Erna looked like she was fast asleep.
Even when he perched on the edge of her bed, she didn’t seem to move.
He was rather relieved.
Maybe it was better that she didn’t wake up, rather than looking at each other in the dim light, not finding anything to say to each other.

   Bjorn turned off the lamp on the night stand and looked at his wife in the darkness of the early evening.
The doctor said there was no major health problems and it was just all shock of the events.
He knew that well enough, but he was still nervous.

   It was just all the fuss.

   An absurd crime committed by an insane person.
The culprit had been arrested and would soon receive his punishment.
Fortunately Erna was not hurt, so all he had to do was forget about it and move on.

Perhaps he was simply checking in to make sure everything was fine,  he thought as he looked at the long shadows of the long lashes of Erna’s eyes.
He wanted to see her smiling face as she called his name, then he thought he could get rid of this horrid feeling.

   It was already speculated, before to the event, that Erna would get swallowed up by Gladys’ shadow.
Any lady in Erna’s situation would have been in the same boat.
Gladys, the unfortunate Crown Princess, has become a legend in the eyes of the people.

 Erna was up against an unbeatable foe she couldn’t see or defeat.  The odds never favored her, eventually she would lose and would always just be the second wife of Bjorn.
The lesser wife.

   Bjorn looked up at the ceiling.
It was harsh, he knew that.
He looked about the room, passing his eyes over the faintly shadowed furniture.
In the end, was this life the best thing for this woman?

   Where else could she have gone? She would have been sold off to the highest bidder after being put on the marriage market.
At best, she would have been a trophy wife of an old aristocrat who was on the verge of death.
At worst, she would have become a plaything for the likes of that lord of trash, Heinz.

   Even though she was put on the alter of sacrifice, in the temple of the unfortunate Crown Princess, Erna could not have hoped for a better like than this.

   After that clear conclusion, Bjorn looked down at his wife one more.
Erna’s decision to flee her father and run away with that red haired painter was not a variable worth considering.

   Bjorn got up and stood at the head of the bed.
He saved this woman from a terrible fate and gave her the best life possible.
As that realisation dawned on him, he let out a slow sigh.
The temple of Gladys was built on strong foundations and so long as he kept her secret, Lars would compensate him.
It was impossible to bring that temple down.

   His second wife would have to sacrifice herself on the altar for years to come, and perhaps for the rest of her life, but there was so much compensation he could give her and he would give her everything she asked for.

   He leaned over and placed a delicate kiss on her cheek.

   The memory of her sparkling eyes that had been looking at him all day long were a source of solace.
He knew that tomorrow, Erna would look at him with those same eyes.
It was the greatest gift this woman had given him yet.

   Bjorn slipped out of bed without a sound as he pulled the curtains shut.  Before he closed the door, he completely erased the feeling that suddenly came over him.

   It will be fine, because she is Erna.




“I’m glad she looks fine, Isabelle,” Phillip said, as he looked out the window.

   Isabelle moved to her husbands side.
A chariot carrying the Grand Duchess sped off down the road, taking her to the summer palace.

   The Grand Duchess had visited their place every morning, just to say good morning to them.
It was the same the day after the surprise attack.
One positive note is that her coming brought much-needed relief.

   “I think Bjorn has picked out a very decent woman.
I don’t know much, but I know that kid takes after his father, in that he has a good eye for woman.” Phillip said in jest.

   Isabelle Dniester’s laughter echoes throughout the sunlit drawing room as she looked up at her husband.

   “Where has the disproving King, displeased with the daughter of the Hardy family go?” She said.

   “Probably went off on vacation again.”

   “There are times when you resemble Bjorn very much.”

   “You say some pretty awful things,” the king smiled, “I hope they are getting along, what do you think, is Bjorn doing well?”

   “How am I supposed to know? I don’t know everything about that spoiled brat.
I just pray that he is being a good husband, just like his father.”

A happy marriage is possible If he learns to listen to his wife, like me.” Phillip remained deadpan, even after his self praise.
Isabelle laughed, though she frecaled a far away time where she struggled to tame the wolf.

   “By the way, Isabelle, what the hell is that?”

   Phillip’s eyes narrowed as he peered out the window.
Erna had gotten out of the carriage with a bouquet of flowers as big as she was.
An even larger bouquet was still in the carriage.

   Phillip and Isabelle exchanged puzzled looks before breaking into laughing.
The birthdays of the twin princes seemed as if it was going to kick off with a very fragrant start.





