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Chapter Text


Philippe was taking a moment of rare quiet in his rooms to read, when the doors were flung open and the Chevalier appeared.

"My darling, you wouldn't believe—"

Chevalier stopped mid-sentence. Philippe looked up from his book.

"There's something different," Chevalier said. "What is it?"

Philippe looked around the room: the sumptuous fabrics, elegant furniture, the perfectly padded bench upon which he sat. "It looks the same to me."

"Well, it doesn't feel the same. Where's your wife?"

"Henriette is in Paris for a few days. My brother, in his great and noble wisdom, has sent her to convert some friends of her acquaintance to the cult of Versailles." He turned the page of his book so savagely that it almost tore.

"You mean we're alone?"

"Until Tuesday, yes."

"Completely alone?" There was an unmistakable gleam in Chevalier's eyes. "Just you, me and your big, soft bed?"

"Yes. I suppose."

"You suppose? Mignonette, what on earth is wrong with you? Are you quite oblivious to the potential of this situation?" He plucked the book from Philippe's hands and tossed it onto the end table. "No interference. No pained looks or long sighs. No spectral spouse lurking in the corner of the room. Just you, and I, and, I suggest, a good deal of wine. Until Tuesday. My darling, the king has bestowed a gift upon us!"

Philippe frowned. "He really doesn't do that."

"Well, perhaps that wasn't his intention, but it is certainly the consequence. And isn't he always asking you to consider the consequences?"

"It's true, he is."

"Come." Chevalier tugged his hands. "Let's get started before he changes his mind and brings her back."

That was just too tempting a proposition to resist.

Philippe allowed himself to be led to his chamber, where he threw himself willingly on the bed, pulling Chevalier down with him. They rolled around a little, freeing themselves of inconvenient pieces of clothing. Philippe's blood rose quickly and he sighed to touch Chevalier's heated skin. He arched up for a kiss, and Chevalier's lips met his for a perfect press of—

"Excuse me, your Highness."

Bontemps. The man was a like a bucket of iced water in human form.

"Yes? What is it?"

Chevalier's hand was down the back of Philippe's breeches, which made it very difficult to concentrate. But Philippe caught the words 'king' and 'urgency', and that look in Bontemps' eye that meant 'if you don't come right now we're all in the shit'.

"Very well," he said. "I'm on my way."

Chevalier groaned into the pillow as Philippe wriggled away.

Chapter Text

Philippe returned to his rooms two hours later to find Chevalier sitting at the table, busy with a quill. Philippe kicked off his shoes and came up behind him, peeking over his shoulder to see what he was up to. He was drawing hats. Philippe kissed his neck.

"It needs more ribbon."

"Don't be absurd, my dear. Feathers and ribbon cancel each other out."

"I beg to differ." Philippe nuzzled Chevalier's ear, relishing the soft gasp it earned him.

"Is the king safely occupied?"

"Last I saw him he was rushing off after a chambermaid."

"Ah. Should be busy for at least ten minutes, then."

Philippe chuckled. "You think so little of his kingly prowess?"

Chevalier tipped his head back and tapped the end of Philippe's nose. "He can't possibly be as masterful in the bedroom as you, my darling, or he'd have no time to be king at all."


"I speak only the truth."

Philippe took a moment to enjoy the twinkle in the Chevalier's eyes, the luxuriant fall of blonde curls over the back of the chair. His luscious, pink mouth.

Philippe leaned over to kiss him.

Somewhere in the corner of his mind, Philippe acknowledged a knock on the door, followed by a creak as it opened.

"For God's sake, is there no privacy around here?" snapped Chevalier.

"Well, obviously not," Philippe replied. "You should know that by now."

He turned to the doorway where Bontemps stood with his features carefully arranged into a mask of neutrality. "Forgive the intrusion, Your Highness. I'm sorry to say that the earlier, um, problem has recurred. The King requires your assistance immediately."

"Again? Can't he deal with his own bloody women?"

"Apparently not," said Bontemps, mildly.

"What's wrong with him?" Chevalier asked, eyes alight with curiosity and sparkling with anger in roughly equal measure.

"I have a list," said Philippe. "And I've just found something else to add to it."

"I have a few ideas of my own."

Philippe fondly stroked Chevalier's hair. "Wait here. I'll be right back."

"Fine." The Chevalier sighed. "I suppose it's not like I've got anything better to do."

Philippe tapped the parchment. "More ribbon. Trust me."



