Palla led the way to her private chambers within the Residence. The house she had used to pay Branen's groom price had been unused for several years, preferring to remain near the Queen rather than commute.
She opened the door and motioned him in. The nervous young man entered the room and looked around. It was decorated with subdued colors and simple styles. He had half expected quarters done in vibrant colors and rich fabrics. She caught his expression and shrugged.
"It's dull, I know. Feel free to redecorate if you wish. I've saved enough wealth over the years, I can afford it." She pulled off her outer shirt and wore just her nayst.
"What's going to happen now?"
"To you? Nothing. You were a pawn. Daz however, will be dealt with in due time."
"And us? Did you truly wish to have me as a mate or am I pawn with you as well?" he asked bluntly.
Palla chuckled, took a beverage from the cooler and handed him one too. He popped the tab and swallowed, waiting for her answer. "Actually, it was done on impulse. Lona had made a jest of taking you as my mate and I said why not? I've never had a mate before. The temptation was never great enough to give up my freedom. But you know, I actually like you. You're bright and not bad to look at."
"You've never?" he wanted to ask but blushed. She understood though.
"No, I've never taken a lover either."
"Wonderful, so neither of us has a clue," he sighed. Palla sighed. She sat down on the lounge chair and patted the spot next to her. He joined her on the chair.
"Both of us are new to this. I admit to being a bit frightened of the physical side, just like you are probably. Let's take a page from Lona and Tashalia shall we? They became friends first, then lovers. Just because we're mated doesn't mean we have to rush into sex. Let's just get to know one another first."
Branen looked up at the powerful woman with a new appreciation, no longer frightened of her. She actually understood his needs and was willing to give him time to settle into the relationship before demanding more. He didn't think a female had the sensitivity to understand. Grateful, he smiled bashfully and nodded in agreement.
"I'd like to kiss you again though," she said, more a request than an order.
Blushing, he stretched upwards and met her lips. Her kiss was tentative and undemanding. He relaxed and leaned against her large frame. She pulled him closer and just held him as they got to know one another silently.
The queen let out her breath with a shaky sigh of pleasure. Lona had magical fingers. Her hands, always warm, worked the fragrant oil into her skin, easing the soreness of her back. The gentleness and sensitivity of her hands always surprised her. She could feel the slightest difference in her body, finding each knotted muscle. Lona never once hurt her when she probed the tense muscles and urged them to loosen.
"Ohh, look at the size of this one!" She muttered to herself. Tashalia felt a fingertip trace a spot on her back, following the outline of bundled tendons. A delicate touch on the tender spot and it slowly began to ease its hold. After a few minutes, the queen could feel the bunched muscles turn to jelly and relax. Her mate ran her palms along her entire back, searching for any other trouble spots. Finding none, she just massaged her skin for a while as she worked lower and lower.
By the time Lona had reached her calves, she was fast asleep.
The rested new mother woke when soft lips brushed her temple.
"Sweetie, I hate to wake you but Belle is a bossy little thing and demands her supper."
Tashalia chuckled and eased herself into a sitting position as Lona propped pillows behind her.
"Where is the little dictator?"
Lona fetched the fussing infant from her cradle and brought her to her mother. "Here she is." Lona lifted the child and placed a kiss on her brow before handing her over. She crawled in next to her, settling down to watch their child as she nursed. She loved watching. It also gave her other ideas that made her mentally slap herself.
"Lona." Her mate's chastising voice said with perfect understanding where her mind had wandered to.
"Aww, I can't help it. I don't think there's a mate in existence that didn't think the same thing watching their child breastfeed," she pouted. Tashalia chuckled, shaking Belle.
Finding her pout adorable, Tashalia put her arm around her mate and pulled her closer. "Give it a try," she grinned. Her alien mate grinned and lowered her mouth and took the nipple gently.
She hummed, just enjoying having it in her mouth after so long. She had avoided the over sensitive tips the last few months. After a moment, she used more tongue than suction to draw on it. Warm liquid filled her mouth. She released the dark nipple and let the flavor cover her taste buds.
Then grimaced in disgust. "Ugh, Belle, its all yours! I prefer my milk cold and your mama isn't going to let me refrigerate her teats."
Tashalia choked as a laugh broke out of her.
"I have a surprise for you outside. Do you feel up to spending time in the garden?" Lona asked.
"Sure. I'm sore but some fresh air would be nice." Lona helped her up and took the infant. She lent her mate an arm for support and opened the outer doors to their chambers. They nodded to the newly posted Palace guards and headed for the service elevator instead of the stairs as was their usual habit. The human missed her former quarters because she could no longer just walk out into the garden. But Tashalia's chambers were easier to protect on an upper floor. Sometimes you had to sacrifice conveniences.
