Thanks to KatherineCassie for the wonderful cover :)
Katherine gazed dreamily at the spectacle before her, sighing at the elegant costumes of the ladies and the dashing outfits of the gentlemen gathered in the receiving hall, the soft timbre of cultured voices floating up to her ears and she earnestly wished to be a part of this glamorous world below stairs. What wouldn't she give to be one of those elegantly dressed ladies? If only her mama had been more agreeable to her pleas to let her join in the festivities, perhaps she would be down there now, enjoying herself rather than being forced to watch from her perch on the top step of the grand stairs.
Her mother had been quite insistent on this. Katherine sighed again and rested her forehead against the cool marble balustrade and shut her eyes, recalling the earlier conversation with her mother.
“You're too young Katherine.” Mama had said when Katherine had brought up the topic three days ago. “It won't be that interesting anyways, just a bunch of stuffy old aristocrats and their wives, perhaps next year, when you're sixteen.”
“But Mama,” Katherine had leveled pleading green eyes at her mother. “I will be sixteen in five months, only five. There's not much difference between then and now. Please, please, even just for ten minutes and then I will be the happiest girl in the world.”
But her mother had only smiled and kissed the top of her head fondly. “Till you're sixteen Katherine.” Her voice was gentle but firm, in that familiar way of hers that brooked no further arguments.
Papa had not been much help either, deferring to her mother's decision. Katherine sighed, blowing away a strand of brown curls that hung over her face. Parents! She muttered crossly.
“You're supposed to be in bed Kat.” A small voice reprimanded her from behind. Startled out of her daydreams, Katherine turned to see her younger brother standing on the landing in his nightclothes, dark hair tussled from sleep.
“Alex!” she whispered, rising from her perch on the stairs and hurrying over to him. She grasped his hand and steered him back in the direction of the nursery. “What are you doing awake? I thought you went to sleep ages ago.”
He dimpled up at her, innocent blue eyes crinkling adoringly. “You promised me a story, I was waiting for you to come and tell me it.”
Katherine cast one last glance in the direction of the festivities and sighed. “I wanted to see...” she let her voice trail off, looking down at Alex with a bright smile. “All right, I will tell you a story. Which one will you like to hear today?”
“Tell me the one about the dragon.”
“Aha! Your favorite of course.” Katherine grinned at him, her misery temporarily lifting in delight as she conversed with her brother.
They reached the nursery and Katherine tucked Alex back into bed, then settled next to him and began her story. Within moments, Alex drifted off to sleep and she placed a fond kiss on his smooth forehead, the sweep of his lashes brushing against his cheek, tiny mouth curved into a smile even in sleep.
Katherine tiptoed out of the room and hurried back to her hideout, disappointment sweeping over her when she discovered the receiving hall deserted, the guests having already moved into the ballroom.
“Damnation.” she muttered, instinctively looking over her shoulder in case her mother or father were near to her her utter such vile words. Relief swept through her on finding herself undiscovered. Mama would give her such a telling off if she had heard and Papa would glower at her in that frightening way of his and scold her silly.
She sighed and rose, making her way back to her room. She carefully opened the door, attempting to walk as lightly as possible so as not to wake....
“Mama will have your skin if she knew you were about after bedtime.” Lizzy said, looking up from the book she was reading by the light of a flickering candle, serious green eyes filled with accusation as she stared at her elder sister.