“How do you find the rooms, signore?” Leonardo asked Cesare Romani politely, hoping to get a positive reaction.<br />Signo...
“Well, I think they’re lovely!” signora Romani announced  as she looked into the front room, “Dearest husband, I believe w...
“I see your wife is impressed, signore.” Leonardo smirked, turning to the potential renter.<br />“And you say all the furn...
After entering the military, Leonardo had distinguished himself in battle, leading a group of soldiers courageously agains...
As Leonardo was leaving, he was stopped by signora Romani in the hall, “Scusi, signore. I wanted to thank you for renting ...
Kiara walked quickly down the street keeping her arms close to her body and her eyes averted. She was alone on the streets...
Turning off the main street, Kiara was faced with a small villa overlooking the Arno river. Wiping the tears that had tric...
She banged loudly on the thick wood, hoping there would be someone present to hear the sound resonating through the house....
Stepping back, she bent her head in prayer, Please, God. Let him be home.<br />
Upstairs, someone was indeed home to hear Kiara’s knocks. Leonardo had been home for a few days, sorting through some busi...
He leaned back and sighed. Of course, the doorman had to have the afternoon off. Maybe if whoever was knocking would go aw...
Bested by his curiosity, Leonardo locked his papers into a drawer and snuck out onto the balcony to spy upon his caller.<b...
“Signora?” he called out, causing her to start at his presence.<br />
When she turned her face to him, Leonardo was surprised to see it was streaked with tears.<br />“Oh, signore Costa! You ar...
“Of course you may come up, though you shall have to let yourself in.” Leonardo answered without hesitation. What kind of ...
Kiara murmured a quick grazie before pulling the heavy wooden doors open to let herself into the house.<br />
She walked tentatively up the stairs, peering into each room looking for Signore Costa.<br />“I’m in the last room on your...
She entered his office, relieved to finally be able to speak with him.<br />
Up close, Leonardo saw that she looked even worse. Her eyes were red and puffy and there were dark circles under them as i...
Kiara opened her mouth to speak, but a large sob escaped before any words did.<br />
Leonardo moved to the girl’s side, trying to offer some comfort. He rubbed her shoulder, trying to calm her down.<br />“It...
“He…my…husband…he’s…” Kiara’s words were hardly distinguishable from her sobs as she tried to speak.<br />Leonardo frantic...
“Hush, now. Would you like some time to collect yourself?” he offered gently.<br />Kiara just nodded in response, trying t...
Leading her by the arm, Leonardo escorted Kiara up the stairs to his room. “You may have use of my personal chambers for a...
“I’ll be in my office when you are ready to talk.” he said, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. “Take as long as you ...
Kiara washed her face with the pitcher of water on the sideboard, managing to spill some of it down her front in the proce...
She must have dozed off, for when Kiara opened her eyes next, it was dark out.  Judging from the position of the moon out ...
He said I could stay in here as long as I needed. Kiara reasoned with herself as she pulled back the blankets on the bed.<...
Yes, I will see him first thing in the morning. She laid her head down and immediately fell asleep.<br />
Leonardo had gone to sleep far earlier than she. He had attempted to work some more in his office, but found himself too d...
* * *<br />
Kiara woke early the next morning, at first confused to find herself in a strange room.<br />She remembered yesterday’s ev...
The sun was rising by the time Kiara left her room, groomed and dressed. She wandered through the halls, looking again in ...
She found Leonardo sitting in the dining room, stirring the contents of his bowl with a spoon absent-mindedly. When he saw...
“Of course you may come up, though you shall have to let yourself in.” Leonardo answered without hesitation. What kind of ...
“My husband is dead and I am destitute.” Shocked, Leonardo put down his silverware to listen better.<br />“He died a month...
“Why did you come here, then? Surely you have family in the city to go to.” Leonardo asked after a moment’s hesitation.<br...
“Well, why not?”<br />“I am in the rather difficult position of being pregnant with a dead man’s child. If I were to go to...
Leonardo took a large bite of his breakfast as he thought over what he had just heard. There wasn’t much he could do to he...
Kiara watched as Leonardo retreated deep into his mind. She was unused to relying on near strangers for help and the silen...
“To be honest,” Kiara began as she leaned back, “I do not mourn my husband. His love for me was not returned and I gladly ...
“Marry me.” Leonardo announced suddenly, making Kiara choke on her food.<br />“Pardon me?”<br />“You heard me. I said, bec...
