the line of her cleavage. “Go… back to our room…”
Clarisse shook her head. “We can’t… we’ve got to… mmm… oooh… the reception. We’ve got to go to the reception,” she told him even as she arched into him.
Joseph lifted his head and met her eyes. “What reception? Mia’s reception?”
“Yes… but only now it’s ours…”
“Damn!” Joseph swore and glanced down, smiling at her flushed skin. His eyes held hers. “What if I said that I would rather we skip the reception?” Joseph asked and ran his thumbs over her nipples.
“I…” Clarisse swallowed then moaned when Joseph gently pinched the already aching tips of her breasts.
“I want you, Clarisse.” Joseph said, his husky voice laced with desire.
“I want you too… but…”
“The last two days have been hell, my love… I’ve missed you,” Joseph told her. “I’ve missed the feel of your body… those little sounds you make as I’m loving you… the way you scream my name and claw my back as you come...”
‘I should so not be listening to this!’ Mia thought, both grossed out and elated by what she was witnessing. ‘But hey… this certainly gives me hope for my future!’
“Let me make love to you… let me show you how much I’ve missed you these last two days,” Joseph dipped his head and began to kiss and lick the upper swell of her breasts. “Let me make up to you for being such an ass…”
“You have nothing to make up for… Joseph…” Clarisse clutched at his head. “Joseph…”
With an obvious effort, Joseph straightened up. He did not release Clarisse but instead pulled her into his arms and held her.
“Can we at least sneak away early?”
Clarisse laughed into his shoulder. “Of course,” she nodded. “I am anxious to be with you too, my love.”
“I love you, Clarisse…” Joseph tightened his embrace. “Thank you… I… thank you…”
Clarisse lifted her head and met his eyes. She could see all he couldn’t say in his cerulean depths and cupped his cheek. She stroked her thumb over his bottom lip. “You’re welcome… but what I did… I did for us… I want all of Genovia to know how much I love you.”
Joseph smiled and brushed a soft kiss over her lips.
At the soft moan she heard drift out of the room, Mia realized she’d better stop them before they got carried away again.
She moved down the hall several steps then turned back and called out to them.
With mutual sighs, Clarisse and Joseph pulled out of the kiss, but not out of each other’s arms just as Mia swept into the room.
“There you are!” Mia exclaimed. “What are you doing in here? The people are all outside waiting for you.”
“We just wanted a moment or two alone,” Clarisse answered and looked up at Joseph with a smile. “We… had a couple of things we needed to discuss.”
“Oh,” Mia said. “Well are you finished? Not only do you have to get past the crowd, you have to pose for pictures… and then there’s the reception… and…”
“Mia,” Clarisse stopped her granddaughter before she could carry on too far. “We’re ready.”
“Good,” Mia said then glanced down at her wedding dress. “But do you think that before we take any pictures… I could change first?”
Clarisse laughed softly as she stepped out of Joseph’s arms and walked over to Mia. She pulled the young lady into her arms. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“You’re welcome,” Mia replied as she returned her grandmother’s embrace. When Clarisse released her, Mia found herself immediately enveloped in Joseph’s arms as he too whispered his thanks. “So,” Mia asked with a grin as she walked towards the door. “Does this mean I can call you Grampa?”
Joseph stopped, a strange expression on his face. “You… you want… are you serious?”
Amelia smiled and nodded. “Of course I’m serious. You’ve been like a grandfather to me from the moment we met… and I would love to be able to actually address you as such. If that’s all right with you…” she glanced over at Clarisse, “and if it’s all right with you too, Gramma…”
“It is more than all right with me,” Clarisse answered with a teary smile then looked at her husband, whom she could see was truly touched by Mia’s gift.
“I…” Joseph cleared his throat. “I would be honoured to have you call me Grampa.”
“Great!” Mia grinned. “Well then… Gramma,” she smiled at Clarisse, “Grampa…” she turned her smile on Joe, “let’s get this show on the road.”
