Seeing his dark head on the pillow made Constanzia feel a twinge of nostalgia when she woke the next morning. Cesare was the lover of her youth, she had grown up with him, and no matter how indecent his behavior, a part of her would always still love him.
When he opened his eyes he reached for her but she drew back saying, “No, Cesare, we mustn’t.” That did not deter her him, he took her tenderly—not as he had the night before—into his arms saying:”
“Please, I must leave today, and I don’t know if I will see you again.”
“What are you saying? What nonsense is that? I will see you when you are in Rome, just as I always have. What made you say that?”
He shrugged his shoulders that was all the answer she would have. Again she yielded to him, only this time there was no coercion, he did not need to force her to his will as he had so many times before. There was something final about this time as if he knew this truly was their ending, that they would see each other no more.
When they finished their lovemaking, he stood up, his long body pale in the shadows of the room. “I have something for you,” he said and picked up a large leather box on a table next to her bed. He handed it to her, saying, “This is something I acquired and have been waiting to give to you. I hope you like it.”
She opened it and saw it was filled with pearls, pearls that had no doubt belonged to someone for they had the luster acquired during much wear. She drew out a long necklace and noticed that even if she wrapped it around her neck several times it would still almost to her knees.
Where did you get it, from what conquered noble family did it come, she wanted to ask but saw the old eagerness in his eyes. She took up a handful and rubbed it gently against her cheek, smiling shyly at him. She would accept the gift, she thought, in the spirit it was given and not ask where it came from or who he had taken it from. It was his last gift to her, and both knew it.
“When will you return to Rome again?” she asked, but he shook his head. “I do not know, I have been away from my army long enough. Now that the northern border is secured, I can resume my campaign in the Romagna. Papa wishes to have the Papal States returned and that is what I will do.”
“Cesare, have you thought about what I once told you, that you must not rely too much on Uncle and the Papacy? What if someone like Della Rovere succeeds in acquiring the crown of Saint Peter? He hates the Borgias, he always has. He may pretend to be your friend at first, but his treachery...”
He put his arms around her, holding her tightly, “No, do not think that way. I have been successful so far, and have no reason to doubt that my successes will continue. It will be all right, you will see.” He kissed her lips, then the tip of her nose. “Have your maids draw us a bath, I must bathe and get dressed, then make my farewells to Lucrezia. I have always promised you that when my kingdom is established I will send for you and Marco and I will keep that promise. He will be my heir, not Charlotte D’Albret’s daughter.”
Brave words thought Constanzia, very brave but they will not come to fruition. A chill ran down her spine as she realized her words were true. Cesare was doomed to fail, he would never hold onto the Romagna. She did not know why she had those thoughts, they were disloyal, treasonous, but she knew them for a fact. Unless the next pope favored Cesare, all would be lost and god help him if the papal tiara ever sat on the head of Giuliano Della Rovere.
Lucrezia was sitting up, her color was better. “Cesare has made his farewells to me, I will miss him now that he is gone.” Her eyes widened as she noticed the pearls Constanzia was wearing. “Did he give you those? Oh, they’re beautiful. He loves you so much, he told me so. And such a lovely farewell gift to give to you!”
“Yes, they are beautiful, aren’t they?” she would not voice her doubts to Lucrezia, “But I worry about him, knowing he is going off again to war. What a prize he would make were captured, and I fear for him if that was to happen.”
“Nonsense,” Lucrezia replied, “he has his condottiere around him at all times, and he is quick and clever. He will not be captured. But cousin,” she said slyly, “I have heard rumors that another handsome gentleman seeks your attention. A certain Genovese, if I am not mistaken?”
Constanzia blushed, something she seldom did. Raffaello Pallavicini had been corresponding with her, and she looked forward to his letters. It was time that her Marco met his Genovese family, he must look to them and not to Rome. Rome no longer seemed the safe refuge it once had, and Raffaello had suggested that she and her son visit him.
