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 - 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 - 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 Bard’s Village 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.

Email: dikern@aol.com



Chapter 7

"There are no easy answers to this dilemma," Catherine said, sighing as she sat down. "But, if we all work together, we might be able to pull this off."

"Pull what off?" Rosa asked hesitantly. "I don't like the tone of your voice, Catherine."

"Thereís only one way I can think of that would allow Danielle and Maria to have a life together, and believe me itís not something Iím looking forward to. It means I will probably never see Danielle again. I wish it were easier, but my daughterís position in France and the politics involved prevent it from being so," Catherine said, taking a long, deep breath, the weight of the details of her plan showing as distress on her face.

"Luc," she said, turning her attention to the captain, "Please tell me exactly what transpired when you and Maria rescued my daughter."

"Certainly, your Majesty," Luc said, looking curiously at the queen. "We arrived at Ortegaís encampment at dusk and slipped in from the cliffs undetected. Following Mariaís lead, we made our way to the smaller of two structures hoping to find Danielle. Maria had to permanently remove one of Ortegaís guards because he was blocking our access to the window. With him out of the way, Maria was able to spot the princess inside. Under Mariaís orders we split up. I was given the task of setting fire to the larger structure."

"She wanted to create a diversion," Fredrick interrupted.

"Yes," Luc said, glancing at Fredrick. "She knew if we could get everyoneís attention focused on the larger building, sheíd have a better chance of getting Danielle out unharmed."

"Maria's very smart," Rosa offered, puffing her chest out just a little in pride.

"Extremely," Luc replied, turning his attention to Rosa and smiling slightly. "Maria knew exactly what she was doing."

"Please continue," Catherine said eagerly.

"Of course, your Majesty," Luc said. "I started the fire, and with the winds blowing down from the mountains it spread very quickly. I had already opened the gate to the corral and secured two horses for our escape. As the fire spread, Ortegaís men sounded an alarm. The yelling, coupled with the fire, drove all the remaining horses from their pen, essentially guaranteeing no one could follow us."

Luc paused, scanning his audience to make sure there were no more questions. "I made my way to the waiting horses and stood watch for Maria, hoping to see her emerge with Danielle from the smaller building. After a matter of minutes I saw them. The area looked clear. Maria grabbed Danielleís hand and they ran toward the designated area. It was getting pretty dark by this time," Luc went on, swallowing hard. "Iím sorry, but it was already too late when I spotted a man on the roof. I yelled to the women and took aim with my pistol. Maria turned quickly, shielding the princess from harmís way. I hit my target and he fell to his death from the rooftop, but not before he got his round off. Iím so sorry, Rosa," Luc said softly, lowering his head.

"Captain," Rosa said, "You have nothing to be sorry for. You are as much a hero as the two women upstairs. You all risked your lives. I am proud of each of you."

Luc looked up slowly and nodded his head toward Rosa, silently acknowledging her praise and forgiveness.

"Luc," Catherine asked quickly. "Besides the man on the roof, did anyone else see Maria get shot?"

"Iím sure that many of Ortegaís men heard the shots," Luc said, raising his eyes to the ceiling and thinking hard. "But with the night settling in, no one could have seen the details or distinguished whoíd been shot from that distance."

"Are you completely certain?" Catherine asked. "This is very important."

"Yes," Luc said confidently. "It was too dark to see anything from that range."

"What happened next?" Catherine asked.

"Maria was injured and unable to stand on her own, so I brought the horses to them as fast as I could," Luc said. "Danielle mounted one of the horses and instructed me to place Maria in front of her. We rode away in the opposite direction of Ortegaís advancing men. We paused only once, at a clearing, and then came straight here."

"So," Catherine said. "The men had no idea whoíd been shot, or what shape they were in? Is that correct?"

"Exactly," Luc said.

"Rosa," Catherine said, looking directly at the Spanish woman. "Can you trust Dr. Sanar?"

"I trust few men more," Rosa said honestly. "But why do you ask?"

"Besides the four of us and our daughters, heís the only one who knows the truth," Catherine said. "Unless, that is, one of us has told someone at your villa, Rosa."

