Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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Marquis Clint slowly stepped outside.
The strange look on Duke Hart’s face showed that if he didn’t step out now, a big problem was bound to occur.
Duke Hart gently pulled Nelia, who was confused, by wrist and led her inside.
Although Duke Hart called her, Nelia’s hand was fixed on Marquis Clint who was departing out of the mansion.
Duke Hart’s larga hand grasped Nelia’s chin and turned her face toward him.
“You don’t have to mind…… Marquis Clint.”
“How can you just let the marquis leave like that……? He seems very upset……”
“It doesn’t matter whether he’s upset or not.”
Veins seemed to protrude out on Duke Hart’s refined forehead. As if he was suppressing something as hard as he could.
“And I don’t even like men.”
“Akh……! I never thought like that……”
Nelia urgently made up an excuse. However, she couldn’t help but slur at the end of her words……
‘Actually…… the rumor said he’s gay, so it’s not likely for him to fall for you.’
This was because she remembered what Leighton said with the scene from earlier which triggered her memory.
Duke Hart exhaled and stroked his head.
“I mean it, Nelia. He’s just my cousin. The reason he comes here often is…… because he has something to give me.”
Nelia nodded her head at his earnest explanation.
When she came here, Marquis Clint came, and by the sound of it, she thought he said his visit to give something to the duke.
Duke Hart’s expression also remained stiff as if he felt uncomfortable explaining it.
“Nelia, if possible, I want to convince you that I don’t like men.”
Nelia thought Duke Hart’s words were very meaningful as she listened to him quietly.
“How do you do that……?”
“Nelia will naturally know if you stay here. You will see that no one is going to pay a visit here.”
Did he just tell her to stay here and watch over his private life?
‘The villain’s private life……’
Then she heard Duke Hart’s soft voice.
“If not for that reason, you can eat as many desserts as you want, take strawberry tart for example.”
“You will also spend less time commuting to and from work.”
It was such a sweet temptation.
‘Moreover, if I stay here, I won’t be seeing that ugly Leighton.’
The advantage was really big.
He could barely put up when Nelia almost said ‘I’ll have to consider it.’
Either way, it wasn’t easy to decide.
The first reason was although Duke Hart has an angel-like face, but deep inside, his nature was a villain.
She had no idea what kind of harm he would do during the night if she stayed here.
The second reason was that if she ate and slept here, she might have lost the chance of getting married.
She didn’t want to get married yet, but if she had to, it was a perfect event to be misunderstood by others when she said she stayed in the mansion where the duke resided on his own.
It would be fine if there were other maids or the duke’s family in the mansion, but she’s the only woman in the mansion as of currently except the servant.
The conclusion was that she would never sleep here.
“Your Grace Duke Hart, I believe what you said.”
More than anything, it didn’t matter whether he was homosexual or not.
With Marquis Clint…… it would come as a bit of shock.
“…….. All right.”
Duke Hart showed an expression as if he had a deep regret.
“Nelia is really generous.”
Nelia wanted the remark with, ‘Your Grace is so persistent.’
Even if he really had no other intention, she must also be suspicious about why he would even suggest her to settle there.
He seemed to have another plan though.
Above all of that, she almost got swayed with how natural and subtle he was when enticing people.
“You came early today, Nelia.”
The duke spoke while glancing at the clock.
“Yes, I woke up early in the morning……”
She should’ve lounged on the bed for a little longer. She felt awkward because it felt like she just saw someone else’s secret meeting.
“Shall we have a tea time before we start working?”
“Yes, it’s good.”
Duke Hart pulled the bell rope and the servant came in shortly after it rang.
After she brought a teapot and tea, the servant bowed deeply and disappeared again.
The butler and the servant who were employed here worked so hard.
They hardly uttered a word.
There were also servants in her house, but she sometimes would joke and laugh with them.
Even if he talked with them here, they would come up with short replies. Everyone’s mouth was so oppressive that it seemed as if the stone were hanging down their mouth.
‘Is this because they’re the employees of the duke?’
Nelia gradually became curious about the dukedom, who looked somehow peculiar.
She was thinking that the employees might be robots made by the craftsman, but right after that, a servant came in with a tray.
“Here you are, Your Grace.”
There was a teapot and a teacup as well as green leaves on white pottery on the tray.
When the duke reached for the steaming teapot, Nelia reached out in a hurry as well.
“I’ll do it…….”
Even though this was Duke Hart’s house, she wasn’t in the position of a guest either.
Even thinking about pouring the tea for her, who was practically his own handmaiden.
But the Duke of Hart dissuaded Nellia with a kind smile. But Duke Hart dissuaded Nelia with a friendly smile.
“It’s fine. I can do this.”
There was a part where the duke sometimes acted overly kind. Not only to her, but to everyone.
She could tell by the way he spoke formally to the servant from earlier.
And so did his reputation among the society.
Although he rarely attended the social parties, Duke Hart has been rumored to be polite and kind just by appearing occasionally like a unicorn.
People couldn’t help but praise him because he was still humble and didn’t live up to his position for being the second-in-command within the empire.
However, Nelia thought a bit differently.
Of course, he might have an inherent personality, but the biggest reason was to pretend not to appear so to cover his insidious intention.
Actually, Duke Hart in the original story tried to take the emperor off guard by behaving like a tongue in his mouth and slowly swallowing him up.
Nelia realized she was staring sullenly at the teacup while thinking by herself when Duke Hart called her name.
Nelia reached out to the teacup belatedly.
“Thank you. I will drink it.”
When she lifted the cup, the smell of jasmine wafted through her senses.
“It’s Jasmine Tea. I heard you requested Jasmine Tea from Ton the other day.”
“Yes, it’s true. It’s my favorite tea.”
Duke Hart got up and took something from under the desk.
