The Real Thing

Written by: Shakayla

Rating: T

Summary: This is in response to a challenge I was given by my Sweets, Dorthe, to write a Clarisse and Joseph story that involved Coca Cola (we had just visited The World of Coca Cola in Atlanta GA).

Disclaimer: Meg Cabot and Disney own them but man oh man do they have SO much more fun with me. I make no money from this (although I hope to someday make money from writing – just not with these characters – LOL). I don't own Coca-Cola either…just using their beverage and slogans to weave a tale for your enjoyment.

Archive: Queens Chamber and Shakayla's Corner.


Chapter 1

**C/J**

Queen Clarisse of Genovia sat in the beautiful gardens at her country's consulate in San Francisco, California. She felt an overwhelming sense of relief as the Independence Day Ball had ended well for the Renaldi family line. She exhaled slowly, an uncustomary sigh escaping her lips. She wished that were all she felt. Her life was complicated enough and she didn't need things as bothersome as feelings getting in her way now. Over the years, she had learned to bury her true feelings; only allowing those the public needed or wanted to see to surface. After decades of restraint, it became easier and easier to do. She just didn't think about the emotions she was suppressing – that path had served her well.

Until the last few weeks…

Something about seeing the bright brown eyes, the unruly, curly hair, and the sweet innocence of her only grandchild had started to thaw the icy exterior of her heart in a very subtle and slow way. She might have been able to cope with a slow warming that would gradually allow her to open her heart and mind up to feeling again; but life rarely gave her what she wanted when it came to her private affairs.

She inhaled deeply and slowly, allowing the fragrance of the beautiful roses that surrounded her to infuse her senses and work their calming magic on her troubled heart. The heart that had slowly started to warm had been set afire and all but melted in the intense heat that had emanated from her Head of Security, Joseph Romero. At his touch, she felt warmth spread throughout her body that brought her senses to life. When he spoke to her, in a personal manner, the tones resonated through her mind as though they were orchestrated solely for her listening pleasure. The Wango dance had left her short of breath and her body tingling from his nearness. They had danced together before, on many occasions, that day it was … different.

Then there was last night.

Last night….

She couldn't shake the memory of last night. Her right hand absently caressed the place where his lips had touched her glove on the back of her left hand. It was at that moment that her heart dissolved into pure liquid. Words had failed her and she couldn't stop the smile that crept across her face. He had seen it and had returned the affectionate smile while his eyes smoldered with a primal intent that sent pleasant shivers to her very core.

Absently, she tugged on the neckline of her silk blouse as it seemed entirely too warm for the outside weather now. A blush crept up her body as she recalled the fantasy she had allowed herself to indulge in after Joseph escorted her to her suite. Every fiber of her being had begged her to invite him in to celebrate with a night cap…something – anything to extend the time they spent together. Instead she had touched his cheek through a gloved hand and thanked him for being her Knight in shining armor and rescuing the Renaldi line from the grasp of the Von Trokens. While he may have physically left her alone in her suite, his presence was well seated within her mind and her body craved so much more than having to imagine what his full lips would feel like against her bare skin; the way his deep voice would awaken her soul as he whispered in her ear how much he loved her and wanted her only as a woman – not a Queen; the way it would feel to experience the rush of desire that could only be fueled by his touch.

"Clarisse?" A deep voice broke through her musing, causing her to jump slightly; her face coloring an additional shade of red at being caught daydreaming.

"Are you alright?" He asked when her eyes found his but her voice remained silent. "You look flushed; are you sick?"

She finally found her voice. "No, I'm fine. Just a little warm out here; I didn't' realize the temperature would climb so quickly."

Joseph thought the afternoon air felt pleasant, but refrained from saying so. "Would you like something cold to drink?"

"That would be lovely, thank you."

"I'll be back in a few minutes."

"Thank you, Joseph."

His hand reached out and touched her cheek as she often did to him. His purpose was two-fold: One, he wanted to make sure she wasn't running a fever as her face appeared unusually red; and two, he felt an unbearable need to touch her satiny soft skin. He knew how it felt from the dances they had shared together in the past; but lately he had been wondering…in vivid detail…what each precious inch of her flesh would feel like under his touch. The area his hand covered now was soft as a rose petal – testament to the rigorous treatment she insisted on following for as part of her beauty regimen. It was warm to the touch; but not feverish. He noticed that her eyes closed the moment his hand grazed her cheek. He silently prayed that was a gesture of acceptance rather than disgust. He reluctantly pulled his hand away, letting his fingertips graze the soft skin as long as possible to not lose the contact.

Her eyes remained closed.

Joseph took one last look at her beautiful face and then left her to find suitable refreshment.

**C/J**

Clarisse had kept her eyes closed wanting to memorize the touch of his fingers and palm against her. She also was afraid she wouldn't be able to mask the desire that she knew would plainly be displayed in the blue depths of her eyes. Her grandmother had always reminded her that the eyes were the windows to one's soul. And Clarisse knew, without a doubt, that her soul longed to be closer to Joseph. Closer emotionally, mentally, and physically. She also knew, without a doubt, that she had no choice but to deny her soul its mate.

