Royal Heirs Required(11)

By: Cat Schield

After a long, unproductive strategy session with Christian regarding Marissa’s daughters, he’d sent his brother home. Although he had rooms for his use in the palace, Christian liked his privacy and only rarely stayed in them. Sometimes Gabriel suspected that if either of his brothers had a choice they would give up their titles and any claim to Sherdana’s throne. As it was they spent almost no time in Sherdana. Nic had gone to university in the US where he’d met his business partner and only returned when he absolutely had to, while Christian spent most of the year out of the country pursuing his business interests.

As close as the triplets had been growing up, the distance between them these days bothered Gabriel. While he’d known, as eldest son, that he’d be in charge of running the country someday, he’d never expected that his brothers wouldn’t be around to help.

Stewart appeared as Gabriel was returning Marissa’s photo to the envelope. Glancing at the clock he saw it was almost three in the morning. He’d sent his private secretary to check on Marissa’s daughters half an hour earlier.

“Well?” he demanded, pushing to his feet.

“They arrived at the palace a couple hours ago and I arranged to have them escorted to the nursery in the north wing.” It had seemed prudent to squirrel them away at the opposite end of the palace, far from where the royal family was housed.

“Have you seen them?” He wanted to know if the girls bore any resemblance to him, and could scarcely restrain himself from asking the question outright. Christian had cautioned that a DNA test would have to be performed before Gabriel let himself get emotionally involved. It was good advice, but easier agreed to than acted upon.

“Not yet.”

Gabriel’s temper flared. “What have you been doing?”

The private secretary wasn’t fazed by his employer’s impatience. “I went to the nursery, but they appear to be missing.”

“Missing?” He couldn’t imagine how that had happened. “Didn’t the lawyer say they had a nanny? Did you ask her where they are?”

“She’s gone. Apparently she was escorted from the palace by one of the guards an hour ago.”

“Escorted...? On whose authority?”

“Lady Darcy’s private secretary.”

Unable to fathom how she’d gotten involved, Gabriel stabbed his fingers through his hair. This business with Marissa’s daughters was fast spiraling out of control. “Have you spoken with her?”

“It’s three in the morning, sir.”

And if two little girls weren’t missing, he might be inclined to leave his questions until morning. “Tell her I want to speak to her.”

“Right away.”

His private secretary wasn’t gone more than five minutes. “Apparently she’s in Lady Darcy’s room, sir.” Stewart paused. “With the girls.”

Dismay shouldered aside irritation as Gabriel headed for the wing that housed his future bride. An encounter between Olivia and Marissa’s daughters was a problem he hadn’t anticipated. No doubt she would have questions about them. She was proving more troublesome than he’d expected based on their limited interaction before he’d proposed. Christian had warned him there was more to Olivia than a pretty face and polished manners, but she’d done an excellent job keeping her agenda hidden. The question was why.

Gabriel knocked on the door of Olivia’s suite, agitation adding sharpness to the blows. His summons was answered more quickly than he expected by a pretty woman in her early thirties, wearing a classic blue dress and a frown. Her eyes widened as she spied him standing in the hall.

“I’m here looking for two little girls who’ve gone missing from the nursery,” Gabriel said, his tone courteous despite the urge to push past her. “I understand they are here. May I come in?”

“Of course, Your Highness.” She stepped back and gestured him in. “Lady Darcy, Prince Gabriel is here to see you.”

“If you’ll excuse us,” Gabriel said, gesturing her out before entering the dimly lit suite and closing the door behind him.

His gaze swept the room in search of his fiancée. He spied her by the fireplace. She looked serene in a simple cotton dress, her hair in the same updo she’d worn to the gala. So she hadn’t yet gone to bed. This thought made his attention shift to the large bed where he spied a lump beneath the covers.