Even though Rosalind had put a white handkerchief in the window, the Duke did not show. She was restless, her shadow flickering up and down the room as she paced. The Chevalier knelt outside her door, watching her, unsure of what to do.

He knew the reason for her lover’s absence, a quarrel with his favorite Lignerol. It would relieve her, to at least know the Duke would not be coming, instead of waiting. The Chevalier scratched at the door, and the footsteps stopped. He raked his nail up and down the wood until the door opened. Even in the dim light he could see the feverish tint of her cheeks and the disappointment in her eyes. Still crouching, he entered her room.

Sitting on Rosalind’s bed, he said to her, “The Duke won’t be coming tonight. His favorite is angry with him and he will be busy all night trying to soothe Lignerol’s temper.”

“Thank you for telling me.” She sat beside him. “How is…” She was going to ask him how her husband was, but she did not think she was supposed to know about them.

Her husband’s behavior toward her had become mercurial since her affair with the Duke had begun in earnest. Sometimes he would not leave her be, causing her to miss the Duke’s visits. Other times, it was though he could not stand to look at her. He would escort her to court, only his fingertips touching her. His eyes would focus on her ear, her chin, but not her eyes.

The Chevalier sighed. There was something he wanted from Rosalind, an intimacy only she could give him. He wished to speak of her husband, to be treated like the Prince’s lover. Already he was happy he disturbed her.

He moved to lay back against the pillows, and held his arms out to her. She crawled over to him, laying her her cheek on his chest. “I think your husband is conflicted. He suffers because you love the Duke, because he loves to watch you love the Duke, because he loves both you and me. It seems we all suffer.”

“Not the Marechal, or the Duke, or the Princess Mary,” she replied with a bitter laugh.

“No, the Duke suffers, I see it in his eyes when he knows you are not watching him. And Mary, she risks much in seeing you. She must pine for you.” A large ruby ring caught his eye, the true vermillion that they called pigeon’s blood. “Was that ring a gift from her?”


“What does the Marechal say about me?”

Rosalind rolled in his arms to look up at him. There was thoughtful look in her eyes, and he stroked her face, waiting for her to answer. “He tells me never to confide in you.”

He bent down to kiss her. “Does he tell you not to lay with me?”


“Doesn’t that strike you as odd?”

She shook her head, fidgeting with the ribbon of her chemise. “The Marechal is odd. I think he’s waiting for everyone to grow tired of me.”

The Chevalier slipped his hand into her gown to cup her breast. “Is that his plan to win your heart, to loiter?”

“No, he’s my friend, that’s his plan to woo me.”

Her nipple hardened under his fingers, and his other hand reached underneath her skirt to rest on her thigh. “Do you think he’s right about me, that you shouldn’t trust me with your secrets?”

There was color rising in her cheeks, and she was pulling at his shirt to caress his skin. While the court was full of all manner of exotic rumors, none of them concerned her husband having an affair with another man. In fact, there were very few rumors about an affair between her and the Chevalier. Looking into his eyes, she saw something there she did not expect–a shyness, a trembling need. “No, I think he would be jealous though. It pleases him that there is some distance between my husband and I. He doesn’t worry about the Duke; he’s confidant that my love for him will flare and die, like a moth consumed in a flame.”

She curled one knee in, exposing her sex to him. If he took her now, it would be a secret between them. He had left the Prince fast asleep in his bed, exhausted. His lover had played the man with great fury, and he quickly fell into a slumber when the act was done. “What about me?” the Chevalier asked.

“He fears we could grow to be close friends. I don’t know why, but to the Marechal, that is worse than a lover.”

“I have heard rumors of his strange passions, and in a way I understand.” As he idly stroked her she began to squirm in his arms, arousing him. “Does it worry you, to have so many lovers, in a court so full of gossip?”

“Diana uses her influence to aid me. Regardless of the gossip, there are enough people backing me that it does not matter.”

“Did your mother teach you to navigate the court? It would surprise me, you made your debut with that humble elegance of the innocent.” The hands touching her were thoughtful now, as if he were tracing her journey through the court, from fresh bud to full blown rose. He did not mean to make her come; his fingers moved by habit, coaxing a hot rush of liquid that coated his hands.

She pushed him away, panting. “No, she did not. The Marechal is teaching me, and the Duke. And you and the Prince, you two teach me discretion.”

The Chevalier chuckled. “You are a poor pupil then. You are always being spied upon, having your name whispered.”

She stiffened in his arms for a moment. “It is just you and my husband who watch at my doors, right?”

“Don’t worry, the only man I have caught peeping in at you is the Duke, which I doubt you mind.”

“You’re right, that I don’t mind.” Taking his hands, she put his finger in her mouth.

“Do you want me to make love to you?” the Chevalier asked. There was a feral look in her eyes as she took a measured breath. He rolled so she was under him, his sex pressed between her legs.

“There’s no one watching,” she said, tangling her fingers in his hair.

The Chevalier ran his hand along her thigh, hitching up her chemise. “Maybe the Duke will see us, maybe the Prince will wake.” He pulled down the top of her gown so it bunched around her waist, leaving her pale and exposed beneath him.

Her hands reached down, undoing his breeches. She moved her body under him, rubbing him against the crease of her sex. Her little tongue was at the base of his throat, curling up to touch behind his ear, a pressure of teeth before the hot rush of her mouth. She inhaled, sending a cold trickle through his ear to his brain and he shivered. He pressed the head of his sex into her, and she arched her back, taking him deep into her. They surged against each other, coming together, then apart. After, they lay beside one another, kissing each other, stroking their sweat slicked skin.

“Do you want to meet again?” the Chevalier asked.

“Maybe, maybe knock on my door again if there is no one around.” She lay there, looking into his eyes. “I liked talking with you.”

“I like talking with you too.” The Chevalier kissed her goodnight, and slipped away smiling.

* * * *

There was a constant ache in Rosalind’s hips and thighs from all the positions she had been wrenched into by her lovers. Her lower back would ache if her corset didn’t prevent her from moving her torso. She had to flee from this place. When the Prince accompanied the King to Compiegne, she would retire to Colomiers, never to return.

She should have left a long time ago, long before Princess Mary began showering her with gifts, before the she and Marechal could read each other through their skin, before she fell asleep in the arms of the Chevalier and woke to the kisses of the Duke. Dark shadows clung under her eyes, her lips were always swollen and raw, and a constant ruddiness tinged her face. Despite her cumbersome garments, she managed to glide with a sensual slowness.

