The woman was telling Mrs. Springfield about the stuck up noble bitch as they came out the door. Both woman descended the steps to stand in front of her. The nameless woman looking smug, like something big was going to happen.
“You requested to speak to me because you want the child’s things returned to her?” Mrs. Springfield asked.“Correct. Lily specifically wants the doll her grandmother bought for her, and I want her clothes and trunks returned to her now,” Evelyn replied.
“See? I told you she was a demanding noble bitch,”the first woman spat.
Mrs. Springfield ignored her, “We don’t have her things no more, we sold them. Life is tough and she’s gotta learn that. Now I don’t have time for your bloody foolish games. Lily has chores to do and a punishment waiting for breaking the rules. Now hand her over.”
“No? And who the bloody hell do you think you are?” Mrs. Springfield all but spat, while the nameless woman kept saying she told her this rich one would be trouble. A small crowd had also started to form.
“Well Evelyn, I don’t know how things are done where you’re from, but here, there are consequences for trying to kidnap a child. Go get the constable, Martha.”
Martha ran with pleasure to get the constable, while Mrs. Springfield ranted about how the rich always felt entitled, but now she was going to get what was coming to her.
When Martha returned with the constable, he took one look at Evelyn and bowed before her.
“How may I be of service, Your Highness?” The man asked.
Martha and Mrs. Springfield went sheet white and stared at her.
“You’re the princess?” Sputtered Martha.
“That I am you bloody idiot. I would’ve thought the royal guards gave it away, but no, you’re not that bloody brilliant,” Evelyn retorted. “Now I will only say this one more time, so you had better listen good and well, I want Lily’s things and I want them now! She is coming with me because she is not only the cousin of the King, but also my cousin. Then I am going to find out how she ended up here. If I find out either of you were in on this plan, there will be consequences, do you understand?”
Both women were on the ground before her feet crying, begging for forgiveness.
“We really did sell her things,” said Martha.
“Then I suggest you find them, especially that doll. If you don’t find that doll, I will have you both locked up. Now, I’m late for a fitting with my dressmaker, I’ll be there with Lily for the next few hours. If her things haven’t been returned in that time, I will hunt you down myself. Am I clear?” Evelyn said in a clipped tone.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Evelyn turned with Lily, her Queen’s Men in tow, and walked back to the dress shop. No one spoke on the way back, and everyone stayed out of their way.
When Evelyn walked through the door, Lisette walked into the room, now filled with five men, and gave Evelyn a hug.
“My assistant is currently fitting Queen Maria. I wanted to tend personally to you, my dear friend,” Lisette said as she pulled back. She then looked over at Lily.
“My mother is here?” Evelyn was surprised. She hadn’t realized her mother had an appointment with Lisette as well.
“Yes, she wanted a last minute change on her gown,” Lisette explained.
“Oh, I see. She hadn’t told me anything about this.” Evelyn was puzzled by her mother’s actions. She had never asked Lisette to make a last minute change before.
“Lily? My darling girl, would you like a bath? And after, we can get you into a beautiful new gown and then I’ll give you a special surprise,” Lisette asked softly reaching out to the little girl.
“That would be lovely,” she responded taking Lisette’s hand.
“I’ll leave her with my lady’s maid. She’ll be in good hands. I’ll be back in a moment. In the meantime, you can step into the other dressing room.”
“Take your time,” Evelyn responded walking into the other room. She began undressing. The sooner she tried on the gowns, the sooner she could get Lily home.
Lisette walked in a few minutes later. She began to help Evelyn dress in her birthday gown.
“It fits you like a glove, Evie,” Lisette gushed. “I can’t wait for everyone to see you in it Saturday night.”
“It is simply stunning, Lis. You did a superb job.” Evelyn admired the nips and tucks of the dress.
Lisette helped her out of the gown and into her coronation dress. She praised Evelyn for how beautiful she looked.
Lisette helped Evelyn get dressed again. As she was helping the young woman from the room, Evelyn stopped her.
“Lis, I need you to send the coronation gown to Richard’s ship. Please, do not let anyone know you have done so,” Evelyn whispered.
“But why?” Confused etched Lisette’s face.
“I can’t explain, it’s just a feeling I have,” Evelyn said. “There have just been some odd things happening, and I’m not sure who I can trust and who I can’t any more.”
“Oh Evelyn! I’m so sorry. No matter what, you will always have me,” Lisette told her.
“Thank you,” Evelyn replied.
Evelyn was so caught up in her own thoughts, she had almost forgotten about Lily. Fortunately, Lisette had not and neither had those two dreadful women.
