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Unexpected | Friday, early evening


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Apartment of Lord Basildon & Wife

 

The apartment is small, but comfortable, with two rooms. There is a living room, with a small seating arrangement near the hearth and a table. A pair of windows is set into the south wall, overlooking the Long Walk and Castle Hill. A small carved walnut table and chair set rests between the windows while a small door, hidden behind a wine-colored curtain with thick tassels, beside the fireplace opens into a little closet. Candelabras rest on the table and mantel, casting long shadows over the polished wood of the floor.

 

In the next room a large walnut bed resting against the east wall. The bed is hung with wine-colored velvet, the fabric trimmed with gold tassels. Across from the bed is a stone hearth whose crackling fire keeps the chill at bay. Small silver bells have been affixed to the edges of the mantel with silver satin bows and to the tie backs of the drapes and bed curtains. A pair of windows is set into the south wall, overlooking the Long Walk and Castle Hill. A small carved walnut table and chair set rests between the windows while a small door, hidden behind a wine-colored curtain with thick tassels, beside the fireplace opens into a little closet. Candelabras rest on the table and mantel, casting long shadows over the polished wood of the floor.

 

 

It was good to be back at court again.

 

Elisabeth Killington stood at the window, watching courtiers meandering below, either alone or in groups.  Already she felt at home again, even though she had not been to Windsor in two years.  It was a nice change from London and she looked forward to exploring it again.

 

Most of all, she was looking forward to seeing Louis and exploring him again.  Already her body hummed with anticipation of their reunion.  She had not been certain that he would be away when she returned, but the rooms had been empty except for a hidden servant, who had scurried out the door when she turned her back to it.  Lisa knew who it was and was glad that she was gone.  No lady liked to be reminded of her husband's infidelity.

 

Behind her, she could hear her own maidservant busily unpacking her things.  As her gaze idly followed the path of a bird winging gracefully through the sky, she imagined the look on Louis' face when he walked in and found her here.  She had not even sent him a note telling him when she was going to arrive.  Her presence would be a complete surprise.

 

She trembled with expectation.  How long would she have to wait for him?

 

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It was early in the evening, the yacht race had finished with its dramatic conclusion and Louis returned to his rooms ready to change, if necessary, to attend any celebrations afterwards.  He had expected to receive a letter from his wife and none had been forthcoming.  That was unlike her.  His paranoid side wondered whether there was an unseen enemy intercepting his mail.  There was but one full day left before the Christening.  Lisa was cutting it close, too close.

As he opened the door, he was startled to see Lisa and her maid present.  That would mean that Diana had scurried away to notify his manservant Thomas to take her place.  He fought a smile and an urge to rush to her as he often did when she returned to Basildon or court.  Instead, he looked at her maid and stated "Windsor is a lovely place.  I suggest you take your leave at once to start your tour and leave me to have a private word with your mistress."

The door was hardly closed when he swooped into his wife's embrace and gave her a passionate kiss. He did not crush her body against his because she was about six months pregnant.   "My darling, you did not write me, so I shall have to punish you," he threatened with a promise of future fun.   "In the meantime, you must be exhausted from your journey.  I think I need to put you to bed right away.  I will need to remove your clothes myself since your maid is not here," he prescribed.  Without awaiting her leave, he began to disrobe her, smiling brightly about what was to come.  It was a habit of every homecoming, an immediate retreat to the bedroom because the traveling spouse was likely fatigued from their journey.

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Lisa heard the familiar cadence of her husband’s footsteps in the hall. Turning away from the window, she watched Louis walk through the door. Her heartbeat quickened at the sight of him. He hid his surprise well, though she saw his attempt to suppress a smile. Nor did he close the distance between them immediately as he often did when they were reunited. Instead, he suggested that Annabel take a look around Windsor. “Yes, milord,” the maidservant said. After curtsying deeply, she made herself scarce.

