Enchanted Twelve: Quinn Ch. 03byglynndah©
"To summon a prince," Quinn read the instructions to herself one last time and chanted the incantation inscribed in the old leather book. She placed her finger on the page to mark her place, closed the book and then followed the last step. "Turn in place three times and he shall appear. One." Quinn carefully spun on one satin-slippered foot. "Two." Her eyes were shut tight and a soft whispered "please, please, please" hung in the cool air of the castle's gallery. "Three." One final spin and Quinn slowly opened her eyes. A smile of wonder lit up her face.
"What worked?" Jerome face was puzzled as he looked down at Quinn and the book she was still holding. He took the book from her hands and opened it to the page she had been looking at.
"Summoning spells. Oh, Quinn! You didn't," he asked, his face showing an expression akin to terror as he asked, "You didn't try to summon a dragon, did you? Those beasts could be dangerous. Not that I believe in magic, mind you, but there have been too many things happening in this castle to discount it entirely."
"Of course not." Jerome's look of relief soon changed to one of resignation as she continued, "Merry's already promised us a ride whenever we'd like one."
"Yes. Surely you wouldn't think I'd do something that wonderful without you. It just wouldn't be half as much fun without you. Nothing ever is." Jerome's heart gave a tiny jolt as he felt the sincerity behind Quinn's words. Oh, princess, if you only knew.
He cleared his throat and swallowed past the lump that formed there. "So, princess, if you weren't summoning dragons, what were you trying to conjure up? A frog to kiss so you can have your handsome prince?"
"No, silly. That only works in fairy tales. The only frog I ever want to kiss is you." She teased and, standing on her tiptoes, kissed his nose. "There. You're now a handsome prince and we'll live happily ever after."
Jerome looked down at his neatly patched tunic and rough-soled boots. "No. I'm still a simple steward, Quinn. I'm afraid even your kiss can't change that."
"Oh, but this place is special, remember? If there's anywhere something magical could happen, it's here. And I choose to believe it will tonight." Quinn's voice was determined as she took Jerome's hand and began to lead him to the same door they'd entered the past two nights.
"Come on. Let's see what adventure awaits us through this door. Tonight is filled with possibilities. Can't you feel it in the air, Jerome?"
Ah, Quinn, the only thing I can feel, my whole world right now, is your hand in mine.He opened the wooden door and stepped cautiously inside, barring Quinn's entrance with his hand until he knew the place was safe. His eyes quickly adjusted to the dim light and he beckoned Quinn inside.
"Well, Princess Quinn, it seems it is your turn to dance." Faint music played softly in the background as Quinn looked around the room.
"Oh, my! It's beautiful!" The walls glowed with a pale light reminiscent of seashells while the floor shone like polished glass. "Oh, Jerome! Have you ever seen anything so wonderful in your whole life?" Quinn exclaimed, her voice hushed with awe.
Yes, Quinn, every time I look into your eyes . He took a deep breath, squared his shoulders and bowed formally over Quinn's hand. "May I have this dance, princess?" Just one dance to remember the rest of my life, all those cold, lonely nights while you're in the arms of your real prince.
Princess Anne Aurora Westingfield, known to everyone simply as Quinn, curtsied her best curtsy and took Jerome's outstretched hand. "I'd be delighted."
The music, barely audible before, was a soft, sweet ballad as perfect as the room itself. The two lovers began to dance, hesitantly at first as they learned each other's steps and then more confidently as the music and the night swept over them.
They danced, all formal steps and stilted posture as they followed the music through the first waltz. They smiled and giggled like children as their feet tangled and they had to clutch at each other to avoid tumbling in a heap to the floor. They looked at each other with a new awareness and all formality and distance was gone. The music slowed and softened as Jerome and Quinn swayed in each other's arms. Time seemed to stand still, the world fall away, as they stood there, barely moving to the music.
"Quinn. Look up," Jerome's soft voice interrupted her daydreams. Quinn looked up and gasped.
"Oh!" The ceiling of the small ballroom had vanished, leaving the room open to the stars and the full moon. Tiny songbirds fluttered in the warm night air and fireflies lit up the dim corners of the room.
