Johanna paced the room trying to control her nerves. She had reviewed the speech Charlotte-Ann wrote a dozen times over the past half hour and knew every word by heart, even if she didn’t have a photographic memory. The speech wasn’t going to be a problem. Speaking in front of a room of strangers was. She hated crowds and she hated being the center of attention. Unfortunately, as the next ruler of Westerly, she didn’t have a choice. She would have to get used to the idea that people were going to be photographing her, interviewing her, and repeating everything she said the rest of her life. Wishing it would all end with one press conference was a dream she couldn’t afford to have.
Alissa watched Johanna pace the room. Like her niece, she too had distracted thoughts. She couldn’t help but wonder about the upcoming trip to Northern Shores. Johanna told her the plan to restructure the area and to breathe life back into the Region, before moving on to the next problem area. She also mentioned that Samuel would be going with her as her body guard, not once but four times.
She watched the way the two interacted with each other, the way Johanna’s face would flush when the man stared at her, or the way she would watch his every move when she thought nobody was paying attention. The way they reacted to each other was particularly fascinating to her aunt. Alissa had seen her young niece take hold of board meetings with the skill of the late Charles Abbott-Worthington, and drive stockholders to their knees. She had survived the Nomads in Australia, a head injury in Egypt, a scorpion sting in the Sahara Desert, and a snake bite in Africa.
Regardless of how many trials were placed before her, Johanna always found a way to bounce back. She continued to strive for perfection and demanded more from herself than most people would ever contemplate. She accepted the fact people had limitations but would never allow the same for herself. Failure was not an idea Johanna was willing to consider.
Now that there was a distraction for her niece, albeit, a very handsome distraction, Alissa couldn’t help but wonder exactly how intense the trip was going to be. She didn’t want Johanna hurt, physically or emotionally, yet she didn’t want her to be disappointed either. It was public knowledge that Samuel had sworn off romance after he buried his infant son, and Johanna would shun anything associated with the notion of love. They were possibly the least compatible couple in the world, and yet…perhaps that was what they needed in order to begin embracing the future.
“Your Highness,” Mary said coming into the small office behind the library. “The press is assembled. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” Johanna answered, squaring her shoulders and lifting her chin just enough to look proud and dignified.
She smoothed her ruffled tunic, adjusted her sword and drew a deep breath. With the speech she and Charlotte-Ann had worked on that morning in her hand, she stepped to the door that led to the hallway joining the two rooms. She glanced back to Alissa and watched as she stood up and fell into step behind her, with Martin, Mary and Charlotte-Ann taking up the rear.
Leaving the office, Johanna noted the number of guards lined up along the hallway that hadn’t been there a few minutes before. They stood as a barrier between the princess and any uninvited spectator who may wander by. Waiting for her were her two guards, Samuel and Patrick, who bowed slightly as she approached. A guard opened the door as she stepped up to it, allowing the future queen a moment to take in the room’s décor.
The library was large, nearly the size of the parlor and more than thirty chairs had been set up for the reporters. Not a single one was empty. Video cameras were set up along both sides of the room, and a small podium stood in front of the journalists. Several microphones were set on the edge of the pedestal which stood in front of a large, wall-sized replica of her family coat of arms. This room had been used multiple times over the years for press conferences, so it was only natural that it would represent the royal blood that coursed through her veins.
Johanna drew a deep breath and stepped across the threshold. The soft hum of voices ceased as each one of the room’s occupants stood, bowing or curtsying to her as she walked up the narrow aisle between the chairs. She stepped behind the podium and set her notes on the wooden surface, glancing to Samuel and Patrick who stood beside the exit. The door closed, and the reporters sat down, as the clicking of cameras filled the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to come here today,” she began in a voice much stronger and more confident than she felt. “As the next ruler of Westerly, I felt it was time I introduced myself to the island and inform you of a few changes I plan on making.”
She paused for a brief moment, glancing to her notes in an attempt to steady her nerves.
“As you all know, Black Jack was the first king of our beautiful island. It was through him our laws, our bylaws, and our rules were created. It’s these laws that have served to protect Westerly for centuries, and it is these laws that every ruler is sworn to uphold and defend. I know you are all aware of the history of Westerly, so I won’t go into detail explaining it further. What I will tell you, is that it is my intention to rekindle the laws that have been ignored or otherwise pushed aside.”
