His green sights, encased by the jolting shadows seeping in from the window of the carriage, gyrate themselves just slightly in what little amusement he has derived from the girl’s sudden boldness. What temerity, Christian thinks briefly as he sits through in held silence as Anique burns every little scrap of pretense she had in front of him.

“So many questions, fraulein.” The pale fellow finally speaks the moment she finishes her quite inelegant soliloquy. “So many. Which one am I supposed to answer first?”

The carriage continues its halting journey and now it seems even darker within the interior that they have left the sanctuary of the city; well past the gates and down the wide path towards the village of Este.

Despite it all, Christian indulgingly leans forth, facing the auburn haired girl, his eyebrows raising up a notch, and a query spills out in pure surprise from his lips: “First of all, fraulein, your good brother Nikolas is in Este? I do not know about this.”

A corner of her mouth tugs upward briefly before turning her view to the window, her profile barely distinguishable in the softening shadow. How like him to never reveal anything or be overtaken by feeling. “I have asked no question other than if you received my message. You have already answered that, indirectly.”

Clenching her jaw, lips unmoving, Anique grinds her teeth together in minor agitation. If he hadn’t known, she should have kept silent. So as not to immediately answer any questions regarding her brother, she inhales a slow breath and shakes her head slowly. “If I could find you on accident, surely he could have without truly even trying.”

Christian lifts up one hand, teasing a gloved finger past the flimsy curtain that sheltered the window, like a distraction from her words before he find time to answer. The soft neighs of the two horses dragging the carriage pierced past the chill air streaming in from
the window now that the coach driver picked up pace along the lonely stretch of road.

“That’s something else I did not know. That he was looking for me.” The pale fellow turns his gaze from the rushing view to linger upon Anique again, his hand falling from the curtain. “Perhaps you were talking to someone who had too much to drink, fraulein. We are going to Este for a purpose, but not because of your brother.”

His eyes close slowly, captured in a slow broil of growing curiosity; and then the lids open just barely to catch the girl in their greenish gaze once more. “And you have not told me yet. What is that you wish from me and that I am taking it to your brother.”

Fraulein. She couldn’t seem to recall when she began responding to that word as if it were her name – a Miss, an unmarried woman in translation. In fact, she couldn’t recall him ever using her true name. If she ever did marry, her name would be gone. Turning her gaze back to him, she catches his green depths looking back at her, standing out in the dim. “D’Estelle used to be quite a name to be attached to…”

“I suppose it is more of something I want and he refuses to give me.” Still, Anique continues to watch him as if looking for something he isn’t telling her directly. Her body sways gently with the subtle movement of the carriage. “I’m not really even sure what part you play in it honestly. He knows something about you that he will not share with me. But whatever he’s seeking, you seem to have the answer for.”

“How selfish of your brother then, fraulein. Not to share what he desires so much with you.” The pale fellow’s head tilts askew, almost bare leaning against the metal frame of the carriage’s window. “If he really needs something that I have; if it is within my power, I would grace him with that possession. But alas.”

Christian murmurs, deriving some sense of mock regret to his words now he turns to watch Anique ever so observantly, his sights touching the tiniest changes of expressions on her features. “How can I let both of you have this possession? When it seems to me that only one person is worthy of it?”

He surfaces that question followed by a long, tidal pause; a swelling silence punctuated by a sudden jolt of the carriage and a sharp, defiant scream by the horses as the driver pulls the beasts to an ungenerous halt.

“Lord von Karlach.” The man’s clear voice rang past the shadows and into the carriage, calm, unhindered. Unflustered. “You may need to come out and look at this.”

The pale fellow’s features frown, literally; the ivory flesh merging towards the center of his forehead, the ageless look about him taking on a semblance of annoyance, or is that a hint of creeping fear.

“Christian von Karlach. Do you need to stay in there further?” It is no longer the coach driver’s voice, but the voice of a young female — lilting, sing-song, hilarious in its tone as it addresses the pale fellow within the coach.

Small hands reach out to flatten upon the upholstered seat Anique is settled on as the carriage comes to a sudden halt. Before she could even formulate a response to the question posed to her, her gaze flies to the window the male voice seemed to trickle through.

Anique pulls back the curtain in curiosity, hearing her own heart beating furiously in her chest at the sudden fright. The second voice resonates through the dark, seemingly out of place, and Anique visibly pauses before releasing the curtain. Twisting her frame back to glance at the man seated across from her, she’d never seen that look before upon his features and offers a confused expression in response.

The sound of another steed’s hooves clip-clopped its way to the side of the carriage; and a ivory-hued hand, clasped in the finest of silver filigree reaches into the window, flinging aside the curtain that barricaded her view with a careless flick of fingers. “Ah.” Her sibilant voice draws forth into a tiny, girlish gasp.

“This is what you’re hiding, Christian. Have you finally decided to break your vows? Bringing her along for this occasion?” A face, lightly-colored; peers in, the skin luminous like water gleaming in moonlight; the eyes a mild honey, inviting despite the callous way she threw her glance downwards upon Anique into the carriage’s interior.

A smile is offered that in the auburn haired girl’s way; as if the other knew a secret that threatened the former’s existence. “If this is how things will be, Christian, then you have sealed her brother’s fate for her.” The honey-eyed girl continues very bluntly, her eyes still upon Anique, her voice hardening in resolve.

The alabaster fingers that held the curtain of the window up retreat and the girl’s horse trots back, letting the full meaning of her words fall desperately within the confined shadows of the coach.

“Drive!” The pale fellow snaps suddenly, not at all bothered to reply to the girl upon the horse as the coachman cracks his whip upon that command on the rumps of the beasts, dragging the carriage into an alarmingly speed down the road towards Este.

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