The Blood Rose Assassin – Part 2
The preparations for the birthday ball at House Rydell’s manor was in full blast. Servants and cooks worked endlessly to create the perfect ambiance of elegance and fine dining. Not a spot was missed in the polishing and dusting. Every single one of the family’s guards was on duty.
Isolde was trying not to cry whilst also trying to breathe in her new gown. Earlier, she had been more than ecstatic from receiving the gift from her parents, but now, she’d grown to despise it. It only reminded her of the trapped situation—the marriage she knew was coming sooner or later, similar to death itself.
Not to mention, she didn’t even know the Lord she would be meeting tonight. Isolde couldn’t help gagging at the idea of her becoming Lady Isolde Umber. Rydell was a powerful House, a beautiful name, and the tradition that she would have to change her name when married absolutely disgusted her.
She looked out the window of her room, over the vast estate grounds and beyond. All she could think about was how she wanted to be with Niklaus tonight. If they weren’t from different classes, perhaps things could be different. Marry well, speak properly, stand and walk poised and gracefully… but marrying for love, especially if the boy in question was strictly prohibited.
Besides, she hadn’t even told Niklaus how she felt.
As if she manifested him herself, a pebble knocked against her window. She glanced down, only to see Niklaus below. The very sight of him sent her stomach aflutter and the smile that broke out onto her lips felt like it would rip her face apart. Guests would be arriving in a matter of hours, but Isolde couldn’t care less.
Quickly, Isolde walked away from the window to open the door of her room. She peered down the corridor, making sure no guards were posted yet, but one stood by her door.
“My Lady, is something the matter?”
“Oh.” Isolde gave the guard a smile. “Nothing. Sorry, I thought I heard something.”
“I assure you, there’s no one around other than servants and myself.”
She smiled tightly and backed into her room. She closed the door and took a deep breath. How was she to get down to Niklaus without anyone knowing she was sneaking out?
Slowly, she turned to the window. An idea struck her mind. It was risky anyway, and she certainly didn’t want to hurt him in the process. Niklaus was down there, and she had faith in him. “Fuck,” she whispered as she strode over to the window and opened it. Below, Niklaus looked up at her, perplexed. “Here I come,” she said as she climbed over the window sill.
“Are you mad?!” Niklaus whisper-shouted from below.
“No, because you’re right under me,” Isolde said, carefully sitting on the sill. Niklaus hastily held his arms out in front of him and she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let herself fall from the tower.
While Niklaus could catch her if everything ran smoothly, this fall would be fatal if he failed in doing so. People would find her dead body and write it off as a suicide. She had to muster everything in herself not to scream as her body, falling through the air, cooled against her heated fear then bounced and stopped.
“Oh!” Niklaus grunted with his arms underneath her, and they both collapsed.
Isolde caught her breath, still somehow in his arms as Niklaus lay on his back. He groaned and she laughed, carefully pulling herself up and reaching for his hand. “I knew you’d catch me.” He took her hand and got to his feet, brushing the dirt off his suit. She frowned as she took his appearance in, let go of his hand, and backed up to get a better look at him. “What are you wearing?”
The sweet blacksmith’s son looked at her with such lovely, soft eyes like the sea that Isolde nearly melted right then and there. Again. “Er. Formal attire, I would hope. It’s your birthday, isn’t it? S’why you’re wearing that, Milady.”
“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Isolde?” she whispered, looking him up and down and smiling at the warmth of his effort. His hair even looked better taken care of than normal.
“I’m not quite sure, but it certainly won’t be the last time, Milady.”
Isolde smiled sadly in defeat. They always seemed to have the same conversation. He always called her Milady and she always asked him not to. Always.
“You look very handsome,” she said. “Thank you for coming.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. And… I was wondering if I could ask you to dance, at least? I know there’s no music right now. I know the party hasn’t started but we both know I can’t properly attend.” He shrugged, his hand scratching the back of his neck bashfully as he glanced the other way. “So… I… yeah. Can we dance? I was practicing at home! I don’t know. If not, that’s okay. I know we don’t really dance like that.”