Even Diana was envious of her. In all her years, not even the infamous Duchess de Valentinois had been able to charm so many of the court’s greatest gallants. As a token of admiration, she sent Rosalind a large gold chain. The Marechal added an amber pendant to it.

Rosalind thought about her mother, how glad the Mme. de Chartes must be that she was dead and therefore unable to witness the failures of her daughter. Of course, if the Mme. de Chartes had been there to support and guide her, Rosalind might have avoided folly and temptation. Her upbringing had been so genteel that she had caught every eye in court. While it’s doubtful the Mme. de Chartes could have made the young woman love her husband, she may have remained faithful to him. At least, that is what she wanted to believe. She could accept her present sins if she believed that, perhaps, had life taken a different turn, she could have been the wife the Prince deserved.

The only thing Rosalind could do was run. It was shameful for the Prince to have a wife who was always sore from the ardors of the bedroom. If she were able to flee from the court, from the Duke and Chevalier and Marechal and Princess Mary, she could be faithful.

The only difficulty was the Prince. She wished to purge her soul, and the conversation she’d had with her husband, after the betrayal of his friend, haunted her. He’d said he would admire any woman who confided with sincerity. Would he really feel that way were Rosalind to come to him with her love for the Duke, and her desire to escape him? Somehow, she did not feel that the betrayal of her body was as great as the betrayal of her heart.

She did not love the others with such fervor it altered her demeanor when they entered the room. She rose to greet them, and she smiled and laughed. When the Duke entered the room, she had to turn away from him, and pull her features into a stern expression. It was hard to ignore him without appearing to do so. She could feel his eyes moving on her, and if no one was looking, she would gaze at him.

Always she caught something new, a charming gesture, an artless curl tumbling down his shoulder, the glint of honey in his eyes. She worshipped him like he were her patron saint.

During their trysts, the Duke made his own discoveries. He explored her body with different caresses and rhythms, bringing to her to a variety of climaxes. Even now in the hall she shuddered at the memory of him.

She had to leave. She would speak to the Chevalier and he’d help her with her husband. Most likely he was lounging about the tennis courts. If she could catch his eye, and avoid that of the Marechal, her plan could be set in motion today. He did not approve of the budding friendship between her and the Chevalier–even if it helped her escape the Duke, he would still be jealous.

She was heading to the courts when she heard someone behind her clearing his throat. “The Chevalier, I was just looking for you. May we speak for a moment?”

The Chevalier bowed. “I have a few minutes free. You look very severe, what do you want to talk about?”

Her eyes darted around, and Rosalind led the Chevalier to a seat where they could be seen by the other courtiers, but not heard. “I must retire from the court. It is the only way I can be faithful to my wedding vows.” The Chevalier was about to speak when she cut him off. “I know, it’s pathetic. It’s the only thing I can think of, and I’d like your help. I know the Prince is…fond of you.”

The Chevalier blushed. “What do you want me to tell him?”

“Nothing, but when he comes and speaks to you, please be supportive of what I want.”

“What if he wants me to go with you?”

She reached out to touch his hand. “You may say yes, if you wish.”

“Did something happen today which has led you to make such a resolution?” the Chevalier asked.

“It is embarrassing to say.” When he sat there and waited, she admitted to him her reasons. “I am sore.”


“Very sore, my legs, and hips–”

“Rosalind, I think I will miss you as you are now. When we retire to the country, you will no longer be so brooding, so distraught.”

“Why would you miss that?”

The Chevalier took her chin in his hand to turn her eyes to his. “It makes you look fragile, ephemeral. The Duke, before he secured your favor, had the same look. Now, he has that pink shiny glow of new love.” She started to lean toward him, her lips parted. “Not here Rosalind. Will the Duke be seeing you later?”

She shook her head.

“Before I see the Prince, I will stop in to see you, and we will talk. I will think more about your dilemma.” He stood up and kissed her hand. “Thank you for considering me your confidante.”

For a minute, Rosalind sat on the bench smiling. One thing her mother never would have imagined would be that one’s lovers could also be one’s friends. As distressing as the thought of any conversation about her feelings with the Prince was, she had two men with whom she could share her thoughts and suspicions. The Marechal was in love with her, and the Chevalier was in love with her and her husband. Both were willing to lend an ear to her problems and offer their advice. She realized, that in some ways, they were like her mother. She grimaced as she thought better of that analogy.

* * * *

It was late. The Duke had just returned from a ball and Lignerol was helping to undress him. Lignerol found himself more and more vexed by his master’s behavior. Giving up so easily on his aspirations to marry the Queen of England, incessantly chattering about Rosalind as soon as the door was closed. The woman carried on with half the court, yet the Duke spoke of her as if she were some virtuous maid. She was a charming gallant, which was a lovely thing in and of itself; there was no need to pretend she was some blushing virgin. These days, any blushes on her cheeks were not due to modesty. Lignerol stroked the Duke’s pale back. At least he was eating and sleeping now. His skin was again like fine satin, a pleasure to feel beneath his hands.

The Duke turned around smiling. He gave Lignerol a long gentle kiss, and Lignerol melted into him. They lay down and discarded their clothes. Again the Duke was a tender lover. Lignerol lay naked on the bed as the Duke moved his mouth all over his body. He shivered as the Duke’s long curls fell over his skin. When the Duke’s lips reached his sex, he moaned, and the Duke moaned, sending a low vibration through his groin. The Duke worked him eagerly, taking delight in his lover’s sighs and twitches. Lignerol had to push the Duke away, or he would have spent himself in the Duke’s mouth.

Lignerol sat up and pushed the Duke on his stomach. Oiling himself, he pressed the tip of his sex against the Duke’s anus, and he could feel it move with the Duke’s slow breaths. Licking his fingers, he worked one into the Duke before thrusting himself home. A ragged panting came from the Duke’s throat, his muscles spasming beneath Lignerol. The Duke gave a little squeak: Lignerol was being rough. He wanted the Duke to remember him when he saw her, he wanted to be a twinge of pain that made the Duke think of his lithe handsome favorite.