The feel of cool aluminum against her cheek caused her to jump. "Whatever in the world is that?!"

Joseph couldn't help his laughter at her shocked expression. She had looked so pensive and sad, he had wanted to bring her out of whatever abyss she had cast herself in and just make her smile and enjoy life for just a while without the worries of a nation pressing down on her. "This, my dear Queen, is what American's refer to as Coca-Cola."

"I beg your pardon? Coca-Cola? I suppose I was expecting tea or even ice water."

"When in America – do as the American's do. Your Granddaughter asked the Chef to keep some of these for her – something about a Coke and a smile. I believe it is one of their slogans." His hand covered hers as it rested very properly on her thigh. "You need to smile. After the success of the last twenty four hours, I'm unsure why you are so distressed, my Queen."

Clarisse decided avoidance was the best policy to follow at the moment. She forced a small smile and replied, "So I drink this Coke and it will make me smile?"

He realized at once what she was doing and decided to indulge her. "Of course, the American's never lie!" He gestured grandly as he made the proclamation.

His words generated a genuine smile and she chuckled. "Of course not…never."

"See it's already working and you haven't even opened the can yet."

A moment later, the can was opened, the distinctive sound of the carbonation being released sounded crisp, clean and refreshing. "Where are the glasses?" Clarisse asked.

"We're going for the American experience, here. We are drinking it from the can." Joseph offered, a slight smile on his face as he raised his can as if he were toasting the moment.

"You have got to be kidding."

"I never kid, Your Majesty." He put his best 'sad puppy dog' look on his face. "Please just try."

She sighed. "Oh alright; but only if you promise to bring me tea if I don't like it."

"I wish only to serve you."

Clarisse looked up quickly as the tone in his voice seemed decidedly not playful. It was more…what word was she looking for? Husky? It certainly had an effect on her. She felt the heat in her body begin to rise again. His eyes were dark and they held hers, silently saying what he could not bring himself to verbalize at the moment. Clarisse held his gaze as she lifted the can to her lips and drank. The mood was broken as she sputtered slightly before starting to laugh. Her hand went to her mouth and her eyes sparkled in a cross between bewilderment and amusement.

"What is it?" Joseph smiled broadly at her reaction.

"The bubbles…they tickled my nose." She laughed.

Joseph couldn't help himself. She looked totally adorable, with a child-like innocence in her eyes at the unexpected reaction. He reached out and touched the faint laugh lines at the corner of her eyes and whispered. "See – a Coke and a smile." His finger slowly traced her cheek bone and her jaw-line as he drank in her beauty.

"Joseph…I…" She whispered.

"I know…" He whispered in reply.

His eyes continued to hold hers as he added. "I think you should know that Coke has another slogan." He sat down beside her and his hand cupped her cheek, his face mere inches away from hers.

"What is that?"

"Coke – it's the real thing. Clarisse, I want you to know that how I feel about you is the real thing. What is between us is the real thing."

Clarisse couldn't breathe. His masculinity surrounded her in a subtle, yet powerful manner. It infused every pore of her being and brought those long forgotten sensations to the surface again. The air around them was charged with electricity and her muscles cried out to move towards him just an inkling so he would know the intensity of her desire to kiss him.

Joseph could feel her pulse race under his touch. Her perfume was subtle but the vibes she was giving off filled the air with a tangible essence that just begged to be consumed. And make no mistake, every fiber of his being wanted to consume her, starting with those luscious wet lips. He knew they would be like silk to touch and their fullness would meld with his demanding mouth, giving and taking in turn until she would reduce him to nothing more than a pool of desire for her to drink in.

The invisible cords of tension pulled them closer and closer until…

"Your Majesty?" Charlotte's voice called out from about twenty feet away.

The cords snapped like a vine caught in the cold steel grip of the gardener's blade. Clarisse pulled away hastily and stood, the red hue returning to her face in full force. She tried to find her voice, but was unsuccessful. Her eyes were riveted to Joseph's as she watched a myriad of emotions play across his face for an audience of one – for her. His voice was absent as well; but it didn't matter as Charlotte found them only moments later.

"There you are! The Princess has arrived and…" her words fell away as she caught the tension between her Queen and Joseph. She realized, an instant too late, that she must have interrupted something. "I'm sorry, Your Majesty, you were in the middle of something. I can keep the Princess busy until you've finished." Inwardly she cringed at how that must have sounded; but it was the best she could do on such short notice.

Hearing Charlotte's voice finally snapped her out of the spell she had been under. She gave one last longing look to Joseph before turning her attention fully to Charlotte. She forced a smile and offered. "Nonsense. Joseph and I were just having some refreshments…a Coca Cola, I believe. I'll be happy to visit with my Granddaughter."

Joseph picked up the Coke cans and followed a safe distance behind. It was going to be a long day and he had no idea how Clarisse would react when she finally had time to consider what had just almost happened.

**C/J**