Several days later
“What do you mean she has the day off?” Zerrin glared at his guard. “What am I supposed to eat?”
“Chef Brillon has prepared breakfast for you and your sons.”
The guard bowed as he presented a tray of food Zerrin would’ve appreciated even a week ago. Now it looked dull and uninspired. There was no grand presentation by his beautiful chef with the metal cover that rang when she removed it., or fruit cut into shapes of birds he’d never heard of before.
His sons looked at the offering and let out varying degrees of sighs.
“She’ll be back soon.” He said to reassure his boys and try and make himself feel better.
The guard shook his head at them before bowing and leaving them to their meal.
“She’s coming back right?” Varren looked at him with big, sad eyes.
“Yes, it is in her contract that she gets a day off each week. I’d forgotten what day it was.” He silently cursed his lawyer who let it slide that someone else would prepare their meals while she took the day off.
“Where do you think she went?” Varren persisted. “Do you think she wants company?”
Zarrin laughed at his son’s hopeful expression. “I’m sure she went into town to shop or something. Girl’s like that.”
Lainth shook his head. “Chef isn’t like the other girls. I heard her saying she doesn’t like to shop. But she might have gone to the royal museum.”
“Or the gardens,” Chall offered.
“She should go to the rose garden next time,” Varren piped up. “I could show her around.”
Zarrin raised his hands to still the rush of ideas coming from his sons. “Calm down boys. If she doesn’t mind answering you can ask Bella tomorrow but I forbid you to bug her about it. It is her private time. She’s allowed to use it for whatever she wants.”
“Maybe she has a boyfriend,” Lainth offered.
Zarrin choked on his juice.
“The duke likes her,” Chall said. “He even sent her flowers once.”
“He what!” Zarrin shouted.
“I heard he was trying to bribe her away but she said her contract was exclusive. What does exclusive mean?” Chall asked.
Zarrin battled to control his rising anger. “It means our chef can’t go sharing her cooking skills with other men. She has to stay and take care of us.”
Lainth frowned. “But if the duke was her boyfriend she could cook for him right?”
“The duke is not her boyfriend!” Zarrin didn’t know why the idea bothered him so much. Shaking his head he plowed on to the topic he wanted to discuss with his boys this morning. The absence of his chef threw him off stride. He knew he wasn’t going to like days off. “We need to consider candidates for a new queen.”
Varren crinkled his nose. “I didn’t like any of them.” A pout formed on his little face.
“I have to agree,” Lainth said in his more grown up manner. “Not one of them liked children even though they pretended to and three of them almost fainted when presented with Chall’s lizard.”
Zarrin sighed. “What did I say about the lizard?”
“You said they needed to meet the entire family,” Chall lifted his head in challenge. “Sir Greenburt is part of the family.”
Zarrin put his face in his hands. It was going to be a long day.