“Oh, please.” Quietly, she begged. Studying the hem of his white shirt, she fingered the soft cloth before glancing up at him. “Please don’t.”
He smiled wistfully as he took her hands. Kneeling before her, he pressed his lips to them. “I wish for nothing more than to stay here, with you, but a prince mustn’t live his life the way he wishes. ‘Tis the price for such prestige and nobility. Besides.” Adopting a lighter tone, he grinned at her. “I fear the Madame may have my head should I linger any longer.”
She knew it was frowned upon, but she couldn’t help but whine. Mischief vanishing from his face, he brushed her hair aside as he tried to comfort her.
“Believe you me, I have waited since leaving your side to return to you. Alexei can testify to that.”
Giggling, she closed her eyes as he bent down to kiss her again. Saddened to have him break away, she yawned and blinked through her teary eyes as she watched him pull on his boots.
“Will you come back tomorrow?”
“I don’t know that I can,” he said softly. “I’d give anything to, but I have an audience with his Majesty this afternoon, and the palace is so far from here…” Straightening up, he dusted his hands of dry mud. “But I swear to you I’ll do my best to return.”
She toyed with her ring – a habit she had adopted since his departure – before reaching for his hand and pulling him onto the bed they had shared the previous night.
“Then, in case you can’t, at least say goodbye to our Charlotte.”
“Oh? Is that what we’ve decided for the name?”
“Do you not like it?”
“I think it’s beautiful as she’ll be. And she will be if she looks anything like you, so fret not, my lovely.”
“Your eloquence has been refined during your trip. What fortunate lady, I wonder, served as practice for such a silver tongue as yours?”
Frowning, he unhappily replied, “I would never consider such a horrid act. How could I, when there’s no one who could possibly surpass, or even match your wit and beauty? You grieve me with such hurtful words, Princess.”
“I only jest. I am sorry. I did not mean to offend.”
But he only continued to sulk. Sitting up, she placed her arms around him and lay a kiss on his temple. “Come, come. You mustn’t pout so when there’s such happy news to be had.”
He closed his eyes as he basked in the adoration of his wife. Even after an entire night of laying together, of talking and muffled laughing, it wasn’t enough to satiate his want for her. Why, he even briefly considered staying at the estate; to hell what the Madame would do when she discovered they had disregarded centuries of tradition simply due to impatience. It had been months – months! – since they had last been together. Surely she would take some pity on them?
But when they heard the distinct sound of heels clicking down the hall, and of the servants waking, he sighed. Of course she wouldn’t. Why should she? She had been all too severe with Julius, hadn’t she, when he’d been caught visiting Lottie? Pulling himself away from his love, he ran a hand through his hair before rubbing his face tiredly.
“…I suppose we don’t have a choice,” she said softly. Trying her best to smile, she tried to be more cheerful. “We’ve waited six months. I suppose two more weeks won’t hurt.”
“I love you, Princess.” Kissing her hard on her lips, he looked at her gravely. “I love you.”
“I understand.” Amused by his suddenly serious attitude, she smiled. “I love you too.”
“Charlotte as well.”
Giving her hands one last squeeze, he snatched up his cloak and fled the room. The door closing quietly behind him, his wife stared at the empty space he once stood before laying back down. Well, what she had said was true, wasn’t it? A fortnight more was nothing compared to what they had already struggled through. It couldn’t be that difficult, could it?
But of course it was. Why wouldn’t it?