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Prone Perusal | 31/12, a bit after noon, open- Xmas 1677

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Spanish ladies didn’t get much freedom? Douglas knew precious little about Spain, but perhaps as a Catholic country expectations were more strict? But then how did one explain the French, who appeared to permit anything as long as you confessed afterwards? “I cannae imagine yer spirit wuid suit Madrid thain.” That was Douglas’s opinion anyway. Sophia needed to be freer than that. And why black? Were the Spanish permanently in mourning, or were colours too frivolous? “They soond awfu’ Puritan fer a bunch o’ Catholics.”* He drawled.


The Scotsman’s full lips curved into a cheeky little smile as Sophia suggested that she might have to visit the Green Sitting Room that night, to see the paintings, of course. “Wha indeed?” He agreed quietly, a mischievious sparkle in those blue eyes. He would be sure to keep an eye out for her, and indicate when he was headed in that direction. The thought brought an extra level of anticipation for the Ball, the idea that Sophia’s white skin and generous curves might at last be touched, bare beneath his hands; something he had longed for. He would say no more though, in front of her ‘bodyguard’. Their thoughts were so in tune that he knew they had an understanding.


Given that they were planning an assignation that night, he wasn’t as certain as she seemed about speaking with her husband about the party. Or perhaps that show of consideration would be the perfect cover? There was only one way to find out. As Sophia spoke of showing her husband that courtesy, even asking if he might dance with her, he thought he saw her line of thought. Truly, she was learning politics rapidly in her role, and perhaps he could learn from her. “Th’invertation was addressed tae both o’ ye, but if ye think that my speakin’ wi’ yer husband micht help thain I weel do that.”*** He promised.


She was right that her husband should be grateful to him for helping Don Juan, but the looks the man had cast him since marrying Sophia left Douglas in little doubt that was overshadowed by possessiveness of his wife. Which begged the question of why she was so clearly unsatisfied. It seemed the man protested overmuch. Still, if Douglas could lure him into thinking that the Scot had lost interest, so much the better. It was the nature of courtly intrigue to say one thing and intend another, if saying that thing would get you what you wanted. Actions were taken purely because they opened certain doors and closed others, in a complex and tangled web of goals sought and favours owed. Douglas hated it, but only because it tended to work against him. Had he been born to benefit from that system, no doubt he would have felt quite differently.


The thought of a second rendevous was tantalising, if they could manage it. “I dinnae doobt the snowy maze weel be quite enchantin’.” He suggested. “Thou’ hardly th’most enchantin’ thin’ thair.” He added, matching her conspiritorial tones. “I’m thinkin’ we canlose him in the’maze itsel’.”+ Douglas had little doubt about the nature of the man who followed Sophia everywhere. How easy he would be to get rid of would remain to be seen. Still, once they’d lost him they might head elsewhere.



* “I can’t imagine your spirit would suit Madrid then. They sound awfully Puritan for a bunch of Catholics.”

** “Who indeed?”

*** “The invitation was addressed to both of you, but if you think that my speaking with your husband might help then I will do that.”

+ “I don’t doubt the snowy maze will be quite enchanting. Though hardly the most enchanting thing there. I’m thinking we can lose him in the maze itself.”

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“If I must live there some day, I shall just change their way of thinking,” she declared with the confidence of an idealistic teenage girl who believes that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. “But I think there is little chance of that. As an experienced Ambassador, he will probably be sent to other countries before he returns to Spain to stay.” Sadness fluttered across her fair features as she thought of leaving the charming Lord Dundarg forever and he might see the sorrow in her big ice-blue eyes.


“Yet, his duties here are just beginning and he must build alliances and gain influence and respect, so we will likely remain in England for many years.” There was a note of hope in her lyrical voice and the smile she gave him was both wistful and winsome. “Maybe this will become a permanent position.”


Sophia was not very familiar with the Puritans. She had been born after they had fallen from power, and most of her life had been spent in Germany and Italy, where they were not very prevalent, if they even existed there at all. “I suppose that it does make them look pious and dignified,” she surmised with a nonchalant shrug “Maybe that is how they wish to be seen.”


That adorable cheeky smile and the mischievous gleam in his beautiful blue eyes made her heart sing with joy. Their thoughts and emotions danced in perfect harmony, just as their bodies would do when joined in passion. She felt as if there was a special bond between them that could never be torn asunder, one that had fully blossomed last spring when their lips had barely brushed against each other before they had been cruelly interrupted. How glorious it would be to finally savor the taste of his mouth upon hers and to surrender herself to him completely and to feel the magnificence of him inside her.


“Yes, I think it will help immensely if you speak to him. He will not think you are interested in me if you do. You could also ask how Don Juan is faring, which will remind him that you saved his life. Make sure he sees you dancing and conversing with other ladies as well. Kiss them under the mistletoe. Lead him to believe that you no longer care for me and that you have moved on. Perhaps even mention that you hope to marry soon.”


Sophia grinned playfully when he claimed that the snow wouldn't be the most enchanting thing in the maze. “Of course not,” she agreed with a saucy wink, her head again turned so that Karl could not see her expression. “The snow cannot hold a candle to you.”


Her eyes widened as an idea popped into her mind. “I know how to fool him! We can pretend to have an argument as we are walking through the maze. I can slap you and run further into it, and you can stalk off angrily in another direction. My bodyguard knows I have no sense of direction, so it won't seem strange to him that I become lost. He will not stop searching for me, afraid of losing his job if he doesn't find me.


“We can rejoin each other close to the entrance and find somewhere to be alone together for an hour or two. Do you think that will work?”

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