Chapter Twelve: The Frenzied His Highness and The Frightened Me
When the clock in the distance buzzed and the familiar sound signifying one hour had passed echoed, I heard the sounds of footsteps coming from the corridor.
I abruptly opened my eyes, not knowing when my eyes had dozed off. Just as I was about to jump on my feet, thinking who it could only be, the door to the bedroom had opened, and Nolan took his entry.
“Did I wake you up?”
I quickly shook my head in denial.
“I thought you have just decided to stay somewhere for the night. Did you come back in the dark… And so late?”
“Because I didn’t want to make you feel anxious.”
I think I just heard something surprising.
For me…? He came back so late in the night, making his way through the pitch-black darkness outside. It felt like a flower was blossoming inside me whenever I thought about it… He predicted I would be anxious and frightened. Nolan cherished me! Such feelings were transmitted to me. He sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled my upper body up in his embrace. It was a very gentle hug.
“Uhm, what was the reaction of your uncle about Peter?”
Nolan separated our bodies and chuckled slightly. “Peter will be brought to my uncle’s place tomorrow. There was a servant who knew Alex’ address. We sent some people there to check. Apparently, Alex left Peter here and went to a faraway place where her mother was living in… To check her worsening condition.”
“So that’s the gist of it all… But no matter what, I really can’t stomach how one can leave such a young kid all alone. Was it because she didn’t have enough money to bring Peter with her?”
“That’s one of the factors, but I heard Alex is also currently ill. Maybe she thought of leaving Peter in my uncle’s care with his future in mind.”
His future where she wasn’t with him anymore…? The matter had suddenly taken a depressing turn…
Anyhow, Nolan’s Uncle at least was aware that Peter might be his child.
Nolan finished explaining the details and leaned on me. “I’m beat. I’m too tired.”
Because Nolan was leaning on me while keeping me in his embrace, his face was tightly glued to my upper body.
“…In fact, uncle’s wife went into a frenzy when she came to know about this. It was a hellish scene to behold.”
“I… I see.”
It would be impossible to keep the lady of the house out of the loop when things have reached this point. Just a bit, I felt a pang of guilt towards his uncle’s wife.
“It must have been tiring for you. You should sleep now.”
I nervously brought out my courage and stroked his back quietly. Nolan only moved his eyes to look at me when I did so. I was unconsciously captivated by his aquamarine eyes.
“Kiss me. I will surely forget my tiredness.”
My chest was filled with tension and joy almost immediately at his request. I took a deep breath to hide the turmoil in my heart, leaned my neck, and kissed his forehead. It was strangely satisfying, to say the least.
When morning came, I began to dress the boy.
Naturally, he was confused when I explained that he would be leaving this place and going to a different home.
“My mother wouldn’t be able to find me when she comes back.”
“Trust me. We have sent people so that your mother knows where to go.”
The boy stared at my face with a worried look, as if to confirm. I felt pity for the boy, who was like a ball being passed from here to there due to adult circumstances.
Olivia put the leftover cookies we made yesterday into a can and handed them to the boy. The boy hugged the can with both arms ever so carefully, as if it wasn’t mere cookies but a priceless treasure.
Nolan’s uncle was late in arriving, which made me anxious. Maybe Nolan’s uncle no longer felt like bringing the kid to himself?
Amidst my brewing anxiety, a carriage finally arrived in front of Count Dahl’s mansion. When it came closer, the boy tightly gripped the fold of my skirt, suddenly hiding behind me. The carriage stopped, and a middle-aged fat man stepped down from it. As soon as he saw us, he took off his hat, which made his blonde hair flutter, greeting us with a slightly stern expression.
“Nice to meet you. I can’t express how guilty I feel for causing such trouble for you, who had just gotten married.” Expressing his apologies, Nolan’s uncle, whom I’m meeting for the first time, bowed deeply.
In contrast to him, I was stunned and couldn’t hide my surprise looking at his face.
—So similar! He looks utterly identical to Peter…!
I was secretly considering the possibility that it may have been Alex’ misunderstanding, but as soon as I looked at his face, the truth was as clear as day.
“Are you Peter?” Nolan’s uncle tried talking to Peter, albeit nervously, as the boy was hiding behind me.
“Come with me, Peter. Let’s wait for your mother at my house.”
Peter slowly walked out of my shadow. Nolan’s uncle stretched out his hand and took Peter’s tiny hand with a slightly awkward look.
