A massive carriage drove it's occupant to it's destination, the home of Bardi. When the carriage arrived, the daughter of Bardi emerged from her home to greet her dearest friend.

"Contessina!" Bella cheered as she departed from her carriage.

"Bella! Oh how I've missed you!" Contessina replied as she pulled her friend close in an embrace.

"Have you met your betrothed yet?" Bella inquired.

"Yes, he's...quiet." Contessina divulged.

"Like an unsettling quiet or shy quiet?" Bella asked as the two friends walked arm in arm through the house.

"Both," Contessina ventured in dismay.

"What about your beloved?" Bella murmured in a low voice.

"He wants me to run away with him,"

"Oh how romantic." Bella sighed wistfully.

"But I can't, this marriage benefits my family too much as it is." Contessina said disparagingly.

"What if, I were to take your place?" Bella proposed.

"I mean we do look like twins but not enough to fool everyone, my father can still tell us apart." Contessina protested.

"But I don't think anyone else can." Bella proposed with a gleam in her eye.

"Would you feel more comfortable if your father was in on the scheme? Surely your father would be happier if he knew you would be happy and it would be the ultimate 'fuck you' to the Medici family." Bella proposed.

"But why would you do this for me?" Contessina asked.

"I have had some news from my doctors, I most likely, only have months left to live, if I can spare you a lifetime of misery, I will die very happy." Bella admitted.

Contessina was taken aback by the news. "Does it hurt?"

"No, not really," Bella tried to shrug as tears pricked her eyes. "You are the first one and probably only one I'm telling."

"I...I accept your offer then." Contessina choked with emotion as the two friends hugged each other fiercely.

The day before the wedding, Contessina made her escape with her Beloved and Bella worked tirelessly on imitating Contessina as much as possible. Contessina's father, Bardi, even helped her with general knowledge about the Medici that Contessina was able to find out.

The wedding went off with great success.

However on the morning after the wedding, Cosimo knew that this woman in his bed was not the same woman he had begrudgingly agreed to marry.

"Who are you?" Cosimo demanded coldly the next morning.

"What?" Bella repeated as she blinked her eyes open, having drunk more than her fair share of wine the night before and feeling hung over.

Cosimo held up a mirror to show that the deep green had washed away from Bella's eyes to reveal her much lighter green ones.

"How long do I have?" Bella asked calmly as she sat up in bed and stretched nonchalantly. "I assume you have informed at least your father that I'm an imposter."

"I have informed no one." Cosimo assured her.

Bella blinked at him a few times before believing him.

"My name is Bella, I'm Contessina's best friend and it is joked that her and I are twins separated at birth." Bella admitted. "The one difference you have obviously found."

"Where is Contessina?" Cosimo questioned.

"I don't think you really care to know where she is, but truth be told, hopefully she is a world away." Bella answered proudly.

"Why switch?" Cosimo asked.

"Because I love her as a sister and didn't want her to be in a loveless marriage while also ensuring dishonor did not fall on her family although I may have to rethink how to secure the latter." Bella revealed as she looked off into the distance with pursed lips.

"Are you saying I am incapable of loving her?" Cosimo objected.

"In the way she needs to be loved, yes," Bella insisted. "However I get the very strong feeling that you would not even accept Contessina's love even if and when she gave it." Bella criticized. "You don't want this marriage any more than she did. So I will make you a deal. Your mother has informed me that you have given your heart to another and am accepting this marriage purely to please your parents, namely your father who is a very commanding man. So I will invite you to tell me about the girl you love and I will without any judgement or reserve listen." Bella invited.

"Her name is Bianca, she's a laundress in Rome," Cosimo began before telling Bella about how he fell in love with the laundress and then he went on about wanting to be an artist. But his father is grooming him to become the head of the Medici family and a banker.

"I can be from Rome," Bella grinned. "I mean 'Bella' can be from Rome," Bella clarified. "I will write a letter to myself, asking 'Contessina' to go to Rome to visit me because my father is dying and I wish to have her close by. If I can find her, I will bring her here." Bella offered.

"That's impossible."

"For what? Your new wife to bring a 'slave' she originally had kept at her father's home and come back with? You will have to keep your affair probably somewhat hidden from your father because I do not know how he feels about affairs, but I have no problem them. I am not the jealous type. All I ask for is to things, first: that you do not expose me or any of this affair to anyone for as long as you live. Second: that you are kind and friendly to me for the sake of show to everyone." Bella brokered.

