Rating: T (some M parts but nothing too graphic)
Disclaimer: All of the characters belong to Meg Cabot and Disney, I just take them out and let them have some fun!
Author's Note: This story is written for Benswoman for her birthday. Admittedly it is late, but as they say – "Better late than never!" She was very patient as I was working on some of my original stories and real life had just gotten out of control for a bit. She even provided the beta on it (after she read it, of course!) Her requirements were some C/J loving, a fireplace and some snow.
P.S. Check out my updated profile!
OK, enough of all of that – without further ado, I give you:
"Thank you so much for agreeing to do this Gramma."
"It's my pleasure, darling. Glad to be of service to the queen," Clarisse teased as she hugged her granddaughter, the newly crowned Queen of Genovia.
Mia smiled, "Well you've been quite a big help over the last several weeks. Hasn't she Joe?"
Realizing he was being dragged into the conversation, Joseph flashed a quick smile at both women, "That she has."
"I'll find Olivia and ask her to help me pack a few things for us." Clarisse advised as she made her way out of the office that she used to call her own. "Are you coming, Joseph?"
"I will be right up to help. Just give me a few minutes."
Both Joseph and Amelia watched the retreating form of the former Queen of Genovia. Once they were certain she was out of earshot, Mia asked, "Do you think this will work?"
Joseph gave the young woman a quick hug, "It can't hurt. At least I hope it doesn't backfire on both of us."
Mia slumped in the chair, knowing her grandmother would definitely fuss if she saw her. "Don't get me wrong, Joe, she's been great. But…"
Joseph's look was one of understanding and shared frustration, "But, she needs to let you make your own way and I…"
"Need her to be your wife." Mia finished for him. "I still can't believe she hasn't let you take her on a honeymoon."
Joseph kept most of his remarks to himself about that little detail. "Your Grandmother has always had to do things in her own way and in her own time."
"But you're going to talk to her?"
"I will speak with her." Joseph advised. Secretly, he hoped this played out better in reality than all the different scenarios that had gone through his head. It was true that Mia wanted Clarisse's opinion on the remodel of the Winter Palace for the orphanage. They both had hoped that getting Clarisse away from the castle for a few days would give Mia a chance to spread her wings a bit and allow Joseph some precious alone time with his wife.
"There you are, Joseph. I have laid a few things out, but you should probably look over them to make sure I haven't missed anything." Clarisse offered as she looked up from the desk in the corner of their bedroom. She was reviewing a stack of papers.
She looked up and over the rim of her glasses, "Yes?"
"I have a present for you."
"It's not my birthday, is it?" She smiled.
Joseph pulled the small bag from its hiding place in the closet. "Not yet. This is a 'just because' I love my wife present."
At his statement, Clarisse felt a pang of guilt surge through her. He had been so loving and patient. They had consummated their marriage and it had been wonderful. She, however, was a creature of habit and it was easier to fall back into the old routine. It was nice to wake up with Joseph holding her every morning. She just couldn't seem to let go and just be his wife.
Startled from her thoughts, she looked up from the silver bag on her lap to find his blue eyes studying her, "Sorry. I'll open it now. Thank you, Joseph."
She pulled the delicate pink tissue paper from the top of the bag and pulled out a beautiful satin negligee. The soft fabric was a dark midnight blue and trimmed in a delicate lace. "It's beautiful," she confessed as a slight blush colored her body.
Joseph leaned down and kissed her just below her ear and whispered, "Almost as beautiful as you. Please bring it with you on our little getaway?"
His warm breath sent pleasant chills down her spine. She found it difficult to speak, so she simply nodded her head. She felt herself being pulled to a standing position as his lips moved lower.
"Mmmm, some of this perfume as well. The scent is intoxicating." He murmured against the gentle curve of her neck.
