Beloved

Beloved by Annette Chaudet

Book: Beloved by Annette Chaudet Read Free Book Online
Authors: Annette Chaudet
Tags: General Fiction
“It’s moving! What is it?”
    Again, he laughed. “Well, see for yourself. Open it!”
    Everyone crowded around the harpsichord, anxious to see. Only Guy held himself back from the group. He’d been surprised and strangely elated when it seemed Richard had failed to give Christina a gift. If she had nothing from Richard it would make his own gift to her all the more special. But Richard had not forgotten. No matter. Whatever might be in that basket could never compare with the beautiful sapphires that lay so delicately against the ivory skin of Christina’s throat.
    “Oh!” she exclaimed as she reached in and removed a tiny white kitten.
    Christina was overwhelmed. She was afraid Richard had forgotten her, and now this! She held the small ball of fur against her cheek, smiling as the kitten began to purr.
    The others shared Christina’s delight and acknowledged Richard’s unconventional choice of a gift as they settled themselves around the room and fell into more intimate conversations, leaving Richard and Christina alone together at the harpsichord.
    “What a perfect present! Where did you get her?” Christina was enchanted.
    “She was waiting for me—and for you—in Arles when we docked.”
    She held the kitten to her chest and it immediately went after one of the glittering sapphires at her throat. Its tiny claws caught in the fine chain of the necklace and Christina, in an effort to extricate it, undid the clasp. The kitten freed, she laid the necklace on the harpsichord. She and Richard moved over to one of the sofas, the elegant jewels forgotten as the two of them proceeded to entice the little ball of fur with a bit of ribbon.
    Neither of them noticed the look on Guy’s face as he slipped out of the room.
    One by one the others said their goodnights, finally leaving Richard and Christina alone. She sat with him on the sofa, her feet curled beneath her skirts, her head resting against his shoulder as she absentmindedly stroked the kitten that slept between them.
    “I love the kitten,” she said softly.
    “What are you going to name her?”
    They’d fallen back into their usual roles, the awkwardness of the afternoon forgotten.
    “I don’t know…perhaps Espérance.”
    “Hope?” Richard looked down at her. “What is it you hope for, Chrissa?”
    “To be with you,” she answered.
    “You are with me.”
    “But you’ll be leaving again soon, won’t you?”
    “Not for two months.”
    Sighing, she leaned back against him. “Will we ever be together?”
    “Soon, Beloved. Soon.” He pressed his lips to the top of her head, then held up his hand, his palm to hers. She smiled as she pressed her fingers against his, repeating the words and gestures they’d shared for as long as she could remember.
    “Thou art beloved of me…” he began.
    “Thou art beloved of me.” she repeated softly.
    “And I of thee…”
    “And I of thee.”
    “And so it will be…”
    “And so it will be.”
    “For eternity.” They whispered the last words together.
    Christina looked up at him and this time it was impossible for Richard to avoid the kiss. He no longer wanted to.
    As their lips met, Richard could only think that it was going to be a very long year.

    Three days later the little kitten was found dead, its tiny skull crushed.

    The two weeks remaining before Christina returned to Venice flew by, and though Richard spent nearly every waking moment of those days with her, she would have given anything to have stayed in Arles. On their last night together, they shared a quiet supper in her father’s library. Both Antonio and Marco were out for the evening and Christina tried to forestall her grief over their pending separation by imagining that she and Richard were finally married and that this was just another evening meal for them as husband and wife. Yet, try as she might, she couldn’t forget that after tomorrow, it might be months before she’d see him again.
    All through their meal Richard

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