Chapter 20

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Carefully looking at the pale face of her master, whose eyes were closed while receiving a shoulder massage, An opened her mouth. “Shall I bring you some warm tea?” It was a way to say that Ana looked pale.

 

Ana shook her head and asked. “What time is it now?”

 

“… It’s not yet noon.”

 

“I’ve overslept.”

 

She sighed softly. Without saying anything, she let the maids put a shawl on her shoulders and applied crushed red petal rouge to her lips until she glanced through the window that the youngest maid had left open.

 

The high sun and the fragrance of the fresh garden were streaming in. Seeing the window and the empty armchair next to it sway gently as if cradling her, she impulsively blurted out.

 

“Close the window.”

 

At her clear voice, the bustling maids all paused to look at her. They exchanged glances and moved more respectfully.

 

Soon, the window was closed, and the room became quieter. In that silence devoid of even the sound of birds, Ana let her shoulders slump and looked down, never turning her gaze back to the window.

 

Wearing a morning gown, she headed to the room with the garden, where a lilac-white tea table was set up for the couple to enjoy a leisurely brunch. Garcia was seen sprawling his long legs on the terrace chair, his head cocked as he watched the garden intently.

 

Despite being just a cozy room, he looked as though he was sitting on the throne of his kingdom, a bored king. Knowing him better than anyone as not being arrogant, the impression was strangely vivid.

 

His neatly combed hair and marble-like profile was expressionless. The smooth neck, white collar, and tightly closed lips resembled those of a priest. Cynical, strict, and cold-faced like an inanimate glass doll.

 

Ana gazed momentarily at that man. It was only when he noticed her and the familiar warmth swirled in his golden eyes that she slowly approached and sat in front of him.

 

Garcia extended his hand slowly, offering his firm palm. With an unspoken urging, she carefully placed her hand on top of his, resembling a white magnolia leaf on a silver tray.

 

“Your hands are cold.” He whispered, his voice resonating lowly. Blinking her eyelids, she shook her head.

 

“I just woke up.”

 

“Did you have a bad dream?”

 

Sometimes, her husband was unnecessarily perceptive. Usually, he pretended not to notice out of consideration, but it seemed not today. Ana, reluctantly changing the subject, said, “I overslept.”

 

“It’s my fault. I knew you weren’t feeling well.”

 

It was an admission of his inability to restrain himself. Despite this, he was incredibly gentle and tender during their second encounter. Not wanting to discuss last night’s intimacy under the bright morning light, Ana looked away, pondering his unusual frankness today, as Garcia’s low laughter reached her ears. He pulled her slender wrist closer and gently kissed the back of her hand.

 

“Shall we spend the day together?”

 

Ana turned to look at Garcia, who was stroking her hand.

 

“How? It feels like it’s been a long time since we spent time together.”

 

With a gentle examination that somehow melted away even the stiffness she didn’t know she had, the recent dreams and events briefly crossed her mind. Hesitating, she intertwined her fingers with his.

 

“I’m fine now. Don’t worry.”

 

But her response was a refusal. She didn’t want to interfere with his busy schedule, considering herself a burden. Garcia sighed softly and shook his head.

 

“Sometimes my wife acts as if she doesn’t rely on me even for a hair’s breadth, which disappoints me.”

 

“That’s not it. You’re busy.”

 

Caught off guard by her husband’s rare display of disappointment, Ana hastily responded. His gaze made her uneasy. Although it might usually be playful or teasing, this time, it seemed sincere.

 

He was sensitive about not fulfilling his role as a husband and head of the household. It might be the same problem as behaving as if everything in the house and the estate were under his control.

 

Looking thoughtfully at his wife biting her lips, Garcia said, “Duke Gilbert often talks about his wife.”

 

Duke Gilbert was a very wealthy noble who remarried to a much younger woman five years after his wife’s death. It was said that his wife was twenty years younger than him, causing a stir in social circles. Ana listened quietly as Garcia smiled faintly.

 

“His young wife is quite whimsical, causing him trouble now and then. ‘Do this for me, buy that for me.’ He complains she might spend his entire fortune. She even whines about wanting to be carried whenever her ankle hurts.”

 

“Oh my.”

 

“But he doesn’t seem too unhappy about it.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “I wish my wife would be whimsical sometimes too.”

 

After kissing the back of her hand lightly, Garcia’s smile brightened.

 

“I’m more than willing to indulge my wife’s whims. But it seems my virtuous wife won’t do such a thing, which is a pity.”

 

“Do you want me to bankrupt the Tudor family?”

 

Ana’s small complaint elicited a short laugh from Garcia.

 

“Why are you worried about that? You know what I mean.”

 

“Even if that were the case, it was my responsibility to deal with the consequences, not something you needed to preemptively fret over.”

 

It was a kind yet arrogant statement. But that was Garcia von Tudor. He looked at her with the intense gaze of a dignified beast tenderly touching the small bird in its grasp.

 

“My wife seems to not trust me.”

 

“You know that’s not true.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Then say you’ll spend today with me.”

 

Why is he like this today? Embarrassed, her neck flushed, and her mouth twitched. But he waited patiently without pressing further. Her fingers curled slightly. Meeting his eyes, she finally opened her lips. But at that moment, the butler’s knock interrupted.

 

It was like that. Ana, without disappointment, looked out the window as his aide hurried in and whispered something urgently in Marquis Tudor’s ear. It must be an issue he couldn’t refuse, as Garcia’s expressionless gaze fleetingly moved to his elegant wife’s profile. His fingers tapped the table in a precise rhythm, and Ana sensed his discomfort. A sigh was heard.

 

“Go ahead. We can have the meal later.”

 

When Ana quickly said this, Garcia didn’t immediately respond. His normally composed face showed rare irritation. Though it wasn’t obvious to others, it was evident upon closer inspection. Ana thought these moments proved her years of intimacy with him weren’t in vain, feeling a light smile form.

 

Eventually, he took the coat prepared by the butler, sighing, “I’ll be back soon. Go ahead and eat.”

 

“No, it’s okay. Finish your work first.”

 

Garcia didn’t reply. Instead, he leaned on the back of the chair where his wife was sitting, casting a large shadow over her. With her chin caught by his long fingers, Ana received a light kiss.

 

Like a deer nuzzling a lily stem, his prominent neck was smooth to the touch. She held the armrest, quietly bowing her head during this brief moment, sparing the butler and aide the embarrassment of witnessing the couple’s affection.

 

His tongue flicked over her lower lip, her fingertips tingling like blooming flowers. The man’s pale, long fingers lightly touched hers.

 

He let out a low laugh and said, “Please wait for me.”

 

“Don’t go anywhere for today.”

 

* * *

Ana was free for the first time in a long time. Though Garcia said he’d return soon, she planned to relax and enjoy her free time until evening.

 

She decided to resume the embroidery she hadn’t touched recently due to a lack of leisure time. The maids brought the embroidery hoop, needles, and colorful threads to the terrace and An draped a warm, cozy emerald shawl over Ana’s shoulders.

 

She was embroidering a handkerchief with the Tudor family’s white rose emblem. Intertwining silver and purple threads, she had shaped each petal, nearly completing the single flower. Once finished, she planned to embroider Garcia’s name along the edge. 

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