"Really?" I groaned, slumping into a random chair that was far from the King.
The King's dark blue eyes watched me. A playful smile gracing his perfect face.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" He asked in a smooth voice that I knew most lady's instantly fell for.
"Hunger," I said simply as I straightened in my chair.
"You could've eaten dinner with my court and I." The King mused.
"Because I want nothing more than to be called Acer and to have my past dragged up." I clenched my hands, which were resting on the table.
The King noted the action, as he never missed anything.
He nodded thoughtfully. "I suppose that's understandable."
"I don't need you to justify my actions." I shot the King a glare as he drank from his goblet. "Why are you down here?"
The King didn't answer for a bit, making me think he wasn't going to answer. "The kitchen staff are loud." He said simply.
"Why is that bad? They're just having fun." I furrowed my eyebrows, confused with his reasons.
"I never said it's bad." Dark blue eyes watched me, intently. "My suite is quiet, the sound deafening. So I come down here sometimes."
"Do your harlots not keep you busy?" I jested, but didn't get the reaction I wanted.
A frown spoiled the King's features, his eyes thoughtful. "Why do you always assume the worst in people?"
I was shocked at his sudden seriousness. "You know the answer to that," I said just as the door to the kitchen opened.
A helper came out, humming, while balancing a tray of food and drink on her hands. Instantly, her humming stopped as she noticed my company.
"King Samuel." The helper balanced the tray as she bowed deeply.
"Good evening Julie." The king nodded at her, earning a smile from the helper.
Did he know her name? The King even bothered with that? Interesting.
Julie brought the tray to me, setting out the meal and a goblet which she filled with some sweet alcohol.
I thanked her as she left, to which she seemed shocked.
I looked at my plate, the steam rising from my steak and the perfectly cooked veggies sitting before me smelled amazing.
Wasting no time, I dug into the food, enjoying the nutritious meal.
"What's with the cloth's shopkeepers niece?" The King asked as I ate.
I took a bit before answering, planning what I was going to say. "That girl's been through more in her ten years of life than most people in this castle, and that goes for the Plague and everything," I said.
The King nodded.
I noticed that the kitchen had gone quiet.
"Yet despite her horrible past, her aunt beats her. A loveless and horrible home life is the last thing that girl needs. I met her this morning and for whatever reason have taken her underneath my wing." I explained. The King listened with intent, his eyes shining with something close to admiration.
He spoke after a few minutes of silence. "The Acer has a heart."
"I've always had a heart." I clenched my hand around my fork.
I glared at the King, before turning my attention to my plate and finishing it.
"You're welcome to stay here as long as you want." The King said, filling in the silence. "In fact, one of the guards teaches day school for some of the youngins running around here. In case you're interested for Harper." I nodded, that doesn't sound like a bad idea. He straightened as he spoke again. "I must warn you about someone though."
I stiffened. "If you bring someone dangerous here that could be a threat to her, I promise you that I'll butcher them before they set their sight on her." The threat spilled easily from my lips.
The King chuckled. "I expect nothing less, but that's not why I'm warning you about him." I raised my eyebrow in question. "My son is in town."
"You have a son?" My jaw dropped.
He nodded, a smile pulling at his mouth. "Yes, He turns twenty-three in four days and will be claiming his birthright on his birth date celebration."
I scoffed. "Hold up, you have a son? There's a Prince of the South?" I had only heard rumors of the King having any children, at least I thought they were rumors.
"Yes. My wife made me promise before she died that I would protect him and with the threat of the North looming ever since the Plague settled, I've kept him and his identity protected." The king explained, swirling his drink thoughtfully.
"So you wanted to warn me about the Prince why exactly?" I asked.
A strange and almost mischievous smirk crossed the King's face. "Just wanted you to be aware of his presence, that's all."
The lie was blatant and clear but I figured now was not the time to call him out for it.
I nodded my head, acknowledging what the King had said.
The King drained the rest of his drink before he stood. "It's getting late, I suppose I should head to my quarters." He didn't wait for me to respond before he turned to leave.
"I'm sorry." I groaned before he left.
"Excuse me?" He looked over his shoulder at me, a smile evident.
"I'm sorry for assuming the worse in you."
The King nodded, before he went out the door I heard him mutter, "Likewise Acer."
Finished with my meal and drink, I got up and took my dishes to the kitchen. The room was completely empty, though stuff was set up for morning prep.
I made my way to the sink and started washing my dishes. The warm water from the sink made me look forward to a hot shower later, something I haven't had in years.
As I washed the dishes, a weird feeling of being watched made my skin prickle. My instincts were never wrong, and right now they were telling me someone was watching me. Making it seem like I was searching for a wash rag, I slyly looked around the room and saw no one was in it. Strange.
Brushing my feelings off, I scrubbed the plate and goblet before setting the stuff out to dry. Then I made my way up to my rooms.
The same guards stood in the hallway outside the East wing, which made me feel better about leaving Harper on her own.
Once in the quarters, I peaked into Harper's room, where she slept soundly. I smiled as I shut her door and made my way to my room.
As tempting as a hot shower sounded, my full belly made me want to throw myself on the bed and pass out.
The latter option won and I stripped down to a shirt and running shirts before stretching out between the insanely comfortable sheets.
Silk Sheets? Are you kidding me? This just keeps getting better and better.
Laying on a cloud made sleep come easily. A beautiful dreamless sleep... I could get used to this.