“Did you enjoy your meal, Milady? I’m almost done cleaning up your room.”
“Thank you, Julie.”
When Grace returned to her room, Julie—who had been making her bed—welcomed her back.
With weak steps, Grace headed towards the neatly arranged bed and plopped down on it.
She closed her eyes and lay still, but she felt nauseous nonetheless.
Even though she was now in a quiet room, lying on a comfortable bed, it felt as if she was lying on a sailboat instead. She must have really gotten indigestion.
Letting out a soft sigh, Grace got up.
“Julie, can you get me a glass of plum juice? I don’t feel well.”
“Have you got an upset stomach, Milady?”
Appropriately closing the curtains to lessen the light inside the room, Julie observed her master’s face and slow words.
“Yes, I think so.”
Julie got ahold of the situation as soon as she saw Grace smiling helplessly.
‘They must have said something to Milady during their meal again.’
The men of House O’Ellin were quick to torment Grace.
Julie’s master was so pretty and smart and lovely, but why did they insist on antagonizing her all the time?
‘I heard that the O’Ellin men have a predilection for preying on women. At the end of it all, it couldn’t be helped because they’re related by blood.’
Julie left the room hurriedly with a discontented pout on her lips.
The father and son duo of House O’Ellin were particularly heartless towards women.
This behavior did not change even towards the household’s only daughter, and the servants were not safe either.
Carol had been the head maid since the madam was still alive, but even she couldn’t say anything good about Marquis O’Ellin.
Being the son of such a father, Norman also often looked at female servants as if they were bugs.
Julie thought that growing up with that kind of father and older brother had made Grace weak.
If it hadn’t been for this terrible environment, Julie’s master would have blossomed and went on to do so many more wonderful things.
But having been raised in proximity with that father and son, she blossomed only halfway, and it looked more like she was withering without blooming fully.
The foremost problem was Norman, not Marquis O’Ellin.
‘He’s her older brother, but he couldn’t even congratulate her for her successes. Narrow-minded prick.’
Julie grumbled to herself as she poured plum juice for Grace, then she secretly took out some ice from the storage and put it in the cup.
And on the way out of the dining hall, she secretly spat on the fork and knife that was exclusively used by Norman and Marquis O’Ellin.
* * *
“Huu, I’m so out of it.”
After Julie left, Grace tossed and turned for a moment, but she soon got up from her bed and rose to her feet.
She got scolded by her father, but since it’s now become part of her daily life, she didn’t feel like that was a big deal.
As if Norman and their father were on the same side, she could push whatever they said through one ear and out the other.
Grace’s self-esteem wasn’t low enough that she’d be hurt by such words.
The only person who made Grace tremble was Lucas Blacke.
She closed her eyes, feeling a breeze blow past her.
What came to mind right now was the tip of the clear blade that Lucas Blacke held high that night, her nausea got worse.
Her entire body began to tremble as though she had been thrown into a freezing cold lake.
“Calm down, Grace.”
She took in a deep breath and forcibly suppressed her fear.
Consciously pushing away the afterimage of the tip of that sword, she instead recalled Lucas’ blue eyes.
On the upper part of a body that looked like a sculptor’s masterpiece, his eyes were like jewels of the sea.
Fortunately, her body temperature went back to normal little by little.
Grace was not afraid of Lucas Blacke himself.
Though he looked ferocious and though he had such a built physique that he could easily carry her with one arm, that’s not what she was afraid of.
What made her tremble was the vivid memory of the tip of the blade he held, and so he was naturally associated with it.
That’s what Grace could not bear.
The memory of that night which touched Grace’s biggest weakness was the tip of the blade, as it reflected red blood and the moonlight.
Grace has been suffering that phobia ever since she was a child.
To be precise, whenever she saw any needles or sharp things, her appetite would drop and she’d feel chills all over her body.
It was just to that extent when she was a child.
But as she grew up, her phobia grew worse.
It was a tolerable fear nevertheless, but the day this fear peaked was during the first day she met Lucas Blacke.
The tip of the sharp sword that reflected the moonlight, and at the same time, the spurting blood of a man.
Then followed the screams resounding into the night air, even as the man’s mouth had been gagged.
Grace was unable to cope at all.
For about a year, she remained like that, and she couldn’t even hold a fork properly because of her worsening phobia.
Seeing Grace in that state, Marquis O’Ellin looked at her disapprovingly, treating her like a half-wit.
All he said was that he couldn’t even bring her outside out of embarrassment.
But Grace did not collapse beneath her father’s and her older brother’s brutal gazes.
Fortunately, the employees of this mansion were kind to her, as opposed to her family, who gave her colder impressions than an ice pick.
