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Sophia de la Cerda

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About Sophia de la Cerda

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    Lady Toledo

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  • Title
    Countess

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  1. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    If he kept grinning at her like that, she was going to kiss him and damn the consequences. “It’s not a vice. It’s fate, destiny, what was always meant to be.” If she had met Charles before she married Esteban, it might have been his child she was now carrying inside her. Perhaps they would have wed or she would have become his mistress. Either way, they would not have to hide their feelings anymore. Sophia bit her lower lip when he said he needed to go. When it came to Charles, the Bard had it wrong. Parting was not such sweet sorrow. It was pure agony. When would she see him again? Hopefully, they would be able to meet before the season ended. Because the last spring season had lasted until the King’s birthday in May, she assumed this one would too. “I’m not sure. He said he was going to buy a house in the country since it is impossible for us to travel to Spain now. I don’t know how close it will be to London. But please do send me letters and I shall try my best to do the same. Perhaps I can get my maidservant to deliver mine and pick up yours. She has relatives here that she will want to visit if we don’t move too far away.” She sighed sadly as Charles collected his puppy and took his leave. Diva immediately started wailing. I understand how you feel, she thought, scooping the spaniel up in her arms. Sophia continued to walk for awhile so that Karl wouldn’t think the meeting between Charles and herself was arranged. ~finis?
  2. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    Sophia nodded. Charles seemed to be much more experienced in intrigue than she was, but she doubted he would know how to recruit ladies to assist her in getting her bodyguard dismissed. She would have to figure that out on her own. It would be easy to instruct them on how to act. That was a skill she had the utmost confidence in. “There are so many things that can go wrong, but if the plan goes off without a hitch, then I will have so much more freedom." Freedom to spend with you, she added silently to herself. She had not meant to entice him with her coy smile. Or had she? Even his growl of frustration was appealing. Sophia wanted to tell Charles that he didn’t have to remind her of that wonderful interlude in the chapel. She thought about it all the time and wished desperately to repeat it, although in a safer place, preferably one with a bed. But even speaking of it was dangerous. She didn’t think it would take much for both of them to throw caution to the wind no matter who was watching. Averting her eyes as well, she tried to calm her racing heart. His presence was so intoxicating that she had almost forgotten about the information that Anna could provide about Karl. “Very true. It is possible that my maid will discover something incriminating that we can use to damage his credibility. Everyone has vices.” Sophia glanced at Charles’ briefly before letting her gaze roam over the garden. “Except us, of course.”
  3. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    If she had know Charles’ thoughts, Sophia would pointed out the risk of whisking her away. One of her former suitors had tried to kidnap her last year and Esteban and Francis had tracked him down and killed him. She certainly didn’t want the intriguing Earl to meet an unfortunate demise because of her. But, of course, she couldn’t read minds. Sophia was pleased that Charles liked her idea. “He is quite jealous and protective of me, as well as overly concerned with his honor.” It was strange how a simple hum could excite her. Bright little thrills shimmered through her as she observed his striking face and figure, wondering what he was thinking about. I could watch him all day, she thought, reluctantly tearing her gaze away so that Karl wouldn’t get suspicious. The puppies were still playing with each other and Aurora seemed quite happy scampering in front of them. When Charles spoke again, it was not only his voice that delighted her. “I think I might know a couple of ladies who would be willing to engage in such shenanigans.” Darlene was the first person who came to mind. The second was Caroline, who hated Spaniards and would probably enjoy fooling one. There were probably others as well. “I shall have to be careful how I broach the subject, though.” Sophia looked up at him again. “That’s one scheme we agree on." Turning her head again so that Karl couldn’t see her, she smiled coquettishly. “We work together quite well together, don’t we, dear Eros? Shall we come up with a backup plan or should we wait for the results of this one first?”
