“You shall never enter Master Brandon’s bedroom nor his study. He’s not a very patient man. No one is allowed to enter his room. You can do whatever you want in the house, but, never go inside his room unless you are permitted to do so. Do you understand?” Madam Lennie warned. It was clear in her pale, cerulean eyes how serious she was.
The hair of the head housemaid was ash-colored and seemed as if it had been tied in a bun forever. She had a strong complexion and stood about five-feet-five-inches tall. I guessed she was probably in her late fifties.
“I understand, Madam,” I gulped and responded with a nod. “I just want to ask…”
“Yes, Miss Hart,” she prompted, acknowledging the hesitation in my voice. We had stopped in the middle of a long stairway.
“Uhm, I’ve noticed the painting in the living room. Is he the Master?”
The features of the man in the painting were hard not to remember: dark hair, chiseled jaw, piercing gray eyes, perfectly-aligned nose, thin pinkish lips and an utterly stoic expression. Kinda hot, actually.
She turned to meet my gaze. “One more thing,” she said severely, “that is the last time you will ask me that.” Then she turned away.
Was that a yes? I swallowed again.
The ambiance of the place was turning gloomy. The darkness of the entryway and its incessant purple drapery added up to a creepy feel. So the Master never came out of his room and no one had seen his face. But the big question was why? Was he allergic to sunrise? A vampire? Did he have an immune deficiency? The house itself was too huge for just one person. Was he Dracula? I wanted to know, but I managed to shrug my curiosity away. As long as I didn’t cross paths with the Master, I was going to be okay. I decided to stick to the kitchen and do my job quietly.
I graduated from The Art Institutes International in Kansas City, with a major in Culinary Arts. I’ve always wanted to become a professional chef. Well ahead, I was given a chance to work as a food taster in Palazzo Franchetti, a restaurant in Venice. Now, here I was in this incredible manor house as the newly hired assistant cook. Bravo, Alayna! What an excellent choice of profession.
I sighed as I followed the head housemaid to the inner part of the house. There it didn’t seem gloomy at all. In fact, it was lively. Even the walls were painted in white and cream. Yet there was an intimidating number of doors, each identical, making it look more like a hotel than a private home. Never good with directions, I started to worry about getting lost.
After a long walk, we stopped by the only wood-colored door in the passage. Madam Lennie took a bunch of keys from her pocket and chose one with a unique design. “The Master wants you to use this room. You’re fortunate. This room is usually reserved for special guests and it is the largest room in this passage. I don’t have any idea why he wants you to use it.” she said as she unlocked the door. She then handed me a key similar to hers. “Here’s your duplicate key,” she explained. Her expression was still blank. Does she even know how to smile?
“Thanks, Madam. I’ll just put my things inside.” I smiled, wondering if she was going to smile back. Predictably, she didn’t.
“I’ll meet you in the kitchen in one hour and show you your station.”
“Thank you,” I nodded then opened the door.
I walked into my room, dragging my luggage behind me. My eyes widened the moment I lifted my head. “Goodness gracious! This room is for a princess!” I exclaimed then cautiously lowered my voice, anxious someone might have heard me. I started to look around, stunned at the realization that I was meant to be alone in such an enormous room. Truthfully, I didn’t need so much space, but God...it was incredible!
Though the house was undeniably vintage, the room was impeccably modern, judging by its bright and colorful decor. The curtains weren’t purple, but baby blue and the queen-sized bed bore yellow floral patterns and fluffy looking pillows. The room had a TV, two speakers, and a mini-fridge, but the thing that startled me most was the MacBook glowing on the desk. Quizzically, I wondered if I was allowed to use it.
Considering the extravagance of the room, I had to check what was up with the bathroom. Thinking of magazines, I expected to find a classic claw-foot bathtub, something I could relax in. Wrong. It was a Jacuzzi! I wanted to collapse in amazement!
For a lowly assistant chef, it was all too much to take in. But who was I to complain? The Master was probably being generous to compensate for his gloomy lifestyle.
According to the digital watch on the bedside table, I had one hour left to prepare. I started unpacking my things, laying out the uniform I had been given when I was hired—the one Madam Lennie told me I must wear inside the house. I went to the bathroom to wash up and it took everything in me to avoid using the Jacuzzi as relaxing too much would surely make me forget the time.
After a warm regular shower, I put on the uniform. There was nothing special about it. It an outfit befitting an assistant chef: a three-fourth sleeve, white woven shirt with a pencil knee-length skirt and a red-checkered scarf. Surprisingly, they had even provided me with shoes: a pair of conservatively-designed black flats. I fixed my hair into a bun and didn’t bother to put on makeup, though I did apply a small amount of lip tint for a glossy effect. I turned to gaze at the full-length mirror. Look who’s ready for her first day of work!
I glanced at my wristwatch. Ten minutes to find the kitchen. I had already seen it earlier, but that didn’t matter. I really had no sense of direction.