“Well, Señora Ferreira?”
“Lead the way, Señor Ferreira,” Clarisse beamed at her husband.
With their arms linked together, and following their granddaughter, Joseph and Clarisse swept out of the church to face the people of Genovia for the first time as Mister and Mrs. Ferreira.
“How much longer do you think they’ll stay?”
“Judging from what I witnessed in the Archbishop’s office… I am amazed they haven’t snuck away already.”
Lilly shook her head. “Yuck,” she muttered. “I’m still having a hard time picturing that.”
“I’m trying to forget it,” Mia told her best friend. “Look at them though… you can see the love they have for one another.”
The two friends watched as Joseph and Clarisse danced, oblivious to the people and the world around them.
“Yeah,” Lilly nodded. “Despite the whole old people sex thing… it’s really quite sweet. Hey!” Lilly suddenly exclaimed and turned wide eyes on Mia. “You said you overheard them say they’ve been married for five years…”
“Well, that would explain the rings at least,” Lilly said. “I was wondering how they got them.”
“Truth be told, I was too,” Mia admitted.
“You also mentioned something about overhearing them talking about sharing the Queen’s bedroom, right?”
Again Mia nodded then shook her head. “Oh no… don’t even think it, Lilly.”
Mia shook her head. “How would Joe have gotten into her room without anyone seeing him?”
“Secret passage,” Lilly offered. “Something tells me, that one you found is not the only one in the palace.”
“True but… oh… ugh… Lilly…” Mia groaned.
Lilly grinned. “Your grandmother and Joseph were doing the nasty while you were in the other room!”
“Lilly! No they…” Mia paused then her face contorted as she obviously remembered something. “Oh… eeewww!”
Lilly laughed. “ROPES!!”
“ROPES! Royal Old People Engaging in Sex!” Lilly doubled over at the expression on Mia’s face.
“It’s not funny, Lilly.”
“Oh yes it is,” Lilly replied in between peals of laughter. After several minutes, her laughter finally subsided. She straightened up, one arm crossed protectively across her stomach as she reached up to wipe the tears from her eyes. “I’m sorry, Mia…”
“No you’re not,” Mia mock frowned at her best friend then smiled. “But it’s all right… because truthfully… while it is still gross, I think it’s great that Gramma and Grampa are… you know…”
“Sneaking away as we speak,” Lilly finished with a smile. “Go, Shaft, go!”
“I could get used to this.”
“Used to what?”
“Holding you like this.”
“You’ve held me like this before.”
“But not in public.”
“Joseph, we’ve danced together, in public before.”
“True… but I was never before permitted to do this,” Joseph replied then swooped down to catch Clarisse’s mouth in a quick but passionate kiss. “I very much like being able to do that.”
Clarisse licked her lips. “Definitely a perk to going public.”
Joseph chuckled and pulled her closer. “So is this.”
“Mmhmm…” Clarisse murmured and laid her head on his shoulder. “I do like this part.”
“And…” Joseph nuzzled her temple. “No one can cut in! You are all mine!”
Clarisse laughed softly. “How much longer are you going to want to stay?”
“Any time you are ready, my love.” Joseph answered. “I am more than anxious to get you alone…”
“Then,” Clarisse lifted her head from his shoulder and met his gaze, “what do you say we try to sneak away?”
“I say, hang on… and dance this way,” Joseph told her and began to waltz them towards the ballroom doors.
It took several minutes, and some very fancy footwork, but they finally managed to slip out onto the veranda.
Joseph grasped his wife’s hand as he immediately dashed towards the stairs. “Quickly… keep to the shadows.”
Clarisse laughed. “I thought we’d just come out of the shadows.”
“We have,” Joseph flashed her a grin. “We have indeed. Never to return. But these particular shadows are enabling our escape! And the sooner we get away… the sooner I can make love to you.”
“Then let’s definitely hurry,” Clarisse told him. “I am quite anxious to get you alone and have my wicked way with you.”