Chapter Text

Philippe weaved his way somewhat unsteadily back from Louis' bedroom to his own. Somewhere outside birds were singing, heralding a new day.

He should have told his brother that the seventh bumper of claret was a bad idea, but by the time he got around to it, they were already on their eighth.

It was entirely possible that he was drunk.

Well, then.

He crept very, very quietly into his bedroom. The Chevalier was in bed. Excellent. They could pick up right where they left off. He sat on the edge of the bed. After a brief battle with his coat he managed to consign it to the floor, and set about removing his left boot. It was tricky. Quite stuck, in fact. Damn. He should call for help. But he didn't want to wake the Chevalier so abruptly. He had very definite ideas about how he wanted to wake him. Well, fairly definite. A work in progress. But a nice way, that much was certain.

Now, the boot. He was Philippe de France, Duc d'Orléans, Duc d'Anjou, brother to the King of France and third in line to the throne. He would not be defeated by a—


The offending boot shot across the room, and Philippe tumbled back on the bed, where he fell instantly and soundly asleep.

The next morning was not kind. Nobody had thought to close the shutters properly the night before, with the result that Philippe was blinded by obnoxious sunlight the moment he opened his eyes. His head pounded. His skin felt sticky and feverish.

He staggered out of bed, tripped over his coat, cursed, tripped over his boot, cursed again and slammed the shutters closed.

Chevalier groaned, turned over and burrowed under the covers.

Philippe struggled out of his other boot and his remaining clothes. He pulled on the nightshirt his valet had left for him the night before. He drank several glasses of water and then, feeling marginally less like a lump of something that might be found on a stable floor, he crawled back into bed and fell back to sleep, clutching the Chevalier like a barnacle clinging to a boat in a stormy sea.

The next time he woke, he felt better. He quickly became aware that his front fitted perfectly to Chevalier's back. Also, one specific part of his anatomy seemed particularly keen to make more intimate acquaintance.

"Good morning, darling," purred the Chevalier. "I'm pleased to see you, too."

"I can't help it." Philippe tugged up his nightshirt and pressed in tighter, his prick slipping between Chevalier's buttocks in a most satisfactory manner.

"Oh, believe me, I'm not complaining. I waited all night for you, Mignonette, and, it seems, all morning too. If that clock is to be believed."

"My brother is insufferable." Philippe tried another thrust: it really did feel very good. "And terrible with women. The man has a wife, a mistress of every rank, my wife and as many chambermaids as there are rooms in the palace. Yet still he can't get anyone to sleep with him."

"Oh dear. I can't imagine how dreadful it must be. Mmmm. Do that again, my love."

"Of course you can't imagine." Philippe snaked his hand around to caress Chevalier's member. It was very hard, and damp at the tip. It felt delicious. "You wouldn't summon all your mistresses and your wife into the same room and tell them to get along with each other. I told him to communicate better with them, not start a mass brawl."

The Chevalier laughed. "I can only hope he takes your advice this time. And may it give him many hours of sensual bliss, that he may finally leave us alone."

Philippe nosed Chevalier's hair away from his neck, and kissed him there. "I think we should spend the whole day in bed," he whispered.

"I'll have to check my schedule. I'm a very busy man."

"Oh, really?"

Chevalier turned around to wink at him, and Philippe leaned in to kiss the smirk off his face.

There was a knock at the door.

Of course there was.

"Nonononononono." Chevalier grabbed Philippe's hand, clasping it firmly to his prick. "They can't have you. Not again. I'm putting my foot down."

The door opened.

"Your Highness, the King demands—"

"Bontemps, don't you dare speak another—"

"—your presence. As a matter of urgency."

Philippe threw himself out of bed to stand in front of Bontemps, too angry to even care that his erection was making a very noticeable tent in the front of his nightshirt. "You can tell my brother that I am otherwise engaged. All day. If he wants to see me, I suggest that he makes an appointment. For tomorrow. Or better still, Tuesday. Is that clear?"

Bontemps glanced down at Philippe's nightshirt. "Very, Your Highness."

"Excellent. I'm glad that we understand each other."


"Oh God," groaned Chevalier, from under the covers.

"I should remind you," Bontemps continued, "that your brother is the King of France."

"Oh, believe me, my dear Bontemps, I am painfully aware of that."

"Very well. I shall tell him to pursue the council of war without you."

"Thank you." Philippe turned back to his bed full of beautiful Chevalier.

He paused.

"What council of war?"

"Oh, for the love of all that's sacred," said Chevalier.

