“Well, you’re late turning in tonight, Your Majesty.”
Melody glared at her husband who displayed his back to her as he undressed for bed.
“Please, try not to be angry with me, my love. Although I promised to retire by eight, it’s now only ten thirty.” Lance said, shrugging off his jacket, and hanging it neatly in the wardrobe. “I wanted to get a head start on that ungodly stack of paperwork steadily piling up in my office. Which, let me assure you, has proven a mammoth undertaking thus far. Not to mention, I needed to prepare for that conference this upcoming Thursday. Melody, darling, you have to understand that a king’s work is never done.”
“I understand that I work as hard as you do. Do you think I simply laze around on my royal bottom all day long?”
“No, no, I don’t. I never meant to imply — ”
“Do I not run a tight enough ship, in your opinion? Do you feel this palace could run so impeccably smooth without me at the helm?”
“No, no, of course not.”
“The only difference is that I complete all of my duties within reasonable working hours. Whatever is left over can be easily dealt with the next day. You, however, are often still working into the wee small hours of the morning. You are a workaholic, Lance Manelin, and that’s a problem!”
Melody punctuated her impassioned outburst by unceremoniously chucking a pillow at the back of her husband’s head.
Pivoting to face her, Lance remarked, “You are a perfect child.”
“Do I look like a child?”
Having said that, Melody untied her robe and let it slip to the bedroom floor, revealing a seriously sexy little number.
Clad in nothing but thin, black lace, the queen stood as tall as she possibly could, her chest heaving in defiance.
″Wow. What’s the occasion?”
“Looks like you’ve forgotten our anniversary.”
“Ha ha, Melody, but my memory is not so faulty you can hoodwink me by using that tired line. We were married in the month of July, and celebrated nineteen years of wedded bliss almost two full months ago. Now, I’ll ask you again, what’s the occasion for that tantalizing ensemble?”
“There’s no particular occasion... other than to show that I love you. However, since you couldn’t deign to keep our appointment, I am no longer in the mood.”
“I’m here now,” Lance muttered, stripping off his button down vest and draping the garment over the back of a sturdy chair.
The queen shrugged, causing the strap of her négligée to slide off her shoulder, and Lance stared for a moment, entranced. His eyes traveled down the length of her body and then roamed back up again. Then, he unconsciously licked his lips twice before swallowing a hard lump that had formed in his throat.
“Are you coming to bed now, Lance?” Melody cooed, holding her hand out to him.
Lance nodded slowly, reaching for his wife with one hand, while loosening his suffocating necktie with the other. They kissed, immediately falling to the bed, and Lance rolled her body underneath his — their lips never once parting.
“Can you believe Karah is leaving for the university at the beginning of next week?” Melody asked, abruptly pushing Lance away from her.
“Can you believe that Karah is leaving for the university at the beginning of next week?”
“I heard you loud and clear the first time. It’s just... let’s talk about that later.”
The king hurriedly kissed his queen again, but his efforts went unrewarded when Melody shoved him away once more.
“No, we’ll talk now.”
“You’re killing me,” Lance growled, tilting his head back in defeat.
“Oh?” Melody tapped him on the nose. “Do you think I would give myself to you so easily, when you kept me waiting half the night? Let that be a lesson to you, Your Majesty.”
“Oh, fine — and you know I hate it when you use my title.” Lance sat up, leaned his back against the headboard, and crossed his arms grumpily.
“You’re not excited for Karah? She’s attending our beloved alma mater.”
“I can tell you this much — I’m not excited about all the prospective boys she’ll meet there.”
“That’s where we met.”
“I know. How can I ever forget? You were so gorgeous. Even after all these years, you are still so incredibly beautiful.” Lance paused to kiss her gently on the neck.
“Are you attempting to butter me up?”
“I’m trying my damnedest to seduce you. Is it working?”
“Hmmm,” he groaned in disappointment, raking his fingers through his hair.
“I don’t think you have to worry much about Karah, dear. We raised her responsibly, and as a result, she has matured into an intelligent, dependable young woman. Also, I’m sure the young men who attend the university are of excellent caliber, both morally and academically.”
“Oh, really?” Lance laughed incredulously, his green eyes narrowing, “Let’s reminisce on our college days, Mel. Would you feel comfortable if our daughter were to engage in some of the same shenanigans that we did when we were young? I’m telling you, some of our behavior was... inappropriate.”
“Well, that’s true, but we managed to save ourselves for our wedding night.”
“We were hardly that bad.”
“Yes, we were that bad. Maybe even worse than you care to remember. We used to frequent the library archives, located in the basement. Practically no one ever ventured down there, the place was very dimly lit, and we spent an indecent amount of time by ourselves — decidedly not studying. Honestly, Mel, you must remember that. God knows I’ll never forget.”
“What I do remember is the first time I saw you,” Melody nudged him slightly with her elbow. “You were sitting alone at a desk on the second floor of the library. You looked so handsome and striking, lost in thought and twirling a pen between your fingers. I didn’t know who you were at the time, and I couldn’t muster the nerve to actually broach a conversation... So, I ducked behind a bookshelf and spied on you for minutes until you finally packed up your books and left.”