Beneath Lignerol, the Duke knew his lover wished to punish him, and he acted the part. When Rosalind had only been a chimera of a fever dream, his mind and body had burned with her. The world had receded before her flushed lips. Now that she was his, he had become aware of Lignerol’s unease. Each time he pressed himself into the Duke, the Duke felt his urgency, his jealousy, his rage. The Duke squirmed in discomfort. He owed so much to Lignerol, and if he wanted to hurt the Duke for his transgressions, he would take it with grace.

Lignerol pulled him onto his side and grasped the Duke’s jumping sex. His hands were slick with the moisture that had collected at the head of the Duke’s phallus. He worked the Duke’s sex as he worked his own. When he was close to coming, he began to move his hand in a quick flicking motion over the Duke’s head. The Duke climaxed, his ass twitching and clutching Lignerol’s sex, and Lignerol came.

Lignerol could think of no greater joy than to lay with his Duke in his arms, feeling him limp with satiety. It would have been perfect, if the Duke had remained silent.

“The Prince will be traveling with the King to Compiegne, and while he is gone, Rosalind will be taking in the country air at Colomiers.”

Lignerol sighed.

“I was thinking I would go and visit my sister. She has a house near there.”

Lignerol turned to see the Duke’s smile. “Are you sure that’s prudent?”

“I wasn’t going to do anything rash,” the Duke replied, pouting.

Lignerol kissed him. “Were it any other lover, I would believe you. But with this woman, you are nothing but rash.”

“You’re right, you’re always right. I would be lost without you.” The Duke rolled over to face Lignerol, wrapping his arms around his neck. “I wanted to spy on her.”

“Don’t you think the Chevalier will catch you? I thought he was in charge of spying on Rosalind.”

“I’ll be careful.”

The Duke began kissing Lignerol, but he pushed the Duke away. “Tell me, will you be done with this woman soon? I prefer your six lovers to this passion you have for her.”

“Are you jealous?”

“For the first time since I’ve been in your service, yes.” His voice was very soft, and the Duke could see a tear glittering in the corner of his eye.

The Duke doubted his relentless pursuit of the Princess; questioned all the lover’s he took while Lignerol attended and soothed him. Was there any value to having one’s names whispered in every court? Did it matter if they were of the same reverant tone one heard in a church? He couldn’t picture life without Lignerol, yet he thought very little about him, his feelings. “Do you want me to give her up?”

Lignerol was unable to hide the shock on his face. The Duke had never before shown him such consideration. “Would you do that for me?”

“I…I would want to, but I don’t know if I’d be able to.” The Duke closed his eyes, he didn’t want to see Lignerol’s face. He started when he felt Lignerol’s hand on his face.

“Thank you for not lying to me,” Lignerol said, leaning in to kiss the Duke. “If you had said ‘yes’, I wouldn’t have believed you. You burn bright for her. I wish your love for her was spent, but I will wait.”

The Duke kissed Lignerol’s hands. He was glad he didn’t have a tryst arranged with Rosalind. They talked until they fell asleep. That night, the Duke asked Lignerol about his life, his family. Never before had he shown so much interest in his favorite, and Lignerol felt like he was basking in the glow of the sun. If the Duke’s affair with Rosalind would reward him with moments like this, he would tolerate it. These thoughts did not prevent him from being sullen when the Duke was packing to leave.

Lignerol sat on the bed, scowling, when the Duke turned to him with a sigh. “You can come with me, just don’t be difficult.”

“When have I ever caused you any trouble?”

The Duke looked up from his trunk and rolled his eyes. One incident stood out in his mind, involving a plump young maid, a pitcher of water, and a sputtering Lignerol. How had it never occurred to him that his favorite could be jealous?

* * * *

Rosalind was leaving tomorrow. She would ride with her husband to their house at Colomiers, where he would leave her while he attended the King. She was excited to be leaving the tumult of the court, although she would miss the Marechal, who she was waiting for. When he finally showed, he had a great smile and a package tucked under his arm.

“A little going away present,” he told her when he saw her quizzical look. He took her hand to help her rise.

“That’s right, I forgot to tell you I would be leaving. Don’t fret, I won’t be gone long,” she said, and the Marechal raised his eyebrow at her. Rosalind frowned. She didn’t know how to say goodbye to the Marechal, so she hadn’t. As Colomiers was only a day’s ride from Paris, she assumed she would see him.

All the Marechal knew was that the Princess was retiring to the country for a few days. He could see the tension in her body, how her numerous affairs wore on her. He watched the glances she exchanged with the Chevalier and sensed a budding friendship there. She would leave him here, that was his fear. After Rosalind fled from the court, she would not need his aid, and it would be unnecessary to humor him. He thought that there was an affection between them, that she considered him a friend, but the fact that he had heard from someone else that she was leaving made him doubt that.

By the time they reached his room he was trembling. He knew it was not the best meeting place, but it would be easier to speak with Rosalind there. She settled herself in an armchair as he fumbled with the lock. Glancing over his shoulder, he tried to decipher her expression, but she was just smiling at him. She wasn’t nervous; if anything, there was a voluptuous set to her mouth. The handle of the riding crop he’d had crafted for her was crushed against his ribs. He went to turn, to go sit with her, but he could not move. He heard the rustle of her gown as she approached him, and when her hand touched his shoulder he had to lean against the door to keep from falling.

There was a quaver of panic in her voice as she spoke. “What is the matter Marechal? Has something happened?”

There were tears falling down his cheeks, and he hid his face in his handkerchief. “Were you going to tell me that you were leaving? Or were you just going to let me figure it out when I no longer saw you at court.”

Her arms wrapped around his waist. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to tell you.”

“Why are you leaving? Is it because of me?”

She released him and pulled him around to face her. “What are you saying? Of course it isn’t because of you. Without you I should have gone mad.” Her little hands were on his cheek and she was staring into his eyes. Both her expression and tone were so earnest, the Marechal felt all his doubts drown between her warm fingers.

He did what he longed to do; he sunk to her feet. When she stepped back he stretched his belly across the cold filthy floor. As he approached, she lifted her hem, only an inch, allowing him to gaze upon her red velvet slippers, decked with bows and pearls. He looked up to see her smiling down upon him, and he knew she had worn the shoes for him. He crept close to brush his lips against the soft velvet and smooth pearls. His hands moved up and down her silk stockings, over her delicate ankles and slender legs. He rubbed his face against her until she began to laugh.

