CHAPTER 15

I tried not to shiver from the cool, damp morning air; nonetheless, I snuggled closer to Claude in effort to stay warm. Claude sensed my discomfort and covered me with a spare cloak he always kept in the carriage.
"That feels better", I said at last, stroking the deep, plush velvet. Claude chuckled as he held me close; the sound of the carriage wheels and clip-clop of hooves helped put me at ease.
I peered out the window and could see the chateau in the distance. It was unlike its more expansive, impressive cousins, but quietly stately and elegant. It had a warm, inviting presence, more like a home than a castle.
"Do you remember the first time I brought you out here?", Claude asked. I looked at him with wide eyes. "How can I forget? So many surprises," I began as I laughed at the memory, "and I haven't forgotten how surprised YOU were, Claude Frollo!" The interior of the carriage reverberated with my laughter. Claude joined in my good-humor. "Yes...the entire day was full of revelations...and good times", he said as he kissed my cheek.

I then focused on why we were making this trip. After a brief silence, I asked, "Claude, who was he, and what happened to him?" Claude knew I was referring to the soldier.
With a sigh he replied, "A troubled young man...I thought I was doing him a favor, gave him a job, but..." His voice trailed off as we turned up the long drive leading to the chateau.
Then, "He infuriated me with his ineptness; I had no choice but to let him go. He was totally unsuitable as a soldier."
I finally understood why Claude discharged his lieutenant, then Claude explained how the young man ended up on the estate. "All I know is what was reported to me: The man was injured, found by someone not yet known, and brought to the caretaker's cottage." I kissed his lips and stroked his face, my hand following the sharp profile. "Well, he won't run, that's for sure."
Claude chuckled as he returned my kiss. Then I added, "I want to see this fool who caused you so much grief!" We broke up in laughter as we neared the chateau.
Once again, my mind was engulfed in memories...more revelations...then, just as Claude said...good times...

******

"That was great! You tell the funniest stories", said Quasi between laughs. It started as any other Sunday; I went to morning Mass, then visited Quasimodo in the belltower. Although most of my days and nights were spent with Claude, I never forgot my special little buddy.
I had just told him my famous joke about the Hoosier and the Kentuckian; I had to slightly alter the reference to 'flashlight' - Lord knows I wasn't ABOUT to explain that!
We were still laughing when we heard a deep, familar voice behind us. "Such merriment up here!" Claude Frollo strode through the door; he was smiling pleasantly and carrying a basket. Hmm...he must be in a real good mood....
I warmly greeted him as Quasi set the little table. "I had a feeling you'd be here, glad I brought enough for three", said Claude smilingly. Then, while Quasi had his back to us, Claude quickly kissed my lips. Why so secretive, honey? I think he knows...
We enjoyed a pleasant mid-morning meal, all three of us. Quasi nudged me, trying hard not to laugh. "Go on! Tell my master that story." Claude Frollo raised an eyebrow as he sipped his wine. "A story? Ah...so that explains the recent levity", he said, then looking at me with smiling eyes, added, "Apparently Quasimodo found your tale amusing." He softly chuckled as he reached under the table and grasped my hand. Then he cooed, "I would love to hear it", while giving me a slightly smoldering nlook.

Ooh, if he doesn't quit doing that!...No wonder I give in to him!...He knows it works!

I tried to worm out of it, but it was no use. "Claude, I really don't tell this a second time, but...anything to please you."

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DUE TO SPACE LIMITATIONS, "THE HOOSIER AND THE KENTUCKIAN" CAN BE FOUND HERE. READ IT, LAUGH, THEN COME BACK TO THE STORY. (Don't worry -- It's clean!)

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Claude Frollo's mouth immediately twitched into a broad smile. He began to chuckle, then, overcome with mirth, filled the belltower with his deep, throaty, uproarious laughter. Even Quasi and I couldn't resist breaking up a second time; Claude's laughter was that infectious. "That was a riot!", Quasi laughingly said. "It's even better the second time."
I kept looking at Claude, who clearly enjoyed my little tale. "Liked that, didn't you, honey?", I said, my sides hurting from so much laughter. Claude, still amused, took my hand into his and said, "My dear, that was one of the funniest tales I've ever heard. It's one of your best."
He continued to chuckle as he turned to Quasimodo. "My boy", he said to his young charge, "I believe we shall miss this young lady; she's been like breath of fresh air."
I felt a twinge of sadness, for I knew my Parisian summer was quickly coming to an end. Fern was due back from Texas Friday; we would be leaving Paris the following week. At once, I pushed those thoughts from my mind, as I didn't want to spoil this light-hearted moment. Quasi just smiled at me, finished clearing the table, and left to perform his chores downstairs.
All alone in the belltower, Claude and I looked at each other. I could sense that he too, was reluctant to acknowledge the fact that, in less than fourteen days, I'll be on my way home. We said nothing of our eventual parting; instead, Claude, upon espying a book nearby, suggested a quiet Sunday excursion.
"I see you're interested in architecture", he said as he began leafing through the book on Indiana architecture. "Oh that", I responded. "I bought that book years ago. It's very fascinating, lots of history." I walked up next to him and pointed out the photograph of a stately mansion.
"That's the old Governor's Mansion, on Meridian Street; the present Mansion is just four blocks north. It's a very lovely house, inside and out." Claude studied the photo. "Very impressive", he said, then he suggested that we take a brief trip to see several fine, old chateaux not too far from the city. "I think you'll be impressed; some of these structures date back to the latter days of the Empire."
Hmmm...a tour of fine French chateaux..in the country...with Claude...

