Thank you all so much for your patience. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know what a struggle this chapter was! Clarisse and Joseph did NOT want to cooperate! LOL For those of you who may have forgotten...the outfit Clarisse is wearing is described at the beginning of Chapter 5 (just because it took me a week, I felt duty bound to share that with you :-) )
I appreciate all of the reviews and enjoy hearing your thoughts on this 24 Hour timeframe.
Also, just a note for future chapters...I'm going to be creating another story entitled "24 Hours - Adult Version" It will be identical to this story, except for the chapters where we get into more adult situations. This (hopefully) will make it easier for those of you who are old enough and enjoy the more detailed scenes to access it without too much trouble. I'll make a note at the beginning of any chapter to let you know when that has been done - sound fair? It's a trial - we'll see how it goes, ok? LOL
OK, I've rambled enough...
Chapter 6: Action vs Attitude
Time 7:15 p.m. Tunisian Renaissance Fair. 45 minutes before the presentation to the Sheik
She was fidgeting. This was ridiculous. She was Queen of Genoviay, ruling thousands. And here she stood, nervous as a school girl. Sighing, she realized that she missed Joseph's calming presence. It wasn't that he had gone far. He was just on the other side of the spacious two room tent that had been provided as sleeping quarters for the four delegates from Genovia. Right now, that seemed entirely too far.
Thinking of the sleeping arrangements made her sigh again. She would have loved to share her side of the tent with Joseph, but protocol and decorum dictated that she and Charlotte take one side while Joseph and Scott took the other. Her only consolation was that Joseph's bed was just on the other side of the fabric wall dividing the rooms. She had been able to hear his steady breaths and felt the pressure of his body as they both had slept as close to the 'wall' as possible. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than nothing. Shades had placed his bunk closest to the entryway of the tent to provide at least the illusion of protection while Joseph remained close to her with his bed just down from the 'door' separating the two sides.
She couldn't believe what she was about to do. Talk about outside the box… This was outside the whole room as far as she was concerned. Joseph had been adamant though that this was the way to win the audience with the Sheik…and Joseph was rarely, if ever, wrong.
Twelve days ago…
Joseph burst into Clarisse's office first thing in the morning, before she had even finished her first cup of tea. "I've got it!"
Caught by surprise, Clarisse fought to swallow her tea without spitting it out and getting it all over her blouse. Once the liquid had been safely consumed, she responded, "Got what…may I ask?"
"I know what we need to do for the presentation."
This perked Clarisse up. They had been debating it since she had invited him for coffee two nights ago and still had not come up with a suitable idea.
"What is the most important thing to the Sheik?"
"His wife, Vanessa's, happiness." Clarisse answered.
"Exactly. Well I placed a couple of discreet calls to see if I could learn anything more about Madam Vanessa and her tastes. As it turns out, she loves dance."
Clarisse sat up straighter. Dancing she could do. Before she could comment, Joseph continued.
"Not just any type of dance, though. As you mentioned before, Your Majesty, she prefers unique items that explore the feminine side of life…in this case, a more sensual type of dance."
Clarisse paled. She was a trained ballet and ballroom dancer. The type of dancing Joseph was referring to was not really her style. "Joseph, I…"
"Just wait…please." He had wanted to call her by her given name, but with Charlotte in the room, it would have been inappropriate. "Let me show you this. I have it on authority that it is one of her favorites. If we can dance this, she will be pleased. And if she is pleased…"
Clarisse sighed, "Then the Sheik will be pleased." She gestured towards the television in the corner of the room that came equipped with a DVD player. "Please show us."
The three watched in silence as the couple on the screen performed a dance that resembled the merging of a rumba, ballet and a tango. Clarisse couldn't help the blush that crept up her body at the movements of the dancers…it was almost as though they were engaging in a form of foreplay on the dance floor. There was no "dance space" as she had learned in ballroom dancing; the two bodies flowed as one for most of the dance. While her mind thought of a million reasons to say no, her body shouted a resounding YES at engaging in this dance with Joseph.
As the music faded, Joseph waited. Out of the corner of his eye, he had watched Clarisse throughout the video and knew she was struggling. He also knew that if they did this well, she would be guaranteed an audience with the elusive sheik. The room held its silence and its breath as Joseph and Charlotte waited for the Queen's decision.
"I will need you to clear as much time as possible to allow Joseph and I to work on perfecting this dance. We have less than two weeks."
