A knock sounded at the study door. Bastian briefly paused his call, turning his head while gripping the phone’s transmitter. The clock on the desk indicated it was 11 o’clock, the usual time for weekend morning tea.
“Come in,” he responded, quickly picking up the handset again. “Apologies. Please continue.”
After politely requesting the conversation to proceed, he leaned back against the edge of the desk, granting him a panoramic view of the window, the sea, and his father’s realm beyond. Unperturbed by the slowly opening door, Bastian stayed fully absorbed in Thomas Müller’s report.
The clouds cleared, revealing brilliant sunlight reflecting on the sea’s surface, and momentarily blinding him. Amidst that blissful sight, he listened to the long-awaited news – his father had finally fallen into his trap. Despite the prolonged search, he took the bait instantly. Now, Bastian only needed to tighten the grip and ensure his father couldn’t escape.
With Theodora Klauswitz as the sole remaining variable, Bastian harbored little worry. Her fatal flaw was her unwavering love for her husband, leading her to endure absurdity and enabling his father’s foolish dictatorship for years.
“We’ll still keep an eye on it.” Bastian calmly said as he leisurely opened the lid of the cigarette box placed next to the file folder.
Allowing his father to bask in a false sense of triumph, reaching a point of no return, proved to be the optimal strategy, though It was akin to a deceptive bluff, contrary to heroic psychology.
Jeff Klauswitz was among those who dedicate their entire lives to a singular goal. In light of this, Bastian wanted to express a small token of appreciation for his father’s final journey.
“Let’s exercise patience and continue preparing for our next move,” Bastian instructed calmly.
Knowing one mine wouldn’t be enough to bring his father down, he had set up a domino-like plan. The mine served as the initial trigger, setting off a sequence of subsequent traps. If they succeeded in toppling him, it would mean fulfilling his late grandfather’s task.
The phone call concluded with scheduling coordination for the upcoming board meeting next week. Bastian set down the warm receiver and turned around, cigarette in hand, searching for a lighter. However, to his surprise, he was met with an unexpected face: Odette
Odette stood in front of him, resembling a porcelain doll, and placed a tea tray at the desk’s edge. “I came on behalf of Lovis.” She spoke with a gentle smile, lifting the teapot. The aroma of brewed tea filled the room, mingling with the rising steam in the serene silence.
She put a teacup beside the spread-out documents. The midday sunlight streamed through the window, casting a glow upon her face.
“Did I break an etiquette rule?” She asked, her eyes shimmering with a captivating brilliance akin to the sparkling sea on a sunny day.
Bastian settled in front of the desk, holding the teacup she served, while the unlit cigarette and lighter sat untouched next to the pen stand.
The pen’s scratching ceased, plunging the room into a stifling silence. Odette sighed silently, taking in the study’s opulent surroundings. The walls were lined with grand bookshelves, brimming with an extensive collection. The furniture and decor exuded an overwhelming grandeur, making it challenging to concentrate on any one item.
Resisting the urge to get up, she reached for an unread book and reopened it. Yet, her senses remained wholly attuned to Bastian.
The mahogany desk stood commanding in front of the fireplace, positioned to observe his every move and gauge Odette’s actions as well. Bastian held a list of investors and documents regarding the diamond mine, all meeting Theodora’s specific and explicit demands.
The deadline loomed before the naval festival. While minor updates and progress reports could be conveyed through Molly, important documents were to be delivered directly.
Odette’s unheard objection to the tight schedule would undoubtedly harm her. With guilty eyes, she glanced at Bastian, who finished reviewing one document before unfolding the next. His unwavering focus on the task erased her presence in their shared space.
Bastian led an incredibly busy life, juggling naval duties on weekdays and managing his late grandfather’s business during evenings and weekends. His life operated like meshing of two gears, continuously turning without gaps.
Odette suspected that the conflicts over the family estate played a role. She may not have known much about the business, but she had a vague understanding of Theodora Klauswitz’s intentions in involving her as a spy.
