< — Duchess Vivian — > (3)
Lucia felt deeply exhausted as soon as she got home. Once she entered the house, her tension quickly evaporated. Even if she had experienced it in her dream, in this lifetime, it was her first activity and first stage.
Having to maintaining her expression while being under people’s scrutiny required considerable effort. In addition, perhaps because Sophia had gotten on her nerves, her body felt exhausted as if she had done hard labor. She took an early dinner and retired to bed early.
Today, Hugo returned home past dinner time but it was not that late. When he saw that she hadn’t come to greet him, he searched for her with his eyes. Without being asked, Jerome gave an answer.
“Milady retired to bed early. She seemed to be tired from the outing today.”
When Hugo frowned, Jerome added.
“Milady made no mention of being troubled. She said there was no need for a doctor and that the tea party was pleasant.”
Hugo quickly went up to her bedroom. He entered the bedroom and sat on the bed, looking at her quietly sleeping figure. After a while, he reached out to smoothen her disheveled hair that was sprawled out on the pillow.
“…Hugh? Are you back?”
Her eyes flickered and opened. As she was half-asleep, her voice sounded indistinct and muddled.
“I didn’t mean to wake you up. Go back to sleep.”
The sound of his low reverberating voice was nice. Lucia smiled and as if stretching, she lifted up her arms to reach for him. Hugo smiled and lowered his body. Her slender arms wrapped around his neck. Hugo placed hand on her back to support her. He could feel her warm temperature coming from beneath her thin nightwear. He wrapped one arm around her waist, lifting her up and taking her into his embrace. Her fragrant scent tickled his nose. Hugo felt his heart squeeze with wicked thoughts and closed his eyes.
“Do you feel ill somewhere?” (Hugo)
“No. I was just a little tired. I think I was tensed up because I was meeting a lot of people after a long time.”
“How was the tea party?”
“It was like a tea party.”
Hugo pulled her away from him and met her eyes.
“Apart from that, what else is there? I am the Duchess. They were all being careful of my mood.”
Lucia had no intention of telling him about the incident with Sofia. Sofia’s actions were completely because of her lingering attachment and obsession. It is not his fault. He had already closed that chapter before their marriage. Although the way he broke it off wasn’t sweet, did it make sense to be tender when it came to the separation between a man and woman? It was better to cut it off completely rather than give room for doubts.
Since she had given Sofia a warning, she planned to wait and see. If Sofia stayed quiet, Lucia planned to leave it at that but if the woman showed herself on the social stage, she would not overlooked it.
Lucia was the Duchess. If she ordered it, it would be a walk in the park to make her followers, who were dying to get into her good graces, to act. There would be no need for Lucia to get her hands dirty. As long as she gave them a glance, it was a simple thing for them to humiliate Sofia and make sure she couldn’t show her face in the social circles again.
The world of the high society did not respect, nor did it tolerate, forgiveness and generosity. One would be ridiculed as a fool who could not even protect their own authority. No matter how high one’s position was, if you showed weakness of the mind, there was an overflowing amount of people that would sponge off you with sparkling eyes. Even if being vicious would hurt one’s prestige, one should not let everything pass over nicely. Lucia did not want to dominate the social circles but she had no intention of looking like an easy target to anyone.
“That’s good to hear. Nothing much happened?”
“Yes. What of you? How was today?”
Hugo was depressed for a moment when he remembered his handkerchief that was taken.
“It was the same as always.”
“But, do you know how many questions I received over you escorting me today? I didn’t know it’s not supposed to be done.”
Hugo’s eyebrows jumped.
“Who says it’s not?”
“Nobody does it. That’s practically the same thing.”
“If I do it then it’s done from now on.”
Lucia looked at him with the side of her eyes. There he goes again. In any case, his unreasonableness and pride could not be stopped.
“I don’t want to next time. I don’t want to become a spectacle.”
“…Why are you so concerned about other people’s gazes?”
“You are just overly unconcerned.”
When he remained silent and just watched her, Lucia’s eyes widened slightly. He suddenly tightened his hold on her and covered her lips with his. He bit her tender lips lightly and wove his tongue into her mouth. Feeling his soft tongue moving around in her mouth, her fingers began throbbed. Lucia tightened her arms around his neck and loosely clenched her fists. The kiss was sweet without any fierceness.
Hugo pulled away from her lips and kissed the side of her mouth. Then he lay her back down on the bed.
“Go to bed. Your eyes are full of sleep. I’ll go and get some work done overnight.”
“Is there a lot of work?”
“Instead of lying next to you and spending a sleepless night, I am going to get some work done.”
“…you. Do you only think of that every day?”
Lucia looked at him in disbelief then burst into laughter.
* * *
Hugo looked through the list of participants for the tea party that Lucia had attended today. Fabian inwardly grumbled at having to come into the ducal residence late at night with documents but on the outside, his expression was earnest.
Even though Fabian sometimes held his ground against the Duke, he had never forgotten that fundamentally, the Duke was a scary person. Unless it was absolutely necessary, Fabian would never do or say anything that would offend the Duke.
Hugo had light-heartedly asked Fabian to bring the list of today’s attendees. In the future, she would attend parties more often and it was impossible for him to individually check who attended every time. He was going to look through it this time because today was her first gathering.
As Hugo took a rough look over the list of participants, his eyes twitched slightly.
A word that Kwiz often used automatically popped up in his head. The ‘Countess of Alvin’ was very boldly printed on the list. Hugo hoped that he had misread so he checked it over a few more times but there was no doubt. Hugo suddenly began to sweat.
“This tea party. Find out exactly what happened during this party.” (Hugo)
Work has increased again. ‘Hu-hu’ Fabian lamented inwardly.
“When do you want it?” (Fabian)
“As soon as possible.”
Hugo’s voice was dark.
At times like this, one must unconditionally crawl. Fabian answered in a reliable manner.
“Understood. I will focus all manpower on it and take care of it.”
A few days later, Hugo received a report. A portion of maids that waited on the party attendees were bought off and the situation at the time was recreated as much as possible. Some of it was the pretty useless prattle of women and the amount was fairly thick but Hugo read through it with patience. When he finished reading everything, his sentiment was simple:
‘I’m in trouble.’
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