The next day dawned and the guards were switched for some unfamiliar faces, as the earl had called for Jack and Pete. That was all Katherine knew of the matter. Only the exchange guards and some other selected people knew that Jack and Pete were getting punished for letting the lady outside before she was allowed to.
This fact made the new guards quite nervous and they swore to themselves to strictly follow the rules. Especially because their own punishment would be even harder than that of the elite guards Jack and Pete.
Yes, the both of them were elite guards and quite revered by the other guards for their great achievements in several wars before starting to work for the earl when they got older. You could call them war heroes even. If you told anyone that Katherine managed to steal the dagger of one of those heroes, they absolutely wouldn't believe you.
After taking her breakfast and trying to make Hazel eat with her again - which ended in a failure - , Katherine waited for Sam to guide her to the patient. Somehow she kept feeling nervous when thinking about the half-n.a.k.e.d man she had to treat.
The picture of his white skin with the dark pattern re-surfaced from her memory. Although it was through the gloves, she had touched that skin. It had felt so smooth, but she could feel his powerful abdominal muscles hidden beneath it.
With an unwilling gesture she shook her head. Just because fantasizing about the earl was forbidden, she shouldn't do it about some random person - and a sick one at that!
What if he really was the lover of the earl? Though the possibility may be slim, but she couldn't ignore it. She would lose all her brownie points if the earl found out that she was interested in him! And when the few she may have were spent up, he would even find more vicious methods to make her pay.
She shuddered at the thought. No, better to dedicate herself to the earl - without loosing her heart that was. She sighed. The whole situation was so confusing. But giving up was out of the question.
Maybe if the patient wasn't in a comatose state anymore, she could try to extract information about the earl. Yes, that might be the best plan. The earl was concerned about him, so he most likely knew some things about the earl.
As she thought about what a love servant could know, she blushed again. Bad Katherine. Stop focusing on the intimate details!
Watching her lady silently sitting on the breakfast table, Hazel was puzzled. Did she catch a cold? She was switching between red- and paleness too frequently, right?
Slowly, Hazel stretched out her hand. She didn't want to disturb her lady's seemingly deep and insightful thought-process, but if the lady really was ill...
Without Katherine noticing her approach, the hand landed on Katherine's forehead. Gasping loudly, Katherine jumped up, her eyes flickering with panic.
As she noticed Hazel - who was similarly startled by her lady's sudden reaction, she was relieved. After taking a deep breath she asked: "Do you need to surprise me like this? What is it?"
"Sorry, milady! It is nothing, really nothing. Just, umm, ... do you feel ill?"
Realizing the misunderstanding, Katherine let go of a small laugh. "No, no, I'm okay. Thank you." It looked like she worried her maid with her brooding atmosphere.
Still feeling the heat left on her hand, Hazel frowned irritated. But... whatever, if the lady said she was feeling good, everything was alright, wasn't it?
As she shook her head, a knock on the door was heard. With a mischievous grin, Katherine hurried to open it herself. Yes, she would ask for all juicy details, even for those ... spicy ones, if she had the chance. Everything the patient knew about... well, if she thought about spicy details, she should at least manage to call him by his name. Nathaniel, she said in her mind. Nathaniel.
She really needed to get used to saying it if she even planned for, well, 'more' to happen between them. No, no, not that much more. Just a bit. But what if he really did some inexplicable things with... stop thinking about this!
Sam seemed to be much calmer compared to the last time he brought her to the patient. However, that was only normal as her treatment had improved the situation by a large margin.
They stepped into the doctors domain, where the patient laid on the only occupied bed. Like the last time, his eyes were closed, his ethereal upper body exposed as to let her see the black markings.
Katherine knitted her brows. She thought he would be up already. And what about that arm of his? Didn't she clean it two days prior? Instantly, she was in her professional mode, forgetting all about how she wanted to interrogate him.
"How come his arm is affected again?", she asked the doctor and rushed over to the bed. As it was her first time working with poison, she hoped to get more information out of the doctor.
The old man had stood up from his table in a corner of the room as they entered. Pushing his glasses up his nose bridge, he walked over to her, while offering her next to no answer. "I don't know, milady. I've never seen a situation such as his. But like I said, I'm not a specialist for poisons."
As he said that, he gave the butler a gloomy look as if he wanted to say that the earl should get himself another doctor for this. At least that was Katherine's interpretation of the glare.
Sam, however, knew the real reason for that grumpy attitude. This was the second time that the best poison master of the whole kingdom had to stoop so low as to say he knew nothing about poison at all. Just because he couldn't figure out the properties of this special poison affecting the earl. An absolute disgrace.
Trying to ignore the mocking smile tugged at the corner of Sam's mouth, the doctor raised his voice again. Of course what he said was made up out of thin air. "This is a very strange poison, spreading faster if there is fewer of it left. Most likely there was a tiny bit left in his fingertips and now the whole arm is infected again."
Katherine thought that this was a very strange property, but as the doctor looked gravely serious, she believed him in the end. After all, she wasn't a doctor and knew next to nothing about medicine compared to him.
That was the first time Katherine thought she needed to improve her medicinal knowledge. Only her magic didn't seem sufficient anymore.
"Well, if it is like this, we better expel all of it this time.", she thought aloud.
Alarmed, Sam spoke up. "But milady, you need to take care of yourself first! It took you your all last time already. The earl wouldn't want that."
His mentioning of the earl made her remember that Nathaniel maybe didn't have a reason anymore to keep his promises if this person was healed. Still, it was hard to know she could get him back to health and not do it. She didn't even know this person, yet she felt responsible. But in the end...
She forced a laugh. "I was joking. Of course I wouldn't do this. It's too hard anyways, and I don't know if my body could bear it. Let's better make it slow, but steady."
Putting on the gloves the butler handed her, she let the butler open the artery at the patients arm. The black blood started to flow out as her glowing hands landed at the chest lightly.
She could feel his chest raise and fall with his breath. Strangely the warmth in her fingertips made her feel a tingle of dizziness, just like that meeting with the earl in the garden, only much less obvious. She felt like her and the patient's warmth were mixed together slowly.
How could she feel so similar for two different persons? Intrigued, she looked down at the patient's face and her eyes went wide. That - that face was too familiar, wasn't it? Although this person had blonde hair, his facial features looked like those of the earl!
But then she shook her head, no, no, that wasn't right. The patient may have many similar features to the earl, but he lacked a big deal of coldness and viciousness. This one was a sleeping angel, while the earl was a devil through and through. But wouldn't they look the same with closed eyes...? She asked herself. A great deal of the earl's presence lay in that bloody eyes of his.
As if he noticed her stare, the patient's brows knitted suddenly and before Katherine could re-direct her gaze, his eye lids opened.