Hi! please! Is it possible to get an update of the royal equerry story? I am loving it! Thank you!!

Previously:

Part I: The Crown Equerry | Part II: An Accidental Queen | Part III: Just Claire

Her Royal Highness (H.R.H.)
Part IV: Foal

On the trek back to the palace after she had stormed out on Fraser, Claire felt her heart hammering a thunderous rebuke in her chest.  

She replayed his words over and over again: Do ye no’ ken who ye are then? Ye canna be just the queen.

Her head mocked his accent, the bravado and confidence of his voice when he asked the question and made the statement. At the same time, her head mocked her, urging her to come up with something (anything) that would serve as evidence that she knew, with any certainty, who she was.

“What was he thinking?” she muttered, fists balled at her side and fingernails carving crescent moons into the flesh of her palm. 

The next night, Claire was resolute in her stubbornness.  

Defying the urge to go for a night ride, she stood at her window and glared down at the stable. Her mind was ablaze with all manner of condemnations. (How dare he? He doesn’t know the half of it. Bloody presumptuous Scot.)  She finger-combed her shower-damp hair and worked it into a loose braid.  The distant amber glow of the light on his desk clicked off.  Craning her neck, she saw a hulking silhouette round the edge of the stables and ducked down as she heard the gentle rumble of a motorcycle.

‘A motorcycle,’ she thought absently, hands fluttering to cover her stomach.  

She had never ridden a motorcycle.  

Suddenly her thighs yearned for the mechanical power of it (a daydreamed sensation). She could almost feel what it would be like to have her back pressed firmly against the broad chest of a sturdy teacher.  She almost could the feel the control of the machine at her fingers, the curling of them around the rubber grips while accelerating.

Summer air, thick like butterscotch on her skin. Zapping pings of bugs hitting bare, sunset-warmed shinbones. Riding to nowhere in particular and everywhere on their little island (her island).  Kicking up great, billowing plumes of tan dust on gravel roads and getting lost on lanes to fields with turns and turns and turns to obscurity.  Climbing off of the motorcycle and laughing, her searching fingers in saddle bags to produce sweating Cokes or beers or wax paper-wrapped sandwiches. Refueling and buying a pack of cigarettes without her own face staring back at her from the newspaper stand, letting the cashier keep the change with a smile. Anonymous. Swapping spots, snuggling into a leather jacket that smelled of forest and man. Picking a stray auburn hair off of a white t-shirt as she climbed onto the back of a motorcycle.

She yanked the curtains shut, her mouth tripping over a series of four-letter words.

The second night, she had taken up residence by the window in her riding gear. “This is stupid,” she said aloud, just to confirm that she still had a voice. 

She made it as far as the back stairwell before returning to her bedroom and stripping down to her underwear.  Second guessing it all –– the riding, the answer to his question, what she would say if he tried to ask again, whether she wanted him to ask again.  Sitting with a frustrated pout pulling at her mouth, she elected not to go downstairs.

When she heard the roar of the motorcycle’s engine, she was reasonably certain that she would never ride on either the front or back of a motorcycle.

The third night, she was caught up in a state affair. 

An intricate blue dress, a twisted updo that made her temples ache and eyes water, a series of conversations switching from French to English that made her head spin.

Frank called that evening when she was finished, and they exchanged pleasantries. She rubbed her feet and stared at the window, knowing that with the phone call it was too late to make an appearance at the stables and to find Fraser.  After wading through the mundanities of their daily lives (the scallops she had for dinner and the dreadful summer cold he felt coming on), Frank concluded their conversation, saying, “I will see you Saturday.”  

She felt her heart catch on something and the thoughts in her brain splash against the limits of her skull, like water sloshing in a basin. With a flat affect, she responded with the only thing that came to mind: “Alright.”

Exhausted, she slept face down and dreamt of summer-warm limbs on beach towels, suntan lotion, and sweating bottles of beer with a broad-shouldered stranger. A motorcycle just down the beach and shaking sand out of canvas tennis shoes with peals of howling laughter.

On the fourth night, she finally exited her suite via the back stairwell.  She found the stables to be eerily quiet. Riding gloves in hand, she made her way down to the last stall where a light glowed with the promise of Fraser’s continued presence.  

The door had been thrown open wide into the exercise yard.  Drawing her blouse over her mouth, Claire sputtered on the unusual, odiferous cocktail of feed, hay, dust, urine, and manure in the air.

Fraser, shirt sleeves rolled to the elbows, was crouching at the gate of the stall, arms draped through the pickets.  She was about to say something, an overtly playful volley as an olive branch to apologize for her hasty departure earlier in the week.

But then what she was made her fall nearly breathless.

One of the mares was on her side –– legs extended out in front of her, neck heaving.  The heavy, panting sounds of labor filled the air.

“Not that much longer, love,” Fraser crooned, a piece of straw rolling between his fingers.  

Claire stuffed her gloves one of her back pockets and took a tentative step towards the gate. A little stunned and already knowing the answer, she asked, “Is the mare in labor?”

Fraser turned, immediately narrowing his eyes. A man she did not recognize was standing looking at a watch with detached coolness. When he looked up he startled, mouth falling open dumbly as he made a half-bow. Claire waved the gesture off with a casual dismissiveness.

