A/N: Hello... I'm back. I apologise for the wait for this chapter. It was a combination of busy RL, and writer's block I suppose.
Thanks again to Effulgent_Pomme, my beta and cheerleader :) She makes this look all pretty. And Sue (Roselover24) for also being my cheerleader. And of course the readers. Seeing reviews/favs makes me want to finish this for you.
Ok... on with the show!
The crowd of spectators roared their approval as Sir Eric Yorkie trotted up the lists. The knight had just won a joust; his opponent, Sir Tyler Crowley, was being dragged from the tiltyard.
Isabella sat watching the tournament in the gallery, a scaffold placed at the side of the list. Princess Alice sat on her left, the King on her right. They all applauded Sir Eric's victory. The King was wearing his leather brigandine, an undersuit to his armour, as he waited for his turn in the tournament.
"The next joust is between his Royal Highness, Prince Emmett, the Duke of York, and Lord Michael Newton, the Earl of Derby," came the announcement. Prince Emmett looked imposing on his black horse in his ornate plate armour. Lord Derby sat waiting at the opposite end. They both cantered towards each other and met in front of the gallery. They both bowed to the King. Prince Emmett then lowered his lance, offering it to the Lady Rosalie. She stood, approaching the railing. He asked her for her favour and Lady Rosalie smiled as she took a blue ribbon from around her wrist and tied it around the end of the Prince's lance. Lord Derby repeated the act, asking Lady Jessica, who produced a pale pink ribbon.
Both men brought their horses around and took their places at the opposite ends of the tiltyard. They settled their lances in their holds, the ribbons fluttering in the gentle breeze. A boy came to the middle of the tiltyard carrying a red flag. Prince Emmett and Lord Derby slid their visors shut, and the flag was dropped. With a great roar from the crowd, the horses charged down the lists. An almighty crash echoed around the tiltyard as Prince Emmett's lance rammed straight and true into the shield of Lord Derby, throwing him clear of his horse. Isabella joined in with the applause as Lord Derby was pulled to his feet, apparently only winded.
As Prince Emmett continued to lap up the attention from the crowd, the King rose from his seat and left the gallery. He was going to take a joust.
While his Majesty was preparing for his own joust, several knights and lords took their own chances. Finally, the King appeared in highly polished, filigreed steel armour, his horse as fine as the Prince's. The noise from the crowd escalated to near-deafening cheers. At the other end of the lists appeared Lord Jasper Cullen, Marquess of Warwick.
They came towards the gallery and, as the King lowered his lance towards her, Isabella saw all the spectators scrutinise her. This was the first time anyone outside of the court had witnessed any favouritism from the King to a lady. She swallowed, trying to wet her now dry throat, and approached the railings.
"Good day to you, my Lady," he said, inclining his head to her.
"Good day to you, your Majesty," she replied, curtseying.
"My dear Lady Isabella, it is my intent to fight in this day's tourney and I wonder if you would honour me by allowing me to carry your favour in the lists this day."
Isabella smiled and nodded. She tugged at the purple ribbon around her wrist and tied it around his lance. He smiled in return and pulled his lance away. As she sat down, letting Lord Warwick the younger repeat the etiquette of favours with Princess Alice, the King's eyes never left her. She felt like the rest of the people shouting and bustling around the tiltyard had dropped away as he held her gaze before he winked and set off back to his starting position. She was conscious of the heat rising up her neck at being spellbound by the King in front of all those people. She shook her head to clear it, and focused on the spectacle before her.
There was no delay before the two men charged each other at full tilt. As they came closer to each other, Lord Warwick the younger seemed to hesitate, as if he were unsure whether he could attack this joust like any other. However, the moment's hesitation left an opening for the King to hit Lord Warwick square on the shield, his lance shattering from the impact. Lord Warwick pitched sideways off his horse, however his foot became caught in his stirrup.
Gasps cut through the cheers as Lord Warwick was dragged awkwardly by his horse. The King pulled his mount around and ran up to the horse and rider, now stopped at the end of the tiltyard. Princess Alice, by this point, was leaning as far over the railings as she dared in concern for Lord Warwick. The King dismounted and approached Lord Warwick who was being pulled to standing by pages.
