Natalya entered Castle Devall with her infant son, Demarco James Devall, in her arms. Gabriel was right behind her. She had told him of Estelle’s treachery and he agreed that they could not hand her over to the magistrate while she was with child. They were afraid she would be hanged regardless of her condition. Instead she was to remain held at Castle Devall until her baby was safely delivered.
Natalya’s pregnancy was difficult so they decided to stay in London during the duration. She was sick the first six months and Demarco was born early in her eighth month.
Before Natalya had delivered her own precious child, word arrived to them in London that Estelle had fallen ill a week after she gave birth and died from fever two days later. Her son, Alec Herald Winster, was now an orphan. Tiffany was caring for him.
Though Estelle had betrayed Natalya’s family, she still grieved the death of her aunt. Returning home was bitter sweet, but she had Gabriel and her son and they made her strong.
Natalya turned to Clara, who was waiting to take Demarco into her arms. “Mind his head now,” Natalya said placing the baby in Clara’s capable arms. His head was crowned with black hair and when he was awake he gazed about with his father’s dark green eyes.
“Yes milady,” Clara said smiling at Demarco. “I’m just going to take this precious angel to his new nursery.”
Smiling, Natalya watched them go. She turned to Gabriel who immediately embraced her. His embrace was so reassuring.
“Let’s go see him,” Gabriel said.
They followed the same path as Clara up to the nursery where Alec was. When they entered the room Clara put Demarco in his crib. On the opposite side of the room, Maggie, a wet nurse, was in a chair feeding Alec.
“Milord, milady! I didna hear ye come in,” Maggie said smiling. She plucked the babe from her breast and righted her dress. Then she rose carefully. “He’s a hungry lad. Always ready t’ eat!”
Natalya looked up at Gabriel, uncertain if she should do what they intended to do. He nodded for her to go on. She looked at Maggie and reached for Alec. Maggie handed him over. Slowly, she brought the baby to her chest and looked at him. He was a couple of months older than Demarco, but not much bigger.
Auburn hair sat in a patch on top of his head and his eyes, not as green as Gabriel’s, stared at her as if trying to figure out who she was. He looked like Estelle mostly. She didn’t see much of Peter in him. The corner of his mouth lifted causing his chubby cheeks to round even more and he giggled happily.
Natalya’s heart melted at that very moment.
“Oh Alec,” she said softly. She pinched his cheeks playfully. “You have had a rough life so far, but that’s over now. Gabriel and I are going to raise you as our own.” She looked at Gabriel. He smiled at them both.
“You may have lost your parents little one,” Gabriel said to him. “but you just got two new parents and a brother in one day. Alec Herald Devall.”
“Sounds good to me,” Natalya said looking at Alec.
In the year that followed, Natalya gave Gabriel another son, Vikenti Sinclair Devall. Two years later in 1557, they had their first daughter, Raina Eleanor Mariska Devall. And then the following year another son. Alastair Mikhail Devall. Three years after that she had twin daughters, Stalina Rose and Minya Palvina Devall.
Life had been good to them. Their children were happy and healthy, loved and adored. People assumed Alec and Demarco were twins. Gabriel thought it was best to let them think it. Alec was his son in every way that mattered.
Raising Alec had been a fearful prospect before Natalya held him. She wondered if she could love a child fathered by Peter. With Gabriel’s guidance Alec was growing into an honorable boy. He was thoughtful of others and the rules. And though he was rambunctious, he wasn’t mischievous like Demarco or Vikenti. He was always fair, even at an early age and played the mediator often.
Demarco always had a scheme up his sleeve, whether it was stealing brassieres from chambermaids closets or rolls and cakes from the cooks counter. More often than not Vikenti was right along with him, ready to execute the scheme as quickly as Demarco thought it up. Gabriel had to spank their behinds plenty of times to keep them in order.
Alastair was the introverted, quick tempered son. Seldom did he ramble on about anything. He was the listener, the observer. He saw the seriousness of life at an early age and didn’t find humor in much. He stayed close to Gabriel, learning everything his father cared to teach him. Of all the Devall children, he was the one who balanced book sense and common sense the best. Because of his serious nature, he often came to blows with Demarco and Vikenti. Alastair just didn’t understand their carelessness.
Raina was the only girl for a long time and she was spoiled because of it. She never wanted for anything and asked for everything! She was Gabriel’s jewel in a pack of rough boys. It was clear from her early years that she was going to like the finer things in life. Clothes, shoes, jewels, - all her favorite items to play with.
Stalina and Minya were just as adventurous as their brothers. Stalina was brazen with her confidence, she excelled with horses and archery. She was a stunning beauty, blue eyes and coal black hair that was straight like Natalya’s. Gabriel knew that she was exceptionally beautiful as was Minya.
Minya, the younger of the twins, had Gabriel’s green eyes. Rich brown hair fell in loose curls. She was confident like her sister, but was more humble. She wasn’t as skilled on horses and archery like Stalina, but she was highly intelligent. Such a brilliant child!
Though they were still children, Natalya could see what their personalities would be like as adults. She couldn’t have asked for anything better than the family she had. Motherhood was the best adventure next to being Gabriel’s heart.
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