OK guys…this is totally off the wall! Decided to have a little fun with a 'reversed' situation: what if Joe were a King, and Clarisse a maid? Not sure if this is a one-shot or not, as yet…

As per usual, King Joseph was in his study…having missed afternoon tea and dinner, and making his way straight on to the whisky. It was after eleven, and he still had several letters that he wanted answered by the time his personal secretary, Carlos, arrived the next morning. He knew he was a mean task-master, and most probably his own worst enemy, but he was a stubborn old thing, determined to have everything finished perfectly and in its place before he settled down for the night.

Everyone in the palace knew very well to leave him to his work – he did not appreciate interruptions and, since the death of his wife, three years ago, he had grown increasingly detached and consumed by his books and papers. He took little time for himself, attended few engagements and, although not exactly retiring from public life, had withdrawn from his former exuberant self.

Rubbing his eyes for the third time in ten minutes, he sighed and stretched his back. Groaning softly, he reached for his pen with one hand, and the crystal whisky glass with the other. He glanced up at the clock and shook his head a little… 'Fine companions these…'

Returning his attention to the sheet of paper in front of him, he tried in vain to concentrate. It was simply no use. He was tired and, something more…he was distracted. Setting his pen down again, he stood up and made his way to the window. Taking a sip of the fiery liquid, savouring the burn as it slid down his throat, warming him, if only for an instant, he gazed out over the darkened lawns.

It was this morning when he'd noticed her, walking Maurice, the late Queen's dog round the grounds. He'd never noticed her before…she must be new. She was probably around the same age as him, but it was difficult to tell. She had an almost timeless beauty, classic, and yet distinct. He sighed, shaking his head, convincing himself of his recklessness… 'Joseph, Joseph, this really won't do…she's just an employee.'

Hmmm…He had seen her again in the afternoon, and their eyes had met across the entrance hall. He had smiled, and she had seemed genuinely surprised, meeting his gaze…and then smiling back, almost in spite of herself.

Later he had asked Carlos about her. Apparently, she was the new housekeeper, to be in charge of the running of the palace, appointed in a hurry after Mrs Simmons' sudden death last month. An English woman, with extensive experience in the royal palaces of Windsor and Sandringham. He would meet her in the morning.

Her name was Clarisse.