 

Before she could even blink, Lisa was in his arms and their tongues were dancing in perfect rhythm. Wrapped in Louis’ embrace was where she truly felt at home. Her arms twined around his neck, her body trembling with all the passion that had been suppressed during too many months of absence. Oh, how wonderful it was to be back where she belonged!

 

Lisa noticed that he was holding her more gently than usual, and while she longed to press herself closer against him, that would not be good for the baby. Though she was undoubtedly showing, her belly was not as large as it had been at this stage with her other pregnancies. She believed that she was only carrying one child this time.

 

She laughed at his teasing, favoring Louis with a sultry smile. “I shall look forward to that,” she replied. “And you’re right, I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open.” Lisa turned around so that Louis could undo her laces. As the layers came off, she reveled in the feel of his warm hands on her skin and stole a kiss whenever she was in a position to do so.

 

Clad only in her shift, she suddenly swayed against him, feigning weakness. “Oh, I feel a bit faint. I think you might have to carry me to the bed.”

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All was in keeping with their reunion routine. Even for a paranoid man, there was no doubt that she loved him.  There was no criticism of his darkie servant warming his bed in her absence, no criticism of any slight, no problem to lay upon him immediately.  He was a lucky man.

He smiled as he lifted her small form onto their bed, not before pulling back the covers, as the castle was drafty at night.  He made sure she was suitably situated on the mattress before disrobing himself.  Rather than a race, he put on something of a display as he removed each article of clothing, pausing to make sure she appreciated each piece of bare skin that appeared.

Sliding into bed beside his wife, his hands roamed her body as they kissed.  "I have something to give you that is certain to open your eyes," he chuckled.  First, as his hands slid toward her most sensitive place, it was his fingers.  Later, his finger was replaced by something much larger ... .

*Fade to Black*

He had favored possitions with her on top, to protect the child, but these two habitually tried every position in bed that did not cause limbs and spines to scream in agony.  Anything less would be ... well, routine.

"Did Mary come with you I hope?" he inquired as he lay in the aftermath embrace, obviously referring to Princess Mary.  "I sense the disdain against the Dutch is dissipating slowly.  We just need the Spanish or the Empire to do something insulting to close this chapter," he assessed lightly.  "Everyone loves Mary.  She is the best ambassador." 

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Lisa once more wrapped her arms around her husband’s neck as he carried her to the bed. She could feel the softness of his hair graze her fingers. Such a simple thing, and yet it tantalized her. Louis made sure he was settled before divesting himself of his attire. It had been so long since they had been together that she assumed that he would disrobe quickly. Instead, he removed his clothing slowly and seductively, teasing her unmercifully and enticing her desire to a nearly unbearable level. She wanted him inside her yesterday.

 

It seemed like an eternity before he joined her, Lisa sat up and pulled her shift over her head so that she could feel his bare skin warm against her own. In the space of a heartbeat, his lips were crushed against hers. She trembled in pleasure as his hands slid over her body.  Her own did the same to him and brushed lightly over his cock while their kiss deepened.

 

When they finally came up for air, Louis’ words sent a bright little thrill down her spine. “I’m about to fall asleep,” she teased with a feigned yawn, “so it had better be good.”

 

And it was. His fingers stroking her pearl brought moans to her lips and she sighed when she felt his rigid sword enter the velvet softness of her sheath. Soon they were riding the waves of pleasure together, over and over and over …

 

~*~

 

Curled in his arms as they enjoyed the afterglow of their lovemaking, Lisa was not surprised that Louis inquired about Princess Mary. “Yes, we traveled together. Margaretha met our ship and the two girls chattered happily until we reached Basildon. That was the first time I saw her relax since we left the Hague. She is understandably nervous about how she will be received, even by her own family, but she felt she needed to show her support for her little cousin by attending his christening.

 

“I’m glad that there is less animosity against the Dutch now. Hopefully, it will dissipate completely. I doubt it will be long before they are replaced by a more dire threat.” Lisa had grown fond of the Netherlands, though the Dutch court was quite somber compared to its English counterpart. Especially since Mary had married her cousin, the Prince of Orange, she hoped that the two countries could resolve their differences and become allies.

