Rezette lowered his head, meeting Elise’s eyes with a tenderness that belied his stern exterior. He reached out and traced the outline of her pale cheeks, which had turned as white as snow in a mere moment. His voice softened as he spoke.
“So, what I mean is, once we’ve had a chance to know each other better,” he began.
“We’ll use this place for that,” he continued, lightly tapping the sheets of the bed where Elise sat. Her eyes glistened with moisture, and though he didn’t explicitly say it, she understood that he wouldn’t forsake her.
“When we become closer?” she inquired, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Yes,” he confirmed gently.
A cascade of emotions swept across Elise’s face—relief, anxiety, resentment, and impatience jostled for dominance. Reluctantly, she agreed to his proposition, yet a lingering suspicion still lingered in her eyes.
“How long will it take?” she ventured to ask once more, her voice tinged with both hope and hesitation.
“It depends on how you feel,” he replied, the weight of his words carrying the gravity of an unspoken promise.
“Why should I…? It’s you who needs to make an effort. You didn’t even show your face to me, and when I finally went to see you, you got angry…” Elise’s voice trailed off, her frustration and confusion pouring out like a stream that had long been restrained.
“I apologize,” Rezette interjected with unexpected contrition, swiftly disarming her with his acknowledgment and apology. Would this man ever know that he often silences her with just a few curt words like this?
As Rezette observed Elise, he couldn’t help but notice the way she seemed to close herself off, as if hiding from her own past.
“Your Highness,” he called out to her.
Silence enveloped the room.
“I will instruct them to prepare a room for you on the second floor so that you can rest comfortably. If the top floor is inconvenient for you, choose any room you want.”
Elise’s response was reluctant, and though her expression remained sullen, she abstained from voicing her discontent.
The challenge of understanding her weighed heavily on Rezette’s mind. How could he coax the truth from those tightly pressed lips?
“If you want to say something, just tell me,” he encouraged. Once more, a mere nod was her reply.
“There’s a festival in the square outside the castle. Would you like to go and see it?”
Her response held a moment of hesitation, but he couldn’t help but notice the curiosity that shimmered in her sweet, golden eyes, like honey-coated gems. It was evident that she truly desired to experience the world beyond her confines.
“Shall we go tomorrow?” he proposed, leaving the decision in her hands.
After a contemplative pause, she finally responded with a soft, “Yes.”
A flicker of relief crossed Elise’s face, like a gentle breeze sweeping away the clouds of uncertainty. Rezette couldn’t be sure of the conclusions she had drawn in her mind, but he sensed that, for the time being, she took solace in the fact that he wouldn’t abandon her.
As the man’s gaze lingered upon her, Elise could sense the weight of his words before they even left his lips. When he finally spoke, his voice carried a low timbre.
“Everything I mentioned is only between you and me. Everything else, too. Do you understand?”
Silence engulfed the room, punctuated only by the subtle sound of Elise’s breath.
“Your Highness, I need an answer.”
Elise felt a slight softening in his voice, an undertone of gentleness beneath his firm exterior. With a barely audible sigh, she acquiesced, nodding her head once more.
“As long as you are there when I need you, it won’t be difficult,” she replied.
In the depths of Rezette Kyrstan’s argument, Elise sensed a facet of his principled nature. It dawned upon her that, when viewed objectively, his demands were reasonable. Cooling down and reevaluating the situation, she recognized the validity of his stance. She didn’t want to jeopardize her life by engaging in a reckless affair, but she also harbored a desire to be embraced by him willingly, without force.
“Yes, perhaps taking things at a more leisurely pace would be wise,” she mused, allowing herself to believe that the discussion on this matter had reached its conclusion. She held the belief that a few more days of building intimacy would be sufficient.
Little did Elise know, however, that she was gravely mistaken. The truth of the situation would reveal itself much later, as time slipped through her fingers, leaving her to confront the consequences of her misplaced assumptions.
The following morning, as Elise slowly opened her eyes, she was greeted by a sight that left her utterly surprised. There, sitting in front of the window, easily visible when she pulled back the canopy of her bed, was someone unexpected. The man sat leisurely, sipping tea and perusing through papers, but when he sensed her wakefulness, he raised his head to meet her gaze.
Her lips fell agape in astonishment, and a lone tear that had clung to the corner of her eye now traced a path down her cheek. In that moment, her vision cleared, and the truth settled in.
“…Andrei?” she murmured, the name escaping her lips as a hopeful wish.
But the realization quickly struck her like a sudden gust of wind extinguishing a flickering flame. It wasn’t Andrei; it was her husband. The lingering traces of a dream that had played with her emotions vanished, revealing the face of the man before her. He bore a slight frown, though its cause remained unknown.
Rezette, with an unreadable expression, spoke slowly, as if aware of the emotional turmoil he had inadvertently stirred within her. “You can continue sleeping. It’s still early.”
In her confusion, she managed to voice the question that weighed on her mind. “Why are you here?”
“I said I would come up in the morning yesterday,” he calmly reminded her.
“Morning…” she repeated, the word registering in her mind as she slowly grasped the reality of the hour. The sun had yet to rise, leaving everything in the room cloaked in a dim and hazy aura.
As Elise rubbed her sleepy eyes, the initial surprise of finding Rezette by her side faded, giving way to a flood of weariness that washed over her, almost like a deceptive illusion. Lately, something had felt off; her internal clock seemed misaligned as she struggled to wake up at the usual time.