At dawn, he emerges, vanishing once the night descends. During the quiet hours when Elise wakes, he labors in the bedroom, shares a meal with her, and then retreats to his office until noon. But what purpose does it serve? A few days back, she gathered the courage to ask him directly, pretending to be playful.
“Have we not grown quite close?” she inquired.
“Is that so?” he replied.
“No… don’t you think we have?” she persisted.
Rezette merely offered a polite smile as he walked past her. So you won’t do it? Elise fought the urge to pout and sulk.
Lately, she wished she could freeze time. Ever since she arrived at Rotiara, suspicion lingered like a shadow.
“It’s about time for your bump to show, but I don’t see any obvious signs, maybe because you’re naturally skinny,” Lady Petisson had said, her scrutinizing gaze fixed on Elise’s abdomen, sending shivers down her spine. The mistress’s stern expression and tone hinted that she saw through all the lies.
“Still, I should call the dressmaker. It wouldn’t hurt to have the dress ready in advance,” she had added.
Nevertheless, Elise had no excuse to resist. Today was the day the dressmaker was coming. Even if she wore a shroud, her slender figure would be glaringly evident.
Last night brought forth another haunting dream. This time, it wasn’t Andrei but Lady Petisson who took the stage. As a witness in a trial, she exposed Elise’s incredible web of lies to the world, leading to Elise being dragged to the scaffold and losing her head. When she woke, the image of her severed self haunted her, with Andrei looking down at her, his form drenched in blood. It was a dreadfully unbearable dream.
Elise knew deep down that her punishment was only just, given that she had saved herself through deceit. Yet, no matter how she tried to rationalize it, a surge of injustice always overcame her whenever she faced the Grand Duke.
If only he had shown me some affectionate embrace, perhaps this anxiety wouldn’t gnaw at me so fiercely, she lamented.
Even Ivetsa attempted to console Elise, insisting that the grand duke’s carefulness was due to her physical frailty. But such reassurances fell flat.
I’m fine. Really…!
The secret, known only to her, threatened to escape her lips. If it weren’t for Argan’s secret, she would have long ago shouted it into the man’s ear.
Meanwhile, the young and charming maids were attracting more attention for some unknown reason. Elise yearned to seize one of them and boldly inquire, “Has my husband ever embraced you?”
On this particular day, Rezette, noticing Elise’s unusually pale complexion, subtly asked, “Is the meal not to your liking?”
The breakfast spread before her consisted of tender chicken leg meat in orange sauce, soft white bread, and cream stew, all prepared just the way Elise liked. However, gratitude eluded her entirely.
“Your Highness?” Rezette noticed something amiss and leaned closer to her. His touch, checking her forehead and cheeks for fever, felt different from how it was ten days ago.
Elise remained silent, and he gently took her hand. This change was something she couldn’t have imagined happening three months ago when he first held her hand. Rezette was making many adjustments for her sake, and she knew she should also adapt to his pace, but time was not a luxury she had.
There was only one thing she desired from him, but it seemed so difficult to convey. She longed for him to enter her and plant the seed of life within her. The weight of her desire bore heavily on her mind as she gazed at the man scrutinizing her with troubled eyes.
“Should I make a move?” she wondered, but it seemed the man interpreted her contemplative expression differently.
“You were restless until morning. Let’s delay breakfast for a while,” he suggested.
Rezette then helped her up from her seat. As he was about to call for a maid, he hesitated, observing her small, smooth body clinging to him. Elise had buried her face in his chest, tightly hugging his waist.
It was the first time Elise had embraced him like this. Rezette arched an eyebrow briefly, then gently placed his hand on the back of her neck, silently signaling everyone, including Alfredo and the other servants, to leave the living room.