TURN BACK NOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

This story is a sequel to Old Ghosts. I wrote it in response to three different challenges. Clarisse Renaldi wanted a happy ending. Pretty Crazy wanted to see more of the womanizing Rupert and MellieD just wanted some bow-chicka-wah-wah.

So, in a no doubt vain attempt to please everyone, I came up with this. It's just trash. No plot, no substance, don't even waste your time. Seriously, there's nothing to see here. Move along…

Too bad that other people own all these characters. They are no doubt appalled at the baseless drivel I've written about them. That could be why I'm making no money from this…

What? You're still here? Well, fine, then. Go ahead and read it. But don't say I didn't warn ya.

oooooooooOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo

The knock at the door barely registered with the Queen -- she was absorbed in her reading. She called out "Come!" as she turned a page and adjusted her reading glasses. The door opened, but no one entered the room.

"Just set it on the table, Olivia. I won't need you anymore this evening, thank you." She didn't look up.

Joseph cleared his throat demonstrably and stepped across the threshold. Clarisse finally looked up from her book and over the back of the couch. "Oh! Joseph!" She seemed slightly flustered, but pleasantly surprised to see him.

"I hope you don't mind. I was in the kitchen making myself some hot chocolate when Olivia came in to make yours. I told her I would make an extra cup and deliver it."

She smiled and motioned him further into the room. "That was certainly resourceful. I didn't expect to see you again so soon."

He rounded the couch and bent down to set the tray on her coffee table. He was thankful he set it down safely before he caught a glimpse of her. She was wearing a white night shirt. There were generous slits running up each side. Her long, lean legs stretched out from beneath the soft fabric and draped themselves casually across the couch cushions.

He swallowed audibly as his eyes traveled up to the top of the shirt, which was not fully buttoned and laid rather hap-hazardly open across the top of her chest. She didn't seem to notice his discomfiture as she leaned forward to pick up one of the steaming mugs. He tried to rein in his stare. He really did. But he couldn't help himself. The view was worth it, even if she caught him at it.

"Don't just stand there like a butler, Joseph. Sit down!" She patted the couch cushion next to her as she swung her legs off to make room for him. He mumbled his thanks and sat down on the farthest cushion, reaching for his own mug.

"I didn't expect to see you again so soon," she said. She favored him with a wry smile. "It was too bad Sebastian 'crashed' our lunch meeting."

Joseph smiled almost shyly into his mug. "I've always liked the Prime Minister, but his timing is less than perfect," he admitted.

She chuckled to herself, as she reached for her spoon. She began spooning the generous glop of whipped cream off the top of her chocolate and placed it carefully on a saucer.

Joseph watched her for a moment before asking, "You don't like whipped cream?"

"I never eat it," she replied.

"I never knew anyone who didn't like it," he observed.

She was silent for a moment, her spoon poised in mid-air. "I didn't say I didn't like it – I just don't eat it." She dropped the last spoonful onto the small plate.

"How can you keep from eating it?" he asked with a laugh. "It's soooo good." To illustrate his point, he slurped loudly from his own mug. She smiled somewhat thinly at him.

He dipped his finger into the creamy froth and contemplated the whitened tip. "It can also be a delightfully creative substance," he said, ginning at her.

She regarded him thoughtfully over the rim of her mug. "No thank you. Whipped cream has lost any sort of pleasant connotations it ever had for me."

"Why?" He tasted the cream on his finger, oblivious to her reaction to his simple question.

"Catching your husband licking it off the nipples of a house guest tends to sour the substance for you after that," she spoke casually, then took another sip.

"Licking --? What?!" He choked briefly on the steaming liquid.

She shrugged.

"You must be joking," Joseph said when he recovered his voice.

She shook her head. "I told you last night that arranged marriages have problems. Whipped cream is one of those problems."

He coughed and tried to think of some sort of reply. "I can see where that might cause a bit of a dilemma," he finally managed to say.

"A bit," she agreed. She grinned at him then and swung her feet back up on the couch, favoring Joseph with a view that stretched almost to… He ratcheted his eyes back up to meet hers and tried not to appear sheepish. Her smile widened and she motioned from him to put his feet up next to her. He twisted around so his back was against the arm of the couch and matched her pose.

He opened his mouth, but couldn't think of what to say. He closed it again; certain he looked like a goldfish.

"I take it you would like to hear that story?" she asked. Her voice was sarcastic, but her eyes twinkled at him. He nodded mutely and grinned at her.

She stretched and wiggled her toes deeper into the space between the cushions and his hip. And then she began to speak.