Twilight Over Moldavia
Mihai Sigmaringen, King of Moldavia, walked into his bedroom and quietly closed the door. He spied his wife, Theresa, standing in front of the dresser, her head tilted to the side as she put a small ruby stud into her ear. She wore a deep green dress, the bodice hugging her chest, the waist fitting her well. He smiled at how beautiful she looked. Walking up behind her, he wrapped his arms around her middle, burying his face in the sweet curve of her neck.
She arched into his body and he sighed. Closing his eyes, he detected the familiar scent of jasmine as it teased his nose. His hands drifted to the curve of her stomach.
“What did Doctor Stanza say?” he asked. He wanted to stay earlier when the doctor was present, but Mikos had arrived and it was important that he personally greet his Carpathian guests.
“Mihai…” she teased.
“Tell me, woman! Don't keep me in suspense!” he cried, sweetly running his fingers over her womb.
“I love seeing you like this, my lion…” she continued, wrapping her hands over his.
“So tense? I feel like I'm about to explode, Theresa!”
His wife turned around in his arms. Their eyes locked.
“I am expecting,” she answered quietly.
He couldn't wait. His lips captured hers and he sweetly plundered her warm mouth. Her arms wrapped around his neck and he felt her fingertips tease the curls of his hair as they curved around the back of his neck. He shivered with happiness. His wife was pregnant again!
Their kisses deepened, threatening to take them to the bed, and rather reluctantly, he broke free from her, gasping for breath. Right now was not the time for love making.
“How far along are you, Theresa?”
“Two months,” she whispered, looking adoringly into his eyes. “I'm happy and scared, Mihai. I don't want to lose this baby, too.”
“We will take care until you are out of danger, darling. I will cut my hours at Parliament immediately and spend more time here with you.”
“And will you help me plan Stefan's wedding as well?” she queried.
Mihai held her close. “Whatever you require me to do, I will, darling.”
“I love you,” she whispered.
“Te iu besc,” he replied, telling her he loved her in Romanian. “Will you be all right for tonight? Do you need to rest?”
“No, I'll be fine. Tonight is our son's night. It is his engagement. Let's keep this news to ourselves for a while,” she suggested, putting her hands on his upper arms, lightly rubbing them up and down. He sighed.
“You're right, tonight belongs to Stefan. Does it bring back memories of our own engagement?” he questioned.
“A little,” she grinned, “but I didn't have the reputation Caroline has.”
“I hear she's more agreeable, Theresa.”
He noticed her eyes drift away from his. “So I hear, too.”
“Do not worry about Stefan. He has grown into a smart, young man. I'm sure he can…find a way to win the princess's heart,” Mihai said, noticing his wife grow distant.
She withdrew from his arms and walked to the window, her eyes coming to rest on the full celestial orb in the sky. He walked up behind her.
“Why do you look at the moon?”
“It's nothing, Mihai. In four more weeks it will be October and Stefan's birthday. He'll be eighteen,” she whispered, almost to herself. “In six weeks, he'll be married.”
“Like us. Do you want him to be in love with her before they are married?” he asked. “We weren't.”
She turned around rather sharply. “Yes. I…I would hope he'd find love with her. True love.”
“Like ours?” he questioned.
“Like ours,” she confirmed, looking at the ground.
Mihai didn't understand her sudden withdrawal and moodiness. Was it the baby? He cupped her cheek with his hand and drew her eyes upward to look into his.
“Why are you sad, darling? I love you. You are going to have another baby – a child we've longed for since Stefan's birth.”
“So many things can go wrong, Mihai. I lost three of our children…”
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his body, pressing her head against his chest.
“Nothing will go wrong. Things are different, Theresa. So much time has passed. If by all accounts the princess is changed, Stefan will find love and we will have a new child.”
“Enough of this,” he said, lightening his voice. “Whatever Beatrice has planned for you tonight, remember the baby and just say no.”
Theresa giggled, and he was glad to hear her laughter. Over the years, his wife's sister, Beatrice, was always stirring something up, Theresa at her side.
“I will, my lion,” she said, walking back over to the bureau. If only he could ease his wife's fears about the pregnancy.
