I'm woken up a short time later by Dr. Henrietta, Queen Clarita, and my mother, all hovering over me with concerned looks on their faces. I'm not sure how long I've been asleep, for all I know it could've been a few minutes because I know Daniel enlisted these three take care of me before he left. It seems they were a little late. I think back to what just happened; Vanessa must've known I would be alone.
"I'm so sorry baby, we got held up for a bit, there was a huge spill all over the floors by the conjoining hallway so we had to take the longer way to your room." My mother says with a sheepish smile and it all falls into place. Of course there was a huge, accidental spill stalling the people who were supposed to "babysit" me. Accident my ass. Vanessa was confident she'd have me alone because she ensured it from the start. Typical. I don't trust her as far as I can throw her, but this piece of information makes me think about all she said. I know I can't keep all this to myself. I have to tell someone.
"It's ok." I say absentmindedly, searching with my eyes for my phone. Queen Clarita says something else but I'm too occupied with securing my cell phone.
"What's wrong? You seem a bit shaken." The Queen says.
I bite my lip and finally find my phone in far corner of Daniel's side of the bed. I grab it and unlock it, going straight to text messages. I'm about to reach out to Daniel, telling him I need him when I get a message from an unknown number.
Unknown: If you speak a word of our conversation with him I will release the documents.
My blood runs cold in my veins. This can only be from one person and it means I can't tell Daniel or else the whole world will know not only about our contract, but about his sexual proclivities--two things he's tried very hard to keep under wraps.
My mother places her hand on my own. "Honey? Are you alright? You look pale."
Dr. Henrietta starts pulling things out of her briefcase at such a fast well-trained speed I can barely see what she's grabbing. The Queen sits down in the chair Vanessa sat in and grabs my other hand.
"I'm fine, really. But um..." I turn to Queen Clarita. "Can I talk to you alone?"
Her eyes widen slightly. "Of course, but whatever for, darling?"
I sigh. "It's about Daniel I-um..." I have to make up a quick lie. If I say we're having issues my mother will want to stay and talk about it, but this isn't something I want to get her involved in at all. If I take what Vanessa said to be true then I don't want to pull her or my family into danger. Plus, if anyone can handle this, and if there's someone I want fighting in my corner, it's Queen Clarita. She's a badass.
"I'm worried about him..." I lie. "He isn't acting like himself lately and I wanted your input?" I then turn to my mother. "Would you mind waiting outside in the living room or maybe going for a walk?"
She studies me for a moment. "You sure you're alright?"
I nod. "I am, I'm just worried about Daniel is all."
She pauses, her lips pursed in thought. She's debating on whether or not she should take my word and believe me. Then she sighs and I know I've got her. "Alright. I'll be outside but don't hesitate--I mean it, Annie-- Don't hesitate to call me back in if you need me. I'm always here for you." She squeezes my hand in support and gives me a gentle hug. "I love you sweetheart."
"I love you too mom, and don't worry-- I will."
She gives me a final nod and grabs Dr. Henrietta, who has since put her tools away, and leaves me and Daniel's mother-- a woman whom I've come to see as my second mom, alone. I have to speak to her. If anyone can help me, if there's anyone inside this palace that can protect me and the ones I love, it's her.
I'm a part of this family, and families help and support each other--and right now, I need both more than ever.
Queen Clarita leans in and crosses her arms over her beaded teal bodice. "Tell me what's really going on because you and I both know that Daniel hasn't been acting off. He's perfectly fine and smitten with his pregnant wife as he should be."
I sigh. "I know. You're right, that isn't what I wanted to talk to you about. I just said that because this isn't something I want to drag my mother or anyone else into. I need your help."
She grasps my hand and smiles. "Anything dear, anything you need, just ask. I'm here for you."
I nod. "Well... Vanessa was hear earlier."
Her face twists into one of disgust.
"I know. I feel the same way. She said some things." I bite down on my lower lip. Here goes nothing. I have to tell her. I just need to let it out. "She threatened me. Said I had until the end of the week to leave Daniel or something bad would happen. She didn't say specifics but... she scared me."
She nods and her voice is calm but I can still hear the anger evident in her voice. "I understand very well... I'm sure Daniel has made you aware that the palace can be a dangerous place when it's time to crown a new ruler?" I nod and she continues. "People become nasty and it's hard to know who you can trust."
"I know, and trust me, he's told me all about it. I understand the danger more so now than ever. I want to say it was just Vanessa messing around with me to try and scare me off but... She seemed serious." I place my hand on my stomach. "She not only threatened me, but my baby. I can't let that slide. I can't throw it away like it means nothing."
She squeezes my hand. "It's going to be okay, Annie. I'm very glad you came to me with this. I will handle it. I have eyes and ears everywhere. A threat against you and your little one is a threat against The Crown itself. This treason will be dealt with swiftly and accordingly." She smiles. "I promise you'll both be safe. It's about time that she-witch was kicked out of the palace. I now see her for the snake she is and I believe I owe my son quite the apology."
I smile back, feeling a little bit better. I want to accept her words and put this all behind me, but I can't help but dwell on them. "She said she was warning me. "I'm giving you a chance", "the plans are out of my hands", what does that mean?"
