They walked in silence for a while, both lost in thoughts until they reached one of the newly installed fountains Clarisse had insisted on.
The queen absentmindedly traced the cool water with her fingertips, aware of how close Joseph was standing to her, she ached for his touch and yet she didn´t know if she could allow it again and she wished he would just make the decision for her.
"Tell me what to do" he pleaded quietly, his hand coming to rest on her upper arm without pressure and yet the sensation made Clarisse shiver.
"I don´t know what to tell you" she admitted, turning around to face him.
"I´ll do whatever you want" he offered, now reaching for her hands, his own so warm against her skin still cool from the water.
"You are too good, Joseph, what about what you want?"
She couldn´t resist and leaned her head against his shoulder, sighing contentedly when his arms wrapped tightly around her.
"I want to be near you, always- but I will keep my distance if it is easier for you."
"How could it be?"
She looked up at him, tears dwelling in her eyes.
"Don´t cry" he told her, sounding helpless for the first time since Clarisse had met him.
"Please don´t cry."
She burried her face against his neck, never wanting to look up again.
"I could never give up on you."
She told him sincerely, she was in too deep now, she loved him far too much to let go.
He let her cry quietly for some time, soothingly caressing her back and finally he gently tipped up her chin, his thumps brushing the wetness from her cheeks.
"It´s getting cold, Clarisse, let´s go back inside."
"I don´t want to, I want to stay here with you."
"That´s not possible and you know that as well as I do."
"We have to figure something out then."
She insisted as she allowed him to lead her away from their hiding place.
"We will- I will while you are out to lunch."
"Do you promise?"
"Yes, I promise."
She pulled him into the shadows next to the terrace door and pressed her lips to his, pouring all her emotions into the ardent kiss.
She then walked quickly away from him, trying to hold back her tears as she ran up the stairs.
"Good morning, my Darling."
Clarisse sleepily opened her eyes, then smiled up at her husband.
"Hello, Rupert- what time is it?"
"A lot later than you usually get up, it´s almost nine."
"It is? Why hasn´t anybody woken me up yet?"
"I´ve told your maid to let you sleep, knowing you you have worked far too hard while you were here and I´m determined to change that."
"You are awful" she scolded him but Rupert only laughed.
"As long as I can keep you from working from time to time- I have talked to Helen, she will come over for dinner with Amelia tonight."
"Good- I should start getting ready for lunch."
"We´ll be leaving in three hours, Sweetheart, not even you need that long to get ready, there´s certainly time for breakfast first."
"I suppose you have organized some to be brought up already."
"Of course I have- it should be here any moment, so why don´t you put on a robe and make yourself comfortable and I´ll wait for breakfast."
Clarisse took her time in the bathroom, showering and doing her hair before she put on a robe and walked back over into her bedroom where she sat down at her vanity and started to apply make up.
She had just finished when she heard her maid´s voice in the next room and after a final look in the mirror the queen made her way over into the next room where her husband was already seated at the breakfast table, flicking through the Genovian Times.
"There you are" he smiled, putting the paper down onto the sofa.
"I´m sorry it took me so long- you know, age isn´t forgiving."
Rupert laughed, shaking his head.
"Nonsense, you are beautiful and you know it. Now sit down, I´m starving."
Clarisse sat down and poured herself a cup of tea while the king started buttering himself some toast, she didn´t have much of an appetite, she was dreading the day already.
She was missing Joseph so intensely it was making her feel bodily ill, his warmth, touches and kisses, his whispered words of love and adoration.
Clarisse forced herself to eat something, then she excused herself, claiming that she needed to get dressed.
She chose a lilac dress with a matching jacked and high heeled shoes, then she hurried out of the suite to meet Joseph who would drive her to the opening of an exhibition of a genovian painter in an art gallery downtown before she would meet her husband for lunch.
"My God, you are beautiful" Joseph complemented her before kissing her hand.
She smiled lovingly at him, then allowed him to hand her into the back of the limousine, noticing at once that the privacy screen was up and smiling when he slid into the back seat next to her.
"Not driving today?"
"No, I´m leaving that to someone else- it´s the perfect opportunity to spend a few minutes alone with you."
She didn´t answer, instead she pressed her lips to his, not wanting to waste any time with talking.
They only stopped kissing when the driver announced that they would arrive at the gallery shortly and Clarisse took out her compact mirror check on her hair and make up, then she briefly touched Joseph´s cheek.
"I miss you" she whispered sadly as he slipped out of the car.
The exhibition was a success and no one noticed that the queen was less than enthusiastic about her tasks, due to years of training she managed to pull them off quite effortlessly without really concentrating.
Joseph was one step behind her all morning, occasionally brushing his hand against her´s or smiling at her and Clarisse almost managed to pretend that everything was all right, at least as all right as it had been before her husband had arrived.
It was over far too quickly though and soon the queen was on her way downtown to meet with her husband and the mayor and she smiled sadly at Joseph when he helped her out of the car.
"Thank you- will you be here to pick-" her voice trailed away as she became aware that she had almost said ´us´ but Joseph nodded.
"I will be here- now try and enjoy lunch."
"I will try- Joseph?"
He turned around.
"Remember your promise?"
"Of course I do."
He straightened up when the second limousine stopped in front of them, then opened the door for the king.
Rupert smiled brightly when he saw Clarisse and kissed her cheek, then offered her his arm.
"How was your morning?"
"Quite interesting- how was your´s?"
Clarisse couldn´t help but laugh, Rupert had a good sense of humor and it matched her own perfectly.
"I´m sorry to hear that."
"It´s all right, I survived- and of course I´m looking forward to later."
"Yes, of course, I´m meeting an old friend from college for golf, hasn´t Joseph told you?"
"No- I didn´t even know you had a friend here."
"Yes, his name is James Dawson, I don´t think you´ve met him, I havn´t seen him in years- we went to Oxford together, he´s chief of surgery at a big hospital here in town.
I mentioned to Joe that I´d love to play some golf this week and he somehow managed to arrange for James to meet me today, I have no idea how he managed to pull this off at such a short notice."
Clarisse nodded hastily, so this was Joseph´s idea of getting her husband out of the way for a few hours, they would leave the town hall at around one and Helen and Amelia wouldn´t arrive at the consulate until eight.
"Well, that sounds delightful."
She smiled at her husband, lacing her arm through his as they made her way up the stairs.
"I´m glad you are so very resourceful" Clarisse mumbled into Joseph´s neck, her heart still pounding very fast as she relaxed against him.
"I was desperate" he admitted, his hands caressing her back while his nose nuzzled her hair.
"So how many potential golf partners are there for Rupert in San Francisco?"
"I´m afraid this one was the only, I will have to come up with something else next."