Nelia immediately noticed that it was the dessert box she saw the other day.
After the duke opened the box with his long fingers, she saw whipped cream cake with strawberries placed on top of it.
Nelia’s eyes sparkled at the delicious-looking appearance.
“I heard this bakery comes only second after the strawberry tart. Do you like it?”
“…I, I do.”
Nelia nodded her head while nearly drooling.
“I thought you would like it.”
Nelia looked up at Duke Hart.
The smile hung around his mouth looked as sweet as the white whipped cream on the cake.
The duke was a very attentive man. She couldn’t believe he brought dessert to a maid on his own.
It must be amazing to be Charlotte, the female lead and his love interest.
How did she not fall for such an attack and chose to fall in love with Carlos, the hopeless male lead instead?
Duke Hart handed her a fork.
“I’m grateful for the food.”
The combination of jasmine tea scent and soft whipped cream cake was simply paradise for her.
‘It’s a good thing to be rich.’
He could own a wonderful bakery that makes these kinds of cakes.
People’s greed knows no bounds.
She was already very grateful when she evolved from a discarded strawberry sandwich at the convenience store to the dessert served for a count family, and she envied Duke Hart who cunningly enjoyed the benefits of being a duke on his own.
Nelia devoured the whipped cream cake in an instant.
“It’s pleasing to see you eat so well.”
“Yes……. I like it, the desserts.”
Nelia became flustered at Duke Hart’s words.
“By any chance.”
“Do you like acorns……? Or walnuts or almonds, something like that?”
Nelia blinked at his random question.
“Do you mean nuts?”
Why did he suddenly ask that kind of question? Thanks to that, Nelia had to think about her preferences.
‘Do I like nuts…….?’
She didn’t mind if anyone gifted her with it, but she wouldn’t bother to buy it and consume it on a daily basis.
She preferred something softer and sweeter.
Nelia shook her head after mentally concluding.
“I don’t think I like it so much.”
Duke Hart somehow looked disappointed at her answer.
Nelia, who was curious about his intention of asking such a question, eventually shrugged it off thinking that he was just probably trying to know her preference when he bought her dessert next time.
“Shall we start working now, Your Grace?”
“Yes, let’s go.”
Since they met up in his study today, it wasn’t necessarily for her to hold his hands and support him.
Even though the bandages were still wrapped with bandages.
“Your Grace, how is your foot?”
He paused and stood up.
‘What’s he gonna do?’
Did it hurt that he even had to stand up?
He looked fine when he pulled the bell rope a while ago and when he walked to the sofa after sending Marquis Clint out.
“……. I must have stepped too hard on the floor a moment ago, because now my foot is throbbing.”
Nelia rushed to him to offer a hand.
“If it was hard to get up on your own, you should have told me.”
“I will surely do that, Nelia.”
Duke Hart held Nelia’s hand tightly with a helpless look on his face.
“I need you to be my crutches for the time being.”
“That’s the reason I am here.”
Nelia took Duke Hart to his desk safely while admitting her mistake.
The sofa and the desk were only a few steps away from each other, but the way he walked hand in hand was as if her hand was his lifeline.
“Thank you, Nelia.”
Duke Hart grinned when she finished her task. His smile felt like a reward to her.
Even his face alone was enough to captivate her eyes when he was expressionless, but when he smiled, it caused a different impact as if he was using a bigger gun.
‘I have to get used to it, it will take some time.’
Nelia had to pull herself together so she wouldn’t have to fall for his beauty.
Then someone knocked on the door.
“Come on in.”
The servant, who served the tea earlier, walked in.
“A letter came from the palace.”
The duke opened the letter after the servant left it on the desk.
Seeing that his expression didn’t really change, it seemed like a no big deal.
Duke Hart had many visitors.
Besides the letter, several guests visited in the morning.
Due to that, Nelia had to diligently assist the duke and carried him to the sofa in front of his desk.
The guests looked worried when they saw him.
“Oh, your foot must have been seriously injured.”
“I’m uncomfortable moving around, otherwise it’s fine.”
The duke told the guests it wasn’t really serious, but Nelia had to suffer from guilt every time.
Most of the guests who came to see Duke Hart were people who visited for business purposes.
“Then, I will have to ask the duke about the wall in the capital.”
“You don’t have to worry.”
Nelia asked after the noble councilor, who dropped by, left.
“Your Grace…… When do you start working at the palace again?”
“Until my foot gets better, I have asked His Majesty to excuse me so that I can work in the mansion for the time being.”
Nelia had to reflect on how much trouble she had caused to the empire.
Duke Hart was a busy man called as the cogwheel of the empire, and she, who has made such a person uncomfortable, therefore the cogwheel of the empire would be stiff for a while.
But she had nothing to be concerned about. She had no choice but to do her best in the task she was assigned to.
Nelia was handed the papers that the duke had been handed to.
It’s not boring at all right? Duke Hart assigned her the same job as yesterday. His daily work was neither too much nor too little.
And there was another guest in the afternoon.
The man, who wore glamorous silver armor, obviously looked like a knight. Her eyes were drawn at him because of his distinctly different appearance compared to the previous guest.
Likewise, the knight asked while glancing at Nelia’s figure settling at the desk beside the duke.
“That young lady……”
“This is my new maid.”
When the guests came into the room, they would look at her with a curious stare.
“That’s unexpected. I know Your Grace would save her as his maid. Didn’t you always keep your male attendant close to you?”
“I hired a new employee for some reason.”
Duke Hart laughed softly.
But subtly, he looked ill. But he seemed to be in a subtly bad mood.
“If you keep looking at her, I think Nelia would be uncomfortable. Can we start talking now?”
The duke turned slightly while saying so, subtly obscuring Nelia from his sight.