Daniel left Amelia working in the kitchen finishing cookies while he walked down the corridors to his office. Nick and Alex were already waiting for him.
“What do we have today?” he asked, settling at his desk.
“The nanny is coming today at one. We have started to investigate Lord Jeffries. I think you were right that he would do anything to get Michelle married off to someone powerful. I would hate to think he was behind the attack on my mom and Amelia,” Nick shared opening his notebook.
“Anyone else we think could be an issue?” Daniel asked, looking at Alex this time.
“I am worried about Lady Valerie,” Alex remarked, Nick looked at him over his shoulder. Daniel knew Nick and his stepmother didn’t get along. He never liked her, and it had become a point of contention between him and his dad.
“What do you mean?” Nick asked, and Alex sighed.
“Don’t you think she swooped in fast after Lady Laura died?” Alex commented and Nick frowned.
“I never liked her, I always felt she was forcing our relationship. I wouldn’t go as far as to say she was behind killing my mom though,” Nick answered rubbing his temple.
“Either way, let’s keep an eye on her. I know she didn’t make Lady Cline’s entrance into our world easy according to my mother. I remember her bringing it up when I was around ten. She had to speak with Valerie and tell her to leave the poor woman alone,” Daniel shared, Nick nodded.
“My stepmother is all about appearances. I feel bad for my half-siblings. They are always at the receiving end of her constant instructions. Gwen spends more time hiding in the garden these days. I know she made a deal with Valerie, if she let her go to college then she would marry someone from our social class.”
“Wait. Valerie wasn’t going to let Gwen go to college?” Daniel asked, his eyes widening. Nick shook his head.
“She wanted Gwen to start finding her mate. I don’t think Valerie believes in mates the way we do. She isn’t my father’s mate, but they make each other happy.”
“Wow. Alex will definitely keep an eye on Valerie. I don’t want her to cause problems for Amelia or Kylie,” Daniel ordered opening his email. The men worked most of the morning before Alex’s phone blared an alarm. Daniel jumped in his seat.
“What is that?” he asked, covering his ears.
“Amelia,” Alex replied, Daniel jumped to his feet and raced through the halls to his apartment. He slammed open the door to see Amelia hiding in the kitchen while Lady Valerie sat at the table a sinister look on her face.
“Why are you here?” he demanded, doing his best to control his fears. He thought Amelia was in danger, although with Lady Valerie he never knew.
“I came to speak with Amelia about our weekend away,” she answered, dropping the evil look on her face to give him a sweet smile. Daniel frowned, Amelia, didn’t make it seem like this was an innocent talk.
“I see. Well, it is time for Amelia to have lunch with me so if you would excuse us?” Daniel motioned for her to leave the apartment.
“Certainly. I will see you this weekend Amelia. Please feel free to bring a treat with you.” Lady Valerie fluttered her fingers in goodbye and walked out of the apartment past Nick and Alex. Once she left and Alex shut the door Daniel turned to see Amelia shaking in the kitchen.
“What happened?” he asked, rushing over to pull her into his arms.
“She snuck in here! I locked the door behind you to make sure I wouldn’t be interrupted while decorating cookies. She came in through the servant’s entrance.”
“The one I growled at the first morning after I’d stayed the night. I think she was angry you found your mate and she no longer had a chance with you,” she answered stepping out of his arms and back over to the cookies she’d abandoned. Daniel let her, he knew this was her way of processing what happened.
“Why did she come?” Nick asked, his voice a deep growl. Daniel sensed his beta’s temper was being held onto by a thread.
“To not bring up old memories of our mom. She didn’t want our dad to fall apart again. She said it took her years to help him through everything and she won’t be second in his life again.”
“What the fuck?” Nick growled slamming a fist against the wall.
“I told her I didn’t want to bring up bad memories and I had no intention of taking him away from her. He is my father, not my mate,” she replied looking up at Daniel, her eyes softened when he gave her a wink.
“We need to talk to someone who watched their courtship from an adult’s point of view. I only ever saw her as someone trying to take my mother’s place. I didn’t make it easy on her,” Nick shared dropping onto a stool in the kitchen. Amelia set her icing bag down and took out a beer for Nick.
“Do you remember anything else?” she asked, Daniel watched her pat his hand and go back to her cookies. It amazed him how she could focus on the conversation around her and still work.
“I remember thinking she reminded me of the evil stepmothers from the stories my mom read to us as children. You loved the one about the ice queen.” Daniel let out a laugh, Amelia didn’t strike him as the fairy tale lover.
“I remember liking them until I moved in with the Naustins. Then the stories became a bitter reminder my life wouldn’t turn out that way,” she replied, Daniel’s heart hurt. He wished he could take away all her bad memories.
“Well, your life did kind of turn out like a fairy tale. Think of Cinderella,” Nick remarked sipping his beer. Amelia looked up and laughed.
“I suppose you are right.”
“So right now we have Lord Jeffries, Lady Valerie, and the Naustin family as suspects,” Daniel listed off their top priorities.
“We can talk with your mom about Lady Valerie and what she was like when Lord Watson was grieving the loss of Laura,” Amelia suggested, Daniel nodded and sent a text to his mom to talk over lunch. Usually, she didn’t have luncheons on Mondays, she always said she needed a day without people bothering her.
“Mom says she can have lunch with us here and talk about Lady Valerie. Alex and Nick, you are welcome to join us so we can set a plan in motion,” Daniel announced once his mother replied.
“Okay. I have a few things to do,” Alex replied and left the room. Daniel turned to Amelia.
“How were you able to send an alert to Alex?”
“He gave me a new phone with a panic button on the side. I don’t know if I should have pressed the button, but she made me uncomfortable.”
“No, you did the right thing. She shouldn’t have invaded our home like that. Everyone knows that it is against the law to break into the royal suite.”
“Did she say anything else?” Nick asked, Daniel, saw he had a worried look on his face.
“Only that she’d worked very hard for her position and no foster kid miracle child was going to undo all her work,” she answered, Daniel could tell there was more, but Amelia wasn’t going to share it yet.
“Did she tell you to stay out of her way or you’d regret it?” Nick inquired, Daniel watched Amelia tense.
“She did, didn’t she?” he pushed coming to stop her hands.
“She might have said something to that effect. I won’t take it to heart because I am your mate. We’ve already completed the mate bond. There is nothing she can do,” Amelia answered looking up at him. He saw the worry in her eyes, if he could he’d take it away for her.
“No, she can’t do anything to you. You have the support of my family, Nick, and me. I promise things will be okay.” He kissed her gently. Amelia melted into his arms dropping her frosting bag.
“Ehm,” Nick cleared his throat making both of them pull apart.
“Sorry,” Amelia mumbled and picked her icing bag back up.
“I’ll be back at lunchtime,” he told her and motioned for Nick to come with him. Once they were back in his office he turned to his friend.
“What is your stepmother up to?” he demanded, pacing around the room.
“Probably making sure her place in my father’s life isn’t threatened. What makes me suspicious is her worry. Why would Amelia coming back threaten her? I want to dig into her background. There is something she must be hiding if Amelia’s return worried her,” Nick explained opening his laptop. Daniel agreed with Nick’s assessment and let him research. He had a ton of engagements he needed to be at and Amelia was right, she needed to be seen by the people. The first engagement he needed to attend tomorrow was the opening of a museum. He could bring Amelia with him. He would bring it up at lunch.