Chapter Five: The Awaited Wedding Night
What do you mean by my wedding night? This had not been in my plans.
Besides, Grand Duke Lapileon wasn’t interested in women, and there was even a rumor that he didn’t spend the night with his previous wife!
Alone in the bedroom, I glanced around awkwardly.
The maids had used so many petals when I had bathed earlier that I could still smell the scent of flowers on my skin.
“I think this one is too thin, too.”
I rummaged through several slips, all of them revealing.
But there was no one in the room to answer me.
“…I’m just going to sleep, so why did they weave flowers into my hair?”
And why are my lips so red?
Although I tried to take the braided flowers out of my hair, it was impossible to do by myself.
Looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t help but let out a low sigh.
‘Should I just say I’ll sleep in one of the spare rooms?’
I nodded my head urgently as I skimmed my hand across the wide bed.
I had better escape this room first.
As I turned my body, the door of the room opened, almost like it had been waiting for me.
And a cool scent, familiar yet unfamiliar, filled the air.
Theodore, wearing sleepwear made of a similar material to mine, ran a hand through his wet locks of hair.
Seemingly surprised to see me in the room, Theodore stopped in his tracks and stared at me.
“W-were you surprised? T-the maids pushed me in here, saying that it’s our wedding night.”
“I-it might be better to tell them we’re using separate rooms.
Today, I will use an empty room, so sleep well, Your Excellency.”
I quickly walked towards Theodore and tried to leave.
However, as soon as I passed him, he reached out his hand and closed the door with a thud.
“Where are you going?”
Hearing Theodore’s voice right above my head, my whole body froze.
His breathing came heavily from behind me.
Swallowing back my trembling voice, I pretended to be calm and spoke.
“I-I heard Your Excellency doesn’t spend the wedding night…”
“Who said that?”
At his question, I turned around in shock and found myself looking Theodore straight in the eyes.
He was much closer than I had envisioned.
“You believe those empty rumors?”
Gulp. I swallowed the lump that had grown in my throat.
Because of how his sleepwear didn’t hide anything, my eyes had no choice but to lower.
Theodore, who had been staring a hole into me for a while, turned around first.
“If rumors that you and I spent our wedding night together spread, no one would doubt our relationship.”
“And after our one year contract ends, I can pretend that I miss you and avoid a forced marriage from His Majesty.”
He was right.
Theodore needed a plan to ensure that what had been happening before wouldn’t start again after our divorce.
“So while we’re married, we won’t be sleeping in different rooms.
Don’t worry, I don’t plan on touching you without your consent.”
“Then how should we sleep? I can use the sofa…”
“We’ll sleep on the bed.”
Without thinking, I gasped loudly, looking towards the bed.
“Are you going to sleep on the floor or the sofa for a whole year? If you want, you can do that.”
“Of course that’s… not it.”
“Since the bed is wide, I’ll use this side, and you can use the other.
If you’re really that uncomfortable, you can put cushions in the middle.
But if you don’t even have that much trust in me, we might as well get rid of our agreement.
Isn’t trust the basis of a contract? After all, we’ll be posing as a couple for the next year.”
With a nonchalant tone, Theodore carelessly ruffled his damp hair with one hand.
‘He seems fine.
I must have been the only one who was surprised.’
Frankly, Theodore’s words were obvious.
I should’ve been prepared for these kinds of situations when I had asked him for a contract marriage.
I had no way of knowing what issues would come up, whether those were now or in the future.
Without this level of trust, we can’t have a contract marriage.’
With a collected expression, I nodded and climbed into bed.
There was a definite difference in the comfort of this bed compared to those I used in Zahardt County.
I was thinking the same, to be honest.
We’re in a contract relationship, so this level of trust is a given.
I’ll use this side, and Your Excellency can sleep on that side,” I said, sticking to the edge of the bed.
“We’re married, so stop calling me ‘Your Excellency.’”
“Then what should I call you?”
“Whatever you want.”
Whatever I want?
After thinking for a moment, I nodded readily.
Yeah, what? You told me to call you whatever I wanted.
Theodore, who had sat down on the bed, raised an eyebrow at me.
Are you going to sleep with that in your hair?”
He gestured to the flowers woven into my hair.
“Ah… I tried taking them out earlier but I couldn’t.”
