Enoch sank back down into his chair behind his desk and buried his face in his hands. Franca walked over to stand beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Enoch … he’s her husband,” she said softly.
“I will not recognize their marriage. To do so is to condone what has happened, and it is unforgivable that Mike took advantage of his position with our daughter.”
“Royal bodyguards are held to greater standards than ordinary men and Mike has acted like a man, not a bodyguard. I cannot forgive him for that.” “She’s with child, Enoch,” she said softly, “Our second grandchild.”
“And we will do everything in our power to support Alberta and the child she carries,” he said. “Tell her that, Franca. Tell her that she and her child will want for nothing, but I will not allow that man back in the palace or on the grounds. He will have no place in my
family, in my life or in my heart.”
Franca’s heart sank, but she kissed her husband on his forehead and hurried out of the room, intent on finding Alberta.
* * *
“Mike, wait!” Mike stopped at the sound of Alberta’s frantic voice. He and his two guards had just reached the palace’s front entrance when she caught up with them. She ran directly into his arms, burying her tearful face into the front of his jacket. “Oh, Mike. It was far worse than I expected,” she cried. “I’ve never seen him so angry.”
She raised her face from his jacket and gazed up at him. “We have to tell him the truth. We have to tell him that you aren’t” “No.” Mike said the word sharply, glancing at the two guards to see how much of the
conversation they were taking in. “You made me a promise,” he said in an urgent whisper.
“And I will not release you from it right now. Perhaps later, when things calm down a bit.” Mike had suspected that King Enoch’s legendary temper would explode and he’d been right. He’d prefer that King Enoch vent his rage on him, and not on his daughter.
If King Enoch learned the truth, Mike feared his rage would not only be directed at Lexis, but at Alberta as well. The King would not be pleased that Alberta had been seduced by a Calista right under the King’s and the king and queen of Calista’s noses. Things were finally going well between the two countries.
Peace was more important than Mike’s own honor. “What are we going to do?” He stroked a hand down her shining hair then grabbed her shoulders and held her away from him. “I’m going to my farm, and you’re going to stay here. We’ll see what happens when things cool down a bit.”
She looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. He released her, oddly disappointed and unsure why. Without saying another word, he turned and continued out the palace doors.
* * *
Alberta sat in the window seat of her bedroom, nearly lost amid the thick throw pillows beneath her. A knock fell on her door and she was unsurprised when her mother walked in. She rose from the window seat and went directly to her mother’s arms.
“Oh, mother, things are in such a mess,” she said miserably as the hug ended. “You must talk to Father,” Alberta said. “Mike is a good man, Mother. He doesn’t deserve to be banished from his job, from his life here at the palace.”
“Alberta, you must understand, you sprang this on us suddenly.” Franca frowned and released Alberta’s hands. “In the months that Mike has been your bodyguard I’ve never seen a look pass between the two of you, a touch of any kind. This just seems to have happened so fast.”
Franca held Alberta’s gaze. “How far along is your pregnancy?”
Alberta broke the gaze with her mother. “A couple of months,” she replied. “Alberta, your father is most angry with Mike right now. Your father personally chooses the men to serve as the family bodyguards, and Mike betrayed that trust.”
Alberta desperately wanted to tell her mother that Mike hadn’t betrayed the trust that he had been so honorable he’d given his name to her to cover up her dishonor.
“Oh, mother, I don’t know what to do.” Franca took her by the shoulders. “Have you seen a doctor since you realized you were
pregnant?” Alberta shook her head. “Then that’s our first order of business. I’ll ring Dr. Ackah and we’ll go see him immediately.”
Once again Alberta sank down on the bed. She watched as her mother picked up the phone and made the arrangements with the royal doctor.
Nearly an hour later Alberta and her mother left the office of Dr. Ackah. Alberta had been given a clean bill of health and Dr. Ackah had assured her that everything seemed to be progressing quite normally with her pregnancy.
“Alberta, talk to me,” Franca said once they were back in Alberta’s bedroom. The two women sat together in the window seat, Alberta staring out at the gardens below.
“I just don’t know what to do. I’m so afraid of making Father more angry,” she said softly and turned her gaze to her mother. “Do you love Mike?” Franca asked.
“With all my heart,” Alberta answered without hesitation.
“Then you must decide what frightens you more – your father’s anger, or being without the man you love.” Franca reached out and touched Alberta’s cheek, her fingers warm against her skin.
“Follow your heart, Alberta. It will never lead you astray. “With a final pat to Alberta’s cheek, Franca stood and left the room.
There was a sense of welcome in the small farmhouse that hadn’t been present in the year since his mother’s death. The house resonated with an emptiness that seemed to feed the sudden despair inside him.
A knock on his front door pulled him up off the sofa. Alberta? His heart leapt with joy, a joy that was instantly dashed when he opened the
door and stared in astonishment as he saw two palace guards.
To be continued
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