Daniel settled next to Amelia at his parents’ table. It had been ages since they had an intimate dinner where servants were not allowed. Amelia’s heritage must be something they didn’t want to be passed around the palace before they were ready to announce it. The only servants allowed in the suite were trusted and would do nothing to betray that confidence in their leaders.
“Amelia, what have you been doing these past twenty-six years since your father has seen you?” Lady Valerie began, Daniel wondered what she wanted to know. A servant placed the salad course in front of everyone and left before Amelia answered.
“I spent six years at the Horton Orphanage, then ten years with the Naustin Family in Bayfield before working my way through pastry school. I worked for a bakery in Doyle until I made enough money-making decorated cookies to make a living from it.” Amelia answered with grace, Daniel felt proud, she was a natural around others.
“Any trouble growing up with a foster family?”
“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” she replied, taking a bite of her salad.
“Oh?” Lady Valerie asked Daniel frowned at her.
“Do you know something you aren’t telling us?” Daniel asked, he didn’t like the line of questioning from her.
“No. I’ve only heard that many foster children cause lots of problems for those they live with,” she answered and Amelia’s eyes went dark.
“Everyone is different. Sometimes the family they are placed with is the problem. When the family takes you on for the money and then makes you live in less than stellar conditions, of course, there will be problems.” This time it was Kylie who answered, Daniel, nodded his encouragement to Kylie.
“I’ve heard about their time with the Naustin Family and it was not good,” Nick added, reaching over to take Kylie’s hand.
“Do you want to share about it?” Lord Watson asked he shot a glance at his wife, no doubt telling her to shut it. Daniel watched Kylie and Amelia exchange glances. Finally, Kylie nodded and Amelia began to share about her time.
“Kylie, Trish and I were placed with the Naustin family the summer after I turned eight. The three of us shared a small attic room with a set of bunk beds and a trundle underneath. This way the third bed could be pushed out of the way to give us space to live. We shared one dresser and one closet. Our bathroom never worked properly. The family had two sons both younger than us who each had their own room plus a playroom. Any vacations they took we were left behind with a babysitter or if they couldn’t find one we were not allowed to partake in anything. When I turned eighteen Gigi Naustin told me I had to get out because they were no longer getting money for me. I moved out into a studio apartment, worked double shifts while finishing high school. Kylie and Trish suffered similar fates when they turned eighteen a month later. The three of us worked hard and lived together to finish high school. Trish earned a full ride to a university in the Aubrun kingdom. Kylie went to design school and I as I told you earlier went to pastry school.” Daniel watched sadness, surprise, and anger pass through Lord Watson’s eyes.
“I had no idea,” Lady Valerie whispered a look of horror on her face.
“No one does. I am not saying all foster families are like that. That was our experience,” Amelia answered, Daniel, reached under the table and squeezed her leg. She’d had to retell her story several times now and he knew it never got easier.
“We have the Naustin family going through a review at the moment,” Daniel explained wanting Lord Watson to know they would be punished.
“What about other families we don’t know about?” Lord Watson asked.
“All families are going through a review,” Queen Imelda answered, placing her fork down signaling she finished her course. The rest followed suit placing their forks down. Servants came out to take away the plates and put the main course out.
“I am also turning my business into a charity to help foster children after they age out. I want to help them pay for college, or trade school, or start a job when they graduate high school.”
“That sounds admirable. Consider our next order your first donation,” Lord Watson remarked smiling at his daughter.
“So you are the king’s beta?” Amelia asked, Daniel noticed her change of subject letting Lord Watson talk about himself.
“Yes, until Daniel takes over as alpha king at the end of the year. Then you two will be married.” Daniel paused, he hadn’t proposed to Amelia yet.
“We aren’t engaged,” Amelia countered, gaining surprised looks from everyone at the table.
“But you mated?” Lady Valerie pointed out.
“Doesn’t mean I have said yes to being married,” Amelia replied.
“It kind of does,” Nick countered with a smile.
“Daniel hasn’t asked,” she told him, this time everyone stared at him in shock.
“You haven’t?” King Stephan asked.
“No. We connected two weeks ago, I wanted time to get to know my mate before I proposed,” he explained, defending his right to delay proposing.
“You will be engaged by the time you are king right?” Queen Imelda prompted, Daniel looked at Amelia, she gave him a small smile.
“I can safely say yes Mother,” he replied leaning over to kiss Amelia’s cheek.
“Then we won’t push you into proposing,” Queen Imelda answered and turned to speak with Lord Watson and Lady Valerie about their children. Daniel settled back in his seat and listened. He wanted to propose to Amelia, but they needed to take care of the threat to her safety first. He and Nick connected gazes across the table, he saw Nick had the same concerns. His phone dinged in his pocket making him jump. Amelia looked over at him, no one else noticed.
“Excuse me,” he announced and stepped away from the table and out into the hallway.
“Found the maid. She lives in Borik. I have her phone number and address. She has agreed to come to speak with you and Amelia. She sounded relieved to hear Amelia was okay.”
“Tell her to present herself Monday.”
“I will call her and let her know.”
“Good. See you Monday.” Daniel hung up and went back in to finish out dinner with his family.
“Who was that?” Amelia whispered once attention had been diverted back to talking about the state of their country.
“Alex. He found the maid. She will speak with us on Monday.”
“I am interested to find out what she knows,” she replied with a smile on her face. He placed a gentle kiss on her lips and nodded his agreement.
“I’ll have Nick join us. I don’t want Lord Watson there until we have more information. If the maid knows something that leads to why your mother was killed we want to be able to investigate.”
“Sounds good. Thank you for taking care of it,” she whispered and kissed him. He kept the kiss light even though he wanted to carry her back to their room and make love.
“Daniel, tell me about visiting Doyle and walking around the beaches,” his mother prompted, pulling him back into the conversation.
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