Lovely Nights by Duchess Mishka
Title: Lovely Nights
Summary: A series of events and night-time musings that lead to an even lovelier night.
Dedication: For everyone! Even if Christmas has passed, this is my Holiday gift for you guys!
Author's Notes: This is my first WIP in a really long time, so please bear with me. I still am not in charge of my schedule, what with all the affiliations I have, but I promise to try my hardest in writing a new chapter every time.
Leonie, I thought of letting you off the hook for the holiday season. Love you, dearest. I hope all my grammar mistakes won't bother you very much this time.
Anyway, the first part is rather short, but it's just sort of introductory. I will try to write longer chapters next time. BUT, ladies and gents, let me present to you Lovely Nights!
It was quite peaceful that evening. The moon was shining, emitting a dim light that seemed to slightly brighten up the royal garden. The pathways and turns were relatively visible; the rose bushes, though darkened, were unmistakable. The roses offered a soft glow, a radiance that only added to the beauty and serenity of the night. The breeze was slow-moving, responsible for the cool air that seemed to circle around the garden, and the trees swayed slowly to its gentleness. The palace stood impressively, its towers reaching up to touch the sky; a structure of breathtaking majesty perfectly silhouetted by the stars and a background of the dark blue heavens.
Deeper into the garden was the gazebo, seemingly deserted if one didn't notice the person perched solitarily on one of its benches. It was a woman. She was dressed in an elegant pant suit with a string of pearls sparkling in the moonlight and hanging on her lovely neck, her expression quite impossible to determine. The most obvious feature of the woman, it appeared despite the darkness, was her wonderful nose that made that charming little curve in the end; but if one looked closer, he would then notice the stiffness of her posture, the straightness of her back as she sat rightly on one side, crossing her ankles loosely and hugging herself.
She was there again. For the sixth night in a row, she was there again. Uncaring of changing her clothes, she had consented herself to taking night strolls in the gardens. She had originally only decided for a walk, merely to clear her jumbled feelings, five days ago—but it felt quite good to be left alone with her thoughts, so she had obtained the habit of taking a breath of fresh air every night ever since. And yet that wasn't the only reason. Truth was that she had walked away from him once again. He, her head of security. Joseph. She had once more avoided his tender stare, avoided drowning in his warm, brown eyes that seemed to dive into the depths of her sapphire ones, speaking to her with only the tenderness of his gaze. He had been watching her since that afternoon and it had made her immensely uncomfortable. Although she wasn't normally as conscious, when he was around, it had been absolutely hard not to mind his presence and his concern for her as she buried herself in paperwork. He had offered to help, yet she knew she could never concentrate with him in close proximity, so she had declined his offer and had desperately tried to focus on the work that was needed to be done. Then, while she had walked the short distance of the dining room from her office that evening, he had appeared midway and had escorted her to her destination. When they had reached the kitchen, he took her hand, bowed low and kissed it; he had then wished her a satisfying dinner and he had left. As if branded by his supposedly impersonal kiss on her hand, she had stopped for a few moments to take in the instant flash of events before shaking herself up from her thoughts and proceeding to the dining room. She didn't even have an appetite; instead of food, she had been filled with countless fluttering butterflies, giving her the strangest feelings in her stomach, and right after dinner, she had come to the garden to be alone once more.
So here she was, yes, alone, just as she predicted she would be. Alone to gather her thoughts and think even more. And yet, she realized, aside from matters and affairs of the state, what would she be thinking about? Who would she be thinking about? There was only one person that occupied her mind and her dreams these days. Contrary to what most people said and no matter how guilty she felt, it wasn't Mia. It was him. She hadn't been thinking about anyone but him. They had been friends for a long time with a mutual sense of interest and comfort around each other and having a shared feeling of pleasure and contentment while sitting through innumerable cups of tea together. However, it was only after the king died when they both realized just how important the other was to them. Not since long ago had they been a little more inventive to find reasons to talk and be with each other. At first they didn't really mind; they were friends.
Now, they realized that they were, in fact, more than just friends—they were two people in love.
Oh, in love… at their age. If someone had told her forty years ago that she would fall in love with a man—and not merely being fond of him—now, at her age, she would have laughed at his face. And yet, discovering it on her own, somehow, deep down, she felt relieved; she felt warm and thoroughly, completely, unmistakably in love. She sighed; she couldn't even deny it anymore.
The sound of a twig breaking roused her from her reverie and she looked up to find the man, who occupied nearly her every thought, standing near the entrance of the gazebo.
She nodded, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat. "Joseph."
"Hello," he said as he walked towards her, placing his hands behind his back and, though she couldn't see his face clearly, smiling a little. "Am I disturbing you?"
She smiled sadly as she noticed the tensing of her own body, feeling the vibrations from low in her stomach. "No, not at all." She took in a silent but sharp breath as he seated himself beside her, their bodies not touching but reaching out.
He took in her appearance as he sat down beside her—even through the dimness, she was gorgeous as ever. Her legs were uncrossed, her hands moving a tad restlessly on her lap, and she looked as if gazing at something far away. His position granted him a view of her adorable nose and her eyes that sparkled softly in the dim light… and then he noticed her posture, the rigidity of her back and her deep breathing. He closed his eyes. Did he interrupt her? He surely hoped not.