Taking a deep breath, Kiara kept her voice level as she consented. “Very well.”<br />“Good. I shall make arrangements imme...
* * *<br />
“Before we go through with this, there are some things you must understand.” Leonardo warned his betrothed. She nodded her...
“I do.”<br />“Then, I, Leonardo Antonio Giovanni Costa, take you as my wife.”<br />“And I, Kiara Fidelia Bianchetti  Roman...
Kiara curtseyed to her new husband and took her leave. Upstairs, she entered her new room which had been hastily converted...
Kiara joined her husband in the entrance hall than afternoon to say goodbye. His time away was up and it was time he retur...
“I cannot tell you how grateful I am for coming to my rescue.” Kiara said as she leaned in for a hug.<br />Leonardo linger...
Upstairs, Kiara retreated to her room. “I guess it’s just you and me, baby.” she mumbled, patting her stomach.<br />
Leonardo went back to his life with the condorrieri as if nothing had happened. He told no one of his new wife, wore no ri...
* * *<br />
Kiara spent her days alone, wandering silently through the rooms, cleaning and decorating. She put herself to work adding ...
Since she had become mistress of the household, she had avoided going into her husband’s room, leaving it untouched from h...
The only piece of decoration remained Leonardo’s coat of arms displayed on a shield on the wall.<br />It was crossed with ...
Feeling the thrill of her daring, Kiara moved on to poke through more private spaces. She ignored the voice in her head pr...
Kiara felt a bit disappointed that she hadn’t discovered anything more interesting, so she moved on to a small chest by he...
She stuck her hand down to the bottom and shifted around the contents. On top was a blanket, but underneath were…ribbons?<...
Kiara closed the lid quickly and stood, feeling embarrassed. She immediately regretted her actions; she had set out with i...
She walked out of the gardens, glad to be out of doors. It had been a mistake to go Leonardo’s things.<br />
As she bent down to pull some weeds, Kiara thought to herself Signore Costa made it perfectly clear that he has no interes...
Kiara kept to her promise and steered clear from Leonardo’s private chambers, leaving it to the servants to clean and orga...
Kiara gave birth early in the year. She suffered no complications and welcomed her son into the world eagerly. He was flaw...
The first thing Leonardo noticed upon his arrival was the gardens. Flowers were blooming and the weeds were nowhere to be ...
However, he had carelessly left it out once night and it was discovered by one of his soldiers. It caused quite the scene ...
Upstairs, Kiara was doing what she did most days: spending time with Arturo.<br />She was startled when the steward entere...
Kiara gathered her son close, not know what to expect from Leonardo’s sudden visit. She had never received a response from...
Once the steward was gone, Leonardo held his arms out for Arturo. Kiara nervously handed him over, not wanting to part wit...
Surprisingly, Leonardo drew the baby up to his shoulder and kissed his head.<br />Kiara smiled as she watched her husband ...
“Would you believe this is the first baby I’ve held?” he asked.<br />“Hardly, my lord. You hold him quite well.” Kiara sai...
They didn’t see each other again until that night at dinner. Kiara had a meal of spaghetti prepared and it was nearly cold...
Kiara didn’t like the sound of that. “What for?” she asked innocently, taking a bite of her meal.<br />“I was seeking his ...
“Do explain, sire.”<br />“Yes, well, your letter announcing his birth was inadvertently made public  and now its contents,...
“Please, don’t apologize. It was my fault, truly. I was moving some things about and apparently forgot to lock it back in ...
A smile broke across Leonardo’s face when he saw the worried look on Kiara’s face. “Do not look so scared! It is nothing b...
Kiara let out a sigh of relief and took her husband’s hand in her own. “Thank you, signore. You cannot imagine the relief ...
“Speak no more of it, signora. It was the honorable thing to do.” Leonardo had the final word before he turned to his food...
After finishing his meal, Leonardo retired to his office to finalize some business pertaining to his new son.<br />The fir...
After working for a couple of hours, Leonardo grew tired and stepped out onto the balcony for some fresh air. <br />
He watched the trees sway back and forth in the breeze and let his mind wander. When he had first approached the lawyer ab...
Leonardo was brought back to reality by the click of the door as it opened. Peering over his shoulder, he was surprised to...
“May I help you?” he asked, looking away from his wife when he noticed that her shift clung to  her and showed off her fig...
“No, I am fine. But thank you for your concern.” Leonardo said, turning to face his wife and tucking a strand of hair behi...
