The Desert King's Housekeeper Bride(7)

By: Carol Marinelli

‘She left the palace this morning, Your Highness.’ Effie’s teeth were chattering; she was terrified of speaking directly with the King, yet she was grateful for the chance to explain herself. ‘I was chosen as a replacement at the last minute. There was no time for me to pack—I have to wear her things…’

Zakari glanced at her generous flesh, but didn’t comment.

‘I thought you were in the desert, that you wouldn’t return till sunset. I wanted to prepare your room for you.’ Effie gave a helpless shrug. ‘Stavroula did say that I am to be on call day and night, that nothing was to be too much trouble for you. She tried to make it clear to me what my duties would be and I was so eager in my acceptance, I truly didn’t understand… I don’t know about these things.’

‘Stavroula meant cleaning, preparing my meals—if I require a drink or conversation perhaps…’ Zakari explained. ‘What happened this afternoon—’ he dismissed the entire event with one flick of a manicured hand ‘—Christobel and I had our own private arrangement…’

‘Oh…’ Effie frowned, realising only now why the irresponsible, rather lazy Christobel held such an esteemed position!

‘So I’m not here for… I mean, you don’t expect me to…’

‘No.’ Zakari withered at the very thought, though he didn’t show it. He was used to reed-thin, groomed and skilled lovers—the thought of this plain, plump, blushing woman taking Christobel’s place made his response quite definite!

‘And you do need a housekeeper?’

He neither wanted nor needed a housekeeper, but as he stared down at her tear-streaked face something unfamiliar twisted inside him, the same twist that had responded to her cries, and the same twist that had sent a king to make a maid a drink.

‘Yes…’ He frowned at his own response—confused that he was actually placating her, when always, always it was the other way around. ‘I do need a housekeeper, but not tonight. Unpack your things and then rest. You will commence your duties tomorrow.’

He swept out then—leaving Effie blinking on the bed, reeling at the turn of events.

The shame, the appallingness of what had taken place, dimmed by sheer bemusement.

The King had made her a drink and had consoled her in her shame.

King Zakari had made the impossible suddenly better.

On shaky legs she stood, unclipping the suitcase as he had instructed, and pulled back the lid, her hands shaking, her face darkening red as she went through the contents. Her head was tight with sinful curiosity as Christobel and the King’s private arrangement revealed itself further.

Apart from one token maid’s outfit that would be way too tight on Effie, it was silk stockings that slid through her fingers, silver-foil-wrapped condoms that glistened in the make-up bag, suspender belts and sheer bras that wouldn’t cover a pimple, that over and over mocked Effie’s innocence. Lotions and potions that Christobel must use to weave her magic had Effie wide-eyed with shock, and, pulling out a flimsy robe and the spare uniform that were the only remotely decent objects, she quickly slammed the case closed and tried to forget what she’d seen. She’d wear the same clothes all week rather than touch Christobel’s stuff! Having washed out her own underwear and dress to wear in the morning, Effie slipped between the cool sheets. The flimsy robe and uniform lay draped over the chair, should Zakari call her, and Effie willed herself to relax, only she couldn’t. She turned off the small bedside lamp and willed the rest Zakari too had instructed to come to her, but for the first time she defied the King’s orders.

Switching the lamp back on, she retrieved the case. Her eyes narrowed in curiosity this time as slowly she went through the contents, rubbing lipsticks on the backs of her hands, spraying perfume in the air, then, removing the lid on one of the containers, Effie inhaled the sickly sweet smell of depilatory cream. Oh, she might be naive but she wasn’t stupid. Effie knew there were no fancy waxing clinics in Calista as there were on Aristo, that for Christobel to be groomed, she would have to take care of that herself.