"Why would you do that?" Cosimo questioned disbelievingly.

"Because if I can make you happy by bringing your Bianca here, I can die in peace." Bella shrugged. "I don't know if I can help with the rest but I will try."

"Die in peace?" Cosimo repeated.

"Yes, I'm dying, I don't know how much longer I have but if even a few short years, maybe a decade, with you means Contessina gets her Beloved and you get your Bianca, I would say that is a good deal. Because after I die, you will be free to marry Bianca and your family will simply have to put up with it. You have done your share in marrying into nobility, I believe you deserve to be happy too."

"How can I trust you?" Cosimo questioned.

"Well, I guess you can't. But you can put faith in me. Contessina has trusted me with her life and reputation as I have entrusted her with my life and my reputation since she has also switched lives with me. But I swear, I will do everything in my power to make all of this work. I feel I owe you the same loyalty." Bella explained. "Give me a few days to get this 'letter' back to me. Give me a few weeks to find Bianca. And I will return as soon as I have found her and secured her." Bella propositioned.

"Very well," Cosimo hesitantly agreed. "How much will this cost me?"

"Absolutely nothing, I will finance this on my own, because, truth be told my father gave me quite an inheritance when he died and my brother who is now in charge of the estate, is a very generous man." Bella smiled. "Now I just need to pretend to have something wrong with my eyes to explain the change in color and I'll be as good as new." Bella assured Cosimo as she dug through her trunk to find a soft gauze like fabric. "Cosimo, if you would be so kind as to make sure food is brought to this room for the next couple of days and a doctor to 'confirm' my condition. I will be eternally grateful." Bella instructed softly before closing her trunk and plopping back into bed. She took the gauze like cloth and wrapped it around her head.

Cosimo dressed himself and went out to the rest of the family and informed them that Contessina was complaining that her eyes hurt and called for a doctor.

Within the hour the doctor had come and confirmed that a strange malediction had befallen the young bride and that she needed to stay in her room and nursed back to health for a few days but that it was a strong possibility that she may loose her sight.

Cosimo had to fight the urge to laugh at the great performance. He did however try to do his part of worrying over her in front of the family.

That night, he woke up in the middle of the night to find Bella at a desk, writing something.

"What are you doing?" Cosimo asked blearily.

"Writing," Bella murmured.

"What are you writing?" Cosimo questioned tiredly.

"That letter I told you I would write, I need you to deliver this to the farthest region you can manage and give them express instructions to wait a week or two before delivering it hastily. I will reimburse you for whatever cost it may be." Bella informed him. "Go back to sleep Cosimo," Bella softly urged him with a gentle grin and a nod before turning back to her writing.

The next morning, Cosimo arose and found not just the letter but also a stack of papers stuffed into a large book.

It was Bella's handwriting, it was a story, about dragons and heroes and great adventures. He found himself enraptured by them.

Bella roused herself from sleep and rubbed her eyes a bit before looking around the room.

"Cosimo?" Bella asked.

"Did you write these?" Cosimo questioned as he held the papers up.

"I did. I have a great imagination but I have no talent to execute what I see in my mind so I try to use words to describe it. You probably think that's strange or silly for a 'woman' to write but I take great pleasure in it." Bella admitted as she cast her gaze down to her lap where her hands fidgeted with the bedding.

"No, not silly, magnificent." Cosimo praised.

"You...you can't mean that, you don't have to worry about hurting my feelings." Bella brushed off.

"I have read several works, few with such scope." Cosimo insisted.

"Truly? Thank you Cosimo." Bella beamed before she took the dressing the doctor had given her and re-wrapped it around her face. "Maybe, when I can 'see' again, you can show me some of your art?" Bella ventured.

"If you wish." Cosimo nodded as he came over to assist her.

"You're very kind," Bella complimented as she squeezed his hands with her own.

"I should go and tell them to bring you breakfast." Cosimo excused himself.

"Thank you," Bella murmured as she tried to hide her smile.

After making sure that Bella was taken care of for the day, Cosimo excused himself and rode to the furthest post he could find with the very exact instructions. He came back that evening he came back into his room to find Bella fast asleep, but a new story was waiting on his side of the bed.

