Tara is shocked into action and Kyle tries to make up for the aftermath of Tara's Birthday Party.
This chapter is dedicated to Lia Koutecky! Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement!
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Episode 243: About 9 Months (2)
I was too tired to sustain unnecessary emotions. I thought that no matter what happened, I wouldn't react. Despite that, anger ignited in my chest at the word 'suing’.
How dare they? How dare they try to sue us!
Kyle didn't stop there.
"I called Victoria to the Ministry of Security to get a confession from her, but she's stubbornly denying it."
She confessed to us out loud about her involvement in Brandon's death, yet she was refusing to admit it and House Philippe was trying to sue us!
I scrambled off the side of my bed. As I did, I felt a rush of dizziness and staggered.
I felt a rush of cold air. And soon his hard chest was pressed right against my back.
While my head spun, Kyle came up behind me and firmly grabbed my forearms.
"Should I call a doctor?"
His voice was serious and full of concern. There was none of the playfulness I had sensed from him earlier.
Gently, he carefully turned me around to face him.
His dark eyes examined my face.
"It's okay. I'm just dizzy from the sudden movement. I've been lying down a lot lately..."
Taking a deep breath, he ruffled the undisturbed hair above his forehead. Naturally, my gaze followed the movement of his hand.
His hair had fallen over his face. His brow was furrowed and his mouth was a tightly closed line. His jaw was hard.
It was only then that I noticed an expression I had never seen on him before.
"You haven't been sleeping much, have you?"
I put my hand on his cheek, and felt rough stubble.
Kyle smiled faintly.
"You're finally looking at me?"
Without warning, he quickly grabbed the hand that had fallen from his cheek and gently kissed my palm.
He continued. "I'm fine. I’ll get some rest soon. Can I get you anything? Water?"
My face was burning. I quickly pulled my hand away.
I shook my head.
"Why are you so persistent? Are you enamoured by the fact that I was the first woman who dared to leave His Highness waiting at the door?"
Kyle's eyes curved in amusement and the corners of his lips turned up.
He carefully hugged me against him. It felt good to be pressed tightly against his hard, wide chest.
I hadn't wanted to feel anything, neither sensations nor emotions, but intense fury had swept through me when I heard about House Philippe's threat. My fingertips tingled as my dulled senses, which had been numb for an entire week, suddenly awakened.
Kyle hugged me tighter and I wrapped my arms around his back.
"I didn't want to do anything anymore. Truly. I really wanted to do nothing."
"I know. I wish you could have done that."
“But why did you keep coming back?”
"Because you were sick!"
He offered no further explanation, as if it was obvious. Seeing that, I didn’t question him any further.
He pulled away and looked down at my face. It was good to see him smile, but he also looked exhausted.
"How long have you had trouble sleeping?"
"A long time. Because of a certain someone."
When I furrowed my brow, he kissed me softly without saying a word.
My eyes widened in surprise.
Kyle didn't stop, he kissed me like he was trying to swallow me whole.
His hands cupped my cheeks; his head lowered due to his taller height. He indulged in my lips, then quickly invaded my mouth.
I stiffened at first. However, my eyes slowly closed at the press of his soft lips, as I felt his body curve so naturally around mine. An exhilarating sensation tingled down my spine.
His arms tugged my waist closer.
My whole body was pressed up against his. I could feel his entire body, and the hard muscles that covered his frame.
My need to get closer to him was an all consuming instinct. I clung to the nape of his neck, feeling like a fish desperate for water.
Every time the tip of his tongue touched the tender flesh of my mouth, a thrilling sensation ran through me.
When his tongue met mine, I responded, licking and exploring his mouth. Then, disappointingly, he pulled back.
One arm remained curled around my waist while the other supported my back and neck.
When I opened my eyes and looked at him, he was so close that I could feel his breath.
He kissed me once more, and then spoke slowly, with his hooded eyes still focused on my lips.
"Haa... Seriously. This is not the right time to do this. You're driving me crazy, Tara."
"The Empress. And the meeting. You have to go and resolve this."
As soon as I attempted to pull away, he let me go.
But then, I felt a hint of remorse, so I grabbed the front of his cloak and pulled him back down. Standing on the tips of my toes, I dragged his head down and gave him another quick kiss.
