01. A Humble Princess (3)
Catherine closed her eyes, like she was being eaten alive. Her clammy hands gripped her skirt tightly, while the sound of her pounding heart resonated throughout the empty space of her body.
When hot blood caused her entire face to flush red, he touched her lips.
Her lips were a sanctuary. She’d never experienced a tender peck from her parents by the bedside. This truly was the very first invasion.
It was soft.
A high body temperature, and a soft sensation. It was probably the only soft thing about that overwhelmingly domineering man.
An intense yet sweet scent emanated from him. Like the sweetness of berries lightly brushing against the strong scent of leather…
Those small yet red fruits burst like fireworks in her mind. Just with another’s touch.
Had her judgement faltered because of the extreme tension and fear? She tensed up, like she was under the illusion that she was charmed by the person she met at the other end of a single log bridge.
Even before she could hold her breath, he moved away.
Was this… the end? This fleeting kiss…….
When she opened an eye at the unexpected development, her thoughts came to a screeching halt.
He filled her entire vision. His noble blond hair and arrogant golden eyes. Long and dense eyelashes cast a shadow above flawless and cold eyes, nary a single speck of flaw in sight.
As their gazes met for a few seconds, the pulse on her nape thumped relentlessly.
‘Oh, my heart is pounding. Everyone can hear it……’
As though there was static electricity, the area he’d touched tingled. Just as she was about to avoid eye contact like she was trying to deny the strange tension.
Her head snapped backwards. He seized her by the hair and pressed her in place.
Scarlet, wavy hair became tangled within his grasp. A burning sensation that emitted from her scalp felt extremely painful, causing lights to flash before tightly closed eyes. Light that resembled a fragmented rainbow, reflected from shattered glass.
He tilted his head forward and swallowed her, again and again. Intermittent gasps of air and uncontrollable moans burst forth. The sticky tangling between fragile mucous membranes frantically dispelled the darkness in the room.
Her thoughts were swept away like waves by the deep intrusion and indulging movements. Only her senses remained.
He was the beast, and not her. When she tried to flee, he chased behind her with more persistence, like a lion whose instinctual hunger was awakened.
When she pushed the wide chest away in a struggle to catch her breath, his grip on her hair tightened and an arm circled around her waist. The heat from his palm seeped into her scalp, leaving her dizzy.
As their bodies pressed together, every part of him was transmitted to her and made her dizzy despite her tightly shut eyes. His robust form, his scorching body temperature, and above all… the hot object pressing at her navel.
Ah, she couldn’t breathe… not anymore…
Just before falling unconscious due to lack of air. He let her go.
She collapsed to the ground, as limp as a newborn deer. Dust and the scent of dried earth wafted upwards.
Her breathing was laboured, and her vision blurred. Shadows seemed to tinge the edges of her vision, which distorted her view darkly. Just as her consciousness was about to fade away.
After pushing herself upright with the ground and opening her eyes with difficulty, spotting her own scarlet hair, the dusty floor and his feet.
Catherine took a deep breath and lifted her chin. It was as though she was begging him while on her knees.
She spotted glistening lips and gently curved eyes through her gradually clearing vision. He reigned above her with an arid gaze. A twisted sneer harmonised well with this man’s face.
Pfft, he couldn’t help but laugh.
“You said that you played around, didn’t you?”
At the words which had hit the nail right on the head, Catherine’s face flushed.
“It’s because I’m not used to giving ministrations. I’m also a ducal princess, so I’ve…only ever been on the receiving end.”
He covered his mouth with a leather-gloved hand. The golden eyes that looked down at her were filled with an inexplicable amusement.
Catherine couldn’t figure out if he was ridiculing her or angered by her. Neither of which were beneficial towards her, of course.
“Then, who was your first?”
She swallowed dryly. How long could she continue putting up this pretence? No. In the first place, was he even deceived at all?
He trampled on her scarlet hair, which was lying on the ground. Literally, with his military boots.
“I’m asking you, darling.”
“What should I do with this impertinent fiancée of mine…….”
He suddenly paused. His golden gaze landed on the stable’s wooden door above her head. No, it went beyond that. Soon afterwards, his brows furrowed and Catherine soon understood the reason behind that action.
A commotion was occurring beyond the door. There was the clanging sound of metal, undoubtedly armour.
“Your Grace! The ducal princess is in a place like this…?”
“Break down the door!”
“Yes, Your Grace!”