Joseph stopped suddenly and pulled Clarisse into his arms. “Is that so?” He asked in a husky whisper.
“Yes,” Clarisse replied, her voice equally as throaty.
Joseph flashed her a quick, sexy grin before he spun them around and pressed her up against the side of the palace then caught her lips in a burning kiss. His hands roamed her body, tracing down and up her sides then moved to cup her breasts.
Clarisse moaned into Joseph’s mouth as she responded to his passionate kiss. She reached down and clutched at his rear then pulled him closer as she ground her hips against him. At the feel of his hardened member pressing against her center, Clarisse felt a strong wave of desire rush over her, and was suddenly filled with the need to have Joseph inside her.
She didn’t care that they were outside… up against the palace wall where anyone could walk up on them. All Clarisse knew was that she wanted… and needed to be with her husband. She needed to feel him moving inside her… making love to her with wild abandon… they could do slow and gentle later. But right now…
“I want you…” Clarisse murmured against his lips then gasped as his fingers pinched and pulled at her nipples.
“I want you too…” Joseph replied as he trailed his lips along her jaw to her ear.
“Now!” To emphasize her meaning, Clarisse slipped a hand between them to cup his arousal, squeezing him with just the slightest bit of pressure before her fingers began to work on opening his trousers. “I want you now, Joseph!”
“Clarisse…” Joseph groaned as her knuckles rubbed continually over his erection while she fumbled with the zipper. “My darling… we’re out in the open…”
“I don’t care… Joseph… please… I need you so bad…” Clarisse begged her husband. “I need to feel you inside me… now…”
“Joseph… love me,” Clarisse whispered against his lips as she finally managed to pull his zipper down and slip her hand inside his pants. “Take me… here… now…”
At the feel of her cool hand wrapped around his firm flesh, Joseph growled her name and captured her lips in a feral kiss. His hands dropped from her breasts to her hips and he began to quickly gather the material of her dress. When it was high enough, Joseph slipped a hand beneath and between Clarisse’s thighs.
“Oh god…” Joseph groaned as he encountered the damp fabric of her panties, and broke off the kiss to look at her. He flexed his fingers against her. “You’re already so wet…”
“I told you…” Clarisse stroked him. “I want you…”
“And I you…”
“Joseph…” Clarisse pleaded in a husky voice as he pressed his fingers harder against her, the silk of her panties rubbing tantalizingly against her swollen folds. “Please…”
Joseph nodded. “Hang on…” he told her in a rough voice as he grabbed her hips and lifted her up against the wall. He pulled her panties to the side and stroked her with his fingers. “So wet… so hot…”
“Jo…” Clarisse gasped then moaned loudly when Joseph suddenly thrust his length into her. “Oh… yes!”
Joseph groaned his wife’s name as she wrapped her legs around his hips and immediately began to drive himself into her; sliding in and out of her slick heat with every movement of his hips.
Both knew this would not be a long session. They were both too far gone… too hungry with the need for release, and that one moment when they were truly one. The past two days being apart had only exacerbated that need… that desire to be with one another and share their pleasure…
Their little make out session in the Archbishop’s office, and all the flirting since… the soft touches… the whispered words of want… the secretive looks… it had all fanned the embers of their desire into the raging inferno they were now caught in.
“Yes… oh yes, Joseph…” Clarisse panted against his ear.
Clarisse knew she would have bruises in the morning… on her hips from his fingers as they gripped her tightly, pulling her into his thrusts, and on her back from the palace wall, but she didn’t care. She had never felt more alive… more loved than she did in this moment with Joseph.
The sound of laughter floated down, just barely penetrating the sexual haze surrounding them, and reminding them that at any moment they could be caught.
The thought excited them both.
“Reina mía… I’m close…”
“Come for me, my love…” Joseph breathed against her lips.
“Come with me…” Joseph thrust hard, grinding his pelvis against her with each plunge.
