Ch. 39 A Short Night’s Outing (1)
“I wanted to see you. I told you to come quickly.”
Elena was struck dumb for a moment. He came that far from the capital just to see her? How many days and nights did he ride on horseback? Elena stood as frozen as a statue, her mouth gaping in surprise.
“But how long has it been and you’ve already changed my name?”
“Oh, I was so surprised…”
Elena remembered the contract as her words trailed off. She had forgotten she promised to call him by his pet name when they were alone. She was about to apologize when Carlisle took a step forward and redirected the conversation.
“Where were you going?”
“I was returning to my lodging. My sister is waiting for me.”
“Then let’s walk together.”
As released her hand he turned and strode ahead, Elena missed her chance to apologize. It occurred to her for a moment that he already knew her feelings, but she immediately shook her head. There was no reason for him to be so considerate. Elena soon followed Carlisle’s footsteps, opening her mouth to speak at a sudden thought.
“I don’t think we should go out together like this.”
“Officially, we have nothing to do with each other, Caril. And my family knights are waiting for me outside…”
“Are you worried that we’ll get noticed and be talked about?”
“I’m curious what kind of rumors there would be about the both of us.”
Elena stopped breathing for a moment. It was quite a compliment, but whether his words were a joke or had some other hidden meaning, Elena had to be the rational one.
“We decided that our first meeting will be at the ball and that we’ll fall in love at first sight. We can’t be seen by others before then.”
“…Seeing my fiancée’s expression is more difficult than fighting a battle.”
Elena could sense a veil of disappointment in his voice.
“If you’re nearby, then I’ll stop by my room first before sneaking out again.”
Elena’s spoke to him as if she were handing candy to a particularly fretful child, and Carlisle replied with a chuckle and a small smile.
“I’d love for you to, but I don’t have much time and I have to go back soon.”
“Didn’t you just arrive here? You have to leave already?”
“Your travel was slower than expected. It took me a while to get here.”
Elena’s thoughts were churning at what to do. She couldn’t just send Carlisle back when he already came this far. Carlisle looked down at the profile of her thinking and spoke in a calming voice.
“I’m the one who came here without notice. I didn’t mean force this upon you, so it’s alright if you don’t want anyone to see us together until the ball. Until we see your family knights…walking together will do.”
His response was unexpectedly diplomatic, causing Elena to look up at him with surprise. It was difficult to understand why he came here to see her amid such a tight schedule, especially when they would see each other at the capital. How many days did he need to ride this far to make this happen? Just to see her face for a few minutes? It didn’t make sense to Elena’s head, but somehow it made her guilty to refuse Carlisle. However, she could not take him before her family’s knights.
After a short moment of struggling internally, Elena halted her steps and caught Carlisle’s arm. At her slightest touch Carlisle stopped walking and stared at her, his blue eyes burning with a cold fire.
“I don’t like it when you touch me suddenly.”
Elena hastily withdrew her hand before answering. The light was brightening as there were more open shops in this area.
“Come with me.”
Elena brought Carlisle to a store that sold miscellaneous goods, the closest she could find.
Carlisle didn’t say anything else and was behaving more compliantly then she expected, following her as she took the lead. He no longer seemed offended by Elena’s earlier action. The expression in his eyes remained gentle.
A clerk walked over to them and greeted them politely as they entered the store. The man and woman were a beautiful pair. With brilliant blonde hair, jewel-like red eyes and pale skin, Elena was a stunning beauty by any measure. The same was true of Carlisle. He was taller than most men, and he had a sculptured body full of untamed majesty. Even from the way they were dressed, one could tell that they were moneyed.
The clerk wore a bright smile at the appearance of the wealthy clients.
“Is there anything you’re looking for?”
Elena glanced at Carlisle standing next to her then replied in an even voice.
“Do you have a cloak large enough to cover one’s face? No patterns, just plain black.”
“Hmm? A black one?”
An expression of puzzlement flickered over the clerk’s face. So did Carlisle’s, who was standing next to her. It wasn’t that noblemen didn’t wear cloaks, but that they preferred expensive ones with expensive animal fur or luxurious designs. The plain black cloak Elena requested was more suited for wandering mercenaries.
“Well, I have them, but…”
“Then I’ll take one.”
Despite the clerk’s expectation that only expensive items could be sold, Elena and Carlisle hurried out with only one black cloak. Carlisle glanced back at the surprised clerk then turned back to Elena.
“What are you going to do with this?”
“Just because Caril is the crown prince, doesn’t mean we can’t walk together.”
At Carlisle’s confused face, Elena held open the robe then swung it around his tall shoulders. Their faces drew closer than expected. Elena’s breath caught for a moment, but she quickly changed her expression to something more casual.
“I won’t be satisfied if we simply part like this. If you put this on and hide your identity, I can be with you until we get to the inn…How do you like that?”
Only then did Carlisle understand her meaning and smiled. Then he replied in a low voice.
“You want the crown prince of the empire to hide his face and pretend to be someone else? I have never hidden myself in the midst of my enemies.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. Then…”
She didn’t want to be discourteous. She was about to correct her mistake until suddenly Carlisle leaned in a little more, and their faces becoming closer than ever. He took Elena’s wrist, pulling her upper body towards his and speaking in a deeper tone of voice.
“So if you want me to wear this as the crown prince, at least place the hood with your own hands.”