Chapter 14

The first exhibition at this controversial gallery. Ana accepted the fan handed to her by An and moved forward.

 

As an art enthusiast, the gallery seemed perfect to her. The staff, dressed in uniform black attire, were impeccably trained and polite. The spotless marble floors and red carpets also met her standards.

 

Above all… when she handed over her invitation and saw the first artwork, Ana was so captivated that she forgot all her other concerns and gasped in awe.

 

It was beautiful. Like white clouds? Or perhaps iridescent soap bubbles. The painting of an angel with a girl’s face praying was as noble and beautiful as a sacred painting but too lively to be just a religious icon. Perhaps…

 

“That painting, does it appeal to you?”

 

Ana felt a shiver run through her body. As she slowly turned around, the man standing still approached her steadily. The light streaming through the ceiling’s glass windows illuminated his black hair. Despite his neat suit, his hair was still somewhat tousled, but it suited him. Maybe it was inevitable.

 

“I thought you would like it.”

 

He always had a way of coloring everything he touched with his own hues.

 

The adult Siasen, or should he be called Siguin Noel, had stopped just a few steps away from her. Initially gazing at the painting, he was now intently watching her. As if he would pounce at any moment. But he remained in the spot and didn’t come any closer.

 

Ana momentarily felt like she had entered a cage with a wild beast. The man’s intense black eyes seemed ready to burn her. Any woman receiving such a gaze would shiver, be it out of fear or a more sensual thrill. But Ana was unsure. It could be a mix of both.

 

The man bathed in the gallery’s soft white light had a three-dimensional face. His shirt collar was loosely undone, revealing his moving Adam’s apple, strong jawline, and masculine lips. The deep eyes of a wild animal, the only noble feature being his high nose bridge and his tanned skin, merged to create an intense allure. His large, rough fingers twitched before tightening in self-restraint.

 

After seven years, they met again as mature men and women. Ana might have once longed for such a day. To grow up swiftly and become elegant ladies and gentlemen, dancing together hand in hand.

 

Snap. Ana snapped her fan shut and faced him. His piercing gaze flickered slightly and then grew distant. She felt suffocated by his intense longing. Swallowing her surge of emotions, she managed a smooth smile.

 

“Thank you for the invitation, Sir Siguin Noel.”

 

She extended her hand gently. His black eyes fell upon it, then slowly intertwined with hers.

 

“My name is Anais von Tudor.”

 

However, she was already someone else’s wife. That was the only thing different from the dreams of the past.

 

The hand that gripped hers felt painfully tight. The man’s expressionless face, with eyes burning hotly, gazed at the pale beauty before him for a long time before he respectfully bent down and kissed her hand.

 

He whispered, “It’s an honor.” His voice was low and gruff, like a wounded beast.

 

He held her hand for what seemed an eternity. Just as the attention became unbearable, she let go first. As another visitor entered to pick up a pamphlet, Ana withdrew her hand and naturally turned her gaze to the painting. Siguin was intently watching her.

 

Unable to endure it any longer, Ana broke the silence in a low voice. “Your name…” After hesitating, she finally spoke. “Did you completely change it?”

 

He was no longer Siasen but Siguin Noel. It wasn’t appropriate for her to ask, considering her crucial role in him being unable to use his family name. But she couldn’t help it. He was no longer Siasen, yet he was.

 

As they were greeted by other ladies, Ana responded with a gleaming smile. Siguin watched her expertly handle social interactions, then said in a voice that was somber but clear, “It’s a name no longer necessary to me.” His words sounded painfully harsh.

 

Ana instinctively looked straight at him, but unable to bear it, she turned away. Siguin then took a step forward, making her flinch. She felt dizzy as his scent suddenly enveloped her.

 

He turned to face the painting. “A name like Siasen Bergelmir was just a tool connecting you and me. It’s no longer needed.”

 

Ana bit her lip, unable to respond. Overwhelmed by guilt. Seeing it in her clear eyes, Siguin’s lips curled in a bittersweet smile as if looking at something simultaneously despicable and dearly beloved.

 

“Kind Ana.”

 

Her eyes must be visibly trembling. She barely managed to speak. “Don’t call me that.”

 

“Then should I address you as Marchioness Tudor?” He retorted sarcastically for the first time, his calm black eyes flickering. It would have been better if it had been a sense of betrayal, but the emotions in those eyes were a feeling of loss and chilling jealousy.

 

His broad shoulders, more fitting for a soldier than a painter, shook slightly with anger. Siguin stared at Ana, who turned pale momentarily, then turned away, roughly ruffling his hair. He seemed to be struggling to control his emotions.

 

As visitors passed by, Siguin turned to Ana with a more composed and polite tone. “There are more paintings inside that you might like. Would you like to see it?”

 

He didn’t address her as ‘Madam.’ Instead of referring to her by her maiden name, he should have called her ‘Lady,’ but Ana just nodded.

 

His black eyes glanced at her white-gloved hand gripping the blue hem of her dress and then signaled to a servant at the entrance. The servant nodded and began to control the crowd. Ana was shocked when he grabbed her wrist. She looked around hurriedly, but there was no one.

 

Following Siguin’s lead, she suddenly exclaimed, “Siasen! What are you doing…?”

 

Shh. There might still be people around.”

 

They would soon be alone as the area was being cleared. Siguin didn’t bother to explain this to the visibly alarmed Ana. Ana’s mouth shut automatically, and she glanced at him nervously.

 

Siguin gave a rueful smile, his gaze lingering on the woman who was now someone else’s wife. Her tightly closed red lips and large eyes reflected the sunset, her platinum hair making her look more like a pure girl rather than a noble lady. No, Ana, who had lost her youthful girlishness and had become a mature woman, was so alluring that men would glance at her silhouette at least once.

 

Gazing at her delicate profile as she observed the painting, he couldn’t help but be captivated, forgetting the situation at hand. It wasn’t just a matter of growth. From Ana emanated the fragrance of a woman who had been tenderly nurtured and blossomed fully, ripe and mature.

 

Siguin felt an uncontrollable jealousy towards her husband, who had transformed the once pure girl into this enchanting woman. He was surprised at how much he despised a man whose face he hadn’t even seen.

 

His firm hand gently grasped her wrist and then softly slid down, interlocking their fingers. Ana shivered slightly at the touch.

 

“I missed you.”

***

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Notes

N/A

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