He placed his hand on the bedpost and wrapped his fingers around it tightly. He was worried, too, but he had to put on a brave face and be positive for her. Their first son, before Stefan, had been a stillborn. After Stefan's birth, Theresa suffered two miscarriages. He swallowed, remembering the babies he'd had with his mistress, Alexandra, early in his marriage. They had died in a fire. He'd lost so much, the last thing he wanted was for Theresa to lose this child.
Caroline spied the king and queen of Moldavia near the entrance of the ballroom as she walked down the steps of the staircase in the official royal gown of Carpathia. Roses laced in mistletoe decorated the banner. Their sweet, rich scent filled the air.
Her dress was blue and silver, with a bodice that clung to her chest, and conformed to her waist. A silver sash fastened securely over her shoulder. Everything seemed to fit her so tightly, it was almost uncomfortable.
“You look beautiful, daughter,” her mother said, pulling her into a fierce hug.
“Thank you,” she replied, trying not to fidget.
Caroline spied Prince Stefan standing next to his mother. He wore a red uniform with a gold sash, similar to what his father was wearing, only his father had more medals on his chest. Next to the king stood Michael Bacau. He wore a black suit. Stefan's mother looked radiant as the candlelight from the chandeliers brought out the soft auburn highlights of her hair. Caroline thought mother and son shared the same eyes and cheekbones.
Her father crooked his arm and Caroline slid hers through.
“Your mother is right. You look lovely,” he said.
“Mikos,” whispered Aurora, “Mihai and his godson bear a striking resemblance, don't you think?”
“No doubt the young man admires Mihai,” Mikos said.
“Remember your manners, Caroline. Act like a princess,” her mother reminded her.
Caroline scrunched up her nose. Her mother frowned.
“I'm sorry, dear. I am sad to lose a daughter, that's all,” said Aurora.
Caroline silently nodded her head. The butterflies wouldn't stop fluttering in her stomach. The trumpet blew, signaling their cue. The castle grew so quiet you could hear the owls chirping from outside. She drew in a deep breath, her eyes cutting to Stefan. He smiled a little smile and it helped to relax her.
“Distinguished guests to the Moldavian court, King Mikos, Queen Aurora, and Princess Caroline,” the announcer paused for effect, “I present you to King Mihai and Queen Theresa of Moldavia and their son, Crown Prince Stefan.”
Briskly, Mikos walked into the ballroom, Caroline at his side, her mother on the other. They stopped in front of the Moldavian royal family. Michael winked at her. The gesture reminded her to breathe.
Caroline's eyes darted to her intended. He stood before her, regal and tall, his handsome face smiling down at her. Their stares seemed to linger for the longest time and then she felt her father nudge her in the back.
Caroline deeply curtsied before the royal family, never taking her eyes off her fiancé. “Prince Stefan,” she acknowledged. Her voice was warm, yet nervous.
Stefan bowed once Caroline stood up. “Princess Caroline,” he began, “It is a pleasure to see you after all these years.”
She wanted to ask him how his leg was, but she realized that would have to wait.
“The pleasure is mine,” she replied.
“Shall I escort you to the dinner table?” King Mihai offered, taking his wife's hand in his.
“One minute, Father,” said Stefan. He undid a button on his jacket and reached into the breast pocket, pulling out her scarf.
Caroline's eyes grew wide. Her mother gasped.
“I understand you lost this in the woods. I found it near where your carriage was fixed,” he purred smoothly, holding the scarf out to her.
Caroline reached out, her fingers brushing against his. A thrill of pleasure went shooting down her arm. His look was so intense, so exciting. His touch was…exhilarating!
“Thank you, Prince Stefan. It was a gift from my mother,” she replied, noting it had been laundered and carefully folded not to reveal any bloodstains that might be left.
“Oh, Prince Stefan, thank you for returning it,” her mother cried, smiling at him.
“You're welcome, Your Highness.”
Caroline pursed her lips as Stefan held out his hand to her. She motioned for her lady-in-waiting, Adriana, to come forward and take the scarf. Her father patted her on the shoulder, as if releasing her from her Carpathian ties, and Stefan escorted her to the head table. The hushed crowd talked in whispers as the royal party began to eat the dinner meal. Caroline and Stefan sat side by side in the middle of the table. Mihai and Mikos sat to their right, Aurora and Theresa sat to the left.
After a few sips of his wine, Stefan began to speak.
“Princess Caroline, how was the trip here? There were no other accidents?” he asked.
“Well, another coach broke down as we came out of the Fagaras Mountains, but it was easily fixed.”
