It was ridiculous. How come she has so much power over me?, Nathaniel wondered. She just called his name but it felt like a fresh breeze gently blowing his anger away. If her enraged self mesmerized and provoked him, this soft call made him completely helpless in front of her. He didn't expect her to do this. No, he wanted her to shout and fight like she used to. This way he could have taken out his frustration on her. But why did she have to call him so sweetly...
Feeling the sorrow in his chest multiplying, he walked out of the darkness step by step. Her call was like a bond pulling him closer, despite his unwillingness.
His eyes were fixed on her face, noticing every little change in it. When she saw him, her soft, pink lips slightly parted, her breath hastening. In her bright, violet eyes lingered astonishment as if she didn't expect him to finally heed her call and come forward. He himself also didn't expect it. But here he was, riddling about why this soft call was so irresistible.
As if he could decipher the answer from her eyes if he just looked deep enough, he kept staring at her silently. Katherine, though puzzled over his intense gaze, didn't avoid it, quietly urging him to speak instead. The silence, however, slowly dampened their different ambitions, fusing them together into a trance-like feeling. They just looked into the opposite's eyes, getting oblivious of the surroundings.
Candlelight flickered over their faces, pronouncing their features or hiding them in shadows. The longer they looked, the more they were enraptured with each other. They couldn't describe what they were feeling. Over time, however, like a tide, a different type of tension raised. After all, they were still aware of their own actions.
With a slight blush Katherine blinked and averted her gaze. Her hands were fumbling with her dress. "So, you... will you tell me? What happened?"
Nathaniel didn't answer. He just calmly reached out his hand.
"Wha-what are you doing?", Katherine asked, her panic showing in her voice when the warm leather of his gloves touched her temple. He brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, following the movement with his strange red eyes. They darkened with desire.
When his fingertips grazed her ear-loop, Katherine shivered. His touch was burning into her, like a fire she wanted to get closer to. She bit her lower lip to stop herself from calling out his name again. Ever since she did it for the first time, she was only feeling weaker and weaker with each call. Vulnerable. And now, she was longing for his touch, for the warm skin she imagined was under the leather of his gloves. Why was she like this in front of someone she didn't even like? Decisively, she tried to remember all the reasons to dislike him.
"Katherine..." The sound of her name was swinging in the air even after he spoke it. Soft and melodic, called in a deep, enrapturing voice. It was like temptation itself was speaking to her, repeating it's call over and over again and making her forget about all reasoning.
Nathaniel must have heard it too, for he paused before letting out a soft sigh. His fingers stoked down to her jaw tenderly, moving it so that she had to meet his gaze again. This time, he looked almost gentle. "Do you want to accompany me tomorrow?"
It was a silent whisper, as if he wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do. But however quiet it was, it marked a great change. Besides her welcome dinner, this was the very first time he asked her for company out of his own. Even the dinner on Monday was initiated by her, as she had contacted him first. This one however... did she still stand a chance? Would her questions be answered if she followed him?
Before Nathaniel could take back his words, she nodded vehemently. "Yes!"
"Good." He let go of her. Without the contact, both of them felt like they had lost something, but at the same time, like they can breath normally again.
None of them knew what to say at that time. Actually, they had nothing left to discuss as he seemingly didn't want to talk about his troubles tonight. But they didn't want to leave when they were finally getting along.
"So...", Katherine said reluctantly after searching her head for a good conversation topic without success. "Goodnight?"
Reining his emotions back in and transforming to his usual cold self - at least outwardly - the earl nodded curtly and turned to leave.
"Wait!" Katherine couldn't understand how he just turned away as if everything was nothing more than an illusion! Wasn't he affected in any way?
Nathaniel halted, but didn't look back. He felt like he'd given away too much of his true thoughts already.
After having stopped him out of pure instinct, Katherine searched through her head for something to say again, only to in the end state with feigned anger: "It is in the middle of the night! Shouldn't a man at least offer a lady to bring her back to her room when he was the one to send her guards away?"
She saw the white head of the earl sink down, before hearing something very strange. It sounded like... a chuckle? No, that couldn't be it! This always serious, dangerous earl couldn't be... chuckling, right?!
The sound stopped as soon as it emerged, leaving Katherine in a daze, questioning herself if she'd really heard it right. Maybe it was a sneeze or a snare instead?
Well, it had to be since the look of the earl when he faced her again was exactly the same as when he simply nodded coldly as a 'goodnight'. "Isn't it your own fault for getting home so late? If you are scared in the dark, you should have returned sooner."
"I'm not scared!", Katherine instantly retorted. "I just wanted to..."
"Yes?", the earl encouraged her with lifted brows. This view greatly annoyed her, so that she somehow didn't want to answer anymore.
"Hmpf!", she snorted. "Forget it, I don't need your company!"
Her chin lifted highly, she overtook him and swaggered up the stairs elegantly. Admiring her curvy rear swaying gently with every move, Nathaniel hid his smile behind his palm. However, if someone was watching, his eyes would still betray him. They were glittering with a childish happiness like thousands of tiny stars.
"I knew you wouldn't have changed so easily.", he muttered under his breath. Although he didn't get why she reacted different from her usual self to his provocation at first, it looked like she was still as fiery as before. Which made him glad and a bit worried at the same time. On the one hand, it was a weak spot, easily used by an enemy. On the other hand, he realized that he would have been a bit sad if he couldn't tease her anymore. Her cheeks turning red with anger was such an adorable sight.
Although the soft look he saw for the first time today was also sweet and even more so enchanting, he very much feared for his reasoning in front of it. The angry face was safer. Yes, he'd prefer the angry face. Even more so as with teasing her he wouldn't need to really hurt her to keep her away from him.
A grim look flashed past his eyes. It was such a struggle to keep the balance between hate and like in her. But if the balance was broken and it tilted to one side, one of them would unavoidable get hurt. He didn't want that. Never.