She turned to face the captain. "Luc, when you came into the villa to tell me that Danielle was unharmed, did you stop to tell anyone else?"

"No, your Majesty," Luc said.

"Fredrick and Rosa, did either of you talk to anyone?"

"No," Rosa answered quickly. "I was out in the stables checking on Cora when the captain returned to the villa."

"And I," Fredrick jumped in. "I came into the stables and found my mother. I never saw or spoke to another soul."

"That leaves only the doctor," Catherine said very slowly, closing her eyes in thought.

"Your Majesty," Luc said softly, walking over to kneel in front of his queen. "Are you . . . are you planning on pretending that Danielle has been killed?"

"Iím so sorry, but yes, itís the only thing that will work," Catherine said, looking into the gentle eyes of her friend. "As much as I hate the idea, itís the only way sheíll be free of her responsibilities and the commitments of her rank and status. It saddens me, but I have no other solution. Danielle will have to agree to it and weíll have to alter her appearance as well."

"Catherine," Rosa said. "You do realize that no matter how much you alter her appearance, sheíll still be a French woman in Spain. It will be too obvious if they stay around here. Maria and Danielle could never live at the villa undetected."

"I thought that would probably be the case," Catherine said, tears forming in her eyes. "I knew Danielle would never be able to return to France and I did wonder about them staying in Spain. Iím very sorry, Rosa, but can you think of any other way for our two daughters to have a life with each other?"

"No, Catherine," Rosa said. "Not having Maria with me will cause me great pain, but knowing that sheíll be with Danielle and have a chance at happiness will lessen my heartache."

A silence hung in the room as the four occupants mulled over the words that had just been spoken. The premise was so simple, but the details needed to be planned very carefully. Faking anyoneís death was tricky at best, and adding a princess to the mix complicated things even more.

"Weíll have to hide Danielle from now on," Catherine said, sniffing back tears. "Until Maria is well enough to travel, weíll need to keep my daughter from being seen by anyone ó and Rosa, youíll need to talk to the doctor straight away."

"Once weíre sure that Dr. Sanar is with us, I think it would be appropriate to make an official statement from the House of Cordoba regarding the kidnapping and death," Fredrick said softly. "The longer we wait, the more we risk talk and the chance that the truth could get out."

"Thatís true, Catherine," Rosa said. "We should send official word to the King of Spain, denouncing the action of Ortegaís band of dissidents as well as sending our condolences and deepest regrets on the loss of the princess."

"Iíll need to send an urgent message to France," Catherine said. "And, Luc, Iím sorry to put you in this position, but youíll need to be the eyewitness to Danielleís death. The king will believe it coming from you."

Luc nodded his head and swallowed hard. Heíd never lied to the king and if this deceit were ever brought to the light of day, it would mean his certain death. Yet knowing that he could help to make Danielleís life happy made his fear fade as quickly as it had come.

"We still have one problem," Rosa said. "Iím not sure that Maria will agree to this. Sheíll think of Danielle first and knowing my daughter, sheíll not want Danielle subjected to the kind of life theyíll have to live."

"Maria has met her match with my daughter," Catherine said. "If Danielle makes up her mind to go through with it, Maria will have no choice but to accept it."

"Oh, really," Rosa chuckled. "Care to place a wager on that?"

"Youíre on," Catherine laughed loudly, putting aside the seriousness of the situation to find joy in how perfectly matched their two daughters seemed to be.

"Now," Catherine continued, sobering quickly. "Letís hope we can pull this off."


Upstairs, Danielle watched Maria sleep. The simple joy of it amazed her. Just being in the same room with the dark woman was enough to fill Danielleís heart and ease the longing she felt when she was out of her sight. Her life had been out of balance until the day that sheíd finally found Maria. She studied the tall womanís features, delighting in the way her dark hair fell casually along her strong jaw. Never in her life had she seen such beauty mixed with the strength that radiated from this Spanish woman; even in her slumber it was visible. Danielle promised herself that she would memorize every inch of Maria, just in case they were separated for any length of time. She silently stole glances of her tanned, muscular body, lifting up the sheet and then laughing at herself for doing so.