When the boy left with Nolan’s uncle, a tinge of loneliness swept past my heart. The lively mansion suddenly turned quiet. I chatted with Olivia about the boy’s future for a while and quietly stared at the living room floor. It hadn’t even been that long, yet I found myself reminiscing about the tiny kid who once played with his stone collection there.
When I was tidying up the room the boy had used with complicated feelings, the door suddenly slammed open, and I looked at the entrance in shock. It was Nolan. Somehow, his face looked pale. He was carrying folded bed sheets, as he went into the room with significant strides, arriving in front of me quickly.
Why was he looking at me as if he was eyeing his mortal enemy…?
“Did you go to the barn?”
Nolan spoke in a deep voice. “I’m asking if you have gone to the barn.”
“Ye… Yes. I did yesterday.”
“I was playing with Peter.”
“Did you enter? What did you do?”
Nolan tightly gripped both of my shoulders, asking one question after another. It was as if I was being interrogated.
Was there a need to make such a big deal out of it?
I was slightly frightened by his emotionless aquamarine eyes staring at me. A chill went down my spine from his overly cold behavior.
“We just played together on the haystack.”
“After that… Hmmm… Peter tripped…”
“You opened the basement door, right?”
My body shivered suddenly. That’s how gravelly Nolan’s voice was. I felt the unconcealed anger it carried.
“I… didn’t…” I was so scared I unconsciously lied. Immediately after, I quickly regretted choosing such an immature way to escape such a confrontation. Nolan pulled me by both shoulders and pressed me against the corner of the room. He did it so strongly that I couldn’t even resist.
“Spare me from your boring lies. Hay was down at the entrance to the basement. It’s impossible to happen unless you have opened it.”
He even noticed such minute details… Why was he so fierce when all we’re talking about is the basement?
“I’m sorry. I did open it, but…”
“Did you enter inside?”
I replied with all my might, “I didn’t! That’s the truth. Peter was scared, and I also didn’t have any light source with me!”
I endured Nolan’s dagger-like sharp gaze while being pressed against the wall. The look in his eyes were cold and terrifying, like a beast after his prey, and I, who was tightly forced against the wall along with my consciousness, couldn’t even move at all.
—The gentleness and easy-going nature exhibited by Nolan last night felt like an illusion.
“You really didn’t enter?”
“Can you swear?”
Was an oath to Nolan have to said for something like this? My voice shivered from his excessive frustration.
“I swear. I didn’t enter.”
Nolan looked down at me silently. The color of his eyes reminded me of a cold lake in the middle of winter.
I was hurt by his abrupt change and looked up at him, not knowing what I had done to incur his anger. For a short while, Nolan just stared at me without saying anything. And finally, he removed his hand from my shoulder. The next time he opened his mouth to speak, there was already a bit of gentleness that could be heard, like the arrival of spring after a cold winter… It had returned, albeit just a tiny bit.
“Never go to the basement of the barn again.”
“The floor of the basement is quite rotten. There’s the danger of caving in.”
It was a blatant lie. I could feel it. He just didn’t want me to approach the basement. He appeared to be hiding something that he can’t show me—but what could it be?
“Don’t get closer to the barn.”
Nolan gently grabbed my cheeks with both hands and kissed my forehead. My heart was beating to a painful degree. Was it because of the fear or the joy I felt when I was graced with his gentleness once again… That I could no longer discern what was what by myself?
Nolan’s lips swiftly trailed from my forehead, the bridge of my nose, and I suddenly returned to my senses just when his lips were about to touch mine.
—I don’t want my first kiss with Nolan to be like this…!
I turned my face in another direction and moved to escape from his grasp.
However, my face, which I should have minded, returned to its original position due to the rough movement, and Nolan’s lips were instantaneously pressed against mine.
He quickly parted from my lips and looked at me intently, as if observing my expression.
“Don’t go to the basement. It’s perilous there.”
“What… What’s in there…? In the basement…”
Nolan, irritated by my question, which implied I didn’t give in to his explanation of any possible collapse, blocked my lips with his own, again.
He sealed my lips with his.
“I heard you were more of a docile woman.”
“The freeloader daughter of the Teddy Viscounty. Shut inside the mansion alone, coping with the situation by immersing yourself in reading, right?”
Was this how my story was spread among the aristocrats? I somehow managed to rebut with my shaky voice.
“I apologize for not meeting your expectations.”
“No, it’s quite okay, it’s just more than what I expected… Though it makes me at a loss on what to do.”
Nolan gave a sloppy smile as he moved away from me.
“I will say it again, don’t go to the barn again.“
Leaving behind the warning, Nolan retired from the room.