“Yer majesty…” the man said, fingers going to straighten his tie as he stood back to full height. “An honor, I’m…”

Jamie broke into the introduction. “Aye.  She’s been straining and pacing about for a few hours now. It’s about time.”

For a moment Fraser’s eyes traveled over Claire, inspecting but not questioning.  It was an intrusive look, searching intimately, but she welcomed it. It drove out her indecision about coming down to the stables.

Fraser added, “Her name is Epona. The mare.”

Something in her wanted this to be okay –– this awkward, silent exchange of looks and their companionable silence. 

A few days earlier she had pushed, wanting him to ask something personal just so she could hear herself say it. And he had risen to it.

He had asked who she was.

She yearned for the sickening feeling of riding in a car at high speed at reverse. The gut churning knowledge that while she could never go back, she could reverse course.  What she wanted was to go back in time –– to that moment where she had encouraged him to ask and he had. She would amend her response to his inquiry.

She would blurt out the true answer: ‘Who am I? I don’t have a bloody idea anymore, but I can tell you who I used to be. I liked that person.’

From Fraser’s thoughtful expression, it was clear his inspection of her did not identify whatever it was that he was looking for. She wondered if he craved that reversing feeling, too, or if for him this was work.  Her mind was a traffic jam as she considered the possibility –– he was simply putting up with her

The Queen, someone to be appeased

The thought grabbed at her guts and refused to let go.

When she said nothing, Fraser added, “This is Dr. Matthew Martin.  He’s an equine veterinarian.  Best in the business. At least he says.”

“Pleasure,” Claire said blankly, looking at Dr. Martin who was mumbling something and plainly stunned into incoherence by the near-midnight appearance of the Queen. Brows furrowed, Claire took one more tentative step towards the gate. “Can I come watch?”

She was not sure why she asked the question when there was absolutely nothing Fraser or the veterinarian could have done to stop her. But it felt like an intrusion nonetheless. 

Fraser quirked an eyebrow, lips curling into a slight smile. “Foaling can be a messy business, ma’am.”

“And your point, Fraser?” She raised a single, manicured eyebrow of her own. At this point, she would have sacrificed the entire trust of land in her portfolio for a little messy business.

In a movement so fast that she wondered if she had imagined it, Fraser licked his lower lip and drew it in between his teeth.

He was smirking at her.

His expression flipped back to neutrality by the time he shrugged and responded, “No point, ma’am. Ye’re welcome to watch, if ye want.”

Giving her own lower lip a quick swipe of her tongue, she went to the gate and stood next to him.  For a moment she considered crouching just so he would not be towering over him. He had her off balance and she wanted to be on his level.  But before she could adjust her position, he stood, dropping the piece of straw.

“It willna be much longer, ma’am. She’s been pacin’ and walkin’ the fence line for a few hours, ye ken. The foal’s in the right position, allantoic fluid’s been released. Ye’re just in time.”

“How do you know all of this?” Claire asked, not looking at him but unable to stifle the slight tone of awe in her voice.

“It’s my job, ma’am,” Fraser said simply.

Holding her breath, Claire watched as the mare huffed and strained, going to her knees and then back to her side.  

An unidentifiable part of the foal eased from the mare. It was covered in a bluish-white, rubbery protective layer. Claire reached for Fraser’s forearm, fingers winding around the curve of it and feeling the almost undetectable twitch of muscle there. “Oh Christ,” she whispered.

“And I guess I’ve seen this a fair bit… farm life, and all.”

Heart in her throat, Claire looked down at her hand. Fraser glanced down only momentarily, a quick flick of his eyes, before he resettled his attention on the mare. After a beat, Claire let her hand fall casually away. The warm bristle of his flesh was imprinted on her palm.

It felt like an eternity and no time at all passed before the foal was born, sticky and awkward in the straw. The slick, velvety head swiveled awkwardly. Eyes stinging, Claire went to her knees and peered through the bars of the gate. The mare gently licked behind the foal’s ears, earning a whimper from the newest addition to the stables.

“The instinct… it is… beautiful.  Nature just fills in the blanks where no one dictates how to act, how to be.”

Fraser stayed silent, leaning against the post and indicating with his head for the veterinarian to leave.  For a moment Fraser studied her: the hair flopped over her brow, the slight parting of her lips as she watched the mare inspect her foal, the slow way she blinked when plainly amazed by something.

After a time, when they were alone, she asked, “Will you stay the night here then, Fraser?”

“Aye,” he responded quietly, running a hand over the back of his neck.  “There’s somewhat messy business of expelling the placenta. Could take a few hours. If it doesna pass, weel, it’s a different kinda situation, ye ken?”

“Mmmm.”  The mare nudged the foal’s neck, grunting slightly. “I want to stay. To help. I mean, if you need it.”

“Alright,” he said, his voice carrying an entirely different tone than hers had the day before. “I’d like ye to stay, if this is where ye want to be.”

Turning, she looked at him.  

A riot of urges swelled in him.  

To sweep aside the chunk of damp curls from her forehead.  

To lick his lips as he inhaled.  

To straighten the collar of her blouse, pat it down so it rested flat at her neck. 

To brush the straw from the knees of her riding pants.

“It’s where I want to be,” she confirmed, lips curling slightly before she turned back.  

Fraser did not turn. He thought ten thousand things in Gaelic at once.

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