✧The Husband’s Wednesday Homecoming✧
Thomas Muller let out a heavy sigh as he approached the young master. “It’s time for you to take a well-deserved break, my friend. You’ve been holed up here all weekend, so go home and get some proper rest.”
Bastian strode into his office with a smile on his face, his uniform from the Admiralty still fresh from a day’s work. Despite the grueling workload he’s faced since Monday, he radiated an uncharacteristic energy, his brisk pace belying any fatigue.
Bastian placed his hat on the desk and pivoted to face Thomas. “It seems like it’s the director who could use a break.”
“Are you trying to be humorous?” Thomas replied, arching an eyebrow.
“You didn’t tell my grandfather that,” Bastian countered.
“Because he was a far better man than his grandson,” Thomas shot back. The complaint that was previously on his lips dissolved into a fit of helpless laughter.
Carl Illis was by no means an easy boss—he had a fiery temperament and bulllike stubbornness—but at least he was more compassionate than his grandson. He wasn’t alone in thinking that; everyone who worked for this family did.
“That is the ultimate praise,” Bastian said as he slowly lifted his closed lids and rang the call bell. A secretary soon entered, carrying a steaming cup of robust coffee.
Thomas watched Bastian savor his coffee, his gaze growing introspective. “It’s all winding down now. No need to hurry,”
Fake mines. Bonds and stock are reduced to paper crumbs. Ghost businesses dressed as golden-egg-laying geese.
Nearing completion was the Jeff Klauswitz capture trap. Finding a good location and setting the bait were the only remaining tasks.
“Let’s strive to complete it as swiftly as we can.” Bastian replied resolutely, his tone leaving no room for negotiation. At first glance, his face appeared to be that of a stern priest, perhaps due to the color of his uniform that bore a striking resemblance to religious attire.
“It’s not as if it’s going to end anytime soon. It will take time to fully engage them. It’s all about being patient…”
“I understand,” Bastian interjected with a polite smile. “It doesn’t matter how many years it takes. It’s not difficult to wait for a predetermined conclusion. But I don’t think we need to be bogged down with this task for too long. Don’t you agree?”
“Is there anything in particular that leads you to believe that?” Thomas asked.
Bastian placed his half-empty cup down calmly, “I’m planning to relocate to Ardennes this week, so I need to wrap up all my pressing matters before then.”
As they spoke, the sunset reached its peak and painted the office a brilliant shade of red.
He made every effort to put off the joining until the day of his departure for the frontier, but it was becoming increasingly impossible to keep to that schedule because of Crown Prince Belov’s unanticipated factor.
On the day he was unexpectedly summoned to the imperial palace, the emperor himself broke the news. ‘Crown Prince Belov, who is heading a delegation on a state visit to Berg, has expressed his desire to attend the simultaneous naval festival’
The Prince offered a credible excuse of checking in on allies, but the true intention was unmistakable. It was evident that they sought to verify the legitimacy of the scandal that had made headlines beyond their borders. This meant that Bastian and Odette had to put on a flawless display as a couple. It was, of course, what the emperor desired as well.
Thomas Muller, lost in thought, posed a question. “It’s not ideal for newlyweds to be separated like this, but this arrangement is somewhat unconventional. Perhaps it would be better for Mrs. Klauswitz to temporarily reside in Ratz?”
“If the listing issue gets resolved, I won’t have much difficulty staying in Ardennes and handling the business,” Bastian stated nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders. “I have no qualms entrusting my wife with a task that falls within my jurisdiction.”
Obviously, Thomas had a point. He didn’t have to be in such a rush because there was still plenty of time before Crown Prince Belov’s arrival. Bastian was fully aware that after stabilizing the business, it would be sufficient to move through with the merger.
It was a necessary step in the end. Bastian gazed down at the phone on the desk. He had lingered in front of it for an extended period the day he impulsively made a decision. It was during the sunset hour, much like now, on the evening he returned from the imperial palace. Yet, Bastian simply stared at the phone, not daring to pick it up.
Bastian didn’t have to explain anything to Odette or ask her for her understanding. The phone’s late-night quiet made this clear and confirmed that she felt the same way.
Bastian steeled his emotions as soon as he realized their connection was only a business arrangement. There was no reason why they couldn’t live together if it was only a business relationship. This would increase the emperor’s confidence and increase the value of the deal.
That was a choice that would be beneficial to Odette as well.
“I thought you were opposed to this marriage,” Despite the lighthearted laughter, Thomas’s gaze was piercing as he gazed at Bastian. “Turns out you’re a much better husband than I anticipated.”
Bastian nonchalantly unbuttoned his uniform as he quipped, “You have a noble bride, so why shouldn’t you?” The interplay of light and shadow accentuated the sharp contours of his face, adding an air of mystery to his appearance.
