Josef approached the desk where the queen was sitting, her paper work abandoned in front of her and she obviously deep in thoughts.
She only looked up when Josef was already standing in front of her.
"I´m sorry, I didn´t realize you were already here."
"I´ve noticed- what were you thinking about?"
Josef nodded, he had been expecting this ever since the crown prince had died in an accident two months previous.
"You want to go to San Francisco?"
The queen sighed, then she nodded heavily.
"I suppose I will have to, we can´t afford to loose any more time now."
"Have you decided when you want to leave?"
"How far do you think it can be arranged?"
She asked, looking pleadingly up at him and for a moment Josef was lost in the melancholic expression in her blue eyes, then he mentally pulled himself together, his boss had asked him a question and he´d better stop staring at her and answer it.
"We can leave as soon as you wish, Your Majesty."
"I was hoping you would say that- can you make the necessary arrangements?"
"Of course, Your Majesty- who is to accompany us?"
"Charlotte of course and then whoever you see fit from the security team, the rest depends on how the consulate is staffed right now."
"I´ll see to that- is there anything else I can do for you?"
For a moment a smile brightened up her face, then she nodded.
"Actually I´d like to go outside for a moment."
"Of course, Your Majesty."
He waited until she had gotten up from her chair, then escorted her over to the doors and outside into the corridor.
"I have to admit I´m a little nervous" the queen sighed as they walked down the garden path towards the rose garden.
"I hope Amelia will understand the importance of her role."
"You shouldn´t worry too much yet, you will have to wait and see."
"I know- Josef?"
"Simply for being there- listening to my rambling."
"Queens don´t ramble, they ponder" Josef teased her and she actually laughed, her eyes sparkling in the sunlight.
"I forgot how hot it was in summer" the queen sighed as they made their way over to the waiting limousine.
Josef looked her upside down, she was dressed in an immaculate black dress and jacket with a silk scarf around her neck and a string of pearls and despite her comment looked absolutely flawless.
"Thank God for air conditioned cars then" he joked as he helped her into her seat.
They arrived at the consulate half an hour later and Josef personally carried the queen´s luggage upstairs, he wanted to make sure she was all right before leaving her alone in her rooms.
"Shall I send for some tea?"
He asked her and she nodded, watching him put her suitcases onto the bed.
"I´ll send for someone to unpack those- are you hungry?"
She shook her head.
"No, I´m too tired- what time is it again?"
"Four pm- you could rest a little, your dinner guests won´t be here until eight."
"No, if I sleep now I´ll be up all night, I want to adjust to the time difference straight away- I´ll just have a cup of tea and then go out into the garden."
"I´ll see you down there then, I want to make sure everything around here is save first."
She smiled, shaking her head.
"You don´t do anything but perfect, do you- make sure you eat something before you start to work though, I will need you fully alert tonight."
"Why, are you expecting anything unusual to happen?"
"I don´t know any of the people who will be attending and it makes me uneasy."
"Don´t worry, I´ll be right behind you."
"Beside me, Josef."
She corrected him gently and he nodded.
"Of course, Your Majesty."
She was looking lovely, even though she was distressed which he could understand, to say that the afternoon hadn´t gone well was an understatement.
He walked towards her and she turned to him instantly, looking so helpless that all he could do was keeping himself from pulling her close to him and comfort her.
He looked up from the book he had been reading.
"Good evening, Your Majesty."
Putting the book aside and getting to his feet he watched her approach him, still dressed in the immaculate black skirt and jacket she had been wearing at her slightly catastrophic meeting with her granddaughter.
She was looking flawless and beautiful like always but there was something in her eyes that Josef didn´t see there often, she looked insecure and the way she nervously clasped her hands together proved Josef´s suspicion to be right.
"Can I talk to you for a moment?"
She asked and when he nodded she sat down in a comforter opposite the couch he had been reading on.
She waited until he had taken his seat again, then began "I wanted to know if I offended you when I asked you to look after Amelia for a few days, you were right of course, you aren´t a babysitter or a chauffeur but you are the only one I would want to trust with her."
The honesty in her blue eyes made Josef´s heart melt, most people only ever saw the queen and he was one of the few who from time to time were granted a glance at the woman behind the facade.
"I know, Your Majesty, I was out of line to complain."
"No, you were not and if you don´t want to do this, I totally understand, I can have someone else look after Amelia."
"Of course I will look after her, it´s just- who is going to look after you?"
He hadn´t meat to actually say it out loud but of course that was his greatest concern, he didn´t mind looking after the princess for a few days, even though she seemed to be anything but fit to represent her country he had liked the girl and he was sure she would come to pass with her role in time.
