Part 15: A Suspicious Invitation.
“See you, Hestia.”
As it was her weekday off, Anne-Marie headed out the door to go to the grocery store. Today, she didn’t have to go to the Crawford House to take care of Bastian.
It was about 3pm in the afternoon and the weather was quite mild.
Anne-Marie walked along the streets, humming a small tune to herself.
“Hello, Mrs. Ronan.”
“It must be your day off, Anne-Marie.”
“Yes, so I’m stopping by the grocery store.”
“I’m actually just coming from there, the cabbages were cheap today.”
“Oh, really? Then I’ll buy some too. Thanks for telling me.”
As she walked, Anne-Marie enjoyed the free time she had, greeting the neighbors she met on the street and also watching the little cats who had come out for a walk.
She definitely had a lot more free time after quitting her job at the clinic. Of course, it was very rewarding to care for patients in the clinic but it was also very exhausting because there was no time to rest.
In contrast, her job as Bastian’s caretaker certainly gave her less work compared to the clinic. On top of that, she was getting almost double the salary.
‘I’m grateful to him.’
Although Bastian’s words and actions were somewhat prickly, Anne-Marie knew that he took her circumstances seriously and took care of her in all sorts of ways.
She was also thankful to Kalian Crawford.
He was the one who introduced Anne-Marie to a job with such good conditions and made it possible for her to live a comfortable life. She didn’t know what he saw in her to give her such a position, but she felt that she wanted to repay Kalian’s trust.
While such thoughts ran through her mind, she quickly arrived at the grocery store.
Before Anne-Marie entered the store, the colorful fruits displayed outside caught her eyes.
“Ms. Anne-Marie, you’re earlier than usual today.”
The clerk at the grocery store unsurprisingly remembered Anne-Marie’s face just like he remembered Yuri. In the first place, the two of them had an appearance that was difficult to forget.
“Yes. The peaches are already out?”
“There’s a lot of sunlight this year, so the harvest was a bit earlier. It’s sweet and delicious, would you like to get some?”
“I’m looking for something else so I’m going to look around for now then I’ll come back.”
Anne-Marie was in an even better mood than before and she entered the store. Peaches were Hestia’s favorite fruit, so she figured she’d get a few and try them and if they were tasty, she’d come back to get more.
‘Should I give some to Ms. Yuri too? I don’t know if she likes peaches.’
It would be nice to make jam with the peaches and even if she used it to make tarts, it would be delicious. Last year, her life was hectic so she couldn’t enjoy such relaxation, but she felt she could indulge a little this year…
Moreover, there was a friend right next door whom she could enjoy relaxing with. A rosy smile bloomed on Anne-Marie’s face as she thought of Yuri.
‘I think it will be nice to have some tea together when she has time. Can’t be as big as it used to be in my old house, that would be too burdensome so just some simple snacks and a little tea…’
For a moment, she thought about the times when she lived with her father and her heart grew heavy but she turned to her shopping, trying to think more pleasantly.
And, after buying the peach which was her last item, she left the store, feeling proud of herself.
The rays of sunlight were much dimmer on her way home. The shadows on the floor were also much longer.
Just like before, Anne-Marie walked down the streets, humming a little tune to herself.
Maybe due to buying some peaches to give Yuri, her grocery bag was heavier than it usually was, but she was in such a light mood than she didn’t even notice any difficulty.
However, there was a limit to how much the grocery bag could hold and eventually, the fruit which was shakily lying on the top tumbled down.
Still, it was thankfully not a peach that fell down, instead it was the orange that the clerk had given her as a tasty bonus. So she was able to avoid the disastrous but pitiful scene of a peach falling to the floor and getting crushed.
Anne-Marie trotted after the orange which had rolled a few steps forward before stopping.
But before she could bend down and reach out her hand, someone else appeared in front of her and picked it up.
“Ah, thank you.”
Anne-Marie expressed and lifted her gaze.
“Not at all.”
The low, deep voice of a man reverberated calmly, melting into the long shadowy street.
The next moment, Anne-Marie’s eyes grew wide as a certain face came into her sight. The man in a white shirt and black pants looked familiar to her.
The man approached Anne-Marie and greeted her.
“We meet again.”
“Ah, yes. Hello.”
Anne-Marie bowed her head and returned the greeting.
