She handed him a bar of roughly shaped soap and a cloth. While she bustled around, Drace took in his room. There was a fireplace, a large metal tub by it, and two windows with a writing desk between them. Along one wall was a movable screen. Drace presumed some sort of bathroom facility was behind it. Several large tapestries adorned the walls. There was an armoire and a large bed. Drace eyed the bed longingly; every bone in his body hurt, and he was beyond tired.
A curly red-haired servant girl entered the room with two buckets of steaming water followed by an exact replica with two more. The twins poured two of the buckets into the waiting tub half-full of cool water. They lingered, giving Drace hopeful looks.
“Shoo, shoo.” Estelle waved them out. Both girls hurried out, giggling.
“Common little trollops, I swear.” She flitted around the room, gathering
a towel and fussing some more. She reminded him of a bumblebee on a hot day. Drace turned away to hide his smile and chuckle. He was starting to
She came over and grabbed the hem of his shirt and started up with it.
Drace captured her hands and gently pushed them down. “Whoa there lady; I can get this by myself.”
She stepped back, looking up quizzically. “A big lad like you could not
“No ma’am, but I’m twenty-seven years old. I‘ve been doing it myself for some time.” He drew the line at being completely undressed by a stranger and apparently it showed in his expression.
“Well, you do it then and into the bath with you. I can at least help you with washing your hair. Off with the clothes now, do not be shy,” she demanded.
Drace flushed, but did as she said. Before he slid into the tub she made him stop with a brush of her hand on his forearm. She eyed a large bruise on his ribs and another on his hip. “A bit of a fall, eh, or did someone hand it to you?” Estelle asked, frowning.
“A fall, ma’am. I don’t remember all of it, just the down part. I woke up in a different place.”
“You showed up here with Vashti so I already guessed there was magic involved. Do not fret, my boy. They will watch over you; now, into the bath.”
He slid gratefully into the large tub. He had to sit with his knees slightly bent but he wasn’t too cramped. He laid his head against the high back. Facing the door, he saw the first girl come back in the room. She carried a basin with a strong-smelling liquid in it and a cloth. She lingered beside him, gazing unscrupulously at his naked form. He grew uncomfortable beneath her scrutiny even while his body started a response at the bold look she gave him while toying with the laces of her bodice.
“Give me that, girl! Let the man have his bath in peace!” Estelle scolded, putting the basin on a table. “Do you have the bottle?”
The girl produced a small green bottle from an apron pocket and even with Estelle chiding her, seemed in no hurry to go.
“Out with you, girl!” Estelle snapped and grabbed the girl’s arm and spun her from the tub. “Leave him be. He is in no condition for the likes of you. Out!”
The girl turned her head and shot Estelle a dirty look, but complied,