What he didn´t like was the thought that the queen would be left with someone else to guard her, Clarisse Renaldi´s schedule was as full as ever, despite the fact that she had come to San Francisco to see her granddaughter and there would be at least three appointments outside the embassy on every day and Josef felt highly uncomfortable at the thought that he wouldn´t be going with her.
Clarisse´s face had softened at his words and she leaned forward, her eyes gazing into his.
"Josef, you´ve personally picked all the security personal, I´m sure we have someone who can step in."
He nodded reluctantly, fighting the urge to seize her hand.
"Yes, of course but it still feels strange."
"It feels strange to me too but we have to think of Amelia now, she´s most important."
"Nothing is more important than you" Josef told her, all playfulness gone from his voice.
"I won´t be queen forever, Josef" she reminded him softly, so softly that Josef wondered for a moment if she could possibly have understood that he hadn´t been talking to his queen but to the woman in front of him.
"So when shall I pick her up tomorrow?"
Josef asked, resigning himself to the fact that he would see little of Clarisse in the coming weeks.
"We will go there together, I need to talk to her before my meeting with Spain and Portugal."
"That means we´ll go with two cars?"
She nodded and Josef couldn´t help but add "So you can at least ride with me while going down there."
She smiled, obviously amused by his persistence.
"I will of course, it´s not as though I desperately want to get rid of you."
The teasing note in her voice made Josef chuckle, it was rare that she was so relaxed these days and he wondered if maybe coming here to meet the princess had been a good idea in more than one way.
"I´ll go to bed now, do you have to accompany me to my doors or am I allowed to go there alone?"
The queen asked, getting up and Josef followed suit.
"Of course there´s no need to accompany you if you don´t wish it- I can follow you at an appropriate distance instead."
"Now that was just what I wanted to hear" she sighed, getting up from her chair and taking the arm Josef offered her.
"We´ll leave at seven tomorrow, are you joining me for breakfast at six twenty in my room?"
They had reached her door and Josef let go of her arm- there was a slightly strained moment of silence before Josef said "Goodnight, Your Majesty."
"Goodnight, Josef" she whispered back, then she quickly kissed his cheek before entering her room and closing the door behind her, leaving Josef to get over the shock her sudden display of affection had caused him.
She was beautiful as even as he entered her room the next morning, sitting in a chair next to the window in front of a small table, a cup of tea in her hand.
She looked up when he opened the door, a smile playing around her lips.
"Good morning" she sounded far more cheerful than she had in days and Josef couldn´t help but smile gently back at her.
"Good morning, Your Majesty."
"Come, sit down, I have ordered coffee for you."
He sat down opposite her and she poured him some coffee, then offered him toast.
"Aren´t you going to eat anything?"
He asked and she shook her head.
"I´m too nervous, I´m afraid- but I´ll have lunch at the Spanish embassy, so don´t worry, I won´t starve."
Her eyes twinkled in a mocking fashion and Josef nodded.
"All right then- what are your plans for the rest of the day?"
"I´m planning to be back in time for Mia´s next lesson and after that I was hoping we could plan the ball, there´s still a lot of things we havn´t discussed yet."
"Why don´t we discuss it all over dinner then, Charlotte will join us anyway and apart from her no one else is required, are they?"
He had finished his toast and the queen put down her cup, then they made their way out of the room and down the stairs.
Josef escorted the queen to the limousine and carefully closed the door behind her, sighing as he realized that this would be the last time he would get a chance to do this for her until they would return back to Genovia.
"Don´t look so upset, it´s only for a few weeks" her voice was unusual soft and when Josef met her eyes in the mirror she smiled warmly at him.
"I know- I still don´t like it though, as a matter of fact."
He kept watching her in the mirror as he stirred the car through narrow streets, fascinated like always by her beauty and elegance.
All too soon they had arrived in front of the house Mia and her mother were living in and Josef was forced to get out of the car and help the queen out of it as well.
"Do you want me to come inside with you?"
She shook her head.
"Thank you but I think this is something I need to do on my own."
His eyes followed her when she gracefully walked over to the second limousine they had brought while he waited for the princess to get into the car.
He closed the door behind Mia, then stepped over to the second driver.
"Anything happens to her, I´ll break your neck" he told the other man in an undertone, watching him blanche.
"Good- so get her to the Spanish consulate now and make sure they have everything covered before you let her exit the car and don´t let her walk away from you until someone has taken over and be at least fifteen minutes early, we can´t risk her standing outside waiting- and call me when you are on the way back."
"All right- anything else?"
"Yes- don´t talk to her unless she talks to you, the car rides are the only moments of privacy she gets all day long."
He finally walked back up to Mia´s limousine and got in, waiting until the second limousine had pulled out onto the street.