   That was Leonid’s first thoughts.

   In terms of size, this bouquet was big, very big.

   “From the bottom of my heart, I hope you have the most wonderful of birthdays, Your Highness,”Erna said.
Her eyes were just as radiant as the bouquet she offered.

   Leonid nodded absently and accepted the huge gift.
Christian, who had been watching in amazement, drifted into the silence, with only a partially suppressed laugh.

   “You don’t like it?” Erna said.

   “No, no of course not, I was just not expecting such a, big, present like this,” Leonid said, trying to show a reassuring smile.

   Erna left after saying a few more congratulatory words and about the bouquet for the Grand Duke.
She left with a modest farewell, as if she hadn’t just gifted a huge bouquet of flowers, that proclaimed her extraordinary character.

   “I merely came to wish you a happy birthday and to think I would witness such a scene,” Christian said.

   Now that the Grand Duchess had left, Christian let the laughter flow freely and loudly.
He couldn’t contain it.
Flowers and the Crown Prince, it would be hard to find a more incompatible match.
Even now, Leonid’s sombre expression made the bright blossoms pop even more.

   “You know, she probably made them herself,” Christian said, inbetween bouts of laughter.

   He made the conclusion as he studied the bouquet in Leonids arms.
Even to his eyes, the flowers looked so expertly made.

   “You’re so lucky brother.”

   “Don’t belittle another persons sincerity like that,” Leonid scolded his brother.

   “What? No, I didn’t mean it like that,” Christian’s expression quickly changed and the laughter immediately stopped.
“I’m just… its just that the Grand Duchess is pretty cute.”

   “The Grand Duchess is Bjorn’s wife, Chris, she’s your superior.”

   “I know, but superior can be cute too, right?”

   Leonid let out a sigh, but in the end, he shared in the final chuckle.
In any case, it was fortunate that she wasn’t hurt at all.
It seemed like Christian’s claim was not entirely wrong.

   “By the way, brother Bjorn will also receive a bouquet, right?” Christian said.

   “No doubt he will.”

   “Oh my God,” Christian said.

   Christian decided to go back on his opinion about a more mismatched couple than Leonid with a huge bunch of flowers, now that he thought about Bjorn receiving the same.

   “I should have gone to him first, I would love to have seen that,” Christian said.

   “Yeah, me too, actually.”

   They both ran to the window in time to see the open carriage pass the gate house.
A grander arrangement of flowers than Leonid’s was nestled in the Grand Duchess’s arms.




“Happy birthday Bjorn,” the voice came as a sweet whisper on the wind.

   Bjorn opened his eyes and lowered his arm, which had been covering his face.
He shifted his gaze to the front door, where billowing draperies wavered in the light spring breeze.
There he saw the huge bouquet of flowers that obscured his view.

   “The weather is so fine for you today,”

He was startled because he thought he saw a floral ghost when, all of a sudden, Erna’s smiling face appeared from behind the flowers.

Bjorn sat up and looked at his wife, trying to make sense of what he saw.
He was still groggy from sleep, but he was not dreaming any more.

   “I made them myself, with flowers that bloomed this morning.”

   “I can tell,” Bjorn said.

   The flowers smelled so sweet and their colour poured out without restraint, even to Bjorn’s half awake eyes could see the skill with which his wife had put them together.

   “Don’t you like them? His Highness the Crown Prince did.

   “You gave some to Leonid?”

   “Yes, of course, its his birthday too, but yours is bigger,” Erna wore a very prideful look on her face.

   Seeing his wife talk about it like it was some kind of special privilege, made him laugh.
He decided not to tell her that he would have preferred her, with a neat little ribbon tied around her nakedness..

   “Do you like it?” Erna asked again, her face now serious.

   Bjorn nodded and waved for her to come to him.
Her smile returned and she looked so beautiful.
She put down the massive present and stepped gingerly towards him, before falling into his arms.
She was incredibly lovely to the touch, delivering both warmth and a pleasant aroma.

   Erna kissed him on the lips and he was filled with a languid smile.
The playful kiss, which had been soft on his, deepened shortly after.

   Bjorn closed his eyes as they embraced each other.
He reached out and gently touched the back of her head, drawing her closer to him.
She had gotten pretty good at kissing.
He was sure that days like this would continue on for a long time.
As long as she was Erna.

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