“Go sit down, I want to show you your present,” the Marechal said. He retrieved his package from where he had dropped it near the door. With his back to her, he took out the riding crop and placed it between his teeth. The warm smell of the leather enveloped him and he shivered. The handle was tipped with mother of pearl, the leather was tooled with a design of wild roses. He crawled over to Rosalind, keeping his eyes on the floor.

He stayed there kneeling, until she took the crop from his mouth. She traced it’s soft tip over his face, his lips, his throat. The Marechal started breathing heavily as it moved down his chest to prod his bulging sex. Without even thinking, he was leaning forward, reaching for a dainty foot. She lifted her skirts up to show the top of her stockings, and he stripped one off, her shoe clattering to the floor. She started squirming as he put her toes in his mouth, parting his lips wide to flick his tongue over the soul of her foot. When she jumped, the crop jerked in her hand, poking him painfully in the groin.

“Rosalind,” he moaned, holding her foot to his chest. “Why don’t you let me carry you away instead?” He moved her foot so it pressed against his sex, and he began thrusting his hips against it. Leaning his cheek against her knee, he started to gasp. With just a twitch of her knee she sent him sprawling back.

“It’s a lovely gift, but I’m not in the mood for these games.”

The Marechal snatched her slipper from the floor and began to caress his cheek with it. “Then why did you wear these?” His voice was low and languid, his eyes closed. When he opened them she was staring, her lips a thin white line. He felt foolish, fawning over her shoe, and he scrambled to sit beside her. It did him no good though, the little red shoe was still in his hands, with all its satin bows and pearls. Even more awkward, he could not forbear running his fingers all over the velvet, the leather sole.

She reached out and laid her hand on top of his to still his movements. Shaking her head, she retrieved her slipper, and tossed it on the floor in front of her. She stuck out her foot, and worked it back into the shoe by wiggling her toes and flexing her foot. Her face scrunched up as she did it.

“Don’t like wearing slippers?” It was the blandest thing he could think to say.

Rosalind smiled. “If it’s hot and I’m just sitting there, I take off my shoes. I always feel so much cooler.” She lifted up her feet, and flipped off both heels, then swung the slippers from her toes.

The Marechal kissed her cheek. “I love you. Can I come see you in the country?”

“Give me a few weeks to clear my head. I would like to write you.”

The Marechal couldn’t help himself, he started laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

He tried to talk, but he was still laughing too hard. When the Princess frowned at him it didn’t help, he had to stifle his giggles with his hand. It was only after she turned her face away from him, vexed, that he was able to collect himself. “Can’t you see your garden, lit with silver moonlight, and a dark shadow moving though it. And then, it bumps into another dark shadow, soon to be joined by a third.”

Her face turned bright red with anger, until she realized it could happen. The Chevalier slinking around as was his wont, the Marechal’s servant looking for his letter, the Duke looking for her. She covered her mouth, but still, laughter slipped out it. The sleek Duke colliding with her other awkward lovers, a tangle of limbs and indignation. “The Prince would probably come out to investigate.”

They sat there, trying not to howl, tears starting to form at the corners of their eyes. The image was a vivid one, the Prince apoplectic at encountering what would at this point most likely be a fight. Rosalind calmed herself, and remembered her resolution. She took the Marechal’s hands, and turned to him. “I won’t be seeing the Duke anymore, so it will just be you and the Chevalier. Is there a reason why you told me not to confide in him?”

“No,” he said, and felt guilty for lying. “Yes, I was jealous, he already spent so much time with you, I didn’t want you becoming friends as well.”

She didn’t say anything, just leaned closer.

Her mouth was moving towards his. When she kissed him, it made his heart flutter. There was a tenderness to the way her tongue parted his lips, licking his teeth. He sighed, and when he felt like he would begin to cry, he pushed her away.

“We should part,” he said, taking out his handkerchief to dab at his face. “People will wonder where we have been.” He handed her a little vial of cologne, rose, and she scented herself with it. It was a ritual between them, these words and gestures.

She had never declared any feelings of love for the Marechal, yet what else could she be telling him with that kiss? She spoke of her love with her lips pressed to his. After they said goodbye in the hall, he turned to see her walk away, the riding crop tucked under her arm, her red slippers flashing beneath her skirt. Returning to his room, he found she had left him a token of her favor, her white stocking discarded on the floor.

* * * *

Rosalind was walking the gardens of Colomiers with her husband, trying to think of the right way to tell him she was retiring from the court. It would not be easy to convince him that it was necessary. He kept asking if she felt ill; her face was pale and her breathing quick. She kept replying no. They both knew she was lying; they both felt how her hands shook. He sent their attendants away so that she may speak freely. They settled themselves in a vine covered pavilion. It would have been romantic were it not for Rosalind’s obvious distress.

“I cannot return to Paris,” she mumbled.


She took a deep breath, and spoke slowly so she would not garble her words. Her heart jumped to the back of her throat. “I will not be returning to Paris.”

The Prince sighed. “I thought we were done with this.”

“I tried, for you, to attend the court, but it is to much for me.”

The Prince scowled, but quickly softened his expression. “What is this craving for solitude? Why this loathing for Paris? You deprive me of your company, you are in a constant state of melancholy. What has happened?” He squeezed her hands, hoping that she would meet his eyes, but she only frowned, staring at the ground.

“There is nothing troubling me, it’s just there is always such a bustle at court, a swarm of people at our house, it throws my mind into disarray. It fatigues me, all I desire is some rest,” she recited, her hand fluttering over her heart.

The Prince could not tell if the gesture was contrived, or a genuine expression of his wife’s struggle to conceal whatever secret consumed her. “Repose does not suit one your age, and your day at court is hardly taxing. I think you wish to be rid be of me,” the Prince replied, his voice so bitter Rosalind could taste it.

“You wrong me to think to think so. Send away that multitude that surrounds you, and stay here with me, there is nothing more that I could desire.” She clutched the Prince’s hands, and finally raised her gaze to meet his. Her eyes glimmered with tears, and beneath them swirled all her confusion.

The Prince could take her dissimulation any longer. If he could not move her with love, perhaps pity would work. He took a deep breath, and then another, relaxing his face, letting his sorrow weigh down his features, his body. Slumping forward to rest his arm on his knees, he turned to her and said in a tight voice, “Your words are useless Madame, your body does not lie, and it says you wish to be alone. Please, if you have any affection for me, tell me what tortures you so and drives you to such desperate acts.”

