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Here is a short sample from the book:
“I was to be the King of England.”
Before I died.
Of course, I didn’t say the latter aloud. Not yet. That would give too much away too soon. No need to cause alarm yet. After all, I did enjoy watching the looks on their faces when I told them I was to be king. It was true, of course, but they never believed it.
“King,” she said with a twinkle of humor in her eye. Her perfectly lined lips curled up slightly in one corner. She was taking the bait. She was amused, but more importantly, she was intrigued.
In a candlelit library we sat together on a white French Provincial sofa, a little too close for polite company, but then, I wasn’t polite company.
“You. Were to be king.” It wasn’t a question. It was merely a statement of complete disbelief. After all, I did look quite young, but the truth was much more complicated than that. Wasn’t it always?
I smiled and moved in closer, sliding slowly along the silk cushions towards her. She watched me close the distance between us and smiled a little wider, despite herself. I leaned in as if for a kiss, but instead brushed my nose softly along her jawline. “I was.” I breathed the words into her ear, letting my lips graze the pearl dangling from her earlobe. This one looked even more delicious than she smelled. That was a rarity. Especially for a woman her age. Normally, these middle-aged women had let their looks go. But not this one. She was still quite the beauty in her gown of deep scarlet, lined with black lace. The collar was wide, stretching from shoulder to shoulder, allowing me complete access to her neck, save for a choker: three strings of pearls clamped tight around her throat with a cameo adorning its center. She had a tiny hat embellished with an even tinier sailboat, pearls, and black lace, all perched purposefully crooked on top of her perfectly coiffed hair. Each copper curl shone in the candlelight, and I was entranced. She smelled of freshly picked heather on a warm Scottish evening. I wanted to roll and play in that heather. I wanted to pluck the blooms from its stems. I wanted to bury my nose in that heather and breathe in its luxurious scent.
I wanted her. But I kept my head and didn’t move too fast, lest I would’ve given myself away.
She didn’t recoil at my closeness, but rather seemed humored by it.
“You can’t be a day over twenty, lad, and you were to be king? Do tell, whatever happened to joust you from the royal line?” The dark lady turned her head cooly away from me and sipped the wine held by her black satin gloved hand. I softly traced my fingers along the hairline at the nape of her neck, and I saw her suppress a shiver. Good. She turned back and slightly leaned into me, playing my game.
The candlelight emphasized the smile lines around her eyes. She was forty if she was a day, and she felt flattered by the attentions of a younger man. Especially when said attention was offered by one as handsome and charming as I, at least, seemed. Her husband was nearly thirty years her senior, so she welcomed passion.
“I’m a little older than twenty,” I said as I brushed my lips up the curve of her delicate ear, exhaling warm air as I did so. I felt her shudder beneath my touch. She didn’t even try to conceal it. We both knew where this was heading.
I had her now. She was not only intrigued; she was open to being seduced. Obvious, really, since she thought I was joking about being king, as Victoria had been on the throne for well over sixty years, but she didn’t scoff at the game. She reveled in it. She likely hadn’t felt the thrill of seduction in well over a decade or two. However the kind of seduction she had in mind was quite different than what I had planned for her tonight.
The music played loudly in the adjoining room as the rest of the gala attendees danced or spoke to each other in raised voices, competing with the music. Still, it wasn’t so loud that they wouldn’t hear a scream, even back in this dimly lit library. No. Had to continue to move slowly.
The smell of musty books filled the air, and I was reminded of my father. Always reading. Always urging Henry and I to read and learn. We had had private tutors who taught us foreign languages and told stories of faraway lands. We learned about history and philosophy and theology and mathematics. It was all essential for our destiny. Me, future king, and Henry being groomed to be Archbishop. He had said we were the future of the kingdom. Well, he was half right. Henry had been the future, but now he was just the past.
“I died,” I sighed the answer to her question then nuzzled my cold nose in the nape of her warm, pulsing neck. Not yet.
She didn’t recoil at this dark disclosure, as she likely thought it was all part of this decadent game. Rather, she welcomed the soft kisses I placed on her neck. She shivered at the touch of my cold lips but moved in closer still. She was ready. Dare I say even earnest. She didn’t stop my hand exploring her thigh hidden beneath layers of satin. A soft moan escaped her lips, and I knew I had her. I continued teasing this dark lady, drawing out her desire. She caught her breath as I traced my tongue up the side of her throat to her white earlobe, circling around the pearl drop that hung delicately from it.
Then something across the room caught my eye. In the pale candlelight, an image on the far wall mocked me. A corpulent man stared back at me with black eyes. His gold doublet and fur-trimmed coat framed the fleshy jowls that held a smirking mouth. A replica of a painting, for even the sumptuous hosts of this opulent gala couldn’t afford the original Holbein. This painting I knew far too well. I had been forced to look at this likeness for centuries, and it always made me think about the road not taken, as if I had had a choice in the matter. Feelings similar to but not quite nostalgia filled my mind and ached in my chest. Perhaps it was more like sentimentality. If my heart still beat, it would be the rhythm to a sad song. But that’s part of my lament: my hollow chest. Every time I see that blasted painting of my fat, arrogant brother, I’d think, that should have been me.
But it wasn’t me. It was not my fate to be king. That was his fate. My little, immature brother.
My fate was to die, but I should’ve stayed dead. Over three-hundred years later, and I finally understood. I should have stayed dead.
