The room seemed to turn darker when Katherine left, shadows lurking in the corners. Nathaniel stared at the door, his intense gaze drilling into the wood. The red of his irises seemed to gleam. Finally, he closed his lids. His hands balled into fists.
You can't have her, he repeated in his head. You can't. It's too dangerous. Too selfish.
But whatever he told himself, he still longed for her like a thirsty man in the desert for water. Which was exactly what he was.
Leaning back against the chair, the image of her soft bosom barely hidden behind slender arms resurfaced in his mind. When her hand fell, an amethyst ring had glittered on her finger. Mine. The possessiveness had overwhelmed him together with triumph. From her gorgeous surprised face over this soft blushing bosom down to her tiny feet in blue shoes, all mine. Even now, his mouth turned dry.
With a curse, his eyes snapped open. Falling for his own lie now, really! He didn't have the time to lose his reasoning to desire! Finally, he was back in the capital, could start connecting the dots, find the reason for his cursed life - and what was he doing now?! L.u.s.ting after a woman, developing a never before seen weakness! It really was ridiculous... So much so that he hated himself for it.
Pulling open a drawer, he stared at the blue silk box in it. What he told Katherine had been a lie. He didn't put on the ring yet. Maybe unconsciously he thought it would give her more power over him every time he saw the ring on his hand, felt it even if he didn't look at it. He feared he would think about her constantly. But not using it after he decided on their betrothal already was an error. As much as he fretted the consequences, there was no way he would spoil his own ploys.
Decisively, he took out the box and snapped it open. A silver ring entered his view, boarder than usual. Five small rubies lined up on the upper side, getting bigger to the middle. On every other man the ring might have looked feminine, but matched with Nathaniel, it only added to the cold and sinister aura.
Hesitating one last time, Nathaniel pulled the ring out of it's smooth bedding and put it on his left ring finger. It slid over the glove unobstructed. Seeing how it sat on his finger as if it was it's rightful place, Nathaniel muttered: "Couldn't he find something less matching? Sam really got ahead of himself with these..."
With a sharp snap, he closed the box and put it away, focusing on a different batch of papers than before. However, from time to time his eyes would wander to the ring on his hand. Whenever he noticed it, a crease would appear between his brows and he averted his gaze. Then, he would concentrate on work again. After some minutes, the circle repeated itself.
Somewhere in between, he pushed his hair back with a sigh. "Amethyst... I wish I didn't ask for an amethyst for her."
When he finally remembered the breakfast that awaited him on the side table, the tea had long turned cold. Ignoring the sweet delicacies, he took a bite from a bun. That was when it knocked again. "Enter."
Another silver tray came in sight, followed by a newly determined Katherine. When she saw the scene that awaited her, she stopped, stunned. The earl halted, too.
"Did you only just start with your breakfast?" Katherine's tone was incredulous. When she first went to see him, it had been around eight a clock. Now it was already twelve, time for lunch. However, there was only one single bite missing out of the big selection of pastries, bisquits and buns she'd brought.
The earl blinked, feeling somewhat guilty. "There was much to do."
"Still, you should have made some time for your health.", Katherine revoked with furrowed brows. On the inside she wasn't as unhappy as her words emptied. His behavior gave her a perfect excuse to stalk him some more. "It seems there is no helping it. We will eat the meals together from now on."
"No. We won't." The reply followed instantly like a thunderclap.
But Katherine wasn't that easy to impress after she'd made a choice. "Yes, we will! Breakfast and lunch I can bring up here. As far as I heard, prince Aston and the other residents of this building are gathering downstairs for supper today, so you can't miss out on that."
"Katherine, we won't eat together." His tone was stern. Seriously, he didn't want to eat with her. More time with her meant more complications. Supper might be unavoidable today, but he would do his best to make her drop the idea of eating with him every day. "We may be posing as betrothed but that doesn't mean we need to stick together all day long."
Walking over to the table, Katherine set down the tray. Then she took the stacks sitting between her and Nathaniel, putting them to the side. Next were the papers in front of the earl. However, a hand grabbed her wrist when she reached for them.
"What are you doing?" His low tone was demanding and there was a deep crease between his eyebrows. However, everything Katherine saw was the ring on his hand. Her eyes lit up. He really heeded her advice!
When she looked up to Nathaniel, the bright smile was one of genuine happiness. "Let's eat together!"
Stunned by her smile, Nathaniel's grip loosened. Before he could react, she already took the papers in front of him and place them out of his reach. Instead, a thick soup entered his sight. As the supper would be the main meal today, lunch wasn't as grand. Still, the soup was cooked by one of the best chiefs in the kingdom, so the smell alone made one's mouth water. It was just the right temperature to be eaten.
Unimpressed, Nathaniel raised his brow. He made no attempt to take the spoon Katherine placed beside the plate. "I told you we won't."
"Yes", Katherine said simply and placed her own plate opposite his. Her tone was as casual as a light spring breeze. "So, what will you do about it? You need food anyway. Will you chase me out of the room?"
Not a bad idea, Nathaniel thought. However, to those who thought of her as his betrothed, something like this might be too obvious. He remembered the palace guards positioned in front of the door. No, there had to be a simpler solution. "There is no second chair."
Katherine blinked. "You are right." She had forgotten about that. "I will ask the guards to bring one."
Nathaniel's eye twitched when Katherine turned her back on him. So annoying. How long would it take her to organize a chair though?
A few minutes later, Katherine came back into the room. Behind her followed Pete, who carried a light chair. Nathaniel dabbed his mouth with a napkin. Just when she reached the table, he spoke up. "You don't need a chair anymore."
"Of course I - " Katherine's automatic rebuke halted and the unfinished sentence reverberated in the room. Her gaze had found the plate on the earl's side. It was empty. And not only that, her own plate was empty, too!
With big eyes, she looked up at Nathaniel, who wore an expressionless face. What... what happened here? Did a fairy pass by and stole the food? It couldn't be this cold and stern earl...
Remembering how he'd dabbed his mouth, she suddenly didn't know whether to laugh or cry.