“We have not consummated our union…” Leonardo said, kissing his wife’s arm. The lawyer had insisted that he bed her as soo...
Leonardo continued to kiss up her arm as Kiara waged a battle within herself. On one hand, she refused to be used as an ob...
With a surge of delight, Kiara gave up the fight, leaned into Leonardo’s arms, and kissed him back.<br />
Leonardo pulled her inside and locked the doors behind them.<br />“Kiara-” he said, pulling back suddenly, “I promised you...
Very well.<br />
The next morning, Kiara woke with a start to find herself lying next to her husband. She swung her legs over the edge of t...
She went out straight to the garden, searching for some fresh air. She hadn’t been as quiet as she had hoped and Leonardo ...
She blushed when she saw him. She had no idea how to approach him after last night. Things had changed for her, but had th...
“Good morning, wife.” he said, kissing her hand in a grand gesture. “Did you sleep well?”<br />“Quite so, husband.”<br />“...
Kiara’ voice caught in her throat. Was she hearing correctly?!<br />“Now that we are truly husband and wife, I wish her to...
“I would say she returns your feelings.” Kiara said and pulled Leonardo into a kiss.<br />
“And what would she say if I asked her to have me as a true husband this time? Would she agree to being my wife in every w...
“She would say that is all he ever wanted.” Kiara said gleefully.<br />
Kiara and Leonardo became much closer after that night.<br />Leonardo extended his visit for another few months until Artu...
There came a time, though, when Leonardo could not extend it any longer and had to return to camp. He pushed his visit to ...
“You must go?” Kiara asked sadly, though she already knew the answer.<br />“Yes, my dear. I shall write often and, if ther...
“Papa!” Arturo wailed when his father stepped back, moving to mount his horse. He had grown accustomed to Leonardo’s prese...
“Hush, Arturo. You know he has to go bye-bye.” Kiara cooed at her son, rocking him to stop his cries.<br />
She gave her husband a quick kiss and stepped back to give him room to mount his ride. Arturo whimpered on her shoulder, s...
Leonardo kicked his horse into motion and, giving one last wave, galloped off into the distance.<br />
Kiara watched until she couldn’t see Leonardo any more. His form had been swallowed up completely by the darkness and she ...
The End.<br />
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Leonardo

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A closer look at the life of Leonardo Costa.

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Leonardo

  1. 1.
  2. 2. “How do you find the rooms, signore?” Leonardo asked Cesare Romani politely, hoping to get a positive reaction.<br />Signore Romani stood silently for a second before giving a noncommittal grunt. He was impressed with the building but was hesitant to admit it, hoping he could get a lower price on the rent.<br />
  3. 3. “Well, I think they’re lovely!” signora Romani announced as she looked into the front room, “Dearest husband, I believe we would do well to rent this casa.”<br />
  4. 4. “I see your wife is impressed, signore.” Leonardo smirked, turning to the potential renter.<br />“And you say all the furniture is included?”<br />“Yes, signore. All of it.”<br />“Very well, then. We have a deal!” <br />Leonardo and Cesare shook hands before exiting to sign some papers, leaving the signora to explore more on her own.<br />
  5. 5. After entering the military, Leonardo had distinguished himself in battle, leading a group of soldiers courageously against the French. He was swiftly promoted to condottiero* and purchased a small villa where he could spend his leave time closer to the base.<br />He had put the Costa family home up for rent as soon as he inherited it, realizing it would have stayed empty otherwise.<br />*Mercenary military captain<br />
  6. 6. As Leonardo was leaving, he was stopped by signora Romani in the hall, “Scusi, signore. I wanted to thank you for renting us the estate. My husband can be a bit ungrateful at times, but I am sure he and I will be happy here.”<br />“I’m glad to please you, signora. If you are ever in need of anything, just call. You know where I can be reached.”<br />“Grazie, signore.” She said with a smile before offering a handshake. Leonardo accepted before taking his leave of the new occupants of his old house.<br />
  7. 7.