The room seemed to come alive with the hum of voices, but the noise settled down a few moments later as she stared at each one of them in turn.
“I have spent the past two days reviewing the treasury accounts and have found a way to reduce the taxes. So, in honor of King Reginald, I hereby announce that I am reducing taxes by three percent, effective immediately.”
Again, the room came alive with the hum of excited voices. Johanna allowed the noise to settle before she began again.
“I know this reduction is not much, but it is a start,” she continued. “It is my intention to reduce taxes even further. However, this plan will take time and careful organization to accomplish. I ask for your patience as I begin the work necessary to find ways to reduce the cost of living on the island.”
She paused momentarily as she drew a deep breath to collect her thoughts and keep them organized in her mind.
“During my investigation into the treasury,” she continued, “I have discovered that many factories and businesses have been closed down prematurely, which is one reason for the sudden and drastic increase in taxes. The burden of those failures become the responsibility of the island as a whole. Black Jack knew the importance of protection. He also understood economy and the necessity to keep progress flowing. While developing the laws of Westerly, he was reminded that throughout history, a number of setbacks occurred during the struggle for domination. It was his belief that politics was the guiding force behind wars and the discontentment among the people. He was concerned with the constant change and amending of the laws to suit a particular time, current belief, or a single person. He also believed that a single mind was greater than a conglomeration. That is why he declared that the safety and protection of the people, in his corner of the world at least, was to be the responsibility of the throne.
“Keeping this in mind, it is the obligation of the throne to find a way to protect everyone and everything that pertains to Westerly. That includes, but is not limited to, failing properties. Until further notice, all bank foreclosures will be postponed until I have had the chance to review each accounting individually.”
Johanna drew another deep breath as the room began the familiar murmur of voices. She was beginning to grow impatient with the constant interruption and was eager to have this moment finished.
“If I may continue,” she said in a voice loud enough to collect attention and forceful enough to demand it. “As ruler of Westerly, I am bringing back the traditions and laws that have been neglected for far too long. I have also been informed that the crime level of Westerly is on an incline, and that is going to stop immediately. Affective as of today, there will be a strict curfew of eleven o’clock pm, that will be enforced on all citizens. This curfew includes a noise ordinance which will fall under these guidelines as well.
“The parents of any minor caught out after curfew will be held equally accountable for the action of their child. A fine of one hundred dollars will be issued for the juvenile’s first offense, and each additional offense will increase by a hundred dollars, until the third offense when the person or persons guilty of breaking the curfew will be brought before the throne. Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances to take into account, and those situations will be addressed individually. Curfews will be extended to midnight during festivals or island celebrations, and the curfew will not reflect against the Bordellos or their guests. All taverns will serve their final drinks at midnight, and their doors will be closed at one o’clock am.
“I have requested the military, as well as my own personal guard, to be assigned to protect and govern the island until enough law enforcement officers have been trained to safeguard the citizens of Westerly. Guests as well as citizens will be accountable for their activities that reflect against the curfew, or the crimes being committed on Westerly, and will pay the established fines, or serve ten days in the dungeons. A list of fines and punishments will be posted at every Bordello, school, and Regional Hall on Westerly.
“All those caught vandalizing property will be held accountable for the cleanup and the cost of repairs for the damage. The parents of a minor found liable for the loss of business, or the cost of additional repairs created by their vandalism will be held financially responsible. Once peace and order have been restored, this curfew will be reexamined, and with the recommendation of the individual law enforcement offices, lifted permanently.”
Johanna looked out to the shocked expressions on the reporters' faces as she collected her thoughts once more. She glanced to the back of the room where Samuel was standing and frowned at the half grin that pulled his full lips upward.
“I will accept a few questions at this time, but please keep it brief,” she added as hands began to raise.
“It sounds like you’re placing the island under Marshall Law,” a young, dark-skinned man asked as he stood up.
His short curly hair was styled close to his head, and his chin was covered with a stripe of hair that went from one ear, around his jaw, to the other ear. Johanna eyed him for a moment, estimating him to be no more than eighteen or nineteen years old.
