"I would like to kiss you," she says.
"Oh." He cocks his head to one side, left eyebrow raised. "Why?"
She shrugs. "Why not?"
He stares at her for a little too long and she finds herself staring back, that space in the back of her head suddenly mute.
"Never mind," she finally says.
But as she turns, before she can flee, his hand is grasping her wrist and pulling her back, fixing her on the spot. Her cheeks burn.
"Why?" he asks again.
There is gold in her mouth, rocks on her tongue, a blissed, hateful void in her thoughts. She doesn't even know why she'd brought it up in the first place--it was too forward, too sudden. It wasn't what she'd planned--except wine, too much wine. Despite the fact she hasn't touched any of it.
"I'm drunk," she offers, wincing as his eyes narrow. Hormonally drunk, maybe, though he can't know that.
"You never drink," he says flatly.
"And I would smell it on you if you had."
"The fumes..." She stops as he shakes his head. It's a flimsy lie anyway.
"What do you want?"
She straightens her back, grasping at the last straws of her dignity. "I thought I made that quite clear. Did I mumble?"
"That's not what you really want, is it?"
"Is it Katherine? Is she putting you up to this?"
Her throat is too dry, too scratchy. She desperately needs a drink, alcoholic if possible--something to silence the emptiness of her mind. His grip is tight and binding and she wants to run away, but she also wants to lean in. Lean in and kiss him. Except she can't.
"Lady Katherine has nothing to do with this," she manages, dropping her eyes. "If you... do not require my services, I would like to retire for the night."
He makes an odd sound at the back of his throat and she looks up at him sheepishly. That hadn't come out quite as she intended.
"I know what you meant. Go."
She curtsies and scurries away.
She's in the nearest nook, chest heaving as she leans against the wall, when a whisper startles her.
She waves it, her, away, eyes still closed.
"His Highness is asking after you," the voice says again much later.
"Why? To gloat in my humiliation?" It's sharper than she intended.
"He thought you'd like something for your hand." It's him this time, his voice dry and amused.
She opens her eyes, staring at him confused before following his gaze.
"You've been bleeding on my floor for quite a while, my servant tells me."
"I... I don't remember." It's probably from when she stumbled in here, flailing at the walls in a flurry of tears. Why hadn't she just gone straight to her rooms?
She watches numbly as he gently cleans and binds the gash on the back of her hand. "I should go."
"Back to your rooms?" He takes her hand to escort her.
She wonders why she doesn't pull her hand away. "Back to my home." It's obvious she's failed. She's not what he wants.
"Ah," is all he says.
At her door, she smiles and thanks him again. He bows slightly, ever the perfect gentleman. And then he is gone. She closes the door behind her, cutting off the sight of his retreating back and the receding hope of an alliance with his house.
Tomorrow, she would have to make her plans anew.
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