Although the mansion was gigantic, most of the rooms were empty shells. Well maintained, but otherwise forgotten. The only exception was the dining room she visited the day prior.
"How long does the earl live here again?", she asked her two guards, who, after longer inspection, didn't seem to be as bad as she thought.
"Almost two years.", the bigger one, Pete, replied.
"And he never held a ball or social gathering or whatever?"
"Only two were received by him personally: prince Aston and you, milady."
"If you can call that personally.", she grumbled. She'd thought about bypassing the earl and finding someone else to help her reclaim her freedom in the row of his visitors. Without social gatherings, however, he really left her with no choice. "I don't want to seduce that demon."
"What did you say, milady?", Hazel asked innocently.
Katherine blushed. "I said... I want to search that dungeon!" She pointed at a low-key door, which was half sunken into the ground. A flight of five dark-grey steps led to it.
It wasn't a lie. She really wanted to know if the dungeon was as inhabited as the rest of the mansion.
"I thought, I heard something else...", Hazel contemplated quietly. The redness extended up to Katherine's ears. Stiffly she walked over to the door, ignoring her maid.
The guards exchanged gazes.
"Milady, the dungeon isn't suited for a lady to visit. It is cold, dark, and dirty down there. Your clothes would get ruined.", Pete argued.
"Yes, yes!", Jack joined in. "There are spiders and c.o.c.kroaches. Really, really big ones! They will fall from the ceiling and crawl down your neck into your shirt!"
"Uuuh, milady, let's not go. I'm scared of spiders! Please~ I don't want to go...", Hazel begged fearfully and clutched Katherine's sleeve.
Being pressed by all sides, Kathrine gave in, although the three of them acting together to stop her made her suspicious. Might as well go there some other time with more fitting attire. She would inspect every nook and corner of the dungeon until she found the secret the earl obviously didn't want her to know.
Although she didn't exactly like spiders and c.o.c.kroaches, meeting them was a small price for what she hoped to find.
The guards breathed a sigh of relieve as Katherine turned away from the dungeon door. After the incident with the dagger, they already recognized, that bans only made her stubbornly insist on what she wanted to do anyway.
But it was a short relieve for them, as Katherine's gaze wandered to the front door next. Resolutely she strode in its direction. On the day she got here, she didn't get a proper look on the mansion. Now she wanted to see just how big it was from the outside. Hopefully the earl had taken better care of the exterior than the few hundred rooms upstairs, or else it might be rotting already. Though Hazel said...
Pete stepped into her path, looking troubled. There was even some sweat glistening on his forehead. "Milady, it's still muddy outside. With your shoes you may sink in."
Suddenly getting gloomy, Katherine lifted her skirt slightly. "They are flats, don't you see? Not even pricey ones."
What was up with these guards? Did she look like a proper lady or what? Well, maybe she did. That would be called good acting than.
She took a step forward again, but Jack hastily blocked the exit, the arms spread to both sides. "Please, please don't go out, milady, there are... ah... there are dangerous creatures outside, too!"
Katherine rolled her eyes. Jack, never pursuer an acting carrier, please! You are too obvious. "Oh, I'm soo frighted of the beasts living in a flower garden! Really, sooo scared. Just step out of the way, Jack."
"No, no, I'm speaking the truth, milady!", Jack protested nervously. "There is a gigantic, wild, dangerous ... ah... vicious, and... well, a really dreadful... uh... dragon in the garden. Yes!"
With wide open eyes, Katherine looked up at the heavily sweating guard. Then, her gloomy atmosphere split as if the sun was breaking through the clouds. She started to giggle happily. "A dragon! A dragon he said! For sure, there is a dragon in the flower garden!"
The guards could do nothing but stare at the girl in front of them, having lost all their wits in front of her smile. They nearly forgot their own names. The girl was breathtakingly beautiful when laughing. She was glowing like pure sunshine. She was a star one wanted to pluck from the firmament so that no one else could see it blinking in all colors of the rainbow.
Although Jack and Pete were both quite old, they couldn't help feeling warmed by her laugh and Jack began to smile like a fool, while Pete thought about how nice it would be to have a pretty daughter such as her. He felt a bit regretful that he'd never married.
Just as both of them relaxed, Katherine gripped the handle and shoved the door wide open. Sunshine poured into the hall.
"Please. Where do you see a dragon here?" Her eyes were sparkling with a light she thought she'd lost together with her parents.
"Well", Jack sighed, but he couldn't stop grinning. "You got me there." He wasn't in the mood anymore to stop this courageous and clever girl.
"I'll go then." Katherine grinned cheekily at them. "You coming?"
"Yes.", Jack replied readily.
"No!", Pete disagreed at the same time. The two guards stared at each other incredulously, before Pete shrugged and gave in. "Well, okay. But we shouldn't let the earl know."
"That's for sure.", Katherine laughed. "Thank you!"
Katherine had a nice day outside in the flower field, but it also made her realize something: I really do have no choice. Until the earl decides otherwise, I'm like his personal property. And how could she change the earl's mind? Well, just by talking to him and making him realize her worth, of course. By seducing him, even though she still had doubts if he was strait. She shouldn't delay it any more.
In the evening , she asked Hazel to call the butler over. Sam complied, while thinking about how he could delay her request, regardless of what it may be.
But as he finally heard it, a glimmer of hope sparked in his eyes, rapidly hidden behind a pensive front. "I don't think this is possible, milady. The earl's schedule is too tight. If it is once a week, it may be alright though."
"Trice a week", Katherine bargained.
Sam shook his head. "Twice. This is the maximum."
"Only if it is for at least one hour each time. Starting tomorrow.", she stated her conditions. If she had less time, reaching her goal might be impossible.
"I will ask the earl about that.", Sam said, trying hard not to smile. He knew, the earl wouldn't like it, but the girls conditions were quite good compared to what they were ready to pay for her healing the patient. "Do you need anything else, milady?"
"No, thank you."
"Then I'll take my leave." Stepping outside, Sam chuckled quietly. Now he just needed to talk the earl into this.
"The girl stated her method of payment today.", Sam reported. "If you want to use her ability regularly, she wants you to spend time with her. In other words: she wants dates with you. Every day."
"What?!" the pressure inside the room instantly maxed. "Impossible! I don't have time for a spoiled brat like that! Why doesn't she ask for money instead?"
"I thought that, too. But she wasn't moved by the amount I bid.", Sam lied easily. "So I bargained with her to at least reduce it to three times a week. You know, she is really headstrong. Her condition is that you need to spent at least two hours with her every time. Starting tomorrow."
The earl snorted. "This girl... what does she gain by doing this? It's not like I will fall for her or something... well, it's not exaggerated to meet with her once in a while. Better than some other conditions she could have raised. I'm a bit curious about her aim, too... tell her, I will meet her, but only two times a week and with half the time limit. She can't get overly exited."
Inwardly, Sam was celebrating. Yes! His scheme succeeded! To the earl however, he showed an ugly face. "I will try my very best."