“To a point, that’s exactly what I’m doing,” she answered boldly. “However, every citizen is free to conduct their lives as they always have, with the exception of the curfew. I’m sure as a journalist, you have access to the reports of how many crimes occur on a daily basis. These events are greatly committed between the hours of ten pm and two o’clock am. In order to protect property and promote safety, it is a decision that is not just necessary, but long overdue.”
“Your Highness,” another reporter began, bringing Johanna’s eyes toward the woman who stood up to address her.
She was short in stature and rather chunky with dark red curly hair and a double chin.
“If I may. It is rumored that you plan on closing down the bordellos once you have taken the throne. Can you address that question for us?”
“King Edward brought the first bordello workers to this island with the sole intention of controlling the crime that was tearing Westerly apart,” she began. “Within a few short years, the King’s goals had been achieved and the island was at peace. Women and girls were able to walk safely among the citizens and visitors without fear of assault or molestation. With this in mind, I want to assure everyone, I will not be tampering with the structure of any of the bordellos. The homes will remain intact and will continue to serve the community as they always have.”
“What are your plans for the Elders?” a third reporter asked, this one a dark blonde male about thirty-five or forty years old.
“I am not prepared to address that issue at this time,” Johanna answered, dodging the subject that she knew so many would want answered.
She quickly glanced to the clock and realized the guests for Reginald’s wake were already arriving and she was eager to have the day over with.
“I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen,” she said raising a hand to stop the curious from asking anything else. “There isn’t enough time to address all of your questions. I would like to thank all of you for your time and wish you a good evening.”
Johanna left the podium and walked back down the aisle toward the double doors which Samuel and Patrick opened, ignoring the voices that called to her. She led the small group that had accompanied her to the conference, back into the small office and closed the door, blocking out the noise of the men and women who were finishing up their live reports, or calling in the stories to their editors.
“That went better than I had expected,” Alissa said as she sat down in a chair across from the settee Johanna fell into.
“I’m impressed you were able to lower taxes so soon,” Mary commented as she sat down opposite the princess.
“It wasn’t difficult,” Johanna answered as Charlotte-Ann move to the liquor cabinet and poured several glasses of red liquid.
“You have a unique way of making people feel like they’ve just swallowed their tongues,” Samuel said with a smile as he and Patrick joined the others, accepting a glass as Charlotte-Ann began passing them around.
“What exactly is that supposed to mean?” Johanna asked with a frown.
She waved Charlotte-Ann away as she continued to lock her gaze with the handsome man. Samuel chuckled softly, lifting the glass to his lips. He wrinkled his nose at the taste, of what Johanna knew to be Sherry.
“It wasn’t an insult, Princess,” he assured her sitting down on the opposite end of the settee. “I merely meant, this island isn’t used to someone who is forthcoming and direct. We’re used to Reginald, who was very skilled at dodging questions and responsibility.”
“As I’ve already told you, Captain Carrington, I am not my cousin.”
“No, you certainly aren’t,” Samuel commented giving her an approving, sideways glance.
“I hope your men are up for the challenge,” she continued a moment later, fighting the jumping in her stomach. “Exactly how many do you have that can be spared?”
“I’m sure I can spare a good portion of them for a worthy cause. It will be excellent training for some of the junior guard.”
“Why are you making the parents responsible for the actions of their child?” Alissa asked, sipping on her Sherry. “Most of them aren’t even aware of what their kids are doing when they’re at home, much less when they’re out.”
“That’s exactly why I made it their responsibility,” Johanna insisted, watching as Samuel set his glass aside. “If the parents are financially accountable for the actions of their children, they will have more control over what they do and where they go. They have to be involved with their child to make certain they are being taught to be responsible adults.”
“Makes sense,” Patrick said, downing his drink then standing and walking to the liquor cabinet.
“What do you think the Elders are going to say?” Martin asked as he loosened his tie and braced is heeled shoes against the edge of the coffee table.
“I don’t really give a damn,” Johanna answered. “I’m not going to ask their permission every time I have to take a…”
“Johanna!” Alissa snapped reminding her she was a woman of worth, rather than a desert rat, as the twins labeled her.
“Well, I’m not.”
“Nor do you have to,” Martin added setting an empty glass aside. “There’s nothing they can do to stop you from straightening out the country.”
“No, but they can make it difficult for her,” Samuel added. “It’s going to take a very strong person to back them down.”
