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The Nell Gwyn Chronicles - 5

Snippets about Nell Gwyn, told from the point of view of Nell and her lover, King Charles II

Charles

Sweet lord, she was beautiful. My eyes widened, as though by doing so they could take in more of her shape, the glistening of water on her soft skin, the spirals of steam that shrouded her heart shaped face in mystery. The tiniest of groans escaped my lips as she rose up through the water.

Without so much as glancing around, I heard her voice call out to me, “Charles, if you want to make my bathing a public spectacle, throw open the door. If not, come on in.”

I shut the door behind me and slid the bolt gently across. “How did you know I was there?”

She turned a fraction, pink lips smoothing into a smile. “Make yourself useful,” she murmured, passing me a sponge and rolling over in the bath. “Wash my back.”

I pushed back my sleeves and wrung out the sponge, rubbing it across her back. She sighed with pleasure as I worked in lower and lower circles.

“I could get used to this,” she murmured. “There’s little enough I love about being high and mighty, but I could take the baths.”

“If you’d let me find you your own place, you could have a thousand baths a day,” I hinted.

She laughed, rolling over onto her back, sending out little waves that lapped over the edge of the tub. “Not a chance. I’m your whore, not your wife.”

“The Duchess of Cleveland has one. Actually, she has several. Why won’t you let me provide for you, Nell? It would give me so much pleasure to see you happy.”

She looped a wet arm around my neck and pulled me down to press her lips against mine. “I am happy,” she whispered. “I don’t need to prove anything to anyone else. I don’t need titles and silks and palaces, as though we were married. As long as I’m comfortable, that’s all I want.”

I laughed, relishing the change from Barbara’s sour temper when she didn’t get the position she wanted, or little Moll’s tears when the diamonds were not big enough. “Where would I be without my Nell?”

“Oh, you’d find another,” she said breezily. “You’ve got to have a Nell in your life.”

“Never,” I swore. “There isn’t another girl to touch you in the world, sweetheart. I couldn’t replace you.”

“Good,” she murmured, “Because I couldn’t live without my Charles, either.”

She climbed to her feet, unembarrassed by her nakedness, and grabbed her towel from the end of her bed, leaving little puddles of water where she trod.

“Dry my hair, would you, my love?” she asked, tossing her wet curls over her shoulder and passing me a towel.

Caring little that she was darkening my new shirt with her wet body, I pulled her onto my lap as I rubbed her hair in gentle circles and pulled a comb through her locks. She closed her eyes at the sensation and I kissed the erotic white curve of her neck distractedly, though the little crease between my eyebrows did not relax.

“Charles,” Nell murmured, without opening her eyes. “What’s wrong?”

How the hell did she know that?

“Nothing, sweetheart.”

She sighed. “Charles...”

I kissed her neck again. “Sorry. I shouldn’t lie to you, but it’s nothing to worry yourself with. Just my silly work and Councils and all that.”

She shook her head. “Why you listen to that gathering of idiots is beyond me. They just make you unhappy and, my love, I can’t have that.”

I smiled. “I should make you a minister.”

She laughed, shaking her body against mine in a way that thrilled every sense. “No, thanks. You see, I –”

But I had already locked my lips to hers and pushed her back onto the bed, effectively ending her protests. With a delicious giggle, she wrapped her legs around me and pulled me closer.

As if I needed tempting. Nell was all I needed to distract me from the hated duties of my Council, and demanded nothing in return.

God help me, I loved her, more than anything.

Nell

“He’s done what?

“He’s invited Moll Davis to his bedchamber,” Aphra murmured. “Sorry, Nell.”

I scowled. “I don’t mind. She’s at liberty to sleep with whomever she likes. Ugly whore.”

Aphra raised an eyebrow, “You’re not so snappy when the King takes the Duchess of Cleveland to his bed.”

“Well, everyone knows Barbara’s a whore. That’s different. People love me and they hate her.”

“He’s still being unfaithful, though.” Aphra picked up a pen from my desk and started fidgeting with it. “Why do you have a pen if you can’t write?”

I rolled my eyes. “Aphra, he has a wife. He’s unfaithful with me, not to me. Look, it doesn’t bother me who he takes to his bed, as long as he remembers me once in a while."

"Well, maybe Moll thinks the same."

“I’m not in Buckingham’s pocket. Why should he tell Charles whom he should take to his bed? Can’t the poor man choose for himself?”

“Apparently not.”

My scowl deepened. “I wish Moll would just leave Charles in peace. He doesn’t want her, Buckingham does! Whore.”

Aphra grinned wickedly. “Start a scandal!” she hissed deliciously. “Make up some awful rumour and spread it around. There’s nothing people love more than gossip.”

“Now there’s an idea!” I leapt onto my bed, tucking my feet up underneath me in a way that would have scandalised the court, and patted the covers next to me. “Sit! We need to plan this.”

Aphra winked, locked the door, and then jumped up next to me. “Fine. What shall we say she did? Some great heresy or Papist activity the world will hate?”

I shook my head. “Too political, and I’m fed up with all these religious arguments. How about saying she, uh, is a greedy fat cow?”

“You’re crap at this!” Aphra lay back on the bed and stared at the hangings. “God, this room is beautiful. I wish I was you.”

"A gift from the King," I shrugged, "Tis nice to be so close to him. Now, come on, concentrate, we need to think of a new rumour. Let’s say, she slept with a hundred men before the King?”

“Too close to your own good story, my dear girl!” I mock slapped her, and she giggled.

“How about, she wet the King’s bed?”

“Now there’s a story!” I jumped up, and then froze. “Aphra. What if it were true?”

She smirked. “That’s the point. Everyone will think it’s true!”

“No, Aphra.” I grabbed her hands seriously. “What if we could make it true?”

She raised a sceptical eyebrow. “You’ve run wild, Nell. What were you planning, leap out on her in the night to give her a fright?”

“No. I was thinking... senna.” Her mouth dropped open and she stared at me in horror. “Too far?”

She giggled, and then stuffed a handkerchief in her mouth to stop herself from laughing. When she had calmed slightly, she stared up at me with glistening eyes. “Nell, that’s genius.”

“Not too far?”

“A little cruel on His Majesty, perhaps?”

“Not if we give it to her early enough – she’ll never make it to his bed.”

“Stuck in the privy all night!” Aphra giggled again. “Nell, you rascal!”

“How will we do it?”

“That’s as easy as anything. I wasn’t lying when I said Moll was a greedy cow. Buckingham has an assortment of the finest cakes sent to her room at teatime and she eats the lot.” I rummaged in my drawers until I pulled out a green glass bottle from among my medicines. “Aphra, darling. Can you get into the kitchens?”

She grinned, adjusting her dress so that her breasts showed even more. “I can get anywhere, Nell, you know that.”

“Well then.” I passed her the little bottle with a wink. “I think you know what to do.”

Aphra nodded, giggled, and was gone.

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