  8. 8. Kiara walked quickly down the street keeping her arms close to her body and her eyes averted. She was alone on the streets of Florence for the first time and was terrified that something would befall her were she to draw notice to herself. <br />
  9. 9. Turning off the main street, Kiara was faced with a small villa overlooking the Arno river. Wiping the tears that had trickled from her eyes during her walk, she composed her thoughts before going up to the front door.<br />
  10. 10. She banged loudly on the thick wood, hoping there would be someone present to hear the sound resonating through the house.<br />
  11. 11. Stepping back, she bent her head in prayer, Please, God. Let him be home.<br />
  12. 12. Upstairs, someone was indeed home to hear Kiara’s knocks. Leonardo had been home for a few days, sorting through some business. A task which he would prefer to work on uninterrupted.<br />
  13. 13. He leaned back and sighed. Of course, the doorman had to have the afternoon off. Maybe if whoever was knocking would go away of no one answered.<br />Then again, maybe it was important.<br />
  14. 14. Bested by his curiosity, Leonardo locked his papers into a drawer and snuck out onto the balcony to spy upon his caller.<br />He peered over the rail, only to be shocked to see none other than signora Romani pacing nervously back and forth.<br />
  15. 15. “Signora?” he called out, causing her to start at his presence.<br />
  16. 16. When she turned her face to him, Leonardo was surprised to see it was streaked with tears.<br />“Oh, signore Costa! You are home, thanks be to God! I have come to beg an audience with you. It is quite urgent.” As she spoke, signora Romani’s tears began to fall again.<br />
  17. 17. “Of course you may come up, though you shall have to let yourself in.” Leonardo answered without hesitation. What kind of gentleman would he be to refuse a woman in such a time of distress? “My steward is out, but the door is unlocked.”<br />
  18. 18. Kiara murmured a quick grazie before pulling the heavy wooden doors open to let herself into the house.<br />
  19. 19. She walked tentatively up the stairs, peering into each room looking for Signore Costa.<br />“I’m in the last room on your right.” he called to Kiara when he heard her footsteps on the landing.<br />
  20. 20. She entered his office, relieved to finally be able to speak with him.<br />
  21. 21. Up close, Leonardo saw that she looked even worse. Her eyes were red and puffy and there were dark circles under them as if she had spent a week crying without sleep. Clearly something was terribly wrong.<br />“Now, tell me what is bothering you.”<br />
  22. 22. Kiara opened her mouth to speak, but a large sob escaped before any words did.<br />
  23. 23. Leonardo moved to the girl’s side, trying to offer some comfort. He rubbed her shoulder, trying to calm her down.<br />“It’s alright. There’s nothing to be worried over, just tell me what happened and I shall correct it.”<br />
  24. 24. “He…my…husband…he’s…” Kiara’s words were hardly distinguishable from her sobs as she tried to speak.<br />Leonardo frantically searched his brain for the best way to handle the situation. He had never been in the presence of a hysterical female before.<br />
  25. 25. “Hush, now. Would you like some time to collect yourself?” he offered gently.<br />Kiara just nodded in response, trying to dry her eyes as Leonardo led her from the room.<br />
  26. 26. Leading her by the arm, Leonardo escorted Kiara up the stairs to his room. “You may have use of my personal chambers for as long as you like.” He smiled encouragingly to try to dissolve some of her sorrow.<br />Kiara looked around and forced herself to smile back.<br />
  27. 27. “I’ll be in my office when you are ready to talk.” he said, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. “Take as long as you need and remember, I’m here to listen.”<br />With a short bow, Leonardo left the room, shutting the doors behind him.<br />
  28. 28. Kiara washed her face with the pitcher of water on the sideboard, managing to spill some of it down her front in the process. Frustrated, she peeled it from her body and laid it across the bed to dry.<br />Finally, she flopped on the bench to rest. She had expected herself to cry some, but she had never imagined dissolving into such hysterics!<br />She chastised herself for being so foolish as she felt her eyelids grow heavier and droop.<br />
  29. 29. She must have dozed off, for when Kiara opened her eyes next, it was dark out. Judging from the position of the moon out the window, it was probably sometime around midnight. Leonardo would surely have gone to bed already.<br />
  30. 30. He said I could stay in here as long as I needed. Kiara reasoned with herself as she pulled back the blankets on the bed.<br />
