“My life No.
My life is precious.
Theres only one person for whom I am willing to give my life.” His serious face came down on her neck again.
His lips touched her neck, cheek, then temple.
Hot breath dissipated.
Her toes curled at his low and warm voice. The person hes talking about must be the Emperor.
Hes the master of the Empire and the father to all nobles. But it was her heart that was racing.
Lia rubbed her face vigorously to hide that she was blushing and noticed the letter on the floor.
“Ah, I have something to give you,” she said as she rose to retrieve the letter.
Claude released her.
She picked up the letter from the Princess and handed it to him.
“What is it”
“The Princess ordered that you receive the letter and give her an answer immediately.
I dont know what it contains.”
Claude took the letter and broke the seal with a dagger from his waist.
Lia sat on a chair waiting for him to finish reading.
It was a way to keep some distance from a man who kept trying to pull her in and kiss her.
She suddenly got curious. Does the Duke really like men What should she say if he does But how calm he is!
She suddenly remembered that she hadnt washed properly during the last four days of travel.
Thankfully, the last thing she ate was a sweet cranberry pie, but Claude didnt just crush her lips but smelled her while hugging her.
She stood up in a rush at this late realization.
He frowned as he looked up from the letter.
“I warned them so many times.
Such annoyances in Capital!”
Lia saw an opportunity and took it: “Ill be off!”
“O, outside!” she stammered.
“Didnt you say you had to get an immediate answer”
“Pardon” asked Lia, blinking.
Claude stood up.
He shouldnt get up! He should stay in bed!
Claudes face was obscured by his wild hair.
The bandage inside his black uniform was coming undone.
Lia stepped back while waving her hand.
“Dont come closer! You have to rest!”
“Your wound” Claude asked cryptically.
“I dont have any wound,” said Lia, perplexed.
“Youre the one whos wounded!”
“Of course!” Lia replied.
If she stepped back any farther she would be at the tent entrance.
It was close enough that Ivan would be able to hear them.
“Please, lie down.
Please,” Lia implored him, her trembling hands on his chest.
Lia felt his breath as he came close.
“Then you—” Claude started, but was interrupted by Ivans voice.
“Prince Wade von Weise and young Marquis Kieran Vale request a meeting with Duke Claude del Ihar!” Ivan shouted hastily from outside the tent.
Then the tent entrance opened, and Wade and Kierans eyes sparkled like fire as they saw the close proximity of Claude and Lia.
Lia cooled her face with northern wind.
She had fled Claudes tent upon Prince Wade and Kierans timely visit.
She felt little guilty not hearing the answer to the letter, but that wasnt the problem right now.
What the Duke had done!
The first problem was that she couldnt understand his actions.
The bigger issues were that he was swaying her and she had allowed all of it to happen.
Every night prior to coming here she had tried her best to hate him.
She did hate him—the man who took her first kiss, the man who said that he didnt care what she was, the man who then turned his back on her.
But they kissed again in the end.
It was a kiss that was too intense and scary to be simply for curiositys sake.
Lia, seated on a tree stump on the edge of the forest, not far from Claudes tent, sighed and dug her face into her lap.
Lia looked up at a familiar voice.
It was Ivan.
He smiled and handed her a dish of meat and oat bread along with a glass full of alcohol.
Im sure you had a difficult journey and havent had anything to eat.”
“Ah, thank you.
I am hungry,” Lia replied gratefully.
“It doesnt look like much, but its quite tasty.
So, relax and enjoy it.”
Lias answer was taking a large bite of the bread.
Ivan stayed standing next to her smiling but looked around with caution as a guard would.
She was thankful for his thoughtfulness.
The northern wind was definitely different from that of Etaire or Cosoar.
Her cheek became rough from the cold wind.
Lia quickly finished her food.
She smacked her lips as she regarded a glass of warm alcohol.
Wouldnt one glass be okay, even if Ive never had any before
Thats a non-alcoholic wine from the North,” Ivan kindly pointed out.
“They boil it with fruit and cinnamon.
Just perfect to warm yourself! It looks like alcohol, but it wont make you drunk.”
Ivan took her empty dish.
Lia, relieved, sipped the hot beverage.
The food and drink warmed her body and she felt better.
She stared at the fire and then asked: “By the way, Sir Ivan, is there a place to wash up I know it might be hard but Id like to at least wash my face.”