She noticed a wave of his hair fell onto his forehead, and he brushed it back. She found the gesture casual and wanted to be the one who did it next time.
“And did you investigate the forest there, too?”
“No,” she swallowed. How his sweet hazel eyes teased her. She felt like the only woman in the ballroom!
“And what did you think of our forest, my lady?”
She felt her cheeks grow red under his intense gaze. What was he thinking?
Does he like me?
“Son,” counseled Mihai, turning toward Stefan. Caroline spied that both son and father shared that same cheeky glimmer in their eyes. “You and the princess will be engaged by the end of the night. If you desire to call her Caroline, I have no complaints about it.”
“Caroline,” began her father, “You may address the prince by his name.”
“Yes, Father,” she acknowledged.
“Michael was telling me you like to ride horses?” Stefan continued.
“Yes,” she admitted, slowly eating her food.
“So do I. I will show you the stables tomorrow,” he proclaimed, then paused. “If you want.”
“Yes, I would like that,” she replied. She studied his face for an extra beat. He stared back in waiting silence, completely forgetting his meal.
He acts so sweet!
“Um,” said Caroline pointing her fork toward her plate, “I heard you provided the venison for the meal?”
“Yes, I like to hunt. I like to use a bow and arrow – for hunting,” he chuckled.
“I like to use a bow and arrow – for competition,” she admitted.
She looked into his eyes and they both giggled.
“Caroline,” scolded her mother lightly, “It would not be appropriate for you to accompany the prince on a hunt.”
“Yes, mother,” she answered, composing herself.
“Son, you've barely eaten,” pointed out Stefan's mother. “Finish your meal before you open the floor up to dancing.”
Stefan nodded his head and tore himself away from her eyes to finish his meal. She did the same. When they were done, he escorted her to the dance floor where they shared the engagement ball's first dance. Everything sparkled and shined. The music was rich and inviting. The guests' light talk filled the air as they danced.
“Caroline, you dance very well,” he said, complimenting her.
She was very aware of how his hands curved to her body and held her tight. She even felt them nervously shake a little, and she blushed in his arms. “So do you, Stefan – and thank you for returning my scarf. My mother knitted it for me.”
“I guessed it might be an heirloom. How sweet of you to use it to tend to my wound.”
“And how is your cut?” she asked, looking up into his eyes. She couldn't get enough of them.
“The doctor put some ointment on it and properly bandaged it.”
“Stefan, I am so sorry…”
He held up his hand that was on her waist, smiling. “I know, Caroline.”
She looked away, suddenly uncomfortably warm from the heat of his stare. She'd never had a man look at her the way Stefan was looking at her tonight!
He took his hand and lifted her chin up so they were eye to eye again. “You're blushing.”
“I did not expect you to admire me so. I thought you would think…” she trailed off.
“What? That you were spoiled and selfish? I must confess those thoughts did cross my mind earlier, but after you gave up your scarf to put on my cut, you proved to me something is different about you…and I like it,” he admitted, holding her tight as they continued to glide across the floor.
“I have changed, Stefan,” she said, a faint tremor in her voice.
“We need to talk. Alone,” he leaned over, whispering in her ear.
“Stefan, everyone is looking at us. It is our engagement night,” she pointed out.
“I don't care,” he replied. “Meet me in the gardens in twenty minutes. I will have Michael escort you. I must talk with you, Caroline.”
“You worry me,” she began, nervous he was going to turn her away and break their
“Don't. I have questions only you can answer, Caroline. We've only just reacquainted ourselves and you are nothing like I expected you to be. I'm happy, but…”
“I understand,” she replied, sensing his confusion. He wanted to love her, she was convinced of it, and if this was the man she was going to marry, a man who was sweet and sensitive, tall and handsome, she wanted to do whatever it took to ease his fears.
The waltz continued and when it was over, Michael found her and spirited her away.
Theresa watched her son dance with Caroline and smiled from the head table as she sipped her wine. He appeared interested in her, and Caroline, to her credit, acted demure. She nervously pursed her lips as she watched Caroline blush from Stefan's attention. For better or worse, Stefan would be engaged to her by the end of the night. Now, if only he could fall in love with her in four weeks. It would be the only thing that would save his soul! Her perfect son, her only child, had to break the curse!
“Theresa?” asked Mihai.
