Her dress billowed in the brisk autumn breeze as she picked a delicate rose from a bush on top of the hill. The fragrance seemed to hypnotize her as Alexander wrapped his warm, muscular arms around her slender waist. She could feel his steamy breath on the crux of her neck and it cleared everything from her mind. Suitors, family affairs, schooling, even her mother’s illness, didn’t exist in this moment. In this moment only Alexander remained.
She spun around, making her long, raven black hair surround her, and met those demanding green eyes that had captured her since their first meeting. They were as green as the massive forests that surrounded her family’s estate, but more intimate, like they were meant for her and her alone. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears as she gazed into Alexander’s deep green eyes. Nothing else mattered to her right then, in that moment the world seemed to stop spinning, causing time to freeze just for them.
The wind picked up causing wisps of hair to dance in front of her face. Alexander, without looking away, brushed them aside and in one swift movement tilted her chin up and kissed her with those full lips of his. Explosions of emotions went off behind her now closed eyelids. It was everything she’d imagined it would be and so much more. It was warm, passionate, fierce, definitely something she’d never forget or want to end.
His arms curled tighter around her waist as the kiss deepened to a new level. A level that exposed the longing Alexander held for her, she only hoped that he could feel that she felt the same way towards him. But all too soon the kiss ended and she was left breathless. The breeze carried a slight chill of the winter to come but neither she nor Alexander were brought out of their little world, still wrapped in one another’s arms.
She nestled her head into his broad chest and just relaxed in his arms feeling safe and at home. She could hear his heart racing, perfectly in time with her own, and a smile blossomed slowly across her face. Off in the distance she could hear the church bells chiming as the clock hit six signaling that dinner would be ready soon and her father expected her home. Time no longer stood still for her and Alexander, and they both recognized it.
With a heavy sigh she pushed away from Alexander just enough to see his eyes one last time before life moved on again.
His eyes met hers and he smiled, “Katherine we must return before anyone realizes our extended absence.” Alexander removed his arms from around Katherine’s waist and grasped one of her hands. Katherine willed her feet to follow him back to the estate she called home.
Back to the suitors and schooling, back to her dying mother and busy household. Back to what normal people of pedigree are born for, back to the life that said she couldn’t be with Alexander. But she knew if she didn’t return by the time her father got home she’d lose her chance at learning anything aside from how to keep a clean house and run a kitchen. And if she lost that chance, she’d lose Alexander.
Katherine wouldn’t risk losing the man that she loved even if that meant living a life that would make her miserable, as long as she had Alexander she’d do anything to please her father, as long as she didn’t have to marry for anything other than love.
As the two of them strolled closer to the monumental estate they slowly drifted apart, creating the appropriate space that was required between a tutor and his pupil. To the outside world that’s all they were, but Katherine could still see his devilish smile lurking beneath his professional facade, she could still feel the warmth of his lips pressing against her own, still taste the longing they both shared.
In what seemed like no more than a blink of an eye they found themselves at the back entrance that led through the kitchen. Alexander rapped on the door and one of Anastasia’s handmaids, Madeline, answered. “You are late m’lady, your father arrived early.” Madeline grabbed a hold of Katherine’s wrist and pulled her through the door. She wisped past Alexander and time slowed down just enough to see his coy smile showing through that mask of his. Katherine’s heart skipped a beat just as Alexander slipped from view.
“We need to get you cleaned up ma’am, before your father sees you.” Madeline fretted as they wound through the servant corridors. An endless maze of tunnels and passageways but Madeline knew them well so soon enough they emerged into Katherine’s bedroom. When Madeline let go of her wrist and rifled through Katherine’s wardrobe. “Maddie I told you to call me Kat, or at the least Katherine. Ma’am makes me feel old and we’re the same age.” Katherine rolled her eyes as she rubbed her wrist.
“My apologizes Kat, now let’s hurry, your father said that you should be dressed properly, whatever that means.” Maddie kept pushing dresses aside until she found the one she’d been looking for. Kat huffed as she stripped out of the gown she’d been wearing and tossed it across the room.
Now in just her undergarments she flopped onto her magnificent bed and sunk into the fluffy down pillows. She closed her eyes and let herself drift back to the hill, letting herself enjoy the moment over and over again before Maddie pulled her back to reality.
“C’mon Kat I have to get you ready, please don’t get me in trouble.” Maddie tried desperately to bring Kat down to Earth, but all Kat wanted to do was dance around her room. Maddie grasped both of Kat’s wrists firmly and looked her straight in the eyes, “Katherine please I can’t risk getting in anymore trouble. Your father will be furious, plus if you’re late he’ll send Alexander away too. You don’t want that to happen to us now do you?”
Katherine straightened up, shocked, at how blunt Maddie was being but soon relaxed and gave in. “No I don’t want that to happen…to either of you…especially you Maddie, I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Kat raised her arms and let Maddie dress her in a soft blue gown that seemed to highlight her sapphire blue eyes.
“Hunter says that this gown was brought here all the way from Paris Kat, can you believe it, Paris.” Maddie cooed on as she laced the strings in the back making the dress fit her perfectly but still allowing Kat to breath without hassle.