For a minute, Rosalind remained as still as the marble statues that decorated the garden. When she spoke, her voice was cool. “I lack the power to confess this, please do not force me to. It is not prudent for a woman of my tender years to be mistress of her own conduct, exposed in the midst of the court.”

The Prince snorted. Of course, she was right. Without the Madame de Chartes by her side, she collected the court’s finest gallants like posies. Any anger he had toward his wife only flared for a moment, for well he remembered his own hand in the matter, and how they now shared a lover.

This must be about the Duke, no one else could cause her such distress. Dear God, could she pregnant? Was she planning to run off with someone? “In your silence, I find my mind crowded with such horrors that I may not speak of them. I fear that if they are only fantasies, I shall offend you, and if they are true–”

Rosalind collapsed to her knees. “So, I see I must do what no wife has done before and take my husband into my confidence. All I wanted when we married was to love you, and if I could not do that, to at least be worthy of your esteem.” Tears broke through, and she sobbed.

The Prince sat on the bench, his legs starting to grow numb from the hard stone.

She was wiping her face with her handkerchief, her chest heaving. “I want to be worthy of your esteem again. Without my mother to guide me, I am afraid that I have fallen prey to the dangers that hunt women of my age.”

The Prince was ready to tell her of his affair with the Chevalier when she began to speak again.

“It is not fair to ask you to pardon my indiscretions, but I ask you to allow me to repent, by staying here, by breaking my vows no more. If the Duke comes, send him away, and if the Marechal visits, tell him…tell him I am sorry.”

There was a lifelessness in her voice. The Prince knew she would lock herself away from the entire world, even if it meant misery, if it was necessary to remain faithful to him. Finally, he saw her before him on her knees, her face drowned in tears. She had never been so beautiful to him, and she was trembling, waiting for him to say something. He reached down to lift her up into his lap.

When she hid her face in her hands, he kissed them until she began to calm. There weren’t any words for what he wanted to tell her, that he was never angry, that the Duke and the rest of the court could burn in Hell, that all he really wanted was to sit by the fire with her and the Chevalier.

The Chevalier–his breath caught in his throat. She had not said anything of sending him away from her self imposed exile. He and the Chevalier were not as discreet as he thought they were; his wife knew of their affair.

“You said nothing of the Chevalier,” he said. Before she could speak he covered her lips. “I know why you said nothing of him, as you are not the only one who has been unfaithful.” He looked up into her eyes and they were warm. It was not love, but it was something. “If he could come with us, I would go where ever you wished.”

She nodded her head. “Would that work, us sharing a confidante and lover? Has he told you, that he comes to see me sometimes.”

The Prince stiffened. “When?”

“Don’t be angry with him. At first, he loved me, now, I think he loves you more. More than anything, he wants to talk about you. I told him, that he makes you happy, and I thought he’d break his face smiling.”

The Prince felt his jealousy retreating. He knew that his betrayal was as deep as his wife’s. As he wondered what precipitated her flight from court, he recalled the words, to simply send the Duke away while the Marechal was to be given an apology.

Could he have been mistaken, could she have feigned love for the Duke to throw him and the Chevalier off the trail? Why wouldn’t she simply fake love for him, her husband, or would it be too hard? It is easy to deceive a lover though, so the Duke may have only been a fool, playing a small role in a complicated scheme to secure Rosalind’s freedom. For all the Prince knew, his words to the Marechal may be code to indicate their plans success.

His blue eyes clouded as a thought shocked him. What if the Chevalier was behind all of this?

No, this conspiracy was madness, but he doubted that it was the Duke who held her heart. What if it was the Chevalier? The thought would haunt him until he knew. He would have to pry that last secret from her, even if he had to be cruel. “From the first moment I saw you, I have burned with a passion which nothing could quench. When my hopes of marriage were dashed by my father’s disapproval, I loved you still. Your coldness, your infidelity, could not dampen my love. Even taking you, living out my fantasies of being a cuckold…” He started laughing when she looked at him surprised. “Yes, people do desire such things. How can you be surprised, knowing the Marechal as you do?”

Rosalind blushed and tried to get away from her husband, but he only held her tighter, wracked with acrid laughter. He only calmed when he saw that she was frightened, her fingers not caressing his, but rather gripped tightly around his wrists.

He leaned his head against her shoulders, and she shivered. “I don’t really want to talk about him,” she said, her voice trembling.

He looked at her, the bewildered expression was familiar, yet he could not place it. Then it hit him like a bolt. “I cannot believe it, the last time you looked at me like this, Madame, was when your picture was lost.” Now it was the Prince’s turn to tremble. “You gave away that picture, that picture which was mine, that I loved, that you had no right to bestow upon another. Even worse, you gave it to the man who held your heart, the Marechal. That wretched, crooked, insidious man, he’s been taking advantage of his position at court, and your naivety, from the start.” He gripped the Princess’s shoulders so she was looking into his eyes. “What did he do, tell me my Princess, my wife, what did he do that I did not to win your heart?”

“I…I didn’t give away the portrait. Please let go, you’re hurting me.” There were tears falling down cheeks.

“Then what happened to the picture, because I know it was not lost.”

When she saw the panic and the pain in the Prince’s eyes, she understood that were she to keep the Duke’s name from him, she would have to reveal other secrets. “It was not lost, it was taken.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw it taken. I did not want to speak up then, for fear of making a spectacle in confronting the thief. I did not want to confront him privately either. I thought it best for me to feign ignorance of the matter.”

“Is it this man, the one who stole your picture, the same as the one who stole your heart?”

She nodded, her breath sticking in her throat.

“Tell me his name.”

She looked into the Prince’s feverish eyes. It would be so easy to lie, to say the Marechal, and he would be bared from Colomiers. The Prince and Chevalier would keep the Duke away out of their own dislike. Then, they could make their preparations, and travel far far away from Paris and its court.

If she was honest with herself, she did not want to end her relationship with the Marechal. His friendship was invaluable to her, and he would be the one thing she missed about the court. “Please, Prince, this is something I cannot do.” She took his hands and raised them to her lips.

He looked at her, and she was frail, her tears inflaming her face. There was nothing more to gain from her today; he would have to acquiesce with the intention of asking her again when she was calmer.

He caressed her face, drawing her mouth down to his. They were both flustered, and the Prince could think of only one thing to sooth his nerves. He looked around, and seeing the servants occupied with one another, he pushed up Rosalind’s skirts and freed himself from his breeches.