A slow stroll later, she led her to a shady spot within the garden. Tashalia saw something new. An odd net had been strung between two sturdy trees.
"It is called a hammock. Perfect for lazing around on a hot summer day," she said fondly. "Want to try it out?"
The monarch looked at it nervously. It looked unsteady.
"Don't worry, I'm going to help you in and out of it. I don't think you're quite up to wrestling with it yet." Lona placed Belle into her arms and easily lifted both of them. She placed them into the center of the hammock and adjusted the netting so it was nestled around her sides. Reaching behind a bush, she brought out a pillow and put it behind Tashalia's head. She grinned at her uncertain expression and pulled out another treat, an icy glass of krataberry juice with a straw.
Nervous by the unfamiliar swinging motion at first, the tall woman slowly relaxed when she saw that she was snug within the satiny netting and it was very comfortable. The light breeze cooled her, both front and back, and instantly understood the reason for its structure. She smiled and took a sip of her drink.
"Like it? I thought it would be nice to have around. I'm having a second one built, big enough for two," she winked.
"I do like it. I think Belle does too. She's sound asleep."
"Well, wrapped in your arms and a full tummy, I would be too," Lona teased. "Why don't you take a nap? I need to work off some excess energy in the gym. The guards know you're out here and keeping a close eye on the grounds." Tashalia thanked her sweetly, pulling her close for a lingering kiss.
"Pleasant dreams my heart. Bye munchkin," she grinned, kissing the baby's cheek. She waved goodbye and headed indoors.
The gym held the usual assortment of equipment but one piece was built just for her. Heavy weights connected to a cable system were set up so she'd be able to tax her muscles. Living on a planet with lighter gravity, although easier on her joints, gave her little chance to keep up her muscle strength. She needed to work with the heavy weights on a regular basis or wear weights most of the day. The later just wasn't appealing, so she chose to work four times a week using massive weights.
Lona began her grueling workout, forcing herself to her limits. Sweat poured from her, soaking her clothing. Stopping briefly at the end of her set, she stopped to gulp down a quart of liquid Doctor Taob had developed for her system. Grabbing a towel, she wiped her face then sat back down, ready for the next set.
"Could I try that?" a male voice asked. Lona hadn't heard him enter the room, but then again, she didn't have the sharp ears of the C'helans.
"Hello Branen. I thought you'd be in your quarters with Palla."
"We were for a while, but she had to help with something. She'll be back around T'hm. (Dinner time).So, may I try it?"
Lona blew out her breath, she was tired anyway after the their bout of lovemaking earlier. "Sure, sit here." She patted the bench and reached down to lessen the weight. Giving him a quick lesson on how to maneuver the weights, she watched him struggle. "Wait, let me take off some weight, it's too heavy for you.. There, try that."
Branen had an easier time with it. She corrected him as he went through the motions and nodded with approval. Showing him several exercises, she let the young man experiment as she spotted him. After a bit, he stopped and looked nervously towards her. He had something on his mind.
"Mistress Lona, could I speak with you about something?"
The young man blushed, uncertain how to begin. "Could youIPalla and I, well"
Lona lifted her eyebrow, waiting for him to spit it out.
"We haven'tyou know. She said we should wait, to be like you and the Queen. She said that the two of you were first friends. I watched the both of you. You seem very happy together. I was wondering if...I was wondering if you could give me some advice, some pointers?" the young man turned a bright pink.
"Ahh, you want to know what to expect and to do. It isn't that simple Branen," she said uncomfortably. It was one thing to be intimate with Tashalia, another to discuss it with someone else.
"Isn't there something you could tell me? Neither of us have done it before."
Lona could sympathize. She remembered how shy she was the first time.
"Well, I think getting to know one another is a good thing. You will be together for a long time and it's always better if you care for one another. Now, I can only tell you about the female viewpoint, but if I had to give you a single piece of advice, I'd tell you to just relax and kiss a lot.," she grinned.
"That's it? No techniques? How do I-"
She waved her hand and stopped him. "Branen, do you want a happy relationship?"
"Then kiss and cuddle a lot. Believe it or not, the rest is actually not important. Yes, I know it seems to be, but it really isn't. If you just allow the emotional intimacy to build, the rest will come without trying. Just allow yourselves to enjoy one another. If you want to have lovemaking and not just obligatory sex, then it is something you do every moment, not just in the bedroom. Pay attention to her, get to know her, and don't be shy about showing her affection. Oh, I'd be careful not to do it in public until you're sure she's alright with it, but in private, that is another matter."
"Mistress, that works for the two of you, but you're unique. Mated couples aren't expected to be like that on our world. If I was that way with her, she'd be uncomfortable."
"How do you know? Did you ask her?"
"Then if you don't talk, how will you know what she wants? Remain silent and you only cheat yourself. Branen, Palla doesn't strike me as the cold type. She's been unmated all this time, and maybe she is tired of being lonely. Do you want to be her friend or do you want to be just a stranger living in the same place?"
