Disclaimer: This is a story in progress. Sections will be posted as they are finalized. I have done research on this time frame and the political climate. While I tried to stay true to some of the historical trappings, I took liberties with MANY things. It is fiction first. I apologize to any history buffs and to the people of Spain and France for my lack of knowledge. When I get paid to write these things, I promise to get it exact, but until then, I have a day job and not enough time or money to hire a research assistant.
Copyright ñ This is an alternative uber tale. No copyright infringement is intended. This is not to be used for profit.
Subtext and Sex- Yes and yes. If the idea of two women loving each other is not your cup of tea; go get a glass of milk and skip this. If you are under the age of 18 years of age or this type of story is illegal in your state or country, please do not read it.
Violence and Language ñ There are scenes of fighting. The language is pretty mild.
Credits: This story line is completely my own, but the poem that is found as a journal entry in Section Three is by a very talented poet. I inquired if she would lend her beautiful words to this story and she accepted. I cannot tell you how honored and grateful I am. Thank you Renotta. Your poetry is always a source of inspiration.
Dedication: This is for my twin sister. She has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement and like me, is a huge romantic. You're amazing.
Thank You: Big hugs to Cindy at ForevaXena, Stacia, and Tracey for beta reading and for your words of encouragement. Kisses to the ex-Guards for all the wonderful feedback and for giving me a home in your talented community. A big thank you to Mary D for the Xippy's on "Written in My Days" and "My Cup of Tea". I'm a beginning writer and these awards have encouraged my to write on.
Fredrick greeted Maria in the middle of the dance floor, thanking her for showing Danielle the Tango. As he escorted her back to the shadows of the patio he whispered some words for her ears only.
"I think the princess is having a very nice evening. She has an amazing sense of humor, Maria. Did you see her smile?" he asked, leaning on his older sister's shoulder and smiling shyly at her.
"Do you like her, Fredrick?" Maria hesitated in her question, but needed to hear the words come out of her brother's mouth. She hoped it would put an end to her ridiculous longing.
"She seems to be genuine. I guess I'm a little surprised. I had pictured her to be very different. Didn't you?" Fredrick inquired.
"Yes, Fredrick, she is far different than I ever imagined. Please excuse me, I'm a little tired this evening. It's been a long day for me. Go back to her and enjoy yourself. We'll talk more tomorrow." Maria said, grabbing her brother's arm and squeezing tightly, giving him the best fake smile she could muster.
Fredrick smiled back and returned to Danielle.
Maria moved quietly through the darkness of the garden. Her raw emotions made it impossible for her to stay and watch any longer. ëHow could this be happening?' she winced, wrestling with her feelings as she walked toward the stables.
ëA trip might be the answer,' she thought. ëI'll make up some excuse as to why I must leave and that will take me away from this misery.'
Staying at the villa would only be asking for trouble. Maria was sure that she could rein in her emotions if her feelings were not returned, but judging by the princess' reaction, the attraction was somehow mutual. Maybe the princess was just playing a game, but either way, Maria decided not to stay and be a participant.
Maria opened the door to the stables and made her way to the tack room. Preparing for her trip tonight would save time in the morning, allowing her to get an early start. She hoped she could avoid any further interaction with Danielle.
"What do you think, mi amiga?" Maria looked down to her companion. "Does a trip sound like fun to you? We'll head north and stop along the ocean. The ocean wind will clear our minds," she said, reaching down to pet the sitting dog.
Cora let out a small bark and wagged her tail as Maria turned back to her preparations. The dog continued to watch her master until she heard a sound coming from outside the stables. Immediately, she stood on all fours and began a low growl.
"What is it, Cora?" Maria said very softly. The dog's hearing was excellent and Maria knew that she never gave a false alarm. Following Cora's eyes to the door, Maria reached for the sword that was lying on the wooden table. Weapon in hand, she slowly walked to the entranceway.
She stepped out into the evening air and began a slow survey of the area. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. Walking past a small row of trees, Maria turned around quickly when she felt a small hand come to rest on her waist. The arm pulled her closer and before Maria could react, a very soft mouth tasted her lips.
"Ah Maria, it's been way too long," Isabel's sultry voice mumbled as she moved in to attack her target again.
"Wait!" Maria said, holding the woman off with her free hand. "My God, Isabel, I could have hurt you. You know better than to sneak up on me like that."
"Don't tell me you didn't think I would come to you? Yes, it has been over a year since I was here, but after our dance this evening, I thought you'd be waiting for me." She said, bringing her hand up to stroke Maria's cheek.
"No Isabel, this isn't what I planned tonight. You know I think you're lovely, but what we did last year will have to remain in the past." Maria said, softly grabbing the small hand and dropping it to the woman's side.
