It was the only reason he’d decided to marry her, so it was no wonder he’d been so formal. Any feelings he had for Isabelle were based on responsibility, not affection.
Still, she was satisfied. It was an arrange marriage devoid of love, but Isabelle had long harbored unrequited love for him. She was grateful that, even if only in appearance, she could be his wife. Of course, it wasn’t without sadness and disappointment, but she had never considered ending their marriage.
The problem arose elsewhere. After the death of her father, Count Blanchette, and her brother Timogere becoming the head of the Blanchette family, the family’s downfall had begun.
Timogere indulged in gambling and women, a life of debauchery. Not content with disposing of the Gelphada Plains and Chelthas Mines owned by the Blanchette family, he also accumulated enormous debts and eventually reached out to the Calitheon family for help.
Isabelle only found out much later that Richt had secretly paid off the debts. It was hard to look him in the face for a while, knowing that her own brother was such a pitiful and embarrassing person. She felt sorry and sorry again.
Despite that, there were no disruptions in their married life. Richt was not the kind of man to leave his wife over something like that. The rift came later. It all came to the ears of Diana Calitheon, her mother-in-law. Diana had disliked Isabelle since the time of their marriage.
The fact that they had been married for three years and had no children was enough to make her despise them. Although Isabelle was not solely at fault, Diana acted as if she was. To add more, Richt paying off Timogere’s gambling debts was just unacceptable for Diana.
Diana took great pride in the Calitheon family and considered dignity the most important thing for upper-class nobility. The fact that the Blanchette’s family, which was on the brink of ruin, was linked to the Calitheon family through marriage was undoubtedly a source of shame for her.
‘You’re not shameless enough to cling to Richt brazenly like your brother, are you? Get a divorce. You say it first.’
As if she had been waiting for it, Diana demanded Isabelle that she gets a divorce. Although Diana spoke calmly with the demeanor of an elegant lady, Isabelle couldn’t have been unaware of the satisfaction she felt inwardly. She had always been eager to drive Isabelle away and Timogere’s presence served as a convenient excuse to do so.
At this point in the Blanchette family’s weakened state, Isabelle had no choice. Their marriage had been arranged through an agreement between the households, and the family’s downfall provided sufficient grounds for divorce. It was a common occurrence in noble marriages and separations.
As she recalled her conversation with Diana, Isabelle heard footsteps behind her. Before she could turn around, someone abruptly sat down next to her. It was Richt.
A faint scent of alcohol wafted from him. She had come here to escape him, and unexpectedly encountering her husband caused Isabelle’s eyes to widen slightly.
“Haven’t you gone to sleep yet?”
“Are you avoiding me by coming here?”
His voice was sharp, with a hint of sarcasm. Richt looked a little disheveled, as if he’d had too much to drink. His buttons more undone than usual. Pupils languidly dilated. The corners of his mouth were strangely pouty.
It’s a rare sight, for a man who was always well-groomed and speaks in a polite manner.
Sharp self-control and impeccable competence. The perfect Duke of Calitheon, respected even among the nobility. These were all words that described him.
Richt was a man who never let anyone see the slightest crack in him. His occasional moments of looseness brought a strange satisfaction to Isabelle.
She was glad to have glimpsed a part of him that no one else knew. It felt like a privilege to be his wife. Others might find it strange to hear, but to Isabelle, it felt that way.
“I couldn’t sleep. Shouldn’t you go to bed early?”
“What, you don’t even want to talk to me anymore?”
“No, I don’t mean that. You have to leave for the capital early tomorrow morning, and I know you’ll be tired.”
As usual, if nothing unexpected happened, he would probably leave tomorrow morning. If it were any other time, they might be entangled in bed by now, exploring each other’s intimate parts. But, since the mention of divorce, that wasn’t going to happen.
Richt silently stared at Isabelle. His eyes, set beneath long lashes, were as deep as wells. Her reflection appeared in those black pupils. The faintly tired eyes, tightly closed lips, and a complexion that seemed to suppress emotions made the atmosphere uncomfortable.
The distinctive expression he made when things didn’t go the way he wanted. Isabelle could feel the aura surrounding him, quicker than most, but she couldn’t grasp the exact intention.
It was frustrating at times, but she didn’t ask questions. She wasn’t sure if it was right to ask, and she didn’t want to be disappointed if he didn’t answer.
She simply harbored small expectations alone. Hoping that someday, a man who was as impenetrable as a solid wall would open up first, allowing her by his side.
Fortunately, Richt’s aide, Fabian, would occasionally give hints about what he was up to, giving her a rough idea.
Richt’s deep eyes were still fixed on Isabelle. His drunken black eyes glowed dangerously in the evening twilight.
Isabelle felt uneasy about his gaze, even though she was worried. Was his business not going smoothly? Was that why he drank so much? Or did her brother ask for money again? Her mind became anxious.
“Fabian mentioned that you’ve been busy lately and hasn’t been able to sleep much. I heard there’s been trouble building a harbor in Panador to the island of Retna, and the business in the capital is facing difficulties due to pressure from the imperial court.”
“You don’t have time to travel to and from distant regions, and come all the way here to see me. I’m worried your body would bother you, perhaps getting a cold…….”
She trailed off on her rambling, unable to bear his sticky gaze. Isabelle lowered her eyelids and deftly averted his gaze.
Though it had been three years since they married, Isabella’s heart still raced uncontrollably when she held his gaze.
Feelings are supposed to fade over time, but somehow, instead of diminishing, her feelings for him only deepened and grew with each passing day.
Richt’s hand reached out, fixing Isabella’s face in place. His large hand covered almost half of her face. A graceful outstretched thumb brushed her cheek, then her lips.
She could feel a strange desire at his fingertips. The man was not one for unnecessary touching, so it was a bit disconcerting.
Something was off about him today. Should it be described as discomfort? Or unfamiliarity? There was an indefinable aura surrounding him.