Anna fixed her husband’s tie and pushed him out the door, where Ben was waiting. He was their chauffeur, butler, and everyman. He was whatever they needed him to be, because he could be trusted. It was under his guidance that Mathew would make it to the waiting vehicle outside instead of wandering back off to his lab, or a book somewhere.
“Do you think I should take him up on the offer?” Tessa asked her mother, slipping in before the door closed.
Anna quirked a brow and pointed to her jewelry case. “Pick out a set that will match my dress, would you dear?” Her dress was lying on the bed, all ready to be put on. It had been designed to be easily laced up from the back, and with her daughter’s help, she was ready within a minute.
“Well?” Tessa asked impatiently, as her mother began putting on the azure earrings.
“I’m thinking.” The older woman preened in the mirror, enjoying how the blue contrasted her red hair and emerald, green dress. “It’s a hard question to answer. I don’t want anything to happen to you, but at the same time, if he is right, which you know he likely is, then this could give you a nice bump.”
She turned around and pulled her daughter close. “I can’t make this choice for you, only you can do that. Now, we need to be leaving. The weekly Sonntag meeting will be starting soon, and I’ll be making the retirement announcement there.”
Tessa nodded mutely and opened the door for her.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it,” Anna told her, lifting her daughter’s chin gently.
“What about dad?”
“He might be disappointed, in which case all you have to do is tell him you want to see more empirical research data relating to the safety and effectiveness of the experiment on young women within your age bracket. He won’t have it on hand, and it will distract him while also helping him gather useful information.” Anna smiled and kissed her daughter on the cheek. “Remember, the choice is yours either way.”
A maid appeared at the far end of the hall with her office CryTel in hand. “It’s for you, madam, someone called the Major. He sounds panicky.”
Anna snorted. “The Major doesn’t know how to sound panicky.” She accepted the device and lifted it to her ear. “Hurry up, we were just about to leave.”
“Zack and Zara are missing!” He roared into her ear. “They were taken along with Specialist McCleary from the portal after we left. The bodies of the soldiers I left with her to escort them back to the dorm safely were found just a few minutes ago. Dead, inside the warehouse, with one vehicle missing. Both packs the kids had been carrying were found there as well.”
“I have to ask, could it have been her?”
“No, absolutely not. Even if she wasn’t loyal to me, she has a soft spot for those two. She was there when we rescued them, and at this spot probably knows most of their story. She would rescue them again in a heartbeat, I believe, but she wouldn’t kill my own people.”
Tessa looked at her mother and mimed that she would be outside, giving her some privacy for the conversation.
Anna nodded gratefully, waiting for her to disappear before growling. “I don’t care what you have to do but HANDLE IT! In a couple of hours, I’m about to announce my retirement as a hidden adviser to the king before all the nobles and many of the citizens of this country. Then moments after that, I am going to make my final announcement in the role. It will be the same one I made last night, wherein I named Zara the crown’s special scholarship holder and temporary royalty. Can you imagine what will happen if people find out she was kidnapped even before the announcement was made?”
“Why do you think I contacted you?” The Major ground out. “I have my people working on this already. I’m contacting you mostly as a courtesy, and to see if you might have any ideas on who might have done this?”
She tapped her nail against the back of the smooth device in thought. “The Albright brat was never captured. He might be dumb enough to try something this foolhardy.”
“I had considered him,” The Major hesitated. “I’ll pay a visit to his parents and get some answers. You go have fun making your announcements.”
The CryTel clicked off and went dark, as it lost the connection on the other side.
Anna had a vicious smile on her face as she dropped the device on a small waiting table and headed for the front. She would never begrudge anyone causing more harm to the Albright family. Not after what they had done to hers. She would make sure they paid, or none of this would have been worth it.
Tessa smiled as she joined them.
Well, maybe some of it was worth the trouble.