Emily's heart was light as a feather as she and Max arrived at the villa on the beach where they'd be spending their honeymoon.

"Now we are wed," Max told her as he scooped her up into his arms and carried her over the threshold. "Now I can have you to my heart's content."

"Nothing in the world would give me more pleasure," Emily replied.

Gently he lay her on the bed and began to remove her clothing piece by piece. Her excitement grew with each uncovering as Max tenderly kissed every exposed inch of her flesh.

When she was finally naked, Max stepped back to admire her. "My God, you're beautiful," he breathed. He focused his attention on her breasts, fondling and kissing them until they ached with desire. At the same time his fingers slid between her legs, stimulating the tender flesh there until she moaned with desire.

At last he removed his own clothing, and Emily admired his muscles rippling beneath his smooth skin and his fine covering of chest hair. She gasped when she saw the rock-hard evidence of his arousal.

"Go ahead," he encouraged, taking her hand and gently guiding it to his rigid member. Gingerly she felt it, marveling at its smooth, silky texture.

Finally she lay back and waited for him to enter her.

"This may hurt a bit, but I promise it'll only be for a moment," he told her. She felt a sharp pain, and after that only ecstasy as he touched her in ways she'd never been touched before.

"Are you sure, Bess, that you'll be happy with the life I can provide for you?" Robert Dudley asked his fiancee as they sat together under the shade of a tree on a grassy knoll. "You're the daughter of a King, while I'm but a lowly gentleman of modest means, outcast for my adherence to the true faith."

"You've been a good friend to me since I was but eight years old and you were nine, Robin," Elizabeth replied. "It matters not to me that your family has been cast down to lowly status. It doesn't change the feelings I have for you one bit."

Robert's lips met hers, and she responded with equal fervor. Their arms encircled one another in a tender yet passionate embrace.

They were married a short time later in a quiet ceremony in a small chapel in the country. Elizabeth's stepfather, Thomas Wyatt, walked her down the aisle and gave her away. Only his wife Anne's close friendship with the Queen had saved him from being exiled for his part in the death of Brother Christopher.

Elizabeth's Uncle George smiled proudly as he watched his niece and her beloved exchange vows. After much persuasion, he'd finally convinced the Queen not to remove Elizabeth from the line of succession; however, Mary had refused to attend the wedding ceremony. Undoubtedly due to pride, George thought with an indulgent chuckle.

One day Katherine noticed that a new man had come to court. He was dashingly handsome, with short brown hair parted on one side, a mustache and sparse beard, and hazel eyes. Katherine found that she couldn't take her eyes off him.

The court musician had just started playing a new song when, to Katherine' surprise and delight, the newcomer approached her and smiled.

"May I have this dance?" he asked.

As they were dancing, the young man told Katherine about himself.

"My name is Phillip of Bavaria," he said. "My father's name was Philip, too. At one time he'd hoped to marry your mother, but your grandfather the King forbid it."

"So who'd he marry instead?"

"My mother is Brigitte, the daughter of John II, Count Palatine of Simmern," Philip told her. "May I be so bold as to say that you have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen?"

Katherine looked down and blushed deeply. She was disappointed when the dance was over. She'd wanted it to last much longer.

"If it please your majesty, I'd like to ask for the hand of your daughter Katherine in marriage," Philip said to Mary.

Mary observed that his physical resemblance to his father was striking. It brought back bittersweet memories for her.

"I knew your father quite well," she said softly to the young man standing before her. "We were good friends at one time."

"I know." Philip smiled, a smile that touched Mary's heart. "I care deeply for Katherine, and if you'd allow us to wed, it would make me very happy. I promise to always love her and treat her with the utmost respect."

Mary only had to think about it for a minute.

"Very well," she said. "You and Katherine may wed, and I wish the greatest of happiness to you both."