Quinn smiled up at him, a look of pure delight and wonderment on her face, and Jerome realized with a start that it was that exact expression he'd seen portrayed on her face looking up at him from the pages of the book they'd found. The night she meets her prince, her destiny, he thought. So, tonight's the night I lose you, princess. His heart cracked and he felt the pain deep into his soul as he realized this. His eyes welled with tears, tears he was determined Quinn would never see.
"Jerome?" Quinn asked hesitantly, her eyes searching his as she tried to discover the reason for the wave of sadness, no, despair, she thought, that fell across his face. "Are you all right? Oh, you've had such a long day. You're probably exhausted and I've insisted you dance all night. Let's find a place to sit and rest." She looked around the room for a chair or a bench but the place was totally empty except for the green flickering of the fireflies.
"Quinn, I'm fine," Jerome said, trying to get Quinn's mind more on her enjoyment of this special night rather than her perception of his pain. "I just needed a little rest." A simple kiss he planned to place gently on her cheek turned into something more, much more, when Quinn turned to face him.
Jerome had meant his kiss to be fleeting, barely brushing her cheek, but when he felt her lips, soft and innocent under his, that kiss turned into something more. A single rose petal, its rosy color a match for Quinn's lips, tumbled over the side of the castle wall and drifted slowly down to land unnoticed on the floor behind them. The kiss continued, light and tender, lips touching, the rest of their bodies still. A sprig of yellow honeysuckle fell. Quinn's hand reached up and tentatively touched Jerome's cheek. A lilac blossom glided on invisible currents to land on the dance floor. They kissed and kissed. Kisses, soft and innocent gradually changing to ones of love and longing, of passion. Their bodies touched, arms entwined until they could each feel the other's heartbeat. Buds and blooms and blossoms of all kinds and colors continued to float over the open castle wall until they were mounded on the polished floor, their fragrance as heady as a garden on a warm summer night.
"Quinn. Quinn. We have to stop." Jerome's voice was a ragged gasp as he pulled away from Quinn's kisses. "This isn't right."
"Oh, Jerome," Quinn sighed. "This is the rightest thing I've ever done." One last flower fell and brushed her cheek. She turned and saw the mound of flowers in the corner of the room. "Look, Jerome!" she exclaimed, "even the castle knows it's right."
"But Quinn, you're a princess and I am but a lowly steward, a servant in your father's house. What about your father?"
"My father loves me and wants me to be happy. Nothing in this whole world would make me happier than to lie in your arms, kissing you, loving you in that beautiful bed of flowers. Please."
It was her last word, that "please" said with such feeling, such longing, that Jerome was unable to resist. He reached out and, one by one, slid the pins from Quinn's hair and dropped them to the floor. Jerome's fingers untangled her hair and it fell around her shoulders. "One last time, Quinn. Are you sure?"
Quinn's only response was a whispered "kiss me". His response was a series of kisses, eyelids, cheeks, mouth, throat, that left both of them breathless with anticipation. Quinn's hand guided his to the laces fastening the front of her gown. He untied the ribbons with trembling fingers, her dress falling from her shoulders. She stood before him clad only in a chemise of almost transparent silk and her dancing slippers.
Jerome's fingers lightly brushed the tops of Quinn's breasts. He delighted in the sight of her body's reaction to his touch, her skin blushing pinkly, her nipples pressed against the sheer fabric of her undergarment. He trailed kisses down her throat, across the creamy skin framed by the thin straps of her chemise and then on her breasts through the silk. Kisses, very light and tentative at first, almost hesitantly and then more passionate and demanding, drugging, sucking kisses as his mouth responded to her faint moans and shivers.
Quinn's hands reached out blindly, her eyes lowered from the intensity of his kisses, and tugged at his tunic. He quickly pulled it over his head, barely pausing from his kissing, and tossed it aside. Quinn raised her eyes and smiled shyly at him. Her eyes dropped to his chest and she touched the faded mark, pale gold outlined in a deeper shade of the same hue, she found just above his left nipple.
"What's this?" she asked. "I've never noticed it before."
