Leopold almost looked like he cared as his hand touched Nieneve's face.
"When we are married, I promise that no man shall ever strike you again," he told her. She blinked. It had not been the caring reaction she had been expecting.
"I-" She stuttered then gathered herself. "Any man striking a princess would sign his own death warrant."
Leopold looked at her intently for a moment and then nodded, removing his hand.
"Of course." He looked annoyed that she had shrugged off his statement. She realised that would return him to his usual state...
"Thank you." She said, catching his arm. He glanced down at her hand on his bicep, and looked up with a grin. She released him and the grin faded slightly.
"We never did take that walk did we?" He asked.
"No. Perhaps tomorrow?"
"It would not be appropriate."
"I have a servant following me. He can keep an eye if that would make you feel better?"
"Maybe not tonight." Nieneve curtseyed and then looked at him with a small smile. "But I shall think about it." Then she slipped in to her room and placed her hand on her hot cheek again.
Her brother had struck her across the face. It was the first time he'd ever done it; normally he was patient, thoughtful... if slightly controlling.
She faltered in her breathing. Why had he lost his temper? She thought over the meeting they had.
"He keeps trying to get me to go on walks."
"That would be a stupid thing to do." Nieneve stared at her brother.
"I know brother."
"If you do that you could lose your reputation." Perhaps that was why the Prince was trying to get her alone. He did not want to marry her, perhaps he had decided to do something about it.
"Do you think he's trying to ruin my reputation?" She asked.
"I wouldn't put anything past the slime ball. You must keep to the plan. If you don't... we'll lose all that I've worked for through all these years and I'll never be the one who takes back our father's throne! My throne..." His eyes faded for a moment in deep thought and then he looked back sharply at Nieneve.
"I will not disappoint you, brother."
You better not or you are now better than a common whore."
Nieneve faltered, staring at her brother. She could not believe those words had come from his mouth. It angered her, something she was not used to feeling when it came to her brother.
"Do not call me a whore."
His eyes narrowed and he sucked in his breath, outraged that she had talked back to him. Then he raised his hand and struck her across the face.
She winced as her face echoed the pain she had felt in that instance. Then there was a knock on the door.
"Who is it?" She asked, turning to press her hot cheek against the cool wood of the door.
"Sister, please... I'm sorry."
"It's fine Pharneus. I just need to go to bed."
"You forgive me?" He asked.
"Of course." She replied, a hot tear burning the already hot cheek he had struck her on.
"Good. I shall see you tomorrow then." He left. Wiping the tear gently from her face she made her way across the room to the window and let herself on to the balcony. This was more difficult than she had thought it would be. The hatred her brother had for Leopold's family had been a driving force throughout her childhood and young adult life. She hadn't known much else. The only friend she had known she had sent away to art school to protect him from her brother. Not that she believed her brother was evil...
He was just difficult to live with once his mind was focussed on the throne.
The cool night air swept her dress around her, and for a moment she allowed herself to enjoy the freedom it gave her, lifting her arms to enjoy the feeling of the material as it flowed against her. A small smile reached her lips, and then she remembered her cheek and lowered her arms. She had to put ice on it, or else it would be visible to everyone tomorrow.
She wondered how she was supposed to get ice without letting anyone know she had been struck. There was no way she could sneak in to the kitchen, and the only way seemed to be to get one of her ladies to get it for her. Sighing, she rang the bell.
"Yes my lady?"
"I can trust you can't I?"
"Of course my... what happened?" She had seen the red mark on Nieneve's cheek.
"I do not want anyone to know. Could you fetch some ice for my cheek?"
"Yes, of course." She curtseyed and hurried out. Nieneve sighed and returned to her seat. No doubt the rumours would be soon circulating the castle. She hoped the maid would keep the secret.