 

She smiled, thinking about the young princess whose friendship she cherished. “You’re right. She has a natural charm and instinctively knows how to put people at ease. I’m sure she’ll be fine as soon as she settles in. She has a backbone as well and will not be easily intimidated.”

 

Lisa playfully tapped his nose with one finger. “I must warn you, though, Louis. Princess Mary is not very pleased with you.”

 

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If Louis wished to have verbal intercourse with a woman he enjoyed, he preferred to start with sexual intercourse.  It was enjoyable and it melted away any artifice between them.  This was especially true for his wife, a perfect match in so many ways.  That did not mean he would not seek to bed others discreetly, but she managed to willingly tie Louis to her permanently.

He played with her displaced blond ringlets as their bodies remained embraced.  So much care had gone into a perfect coiffure, only for him to make her look like she had emerged from a rainstorm.  He smiled as he curled a stray lock around his finger.

As she tried to warn him that Princess Mary was cross at him, he immediately dismissed it in his mind.  "She is displeased with the man that helped save her life once and that lends her the person he adores to be at her side rather than his?  The man that sacrifices his happiness so that the Princess can have the most talented lady at court at her beck and call, rather than his?  Do tell," he challenged with a smile knowing that she would appreciate his grand flattery, albeit half in jest.

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Lisa had once feared she would displease the gentlemen she would eventually marry. With her thirst for adventure, her interest in things mainly enjoyed by the opposite sex, and her inclination to masquerade as a man, she was not the demure, docile young lady that most lords seemed to prefer. She’d had no intention of living a lie and pretending she was something she wasn’t. Louis, though, understood her like nobody else ever had, and accepted her just the way she was.  Oh, they argued like any married couple, but they always made up in a most pleasurable way.

 

While a bit jealous of his other lovers, Lisa preferred to ignore his infidelity than confront him with it. She really had nothing to complain about. No matter how often Louis strayed when she was away, she was the one he always came back to, the one he confided in, the one he conspired with. And whenever she returned from attending Princess Mary, he was hers and hers alone.

 

His smile delighted her and his playful flattery pleased her as it always did. “Margaretha complained in the carriage that she felt like she had traded one prison for another. She’s been very unhappy and lonely at Basildon and longs to return to court and find an English husband. Princess Mary defended us for keeping her away this season. She could have been in danger and it was unlikely any gentleman would want to wed her while the Dutch were in disfavor.”

 

Lisa gently stroked Louis’ cheek. “What worries her is that you believed that Margaretha might have been a spy. Mary feels that you don’t trust her. She would have never let Margaretha go with me if she was not absolutely certain she was not involved in nefarious activities.”

 

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"Oh poor Margetha," Louis replied sarcastically.  "Her value in the marriage market will be greater next season than this season, and she needed to learn how to run a household. I should think that she should be thanking us for training her for what she hopes to do when married."  Louis was not yet old enough to complain about the impatience and laziness of the younger generation, but he would get there in time.

"What Mary does not understand is that I do not suspect her of being a spy anymore, but Buckingham suspects her.  The King suspects her.  The French party suspects her.  Need I go on?  Rightly or wrongly, if they suspect her, they suspect us for championing her, as if we are fellow conspirers."  Lisa was clever and knew that perceptions were everything.  "As long as we are painted as pro-Dutch when the Dutch are under suspicion, our rise will be restricted."  There was also the talk of trusting Mary.  "Make no mistake, I trust Mary completely,  After all, I have my own spy accompany her," he laughed.  

After a lazy yawn, he returned to the topic of perceptions of the Killington family. "It is the same when the French are hated and everyone suspects me.  In a way we suffer if either party falls, but it is worth it, I believe, to be the powerful couple with the ears of both Dutch and French royalty.  It allows us to serve England as quiet emissaries of the Crown when needed.  A secure line of communication is worth its weight in gold, as are our newspapers.  In a crisis, we could become indispensable to the King.  That is the position to which we aspire."  He accented the thought by lifting her hand and kissing it.

