“You’re ill, my love!?” Roman had come in a panic when he learned the queen had not left bed that morning.
“I’m just a little tired,” she explained.
“I will cancel the hunt at once!” he said but Francesca called him back.
“Don’t be foolish. I will be fine. Enjoy your hunt and I will take care of our child.”
Roman kissed her and as he did so his hand rested on her swollen womb.
“This child will be the greatest ruler Navaria has ever seen,” he commented.
“Which is why I must rest,” Francesca scorned playfully. “Go hunt. I have Annabelle to keep me company.”
The king turned to the Queen’s confidante and took her hand in his. The king’s touch was warm but rough.
“You’re quite a treasure, Annabelle,” he said. “I don’t know where my queen would be without you.”
Annabelle bowed her head but kept his gaze. “Neither do I,” she replied.
She enjoyed watching the humour dance across his face and settle in his warm, brown eyes. He laughed and Annabelle joined him.
“She is a feisty one, isn’t she?” remarked the king to the queen.
Francesca pursed her lips. “Yes, she has me laughing all day long,” she said sarcastically.
Roman continued laughing but Annabelle simmered back down to a smile.
“Now go hunt or this child will be born and raised before you return.”
Roman offered his heavily pregnant wife a tender kiss. Before leaving the room he kissed Annabelle’s hand.
“This child will be with us soon,” Francesca pointed out. “We have to be prepared.”
“I’ll bury the remains at that tree in the garden,” replied Annabelle. “The crooked one.”
“Hurry,” instructed Francesca. “Try not to arouse too much suspicion. Neither of us have the energy to protect ourselves.”
“Drenisov is still chasing his tail,” Annabelle reminded her mistress. “He wouldn’t know a real witch if she was close enough to bite off his tongue.”
It didn’t lighten the queen’s spirits. She shook her head.
“Whilst his eyes are focused elsewhere,” she said, “you will fetch everything my child needs.”
Annabelle said nothing more. She left Francesca with a nurse whilst she dealt with her macabre task.
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