Royal Heirs Required(4)

By: Cat Schield


“Marissa and I had no children together.”

“I’m afraid that’s not true.”

The man pulled out two birth certificates and extended them. Gabriel gestured to Stewart to take them and watched as his private secretary scanned the documents. Stewart’s blue eyes were awash with concern as he glanced up and met Gabriel’s gaze.

“They bear Marissa’s last name, but she listed you as the father,” Stewart said.

“They can’t be mine,” Gabriel insisted. “We were careful.” Perhaps not careful enough. “How old are they?”

“They will turn two in a month.”

Gabriel quickly did the math. They’d been conceived in the week he’d been in Venice shortly after their breakup. Marissa had come and thrown herself at him in one last attempt to make him abandon his duty. They’d made love all night, their kisses frantic, embraces feverish. When she’d awakened to find him departing the room before dawn, she’d lashed out, claiming that he’d led her on, accusing him of indifference. Despite her antagonism, regret had stuck with him for months afterward.

They’d had no future. His duty was to his country. She couldn’t accept that and he’d let the relationship go on too long. She’d begun to hope he would give up everything for her and he’d enjoyed shirking his responsibilities. But it couldn’t last. Sherdana always came first.

What would he have done if he’d known she was pregnant? Set her up in a villa nearby where he could visit? She would never have put up with that. She’d have demanded his complete and total devotion. It was what had torn them apart. He belonged to the people of Sherdana.

“This could all be a huge hoax,” Stewart said.

“Marissa might have loved drama, but pulling a stunt like this goes beyond anything she’d do.”

“We’ll know for sure after a DNA test,” Stewart said.

“And in the meantime? What am I to do with the girls?” the lawyer asked impertinently.

“Where are they?” Gabriel demanded. He crackled with impatience to see them.

“Back at my hotel with their nanny.”

He didn’t hesitate to ponder the consequences. “Get them.”

“Think of your upcoming wedding, Highness,” Stewart cautioned. “You can’t have them brought here. The palace is crawling with media.”

Gabriel aimed a disgusted look at his secretary. “Are you telling me you’re not clever enough to transport two toddlers here without being seen?”

Stewart’s spine snapped straight as Gabriel knew it would. “I will see that they are brought to the palace immediately.”

“Good.”

“In the meantime,” Stewart said, “I suggest you return to the gala before you’re missed. I’m sure the king and queen will wish to discuss the best way to handle things.”

Gabriel hated every bit of Stewart’s sensible advice and the need to play host when his attention was shackled to reckless urges. He didn’t want to wait to see the girls. His instinct demanded he go to the lawyer’s hotel immediately. As if by taking one look at the toddlers he could tell if they were his. Ridiculous.

“Find me as soon as they’re settled,” he told Stewart.

And with those parting words, he exited the room.

Knowing he should return immediately to the party but with his mind racing, Gabriel strode into the library. He needed a few minutes to catch his breath and calm his thoughts.

Twins. His heart jerked. Did they have their mother’s clear green eyes and luxurious brown hair? Had she told them about him? Was he insane to bring them into the palace?

A scandal could jeopardize his plans for stabilizing Sherdana’s economy. Would the earl still allow Olivia to marry him if word got out that Gabriel had illegitimate twin daughters? And what if Olivia wasn’t willing to accept that her children wouldn’t be his only ones?

Gabriel left the library, burdened by a whole new set of worries, determined to make sure his future bride found him irresistible.

* * *

From her place of honor beside the king of Sherdana, Olivia watched her future husband slip through the guests assembled in the golden ballroom and wondered what was so important that he had to leave the Independence Day gala in such a hurry.