With a sigh, Louis admitted "I have found no particular husband for Margetha.  What did your matchmaker suggest?"

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Lisa suspected that Louis had never approved of her Dutch ward, and his sarcasm added to those reservations. She had no idea why he didn’t like her. Though she was beautiful and intelligent, she was no threat to his cousin’s place in the King’s affections. Margaretha was far to pious to become any man’s mistress. Nor was she a threat to Louis' ambitions. She could very well become an asset to their family’s rise in the court hierarchy, which Lisa knew was her husband’s second most fervent desire. The first one was her.

 

The spy incident had naturally alarmed him, and he had been right to send her away this season, but she feared that he didn’t want Margaretha to return to court at all. “I seriously doubt that the King, Buckingham, or the French remember who she is after all this time. No evidence against her was found. That should prove her innocence. I understand your concern, Louis, and you know that I would never do anything to jeopardize our position at court. I just feel that she was made a scapegoat because somebody had to be blamed.”

 

Lisa snuggled closer against him. “You may have to convince Mary of your trust, but she’s a smart girl. She’ll know that you’re sincere.” Louis could charm anybody with just a smile, though maybe she was a bit biased.

 

Her husband expounded on the pros and cons of consorting with foreign powers. The pleasant tingles left by his kiss spread from her hand, up her arm, and through her body. She sighed in pleasure. “We play a dangerous game, my love, but no reward comes without risk.”

 

The baby kicked. Lisa took Louis’ hand and placed it on her blossoming belly. “Your child wants to say hello,” she grinned.

 

“Lady Lucas agrees that marrying Margaretha to Norfolk’s eldest natural son is a distinct possibility. Though she mentioned that we might be aiming too low. She didn’t come right out and say it, but I think she believes that there are influential families who would be honored to be connected to the Basildon name. Our plan was to introduce Margaretha to eligible lords at a court event to figure out who might be interested. Unfortunately, the allegations of spying made that impossible.

 

“We can, however, proceed with that strategy next season, if you agree."

 

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On the topic of Margetha, Louis remained open-minded.  He did not dislike the lady.  She was merely a piece on his game board.  It was the fact that she threatened to be a liability, rather than an asset, that had him concerned.  Fortunately, as always, the Earl of Basildon was confident that could could turn any sow's ear into a silk purse.

"Norfolk's bastard George is not a bad match.  Their children would be grandchildren of one of the oldest duchies in England.  Might not that be better than marrying some baronet or even baron?" he queried.  "There is a Baron Grey that is said to play with telescopes.  He's an older man and might be an interesting match.  Our Dutch girl might be bored, but she might like science,or the solitude to read the Bible for a greater portion of the day,"he commented, mostly serious.  "Older men fall harder for beauty," he theorized.  "Why is Baptist May not married?" he added aloud.  "I suspect he prefers young men, but he would be a powerful husband, though he has no title."  Ruminating further, "what about cousin Hen?  He fell for an Irish beauty.  Why not a Dutch beauty related to the Orange household?  That would tighten our relations with the Chancellor even further."  Louis and Heneage Finch were aleady close.  "We will find someone for her next season, if she behaves herself and learns to manage our household for us."

"As for Mary, she will be pleased with us," he proclaimed. "As for her trust, it is already won. She just needs to be reminded of it."

Lisa put his hand on her stomach and he smiled as any expectant father would.  Of course, once his hand was on her body, it was free to caress her skin both above and below.  "Do you wish to deliver in Basildon, or would you prefer one of our other properties?"  He assumed Basildon would be the choice.

"Nicolette is becoming disenchanted with her position at court," he revealed.  "I hope it a temporary thing, but we need to assure her that she matters to our family and that we will always stand with her, whatever path she chooses. She is too clever to not choose the best path." 