She snapped her head towards her husband. “Yes, Mihai?”
He squeezed her hand and she sensed his concern for her. “Would you care to dance?”
“How can I refuse?” she replied, smiling at him, aware of Aurora's keen stare. Theresa knew she had to be polite and kind, but Caroline's mother could get so wrapped up in herself, Theresa easily grew bored with her. If anything, she could see where Caroline got the more “grating” aspects of her personality from.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she said, squeezing his hand back. Even now, her handsome husband could look at her with those rocky, malachite eyes of his and make her heart flutter.
He led her to the dance floor. As soon as they began to waltz, more couples wandered out onto the floor and she lost sight of Stefan while in her husband's arms.
She sighed as he led her, strong and graceful. The years had been kind to him. He was still tall and rugged. His body was still toned, his face still tanned. The only evidence of his age was a light smattering of gray around his temples.
As the dance finished, Theresa spied her sister, Beatrice, and her two young daughters, Stella and Cassandra, standing next to the bay window overlooking the gardens. Mihai took her hand and led Theresa to her sister. She ran into Beatrice's arms, hugging her tight.
“I've missed you, Beatrice! I'm so glad you could come!”
Beatrice's smile warmed Theresa's heart. Mihai hugged his two young nieces, while Beatrice ran her eyes over Theresa.
“Sister, you look wonderful! You're
“Yes, Aunt Theresa. It's kind of a white-yellow glow,” said twelve-year-old Stella. She shared her mother's flamboyant red curly hair.
Theresa pursed her lips and glanced at Mihai. “It is?”
“You're having a baby!” cried Cassandra. She wore a white dress, much in the same fashion that Beatrice wore hers. Cassandra's hair was straighter and more brown in color.
Theresa glared at Mihai. “I thought you weren't going to say anything! Tonight is Stefan's night!”
“I didn't tell your sister!” he protested.
Beatrice bit her lip and glared at her girls, as if admonishing them. Then she leaned over and grabbed Theresa's hand. Her hazel eyes sparkled in the light. “It was just a guess, Theresa. You are radiant and your face is glowing like only a woman's does when she is expecting. The girls are very intuitive, that's all. Are you…expecting?”
“Yes, Beatrice, I am,” Theresa confirmed. She wrapped her arms around her sister.
“I am so happy for you,” Beatrice replied. Then she turned to Mihai. “How naughty you are! Making babies at your age!”
Theresa watched Mihai wrinkle his nose. He never knew what to make of Beatrice.
“Now, Beatrice, you know how much Theresa and I want children…”
“She's teasing, Mihai,” said Theresa, putting her hand on his elbow, looking up into his eyes.
“Oh. How long are you staying, Beatrice?” asked Mihai, wrapping his arm around Theresa's waist.
“Just a day or two. I don't want Fredrick to miss us too much,” Beatrice quipped.
“Mother!” Cassandra whined. “You and Father! Really!”
Beatrice's warm, scolding smile reminded Theresa of her own self.
Michael adjusted his bowtie as he watched his brother dance with the princess. If anything, Caroline definitely had a vibrant personality.
Stefan will have fun with her! If I were Stefan, I would definitely have fun with her.
His eyes darted over the couple, blushing, smiling, and in that moment, Michael realized that his brother felt good…happy. His worries about his upcoming marriage seemed almost null. Caroline's smile and admiration were genuine.
They will make a nice couple.
What would it be like to fall in love? To love one woman as his father loved his mother? He could hardly imagine it. No, the woman he would fall in love with would be talented, intelligent, sweet, and supportive. She had to be many things – including wild in the bed. Michael felt his cheeks redden. He was very aware of the lusty feelings inside him for a woman, and he had yet to find that one woman who could totally satisfy him.
His eyes darted away from Stefan's as he reached over the table and took a sip of his wine. It was made at the winery on the estate's ground. His father loved wines and winemaking. Michael discovered it was a passion they shared. Sometimes it unnerved him – how much he had in common with his godfather. They loved to laugh, go fishing, and talk about modern events. His father was having the castle wired for electric lights starting in two days and Michael wanted to watch and learn.
He stopped. Sitting at a table near the orchestra was a beautiful young girl with black raven curls and sweet brown, doe-like eyes. Her cheekbones were sharp and distinguished. His heart nearly missed a beat. He had to meet her! Without hesitation he approached the table and smiled.
