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He couldn't quite bring himself to look in her eyes. "My Queen," he said bowing deeply in front of her.
"Rise, Benjamin and approach."
Benjamin immediately obeyed. "How may I be of service to you, your Majesty?"
"I need your assistance once more I am afraid. I fear for my husband. My son, as you know will be named Regent. He is soon to be appointed.
The first time this became an issue the King's mother, Princess Augusta hid from me that there was a Regency Bill in place that would have allowed me to rule in the King's place, wanting that power for her own. Thankfully he recovered.
When the King fell ill for the second time. I tried to enact the Bill but failed our King. Instead, I caused a rift in our family between my son and I, by trying to gain power before he did. When his father recovered, the Prince did not take too kindly to being shunned from his father's return party, but I had my reasons.
Your father, God rest his soul, tried to warn me of the Prince's growing power. That he wanted the crown at whatever the cost. That with Doctor Warren in his pocket he would be certain to have himself named regent. He was right and I was wrong. Because I did not heed his warning, you were left without a father."
Benjamin's eyes wavered from the Queen's steady gaze, but only for a moment. He wished she would stop talking and get to her point, but she had a tendency to ramble when nervous, which only added to the seriousness of the situation.
"Thankfully the King recovered, but I still hold Sir Gilbert Ellis responsible. Even if there is no evidence to prove it."
Benjamin knew Sir Ellis was the one who uncovered the Queen's plan to have the King declared sane with the assistance of Doctor Willis and Prime Minister Pitt so that Pitt could have her appointed Regent, then have the King declared insane so she could take on that position.
"I fear for his life."
This shook Benjamin out of his musings.
"Is there no chance of recovery?"
Benjamin had to ask, although hating to see how the Queen had fallen into darkness herself. She rarely attended the concerts she and her husband loved so much. She attended fewer social activities. If not for her garden projects in Kew he had no doubt she would fall prey to the same madness as the King. Still, she stayed strong for her husband and her children.
"I always have hope but it has diminished greatly with the King's health. I have managed to reconcile with George. I must if he is to one day to be King. I have to make certain I have a place but I fear for the King's life. I do not trust that his son will not try and do him harm to become King sooner then he should."
"What is it that you wish of me?" Benjamin asked. He couldn't imagine her answer in his wildest dreams.
"I ask you to serve your King and I. To become friends with my son and his friends. To be my eyes and ears of what he may be plotting and at the same time protect him from those that would plot against him. You must win and earn his trust in order to be successful at your task. Can it be done?"
"It will be done, my Queen."
"I thank you, Benjamin and the King thank you."
Benjamin bowed deeply knowing the meeting had ended, he stepped back and bowed again. He reached the doors and as he bowed for the last time, he knew once he passed the threshold his life would be forever changed.
ONE YEAR LATER...
He had to leave her again. It was a heavy burden he carried but it was his to shoulder alone. It had been several months since they left her family home. Juliana and Richard have written several times but Clara refused to write back. She was broken and it was his fault.
He trained her as one would the Dragoons. She was a crack shot, only she used that ability to take a life, that of a Luddite leader who caused much pain to the province, to Juliana and Clara's brother Lord Richard Bentley.
She knew how to stall for time, how to steal away in the middle of the night, how to go undercover to stay safe, always to stay safe but when she pulled the trigger it was not her safety that was at risk, but family. It was not self-defense but a knowing and a willingness to take a life to save another's.
He never prepared her for the mental instabilities that come with such actions. Being a part of the Dragoons, having seen action on the battlefield, working in secret as the Queen's inside man, his hands bared the stains that will not wash out. Much like Lady Macbeth, he begged metaphorically for the spot to come out. None could see it but him but he knew it was there, blackening his soul.
Now his Clara was similarly tainted. He watched as she thrashed in her sleep. No doubt recalling that moment in vivid clarity. He wrapped his arms around her, willing her to settle and she would, just the nearness of him seemed to do the trick. However, she would still weep in her sleep.
Pushing a lock of hair from her face... he worried what to do. She burrowed a little deeper in his embrace. Benjamin prayed, "God, give me the ability to make her whole, to put her right. Please Lord, do not leave her forever ruined."
He knew he was not to blame for the circumstances, there were too many connections to name but she left Denwood Manor, because of his negligence. He had left her alone too long and she planned on shaking him up a bit. Never would either of them have guessed it would land them right in the middle of a Luddite plan to destroy her family.
If he had returned to her, as he promised, she would have never left and would have never been put in the position she now finds herself in. What a fool he was.