The Rose of Provence
Chapter 1
    The Princess’ Lady
    Louvre, Paris – 31 March 1543

    “ Do you think the army of fancy guests will notice that I’ve
just got out of the bed?” The man patted the naked bottom of the
woman stretching lustfully beside him.
    “ If any of them have ever seen the same satisfaction on their
lover’s face after spending the night together, then they certainly
will,” hummed the woman and coquettishly took a flower-fragranced
bonbon between her lips from the silver bowl beside the bed.
“However, that is why your wife won’t find out anything,” she
laughed ironically. “If what you say is true, and she is really as
cold as an icicle. Because then, she cannot know this
face.”
    “ You know, Diane, that both of us were almost children when we
got married, and none of us had any experience. Though, since then,
I’ve lavishly compensated for the deficiencies with others, but
Catherine obviously couldn’t have done this. At first, she couldn’t
have learned anything from me and now, I hardly feel like going to
bed with her,” the man pulled his mouth.
    Henri Valois was not the only French noblemen in his middle
twenties. But the women, who lured him to bed, did not give
themselves so easily to him, not because he was the rightful heir
to the throne, but because he was said to be a unique lover. He was
not the most beautiful man in France, but the carefully trimmed
reddish-brown beard framed an attractive face, and his
hazelnut-brown eyes were also talkative: they spoke the
blood-boiling language of passion.
    “ You’re so chivalrous, Henri. You protect her in spite of the
fact that in over ten years, she has not given birth to an heir,
not a single child,” noted the woman irascibly, and started to put
on her clothes.
    Diane de Poitiers was exactly twenty years older than the
crown prince, but the signs of withering have hardly shadowed her
body. She had flawless skin, full breasts, and it was not a
coincidence that her thick maroon hair and finely chiseled face
inspired numerous painters. Her beauty, her shrewd mind and nearly
thirty years of experience – which she gained in various beds –
taught her such tricks that have chained Prince Henri of Orleans to
her for nine years.
    “ However, you are not short of children if we take your
bastards into account as well,” Diane added dry. “But none of them
can be king, ever.”
    “ What’s wrong with you? It hurts that you cannot bear me a
child anymore?” the man asked as he also got up.
    “ God forbid! A few years ago, I
could have given birth to children, but I took appropriate
measures to
avoid that. You know that I already have two grownup daughters, one
of them is a year older than you, and the other is only two years
younger. The last thing I want is to have my child be of the same
age as theirs."
    “ Then leave me alone with this topic, you know that I don’t
like it.”
    “ It’s time for you to go, the guests are waiting,” the woman
looked at the wall clock. “They are celebrating your birthday after
all.”

    The castle’s assembly hall was full by the time Henri popped
in. The guests were freely conversing around the groaning, long
boards, covered with appetizing dishes and heady drinks. Besides
their flamboyant clothes and luxurious jewels, it would not have
been necessary to have additional finery, but busy hands decorated
each and every corner of the hall with colorful flowers. The aroma
of the spicy roast meat and the stout Burgundy wine mingled with
the stupefying fragrance of the roses and lilies to finally merge
with the delightful sound of the chamber music filtering from the
nearby hall.
    The music and the murmur of the loose conversation ceased in
a moment when the prince entered. All eyes were fixated on him,
cheerfulness twinkled in them. Only the bloomy glance of the young
woman, sitting at the head of the table, stood out from the crowd
and Henri did not see anything else, just the reproach heaping from
the

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