  4. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    Sophia’s heart fluttered at Charles’ words and that wonderfully endearing gesture of affection, as simple as it was. She was glad she had suggested that idea, inspired by Ovid, whom they had been discussing at the time. Her approach to their current problem, it seemed, was not as good. She really had no idea what gentlemen discussed with each other. Ladies often talked about gentlemen, whether they were well-acquainted or not, so she had assumed that men did the same. Apparently, they had to be friends before they discussed their love lives with each other. Charles apparently knew no dishonorable women who would be willing to claim that Karl had assaulted them. For some reason, that pleased her. Sophia had known many actresses in Venice who would have jumped at the chance to make extra money and hone their acting skills at the same time, but, as her beloved Eros had said, they weren’t very trustworthy. Not to mention that most actresses couldn’t keep their mouths shut. “That would be too much of a risk, I think. If it backfires, then we’ll both be in deep trouble.” She frowned at his next proposal. “I don’t think Lord Toledo would believe that he was a thief. Most likely, he looked into his background before he hired him.” One finger pressed gently against her cheek. “I thought about telling everyone I know that he leers at me when we’re alone. He doesn’t, but if gossip about it reaches my husband’s ears from several sources, he might be inclined to believe it.”
  5. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    “Unless she has already been keeping tabs on him, it will take some time. I believe that she will really enjoy this assignment.” Sophia did not think that Anna cared much for Karl. If she liked him, she would not have warned her of his suspicions. Maybe she was eager to get rid of him as well. Her maidservant was very protective of her and would not take kindly to anyone who posed a threat to her. She didn’t like Esteban either because he rarely paid attention to his wife unless he felt the need to chastise her. As soon as they began walking again, Aurora bounded ahead of them and began nosing curiously around the bushes. Diva was still romping with her brother, tearing around the Walled Garden as fast as her little legs could carry her. She’ll probably sleep well tonight, Sophia thought. Charles’ compliment brought a grin to her face and his suggestion was absolutely brilliant. “I never considered mentioning you to him, especially since I found about my bodyguard’s suspicions. But that is an excellent idea. He will not be so wary if I tell him that I ran into you. He knows how impossible it is to avoid anyone at court. That you send him your greetings should please him, as he will know that we talked about him.” Sophia thought it was sweet that Charles would feign seeking her husband’s favor to strengthen the notion that they were only casually acquainted. Oh, how she wished she could at least squeeze his hand. “You are so good to me, my Eros,” she said softly, her eyes sparkling with affection. “Do you think it would help if you casually remarked about a possible romance? If he thinks you are interested in a court lady, he will be less skeptical of your intentions toward me.” She tilted her head to the side. “Or would that be overkill?” As to his other proposal, she shook her head. “Unfortunately, Anna will never go for that. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has more pride than the two of us combined. Do you know of anyone who might be willing to do it?”
  6. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    Sophia had hoped that Charles would offer to help her remove Karl from his position, especially as the bodyguard threatened him as well. But she had not expected him to take to the idea so effortlessly and without question. She had even considered the notion that she might have to convince him, but there was no need for that. Her beloved Eros was always surprising and delighting her. “I know very little about him. He never speaks to me. But Anna … my maidservant … probably does. She makes it her business to know everything about everyone. Somehow she found out that he was suspicious of us. Maybe he thinks she’s his friend because they share a native language. Or perhaps he keeps a record of my activities and she sneaked into his room and read it.” She shrugged. “I can ask her. She is completely loyal to me.” His question made her stop in her tracks, which she covered up by unwinding Aurora from around her neck and setting her on the ground. Them monkey immediately began sniffing around the Earl's shoes. Would Charles really kill for her if she wished him to? Sophia had no idea why, but the thought pleased her. “No. I just want him to be fired. He is more of a spy than a bodyguard. My lord