The sound of the night birds crying, the sound of the waves crashing. Only the occasional chirping of night bugs filled the lakeside.
A little bored, Olivier leaned back a little and stole another glance at Amélie’s backside.
To be precise, he wasn’t sitting up straight, but leaning back a little too loosely, like a thief in the night, sneaking…
at the nape of her neck, like a thief in the night.
It’s not like he’s a pervert…
The problem was that he couldn’t take his eyes off her, despite his best efforts.
As a few strands fell along her neck from her tightly pulled back hair, Olivier’s Adam’s apple twitched.
The person in question didn’t care about it at all, but the casually exposed nape kept bothering Olivier’s nerves.
As if he had seen something he couldn’t see, Olivier’s face flushed for no reason and he looked elsewhere.
The fragrant spring night was languidly passing. With each tickling spring breeze, petals fell from the trees in full bloom.
The lanterns floated serenely on the lake, and the petals fell silently to the ground…
He was looking at the nape of her neck again. Olivier felt embarrassed when he realised that his gaze had been drawn back to Amélie.
He didn’t mean to do this in the first place. He just wondered what the hell was going through her mind that she was silent for so long… That’s what he was thinking.
He really did, but then he saw the nape of her neck.
It wasn’t neat, it didn’t smell of cologne, it wasn’t covered in make-up. It was straight, slender, glowing bright in the dark…
Smells like sunshine. He had the sudden urge to check to see if she still smelled like that. He couldn’t believe he was having this thought, but he wanted to sneak a peek and put his nose or lips to her.
Appetites and sexual desires are similar. How strange.
Olivier chuckled to himself. This was so unlike him. He felt strangely nervous.
An uncomfortable, awkward, esoteric silence.
Rather… Is it better to see her face?
He found her chewing on her lip. Olivier looked her up and down, somewhat obsessively. The other person didn’t know anything about it, and he was the only one throwing fierce glances at her.
This was really unexpected.
He didn’t think he would be distracted by something like the nape of a maid’s neck. I mean, does this make sense? Who knew I could barely sit up straight!
Did I get too caught up in the situation?
Just pretending to be in love would have been enough, I never imagined my body would react like this. Did I suddenly gain a talent like being struck by lightning after going to drama classes since childhood?
I’m sure the teacher who taught Olivier at the time also said, ‘You’d be better off spending money than going on stage.’
The situation was beginning to get awkward. If Amélie Gagnier suddenly turned around…
Olivier, who had been leaning heavily on the backrest, bounced to his feet.
“I, I’m ready.”
Amélie took Olivier’s hand first.
Olivier’s gaze darted down to her hand in slight confusion, then back up to lock eyes with Amélie. Her eyes, he realised for the first time, were a deep chestnut colour.
“Promise me you’ll be a gentleman.”
“…Yes, Amélie. I promise.”
Olivier’s nerves were on edge.
The softest, most expensive gloves in Ezon were useless. His hands felt uncomfortable, as if they were trapped inside the armour.
Hands that had been gripped dry, without any emotion, just out of duty.
“Shall we get up, then?”
She moved, and the tiniest bit of friction heat formed in her palm, and Olivier’s body stiffened even more as he felt the heat of her body.
“Oh, hey, wait.”
Olivier laughed, crossing his long legs in a fake relaxed manner. In reality, he was creaking like a broken doll. He stared at the nape of her fucking white deer-like neck for a long time… What the fuck is this, like a pervert.
But what excuse should he say.
“Can you give me a minute?”
It didn’t seem appropriate to smoke, so he eventually pulled out a watch from the other empty hand and played around with it. Amélie turned her gaze towards the calm lake as if she were completely comfortable with waiting, like a person who is used to it.
A graceful line from the thick forehead to the bridge of the nose, and then the lips, a small chin. Even now, that damn neck with a mesmerizing quality, which even at this moment was oddly eye-catching.
Olivier swallowed dryly and glanced at Amélie’s face. Had he been isolated for too long, had he been away from women too much, had he broken down?
A gentle breeze stirred the sides of Amélie’s hair. A tiny ear peeked through the flowing hair, and Olivier’s stomach flipped again.
After squinting at the face for a while, Olivier finally turned his head in the other direction.
Maybe this wasn’t such a good plan after all.
* * *
It was a long time before Olivier pushed himself to his feet. He smiled cheerfully, saying he could walk now. That gorgeous smile pierced Amélie’s heart again.
It was nearing midnight, and the dampness of the forest made her feel a little cold. Her shoulders shivered with the chill, and the hand that held her tightly, not letting go as if she had made a promise, was surely hot.
Amélie struggled to stop crying. She didn’t know where she was going, just where the Duke was going, and she kept moving forward.
The lights of the lotus lanterns floating on the lake cast a soft light on the surrounding forest road.
Her shoes were suddenly reflected in the soft light filtering through the thick tree trunks.
Amélie’s face burned. She hadn’t even noticed it when she was working, but the front of the shoe was scuffed and stained. They were even a little wobbly at the front…
She tried not to notice, but she couldn’t help but stare. Amélie stole a glance at the Duke’s shoes as he walked in step with her.
Even the Count of Biché couldn’t afford shoes like that. The duke’s leather shoes were smooth and polished. It was as if he had never trodden a forest path like this…
Moreover, on the shallow slopes, she could see the faint stains of sauce on her apron.
The cuffs were also a problem. The poor quality woollen fabric was frayed, tattered and worn. The frayed cuffs were also a nuisance, with loose threads at the ends.
Amélie was getting shabbier and shabbier. Her ugly eyes kept comparing, which made her sad.
Originally, Amélie Gagnier was a person who disliked belittling herself. After saying phrases such as ‘how dare I’ or ‘I’m insignificant’ in front of Katarina with a lowered head, she would skip dinner due to the pain in her heart.
But she couldn’t help it…
When Amélie finally stopped pacing, Olivier tilted his head questioningly.
“Well, sir. I don’t think this is going to work. So I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to…”
Amélie glanced at his handsome cashmere suit in confusion. The immaculate, dust-free fabric made her feel embarrassed.
“Who cares how it looks?”
“I don’t think anyone will believe me.”
The words stopped Olivier in his tracks and he stared down at her. Amélie finally dropped her head, feeling a surge of shame.
“I feel so shabby and…”
She looked down, tears glistening on the tips of her lashes. She felt sorry for herself.
Amélie Gagnier, don’t be ridiculous. After tonight, you won’t have to go to jail, you won’t have to stay up all night for money.
If she lets go of his hand in a futile gesture, she’s going to jail.
Why do I have to break my heart so much when all I have to do is let go of this pride once…
Biting her lip, she wiped her palm lightly on the hem of her uniform, and the thick coat fell over her shoulders.
Startled, Amélie whirled around. Her frightened eyes glanced up at Olivier, then back down in a panic.
“I, Duke, this.”
“It’s okay, Amélie.”
A low voice settled overhead.
It was a voice that seemed dry or hot, and the temperature was difficult to judge.
“It will definitely look like that. Beautiful.”
Her mind went blank, like the blood was being drained from her body. This time Olivier grabbed her hand again.
“Let’s go, Amélie.”
His voice was soft as a feather.