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Pearson Mary E, “The kiss of deception”, public translation into English from English More about this translation.

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I cut her off, already reading her thoughts. “I don’t expect or want any special attention. I came here because I want a real life. And I know that includes earning my keep. Whatever work you have for me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

Berdi nodded. “We’ll figure that part out later. For now we need to get you two bathed and fed.” She wrinkled her nose. “In that order.”

“One other thing.” I unbuttoned my shirt, and turned around, dropping the fabric to my waist. I heard her draw in a breath as she viewed my elaborate wedding kavah. “I need to get this off my back as soon as possible.”

I heard her step closer and then felt her fingers on my back. “Most kavahs don’t last more than a few weeks, but this one … it may take a little longer.”

“They used the best artisans and dyes.”

“A good soaking bath every day will help,” she offered. “And I’ll bring you a back brush and strong soap.”

I pulled my shirt on again and thanked her. Pauline hugged her before she left and then grabbed the bucket from the floor. “You first, Your Highness—”

“Stop!” I snatched the bucket from her hand. “From this day forward, there is no more Your Highness. That part of my life is gone forever. I’m only Lia now. Do you understand, Pauline?”

Her eyes met mine. This was it. We both understood this was the real beginning we had planned. The one we had both hoped for but weren’t sure could ever be. Now it was here. She smiled and nodded.

“And you’ll go first,” I added.

Pauline unpacked our few belongings while I made several trips to fill the tub with hot water. I scrubbed Pauline’s back the way she had scrubbed mine so many times before, but then as she soaked, her eyes heavy with fatigue, I decided I’d go bathe in the creek so she could savor this luxury as long as she wanted. I’d never be able to pay her back for everything she had done for me. This was a small token I could offer.

After meek protests, she gave me directions to the creek just a short walk behind our cottage, warning me to stay near the shallows. She said there was a small protected pool there that had the cover of thick shrubs. I promised twice to be watchful, even though she had already admitted she had never seen it anything but deserted. At the dinner hour, there was no doubt I would be alone.

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