“Why ever did you stop, dear boy?” The woman leaned into me, caressing my pale cheek with the back of her black satin hand. I hadn’t realized that I had pulled away from her while I had been caught up in my own remorse. She must have seen the sadness in my eyes, for she was becoming maternal. Mustn’t allow that. Time for a bolder move. Shaking off the past, I turned towards her and kissed her gently at first. But as she welcomed me with parted lips, I deepened the kiss. As my tongue swirled with hers, I drank in the warmth of her mouth, of her being. She didn’t seem put off by my coldness, but then few did when I had progressed this far. She ran her hand up my thigh, sending a spark through my core. My own roaming hand found her breast and cupped the soft flesh peeking out from beneath the hard corset.
I wanted to rip that corset off. Perhaps we had the same seduction in mind after all.
“Arthur,” she breathed. I couldn’t remember her name, but it didn’t matter. She was Catherine. They were all Catherine.
As I caressed her nipple over her evening gown, a small sound escaped from her pouty mouth. It was the sound of pure pleasure. No one had touched her like this in quite some time, and she was hungry for more. Then I slipped my thumb under the top ridge of her corset, grazing the nipple nestled beneath. Her hips moved involuntarily, and she arched her back in longing.
“Let us move to more private quarters,” she whispered, breathless.
Fine with me.
She stood and properly smoothed out her skirts. Years of social training didn’t just disappear, even in a rush of desire. With a coy glance, she reached back for my hand and guided me out of the library’s side door.
The other guests were still busy with merrymaking and gossip, so no one saw us steal away. For how could they, as each couple were but interested in their own lives. Each man wanting to do what I was about to do, and each lady pretending that she didn’t. They danced and drank and held up the pretense of civility, but I knew the truth. Beneath the façade we were all carnal beasts, hungry for the flesh.
As we climbed the grand staircase to the bedchambers above, I watched her bustled hips sway, and I hardened. I knew I would have her. I knew I’d be buried in the warmth beneath that bustle within the hour. I stiffened further, then adjusted myself with my free hand, never taking my eyes off that swaying bustle.
After all, I deserved some pleasure now and again. I deserved lifetimes of pleasure after watching my brother take my throne and then take my wife all those years ago. I had watched it all from the shadows of darkness. I had watched him cast my Catherine aside and make time with strumpet after strumpet, marrying some, but using more. He had made the throne of England a mockery. Then, with some delight, I had watched him get old and fat and eventually die. I had watched his children fight for the throne and kill those around them to secure their position.
That I didn’t mind too much. Especially Mary, the daughter of my beloved Catherine, she had a thirst for blood that rivaled even mine! Unfortunately she didn’t last too long. Bitterness hardened her heart, making it all that much easier to irreparably shatter when her husband had abandoned her. Elizabeth had followed and surprised us all, setting England back to rights. The country’s savior in skirts. They had called her Gloriana. Regina. The Virgin Queen. It was then I chose to leave England in search of new blood, as it were.
Now I returned to another hard woman on the throne. This one was not near as attractive as my niece had been. Women. Not one had heated my blood the way Catherine did. Not in these long centuries, but she betrayed me after I died. Denying our love to secure her place as Queen.
Politics over love.
I never understood it.
I would have been a foolish king.
Now I took a page from my brother’s book. Love and leave. Well, in my case, kill.
Come to think of it, he killed a few himself. Bravo, brother.
“In here,” she said, still in hushed tones as she led me into a vacant bedchamber, pulling my attention out of the dead past into the present. There was much more pleasure to be had here.
She stood awkwardly in the middle of the room and fiddled with her hands, then straightened her skirts again. She looked everywhere but at me, and there was a slight blush to her cheek. What had happened to the seductive mistress from downstairs? Now a demure damsel stood in her place. It was obvious she hadn’t done this in quite a while. She seemed so innocent in her nervousness. It was rather sweet, but not as sweet as her blood would taste.
I leaned back against the door, snapping it shut, and surveyed the room. Frilly lace dripped off every surface. Heavy taupe curtains draped the edges of the four poster bed sitting in the center of the room on a raised platform. The walls were lined with fine art framed in gold, and the chairs were all properly skirted. London High Society. How droll.
Gathering her courage, my prey sat on the edge of the large bed and gingerly patted the spot next to her, inviting me over.
Didn’t have to ask me twice.
I forced myself to move slowly, as my natural speed would startle her. Sitting closely beside her, I took her hand into mine and kissed it. She giggled, as if all this reminded her of younger days. She turned away as if suddenly bashful.
“Are you blushing, my sweet,” I whispered into her ear, before I traced my tongue down the side of her neck. “Certainly this isn’t your first time. A woman of your age?”
She cleared her throat, leaned away, and looked at me nonplussed. It was not proper to speak of a woman’s age. That question threw her off, just as I had hoped. I did like to toy with them, like a cat playing with a mouse.
“Well!” she said exasperated, snatching her hand away from mine.
Ah yes. Time to feign offense.
I just ignored her, even though the temperature of the room had dropped to colder than my own body temperature. I could feel the chill in the air, but a specific part of me was generating enough heat for the both of us. I resumed kissing her neck as if nothing had happened, and after a moment or two she once again softened beside me. She wasn’t about to give up the only chance she had for such a romp. Perhaps my faux pas would at least help her drop the pretense of innocence.
She turned into me and lifted my head, eager for more. She kissed me full on the lips, parting them with her aggressive, soft tongue.
As the kiss deepened I lifted her to a standing position, striving to press against her. My excitement drove through her layers of clothes, and she felt my hardness pressed up against her leg. To my great surprise, she smiled, breaking the kiss. She ran her gloved hand up my inseam, and now it was I who gasped.
Certainly not her first time…