Cosimo smiled and took the several pages and read them next to the fire. It was a fantastic adventure and it transported him.

When he got to the last page however, he noticed that she must have run out of time because the story seemed to halt.

"Do you like it?" Bella asked as she sat up and bed and had been watching him read it.

"What happens next?" Cosimo asked, practically breathless.

"I didn't actually write it, I translated it," Bella admitted before getting up and handing him the book she had been translating it from.

"What is this?" Cosimo asked, not recognizing the language at all.

"It is a language spoken along the silk road, my father had many business men he did business with, which my brother has taken over, most of them speak more than just one language so they bring books from all over and the stories in them are more than even I can imagine. I know how to read this and translate it but I can't properly speak it." Belle continued before her stomach growled. "Did I sleep through dinner?"

"You did, but I will go get you something." Cosimo offered as he got up quickly and put the pages on the desk and took a candle to light his way to the kitchens.

Every day for the next week, Bella would keep writing and translating these little stories for Cosimo because it seemed to please him greatly. And soon, he found himself lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling as she went on about her stories or things she had imagined or dreamed about or read. She was a refreshing person to be around. She had an excellent sense of humor and rapier wit and she was an artist in her own right just in a different way. He had taken up his drawings again and at night when she was writing, he would be drawing and before they would go to sleep they would share what they were working on with each other.

His family was overjoyed that 'Contessina' didn't loose her sight, her eyes simply got lighter in color.

Soon Cosimo found that she had a great many interests, which included horses. She once showed Cosimo how she 'broke' colts, she was never mean, threatening, or abusive. All she needed was a long stick with a piece of cloth and a long rope in order to work the horse in a circle. She would introduce the saddle and blanket in a gentle way. The stable hands would just watch in amazement as she worked with horse after horse.

"You see, the trick is understanding what the horse understands and working from there, you never want your mount terrified of you. You want your mount to be happy to be ridden, to be used, to be useful and have purpose. That is what every living creature I've come across wants." Bella shrugged with a smile as she pet the horse and gave it praise.

"You, are a remarkable woman," Cosimo praised.

One night Cosimo was particularly stressed over a matter concerning the bank and Bella sat with him and listened to him patiently and respectfully. She reached over and gently squeezed his shoulder when he was done and assured him that she had every faith that he and his family would find a solution.

All too soon, the 'letter' had come back and 'Contessina' left to find his Bianca.

It took almost a month and when Bella had found her, Bianca was with child. But Bella would not be dissuaded. She came back to Florence with Bianca in tow and talked with Giovanni and the rest of the family and wove a tale of Bianca being a childhood playmate of hers and offered to pay to keep Bianca, as her lady in waiting if need be since she didn't want anything bad to happen to her childhood friend.

Giovanni surprisingly agreed to it. And Bella made every effort to give Cosimo and Bianca as much time alone as she could.

Soon however, Cosimo found himself torn between wanting to be with Bianca and wanting to be with Bella. Bianca had stolen his heart but Bella had seemed to steal his mind.

One afternoon Giovanni announced that the family would be going to a ball.

"Cosimo," Bella whispered.

Cosimo turned to consider her and leaned in as she continue to whisper to him. "Does 'Contessina' know how to dance?"

"I don't know." Cosimo answered.

"If there are a lot of people who know 'her' and they know she knows how to dance I think they would expect me to know too wouldn't they? Otherwise the continuity would be disrupted."

"I, I don't dance well," Cosimo admitted.

"Would Lorenzo know?" Bella asked.

"Yes," Cosimo confirmed.

"Would you mind if I asked him to refresh my skills? Just in case." Bella inquired.

"I wouldn't mind," Cosimo answered.

"Lorenzo," Bella addressed.

"Yes?" Lorenzo answered.

"I feel like I haven't danced in an age, would you help me refresh my memory? If I'm asked to dance I would not want to cause offense or embarrass Cosimo or the rest of the family." Bella inquired sweetly.

"Of course," Lorenzo agreed.

For a few days Bella practiced with Lorenzo until she felt more sure of herself.

The day of the ball, Bella took three of her gowns and showed them to Giovanni and his wife Piccarda to make sure they weren't too fine and to make sure they were appropriate for the occasion.

"I think the green would look splendid," Piccarda mused.

"I agree," Giovanni nodded.