* * * *

That morning, the Duke had gone hunting. He was separated from the main party when he went chasing after a large buck, and was soon happily lost in the woods. Coming across a stream, he followed it until he reached a road. He knew he was near Colomiers, and after pacing up and down the road for a minute, he choose what he believed to be the right direction. When he encountered a peasant, he asked for directions and was delighted to find himself on the right path. Soon, he came upon a manor: it must belong to the Cleves. He led his horse into the woods where he tied it to a tree, and ate the bread and cheese Lignerol had stuffed into his pannier. The Duke frowned, thinking his favorite would be concerned, but Lignerol was used to his disappearances. It was stupid of him to worry, he knew that, but he could still envision Lignerol’s expression when the others arrived without him. They would be together again tonight.

He started through the woods to the manor, and was surprised to find the Prince and Princess strolling the gardens with a train of attendants. Tucking himself in a bower, he looked around for somewhere to hide, and crouched in the hollow of a bush. He was getting ready to make his escape, when the Prince and Princess moved closer to him, while the servants moved, blocking off his retreat.

He was trapped, but trapped close enough to overhear the couple’s conversation. Rosalind looked ill, and the food he had eaten before seemed to come alive in his stomach. He grimaced, and to distract himself he focused very intently on them.

His heart leapt into his mouth when he realized she was talking to her husband about leaving the court. When he heard her curt instructions for his dismissal, his chest tightened, and then burned as he learned the Marechal was to be sent away with a few parting words. It was a small kindness, a kindness he, as the man she claimed to truly love, had not warranted. Inwardly he vacillated between believing it was a mark of her indifference, or that it was really a signal of her true love for him, just as her coldness was.

When their conversation turned to the Chevalier, he was shocked to learn that the man was carrying on an affair with both of the Cleves. He knew that the Chevalier had somehow become a confidante of the Prince, but he had never guessed the means the Chevalier had used to achieve this. No, but that wasn’t right. He had seen the two men together, and always felt like there was some secret between them. Both men were in love with each other, and Rosalind as well. He had to stifle a laugh–what a mess that woman had made. The gallants hounded her with such fervor that her husband had been caught as well.

The Chevalier was watching the Prince. It was clear the man struggled with some strong emotion. He wondered what had passed between Rosalind and him when she made her request to stay in Colomiers. From way the Prince kept looking at the Chevalier, he had a feeling she had revealed their private trysts to him, though he wasn’t sure. The Prince, he wasn’t angry; he just looked hurt and troubled. After they were done attending the King, the Prince approached him. They didn’t speak to one another as they traveled back to the Prince’s private quarters.

When they were alone, the Chevalier thought it best to admit any fault before the Prince spoke. “I believe from the looks you’ve been giving me, your wife has told you that sometimes we see one another without you there,” the Chevalier said as he sat on the Prince’s bed. By the time he thought better of this choice, the Prince was sitting beside him, reaching for his hands.

“Yes, she did. I was jealous, until she said you often spoke of me.” The Prince was intent on the Chevalier, ready to judge his reaction.

The Chevalier blushed and turned away, embarrassed that his lover knew he sought solace from his wife. “She’s the only person I can talk to about you,” he mumbled. The Prince reached his arms out, and with a sigh the Chevalier fell against his chest. “I am sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. After all, I encouraged you.”

The Chevalier turned to the Prince, wary that there was some double meaning behind his words. “You’re not angry?”

“No, I’m not.” The Prince took a deep breath, holding the Chevalier closer. For a moment, he lay there with his lover, and forgot that his wife loved another whose name he did not know.

“What did the King want with you?”

“He wishes Rosalind and I to conduct Madame Elisa to Spain,” the Prince replied.

“That is quite an honor.”

Silence stretched out, and the Chevalier reached out to touch the Prince’s cheek. Their lips met, and they lay on the bed, covering one another with languid kisses. The Prince pushed the Chevalier under him and began to remove his clothes. Each stretch of skin he revealed, the Prince covered with his lips, caressed with his fingers. The Chevalier felt his stomach churning in knots. He knew there was something troubling the Prince, and he wanted to talk with him about Rosalind and her desire to retire from court. His head was fuzzy, and the Prince’s touch chased away all semblance of coherent thought. The Prince was removing his own clothes, their boots, tugging back the covers for him and the Chevalier.

He was rubbing himself against the Chevalier, when he noticed the frown on the Chevalier’s face. “What is it?” Looking into the Chevalier’s eyes, he could see the man struggling to gather his thoughts. He drew back from him, allowing his lover to collect his mind.

His head clearing, the Chevalier recalled Rosalind’s request for aid in retiring from the court. He wasn’t sure he wanted to discuss that instead of making love to the Prince. He leaned forward to kiss him when the Prince grabbed his shoulders.

“No, you wanted to talk to me about something. What was it?”

“I want to know what’s troubling you.”

“Did my wife tell you she wished to retire from court?”

The Chevalier jerked his hands in the air, searching for an answer.

“She wanted your help to convince me.”


“Did she make any suggestions as far as methods to persuade me?” the Prince asked, pulling the Chevalier closer to him. The tip of the Chevalier’s sex quivered against his stomach, a bead of moisture wetting the Prince’s skin.


Their lips met again, their naked limbs twined together. The Chevalier oiled his phallus and began to work his finger into the Prince’s anus. They made love, and the Chevalier spent the night.

When they awoke that morning, they were loathe to leave the bed. The Prince took the Chevalier, the slender man quivering and moaning as the Prince moved within him. With his hand slick with the Chevalier’s dew, the Prince worked the head of his phallus. The Prince came as he felt the Chevalier surging in his hands. He bit into Chevalier’s shoulder as he spilt his seed, feeling himself washing back down over his phallus as he shuddered.

The Chevalier drowsed in the Prince’s arms. “If we go to the country, I want you to come with us.”

The Chevalier twisted to face the Prince. “What did you say?”

“Rosalind told me to send away both the Duke, and the Marechal. She never said anything about you. We both want you to come with us.”

Tears stung the Chevalier’s eyes, and he shook in the Prince’s arms. “You don’t mean that, do you?”

The Prince kissed his lover’s face. “Yes, we are fond of you.”

“Do you think we could all sleep in the same bed?” There was a look on the Chevalier’s face, joy and wonder.

“We could. We might have pay the servants more to keep them from talking.”