“That’s Johanna,” Alissa added proudly as a soft knock sounded at the door. “Nobody can stop her when she has her mindset.”
“We’ll see what happens next week,” Samuel continued as Charlotte-Ann opened the door and Russell stepped in.
“The reporters have left, your Highness and the guests are arriving,” the butler announced.
“Thank you,” she replied.
Alissa stood beside Martin who reluctantly adjusted his tie again, then walked to the door. They turned to see Johanna still sitting on the settee beside Samuel who didn’t appear to be all that eager to leave.
“Are you going to join us?” she asked with a frown.
“I’ll be along in a moment,” Johanna assured her and watched as the others left the room.
Martin glanced back as he pulled the door closed, wondering if he should leave the two alone or not. Neither of them was emotionally stable enough to be alone with the other.
“You made quite an impact, Johanna,” Samuel told her once the room was empty. “The reporters aren’t sure if they should support you or hide from you.”
“I don’t care either way. I’m not going to walk on eggshells just because a few people don’t like what I have to say. There’s too much work to do, to be concerned about other people’s feelings.”
“I’m behind you, Sweetheart, I’m just concerned that you may be getting into something bigger than you can handle.”
“Then stand back, Captain,” she told him as she stood and straightened her tunic before adjusting the sword on her hip to a more comfortable position. “There’s a new wave about to strike the island, and it has a determining force that won’t stop until Westerly is cleansed of the past.”
Samuel watched her walk to the door before he stood and followed her. He had a very distinct feeling there was more to this little woman than anyone had expected, and far more than most could handle. He just wondered if he was ready to move forward with her, or if his past was going to keep him at arm’s length.
Johanna stepped out of the tub, wrapping the thick towel around her torso. The night had lasted far longer than she would have preferred, but there were some high points that made it memorable. The first was meeting Samuel’s little sister, Nora. She was a cute sixteen-year-old with long blonde hair and dark blue eyes. When Johanna was introduced to her, she looked as if she was going to faint. It was an odd experience, and she wasn’t sure how to process it.
Once Nora recovered her star-struck mood, she began bombarding Johanna with questions. She wanted to know everything about the future queen. Her favorite color, her favorite music, even her favorite lip gloss. The only thing that saved Johanna from the onslaught of questions was Lord Eric Sorensen. He approached Johanna from out of the crowd of curious listeners, who had gathered around to pretend they weren’t listening to what the girls were talking about.
Without so much as a please, the old man bowed, took Johanna’s hand and said simply, dance with me.
“I would like to congratulate you on your eulogy this morning,” Sorensen commented once they were on the dance floor.
“Thank you,” she answered briefly as they moved around the floor awkwardly.
“You seem to have won a great deal of supporters with your generosity. You are aware of how much wine will be sold this afternoon, aren’t you?”
“Naturally, but it is the least I could do for my cousin.”
“Yes,” he said in a deep, disapproving tone that Johanna knew was supposed to intimidate her.
Before the man could say another word, the song ended, and Johanna thanked him, then moved off the floor and back to where her aunt and Martin stood talking with Samuel and his father.
“I would like a moment of your time,” Sorensen said as he followed close behind her.
“Lord Sorensen, if you don’t mind, there are a lot of people I need to thank for attending Reginald’s funeral.”
Johanna found being with the man less than pleasant and wanted as far away from him as she could before she punched him in his arrogant, turned up nose.
“As the leader of the Elders Committee, I believe it would be worth your time to speak with me,” Sorensen said in a louder than required voice.
Several smaller groups stopped speaking and turned to witness the exchange between their princess and the elder man.
“Would you care to tell me why speaking with you would be worth my time?” she asked as she rounded on the man.
Alissa heard and saw the exchange and knew from the way Johanna turned on the man, there would be problems if she didn’t get her temper under control. She placed her drink on the tray a waiter was carrying and hurried to her niece’s side, followed close behind by Martin and Samuel.
“As the rest of the country, I heard your press conference this afternoon, and I have to say it was very interesting,” he continued.
Johanna watched as he squared his shoulders, knowing he was making himself appear intimidating for those around them who were listening to their exchange.
“You have no idea how pleased I am you liked it,” Johanna answered sarcastically.