"Thank you, I know you must think me silly for asking, I just wanted to respect this family's tradition of not being too 'showy' in the way we dress. I would hate to bring my family dishonor." Bella placated.

"You're so thoughtful Contessina, you will always be lovely and charming." Giovanni praised.

"I only wish to do this family's legacy justice." Bella curtseyed before she excused herself.

"You did a fine job in bringing her into this family Giovanni," Piccarda grinned.

"I only hope Cosimo will make her as happy as she's made us." Giovanni smiled before he got an idea.

That evening when Cosimo was walking Bella through the house to the carriage outside, Giovanni stopped them to present 'Contessina' with a gorgeous pearl necklace. Bella was awestruck at the sheer beauty of it.

"This is too much Giovanni, I don't deserve..." Bella began as tears began to prick her eyes.

"You deserve the best Contessina," Giovanni reassured her before handing the necklace to Cosimo to put on his wife.

Cosimo happily put the necklace on her and kissed his shoulder when he had finished causing Bella to blush fiercely. Bella leaned over and kissed him tenderly on the cheek before embracing his father tightly, thanking Giovanni again.

"I don't think I shall ever want to take it off," Bella laughed.

At the ball, Bella seemed to shine brighter than any jewel in the room. She danced many a dance with several lords, always making sure that Cosimo would not object or get jealous.

On the contrary, it pleased Cosimo greatly to see Bella enjoying herself so thoroughly. She was completely genuine that evening and it showed. Cosimo seemed to be more smitten with her than he had ever been. The couple shared many looks that evening giving everyone the impression they were a fine example of newly weds in love.

That evening in their room as Bella got undressed she looked over to Cosimo, something obviously on her mind.

"Yes? You keep looking at me, please, speak your mind." Cosimo invited.

"When you...kissed my shoulder this evening, in front of your parents, was that..." Bella stammered before she made a face and tried to gather her thoughts. Cosimo couldn't help the grin that seemed to grow on his face as he watched his flustered wife.

"Was that...was it for your parent's benefit or..." Bella continued.

"It was for you." Cosimo confided.

"For… me as Contessina?" Bella slowly questioned.

Cosimo walked around the bed to her before taking her hands in his own. "For you, Bella, you." Cosimo clarified.

"Oh," Bella whispered as she seemed to take him in fully for the first time.

Cosimo wasn't sure who kissed who first but before he knew it, he was hastily undressing Bella and moving her to lay on the bed. To his delight, Bella seemed to be just as enamored as he was and kissed him fiercely as the two were swallowed up by passion.

Bianca had waited all night for him to come home and waited patiently as everyone went to bed before making her way to Cosimo's room. But she stopped in her tracks when she overheard the sounds of their lovemaking.

Bianca had been secretly hoping this day would never come but knew it eventually would. Everyone loved 'Contessina' and was enchanted by her. If only they knew the truth. She turned on her heel and walked briskly back to her servants quarters.

The next day it seemed glaringly obvious that Cosimo and his Contessina had finally fallen in love. Cosimo was extra sweet and thoughtful and considerate of 'Contessina'. Bella however could clearly see something was wrong with Bianca.

"Cosimo," Bella whispered to him as he walked through the house.

Cosimo smiled as he took a moment to push Bella up against a wall to kiss her before Bella softly pushed back on him.

"Cosimo, I think Bianca is jealous," Bella informed him.

"So? She shouldn't be jealous of what I do with my wife." Cosimo brushed off, trying to kiss her again.

"I don't want her to expose me, I don't want the real Contessina to be exposed either." Bella pleaded, real fear welling up in her eyes.

"I'll have word with her." Cosimo assured her.

"Thank you," Bella breathed before indulging him and kissing him intensely before Lorenzo walked in on them and awkwardly clearing his throat to alert them to his presence.
"Father is waiting." Lorenzo pointed out.

"Don't be too long today my love, I shan't bear it," Bella grinned before giving him another teasing kiss and leaving Cosimo to his brother and father.

"Well done," Lorenzo laughed at Cosimo's blush. "Not still grieving over the laundress I see,"

Cosimo paused as the thought struck him. He...had not given Bianca any thought for a few days now.

He seemed distracted by his thoughts the rest of the day. He had no doubts that he loved Bianca, but the love seemed more of a carnal desire that would completely overtake him but with Bella, she had bewitched him body and soul. Loving her just made so much sense and the more he got to really know her, the more he liked, even possibly loved her.

