The pasta helped to lighten my mood. The big ice cream, I ordered for dessert, would do even better.
Darius raised another topic.
“Listen, Sis. What will happen to your and Amie’s apartment, after the break-in? Have you ever thought about it?”
“Amie and I talked about the subject in passing. In any case, one thing is clear: I will not move back in there anymore.
The so-called courtly protocol does not allow me to do so anyway. I am expected to live with James.
I had asked Amie to stay with me for the time being and to support me. But I am also aware that she cannot put her life on standby for me, forever.”
“To be honest, I’m thinking of taking over your apartment.
Since I will soon be promoted to official head of Clan Romanov, I will often have to conduct business in Atonia.
I could also turn this place into a cozy love nest for me and Amie. Here we can meet undisturbed and without the outrageous looks and whispering of the High Society?”
I looked at him in amazement.
“What do you mean? So far nobody has whispered anything...”
Darius let out a loud breath.
“As soon as I am the head of Clan Romanov, I am expected to look for an Aristocrat, who is befitting my social status, in order to provide adequate offspring with her.
Amie as a Half-Blood will not be accepted as my official partner. But I don’t want to give her up...”
Now, my astonishment gave way to a horrified look.
“Oh my God! I haven’t thought for a second, what impact my actions will have on you! How could I be so selfish!”
I took his hand in concern.
Then I added in a firm voice: “I won’t accept that! You both are and have always been there for me! Without you I couldn’t keep going down this path.
Be assured, that I will do everything in my power to rectify this grievance.”
Then I squeezed his hand tightly.
“It’s a shame to be punished for not being a pure-blooded Aristocrat! It’s time we reformed the Aristocracy, what do you think?”
Now Darius eyes shone conspiratorially.
“I’ve always known, how to bend the rules of the Aristocracy for my own benefit. With your support, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.”
Then he became serious for a brief moment. “Thanks, Sis!”
I grinned like a Cheshire cat and replied ecstatically and slightly childishly: “Darius is in love! And I totally agree!”
He rolled his eyes and laughed out loud.
After we had our dessert, we paid and went back to the apartment by the shortest route possible.
As agreed, we took a second attempt to find my blood-serum vial.
Once again, we left no stone unturned. We even rolled up the carpets and checked, that the little vial hadn’t slipped into a crack in the old floorboards, but we weren’t so lucky.
It was early evening, now.
The vial, containing my blood-serum was and remained gone.
“Okay, Maggie. It makes no sense to look any further at this point. The vial is not here.
We have to assume, that it was stolen. We have no choice, but to report this unfortunate circumstance to James.
He has completely different means of solving this problem, than we do.”
I replied in panick: “Please give me a few days, before I tell him. I’ll definitely clear things up with James. It shouldn’t be longer than three or four days, OK?”
I looked at him with big pleading eyes.
“I don’t know,” replied Darius. “It’s not a small thing...”
“I know, but it’s complicated enough between me and James right now. I will address this topic by Wednesday morning at the latest, okay?”
“Promise me, Maggie!”
I nodded and held out my hand to him.
“Let’s shake on it!”
He took my hand and we sealed our deal with a firm handshake.
“Don’t be angry with me Sis, but I have to go back to Ignis. Tomorrow, some lawyers and notaries will come to prepare all the necessary documents for the power shift in Clan Romanov.”
The pace, that Niklas had set, amazed me.
“Daddy Niklas is in a hurry ... The rise of our Clan obviously cannot go fast enough for him.”
Darius laughed bitterly.
“Is there anything, I can do for you to slow down the whole process?”
“Thank you, Sis, that’s nice of you, but don’t you have enough of your own problems at the moment?”
I snorted unladylike.
My reaction made Darius laugh.
“You should also change something about your manners... such boyish behavior and that as the wife of the Regent...”
At these words, he poked me in the side with his index finger, trying to tease me.
“That’s what you think! Once I’m the regent’s wife, I’ll make my own rules! You can count on that!”
I stuck my tongue out cheekily.
“I can tell: there are interesting times ahead for the Aristocracy...”
Now, we both laughed relieved. The pointless fooling around seemed to help both of us, to accept our difficult fates more easily.