Over the noise of the crowd, the conversation between the King and Lord Warwick was drowned out. However, the King put his hand gently on Lord Warwick shoulder giving it a pat, before taking his leave. Apparently there was nothing to be concerned about, as Lord Warwick made his exit of the tiltyard, albeit leaning quite heavily on a page's shoulder.
After the royal spectacle, the tourney continued. Several bouts later, the King returned. His hair was sticking to his forehead and curling round his neck from sweat. He looked exhilarated; Isabella couldn't take her eyes off him. As he approached he noticed her staring. He smirked at her feeble attempt to hide it, but said nothing of it as he kissed her hand and took his seat.
Edward signed yet another piece of parchment, and handed it back to his secretary.
"Mr. Secretary, I have decided to appoint my Lord Charles Swan of Leicester as Comptroller of my Household. Draw up the necessary papers, and inform my Lord Warwick to pass on the message to my Lord Leicester," said Edward.
His secretary bowed, taking the paper, and handing it to a servant to add the official royal seal.
"Right away, your Majesty. Will that be all?"
Edward nodded, dismissing him. Edward left the room and walked down the corridor, heading outside for some fresh air. Up ahead he saw some skirts disappear into an alcove. He ignored it, continuing on his way. As he passed the alcove, he almost barrelled headfirst into the lady now standing in front of him.
"Oh! Your Majesty! What a pleasant surprise to bump into you?" simpered Lady Lauren Mallory, looking up at him through her lashes in what she must have thought was a beguiling way.
Edward backed up hastily.
"My Lady, what a pleasant surprise that you laid in wait to, what I can only assume was, ambush me as I walked by," he said, crossing his arms across his chest.
Lady Lauren actually managed to look affronted by Edward's accusations.
"Your Majesty, you wound me. I merely wanted to offer you some company on your walk. If your Majesty is not too busy, of course," she added innocently.
"My Lady, do not doubt that I have not heard about your reputation for indiscretions with the men of my court. Your 'company', as lovely as I am sure it would be, is unnecessary and, quite frankly, unwanted." Edward turned away, however his little speech had done nothing to dissuade her.
"Be that as it may, your Majesty, but I do not doubt either that your Majesty could do with a little... relief? I hear Lady Isabella is -," Edward whirled back round.
"My Lady, I would think through your next few words very carefully, for that is the next Queen of England, and my future wife you are talking about!" Lady Lauren spluttered in a most un-ladylike fashion as Edward tried to reign in his temper.
"What may or may not happen between the Lady Isabella and myself is certainly of no importance to you, my Lady. I decline your offer of 'company' now, or, in fact, ever." He stalked away, leaving Lady Lauren gaping like a fish in the middle of the corridor.
Edward was not unused to invitations to women's bedchambers and had oftentimes took them up on the offers. However, he had fought thus far for Lady Isabella, and was in no mind to throw it away on a whim with a faceless lady of the court.
He charged through the palace and headed outside into the gardens. Wandering aimlessly around between the box hedges, lost in his thoughts, he very nearly walked into a lady for the second time that day. Pulled abruptly out of his thoughts, he noticed it was actually a group of ladies, and on even closer inspection, he realised it was his lady sister, the Princess Alice and her ladies-in-waiting. He bowed to his sister.
"Alice, my dear sister, how fare thee?"
"Most well, my lord brother. You look troubled." She peered up at him, looking concerned.
"Oh, it is nothing. Matters of state, very boring, I assure you, sister. However, would you mind awfully if I stole one of your lovely ladies-in-waiting?" He asked, smiling. The other ladies tittered. Edward looked to Lady Isabella and got caught up in her gaze.
"Not at all, my Lord. Lady Isabella," Princess Alice turned to her, "you are free of your duties today." Lady Isabella curtseyed, and Princess Alice curtseyed to Edward, and took her leave with the other ladies. They both stood quietly, waiting until they were out of earshot.
"How are you truly, Edward?" Said Lady Isabella immediately, "Your lady sister is right, you look troubled. Care thee to talk to me about it?" She placed a hand lovingly on Edward's cheek. He leaned into her hand, savouring her comforting touch. He turned his head to kiss her palm softly and her fingers fluttered against his cheek.
"I don't really want to talk about it. It is not even important. It has already been resolved."
