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 MANYthings. 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".

Email: dikern@aol.com


Chapter 9

King Louis XIV watched as his lieutenant returned from the villa. He hadn't had a moment's peace since they'd left France. Within days of his wife and daughter's departure, a messenger had arrived with word of the insurrections occurring in many areas of Spain. The information up until then had been that everything seemed to have quieted down, and it saddened Louis to think that he had unknowingly sent the people he loved into danger. Most disturbing was the report said that the largest gang of dissidents was last spotted in the exact area that his family was headed. The king pulled together the French army and made the decision to follow them. Also, he sent a scout ahead to warn his Captain Luc, who was in charge of the expedition carrying the queen and Danielle.

Now, almost a month later, they'd finally made it to the Cordoba villa. They'd never heard back from the scout and Louis was very worried. He'd pressed the army hard and hoped that we was only a few days behind his wife and daughter's arrival in Spain. It was midday and the entourage was tired from their travels.

"What's the word?" The king asked impatiently, wiping the sweat from his brow.

"The scout never made it, Your Majesty, but the royal carriage arrived three days ago. However, not without some serious problems. They were attacked on their way here and two men were killed, many more were injured. Luckily the queen and Danielle were unharmed, but . . ." the lieutenant paused, unsure of how to tell the king the next news.

"Damn, man, but what?" Louis asked.

"But now, Danielle has been kidnapped," the French officer said quietly, dropping his head.

"What? Where is the queen? Is Luc inside?" The king dismounted his horse and walked past the lieutenant, headed for the villa; he'd never moved so fast in his life. The news of Danielle had him badly shaken.

"Your Majesty," the lieutenant yelled. "They're not here."

The king stopped dead in mid-stride and turned around, staring at the young man whose face was a bright color of red. "Where are they!"

"The cook said that the lady of the house, her son, and Luc and the queen all left in a hurry late last evening and haven't returned. She said they went to the doctor's villa up the road, but she couldn't tell me anything more. She said they left very quickly. The doctor's residence is the one we saw a couple of miles back."

On shaky legs the king quickly walked back to his mount. "Captain, bring your men and follow me. Lieutenant, you stay here and find out any other information you can from the people inside."

"Yes, Your Highness," The lieutenant said, coming to attention at his orders.

Catherine looked over at Rosa and sighed heavily. They were worn out from lack of sleep and worry for Maria. Now they sat, waiting for word from Danielle on what their next steps would be. Fredrick stood to stretch his long frame and yawned deeply.

"Should I go up and check on them?" he asked.

"Let's give them a couple of moments more," Catherine said. "We need to get moving soon, though. We can't let this day pass without getting a message out to France."

Upstairs, Danielle was lost in the feelings she was having for the older woman whose lips were eagerly devouring her own. She knew Maria was still weak from her injuries and tried to end the kissing. She could barely breathe herself from the intensity of the passion, and she was certain that Maria's damaged lung couldn't possibly be healed enough for this kind of activity.

"Hmm, Maria," Danielle whispered into the soft ear next to her lips, "you have no idea what happens to me when you kiss me like that."

"I think I might," Maria sighed and grinned. "Let's just say I'm glad I'm lying down because I'm sure I'd be unable to stand right now, and that would have nothing to do with my current injury."

Danielle pulled back a little, smiling, and looked at the warm eyes she loved. Slowly she kissed the inside of Maria's palm, and then seductively made her way up the older women's arm kissing, and lightly nipping the skin past her elbow to her collarbone and then along her smooth neck, coming to rest finally at her soft earlobe, gently sucking it. "I want to taste every inch of you, and when you're all healed, I promise to make you unsteady on your feet every day for the rest of our lives."

Maria couldn't stifle the soft growl that escaped her lips. She was surprised and aroused by Danielle's assertiveness. Just thinking of the young woman's lips on her skin caused a dropping sensation in her stomach and a flood of wetness between her legs. She could hardly contain her passion and longed for the day they took their relationship to the next intimate step. It was obvious that Danielle thought of that day also.

"I can't wait to hold you in my arms," Maria said. "I want you so badly."

"And I, you," Danielle whispered. "I'm going downstairs to tell your mother and mine that we agree to this deception. You're sure you want this?"

"I'm sure I want you and if it means this, then how can I not agree?"

"I knew you'd see it my way," Danielle teased. "My mother always said I was very persuasive."

"That you are," Maria winked.

The French army stopped outside of the doctor's villa and two regents escorted the king to the door. Knocking loudly, the regents waited but a moment and then forced the door open. Danielle was on the bottom step when she heard the noise and jumped as the door swung in and two men bolted through. To her surprise and horror she recognized their uniforms, and as she looked past them she watched as her father made his entrance. Their eyes met immediately.

