The Price of Protection

Chapter 28

Richard awoke to moonlight streaming through the window of his room. His arms were wrapped around the body next to him and he smiled. He had dreamed about what it would be like to hold her and caress her. Reality was so much better.

Katherine shifted a little, but didn't turn around, She mumbled something incoherent before relaxing again. He chuckled softly. She was adorable when she slept.

Their earlier activities had been fantastic. He, unfortunately, was not experienced in matters of intimacy, but he had wanted to to make it as pleasurable for her as possible, and it seemed it had been. For him, it was incredible. The way they moved together, explored each other gave him a feeling of happiness that he had never felt before and he was sure he would only ever feel it with her. However, he knew that what they had done was dangerous and wasn't sure if they be able to do it again.

Katherine shifted under him and he grinned, his eyes trailing down her back. When he spotted the scars that were scattered on it, he sighed and frowned, his fingers gently going over the markings. What he wouldn't give to turn back time and make sure she didn't receive those scars.

"Not your fault," he heard her mumble.

"Hmm?"

She turned around to face him.

"I know what you're thinking about, and it's not your fault." She smiled, placing a hand on his cheek.

"But if I-" he started, quickly stopped by her lips on his.

"Shhh," she murmured after they had parted. "It happened, it's in the past, you can't change it. I'm fine, I'm here. Just let it go."

He sighed. "Fine." He kissed her, his hand sliding from her arm down to her hip. "How are you feeling?"

"A little sore," she hummed, her head leaning on his shoulder. "But, overall, I'm fine. You?"

"I"m feeling very good." He gave her a teasing grin before turning serious. "But, uh, did you enjoy it?" He really hoped she had.

She nodded, giving him a reassuring smile. "Yes, it was fantastic, once I got over the initial discomfort."

He had tried to be gentle during their time together and thankfully, she seemed to not have much pain.

Sitting up, she looked out the window and frowned.

"What time is it?"

"Probably still early in the morning, it's quite dark out."

"I should go," she said, beginning to slide out of bed. However, he caught her wrist. He wasn't ready to let her go, not yet.

"Stay," he insisted. "You've had a long day and a few more hours of rest won't hurt you."

"But someone might see me in the morning," she replied. However, she hadn't moved.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Then just leave early enough that no one does." He flashed her one of his charming smiles. She hesitated for a moment, before sliding back down and curling into him. He wrapped his arms around her again, resting his chin on top of her head. The warmth radiating from her body soothed him.

"Goodnight," he murmured.

"'Night," she replied as they both dozed off into a peaceful slumber.

Katherine awoke a few hours later as the sun was just starting to rise. She sighed, not wanting to leave the comfortable embrace of her lover. However, she knew she would be missed and needed to get back before breakfast. Carefully shifting herself out of Richard's arms and sliding out of bed, she dressed herself, minus the corset. Looking back at Richard's face, she smiled. He looked so peaceful. She leaned over, giving him a quick kiss on the forehead before slipping out of the room.

She went to the guest room where Martha had given her the clothing, retrieving and changing into her uniform. She made a note to thank the queen later.

Katherine went back to the soldier's quarters. Thankfully, everyone was still asleep, so she was able to go into her room without being noticed. So, knowing she had a little while before breakfast was served, she sat on the bed and began to think.

The time she and Richard had shared together had been fantastic. He had been so gentle, so loving, making sure she was as comfortable as possible when he took her virtue. Also, the exploration before hand- She shivered delightfully, recalling what his hands had done and where they had been. She could tell he had been as uncertain as her with his actions, and that provided her with some comfort of knowing she wasn't the only inexperienced one. However, she just hoped he had enjoyed it as he said. A smile formed on her lips as she felt her body hum in excitement. She craved more and hoped they would be able to do it again. She knew they, or more specifically she, had to be careful, so she would go to Lanie to see if the woman had any herbs that prevented evidence of her and Richard's consummation forming. Her mother had told her that she had done it when she and Katherine's father couldn't afford anymore children. She claimed it had worked. Hopefully it would for Katherine too.

A blush crept on her face as a stray thought came to her. The solution wouldn't be permanent, just until they told everyone. She was pretty sure the night's activities showed her feelings for Richard and her desire to have something more with him. Hopefully everything would turn out okay.

As she was drawn out of thoughts, Katherine heard the other soldiers shuffling about, preparing for the day. She rose from the bed, heading out of the building and into the kitchen. Jennifer was in her usual spot, preparing the day's meals. However, the only difference was that Kevin was standing nearby and it looked like his wife was ready to hit him.

"Sit down, Kevin. I'm with child, not an invalid," she stated, shaking a wooden spoon at him. He shrank back, settling into his seat. Katherine could hear Javier snickering. Kevin had been overly protective since Jennifer had announced the good news to him and sometimes hovered over her. Needless to say, she didn't appreciate it.

