Thursday, 2 June 2016

I’ve heard he’s an exceptional lover



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http://writeworld.org/post/145171909217/ive-heard-hes-an-exceptional-lover
“I’ve heard he’s an exceptional lover,” her sister whispered in Andrea’s ear as they waited for Prince Robert to enter the room. The disturbance at the door indicated that his party had arrived.
“How did you hear that?” Andrea asked. No reply, other than a smirk. The only rumour Andrea had heard was that he had come to ask for her sister’s hand. As the elder of the two it was appropriate. Andrea didn’t envy her. She was not ready to leave her home nor was she ready to marry at seventeen. Just as well her sister was the beautiful one and got all the attention.
Robert strode through the crowd. It parted easily in front of him. He looked regal and dangerous. A big man with broad shoulders. And then he took off his helmet. Brigid stifled her gasp. Robert had clearly been struck across the face with a sword. The scar stretched from his cheek, over a ruined nose and up to his forehead. The marks where it had been stitched were visible. He stood, waiting for the moment to pass.
Andrea wondered if the rumour had been started to make up for his looks. He had a beard, like most men in society but he kept it neatly trimmed; it could have covered some of the scar but he hadn’t bothered. He was at ease with how he looked.
Her sister was not. The negotiations broke down. Robert and his advisors left in a huff. It was too late to ride for home but they would be gone in the morning and any hope of an alliance went with them.
Andrea found her father staring out one of the tall windows. Peering past his shoulder, she could see Robert’s camp. “She refuses him,” he said without turning around.
If Brigid had listened to news rather than gossip, she would have known how important this alliance was to the kingdom’s security. Robert fought well. His soldiers loved him. Andrea wasn’t sure if that made him a good leader, or a better man, but it did make him a formidable ally and an even more dangerous enemy. She knew her sister would not be swayed by such arguments.
Her father’s shoulders were tight with tension and his face etched with worry. She had to do something, so she put on a hooded cloak and snuck out of the palace to the camp. His guards stopped her. “I-I need to speak to Prince Robert.”
“Speak?” One chortled. “A little thing like you.” He leaned in too close to her face. “He’ll eat you for dinner.”
“Long past dinner,” said the other. “More like a midnight snack.”
They laughed wickedly.
“Now!” she demanded. Fear overcoming her nervousness.
Her voice carried and a man walking past took a second look at her. Robert’s second, Laurence, ordered the guards back to their posts, and took her to his leader’s tent. “I apologise Princess Andrea, but you should not have come unattended.”
Too frightened to speak, she held tightly to the edge of her cloak and just nodded.
“He is not in a good mood,” he added.
Robert was sprawled on the floor of his tent.
“You have a visitor.” Laurence did not announce her name. She glanced at him but he shook his head and motioned that she stay in the opening.
“Not a woman.” Robert groaned. “This is your fault for starting that stupid rumour. I need wine.”
“No,” said Laurence. “And it’s not a rumour if it’s true.” He kicked Robert in the side. “Get up and bow to the princess.”
“What?” Maybe he’d already had some wine. He seemed slower to Andrea. “What princess?”
“God’s blood, Robert.” Laurence threw up his hands and sat hard in the camp chair. He waved at Andrea to enter.
Robert rolled over to his knees and looked at her. “Huh,” was all he said.
She had never been so insulted in her life. “How dare you?” she demanded. “I came here to make you an offer that will hopefully get both of our kingdoms out of this mess and you can’t even be bothered to greet me appropriately.”
Robert glanced at Laurence, who had his arms crossed and an ‘I told you’ look on his face.
“What offer?” Robert asked.
“To marry me, but I am inclined to withdraw it now.”
“Please don’t,” muttered Laurence. “She came alone,” he added for Robert’s benefit. “I’d suggest her father does not know she’s here.”
“Exactly. I may be the poorer choice in beauty but it could work. If I return, no further harm is done.” Andrea brushed down her skirts nervously, knowing she really was second best. “If I don’t return it could enhance your … reputation  to say I was held here until I accepted.”
Laurence sat forward in the chair. “Clever.”
“Why would I do that?” Robert said. He rose to his feet and made an abrupt gesture. “I would never stoop to such vile behaviour. I’d rather walk into the castle and ask for your hand properly.”
“Oh,” she said.
Laurence snorted. He rose, clapped his hands together and said, “Great. I’ll cancel the order to leave in the morning. You have ten minutes.”
Robert blinked at Andrea. He had just understood that he had accepted her offer. “Please sit, Princess.” He waved at the chair. “Wine?”
She shook her head to both.
“I was rude and I apologise. I know what it is to be judged by your looks. I was not pretty before this.” He waved at his face.
She nodded warily. “Is it hard to breathe?”
“Only when I am ill.” He reached out a hand to her.
She took it and he wrapped the second one around it, drawing her closer. She felt how big and rough his hand was but also how gentle. He smiled down at her. The scar did not affect his mouth as he pressed her knuckles against his lips. “Are you sure about this?” he asked.
Laurence had said the rumour was true and it worried her. “I know nothing of love. What if I am not good enough?”
He frowned at her, and his brown eyes looked worried. “Let us find out. May I kiss you?”
She nodded.
When Laurence returned, he had to clear his throat loudly. They pulled apart. Andrea was very glad that she still had her cloak on and that Laurence could not see where Robert’s hands were. They were cupping her buttocks and holding her in so tight against him that it made her knees weak, which coincidentally made her lean against him harder.
Laurence offered her his arm and she needed it to walk without tripping as he escorted her back to the palace.
In the morning, Prince Robert threw open the chamber doors and demanded his princess. Brigid paled. Andrea stood to move towards him. The King opened his mouth to protest and then shut it again.
“Princess Andrea,” Robert said as he dropped to his knees in front of her, his face transformed in adoration. She placed one hand on the top of his head and leaned down to kiss his forehead. Then, whatever he said to her, made her laugh and everyone could see the woman she would become and that she, too, was transformed.