When he got back from the Signoria, he made a special effort to get Bianca alone. But Bianca didn't seem jealous to him at all, rather she seemed quite smug.

"No need to explain yourself Cosimo, Contessina told me everything," Bianca smirked.

"What exactly did she tell you?" Cosimo questioned.

"Something I already knew, you're infatuated with her, and that when you get tired of her, that I will always be there for you." Bianca answered confidently.

"I see," Cosimo said tersely before leaving to confront Bella.

"What did you tell her?" Cosimo demanded as he confronted Bella in their room.
"Uh, I told her the truth," Bella answered slowly.

"That I'm just infatuated with you." Cosimo accused.

"Aren't you? She loves you and I..." Bella stammered.

"You're what?"

"I'm dying, remember? You're brilliant Cosimo, you know better than to love me because I don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow. Bianca has decades and decades in front her, decades of love and devotion to you. That's something I'll never have and something I can't give you. I can give you the rest of my life, however long that is but I can't promise that I'll be here to love you for the rest of yours." Bella tried to explain as tears fell from her eyes and her voice choked with emotion. "I don't want to cause you or this family any more pain than I will have otherwise given. I don't….I don't want to break your heart Cosimo." Bella bit her lips to keep from crying too hard.

"Telling me that my feelings of love and devotion for you is only mere infatuation is breaking my heart because I love you Bella," Cosimo declared.

"I love you too," Bella cried before Cosimo silenced her with a kiss.

After what felt like hours of lovemaking, when Cosimo and Bella laid together in bed. Bella brought up that she had gotten them a gift that should be coming soon.

"What is it?" Cosimo inquired.

"Books," Bella informed him. "I ordered an illustrated 1001 Arabian nights and a book that explains the probably 1001 ways to make love, it's called the 'Karma Sutra,"." Bella explained.

"Sounds very interesting," Cosimo grinned as he looked down at her.

"I thought so." Bella smiled back before softly kissing him again.

Bianca waited and waited for Cosimo's affections for Contessina to diminish, but to her ever growing jealousy, all they seemed to do was grow, just as her abdomen seemed to do.

Soon however the rest of the family seemed to pick up on Bianca's jealousy as well which caused them great concern.

"Contessina, surely you've noticed, perhaps early in your marriage that Cosimo wasn't the most faithful husband." Giovanni tried to gently inform her.

"Oh, I'm well aware of that fact. And I also have noticed that Bianca has become jealous that his affections have now fallen on me. But I do not fear for myself. I am told that pregnancy can play with your emotions most fiercely. I am not however the jealous type. As long as Cosimo is happy, I can find happiness. Cosimo has always been gentle and kind to me. He is not prone to violence or screaming or fits of anger and I don't wish to upset him or begrudge him. I have warned him of Bianca's jealousy and he has assured me that he will handle the situation and I have every faith in him that he will. Please, I don't wish to cause him distress," Bella appealed. "All of you have done so much to welcome me into the family and if the small price I have to pay is a little bit of infidelity, I will happily pay that price."

"Contessina, you put too little a value on yourself. You shouldn't have to pay a price to receive your husband's and especially our affection and admiration." Giovanni insisted.

"But with Bianca so close to having her baby, I don't wish to turn her out, there may be no other that will take her on. If you insist on her leaving the household or whatever decision you make, I would want to make sure she is taken care of, I would not wish to plunge a newborn into a cruel unkind world." Bella pleaded. "I do however have faith that whatever is decided will be for the best for our family." Bella offered.

"Cosimo," Giovanni invited as he placed his hand on his son's shoulder.

"Yes Father?" Cosimo replied, confused.

"You need to get your house in order. Your wife's lady in waiting, Bianca, is jealous of your wife, that's very dangerous. Nothing can happen to Contessina, deal with Bianca, quickly and quietly or I will." Giovanni threatened.


Author's notes- First and foremost, this is unbetaed. Secondly, it's so sad that Cosimo never really loved Contessina when she did EVERYTHING for him and went above and beyond to save her husbands life for crying out loud. And he's angry with her? Screw him.

So I thought, if any other woman took Contessina's place, maybe he wouldn't be so damn spiteful and actually like her.