Katherine sat in her usual seat and smiled at the couple. They were quite adorable. A moment later, a couple descended the stairs and Katherine saw that they were her parents.

"Mama, Papa, good morning!" she greeted, beaming. Then her face scrunched up into a confused expression. "Not that I'm not pleased you're here, but why aren't you eating upstairs?" Surely the king and queen had invited them for breakfast?

Her mother chuckled. "Well, since it has been a while since we've eaten a meal with you, we thought we would join you before we leave."

"Besides," her father chimed in; "we wanted to meet your friends here."

Katherine rolled her eyes, before escorting her parents to the table.

This should be interesting, she mused.

Breakfast was a calmer affair than Katherine thought it would be. It was mainly friendly chatter between her parents and friends. Besides, of course, the occasional question of any funny stories about Katherine. Her fellow soldiers shared a few of her from the beginning of her time there and she told some of her own, maintaining the friendly banter around the table.

When she saw her parents off, her heart ached at the thought of not seeing them again for a while. She promised to visit if she could on her next free day. Then, she shook her head to focus on the day ahead and went to the captain to find out her post.


The next few weeks went by quietly, everyone going about their business. Katherine and Richard saw each other often and roaming hands had lead them to making love one other time in the library when no one was around, making sure to be as quiet as possible. It was different, since they were more used of each other and it was much more pleasant. They lay on the rug afterwards, just taking in each others warmth.

As the days passed, the weather seemed to grow colder and the wind sharper. Katherine found herself doing patrol inside. It wasn't too odd, since many of her fellow soldiers were doing the same, but she was doing it more than the others. It couldn't be a coincidence. She was going to have a talk with a certain prince about that.

Speaking of Richard, she hadn't seen him all day. She knew he was still in the castle, but he hadn't come to pester her at all. She had become so accustomed to him seeking her out during the day that she expected it. So, where was he?

Deciding to find out, she quickly walked upstairs, which did happen to be part of the route she was guarding for the day, she just hadn't gotten to it yet. When she reached the top of the stairs, she spotted Martha leaving Richard's room, a concerned expression on her face.

"Is everything okay, your Majesty?" she inquired, her stomach sinking at the thought of something happening to Richard.

"Oh, everything's fine. Richard's just a bit under the weather, dear. He should be up and about tomorrow. However, he is staying in bed for the day, he's very tired. You can see him if you like." Martha winked, since no one else was in the hall.

"Thank you, Your Majesty."

Smiling, the red head nodded before heading downstairs.

Katherine's gaze lingered on the door. She knew she had to finish her shift, but she would definitely be back later.

After dinner, the brunette returned to Richard's chambers, making sure nobody was lingering in the hall. She opened the door and saw Richard sitting in bed, his body propped up by pillows. A tray was next to him on the nightstand, indicating he had just finished dinner. Turning his head, he beamed when he saw her, although he seemed weary. She grinned too, his smile infectious.

"Katherine!" he exclaimed, somewhat quietly.

"How are you feeling? Your mother told me you were sick," she inquired, sitting on the bed.

"I'm okay, just a cold. I'll be good as new tomorrow." He sneezed loudly and then coughed. He grimaced. "Sorry."

"It's okay." She patted his hand. "Do you need anything?"

"No, I'm fine. Although," he said, giving her a boyish grin; "A kiss might help make it go away."

She rolled her eyes, but kissed his forehead. "There."

He pouted and she laughed. "You're such a child when you're sick."

"Mother said the same thing," he muttered. He then looked at her. "You should leave, I don't want you to get sick too."

She felt her chest clench in disappointment, but nodded in understanding. She kissed his forehead again and gripped his hand in hers.

"I'll see you tomorrow."

She got up, giving him one last glance before leaving the room. She felt relaxed, knowing that she would see him tomorrow, when he was better.

However, she didn't see him the next day or the day after that. On the third day, she wanted to go up and visit him, but everyone was ordered by the king to stay away from Richard's chambers, with the exception of Lanie, who was treating him. Katherine tried to remain calm, figuring it was just a precaution so others didn't fall ill.

However, a few days later, true dread began to settle in as she saw the royal doctor visit as well as the local apothecary. She tried to listen in as best as she could, passing the room frequently. All she could hear though were murmurs and loud, harsh coughing emanating from Richard. It was about an hour before they left, and when they did, somber expressions were on there faces. Staying near the wall she was hiding against, she sucked in a breath, composing herself. She closed her eyes and swallowed, trying to keep the negative thoughts at bay, knowing their expressions could mean the worst for her lover.

He was going to be okay. He had to be.


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