Joseph picked up the phone on the second ring.
"Are you busy?"
"Not especially," he answered smoothly, hoping she couldn't hear that his heart leapt into his throat at the sound of her voice. His visceral reaction to the mere sound of her voice was absolutely mortifying.
"I hate to ask. This is really embarrassing," she said hesitantly.
Visions of a myriad of 'embarrassing' things she could ask him to do whipped through his head. When he caught himself wondering, hopefully, if her zipper was stuck, he shook his head violently to clear it. 'God, I'm such an idiot,' he thought.
"What do you need?" he asked, managing to keep his voice as silky smooth as always.
'Oh good Lord! What do I need?' Clarisse thought to herself. 'If he only knew!' She had sudden visions of her Head of Security doing a slow strip tease while standing at the end of her massive antique bed.
"Um, well," she said almost timidly. "You remember when they put the new satellite television systems in? A week or two ago?"
"It was well over a month ago, Your Majesty," Joseph answered.
"That long? Really?" She was genuinely surprised.
"Yes, that long." She could hear the laughter in his voice. "Let me guess," he continued. "You haven't tried to watch television since then and you can't figure out the remote." He was opening laughing now.
She cleared her throat. "I've been…busy!" He could hear that she was somewhat miffed by his reaction.
"I'm sorry," he apologized.
"No you're not," she retorted.
"Would it make you happy if I showed you how to use the remote?" His voice could not quite contain his hopefulness.
"It would certainly help. Can you come to my suite? Just tell Felix to let you in." She hung up with out waiting for his reply.
Joseph stared contemplatively at the buzzing phone for a moment, then grabbed his own remote and turned off the TV. He looked longingly at the burger and fries he'd just started to eat. He'd picked up dinner at his favorite greasy spoon in Pyrus. It was run by an American ex-patriot who'd married a Genovian woman while stationed in Europe with the US military. Joseph loved the gourmet fare the palace provided, but he couldn't resist an occasional meal from the heart attack café.
But even hot, crispy French fries couldn't compete with the thought of spending time with Clarisse, so he rewrapped his dinner and left it for later.
Felix looked up at the sound of boots on the marble floor and saw his boss striding down the long corridor leading to the Queen's apartments. He knew Joseph had been summoned and he wordlessly opened the door for him. Joseph grinned at the doorman, who nodded in return.
'Wonder what he's so damn happy about?' Felix thought, noting the huge grin on the other man's face as Joseph entered the suite. He was new on the job and had seldom even seen his boss smile. He hesitated a moment before closing the door, which was just long enough for Joseph to turn back and raise an eyebrow at him. The grin was replaced by a reproachful glare. The guard swallowed and promptly shut the door.
For his part, Joseph felt sure that the man would not be listening to what was going on inside. He expected Clarisse to be in the sitting room, but there was no sign of her. "Your Majesty?"
"In here, Joseph." Her voice came from the bedroom. Joseph closed his eyes for a moment as visions of possible scenarios passed through his head. Would she be wearing…? He swallowed hard and walked into the bedroom.
He stood in the doorway, rubbing his eyes.
"Is something wrong, Joseph?"
When he opened his eyes, she was still there. He hadn't dreamed that she was lying on her bed, wearing her riding gear. He really hadn't dreamed that she was lying on her stomach, facing the end of the bed, dressed in a creamy turtleneck and sleek black riding pants, stretched so tantalizingly tight over her the delectable curve of her derriere. And - saints preserve him - he hadn't dreamed that she was still wearing the long, supple black leather riding boots. It was all real.
"No, nothing is wrong, Your Majesty," he managed to croak. She raised an eyebrow at him and rolled over on her side to study him more carefully. It was then that he noticed she was still holding her riding crop. His hand groped in his back pocket for a handkerchief, then he wiped his brow. "It's a bit warm, isn't it?" he asked.
