The promt today is 'Holiday'
“You wanted to see me?” Henri waited for his father to indicate he sit before dropping into the chair in front of the king’s desk.
“I have not been unaware of the burden you have carried since my heart attack a year ago. Combining your own commitments with those you took over while I recuperated would have felled a lesser man.”
Feeling the heat burn his cheeks, Henri shifted in his chair. The past twelve months had been tough, and for the last six, his advisors almost competed with each other in advising him to slow down unless he wanted to occupy his father’s hospital bed.
“I am also aware you have ignored your advisors to cut back. So I am decreeing that of this moment you are on indeterminate leave of absence.”
“What!” Shock propelled Henri form his chair, and anxiety chased him round the room while he tried to remarshall his scattered thoughts. “I don’t have time to take leave of any kind,” he snapped. “There is the ceremony for the opening of the new foundations for the bridge, that will connect the west of our country more directly with the east, this morning—” He tunnelled his fingers through his hair.
“This afternoon, I am talking to the backers of the new foundation for the riding for the disabled Melanie started; then I am giving a speech to the leaders of our financial sector.”
He planted his knuckles on his father’s desk and leaned forward. “I can’t just take off and leave them all in the lurch.” He pushed away. “It is ridiculous for you or anyone else to expect me to walk away from my duties. Who would take my place?” he challenged, knowing no one else carried his significance or weight to press the projects forward.
“I will.” His father’s bald statement rocked Henri back on his heels. “It is a year since my heart attack and for the most part I have accepted the dictates of my doctors and advisors, and am now taking a leaf out of my son’s book before my heir drops dead from physical and emotional exhaustion. So you, my son, are on leave until I say otherwise.”
A lenient parent in most things, there were times when his father’s tone brooked no argument. This was one of them Henri acknowledged. Feeling like a recalcitrant four-year-old Henri recognised that tone of voice now and sighed.
“What am I supposed to do?” For the life of him, Henri failed to conceal his sarcasm. “Twiddle my fingers? And for how long?”
“Until I say otherwise.” A beam of sunlight transformed the king’s thatch of grey hair to silver. His eyes conveyed simultaneous messages of understanding and determination. He rose and rounded his desk. Resting his hand on Henri’s shoulder, his tone gentled. “Get away, right away, and relax. Do you suppose I found it easy to watch you running yourself into the ground in your efforts to combine your schedule with mine? And now—? Now,” he paused, waited for a reaction Henri swallowed before continuing. “Now it is time for me to take up the reins again.
“The plane is waiting to take you to Scotland. Melanie and Liam hope you will remain with them for a couple of months at least, until you are fully rested. If the thought of staying beyond Christmas stifles you, Liam, did suggest if you could not tolerate remaining in one place that long, you take a leaf out of his book and travel the world for a few months.
“We are no longer faced with the same security problems the insurgents caused for your brother and Melanie, so if that is what you want to do—” The king’s face crinkled into genuine mirth. “I promise you, your body-guards are all well known to you.”
With a harrumph Henri failed to hide his amusement. Liam’s marriage to his protector was a standing family joke now.
“I gather you have talked with Liam and Melanie, and not doubt held a family conference on the matter, therefore I will go. I have no choice in the matter. But I’ll remind you, unlike my brother, I am prepared to marry for convenience. It worked for you and mother. I see no reason, why, if she is chosen with care, I cannot emulate your example.”
Henri wondered whether he imagined the shudder of distaste that flipped across his father’s face, it was gone so quickly.
“Your transport awaits you—” Was all his father said before wrapping him in a bear-hug. “Go talk to your mother before you leave.”
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