There was a knock on the door of the shop, Lisette answered it and escorted the women into the back room. She then went and got Evelyn, who was watching over Lily.
“Hello again, ladies. I trust you have the items I requested,” Evelyn said.
Martha looked like she was going to cast the contents of her stomach on the floor, while Mrs. Springfield was sweaty and pale, she was also the apparent elected speaker for the pair.
“Well, you see…. We, um, we went to the shop where we sold the things, and the owner, well…” Mrs. Springfield took a deep breath before plunging ahead. “Well, he said he sold everything to some well to do lady and couldn’t remember her name, Your Highness.”
“We searched everywhere for her,” Martha piped in. “We doesn’t know what else to do, Your Highness.”
“I see,” was the only response Evelyn gave.
The two women at her feet were practically sobbing. Evelyn was angry over their treatment of all the children, especially Lily, but she wasn’t sure what to do until Lisette spoke.
“I have Lily’s things,” Lisette explained calmly to Evelyn.
“Including her doll?” Evelyn knew if she didn’t have her doll, Lily would be devastated.
“Yes, even her doll. That was the surprise I had for her,” Lisette replied.
“Well, this seems to be your lucky day ladies. How much did you pay for the items, Lis?”
Lisette shot Evelyn a puzzled look. “I would have to go look, but I believe it was around 400 gold crowns.”
Evelyn hadn’t thought it possible, but the women became even more pale. “Ladies, you will pay Miss Cromwell back the 400 gold crowns she paid for the items. I am then going to have an investigation launched against you in regards to the orphanage.”
“Your Highness, we only got 150 gold crowns for the girl’s things,” Martha said.
Mrs. Springfield elbowed her in the midsection. “We will get the money to Miss Cromwell in a timely manner, Your Highness. We’ll be off now.”
The women scrambled to their feet and then made a dash for the door, tripping over each other in their haste to leave. Once the door closed, Evelyn and Lisette looked at each other before bursting into laughter.
“Please let me know if they fail to pay you back. I would take great pleasure in locking them away for a time,” Evelyn told her friend.
“I know you would. I will let you know.” The others moved from the private dressing rooms to the front room with the trunk that held her birthday gown. “Please let me know if something isn’t right.”
“Lis, the dress is stunning. Please, do not worry about it.”
Evelyn and Lily said their goodbyes while the Queen’s Men and footmen loaded the trunks onto the carriage.
Pierce handed up Lily before helping Evelyn into the carriage. Awareness shot through her gloved hand where they were connected. She stole a glance at Pierce, but he seemed unmoved.
The trio sat in silence, Lily clutching her doll to her chest. The site was heartbreaking. Lily’s parents had died in a carriage accident when the girl was three. She didn’t have a memory of them, all she knew was her grandmother.
They would find Lady Grisham if it killed her. Lily would not lose another loved one. In the meantime, she needed to be looked after and cared for.
“Lily, my darling, I will send word to your grandma that you are my honored guest. How about we have a slumber party tonight?”
The little girl’s face lit up. “Really? Don’t you have a fancy dinner you needs to go to?”
Evelyn looked at Pierce. She actually didn’t know what the schedule was for the evening but she wasn’t letting Lily out of her sight.
“I do and you get to join me. Then afterwards, I’ll ask cook if she can make us some hot chocolate and we can tell stories until bedtime,” Evelyn explained to her.
“I always wanted to go to a fancy dinner! Thank you so much Princess Evie. You are my favoritest person next to my grandma,” Lily exclaimed.
Lily snuggled closer to Evelyn, and she held the little girl tight. “Pierce, when we get back to the castle, will you let David know I will have a special guest for dinner?”
Pierce nodded. He studied the pair sitting across from him. Evelyn clearly adored Lily and the feeling was shared by the little girl. He wondered how Evie had come to be so close to the child.
The trio traveled in silence all the way back to the castle. Lily had fallen asleep during the ride, so Evelyn ordered Pierce to carry her up to her room, while the footmen and other servants unloaded her trunks.
Pierce had just laid Lily on Evelyn’s bed when Queen Maria came sweeping into the room. She took in the situation and motioned for Evelyn to join her in the hallway.
“Yes, Mother?” Evelyn was surprised word had reached her so quickly. She knew her mother would have her objections to her plans for Lily, but she wouldn’t budge. Not until Lady Grisham was found and Lily could be reunited with her.
“I heard from one of the servants Lily would be joining us for dinner tonight. I don’t think that is wise. You are trying to attract a husband, how does she fit into this plan?” Queen Maria seethed.
