Ch. 160 Stop Right There
Elena had been too preoccupied with the turmoil in her mind to eat much, and Carlisle kept shooting her concerned glances. After finishing dinner, they both returned to their shared bedroom.
‘…Why was he looking at me so affectionately?’
She remembered how her brother would leave her a cup of sweet cocoa after her father became upset with him. It would never fail to lift her spirits whenever she drank it, but the feeling she had from Carlisle’s gaze contained a deeper sweetness than the cocoa.
The problem was that nothing about Carlisle had changed; nothing in his gaze, tone, and behavior.
What had changed what her acceptance of him.
‘Keep your head straight, Elena. Don’t you remember what you have to do?’
The lives of her family members were on her shoulders. She had no time to look elsewhere. However…she couldn’t help but feel an attraction towards Carlisle. She didn’t know when it started. At some point, the emotion had embedded itself deep in her mind and sprouted roots. If she looked back at him, she knew that her heart would beat wildly.
‘I’m beginning to be aware of the opposite sex…’
Elena briskly shook her head. She had to sort this out before it tightened its grip on her. She needed to keep her distance from Carlisle…
Elena let out an involuntary gasp. When she looked up in the mirror, she saw Carlisle staring right at her.
“W-what are you doing here, Caril?”
“You didn’t respond to me no matter how many times I called you.”
She must have been too lost in thought to realize he had been calling her. Carlisle, however, did not leave. He simply leaned against the door frame of the powder room with his arms crossed as he stared at her. Elena broke eye contact from him and opened her mouth to speak.
“Well, you’ve checked in on me, so you may leave now.”
“What were you thinking about?”
Just a moment ago, Elena shook her head to shove away the thoughts in her mind. Anyone would be curious.
Carlisle looked at her doubtfully, but fortunately he didn’t press her further. He continued to study Elena’s face for a moment, then turned and strode away with his long legs.
“Whatever it is, it’s time to go to bed.”
Elena remembered they were married. It was impossible to stay away from Carlisle while she tried to find her peace of mind. Under the terms of the contract marriage, they had to face each other at every meal, and then they would see each other again each time when they went to bed.
Elena dropped her forehead onto her hand.
After she finished in the powder room, she took a few cautious steps into the bedroom, and saw Carlisle was seated languidly on the couch waiting up for her. His ordinary appearance felt different from usual, even though he was unchanged.
Elena kept her voice casual as she spoke.
“You don’t have to wait up for me. If you’re tired, you can go to bed first.”
“It’s fine. I won’t extinguish the lamps until you come in anyway.”
“Don’t worry. I can see well in the dark and find my way to bed.”
Carlisle didn’t object, and Elena was satisfied that he accepted her request. They would be able to sort out how to stay in this room.
Carlisle made to stand up from the couch, when Elena quickly raised her hand to stop him.
“Why are you getting up?”
“Oh! I’ll extinguish them, so please lie back down.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Please let me do it.”
Carlisle looked at her questioningly, but he finally relented and sat back down on the coach.
Elena didn’t want Carlisle to come too close to her. In order to extinguish the lamps, he would have to come near the bed where Elena was lying down, and her feelings might excite her again. Out of sight, out of mind. While some contact was inevitable as a married couple, she wanted as much distance as possible so she could regain her composure.
“I’ll turn them off.”
She hurriedly extinguished all the lights in the bedroom. She would normally leave a bedside lamp on, but she wanted the darkness and the illusion of sleeping alone. Sharing a bedroom with someone she was starting to see as a man made her feel awkward in many ways.
The bedroom darkened. Elena walked to the bed, avoiding Carlisle and the couch as much as possible.
‘Don’t waste time thinking about him, and work on how you’re going to live in the palace—Ow!’
She was so preoccupied with avoiding Carlisle that her foot crashed into an ornament.
She would never had made this mistake under ordinary circumstances. Her vision and senses were keenly honed on the battlefield by the threat of a sword or arrow.
‘…I must look foolish.’
She couldn’t believe she had done such a stupid thing, and she leaned down to hold her painful ankle. At the same time, her frustration welled up in her.
‘What the hell am I doing…’
In her last life, she didn’t have the luxury of individual sleeping quarters in battle, and had slept among men she didn’t know in the barracks. It suddenly seemed ironic that she was trying so hard to avoid Carlisle.
Elena dragged her palm down her cheek in despondency.
She heard the sounds of footsteps in the dark. When she looked up, she saw a dark silhouette, with blue eyes shining dimly through the dark. For a moment Carlisle looked like a wild animal, a jaguar looking for its prey.
