I am going to have to do some investigation, because I am sure there must be earlier stories in this series. It's possible they exist as posts on Ghostletters. At this writing the list is temporarily unavailable.
"Nay, I do not understand." Juliana sat at her dressing table. Beyond her own rumpled reflection she looked at Lawrence as he dressed. "In Derby we spent so much time together. Thou supped alone with me oftimes and sought my counsel." She thrust out her bottom lip. "Here I hardly see thee save when you come to my bed at night."
Buckling his belt, Lawrence looked at his paramour. His eyes filled with concern. He came up behind her and bent to kiss the top of her tousled head. "Dearest Juliana, it has been hard for you, this reception and everything that has happened."
She turned in her chair to look up at him, encouraged by the affectionate gesture. "But Lawrence, I thought people would take me as a given. Great men have great needs and I thought they accept who I am, even if they wert to polite to acknowledge it. " Lawrence had reached out his hand to caress her cheek, and she clasped it in both her small hands and kissed the palm. "But they hate me!"
Lawrence drew her up into his arms. "They do not hate thee, darling. They are just so slow to accept. They will come to love thee. I promise it."
"Lawrence, my lord, if thou couldst but let me sit in her seat and be seen as thy chosen, they wouldst know it is thy wish they accept and embrace me."
A flicker of irritation crossed his face. "That cannot be, Juliana, and thou knowst it." He soften and smiled into her dark eyes and said lightly, "Besides, I do not wish to have anyone embrace thee but me." She looked into his eyes and smiled and he kissed her, long and deep. "I will come early to thee this evening, dear one. We shall sup together and spend the evening as we did in Trent. Wouldst thou like that?"
Juliana's dark eyes danced. "Oh aye! That I would."
Lawrence kissed her again and took his leave of her to commence the day's work.
Over the few weeks since the Queen had gone, Lawrence slowly came to himself. at least as far as the business of the realm was concerned. Lorin visibly relaxed as this became apparent. Once Lawrence caught his brother in law looking at him with concern, the King told him, "I am grateful to thee, Lorin, for always keeping my kingdom running even when I am not in my right mind. And I am grateful for thy discretion and for not giving me a deserved tongue lashing. Thy loyalty to me is more than I e'er could ask." Lorin, unsure of what to say, demonstrated that discretion by nodding and returning to work.
Later that day the King went to visit the nursery. As he passed into the foreroom that led both to it and to the Queen's other rooms, he noticed that the door to her bedchamber was open just enough to see inside. The light from the southern window shown on a slender form in the Queen's familiar nightgown. Startled, the King thrust open the door to reveal Juliana, standing near the canopied bed, not wearing the gown but holding it up to her and fingering the delicate fabric. She looked up startled at the King's entrance. Alarm flashed across her face.
"What art thou doing in here, woman?" the King hissed.
Juliana turned and tossed the garment on the bed and spun again to face the King, who had not come any nearer. "Lawrence, I am so sorry. I just meant to look around, to see where she slept. To see where thou made love to her." She came to him and coyly looked up through her dark lashes into his steely eyes. "Oh Lawrence, it is a beautiful room. And I saw the staircase that leads to thine own chambers. Could I not come to sleep here? It wouldst be easier for thee, not having to dress and undress only to come back to thy chamber to have the boy dress thee. And no one could see how often you come to me.."
The King took her shoulders and pushed her firmly away. "Juliana, if thou thinkest thou can replace the Queen in any way than thou doth already, that .. is .. a.. mistake," he breathed. "I want thee out of this room. I never want to see thee here again. Is that understood?"
Juliana, the trained courtesan, immediately slipped back into decorum. She lowered her eyes from his face and stepped back. "Aye, my lord. I understand."
Lawrence, still angry, nodded. "Good." He turned and watched as she went around him to the door. At it she turned and looked hopefully back at him. "Wilst thou still sup with me tonight, Lawrence?"
The King, seeing that some servants had clustered in the foreroom and were gaping at this exchange, snapped, "I remind thee, lady, of your place. You embarrass yourself. Thou knowst better than to call me by my Christian name in company of others." At her hurt look he bristled further. "I mayst be engaged this evening. Do not expect me." The lady fled. At a look from the King, the group of servants in the foreroom fairly tripped over one another to escape his wrath.
Juliana, still hopeful and perhaps still not quite grasping the intensity of the King's anger at her trespass, made ready a supper and her bedchamber for their evening together. She was very lonely. Every noise in the corridor made her heart leap, but he did not arrive. Near midnight she left off waiting and went to bed alone, tears staining the soft cloth of the pillow she held in her arms. Lawrence's pillow.
In his own chambers, which he had not occupied since he left for Trent months before, Lawrence lay in bed unable to sleep. He had stayed in his counsel room working until perhaps an hour after midnight, when he hoped he was tired enough to go right to sleep, spared the thoughts that plagued him when his mind had even a tiny crack to let them slip into his immediate awareness.
As he lay he thought of Juliana and how, after many years having lost track of her, he encountered his sister's childhood friend in Derby, shocked to see how beautiful… and low.. she had come to be. She wore a ruby pendant, the badge of her office there. She was a courtesan. When he last had seen her he had been newly crowned King and had arranged a most advantageous marriage for her, considering her modest station.