What? My heart started racing.
Theodore, who had shifted closer, reached for my back and started extricating the flowers from my hair.
‘He’s more gentle than I thought.
I assumed he would just roughly pull at my hair.’
“Ah… thank you.”
While thinking about how an unfamiliar man was touching my hair, I was nervous.
Maybe it was because the maid had called this our “wedding night”, but my throat kept feeling dry.
“It seems that Sercia likes you.”
“It seems so, although I didn’t do anything.”
“That’s what she likes.
When people find out about the curse, they usually run away.
There’s never been someone who didn’t do anything.”
Ah, is that so? As I nodded, Theodore spoke calmly as he continued to carefully remove flowers from my hair: “She hasn’t laughed after losing her family, but I saw her face brighten for the first time in a while.”
“She lost her family?”
“Sercia is the worst victim of this curse.”
I wonder whether it was because of his soft voice, or because I was tired from the day’s events.
Or maybe it was because of the feather-like hands brushing through my hair.
Although I tried to avoid it, I began to feel drowsy.
“Without knowing that she had a tiny cut beside her fingernail, she happily made a dish for her husband and child.”
Theodore’s voice became quieter, as if it were a lullaby.
“She had only gone outside for a moment, but her husband and child eating the food had already died.”
Now that I think about it, I remember seeing Sercia sobbing and making a disturbance in the past.
“She refused to see anyone for a whole year.
Because she kept on hurting herself and saying that she wanted to die, there were times when she was forcibly tied to her bed.”
My heavy eyelids fluttered shut.
“Since then, Sercia keeps people at a distance.
That’s also one of the reasons she started her business.
She really wanted to meet you when she heard that the curse didn’t work on you.”
My body slipped back by itself.
My head, which had fallen backwards, rested against something sturdy.
The silence was still.
Gentle hands carefully laid me down on the bed.
And my mind succumbed to a deep darkness.
* * *
‘You have to die for that inheritance to be mine.
Sasha, you love me, so die for me.’
Siph, whose lips had always given me happiness, killed me.
‘Did you really think that Siph loved you? Get a grip, Siph is my man.
He just got married and pretended to love you for your inheritance.’
Reina, who had laughed brightly and mocked me from Siph’s arms.
‘It’s your father who shortened your lifeline.
If only his will hadn’t left the inheritance to you…’
And my stepmother, who had approached me with a cushion in her hand.
‘What a shame, we could have become a good mother-daughter pair.
After you die, we’ll use the inheritance well, so don’t worry.’
She took that cushion and pressed it to my face.
And I couldn’t even move a finger.
‘Why? Didn’t I already die and come back to life? So why again?’
I couldn’t breathe properly.
I couldn’t tell whether this was a dream or reality.
All I could think about was that I wanted to live.
I reached out a hand full of desperation into the air.
My breath was blocked and a raspy sound came from my throat.
I don’t want to die.
I want to live.
Someone, save me.
As I was struggling and sinking into the depths of the ocean, someone grabbed my hand tightly.
A voice calling my name.
The person who pulled me out of an abyss of despair.
I weakly let out the breath that I had been unable to let out earlier.
My slip was damp with sweat.
It seemed that as I had moved around in my sleep, the blanket had covered my nose and mouth.
Through my fuzzy vision I could make out a pair of blurry red eyes.
They were like the rising sun, a candle lighting up the darkness.
“Are you hurt somewhere? You couldn’t breathe.
Should I call the doctor?”
Within the darkness, the only thing I could rely on were those burning red eyes.
They killed me.”
Still half asleep, I desperately grabbed onto him and begged.
“Please… save me.”
My words slurred.
My vision slowly lost light.
“I want… to… live.”
I whispered the words repeatedly, before sinking into the shadows once more.
* * *
Early dawn, when the sun hadn’t yet risen.
The continuous rustling sound that kept waking me up was making me tense.
Strangely, my body felt sticky and sweaty.
Why? I distinctly remembered going to sleep refreshed after a flower bath.
I furrowed my eyebrows and instinctively searched for a cool place.
Something close by caught my hand.
‘What is this?’
It was hard, but warm and soft.
This texture was definitely something I was familiar with.
Why is a person next to me? Should there be someone next to me? My chest filled with worry, my eyes opening on their own.