Perhaps they felt sorry for her because she was being tormented by that kind of father and brother.
Maybe it was sympathy, or maybe it was a sense of kinship.
Whatever it was, Grace’s phobia alleviated with their consideration and help.
She now only had to watch out for injections and needles, but…
“…I didn’t expect to meet him again like this.”
And there were even marriage talks between them.
Grace grabbed her throbbing head.
The fingertips that were touching her forehead were shaking again.
‘Huu, look at this, again…’
Taking a deep breath, she clenched her trembling hands into fists.
Based on her few interactions with him however, Lucas Blacke was fortunately not such a frightening man.
Of course, he had an intimidating outward appearance, but that couldn’t be helped.
The way he talked to her and the gaze he reserved for her was the most polite she had ever seen in any man she had encountered before.
Well, she had only ever interacted with her father and older brother, so the comparative group she had right now was much too extreme.
“Still, that doesn’t mean that I’d be able to endure staying at his side.”
Grace murmured with certainty.
She wanted to avoid this marriage somehow.
Blinded by his ambitions as he was, her father would punish her immediately if he’d find out about what she thought. But really, if she had the chance for it, she wanted to continue being single for the rest of her life.
But he wouldn’t be able to read her mind.
Back when she saw him off, she just stared silently right at that spot.
He was a breathtakingly handsome man. At the same time, a breathtakingly frightening man.
He put his own coat over her shoulders as she was wearing her nightgown, then told her to return it herself.
She couldn’t read Lucas Blacke’s mind either.
He had been furious by her father’s rude remarks.
He acted in that way, but what was his intention with inviting her to his residence?
A servant could have just taken it back to him.
“I haven’t the slightest clue.”
Grace’s expression was severely hardened.
She’s considered to be intelligent, but whenever she was faced with the beings known as men, she would become powerless and as lost as a child.
Especially when considering what kind of men she had to live with in her own house.
Therefore, the invitation that Lucas had extended towards Grace was something she interpreted as driven by malice rather than goodwill.
“Perhaps… is he asking me to bring something with me on that day?”
Grace raised her head for a moment.
“Right. It could be something to prove my sincere gratitude or apology.”
Now that she thought of it, her father and Norman were always like that.
If she ever made a mistake, they would use that to attack her.
Her father would only get furious with her, but Norman would either take something from her or break her belongings.
Lucas Blacke might be different from Norman, but it was to Grace’s understanding that he might have asked her to come to his residence because there’s something he wanted from her.
As if she had found the answer, Grace brightened up.
Right. It was easier this way.
After preparing a gift that he might like while returning his coat, Grace thought that it might not be bad to talk.
That is, about how it would be difficult for the both of them to get married.
And so, her immediate concern was the gift that might suit him.
But right then.
“Milady, I brought you your juice…”
Before Julie could even close the door behind her.
“Grace O’Ellin, you licentious woman!”
Pushing Julie aside, Norman shouted as he barged into Grace’s room.
As she was sitting by the window, Grace jumped up and turned her gaze towards Norman the moment he went in.
To be exact, she looked at Julie, whose eyes were as wide as a surprised rabbit’s behind Norman.
The startled Julie quickly nodded as soon as she met Grace’s eyes.
She ran straight to Grace’s vanity table.
And as soon as Julie’s hand touched something on the table, Norman’s wide palm struck Grace on the cheek.
Grace’s head jerked to the side at once because he hit her so hard.
The air in the room was already hushed and quiet in the first place, but the atmosphere instantaneously sank in that one second.
“You better behave properly, debaucherous wench!”
Laced entirely with sarcasm, Norman’s voice sounded as if it was ringing through the right ear that he had slapped.
Grace took a short, deep breath. Then, she slowly turned her head and looked straight at Norman.
“I told you before to stop hitting me, Norman O’Ellin.”
As Grace stared at her older brother, her eyes were surprisingly calm.
Her gaze was relaxed—neither frightened nor indignant.
As if to mock her, Norman retorted viciously.
“Is there something wrong about an older brother trying to fix the shameless behavior of his wench of a younger sister?”
Norman’s tone was entirely sardonic, but not once did he even make Grace’s eyelashes tremble.
Because this girl who didn’t know her place, he was kicking up a fuss just to make Grace shudder like a weak lily.
But it was only because he did not truly know her that he could say such things.
Grace was not a flower that could be picked just like that.
Rather, she was like a statue with a solid iron core that did not move at all.
As if she was laughing at him during all the years that he had tried to break her.
So he despised her even more.
This wench looked as if she was fragile yet she was not, and she looked as if she would crumble yet she absolutely would not.
Just to make it so that she wasn’t even remotely aloof or detached, he really wanted to twist that neck at least once.
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