After what Anni told her, Katherine felt the need to speak with the earl again, to find any clue that he really liked her and was hiding his feelings. Though Anni's arguments were convincing, she just couldn't picture the earl liking anyone. Yes, there were moments like the hug in the cave and the chocolate-incident, but most of the time he seemed so unapproachable that it was hard to imagine him in love. Could he come to love her?
The thought alone made her heart feel warmer in this cold environment and her eyes softened. If he really felt something for her, could that too-short-but-endless moment of the hug last on? Would there still be that feeling of warmth and security in his arms?
With slightly reddened cheeks, she shook her head. Looking at how things were right now, she dared not hope for it. For now, the best outcome was for him not to blame her if his brother died. She shouldn't get her hopes up when there was nothing to cling to.
With a soft sigh, her eyes returned to the patient. It was questionable if the earl even wanted her help anymore - much less anything else - if this brother of his didn't wake up soon.
Suddenly, she noticed that one of her hands was still on his bare upper body. Though it was covered by the glove, she blushed slightly. With an awkward expression, she took it back. It was one thing to place her hands there for treatment, but another to completely forget that they were on a males n.a.k.e.d skin and continue to take advantage of an unconsciousness stranger. Though to her, he wasn't a stranger anymore after all that time. Even though she knew next to nothing about him.
And it will most likely stay the same, she reminded herself. Her work here was done, so she should get going. Reluctantly, she got on her feet and was just about to leave the carriage, when she felt a tug on her dress. Thinking that it might have gotten stuck on a protruding nail, she turned around to fix it.
But when she saw what held her back, her whole being stilled. Slowly, in the same time the realization took to set in inside her brain, a genuine smile bloomed on her face. Her eyes started to sparkle like stars in a violet sky.
What held her back was not a nail, but a hand that clutched onto the hem of her clothes. It looked like if she pulled just a little, the hand would fall off, but she had no intention of doing so.
Carefully, she turned around and took that weak hand into her smaller ones. His hand was big, but it only looked like that compared to hers, for the long and slim fingers gave a feeling of elegance that matched his tall figure. Studying his face, she saw that his lids were still closed, but his brows wrinkled in discomfort. Through the gloves his hands felt cold. Unsure, she whispered: "Are you awake?"
There was no response, but his eyes moved erratically under his lids. Was he dreaming? Dreaming was good, it was better than not reacting at all. Hopefully it was a sign that he would wake up soon.
Anyway, his hand felt cold and the temperature in the carriage it would surely be bad for him in his half-n.a.k.e.d state. Since Sam was still occupied with the damaged wheel, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
The big hand had relaxed already, and when she let it go, it fell down on the padded bank. Carefully, she tugged on his black shirt, bringing the ends together. For as long as a minute, she tried to get the first button through the hole, but the gloves made her hands stiff and clumsy. To handle the small buttons like this was an impossible task.
With an annoyed sound, she pulled the gloves off. Sam always told her to wear them to 'keep her purity' but right now there was nobody who would see it - especially not Sam, this nit-picking nanny - , and in her opinion the health of the patient was more important than something like purity. At least as long as it involved only her hands.
Like this the buttons were much easier to fix. Her head bowed deeply, she didn't notice that the patient furrowed his brows again, trying to open his sleepy eyes. He could feel a warm breath on his skin and occasionally something tickling brushed over his chest. It didn't feel bad, but he knew that there was something he had to remember about it. Something important.
Suddenly, a scream disrupted the cozy atmosphere in the carriage. "Enemy attack!"
Katherine's hands jerked and in that tiny motion, her fingers brushed against the patient's chest. Skin touched skin.
However, nobody noticed.
Katherine hastily scrambled to her feet and the patient, with his foggy mind trying to remember what that important thing was he had forgotten, was too occupied to notice the feather-light feeling that was gone already a blink later. A skin-to skin touch, something that he thought would never happen again and could never happen without fearing for consequences, was over just like that. If asked, they wouldn't even remember it.
With one swift motion, Katherine leaned to the window and pulled the curtain a bit aside. Outside some guards fought with masked enemies. Their numbers didn't dwindle compared to the last time. If anything, there were even more. She saw Pete fighting two at a time, and he wasn't the only one.
Damn! Their plan didn't work! That indicated that there really was a spy under their people. Katherine threw the patient an pitying glance. Who would want to kill him so much?
Biting her lip, Katherine hoped that the guards could fight them off nonetheless. But there were so many! Was it really possible?
Suddenly, a loud voice rang through the air: "Freeze! I've got your healer!"
What?! Katherine looked around, but there was nobody who could threaten her. Were they mixing her up with someone else? But who? Who did they think was her?
Frantic, Katherine tried to get a glimpse at the man, but he didn't stand on the window's side. Into her worried mind broke a pitiful whimpering sound. Katherine's heart trembled.
No! It couldn't be! It couldn't be her, right? She wasn't a healer! Why would they think it was her?!
Frightened to the core, Katherine stormed outside. The fighting had stopped, and on the enemy's side a masked man held a sword to the throat of trembling girl. The girl was wailing silently, her hands clutched into the simple maid-gown.
"Hazel!", Katherine exclaimed, and her knees nearly gave in. It really was Hazel! Why would they want to kill that harmless girl? Why was it always her loved ones? WHY?!