  31. 31. Yes, I will see him first thing in the morning. She laid her head down and immediately fell asleep.<br />
  32. 32. Leonardo had gone to sleep far earlier than she. He had attempted to work some more in his office, but found himself too distracted by the unhappy maiden in his room to get anything done.<br />He curled up on a bench in the corner, regretting the fact that he had never created any guest rooms.<br />
  33. 33. * * *<br />
  34. 34. Kiara woke early the next morning, at first confused to find herself in a strange room.<br />She remembered yesterday’s events quickly, though, and set about putting the room to right and dressing.<br />
  35. 35. The sun was rising by the time Kiara left her room, groomed and dressed. She wandered through the halls, looking again in each room as she went.<br />
  36. 36. She found Leonardo sitting in the dining room, stirring the contents of his bowl with a spoon absent-mindedly. When he saw Kiara standing in the doorway, he sat up in his chair, cleared his throat, and invited her to join him.<br />
  37. 37. “Of course you may come up, though you shall have to let yourself in.” Leonardo answered without hesitation. What kind of gentleman would he be to refuse a woman in such a time of distress? “The door is unlocked.”<br />“Are you ready to tell me what you came to say yesterday?” Leonardo jumped right in to the conversation.<br />Kiara blushed, but took a deep breath and began.<br />
  38. 38. “My husband is dead and I am destitute.” Shocked, Leonardo put down his silverware to listen better.<br />“He died a month ago, deep in debt. All of his possessions were seized, leaving me to live on practically nothing while I waited, dreading the day the rent collectors would come and I would have nothing to give them. I put them off for as long as I could, but they finally turned me out yesterday.”<br />
  39. 39. “Why did you come here, then? Surely you have family in the city to go to.” Leonardo asked after a moment’s hesitation.<br />“Nay, sir. My mother and father are dead and the convent I had been raised in will not have me back. I dare not go to my late husband’s family either.”<br />
  40. 40. “Well, why not?”<br />“I am in the rather difficult position of being pregnant with a dead man’s child. If I were to go to them and beg for help, they would without a doubt take the baby from me as soon as he is born and turn me once again to the streets. They have no affection for me in the least; they protested my marriage from the very start. Please, signore, I ask your help. You are the only one I could go to.”<br />
  41. 41. Leonardo took a large bite of his breakfast as he thought over what he had just heard. There wasn’t much he could do to help the widow. Yet, he had once pledged his service should the need ever arise and the need had certainly arisen.<br />Sure he had contacts, but they were all in the military. He knew no one who would take in a penniless woman and her child. Maybe he could ship her off to his sister in England…or maybe the convent his other sisters were part of.<br />
  42. 42. Kiara watched as Leonardo retreated deep into his mind. She was unused to relying on near strangers for help and the silence was making her nervous.“I am sorry to spring this upon you, but I assure you, I had no other choice.”<br />“Answer me one thing…” Leonardo asked slowly.<br />“Yes.”<br />“Why do you not wear black?”<br />
  43. 43. “To be honest,” Kiara began as she leaned back, “I do not mourn my husband. His love for me was not returned and I gladly escape his omnipotence. Besides, I know no one else in Florence. No one knows can identify me as a widow save his parents who no doubt gladly wash their hands of me.”<br />Leonardo went silent again. No one knows she is a widow. No one would ever have to know. I suppose I could…no- it’s a foolish idea. Unless…<br />
  44. 44. “Marry me.” Leonardo announced suddenly, making Kiara choke on her food.<br />“Pardon me?”<br />“You heard me. I said, become my wife. It seems a reasonable solution. It would offer you the proper protection and, as you said yourself, no one would raise an objection.”<br />Kiara stared at Leonardo in disbelief, another marriage had been the furthest thing from her mind. However, the more she thought about it, the more it seemed the only option.<br />
  45. 45. Taking a deep breath, Kiara kept her voice level as she consented. “Very well.”<br />“Good. I shall make arrangements immediately.” Leonardo said, turning back to his meal.<br />They finished their meal in silence, not daring to look one another in the eye.<br />
  46. 46. * * *<br />
