The promt today is 'Christmas'
“Tell me about your favourite Christmas.” Melanie sat back and watched the two brothers stare at each other as if they’d been pole-axed.
“Surely you celebrated Christmas at the palace?” Concern for the royal siblings pushed her back in her chair.
“Well,” Liam hesitated, stared at her, cleared his throat and sat on the arm of her chair, which left his elder brother and the heir to the throne of a tiny European country bordering Switzerland casting a puzzled glance at both of them.
“We grew up with the knowledge that Christmas belonged to our people.” Henri started slowly, and when Liam nodded, settled on the other arm of Melanie’s chair. “It wasn’t like here in Britain where your Royals do a Christmas speech to the nation while holidaying in the wilds of Norfolk. We were physically on display.”
“What! All of you?” In sitting up Melanie nearly sent both brothers flying. “Surely you had some family time together away from the media spotlight?”
The following silence pounded in her head as she imagined the royal siblings on a palace balcony. One of those she’d laughed about the first time her husband introduced her to the palace. She couldn’t say her own Christmas’s had been full of joy, but those of the Gasquets’ carried a different kind of emotional deprivation. She knew from years of association with the King and his queen, they were good, loving parents, so why had they allowed their country to take precedence over their children’s needs on that one special day of the year?
“I thought mine were bad,” she muttered and started when Henri broke through her thoughts.
"What do you mean?” he asked.
“Fists for kisses.” Liam stated flatly, and with a reminiscent grin changed the subject.
“Do you remember that year when, after we came in from the first balcony appearance, we ran off and hid?”
Henri’s laugh eased the tension and redirected his thoughts to the ensuing mayhem. The whole palace had been turned upside down and the search involved everyone.
“We didn’t know anything about security because of threats from the insurgents, or the likes then. To us it was just a bid for freedom from the monotony of routine on a day when we knew from the television other people had a really joyful time.
“The parents even called in the air force to join the search.”
Melanie laughed aloud when Henri slanted a rueful grin in her direction.
“And all this time, you were where?”
“Where do you think four boys, up to no good, would go in a palace?”
“We did!” Liam joined in his brother’s recollections.
“Weren’t you frightened? Wasn’t it dark and damp in the dungeons?” When the shook their heads she added, “I thought all dungeons were dark and damp.”
“No. Not at all.” Henri contradicted. “We often played down there and had managed to store a collection of candles, torches, packets of biscuits. And…” he paused before continuing in a conspirital tone. “We found some old chairs that had been junked at some time and a rickety old table from one of the other rooms down there.”
“We decided it was one of the warden’s rooms.” Liam added with glee. “When we went upstairs the whole place was in uproar. We were grounded for a week and the dungeons were locked up after that.”
The front door bell interrupted any further reminiscences. “That will be Monica.” Liam rose and departed to admit their visitor.
“Monica?” Henri’s eyes turned wary. “You’re not match-making are you?”
Used as she’d become to her brother-in-law’s directness, Melanie still found it disconcerting at times.
“Monica is my partner in the riding business,” she said primly, before adding firmly, “and I would never try to set her up with an unwanted partner.” Two could play the direct game, she thought. “She’s alone this Christmas and arranged to join us long before we knew you were visiting us too.”
Henri looked up when his brother re-entered the room and fought the shock that sucker-punched him in the chest when he studied the newcomer.
He’d heard the phrase, ‘hair like spun gold,’ and suddenly understood why some unknown man he’d formerly rubbished as witless had waxed lyrical. Her hair fell in soft waves to her shoulders before turning in. Her eyes reminded him of the emeralds in the royal vault back home. Large, round, and instead of reflecting colour hers held a myriad of emotions.
Skin like alabaster…
No! He shook his thoughts clear, her skin was rosy from the cold breeze outside, her lips held the ghost of a smile tinged with accusation and it was directed, he saw, at his sister-in-law.
She rose, shot across the room and threw her arms around her friend.
“It’s not what you think.” Melanie assured her, in gentle tones. “Remember we told you about trying to persuade Henri to join us this year?”
The girl nodded.
Well hardly a girl, Henri admitted as he slid his tongue round inside his suddenly parched mouth.
“Well,” Melanie continued, “It was your suggestion we appeal to the king to get Henri to join us for Christmas—"
What? His eyes narrowed, this slip of a chit had schemed with Liam and Melanie to turn his life upside down? Anger and indignation warred with the throbbing south of his belt. Any thought of immersing himself in a holiday flirtation shot out the window.
Straightening his shoulders, his lips thinning, he bowed, and said in his most royal tone. “So I owe the total disruption of my life to you, do I? It’s always good to know who your enemies are.”
He ignored the shocked gasps from his family and kept his gaze fixed on the woman. What had Melanie called her? Something similar to hers, he remembered, and then it came to him.
Well, he thought grimly, he’d go to great lengths to assure this woman she was quite safe from him.
A reminder, you can find more awesome stories at Tuesday Tales