Chapter 16

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Ines clenched her fists at the tension that swept through her body.

 

Facing such Ines, Enoch smiled brightly.

 

“Buy me dinner when it’s over.”

 

“Yes?”

 

At the unexpected suggestion, the atmosphere became lighter in an instant.

 

Enoch added sarcastically. “For now, I will close my eyes and accept this sandwich.”

 

Ines looked at Enoch with dissatisfied eyes for a long time. Then she pouted and mumbled.

 

“Your Excellency seems to have a very, very mischievous personality.”

 

“Did I sound like I was kidding? I’m serious.”

 

For a moment, Enoch asked with a serious face. In the end, it was Ines who raised the white flag.

 

“… All right, I’ll treat you to the most delicious dinner in the world.”

 

“You promised.”

 

Only after hearing that confirmation did Enoch put on a satisfied face.

 

Ines glanced at Enoch.

 

 ‘Still… You must be considerate of me.’

 

Until earlier, she was gripped by vague fears about whether she could really get a divorce. Thanks to Enoch’s playful words, it seemed that the worry had faded a bit.

 

Just then, Enoch suggested.

 

“I’ll take you to your house.”

 

“Oh, thank you.”

 

The two ate sandwiches side by side and walked to the carriage.

 

Ines, who had a slightly lighter heart, continued to speak softly.

 

“Still, this sandwich is quite delicious, isn’t it? In fact, every time I went to the art studio, I bought it….”

 

Enoch looked at Ines. Walking around, eating on the side of the road, listening to a Lady’s trivial stories. In fact, Enoch could never have imagined it. For Enoch had lived his whole life as a royalty, and had a natural aristocratic life like breathing.

 

Nevertheless.

 

‘It’s fun.’

 

A small smile appeared on Enoch’s lips.

 

This time spent with Ines, he liked very much. Maybe that was why Enoch asked an unexpected question.

 

“May I visit the Countess’s studio once in a while?”

 

“Yes?”

 

At the unexpected words, Ines widened her eyes.

 

Unknowingly, Enoch added words as if making excuses. 

 

“I just want to see how the painting progresses.”

 

“Ah.” Only then Ines looked relaxed.

 

 

“Well, in the first place, this would not be possible to accomplish without the help of the Duke. So feel free to come and look.”

 

Ines clenched both fists with determination. “Don’t worry, I will not let you down.”

 

“No, I don’t mean that…… .”

 

Enoch, who was reflexively trying to deny his words, narrowed his eyebrows.

 

‘But why am I making excuses?’

 

They were in a contract relationship.

 

Ines promised to bring a scoop to Elton, and Enoch would use it to help her future divorce proceedings.

 

Enoch hoped to further enhance the reputation of his newspaper by reporting the scoop exclusively in Elton.

 

Also, the basis of all of this was Ines’s paintings, so it was natural to check whether her paintings were progressing well.

 

But somehow… 

 

‘Isn’t it like I have a crush on the Countess?’

 

Thinking about that, Enoch smirked.

 

‘It can’t be.’

 

Perhaps it was because the contract with Ines was such a big deal, so he was a bit nervous. Enoch shook off his useless thoughts. 

 

****

 

Returning to Brierton’s residence, Ines met a rather unwelcome person. It was Ryan who came home early for some reason.

 

“Where the hell have you been and just come back now?”

 

Ryan leaned on the sofa and looked at Ines with his eyes wide open.

 

‘The sun must have risen in the west today because Ryan is already home.’

 

Ines asked, narrowing her brows. “Seeing you at home at this hour, it must be a big deal. Aren’t you busy today?”

 

“Hmmmm, hmm!”

 

Ryan, whose conscience was stabbed, coughed a couple of times in vain before answering.

 

“Hey, I came early to have dinner with you. We decided to eat together once a week, didn’t we?”

 

Ines’ eyes narrowed.

 

Ryan, who had secretly looked into Ines’ eyes, hurriedly added words.

 

“Well, and I’m a little curious about the progress of your painting… .”

 

‘I knew it.’

 

Ines laughed briefly. In the end, Ryan returned home early not to spend time with Ines, but it was because he was curious what she would paint.

