Every night Delphine lay awake in her empty bed, waiting. She hoped for any sign of her husband, but went to sleep unsure of her future as the new queen. As queen, she was expected to birth future princes and princesses to ensure the royal line and to build future alliances with other countries. If she couldn’t produce children, then the marriage could be annulled, and Lucien could send her back to her family. Or worse.
No need to worry, my dear.
Those words he had whispered on what should have been their wedding night rang in her ears. Lucien hadn’t wanted a wife who wasn’t “ready,” and then promptly left her to sleep in his bedroom all alone. Lucien had his heir – the young dauphin from his previous marriage who had thrived though his mother had not. Delphine wondered why Lucien kept her waiting for so many weeks when he only had the one child. Her stomach twisted at the thought that he might want to rid himself of her, and was keeping his distance as “proof” to show the Church that she was barren. A useless queen. A failure.
To what end?, she wondered as she turned over and sighed. It didn’t make sense to her.
Rumors had often circulated about Lucien’s other wives and how they met their untimely deaths. Things whispered behind fans and in secluded alcoves that turned her blood to ice. Some speculated that they were buried within the walls of a dungeon while others heard tell that he kept them all locked away, but continued to marry and take on mistresses to feed some insatiable lust. He certainly made for an imposing figure, as any proper king should, but when he looked at her at the altar, he looked almost…. vulnerable. Sad, even.
Delphine threw off the blankets, grabbed her dressing gown, and then made for the door hidden behind one of the wall tapestries. A narrow spiral staircase led her down another level to the library. If she couldn’t sleep, she could at least pass the time with something to read. To her surprise, there was someone already inside.
“Lucien?” she whispered.
He started, and turned to look over the back of the canapé at her. She swallowed hard, but continued forward with his heavy gaze following her as she came around to the front. There was a thick book open in his lap that made her curious how long he had been awake. How many nights did he come down there and not to her bed? Out of his finery and without the never ending stream of politicians, servants, and courtiers to surround him, he was just a man. Her husband.
“I believe I owe you an explanation,” he said in a tired, rough-hewn voice.
Her pulse quickened. “Yes, you do.”