"I believe they are due to discuss the procurement of muskets for His Majesty's new infantry troops. He wishes to modernise the army's weaponry."

"Oh." Philippe turned back to Bontemps. "But he'll get it all wrong."

"Your Highness?"

"He has no idea about the inefficiency of muskets on the field." Philippe picked up his breeches. "The balls can get jammed in the barrel at any moment, rendering the infantrymen completely impotent."

"I know how they feel," said Chevalier, savagely.

"Tell him I'll be there directly," Philippe said to Bontemps.

Bontemps left, and Philippe called for his own valet to help him dress.

"He's doing it on purpose," said Chevalier. "It'll be the death of me."

"I can't let him make decisions that could cause our disgrace on the battle field."

"He won't listen to you anyway. He never does."

"Well, he will this time."

"Fine, then. Go to him. I'll stay here and look after my own fucking musket!"

Chevalier buried himself under the blankets, and refused to come out. Even for a kiss goodbye.


Chapter Text

Philippe returned from the council of war (if you could call it that - more like 'Louis lectures people on things he knows nothing about until he's called away to settle a dispute about wallpaper') to find his rooms deserted of all but his valet. Everything was neat and tidy, and Chevalier nowhere to be seen. He was handed a note, which explained that Chevalier had gone to take some recreation in the gardens.

As unlikely as that sounded, Philippe could not imagine why he'd lie about his whereabouts. He could only conclude that it was an act of martyrdom on the Chevalier's part. Philippe had little patience for it after an afternoon of his brother's belligerence, so he poured himself wine and sat down with his book.

He quickly found, however, that he had little concentration for poetry. His mind preferred to replay the spectacular argument about the potential failure of an overly large musket barrel, or present him images of the Chevalier spread naked and tempting on his sheets. Which was precisely where he should be, dammit, not sulking around in the fucking gardens.

And even if Philippe were to go and drag him back by the scruff, they now only had one day left before Henriette returned and resumed making his life a misery. One day to live as he truly wished - as he and Chevalier truly wished. Philippe drained his glass, flung his book on the desk, and called for his coat.

He found Chevalier sitting on a stone bench by the fountain. His walk clearly hadn't taken him very far from the palace.

"Ah, there you are, Mignonette!" He sprang to his feet. "I knew you'd find me."

"Believe me, it wasn't difficult. What on earth are you doing out here?"

"Why, trying to get a moment alone with you, of course. I have an idea. Come, walk with me."

Philippe gave him a dubious look, but Chevalier offered his arm, and Philippe took it, and they walked. Away from the palace, and towards the new maze. The paths were still unfinished and this part of the garden was quite deserted.

Aha. Deserted. Now things were making sense.

Chevalier led him deeper and deeper into the maze, turning this way and that, until they reached a dead end. There, Chevalier turned, and put a finger to his lips.

All was quiet. Not a soul stirred in the maze, spare for a couple of chaffinches squabbling in the hedge. Philippe stepped in close, about to kiss Chevalier for being so clever, but he was too late: Chevalier dropped to his knees and made short work of opening Philippe's breeches. In no time at all his cock was free and he was enjoying the evening breeze wafting over his heated skin.

Chevalier took him down in one smooth move, as if he were a sword swallower. Philippe gasped and clutched at Chevalier's hair. This wasn't going to last. He'd been denied so consistently over the past twenty four hours that his bollocks were fit to burst.

Chevalier backed off with a slurp, and kissed the tip of Philippe's member. "My darling, I have waited so very long for this."

Philippe caressed his cheek; he couldn't find words, so he leaned down to kiss of Chevalier's sweet lips before he sent them back to work on his prick. But the kiss was not to be.

"Your Highness! Forgive the intrusion, but—"

"Bontemps," Philippe growled. He was close enough to that kiss that the word made his lips vibrate against Chevalier's.

"It's a matter of urgency, your Highness. And discretion. Please."

There was an edge to that 'please'. This was Bontemps in absolute desperation.

"Good God, man," said Chevalier. "How the fuck did you find us here?"

"The hedges are not yet fully grown," said Bontemps. "And I spotted the top of His Highness's head from quite a distance. I have studied the maze extensively from His Majesty's plans so I was able to plan a route directly to your location."

Chevalier sat back on his heels, defeated. "We are cursed, Philippe. Go. Move into the King's chambers and be done with it. I'll remain here and die a long, lonely death. Perhaps your brother could name the maze after me."

