Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Josephine Valent
Word Count :24284
Publication Date :2021-12-24
Series : Royals#2
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-4874-3463-2
An unexpected holiday gift leads to disaster and danger for Dominique and Ethan.
When Princess Dominique and Ethan return to Monteaux for the Christmas season, Dominique receives an unexpected holiday gift. A beautiful baby boy is left for her under the Christmas tree, along with a note requesting that she keep the baby safe.
Their search for the mother exposes a crack that tests their relationship and leads to international entanglements with dangerous consequences.
Princess Dominique looked up as Frederique Crane, head of palace security, appeared in the doorway to the parlor. “Please excuse the interruption, Your Majesty,” he announced, holding a box covered with Christmas wrapping paper and decorated with ribbons and holly. With the gift in his arms, he fits in seamlessly with the two enormous wood carved holiday soldiers flanking the entrance, she mused. With the crackling fire, garlands and lights hung around the room, and peppermint martini, it couldn’t have felt more like Christmas, and with Ethan there, it was sure to be a memorable first for them. She lowered her hand to his leg and felt a tiny spark of heat in her belly, a reminder of the intensity of his pull.
“Yes, Frederique?” King Victor answered. He set his glass of whiskey on the table beside him.
“Someone placed this gift under the Christmas tree in the entrance hall. It is addressed to Her Royal Highness, Dominique…and…well…I’m not sure what to do with it,” he explained as he peered into the box.
“Who is it from?” Dominique asked.
“It does not state,” he answered.
She glanced at the blank expressions of her father, Victor, and his wife, Lidia. “Andre? Francine?” she asked, turning to her brother and sister-in-law.
“Not us,” Andre answered.
“Ethan,” she said, lifting her hand to his arm. The definition of his muscle under her fingers didn’t surprise her, nor did the rise of heat it triggered. She pushed the impending urges aside. She would act on those later in the privacy of her wing, but just the thought had the cravings moving back to the surface. “Did you—”
He shook his head. “It’s not from me.”
She pushed herself up from the settee. “It’s a little early for opening gifts. Christmas isn’t for another few weeks, but seeing how there is no lid on the box, let’s have a look. Come in, Frederique, bring it to me.” She took a few steps as he strode toward her. She had to admit, as much as she preferred to wait for it to get closer to Christmas before opening gifts, her curiosity was getting the best of her.
When he reached her, he tilted the box, and she peered inside.
“Oh, my. Frederique.” She stared down at the shock of dark curls, the chubby cheeks, and the button of a nose buried amid a cloud of pale blue blankets. She waited for a sign that the baby was alive, and when she saw a soft twitch in its lip, she released a relieved breath.
“I’m sorry,” he responded quickly. “My instincts were to call Inspector Laroche immediately, but since the envelope had your name written on it, I thought…forgive me, I did not think.”
She turned toward Ethan, and he sprang to his feet. He hurried to her side and lifted a hand to the box. “What the—” was all he managed when he looked inside. She didn’t miss the smile that erupted across his face.
“What is it?” Victor demanded.
“It’s a baby,” she answered. She turned to Lidia and Francine. “Come see.”
“Frederique, how can you not know who left it?” Ethan asked.
“We know it was not a stranger that simply walked in and put it under the tree. The palace is impenetrable. He had to have been placed there by someone authorized to enter the palace, such as an employee or a service provider. With the holiday decorating going on, there have been a lot of outsiders coming through. It is possible that someone from the decorating company left it. We are reviewing the video of the entrance hall to identify the person.”
“An employee is more likely to know that Dominique arrived today,” Ethan suggested.
“It must be a boy. He is swathed in blue. He is so precious,” Lidia gushed as she gazed down into the box. “Francine, how old do you think he is?”
“Well, judging from his face and the size of the box, I’d say he’s no more than four or five months.”
“Frederique, did he come with any spare parts,” Andre asked as he hovered over Francine, “such as diapers or formula.”
“Andre, that’s a horrible way to ask that question,” Francine scolded. “He is not an object, but,” she continued as she turned to Dominique, “you should have a bottle ready when this lovely little angel awakens. And I wouldn’t lift him out of that box until you have that bottle.”
“That didn’t occur to me,” she answered. “Frederique, can you call down to the kitchen and have them prepare a bottle right away?”
“Yes, Your Royal Highness, and should I call Inspector Laroche?” he asked as he handed the box to Ethan.
“Yes,” Victor answered, joining them.
“No,” Dominique snapped back. “Absolutely not.”
“I agree with Dominique,” Ethan said, peering into the box. “He could be a keeper.”
“I’ll let you discuss how to proceed while I order a bottle and check on how my staff is coming on identifying who left the baby,” Frederique said as he retreated. “Oh,” he said, handing an envelope to Dominique, “here is the envelope that was taped to the box.”
“Surely you’re not thinking of keeping him,” Victor said, staring into the box. “Although I must admit, he is a fine-looking baby.”
“Let me take a look at that,” Andre said, taking the envelope from her.
“No, of course not, but I will not allow him to be passed around and placed somewhere for orphans. He is obviously loved and well cared for. Look at those cheeks,” she said, looking into the box. “They are full, and there is not a mark on them. Look at those curls. They are combed and styled.”
“But it’s Christmas time. We and the staff are swamped around here.”