Clarisse tried to remember what perfume she had spritzed on this morning before she hurried to the office but Joseph's efforts were proving highly distracting. She felt his hands take the gift from her and set it on the desk before slipping under her jacket. Vaguely she felt the cooler air of the room against her arms, adding to the contrast of heat she felt from Joseph's touch. Somehow she found a whisper of her voice, "Joseph…we can't…"
Joseph lifted his head, "Why not?"
"I…well…someone might come in. It's the middle of the day. There's much to be done." She stammered.
Joseph fought the urge to rub his forehead. Instead he took a calming breath and answered, "We can lock the door. I didn't realize there were special times set aside to make love to my wife and," his eyes locked onto hers, "there is nothing to be done. You and I are both retired. You just refuse to accept it." With that admission, he picked her jacket up, handed it to her, kissed her on the forehead and left the room.
She watched the door close behind him. How could she make him understand? She had spent a lifetime following a schedule. One just couldn't stop that overnight. But it's not overnight…it's been almost two months. Picking up the gown, she slowly walked over to the suitcase she and Olivia had packed earlier. She carefully placed it among her other things and then added the items she had set out for Joseph. As the clothing was moved around to make room for his, it occurred to her that she hadn't really moved anything around in her life to make room for Joseph.
Oh he was still there, at her side, just as he had always been. But instead of coming along side, she needed to make room IN her life…in the private part of her life…the part she had always protected, never letting anyone – not even Rupert – in. It had been easier with Rupert. They both had schedules and duty to keep them busy all day and most nights. Intimacy had been scheduled as well. There was a time for everything in her life.
Thinking of Joseph's words: "there is nothing to be done. You and I are both retired. You just refuse to accept it." She knew she had to make him understand. No, he understood perfectly what she was doing. She just had to convince herself to let Queen Clarisse go and focus on Clarisse Renaldi Romero.
Letting her hand drift across the beautiful satin material, she smiled. Oh I can definitely work on that…and soon.
A few hours later, they were both safely ensconced in the back of the limo headed towards Libetz. Lionel had wanted to drive them, but Joseph called in a favor with Shades so they wouldn't have to deal with the overly enthusiastic young man. Felix had happily volunteered. Ever since the night of the Princess' bridal party/slumber party, he had a soft spot for Mia. Chauffeuring her grandmother to see the progress of the orphanage that had been Mia's first big project for her reign was a plum assignment as far as he was concerned.
The privacy window had been raised and they could hear music coming from the driver's area. Clarisse felt safe enough to start a private conversation with Joseph. She reached across the seat and took his hand, holding it in her lap. "I do hope I packed everything you need. You left rather quickly earlier before approving of my choices."
"I'm sure they'll be fine." He answered as he continued to watch the countryside pass by the window.
"Are you still angry with me?"
The concern in her voice was enough to turn him in her direction, "I'm not angry with you, Clarisse."
She smiled slightly, "You are most assuredly not happy with me."
With his free hand, he started at her knee and slowly moved up her leg to her waist, his thumb gently caressing the underside of her breast, "I am most assuredly not happy without you."
She found it hard to concentrate when he touched her like this. "I'm sorry we haven't made love more. I have been negligent."
"This isn't about that, though I will never get my fill of you." To emphasize his point, his hand moved higher, cupping the generous flesh as his thumb continued to make small circles, bringing everything it touched to a heightened awareness.
A small moan escaped carefully guarded control as her eyes closed in response. Somehow she formed words to answer him, "I know I have been…"
"Unwilling to let go?" he supplied as his hand slipped to the other side to give equal attention.
"Mmmm….maybe," she sighed as she let herself enjoy the attention from her husband, trying not to think about the fact that were in the backseat of a car.
"If you're worried…" he started as he slowly unbuttoned her blouse to give him better access. As more of the freckled skin displayed, his lips moved lower to taste and tease, "we will be fine."
Something in his choice of words reached out to Clarisse in the pleasurable haze she had drifted into. She put her hand under his chin and lifted it gently to look into her eyes, "We as in you and I or you and someone else?"
