“Was the meal to your liking?”
After dinner, Iva, guided by Ray, headed toward the guest room.
“Yes, it was delicious. I think I ate more than I have at any other meal this year.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“But what should I call Your Grace’s father, the former Duke? Calling him ‘father’ doesn’t seem quite polite.”
At the word ‘father,’ Ray’s mind quickly busied itself.
He unconsciously pictured Iva, his wife-to-be, sweetly whispering, “Honey, Father is calling,” and his heart fluttered.
Despite pretending to ignore the teasing remarks from Leo about bringing home a bride, he was considerably shaken.
“…That sounds nice.”
His internal thoughts spilled unintentionally from his lips, flooded with joy. Startled, Ray quickly added more.
“Ah, you, you can just call me by my name.”
“Call Your Grace by your name?”
“Yes. Address my father as You Grace, and just use my name for me.”
“Alright. Your Grace, no. Mr. Ray.”
Although she had surely called him by his name, Ray’s ears heard it as ‘Honey.’
His heart thumped loudly, and it felt as if his blood was rushing faster.
“Huh? This portrait?”
In the hallway leading to the guest room hung a large portrait.
It was a family portrait of the Castello Family.
A young Duke and Duchess, and young Leo and Ray were depicted.
Ray looked to be about five years old in the painting. Despite the painting being old, it was vivid as if it was freshly painted due to meticulous care.
“It’s our family portrait. That lady is my mother.”
“Oh, she’s truly beautiful.”
The woman with her bright brown hair braided up was dressed in a white gown.
Her fair skin and gentle smile bore a resemblance to Leo.
“She seems very kind; what was she like?”
“She was kind, but at times, scarier than my father.”
“Yes, when my brother and I would come back from playing late, she wouldn’t let us even enter the mansion.”
“Haha. She was firm when she needed to be, then.”
Ray, too, looked at the portrait of his mother with a face lost in memories. His mother’s smile within it seemed softer.
“But Mr. Ray, even back then, you were crying.”
“Hmm, I was very young. Don’t all children cry often in their youth?”
“But I only have portraits where I’m always smiling?”
“…Let’s quickly move to the room.”
Ray swiftly changed his steps, avoiding a period of embarrassment. A smile bloomed on Iva’s face at this never-before-seen side of him.
“Here we are.”
The spot Ray guided her to was the room at the far right end.
With its blue-toned wallpaper and white furniture, the space exuded freshness. Though small, it was charmingly cute.
“If it’s too small and uncomfortable, I can guide you to another room.”
“No, this is enough. It’s just perfect for me.”
“That’s a relief, then.”
Having brought Iva here, Ray knew he should excuse himself to allow her to rest.
But he didn’t want to leave. Even knowing they would meet again in the morning, he wanted to be with her more.
It wasn’t easy to tear himself away knowing that Iva was in the same villa, even just next door.
Seeing him stand silently, Iva called out to him, thinking he had something to say. He turned his head to gaze at her before speaking.
“Iva, may I ask you just one thing?”
The seriousness in Ray’s voice brought tension to Iva as well.
“Yes, please speak.”
“Can I interpret you not pushing me out of the carriage as an answer to my confession?”
Iva, who had hoped to let it pass since he had not inquired further, was unable to answer, her lips quivering slightly.
Yeah, I just wanted to try kissing you because your face is so my type!? If she were to say something like this, how perverse would that sound?
As she thought of what to say to move beyond this moment, Ray’s penetrating gaze muddled her thoughts.
“Iva, if you do not tell me directly, I will interpret it in my own way.”
He took a significant step toward Iva.
“I will be under the illusion that Iva shares my feelings.”
And then, he gently cradled Iva’s cheeks with care.
His hands were hot where they touched her, but Iva felt her cheeks burn even hotter.
“Is that alright?”
Much like in the carriage, Ray exhaled a warm breath and slowly approached Iva once again.
This time his eyes held nothing but the intention of reaching her lips.
“No, that can’t happen!”
Barely regaining her rationality, Iva urgently gripped Ray’s hands, which cradled her cheeks.
Stopping mere moments from her lips at her loud exclamation, Ray couldn’t hide his disappointed expression.