"I've had it all my life. You've never been standing this close to me before, Quinn."
"Oh. What is it? It looks almost like a crown. See. The base along the bottom and the points are jewels across the top." Her fingers followed the outline of the mark as she talked.
"A crown? I always thought it looked like a tree stump. See. The trunk and then the roots across the bottom." He exaggeratedly looked down, a wide smile lighting up his face.
"A tree stump?" she said in astonishment. "You're looking at it upside down, Jerome. I really think it's supposed to be a crown." She traced the mark once more, her fingers brushing his dark nipple. Jerome gasped at her touch. Quinn pulled her fingers away and looked up at him. "Does it hurt? Did I hurt you?"
"Oh, no, Quinn," he whispered, his voice a ragged murmur. "Your touch feels so good."
"Like this?" she softly said, as she stroked first one nipple and then the other with her fingertips. "Or this?" Her fingers tugged at his nipples, rolling them between her thumb and finger. "Or perhaps this?" she said and licked, first one then the other, taking each in turn into her mouth and sucking. Jerome's moans, his fingers tangled in her hair, were all the answers she needed. She untied the ribbon straps of her chemise and let it fall to the floor, joining her ball gown. She stepped out of them, the blooms from the flower bed tumbling around her ankles.
"Please, Jerome, make love to me," she said to him. Jerome took her in his arms and carefully lowered her into the center of the mound of colorful scented flowers. He quickly removed the rest of his clothes and stretched out beside her. Several tiny flowers drifted up on the current of air and settled on Quinn's breasts and the fine curls nestled at the top of her thighs. He smiled and lightly blew them away.
"I've never done this before, Jerome," she whispered, her arms reaching out to hold him.
"Neither have I, princess," he answered as he pulled her close to him.
"Not even with..." she began.
"Not even with," he said. "I was waiting for you. I've loved you for as long as I can remember, Quinn. There were no others but you."
"Oh, Jerome. I feel exactly the same way."
Covering her body with his, Jerome kissed Quinn. Her face. Her throat. A slow exploration of the curve of her breast. He caressed her body, stroking her nipples with his thumbs until they were as pink and as firm as the lush rosebuds surrounding them. Quinn responded to his every touch, every caress, every kiss. He took her nipples into his mouth, his tongue sliding back and forth across their peaks, his mouth suckling on the rosy tips. Her body ached for his kisses, his caresses and more.
As if he could read her mind, Jerome's hand slid down her body, lightly skimming her belly, before coming to rest on the silken curls covering her mound. Quinn's hips tilted upward as his finger brushed the swollen bud he found there, then parted the dewy curls and slipped inside her. Quinn's thighs parted, her body inviting him in. His finger gathered her moisture, spreading it over her petal-soft folds. He stroked her pearl and delighted in her response.
Jerome covered her body with his own, kissing Quinn as he entered her ever so slowly, inch by inch, until he was deep within her. He made love to her, with her, tenderly, passionately, pouring all the emotion, the love, he'd felt for his princess for so long. Their bodies entwined, Quinn and Jerome spent the night together, whispering, caressing, kissing, loving each other. The fireflies disappeared. The songbirds quieted for the night. The lovers nestled in their magical bed and drifted off to sleep as the silver moon floated overhead.
Jerome opened his eyes early the next morning. Quinn was curled up beside him on the bare castle floor. All traces of the flowers and the birds were gone. He looked up. The ceiling was no longer open to the sky. Pale pink light streamed in through an open window. A rooster's crow signaled the start of another day.
"Quinn. Wake up." He lightly stroked her cheek and smiled as she turned her face into his touch. "It's morning, or almost so, Princess. We need to get dressed and I need to see you safely back to the castle."
"Oh, Jerome. I had the most wonderful dream. We were in a castle and..." Her voice trailed off as she opened her eyes and looked around her, seeing their clothes nearby and feeling Jerome's arms wrapped around her. "It wasn't a dream, was it, Jerome? It was real. And, oh, it was so wonderful. But the birds, the flowers..."