“I don’t know, nor do I care. She needs protection, and is under mine now,” Evelyn fired back.
“Regardless, dinner is no place for a child. Where is her governess?” Queen Maria demanded.
“I don’t know! You were being fitted at Lisette’s when I found her on the street. She was living in an orphanage, Mother. An orphanage! According to Lily, her governess was the one who packed her off to it a few days ago. I have no idea where Lady Grisham is,” Evelyn explained.
Queen Maria digested the news before she spoke again. “Does your father know his sister is missing?”
Evelyn let out a breath. She looked around her and realized her men were listening to every word she said. “No, I don’t believe so. Lily mentioned something about her having to attend to her sick sister, but that was all I got out of her.”
“She must have meant her sister-in-law. This is most alarming.” Queen Maria paused for moment. “I will let your father know what is going on. In the meantime, we can move Lily to the nursery and I’ll have someone care for her.”
The Queen brushed past Ian and John, but stopped when Evelyn spoke. “She isn’t going to the nursery. I promised her a slumber party tonight, and I won’t let her out of my sight.”
Queen Maria saw the determined gleam in her daughter’s eye. She also saw the men gathering around her. “Fine. For tonight, she can stay with you, but tomorrow morning we will have a talk with your Father over breakfast.”
Evelyn nodded in agreement and watched her mother walk away. She turned and walked into her room. Pierce, Peter and Robert were near the doorway. Evelyn walked past them and rang for Jessica.
“Her trunks are to go to the room across the hallway,” Evelyn explained quietly. “It’s part of my suite of rooms, so no one will disturb her, and no one has any excuse to move her. It’s also closer than Lady Grisham’s suite of rooms.”
The three men nodded. “I spoke to David and she will sit next to you at dinner,” Pierce told her.
“Wonderful. I’m going to write to my father and let him know what it going on.”
“Shhh,” Evelyn whispered to a giggling Lily. “We are supposed to be sneaking back to our rooms so no one stops us for leaving dinner early.”
Evelyn peaked out from their current hiding place near the servants stairs. Lily covered her mouth with her hands to try to keep the giggles from escaping. Once Evelyn was certain the coast was clear, she motioned for Lily and they ran for the secret door.
Evelyn pushed Lily in before her and then moved to close the door behind them.
“Evelyn? Is that you, darling?” Her heart stopped beating for a moment – Philip. Of all the people to follow them.
“Run, Lily. Run! If Prince Philip spots us, he’ll spoil our fun,” Evelyn urgently told the child.
Lily took off up the stairs at a sprint with Evelyn close behind her, in the distance she could hear the door below her open.
Evelyn and Lily had decided to sneak away from everyone, including her personal guard during the dinner. One of the footman tripped over her foot, sending food flying everywhere. In the ensuing chaos, she and Lily had made a dash out of the room using the servants entrance.
Now she realize how truly alone they were, and how careless she had been. Philip hadn’t been at dinner, so Evelyn didn’t give it a second thought when she had decided to have a bit of fun with Lily and escape.
“Evelyn, really, this is childless. Stop for me, darling. I’ll show you what real fun is,” Philip coaxed as he came running up the stairs behind them.
Evelyn felt sickened by his words and tone. She could hear him gaining on them, and the only way out of this passage was still one floor above them. Lily flung open the door and ran out of the passage first. She held the door open for Evelyn, who came bursting through a moment later.
She grabbed Lily’s hand as she slammed the panel closed and started to run down the hallway when an arm snaked out and yanked her backward. She fell against Philip’s chest and instantly went stiff.
“Well, well, what do we have here,” Philip whispered in her ear. “I love the dress. It shows off my favorite part of your body with exquisite affinity.”
Lily stopped at the end of the hall once she realized Evelyn wasn’t with her any more. She ran back towards her. “Evie, come on. We mustn’t be late for the slumber party.”
Philip started chuckling. “Go on little girl. Evelyn and I are going to have a chat.”
Evelyn’s eyes were huge. She was so frightened. She knew what Philip was capable of and she wanted Lily away from him as soon as possible.
“Go on, Lily. I’ll be fine,” Evelyn told the child in a shaky voice.
Lily looked at her doubtfully. “But…”
Philip’s patience had run out. He flung Evelyn into a wall and he reached for Lily. “I’m tired of you at every turn, you little brat!”
Philip lunged for Lily, but Evelyn would be damned if he hurt that little girl. She grabbed a candlestick on a nearby table and swung it with all her might into Philip’s shoulder. This knocked him off balance and he fell to the floor.