Palla opened the door to her office with a sigh of relief. The fools under her had attempted to disarm the charge within the palace walls. Those fools no longer served the Queen. Her second retrieved the small bomb and examined it.
"It's still intact."
"Is it set on a timer?"
"No Palla. Believe it or not, it's remotely controlled. See? Here's a receiver. Someone has to set the bomb off."
"Can you guess at the range? How close must they be to it?"
"Hmm, I'd say within shouting distance. The receiver isn't that powerful."
"Then Daz or one of her people planned on being nearby." She leaned back against the wall and thought for a while. Then she grinned. "I have an idea."
Just as she thought. Daz was sitting in her vehicle, parked across the street from the east side of the Residence, facing the wing that housed the Royal Family. The Security Chief had told her mate to return to Daz's estate and report that the bomb had been planted. Then he was to gather his belongings. Branen phoned her when Daz left the estate.
Promising to send someone to pick him up, Palla set her plan into action.
The alien was in plain sight of her scope. She was holding the spawn she had forced onto the Queen in her arms. It was perfect. Tashalia wasn't in the room with her. What could be better than this? She picked up the remote control and flicked the switch. She never heard the explosion.
The explosion rattled every window for blocks. Even though the Residence was told to prepare for it, the sound caused everyone to react.
The Queen entered their bed chamber and looked out the window. Lona placed her arm around her waist, holding her close. A secondary explosion caused by the fuel tank caused them to flinch, well, except for Belle, who slept through the entire thing.
"Hoisted by her own petard," the alien woman said.
It had been captured on video, to be sent the broadcast stations. The report given to them from the Queen's secretary stated that for her attempted crimes against the Queen and her family, Daz's estate and properties were to be confiscated and sold. The profits were to be distributed amongst the poor.
After all, Justice and Mercy had to be served.
Tashalia handed a piece of paper to Palla.
"What's this? She glanced at the deed to property.
"Your new house. You gave up your own home in Toma to purchase Branen, so we thought it only fair to replace it. The property is just a block away."
Palla was stunned. Himes near the Residence weren't cheap. "Thank you," she said, unable to say more.
The Queen nodded, understanding her surprise. She took Lona's free arm and she and her family headed for the main hall for open court.
She still wasn't completely recovered from the birth but the Counsel suggested that she hold it anyway. Many of the people were nervous about all the events of late and needed her reassurances. The Court Director stamped her staff three times and announced her arrival. The gathered audience hushed as she and her consort took their seats, Belle in Lona's arms.
Her mate leaned closer and whispered. "Tashalia, let me walk among the crowd with Belle. I think your subjects need to see that we aren't afraid and all is well."
Tashalia smiled, thinking it a good idea. She nodded, giving her approval. Lona returned the smile and stood. The crowd murmured quietly, wondering what was happening.
Then, to everyone's surprise, the consort walked up to the rope barrier and unhooked one fastener. She stepped into the crowd and held the baby up, showing off their new family member. The effect was instantaneous. People smiled and the tension seemed to evaporate.
Lona began walking very slowly through the sea of people, giving most time for a quick peek at the sleeping infant. A young voice cried out. "I can't see!" Spotting the child, Lona walked over to her and knelt, allowing the little girl to see the baby. The girl lisped out a thank you and shyly smiled at the notorious alien woman who mated with the Queen. Lona ruffled her hair gently and stood up.
With her simple act of faith, Lona won over the hearts of many, including those watching the broadcast at home. Still standing, Lona looked around and waited until the sound crew got close enough to pick up what she wanted to say.
"I want to thank the people of C'hela for their acts of kindness during the last few weeks. Tashalia and I have received many supportive letters and we were touched by the caring words you had written. Both of us know that our relationship has made some uneasy, some perhaps fearful. But your Queen has had faith in her people. That given time, you would come to know me a little better.
"What happened with the former Advisor Daz was an act of fear. I know some would condemn her as a traitor, but I can't. The unknown can bring fear to many people, and often, that fear turns to hatred. That is what happened with the unfortunate Daz.
"What is done is over with. It is time to move on with our lives. There are some I can assume, that might be yet frightened, but I ask you to hold onto your faith that in the end, the fear will pass. Even your Queen knew a moment of fear, when our child began making her way into the world, but the moment passed and we found happiness at the end." Lona smiled and kissed the sleeping baby. The audience parted and allowed her to return to her mate's side, a peaceful hush blanketing the room.
Her speech had been made impulsively, but Tashalia found it suitable. It was words of goodwill, and understanding of the people's feelings of uncertainty in these times. It had built a bridge between the Royal family and the rest of the people, standing ready for those who wished to cross it.
To Be Continued
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