The shout of a dozen men just beyond the door caused her heart to pound heavily. And then…
Her body was suddenly jerked upwards. He was pulling her up roughly. The careless handling sent a jolt of pain through her shoulders. As crimson waves blocked her vision momentarily, her body was completely buried in his embrace.
Bang! The door was broken into. Precisely speaking, it was the place she had been leaning against. If she had still been seated, she would’ve been hit in the head by those thick pieces of debris.
A familiar voice penetrated through the clamour and confusion.
The refreshing night breeze, along with the moonlight, streamed into the dilapidated stable. Like a vine tangled around a support system made of old wood, Catherine turned her gaze towards them from her entangled position with Deimos.
A cracked voice was squeezed through dry lips. The pain that had been distorting her vision gradually spread from her temple to encompass her entire head.
Her blue-gray eyes, reminiscent of a cloud in autumn, reflected a man that paused at the boundary between the garden and the stable.
Duke Lancelot Caliburn. The man who’d been her brother, until yesterday.
Silvery hair like starlight and clear blue eyes. He was a virtuous man that appeared like a holy knight guarding a sacred temple. The pristine white attire, symbolising the Caliburn ducal family, made him seem even more dignified.
Lancel’s fine brows furrowed.
The unsightly appearance of his sister, who was as delicate as a reed, was displayed for all to see. Her hair was dishevelled in an unladylike manner, and she was wearing an outfit for slaves. What was even more striking, however, was the man that had a hand possessively encircled around her waist, like she was a trophy.
“What insolence! If you don’t release her right this instance…”
“It’s been a while, Young Duke Caliburn.”
Just before he stepped into the shadows of the stable, he halted in his tracks for a moment. A ripple flickered through his blue eyes.
“Oh, dear me. Your father has already died, hasn’t he?”
Deimos tilted his head slightly.
“Allow me to greet you once again. Duke Lancelot Caliburn.”
Lancelot strode into the shadows. As he narrowed their distance and held Catherine’s wrist, Deimos’s eyes narrowed slightly.
A pair of limpid, blue eyes stared into a lion’s golden gaze. The two men’s gazes clashed fiercely in midair.
“I’ll be taking my sister with me now. Your Highness. Please excuse my rudeness.”
Deimos glanced downwards, to Lancel’s broad hands that captured the delicate, reed-like wrist.
The ridiculing smile seemed to disappear, and Ah, a sound of realisation escaped his red lips, as though he’d come to a realisation.
Tak, Lancel shouted lowly as Catherine’s head was jerked upwards. A large, leather-clad hand seized her cheeks, the firm grip pressing a deep indentation into her cheeks.
It was sore and clammy. A leather finger brushed against the dagger wound on her neck.
He appreciated her contorted brow, her gradually paling complexion, and the vanishing colour of her lips as though he was regarding a work of art. When her entire body began to tremble, he released her with a pat.
“…Give her some medicine. ‘Brother’ Caliburn.”
He pushed her towards Lancel.
“Medicine? Ah, Catherine.”
Lancel gingerly caught Catherine’s form, which fell over like she was a sheet of paper being tossed around. The abrupt movement caused the flickering edges of her vision to narrow frightfully.
As Lancel embraced Catherine, his body stiffened. A trickle of red blood streamed down her pale neck. His cheeks paled at the sight of the colour that was redder than her hair.
“Catherine, this wound…!”
‘The wound wasn’t the issue.’
‘I…It feels like my head was about to split apart.’
Her stomach churned so much that she couldn’t even open her mouth. As she attempted to suppress the urge to vomit with all her might, her head spun sharply.
The whole world turned upside down, as though her mind was spinning in circles around a pole.
Rain poured. It marked the beginning of the monsoon season. Amidst the rainclouds, the crackling sound of thunder and the fierce pattering of raindrops assaulting her ears relentlessly, while a humid scent pervaded the bedroom.
Her skull felt like it was made of glass. It was being hammered open, and yet it wouldn’t break. She would rather it be shattered into pieces and set her free from this agony.
The maids brought cups of milk tea several times, but by the third attempt, she wasn’t even able to put it to her lips properly.
The dim light stung her eyes.
‘Lamp, take it away…’
She had asked for it every time, but no one had gotten rid of the lamp for her ever since her father’s passing. Just like today.
Tak. The sound of someone extinguishing the lamp reached her ears. It was a faint noise she wouldn’t have noticed on a normal day, but her heightened senses caught it like a needle.
As her vision dimmed, the throbbing pain subsided momentarily.
‘Lancel? It must be Lancel.’
It couldn’t have been anyone else.
In this castle, he was the only one that was kind to her.
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