“Paris really, then maybe after dinner you should try it on.” Kat suggested as she stood in front of the trio of floor length mirrors that seemed to capture every detail of the dress. The way it shimmered in the light, the way the sleeves hung just slightly off her shoulders, the way it accented every curve on Katherine’s body elegantly, the way it made her look womanly but still innocent.
“Do you really mean it?” Maddie finished with the corset and looked at Katherine through the mirror eagerly. Katherine spun around and hugged Maddie tight, “Have I ever lied to you?” Maddie shook her head no and smiled, as she ran a brush through Katherine’s wind blown mane.
They’d been friends literally their entire lives. Maddie’s mother was Katherine’s mother’s handmaid and they’d been pregnant at the same time. Katherine and Maddie were only a day apart in age and have played together ever since. It wasn’t until Katherine’s mother remarried that there was any difference in treatment between Maddie and her. ‘Servants and maids should know their places in life so that it doesn’t come as a surprise when someone treats them as what they are…the help.’ That is what her new ‘father’ said the day after he married her mother, and from that day on around him Katherine and Madeline acted prim and proper, but in the privacy of her own room, around the other servants, and around their mother’s they acted as equals, as sisters.
“Then after dinner you’ll get me out of this and we’ll play dress up just like we used to when we were younger.” Katherine smiled as she hugged Madeline close.
“Alright but first let’s get you to dinner.” Maddie ushered, Kat out of the room and down the hall towards the dining room. Maddie pushed Kat through the massive doors then ducked back to remain unseen to the company that awaited Kat.
Katherine glanced around the room and saw a strange man sitting to the right of her father. The man stood up once he realized Katherine had entered the room. He stood about even with her father who was no small man, had a small crop of brown hair on the top of his hair and it faded to nothing the closer it got to his ears, his face clean shaven. He turned to face Katherine and the light that shone through the floor length windows brought out hues of copper hidden in his hair, his broad, square shoulders relaxed as if he’d been holding his breath. Katherine walked towards her spot next to her mother and curtsied to the man before looking to her father, “Good evening father I wasn’t aware that you would be home early.”
Her father’s steel grey eyes scanned her quickly and his scowl slowly grew into a half smile, “No worries darling, I assume you were studying either with Anabelle or Alexander correct?”
Katherine nodded respectfully to her father and found her seat beside her ailing mother, “Are you feeling better mom?”
Her mother looked at her, placed her hand over Katherine’s, and smiled, “Don’t worry about me dearest one, this dinner is about you.”
Katherine peeled her attention away from her mother when her father cleared his throat, “Yes Katherine, I’d like you to meet Sir Alastair Malcolm of the Eastern Highlands.”
Sir Alastair nodded as if to recognize the introduction, but not once did his pale blue eyes waver from Katherine’s sapphire ones. “A pleasure to meet you Sir Alastair Malcolm, what brings you all the way to the Western forests, may I ask?” Katherine tested as she draped the cloth napkin in her lap.
Katherine’s mother shot Katherine a dreadful look as her father tried desperately to hold back the venom in his voice, “Katherine you will be polite to our guest.”
“Lord Tamhas I find no offense in Katherine asking about my intentions,” Sir Alastair held up his hand in a polite gesture to calm Katherine’s father then went right back to staring at Katherine, “Lady Katherine, please just call me Alastair or Al, there are no need for formalities, what brings me out here is quite simple. I came because of you. I met your father here on one of his business trips out to the Highlands and he told me that his daughter was the most beautiful woman in all of Scotland. I, being biased towards my sister having that title, asked if I could confirm if he was telling truths and now I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you are magnificent.”
Katherine blushed slightly and her mother squeezed her hand, out of the corner of her eye she could see her mother smiling. It had been so long since her mother had something to smile about, it would be selfish to ruin this moment for her so Katherine played along, “Why thank you Alastair….we’ll start here and work our way to Al. You can either call me Kat or Katherine, whichever you feel more comfortable with.” Katherine smiled at Alastair and he returned it.
“Well now that we are all acquainted let’s eat!” Katherine’s mother cheered. As if they’d been waiting to burst in the entire conversation servants bustled through every door carry all sorts of food.
As the evening wore on Alastair charmed Katherine’s father and flattered her mother, and even though all of his stories and anecdotes were interesting and awe inspiring, all Katherine wanted to do was go back to her room and play dress up with Maddie, while they did what they thought normal girls did. Finally Katherine’s father seemed to have mercy on her and called dinner to a close, “Katherine why don’t you show Sir Alastair to the guest room, since he’ll be staying as long as he has interest and business here.”
Katherine curtsied to her father and nodded to Alastair, “Come with me please. Goodnight mother.”
Her mother hugged her tight before kissing her forehead, “Goodnight my darling, say hello to Maddie for me.” She whispered the last part loud enough for only Katherine to hear, and Katherine nodded before taking her leave out of the gigantic dark oak doors that she’d entered through. Alastair followed suit after bidding his regards and goodnights. He caught up to Katherine quickly with his long strides and clasped his hands behind his back.
“Kat, if you really are ok with me calling you that, is this what you want?” The question threw Katherine off guard, “Excuse me?…