A few seconds too late, he realized he had said more than he intended. It would do no good to try and tell her anything but the truth and besides, with her ample cleavage so close to his face, he wasn't sure he could think clear enough to come up with a plausible alternative. Placing a kiss on the gentle swell before meeting her gaze again, he answered, "We as in Mia and I."
Clarisse sat up straighter, effectively dislodging Joseph from her body. "Did Amelia say something?"
Following her lead, he sat up as well, realizing that any pleasant diversion was on hold at least for the moment...hopefully not the entire trip. "She appreciates all of the guidance you've given her."
"She just needs a little space to make her own way. Just as you did when you started your reign." He hoped that would help her understand.
"And she didn't feel she could share this with me?"
He knew she was hurt and that had not been his intention. "Clarisse, darling, she wanted to. She didn't want to upset you and she truly does appreciate your help."
"I see." She looked away from him and began to button her blouse.
Joseph followed her lead and turned his head to look out the window as he quietly added, "Now you are, most assuredly, not happy with me."
Clarisse didn't turn in his direction, but quietly spoke, "I am most assuredly not happy without you."
Deciding to leave her to her thoughts for the remainder of the ride, Joseph just took her hand and squeezed it gently. She didn't pull away. He took that as a good sign.
An hour later, they arrived at the stately structure that comprised the Winter Palace turned Orphanage. Felix helped them get their things settled before announcing, "I'll be back in a few days to pick you up. If you need anything, all of the numbers of the local staff are on the desk in your bedroom."
"Thank you, Felix. Are you staying nearby as well?"
"Yes ma'am. I have some family just on the outskirts of town. Their number is on the list as well so if you need anything or need to go anywhere, just call me."
"I'm sure that won't be necessary, but Joseph and I appreciate it anyway." Clarisse smiled at the young man who was beaming at her praise.
Once Felix had left, Joseph turned to Clarisse, "Shall we take the tour?"
"You mean she really wants my opinion on the renovations?" Clarisse couldn't keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She must really be slipping as usually she showed better restraint.
Joseph rubbed his face, "Yes, Clarisse, she does. As I told you earlier, she values your opinion."
"She just thinks I provide it too often," she replied with a bitter tone.
Joseph poured himself a generous portion of scotch and started to make his way out of the kitchen. "When you're ready to tell me what's really bothering you, I'll be here to listen. The Clarisse I know wouldn't let the insecurities of a granddaughter, or her husband for that matter, cause such a negative reaction. We both love you. We want you in our lives. All I, we, have been trying to say is that I need you more than she does right now."
Clarisse watched him walk out of the room. She busied herself with preparing her tea. Once seated at the table, she thought about what he had said. What was really bothering her? Perhaps it's because for the first time in your life, there are no plans, no directions, nothing to keep you from pursuing whatever it is that makes you happy. "But what makes me happy?" She had had precious time to truly think about that over the years.
As she sipped her tea, she felt she must have lost track of time as the palace seemed unusually dark for the time of day it was supposed to be. She exhaled slowly. There may be many things she was unsure of, but she knew that there was one thing in her life that made her happy. As long as he was there…everything else could be figured out later.
She needed to find him and make things right. With renewed purpose, she placed her dishes in the sink and set out to find him.
Almost an hour later, she admitted that he obviously didn't want to be found. She had looked everywhere she could think and had even called out to him a few times. There was no answer.
"He must really be upset with me. I don't think I've ever been left alone for this long in my entire life." She said to the empty corridor. Sighing when there was no response, she made her way to their suite.
Joseph had been walking for a couple of hours. He wasn't upset, not truly. He was more frustrated. The same qualities that had made Clarisse a wonderful Queen could be a little challenging when dealing with her on a personal level. He knew he needed to be patient. As silly as it sounds, though, he had thought once Mia was Queen that there would be a fairytale happy ending for he and Clarisse. Not that they weren't happy…it was just he knew things could be so much better between them.
