Rupert had been right to warn her, it was freezing outside. A thick coating of ice covered the grass, rigid underfoot as she walked across it. The sun was icy in the sky too, giving off a cool warmth, blinding as it was. She walked slowly, however desperate she was to see him. Her heart raced slightly at the thought and she subconsciously picked up the pace of her walking. Definitely, he was still there. Any doubt that had crossed her mind about them was easily dispersed by the little leaps her stomach made. She smiled slightly to herself as she neared the edge of the lake. The weather seemed to add to the serenity of this place. The lake was still, icy as it had turned in the months she had been absent. The lines the boys ice skates had left on the surface entwined on the glacial mirror. She stopped momentarily to take a breath of the wonderful air and tighten her fur wrap.
Joseph watched her from behind the tree, watcher her figure sway as it walked. The curves of her body were suddenly familiar to him again. He wanted to reach her but he decided against it, he would rather watch her for hours unbeknown to her, however unfair that was. He turned as she did, to get a better look at her. First off, she had lost weight. Her hair was darker too and longer. He smiled though, for she was till gorgeous. The want to take her in his arms was almost overpowering. Wringing his hands together, he leaned his back against the frost covered tree and smiled wickedly as he glanced at the roof of his new hideaway over the canopy of the trees.
"You know", he said suddenly, unable to contain himself. She turned around, her face a picture of shock as breath caught in her throat, " You shouldn't wander without security". her face lit up with a beaming smile, and she couldn't get her legs to run fast enough over the frozen earth.
"Joseph!", she squealed, throwing herself into his arms. She tightened them round his neck. Burying her face in his chest, she closed her eyes and breathed his wonderful scent in, " Joseph", she repeated softly.
"hello, love", he whispered, tightening his grip on her and running his fingers over her hair, " it's so good….".
Words failed him and he scolded himself for suddenly feeling more sentimental, he really had missed her.
"So good..?", she questioned, pulling back slightly so she could see his face.
"So good to have you here, with me", he said, laughing slightly as he ran his hand over his cheek, " You are so beautiful".
She smiled, placing a soft kiss on his lips, " Thank you".
"I have something for you", he smiled, taking her hand in his.
"You do?", she asked curiously.
"Yes, something I hope will be to your liking".
"yes, I think it will". she smiled at him again, her eyes getting lost in his.
"Open your eyes", he whispered in her ear.
"OH!", she managed, her voice and face full of wonderment, " Joseph…"
The room was spacious, dark and warm in the deep cold of the winter. The fire licked its way up the hearth, the sweet smell of linen and wintry flowers done well to mask the chemical smell of fresh paint.
"This is for me?", she questioned excitedly, turning to him.
"For…us", he smiled, motioning around the room, " There's more, but that's for later…."
"It is?", she questioned, undoing the buttons of her jacket and moving nearer him.
"Yes, it is", he answered quietly, moving closer, " Later, much later".
"I haven't kissed you yet", she commented, " Not properly anyway".
"We shouldn't waste any more…", but he was abruptly stopped by her lips covering his hungrily, her hands working wonders on the zip of his jacket then the buttons on his shirt. She pulled away, smiling as she ran her hands over the rippled muscles on his chest.
"I missed you so badly", she murmured, kissing his neck.
"I….", he was unable to form words, unable to think coherently, " Don't stop".
She smiled slightly, pulling him forward as she fell back onto the sofa, her lips coming into burning contact with his again.
" I won't", she managed, leaning back.
She smiled across at him from where she lay, sprawled in the bed of one of the upstairs room. How they had got there, she didn't know. But she was glad to be there, however much her mind was being overly active.
"Stop looking at me", he commanded, his eyes remaining firmly shut as a cheeky grin flitted across his face.
"When do I go back?", she suddenly questioned. The abruptness of her question caused him to open his eyes, becoming more alert all of a sudden.
"go back where?".
"The palace", she said absently, staring out of the window.
"Tomorrow, I suppose", he answered, reaching over to touch lace her fingers with his, " I asked Rupert-"
"What if", she interrupted, turning to him, " What if I never go back?"
He stopped for a long moment, staring into her eyes. Realising she was serious, he dreaded to think what was going through her mind. He couldn't answer her, but she squeezed his hand roughly, her eyes never leaving his face.
"I mean it, what if…?", she trailed off, turning her face away from his, " This is killing me".
"Joseph, I love you!", she suddenly cried, the distress evident in her voice, " I want more than this, I don't want to have a sordid affair in a little hide away".
"But Clarisse, your boys, Rupert, your duty", he pleaded, sitting up along with her and gripping her back as she fell against his chest, " Listen to me, you can't!"
She shook against him, banging her fist on the mattress.
"I know! But I wish, I wish….", she trailed off, her voice breaking through tears, " I thought when I got back it would be better, that we'd be ok, that we could live like this."
"That's why I repaired this place-", he said defensively, not letting her go.
"I know", she stated quickly, " But I hoped I could deal with it, that all of this was all I'd ever need but it's not. I want to be with you".
"And I with you but it's imp-"
"Please Joseph, please don't say it's impossible. I wont to think there's some hope".
"I- but- there is, not for a long time but maybe some day", he said calmingly.
"I don't know if I can last that long….."she answered, turning over to face him with a tear streaked face, " I have to but Joseph…."
"Darling, don't cry, please", he said helplessly, " Don't,. not over us, not over me".
"I love you", she whispered, gripping his skin and digging her nails into his shoulders.
"I love you too", he whispered, " But Clarisse, You cannot and you must not ask me, I wouldn't shame you like that".
"I wouldn't be ashamed".
"I would", he answered honestly, " I love you darling, with all my heart. But we would regret it, you know that".
She nodded, gripping him tighter. It had been so tempting and in all honesty, something she would have done with little coaxing. She would have ran with him, leaving it all behind them. They could have flown away, into the dark of night. But she wouldn't ever, if only for the love of her boys. She would stay here for years to come, waiting with him, wanting him with every fibre of her body. It was all duty, all of how she was underneath was him- something that would never be free. Her name would always be Renaldi, she would always be Queen. She would never be his, only hope told her she would.
She would not disappear with him, she would not transform into a bird and fly away. She would not disappear into the dark of the night…… in the winter.