“Perhaps,” she said coyly, “But Lucrezia, there is something I must tell you. I think it is time for me to leave Ferrara.” She held up her hand as Lucrezia started to object, “I miss Marco dreadfully and cannot bear to be parted from him for much longer. And I wish to leave Rome, there, I’ve said it. I cannot make my home here with you, and it’s time I make my own. I’ll stay here through the winter and the spring melt, but after that, I am returning to Rome. I’ll fetch little Marco from Sancia, then go to Genoa, perhaps to stay.”
She did not tell her that Raffaello had written to the Pope asking him to issue a bull allowing him to marry her. She had established a warm and loving relationship with him, and when he had asked her to marry him, she had consented.
With him, she would never have the wild and passionate relationship she had had with Cesare, but she had always liked and now admired the way he had taken up Calvino’s reins running the family empire. She only now wanted someone loving and loyal, and if the pope would consent, she could have that with him.
“You can’t leave me,” cried Lucrezia, “There will be no one I can trust if you go. I cannot do without you.”
“But you can do without me, Lucrezia. If it does not feel like home here, you must do something to change that. You have your charities and maybe in the not too distant future, you will be pregnant again. When you have given Alfonso his children you can go your own way, just like you said you wanted to. You’re young and lovely, and you’ll always have admirers. I can always come to visit you, my love, but it’s time to let me go. My little boy needs me, I have left him for almost a year, and it will be even longer by the time I return home.”
Lucrezia took her hand and kissed it. “I am being selfish, I am sorry. Of course, you must return to your son, I only wish that I could have mine! I am just jealous that you can leave, while I must stay here, but you are right—I will make this my home. As soon as I feel better I am going to the convent of Corpus Domini, Alfonso is coming, too,” she added slyly.
“Poor Alfonso then—but it is only fitting. Lucrezia, he may not be much of a husband, but he is very fond of you, in his own way. He was quite distressed during your illness, he truly did not want to lose you! Isabella was quite disappointed that you lived.”
She kissed her and went to find Cesare so she could see him off.
The weather in Ferrara was cold, far colder than it would be in Rome. She clutched her fur-lined cloak tightly around her, looking for Cesare among his men. He saw her and smiled, then came over to her, saying, “I am glad that you came to say goodbye to me, I did not know if you would.” He put his arms around her, his warmth protecting her from the cold.
“Oh, my love,” she said, “Why was it never our time?” The tears falling from her eyes turned cold on her cheek, “Just think, we found each other after all these years, only to be separated once again.”
“You must not think that,” he said, “Think only of when my task is done that we will rule the Romagna and our son after us.”
I wish I could believe that Cesare, she thought, but I don’t. Besides, that’s not what I want. I want a husband who will be faithful to me and not forever seeking out other women’s beds. Our time is over, I know it, and I must reconcile myself to that. If Raffaello can convince Uncle to let us marry, then he will issue the bull and there will be nothing to stand in our way.
“Take care of our son,” those were the last words Cesare said to her. She watched him mount his horse and she waved and smiled as he rode off.
“Goodbye, Cesare,” she said in a tone so soft that none could hear her. Then she turned and went back into the ducal palace.
A letter was waiting for her, and when she saw who it was from she picked it up eagerly and read it.
“My darling Constanzia,” it began, “I have news that is both good and bad for us. Your uncle must be badly in need of funds, for he is willing to issue the bull but it will come at a steep price. One hundred thousand ducats will be the price of our happiness, but to me, it will be worth it just to have you at my side. I am making arrangements to have the money sent and the negotiations completed. I am to pay an additional hundred thousand for the privilege of marrying the Pope’s niece which I find rather strange but I do not quarrel with it. He did not pay nearly so much when my brother asked for your hand in marriage.
When the spring thaw is complete and passes safe to travel, I will come for you. If you like, we can be married in Ferrara so that your beloved cousin can be at your side.
Until then I send you a thousand kisses and ask that you accept this small token of my affection.
Your faithful, loving, and obedient servant,
Raffaello Michele Pallavicini
She looked down and saw a small leather box. Opening it, she saw a magnificent diamond mounted in an elaborate gold setting. She slipped the ring onto her finger and ran to Lucrezia’s room.