Both Charlotte and Joseph exhaled a quiet sigh of relief, "Yes ma'am. I'll see to it."
Later that evening, Clarisse had found herself in footless tights and body suit covered by a sheer black dance skirt. She was very self-conscious as this outfit basically hid nothing. She felt exposed and…vulnerable.
"You look amazing, Clarisse." Joseph offered as he stepped into the small ballroom that had been designated their practice area for the next several days.
"I look ridiculous. I'm not even wearing shoes, Joseph. How am I supposed to dance without shoes?"
"We both know that this particular dance is traditionally performed barefoot or, at most, with ballet slippers. If you prefer, we can arrange for a pair for you. As difficult as this may be for you, we both have to commit to this completely, Clarisse. Anything less than that will look awkward, be uncomfortable, and ultimately unrewarding."
He stepped behind her, assuming the first position in the dance. One arm was around her upper body, his hand resting over her heart; the other arm secured her waist and clasped the hand she held there. He could feel the tension in her body - the inhale and exhale of each breath. "What is it you are most afraid of?"
It was hard to concentrate with Joseph standing so close. Her body remembered, though… remembered each touch, each caress, each blissful moment their bodies were connected… "The dance is so…intimate."
"Next move," he whispered. Over her shoulder, he watched her right leg complete a sweeping motion that widened her stance as it came to rest on the other side of his leg. His hand slid down to caress her thigh. "Intimacy is an action; sensuality is an attitude."
His hand made the return trip, moving over her hip and then around to clasp the hand at her waist again, spinning her slowly around until they were face to face. "Of all the wonderful moments we shared on your birthday, do you know which, by far, was the most sensual for me?"
Memories flashed through her mind like postcards from a perfect day, capturing moments she never wanted to forget. As she watched them in her mind's eye, she tried to select which one he meant. "I'm not sure, Joseph…there were many."
"When you stood in the rain, face upturned, smiling, carefree and unashamed…you radiated a beautiful sensuality. Your whole demeanor was of a woman who knew exactly what she wanted at that moment and was unafraid to reach out and grab it."
Though understanding the meaning he was trying to convey, she still couldn't let go of her argument, "But that sensual moment led to intimacy."
"Next move," he instructed and watched as the fabric stretched across her bodice as her back arched allowing for space between them. She held the position until his hand slid up her arm and to the back of her neck, pulling her upper body flush with his again. "And the sensual moments in the dance will lead to intimate moments between us as well, if we are fortunate. Make no mistake though, my dear, those moments will most definitely be private."
Her body twisted in his embrace, placing her delectable bottom square against his groin area. "Promise?"
His blood heated at their position and it required more strength than he currently possessed for his body not to react to the movement of her hips in time to the music. Her name came out as a low groan of frustration as his hands held her hips and moved in time with her. She turned in his embrace again and this time his hand slid along her thigh and lifted until her knee was at his waist. Their breaths were short and labored with pulses racing. He pulled her in tighter and whispered, "Promise."
7:25 pm - 35 minutes before the presentation to the Sheik
"Are you ready, Clarisse?" Joseph's eyes widened taking in her appearance as he stepped into her half of the tent. She was breathtaking and his body tightened in response. He inwardly sighed, unsure of how he was going to get through this four minute routine. It had been almost two weeks of the attitude he had spoken to her about with none of the action that was supposed to follow. Despite having taken some individual actions of his own to "relieve" some of the pressure…at the first sight of her the need and hunger returned in full force.
"Ready as I'll ever be." Noticing the odd look on his face, she became concerned. "Joseph?"
It was her bare legs that were his undoing. In all of their practice sessions, she had worn tights. While that didn't necessarily hide the shape of her leg, the thought of running his hands along the smooth skin of her thighs sent his already overactive libido into hyperdrive. "Merde, woman," he growled.
Alarm flooded through her body. What was wrong? She moved to close the gap between them, eyes alert. "Joseph? What's wrong? Is something wrong with my outfit? It was a gift from Vanessa…I thought I should wear this rather than what I brought."
His hands circled her body and pulled her close. She could feel the reaction of his body, hot and hard against her center. Recognition dawned in her eyes, "Oh…"
One hand moved up to caress her bare shoulder while the other slipped between the strips of material to caress her thigh, "Other than the night of your birthday, I've never seen this much of your beautiful porcelain skin revealed. It's…" he dropped soft kisses on her shoulder, "…distracting."