Lawrence had approached her and saw that she knew him as well. He spoke with her kindly, and invited her to sup with him that evening in his chambers in the Maison de Soleil. Later when the servants had cleared away the dishes she had told him of her husband's poor judgment in backing a plot that never came to light, and his decision to flee the kingdom and abandon his very young wife. She had had no choice but either to enter a convent or to accept the position she held here.
"Why did you not come to me? I would have helped you," Lawrence had protested. Juliana shook her head. "My husband's plot was against thee, my lord. I could not face thee."
She had then stood and started toward the bedchamber door, beginning to unlace her bodice. He stared after her. "Uh, my lady.. Juliana, where art thou going?"
Juliana looked surprised. "Surely thou meant for me to stay the night, my lord?"
Lawrence reddened. Oh, my dear lady, no. I am so sorry if I misled thee. I cannot. I had not even thought of that." He looked at her abashed and embarrassed. "Beg pardon. I did not mean that as it sounds. It's just that I.. I am married.. I cannot betray the Queen.. O.."
Juliana had stopped undoing her bodice and smiled wryly at him. "You need not explain, sir. Thou wilt need me someday, and I will know." She strode stiffly past him and through the door.
As the weeks passed Juliana would see Lawrence as he passed through the garden and the halls to his meetings with other princes. He clearly was making an effort not to look at her. He nodded shortly and civilly when he could not avoid acknowledging her. She knew that it was not anger or embarrassment. She had seen his glances at her at supper in the Great Hall and had watched as he became more obviously agitated and ill at ease. He left late night counsel meetings stiff and frustrated with the intractability of some of the diplomats. Juliana stopped him in the corridor one such night and said, "Thou canst not go on this way, my lord. Let me come to thee."
Lawrence froze. "I cannot. I thought you understood."
"I understand that thou canst not bear this any longer. Thou needest a woman. I can be that to you."
Lawrence tried to pull his arm from her soft grasp but was powerless. "Juliana, there have been too many bastards in this family already. I cannot do that to the Queen again."
Juliana stroked his arm to the shoulder and, leaning languidly against him, said softly into his ear, "There need not be bastards. Come, let me attend you to your chamber where you can make love to me."
Lawrence flinched and pulled away. "No, it cannot be. Cease to torture me, lady." Juliana watched him as he unsteadily made his way out of the building, holding his cloak in such a way as to cover his arousal from amused eyes. The dark eyed woman smiled and nodded. "It will be tonight."
Lawrence busied himself in his chambers in an attempt to distract himself but his mind kept returning to the feel of Juliana's breasts against his arm as she pressed against him. She had moved ever so slightly against his arm, her breasts moving over it and making his manhood respond. He resolved to get drunk and called for wine. When at last he heard the soft rap on his door, he went to greet the servant. But Juliana was there with the pitcher and cups instead. She was clad in loose raiment's. Her hair was undone and cascading about bare shoulders. The top of one rounded breast was visible as the tall man looked down unable to stop himself.
Lawrence took the tray and thrust it aside onto a table. He took Juliana by the wrists and pulled her into his room. He shut and latched the door with one hand as the other groped for her breast. She fell against him and he encircled her with his arms. His lips were against hers, hard and hungry, and she parted her lips to let in his tongue. The love they made was urgent and repeated. Her old love for the boy ripened anew beneath the man and his thrusting manhood. She knew pleasure as she never had before.
Lawrence now lay in his bed in Lawrencium, feeling his groin stir at the memory. With a groan of disgust he threw off his covers and sat on the edge of the bed, his arms clutched across his chest and his head down, his eyes shut hard and a look of pain on his face.
The door to Clancy's anteroom creaked and Lawrence looked up to see a sliver of a pale face that yawned and blinked sleep from its eyes. The boy asked in his brogue, "My lord, can I be getting' something for ye?" The boys eyes opened wider as he got no answer from the King. Hesitantly, he went on, "May I be sendin' for the Lady Ju…"
"No," came the voice from the figure on the bed as if uttered through clenched teeth. "She shall not come here. I will not have her in this bed. I will go to her. Get me my cloak." Clancy rushed to do as he was told. The King wrapped it around himself and seemingly painfully rose and headed for the door. Clancy looked after him and felt afraid for the King.
Juliana was not asleep either. She lay in her lonely bed still hugging the King's pillow to her. Her tears were long since spent but her eyes were open, staring into the darkness. She started when the door to her bedchamber opened. "My lord, is that thee?" In a flash in the darkness she knew that it was, as he came to the bed and drew her into his arms. He pulled open her nightgown and buried his face in her neck, taking in the scent and feel of it ravenously. She put her arms around him and sunk her lips into his hair.
Lawrence pushed her gently back down on the bed. His mouth found her breasts, first one and then the other. The smell of her, the silkiness of her skin, made his head buzz and almost not part of the rest of him. Her verdant richness so unlike the Queen's light elegance pulled him down, down into the musk of her. His hand went down to her womanhood and inside. She shuddered and moaned. At that he tore his own nightshirt open and thrust it aside. He pushed her legs apart with his knee and entered her. Her body welcomed him and they moved together. A little bite on her neck brought forth from her a husky cry. They came to climax together, in a way neither had ever had with anyone else. Spent they fell asleep, the King still draped across her open body.
In the morning they would make love again.
Next: The King Gets Arrested (Almost)
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com