The hesitation in his voice, his nervous glance, the evident shyness—it was something Isolde hadn’t ever seen before in him. Nonetheless, she couldn’t help the fondness bursting in her heart.
“Ballroom dancing is a lot like dancing with swords,” she said. “All about footwork and all that, and you know there’s a rhythm when sword fighting. There’s a rhythm in ballroom dancing as well.”
“I did figure,” he chuckled softly. “I mean. Yeah.”
“Right. I’d like to dance, by the way,” she said, stepping closer to him. “Come, show me what you’ve been practicing. You can only get better from here. Then you can impress any girl you may want.” She mentally hit herself for how her voice faltered in the last sentence. It was difficult trying to sound cool and collected when she just wanted to turn into mush.
“Well, we’ll see if I can impress you first.”
Isolde tried to keep her smile at bay. All the years of being taught how to hide emotions as a Lady of the House went out the window when she was with Niklaus. It was pathetic. Realizing how much she failed at playing casual only made her cheeks feel far too warm for comfort, too. But, it was nothing compared to when his hand held her waist and pulled her closer.
All she could see was him. All she could feel was her pulse drumming in every bit of her, even her fingertips where his other hand held hers. He would certainly know! There was no hiding it!
“Aren’t you supposed to hold my arm or something?” Niklaus asked, breaking her out of her thoughts.
Isolde blinked up at him in surprise. “What? Oh!” She held his upper arm gently, like a feather, even though she was feeling tense. How moronic. She’d been doing fine every single dance lesson until now.
Their feet moved. He stepped forward, she stepped back. Isolde’s gaze never faltered and Niklaus glanced down a couple of times. She cleared her throat to draw his attention back to her. It was a reminder that he was nervous, too. She’d even noticed his nervousness, but she wasn’t calling him out on it. If Niklaus could sense her anxiousness, too, he definitely wasn’t showing it.
Her heart only grew fonder.
“You don’t look at your feet when you’re sword fighting, right?” Isolde asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“No.” He looked up at her again and smiled softly. “’Course not. I just don’t want to step on your toes. It’s not as life threatening, messing this up… but… emotionally, maybe I care too much.”
For a moment, the world seemed to disappear around them. Isolde gazed into his ocean eyes, and he never looked down at his feet. They moved in synch, swaying and smiling. Surprising her, he lifted his arm up, inviting her to twirl under it and back, and he dipped her. She felt dizzy, breathless, and let out a soft giggle. “You’re actually really good. I’m very impressed.”
“Well, then I guess the girl I wanted to impress… was impressed.”
He pulled her back up and Isolde’s heart just about burst. “Really?”
“Yes. I’m sorry,” he looked so pained, suddenly. “I… I shouldn’t. I know we can’t, but I can’t help how I feel. You’ve been my best friend for so long. And you’re beautiful. I’m really sorry I put you into this position.”
“How could you apologize for putting me into any position? I—I feel the same.”
“You do?” His eyes widened and his hand cupped her cheek. She leaned her cheek into his palm and kissed the heel of his hand. “You do….”
“Of course I do,” she whispered, looking up at him. “Very much so.” Her hand reached to his hair, and she ran her fingers through rusty-golden curls. “You bathed today, didn’t you?”
“Don’t ruin this moment,” he gently sneered, making her laugh. “I have a present for you, by the way.”
“You and your dancing and your nice clothes weren’t my presents?”
His cheeks grew pink and he shook his head. “No. I’ve got you something better, something really incredible. Like, I worked just as hard on it, but we’ll have to go to the shop for it.”
Her eyes lit up at that. More sneaking away, just hours before the party. The thrill was inexplicably exciting. What’s more, they were going to the blacksmith shop where they practiced with wooden swords.
Isolde pulled his hand down from her face, only to thread their fingers together. He gave her hand a squeeze and she beamed.
“Alright. Take me there.”
To be continued.