After enduring the ordeal of a kidnapping and concern for her unborn child, Princess Olivia is more than ready to leave her former duchy and return to the capital.
“Why, in God’s name, do you want to take the ship with the experimental hyperdrive back to Xapreathea?” William asked. “After all you’ve been through, I thought you’d want a little luxurious rest and relaxation.”
My husband was right, I did want to enjoy every possible luxury available to me. As the Crown Princess of the Star Kingdom, that amounted to a lot of luxury. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to wallow in the lap of it all. Even more than the luxury, I wanted to wriggle on William’s lap and show him just how much I appreciated his recent heroics. But all of it paled in comparison with my need to talk to my mother-in-law, Queen Charlotte. I couldn’t say that to William, so I told a not-quite-lie, instead.
“I want to get home as quickly as possible,” I said, “so Dr. Edwards can examine me and make sure our baby is completely healthy. I know it’s paranoid of me, but you know how expectant mothers can be when it comes to their baby’s health.”
“I know Jeanine had her best doctors examine you, darling, but there’s no one on Gaunner who’s as good as Dr. Edwards. I completely understand your concern.”
I offered a shy smile, “Thank you, darling. I’m more comfortable with Dr. Edwards.”
William smiled and took my hand. “If that’s what you want, that is what you shall have. Nothing is too good for my princess.”
The dear man meant every word of that, too. He would do anything for me, including making a near orbit space dive to rescue me—and Jeanine, of course—from kidnappers. How could any woman not love such a man?
“Are you sure you don’t mind, darling?” I asked, wrapping my arms around his neck.
“I can never deny you anything, my dear.” William kissed me lightly on the lips, “I’ll tell Captain Palmer and our Chief of Staff that we’re taking the fastest ship in the galaxy.”
Twenty minutes later, our ship lifted from my former home world. Twenty hours later, our ship landed on my new home world. As I expected, a crowd of newsies waited for us.
“Don’t worry, Olivia, I’ll keep this short. Surely, even a pack of newsies will understand your desire to have Dr. Edwards examine you and the baby.”
“They would,” I said, “if they knew I was pregnant. We haven’t made an official announcement, remember?”
“Damn me, but I had forgotten!” William cocked his head and looked at me, “Of course, we could make the announcement now.”
“Are you sure that’s wise, Your Highness?” Godfrey, our Chief of Staff asked. “I was given to understand that Her Majesty was quite looking forward to making the announcement, herself.”
William leveled a flat stare at Godfrey. “Is my mother having the baby? No, she is not. Given that, I see no reason for her to make the announcement.”
“But… But, she’s the Queen!” the other man sputtered.
“And I’m the father,” William snapped.
I looped an arm through one of William’s arms and started toward the airlock. “I believe father trumps Queen, in this situation. Now, let’s get this over with as quickly as possible so I can see Dr. Edwards.”
Having grown up in the limelight, William handled the newsies masterfully. He announced the pending Royal birth, segued directly into our need to cut the interviews short, and had us in a ground car in less than ten minutes.
Once Dr. Edwards gave the baby and me a clean bill of health, I said, “Will you excuse me, William? I really should talk with your mother.”
“Why? You know Dr. Edwards will send a copy of the medical report immediately.”
“I know, darling, but I must report the political situation on Gaunner. After all, that was the reason we visited in the first place.”
William’s lack of interest in that discussion was reflected in his eyes. As they glazed over, he nodded, “Then, I suppose I should report the same to Father.”
I knew what he was going to report to the King—everything about his adventures and nothing about the politics that precipitated them—but I didn’t mind. It would please William, it would please his father, and it would leave Queen Charlotte and me free to act upon the truly important developments from our trip.
It took me thirty minutes to deliver the concise version of our trip to Gaunner to my mother-in-law. She listened carefully, not once interrupting with questions or comments, until I indicated I was done.
“I know you and Colin were very close, Olivia,” Queen Charlotte said. “Please accept my deepest sympathies, both for his death and for your hand in it. I doubt it helps you any at this moment, but you had no choice, my dear. Colin forced your hand.”
“I know, Mother, and that does help. Some.”
“You probably don’t want to hear this right now, Olivia, but you have grown beyond Colin’s tutelage. Meanwhile, he remained rather provincially centered around the Duchy of Gaunner.”
“The narrowness of his vision did…surprise…me. I’ve only been here for a few months, but I see things so differently now.” I met my mother-in-law’s gaze, “I attribute that to your guidance, Mother.”
“And I attribute it to your keen intellect and eye for detail. On that subject, my dear, what do you consider our primary concerns with regards to Lady Jeanine, Duchess of Gaunner?”
“It is unfortunate that she knows—or, at least, suspects—that we staged my spaceship’s destruction and William’s rescue of me from the wreckage,” I replied.
“The same can be said of her knowledge of your original involvement in the coup attempt against her,” Mother agreed. “But, the simple fact that she has not made that information public leads me to believe she’ll stick to her agreement. She will leave us alone if we leave her alone.”
I nodded, “That’s my read on it, as well.”
“But, something still bothers me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, though.”
Mother’s face grew solemn. “It’s her interest in the Star Stone. That makes me uneasy. I…don’t know why it does, but I cannot shake the feeling that no good will come from her interest.”
Once Mother voiced her concern, I realized I shared it. And, I realized I couldn’t explain why, either. But, I had enough to worry about without worrying about why I was worrying about the Star Stone.
“Perhaps, we should increase our surveillance on Lady Jeanine and her husband. With the Royal Intelligence Agency at our disposal, I’m sure we can feed them enough disinformation to keep Jeanine and her friends running in circles.”
“That’s a good idea, Olivia, but it leaves one loose end.”
“You mean the slicer you let access the Star Stone, Mother?”
“Yes. I feel as if she is the key to this whole situation. It worries me that we have no idea who she is, where she came from, or how she returned from the Star Stone with her sanity intact.” Mother shook her head, “I’m afraid this slicer may be far more dangerous to us than Lady Jeanine.”
“You have cut off all outside access to the Star Stone, haven’t you?” I asked.
“I’ve closed the connection she used to find you and Jeanine, but we cannot isolate the Star Stone entirely.”
“Why ever not? Leaving it connected to the net could be a huge mistake!”
Mother’s gaze sharpened on me. My comment had not pleased her.
“I am quite aware of that, my dear, but this matter is out of our control. The Star Stone requires those connections.”
“I don’t understand, Mother.”
Mother sighed, “No, you don’t. There are certain documents in the royal family’s library that provide an explanation. Well, an explanation of sorts, anyway. I think it’s time you read them. Once you have, we can bend both of our minds toward solving the slicer dilemma. Let us hope we can find a way to stop her without killing her.”
I felt a jolt of alarm. “Jeanine is close friends with this slicer. If something were to happen to the woman…”
“I understand your concern, Olivia,” Mother said. “But, stopping that slicer is more important than keeping our secrets away from William.”
Mentioning the slicer, what is Jana doing? Find out in Chapter 2, coming Wednesday.