"What's this about, Maria? You're telling me you don't want me? Maybe you just need a little reminder of how good it felt," Isabel said as she brought her hand back up and slipped it in the opening of Maria's shirt, gently cupping her breast.
"Please, Isabel!" Maria managed to choke out.
"Come on now, Maria. Why would you be fighting this? Unless . . . unless someone else is bringing you pleasure these days. Is that what this is about?" Isabel baited her as she began light kisses up the side of Maria's neck. Her hand squeezed the firm breast and she let her thumb brush back and forth across a taut nipple.
Maria backed away, trying to regain her composure. She couldn't help but feel aroused. She was thinking of Danielle as she found herself pinned between a tree and the hands of Isabel.
"It's alright, Maria. We both know that we've never claimed this to be anything more than a night of fun once in awhile. Surely your new plaything won't mind. She doesn't even have to know." Isabel said as she began to unbuckle Maria's leather belt.
"That's . . . not . . . it . . . Isabel," Maria was trying to speak but her head was swimming. Her body was betraying her. All night she had thought of this, only it was Danielle's lips and hands she imagined feeding her desire. She closed her eyes and let her mind conjure up the green orbs of her dreams.
Isabel brought her mouth back to Maria's and felt the response she had hoped for. Maria finally dropped her sword and brought her hands up around Isabel's neck, pulling her in for a heated kiss. Isabel continued working Maria's belt and buttons until she had enough room to slip her hand into her pants. Pushing her hand lower, she cupped her fingers up so they could slide into the wetness between Maria's legs. Maria moaned and moved her hips down into the fingers. Their kisses deepened.
"I knew you wanted me." Isabel sighed.
"No!" Maria said, opening her eyes as she heard the voice that was not Danielle's. This was not the woman she wanted and, God help her, she couldn't use Isabel in this way. "I'm sorry Isabel. I . . . I can't."
Isabel removed her hands and slowly stepped back to look at Maria. She saw tears forming in the beautiful woman's eyes. Isabel realized this was no longer a game to Maria. "You must love this woman, Maria."
Maria lowered her head and stared at the ground. She feared that was exactly what was wrong with her.
"I'm so sorry, Maria. I didn't know." Isabel said softly. "This woman . . . she's very lucky, Maria."
Maria just continued to stare at the ground. She never looked back up. Isabel stepped closer and kissed Maria on the check. She turned, and as mysteriously as she had appeared, was gone.
Only a few seconds passed while Maria stood rooted to the same place, but it felt like a lifetime. The moon was shining brightly, casting shadows in the dark of the night. In the distance she heard the voices of the guests as the music played on. She had never before thought about feeling lonely, but right now she felt isolated from the rest of the world. She finally picked up her sword and headed back into the stables.
Fredrick and Danielle talked about Spain, his father, and the changes in his country. Fredrick was pleased that Danielle was interested and, even more intriguing, she was intelligent and insightful. It amazed Fredrick that a woman of great means would even bother to care about such things, yet she knew more about politics and military tactics than he did. Beautiful and knowledgeable ó Fredrick could hardly believe his good fortune.
Fredrick asked Danielle to dance when the music changed to a waltz. She was polite and attentive, just as she had promised her mother she would be. Fredrick was nothing but a gentleman and for that Danielle was truly thankful. It made the whole thing a tiny bit easier.
Her mind drifted to Maria as Fredrick gently led her around the dance floor. The dark woman had disappeared after the Tango and Danielle wondered where she might be. She felt herself being whirled in a circle as her head imagined Maria's blue eyes calling to her. The movement of the dance and her own illusions made her feel dizzy. She actually thought she might faint and pulled away, looking up at Fredrick.
"Are you all right, Danielle?" Fredrick asked, concerned.
"I'm a little dizzy, that's all. I think I'm tired from the travel. I'm sorry, Fredrick, but I think I must retire for the evening."
"There's no need to apologize, Danielle. You must be exhausted. Let me escort you inside? " Fredrick extended his had to Danielle.
Danielle said her good-byes to Rosa and her mother and allowed herself to be led inside. Fredrick kissed the back of her hand and thanked her for a lovely evening. Danielle made her way upstairs to her room.
After closing the door, Danielle rocked back on her heels, her back coming to rest on the wooden frame. Her thoughts wandered to the implications of her feelings, which weighed heavily on her heart. What was she going to do? Her attraction to Maria was unmistakable. Her heart led the way in this dilemma. She felt herself being pulled into Maria's arms, even if the outcome was impossible. A princess of France could not decide to give her heart to a woman; it simply would not be tolerated.