The Queen sighs. "It means there are some bad people in the shadows pulling on puppet strings. I suspect Vanessa isn't the mastermind but nearly a pawn and I'm sure there are other pawns as well--ones in your circle."
A name pops into my head and it all becomes clear.
I now know why I feel so gross around him and why he unsettles me. He must be a part of whatever plan these bad people have. I'm absolutely sure of it. I also understand more why Daniel always told me to stay away from him and why after New York the vibes I got off of William were no longer friendly and full of good intentions. I could sense something was off. Now I'm sure I'm right.
"William Morburn. He must be working with her too. I sensed something off about him." I explain.
She nods. "Oh yes, as did I. He's always been a bit of a shady character. He's also always been a follower so it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he was also following orders of ones above him. He's definitely not the mastermind-- he's lacks the intelligence for that."
Ouch. But I agree.
"Who do you think is behind this?"
She shakes her head. "Sadly, I haven't a single clue. Typically it's the competition but since Stephan is who knows where and Michael seems content with not becoming King... I'm at a loss. Of course, I could never picture any of my children turning against each other, but... power does horrible things to people and as much as I wish I could put my sons above that temptation... I cannot." She sighs.
"I understand, and if it makes you feel any better... I don't think it's either of them either." I mean, I haven't met Stephan, Daniel's younger brother who has been off partying for years, but I firmly believe that if he wanted the crown, he'd be here by now. And Michael, well... he doesn't seem too concerned with anything other than his children and wife. They seem pretty happy where they are. That leaves no other suspects.
It also doesn't make me feel any better.
"I have one more question."
She closes her eyes briefly and nods. "I know exactly what you're going to ask me."
I grimace. "Should I? I mean... he's going to find out and If he finds out I didn't tell him..." I trail off, she doesn't need to know, but I do. If Daniel doesn't hear this from me... Yikes. Let's just say that. He's been giving me a punishment break but this directly violates my safety and he's going to want to know about it.
"Normally, I would recommend telling him... But he's under a lot of stress with this trade deal and you being pregnant." She sighs. "It's ultimately up to you, and I'm a huge advocate for communication between partners but... please allow me until Thursday to handle this? If it's still an issue by then, then tell him."
I also don't mention the threat. I want to tell him, I want to tell him more than anything but... I don't want the world to know about that contract. It would ruin his chances of being King. He'd be a public disgrace again, and he doesn't deserve that so I agree to her terms. I won't tell Daniel... yet.
I'll let The Queen handle it, and if it isn't a distant concern by Thursday... then I'll tell him.
We wrap up our conversation and I still feel on edge. Thankfully, speaking to Queen Clarita helped, but I still can't help but feel worried. She said I have until the end of this week. It's Monday. My first Ultrasound is on Wednesday, and we're going to be deciding if we want to find out the sex of the baby or if we want to wait. I'm excited, but I'm nervous, more so now than before now that my life could possibly be in danger--Not to mention the life of my unborn baby.
My mother and Dr. Henrietta come back in the room and my mom insists I let the Doctor check me out. Of course I'm fine like I said, and she seems to be pacified for now. She's like a dog with a bone so I know she won't drop this forever. They all say their goodbyes and leave me alone with Baxter who still rests his head on my bump. He hasn't moved since Daniel left. I bet he'd be proud of the little guy if he knew how he stands watch when he leaves. I'll have to be sure to tell him.
Daniel comes back and gives me and a passionate kiss. He tells me how much he missed me and asks me how my visit with his mother and mine went. I hate doing it, and it feels like sand in my mouth, but I lie. "It was great. We talked about the baby and they gave me more advice than I know what to do with. How did the deal go?" I'm quick to change the subject, something I hope my observant husband doesn't notice.
He loosens his tie and groans, sitting beside me on the bed. "Fuck this guy. He's really pissing me off. Refuses to relent on his criticism and is threatening to pull out of the deal. I'd usually say fuck it and cut the dick loose but..." He furrows his brows. "We need him and we need the trade lines between our countries to be open. We aren't trying to start a war."
I nod along and listen as Daniel recounts the struggles he's going through. "I'm sorry. You seem really stressed."
He gives me a soft smile and lays on his back, opening his arms. "Come here, Little American." I cuddle up on his chest and he wraps his arms around me. "I am, but I'm feeling much better now that I'm here. I'm glad you had a good afternoon."
I feel bad for lying but I feel even worst that he believes it. Daniel strokes my hair with his fingers and I snuggle up in his warmth. Baxter curls up at the foot of the bed, watching the door. He must be on edge since Vanessa's visit.
For the first time all day I feel truly safe in Daniel's arms. Queen Clarita was right, I can't tell him, not when he seems so peaceful, and not when it could mean making him the most hated man in Verilia--no, scratch that, the world. He may be an asshole, but he's my asshole and he doesn't deserve that. I won't tell him, I'll just hope and pray that Queen Clarita figures everything out by Thursday. Then, and only then, will I think about telling him.
Instead, I place a kiss on his pectoral. "I love you and I'm sorry you had a rough day."
"It's alright. I'm just glad yours was better."
"Me too," I lie, and it tastes like acid on my tongue.