 

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Lisa had not been thinking of a Baronet or a Baron. She saw no reason why a young lady as beautiful and accomplished as Margaretha couldn’t attract an Earl, despite her illegitimacy. Still, she believed that George would be the best match for her. They both knew what it was like being born on the wrong side of the blanket. Margaretha was quietly ambitious. If George was too, there was no telling what the two of them could achieve together.

 

“I have not yet met Lord Grey. Margaretha is not a social butterfly and I think she would enjoy a quiet life. She loves to learn, but if she is interested in science, she has not informed me. Perhaps I shall ask her. I promised to write her all about the masque.

 

“Baptist May is too old, and as you say, is rumored to favor men over women. I do want Margaretha to be happy, you know. Heneage is a possibility. He’s young and an Earl, though he would be more appealing if he lost some weight. Have you ever asked him why his former betrothal was canceled? If it was his fault, then he might not be a suitable candidate.”

 

Louis’ smile when he felt the baby kick warmed her heart, and his attentions warmed the rest of her. She wondered if he was hoping for another son or a daughter. Lisa didn’t care what gender it was, as long as it lived. She grew more anxious with every day that passed and tried to convince herself that this child would be healthy and thrive.

 

“I think I would like to give birth somewhere else this time.” Lisa felt most at home at Basildon, but she didn’t want to be troubled by the sorrow of losing three babies while she was trying to bring a healthy child into the world. “A change of scenery will be good for both of us."

 

Louis changed the subject to Nicolette. Lisa wasn’t surprised that she was disillusioned with her life. The Frenchwoman was more ambitious than Margaretha and craved being the center of attention. Her husband trusted his cousin completely but Lisa feared that her drive to advance her own position was greater than her loyalty to her family. If Nicci became too powerful, she might turn against them. She had never expressed these concerns to Louis. He would likely tell her that they were unfounded.

 

“I’m not surprised. There’s only so far she can go as the King’s secret mistress. He can’t publicly acknowledge her because she’s French. If he did, the repercussions could be devastating, more for her than for him. Of course we value her and will support her in anything she does to benefit our family. Maybe the best option is to fall pregnant with His Majesty’s child and let him marry her off. She will then be tied to him forever even if he finds another to replace her.”

 

She raised herself up on one elbow. “And that will happen, Louis. I’ve heard rumors that he ended his relationship with Portsmouth.” Who was also French. “She needs a backup plan”

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"Who cares if Hen is a bit heavy?" Louis laughed.  "Being well-fed is a sign of status. and he is your cousin and the son of the powerful Chancellor of England.  His weakness is that he is shy and into his books.  A lady could dominate him, which is the danger.  Margetha could be good for him, and bring him out of his shell," Louis pointed out.  "However, I think his father would be against a bastard for his son, so maybe George is the right one after all."  It was not that Margetha was all that important to his plans.  He might prefer Hen for Nicolette.  She could easily dominate him, be a countess and do as she wished.

"Nicolette needs action.  She does not do well sitting around.  I respect the initiative, but it means tat she is likely to be unhappy until she comes to realize that the excitement of court is the exception rather than the rule.  She knows that she will not be in royal favor indefinitely, so she must decide how to maximize the opportunity.  Bearing a royal bastard is one way, but it is not enough for her to fade away with a child.  A good match, far above what she might expect, is a fine outcome, but I think she needs to either have the most interesting husband or one she can dominate," he speculated.  "It is up to her.  She is no silly girl that we need to watch.  Rather, she just needs our support so she knows she is always safe with us no matter how things turn out."

Stretching his long frame on the bed so as to loosen his leg muscles, Louis changed the topic.  "What shall we do for the Masque?  Have you a costume?" He paused before revealing "I was thinking of going as the purple knight.  I have the demi-helmet and robes. Purple is a sign of support for royalty after all.  We could meet and I could seduce you, causing other to wonder who was that beauty that disappeared with the knight after being seen kissing in a dark corner," he laughed.  "Or, we could glide along and try and overhear scandalous talk, or start our own scandalous rumors."   

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