Danielle made her way to the dressing table and removed her journal. She felt a great need to write some of these feeling down. ëMaybe, she thought, the writing would help her to sort out this mess.' She had used poetry as a means of expression many times before and hoped it would calm her now, as it always had.
She turned up the wick on the kerosene lamp and dipped the quill into the ink. Her thoughts went to Maria and she closed her eyes for a moment, trying to decide were to start. Her mind automatically went to the vision of the Tango. She remembered her feelings as she had watched the women move together and how her mind had effortlessly put herself in Maria's arms. She opened her eyes and began to write.
Light caresses her jet, black hair reflecting silver hue,
Why is my heart pounding so, within my breast anew?
Ignited within, a burning flame, fueled with rhythmic desire,
My soul invades the body in her arms, charged with raging fire.
Eyes, blue as the mid-day sky fevered blood heating my senses,
Each move she makes sends a scalding surge, destroying my defenses.
Fervent hands pressed against me, leading openly to follow,
Catering to my need, venture beyond my chambers hollow.
Every move an impression, a caress like the wings of a dove,
Strong thighs, grazed cheeks, inducing a flow of liquid love.
What is this unknown beast feeding within my very core?
Sensations ebb like the driven tide, crashing into the shore.
A longing older than time, sends signals invading ëtween my thighs
The breath pushing from my burning lungs, releases sensual sighs.
A feeling new to me I don't understand, am I compromising my will?
Shall I allow her to take my soul, a need only she can fulfill.
Nothing else has ever charged my flesh with such intensive heat
I know that I am trapped within her demanding movements beat.
I feel my soul leave my body, uniting with hers in a rhythmic caress
There is no turning back, for she has now claimed me to possess.
Emotions flooded throughout me, sensation after sensation,
No other can reach within me, the depth allowed her penetration.
My spinning wheel of fate has landed, on this time and space,
And I'm destined to dance at her side, for a lifetime in this place.
Danielle laid down the quill as a tear fell onto the page, blurring the word "fate". She leaned back and brought her hands to her face. The tears fell in earnest.
"Oh God, please help me. I cannot judge what is right or what is wrong. I only know that my heart always has and always will belong to these blue eyes," Danielle whispered in a prayer. "It is fate that has brought me to her. I prayed for this and you answered my prayers. How can I be expected to let this opportunity pass? I must know if her heart also calls for mine. Please give me strength to override my fears. I must talk to her. Lord be with me, I pray."
That evening as Danielle lay in bed, her visions were more passionate than ever. She dreamt of the crystal blue eyes, beautiful face and the soft lips of Maria, capturing her waiting mouth. Not even sleep allowed her a peace from this longing as she tossed and turned, overheated by her dreams.
Maria was up before dawn. Sleep never found her during the night. She tossed and turned with the thoughts in her head.
"I've only known Danielle for a day, but my heart feels like she's has been with me for a lifetime," Maria said to her ever-present companion, who was curled up on the bed next to a travel bag.
"I've never run from anything in my life and here I am leaving what might have been my only true chance at love. If Fredrick finally feels the happiness he deserves, that would at least give me some rest from this torment," she said as she stuffed the last garment into the bag.
"Come on, Cora, let's get a little practice in before the villa wakes up. Maybe that will help me relax." Maria picked up her bag and headed for the door. Looking down, she noticed something - rather, some-dog - missing. Maria turned around and saw Cora with her paws firmly placed over her nose, blocking any light to her eyes.
"Come on, sleepyhead. I promise to let you rest tonight, mi amiga," Maria laughed at the sight of the tired dog. "We'll find a quiet little place under the stars and I'll let you sleep the night away."
Cora let out a couple of very heavy snorts, finally standing and then jumping off the bed. Stretching her front legs out, she raised her furry hindquarters in the air and yawned. She looked up at Maria and promptly sat down.
"Stalling is not going helping your cause," Maria said a little more sternly.
Cora whimpered, stood on all fours and shook, starting with her nose and ending with her tail. Finally, she put one paw in front of the other and slowly made her way to the door.
"Who taught you this flair for the dramatic? It certainly wasn't me!" Maria laughed as she watched a droopy tail lead the way.
Maria quietly made her way out of the villa and into the back garden. She often practiced her skills in these peaceful surroundings.
The sun began to break over the horizon as Maria inspected her blade. She started with her usual stretches. Well-practiced lunges always limbered her up and she needed to warm up the muscles that were tight from no sleep. The process was performed routinely and to someone watching for the first time, it might appear to be some form of meditation instead of the honing of a deadly art. She worked her way through numerous defensive maneuvers, in a slow and methodical way, with eyes closed.
