Before getting off the carriage, Olivier repeatedly brainwashed Henri with his final mission. Yes, yes. Henri kept nodding his head incessantly and checked his notebook, then suddenly blurted out.
“I, Master. So, really today, here with the maid…”
Olivier smirked at the assertion.
“Even if I’m not here…”
“Leaving quickly helps.”
“You don’t have to be so sarcastic… Well then, I’ll come to serve you in the morning.”
He nodded, as if he really wanted to get Henri to leave as soon as possible, Olivier unlocked the carriage door with his own hand before the valet at the Biché could open it.
The Biché’s valet, Georges, who had almost bumped into the door, quickly stepped aside and bowed respectfully to Olivier Dampierre.
* * *
“He isn’t here yet?”
“Yes, my lady.”
Katarina Biché was bustling around the servants since earlier. Many guests will attend the party today, but it was only Olivier Dampierre she was waiting for.
He hadn’t been to a social event in years, and his first choice was her party!
That alone would make her name soar. Katarina, drenched in heels, was overcome with happiness.
“His Grace, the Duke Olivier Dampierre, is entering.”
Heads turned as the Grand Duke Olivier Dampierre strutted into the main hall. Katarina Biché stood carefully in front of him.
“Greetings, Duke, I’m Katarina of the Biché family.”
She pretended to be imposing, but her body trembled. Everyone in the room was staring at her and Olivier, and for her, this was a historic moment.
The little duke jerked his chin arrogantly, then glanced down at the hand that Katarina Biché held out to him, her cheeks flushed.
He looked reluctant, but he took her hand anyway. Barely, just a fingertip, like someone forced to touch something unclean.
Katarina, smiling, withdrew her hand from his unceremoniously. She had also doused the inside of her wrist with a perfume she called the Scent of Seduction. The carnal, heavy scent is said to appeal to men…
But the Duke was harsh.
“I think you should wear less of that perfume, it’s a bit gross.”
Even at that, as if it were an expression of restrained inner feelings, the duke openly frowned. Katarina blinked her eyes.
But before she could lose her self-respect, Olivier Dampierre deftly changed his expression and smiled.
“I thank you for this fateful occassion today.”
A fateful occassion…?
Olivier spared her an explanation, but as quiet as he was, Katarina’s mind was going crazy. Right now, Olivier was staring at her.
“Yes, Duke. In Ezon’s free spirit. I’ve arranged it all so that we, all of us, can find our destiny…”
Katarina murmured dreamily, and Olivier, who had been sweeping the bustling main hall, raised an eyebrow.
Excellent… She was completely overwhelmed. It seemed that she would be willing to throw herself into the crowd of socialites who worshiped Olivier Dampierre.
She forgot the shame of being mocked as a country bumpkin by the noble ladies of Ezon who secretly pointed their fingers at her.
Also, the gossip that she’s ‘being crazy about men and is no different from being a courtesan’ had been erased from her memory.
The slanderous words of rude, big-lipped and ignorant gentlemen have all been forgotten.
“The Duke… is so handsome.”
“Yes, what… I know.”
The Duke shrugged, as if he just wanted to get out of there. But the mere answer sent shivers down Katarina’s spine.
His golden hair, swept up without pomade, fell halfway to his forehead, giving him a sultry look. Dark eyebrows and deep eyes beneath. A straight nose and luscious lips that must have been red from the day he was born…
“Duke, will you have a moment with me…”
Barely gathering her courage, Katarina reached for the arm of the Duke Dampierre, but he pulled it back and smiled politely.
“If you’ll excuse me.”
Hailing a passing waiter, he raised a glass of champagne and disappeared into the crowd, just as a large clock chimed to announce the start of the performance.
* * *
Olivier pushed his way through the crowd, looking for a suitable place to sit.
He wondered what kind of people would come to a place like this, but it seemed that every nobleman he knew in Ezon society was in or out of the Biché mansion.
Most of the attendees were children of high ranking nobles, most of whom found Olivier difficult, and none of whom were particularly close to him.
If he made eye contact, they would flinch and then ask to be introduced, or they would take a few steps back and make way.
He didn’t want to be close to them, but he’s grown tired of this atmosphere. He just wants to find Amélie Gagnier as soon as possible…
“Look who it is, Dampierre!”
Olivier’s friends who found him came over and embraced him. Like Count Monceau or Jacques Belfre…
“Thought you were gonna end up in some monastery or something instead of a party.”
“Because you guys were making so much noise.”
“Who are you catching and eating today?”
The conversation was soon interrupted by the loud thumping of the can-can dance. Leaning back on the velvet sofa, Olivier sipped his champagne and glanced briefly at the stage.
A feast of flesh indeed. It was the ultimate decadence. As the dancers continued their dazzling display, Olivier clicked his tongue and turned to the corner.
“Ollie. Where are you looking?”
Monceau chuckled, but Olivier didn’t hide his weariness.
“They look like exhibitionists.”
Olivier watched the patrons coming and going, but still, the brown-haired, pretty maid was nowhere to be found, and his throat burned.
In the darkness, he was startled to see someone abruptly pull a rmaid’s wrist, but thankfully it wasn’t Amélie Gagnier, whom he was looking for.
Still, what a despicable bastard…
He squinted, wondering whose bitch it was, but Monceau leaned over, bumping his leg.
“Looking for anyone?”
Just then, a group of dancers swayed their naked bodies to and fro, pushing their way through the crowd of noblemen. Monceau locked eyes with one of them and whispered to Olivier.
“Word has spread that you’re coming tonight, and all of Ezon has their eyes on this party. No wonder Katarina’s so uptight.”
“Nevermind. I’ll stay for a while and leave.”
“But you’ve come this far? Hey, Olli.”
Grimacing in frustration, Monceau lowered his voice to a whisper.
“You have the dirtiest obligation to have fun among all these bastards right now. Like someone who has been caught and is sobbing.”
“What are you talking about?”
Monceau, somehow intent on putting his friend on the list of Ezon’s top bastards, refused to give up and tried to persuade Olivier.
“If it turns out that you’re a dysfunctional, celibate man, then all of your flirtation will be for naught. If word gets out that Olivier Dampierre is actually a decent and clean man, your grandmother will want to sell your portrait abroad.”
With that, Monceau gave way to a dancer who burrowed into the seat next to him. A fast-moving hand slid down the dancer’s bare chest and through the straps of her underwear.
“Ollie, you do it too, quick.”
Just then, another dancer tried to put a hand on Olivier’s shoulder, and he scrambled to his feet, his eyes widening.
“The perfume is choking me. I’m going to go outside. I’ll handle this my way.”
Monceau shook his head, but pulled the dancer who was trying to cling to Olivier toward him.
“He hates things like this. Come on.”
The dancer looked at Olivier with a wistful expression, then changed his mind when he saw the ruby and sapphire rings on each of Monceau’s fingers. And so began a breathtaking dance of courtship on the young Count’s lap.