Clarisse's eyes closed at the soft touch and then she exhaled deeply and stood back. Her eyes were dark but clear, "Well you better pull it together, mister as we have a dance to perform and an audience with the Sheik to win. I've been taking cold showers for two weeks because of this dance and we are not going to lose focus now. Understand?" She finished with a slight smile.
"So you've had to take cold showers too? You could have just invited me over for a nightcap." He teased, silently pleased that she had been just as worked up as he had been.
"For my head of security, you can be very unobservant. Charlotte has been by my constant companion every moment that I wasn't dancing with you."
He moved to pull her into his arms again, his voice was low. "Surely she hasn't taken to rooming with you, too? Although, she gets to share a room with you here, which makes me insanely jealous, by the way."
Clarisse laughed, "Almost that bad. She would leave only when exhaustion claimed me. By then I truly was too tired to do anything about the state you would leave me in after our dancing."
He opted not to tell her that even exhaustion didn't keep him from seeking release as thoughts of her body pressed against his danced through his memory night after night. It had been a long twelve very long days. Instead he nibbled at her ear, enjoying the soft moan of pleasure it always achieved. "I shall have to make that up to you very soon then."
Noise outside the tent forced them apart. A moment later, Charlotte and Shades walked in. "Ma'am, you and Joseph are up next. We should make our way closer to the Sheik's tent."
"Very well, Charlotte. I'm ready to get this over with. You have the gift for Vanessa?"
Charlotte retrieved a gift bag from next to her bed and handed it to Joseph. "You'll make the presentation to Vanessa before you both start the dance."
"Because it was your idea, Joseph, and I think it only fitting that you give her the gift. You are here as an invited guest."
"If you count the Queen of Genovia plus one as an invited guest."
Clarisse moved closer and cupped his check, "You are my escort, my friend and my plus one." As they had an audience, she left out my lover…
"Then it shall be my honor, Your Majesty, to present this to Vanessa on behalf of the Queen and the people of Genovia."
She held his gaze for a few moments longer and then reluctantly moved her hand away. With one final smile just for him, she asked. "Shall we?"
7:57 p.m – 3 minutes before the dance.
"Presenting, Lady Clarisse Renaldi and her dance partner, Joseph Romero." The herald made the announcement as Joseph guided her to one edge of the dance floor. Kissing the back of her hand, he winked at her before turning and making his way to the front of the large tent where the Sheik and his wife were seated.
He bowed towards the Sheik and then to Vanessa as a sign of respect. Offering the gift to Vanessa, he explained, "A small token of appreciation from the beautiful land of Genovia and her people."
"Thank you," Vanessa replied. "The hearts of her people are as bountiful as the land itself."
"You are most welcome, m'lady." Joseph bowed once more and then stepped back to his place. The lights dimmed slightly and the music of The Revolution Song by Circ filled the air around them.
At the first notes, Clarisse began a series of ballet turns and steps that moved her to the center of the floor. On the next stanza, Joseph moved towards her. By the third, their bodies were touching.
Charlotte watched as her two friends captivated an entire audience. Vanessa was spell bound and enraptured by the movements. It was truly beautiful to watch. Their bodies moved as one with grace and…it took her a moment to find the right word. Sensuality. There was no other way to describe it. She knew they had been practicing every free moment to capture just the right essence. They had succeeded. She felt tiny pulls of desire building inside of her in response to their movements and she longed for Scott to be standing behind her, holding her, caressing her…just as the couple so vividly demonstrated on the dance floor.
The music stopped and a hushed silence fell. It was as though no one wanted to break the spell that the couple from Genovia had just cast over the entire audience. The dancers held their final stance…waiting.
Joseph could feel Clarisse's heart beating wildly under his hand. Each deep breath caused the arm he held across her chest to rise and fall. The other hand fanned across her abdomen holding her body tightly to his. The graceful line of her neck was exposed as her head tilted back, resting against his shoulder; his face turned was nestled in the curve of her neck. "So sensual…" he whispered for her ears only.
A moment later, Vanessa stood and began to clap, "Brava! Brava!"
The Shiek followed suit, a broad smile showing the white of his teeth against his darker skin. The couple finally separated and took their bows. Joseph turned to Clarisse and lifted her hand again, kissing the back to finish off just as they had started…was it only four minutes ago?
Clarisse held Joseph's hand as they made their way out of the tent. There was at least two more countries to make their presentations. No one had been told when the Sheik would make his decision. There was nothing to do but wait. Waiting was always the worst part.
