But the following sentence made her dismiss the thought. "That's too annoying. Just take a bunch of all of them."
Taking all would confuse the meanings. They didn't match. Maybe it was just coincidence that he choose the offensive flowers after all. An earl wouldn't waste his time to learn the flower language, right?
Convinced by her own logic and too relieved to be on guard anymore, she gave in and stretched out her hand to the daffodils. "Well, okay. They don't look that bad all together. Help me plug them, please."
Behind her back, the earl had a hard time trying not to laugh. She fell for his scheme and was picking the daffodils herself now! It really was a sight to behold.
Of course, he himself stretched his hand to the peony, not one of these with bad meaning. Just as his long fingers touched the stem, his face fell. A tendril of darkness escaped from his flesh, digging into the flower, spreading until the whole blossom was shrouded in black. In a matter of seconds, the blossom melted. Shortly after the stem followed suit, until the whole bush dissolved into a thick black pool on the ground.
The earl's hand hanging in the empty air trembled almost unnoticeable. Slowly, it balled into a fist. His face, joyful previously, was an unreadable mask again. No one would know what he was thinking but the familiar cold aura oozed out like it never stopped at all. If anything, it was even more icy now.
He took his arm back and turned to look at Katherine, who was oblivious to the strange phenomenon behind her. Then, he put his hands in his pocket and strolled away, following the path she set for them.
While picking the tulips, Katherine noticed a movement and looked around. As she saw the earl far away already, her mouth twitched.
"Such an a**.", she mumbled to herself, before standing up and starting to run. Running in a long dress wasn't all that simple, so in order not to fall the speed was still somewhat slow.
When she managed to catch up with him finally, she was gasping for air and the grip on the bunch of flowers was so hard that she nearly crushed them. The anger boiling in her had multiplied.
"Can't you at least wait for me if you don't want to help?!", she yelled.
Without spending her a glance, he accelerated his pace. "No."
Angered to speechlessness, Katherine raised the hand with the flowers and wanted to throw them at his departing back. This damn jerk!
At the last moment, however, she stopped and took a deep breath. Calm down, she told herself. Calm down. Anger doesn't help you now. She needed his trust so he wouldn't lock her up in her room anymore. She didn't know that he already stopped doing that as the guards hid that fact too well.
Catching up with him again, she pasted a smile on her face. "Flowers are so girly. It must have bored you, right?"
As he didn't answer, she just kept talking. "I don't know what you like, so that's why what I planned for today is rather simple. If you have suggestions, they would still fit in."
"I suggest you shut up.", he replied instantly, which made Katherine grind her teeth.
With an overly sweet tone, she said: "But how can I find out more about you then? Nobody seems to know much."
There was a short, foreboding pause. Then: "Curiosity kills the cat."
The icy tone the sentence was uttered in made Katherine feel like he reached the end of his patience. As if he would really kill her if she said just one more word. Cat, kitten, Kitty. It matched.
She gulped. Finally her anger was overshadowed by fear. She knew pretty well, the earl wasn't a good man. Him collaborating with her cousin was the best indication. She didn't know his limits yet. If he was a psychopath like Ethan... she should better be careful. Or else she'd get herself killed for real.
Noticing her wariness, the earl heaved a sigh inwardly. It didn't feel good to frighten her, although it was for the best. There were too many people who feared him already. A bitter smile crept on his thin lips. And he was going to step up the number again greatly in a few weeks.
Would it really be worth it afterwards?, he asked himself sometimes. He wasn't sure, but still, he didn't regret his choice. It was what kept him alive all this time. Fifteen years... was it really fifteen years already?
The sound of splashing water in their ears, they stepped through a row of neatly cut bushes. A fountain as big as a small house was set in the middle of a circular clearing.
As Katherine saw the white stone statures bathing n.a.k.e.d in the water, some in quite intimate positions, the flowers slipped out of her hands, and she got red all over. Damn! She should have visited the place herself beforehand instead of trusting Anni and Nina!
When she'd strolled around the garden yesterday she was too absorbed by a row of statures lining the path to a pavillion. They had nameplates with their stories attached. But as they all were kings and famous warlords she didn't want to have her first date there. She thought it would set the wrong atmosphere. Now however, she knew what setting the wrong atmosphere really meant. Hiding her burning face in her palms, she just wanted to be swallowed by the ground.
While Katherine was regretting greatly, the earl felt a series of emotion wash over him, each of them lifting a layer of his sour mood. First there was surprise. He didn't expect her to choose this place. Honestly, he'd already forgotten about this spectacular fountain. The gardens were simply too big and he rarely visited them himself. Even if he remembered this place, he wouldn't have expected her to guide him here. It was really too strait forward, wasn't it? If she told him, she wanted to visit his chambers at night, it wasn't more explicit.
With raised brows he turned to her, although he'd sworn himself to reduce the amount of attention he gave her to a bare minimum as to not keep her hopes high. But he couldn't help it. This was simply... too shameless.
As his gaze swept to her and saw her hiding her red face, it softened. Well, there seemed to be something wrong here. Even a courageous girl wouldn't be this shameless.
Seeing this side of her was new to him. She looked quite... adorable when she was embarrassed. Even her ears, the only thing of her face not covered by her hands, were beet red. It was too cute.
He felt the need to pat her head and reassure her. To tell her that he knew, she didn't do it on purpose. At the same time, however, there sat a little devil on his shoulder, wanting him to make her feel even more embarrassed. Could she get redder than now? Would she try to run away or fight him?
When the thought of her fighting with him while being so sweetly red crossed his mind, his heart, that stone, which shouldn't feel anything for anyone, accelerated all of a sudden. Without realizing it, he took a step forward.
There was just an arms length distance between them now, something he wanted to avoid all the time. But now he couldn't resist, it was too tempting. All his attention fixed on her deep red ears, he asked slowly: "Are you perhaps suggesting something with this?"