mocking birds words ran through Erna’s head.
She wasn’t willing to reveal the shame of her husbands marks all over her body.
Resolute in her thinking, Erna lowered herself into the steaming bath.

   ‘When the Prince came on his honeymoon with Princess Gladys, they went every where together.
Do you remember? The two of them were the brightest protagonists every where they went, they were a perfect match.’

   Perhaps it was because of the splashing water, the memories came unbidden.
Erna stared blankly at the sloshing water and when she closed her eyes tight, trying to wipe the memories away, they only came on stronger, pushing her to tears.

   There was a sudden knock at the door.
Karen did not come into the bathroom, knowing that Erna wanted to be alone, but she brought good news, Bjorn had returned.




“Everyone, go away and rest.”

   The maids had followed him to the bathroom and looked at each other as if they didn’t know what to do, like they had never gotten such an order before.
They hesitated, but in the end, they all retired without question.

   When the door closed, Bjorn let himself fall onto his wife’s bed.
He never bothered taking off his jacket or shoes.
She wasn’t there, maybe she hadn’t finished her bath yet.

   Bjorn spread out on the bed, facing the ceiling and let out a long sigh.
It had been a long day that had started with luncheon with the foreign minister.
Then it was off to speak to the acquisitions team at the bank.
Then finally a little social visit with Alexander, Princess Gladys’ second brother.
A troublesome day that ended with a splendid finale.

   As with all three of her brothers, Alexander is very protective of his sister.
Bjorn had been constantly pestered by Alexander when he first broke it off with Gladys.
Endless threats and promises of retribution, but that was before he knew what Gladys had done.
When he was finally told, he only pestered Bjorn more, this time with endless streams of apology.

   Even tonight, in his drunken, fugue state, he cried and cried on Bjorn’s shoulder, cursing fate for driving the best couple in Lars and Lechen apart.

   Bjorn wanted to argue that it wasn’t fate, but a practical joke played by his sister and her poet, but he decided against it.
Mostly because he was waiting patiently for the gold coins the Prince was going to deposit.
It was certainly a decent amount worth showing patience for.

  ‘How come you married such a woman?’

   A peek of a laugh came from Bjorn as he recalled Alexander’s drunken words, uttered in clumsy sympathy.

   ‘Such a woman’

   It had become a derogatory term used to describe Erna.
It was just funny to Bjorn.
It was especially funny as it often came from the mouth’s of those who supported a Princess who had a child with another man.

   ‘Damn Hartford’s’ Bjorn cursed.

   He sighed and pulled the knot of his tie and tossed it some where.

   The royalty and nobles were anxious about the Grand Duchess of Lechen standing next to their perfect little flower of Lars.
They will never see ‘that kind of woman’ defeat their Princess.
Mostly because Bjorn would not let her be ridiculed like that.


   Bjorn looked over and saw, standing in the doorway, Erna.
Fresh from the bath and wearing a bright smile, he thought she looked exceptionally bright today.

   Maids rushed in to draw the curtains and Bjorn motioned for Erna to sit next to him.
She waited patiently for her maids in waiting to leave before entering, then hurried over to the bed.

   “Are you drunk?” Erna said, dejectedly.

   “No,” Bjorn said with a laugh and grabbed Erna round the waist to pull her in close.

   As she collapsed into his arms and threw her arms around him, Bjorn could smell the sweet scent of her.
It was soft scent that softened his heart, after spending all day hardening it against the attacks of the nobility.

   He pulled Erna in close and hugged her.
Erna flinched and stiffened, but didn’t put up any resistance.

   “Did something happen?” Erna asked.
She had been studying him carefully.

   “No,” Bjorn smiled.
It wasn’t a lie.

   The profits he gained for Lechen today were insurmountable.
It was a day where nothing could go wrong, even when dealing with Gladys’ brothers, who were sympathisers to him.

   “That’s good,” it was a response of distrust, but Erna nodded her head with a smile.
“I’m fine too.
I took a walk in the forest behind the palace, with Lisa.
Karen helped me study Lars and Lechen’s royal family and I wrote to my Grandmother.” Erna chatted with a smile, like she was proud of her days routine.
“Oh, and I tried the traditional cake of Lars at tea time, it was delicious.
Almond cookies too.
When I went for a walk, I packed it and shared with Lisa.
I also have something to give the squi…hmph.”

   Bjorn suddenly leaned in and kissed the lips he couldn’t take his eyes off.
Erna tried to turn over, but was still trapped in Bjorn’s arms.

   As the two laid down on the bed, Bjorn’s look changed.
He looked down into Erna’s big, questioning eyes for a moment, before pouring out a more passionate kiss, filled with all the answer he could muster from his heart.

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