ëLook what Iíve come to,í Danielle thought. ëAll I can do is dream of the day that I feel you, your body lying next to me, on top of me. I want your arms surrounding me forever, Maria. I need that. We have to find a way to be together, my love.í

Sitting back, heated from her thoughts, Danielle took a deep breath and sighed. The footsteps coming up the stairs jarred her from her visions.

"Danielle," Catherine whispered, seeing Maria fast asleep. "I need to talk to you. Itís very important. Can you come downstairs so we can talk?"

"Sure, Mother," Danielle stood up. "Is everything all right?"

"That depends on you, my dear," Catherine said softly, before leaving the room.

Danielle swallowed hard, turning to kiss Maria lightly on the cheek before she left. "Something tells me my mother has been up to something, Maria. I hope you wake up soon. I have a feeling our future is being planned in your absence. I love you."

Danielle left the room reluctantly. She was sure that Maria was sleeping soundly and was for all practical purposes completely out of danger physically, so her hesitation had nothing to do with worry about Maria and everything to do with her anxiety over the conversation she was about to have with her mother. She let out a slow breath as she descended the stairs. So much had happened in the short time that they had come to Spain. The reason for the trip was not far from Danielleís mind, however, and she knew this journey was supposed to end in her marriage to Mariaís brother.

ëOh, God, how did this all happen?í Danielle thought as she walked into the sitting room. Pausing, she saw four sets of eyes staring in her direction.

"Why do I feel like falling to my knees and begging for mercy?" Danielle choked out. Not one person said a word. "That was supposed to be a joke."

"Danielle," Catherine said, patting the seat next to her. "Come over here and sit down, please."

Danielle walked slowly to her motherís side and sat. The queen reached over and picked up her daughterís hand.

"I love you and so does your father," Catherine said. "But he would never be able to understand this connection that you and Maria share. To him, there is only one thing that would be suitable for you and that would be to marry a nobleman. Itís tradition and we both know how much that means to your father and the kingdom of France."

"I understand that, Mother, but . . ."

"Wait, Danielle, let me finish, please," Catherine picked up Danielleís other hand, looking directly into her eyes. "You deserve this chance with Maria, we all see that."

Danielle felt her eyes growing wet as she listened to the words. Looking past her mother she saw Fredrick sitting across the room. He smiled at her and winked.

"Fredrick made an offer to marry you in name only, which would allow you to stay here and be with Maria," Catherine said.

As Danielle continued to look in his direction, her tears began to flow.

"That was one of the most unselfish acts I have ever witnessed and is a testament to his love for Maria," Catherine added.

"I canít allow that," Danielle said through her tears. "As much as I am truly grateful for your offer, you deserve to be loved by someone that will be able to give you everything befitting a true marriage. I could never let you live your life like that."

"I told you sheíd say that," Catherine said turning, to look at Rosa. "Itís all right, Danielle, there are other reasons that it could never work and that is why we have only one other option."

"What do you mean only one other option?" Danielle asked.

"The only way you can be free of your title and the obligations bestowed upon you is for you to disappear," Catherine said carefully.

"Disappear? And just how am I to disappear?"

"Well," Catherine said. "What I mean is we would have to make it look like you had . . . that is we would have to . . . Oh, Danielle, we would need to fake your death."

Danielle sat wide-eyed, her mouth slightly agape. She knew sheíd heard her mother correctly. Fake her death. The idea of it started to take shape. If she were dead, she would never be expected to marry, never be expected to live up to her fatherís expectations, she would be free, she would . . . SHE would never see her parents again, or ever be able to return to France. Her tears returned.

"I know this is a lot for you to take in," Catherine said, crying, as she patted her daughterís back. "Believe me, I know it means that I may never see you again, but I think knowing that you were given a chance at true happiness, true love, . . . well, that alone makes it seem less overwhelming."

Danielle looked into her motherís eyes. So many sacrifices were being made, and this was the biggest sacrifice of all.

"Mother," Danielle said. "I love you, Iím not sure I could bear the thought of leaving you."

"How about leaving Maria?" Catherine asked. "Envision your life without her, and tell me how you could bear that."

Danielle dropped her head and, weeping, brought her hands to her face.

"Just as I thought," Catherine said softly.

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