Royal Heirs Required(10)

By: Cat Schield


Oh, dear. Obviously she’d defended the girls a little too well. But maybe it wouldn’t hurt for them to spend one night with her. There was plenty of room in her big bed and in the morning she could sort them out.

“Would you like to come to my room to sleep tonight?”

In unison, the two dark heads bobbed. Olivia smiled.

“You can’t do this,” the nanny protested.

“I most certainly can. I suggest you return to your room and pack. I will send someone to escort you out shortly.” Olivia extended a hand to each girl and drew the children toward the stairs. Once they were settled in her room, she would send a maid up for their nightgowns and things.

It took time to descend to the second floor. The toddlers’ short legs made slow work of the steps, giving Olivia time to wonder who in the palace would raise a cry that they’d gone missing. She looked forward to having a conversation with their father in the near future about the sort of person he’d employed to take care of his children.

When Olivia entered her room, she was surprised to find it occupied by a maid. The girl looked up in surprise from the desk items she was straightening as the trio entered. Although the palace had provided Olivia with maids to tidy up and assist with whatever she needed, she hadn’t expected to find one in her room during the middle of the night. And from the expression on the woman’s face, she wasn’t expecting to be caught at it.

“Lady Darcy, I was just tidying some things up for you.”

“At two in the morning?”

“I saw your light on and thought you might be needing something.”

Not wanting to make a huge scene in front of the little girls, Olivia scanned the maid’s face, confident she’d be able to recognize her again from the hundred or so servants that maintained the palace. She had a small scar just below her left eye.

“Could you run down to the kitchen and get glasses of warm milk for these two?”

“Hate milk,” the talkative one said. “Ice cream.”

Recalling the nanny’s assessment that the girls were spoiled, Olivia hesitated a moment before giving a mental shrug. Again she reminded herself they weren’t her responsibility. She could indulge them to her heart’s content. “With chocolate sauce?”

“Yeah!”

Olivia nodded. “Please fetch two bowls of ice cream with chocolate sauce.”

“Of course, Lady Darcy.”

The maid scooted past her, eyeing the odd group before disappearing through the doorway.

Olivia half sat, half collapsed on the sofa near the fireplace and gestured to the girls. “Let’s get acquainted, shall we? My name is Olivia.”

They hesitated for a moment before coming toward her. Olivia kept her warmest smile fixed on her face and patted the seat beside her.

“Please sit down. The ice cream will take a little while. The palace is very big.”

The girls held hands and stared about the enormous room in wide-eyed silence. Now that she could see them better, Olivia noticed the Alessandro family resemblance. In fact, they looked like the pictures she’d seen of Gabriel’s sister, Ariana, at a similar age. Were they cousins? She frowned. Her extensive research on Sherdana had included all the royal family. She recalled no mention of young cousins.

“I’ve only been here a few days and I’ve gotten lost a dozen times already,” she continued, her voice a soothing monotone. “I was very scared when that happened. But I also discovered some wonderful places. There’s a library downstairs full of books. Do you like stories?”

They nodded at her, their movements identical as if choreographed.

“So do I. My favorite stories when I was a little girl were about princesses. Would you like to hear one?” She took their smiles as assent. “Once upon a time there were two princesses and their names were Karina and Bethany.”

“That’s us.”

* * *

Gabriel paced his office, impatient for Stewart to arrive with news that the twins had been settled into the palace. In his hand was the single photo he’d kept of Marissa after they’d broken up. He’d sealed it in an envelope and shoved it in the back of a drawer. Why he’d kept it was a question he was brooding over now.