"Resolved or not, Edward, you are obviously perturbed by it. Tell me. Just to get it off your chest, if nothing else."
"It was an... encounter in the corridor. With Lady Lauren." Lady Isabella raised an eyebrow, as if she understood exactly what kind of an encounter Edward was alluding to. "She insinuated that my person was not being... attended to adequately," he admitted reluctantly.
"I see." He watched flickers of emotions cross her face: guilt, anger, frustration. She wrapped her arms around herself tightly.
"No, no. You don't see, Isabella," he said quickly. "It's not important, she is not important. She is just a jealous, spiteful girl, and you are to be Queen, my queen. We can forget about this."
"But I'm not enough for you. I'm ju- mmf." Edward did the only thing he could think of to both quieten her and convince her. He kissed her.
"Come with me," he said before pulling her through the garden.
After a few moments, Lady Isabella regained her wits.
"Edward, slow down! Where are we going?"
He slowed down, but didn't stop. Without looking around he replied, "My chambers." He waited for any sign of protest or reluctance from Lady Isabella, but there was nothing. Although -- but he couldn't be sure -- he thought he heard her gulp. He smirked to himself, and gave her hand a light squeeze.
They hastened through the corridors, and barrelled through the door of Edward's bedchamber. There was a pause as both of them caught their breath.
His eyes roved over her, from her disheveled hair and flushed cheeks to her narrow waist and the laced bodice, back up to where her heaving chest caught his gaze. He drew closer, trailing his fingers up her bodice until he reached the top and then bringing the other hand up, slowly pulling both ends of the knot holding it all together. He noticed that her breathing hadn't slowed, and the flush had crept down to her chest. As he finished pulling the knot loose, he looked her in the eye, asking her if this was alright. She nodded minutely, her eyes wide, watching him.
He tugged more insistently at the lacing, pulling it free. He curled his fingers around the edge of the bodice and pulled it open. Pausing, he stared at her breasts, thinly covered by the thin cotton of her chemise. After a few long moments of scrutiny, she started squirming. He pulled her close and kissed her.
"May I see?"
Another nod. She helped him pull the bodice over her head, her hair now falling in tendrils around her neck and shoulders. Edward pushed the sleeves of her chemise part way down her arms, just allowing the cotton to fall loosely around her waist.
"Beautiful," he whispered, kissing her again, harder. His fingers danced across her collar bone before dipping to cup her gently. Her gasp got swallowed in the heated kiss. Isabella's hands came up to clutch his shoulders, as his fingers explored her breasts. A whimper escaped her lips as her nipple pebbled delightfully under his palm. He groaned in reply, lifting her off the ground and pushing her against the door. She squeaked in surprise, but her legs wrapped themselves around his hips. He groaned again at the delicious heat he was now nestled in.
Edward looked Isabella in the face, thinking he'd see alarm but instead her eyes were filled with want. He felt himself grow even harder. She started to unbutton his doublet, and he watched in fascination as her fingers nimbly released each pearl button. She pulled it free, revealing his undershirt, and started to push the doublet from his shoulders. He shrugged it off with difficulty, as he still had her pressed against the wall. Once free, he pushed the loose hair out of her face and continued kissing her in earnest.
As his hand found her breasts again, her head fell back against the door. He ground his hips in to her, causing her to moan. Suddenly, he couldn't hold back as he continued to rub against her, creating a most pleasurable friction. She kissed his neck as he breathed heavily against her shoulder. A hand tugged at his hair, pulling his face to hers, as she gave him a burning kiss, tremors passing through his whole body. Edward started thrusting more insistently against her and her back arched, presenting him with her breasts. He took the invitation and pulled a peak into his mouth. She gasped and shivered around him.
Edward felt the tension building deep inside him. He groaned against her neck, as an intense release flooded through him with one last thrust.
After a few moments, Edward looked up at Isabella, who was staring at him through hooded eyes.
"I think we can safely say, my person is well... attended," he said, smirking. Isabella returned the gesture in kind.
A/N: Huh hem... yes. Well. Hope you enjoyed that ;)
Just an aside. Lord Comptroller (pronounced controller) of the Household = a senior position within the Royal household who deals with finance of the household, and has (I think) ceremonial organisation duties too. Got the idea from Anne Boleyn's father who also held the position for a time in Henry VIII's court.