< — Ducal couple — > (17)
Reaching the end of her breathtaking realizations, Lucia turned towards him and smiled.
Hugo felt the annoyance and irritation that had been bothering him dissipate the instant he saw her smile.
It was as refreshing as waking up in the morning after a good night’s sleep. Hugo finally woke up from his folly.
What he was afraid of wasn’t her existence, it was his wavering. Simply imagining never seeing her smile again made him feel like he couldn’t breathe.
‘I told you so’, his heart seemed to mock him.
“Look at this, won’t the flower be blooming soon? I think it will bloom fully in a few days.”
Hugo was momentarily tongue-tied when she began to speak to him as though nothing had happened.
“…I see.” (Hugo)
Her refreshed expression made him feel miserable. Unlike his fretful self, she had her usual peaceful expression.
“I heard you’ve been busy. Did you come out to get some air?” (Lucia)
“Mmm… the busy stuff is almost done but something came up so I will have to leave for a while.”
Lucia’s face changed for an instant then she gave another sweet smile.
“How long will it take? Will you be gone for a long time?” (Lucia)
“I don’t know the exact details so it could be a while. Why are you alone? What of your maid?” (Hugo)
“I sent her on an errand. Since the rain was over, I thought of having a cup of tea here. If it’s okay, would you like to join me?”
He just had some tea a while ago but he didn’t refuse her.
After a while, a couple of maids came, bringing a folding table and a tea basket. The table was placed at a suitable place and the two of them sat facing each other.
“I was worried since it’s rarely dry nowadays, but I am glad that the rain stopped mid-day.” (Lucia)
“What have you been doing?” (Hugo)
“Just the same stuff as usual. Take care of the garden and then reading books. That’s strange. You are talking to me as though we haven’t seen each other in a long time. It was just a few days.”
Was it just a few days? He felt like it was a very long time but to her, it was just a few days.
He found her spiritedness admirable and felt remorseful. He reached out and caressed her soft cheek. Her soft skin gave him the illusion that he would leave marks if he exerted even a little more strength.
She was weak. Yet this frail existence threatened him so strongly.
“…That day, I made a mistake and I want to apologize to you. It wasn’t my intention to treat you as an unfaithful woman.”
“What I meant was…offsprings are rare in the Taran family. Getting pregnant will be difficult… and I didn’t want you to get disappointed after hoping for a child.”
His excuse did not really touch Lucia’s heart. After all, if offsprings were rare then it would be more convincing for his attitude to be supporting her pregnancy rather than rejecting it.
But when she saw how he was carefully contemplating his words, a laugh escaped from her mouth.
She tried to laugh but tears fell down from her eyes. The wounds she had received at that time no longer hurt. She had already forgiven him.
His tender words and gentle caresses made her heart ache with happiness.
Looking at the tears flowing down her cheeks, he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do and stood up.
He took a step around the tea table towards her and wrapped his arms around her.
“I’m sorry. I was wrong.” (Hugo)
His embrace and scent that she’d been missing made her feel like she had gone from hell to heaven in an instant.
‘We can go back… to how we were before.’
To how they were the last few months. It was fine even if their relationship was a castle of sand and no one knew when it would collapse.
When one couldn’t see the waves, they would assume it was all okay. Nothing was resolved, but it was fine to think about later things, later.
Her heart felt like it had overcome the heavens and was rather calm. Once she accepted her changing heart and wasn’t anxious about it, she felt at peace.
Her heaven and hell depended on how she made up her mind.
‘He…at the very least, he treats me with love.’
She was unsure as to how he treated his past lovers but she decided to think that she was a little more special.
It was not conceit but she had to plant that much confidence in herself so she could stand firmly and love him.
‘Also, I have an advantage.’
She was his legitimate wife. It was a justification that none of his past lovers ever had.
‘I won’t cling to you. I also won’t subdue myself to please you.’
She wouldn’t have such a miserable love.
She won’t beg for his love.
She won’t play the virtuous wife, obeying everything he says unconditionally.
She would only do as much as she could, loving him with all of her might but only just enough that she wouldn’t start hating him.
It made her wonder if he had ever received love from a woman that did not cling to him.
The thought that maybe she could make him flustered was amusing.
‘It is fine even if it takes a lifetime. If someday, you tell me that you love me, I won’t feel like my life has been in vain.’
If she lived like this for one year, five years, even ten years, perhaps she could slowly influence him. Even a little drizzle can become something scary.
Lucia lifted her head a little from within his embrace.
“You said you were wrong, right?” (Lucia)
“Huh? Yea.” (Hugo)
“I’ll forgive you but I have two conditions.”
“Conditions? What are they?”
He had an expression that said he didn’t like the word itself.
“The first is… a kiss of reconciliation.”
His eyes widened slightly then curved. As Hugo’s face drew closer, she closed her eyes.
Their lips touched lightly at first, then met again, with his lips sucking hers in this time.
He suckled and swallowed her tender lips countless times in his mouth. His tongue slipped through the cracks of her mouth, gently and carefully stroking the innards of her mouth then pushed it deeper, stimulating her.
The long and sweet kiss that was neither light nor heated but breathtaking finally came to an end.
He spoke with his lips almost touching hers.
“The second is?”
Because it seemed like he would kiss her again as he drew closer, she held him back and turned her head slightly.
“I am modifying the contract. No matter how I think about the freedom in your private life part, it makes me feel bad. That is practically telling me you’re going to be cheating. Please don’t go making lovers elsewhere.”
He was taken aback and couldn’t help but stare at her for a bit then spoke in a slightly crestfallen voice.
“…I won’t make any.”
He felt a little offended. After he married, he hadn’t even looked at other women but unfortunately, he couldn’t refute his track record of being a malicious playboy.
“Additionally, if you get disgusted or tired of me and you want to leave me for another woman, please tell me first. I do not wish to hear it from another person’s mouth.”
He stared at her for a while then muttered bitterly.
“I forgot for a moment. In your head, I am a pretty terrible guy.”
It was a mysterious feeling to be marked as a bad guy rather than a nice guy by the woman he loved but again, he couldn’t refute this.
“I can’t give any excuses.”
He mumbled then grabbed her hand, kissing it.
“As you wish.”
He straightened his upper body and spoke to the maid that had been fretfully standing at the side for a while.
“What is it?”
“Sir Elliot has asked me to pass on his words; he is ready and waiting for the order to depart.”
Hugo had finally realized his feelings towards her but nothing could change right now. He still could not promise her anything.
There were also many things that he couldn’t reveal to her. He needed more time to decide what to and what not to show to her.
The hunt this time should give him the time he needed.
“You don’t need to see me off. Return.”
“…Yes. Please return safely.”
Watching his back as he walked away, Lucia’s heart throbbed and she clutched her chest tightly.
She hoped desperately, that he would never leave her like this someday.
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