I fumbled in the darkness to find a suitable place to sit on the bed when a strong arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me in. I didn’t push him away. I could hear the door open. I heard a low murmur of voices as servants carried in a tub and buckets of water. I heard Archer instructing them to place the tub in front of the fireplace.
I felt clothes, blankets and a firm leg touching my back. The arm that wrapped around me was warm. His calmness left me flustered.
“It would have been more pleasant if this happened after a bath.” He chuckled and pulled me to him even more tightly. My back was pressed against his chest now and I felt him rest his chin on my shoulder. His warm breath tickled my shoulder blades. I was suddenly aware of my thin, loose dress that I wore indoors.
I could hear the servants pouring water in the tub. “You are the only one I need,” he whispered. “I don’t want a throne. I detest even thinking about that.”
Ashe murmured, his breath tickled my shoulders and sent a chill down my spine. I slightly trembled. He chuckled.
I should change the subject. Yes, that would be better!
“I want to ask you something,” I said. “The Underground District murders. You said something about the country burning down. Did you, by chance, see anything?”
“I did,” he said. “It is clear that the murders aren’t going to stop there. The case will reach the nobles as well. That was why I was interested.”
I flinched involuntarily as his lips touched my shoulders. I had to keep talking. “If the case is left alone, the murderer will only get bolder,” I said. “It might reach the aristocracy. But how is that connected with the whole country burning down? Can one killer shake up the whole country in this manner?”
“Well, it could become a reason for the common people to revolt,” he said. “The nobles and the royals don’t care about the murders in the Underground District for now. But if the murders started happening in aristocratic circle and suddenly the forces will be focused on catching the killer, how will that look? The common people will perceive it to mean that their lives have been discarded when compared to others who have titles and are rich.”
“Discontent will always be there,” I said. “But will that really cause so much of a stir?”
“You are right,” he said. “But timing is important. Right now, the timing is very bad.”
“Hmm,” he mumbled and pulled me to him and hugged me tightly. Something was touching my thigh…
Oh god! Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t pay attention…
But I was paying attention! He was so close. How did women usually react in these situations? In my past life, I might have acted out but right now my mind went blank. Maybe I could keep this up and use his affection to my advantage… but I don’t actually know what he wants. I need to find out what he actually wanted from me.
I had never been held by a man like this before. With so much care and affection. It was somehow pleasant and entirely unfamiliar. What in hell are the servants doing? Are they filling up a well? How long does it take to fill a damn tub anyway?
“The Underground District has been a problem since the time of the Late King. That area is severely neglected. It needs overall maintenance, but they didn’t know where to start,” he continued. “In the end the Late King postponed it. But then Inverius the 3rd took over. He just pretends like the Underground District doesn’t exist at all. He even got rid of the patrol guards.”
His hand slid lower and touched above my belly, softly. My breath hitched. What’s with him? How is he so calm? I knew what the thing was that was touching my thigh. I am not that naïve. But how was he so calm despite that?
I was flustered because he showed so much interest in me. How the hell were we even discussing matters of the country in a situation like this? I shouldn’t be swayed. If he pulled any kind of move, I would just kick him in the gr*in. But he wasn’t really doing anything. He just held me to him.
Should I turn around and face him? Should I see how calm he is after that? I supposed he knew what happened to Count Thoreau after kissing me just once.
“The bath is ready, My Lord,” rang out Archer’s voice. Thankfully, I didn’t do anything I would regret later.
“Should I just hand him over to you,” he said with a smile. “It would be an opportunity to cement our relationship.”
He chuckled and let go of me. He pulled away the curtain and got out of the bed. Archer tidied up the curtains and I looked around the room in a daze. What just happened?
I had a long history of seducing men in my previous line of work as an assassin. But I was completely taken off guard here. Was he hoping that I might make a move on him? Was he planning on that to trap me into marriage? He would certainly have leverage considering how strict this world was regarding social etiquette. But wouldn’t the scandal ruin him too if he did that?
Ridiculous! He did say that he wouldn’t force me to do anything. If he tried, I was most capable of defending myself. I wouldn’t take it silently. Would I? He was the man I was in love with in my previous life. And here he was showing me the affection I had craved all my life in my past. This new experience was thrilling.