“But there is one more thing I have to tell you.”
Darius’ expression became very serious again. “It’s about Soraya.”
Now, he had my full attention.
“I ignored the situation long enough and didn’t interfere, but now there is no longer any doubt, that Adrian manipulates her thoughts - to such an extent, that I fear for her sanity.”
Darius’ words made me think.
If this was true, Adrian was clearly crossing a line and had to be held accountable for it.
I didn’t understand why he was doing this. Hadn’t he lost enough, lately? Why was he putting his relationship with Soraya at risk?
I looked at Darius with a concerned expression.
“Are you absolutely sure?”
“One hundred percent.”
“What’s the matter with him? Why does he risk everything, that is dear to him? By now, I wonder if I even know him anymore.
If Niklas gets wind of this, he can pack his things and leave the property in Ignis. A public trial against his original successor would damage the reputation of Clan Romanov. This is something, he will not tolerate at the moment.
Can you try to deal with the subject discreetly? Maybe the two will split up and you will take her to a representative of the royal House of Influencers. There, all damage could be undone, discreetly.”
“Maggie, I don’t understand you. Why are you still protecting him, even after he attacked you?”
“That is actually quite simply explained: I have a guilty conscience towards him. It wasn’t entirely fair, how I treated him after we broke up.”
Darius shook his head in disbelief.
“Maggie, don’t be a fool! Don’t put your future at risk, because you have a guilty conscience!
Your big heart is one of the main reasons, why you are so important to me, but let me give you some serious advice: As the Regent’s wife, you cannot allow yourself a guilty conscience. Only the naive and powerless among us, have this luxury.
Make sure, that you can live with the decisions you make and their consequences, before you make them. There is no turning back in your position.”
I looked embarrassed to the side and nodded my head slightly. What should I say - he was absolutely right.
“Besides, Adrian is not an innocent victim. He got himself into this mess.”
“I can’t contradict you.”
Darius checked his watch, again.
“Now, I really have to go. You will definitely be expected in the castle, as well.”
He took my hand and pulled me to the apartment door and into the hallway of the apartment complex.
When we got to our cars, Darius turned to me and spread his arms invitingly.
I hugged him goodbye and said softly in his ear: “Don’t let Niklas lead you on a merry chase. Soon you’ll be in charge and I’ll have your back. Daddy will have another thing coming.”
I gave him an innocent kiss on the cheek and pulled out of the hug.
“And you take care of correcting things with James. You will see, that everything will be fine, once you have talked to each other and let Amie give you a few tips, beforehand.”
He winked mischievously at me.
Then, his expression became dead serious.
“Regarding the thing, concerning Daina: I’ll take James to task… from brother-in-law to ruler, so to speak.”
That made me grin, although it was still a very hurtful topic.
“Thank you Darius!”
“For what? I haven’t done anything yet.”
I went up to him again and gave him a hug.
“Thank you for being YOU!”
When I broke away from him, he nodded slightly embarrassed.
Yes, the thing with the big heart probably ran in the family.
We got into our cars and drove off in opposite directions.
I called Andre while driving and apologized to him for not being able to keep our appointment at today’s evening, because it had already become so late and I was still in downtown Atonia.
He was understanding and asked politely, whether the appointment would take place next evening. I firmly agreed to him.
I also asked him to have dinner served in my room. Then, I ended the call.
I wasn’t ready to meet Malachy, yet.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t talk to Amie anymore, because she had already started her shift at the ‘Raven’ when I arrived at the castle.
I hadn’t left the MINI for her. Hopefully she wasn’t mad at me.
I quickly sent her a message.
“Sorry that I didn’t leave you the MINI :(. I’ll send someone from the castle to pick you up after your shift! Don’t argue, everything has already been arranged!”
A little white lie wouldn’t send me straight to hell.
I quickly called the staff area and asked to have Amie picked up at half past two at the ‘Bar Raven’.
Nobody found this request to be strange - there were advantages to being the Regent’s fiancée.
The rest of the evening passed without further incidents.
I took my dinner in peace in my living room. Then, I read a few pages in a book about the origins of Castle ‘Green Willow Grove’ and went to bed early.