Bastian’s quest for revenge seemed evident; his father had forsaken their ancestral home and even distanced himself from his own son in pursuit of marrying a noblewoman. He became a deserving target of his hatred and a potential object of his revenge.
Odette squeezed her eyes shut, taking deep breaths to steady her trembling hands gripping the table’s edge.
A doubt crept into her heart. Failure was not an option if she wanted to protect Tira.
Odette raised her gaze to meet Bastian’s as he lit his cigarette, his attention shifting towards her.
A tranquil haze enveloped their gaze, marked by the trailing smoke. Odette gracefully masked her unease with a subtle smile. Bastian wordlessly flicked the ashes, and turned his attention to the document before him.
Odette repeated the order to herself relentlessly. She had to protect Tira, even if it meant hurting Bastian. A scandal would ruin the reputation of a war hero. Whether Bastian knew or not, the consequences were dire – he would be labeled as a foolish if ignorant, an accomplice if aware. Even if Tira escaped punishment, the investigation would still shatter her life.
Though Bastian’s revenge against his father was incomplete, yet his wealth remained secure. But, a tarnished reputation can never be restored. Odette didn’t want to strip away the hard-earned reputation of a man who fought to transcend his social status. It was better for him to endure a recoverable financial loss instead.
With determination, Odette unfastened the brooch from her shawl while Bastian remained engrossed in signing the documents. Calculating the timing, she discreetly tucked the brooch into the crevice between the sofa cushions and armrest. Her motive was clear – she needed a valid reason to enter Bastian’s study alone.
As Bastian’s attention returned to the sofa, Odette skillfully concealed the brooch and relied on her smile as a shield.
Bastian observed Odette and resumed smoking without speaking.
Could he be suspicious?
As Odette endured his gaze, a sense of powerlessness washed over her. She couldn’t shake off the growing unease within her chest. Suddenly, the faint scratching and whimpering of a puppy behind the door reached her ears.
Bastian narrowed his eyes at the study door. Odette longed for an opportunity to escape, but Margrethe’s pitiful whining heightened her distress. Just as she was about to leave, Bastian rose from his desk and strode across the study. He swung the door open, startling Margrethe, who let out a frantic bark.
“Sorry, Bastian.” Odette quickly apologized and stood up. As she prepared to leave with Margrethe, Bastian surprised her by stepping back, allowing the dog to enter the study. Margrethe eagerly took the chance and dashed inside. Bastian casually closed the door and resumed his place at the desk as if nothing had happened.
Bewildered, Odette hugged Margrethe tightly, while Bastian, sitting upright, redirected his attention back to the documents before him.
“You can’t do that, Meg. It’s bad.” Odette lowered her voice and gently reprimanded the dog. The whimpering sounds momentarily subsided, and Margrethe wagged her tail in excitement.
Suddenly, laughter filled the room, catching her attention. Bastian’s chuckle rang out as he casually flipped through the documents, a warm and genuine smile graced his face, replacing his previously stern expression.
Summoning her courage, Odette rose to her feet, holding Margrethe close. Step by step, she approached Bastian’s desk, her heart pounding with anticipation.
“Bastian, Margrethe wants to apologize to you,” Odette said.
Bastian lifted his head, his gaze meeting hers, pushing her to quickly offer a feeble excuse.
“Margrethe likes you.”
“It seems your dog has different thoughts.”
“She’s just a bit shy,” Odette replied, finding herself with no other option but to become bolder. “Ladies often become bashful in the presence of gentlemen they like.”
Amidst her own absurd reasoning, the sound of Margrethe’s growling, teeth bared, seeped into the room. Bastian, silently observing the scene, suddenly erupted into hearty laughter.
With each step, Odette drew closer. Yet, Bastian remained unfazed,
She approached close enough to read the writing on the documents spread out on the desk.
Bastian still did not budge
With a smile of relief, Odette softly stroked Margrethe as the dog continued to emit soft growls.
The man’s lack of vigilance was a fortunate turn of events.