"Is everything all right?"
The girl asked, following his gaze.
"Yes, princess- I´m just a little concerned about Her Majesty, I don´t like letting her out of my sight."
"Oh- how long have you been working for her?"
Mia asked as Josef started the engine.
"I´ve started working at the palace the same year she got married to the king and I´ve been her personal bodyguard for almost as long."
"Wow- so you two must know each other really well" Mia observed and Josef couldn´t help but smile, the girl´s direct way to address people was charming.
"I suppose that´s true."
"So that´s why you have to look after me, because she trusts you more than the others?"
"That´s what she said."
"But you´d rather be with her, right?"
Josef smiled at the insecure undertone in the girl´s voice.
"It´s not like that, princess, I simply feel as though I´m out of control and I hate that feeling."
"But that other guy will make sure she´s ok, right-"
"I hope that for him- if he doesn´t make sure of that I might have to kill him with my bare hands."
Josef´s voice sounded even and Mia broke into a fit of laughter.
"You know what the scary thing is? I can really see you do that- so you like my grandmother, don´t you?"
"What exactly does like involve in your speaking terms?"
"Well, you know- like her- not just like her, obviously."
"There isn´t any romantic involvement, if that is what you are implying. I´d dare say we are friends, though."
"Do you all have to be so correct all the time? It makes me feel like a complete idiot."
"You will get used to it, princess- it´s called diplomatic."
"Oh, so you are- involved- with Grandma then?"
Mia grinned, causing Josef to roll his eyes in mock annoyance.
"Don´t let her hear that, she´d have a fit, I´m a mere soldier in an endless attempt to protect the crown and she is- well, the crown."
He had pulled up in front of the house where Mia had told him her best friend Lily was living and Josef felt glad that the rather embarrassing conversation was over, it was hard to deny his feelings for his queen, even in front of a teenage girl.
He listened to the girl´s chatter, smiling slightly to himself, he could see now that this visit had been the best thing that could have happen to Clarisse, her granddaughter would make sure to pull her out of her depressive mood, one way or the other.
He called the man he had entrusted the queen to the moment Mia and her friend had left the car and was relieved to hear that Clarisse had arrived at the consulate and was currently in the meeting, then he smiled when he heard her voice.
"Josef, I´m alive and well, you can stop worrying- did you get here there all right?"
"Yes, Your Majesty and I met her best friend- compared to Miss Lily the princess is a very nicely groomed and mannered girl.
"Perfect- I have to go back into the meeting, thank you again- I´ll see you at half past two."
He found her in the garden where she was sitting on a bench, a lost expression on her beautiful face.
"It didnt´go well again?"
He asked, sitting down next to her and she turned towards him.
"No, not very well- actually it was a catastrophe."
"I´m sorry to hear that- but she´s a good kid."
Clarisse looked back at him disapprovingly.
"I should send you home, you´re already starting to adopt American terms of speaking."
"I´m sorry, Your Majesty, it won´t happen again- so what happened?"
She looked up at him.
"Do you really want to know?"
"No- I don´t think so."
"Tell me anyway- what went wrong this time?"
"Everything, Josef- how can a girl be so- so-"
"Well, that obviously is the perfect word for it."
"She is young, she needs some time to adjust."
"We don´t have time, how on earth am I going to make her fit to attend a formal dinner, let alone a ball?"
"She´s your granddaughter, there must be something of you hidden inside of her."
"I´d say hopefully but it wouldn´t sound very demure."
"You can afford it, you are perfect."
"Practically perfect" she corrected him, a smile now playing around her lips.
"I´m addicted to tea- and I get scared easily when I´m in a crowd."
"Not without reason" Josef´s thoughts trailed to the day when King Rupert had been taken a gunshot wound to his arm when he had exited the limousine while Josef had pulled the queen down onto the car´s floor and shielded her body with his own, yelling at the driver to move.
He remembered Clarisse´s terrified scream, her whole body trembling as he held her to him, praying that he would get her safely back to the castle.
The king had been released from the hospital a few days later but since then the queen was even more apprehensive when it came to attend large gatherings of people.
"Josef-" her quiet voice brought him out of his dark thoughts.
"I have to ask another favor of you."
He looked up, then said "You want me to teach her how to dance."
"Well, yes- how do you know?"
"She´s to attend the ball, obviously she will have to dance there- and there´s no doubt that she has no experience at all."
"No, really not- so do you think you can do that for me?"
"Do I think I can do it or do I think I can do it for you?"
He teased, fully aware that he shouldn´t be pushing boundaries but he couldn´t resist.
"Up to you" she replied in the same tone and Josef nodded.
"I´ll do my best."