"Danielle! I was so worried. We were told that you'd been kidnapped," Louis crossed the floor and threw his arms around his daughter. To his amazement the young woman's legs gave out and she passed out in his grasp.

"Danielle! What's wrong, child?" Louis sat down, cradling his daughter, and lightly patted her face with his palm in an effort to revive her.

Catherine was on her feet as soon as she heard her husband's voice. She came into the room as Danielle lost consciousness and couldn't believe what she was seeing. Louis was in Spain.

Louis looked up and caught his wife's eyes. "Catherine, what's wrong with her? Was she kidnapped? Did someone hurt her?"

"Oh, Louis," Catherine said moving to the stairs to kneel in front of her husband and daughter. "So much has happened. Yes, she was kidnapped, but she was rescued and she was unharmed. I think she's just in shock at seeing you here. It's a big surprise . . . for all of us."

"Are you sure she's okay? Where's the doctor?" Louis asked loudly, searching the room for help.

Luc ran to the queen's side and stood behind her, whispering, "Should I get the doctor, Your Majesty?"

"Have him bring the smelling salts," Catherine said. "She's just had a huge scare . . . I mean surprise and I'm sure she'll be just fine."

Louis scrunched his brows together and looked down at his daughter. "This isn't like her at all, Catherine. She's never reacted like this before. Our daughter is one of the hardiest young women I know. She's never been a frail flower. Doesn't this concern you?"

"Much has changed about Danielle since we've been here," Catherine said, swallowing hard.

"You've only been gone a short time," Louis said, looking back at the queen. "What could have possibly happened to be causing this?"

"More than you could ever guess." Catherine sighed. "Let's get her to the sofa; we really must talk."

The king carried his daughter to the sitting room and laid her on the sofa. The doctor came in with the salts and Danielle responded by opening her eyes. As soon as she saw her father, tears began to form. She tried to speak but was still too badly shaken. The doctor assured the king that she would be just fine and after a great deal of persuasion from his wife, Louis agreed to leave Danielle and follow the queen to a separate room.

As the door closed, all remaining eyes fell back to Danielle.

"What will she tell him?" Fredrick asked.

"I . . . I'm . . . not . . . sure," Danielle said raggedly. She felt like she had forgotten how to breathe. "Our plans . . . it's all . . . it's all ruined."

"Maybe not," Fredrick said, taking the princess's hand to soothe her. "We could still get married and even though it's not the best option, it still gives you and Maria a chance."

"Oh, Fredrick," Danielle said, finally regaining her composure. "We both know that wouldn't really work."

Rosa paced back and forth, unable to think of what they could possibly do now.

"Give the queen a chance," Luc insisted. "She's been the one who's gotten us to this point so far. Maybe she still has one more miracle in her bag of magic."

Danielle slowly sat upright and looked at her friend. "And what if she doesn't, Luc? What if he forces me to go back to France? Or what if he insists on this marriage? What should I do then?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Luc said. "I have faith in your mother; she'll think of something."

Danielle gave everyone her best fake smile. Standing, she made the decision to go tell Maria what had happened. If her father came out of that room angry, she knew she might not get the chance to see Maria again, and that was all she could think about.

"I'm going to Maria," Danielle said. "Luc, come and get me when they come out of there."

"Yes, of course," Luc said.

Maria heard the ruckus and tried to get out of bed. She was sure she'd heard a man shouting Danielle's name. She needed to get to her. The pain in her side was easing, but it still throbbed whenever she moved too fast. Slowly she eased her feet around and placed them on the floor. Leaning on the headboard, she began to stand but fell back as the shooting pain and shortness of breath stopped her movement.

"Damn it! What's going on down there?" She coughed out.

Cora looked at her and moved closer for support. Although the dog could stand on all fours now, jumping down was still not something she'd attempted yet.

"We're quite the pair, you and I," Maria said, looking over at her pet.

Danielle walked in and saw Maria sitting on the edge of the bed, holding her side. The sheet had fallen around her waist and she sat with her breasts exposed, wearing only a bloody bandage. Her face was very pale and beads of sweat were forming on her forehead.

"What do you think you're doing?"

Maria looked up. "Trying to get to you. Are you okay? What did I just hear?"

"Have you lost your mind? You could have opened that wound. You lie back down this instant." Danielle said, ignoring Maria's questions and trying not to stare at the beautiful half-naked women as she gently lifted Maria's feet and tucked them back under the sheet, then helped her lean back onto the bed.