“Perhaps that was the first time you saw me, but that wasn’t the first time I saw you. Do you recall?”
“Refresh my memory, why don’t you?”
“All right,” Lance pecked her lips softly. “Let me paint the scene. I was leaning against that brick wall in the main courtyard — I was with Gabriel, actually. It had just finished raining, when you came racing at breakneck speed across the courtyard. Suddenly, you slipped on a patch of wet grass — poor thing — and skidded on your stomach the entire length of the lawn. Papers and books flew every which way and I, like a gentleman, rushed to help you collect your things.”
“Of course you did. You were always the picture of chivalry.”
“Damn right. I asked if you were okay and helped you to your feet, but you wouldn’t look at me. You only mumbled something about being late for class and ran off again.”
“I couldn’t bring myself to make eye contact, because I remembered peeping at you from between two thick volumes of Chaucer and I was dying of humiliation.”
“So you weren’t late for class?” Lance questioned with raised eyebrows.
“Oh, no. I was tardy — for history with Professor Richards... no, his name was Richardson. He was notorious for locking the door on students who consistently wrestled with punctuality. I received an infraction that day, too, for sporting a dirty uniform. No matter how many times I washed my clothes, I was never able to lift those grass stains from my best white blouse. I suppose that’s why, even now, Gabriel persists to call me Mud Bath.”
Lance chuckled heartily, and grabbed hold of her hand, “When you left, I asked Gabriel: ‘Who is that?’ And Gabe, he said something along the lines of: ‘She’s some exchange student from Shireland. She’s only here for the semester, I’m fairly certain.’ It wasn’t until later that I discovered you were the Princess of Shireland.”
“I was only supposed to study in Westland for one semester, but in the end, I decided to finish all four years, here, in their entirety.”
“Much to my absolute delight.”
That bothersome loose strap slipped again and Lance seized the opportunity to tease the lace material further down her shoulder, leaving a trail of tender kisses in his wake. To the king’s dismay, his romantic advances were rebuffed for the third time.
“Patience, Lance.” Melody said, slapping his hand away.
“Can’t I just have a little peek?”
“You own me, my Melody,” the king whimpered desperately.
“This is utter torture, completely inhumane. A cruel and unusual punishment!”
“Settle down, now. You’re acting a bit too theatrical for my taste. Kind of like that sappy poetry you used to write for me. Oozing with purple prose: My dearest Melody...”
She began reciting dramatically, but was interrupted by Lance, “My God. Please, don’t repeat any of that doggerel nonsense. It’s far too embarrassing.”
“My love for you is like...”
“Have mercy on me! I was only nineteen years old, for crying out loud.”
“I treasured every last word you wrote, and I still do.”
“Surely, your opinion of my literary prowess is based strictly on sentiment. I employed ever so many terrible, terrible rhymes. Comparable to Shakespeare, I ain’t”
“Oh, but you were so adept at so many other things. Captain of the debate team, and the chess club, and the rowing team...”
“I was only captain of so many extra curricular activities, because everyone else was too cowardly to run in opposition of me, the Crown Prince of Westland. That was, until you arrived on campus and began shaking things up.”
“Are you referring to the time I destroyed you in that fencing bout?”
“I knew I was sparring with you the whole time. I let you win, my dear.”
“You did not know it was me. I can, to this day, still see that stunned look plastered on your face after I removed my helmet — and then you clumsily dropped your blade.”
“Touché, darling, it’s true.” Lance raised her hand to his lips, and kissed her knuckles, “I could have been knocked down with a mere feather when I saw that shock of glossy black hair cascading over your shoulders. The light streaming in from the windows was hitting you just right, too — blue eyes sparkling. You smote me that day, literally with your épée and figuratively with your beauty.”
“Is that so? Did I smite you?”
“I was totally smitten with you. Especially when, after my fellow teammates told you girls weren’t welcome in the club, you signed up using the pseudonym Mel Benson. You never allowed anyone to push you around, and you still don’t. That’s one of your most becoming traits, in my humble opinion.”
Melody clutched her husband’s head to her chest, and he nestled his face into her bosom that spilled over the bodice of her négligée. Lance glided his hand over her stomach, and sighed in contentment.
“I could be if you would permit me to undress you,” the king began moodily. ”Oh, God... I want you.”
“Believe me, your feelings are perfectly evident. Your ardent desire is poking me in the thigh as we speak.”
Lance bolted upright, shocked at his wife’s phrasing, “What has gotten into you tonight?”
“Melody, that is vulgar.”
“Oh, Lance, you’ve always been so straight laced. You can afford to loosen up, now and then, given our advanced ages.”
“We’re not old,” Lance challenged. “We’ve only just broken our forties — you forty and me forty-two. That’s a far cry from declaring us as geriatric patients. And to address your firm assertion that I am too straight laced... well, that simply isn’t true. In my youthful days, I did indeed sow my wild oats... once upon a time. I courted you and Katherine Dwight simultaneously, if you recall.”