husband does not trust me.” Making certain that Karl could only see the back of her head, she grinned. “And for good reason where you are concerned..” She resumed walking. “He has been angry at me since the opera. He didn't approve of the way I portrayed Diana. Maybe that is why he doubts my loyalty to him. I am hoping that by the time the baby is born, he will no longer feel he has to have me followed. If he doubts Karl’s credibility and dismisses him, then he will think twice about hiring another who might also be unreliable. He needs to look bad and I need to look good.” Sophia dared not look at Charles, no matter how much she wanted to. “If Karl voices his suspicions and is believed, then I might be forbidden to see you at all and that I could not bear.”
  7. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    Sophia grinned. She hoped that Charles would decide to take one of her kittens, as it would most likely remind him of her whenever he looked at it. “You have a month to convince him. They won’t be able to leave their mother until then.” Diva immediately pounced on her brother as soon as he entered the Walled Garden with his delightful master. Aurora was quite content to remain around Sophia’s neck. The wrestling puppies seemed to entertain her. As usual, Karl stood by the gate to give her privacy. Although she was turned away from him, she could feel him staring at her. Maybe he was hoping she would do something scandalous that he could report to her husband. It was tempting. Oh, it was tempting. It had been far too long since she and Charles had been alone together and he intoxicated all her senses. Once they had strolled out of hearing distance, Sophia spoke. “My bodyguard is suspicious of us. My maidservant warned me about it during Christmas. I want to get rid of him, the sooner the better.”
  8. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    Sophia believed that the King had chosen all the courtiers who would receive his puppies based on the personality traits they shared. She laughed as Charles described the similarities between himself and the little canine romping with hers. “I can remedy that,” she offered when he bemoaned having no cats to keep his puppy in line. “One of my cats had kittens a couple of weeks ago. You’re welcome to adopt a couple of them when they’re weaned.” The adjusting of his cravat never ceased to send pure desire pulsing through her body. It took her a moment to calm herself enough to answer his question. “She definitely sings and quite loudly at times. I have not yet taught her to croon on key, Sometimes the cats thwap her when she hits a sour note.” That was perhaps exaggerating at bit. The cats probably smacked Diva because she disturbed their twenty hours of sleep. Sophia had known that Charles would agree to walk with her. The inquiry had been for Karl’s benefit, though now she wondered at the wisdom of it. Would he tell Esteban that she had been too forward or would he think that she was only being polite? It was important to her husband’s precious honor that she not embarrass him in any way, after all. “We’ll need to separate them to get them through the gates.” She touched her cheek as if pondering how to do that. After she was certain that he had seen the gesture of affection, she waited until the puppies temporarily separated and scooped Diva into her arms and carried the squirming creature into the Walled Garden, assuming that Charles would follow. Sophia sat Diva down as she waited for him. As soon as they were out of her bodyguard’s earshot, she would broach the subject she wished to discuss with him.
  9. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    Charles’ presence so filled her senses that Sophia almost forgot what she wanted to speak to him about. How will I be able to converse with him when I long for him so much that I can think of nothing else but feeling his lips on mine and his bare skin pressed enticingly against my own? Whenever I am near him, I am completely under his spell. Aurora lifted her bright head, peering at Charles curiously. Unlike Sophia, she didn’t seem overly impressed, for she returned her attention to the yapping puppies, wrestling each other on the ground close to the legs of their master and mistress. “So he’s a little troublemaker?” Sophia smiled warmly, carefully keeping all signs of affection out of her expression and voice. If so, he is just like his master. “Diva certainly is, though the cats enjoy terrorizing her now and then.” She glanced at the gate she had just stepped through. “I was walking in the Walled Garden before she ran away from me. Would you like to join me, Lord Chatham?” From experience, she knew that Karl would wait for her at the entrance, standing where he could see her but not hear what she said. Which was very important, considering the topic she wished to discuss with Charles this morning.
  10. Sophia de la Cerda