“OH YES!” They cried out together; their voices ringing clearly across the lawn as they were consumed by their shared release.
Clarisse shuddered wildly in Joseph’s arms as wave after wave of pure pleasure coursed through her body. She moaned and tightened her arms and legs around him as she felt his seed bathe her womb; the warmth of his juices spreading throughout her body.
Joseph groaned loudly at the rhythmic clutch and pull of Clarisse’s inner muscles, and the hot wash of her juices around his throbbing member as she came. He gripped her hips even tighter as he continued to thrust against her, the call of her body milking him for all he was worth.
They sagged against the wall… both spent but utterly satisfied.
“Thank you,” Clarisse whispered against his cheek.
“Thank you,” Joseph replied as he lifted his head from her shoulder.
They shared a smile then leaned in to share a loving kiss.
The sound of approaching voices pulled them apart.
“I think we should…”
Clarisse nodded. “I won’t argue this time.”
Joseph chuckled as he slowly withdrew from her body.
They quickly righted themselves, and as the voices grew louder, Joseph stepped away from his wife and grabbed his hand. “I know of a shortcut to your suite.”
Clarisse nodded. “Lead on, m’lord.”
“Where would you like to go for our honeymoon?”
Clarisse lifted her head from where it was pillowed on her husband’s chest and met his eyes.
“I know you will need to help Mia prepare for her coronation, and I know you well enough to know that you will want to be around for at least two weeks afterwards to be sure she is settling in,” Joseph told her. “So that gives me three weeks to plan our honeymoon. All I ask, is to have you completely to myself all day tomorrow…” he glanced over at the clock then grinned back at her, “or rather, today.”
Clarisse smiled and nodded.
“I’ve already given
Joseph reached up and traced her lips with his fingers. “When did you do that?”
“When we were talking with Sebastian and Sheila at the reception after dinner.”
“Very shrewd, my Queen.”
“Thank you,” Clarisse replied and settled back into his arms, her head once again lying on his chest.
“So, I repeat my question. Where would you like to go on our honeymoon?” Joseph asked as he absently stroked his fingers through her tousled hair.
“Something tells me you already have a destination in mind,” Clarisse said as she traced nonsensical patterns on his chest, her fingers gently twirling his chest hair.
“I do have an idea, yes.”
“Do you think we will be able to get the same suite?”
Joseph chuckled and hugged her closer. “I do believe so, my love.”
“Good,” Clarisse said then surprised Joseph by shifting so that she was lying on top of him. She planted her hands on either side of his head and pushed herself up. “Are you certain you are all right with delaying our honeymoon?”
“Yes, my darling, I am all right with delaying our honeymoon,” Joseph’s hands trailed down her back to rest on her bottom. “I have waited five years to take you on a proper honeymoon. A few more weeks will not make a difference.”
Clarisse bowed her head.
“Oh no, my love…” Joseph brought his hand up to slip his fingers under her chin and bring her gaze back to his. “I did not mean it that way… not at all. The last five years being married to you have been the happiest I’ve known. And I knew when we married that we would have to keep our love in the shadows. I accepted that. But now… thanks to you and our granddaughter…”
“Our love has come out of the shadows,” Clarisse said in a quiet voice.
“I am sor…” Joseph’s finger on her lips stopped her mid-sentence.
“We’ve already apologized. No more apologies. No more looking back. From now on, we only look forward… to the glorious future we have together.”
Clarisse smiled and nodded.
“Now… ” Joseph began as he slipped his hand into her hair and pulled her face down to his. “No more talking… we do have a wedding night to celebrate…”
A sensuous smile formed on Clarisse’s lips and she undulated her hips against him. “We do indeed,” she said then swooped down to close the distance between their mouths. She pulled back slightly and finished breathlessly against his lips, “We have the rest of our lives!”
**the poem Joseph and Clarisse recite to each other at their wedding is called, “To you I give my heart.” written by Ruth VanGramberg, a Professional celebrant.