“I didn’t say I liked it. You are aware, you should have addressed your plans of lowering taxes with the Elders before you decided to announce it to the world. There are several factors you need to be concerned with, prior to attempting to lower the cost of living.”
“Is that a fact?” she asked with a deep frown, pulling her arm away as Alissa tried to take it in an attempt to pull her out of the limelight.
“You need to know right now where you stand, young lady,” Sorensen said, then instantly shrunk backward as Johanna took a step closer.
The anger on her face was lethal and he felt strangely uncomfortable for the first time in his life. It was instantly apparent to Johanna that he was not used to women standing up for themselves, but it was an event she was determined to make him accustomed to.
“I am very much aware of where I stand, Lord Sorensen,” Johanna growled in a low voice, like that of a wild animal stalking its prey. “But I have to ask if you do.”
“Now…s-see here…” the man stuttered momentarily.
“As ruler of Westerly, I will be in the position to award members of our community, places of increased authority. You, however, are about to lose yours. Reginald broke at least three laws when he allowed you to have control of the treasury. Regardless of how many promises my cousin made you, he had no right to give you control over Westerly’s finances, or over the laws of the island.”
“Reginald gave us the legal authority to act on his behalf,” Lord Sorensen said puffing his chest out as if to intimidate the young woman.
“Reginald is dead, in case you haven’t heard. As for his legal arrangements, by Westerly Proclamation, nobody has the authority to alter the laws Black Jack created, temporarily or otherwise. Not even the king. When Reginald placed you in power, he was breaking the very laws he was sworn to uphold. This illegal act was punishable by his removal from the throne. As the next blood relative to assume the throne, I am the one you speak with, and I am the one you answer to,” she pointed her finger into the man’s chest as she spoke, forcing him to take a step backward. “I have been considering disbanding the Elders for some time now. I suppose this is as good of a time as any.”
“Now see here, young lady,” the elder man began in a voice that would undoubtedly intimidate any other woman.
“Lord Sorensen,” Johanna interrupted in a firm, steady voice that echoed through the silence.
She had not become aware that the music and conversations of the room had ceased as she took another step closer to the elderly man.
“You and the other Elders are hereby disbanded, and you will vacate your offices at Westerly Hall first thing tomorrow.”
“You can’t do that,” the man snapped bitterly.
“Oh, but I can,” Johanna continued. “I am assuming the responsibility as crowned princess of the throne of Westerly. Pray, I do not remove you from your Region as well.”
“But...but…” the man stumbled trying to regain control of the conversation he had assumed he would command when he first approached her.
“My guards will be happy to see you to your car. They will be at the Hall in the morning to lend a helping hand to you and your cohorts. We wouldn’t want you to be accused of taking something that didn’t belong to you.”
“You cannot do this,” he muttered with wide eyes.
“Wanna bet?” she challenged.
“I believe the princess just dismissed you,” Samuel said as he placed a large hand on the older man’s shoulder. He snapped his fingers and instantly brought two guards to his side.
“See that Lord Sorensen makes it to his car, as the princess has instructed,” he told them, watching as one took hold of the older man’s elbow.
Lord Sorensen turned to see the threatening image of the Captain of the Royal Guard standing behind him, as well as two rather large men. Behind Samuel stood a dozen more men, all with their hands on the hilt of their swords still sheathed at their sides. The look in the men’s eyes warned him to stand down or face the consequences in a manner the older man was unable to back up. Trying to regain his dignity, Sorensen adjusted his suit jacket by tugging the hem down with a quick jerk.
“Well,” he said as he once again puffed his chest out.
“Just leave,” Johanna ordered in a strong voice.
Without another word spoken, the man turned around and quickly walked away with the two guards in attendance, as the guests listening began to applaud.
Johanna looked around briefly then nodded to the orchestra leader who bowed and waved his baton, bringing the sweet sound of four violins to life. She turned away from the crowd, glancing once to Samuel, then back to her aunt and Martin.
“A drink for the princess,” Samuel ordered the nearby waiter. “Whiskey, straight.”
Johanna slipped on the tank top and shorts before walking to her vanity and sitting down. The rest of the evening went smoothly. The moment of silence, according to the news station, was observed all over Westerly, as well as the palace. Once it ended, the wake turned into more of a celebration. The conversation between Johanna and Lord Sorensen was whispered about throughout the evening and even made it as far as the news reporters. Everyone was talking about it, arguing the laws and bylaws and supporting Johanna’s decision.
