Bella was still half asleep when there was a knock on her door. Wrapping a robe hurriedly around her she rushed to answer. One of the many soldiers stood there with a bouquet of white and red flowers.
“From the Duke of Greel.”
“Um thanks but I don’t know a duke.”
“The king had a meeting with him this afternoon and shared some of your chocolates.”
A huge bouquet of roses for a few chocolates seemed excessive but what did she know. Shrugging she accepted the enormous vase. Staggering she plopped it down on a table a few steps away.
The guard was still standing there when she turned back.
“Was there something else?”
“The Duke would like to purchase your talents for a party at his establishment in two weeks.” The guard said it with his feet apart, back straight. He’d been rehearsed.
“Sorry but please tell the Duke I have an exclusive contract. I can’t cook for anyone but the king or his children. So thank him but tell him I can’t do it.”
With a smile she slammed the door in the soldier’s face.
She hated to be woken up. Afternoon naps were sacred because she needed to recharge before dinnertime. Since she generally got up before dawn to make fresh pastries, breads and to plan future meals she needed an afternoon nap, otherwise she’d be tired and cranky when she cooked. She’d have to ask Chef Britton about the fresh markets and where they were located.
Now that she was awake she glanced at the clock. Panic struck her as she realized it was two hours past the time she needed to wake.
Dressing quickly, she all ran down the corridor, dodging servants in her wake. She reached the dining area out of breath.
Chef Britton was there and gave her a strange look.
Luckily she had made the lasagna earlier it only needed to be reheated. Slipping on an apron over her work clothes, Bella slathered some garlic butter on some fresh bread she’d made earlier in the day. After reheating the lasagna and making sure the bread was lightly toasted she sent the entire thing off to the king.
Dessert was a layered custard tart that she would send to him once he’d eaten his lasagna.
Humming to herself Bella started wiping down the stove when a young man appeared at her side. He was probably in his late teens but still hadn’t grown into his full size even though he stood taller than her.
“Can I help you?”
The kid shook his head. “No. I’m supposed to help you.”
“I’m your kitchen help. According to Chef Britton it’s in your contract.”
Bella smiled. She’d completely forgotten about that clause.
“What’s your name?”
“Jimnin but people call me Jimmy.” His bright blue eyes looked up at her with such innocence she felt her heart turn in her chest. He reminded her so much of her younger brother that she wanted to pinch his cheeks.
She barely resisted.
“Thank you Jimmy, you can call me Bella. If you don’t mind cleaning up the dishes and the counters I’ll wipe down the stove.”
“Will do Miss Bella.”
Shaking her head and stifling a yawn the pair set the kitchen to rights.