Danielle looked down from her balcony. The sun was just starting to shine on the garden area, but even in the shadows of darkness, she knew it was Maria below her. Standing silently, Danielle watched in awe as Maria performed her exercises. The muscles under the bronzed skin strained against her clothing. The sun broke into the sky like a spotlight and shone on Maria's glowing face. Danielle felt her heart stir like it always did when she looked at the tall woman. Her breath was caught in her throat. Maria was so beautiful.
Maria felt someone watching her. Turning around toward the villa, she opened her eyes and saw a figure move away from the window of the balcony. She recognized the retreating form immediately.
ëSee something interesting, princess?' Maria thought to herself. ëWhy would you be so shy as to move from my eyes? I know that you look at me. Your eyes burned a hole in my soul yesterday and now you hide from me? What is this game you play?'
Danielle had both her hands on her face as she leaned against the wall in her room. "Why did I do that?" she said quietly. "She must have seen me. She probably thinks I'm some kind of child. Why does the sight of her cause me to lose my senses?"
Danielle moved to the interior of the room, avoiding the window. She decided to dress and then talk to Maria while everyone else was still asleep. This might be her only chance. Her heart raced as she selected the burgundy velvet dress that her mother said accented her figure in all the right places. She wanted to look perfect for Maria. She checked her hair and pinched her cheeks. With trembling legs she walked out of her room.
Maria sat down on the wooden bench in the garden, staring at the ground. It wouldn't be long now before her mother was up and in the kitchen making sure everything was being handled for the morning meal. The staff at the villa was excellent and dedicated in every way to their family, but Maria knew her mother would want everything to be perfect.
Taking a deep breath, Maria decided to get her good-bye over with. Her plan was to tell her mother that she knew where Ortega was hiding and that she was going to the King of Spain in Madrid with the information. Most of this tale was true. She was fairly certain she knew where the coward was hiding, but she would not be visiting the King. She wanted to take care of Ortega herself someday. She could have killed him at the last encounter but chose not to. She wouldn't endanger the lives of their guests with a threat of retaliation from his men if she took his life. That was the only reason she spared him his pathetic existence. One day, after things were more settled, Maria would pay the Ortega a visit.
"Hello, Maria," Danielle said softly.
Maria's head snapped up, in surprise at the sight of Danielle standing before her. She started to get up but was stopped.
"Please don't get up," Danielle said placing her hand on Maria's arm. "May I sit with you?"
Maria looked over at the small hand and then up at the green eyes. "Yes, of course, princess. Please be seated."
"I thought I told you to call me Danielle," Danielle smiled and removed her hand as she sat down.
"Yes, excuse me, Danielle, I wasn't expecting to have a visitor this early in the morning. You startled me," Maria said.
"I saw you from my window," Danielle said, glancing at Maria sideways, her head slightly bowed. "I thought if I came down, we might get a chance to talk."
"I thought it was you that scurried away," Maria said, smiling slightly.
"Sorry about that, I haven't been caught spying since I was a child," Danielle laughed.
"Was that a favorite game of yours in your youth?" Maria inquired.
"As a matter of fact, I was quite good at it. My father would send half of the staff searching for me. What he didn't know was that I would hide behind the heavy curtains in his study and listen to all of the plans to be carried out. I knew more than most about his activities. All the time he thought I was off playing with dolls," Danielle snickered and shrugged her shoulders.
"What about you, Maria? Did you have a favorite game?" she asked, smiling as she turned to face the tall woman.
Maria looked over at Danielle, searching her face. She felt confused. She needed to know what the princess wanted from her. Her heart could not take any more games.
"Is this what you are doing now? Playing the spy? Why were you watching me this morning, and for that matter, why were you staring at me last night?" Maria asked a little too sternly.
Danielle swallowed hard. "I . . . I didn't mean to offend you, Maria. I . . . I was just, I was just . . .
"You were just what?" Maria asked as she stood up and looked down at the princess.
"I was just trying to get to know you better. I felt a connection . . . and, um . . ."
"Is this some sort of intrigue for you?" Maria demanded.
Danielle stood up, her face flushing. "What? Is that what you think?" she murmured disbelievingly. "Do the Spanish always think so little of people? What in my character has led you to believe that I would hold you in such low esteem when the opposite is true! I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and your family. I would never spy on you. I care for you deeply, Maria, and I . . . I . . . ,"
Danielle couldn't complete her thoughts. She had not expected this to go so badly and dropped her head as tears formed in her eyes.
"You . . . you care for me?" Maria asked softly, ashamed. It was obvious to her now that Danielle wasn't playing a game. She hadn't been completely sure until this very moment. The realization scared the life out of Maria. This meant Danielle's feelings were true.
