Despite her resolve, Lizzy still shattered three pens, broke two cups, and burned an important document that day.
Levance had always been in charge of personnel, so he was the one to administer the test. The number of people who passed was higher than expected, and we had to gather and train them.
Then, something embarrassing happened once more.
Upon entering the office, Lizzy and Levance were nowhere to be seen. There were only two desks. One belonged to Leonel, but whose was the other?
‘It must be mine!’
Even the desks were facing each other. It was nice to admire Leonel’s face, but it was too dazzling and distracting when it came to work.
“Where are Lizzy and Levance?”
“We decided to use the entire east wing of the first floor for work. So, they moved their seats over there.”
“Then where should I go?”
“You should be with me.”
He’d kicked Lizzy and Levance out so he could be alone with me.
Soon after, a letter arrived in front of me.
It was a letter from a broker in the capital. The contents stated that there was someone interested in purchasing the small house granted by the queen at a considerable price and requested a reply if I was willing to sell.
Leonel, who had been watching the letter beside me, subtly nudged me.
“It might be better to build a house for retirement when you’re older. Someone offering this price probably wants to buy it now.”
Who was he to tell me to pass on my utopia?
I absentmindedly bit my finger that touched the letter. Strangely, Leonel’s eyes sparkled.
I crossed my arms in front of my chest, forming an X, and hugged my shoulders.
“No! I have to work.”
Leonel quietly pointed to the wall clock.
It was already past the end of working hours. He pulled me close, sitting me on his lap, facing each other. There was no chance for me to resist when he looked up at me with a face seeking permission.
Why does Leonel’s attractiveness not take a break from work? I sighed without realizing it and nodded my head.
It wasn’t until we were sprawled out in the office that I realized I had a question.
‘Is this okay?’
Of course not. I thought it would be okay, but why does it keep getting worse?
Where did it go wrong?
As I reflected on my past actions, I recalled the first time I heard why Leonel ended up in this state.
I quickly realized the problem started with my attempt to make Leonel okay.
‘When I said ‘Fail!’ things went well, but when I said ‘Be okay!’ it didn’t get better.’
Alright, let’s try again. This time, I’ll think about Leonel’s anxiety.
“Nelly, focus on me.”
… Let’s think about it in a moment.
* * *
I watched as Leonel fell asleep and sat down on the bed, leaning back.
I needed some time alone to plan, but whenever he was awake, there was simply no time. It not only prevented me from thinking alone but also interfered with any other thoughts.
‘Since he’s sleeping, I can step out for a bit, right?’
I cautiously left the room. On my way to the garden, I ran into Mary, dressed in casual clothes.
“Mary! Where are you going?”
“I’m going to my hometown in a few days, so I wanted to buy some gifts. What about you, Miss Nelly?”
“I’m just taking a walk.”
Mary glanced behind me.
“The Duke doesn’t seem to be around today.”
“He’s taking a nap.”
Mary nodded and shifted her steps. I walked alongside her, engaging in conversation mostly about her hometown and family. Even just listening made me feel warm and peaceful.
“If there’s a chance, I’d like to visit too!”
“I wanted to invite you to come, but I didn’t mention it because I’m sure the Duke wouldn’t allow it.”
It seemed like a bright idea dawned upon me with those words. I found it—something about Leonel’s anxiety!
After quickly planning in my mind, I blurted out the most crucial part.
“Your ‘hehehe’ sounds more mischievous than usual today.”
For some reason, Mary seemed pleased and content. I grabbed her hand.
“If you leave your address, I’ll come to visit.”
I nodded vigorously and shook Mary’s hand that I was holding.
“I’m going to go inside. Take care, Mary.”
I said my goodbyes to her and rushed up the stairs to the office. As I was about to enter, the door creaked open.
Leonel, who had rushed out, turned his head abruptly. He approached with determined steps.
The twinkle in his eyes was gone! Without realizing it, I involuntarily took a step back, and Leonel stopped in his tracks, taking a deep breath and running his hand over his face.
“What should I do with you?”
His low voice cracked and stuttered.
“I feel more anxious the longer we’re together. Nelly, I can’t even imagine how devastated I would be if I lost you.”