"The maze, when complete, will depict several of Aesop's fables," Bontemps said. "I believe this particular section is already named 'The Fox and the Grapes'."

"Perfect," said Chevalier, bitterly.

"Your Highness," said Bontemps. "We should make haste."

Philippe shook the cloud of lust out of his brain and did up his breeches.

"We should stop at your rooms on the way," said Bontemps as he led Philippe from the maze.

"And why might that be?"

"You may need certain… tools."

What on earth had his brother got himself into this time?


Chapter Text

Philippe returned to his rooms to find Chevalier sprawled on the bed. A maid was busy lighting candles, mignons clustered by the window sharing gossip and Jean-Paul was feeding Chevalier grapes.

Philippe pursed his lips against a surge of jealousy.

"Oh, you're back." Chevalier waved the boy away. "What was it this time? Your intolerable expenditure on lace? An imminent invasion by the Dutch?"

Jean-Paul flounced off to the antechamber in a sulk, leaving them alone.

"I should be so lucky. No. It was, in fact, far more hilarious."

"Ooh! Do tell." Chevalier patted the bed at his side. "Sit, Mignonette. Tell."

"I was sworn to secrecy."

"Yes, yes. And?"

Philippe knelt on the bed. "If you tell anyone, I'll have to kill you."

"It can't possibly be that bad." The Chevalier regarded him, taking in his expression. "Oh my. It is that bad."

Philippe cleared the room with a snap of his fingers before he whispered in Chevalier's ear.

"No!" Chevalier burst out laughing. "He didn't!"

"He absolutely did." Philippe plucked a grape from the bowl Jean-Paul had abandoned.

"Secured to the bed?"


"But what of the key?"

"Apparently the Marquise de Montespan had carelessly dropped it in a moment of passion, and it fell through a crack in the floorboards."

"Do you believe her?"

"Strangely, yes. I have been telling him he needs to get that floor seen to for months. The damp has made it bow in all sorts of directions."

"I imagine the King did not take these developments very well."

"He did not."

Philippe pushed Chevalier's shirt up his thigh, and rested his hand there. His skin was warm to the touch, his body relaxed and responsive. Philippe licked his lips.

"So, why did he call for you? I would have thought that particular problem was more up Marchal's street."

"When it comes to certain matters, he chooses to trust me above all others. Especially as I happen to have a talent for picking locks."

"Really? And here I was thinking I knew everything about you, Mignonette."

"Oh, I'm full of surprises." Philippe ran his fingertips from Chevalier's knee to his hip, and placed a kiss there. "Marchal once had an assistant who, naturally, fell in love with me. I learned quite a few tricks from him, as a matter of fact."

Philippe drew Chevalier's shirt up farther still, and took a moment to admire the proud stand of his prick.

"Oh, did you now?" There was a distinct tremble to the Chevalier's voice.

Philippe placed his lips at the tip of Chevalier's erection before replying. "Hmmmm."

He drew the hum out until he felt the desperate tangling of fingers in his hair. Philippe smiled to himself, and kissed his way up from Chevalier's belly to his chest, pausing only to nuzzle playfully at one stiff, pink nipple before lifting his head to claim a kiss from his mouth.

"Your Highness!"

Philippe froze, his lips a hair's breadth from the prize.

The Chevalier growled, with considerable menace. "Bontemps, go away, or I swear to God—"

"Tell the King to call for a locksmith," said Philippe, his eyes fixed on Chevalier's. "I'm not here."

"It's the kissing," Chevalier muttered. "Every time we're about to kiss, bam, up he pops, like an itch in a whorehouse. We're cursed."

"Your Highness, it is not the King who requires your attention."

"Who the devil is it, then?"

"It is the Queen."

Philippe looked up. Bontemps was wearing an especially pained expression, and pointedly not looking at the bed.

"Oh, very well."

Chevalier howled in outrage, and tugged his nightshirt down, far too late to protect his modesty. "Philippe, how could you? She doesn't even like you!"

"Your Highness," said Bontemps, "I do believe it is in your best interests to attend."

Philippe kissed Chevalier's forehead, and hopped off the bed. "It's because she dislikes me that I must go. She must be desperate to ask for me."

"I doubt very much she's more desperate than me," whined Chevalier.

"Or as impatient." Philippe paused to brush the hair from Chevalier's eyes. "Be good. Wait for me?"

The Chevalier's parting cry echoed through the antechamber after Philippe as he walked away.

"Don't bet on it!"


Chapter Text

It was late. Philippe was tired, sober and agitated.

