Letting her fingers wander over the soft fabric, Katherine wondered if the earl had slept tonight. The bed looked unused, but maybe it was just tidied up already. Would he sleep on the right or left side, straight or curled up? The only way she could picture him asleep was like a man in a coffin: lying on his back unnaturally straight with the arms down and dressed in a suit.
A grin flew over her lips. Maybe his hair would be disheveled at least. White strands softly falling on the pillows, like snowflakes. Her hand caressed the fabric as if gently stroking his hair. Then she pulled it away and shook her head. Thinking about caressing the earl's hair - was she delusional?
His hand kiss messed up my head, she deliberated. The earl wasn't the gentle type. He wouldn't let her caress his head or do anything else... not like in the dream.
Katherine blushed hard. Last night she'd dreamed of the earl, dreamed of him kissing her fingers one by one before wandering up over the back of her hand all the way to her shoulder. Then he'd looked into her eyes, whispered words she couldn't remember. She pulled him down for a kiss.
Katherine's lips opened involuntarily as her breath hastened. This kiss... it was so sad that the dream ended there, but it was also a relief. Could she ever look the earl in the eye again if it continued?
With a quiet sigh, Katherine stood up and went back into the study. Since Nathaniel wasn't here, waiting was futile. She only had less than an hour until the meeting with lady Brandon. Alone, she ate her part of the breakfast and collected the used dishes. Then she halted.
Searching the desk, she found some unused paper in one of the drawers. With her lower lip between her teeth, she picked up the feather, dipped it into the ink, and wrote a note. At the end, she hesitated, before inspiration hit her and she quickly wrote out the last few words.
Anni said she had to be a bit bold sometimes but not overdo it. A big show of affection would just chase the earl away. She had to slowly sneak into his heart in a roundabout way, until whatever secret he hid wasn't as important as their relationship anymore.
When she looked onto the product, Katherine nibbled on her lip indecisively. As if in slow motion, she laid the note down on the tray carefully. Staring at it for a few seconds, she finally laid the feather down, took up the used dishes and strode out of the room.
Approximately a minute later, the shelf beside the desk swung open. Behind it was a space, big enough to fit a single person. No secret corridor, no further ado. It was nothing more than a small hiding place, usually used to spy on the guests. This time however, the guest himself had hidden in it.
With a thoughtful expression, Nathaniel went over to the table. He wanted to avoid her in hopes that it she would stop pursuing him, so he hid as soon as he heard her voice. She was still conversing with the guards then, but he knew fully well that they couldn't stop this headstrong woman. With their fake connection, it would even be abnormal if they did. However, telling them to stop everyone that visited bought him a few seconds.
Though seeing her eat all alone was kind of sad, it was better this way. They were getting way too close. Especially yesterday. It might even be his fault this time.
Curious about her reason to hesitate when she normally was too brave for her own good, he took a look at the note.
Though I couldn't find you today, I hope the breakfast is to your liking. You really need to eat more! Don't work all day and neglect your body!
In a bit, I'll be leaving with lady Brandon, and I might not be able to accompany you for lunch. It makes me a bit sad. I still wanted to ask you some things. Like if I can steal your guards for a few hours. I already asked Sam once and he said he'd ask you, but I think he forgot when your brother's poison acted up. Well, let's talk about that another time...
While I write, my toes are freezing, so my first purchase today will be thicker shoes. Hopefully, your feet are warm.
The eyes of the earl lingered on the last lines for a long time. Only mine... she doesn't know what she's wishing for. This dangerous woman. Please stop wishing for death or it might just give in to you.
Exhaling slowly, he threw the note into the trash can. Or at least that was, what he intended to do. He made the motion but stopped before letting go of the paper. With a complicated gaze, he pulled it back and read the letter once more. His lips twitched upwards, imagining her with her hands on her h.i.p.s, lecturing him about his health. And she seemed really worried that his feet could be cold...
His eyes wandered to his shoes, which, though elegant, were thick and warm. He should thank Sam next time for his meticulous preparation. Though it was his job to make his master's life easier, being so good at it needed a high skill. He should appreciate it.
About the thing with the guards, it wasn't Sam's fault, actually. His butler forwarded the question to him if she could take some selfdefence-lessons, but Nathaniel first wanted to mull it over. Maybe he hoped she'd forget about it. Fighting didn't count to the typical skillset of a lady and it was already hard enough to control her without her knowing the weaknesses of a human body.
But now, the situation had changed. As his betrothed, it might be better if she knew how to protect herself. The training would need to be in secret though if she didn't want to be estranged by society.
Sighing soundlessly, Nathaniel folded the letter once, then twice, and finally put it into his b.r.e.a.s.t pocket. So long as she didn't know, taking it wouldn't make her hopes rise. As for why he kept it... he didn't want to think about it too deeply.
Careful not to cross paths with Katherine, he told the guards to let prince Aston in as soon as he came and went to work for another half an hour. In between, he ate the breakfast Katherine prepared. Obviously, she'd asked someone about his preferences this time for it didn't include anything sweet. Egg with toast, bacon and a cup of earl grey. Perfect.
"Nathan!" Aston flung the door open with so much excitement that it banged against the wall. "Oh, sorry - Are we really going out together?!"
Putting the paper in his hand down, Nathaniel rubbed the space between his brows. Just now, he regretted agreeing to that. "Going out... do I perhaps look like one of your girls?!"
Aston froze, then he laughed nervously and waved his hands. "No, no, of course not! See, I already arranged the meeting with lord Orvet. He will welcome you whenever you got the time today, so please..." Aston put his hands together in a praying gesture and smiled fawningly. "just fulfill this little wish of mine? I just want to spent some time together. It doesn't need to be a walk..."
"Fine." A thin smile tugged on the corners of Nathaniel's mouth as he suddenly interrupted him. "Let's go to the training field then."
"To the training...?" Aston's eyes widened. "W-why would I go there?"
"Didn't you want to spent some time with me? I just happen to lack sword practice." Working out for a bit would help improve his body after this long period of sickness. The smirk of the earl deepened. In Aston's eyes, he looked like a devil laughing down from his throne. "You didn't slack off, did you?"
He only wanted to have a relaxed little walk with his older brother. How come he ended up in a death-trap? Aston felt like crying.