The Price of Protection

Chapter 24

He sighed as he held her body against his. She fit perfectly, but he already knew that from the other times she had been in his embrace.

"Are you sure?" he whispered as his nose skimmed along her jaw.

"Most definitely," she murmured. He had convinced her to stay in his room for the night. Even though he'd promised her good behavior, that he would control himself, her mere presence had tempted him, and apparently it was the same for her. Soon, they had found themselves in a passionate embrace, their clothes discarded on the floor. They'd landed on the bed, exploring every inch of each other, and as he'd touched Katherine, worshiped her body, she had responded with sounds that would echo inside of him long after tonight. Not that she was alone in her pleasure; her sensual touch had made him react as well, in ways he never imagined

Now, he positioned himself ever so close, and waited for her permission to let him enter her, to essentially claim her.

"Are sure?" he asked again.

"Yes," she said, almost impatiently.

He started to move when she started moaning,"Oh, Your Highness."

"Richard," he corrected her. She had been calling him Richard throughout their exploration. Why was she changing it now?

"Your Highness," she moaned again, this time louder. "Your Highness!"

"Your Highness!" a voice said.

Richard's eyes flew open and he lifted his head up, looking around. He was in his room for sure, but the opposite side of the bed was empty, much to his disappointment.

"Good morning, Your Highness," the voice said and Richard turned to see one of the servants looking at him, smiling.

"Good morning, Caroline," he murmured.

"You were talking in your sleep, Your Highness," she said.

"What did I say?" he asked, hoping that his fantasy hadn't been revealed.

She shrugged. "I don't know, you were just mumbling."

Richard nodded. "I don't remember what I was dreaming about," he lied, stalling for a minute before getting up. As mean as it was, the sight of the older woman had helped decrease his arousal, so Richard did not have to hide anything once he got out of his bed.

Seeing that the curtains had been drawn, he looked out the window and saw it had stopped snowing. However, there was a large pile of snow, maybe a foot high, blocking the window. He smiled. Perhaps he and Katherine could make a snow man today.

After dismissing the maid, Richard dressed himself for the day. Once satisfied with his appearance, he went to the dining room, where his father and mother were already waiting. Surprisingly, Alexandra was there too.

"Good morning, dear," his mother greeted as he sat down.

"Good morning, mother, father," he replied nodding to them. "Good morning, Alexandra," he added, giving the girl a friendly smile.

"Good morning, Your Highness," she responded politely, returning the gesture. She then turned to the king and queen. "Thank you for letting me join you for breakfast."

"It is no trouble," the queen said.

"Yes, you are our guest, after all," the king added.

Alexandra grinned before digging into her breakfast.

Richard observed her for a moment, noticing that she seemed to eat as if it had been a while since she'd had a decent meal.

"Where are you from?" he asked, blurting out the question.

Alexandra looked at him, surprised and said, "I'm from a village very far from here."

"I see," he hummed, taking a bite of egg.

"Do you have any family?" his mother inquired.

Alexandra shook her head. "No, my mother died a long time ago and I do not know who my father is."

"So you live alone?" The king looked surprised.

"No," she answered, hesitating. "A family took me in. I've lived with them ever since." Richard could tell something was off in her answer, but he didn't want to push her. "I was traveling to meet a friend when I got lost."

"That is unfortunate," the queen said. "I'm sure you wish to be on your way; however I do not think that it is a good idea, for today at least." Alexandra furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "The snow is very high and will likely be hard to travel in. I think it would be better if you were to wait another day or so before continuing your journey."

"My wife is right," the king agreed. "It would be better for you to stay here rather than be in danger."

Alexandra frowned. "I'm sure I will be fine. Besides, I wouldn't want to impose,"

"Nonsense, dear," his mother interrupted. "We have plenty of empty rooms and food. Also, it would be nice to have another woman around, even if it's just for a little while." She winked.

"Umm, okay," Alexandra answered, apparently still a little uncertain.

"Fantastic!" the queen exclaimed. "Also, I'm sure Richard wouldn't mind giving you a tour of the castle." She shot Richard a look, indicating there was no use arguing. He chuckled. He didn't mind, he didn't really have anything else to do anyway.

"I would be happy to." He smiled reassuringly at Alexandra.

"Well, then," the king said. "Eat up and then you can get the tour started."

The two nodded before digging back into their breakfast.


Later that day, Martha was sitting in the parlor, sipping her tea. She enjoyed her relaxation time. However, unlike most women, she didn't spend her free time doing embroidery. Instead, she preferred to enjoy nature or read a book. At the moment she was staring out the window, admiring the beauty the snow brought to the landscape.

As she was gazing out the window, she noticed someone walking the grounds. She smiled as she saw the female soldier traipse through the snow. Martha sighed. She was sure the young woman would be better off inside, but knew that Katherine wouldn't appreciate it too much. From what she had learned on their trip, Katherine was not one to be coddled and wanted her independence. Not that Martha blamed her, of course.