“Hello, I am Michael Bacau, the king's godson,” he said, capturing his mysterious young woman's gaze. He politely bowed and turned his attention to her parents. They were about his own parents' age, and his would-be dance partner favored her mother in looks.
“May I have the pleasure of sharing a dance with your daughter?” he asked, addressing her father.
“Rosa?” her father said, making eye contact with her.
“I'd be honored,” she replied.
“Alina! Lady Getzi! Count Getzi! It's wonderful to see you again!”
Michael turned and saw his parents approach. Rosa's mother ran into his mother's arms and they hugged. He suppressed a frown. The last thing he wanted was to betray his interest in Rosa to his parents.
“Your highness, thank you for inviting my family to this occasion,” Alina Getzi replied.
“You're welcome,” Theresa replied.
“We are honored,” said Mihai, shaking the Count's hand.
Michael wrinkled his brow, as recognition dawned on him. Ioan and Alina Getzi were the Count and Countess of Transylvania, one of the principalities entering into Romanian unification. Rosa was their daughter. His mother and the countess had been friends throughout the years, but the last time he remembered seeing the Getzis' was when he was twelve. He pursed his lips, remembering a ten-year-old girl spy on him and Stefan from the balcony.
“I was just asking Rosa to dance,” said Michael, addressing his father.
Mihai smiled at him. Michael took her hand and led her out to the dance floor. As soon as he had her locked in his arms, he leaned
“You're beautiful,” he whispered.
“I…thank you,” she replied. He watched her cheeks blush from his compliment.
“And do you find me handsome?” Michael sweetly purred.
“How bold of you to ask,” she retorted. Michael spied a fire in her eyes that he'd never seen in a woman before.
“I want you to find me handsome, sweet Rosa. Say you do,” he insisted, his eyes capturing hers as they waltzed.
“And what then? Do you intend to bed me?” she said. “My parents insist I wait until marriage.”
His mouth dropped open. “Then I will have to make you my wife.”
He watched her mouth drop open in much the same way his had.
His brother's voice seemed to ruin the spell between them. Michael stopped dancing, but left his hands firmly on Rosa's waist. “Yes, Stefan?”
“I want to talk to Caroline alone in the gardens. Will you sneak her out to me?”
“Yes, now,” Stefan insisted.
Michael heard Rosa giggle. Still, he couldn't refuse Stefan. If he asked to sneak Rosa out of the castle, Stefan would do it.
“Sweet Rosa, I'll be back to finish this dance,” Michael said, turning his attention toward her.
“I'll be waiting,” she replied.
Michael left her arms and followed his brother.
Theresa watched her sons walk toward the entrance, curious as to what they were planning. Where was Caroline? Rosa walked back to the table.
“Where is Michael?” asked Mihai. Theresa sensed her husband was disappointed with Michael's behavior.
“Prince Stefan wanted to talk to him in private,” Rosa explained.
“I see. I'm sorry that he didn't finish your dance,” Mihai offered.
“I have no doubt he'll come back and finish it,” Theresa said, her eyes darting from Rosa to Alina. It was remarkable how the young woman shared her mother's exotic looks.
“I look forward to it.”
“How long are you staying, Count Getzi?” asked Mihai. He stood next to the Count. Alina wrapped her arm around her husband and smiled at him.
“Two or three days. We wanted to charter a boat and go to Varna,” Ioan said. Theresa noticed how he dropped his eyes to Alina and smiled. She was glad her friend had found happiness in her marriage.
“You can use one of the royal yachts we have here,” Mihai offered. “I'd be honored if you did.”
“That sounds wonderful, King Mihai, thank you for your generosity,” Alina replied.
Theresa noticed that Rosa said nothing. She seemed to look quite intensely at the tablecloth as she sipped her drink. She realized Michael and Stefan were not in the ballroom. Where were they? Then she saw a familiar old woman peering through one of the windows into the hall. Theresa quickly put her glass down on the table. Her hand shook. Could it be? Why was she here? Now? It wasn't time! It couldn't be time!
“Theresa, are you all right? You seem…tense?” asked Mihai, placing his hand on her shoulder.
Theresa looked up into his eyes. “I'm fine. I just hope the boys won't be gone long,” she lied.
Hecuba was here! Hecuba was spying on Stefan for Bane!
© Copyright by SG Cardin 2005