Bella pulled a second loaf of bread out of the oven and set it on a rack to cool beside the first loaf. She relived her conversation with the king and wondered if she should be annoyed with the king’s high-handed manner but since her encounter with the duke she decided he had a point. She did need protection. Only because she’d been able to surprise her opponents had she escaped the duke’s house safely. She doubted the same tricks would work twice. If she disappeared or became kidnapped, there wasn’t a force in the universe that would keep the kingdom intact after her brothers arrived.
She had a weekly check-in with her brothers and if she didn’t contact them they would immediately descend on the planet.
Stirring the soup she inhaled the smell of warm spices, root vegetables and big chunks of meat.
“I don’t suppose you’re willing to share your recipe?” A deep voice asked.
Bella looked up into the eyes of the palace chef.
Chef Brillon raised a brow as she continued to watch him. “Which recipe did you have in mind?”
“Your stew. It smells divine. I have the recipe for the king’s favorite cake I can exchange. It was his mother’s recipe.” He waved a datapad at her.
Bella smiled. It never hurt to foster good relations. “You’ve got yourself a deal. Want to taste some first?”
Brillon grabbed a stool and dragged it to the counter. “Sounds good.”
Bella sliced him a chunk of bread. She had plenty to share. Slathering it with butter, she put the slab on a plate and poured him a small bowl of soup.
He examined the plating for a minute until Bella began to feel like she’d failed the first exam at cooking school. “It looks good,” he said at last when she was about to tell him to forget the whole thing.
Dipping in his spoon he scooped some into his mouth. The stern chef’s mouth turned up in the corners as he chewed the chunky vegetables and swallowed. “You know I half-suspected they were swayed by your beauty.” He pulled off a piece of the bread and popped it into his mouth. “I now suspect everyone is convinced of your skill despite your beauty. Your use of herbs is superior and your loaf had the perfect combination of crusty shell and chewy bread. I’m honored to share my kitchen with you.”
Bella smiled so widely her cheeks hurt. “Thank you chef.”
“You’re very welcome chef.”
She pulled up another stool and grabbed a slice of bread. Companionably the pair discussed cooking techniques and favorite meals until it was time to get things together and feed their people. For the first time Bella felt truly accepted.