He lowered his head and stood frozen, his face buried in his hands.
I comforted him and gently guided him back into the office. As soon as the door closed, he tried to rush in, but I blocked him with both hands.
The soothing effect of being together would only last a moment. Leonel’s obsession was escalating beyond control.
For the sake of both of us, it was time to take a firm stance, even if it meant employing tough measures.
I pulled out the long-cherished wish I had held since before I died.
“Please send me on vacation. For a month!”
Leonel’s body stiffened, and it felt like my heart would weaken again if I looked at his face.
As a precaution, I crossed my hands and placed them over his nose. I could see his handsome features peeking through the gap, but it wasn’t enough to make me speechless.
“You say you get more anxious the longer we’re together. So, just let me go for a while.”
Leonel pulled my hands down. Slowly, his expanded black pupils and red irises were revealed.
I was surprised and quickly tapped his cheek as if absorbing makeup remover.
“Leonel’s gaze! Your gaze!”
He exhaled deeply and closed his eyes tightly. After brushing his hair once, he turned away from me.
I embraced Leonel from behind. He laid his hand over the back of mine.
“One month is too long. How about 3 days?”
“You won’t give it, right? Nah, I didn’t think so.”
I quickly added to the sentence, sensing a certain atmosphere.
“I can’t go anywhere in three days.”
“If it’s a vacation.”
“Just rest. Why do I have to go somewhere? Rest in the castle? It’s unfair to have fun while everyone else is working.”
“…You seem to read my mind.”
“We had the same conversation even before I died.”
Tension increased in Leonel’s hand. I leaned my cheek against his back.
I could hear the sound of his strong muscles and his heart beating fiercely below the ribs. He was afraid of something.
“If you go out, can you guarantee you’ll come back?”
Did Leonel also fear at that time?
I answered and waited for his response. After a moment of silence, Leonel pulled my hand and buried his face.
“How can I believe that?”
I heard the same intonation and voice as the words Leonel said to me before I died. But I didn’t think he doubted me.
“If you go out, can you guarantee you’ll come back?”
Now I understand. He said that out of fear. He was afraid I would go out and never come back.
“Don’t worry too much. There’s no Devondus anymore!”
“How can you guarantee there won’t be someone like him again?”
Leonel lowered his hand. In the place where warmth disappeared, cold air clung. Anger tinted Leonel’s pupils.
“Since Roman failed to kill you, many assassins have been lurking. Some of them not sent by the Devondus.”
“…I had no idea.”
Someone tried to assassinate me. Could it have been the same in my past life? Someone tried to kill me, and Leonel…
A low voice calling me interrupted my thoughts. I lifted my head and met his gaze.
“You make me uneasy too.”
“Yeah. Even now. Who are you thinking about when you’re in front of me?”
I snapped back to attention.
I firmly grabbed Leonel’s forearm.
“Leonel now is different from the Leonel when I died!”
He nodded. However, with an expression that seemed to say, “Why are you being so verbose?” he looked at me.
“That Leonel lost me, and this Leonel protected me.”
My conscience pricked. I felt sorry for Leonel before regression, but I had to protect Leonel now.
With a gaze full of strong trust, I looked up at him. His expression softened a bit.
“So trust yourself and trust me. Even if we’re apart for a month, nothing will happen.”
“I’ll trust you, so you don’t need to prove it.”
“No. Just thinking and experiencing are different.”
“If you’re uneasy, trust me! I’ll prove it. Now, we’re not in danger.”
I strengthened my gaze and nodded vigorously. In response, Leonel released a laugh as if relaxing, like someone who had just eased the tension.
“You’re like a brave and cool hedgehog.”
“It’s a problem if you compare me to a hedgehog!”
As I playfully glared at him, he laughed and tapped his forehead against my shoulder.
“But still, a month is long.”
“No compromises. One month!”
“Instead, write me a letter every day. So I won’t be afraid.”
“That’s easy. It’s hard to write letters while moving, so I’ll write them after arriving.”
Looking at Leonel with an expression like a cool squirrel or hedgehog, whichever he preferred, I hugged him tightly around the waist.
“Just trust me! You can endure a month just fine.”