    The Process of Elimination | Thursday April 14th, morning

    Diva’s sudden yapping brought Sophia out of her thoughts. Aurora jumped and hissed, and her mistress picked her up and settled her around her neck, the golden leash hanging down over one shoulder. The puppy was a vocal little thing and occasionally startled the monkey. Aurora usually calmed down when she was close to her mistress where she knew she was safe. “Be quiet, Diva,” the petite singer scolded, “or I’ll take you inside right away.” As if that solution did not appeal to her, the spaniel raced out the gate. Sophia rolled her eyes and hurried after her, hoping that she wouldn’t cause trouble this time. Puppies were much more mischievous than cats, who tended to sleep most of the day. Following the excited yapping, she rounded a tall hedge. Diva had found one of her siblings and the two canines romped happily together. Sophia smiled when she saw the beloved figure of her Eros catch up with his errant pet. She had been hoping to speak to him at Darlene’s party last night but there had been no chance to spend a moment alone with him. Now perhaps she would be able to discuss an issue with him that concerned them both. If her body could quit trembling with tantalizing sensations and her heart didn’t pound so wildly. Charles always had that effect on her and she wished that the boring Easter observances had not hindered their plans to meet again for a more intimate encounter. Perhaps they still could. It just wouldn’t be today with her bodyguard watching her every move. “Good morning, Lord Chatham.” Her voice was formal but friendly, as if greeting a pleasant acquaintance. Sophia longed to launch herself into his arms and capture his lips in an ardent kiss, but of course, she did not dare. “I see that you are braving this dreary weather for the same reason I am.”
  11. Walled Garden The walls are covered with climbing roses and ivy, while also containing many other rare plants, including a weeping willow. The enclosed walls give the impression of being separated from court, almost in another world. Not surprisingly, the Queen used to favour this garden by day, often drawing comfort from its surroundings and the familiar scent of orange blossoms from the citrus trees scattered throughout. It was not the best morning to stroll through the palace gardens, but puppies and monkeys needed their exercise and there was a greater chance to find shelter if it started to rain than it would have been had Sophia walked in her neighborhood. She would have had to run home or risk getting soaked. Neither would be good for her baby and both would anger Esteban, who was as protective of the life she carried as if it was his own. Here she could either stay close to the palace doors and duck inside or she could take Diva and Aurora to the Walled Garden where the Grotto was close by. She chose the latter, letting Diva pounce ahead of her. Aurora was kept on a leash so that she wouldn’t scale any trees. The golden lion tamarin looked irritated that the upstart puppy got to bound free while she remained tethered to a golden chain. However, her expression had not changed, which meant that Sophia’s fanciful imagination was running away with her again. There was another reason that she had chosen to walk her pets while the sky was foggy with a gossamer mist. She wanted to vex Karl, who was, as usual, following behind her at a discreet distance. The fog made it difficult for him to see her and the moisture in the air would be annoying. Sophia herself was wearing a waterproof hooded cloak lined in soft fur and could barely feel it except upon her face. It was a pleasant feeling and she quite enjoyed it despite the chilly temperature of an English spring. Once through the gates, she continued her stroll, inhaling deeply of the fresh scent of orange blossoms and roses. Aurora stopped to sniff around a bush and Diva continued to bounce happily around the area. Sophia’s thoughts swirled in a million different directions, but kept returning to a problem she wasn’t certain how to solve.
  12. Sophia de la Cerda

    Lyrical Persuasion | Wednesday, early afternoon

    That was such a stupid thing to say, she berated herself. Lord Buckingham chuckled. It did not sound malicious but more like he was amused. Sophia enjoyed making him laugh. The reason she had stopped herself from hugging him was because if somebody saw, they might jump to erroneous conclusions. If Esteban heard rumors that his wife was having an affair with the Duke, he would not be pleased. Francis was in plain view, though, so it wouldn’t look like they were stealing a private moment together. He didn’t want to shake on it; he wanted to kiss on it instead. She grinned as he lifted her hand, which tingled when his lips brushed over it. The petite singer was very happy with the results of this conversation. She had been worrying over it and rehearsing for it for a bit more than a week. Finally, she was on her way to bringing opera to England! Sophia didn’t think about how difficult it was going to be to find investors. Her young, idealistic mind saw only the results. "You are so generous to me, Your Grace!” Impulsively, she hugged him anyway and then twirled toward Francis and hugged him as well.
  13. Sophia didn’t care that York’s life was at risk. She was certainly not going to put her baby in danger for the likes of him. But she didn’t want to just sit around and talk. Her English was still not fluent, and she didn’t blame Darlene for misunderstanding her.. She was in the mood for adventure. Certainly they could come up with some way to make mischief together. Perhaps it would become a regular activity for the four of them. She shivered when her friend mentioned spending time in the hold of a ship. It had not been long ago that she had spent weeks in a cabin on the way back from Spain. Though Sophia was slowly overcoming her terror of water, she would rather stay as far away from it as possible. She didn’t think she had ever told Darlene of her fear or she wouldn’t have suggested such a thing. Thankfully, her dear Eros came to her rescue. Whether he knew that she was afraid of water or not, he didn’t believe that venturing into the hold of a ship was a good plan. “I like the idea of going to a tavern,” she agreed. Sophia had never been to one before and she often wondered if more went on in taverns than just drinking. Charles wanted to know more about the plot against the Duke of York. “I’m curious about it as well.” As much as she loathed the Duke, she did not wish harm on anybody. Not even him.
  14. Sophia de la Cerda

