A Lady Knows Her Boundaries
Thomas Drake somehow found himself on top of one of Lady Eleanor’s horses, next to Katherine, riding through the hills of France.
He hadn’t expected her to ask him to ride with her. He had expected more of a “go on a picnic” or “go with me for a walk in the garden”.
As he well knew, Lady Katherine was very good at being surprised.
He loved the way she looked upon a horse, with her long hair braided behind her and the sun shining down upon her. He loved the way she looked back at him, with a grin spread across her face.
He loved how she look and acted like a free spirit as she raced him across the forest landscape.
Needless to say, she beat him.
“Where did you learn to ride like that?” Drake asked as he pulled up beside her.
She smiled softly, “My father was excellent with horses.”
Drake nodded, “My father loved horses too. Too bad he was born a lord for he was rarely gifted the opportunity to work with them.”
Katherine’s smiled faded, “My father’s passion killed him. While training a wild mustang, he was trampled.”
“I am sorry.” Drake said, reaching out to touch her alarm.
She smiled and shook her head, “Don’t be. I was only a child when it happened. My mother died during childbirth, so I was used to taking care of myself.”
“Is that why you are so headstrong?” Drake teased as she pulled the horse to the side.
He slid off and offered her his hand, “I am not headstrong.” Katherine replied, brushing off her skirts as she landed smoothly on the ground.
Drake sank to the ground and started to spread out a thin blanket across the grass. Somehow, Katherine had managed to convince the kitchen staff to conjure up a whole basket of exotic foods in just a few hours. She had come to him, holding her basket with a wide grin. He couldn’t stop himself from smiling back at her.
Now, she stood in front of him, dressed in a dark dress with golden strands running along the seams. She looked like a queen, standing in front of him with her head held high.
He looked back down at the blanket and started to spread it out again.
“Thomas?” She asked.
“Katherine?” He replied, looking up at her.
“Why me? Why are you so persistent in marrying me? You know I am a peasant and I have nothing to offer you but me.”
Drake shrugged, “You are all that I need, Katherine.”
Katherine sat down beside him, “I come with baggage.”
“So do I.” Drake replied, leaning forward. He had never realized before just how beautiful her eyes were until he was staring right at her. He reached out a cupped her face, bringing her closer to her.
Katherine opened her mouth to say something, but the words seemed to falter.
“I really want to kiss you.” He whispered.
Katherine nodded slowly, “So do I.”
He leaned closer until she was not more than a few inches away from him. Her breathing stopped. Her lips pressed together.
“Maybe this was a mistake.” She whispered.
“How can this be a mistake? Katherine, there is nothing wrong with a kiss.” Drake replied.
Katherine pulled away from him and shook her head, “I cannot do this. I have a duty to Eleanor. I cannot leave her as much as I want to.”
She was near to the point of hysterical. Her chest moved up and down rapidly and she kept shaking her head. Drake could feel his heart breaking at the sight of her.
Drake stood as Katherine did, “You owe something to yourself, Katherine. You deserve to be happy.”
“And who is to say I will be happy with you, Thomas?” She snapped as she turned sharply to face him, “You know you cannot guarantee my happiness!”
“And Eleanor can?” Drake spat, a bitter taste filling his mouth.
“She gave me a better life. I can never be unhappy with her.” She said, her voice dying down.
She was crying now. More than Drake really wanted her to. He stepped away from her and held up his hands, “It looks like you have won, Katherine. I will do my best not to bother you again.”
She turned away from him, mounted her horse and started on her way back to the Estate.
Drake watched her disappear into the forest be turning around.
He should have known Katherine would never stand for this. He understood she had a duty first to her guardian and second to herself.
He came in dead last.
And as much as it broke his heart not to fight for her anymore, he knew he had to. He didn’t want to make Katherine choose between him and the Countess.
He would never make her choose.