A knock on the doorframe interrupted her thoughts. She turned to see a servant, who was a young woman, standing at the entrance, a certain red-head with her.

"I apologize for the intrusion, Your Majesty," the servant said. "But you said to bring Miss Alexandra here."

"Yes, of course." Martha smiled. "Come in, Alexandra and please sit." The girl entered, sitting down on the velvet chair across from the queen. "Would you like some tea?"

"That would be lovely." Alexandra smiled.

Martha gestured to the servant to get some more tea and the servant bowed before leaving the room.

"How was the tour? Was my son polite?" she asked, taking another sip of tea. She knew Richard would rather have been with someone else, but she was sure he could last a few hours without a certain female soldier.

"He was very kind," Alexandra answered. "He was very enthusiastic about showing me around." She grinned, as if remembering something.

Martha chuckled. "That sounds like Richard. He is very proud of his home." She hoped he would be of course.

Just then, the servant entered the room with a cup and saucer. She began to walk over to Alexandra, however, her foot caught on the rug and the girl fell flat on her face. Meanwhile, the cup and saucer had gone flying before landing on the wood floor, breaking into pieces.

The servant let out a gasp, a horrified expression on her face.

"I'm so sorry, Your Majesty," she cried, before hurrying to clean up the mess. Martha frowned as she saw the girl's hands shake. She sighed, walking over to help the girl.

"It is all right, it was an accident," she soothed the girl. "Why don't you go get a broom? You will hurt your hands if you pick it up by yourself." The servant looked at her before nodding and scurried off to find a broom. Once the girl left, Martha began to carefully move the pieces into a pile with her hand.

The maid returned a few minutes later with a broom and a dustpan. She quickly cleaned up the mess and went to get rid of it. Martha stood up and walked to the chair again.

"Well, that was quite exciting," she joked to Alexandra. When she looked at Alexandra, she saw the girl had a confused expression on her face.

"You are not going to punish her?" Alexandra questioned.

Martha gave her a bewildered look.

"It was an accident; there is no reason to punish her." She frowned.

"You won't even deprive her of supper?" Martha shook her head. "Oh, okay." Alexandra looked down at her hands, obviously embarrassed.

"Alexandra," she said her tone gentle. "Why do you think she would be punished over something as silly as accidentally breaking a cup and saucer?"

"I thought that happened in all upper class families," Alexandra muttered. "You find someone else to blame your troubles on and then you punish them." She was still looking at her hands as she spoke.

Martha felt her heart clench, seeing that the girl was clearly speaking from experience.

"Alexandra," she said. The girl continued to look down at her lap. "Alexandra, look at me." The red-head finally looked at her, a slight sorrow in her eyes. Martha took the girl's hands in hers and said,"We do not do that here. We never lay a hand on the servants."

"Really?"

"Yes, we see no reason to. Our home is peaceful and almost everyone is faithful to us." Martha gave the girl a reassuring smile.

The servant girl returned with a new cup of tea, carefully stepping over the carpet this time.

"Thank you," Alexandra said, before taking a sip. Then turning to Martha, she said, "I just never knew that a home could be content and a family, especially a royal one, could be so kind." Martha could sense the doubt in Alexandra's tone. She would make sure that was changed by the end of her visit.

"Well drink up," Martha said cheerily, changing the subject. "So, did Richard show you the whole castle?"

"I think he showed me a lot of it." Alexandra chuckled. "He seemed very fixated on the library."

"I bet he would be," Martha muttered. She had spotted him with Katherine once in the library. He had been trying to teach her how to say voluptuous.

"You have a very beautiful garden."

"Yes, it is beautiful all year round," Martha commented. "It is a shame you are not here when the flowers come into full bloom. It seems to bring a whole new feeling of life."

Alexandra nodded before taking another sip of tea. The two sat in comfortable silence, until there was a knock on the door. It was Richard. He entered the room uncertainly, seeming hesitant about something.

"I apologize for the intrusion, Mother," he said. "I wanted to talk to you about something, but I can return later."

Alexandra immediately stood up. "Do not worry, Your Highness, I was actually leaving. I wish to prepare myself for leaving tomorrow."

"Very well then," Martha said. "We will see you at supper."

Alexandra smiled, curtsying at the both of them before leaving.

"She seems like a nice girl," Richard commented. Martha could feel nerves rolling off of him.

"Yes, she is." She grinned and then raised an eyebrow. "So, what did you want to talk about?"

Richard sat in the chair across from her, wringing his hands together.

"I, um," he hesitated. "I wanted your perspective on something."

Martha looked at him curiously. What could he possibly want to know that was making him so nervous?

"If you're wondering, your pants and shirt do go together," she quipped.

Richard grimaced, shaking his head.