"I feel a little better now that I've changed," Clarisse commented as they made their way to the dining tent for evening refreshments.
Joseph was walking next to her, his hand on the small of her back, decidedly not commenting on how much he preferred her other outfit. "We'll get a quick snack and then maybe we should try to get some rest. Charlotte and Shades can wait for a little while by the Sheik's tent to see if he announces any decisions."
"You wouldn't mind, Charlotte?"
"Of course not, Your Majesty. The grounds are beautiful. We can take in some more of the scenery and still keep an ear to the ground for any news."
Clarisse thought that Charlotte was probably looking for some alone time with Scott just as she wanted some with Joseph. Of course, neither would admit that out loud. "Oh to be young again, right Joseph?"
"Hey it was us old folks doing all the work tonight…we're entitled to be a little tired!" He argued.
They were all laughing as they entered the dining tent. An elaborate assortment of fruit, cheese, vegetables, dips of many kinds, and decadent desserts were on display and available to eat. "As lovely as this looks, I wonder if I can just get a few things for later."
At her question, Joseph turned serious and focused his attention on her, "Are you not feeling well? You've hardly eaten anything at all today."
"Nerves." The one word explanation said it all. "I'll feel better once I know his decision…one way or the other."
Charlotte chimed in, "Did you see the Sheik's face? He loved it. Lady Vanessa loved it. I can't imagine anyone else doing anything more pleasing." She blushed before continuing, "It really was quite beautiful to watch. I know it wasn't easy and that you both worked so hard."
"Yes, it was quite challenging…dancing with a beautiful woman in my arms day after day." Joseph answered with a smile.
"That's because you weren't the one having to do all those moves that stretched muscles that haven't been used in…well a long time." Now Clarisse was blushing.
"I can ask if they have a masseuse, ma'am." Charlotte offered.
Clarisse shook her head, "Not necessary, but thank you. I'll be fine." Besides no masseuse can hold a candle to Joseph's magical touch…
"Let me get you a plate and then we can go back to our tent and wait." Without waiting for her approval, Joseph grabbed some of the items that he knew Clarisse enjoyed. Several people had approached her and commented on their dance. Though he knew she was slightly embarrassed by the nature of the dance, she was smiling gracefully and thanking them.
"Are you sure you don't mind, Charlotte?" Clarisse asked again before they prepared to leave.
"Not at all, ma'am. We'll wait an hour. If we don't hear anything, then we'll come and turn in as well." Charlotte wanted them to know they would have some alone time. Unless the Sheik requested their immediate presence, she was going to do what she could to reward the couple for their hard work. However they chose to spend those sixty minutes…well that was up to them.
Joseph was standing slightly behind Clarisse . He winked, smiled and mouthed a quick "thank you" to Charlotte for understanding that some time alone was needed. "Are you ready, Your Majesty?"
Clarisse wasn't certain if she was, in fact, ready. Though she wanted nothing more than to spend time alone with Joseph, a tent really didn't offer much privacy – even one as luxurious as the one the Sheik had provided. The bunks were truly only made for one person so even time just lying in Joseph's arms seemed improbable. Pushing those thoughts aside, she nodded at Joseph. "Yes, I'm ready to try and relax. Thank you both again for being on alert for the next hour."
Once back at the tent, Clarisse poured a glass of wine for herself and for Joseph. "It appears white is our only option. Is that alright?"
"I don't suppose there was any scotch hidden there?"
Clarisse smiled affectionately at him, "I'm sorry, no. You should have packed some for the trip."
Taking a seat on the large overstuffed chair in the corner of the tent, Joseph patted his lap in invitation, "Believe me, next time I will."
"Joseph…I would love to, but…"
"But what? Mom and Dad have promised us an hour of alone time."
"Unless the Sheik makes a decision," she cautioned.
"Yes, unless the man finally makes a decision. Personally, I think it's a bit arrogant…"
"Clarisse, tell me that you don't think that."
"I most certainly do not." She gave her best indignant stare.
He grinned, "Liar."
She sighed. "Fine. The man is insufferable."
He patted his lap again, "And do you find me insufferable?"
Giving in to exhaustion and the need to just relax in Joseph's arms, she took a sip of her wine and then made herself comfortable on his lap, "Occasionally, yes."
He set his wine glass on the end table, deciding holding Clarisse was preferable to even the finest crystal stemware. She felt so good snuggled up close to him. He could definitely get use to this. "I can live with occasionally," he whispered as his lips met hers in a gentle kiss.