She pulled her hair into a braid, then moved to the door of the veranda and pulled it open. It was just after midnight and the air was still quite warm, though there was a gentle breeze that blew across the threshold. Johanna picked up her laptop and went into the sitting room. She sat down on the divan, folding her feet beneath her as she opened the lid to her computer and began reviewing the file of employees once again.
Russell gave her the list she asked him to work on the day before, much earlier than she had anticipated, and so far, she had reviewed one hundred and ninety-six palace employees. The general piece of information she was able to determine was that every one of the staff was due a very large increase in their wages. Russell and his wife, Mrs. Reynolds, had been the longest working members of the palace. Russell started as an apprentice with his father, King Arnold’s butler, at the age of fifteen. Forty-one years later, the two were still there and making what they were thirty-five years ago when Reginald took the throne.
Johanna flipped on the flat screen television above the fireplace to add a bit of noise to the silent room, then set the remote aside and continued reviewing her list. The replay of the news was just coming on, and she stopped her actions long enough to listen to the report of Reginald’s funeral. The cameras captured several crowds around Westerly during her eulogy and their reactions to the televised service. There were more people wiping their eyes and blowing their noses than Johanna would have assumed, considering how her cousin treated the country.
She turned her attention back to the computer, tuning out the television completely. By the time the sports had finished, Johanna had reviewed another sixty-two records, making the necessary notes on their performance in order to offer a suitable pay increase. The last segment of the news was a recap of the argument between Lord Sorensen and herself. There was no video feed of it since cameras had been forbidden during the wake, but more than a dozen people were interviewed, all praising her actions. The news reporter made her last comment before signing off, drawing Johanna’s full attention.
“It is just my opinion, but I think Westerly is in for a big awakening,” the dark-haired woman said. “Princess Johanna is known for her intelligence, her strength, and her determination. With the heavy hand of the Elders out of the picture, I think she will step up and take the country in hand. It almost feels like history repeated when King Edward returned to the island more than four hundred years ago. With him, he brought the women whose service saved our land. Now with Johanna, we find a new salvation dawning over this island paradise of ours, and I for one will be very interested to see what the future brings. This is Margo Rallings reporting. Good night Westerly.”
Johanna took the remote and began pressing the button, flipping through the multitude of channels. She passed a football game that was prerecorded from the day before, a black and white detective movie, a late-night talk show, and a shopping channel selling costume jewelry. She was just about to give up and go to bed when the channel landed on a documentary about the bordellos. She set the remote aside, ignoring the computer on her lap, as she began watching the show.
Reenactments of King Edward and Ian Worthington’s encounter began with a bar scene, followed by the first encounter with the whores. She was amazed at the explicit details of what history described in the annuals. There was a very handsome young man portraying Ian Worthington, though his acting skills left a lot to be desired. The girls who played Teresa McCoy and Tracy O’Malley were quite beautiful, their resemblance of the whores was remarkable. Johanna watched as the actor who played King Edward instructed the Ian character on how to behave once the women joined them in the room, then left to allow him time to get ready.
The scene continued with Ian taking a shower, shaving his genitals, brushing his teeth and redressing, all displayed on the screen without the typical censoring for the sake of younger children. He paced the floor as he waited for Edward and the girls to join him, just as the journals dictated. Edward returned a few moments later as the narrator continued to explain what was happening, or about to happen. The two actors recapped what was going to happen once more than a knock came to the door and Ian sat down in a leather armchair.
The show began to get very interesting as the actors recreated the first encounter, and Johanna found herself transfixed to it. It wasn’t exactly as Ian’s journals explained, but she supposed it was changed to help enhance the interest in the show.
Johanna could feel the heat burning her face as she listened to the man ordered one of the actresses to begin licking the length of him. As much as she felt embarrassed and somewhat ashamed for watching the program, she couldn’t turn the channel. It was as if the actors had control over her body. The young woman began licking the actor’s penis, causing Johanna’s breath to catch in her throat.
Angela and Sarah told her about doing this very thing with their dates, but she didn’t believe it was a real possibility. As the camera scanned up to see the pleasure on the Ian character’s face, she imagined Samuel sitting in that seat. She knew he had gone through the lessons like every boy on Westerly, but knowing what he did in the homes, made it seem…oddly surreal.