Somehow, she couldn't stop fidgeting. He was just too close; too close for her to become even a little more comfortable. She was sure he was dressed in his black attire, he always is. What shook her equanimity was his voice that seemed huskier than usual. It sounded hoarse, nice… sexy, if she had to name it something. Good Lord, what was she even thinking? She blushed, thanking that someone above for the relative darkness of the place, or she was sure to be embarrassed to have him see her like this—like what? Like a schoolgirl with her first crush. She shook her head. There are just so many things that annoyed her even to the slightest.
One of those annoying instances was now—the pauses within their conversations—it annoyed her, and yet, at the same time, it excited her. The things that needed to be said were all in those pauses. No words were exchanged, but still, they were talking. No matter how hard they tried to not think about it, they knew.
An exchange between a man and woman who understood each other need not any words. The only problem is that they were too scared to soften things up and admit it to each other… truth be told, they were even too scared to admit it to themselves.
He took a deep breath and she tilted her head to look at him. "How have you been?" he asked softly, leaning his own head slightly to gaze at her. She looked quite sad, lonely, and he awaited her answer with a calmness that even he was quite surprised to feel.
"I've been fine. Quite tired, yes, but fine," she replied, weighing her answer. "And you?"
"I've been good, thank you." He smiled; that charming smile that she loved so much. She blushed and looked away, resisting the urge to stare into his eyes and see the love reflected so beautifully in them. Warmth spread in her stomach—that love, she knew, was intended only for her. Her heart skipped at the thought and she gave a small inward sigh. Oh, she loved him. She loved him with all her heart and yet… and yet she wouldn't tell him; or at least, not yet.
Ever since that one afternoon in San Francisco a few months ago, the tension in the air seemed to grow ten times more. The air was always charged and electric, as if saying that with one wrong move they could actually be electrocuted. The water that they were treading on was very dangerous; sweet and clear, yes, but undeniably risky. One move and their whole lives could change—for the better or for the worse, they didn't know. What they did know was that, no matter how dangerous the thought was, they couldn't live without the other anymore. And it was precisely this thought that terrified them; how one person could actually reduce them to a state of dependence that neither had seen coming. It was the odd realization that they didn't simply want the other—they loved each other, they needed each other to live. Those simple thoughts shook them and seemed to cause every nerve ending in their bodies to become acutely sensitized each time a gust of the cold breeze passed, and with every fleeting second, the truth seemed to come closer to the surface. Perhaps it was time to be honest.
Joseph closed his eyes, took a deep, lingering breath and started to speak. "I need to tell you something, Clarisse." His voice was husky and serious, causing her to turn her head and look at him, wondering suddenly why he sounded quite strained, uncertain and, though not that much obvious, sad. He on the other hand didn't want to continue what he wanted to say, it was just too much to risk the friendship they had formed. She waited for him to speak again, the butterflies in her stomach increasing in number and sensation, but when the pause had been too long for her comfort, she promptly asked him to continue.
"It's no use," he said, shaking his head in despair, his voice cracking as if he wanted to sob. "I'm sorry…" She looked at him fully now, her body turning, too, to face him.
"Joseph…" she urged him gently once more, feeling somehow worried when he leaned forward and covered his face with his hands, his elbows resting heavily on his knees. He shook his head again and took a deep breath as if weighing serious decisions to make. As much as she didn't want to, Clarisse gave into impulse and gently laid her hand on his upper arm, and though she knew he couldn't see her, smiled considerately.
"I don't think we can keep on pretending, Clarisse," he stated suddenly, feeling the growing lump in his throat and the increasing heat in his eyes. He was now facing her fully, his hand grasping hers that was on his arm. She stared at him, quite puzzled while waiting for him to continue. "At least, I don't think I could keep my secret from you anymore."
She shook her head. "I… I don't understand." She blinked at him and, even with the darkness, he could see the confusion in her eyes. "Joseph, what are you—"
"I love you," he said, interrupting her in mid-sentence with a statement that was so simple and yet so much more profound at the same time.
She stared at him, tears gathering in her eyes and her mouth opened slightly. He continued. "I never expected this to happen, but now that it has, I can't deny it any longer." He looked at her in the eyes with an intensity that dissolved every ounce of resolve she possessed. "I have fallen in love with you, Clarisse."
She shook her head. "Joseph… I… no…" she whispered. She was crying openly now, her body shaking from her sobs.
She had every reason to back out and run away from him and yet her heart told her otherwise, even as her mind protested. Then she was in his arms, crying and gripping his shirt. He held her, transmitting his love for her while gently stroking her back for comfort. He buried his face in her hair and she in his neck.
She recounted all the times they had together, the conversations and the looks; she loved him so much that her heart swelled at his quiet admission earlier. He was right, it was no use pretending and denying what should have been long ago. It took her months, even years to admit it fully to herself that she was in love with him, and now that the time has come for her to finally tell him what she's been feeling, she couldn't let the chance pass by anymore.
Her smile was wobbly as she stared tenderly into his eyes. "I don't know what to do, Joseph, but I think…" Her voice was quivering as she struggled to speak, her breathing heavy and laboured. "…I think I've fallen in love with you, too…"
To be continued…
So, uh, I hope you like the first part. Reviews would be nice. Kidding. Happy Holidays, everyone!