A chill ran through his body. It was definitely cold for this time of year. Looking up at the sky, there were some dark clouds looming. Deciding he needed to get back to the Palace, he turned around and retraced his path. Hopefully, Clarisse wouldn't be worried. He probably should have told her he was going out for a walk, but his frustration with their lack of progress in the last few hours had kept him from seeking her out before he left.
When Clarisse finally emerged from a long soak in the tub, she felt a little better. Once she had some tea and made up with Joseph, her spirit would feel calmer. She pulled the sash of her silk robe around her tighter. She chose to wear a black silk and lace nightgown this evening as she wanted to make sure she had properly made up with Joseph before wearing his gift. They had discovered in the first few nights of their marriage that he enjoyed her in black…almost as much as she enjoyed him in the color.
Joseph arrived at the back of the palace and left his muddy shoes in the small alcove at the entry way. He stopped by the kitchen for a quick snack and noticed Clarisse's dishes from earlier. He would need to find her and explain where he had been. But first, a hot shower was in order.
When he stepped into the bathroom, he could feel the lingering warmth from where Clarisse had occupied the room apparently just a short time ago. The scent of lavender filled the air and further calmed his spirit. He was tempted to soak in the tub as he knew she had done, but decided a shower would be quicker as he was anxious to find and speak with her.
Clarisse was more than a little worried now. She had fixed her evening tea and had walked through the palace again looking for Joseph. During her searching, she had the opportunity to see some of the renovations. The spacious suites had been converted into bedrooms with play areas that would house four children to each suite. Different age and sex appropriate themes had been created in each one from fairytale, princess, super hero, fireman, etc. to allow the children some expression and fun for their rooms. Mia had essentially overseen this project on her own and had done well.
Maybe Joseph is right and you do need to let her spread her wings a little and come out of her Grandmother's shadow…
Arriving back in the bedroom, she heard the shower running. Not wanting to wait any longer to try and set things right between them, she knocked gently on the door, "Joseph?"
The water turned off and a moment later the door opened and she felt herself being pulled abruptly inside, "Joseph!"
"I hate it when we fight…even if we aren't really fighting." He stated before crushing her body between his and the wall.
The marble of the bathroom wall was cool and dry compared to the wet heat of Joseph's body. His mouth claiming hers in a passionate kiss, preventing any reply she might otherwise muster. His hands cupped her face holding her captive against his amorous assault.
Clarisse was uncertain how to react, so she opted to just let go and feel. His tongue brushed across her mouth and she opened to the intrusion. She felt his hands slip lower, grazing the sides of her breasts causing a murmur of satisfaction between them.
Joseph's body definitely had an agenda in mind and it wasn't the long, heartwarming talk he had planned earlier. "Clarisse…" her name was a low growl as he pulled away from her slightly.
She watched as his eyes raked over her body. The wet silk now clung to her body, outlining it and leaving little to his imagination. The blue orbs darkened to reflect the desire flaming just below the surface. Her eyes closed to allow only feeling as he undid the sash of her robe, exposing her body further to his heated gaze.
A vision in black stood before him: chest heaving, eyes closed, nails imbedded in her own palms as she waited for his touch. He would not disappoint. The delicate straps of her gown were lowered with more gentleness than he felt. "Merde, you are so beautiful. Do you have any idea what you do to me?"
Words failed her, so she simply shook her head. Rupert had often told her she was beautiful, but the conviction and desire in Joseph's voice seemed to transcend the compliment that had been given her over the years. Her breathing slowed as she felt him lower her gown to the floor before catching completely as his mouth found the delicate curve of her neck. "Joseph…"
His name was a breathy whisper from her lips as his mouth continued to work lower as his hands teased the tips of her breasts with his thumb until they were hardened peaks. The evidence of his desire for his beautiful, yet difficult wife was pressed firmly against her thigh. "I want you, Clarisse….want to show you how much I need you."