The Chevalier laughed, kissing the Prince’s face and hand. “I love you, and I love Rosalind.”

“I…I love you too,” the Prince stuttered, blushing. The Chevalier frowned, and the Prince clutched him to his chest. “No, don’t be angry, I do, it’s just…I’m married.”

“And I’m a man.”

The Prince met the Chevalier’s eyes. While there was no expression on his face, the Prince could see the amusement in his eyes. “Yes, there’s that as well. We need to get dressed now, and you need to sneak away.”

At those words, the Chevalier’s heart stopped beating. Sneaking, spying, he could no longer do these things if he moved to the country with the Cleves. Would he want to though, nestled between the Prince and Princess, would he even care that there was a court in Paris?

“You don’t have to come with us, of course. I’d understand if you’d miss the court,” the Prince said, staring at the floor as he pulled on his stockings.

“If I miss the court I can visit,” the Chevalier replied without hesitation. The two men smiled at one another. The Chevalier had never been happier, and the Prince was relieved. He would do as his wife wished, they would move to the country. Thank God their parents were gone and didn’t have to live through the scandal of their marriage.

* * * *

The weather was fair, but Rosalind did not enjoy it. She was nauseated, bouncing about in the carriage, and not looking forward to seeing her husband. Her head was pounding, she hadn’t slept, all she could think about was the inquisition waiting for her. Somehow, the swaying rhythm lulled her into a light sleep. She jerked awake when they stopped. It took a few minutes for her to exit, her limps were all pins and needles.

She found her husband in their chambers, writing. He greeted her with a warm embrace and a kiss. Searching his face, she found him surprisingly content. In response to her puzzled look, the Prince gestured to a chair. “Please, sit love. I wanted to talk to you.”

Frowning, Rosalind settled herself into a chair. “I would assume this concerns my retirement.”

“Among other things.” For a moment they just looked at each other, both reluctant to begin an unpleasant conversation. The Prince found his mind flicking between the Marechal and the Duke, wondering which man had so captivated his wife, and what secret they used. With a sigh, he shook his head. “You know what it is that I wish to ask.”

“I think I’m going to pretend that I do not,” she replied, giving the Prince a weak smile.

“Take pity on me, think of the unbearable position in which you have put me. You have made an extraordinary confession, yet have not given me a name.” When she replied by only clenching her teeth, the Prince continued. “I do not hold you at fault for giving to another that which is mine, it is the folly of a young heart, grown too cold under your mother’s care. Can you fault me for my most natural, most human, curiosity?”

“I don’t know what to say,” the Princess said, her stony eyes fixed on the ground. “I die with shame when I think I have betrayed you, and the memory of my mother. I conjure you, spare me such cruel questioning.”

“What do you wish of me then?” the Prince asked, his voice harsher than he intended.

She shirked away from him, and her reply was very soft. “Please, stay by my side and regulate my conduct, and let see no one. All I wish is to try and be worthy of you.”

“Forgive me. I abuse your goodness, and your confidence. We will speak no more of this, I swear.” When she started to sniffle, he knelt down and kissed her hands.

“No, it is I who should be begging for your pardon. All you have done is love me, and for it you have received nothing but pain,” she murmured.

The Prince rose so swiftly to stare into his wife’s eyes, she started in her chair. “If you wish to be worthy of me, you will never say such things again.” Returning to his seat, the Prince took a moment to collect himself. “There is something else we need to discuss, though this I think will please you.”

“Will we be traveling far away?” she asked.

“Spain, actually.”

She looked at him surprised. “What?”

“The King has asked us to accompany Madame Elisa to Spain after her marriage. Everyone felt that you would be a credit to the court.” Now the Prince paused. Rosalind was still nervous, and her sleepless night showed plainly on her face. He felt guilty for what he was about to say, but still, it would answer an important question. “The Marechal may join us. Would you like that?” He was watching her intently as he spoke, waiting for her to react to the name of the man she loved.

“Oh, I am sure he will be well received by the Spanish court,” she said.

It wasn’t a strong reaction. “If he can outshine the Duke he will, for there are rumors that he will accompany Madame as well.”

At that word, Duke, her eyes flew open and her face blanched. The thought of being exposed to his presence over a long journey with her husband and the Marechal watching her made he feel ill. She did her best to feign indifference, and said to her husband, “I hope that is not the case, or the honors that would have been given to you and the Marechal will be his instead.”

“Is that what causes you such distress, honor?”

She gave a feeble nod, not trusting her voice.

“I think there is something else that causes your uneasiness. Any other woman in your position would be overjoyed to find themselves in such close quarters with their lover, but instead you are distraught. Don’t worry, neither the Marechal nor the Duke will be coming with us, it was just a lie I used to find out that which you refused to tell me.”

“Are you happy now that you know his name?” the Princess asked, her face flushed an angry red.

“No, I would rather it be any other man, even the Chevalier. Of course, the greatest man in court has captured your heart. Is that what you needed, a man with whom the entire court is in love? If I had shone the brightest, would you have loved me?”

“I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care. Don’t you have something to do besides tormenting your wife?”

Now the Prince was angry as well. “Tormenting you? By tormenting, do you mean carrying on with half the court, arranging trysts with my four different lovers?”

“I only need to take care of three of them, the fourth you arrange yourself, or did you forget you were the one who wanted me to sleep with the Chevalier? You’ve known about them this entire time. You’d rather crouch outside the door with your lover, and watch than have a faithful wife, so don’t accuse me like you are innocent.”

The Prince stood up, his face dark. “I wish I had never met you,” he said and stormed away. Rosalind threw a glass at his head as he left, but it flew wide of its target.

She sat there, shaking, her hands clenched into fists, her nails biting into her palms. A servant came to see if she needed anything, and she snapped at the woman, sending her scurrying away. She wished her mother had died before they came to Paris. That way, she could have died a nun in a convent, never knowing that life held pleasures beyond a clever book or pleasant weather.

Steps were approaching, and she was getting ready to shout again when her heart froze. It was the Duke.

He walked quickly, several servants at his heels. She could see by the expressions on their faces that they were unsure of how to react to his rudeness. They were plucking at his sleeve, entreating him to wait for them to summon their mistress, and he waved his hands at them like they were flies. They nimbly avoided his blows, but were unable to prevent his progress. He slammed the door behind him, and they stared at each other.