He hated arguing with the Queen. Especially when she was in the right. It had been melodramatic and unnecessary of Jean-Paul to profess his intention to kill himself in the middle of mass. She was, on reflection, perfectly justified in being upset. But she was so bloody sanctimonious about it. She had this way of looking at you like you were a piece of shit, and honestly, he just wanted to get blind drunk, crawl into bed and never come out.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he closed his apartment door on the madness of Versailles. He tugged wearily on the ribbon of his cravat and snapped his fingers for help in dispensing with his coat. The chair by the fire looked tempting, but he'd get an awful crick in his neck if he fell asleep there. So he continued on through the bedroom doors, closing them carefully behind him, only to stop in his tracks at the sight that he beheld within.

The room twinkled with the light of a hundred candles. A glass of wine stood ready for him on a table groaning with delicious things to eat. The bed was turned down and scattered with rose petals of the richest ruby red.

Chevalier stood by the bed post wearing only his nightgown. His hair cascaded over one shoulder, loosely woven with a crimson ribbon.

The breath caught in Philippe's throat. Chevalier had never looked more beautiful. Which was saying something: the man looked beautiful every fucking day.

"In case there's any confusion, my darling," Chevalier said, "I am seducing you. I am wooing you. And this time I will not be interrupted. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal clear," said Philippe, and rushed to the Chevalier, discarding his waistcoat along the way, eager to kiss him. But Chevalier raised a finger between their lips to prevent him.

"It is my belief that we are cursed," Chevalier said. "Recently, whenever we are about to kiss…" He kissed his finger, then pressed it to Philippe's lips; Philippe instinctively kissed it back. He was about to suck it into his mouth, but Chevalier snatched it away. "Every time we kiss, there is an interruption. However, you will be pleased to hear that I have a remedy at hand."

"Ignore any bastard who dares knock at my door?" Philippe couldn't drag his gaze from Chevalier's full, pink lips.

"You have proved yourself incapable of that already, my dear."

"Shoot them?"

"Come now, you could no sooner shoot Bontemps than I could wear an orange hat. The solution is quite simple. We shall not kiss."

Philippe pouted. "I like kissing. You're very good at it."

"Just because my lips are barred from meeting yours, Mignonette, does not—" He nuzzled at Philippe's jaw. "—prevent them from finding other targets."

"Oh." Philippe trembled. "Oh."

There was a particularly sensitive place behind his right ear, and Chevalier's tongue was ravishing him there. Philippe's fatigue melted away in the face of overwhelming desire. Every scrap of lust that had been thwarted over the past few days rose up anew, a hundred times more urgent than before. He fumbled with his breeches, eager to get quickly to work, before another interruption should befall them.

"Let me help you, Mignonette," said Chevalier. "I fear your buttons are defeating you."

Philippe offered himself to Chevalier, who made short work of undressing him. Each time a fresh part of Philippe's bare skin was revealed, Chevalier would kiss it: his shoulders, his ribs, his elbows, his knees, his calves. He lay Philippe on the bed, by which time Philippe's limbs were weak and limp and his prick strong, stiff and very, very eager.

"Oh, my love," said Chevalier. "You are perfect."

"I'm aching," whined Philippe. "You make me ache."

"I do?"

Philippe smiled. "You do. In the very best of ways."

Chevalier pulled off his own shirt and joined him on the bed. He continued his campaign of kissing, concentrated now on Philippe's hair, his cheeks, his nose, his chin. It made Philippe's body sing.

Philippe stroked from Chevalier's back to his buttocks, tracing every nub of his spine. One deft twitch of Chevalier's hips and their erections rubbed together. There was such pleasure in the heat and friction of it that Philippe cried out.

"Would you reach your crisis in this manner?" Chevalier whispered in Philippe's ear.

"Any way you wish it, so long as it's soon."

"So impatient," Chevalier chided, but his hips gained purpose, and his thrusts became more insistent.

"One moment." Chevalier paused, causing a petulant moan to escape Philippe's lips. Chevalier reached under the pillow and retrieved a small vial. He tipped the contents into his palm and slicked both their members with it. The scent of vanilla graced the air; Philippe breathed it in deeply.

"Oh, that's perfect," he murmured.

"Well, we are not savages, my darling. I pride myself on the refinement of my lovemaking."

Philippe snorted, remembering the time Chevalier had sucked him off in the stables, on his knees in the straw and sawdust.

Chevalier nipped playfully at his ear, and resumed his thrusting.