"No, it's more personal than that," he responded. He sighed before saying, "What is your view on being…intimate?"

Martha, who had just taken a final sip of her tea, spit it out on surprise. What?

"Pardon?" she asked, setting the cup down on the table next to her.

"Being intimate, you know, love making?" Richard winced as the words left his mouth.

"Well, um," Martha stuttered. "What exactly do you wish to know?"

He seemed to have gained some level of calmness, as he asked, "How do you think a woman should be treated in the bedroom? I know there are er, expectations, but I want to hear a woman's opinion."

Martha sighed. She had a feeling she knew where this was going, or rather who it was about.

"Well," she started. "I'm supposed to tell you that a woman is to lie still during the act. Also, only the man can receive any amount of pleasure. Finally, the only position that is acceptable is the missionary position." Richard raised his eyebrows. "However, I have different thoughts." She smiled a little, remembering the look on her husband's face when she first wanted to get a little more… adventurous in their nightly activities. "I believe that the man and the woman should be equals in the bedroom. The man should consider the needs and desires of his spouse. The woman should do the same thing."

Richard nodded. "That sounds fine."

"Also, the woman should be allowed some control in the bedroom, even if she wishes to try a new position." She chuckled, and she was sure her eyes sparkled with mischief. "However, the most important thing is to respect her. If she says no one night, then take her seriously. Do not push for her to make love to you. Also, make sure she is comfortable, especially if it is her first time. Understand?"

"Yes, I do," Richard responded. "I will take your advice into consideration whenever the time comes." He sighed. "Whenever that is. I wish for the woman to be at ease with me. I don't want her to be nervous and afraid. I want her to know I care for her and would never hurt her." Martha looked at him, slightly surprised at the passion and love in his voice.

"I understand, Darling," she said. "If I may ask, what brought this on?"

He shrugged. "I was just thinking about it, since there has been a push for me to marry. I was curious on what someone else thought about the whole affair."

Martha smiled. "You sure it isn't because of a certain someone?"

Richard shook his head. "No, not yet." He chuckled.

Martha hummed. "That is a shame. I would really like to see grandchildren running about, preferably with brown hair and hazel eyes. Oh, and I'm sure they would have a spirited personality and be fiercely independent, yet also kind." She gave her son a pointed look, holding back a smile as he began to fidget in his chair.

"Well, I'll inform you if I find someone like that."

"Also, it would be nice if they had a penchant for the sword," she mused, teasing him.

"I doubt I could find a woman like that," he said nervously.

Martha rolled her eyes. "Please, Richard, let us stop this silliness. I know who brought this on. It's okay; I figured it out a while ago."

Richard gave her a confused look. "You did?"

"Yes, I am your mother, of course I would find out." She smirked. "Besides, she accidentally called you Richard in front of me during our trip in the village."

"She did?"

Martha nodded. "Also, since she is very respectful and usually refers to us by our titles, I had feeling she did it out of habit." She cocked her head in thought. "Something had changed between you two when you returned from Lockwood, I could tell. Then, I saw you two one night in the library, all curled up."

"Do you approve?"

"Would it matter if I did?" Richard gave her a smirk. "But yes, I approve, she makes you happy. I have seen a change in your attitude."

"Does Father know?" A look of fear flashed across his face.

Martha shook her head. "Goodness no! I am not that dense." She rolled her eyes. "That is something I would not dare tell him, despite our own story." She frowned. "I must warn you though; it will be not be easy. You are already aware that you must restore the bloodline." Richard opened his mouth to speak, but Martha held up her hand. "If you were to have children with Katherine, they would have even less royal blood in them than you do now. Also, with the state of the kingdom… I am hoping you will be fortunate enough to find an unexplored mine so that it will no longer be a problem. However, if you do not, you will probably have no choice but to marry someone who will help restore the kingdom." Richard grimaced, but the red-head continued. "Finally, her station. Katherine's station and situation do not help her. Many people would be against her becoming queen, finding her unfit. I know I had plenty of my own critics when I married your father."

He scowled. "I know. Father told me similar things when I returned from the Ameras."

Martha took his hands in hers, squeezing them. "I want you to be happy, my son, I do. But you do need to be aware of the possible troubles ahead. I trust both of your judgments. Katherine seems to be an intelligent young woman. However, sometimes that is not enough. "

"I understand, Mother." He squeezed her hands before standing up. "I need to go. Father wished to discuss something about the mines with me. Thank you for your advice and support. I appreciate it." He gave her a small smile before embracing her.

"It is my job, I am always ready to give you advice," she replied into his ear. "Now, go, before your father grows impatient." Richard nodded before leaving the room.

Once he was out of sight, Martha slumped into her chair, placing fingers against her forehead, furrowing her eyebrows in thought. She wanted Richard to be happy, but to also have a peaceful kingdom.

She just hoped he could achieve both.


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