 

Ines answered in a cold voice.

 

“Don’t worry, I’m thinking about the theme.”

 

“Oh yeah?”

 

Despite that blunt answer, Ryan’s face brightened up.

 

Ines continued, leaving her coat to her maid.

 

 “And I went out for a while thinking about what to draw. I was a little more worried because the theme of the art exhibition was freedom.”

 

 After saying it like that, Ryan hesitated and asked a question.

 

“I see. Are you tired? Then dinner.… .”

 

“….”

 

‘… of course you don’t really care if I’m tired or not.’ Ines, who was staring at Ryan, turned around.

 

“My head hurts thinking about the picture, so I want to take a break. You eat alone.”

 

 “Oh, I will. Good luck, Ines.”

 

As a courtesy, he could have at least told Ines to eat some food.

 

But Ryan simply nodded with satisfaction.

 

Ines went into the bedroom, suppressing the feeling of stuffiness as if stones had filled her chest.

 

Click.

 

The door was closed.

 

“… ha.”

 

At the same time, Ines let out a long sigh.

 

Perhaps it was because she had just returned from meeting Enoch, and she kept comparing the actions of Enoch and Ryan. Enoch had noticed that Ines’ heart was complicated and tried to solve it with a light joke. 

 

And as soon as he met her, Ryan asked what the painting would be like. Isn’t their mindset so different?

 

“You are a worse husband than anyone else.”

 

Ines put her hand on her forehead and let out an empty laugh.

 

***

 

About a month left until the art exhibition.

 

Ines had been painting while going back and forth to the studio in Hwabang Street.

 

Since she had to complete two paintings at the same time, the time was a bit tight.

 

Also, Enoch faithfully kept his word.

 

He kept coming to the studio and checked how the painting was progressing. Meanwhile, Enoch also got to know the owner of the art store.

 

“Are you here?”

 

At first, the store owner was hesitant because of Enoch’s unique grace, but now she was used to him.

 

The store owner glanced at the ceiling where Ines’ room was located and spoke to Enoch.

 

“Ines has been drawing and skipping meals.

 

“…Is that so?”

 

Enoch narrowed his brow. ‘If the Countess Brierton can’t paint, everything will go to waste.’

 

It’s good to draw, but she should take care of her own health first.

 

It seemed that Ines had developed a bad habit.

 

It was the habit of painting continuously once she got immersed in it.

 

“It seems that she’s going to present her painting at the art exhibition of the Duke of Sussex. Painting is fine, but it will hurt her body.”

 

The store owner clicked her tongue as if dissatisfied.

 

That was how Enoch went to Ines’s room, carrying food in both hands.

 

Knock. Knock. Knock.

 

After knocking on the door, he waited for a while, but there was no answer. Enoch narrowed his brow and grabbed the doorknob.

 

“Excuse me for a moment.”

 

Click.

 

The door opened easily, as if it wasn’t locked in the beginning.

 

Enoch, who had entered the room, immediately froze on the spot. 

 

‘This…’

 

The red color of the setting sun shining through the spacious window was burning the room.

 

In the middle were two easels side by side.

 

A bucket of water on the floor, a palette of paints. And Ines was sitting as if to rule everything in the room.

 

While roughly wearing an apron that was stained with paint, she played the brush with delicate movements. Now, she was completely immersed in the painting and seemed to be unaware of anything.

 

It was the first time.

 

To that person, to the air surrounding that person, to the landscape that someone was looking at.

 

A feeling of being devoured and overwhelmed enveloped  Enoch.

 

Like.

 

‘Isn’t it magical?’

 

Enoch felt his mouth dry out. 

 

Creak.

 

Suddenly, there was the sound of the chair legs being dragged on the floor. Perhaps she wanted to see the whole picture.

 

Ines, who got up from her seat, took a step back and stared at the two paintings. She tilted her head and observed the paintings, and then she walked back to the paintings and started playing with the brush again.

 

Strangely enough, Enoch couldn’t take his eyes off the back of her at all.

 

It felt as if he was possessed by something.

 

Enoch reflexively clenched his fists.

 

Then.

 

“Huh?”

 

At the same time, Ines felt a presence and looked back.