It was obvious that Cesare was drunk, in fact, she thought that she had never seen him this drunk. He bragged about how well he held his wine, and for the most part, this was true, but now he seemed unsteady on his feet. He drained the goblet that he held in his hand then placed it gingerly on the table next to her bed, almost dropping it with his trembling hand.
“Cesare, what do you want?” she asked him, finding her voice, “Go away, leave me alone. I am married now, married in the church. I am no longer yours, you must let go of me. What makes you think you have the right to…?
“I have every right, madam. Have you forgotten our child that you left behind in Rome? Tell me, what had you planned on calling him? ‘Pallavicini’? Or ‘Borgia’? What will you name the child I plan to leave in your belly?”
Oh Mary Mother of God, she thought, will he get me pregnant, make sure that I have another child that it is his, not my husband’s?
“Marco is Calvino’s son by law—and you murdered his father. You murdered my husband, just like you murdered Lucrezia’s. You have no right to me.” And you never have, she thought.
Cesare began to strip off his clothes, and she knew now what he was going to do. There would be no deterring him, but in spite of herself, she began to beg. “Please Cesare, please don’t do this! Return me to Raffaello and I will talk him out of seeking retribution. All I want is to be allowed to return to my husband.”
He stood before her now, naked, his pale body gleaming in the candlelight. “But perhaps he should not be allowed to be your husband, he is the brother of your first husband, after all, and according to Church law that is incest.”
“And what about you and Lucrezia, is that not incest of the worst kind?” He looked up at her, startled, “Oh yes, Cesare, I know all about you and her. You didn’t know that she and I keep no secrets from each other, did you?”
In answer, he raised a hand to strike her, but the look on her face made him stop—the look of love she used to wear for him had turned to hate. “You will not speak of that again, ever, do you hear me?”
This time she tried to hit him, he grabbed first one wrist, then another. “Fight me all you will, it will do you no good.” He tore her garments from her and pinned her to the bed, seeming to enjoy the sight of her struggling. He reached down and spread her legs apart, then entered her roughly, not caring if he might hurt her.
In all of their years together he had never treated like this. His lovemaking was hard and every stroke seemed to hurt. Tears were pouring down her face, and she would have struggled only he held her hands, rendering her helpless.
The wine had not slowed him down, it seemed in fact to encourage him. He seemed to slow himself, and she felt her body start to betray her. She turned her head as he tried to kiss her, but her body was responding to him and she felt her passion mounting as he seemed to extract pleasure from her even while she tried to resist him.
He began to breath faster and increased his movement—the sign she knew from old that he would be releasing himself into her. When it came, she felt it, for had she not been his lover or years and knew all of his responses?
He rolled off of her but did not let her go, forcing her to remain in his embrace. “I hate you,” she told him, “I never thought it possible before, but I hate you now. I want you to go away and leave me alone—forever.”
He laughed and the sound of his laugh frightened her, “You may not have that wish granted, I do not know if I feel inclined to return you to your husband. Perhaps if he surrenders a large sum of money for you, but maybe not even then.”
“He paid Uncle 200,000 ducats to marry me, what more do you want? I know that money will go to you for your campaigns. You have a wife, a wife that is younger than me and has royal blood. She has your daughter, what more do you want with me?”
“I have not seen my wife since I left France three months after I married her. Were it not for my child and my fear that Louis would retaliate against me I would have the marriage annulled. Father could see to it, I’m sure.
“Then what would he say if you told him you wanted to marry me? And that my child was yours, not Calvino’s? And besides, even if you could manage it I would not marry you, not now. I don’t know you and now I wonder if I ever did. The boy I loved when I was little is long gone and I don’t like this monster who has taken his place.”
“Why do women want to talk after coitus? Go to sleep. If you are trying to make me go away by annoying me it will not work. I have never known you to be tiresome before.”
The wine and the sex was sending him to sleep. She, on the other hand, lay awake thinking until it was almost dawn and fatigue sent her to sleep.
When she woke she was grateful to find herself alone. Noni was there and so was a generous breakfast and a tub lined with bath sheets and filled with fragrant waters.
There was a large wooden trunk sitting on the floor and Noni opened it triumphantly. It was filled with ladies’ gowns and other garments. Noni pulled out a heavy silk robe and wrapped it around her.
She was not hungry, but after a glass of wine the food appeared appetizing and she ate hungrily. No sense starving herself`, it would only weaken her and she would need all her strength for the battle to come.
She sank gratefully into the bath and even washed her hair as if to wash out the memory of the previous night. Whatever happened, Cesare would see to her comfort no matter how ill he treated her.
As Noni combed her long hair an idea came to her. She took her hand, saying, “Can you come and go to and from the servant quarters unhindered?” The girl looked at her and nodded. “Good. If I asked you to do something for me, would you?” She nodded again and kissed Constanzia’s hand.