It was bliss. Absolute bliss. It could last barely two minutes longer, for Philippe's balls were full and aching, his prick already leaking over Chevalier's stomach. Chevalier's tongue was busy at that place behind his ear and still, Philippe hardly dared believe he would finally be allowed the peak of his pleasure. But he was. He spurted over Chevalier's cock and both their bellies, riding wave after wave of bliss. Growling and dazed, he tried to catch Chevalier's lips for a kiss, but Chevalier turned away.

"Not… just… yet… my… darling… just…."

Chevalier took hold of his own prick, but Philippe quickly slapped his hand away, replacing it with his own firm grip. It took no more than a few quick, deft pulls to bring Chevalier off, and Philippe took care to enjoy every shiver of delight that ran through his lover as he did so.

They lay entwined, sticky and replete. Philippe had never felt such relief in his life.

"And now, Mignonette, you shall have your kiss."

Chevalier's lips brushed Philippe's softly, with such tenderness. Philippe threaded his fingers through silky golden curls and—

The door banged open.

"How the Hell…?" said Chevalier.

Louis burst into the room, face like thunder. "What have you done with my valet?"

"Bontemps?" Philippe frowned. "Nothing."

"Well," said Chevalier, scrutinising his fingernails. "Nearly nothing."

Both brothers turned their eyes on him.

"Where is he?" demanded Louis.

"I thought nothing of it at the time," said Chevalier, his face a picture of feigned innocence. "But a friend of a friend mentioned in the salon this evening that he heard banging from a broom cupboard in the East Wing. We concluded at the time that it must be rats, or perhaps a secret liaison of some kind, but, now you mention it, I do recall seeing Bontemps in the vicinity shortly before I heard this news."

Louis looked from one to the other of them with mounting fury, then turned on his heel and marched from the room, calling for guards along the way.

"My love," said Philippe, with a tap to Chevalier's nose. "What did you do to Bontemps?"

"Nothing! I am offended you should make such an insinuation."

"In that case, perhaps I should go and help my brother in his search." Philippe made as if to leave the bed.

Chevalier tugged him back. "That will not be necessary."

"It will not?"

"I may have locked him in a cupboard."

"You didn't!"

"It was for you, my darling! It vexes me in the extreme to see how everyone thinks your time is theirs to squander on matters of absolutely no consequence."

Philippe considered this for a moment. "Actually, that's quite sweet of you."

"It is, isn't it? Besides, if I hadn't broken the curse, I swear I might have had to kill someone."

"Do you suppose it is truly broken, though? After all, my brother did interrupt us."

"There is but one way to be sure, Mignonette." The Chevalier's eyes sparkled.

"My sweet Chevalier," Philippe whispered, and kissed him. A gentle flirt of lips at first: the corner of his mouth, his cheek, his mouth again. Then a tender exploration that set Philippe's heart on fire, unlocking his passion all over again.


"Wait." Philippe pulled back. "What did you do with the key?"

"What key?" Chevalier strained against the hand Philippe had put on his chest to maintain distance.

"The key to the cupboard you locked Bontemps in."

"Oh, that. I tossed it in the fountain."

"You did what?"

"I dropped it in the fountain. It's of no consequence; Marchal has the key to every lock in the palace, does he not?"

"He does. Unfortunately, he is no longer in Versailles. He is in Paris. With my wife."

Chevalier raised an eyebrow. "My darling, I had no idea—"

"Stop it. My brother summoned me only the other day to express his concern as to Henriette's wellbeing, despite the fact that she is at the Louvre, with a full armed guard. It transpired that he was concerned not for her safety, but that she might be engaging in an illicit liaison with a member of court there. I told him he was ridiculous, he told me he would be sending Fabien to spy on her."

"Oh dear. Well, I'm sure dear Bontemps will survive until his return. Perhaps they can slide thinly sliced meats under the door for sustenance. And meanwhile we can enjoy freedom from… what are you doing?"

Philippe got out of bed and pulled on his dressing gown. He slipped his feet into his slippers. "I'm going to pick the lock before my brother attempts to break it down, and breaks himself in the process."

"Oh," said Chevalier, disappointed.

Philippe turned at the door and drank in the sight of his beautiful Chevalier, swathed in sheets, crumpled rose petals clinging to his skin.

He swept back to the bed and gave Chevalier a long, lingering kiss that brought both of them to gasping.

"My darling," said Chevalier. "Hurry back."

"As a matter of utmost urgency," Philippe replied. "You have my word."

This time, he was sure of it.