The show continued for over an hour as the three characters reenacted the entire sex scene from the two women licking and sucking on Ian’s hard arousal, to the actual act of intercourse. Johanna was amazed that the television would allow something this explicit on the air, but there it was in full color. The show in its entirety was a glorified porno, with a plot. It was a historical reenactment of something that happened over three hundred years ago between two whores and a man who would become King of Westerly.
Johanna finished watching the program to the end, then shut off the television. She sat on the divan for several long moments in complete darkness, thinking over what she had just seen. In her mind, she had always been able to imagine the first lesson, but to see it acted out in front of her, was more than her imagination could ever have fathomed. It was a full colored rendition of a sexual encounter that left her feeling…aroused.
She closed her eyes and thought back on everything that had happened that day. The funeral, the wake, the argument with Sorensen. The one vision in the midst of all of the chaos was Samuel. He was beside her as she walked behind Reginald’s casket. He was there to offer support during the press conference, and he was there to encourage Sorensen to leave the ballroom once she dismissed the Elders. She could feel his arms around her as she thought back on the one dance she shared with him. She could see his eyes twinkling at her with amusement as they stared at each other. All of that added up to an overwhelming urge for…what? Passion…lust…sex?
With those thoughts echoing in her mind, Johanna took her computer and walked to the desk, placing it on the top. She climbed into bed and pulled the covers up beneath her chin. These feelings of desire, of need, set her heart racing within her chest. The heat of his touch raced through her veins as the memory of his eyes burned a hole into her soul.
Fighting the powerful urge to call the man, she rolled over onto her stomach and buried her head beneath the pillows. She would have another chance to see him tomorrow, to feel the warmth of his smile and the embrace of his deep voice as he wrapped it around her like a cloak.
With a heavy sigh, Johanna rolled onto her back. A little meditation would ease her mind, so she could find peace in the slumber of night. Now that the day was over, now that Reginald was finally put to rest, she could concentrate on the future. She knew the real chaos of her new life had yet to begin. As Westerly prepared for the coronation of the new queen, Johanna prepared for the anarchy of her new life.
Rubbing her eyes, Johanna stood from her desk and straightened her back. Over the past four days, she had gone over all of the staff records, spoken to twenty-nine business owners who were facing bankruptcy due to the high cost of products, and met with most of the Madams of the bordellos.
With the exception of Lord Sorensen, the Elders left their offices without argument. According to Samuel, two of the Elders were relieved to be released and sent back to their own responsibilities. One Elder, Lord Liam Michaels of Oak Port, was reported to say, “I’m very happy to have the princess taking over the duties of the throne. It has been a very long twenty years, and I’m ready for a break.”
Lord Sorensen held a press conference the day after Reginald’s funeral, demanding an inquiry into the laws surrounding Johanna’s claims that the former king had no legal right to place them in positions of power. The inquiry took less than twelve hours before they reported back to the man, and to the news reporters, that Johanna had been right. Reginald, if he had lived much longer, could have faced trial for breaking the laws his ancestor had written. With that said, Lord Sorensen reluctantly left office.
Once they were out of Westerly Hall, Johanna ordered an immediate audit of their files. She ordered all the passwords to the online treasury vault to be changed, and all financial accounts they set up, supposedly pertaining to the island, to be liquidated. All the funds were returned to the treasury and all the security locks and accesses were changed to prevent unwanted intruders. She wasn’t going to take any chances of Sorensen trying to take revenge by deleting vital records.
A backup of all accounts, financial, medical, property, and historical, was ordered and had taken three days, working twenty-four hours a day, to complete. At least Johanna was comfortable knowing everything of importance had been saved and there was a secure backup to rely on if necessary.
The supplies for her upcoming trip had been purchased and waiting for Walter Carrington to arrange transportation of them to the Northern Shores, once the Opening of The King’s Warf was over. He had sent four men to the Region to review the extent of the damage and learned that most of the homes were in serious disrepair. The businesses - what was left of them - had been vandalized or robbed a number of times, forcing the owners to carry guns with them during the day. There were fourteen schools. Most of them had closed, and those that were still operational barely had enough students to warrant the number of teachers working in them. Children were truant or had dropped out of school to help support their families, while young girls were either at risk of assault, or pregnant from previous encounters. For Johanna, it was as if the island had reverted back in time four hundred years.