  47. 47. “Before we go through with this, there are some things you must understand.” Leonardo warned his betrothed. She nodded her head in response and he continued, “This is a marriage of convenience and I, therefore, make no promises to fulfill any husbandly duties. I do not expect you to act as a wife towards me in any way and I honor no obligations towards your child. Also, I will not make our union public and I expect you to keep it secret as well. Do you understand?”<br />
  48. 48. “I do.”<br />“Then, I, Leonardo Antonio Giovanni Costa, take you as my wife.”<br />“And I, Kiara Fidelia Bianchetti Romani, take you as my husband.”<br />Leonardo slipped his ring onto her finger and the ceremony was complete.<br />
  49. 49. Kiara curtseyed to her new husband and took her leave. Upstairs, she entered her new room which had been hastily converted from a storage room to her chambers in less than a week.<br />Looking around, she was unimpressed but accepted her fate with grace. This marriage was never what she had foreseen for herself, but it was what was necessary.<br />
  50. 50. Kiara joined her husband in the entrance hall than afternoon to say goodbye. His time away was up and it was time he returned to the encampment.<br />“My steward is to remain here, signora. He will see to all of your needs, including setting up an allowance for you.”<br />
  51. 51. “I cannot tell you how grateful I am for coming to my rescue.” Kiara said as she leaned in for a hug.<br />Leonardo lingered with his arms around his wife for but a moment before leaving.<br />
  52. 52. Upstairs, Kiara retreated to her room. “I guess it’s just you and me, baby.” she mumbled, patting her stomach.<br />
  53. 53. Leonardo went back to his life with the condorrieri as if nothing had happened. He told no one of his new wife, wore no ring, and exchanged no letters with Kiara.<br />He returned to his wanton ways and it wasn’t long before Leonardo nearly had himself convinced that marriage was still a foreign concept to him.<br />
  54. 54. * * *<br />
  55. 55. Kiara spent her days alone, wandering silently through the rooms, cleaning and decorating. She put herself to work adding a feminine touch to the house and it didn’t take long for her the villa to feel like home.<br />
  56. 56. Since she had become mistress of the household, she had avoided going into her husband’s room, leaving it untouched from her recent renovations.<br />Until one afternoon, that is, when she had worked up enough courage to enter.<br />
  57. 57. The only piece of decoration remained Leonardo’s coat of arms displayed on a shield on the wall.<br />It was crossed with a sword and an axe and such displays of military prowess did not appeal to Kiara’s taste.<br />
  58. 58. Feeling the thrill of her daring, Kiara moved on to poke through more private spaces. She ignored the voice in her head protesting to her snooping and opened the armoire.<br />Inside was nothing but a few tunics and shirts, probably too small or too worn to be of much use anymore.<br />
  59. 59. Kiara felt a bit disappointed that she hadn’t discovered anything more interesting, so she moved on to a small chest by her feet.<br />
  60. 60. She stuck her hand down to the bottom and shifted around the contents. On top was a blanket, but underneath were…ribbons?<br />Upon a closer look, Kiara realized with disgust that they were the favours of dozens of women, no doubt given to him by several of his other admirers.<br />
  61. 61. Kiara closed the lid quickly and stood, feeling embarrassed. She immediately regretted her actions; she had set out with innocent intentions, only wanting to learn more of her husband, but had found more than she bargained for.<br />Leonardo may have had a long list of conquests, Kiara vowed to herself that she would never become one of them.<br />
  62. 62. She walked out of the gardens, glad to be out of doors. It had been a mistake to go Leonardo’s things.<br />
  63. 63. As she bent down to pull some weeds, Kiara thought to herself Signore Costa made it perfectly clear that he has no interest to know me intimately. I am sure now that I feel the same way. He may keep to his licentious ways. I shall remain here, caring for the home and my child as is my lot.<br />
  64. 64. Kiara kept to her promise and steered clear from Leonardo’s private chambers, leaving it to the servants to clean and organize his personal belongings.<br />As she advanced further in her pregnancy, she left her room less and less frequently, waiting in anticipation for the day she would finally have someone to spend her days with.<br />
  65. 65. Kiara gave birth early in the year. She suffered no complications and welcomed her son into the world eagerly. He was flawless in her eyes and dismissed the wet-nurse, declaring she would care for him on her own.<br />She had him christened quietly in the church with no ceremony and it was only as an afterthought that she sent a letter to her husband informing him of the new arrival.<br />
  66. 66.