“But your wife is a stunning woman,” Thomas said, before retracting his statement.
Leaving on his device, Bastian removed his shirt and jacket one by one and walked up to the washbasin. His consciousness was much clearer after he washed his face with cold water. While it was insufficient for him to completely overcome his accumulated exhaustion, it was plenty for the remainder of the work being done.
He changed into fresh attire and tidied his disheveled hair. He meticulously arranged the uniform he had removed, a habit ingrained from his extensive military service. With his tie in place, he retrieved his jacket from the back of his chair and made his way out of the office.
As he entered the elongated hallway leading to the conference room, the memory of the woman who had been endlessly awaiting his return surfaced in his mind.
Odette remained in the fading summer sunlight, and he could easily picture her from that day.
The expression on her face that resembled that of an abandoned kid when she first spotted him in the moving car and the vacant stare in her eyes
The carefree passage of the urban landscape and the hemline of her yellow dress fluttered in the wind.
The reason why the incident was so vividly etched was presumably due to its exceptionality. It was surprising that a woman who normally exuded calm and style would display such intensity. Maybe it was an illusion brought on by a misrepresented memory.
With a shake of his head, Bastian strode confidently down the sun-drenched corridor. There was no use in speculating. It was more prudent to complete the task at hand and lay his eyes on the woman himself.
With only three days left, Bastian estimated the amount of time left and again fussed over his tie knot. His plan abruptly changed as he walked up to the conference room door where the board members were waiting with eagerness.
Possibly two days. That appeared to be plenty.
Odette was rehearsing a challenging tune on the piano in the solarium when she heard that Bastian had arrived. It was a tired afternoon, and she was having trouble understanding the difficult composition.
“What day is it today?” Odette asked, attempting to mask her bewilderment.
“It’s Wednesday, ma’am,” the maid replied, looking quite puzzled.
Odette nodded, confirming that her recollection was accurate, but this only deepened her confusion.
She didn’t understand how a man who hadn’t even arrived on the promised weekend had shown up here on a Wednesday. Was it the sun, which was incredibly clear and bright? She felt like she was dreaming oddly.
“If I may be so bold, shouldn’t you go see the master as soon as possible?” Dora offered her cautious advice, clearing her throat.
Only then did Odette snap out of her daze and hastily rise from the piano. Upon entering the grand foyer of the mansion, she realized that she was not appropriately dressed.
She stopped in the middle of adjusting her hair, which had been braided like a child’s when Lovis walked up to her. She was startled by the sound of an unknown voice, and it took her a second to identify the elderly guy who was bowing profoundly in her presence.
“Hello, Lovis. It’s been a while,” Odette greeted him.
Fortunately, Odette recalled that Lovis served as the household’s butler. He had made a brief stopover during the wedding week before going back to Ratz to help Bastian, as she remembered. Behind him were the other servants, who bowed in unison.
Everyone who was still working at the Ratz townhouse had relocated there.
Odette made an effort to comprehend what that reality meant. No. She was actually aware of the answer. She was simply not prepared to accept it.
The elderly butler observed as Odette glanced around the hallway, “The master has already gone up to the bedroom.”
Odette’s eyes widened in shock as she looked up at the magnificent central staircase in the hallway. Bastian had changed from the kind guest he had been pretending to be. He appeared to be claiming his ownership of the gorgeous mansion as the rightful owner.
With each step up the staircase, Odette struggled to keep her nerves from unraveling, determined to maintain a sense of composure. However, her heart refused to cooperate, beating erratically as she approached the third floor where the couple’s bedroom was situated. It was as if her anxiety was betraying her, threatening to expose her unease at any moment.
“No, ma’am, not that room.”
She heard another strange voice as she unlocked Bastian’s bedroom door. Young attendant who was most likely from Ratz.
“The master is there,” was said. The attendant made a courteous gesture, pointing to Odette’s bedroom.
Why on earth?
Odette unlocked her room’s door with a shaky hand as she was overcome by a nagging dread.
Bastian stood before the window, gazing out at the sea as waves of white light danced around him, creating an ethereal aura.
Odette steeled herself and crossed the threshold into the bedroom, taking a deep breath. As the door clicked shut, Bastian slowly turned to face her. Despite the gravity of the situation, his demeanor was oddly composed, his head slightly bowed and hands clasped behind his back. But there was also an air of arrogance about him, a quality that seemed out of character for the person who had committed such a heinous act.
Like a tempest suppressed within her, Odette initially responded to Bastian’s presence with a courteous facade. However, as she lifted her head to meet his gaze, the full weight of reality came crashing down upon her, threatening to overwhelm her. It was as though the turbulent emotions she had been holding back had been unleashed all at once.
Her mind wandered back to the Wednesday her husband had arrived, the sea sparkling in the distance under a clear, mild sky that bridged the gap between summer and fall.