“You think it was the food taster?” asked the Grand Duke.
I thought he had been asleep. Did he hear everything I said to Archer? I shrugged. “I don’t know. I was just speculating. No one would have had a chance to put something in your food except the food taster.”
“Hm,” he said. “The plates would have been readied. That is a possibility. There is also a possibility that she might have changed the plates while in the kitchen, making excuses on behalf of the princess. She would have the opportunity to do it.”
“But I don’t understand something,” I said. “What would the Princess have to gain by harming you? Why does she hate you so much? Is it because you are the next in line for the throne?”
“Leon,” he said.
“What?” I stared at him confused. He stretched his body trying to shake off his sleep. Archer had helped take off his clothes that he wore for dinner. He was now only left in a shirt that was buttoned up to his neck. He unbuttoned the collar revealing his bare neck and his collarbone and a little of his chest. I could see his veins underneath his skin.
I liked visible veins. Because it showed me where to attack someone. I disliked bulky muscles and fats because it cushioned the attacks. But… he looked good. Unexpectedly, thoughts of how I wanted to run my fingers over his skin appeared in my mind. His skin was smooth and his chest under the shirt rose and fell in rhythm.
Get a hold of yourself, Alice Maria Warwick! I chastised myself. I shouldn’t be distracted like this. At least not by a man!
Besides, I was a Marquess’ daughter. I had choices. I could choose someone my age. I wasn’t in a position to seduce men right now.
“I don’t know what’s going on in that mind of yours,” said the Grand Duke. “But it kind of troubles me when you look at me like you have a prey that you are about to fry.”
“I wasn’t planning on frying you,” I said hurriedly looking at him.
“Call me Leon,” he said. “And you were looking at me as though wondering how I would taste…”
That d*mned man was smirking. I glared at him. He laughed. “I know we live in a world where it’s not so uncommon to marry at fifteen or have a family at sixteen. But don’t worry, if you plan to marry me, I will make sure you have your own space and privacy. We can be together when you are eighteen or only if you feel ready after that.” He chuckled and rubbed his eyes. “But I am a man in my twenties and you looking at me like that makes my heart flutter.”
I grimaced. “First of all, who in hell said I would marry you?” I snapped. “I am not going to marry you. Secondly, the age at which I want to do the things I want will be decided by none other than me, yours truly. You don’t need to worry about that. I can take care of myself if anyone tries to make a move on me. Lastly, really? Me looking at you makes you fluttery? Am I to blame for your reaction? Sex offenders justify their crime in the same way, you know? I did not intend to make you excited.”
“I have always reacted that way even in our past life. Whenever you are near, my heart races. I wasn’t blaming you. I am sorry. I was just asking you to ignore my behavior if you deem it ill-mannered.”
I scoffed. “I am amazed that you have so much energy,” I said. “I thought you said you feel like you threw up your organs just a while ago.”
“So, I did,” he said with a smirk. “But you shouldn’t even underestimate a young man in his prime.”
He lowered his hands from his face and smiled at me. His dark hair was stuck on his face. He still looked pale. He looked ragged. Then why is it that even in this state I find him handsome?
God, I need to socialize more.... I haven’t met many people on our estate. I only interacted with servants and maids. And my brothers. I have hardly seen other men to judge whether this is what is meant by handsome. Maybe it’s because he is young and I am young so this is getting awkward…
Maybe I can bring down his confidence a notch. “Are you good at it?’
He raised an eyebrow. “At what?”
“Your… nightly activities,” I said. “You couldn’t have had many women if you were locked up here, away from everything. Do you really have any… skills or you just think so highly of yourself to make yourself feel better? Are you confident that you can please me if we marry?”
I had asked such a brazen question to embarrass him but I was disappointed. Instead of being flustered, he just grinned shamelessly.