Exhaustion was slowly melting away as Joseph's patient kiss warmed her from the inside out. Twelve days they had been engaging in a sensual foreplay. Twelve days of attitude with no actions. God, she wanted some of the action. "Joseph…"
Merde, he loved it when she said his name like that. "Mmmm…" His hand slid up her thigh, to her waist.
"Is that the best you can do?" She asked as her hand worked at the buttons of his shirt before slipping under the cotton fabric to explore.
Fire spread through his veins at her touch. Deepening the kiss, he reciprocated the favor by making quick work of the pearl buttons on her blouse. Feeling the satin and lace of her bra, he broke the kiss, "No fair…you have two layers."
Her nails grazed his chest, "Life's not fair or we would be in a bed and have all the time in the world."
Clarisse moaned as his hand slipped into the fabric, freeing her breast and allowing his touch. "Better…"
"I want you so badly right now, Clarisse." His hands and mouth worked in tandem, touching, tasting, teasing. Every nerve in his body screamed for him to take her…right then…right there. "Do you have any idea how many times I've had to…" he wasn't sure of a delicate way to put it for her. "…over the past month. You're like a drug I may never get enough of."
If they hadn't dimmed the lights, he would've seen the blush spread over her body at his admission. "You…because of me?"
Inwardly, Joseph cursed the King for not appreciating the beautiful woman that occupied his life and his bed for so many years. Rupert had taken the gift, misused her and forced her to become less than the sensual, desirable woman she truly was. He pulled away slightly and cupped her cheek, "You have closed that side of yourself off for so long, you truly don't realize the power you possess."
His thumb grazed over her kiss swollen lips. He loved how her eyes closed, her breaths shortened, and her lips parted each time he did that. It was sensual. It was arousing. "Sexual power," he whispered.
"Maybe with you…" she murmured. Did he have any idea how much power HE held over her? Every look – every touch – every smile … made her body come alive. Some days she was amazed she got any work done.
"Not just me. That's what makes you so powerful…you don't even realize the affect you have on those around you. Next time we're at a ball, watch – really watch – the way the men look at you. Their pupils will dilate, breaths will get shallow and you'll see it in their eyes."
"Them imagining what it would be like to be with you…to touch you…kiss you."
"Now you're imagining things," she teased.
"Next ball…especially if you're wearing one of those dresses that show off those gorgeous curves of yours." To emphasize his point, his hand moved from her cheek to slip under the material of her blouse again.
Any further arguments or questions fell away as Joseph's fingers caressed the ample flesh of her breast. As his fingers worked the nub into a hardened tip, her lips found his again. It wasn't the action she wanted, but she knew that it was the best they could have right now.
He distinctly felt that power as the tip of her tongue slid along his mouth, pressing for entrance. Having no desire to fight this particular power, his head angled slightly and opened to her advances; tongues battling and engaging in a dance of their own.
Clarisse was losing it again. She felt herself sinking further and further into the simple act of pleasure. The kiss alone was enough to wash her away into the deep end of the pool. Joseph's hands just heightened every nerve and made her never want to leave his arms.
Abruptly Joseph pulled away. "Get up."
Her limbs felt heavy; her mind lethargic in a pleasurable haze. "What?"
"Clarisse, please." He used his strong arms to help propel her off of his lap.
"Joseph?" She stumbled to her feet, confused, watching as he buttoned her shirt and straightened her hair as best he could.
That was the bucket of cold water she needed to prompt her into action. She quickly made her way over to the other chair, picking up her wine glass and settling in just as Charlotte and Shades walked in. Her heart was still racing and she still felt the effects of the kiss. A kiss that was so consuming she hadn't even heard the other couple entering the other side of the tent. Thanks goodness Joseph had.
"Your Majesty!" Charlotte exclaimed as she stepped through the opening between the two rooms. She was relieved to find her Queen and the Head of Security seated separately and drinking wine. She had told Scott they needed to be as noisy as possible when entering the tent to give the older couple time to react – just in case.
"You have news?"
"The Sheik is requesting an audience with you."
Joseph was so pleased, he stood and extended his hand to her. "See I told you, it was all about attitude," he winked. "Let's go."
Charlotte took a deep breath. This next part wasn't going to go over well. "He just wants to see the Queen."
"What?" Joseph stopped abruptly.
"He requested a private audience with the Queen." Charlotte clarified.
"Joseph…" Clarisse started.
"No way in hell."