"What's going on?" Maria asked through her pain as she pulled the sheet back over her bosom.

Danielle sat down and looked at Maria. She was trying to be strong, but it was all she could do not to just fall into the Spanish women's arms and weep.

"You're scaring me, Danielle," Maria said. "Are you okay?"

"My father," Danielle said very slowly. "He's here. He came through the door as I walked down the steps."

"He's in Spain? He saw you?" Maria asked, her eyes wide in disbelief.

"Yes," Danielle began to cry. "I was caught off guard and when the realization of what it meant hit me, I fainted into his arms."

"Where is he now?" Maria asked quickly.

"My mother is talking to him," Danielle sobbed. "Oh, Maria, this could all be over, you and I, our chance to be together, it could be over."

"Come here, Danielle," Maria said, holding her arms out to the woman she loved. Gingerly she scooted over to make room for Danielle on the bed. She knew that she needed to be strong for the princess. This turn of events could spell the end of their hopes and dreams and Maria knew the effect it was having on the both of them.

Danielle carefully climbed up on the bed and then lay down next to Maria, placing her head on the strong woman's shoulder. Maria wrapped her arm around the younger woman and held her while she cried. She whispered words of love and devotion as she ran her fingers through the blonde's hair, trying to calm her sobs. Maria silently prayed that they could both make it through this. They had come so close to happiness together.

Luc looked over at Rosa and then back to the door that separated the king and queen from the rest of the villa, at least for the moment. His mind raced, and for a man who was known to keep his calm during the fiercest fighting, he felt almost shaky with anticipation. The king's reaction to the news of the events of the last few days had the potential to change many people's lives.

The decisions that Luc had made while in Spain regarding the safety of the king's daughter were sure to be discussed, and he knew his fate was hanging in the balance - but that was not his first concern. Luc had known Louis to be incredibly cruel and then the next day to be wholeheartedly compassionate toward someone or something. Luc hoped that the king's humanity would reign supreme this day; if not in his favor then - he prayed - in Danielle's.

Louis loved Danielle and although he rarely found time to spend with his youngest daughter, the captain had been privy to conversations with the king in which he couldn't hide his admiration for her. Luc remembered one time in particular when the king had been angry at her for once again hiding herself within the castle walls.

She was probably no more than five when she'd started that game. She took pride in being able to find new and creative places to conceal herself. Her goal was always the same - outwit everyone long enough to have her father send for Luc. The princess and Luc shared a friendship that they both enjoyed. He loved her good nature and silliness, and she loved him for taking the time to play with her and for never forgetting to tell her that she was his favorite girl in the whole world.

Luc got good at guessing her next hiding spot and always found her. He smiled as he remembered her reaction to being found by the captain. Danielle would raise her little hands in victory and march to the beat of a song she made up in her head, singing "I'm smarter than they are, I'm brighter by far, I'm the best solider around and the next time I won't be found." Luc laughed aloud at his memory of her little voice singing in triumph.

"What on earth could you possibly be laughing about?" Rosa asked, looking over at the captain, who couldn't hide the smile on his face.

"Oh, forgive me, Mademe," Luc said. "I was remembering a time when Danielle was very young."

"She's a very special girl, isn't she, Luc?"

"Yes, she certainly is." Luc smiled at the Spanish woman whom he held in high esteem. "The same can be said of Maria as well. You've done a wonderful job of raising your children."

"Thank you, Luc," Rosa smiled and blushed a little. "I love my children very much. I have no doubt that the king feels the same for Danielle."

"Yes," Luc said, "I know that the king loves his daughter, I just worry that he'll be thinking of much more than what Danielle wants. As the ruler of France, he obviously has other interests that affect many people."

"I'll pray he comes to his decision based on what his heart tells him in this situation," Rosa said.

"I was just hoping the exact same thing."

Luc turned toward the window, lost in his memories again. It was soon after Danielle's tenth birthday. Morning came and Danielle did not appear for breakfast. The king sent four men to search for her and after much of the morning had passed with no luck in turning up the small child, the king called for Luc. He started out by telling the captain how maddening it was to constantly have to look for his daughter and ended up by praising her for how smart she had gotten at this game. As Luc remembered, the king had actually said that if even a third of his army had the abilities that his ten-year-old daughter had, he'd be the ruler of more than just France. The memory made the captain's smile return.

Danielle was everything a father could be proud of: smart, witty, loyal, amiable, and beautiful. Luc couldn't be more proud of her if she was his own daughter and since his life had been given to his country and king, she was to him just that - the daughter he'd never had. He loved the princess and wished that she'd had her chance to be with Maria. As time went by, Luc began to feel that possibility slipping away.