She heard his statement and knew it meant even more than a physical need. Their connection had been developed over years. They had done everything together: worked, played, laughed, cried, worried and celebrated. That time had woven an invisible, yet inextricable bond between them that was impossible to ignore. When he was away from her for those couple of hours today, she had been lost. Lost without him. She never wanted to feel that way again. Lifting his head gently, she answered, "Then show me, my love."
Taking her hand, he led her out of the bathroom. The cool air of the suite rushed over their heated bodies causing goose bumps to arise. His protective instinct overrode his desire when he felt her shiver. "Put on the gown I gave you earlier today and I'll build a fire."
She nodded her head and moved to comply when she saw the glassed in porch area off of their suite. Remembering it from some of her previous visits, an idea came to her. "Joseph, darling?"
"Can you build the fire out there?" She asked, pointing in the direction of the outdoor room.
Joseph followed her gaze and noticed that the room was surrounded by glass allowing a breathtaking view of the mountains. The fireplace resembled the old stone hearths and added character to the sparsely furnished room. Other than the fireplace, there was a large area rug along with a leather couch and giant ottoman. A small end table was provided at each arm of the couch, otherwise, the room was empty. The thought of making love to Clarisse in front of the fire was just…
"Sorry…yes, I can start a fire out there." He turned and pulled her body against his, reigniting the passion they had just shared a few minutes ago. His voice was hot against her ear, "Since you've already started a fire in here."
She couldn't help but smile against his neck at his words. Before she could reply, he released her with the command, "Get dressed!"
Laughing as she moved away, "You take my clothes off. Now you want me to put them back on."
"Only so I can slowly undress you yet again."
Clarisse felt a rush of desire through her veins at the huskiness in his voice as he shared his plans with her. Hearing the door open and then close, she hurried to prepare for the pleasure that awaited her. The gown felt so soft in her hands. She had not fully appreciated it when he gave it to her. As she slipped it over her head, the satin caressed her body like a soft whisper. "Oh Joseph…" she whispered as her hands smoothed the fabric over her curves, admiring the delicate Genovian lace that provided accents that framed the plunging neckline, straps, and bottom. A closer inspection in the mirror revealed a rose pattern was woven throughout the lace. She fought the tears that threatened to spill at the touching gesture.
Most assuredly, she would be lost without him.
Once dressed, she stood at the door and watched as Joseph carefully brought life to the fire. The small flickers of the flame were starting to gain momentum, casting shadows along his tanned body sending rivulets of desire through her veins. Deciding to surprise him, she flipped a switch near the door that caused a portion of the roof to retract, providing a portal to see the night sky.
Joseph heard her enter but didn't look in her direction as he wanted to focus on creating heat for the room before she infused him with a totally different kind of heat. Hearing the noise above his head, he looked up to see a small area approximately 2 feet wide and about 4 feet long open up.
"I thought it might be nice to see the sky," she began as she followed his gaze upwards. "Though, it's a very cloudy night it appears."
At the sound of her voice, his gaze turned towards her. Momentarily rendered speechless, he took in the sight before him. She was leaning against the door frame looking incredibly sexy. Her pale skin was a stark contrast to the dark oak wood of the wall and the deep blue of the gown. The freckles added a playful quality to the sensuous curves that filled out her gown so nicely. Her legs…mercy, those legs…they seemed to go on forever and he still harbored a number of unrequited fantasies that involved them wrapped around his body. "I have no need for the moon and stars when I have you, my love."
"Well tonight we must settle for night sky and the stars our love will create." She straightened and turned slowly, allowing him to take in the full effect of the gown.
At that moment, he knew that his collaboration with the seamstress had produced nothing short of a masterpiece. The backless negligee provided the perfect frame for her elegant lines. The smattering of freckles only added to the beauty and the lace highlighted each sway of her hips as she moved – perfection was the only way to describe it. "So beautiful, mi' amor."