“Are you hurt?”
Just by his tone, she knew that he didn’t like her being injured. Elena quickly hid her bruised ankle and replied in a nonchalant voice.
“I’m fine. You don’t need to worry.”
“I don’t believe you’re fine.”
As he spoke, he walked closer to Elena. She hurriedly held out her hand.
“Stop right there.”
Carlisle froze on the spot. Elena hadn’t meant to blurt it out like that. She didn’t want to be so conscious of Carlisle anymore. In this situation where her family’s life was on the line, she had no time to indulge in this new feeling.
“I’m fine, really. Don’t come any closer.”
Although it was obscured in the dark, Elena could almost sense a smirk on Carlisle’s mouth.
Carlisle’s footsteps resumed again. And then came his voice, lower and huskier than before.
“I told you, if there’s ever a moment when you’re too conscious of me, you have to hide it…”
Before she knew it, she realized that Carlisle’s long legs had brought him close to her.
“…because I can’t stand it.”
Before Elena could say anything, Carlisle’s arms came under her waist and knees and abruptly lifted her into the air. No matter how slim she was, an adult woman was a heavy load. Carlisle seemed unburdened however, and Elena looked up at him with a wide-eyed stare.
“How many times are you going to say that, when you’ve already broken two things at once?”
Carlisle walked towards the bed, carrying Elena in his arms. In the short distance, Elena felt an oddly tickling, peculiar sensation…
She was carefully deposited onto the mattress. But it didn’t end there.
Carlisle took Elena’s slender ankle from underneath her nightgown.
“Tell me if you’re hurt. I’ll call the doctor right away.”
She was startled by the heat of his skin on hers. Carlisle’s body temperature was higher than she expected.
“You don’t have to call a doctor at this late hour. I’m fine.”
“I don’t believe that.”
Looking at Carlisle’s sharp eyes, she couldn’t help but feel once more he was a man who crossed lines freely. The more she tried to avoid him, the more entangled she became. Elena pushed away her confusion before speaking.
“I’m fine, truly. I don’t want to be crowded when people come and go. If I wake up tomorrow and it still hurts, then we can call the doctor.”
Carlisle frown disapprovingly, but he relented.
“Be sure to.”
Carlisle hesitated for a moment, then pulled the blanket up to Elena’s neck. She looked at him in surprise when he brushed his hand against her forehead.
“It’s late, so sleep now.”
Finally, Carlisle turned away.
As Elena watched his dark shape walk away and then recline onto the couch, she felt her thoughts became even more confused than before.
This was a long night.
Zenard had been very busy lately.
He had gathered all the servants working at the Crown Prince’s palace at Elena’s order, then was later scolded for not reporting the plant to Carlisle.
‘By the time I looked for him, the prince had already gone to the Imperial Palace to visit the Emperor and Empress.’
Zenard though his treatment was unfair, but it couldn’t be helped. For now, he focused on gathering information on the plant even into this late hour. There was no deadline, but wanted to complete it as soon as possible in respect to Elena.
‘She is a good match for the prince.’
When Zenard had first met her, he was stunned by her dazzling beauty, and later, he came to admire her meticulous character and intelligence. Elena may not realize it, but Carlisle had changed immensely since he met her. Knowing how Carlisle was like at the borders of the Ruford Empire, Zenard could safely say that the prince had become more human than before.
‘If the prince is to be as gentle as he is now, he will need as much help from the princess as much as possible.’
The only thing that could put an angry beast to rest was beauty. An uncharacteristic smile spread on Zenard’s face as he thought of the crown princess.
There was a knock on Zenard’s door.
One of Zenard’s men charged with gathering information entered the room.
“We found what you were looking for. Please look over this report.”
Zenard immediately began looking at the material the man had brought.
A rare plant that grows only in the kingdom of Sibena in the south.
If raised well, it will bloom pink flowers and is very aromatic.
Women, however, will become infertile if exposed to the fragrance over a long period of time.]
Zenard was shocked at the passage he just read. He had an ominous premonition knowing that Empress Ophelia had sent it, but he didn’t realize it would be to this extent. Elena had not mentioned a single word about this.
‘Does the Crown Princess know about this?’
Elena already knew that the plant only grew in the Sibena kingdom, so chances were that she was not ignorant. Nevertheless, she kept the plant… She was truly dauntless, and Zenard felt another wave of admiration. However, another sentence caught his eyes.
[There is another plant called the Vanera, which is the Manera’s twin.
It is said…]
A serious light glimmered in Zenard’s eyes as he read the information.