  67. 67. The first thing Leonardo noticed upon his arrival was the gardens. Flowers were blooming and the weeds were nowhere to be seen. It certainly was a change from the unruly mess he had left it so long ago.<br />He hadn’t planned on returning to see the new baby. When he had received Kiara’s letter, he had hidden it away, barely giving it a second thought.<br />
  68. 68. However, he had carelessly left it out once night and it was discovered by one of his soldiers. It caused quite the scene among his men; they were all shocked to discover that he had a wife and a son (or so it seemed to them) and they all insisted he go home for a bit to see to his family.<br />Leonardo’s resistance had been for naught and he soon found himself on the short road back to the home he hadn't seen in well over a year.<br />
  69. 69. Upstairs, Kiara was doing what she did most days: spending time with Arturo.<br />She was startled when the steward entered her chambers and announced that her husband had returned.<br />
  70. 70. Kiara gathered her son close, not know what to expect from Leonardo’s sudden visit. She had never received a response from her letter and so had imagined he may never return.<br />“You may go.” Leonardo said to the steward, clapping him on the shoulder in thanks for his service.<br />
  71. 71. Once the steward was gone, Leonardo held his arms out for Arturo. Kiara nervously handed him over, not wanting to part with him.<br />She coughed anxiously, not sure how Leonardo would react.<br />
  72. 72. Surprisingly, Leonardo drew the baby up to his shoulder and kissed his head.<br />Kiara smiled as she watched her husband rock Arturo gently back and forth.<br />
  73. 73. “Would you believe this is the first baby I’ve held?” he asked.<br />“Hardly, my lord. You hold him quite well.” Kiara said, still smiling.<br />“Yes, well. It’s not that hard.” Leonardo said, backtracking. He quickly handed the baby back to his mother and muttered something about having to be somewhere before leaving.<br />
  74. 74. They didn’t see each other again until that night at dinner. Kiara had a meal of spaghetti prepared and it was nearly cold by the time Leonardo returned. He came in after dark, apologizing for being late.<br />“I was in council with my lawyer.” he admitted as he took a seat.<br />
  75. 75. Kiara didn’t like the sound of that. “What for?” she asked innocently, taking a bite of her meal.<br />“I was seeking his advice about how to go about dealing with Arturo. He has told me all along to keep him a secret, yet recent events have forced us to rethink the situation.”<br />
  76. 76. “Do explain, sire.”<br />“Yes, well, your letter announcing his birth was inadvertently made public and now its contents, specifically news of my sudden wife and son, are now being shared all over Florence.”<br />Kiara nearly choked on her noodles, “Goodness! I am terribly sorry! I would have never sent the letter if I knew it would get out…”<br />
  77. 77. “Please, don’t apologize. It was my fault, truly. I was moving some things about and apparently forgot to lock it back in my drawer. In any case, there’s nothing I can do to erase the knowledge from my men’s memory.”<br />“How do you propose to remedy the situation?” Kiara asked calmly, though inside she was worried.<br />
  78. 78. A smile broke across Leonardo’s face when he saw the worried look on Kiara’s face. “Do not look so scared! It is nothing bad. I have decided that I cannot go against the story that has now been made public and that I shall recognize Arturo as my son.”<br />
  79. 79. Kiara let out a sigh of relief and took her husband’s hand in her own. “Thank you, signore. You cannot imagine the relief this gives me.” Tears clouded her vision as she realized the full magnitude of Leonardo’s kindness. He saved her from disaster, provided her a home, food, and a generous allowance, and now was naming another man’s child as his own. As his heir.<br />
  80. 80. “Speak no more of it, signora. It was the honorable thing to do.” Leonardo had the final word before he turned to his food. Kiara turned to hers too, but with a smile plastered across her face.<br />
  81. 81. After finishing his meal, Leonardo retired to his office to finalize some business pertaining to his new son.<br />The first order of business was to update his will to include Atruro.<br />
  82. 82. After working for a couple of hours, Leonardo grew tired and stepped out onto the balcony for some fresh air. <br />
  83. 83. He watched the trees sway back and forth in the breeze and let his mind wander. When he had first approached the lawyer about recognizing Arturo as his own, he had laughed in his face. Yet, after seeing the sweet boy’s face that afternoon, Leonardo had known it was the right thing to do.<br />He would never have a chance in life if he wasn’t given the proper start and-<br />
  84. 84. Leonardo was brought back to reality by the click of the door as it opened. Peering over his shoulder, he was surprised to see his wife standing there in nothing but her nightclothes. He had to admit, she looked lovely with a halo of light surrounding her and her unbound hair falling over her shoulders…<br />She really was a beautiful woman. Perhaps…no, he couldn't.<br />
  85. 85. “May I help you?” he asked, looking away from his wife when he noticed that her shift clung to her and showed off her figure quite well.<br />“I saw your candles were still lit and I came to see if you required anything. The steward has retired for the evening and I- I wish to be a good wife in every way I can.” Kiara answered quietly.<br />