She walked over to where he was standing and cupped his cheek, holding it for a few moments before allowing her hand to slip slowly down his throat and lower. She could feel his pulse beating soundly and then the matching thumping of his heart as she slowly explored. Her eyes found his as she whispered, "I'm so sorry…"
Before she could say anything further, the velvety softness of his lips silenced the confession she was about to make. The kiss was almost bruising and she could feel his need, love and desire transcending the physical and reaching into her heart to share what words could not. She decided that she wanted to show, rather than tell, him how sorry she was that both he and Amelia had suffered because of her inability to deal with the changes in her life.
Joseph lowered them to the large ottoman, the cool leather contrasting their heated skin. As his eyes raked over her equally desirable front, he couldn't help but feel like the luckiest man in the world. Her eyes were dark with desire, chest slowly rising and falling, soft satin and lace caressing her like a lover, and all for him. The kiss resumed as his hands began to explore her perfection.
Her breath caught as his hand slipped lower to cup the fullness of her breast as the pad of his thumb gently circled the tip, making it stand proudly against the bold caress. "Joseph…" she whispered as her pleasure slowly started to gain strength.
Moving to pay the other side equal attention, his mouth left hers to explore the sweet spot just behind her ear. He increased his efforts as her whispered murmurings turned to soft moans and gasps. He smiled to himself as he remembered that he had been almost as surprised as she to discover how vocal of a lover she could be. Wanting to hear even more and feel her nails rake along his skin, he journeyed lower, replacing his hands with the warmth of his mouth.
The satin and lace was moved away carefully to ensure it did not become a casualty of their expression of love. His blood began to heat as he drew the engorged tip into his mouth, first nipping then soothing the pain with his tongue.
Clarisse lost herself to the sensations. One hand rested on the back of his head, subtly guiding his efforts while the other tried valiantly to keep her nails from embedding in his arms as he demonstrated his appreciation for her in a way no one else ever had.
Inch by precious inch the satin and lace peeled away from her body as Joseph paid homage to each freckle on the creamy canvas of her body. Her body felt warm from the fire and Joseph's attention. Without warning, her ardor was cooled by the feel of cold pricks against her skin. Opening her eyes for the first time since the journey began, she saw what caused the sudden change.
Feeling the same cool drops on his back and head, he stopped long enough to look at the sky. "A spring snow. That explains the chill and darker sky today. I'll close the roof."
"No." She commanded softly.
Lifting her body and pushing his down, she moved her body to cover his (comma) acting as a shield from the light snow. Placing open mouthed kisses along his neck, she whispered huskily into his ear, "I rather like the contrast of fire and ice."
Joseph grinned wide and pulled her body further over his, "I rather like that you like that."
She couldn't help but laugh. "Oh Joseph, do you have any idea how much I love you? You make me so happy. Laughter in my life was so rare before I met you."
He caressed her face gently, knowing how rare of an admission that was for the woman resting so tantalizing above him. "And mine was empty without you." He rolled them until she was once again laying beneath him. Kissing her gently, he added, "My heart aches when you are not near, both physically and emotionally."
Clarisse knew what he was trying to tell her. Typical of Joseph, he was doing it in a way that he hoped would get the message across without hurting her. Her legs separated to make room for his body to be as close as possible to hers. Grabbing his hands, she twined her fingers with his and stretched her arms above her head. She loved the way this felt with the entire weight of her lover upon her, covering her with the most devotion and care she had ever experienced in her life. She whispered her next words, phrasing them so he would understand. "My entire being aches when you are not with me. Without you, I am but a hollow shell of a woman who simply goes through the paces and duty of life."
Joseph felt her hands squeeze his as she shared of her deep love for him. The gesture was so intimate, so tender, so full of meaning. They were in this together because they simply couldn't live without the other.
"Make love to me, Joseph."
Keeping the hold of their hands, his mouth slid over hers with barely contained passion. As he felt hers open under his bold caress, the gates were lifted and desire rose like swells on the ocean. Their tongues battled as their lower bodies began the seductive dance that would pave the way to them becoming one.