"What?" Danielle asked, looking up slowly, sniffing back her tears.
"You care for me, Danielle?" Maria asked again, softly.
"Yes, Maria, - very much," Danielle said as her tears flowed heavier.
"Please don't cry, Danielle." Maria said as she reached into her back pocket and offered Danielle a handkerchief. "I'm so sorry I raised my voice at you. I didn't mean to react that way. I was completely out of line and I'm sorry."
Danielle took the embroidered cloth and wiped the tears from her eyes. She looked at Maria, who seemed to be struggling to decide what to say next.
"I wasn't sure what was happening between us," Maria said. It was both a statement and a question.
"I was hoping you could tell me. I've been trying to understand my feelings since I first saw you in the garden," Danielle said, still trying to control her emotions.
Maria's heart was pounding fast. "We need to remember the reason you came to Spain." Maria said, making sure that whatever happened next, at least Danielle knew where she stood on that subject.
"Maria, do you care for me?" Danielle asked, moving closer to the tall beauty.
This was the hardest question she would ever answer. She knew the best thing to do ó LIE! Tell the princess that she understood her feelings and not to worry, she wouldn't tell anyone, but no, she didn't have the same feelings for her. ëRemember Fredrick! Remember Fredrick!' The thoughts were pounding in her head. She looked at the ground.
"Fredrick cares for you, Danielle. He told me as much. He's my brother and . . ."
"Maria, I'm not asking you about your brother. Fredrick is the best of men, but it's not his eyes I've seen in my dreams since I was fourteen," Danielle said.
Maria raised her head to look into Danielle's eyes. Her mind registered immediately the implications of Danielle's confession of her recurring dreams. Their eyes had visited each other for years. Maria's heart was breaking.
"What is it, Maria?" Danielle asked as she watched the dark complexion turn pale. She brought her hands up and cupped the face that she longed to touch.
"You've had the same dreams, haven't you?" Danielle asked, but in her heart she already knew the answer.
"I . . . I . . . it doesn't matter! This can't work!" Maria gasped for breath and stepped away. "You're the Princess of France, Danielle. You're here to marry my brother. Don't you understand?"
"Maria, please? Please, Maria," Danielle pleaded as she grabbed Maria's arm and pulled her back around. "Believe me, I've agonized over this. I've tried to fight this feeling, but it's no use, Maria. My heart is calling for you and as much as that scares me, I can Not deny my feelings."
"I'm begging you, Danielle. Don't do this! We can't win in this situation. You can't ask me to hurt my brother. I have my family to think about and this country. What about France, and your family? What do you think they'll say?" Maria asked as her heart grieved for what could have been.
"We've done nothing to hurt anyone, Maria."
"True, and if we had an ounce of sense left, we'd keep it that way," Maria added. "I'm leaving this morning. I have it all planned." The fear crept through her every word.
"Look at me, Maria," Danielle demanded.
"What? What is it you would have me do?" Maria cried out and looked into Danielle's eyes once more.
"I would have you stay and not run from this," Danielle began. "Don't you think this scares me too? My God, Maria, I understand the implications, but the thought of having you this close to me and never exploring what fate has in store for us scares me even more. We were destined to be in each other's lives!"
"It cannot be! I must leave!" Maria said. She was close to breaking and clenched her hands into tightly balled fists, closing her eyes in frustration.
"If you think that is your answer, you are sorely mistaken. Running away will only fill your path with more questions. Know this, Maria ó you could put the distance of the stars between us and that would not stop my heart from beating at the same time as yours!" Danielle said, as her tears started flowing again.
Maria's closed fists relaxed as her soul was filled with the love that broke down her crumbling defenses. She opened her eyes and looked at the woman she knew was her match in every way. "Why do you torture me so with these words of love?" Maria asked softly, sighing in defeat and staring at the most beautiful sight in the world.
"Because, Maria, I can't seem to help myself when it comes to you." Danielle smiled lovingly through her tears at the woman who had stolen her heart.
Maria gazed at Danielle's smile and nothing else mattered; the fear, the guilt, the need to be strong all vanished. Before she even realized it, she'd closed the few steps remaining between them. She placed her hand on Danielle's cheek and leaned down inches from two perfect lips. She breathed in Danielle's scent and, lost in her longing, kissed the woman she wanted more than life itself.
Danielle moaned and responded to the touch causing Maria to pull her closer as the kiss intensified.
"Take your hands off her NOW, Maria!" Fredrick shouted from the doorway.
Both women stepped back in a hurry. Their perfect moment shattered.
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