"Not that I've noticed," she lied. She dropped back over onto her stomach again, hoping to hide the tightening of her nipples that no doubt showed through the tight fitting shirt she wore. She'd expected him to wear black, of course, but she hadn't taken into account that he'd had the afternoon off and would be dressed accordingly. Like her, he'd been out riding that afternoon. But while she'd been confined to the borders of the great estate, on the back of her favorite stallion, he'd breathed freedom on the open road seated on the back of a motorcycle. He was still wearing black steel-tipped cowboy boots and a tight black long sleeved t-shirt under a silver studded leather vest. What really stopped her heart, however, were the black jeans. They fit so perfectly. The soft denim bunched at his ankles and sheathed his legs like a second skin. She hadn't seen the rear view, but if he filled out the back of the jeans as marvelously as he filled out the front, she was lost. Clarisse found herself unable to drag her eyes away from his crotch, so she finally shut them and slapped her riding crop on the edge of the bed.
Joseph jumped at the motion of the small whip. He couldn't help himself.
"I can't make this – this – thing, work!" she exclaimed and indicated the television on the wall above her bedroom's fireplace. She picked up the remote and held it out to Joseph. He swallowed - he was sure it was audible - and walked over to the edge of the bed to take it from her hand.
As he took the remote, his fingers brushed across hers. He felt as if he'd been burned. She flinched at his touch. Cursing himself for being so obvious, he turned his eyes and his attention to the electrical device and tried to ignore the electricity flashing in the atmosphere between them.
Clarisse couldn't help but flinch when their hands met. It was almost painful. She had an almost overwhelming desire to take his hand into her mouth and suckle each finger, tasting and teasing him with a preview of coming attractions.
She drew in a deep breath and rolled herself into a sitting position on the edge of the bed. He was saying something about the power button and the satellite button.
"Sit down, Joseph," she said, patting the bed next to her. "I can't see what you're trying to show me."
He looked at her then. He knew he should throw the control down and run from that room as fast as humanly possible. That was the problem, though. He was human and it just wasn't possible. Instead, he smiled at her, the corners of his mouth causing the whiskers at the edge of his beard to bristle. He sat down.
Clarisse shifted so that she was closer to him. "It's this button, then this one. If you don't hit them in the right order, you'll never get the satellite receiver to work." Joseph couldn't believe how normal and rational his voice sounded. Maybe he was going to make this work after all.
"Which one first?" she asked, leaning against his shoulder.
Joseph thrust the remote into her hands. "This one," he indicated a button. "Try it."
Sitting up slightly, she tried it.
"It works!" she exclaimed, sounding a little like a child with a new toy. "Let's see what's on!"
"Ah, well, I think I should leave you to it, Your Majesty. I, uh, need to get back to my dinner." He made a move as if to stand up and leave.
"No!" She reached out and grabbed his wrist, holding him in place. She cleared her throat, a little shocked by her own reaction. "You could stay here and watch television with me. We could order dinner. I haven't eaten either," she finished a little shyly.
She didn't have to ask twice. Joseph gladly resettled himself on the edge of the bed. He studied her unabashedly while she flipped through the channels. She'd unrolled and was once again lying on her stomach, stretched down the length of the bed.
Just as he reached out a hand, unconsciously planning to smooth it down the length of her spine, she spoke again.
"Joseph! Look at what's on television!"
Reluctantly, he turned his attention to the television screen. He saw a black and white picture of two men, about to draw guns. A familiar song played. He had almost placed it when the announcer's voice boomed the name of the show: Gunsmoke!
Clarisse chuckled at his side. He loved the sound of her throaty laughter. He smiled down at her indulgently. She looked up at him, her eyes glowing. "I used to watch this with Pierre when he was a child! He always wanted to be Marshall Dillon. You should have seen he and Phillipe running around the palace ground with their cap guns and badges. They had a disturbing amount of fun shooting each other and dying repeatedly."
Joseph laughed. The princes had been young men when he came to work at the palace and he'd always enjoyed stories of their youthful exploits.
"Where is Dodge City?" she asked abruptly.
"America, Your Majesty," he said stiffly.
She hit his arm with the crop. "Ow!" he yelped.
"I know it's in America," she said witheringly. "Where – in America?"
"I don't know," he said gruffly, rubbing his arm and trying to glare at her. "Somewhere in the west. Arizona? Kansas?"
"You big baby," she laughed at him. "I didn't hit you that hard."
"It hurt!" he said, trying and failing to sound angry.