As the tension between them rose, Clarisse released his hands so she could caress any part of his body that she could reach. She loved the way the muscles in his back would ripple under her touch or the slight shiver of his body when her nails raked over his chest. Most of all, though, she loved the way those beautiful blue eyes would see into her very soul and convey every thought and emotion without his ever speaking a word.
Joseph felt her move under him, signifying she was ready. He held his breath as he slid inside of her relishing each sensation. Once fully seated in her warmth, he slowly exhaled as he whispered his love for her.
Time stood still for just a few moments as they enjoyed the simple act of being one. Need is a powerful force and soon their need for completion drove them to begin to move. The heat within them rose steadily as the snow continued to fall around them adding to this special night.
Finally the coil within her pulled tight and her body went rigid and held still for that glorious moment before all of the nerve endings fired, snapping the coil and sending waves of sensation washing over her body. "Joseph!"
Hearing her cry out his name as her nails embedding in his shoulders pulled him over the edge with her. Even though his pleasure was consuming, he forced his eyes open to watch as his normally serene and in control wife gave herself over to pure feeling. It was an amazing sight to behold and one he would never grow tired of.
Rolling slightly away to make sure his weight wasn't too much for her, Joseph felt a sense of relief. Oh he knew that Clarisse wasn't going to change a life time of habits overnight, but he also knew that she was now committed to trying. In his experience, when Clarisse Mignonette Renaldi Romero put her mind to something, there was nothing she couldn't do.
Clarisse lay in peaceful contentment next to Joseph as she floated gracefully down from her high. She was certain that this must be heaven. "I feel like I'm in Narnia," she commented softly.
"The mythical land behind the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis' book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."
"Am I the lion or the witch?" he teased.
Clarisse chuckled, "Neither darling. I just meant that the scenery we are surrounded by is as idyllic as Narnia. The mountains of Libetz are to our right, a beautiful snowy sky over us, snow falling around our bodies as a roaring fire casts a beautiful glow over the entire room."
"Narnia it is then." Deciding to be brave in light of their new found peace, he added "Will you allow me to take you Narnia for a week or two? We are long overdue for our honeymoon."
She sat up long enough to pull the quilt from the couch over to cover their bodies. As beautiful as the snow was, she had no intention of them catching pneumonia. On her side, she was better able to look into his eyes and see the small flicker of doubt and fear of rejection that he tried to hide from her. She cupped his face and gently stroked his cheek with her thumb. "Are you promising me lions, witches and wardrobes?"
"If that will get you to agree, I will find a way to make that happen."
She sobered from her teasing and looked at him intently, "I know that I have had trouble adapting to the changes in my life. I've never been very good at change. But I understand that it is important and I promise you that I will work on it. Be patient with me?"
His lips were soft as they kissed first her forehead, her eyelids, the tip of her nose and finally her lips. His voice was a low whisper, "You should know by now just how patient I can be."
Nodding gently, she answered. "The most patient man I know."
"So you'll let me take you to Narnia?"
"For two weeks?" She asked.
Clarisse rolled onto her back and tried to fight back thoughts of all that she needed to do as ugly reality asserted itself into their little slice of heaven. Before those thoughts could be voiced, a rather large snowflake landed on the tip of her nose. It was still perfectly shaped and sat primly on her face as though challenging her to destroy it.
Joseph was watching her and had started to lose confidence that she would agree when he saw the snowflake. She was studying it intently, which was rather adorable as it made her eyes cross to see it. Though he couldn't explain it, he sensed a change come over her after the snowflake finally melted. He leaned over and kissed the moisture away, "Mmmm that's what perfection tastes like."
"So you're offering up this kind of perfection in the Narnia you are going to take me to for two weeks?"
"This and more, my love."
Thinking of the night they just shared, Clarisse realized that all she truly needed was Joseph. Genovia would be fine. Amelia would be fine. And, most assuredly, SHE would be fine. Leaning over she kissed Joseph again and answered, "Narnia it is then."