* * * *

Rosalind was livid. “For God’s sake, leave me in peace.” She stood and tried to open the door, but the Duke leaned his body against it. He had a crooked charming cad smiles on his face. She could feel the weight of her keys in her pocket. When she locked the door, the Duke reached out draw her into his arms and kiss her. He found her stiff when she should have been melting. Her lips were limp against his mouth, her hands pressed against his chest.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked, releasing her.

She turned away from him towards the trunk that contained her and her husband’s riding gear. She could feel the Duke’s eyes on her body, his unease, as she picked up the riding crop the Marechal had given her. It didn’t feel right in her hand, and she instead chose her husband’s. A little heavier and made of coarser leather, it would be perfect for the Duke.

“Take off your shirt and kneel,” she said, her voice thick and low.

It moved the Duke, and without thinking he fell to knees, tossing off his clothes. His sex strained against his breeches as he watched Rosalind arrange herself in a chair, flipping her skirt up over her knees, the little quirt in her hands. “Come here. No, don’t walk, crawl.”

The Duke was in a half crouch, staring into Rosalind’s eyes. Her face was a high red color, and there was no warmth in her expression. For a moment he paused before sinking back down to the floor. He made his way to her on his hands and knees, his eyes still holding hers.

He was overcome with a queer excitement, something like anticipating his lover’s nails on his back, only a keener thrill. Rosalind had crossed her legs, and was bobbing one foot up and down. When the Duke drew near, she slipped off her shoe and extended her toes to his lips. He recoiled. Her hand darted to the back of his head, gripping his hair. She held him, and rubbed her toes across his bottom lip while he squirmed. Laughing, she him go, and he wiped off his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Now, turn around,” she commanded, caressing his waist with the leather tip of her whip.

He knelt with his back to her, his fingers laced behind his neck. She slapped him gently up and down his sides, and across his broad back. Even though it didn’t really hurt, the Duke still flinched at each tap. She used the handle to massage his anus and testicles, bringing a moan to the Duke’s lips.

He jumped as she landed a smart blow to the meat of his shoulders. It stung for a moment before it became a delicious warmth on his skin. The strength of her blows gradually increased, and the Duke reached into his breeches to grasp his throbbing sex. Rosalind stopped beating him for a moment, and the Duke turned to see her pulling her skirts up even higher so she could touch herself with her free hand. It was too much for the Duke, three more blows and he was spent. She came soon after him, gasping as she continued to work the Duke’s skin.

“Get dressed.”

The Duke turned to see the Princess rearranging her skirts. She rose to stand by the door, the key in her hand. She watched him coldly as he dressed, she even pushed him away when he tried to kiss her good bye.

“I guess I will see you soon then,” the Duke said, searching her eyes for some sign of warmth, but the fire glowing in her delicate eyes was not one kindled with love. He told himself that her severe conduct was only a token of her affection.

He returned to his chambers and told Lignerol to prepare him a cool bath with some milk and honey in it to soothe his skin. It was necessary for Lignerol to help him remove his clothes, as his shoulders had gone stiff, and he gasped when he saw the red welts that covered the Duke’s upper body.

“What is this?” he demanded, poking at an angry weal.

The Duke pulled away. “The Princess was in an…unusual mood today.”

“And you let her do this to you?” Lignerol threw the Duke’s jacket in the corner, and dropped his sword to the ground.

“I wasn’t really sure what it was she wanted.”

“Oh, and when she picked up, whatever it is she used, when she took some whip in her hand, you did not figure out what her intentions were then?” He pushed the Duke into a chair to wrench off his boots. “Well, I hope your adventures have not left you too badly injured. The Duke d’Alva is on his way to espouse Madame Elisa for the King of Spain, and our King wishes for you to go greet him.”

“Damn it, when will he be here?”

“Soon,” Lignerol said with a wicked smile.

The Duke was so busy with the preparations for the nuptials, he saw little of Rosalind. First, the Duke d’Alva had to be entertained. Once that royal arrived, the Duke was always in attendance upon him. He heard tales of the splendid Rosalind charming the members of this foreign court, but he did not see her. As far as their affair, she refused to see him. He began to grow thin again.

* * * *

The Duke had been so pleased with the confession he had overheard Rosalind make to her husband, he had foolishly confided in her uncle, the Viscount de Chartes. Little did he expect so much trouble from a moment of weakness. Although he told the Viscount the tale concerned a dear friend, the Viscount did not believe him. When the Viscount retold the story, he was very clear about his own beliefs, that the Duke was in love with a married woman who gave no sign of it. Creeping about his beloved’s quarters, the Duke was lucky enough to eavesdrop upon the most extraordinary conversation.

Princess Mary squealed with delight when she heard the tale. Rosalind had become frigid to her again, and the rumor would give her the perfect opportunity to torment her. She enlisted the aid of her lover, M. d’Anville, to send the Duke to her after she broached the topic with Rosalind. She felt perfectly wicked, so much so that she was getting ready to abort her plan. When Rosalind arrived wearing one of her love tokens, her guilt dissipated. If she was going to shut their love away, then she should also leave Mary’s jewels in their box.

“I have a little treat for you. Come, sit here with me,” Mary said, patting the bed next to her.

The Princess’ smile faltered, spooked by Mary’s cold tone. “What is it?”

“Well, you know how queer the Duke has been behaving, like he is in love, but with no sign of a mistress.” Mary’s smile widened as Rosalind nodded her head. “It would seem our gallant is desperately in love with one of our court’s finest ladies, and she returns his love.”

Rosalind tried to manage her features, but Mary could see her heart shattering. She started to reach for Rosalind’s hands, but she stopped herself, lest she appear sympathetic to a pain she inflicted.

“This is hardly a surprise. The Duke is a handsome man, with a good fortune, and much loved by the court. Of course he has caught the heart of some lady,” Rosalind replied stiffly.

“You didn’t let me finish. It would seem that this lady is so enamored of the Duke that she has confessed her feelings to her husband and begged for him to carry her away.”

Rosalind tasted bile in her throat. “How would the Duke know such a thing; it is a fantasy.”

“While it is extraordinary, it was the Duke himself who related the tale to the Viscount de Chartes. Although the Duke would not give the lady’s name, or even admit that he was the man in the story, the Viscount is convinced that he was speaking of himself.” The bed trembled as Rosalind began to shake. “Are you feeling unwell dear?” Mary asked, taking her hand.

June 2018
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