I went out of my room then double checked if the door was locked. I started walking through the corridor. Gee! My limbs felt like it wouldn’t function, no, I was actually too nervous to even function. I sighed.
I wouldn’t accept this job if it wasn’t for the salary. It was thrice the wage of the last restaurant I worked at. My family has a lot of debts and loans, I bet no one needed to earn huge amount of money more than I do.
I blew out a sharp breath. I shouldn’t be nervous. Madam Lennie is an employee too, what was the difference? I questioned. But God, her strict face bothered me so much.
Reaching the exit of the corridor, I turned left remembering where we came from an hour ago, I grinned. The purple curtains and the very long stairway was my landmark. I heaved a sigh, relieved that I’m quite familiar with the house.
When I found my destination, my nervousness was changed with wonder. Where were the maids I saw a while ago? I shrugged and opened the huge wooden art sculptured door then walked in. It was indeed the place I was looking for! The way I remembered it, the entrance of the kitchen has a black, leather couch, but there was still no soul in sight.
I started my journey inside. “Hello?” My voice echoed the whole room, but there was no answer. Weird. Where were they? Probably at the diner? I kept walking, but I wish I didn’t because the place started to look unfamiliar at all. I heaved a sigh of frustration. I definitely am lost.
A huge, blue, king-sized bed caught my sight while walking. I gasped then caught my mouth. I’m in someone else’s room! My heart started to beat faster than its normally should.
There was no sign of life in the room, I convince myself calmly that I’ll be fine. I slowly stepped back and found another door to escape. Wanting to get out, I instantaneously opened the door, only to find out it wasn’t the exit I was expecting.
A sound of a running water coming from the shower caught my attention. My eyes widened in shock to find a huge muscular back. My eyes automatically went down to a perfect round butt I’d ever seen in my whole life! It’s not that it was the first time I saw a man’s behind. I’d been in a relationship twice and I’m never too innocent to overreact over a private body part, but his back was undeniably different from what I saw before. Boy, he was sexy. It woke my curiosity up. Who was he?
I turned around quickly then bit my lip, realizing I’m trespassing someone else’s privacy. I ran out of the room ’til I miraculously found the door where I came from.
“Who’s there?” An angry scream echoed the whole room. Oh, God! Was he the Master?
I didn’t have any idea where I was, all I know was that I escaped the strange room. I glanced at my wristwatch while running faster than I could ever remember, I’m already fifteen minutes late! Madam Lennie would not be very pleased. She’s going to be really mad!
Another stairway snatched my view, seeing Madam Lennie waiting at the bottom made me feel much nervous than I already am. She was glaring at me while her arms were crossed around her chest. “Miss Hart,” she said, tightly. “You. Are. Late.” she matter-of-factly pointed out, word for word.
“I got lost!” I reasoned as I was running towards her. “I’m not really good at memorizing places, I’m so sorry,” I apologized, catching my own breath.
“I don’t like the kind of behavior you show on your first day, Miss Hart. But, it isn’t the first time this happened. A lot of new employees got lost on their first day,” she informed. “I understand that this house is as huge as you can imagine. What’s unacceptable was your disobedience on my number one rule.”
I frowned. “What did I do?” I bit my lower lip.
“The Master called me. He said someone was in his room. This kind of instance didn’t occur for the last five months. You are the newbie here, so I believe it was you. Wasn’t it easy to remember the description of his room?”
I sighed. “I got it. Yes, that was me. But just like what I have said, I got lost! The rooms here looked identical. And just how many stairs do you have here? I am never gonna deny my mistake, but I was hoping you would understand, Madam.”
“I don’t like the way you answer me. Follow me,” she said with caution. She didn’t seem to like anything I do, maybe she didn’t like the fact that I’m breathing!
“I’m sorry. Wait! Where are we going?”
“The master wants to talk to the person who went in his room,” she bellowed. “I think it’s also the first time an employee gets fired on her first day.”
“Wait! What? What do you mean fired? This is crazy! I need this job!” I scowled. Obviously, their Master was full of shit. “I didn’t mean to invade his privacy,” I explained with a hint of guilt. My thoughts hovered to millions of excuses I’d say so I could convince her not to bring me to The Master. Yes, I had a bad feeling about it.
“You said we can’t talk to him and no one has seen him,” I pointed out, wishing she’d turn back and proceed on showing me my workstation instead.
But, well, I already saw him, not literally all of him but just his back. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to see his face to confirm if he was the man in the painting. But, the scene I saw kept playing on my mind. He was tall; looking heavyset on his broad wide shoulders, with a slender waist and a set of luscious, circular, rich butt. His arms were spreading wide, that made his triceps flexed. He had ample legs that made me wonder how it would feel like to be wrapped around it. I suddenly felt a strange but pleasant tingle in my tummy, tracing down my core.
“You don’t need to see him be able to talk to him.” Madam Lennie’s answer snapped me out from daydreaming. I blushed.
Wait. What the hell did she mean by that?