I've never seen much of the French countryside during my entire stay in Paris; but, I had no idea that Claude had another surprise in store for me.
As we prepared to leave, Claude propped his foot upon a stool, and dusted his boots. He was wearing a short, black tunic, hose, and boots; I admired the way the purple hose clung to his long, shapely legs.
Oooh, Claude...the finest legs I've ever seen on a man...
I couldn't help myself; Claude immediately picked up on this and playfully said, "Danisha! Don't tell me you are staring at MY legs!"
"Just returning the compliment, baby! If I'm correct, you were staring at MY legs..." Claude Frollo laughed and took me into his arms. "Well, I've always admired feminine beauty", he said kissing my lips. "Especially yours." Claude always commented favorably on my physical beauty, and I always returned the compliment.
"Well", I began as we descended the belltower steps, "you've got a nice package, Claude Frollo." My mouth curved into a wicked grin as I thought of Claude Frollo's fine physique.

Hmmm...he sure has a fine body...girl, look at those legs!...hmm...wonder what he'd look like in tight blue jeans...or...Lord, have mercy!...black leather....

Once outside Notre Dame, Claude helped me into his carriage. He looked at me intently as he settled next to me; a wide smile lit up his face. "Whatever you were thinking, Nisha," he began while he kissed my cheek and shoulder, "just be careful; you may get what you wish for." I just looked at Claude and giggled, my mind still filled with images of Claude Frollo dressed in...
With much effort, I pushed the sexy visions out of my mind as we rode beyond the city walls.
Now, I paid no attention to where we were going; I was too rapt in conversation with Claude. Then, unexpectedly, he began to ask about Jacki and her family. "What was her family name?", he asked. I thought nothing of discussing this with Claude; I thought he was just curious.
"Darcey", I replied, pronouncing the name in its Anglo form.
Claude looked puzzled. "You mean 'd'Arcy'", he quickly corrected, pronouncing the name in its French form.
He then said, with disdained expression, "Isn't English the language of your country?" I nodded yes.
Claude then rolled his eyes in exasperation and sighed, "No wonder! Typical of the English to take a good French name and butcher it!"
I managed to smooth things over by kissing his hands, complimenting his taste in jewelry, and telling him over and over how much I loved him. Claude chuckled as he returned my caress, then said, "I do believe we're here. You'll find this place extremely interesting; I've known the family for years. I'm sure they won't mind a brief visit."
My eyes took in the natural beauty of the French countryside; it's so much different from town. In a way, the trees and hills reminded my of home. I began having a twinge of deja vu; the main drive looked awfully familiar. I could feel my heart beating faster; my eyes widened in astonishment. Oh no! That's the chateau! Fern keeps the car on the estate! Why is Claude doing this?
Claude Frollo sensed my reaction and immediately put me at ease. "Please don't be too upset, my love. I thought it was high time you should go inside this magnificent home." He then kissed me as he helped me from the carriage.
I was still too bewildered for words; I squeezed Claude's hand as we approached the main entrance. Just then, a young man approached us from the side. He was about twenty, very tall, and with an athlete's build. Sandy haired, freckled complexion, I knew this young man right away.
"Kyle?", I tentatively asked; I knew this was Fern's son, but I wanted to be sure. Kyle ran up and quickly embraced me; although, I was glad to see him, I was still confused. Claude greeted Kyle warmly as we went inside the chateau; I asked him why he was in medieval France.
"Oh, didn't Ma tell you? She wanted to get back earlier. She's inside." I turned my eyes to Claude, smiling this time instead of swooning.
"You knew this would happen, even after you'd promise me there were no more surprises, you spring this on me." Claude laughed and put his arm around my waist.
"My dearest, I wanted the remainder of your holiday to be as memorable as possible", he whispered in my ear, "You are pleased, aren't you?"
All I could do was kiss his lips and whisper back, "Thanks, honey."

Kyle caught up with us; he began telling us of his experiences in Texas.
"Man, Texas was a blast! I got to shake Sam Houston's hand!" I looked at Claude in amusement, saying, "Boy, when Fern said a trip to Texas, I had no idea she meant 1840's Texas!" Claude picked up on my good-humor just as Fern approached us in the main hall.
"Well", she began cheerfully, "it's about time you folks got here. Minister Frollo, good to see you again."
Claude extended his hand to her, saying warmly, "And what a pleasure it is to see you as well." Fern hugged me and said, "You all come on into the drawing-room. Jacki's here and there are some other good folks I want you to meet."
Jacki's here? Why? And just who were these 'good folks' I was about to meet?

ON TO CHAPTER 16!

Copyrightę1997 by FrolloFreak


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