"Oh, tosh!" She sat up and favored him with a critical eye. "Let me see – I doubt it left a mark."
With barely a thought, he ripped off his vest and pulled the long-sleeved t-shirt over his head.
Joseph looked down at his bicep. "See?" he said triumphantly. "You left a mark! That thing…" he looked up then and saw the way she was looking at him. "…hurts," he finished softly.
Clarisse was staring at his chest, slightly open-mouthed. She began to back away from him. Her actions confused him at first. Then she licked her lips. On the television screen Matt Dillon was trying in vain to explain to Kitty Russell what women want. Miss Kitty wasn't buying it. Joseph wasn't having any such problem. He suddenly knew exactly what Clarisse wanted – whether she would admit it or not.
"Your Majesty –"he began, his voice gruff with emotion.
"C-call me Clarisse," she said. She still hadn't moved her eyes from his magnificent chest.
Joseph grinned and slid closer to her. She reached up and pressed the tip of her whip against the mat of graying hair that ran between the dark nipples. "What are you doing?" she whispered.
"Kissing you," he answered and reached out, tipping her head up so that their eyes met. With his free hand, he slid the crop from her grasp. Then his lips swept across hers.
She moaned at the touch, but didn't move. He shifted position and pressed his lips more ardently to hers. Suddenly she seemed to come to life. One arm circled his neck, drawing him ever closer and while she twined her fingers into the hair at the back of his neck. The other hand twisted into the hair of his chest.
Joseph brought his knees up on the bed even as he pulled Clarisse closer to his body. He began to push her backwards, down on the bed. She clung more fiercely to him.
Clarisse found herself unable to think. She could only feel. Joseph's hands were hot as the ran up and down the sides of her body, tightening briefly over the roundness of her rear before moving up the front of her body to massage her breasts. Just as she thought she would explode at the mere touch of his hands through her clothing, he pulled away from her. She could have died of embarrassment when she whimpered like a baby at the loss of contact.
"Clarisse," he whispered. He waited for her to open her eyes. When she finally looked at him, he almost gasped out loud at the tenderness in her gaze. "Are you sure?" he asked. "If we don't stop this now, there is no going back."
She raised her hands to his face. Her thumbs smoothed down the sides of his moustache. She smiled brilliantly at him. "What would Miss Kitty do?"
"Miss Kitty?" he asked, momentarily lost. Then he remembered and glanced up at the television. Marshall Dillon swung a long leg over the back of his horse and, with a final look at Miss Kitty, he rode off towards the prairie. Joseph grinned at Clarisse. "Miss Kitty ran a saloon and a house of ill repute. What do you THINK she would do?"
"Ill repute?" Clarisse laughed up into his face. "I think she appeared to spend 20 years in unrequited lust for the object of her affection. But it was only for show."
"Only for show?" Joseph growled, his eyebrows raised questioningly.
"Yes. I think they were screwing like rabbits when no one could see." Her face was perfectly serious, but her eyes danced with mirth. Joseph burst out laughing at her unexpectedly crass response.
He stretched out, covering her body with his. He made sure she could have no doubt as to the extent of his arousal. She squirmed suggestively beneath him. He grasped her wrists and held her hands up above her head, before he leaned in and touched his lips to her ear. "No one can see us," he breathed.
"Then what are you waiting for?" was her breathless response.
Joseph's answer was to bury his face in the soft skin of her neck. He stopped his ministrations only long enough to pull her shirt off over her head. His eyes feasted on her exposed flesh momentarily before she pulled his head back down to her body. The sounds of their lovemaking were masked by the sounds of the saloon fight on the television screen above them.
Spent and sated, they lay naked, limbs intertwined as the credits rolled across the screen. Clarisse sighed happily as she traced her fingers down the middle of Joseph abdomen, pausing slightly at his navel, then exploring further south. Joseph groaned in response. Clarisse glanced at the screen.
"I'll never think of Gunsmoke in the same way again," she mused.
Joseph rolled his body atop hers once more, his hand moving down to touch her most intimately. Thrilled at her gasp of pleasure, he inserted a finger deep inside her as he murmured "I always thought the Marshall was a stand up guy, but Miss Kitty is my new favorite."
His mouth covered hers and her laughing response was lost to the night.