"Come on!" Natasha shouted, as she ran down the snowy hill, pulling Andrei with her. She lost her footing in the fresh powder and landed flat on her back in the snow, Andrei falling to his knees beside her. Giddy, she laughed as the snowflakes tickled her upturned face. She looked up at Andrei, who was so handsome when he laughed, she thought.
Andrei couldn't stop staring, she was so beautiful, so full of life. She had managed to rekindle a spark in his soul, a flame he thought had died long ago. He was suddenly a breath away from her face, and upon impulse, he kissed her. She started at first, young and inexperienced as she was, but gradually her mouth relaxed under his, her lips melding with his own. The fire grew within him and he pulled back, aware of the chaperones making their way more carefully down the hill. He smiled-which he seemed to do a lot as of late, especially when he was around Natasha and helped her to her feet. They dusted the snow from their jackets and continued on their walk.
"Natasha? Are you listening to me?" her mother asked, impatiently. "What?" Natasha asked, snapping out of her daydream.
"I asked if you wanted to come visit Anna Mikhailovna with me, she said Boris is courting a new young lady and wants to tell me all about it." Her mother said, for the second time, looking sympathetically at her daughters clouded face.
"No, I, I don't want to miss him if he calls" Natasha said, biting her lip. It had been a week since she'd last seen him, when they'd kissed in the snow bank. Her mother smiled kindly, "Did you receive any word from him indicating that he would?"
"Well no, not exactly, but just incase I think I should stay. He said he would come again soon but it's been ages!" Natasha said, impatiently, as she sat down on the arm chair near the window. She had waited so long to find someone she really loved, waiting any longer felt like agony.
"Prince Andrei is an important man my darling, you must be patient." She patted her daughter comfortingly on the shoulder and left to get ready.
The servants were getting ready to return to the country, Moscow was still expensive and now that the ball was long since over they had no reason to stay. Natasha felt like a bird in a cage indoors, so she put on her coat and fur hat and had her horse readied for her, hoping a ride would clear her head. It was a crisp, clear day and the sharp winter sun shone through the bare tree tops. After a time, her horse was good and warmed up, she was about to turn towards home when she heard hoofbeats in the distance. Could he finally be here? She was not in her best dress, she must change before she received him! She urged her horse home, taking a short cut to the back entrance.
In her rooms she searched through her closet for one of her favourite dresses, pale blue with purple and yellow floral embroidery. She heard a knock at her door, thinking it was one of her maids letting her know of a visitor she said brusquely, "Yes, yes come in!" Looking down as she buttoned up the front of her dress, she heard a quiet throat clearing that did not sound like her maid, "Who is i-Andrei!" He stood in the doorway to her chambers, modestly averting his eyes. "Yes, I'm terribly sorry, I know this is untoward but I was let in and left in the foyer, a rather busy servant girl told me I could find you in this part of the house." He looked up to meet her eyes and the corner of his mouth quirked slightly. "Perhaps I should not distract you from dressing." Natasha looked down and realized she had stopped before finishing all the buttons, her corset and the top of her breasts peeking out from the front of her dress. She blushed furiously and turned around, clumsily trying to button them. What must he think of her now? "Oh I'm- yes...er, no-just a moment." After what seemed like an eternity but was, actually, a mere minute, Natasha turned around, somewhat more composed, but still flushed from the incident. "The house staff are packing, but leaving you unattended is inexcusable, I shall send for tea and see that the right people are reprimanded" she said, hoping she sounded mature and capable. Natasha walked out of the sitting room then rushed to find the kitchen maid for tea, Oh how she hoped she hadn't ruined everything!
Andrei made pleasant conversation and complimented her on the sweets served with the tea. He remembered having these at his own home as a child and said so, which earned a warm smile from her. She was pleased, she knew so little about his past.
"I must ask, where is the rest of your family? Have they left you all alone here?"
Natasha was very much enjoying the time alone with Andrei and did not wish her loud, boisterous family to return anytime soon. "Mother has gone to visit Anna Mikhailovna. Father, Nikolai, Sonya and Piotyr will pick them up on their way back from town, they should be returning soon" she said, hoping he couldn't detect the slight note of disappointment in her tone.
Andrei did notice and smiled to himself, for he too enjoyed spending time alone with Natasha, scandalous as it was. However, her family needed to be present for him to achieve the goal he had in mind. "Oh excellent, I should like to discuss something with Count Rostova." He saw Natasha's eyes widen, heard her sharp intake of breath. He felt the smile spreading across his face, as he prepared to ask her what he had longed to since he first met her, since they had danced at the ball, since they had kissed. He took a seat on the couch beside her.
"I know it is custom to first ask your father, but since he is not yet here.." he paused, swallowing, "Natasha, I have known for sometime now, I must confess, ever since I first lay eyes on you, I loved you. You make me feel alive, as I never was- I know you must think me too old for you, but I swear your laugh, your smile makes me feel like a boy. Is there any chance, you might love me back? He had been focusing on his hands as he asked her the last question and now looked up, prepared for the worst.
Natasha blinked. Did he ask if she loved him? She let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding in and reached to squeeze his hand. "Of course! And you're not!" She shook her head, "You're not too old, I've waited my whole life for you, I love you!" She smiled at him, feeling as if her face might break in two. He reached his hand towards her face, "I-Natasha will you-" Her family chose this moment to burst in, laughing and talking loudly. They stopped in their tracks when the saw the scene before them. Andrei pulled his hand back and rose to his feet, inclining his head to the Rostovas. Count Rostova bowed his head in return smiling at his daughter, "Prince Andrei, I am so sorry we weren't home to receive you, I trust my Natalya tended to you?"
Andrei looked back at Natasha, then to her father "Yes, but actually I came to see you Count Rostova. Might we have a word in private?"