Lakis walked up to Anne-Marie and held out his hand which was holding the fruit.
Without thinking, Anne-Marie reached out to take the fruit Lakis was giving to her.
And their fingertips touched slightly.
Feeling the changes that occurred in his body at that moment, Lakis’ eyes narrowed slightly.
His golden hair shook softly in the wind and shone with a darker hue under the sunlight. His light blue eyes were slightly hidden under his hair and a shallow gleam flashed in eyes before quietly fading away.
Anne-Marie put the orange that Lakis gave her back into the paper bag. Then she saw Lakis’ hand hold out in front of her again and looked up at his face with question.
Seeing that, Lakis spoke nonchalantly.
“Where I’m from, shaking hands is a proper way to greet someone.”
Anne-Marie quickly stretched her hand to take Lakis’ hand and greeted him. Instantly, she felt like something had slipped out her body. But it was very brief, so the feeling was quite fleeting.
So Anne-Marie simply tilted her head for a moment then she figured she was just imagining it and tossed her suspicion aside. She had only held Lakis’ hand for about 2 or 3 seconds and she didn’t feel any other oddity so all the more reason not to doubt him.
“You must be coming back from the grocery store.”
Lakis released Anne-Marie’s hand in a natural manner and spoke in a mild tone.
“Yes. I went grocery shopping but before I knew it, I ended up buying so many things…”
“I see. Well, be careful on your way.”
“Ah, excuse me…”
Anne-Marie wanted to continue talking with him a little longer but Lakis promptly walked away without glancing at her even once.
Anne-Marie unconsciously looked back at the man who was walking past her. As she looked at the man’s back and the long shadow behind him, somehow, she felt strange.
His tone and attitude was extremely nice and polite but strangely enough, he gave her a chilly feeling.
So maybe that was why. Even though his appearance was elegantly handsome and the type to draw goodwill, Anne-Marie felt slightly uneasy facing Lakis.
‘Ack, I shouldn’t be thinking like this when don’t even know him well.’
The next moment, Anne-Mare was rather startled by herself and erased such thoughts from her mind.
Come to think of it, she still didn’t know that man’s name. Honestly, a part of her wanted to ask about Yuri’s love life but she was hesitant because she didn’t know if Yuri hated that kind of thing.
‘Now that I think about it, Ms. Yuri should be getting off work soon. Is he going to pick her up?’
Normally, this would be an early time, but she remembered Yuri telling her that her shift at the coffeehouse ended earlier now.
Anne-Marie looked away from Lakis’ back and began heading home again; To her house where Hestia was waiting for her.
The day was as calm as any other day.
* * *
A pair of cold eyes looked downwards.
Lakis stared at the hand which was held by the woman he ran into a while ago.
As he expected, that woman was in possession of a healing power.
When he absorbed those ruin fragments after his injury, his insides were flipped upside down so his body had been slow to recover but after that interaction, his body definitely felt a little lighter.
—Hey, that woman’s ability should be a bit useful. It’s a waste to just leave it, no?
In fact, like the bug said, it would be best and most convenient for him if he could keep it within reach for whenever he needed it. In addition, he needed the woman if he wanted his body to recover right away.
If it was Lakis’ original way of doing things, naturally, he wouldn’t care and would have just taken the woman and locked her up somewhere to use the ability whenever he needed it but…
‘Yuri said she was her friend.’
There were deep wrinkles on Lakis’ forehead. Last time, when Yuri went to the neighboring shopping mall to buy that, she had also gotten a gift for that woman.
When Lakis saw the prettily wrapped box and asked what it was, Yuri pondered for a moment before saying it was a congratulatory gift for a friend.
Lakis was a little surprised to her that unfamiliar word from her mouth so he asked who the friend was. Then Yuri looked deep into Lakis’ eyes and said, ‘Anne-Marie, the girl who lives next door.’
‘I thought she was just a neighbor Yuri knew.’
Lakis was a little annoyed. His mood fell even more when he remembered meeting that woman next door.
In a sour mood, Lakis rubbed his hand on his clothes as if he was wiping the hand Anne-Marie touched earlier.
Right now, the person he wanted to take away and hide from other people’s eyes and reach was not Anne-Marie but Yuri.
Somehow, Lakis felt everything was making him unsatisfied and headed to his destination with a frown on his face.
*My, my. This is interesting.