I think I believe her, she thought then said, “I want you to try to find my maid, Carmilla and bring her to me. She’s Tuscan, tall, fair skinned with grey eyes. She speaks Italian and Tuscan together at times, she should not be hard to miss if she is still in the castle. Give her this, and she will know it’s from me.” She undid the crucifix that she wore and handed it to the girl. “I want to leave here, if possible, in fact, I am determined that somehow or other I will leave. Do you want me to take you with me?”
Tears welled in the girl’s dark eyes and she nodded. “If you help me, I will take you away from here. You will be happier with me than you would if you stayed here. Though you cannot speak a word, you speak volumes with your eyes. Betray me and I will kill you, I promise you.”
The girl took her hand in hers and squeezed it. She helped Constanzia dress then placed her before the fire, combing out her hair until it, at last, was dry. She picked up the dishes from breakfast and left the room, giving her a last smile of assurance before she left.
Could she trust her? After all, she knew nothing about the girl but knew she had no one else. The tongue that had been so cruelly cut from her mouth, who had done it? How was she treated? Was she beaten? Raped? Perhaps that was the key, Noni would come with her to escape the cruelty she suffered.
Cesare must have prepared for her, she thought, not only was this chamber comfortably furnished, but she found her favorite books in a bookcase. She went to the window and looked out, seeing that heavy shutters covered a high-quality glass that did not distort the image of the courtyard she looked out on.
The only thing he’d forgotten was needlework to help her while away the hours, and she was sure if she asked it would be found for her. How long did he plan to keep her captive anyway? Did he truly intend to take her away from her rightful husband and keep her for himself?
Uncle will not help you get my marriage annulled not, Cesare, and you know it. You don’t want him to know the secret of Marco’s parentage any more than I do. That is a secret I will carry to my grave.
To amuse herself she went to the window and watched the men come and go from the courtyard below. Cesare would come to her tonight, she was sure of it, perhaps even sober. She did not want him to have her, she did not want him to touch her, but if he did she could bear it.
It took the Malatesta four years to emerge after she was abducted, but she had more courage than that. To be raped was shameful but it was not her fault. Somehow she would find her way back. She could choose to let Cesare win, or she could choose to win for herself.
It must be time for dinner for servants were coming in to set the table. The gold plates and place settings were laid upon a spotless white linen table cloth. Glass decanters full of wine were set at the end of the table, along with a pitcher of water along with gold goblets. And everything was set for two people.
Ordinarily, she would change her gown, but now it seemed pointless. She was a captive in a silken prison no matter what Cesare did to make it seem otherwise. The luxury she was living in seemed a mockery, a trick that Cesare was playing on it.
Servants began to bring the food in, a beef roast, bread, olives, vegetables, and fruit. They poured wine and water into the goblets, then left all except for one who stood sentinel in the corner of the room.
Two musicians came carrying a viol and a lute. Is there no end to this farce, Cesare, Constanzia thought, you’ll have us serenaded while I sit a prisoner at your table? I must escape and soon, if Raffaello does not come quickly enough to fetch me I must take my fate into my own hands. Cesare will put me in his bed and I will not be able to fight him off, I can’t. Please, Raffaello, save me from this.
The musicians began to play as Cesare entered the room. He was clad elegantly in the black satin he favored that suited him so well. For a brief moment she felt the old attraction, he looked so handsome and he was giving her the old smile that always made her melt.
Two servants came in and began to serve both her and Cesare. The food was well prepared but she had little appetite. She forced herself to eat the excellent roast and wine only because she knew she had no choice.
He sat and watched her, perhaps waiting for her to speak, but she did not. Eventually, he said, “I will be on the march soon, I leave in two days. I will leave you well cared for, never fear.”
“Where will you be campaigning?” she asked him.
He shrugged, it made no difference if he told her his plans or not. “Ceri and Siena.”
“The Orsini’s then, is it not? What is the matter, Cesare, do you not have enough?”
“What do you mean?” he answered, “What do you mean by enough?”
“Will you be happy with just the Romagna? What is next? Milan? Naples? The whole Italian peninsula? When will this stop? Haven’t you conquered enough territory to create your duchy? Whose will is it that drives you? Yours? Uncle’s?”
“You understand nothing about this, Constanzia. Matters of war are best left to men.”
“You’re right, I don’t understand it and I don’t want to. Why is it with you Borgias that nothing is ever enough? You have a wife and your women but you still won’t let me go. Why do you need to have me too? I want to return to my husband.”
“Your marriage was a sham, it should never have taken place. And I would be careful if I were you, madam. Your son is in Rome and if you wish to see him again you should remember that I control your fate as well as his. You should remember that if you wish to see him again.”
He rose from the table and left the room, but the musicians continued to play. “Stop!” she told them, “Leave me,” and they filed out of the room.
How dare he threaten her with her son! Nothing but death would separate her from Marco and if it meant Cesare’s death, so be it.