She paced her way to the window that looked out onto the ocean and sighed. The sun was high in the afternoon sky, and yet she hadn’t been able to experience it even once since Reginald’s funeral. She had been stuck in her gilded cage for so long, she wasn’t sure what time or day it was. The island was in the final preparations of the coronation tomorrow, and everyone seemed to be rushing about doing one task or another.
So far that morning, she had reviewed the itinerary for the festival as well as for her coronation. Fireworks were already being set up and more than three hundred families had petitioned for the right to sell their wares and goods. A farmer’s market would be available for the festivities, along with more stands of food and baked sweets than she could count. There was to be a ribbon ceremony for the fattest calves and pigs, along with judging of pastries, candies, breads, pies, cakes and jellies. Blankets were expected to be displayed, along with knitted items for babies. The fishermen would take their boats out and begin netting their prey, then return to a bonfire where they would cook the day’s catch, prior to the fireworks.
The ladies of the bordellos were expected to have a tent where they would explain the workings of the homes, as well as offer testing for upcoming sessions. Rumor had it, a tent would be assembled where the ladies would offer a sampling of their talents, though Johanna highly doubted this to be true.
A fireworks display would end all three days of the festival, with a spectacular event for the final day. All of the arrangements for her coronation had been set the day she was made Reginald’s successor. The former king wanted everything to be perfect for the girl, so he had experts working on it yearly for the past twenty years. The program, the ceremony, the celebration afterwards, everything had been planned years ago, all she had to do was show up.
Johanna heard the office door quietly open and she turned to see Russell step in. He was followed by a young serving girl she knew as Penny, who carried a small tray of pastries and coffee.
“I thought you might be hungry, your Highness,” Russell said as the girl deposited the tray on the table near the desk.
“Thank you,” she smiled at Penny who bowed in a sort-of bobbing action.
“You should take a break, Miss Johanna,” Russell insisted, calling her by the name Westerly had adopted, with her approval of course. “You’ve been working nonstop for four days.”
“I will when I know the island is at peace again,” she smiled accepting the cup of coffee he poured for her, then moved to the sofa and sat down.
“The Polo Club sent you their formal thanks,” Russell continued taking the seat opposite his princess and handing her the embossed card. “They are very appreciative to you for the horses, and for King Reginald’s Polo trophies. They are setting up a memorial at Westerly Museum of Island History, dedicated to him and his reign.”
“I think he’d like that,” Johanna answered with a tired sigh.
“Your aunt and Mr. Miller have gone to the seaside for the day. That will give you time to relax and take in an afternoon away from your computer. I know the Carringtons have invited you to Spring Arbor a number of times. Why don’t you take them up on their invitation and relax for a few hours?”
“You sound like a mother hen,” Johanna chuckled. “I know I’ve been busy, but it really isn’t anything I’m not used to. I’m accustomed to working fifteen hours a day, seven days a week. I’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t know how to do anything else.”
“Then now is a good time to start,” Russell said boldly as he stood from his seat. “I will inform Lord and Lady Carrington that you will be joining them for tea, and I will have Roscoe bring the car around front.”
“I’d prefer you not inform anyone of anything, much less the Carringtons. I haven’t decided if I want to visit them or not.”
“Will you at least consider leaving the palace for a few hours?” Russell asked with a concerned frown. “You need out of this room.”
“It would be nice to feel the sun on my face again,” she said absently.
“Then shall I have Roscoe bring the car around?”
“No,” she said setting her coffee cup aside and standing up. “I think I’m going to go for a drive. Will you ask him to bring my bike around front, please?”
“Your bike? You mean that motorcycle you brought with you? Is it wise for you to drive such a machine?”
“I’ve been driving one since I was ten, and I can assure you, they are much safer than you might think. Please ask him to bring it around for me.”
“Yes ma’am,” Russell said in a disapproving tone.
Johanna watched as he closed the door behind him then shook her head with amusement. He was like every other man she’d ever met. She may have looked too delicate to handle a machine as powerful as her 198hp motorcycle but looks could be deceiving. She may seem frail and weak, but she was a tiger at heart, and as mean as two when crossed.