Traveling with the prince was less irritating than Katherine thought it would be. He called her out once to ask about Hazel's recovery and then never talked about her maid again. Though she was glad, Katherine still thought of it as odd. Wasn't the prince a womanizer? Did she misinterpret his gaze at Hazel? Or maybe his own servants were enough for his needs.
His arrogance, however, couldn't be called a simple misinterpretation. She'd felt him look down on her the moment she saw him. And then he dared tell her: "I'm here now, so you don't need to look after him anymore. Let him recover in peace."
Though she politely smiled and outwardly accepted this command, she gritted her teeth in anger the instant she was alone. She spend so much time and work to get the patient on his feet again and now they wouldn't even let her see the result once?! Unacceptable!
She called for Sam. "I want to see the patient. I saved him, so I want to see him!"
"Milady", Sam sighed with a troubled look. "The patient isn't in the condition to meet - "
"Was he in the condition to meet someone when he was unconsciousness? What is there to hide? For gods shake, it's not like I'm asking something improper. I just want to see him once to make sure he's alright!"
The second she ended, Katherine noticed how agitated she sounded. Why was she this worried about the patient when she didn't really know him? She should just ignore this rude bastard. But since she intensely cared for him for a while now, she couldn't. Besides he was important to Nathaniel.
She took a deep breath to calm herself down, then she forced a friendly smile. "Can you please tell the patient that I want to see him only this once? I swear, I won't disturb him again in the future. I'm really worried."
After a short pause, Sam nodded tersely. "I will inform him." He didn't add 'but I don't think he'll agree' for he knew it would only trigger the lady. With a respectful bow, he left, and went directly back to the patient's carriage.
"What does she want?", Nathaniel asked, before Sam could even sit down. He'd watched the both of them speak through a slit between the curtains of the carriage's window. It was the first time he'd seen her since he woke up. She looked as lively as always, though maybe there were a few grams less on her admirably curvaceous body.
Seeing her soothed his worries. When her cheeks turned a rosy red from anger, the corners of his lips involuntarily moved up. He'd missed her angry face. Then he'd called himself to order. Missing her was one of the forbidden emotions. If he let them spread further, they'd ruin all of his plans. Luckily, they reached only skin-deep for now, rooting mostly in curiosity and superficial desire. Yes, superficial desire. They could still be uprooted.
"Milord, her ladyship is eager to meet you. Obviously, she's still worried about you and wants to confirm your state herself.", Sam answered. "Should I convey to her that you're too busy with your recovery?"
Nathaniel slowly shook his head. A simple rejection would only provoke this stubborn lady more. He could see her climbing through the window at night if he really did that. Pensively, he remained silent for a few minutes. Being the good butler he was, Sam waited quietly for his decision. The carriage began jerking lightly. They were moving again. There were at most two days left until they would reach the capital.
Finally, Nathaniel looked up. "Tell her to come to this carriage tomorrow evening. I'll say my goodbyes then."
"Goodbyes, milord?" Sam raised his brows in confusion. Why would they need to say goodbye?
"It's best to get rid of this persona now.", Nathaniel specified. She'd get angry if she knew the truth, which would be uncovered sooner or later if he didn't act now. It was unnecessary trouble.
But her angry face would look so cute, the little devil on Nathaniel's shoulder reminded him. The violet eyes and rosy cheeks would get fiery enough to make him feel warm.
That's exactly the problem, he shut the devil up ruthlessly. But still, he didn't take back his command.
So, here they were now, sitting opposite each other like two civilized a.d.u.l.ts. None of them spoke a word. Katherine had thought up many topics before the setting sun called her to the carriage's door, but they'd all fled her head as soon as she saw him.
They look so much alike, it occurred to her again. He should just hurry up and get back. I really want to try those tricks on him. First Sam said the earl would meet up with us at the journey, now it is only at the capital. I really hope his delay isn't caused by an something unpleasant, though delay alone is unpleasant enough.
Nathaniel meanwhile was getting more and more uncomfortable with Katherine's quiet gaze. It was unusual for her to not say anything for this long. What was she plotting? Did she notice something strange about him while he was asleep? There was a possibility that she discovered his disguise.
Just when he was about to hint something in that direction to see her reaction, she suddenly stood up.
"It's good to see that you're fine. That was all I wanted to know. I'll take my -"
"Wait!", Nathaniel interjected hastily. H couldn't believe it. "You want to leave already? Don't you have any questions or anything?"
She looked at him with furrowed brows. "Of course I've got questions. I just remembered that you didn't answer anything the last time we met. So I thought that it doesn't make sense to ask you."
"Then and now are different. ", Nathaniel heard himself say, before he could stop the words. He cursed himself inwardly. What exactly changed compared to the last time she spoke with the patient? If it was the questions back then, he still wouldn't answer them.
"Oh, so you're ready to speak? Did staying at deaths door make you a better person?", she mocked, but sat back down and folded her arms in front of her chest.
He snorted. "Surely not. I still don't want to converse with a bratty girl. But I always pay my debts. Sadly, I owe you."
That silenced Katherine. She leaned back in the upholstery, and eyed the patient from head to toe. "You've grown skinny like a skeleton. Eat more. Build up muscles."
"What do you think I'm doing all day?", he retorted irritated. If he could sped up the process, he would. "Is there something now or not?"
She heaved a sigh, then she turned serious. "If you ask like this, I will stop being polite now." The sentence nearly made him laugh. Katherine pondered for a bit, before asking: "Is there still a collaboration between Nathaniel and the ... duke of Sleipnir?"
It costed her a great deal of conviction to utter her father's former title as a description of her traitorous cousin. However, she wasn't sure if the patient would recognize him by any other term.
Nathaniel, too, leaned back. It was only reasonable to ask that. Way better then getting personal questions, too. Then, why was he feeling a little disappointed? "There are none."
Katherine nodded. It was a great relieve to know there wasn't any collaboration anymore. Though she prepared herself to seduce the earl regardless, this way it was simpler. Otherwise she would have to hide her loathing with each action she took. "Then what is the earl's connection with the royal family?"
For a second, Nathaniel froze in his seat. His eyes darkened nearly unnoticeably. "He hates them."
This answer was confusing for Katherine. It made no sense for the earl to meet up with the youngest prince and help in the recovery of the patient - who she suspected to be of royal blood himself - if he hated them. And it made much less sense for the patient to not be vary of the earl if he knew that. Unless he wasn't part of the royal family, that was. At least not the main branch.
If she asked for the patient's identity like the last time, Katherine was sure she would get the same result, namely nothing. So she tried to get a hint in a roundabout way. Maybe implying that she already knew would work best. "Why does he help you then?"
A little annoyed as well as amused, Nathaniel squinted his eyes. She always managed to find his weaknesses. However, could it really be called a weakness after the pain had dulled to nothing? He only needed to tell her the truth about this one. "Why shouldn't he? I'm not part of the royal family."
Even with all the evidence by her side, Katherine wavered a bit. Maybe their resemblance really was a coincidence... but she couldn't quite believe it. "And prince Aston? How do you explain him?"