“I wasn’t planning on waking you up.”
But what I saw were well-built, defined muscles.
My hand was touching the defined groove of an abdominal.
“…What are you doing?”
Theodore looked at me while laying down, one arm stretched out.
He was undressed, wearing nothing but a thin cotton robe covering his bottom half.
I inhaled a short breath, immediately sat up, and crawled backwards.
“Wh-why are you here wha-!”
Theodore was laying casually in the space where I had been a moment ago.
H-how did I fall asleep yesterday?
As I was running away backwards, something hit my hand.
Turning around it was the flowers that were in my hair last night.
That’s right, last night he said he would take it out and then I fell asleep.
I think I had a dream in the middle but I couldn’t really remember it.
Its contents seemed to put me in a bad mood.
With my brow furrowed, I subtly looked down at my clothes first.
There was no sign that my slip had been taken off.
“I think you’re misunderstanding something.”
Theodore sat up.
Startled at his sudden movement, I moved further away on the bed and threw out my hand.
“There! Say it from there.”
“I was going to talk to you yesterday, but you fell asleep first, so.”
“The contract doesn’t include a couple’s night, right?”
“How about listening to what I have to say first?”
Don’t say anything!”
I was so confused that I covered my head with both arms.
They said he had no interest in women, let alone the wedding night.
Was that really a false rumor?
With a pale face I bit my chapped lips.
Theodore lifted one leg, resting his arm on it, and spoke.
“I know what you’re thinking right now, but it’s not that.”
“D-don’t raise your leg!”
I was shaken and threw a blanket at Theodore.
When he lifted his leg, the thin cloth that had barely covered his bottom half had failed its duty and lost its purpose.
“It’s going to be morning soon, and the servants will come in.”
Theodore calmly looked out the window.
“You’re not planning on convincing them that we spent our first night together while we’re on opposite sides of the bed, right?”
At Theodore’s words, I followed his gaze out the window.
The sun was rising in the distance.
When I realized my mistake, my face flushed hot.
“R-right… If you had said that in the beginning, I wouldn’t have misunderstood.”
“Who was the one that told me not to speak?”
“…I was also thinking about everything.
It’s just that I was surprised because I had just woken up.”
Theodore rested his back on the headboard indifferently.
After covering his legs with a blanket, he spread his long arms.
He patted his arm and spoke calmly after extending it.
Well, it’s the day after the first night, so sleeping close together would be a good image.
“…Then, please excuse me.”
I slowly approached his side and I carefully laid next to him with my arms out, leaving as much distance as possible.
I’m never doing something like this again.
I could hear his heartbeat through the arm I was resting on.
“If you’re going to stay that far, then there’s no point for us to be like this.”
With exasperated eyes, Theodore stared at me and then pulled me into him.
Without meaning to, my breath caught.
“It won’t be for long, so endure it even if you hate it.”
His skin was touching my cheek, hand, and my whole body.
I became breathless from such intimate contact with someone who was virtually a stranger.
Theodore nonchalantly covered me with the blanket.
“I’m going to wash up when the servants come in, so pretend to be asleep.”
His breath was so close to me that I momentarily lost track of thought and shut my eyes tightly.
As if time had stopped, silence blanketed my surroundings.
“I can’t breathe.”
I couldn’t stay still because I kept being aware of Theodore’s firm arm wrapped around my waist.
Even if I tried to be calm, my voice shook.
In an effort to get me to stop moving, Theodore hugged me tighter, but it became even more uncomfortable, making me move around more.
“Did you have a nightmare yesterday?”
A nightmare? I tilted my head at the sudden question.
“I don’t remember, why? Did I snore? Or did I grind my teeth? Sleep talk?”
You moved around, so that’s why I asked.”
What the heck.
A useless question.
As soon as I started grumbling, the sound of the door could be heard.
“Close your eyes.”
Theodore squeezed me tight and then said, “Come in” loudly.
As soon as he did, the door opened abruptly, like they had been waiting there.
“Your Grace, Grand Duke, good morning.
I came to…”
The voice that came into my ears was not that of the maids that I had anticipated.
It was a familiar voice.
Startled, I instantly lifted my head from where I had burrowed it into Theodore’s chest.
There, Selphius stood with his mouth agape.
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