"Part of the magic of the castle, I guess, Quinn," Jerome replied. "I remember them, too. If it was all a dream, it was a dream we shared." He stood up and, reaching a hand down and clasping Quinn's, pulled her to her feet. "But now it's time to get back to the real world." He gathered up Quinn's clothing and helped her into them and then donned his own. They opened the door and stepped out into a long corridor.
Quinn took his hand and they walked slowly down the passageway, stopping to look at the portraits hung on the wall. Small brass plaques under each painting identified each subject. Quinn paused at the last one and frowned. "His face looks so familiar, Jerome. I feel as if I've seen it someplace before, but I don't know where. Could he have been one of the dancers?"
Jerome looked carefully at the portrait and the date engraved below it. "I don't think so, Quinn. He would be older than any of the men we've seen here. Perhaps he is a friend of your parents."
"Perhaps no one knows about him. Perhaps he's a long lost prince."
"Quinn, princes don't just get lost," Jerome answered. They had walked the length of the gallery and an unlatched door stood ajar in front of them.
A servant, carrying a tray of luscious ripe fruit and cream, walked by the couple and then turned. "Begging your pardon, kind sir, but the lovely lady happens to be right. A prince of this castle did get lost. But it wasn't the man shown in that painting. It was his young son."
Quinn's eyes grew wide as she listened to the man's tale. "The young prince, Brendan, went riding with a trusted member of the palace staff. When the pair did not return, a search was organized. The grounds, the surrounding woods, as much distance as a strong stallion and a skilled rider could cover in a day's time, let alone a man and a young boy, barely three years old, on a gentle horse. There was no sign of the man or the young prince. Word was sent out far and wide, but no trace was ever found of Prince Brendan."
"And the manservant?" Jerome asked.
"Ah," the servant answered. "A sad tale, indeed, and a mysterious one, too. Years later, bones were found in a deep ravine. The groundskeeper examined them carefully and determined they were of a man and a large animal, possibly a horse. But the boy's bones were never found. No one ever saw the little prince again."
"See, Jerome. Princes do disappear. You could be..."
The servant's excited voice interrupted her response. "What did you call him?"
"Jerome," Quinn answered. "That's his name. Why?"
"That was the name of the groom who carried young Prince Brendan off on his ride that morning."
Quinn's grip tightened on Jerome's hand. "Oh, Jerome. Maybe you're the lost..."
"Quinn, I told the people who found me my name was Jerome. My foster parents tell stories of my wandering up to their dooryard, crying and saying 'Jerome, Jerome' over and over again." Jerome said in a patient tone.
"Maybe you were lost and calling for your friend, Jerome, not telling them your name. That could be," Quinn mused.
"Well, anyway, there's no way to know. The castle is deserted. The last king and queen in those portraits died almost twenty years ago," Jerome replied.
"There is one way to tell," the man answered. "Each babe was marked with a symbol of the ruling family. A golden crown painted over his heart." He lightly touched the place on Jerome's chest, a place where both Jerome and Quinn knew a faded crown was hidden. "A man of four and twenty with such a mark would be the rightful owner of this castle and sole heir to the kingdom and all its riches."
"Jerome," Quinn exclaimed, "I think you're that long lost prince. No. I'm sure of it."
"That very well may be, Quinn, but right now we have more important things to be concerned about," Jerome answered firmly, taking her hand and walking through the open door into the warm sunshine.
"More important than your being a prince?" Quinn asked in astonishment.
"Yes, princess. More important than my being a prince. The most important thing in the world right now," Jerome said, smiling down at her. "I need to ask your father for your hand in marriage. If I am Prince Brendan, I will need a princess and I just happen to know of one I want to spend the rest of my life with."
"One more thing, sir," the servant said, "it is said that when the prince of the castle falls in love, magic appears."
"I don't doubt that for a moment." Then Jerome, the newly-found Prince Brendan, kissed his love, Princess Quinn. Songbirds from the night before appeared in the trees, their music filling the courtyard. Colorful butterflies swooped and fluttered overhead. Jerome reached out and gently removed a sprig of honeysuckle caught in Quinn's hair. "I know this place is magic."