"Louis," Catherine sighed. "I know it's hard to believe, but everything I've told you is the truth."

Catherine leaned back, out of breath from explaining to her husband all the events that had led to the present moment. She had decided that at that point anything less than the truth was too risky. She didn't miss a single detail and even though Louis's expression was one of disbelief, he hadn't, to her surprise, raised his voice or stormed out of the room in anger. Actually, he seemed moved by the loyalty that had been shown toward his daughter.

"You're telling me that even Luc agreed to go through with this deceit?" The king stood, placing his hands on his hips.

"Don't blame him. I told you, I'm the one that came up with this," Catherine said.

"You're her mother, of course you'd do anything to see her happy. But the captain, what's his reason?" Louis asked.

"I should think that was obvious," Catherine said. "He loves her, Louis. He thinks of her as his own child."

Louis walked across the floor and stopped, thinking. Not only had the captain shown his loyalty to the princess, but she'd also won over the entire Cordoba family. He couldn't believe that Fredrick had offered to marry Danielle and that Maria had risked her life not once but twice to ensure his daughter's safety. Even the head of the Cordoba household had risked her family's reputation so that Danielle could find happiness. Sure, she was also thinking of her own daughter, but from what Catherine had told him, this whole family cared for the princess - deeply. Why did Danielle have the ability to gain the respect and loyalty of people she'd just met?

The king dropped his head as a tear found its way to his eye. He rarely let his emotions out, but the realization of how special his youngest daughter was caused an unfamiliar reaction in him. Everything told him that he should be angry, even appalled, by the attraction that Danielle felt for the Spanish woman. Yet all he could see was that the purity of Danielle's nature was what people were drawn to and captured by. Although he'd never told her, Louis loved her dearly.

"Louis," Catherine asked. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm still trying to come to terms with all of this," Louis said, turning to once again face his wife. "I wanted Danielle to marry into this family because I knew it would be good for our interests in Spain, but now I'm wondering if it would really take a marriage to ensure that. Hasn't this family already proven their commitment to the alliance between our countries by fighting to stop the resistance in Spain and by protecting our family without regard to their own safety?"

Catherine nodded her head yes, and let out a long breath.

Louis walked over and sat next to his wife, placing his arm around her. "It seems my daughter has taught me yet another lesson. All these years I thought that it was a strong hand that commanded respect and here this young woman, our daughter, has taught me that loyalty and respect can come from something as simple as a pure soul and honest heart."

"What are you saying, my love?"

"I'm not sure, Cherie." Louis said, kissing the warm cheek of his wife. "I can't very well let my daughter stay here unmarried. That is unthinkable."

"So then you'll have her return with us to France?" Catherine asked, sadly.

"From all that you've told me," Louis said, "that might be the one thing that would forever break her spirit and her heart. If Danielle has found the single source of eternal love, I can't make her give that up. I love her, Catherine. I must be getting soft in my old age, but I can't be responsible for causing her light to be extinguished."

Catherine turned and kissed Louis, wrapping her arms around the back of his neck. "You have reminded me of why I fell in love with you. Even though you rarely show this side of you anymore, I always know you're capable of great compassion and love."

"Hmm, yes, well . . ." Louis stammered. "Don't you dare tell anyone else."

"Your secret is safe with me, my love." Catherine kissed him again, but this time more deliberately, making sure that Louis felt the passion she still had for him.

After a while, Louis slowly pulled away from the embrace. He looked at his wife and smiled. "It seems you've become quite good with secrets."

Catherine blushed and smiled back. "Only when I need to protect the people I love."

"Well, my Queen, since you've become so good at this, please tell me what on earth we can do about this situation?" Louis stood.

Catherine sat still, placing her hands to her mouth and closed her eyes. She was so happy that Louis was at least willing to entertain the idea of letting Danielle remain with Maria. Now all she had to do was think up a new plan and do it fast.

Maria watched as Danielle's sobs finally stopped. The young woman had fallen asleep in her arms, safe from the rest of the world around them. Unsure of what to do at this point, Maria did something she rarely did - she prayed.

"I have never asked for a thing for myself, Lord. I haven't always followed your path, but if you allow this woman that I now hold to stay in my life, I promise to try. She's the one thing that I'm not sure I could live without. All I can say is that she inspires me to be a better person. I need her and she needs me. I pray, Lord, let us be together."

Maria held Danielle closer and kissed her forehead, tenderly.


Return to Main Page