Melody snorted, and inspected her fingernails, “That is not how I remember the situation.”
“All I know is you were horribly sore when you first discovered her.”
“I overheard the other girls in the dormitory talking about Katherine and your two-timing, philandering ways.”
“Nasty gossip. I was completely drunk off you, and forgot all about Katherine when we met, if I’m being honest. In my defense, I ended things with her as soon as I realized...”
“And how did that pan out for you?”
“It was an extremely messy process. I left campus one weekend to travel to her father’s manor and I’m sure the poor creature assumed my unexpected visit, would result in a marriage proposal — after all, we courted for two years. Anyway, I brought her out to the garden, and I sat her down, and then I broke the news that I was cutting her loose. She then proceeded to mercilessly crush my big toe with the exceedingly pointy heel of her shoe.”
“No wonder Katherine hates me,” Melody mused aloud. “She was on the fast track to become the future Queen of Westland, before you pulled the rug out from under her. I saw her at an event last year, and to put it politely, she was beyond frosty.”
“Look, I’m not proud of the way I handled things, but you had captured my heart and I had to break things off. It was the right thing to do, even if it was a little lacking in the chivalry department.”
“You shouldn’t judge yourself too harshly, Lance. You could have taken the coward’s way out, and written her a Dear Jane letter. Instead, you bravely resolved to face Katherine one on one.”
“I didn’t know you felt so strongly about that.”
“I simply won’t tolerate anyone questioning my husband’s chivalrous nature, not even you.”
“And let’s not pretend that you didn’t have your fair share of suitors, my dear. What was the name of that one fellow who you were rather seriously dating?”
“Poor, dear, sweet Ronan. The end of our courtship wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the epic demise of Lance and Katherine, but he did cry a little bit. Oh well, I’m sure Ronan is over me by now — it’s been over twenty years. Ultimately, I guess, no man could compare to you, my love.” The queen switched topics, suddenly, “Derek looks so remarkably like you. Imagine all the hearts our son is bound to break when he starts college.”
“Thank God that scenario is still two years on the horizon. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Rather unexpectedly, Melody moved to straddle her husband’s lap, and leaning forward she rested her palms flat against the headboard.
“Does this mean our lengthy stroll down memory lane has finally come to a halt?” Lance queried, his breath hitching in excitement.
“Yes, I suppose we have reached the end of the line,” the queen stared down at him, her blue eyes alight with mischief.
“Kiss me, Melody.”
“I am an independent woman. I don’t take orders from any man.”
“Will you kiss me, then?”
“Maybe, if you ask nicely.”
“Please, kiss me.”
Melody obliged, passionately pressing her lips against his. They thoroughly enjoyed their kiss for several minutes, before they were forced apart to take in some air.
“I love you,” Melody touched her forehead to his.
“I don’t just love you, Mel, I worship you. You are my Queen.”
At long last, Melody allowed Lance to lift the négligée over her head, and he carelessly tossed aside the bundle of black lace.
“Don’t mind my wrinkles,” Melody whispered, uncharacteristically self-conscious.
Lance knitted his brow in alarm, “You’re stunning — a vision as always. How could I possibly think otherwise? You bore me two children, and every last mark on your body is a reminder of another happy year we’ve spent together. Now, I’ll ask you kindly to never disrespect my wife in my presence ever again. Besides, in all fairness, I’m not exactly the prime specimen I was in my twenties, or even my thirties.”
“You’re perfect,” Melody lunged at her husband, kissing him repeatedly.
Lance quickly yanked his limp tie from around his neck, as his wife eagerly unbuttoned his shirt, throwing it behind her with reckless abandon. Embracing one another tightly, Lance rolled atop her, settling himself between Melody’s thighs. He buried his face in the crook of her neck, and Melody grasped a fistful of his blond hair that looked almost silver now. When the deed was done, they lay in each other’s arms in complete ecstasy. Melody lovingly stroked her husbands unkempt hair, and Lance listened to the peaceful sound of her breathing, until they both drifted off to sleep.
When the queen awoke the next morning, she was surprised to find herself still securely wrapped in her husband’s warm embrace.
“Lance?” Melody whispered softly, shaking him awake, “You’re still in bed?”
“Where else should I be?” Lance croaked, rubbing his blurry eyes.
“I’ve just grown accustomed to waking up alone. You usually rise before the sun does.”
“Well, that ungodly stack of paperwork will still be waiting patiently on my desk when I finally do get down to my office, and I’m mostly prepped for my conference at this point. There may be a few kinks to iron out here and there, but there isn’t anything truly pressing on my agenda this morning... but if you’d rather I be somewhere else, presently, I’m sure I can rustle up something to do.”
“Oh, no!” Melody erupted, snuggling against him, “I think we can afford a lazy morning in bed, just this once.”
“I’m glad you agree, darling. I’m glad you agree.” Lance looked over at Melody, and planted a kiss square on her lips, “I love you.”
“I don’t just love you, Lance, I worship you.”