Chapter 11

His face seemed too calm as if he truly had no other thoughts. It would be incredibly embarrassing if she was the only one who felt sexually stimulated when he didn’t intend it. Trying to hide her expression, she exerted slight pressure to pull her fingertips away, but he didn’t let go. Instead, he pointed it out politely.

 

“Your face is red. Are you feeling unwell again?”

 

“No, I think it’s just the wine. Ah!”

 

When his firm thumb scraped gently across her soft skin, a weak moan escaped her. Confused, she looked into his eyes and noticed that he was smiling subtly.

 

My goodness. He had been teasing me! Frustrated and a bit angry, she tried to pull away when he laughed softly, coming up behind her to wrap his arms around her shoulders. It was clearly a comforting gesture.

 

She knew he could sometimes be unexpectedly playful, but she was too upset this time and tried to avoid him.

 

“Don’t do that.”

 

“I’m sorry. Your reaction was…”

 

“Funny?”

 

“Not at all. It was cute.”

 

Ana was dumbfounded, thinking he was still teasing her. Having always been mature from a young age, Ana was more often called pretty or beautiful rather than cute, except by her father and brothers. Even in her opinion, she wasn’t cute or charming. 

 

Surprised by her reaction, Garcia raised his eyebrows. “I’m serious.”

 

“You said you wouldn’t tease.”

 

“It’s disappointing that my wife doesn’t trust me.”

 

Although Ana glared at him, he didn’t seem very intimidated. After all, it made sense. When the man who used to be considerate and kind could be unexpectedly shameless, Ana didn’t have the talent to deal with it.

 

His kindness was always about yielding and adjusting to his wife. She sighed. Ever since their engagement, she had worked hard not to fall behind him, who always appeared like a perfect gentleman and adult.

 

Ana was just an eighteen-year-old young lady back then, so it was probably obvious to him. Sometimes, she couldn’t blame him for seeing her as a child.

 

Garcia observed her expression quietly before kissing her cheek softly and sincerely. Ana accepted silently as he deepened the kiss on her lips. The kiss, filled with affection and tenderness, soothed her ruffled feelings. She couldn’t resist and melted into it. Ana sighed and clung to his neck, sensing his faint laughter.

 

“So.”

 

After a longer-than-expected kiss that left her hair slightly disheveled, Garcia asked with a voice tinged with laughter, his voice husky and low by her ear. “Is Siguin Noel your favorite painter these days?”

 

Ana was alarmed, fearing he might have heard her heart drop, but Garcia appeared unfazed. She replied nonchalantly, “Who?”

 

“Siguin Noel. The person who sent that invitation. I don’t recall a currently active painter by that name.”

 

Ana looked at Garcia in surprise. “You weren’t interested in painters.”

 

“I’ve recently become interested.” He answered easily.

 

Though politically prominent, the Tudor family had delved into business since Garcia’s grandfather, amassing great wealth. Perhaps he looked into it for business purposes or as a gift for someone important.

 

Ana nodded and said, “He’s a talented emerging artist. I want to support him because he has the potential to join the ranks of the greats.”

 

Then she added something he wasn’t even asked. “The art dealer recommended one of his paintings recently, and his judgment was certainly reliable.”

 

“Is that so?”

 

Garcia seemed unusually interested.

 

“An artist so praised by my wife, I’d like to see his work myself.”

 

If he pursued this, Ana would naturally suggest they visit the exhibition together or show him the paintings she owned. But she was hesitant to attend his exhibition with her husband, and the paintings she had of Siasen were… Unintentionally, they contained subtle emotional exchanges between them.

 

Ana, feeling as if it was her fatal secret, had put it in the deepest safe of her collection room. She didn’t want to show them to anyone, especially Garcia. In any case, she wasn’t inclined to do either. Ana smiled naturally enough not to look nervous.

 

“They are worth collecting. I’ll hang one in Garcia’s room if I find a suitable piece.”

 

It was a flawless evasion. Of course, she had no intention of hanging Siasen’s painting in his room. She would buy something suitable from a renowned painter, claiming it was better, and he would accept it without much thought. He wasn’t particularly interested in art, after all.

 

As expected, he agreed amicably. “That sounds great. I look forward to your gift.”

 

As he turned to add more wood to the fireplace, Ana quietly sighed. She was always proud to be forthright and dignified, so she was stressed about having to skirt around the truth with her husband.

 

In fact, she was generally more honest than average, especially towards those close to her. She needed to resolve this quickly; it couldn’t go on like this.

 

She steeled her resolve. Her cool, composed mind suppressed the fluttering of her heart, still stirred by memories of the past. It was a chapter long gone, a bittersweet remnant of her youth, before she met Garcia.

 

Siasen’s behavior suggested he still harbored feelings for her, but she hoped a sincere conversation would clarify his intentions. She didn’t think he would overstep boundaries with her, now a married woman.

 

The invitation had unsettled her, but setting the boundaries was up to her. She needed to offer him the support he required, clearly stating her intentions. Although it might seem cold, she had once turned her back on a future with him; doing it again would be easier.

 

Besides, she had Garcia by her side now. Although she had no idea what they were doing or planning to do, Ana’s common sense told her that this emotionally unstable state in herself wasn’t good for their relationship and each other’s honor. Being more rational, Garcia might view it differently, but Ana felt this way.

 

This cold man… He might not understand her fretting over such seemingly trivial concerns.

 

A cold-hearted person.

 

Ana muttered to herself, feeling deja vu. She knew it wasn’t the right description for someone so caring and polite. But it took her nearly half a year after their engagement to realize that Garcia wasn’t as transparent as he seemed.

 

For example, there were paintings she had gifted him before. They were gifted out of courtesy during their engagement, so they held no great significance. However, he was indifferent enough not to be able to distinguish simple paintings from gifts from his wife, even though the difference was quite apparent.

 

She thought it was because he wasn’t interested in that field, but that wasn’t the case. Having been born into abundance, Garcia was generally insensitive to all material things except obligatory transactions. He cherished gifts from his loved ones but didn’t value them highly.

 

His emotional attachment was similar: dutiful and responsible but lacking passion. This realization came only after spending considerable time with him and building intimacy. Ana respected and had affection for him but couldn’t quite love him due to this subtle, indescribable distance.

***

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Notes

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