Josephine smiled sleepily up at him. "Of course, I would be sick with loneliness should thee not. So did thee fix whate'er was wrong about the staircase?"
He said, "Well, doth thou wish to see for thyself?" He smiled and offered her his hand. Josephine made noises about falling asleep before she made it up to the first landing, but followed him willingly enough as he opened their private door and climbed the stairs.
The Queen was shocked when she stepped into her husband's dimly lit bedchamber. "Where is the bed?" she asked, waking with the surprise.
The King looked uncomfortable. "Well, I could not sleep alone in it. And I was not about to share it with anyone save thee. So I had the bed removed and burned."
"Burned? Oh Lawrence, not burned. All those memories.." she looked wistfully where the bed had stood.
Lawrence came to her and turned her around to look at their tapestry. "I took this down for a time too. I thought I would ne'er be with thee again. But as thou see, it is back on the wall. And now I can look at the last panel without feeling my heart tear apart." He held her from behind, his arms around her shoulders and she put her own hands on his arms where they crossed her middle.
"We still do not know what will go in that last panel, my love," she sighed. "But now we can start creating it." She turned and kissed him. He left her to pull a cloak from his chest. She looked at the camp bed and chuckled lightly. "Thou will have to get a new bed... if thou thinks I intend to crawl onto that with thee..."
Lawrence playfully whipped around and grabbed her by the waist. He fell into the bed and pulled her down on top of him. He nuzzled her neck and made a humorous growling sound. "How do thee like that, eh, my lady?"
She laughed and beat his chest. "Brute! Unhand me!" She struggled up but when she stood she turned and gave Lawrence her hand. "Come my darling." She led him back down the stairs and into her own bedchamber.
Lawrence helped her undress and slip into a nightdress. He removed all but his own shirt and waited to be invited into her bed. "Come here, silly," she said. He accepted the place she offered him as she lifted the covers and patted beside her
They lay, Josephine's cheek on her husband's chest, and held each other. Josephine lay with her eyes closed, listening to his breath and his beating heart. The smell of him, so familiar, was like a salve to her wounded heart. She thought she could fall asleep here and stay forever in his arms until some clarion called forth all who had been born for some future purpose.
Lawrence lay unable to stop looking at her. She had melted into him, like a small child who falls asleep in its strong father's arms. He marveled at how peaceful she was here, with him. For himself he could hardly believe he was not dreaming. He kept checking to make sure he was awake and that this woman in his arms in the dim light really was she, his love, his life, his wife, his Josephine. His Sunshine. He turned towards her in the bed and held her closer. Her breathing became slow and even and finally he could not stave off sleep any more himself.
In the morning Lawrence woke to the realization he was in a real bed and there was someone soft and warm with him. It took him a moment to remember, and not before he nestled closer too the soft and feminine form and started to feel himself become aroused. Then the event of the previous day flooded back. He opened his eyes and beheld his Queen. "Gratiae dei," he murmured.
Josephine then stirred and woke. Her eyes were on his face as they opened and she smiled and stretched languidly. Her leg pressed against his groin in the act, and he pulled back to try to keep her from feeling that he was aroused. She noticed what he did and pretended not to have.
High pitched voices came from outside her room and a little knock. "Josephine pulled herself up on her elbow and called, "Come in, my darlings!" Lawrence pulled himself to a sitting position, pulled up the pillows his head had lain on and wedged them behind his back. Josephine was sitting up too, as the younger children still in their night clothes flooded in and threw themselves on the bed. Peter came in just after them and picked up Donalbain and gave him to their mother. Peter sat on the edge of the bed and just smiled at the scene. Lawrence was relieved to have managed to escape detection of his arousal, which had eased with the entrance of the children.
The seven laughed and talked, giggled and pretended to wrestle. The Queen lay back against her husband's chest and he held her shoulders. Occasionally he would bend his head to plant a kiss on her neck. She smiled and patted his hand, turned her head up and towards him to and kissed him. Both basked in the warmth of their companionship and reveled in the joy of their children.
Lorin left the King to reacquaint himself with his wife and happiness. There was no business pressing he could not handle alone. He noticed that Shannon and Rory were missing again, but paid little attention beyond that. Erik stayed a few days, as was his wont, and sailed again. The royal couple spent a great deal of time with their children and alone. Assumptions were made and then left unexamined about where the King slept and what he and the Queen did there when not sleeping. Lorin surprised Larisa with a more amorous demeanor than usual when they were alone. She teased him, "Thou art in love with love, my lord."
Lawrence longed to make love to Josephine, and little did he know she longed for it too. He held her and kissed her but waited for her signal to reinitiate intimacy. He did not have to wait long.
The two were in the Queen's now awakening garden. They strolled and talked, stopped and held each other and kissed. They reached a spot between some high shrubs and found their path was blocked by a stone pedestal that had fallen over. Lawrence crouched and hoisted one end of the block of stone and lifted it carefully, slowly standing with the weight. The pedestal upright, he dusted off his hands and turned to offer his arm again to his wife.
As Lawrence's muscles strained at the heavy weight, Josephine had watched and suddenly found herself quite breathless. Her body felt all at once suffused with a warm glow. When he turned and looked at her, her lips were parted and she breathed erratically. He saw the growing passion in her eyes and stepped forward to take her in his arms. They kissed, long and deep and with growing heat. He started to pull away and said, "Shall we go to .."
Josephine clutched him and breathed between clenched teeth, "Nay. Here. Now." She pulled down on him and he sank with her to the moss that grew between the shrubs. Her mouth sought his greedily and he lay atop her, holding her have between his two hands. He kissed her on every square inch of her face and down to her neck. She was breathing in irregular gasps. She repeated, "Here. And NOW."
She moved under him, spreading her legs and grinding her groin against his. Breathless himself he reached and pulled up her skirts. He moved on her and found the spot and thrust inside her. They both gasped. "Now," she cried. "Now!" He thrust into her over and over with a quickening rhythm. She thrust back, arching to meet him. Two stable boys hoisting forkfuls of straw bedding exchanged looks when they heard the woman moaning and the man grunting and then joining her moans. They cried out almost together and fell silent. One of the boys remarked to the other, "It is nice to have them back again" and went on a little more energetically with the pitching.
Lawrence ceased moving but did not take his weight off Josephine. He held himself, still in her, for a moment before releasing and then falling to her side. She lay with her knees wide apart and her skirts up, breathing deeply with parted lips. She opened her eyes and turned her head to look at him. The look on his face was heavy lidded and astonished. She started to laugh. He joined her and they laughed together until they almost cried. He grabbed her and rolled her around in the moss, completely covering himself and her with the delicate dark green velvet. He made as to gobble her neck, and she screamed with laughter. Neither noticed how quiet the castle had become.
Fifteen minutes later, with their clothes rearranged as well as they could manage, the King and Queen came out of the garden, strolling as if they had done nothing more than stop and consider a flower bud or a leaf starting to curl out of its twig. As they passed each person as they went into the keep and into the Queen's bedchamber, each person nodded and received a polite and smiling nod in return. No one commented on the tiny pieces of moss that covered them head to foot. They just smiled at the Queen's contented face as she leaned into Lawrence as they walked.
Next: What Lawrence Learned
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