Her own relationship with Diego was not as passionate as Madame Laura had hoped, but she could not reveal that. Estella shrugged in a noncommittal manner.

“It’s not a wedding, it’s an engagement. It doesn’t mean much.”

“Well, in a place like the Duke of Estella’s, what would people say if you took your wedding vows without even going through the engagement process?”

Madame Laura was as indignant as when Estella had told her of the limitations of a country maiden. As if to calm her, Estella led her to a seat on the couch. Laura didn’t seem to understand Estella’s calm demeanor and retorted diligently as she paced.

“It’s for your own good, young lady. It would be hard to be a duchess before you’ve had time to adjust to society.”

Estella nodded dryly. The former was probably true, but she doubted Diego had thought of the latter. More lucid dreaming than dreaming.

Madame Laura’s face grew serious as she realized Estella wasn’t listening carefully. She held up her index finger for Estella to focus.

“While it’s often said that one should not trust the words of men, His Grace doesn’t strike me as one of those frivolous gentlemen. Why do you think he has been postponing the engagement so cautiously all this time?”

‘It was the interference of his own father.’

Estella uttered in her mind the answer she could never give. At the same time, Madame Laura clasped her hands together and spoke dreamily.

“That is, to find a spouse that you truly love.”

The corner of Estella’s mouth twitched awkwardly. She didn’t completely disagree with Madame Laura, but there was something about it that caught her ear. After all, Madame Laura had consistently assured her that Diego had never been attracted to women. Estella asked curiously.

“Hasn’t anyone else been in contact with the Little Duke before?”

“To my knowledge, no. Well, I’ve heard that there are plenty of wealthy ladies throwing themselves at him, but that’s just gossip.”

“Is that so?”

Due to his proficiency in dealing with women, she had never considered that he might have had no prior romantic experience. However, if Madame Laura, who is closely associated with the ladies of the capital, hadn’t heard anything, it raises reasonable suspicions. If he truly has never been in a relationship with anyone before…….

……He hadn’t tried that, too?

Estella pondered the original work. Even her memories from her previous life were not particularly vivid, let alone the details of the book she read before she died. She couldn’t recall every minute aspect of the story, apart from a few key elements. One thing was certain: 「The Contract Marriage with the Dangerous Duke」 was a book not suitable for readers under the age of 19, and in the scenes where the heroine and the Duke shared a bed, well…… Diego was quite……..

Estella stopped thinking about it, because she felt like she was molesting him in her head. Anyway, the Diego in the book didn’t seem so immature. Granted, the protagonist’s default demeanor was one of chastity, and Diego was indeed the star of a novel deemed unsuitable for adolescent readers. But was it really possible for someone to handle their first experience so skillfully?

She knew she’d have to sneak a question to Diego at some point in the future. As much as her curiosity was piqued about the story behind the original, she was also curious about whether or not it was true.

If Diego had experienced being in a relationship with someone, Estella might not have been so deeply interested in his chastity. Despite the emphasis on purity as a marriage condition, the private lives of nobles were often scandalous. There could have been a night when a drunken Diego, without his knowledge, locked eyes with an unknown woman in secret.

If he really did have a casual fling like that, she’d be pretty disappointed. Estella didn’t think much of the idea of emotionless intercourse. Perhaps it was the deeply rooted Confucian tendencies that remained with her.

“I see you have no faith in the Duke.”

Whether Madame Laura read Estella’s expression of doubt or not, she smiled. She unfolded the fabric and held it against Estella’s body.

“Sometimes, don’t you think you should enjoy the good fortune you’ve been given? Good days may be fleeting, but it would be a shame not to enjoy them.”

Her erroneous judgment of Diego as a person aside, Madame Laura’s lesson was worth taking. Estella resolved to enjoy her newfound fiancé in an unconventional way.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Estella smiled thinly, and Madame Laura smiled back. The conversation ended there, as the day was urgent if the garment was to be made. Fortunately, the last order had given Madame Laura a decent amount of data on Estella. She had a good idea of what would and wouldn’t look good on her.

Once the right fabric was chosen, the rest was history. Before the sun went down, Madame Laura had completed a design sketch with Estella’s input. It was at this point that Diego, who hadn’t shown his face, claiming to be busy with work, returned.

“Are you finished yet?”

At her fiancé’s appearance, Madame Laura pulled out the sketchbook she had tucked away in her bag. The engagement dress was particularly tricky, given that she had two clients.

“We’ve just finished discussing what style to make. Do you have a particular design in mind for the lady?”