    Lyrical Persuasion | Wednesday, early afternoon

    Sophia didn’t consider this project as her own. She saw herself only as the catalyst that would bring opera to the English people. Her intentions were pure: she simply wanted everyone to be able to enjoy her favorite form of entertainment. She didn’t want to profit from it and she knew that she would not be able to sing there herself. It just sounded to her like an idea whose time had come. Her heart sank. It seemed that nothing she said or did would convince Buckingham to invest in building an opera house. She’d had such high hopes, but even using all the charm she possessed, she had been unable to sway him. If he was as dead set against it as he appeared to be, then Sophia would have no luck with other gentlemen either, especially if he made his disapproval known. Nobody in their right mind would dare to risk his disfavor by endorsing her plans. He was wrong about women not being able to avoid having children. There were herbs one could take to prevent pregnancy or one could simply not have sex at all. Not every lady at court married, and among those who did, some of them never fell pregnant. Perhaps God had chosen not to grace them with a child, or perhaps the ladies decided to take matters into their own hands. Sophia couldn’t point any of this out, though. She knew better than to contradict a powerful and influential Duke. Had she just heard him right? If he didn’t plan to assist her, then what kind of opportunity was he going to offer her? Her ice-blue eyes widened and a spark of hope kindled within her soul. Buckingham was willing to invest in the project, but only if she could find four other gentlemen to do the same. As she listened to him outline his conditions, her despair was replaced by a sense of joy. Sophia understood his concerns, and even if she could not use his name, simply saying she had a principle investor would do much in persuading other gentleman into contributing to the venture. And of course, gentlemen he didn’t approve of could not be included. She had no idea who these men were, but she knew somebody who did. At that notion, she glanced over at Francis. His eyes were as large as her own and he looked a bit shocked. Was it unusual for the Duke to offer such chances to those who asked favors of him? Was it possible that she had well and truly charmed him, or was he just indulging her because he knew that she wouldn’t be able to do it? I’ll show him that I can. she vowed, and that when I set my mind to something, I never give up until I achieve it. Idealistic and naive she might be, but she was stubborn and determined as well. “Yes!” she exclaimed, unable to hide her excitement. “Thank you, Your Grace!” Without thinking, Sophia launched herself toward him, intending to hug him, but she came to her senses in time to stop the impulse. A bit embarrassed, she tried to come up with a plausible reason for rushing up to him. After a moment’s thought, she held out one small hand. “Shall we shake on it?”
  15. Sophia de la Cerda

    Lyrical Persuasion | Wednesday, early afternoon

    Sophia had conceived no delusions that Buckingham would be easy to convince, though she had not believed he would be so dead set against bringing opera to London. She supposed that he might be just testing her, to see how dedicated she was to her goal. Or he really had no intention of helping her at all. She revised her strategy as she listened to his opinion, which was not nearly as comprehensive as she had hoped. “My lord husband cannot bring my dream to fruition.” He most likely knew that already. “If a Spaniard builds an opera house, it will definitely be considered Papist. And the people will be insulted that an Englishman didn’t come up with the idea and will be less likely to patronize it.” She smiled wryly. “You know what the English think of the Spanish, Your Grace.” She felt that flutter in her belly again, but this one was more ominous and made her stomach lurch. All I need is to throw up on Lord Buckingham’s shoes. He’ll never help me then. The Duke had spoken truly about her optimism, and she was not about to give up easily. “Nothing worth having comes without risk. If one does not take chances, one will achieve little in life. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the saying goes.” Sophia placed a hand on her slightly rounded belly, partially for emphasis and partially hoping to calm her nausea. “Giving birth is one of the greatest risks of all. There is no guarantee that a woman or her baby will survive it, no promise that the child will be healthy, nor any certainty that it will survive to adulthood. Yet if our mothers had not done it, the three of us wouldn’t be standing here today.” She looked over at Francis. Though he had said little since he arrived, his very presence strengthened her resolve. She had not expected him to take her side or contradict Buckingham in any shape, form, or fashion, but her idealistic hope was that he might mention it occasionally in private and keep it in the Duke’s mind if he wasn't ready to commit to the idea today. “I was hoping that you would wish to oversee this venture, Your Grace. There is no one more qualified that you are. But you are much more knowledgeable than I, and I understand your concerns. However, I am positive that there are gentlemen at court who would jump at this chance. A group of investors would not lose everything they owned if this new form of entertainment fails. I do not know who these gentlemen are, but I am sure that you do. If you are willing to point me in their direction, I will be eternally grateful.”
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