  86. 86. “No, I am fine. But thank you for your concern.” Leonardo said, turning to face his wife and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.<br />The conversation lulled for a moment before Leonardo spoke up. “Actually, now that I think about it, there is something you could help me with.”“Yes?”<br />“It was drawn to my attention today that, um, our marriage cannot be recognized by the church, which could jeopardize Arturo’s position as my heir.”<br />“Why not?”<br />
  87. 87. “We have not consummated our union…” Leonardo said, kissing his wife’s arm. The lawyer had insisted that he bed her as soon as possible. At first he refused, but now that he thought about it…<br />Kiara flinched when she felt her husband’s lips on her hand. She could see he was attempting to commit the very act the had vowed never to partake in with him. The many tokens of his female admirers had sealed her decision so many months ago. Yet there was something deep inside her that wanted him to continue…<br />
  88. 88. Leonardo continued to kiss up her arm as Kiara waged a battle within herself. On one hand, she refused to be used as an object of his carnal desires. On the other, consummation was required to solidify their marriage and it really was in the best interests of her son. Besides, men often took mistresses though they had wives. Why should hers be any different? And who ever said she would ever become emotionally attached to Leonardo. This could remain a one time thing.<br />Even so, Kiara knew in her heart that this was what she wanted.<br />
  89. 89. With a surge of delight, Kiara gave up the fight, leaned into Leonardo’s arms, and kissed him back.<br />
  90. 90. Leonardo pulled her inside and locked the doors behind them.<br />“Kiara-” he said, pulling back suddenly, “I promised you long ago that this would never happen…I understand if you wish to leave.”<br />“Don’t be daft, Leonardo.” Kiara answered cheekily, giving him a peck on the lips.<br />
  91. 91. Very well.<br />
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  103. 103. The next morning, Kiara woke with a start to find herself lying next to her husband. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, trying not to rouse Leonardo.<br />She dressed quickly and left the room.<br />
  104. 104. She went out straight to the garden, searching for some fresh air. She hadn’t been as quiet as she had hoped and Leonardo had woken as the door closed. He threw on his clothes from last night and followed her out.<br />
  105. 105. She blushed when she saw him. She had no idea how to approach him after last night. Things had changed for her, but had they for him?<br />
  106. 106. “Good morning, wife.” he said, kissing her hand in a grand gesture. “Did you sleep well?”<br />“Quite so, husband.”<br />“Good- I wish you to help me with something else…I seem to find myself in an extraordinary position. You see, I am in love with a woman who is already mine. Yet I do not know how she would react if I were to tell her this.”<br />
  107. 107. Kiara’ voice caught in her throat. Was she hearing correctly?!<br />“Now that we are truly husband and wife, I wish her to know that I realize my feelings for her, yet I don’t know if she feels the same way.”<br />
  108. 108. “I would say she returns your feelings.” Kiara said and pulled Leonardo into a kiss.<br />
  109. 109. “And what would she say if I asked her to have me as a true husband this time? Would she agree to being my wife in every way, running my household, raising my children, and sharing my bed while, in turn, I would promise undying faithfulness and support?”<br />
  110. 110. “She would say that is all he ever wanted.” Kiara said gleefully.<br />
  111. 111. Kiara and Leonardo became much closer after that night.<br />Leonardo extended his visit for another few months until Arturo’s first birthday.<br />
  112. 112. There came a time, though, when Leonardo could not extend it any longer and had to return to camp. He pushed his visit to the last minute, leaving well after it got dark.<br />
  113. 113. “You must go?” Kiara asked sadly, though she already knew the answer.<br />“Yes, my dear. I shall write often and, if there are no skirmishes, I will return as soon as I can. Don’t fret, love. I will be fine and you have this little one to look after.” Leonardo said, stroking Arturo’s hair.<br />
  114. 114. “Papa!” Arturo wailed when his father stepped back, moving to mount his horse. He had grown accustomed to Leonardo’s presence and didn’t want him to go.<br />
  115. 115. “Hush, Arturo. You know he has to go bye-bye.” Kiara cooed at her son, rocking him to stop his cries.<br />
  116. 116. She gave her husband a quick kiss and stepped back to give him room to mount his ride. Arturo whimpered on her shoulder, soaking her dress.<br />
  117. 117. Leonardo kicked his horse into motion and, giving one last wave, galloped off into the distance.<br />
  118. 118. Kiara watched until she couldn’t see Leonardo any more. His form had been swallowed up completely by the darkness and she was left alone with her son.<br />Gathering him close, she forced a smile for his sake. She finally had everything she desired but had to say goodbye to the man she had grown to love. At least it was only temporary.<br />“What say you we go write papa a letter?” she asked Arturo who answered with a string of happy babbles.<br />- -<br />
  119. 119. The End.<br />

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