“Run!” Evelyn screamed. Both she and Lily took off at a sprint. She knew the child wouldn’t be able to keep up the breakneck pace for long. Philip roared behind them.
“Left, Lily!” Evelyn shouted. The pair hit the main hall, which was open to the foyer below. They ran up the stairs, but Lily was getting tired. Evelyn scooped the girl into her arms and kept running to her room.
“Give up now, you bitch,” Philip bellowed from behind her.
Up ahead Evelyn could see the door to her room. Lily shrieked as Philip reached out to grab Evelyn. Suddenly the door to Evelyn’s room opened, and there was Jessica. Her eyes were wide as she took in the site.
“Move!” Evelyn yelled. Jessica jumped out of the way as Evelyn slid across the polished stone floor into her bedroom. Once she cleared the threshold, Jessica slammed the door closed and bolted the lock just as Philip slammed into it.
Lily scrambled from Evelyn’s lap and began to laugh. “That was so much fun! We was almost caught Miss Jessica, but Evie would never let our fun be spoiled.”
Jessica took in the laughing child and her mistress on the floor. She knew from the terror on Evelyn’s face that there had been nothing fun about what she had witnessed. “That’s right,” Evelyn panted heavily. “Couldn’t let the fun end.”
“Let me start a bath for you and Lily, milady. I’ll ring down to the kitchen and tell them you are ready for hot chocolate and dessert,” Jessica said.
Evelyn was still out of breath as she helped Lily into the bath, but her heart rate was returning to normal. Jessica had left to get their treats, so Evelyn was tasked with getting the girl ready for bed.
“Just a few more minutes in the bath, Lily. Then I’ll quickly bathe and we can read stories,” Evelyn told the girl.
She left the bathroom and let out a small shriek. There before her was Pierce, and he was furious.
“Did you have fun?” Pierce seethed. He took in her disheveled appearance. He knew she had run into Philip during her escapade.
“Well, for the most part, yes,” Evelyn answered walking past him to grab a nightgown and robe for Lily.
Pierce stopped her. “Evie, I saw him chasing you from the second floor. When you picked up Lily to run down the fourth floor hall, my heart was in my chest because I knew I wouldn’t reach you in time.”
“I’m fine, Pierce. I won’t do it again. It was reckless, and I shouldn’t have taken for granted that Philip wasn’t at dinner,” Evelyn apologized softly. She searched his face for any sign that he cared outside of his duty to protect her. Seeing none, Evelyn sighed and went to move around him.
Pierce grabbed her left arm. Evelyn winced in pain. Pierce quickly let her go and began unlacing her dress.
“Pierce, wait! What are you doing?” Evelyn frantically looked behind her. “Lily is in the next room!”
“She’s playing in the bath. You’re hurt,” Pierce whispered back. He was grateful she was wearing a shift under her gown.
He finished unlacing her evening gown and watched it slide off her body to pool at her feet. Pierce slowly turned Evelyn to face him and let out a curse. “What the hell happened, Evie?”
Pierce’s fingers lightly traced the bruise forming at the top of Evelyn’s left arm and shoulder. “I ran into a wall. I’m fine.”
“How?” Came the terse reply. Evelyn looked down at the floor. He was already so angry with her, she didn’t want to make it worse.
“Oh my! I-I-I’m so sorry!” Jessica stammered from the doorway of the secret passage.
Evelyn jumped a foot away from Pierce and quickly whirled on her lady’s maid. “It isn’t what it looks like Jessica.” Evelyn laughed mirthlessly.
“Oh my goodness, Your Highness. Pardon my carelessness, I didn’t realize you were injured.” Jessica rushed to set the tray down before gingerly touching Evelyn’s arm. “Thank you sir for helping my lady, I can take it from here.”
Pierce nodded and left the room. Jessica helped Lily get ready for bed and set her up with goodies from the tray before helping Evelyn in the bathroom.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were hurt? I could have taken care of you first. I never would have left you if I had realized you were injured.” Jessica was frantic in her efforts to help Evelyn.
“He’ll tell your parents and I’ll be thrown out on my arse. I should have checked you after the incident with-, well after the incident.”
“Jessica, he won’t say a word to my parents. I’ll simply tell him you didn’t know if it comes up. Truthfully, if Pierce hadn’t touched my arm, I wouldn’t have realized I had a bruise until I got into the bath,” Evelyn stated calmly.
The women stayed silent until they rejoined Lily. The rest of the evening was spent laughing and indulging in hot chocolate and sweets.
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