It was not uncommon for a dress to be made to the woman’s liking and then rejected by the man, and then to be made to the man’s liking and then rejected by the woman. It had happened more than once, so Madame Laura was prepared to change her mind. She’d rather have them tell her what to do at the sketching stage. There was nothing more frustrating than having to rip out fabric after it had been sewn.

But in contrast to Madame Laura’s determined demeanor, Diego refused to intervene.

“After seeing your workmanship last time, I don’t think I need to say anything.”

Madame Laura said, half-heartedly.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to check it out?”

“I will cherish for my own pleasure how beautiful she will be on her engagement day.”

Diego replied crisply. Inwardly, Estella thought he was throwing firewood on Madame Laura’s fantasies. She hadn’t expected him to sound so romantic about not being able to be bothered to look at the designs. It was in these sparse moments that Estella realized his eligibility as a leading man.

He even came and sat down next to her, casually pulling her shoulders into a hug. No wonder Madame Laura’s eyes wrinkled in amusement.

“Very well, then, I will keep this a secret between you and Estella.”

With that, Madame Laura turned on her heel and stood up. As she ordered the retreat, a bale of fabric was wheeled back outside. Not wanting to repeat herself, Estella turned to Diego for confirmation.

“Are you sure you don’t want to look?”

“Why should I? It’s only a matter of if I like it.”

Diego looked at Estella and replied, his arm still resting on her shoulder. Estella tried to twist her body to free herself, but his burdensome restraint did not loosen. She had already shown him enough to satisfy Madame Laura, so she couldn’t understand why he was still clinging to her.

Just then, a raspy cough came from the front. Madame Laura was standing right in front of them, tidying up.

“Well, I’m going to go inside now. Please be back in a week to try it on.”

“Ah, Madame Laura. Thank you for all your hard work today. I’ll be waiting for your beautiful dress.”

Eventually, with Diego clinging tightly to her, she said goodbye to Madame Laura. Estella waved goodbye and Madame Laura turned to leave. As soon as she heard the door close, Estella jumped to her feet. Estella walked to the window as if she was going to make a break for it.

“My legs are tingling after sitting for so long.”

As she spoke, she glanced back at Diego. He was still leaning back lazily on the couch. The hand that had been on her shoulder was now resting casually on the backrest. He rubbed his temple with the back of his hand and stared at her intently. His gaze was uncomfortable, so she quickly changed the subject.

“So, if you’re so busy, why are you here? You haven’t expressed any opinions or suggestions.”

The silence was awkward, and she hadn’t meant to say anything, but she had been taken aback by his unexpected visit. He had barely shown his face to Madame Laura, but he hadn’t actually done anything with his presence.

“Well, I had something to give you…….”

Diego trailed off, then gave a short shrug.

“I’m just a little nervous about giving it to you.”

“What is it that makes you so nervous?”

She wasn’t sure what it was that made Diego so nervous. The corner of Diego’s mouth twitched as he caught Estella’s curious glance. He asked with a mischievous grin.

“Are you excited?”

“I’m curious to see what it is.”

“Well, let’s go out to the terrace first.”

“The terrace?”

Estella turned around, puzzled. On the outside wall of the parlor was a large window that reached to the ceiling. The curtains were drawn, and the sun was shining brightly as the day progressed, so the outside was completely obscured.

Estella reached through the gap in the curtain with a half-hearted look on her face and grabbed the handle. She was about to turn it when Diego, who had just approached, put his hand over hers.

“The drawing-room is a space designed to showcase to guests. It allows them to admire the view of the mansion’s gardens, thanks to its layout.”

“Is it to display wealth and prestige?”

“Why do you always approach things with such materialistic perspective?”

A raspy chuckle escaped his lips. Estella felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Was it because a man with a history of murder had approached her?

Unbeknownst to Estella, Diego standing behind her couldn’t possibly have sensed her critical thoughts. He pushed the door open as if he wanted to share his source of pride with her.

“Anyway, isn’t it beautiful?”

Estella didn’t even have time to answer. She just stood there, dumbfounded, staring into the grapefruit-colored sunset.

Only after a moment did Estella regain her footing. By the time she reached the railing, her slow steps had turned into a rush.

It was a mesmerizing sight. The manor’s gardens, bathed in sunset colors, looked out over the terrace below. Beyond the walls, the streets she’d passed by so many times before were clustered together like miniature models. The sun hung at the edge of the sky, casting a radiant backlight on the scene.

error: Content is protected !!