When I saw his eyes darken again, I quickly ran to the closet.
I heard his low voice from behind me,"Where in the world did you learn how to do that?"
Pretending I hadn't heard him, I withdrew a dark indoor robe from my closet and put it on.
I glanced over at Kyle. He was leaning against the bedpost and staring at me with his arms crossed and a serious expression on his face.
I grabbed the dangling cords hanging from the neck of the robe, tied them in a bow, then turned towards the door.
"Come on, tell me. Was the first time before or after she married my father? What are the details? I don't have much time."
"It was before she married him."
His explanation didn't take long. After he finished, I followed Kyle to the balcony door where he handed me a luxurious velvet box and a note with an address on it.
"You'll have to go here and convince them yourself. And this is a gift."
When I opened the box, a dazzlingly gorgeous garnet and diamond necklace sat inside, flaunting its beauty.
Oh, wow. It was truly up to the standards of the Imperial Family.
"Oh... Thank you."
I didn’t know he had such fancy taste...
"I wanted to help you try it on for the first time, but now isn't a good time, so next time we should do it and you can show it to me."
"Yes. Thank you for the gift… and the help."
Kyle smiled at the words and ran a hand through his tousled hair.
"Please. Take it all, especially my help." I wanted to ask what he meant, but Kyle opened the door and ended the conversation, "Oh, and Tara? Next time I come, I definitely want to see the Elias family library."
He spoke his parting words then disappeared from the balcony in a blink, before I could even respond.
‘He used his sword master skills to come meet his girlfriend. It’s nice that he’s so handsome, fit, and honest, but since he’s so intelligent he’ll quickly discover that I lied about where I learned how to kiss… Ugh, I'm so tired.’*
The Family Head's office, Elias Mansion.
Time did not wait for me to process my feelings of anguish, pain, and anger. That was why I was forced to move; because time itself moved ruthlessly onwards.
Would I say that the past week had been a waste? No, I wouldn’t.
I couldn't sprint forever, I couldn't cope perfectly with every situation every time, and I couldn’t weather endless storms of hardship. Because I wasn't a machine.
Had I still been in Korea, I would have allowed myself to rest for a couple of months. However, this was the Ocerian Empire. My family's estimated execution date was in 9 months. And I still hadn’t figured out exactly who was responsible for ruining my House.
Therefore, it was best to make the most of the current situation and remove any risk factors as soon as possible.
On this occasion, the matters of Victoria and House Philippe needed to be cleaned up.
When I opened the door, my family stared at me, astonished.
Aria tried to say something, but given the current serious state of affairs, a fuss wouldn't be welcome. She blinked her eyes dry and I sat down in an empty seat.
My mother took my hand and held it tightly.
"This morning I went to the Philippe family. I informed them of my intent to bring them to the Aristocratic Court to initiate the dissolution of my marriage with Victoria."
My father had dark circles under his eyes. He briefly explained the contents of the meeting.
"So what did Philippe say?"
I already knew the answer, but I couldn't reveal that I had already heard it from Kyle, so I deliberately asked about it.
“They have issued a complaint alleging we are framing her, even after hearing from government officials, and they are suing for slander.”
This was insanity.
Hearing it said again made my blood pressure rise. Were they really arguing that what she had done was acceptable?
"How can they say that when the Department of Public Security has a ledger proving that she almost had our sister kidnapped and tried to frame it as an accident?" Aria asked, her face flushed.
"The reason is that the name 'Johanna' is a pseudonym.... Victoria's name was not mentioned directly, and nothing actually happened to Tara."
"But the intruders must have confessed!”
"They said Victoria was an innocent person that got caught up with them. If we insist on going to trial, it will not work."
“What about Brandon's case?” Logan asked in frustration.
Lloyd clenched his fists, gritted his teeth and answered with an angry bite in his tone. "Br... Brandon’s case has no witnesses or evidence, Victoria is pleading temporary insanity and claims she had a slip of the tongue. Besides, other than the intruders, the main gang members of the gambling house have all disappeared so thoroughly they can't confirm any of it."
Chloe gripped her skirt and stood up quietly. Everyone's eyes turned towards her. Her face was hard.
She spoke in a trembling voice as if forcing herself to get the words out. "I... will meet with Mother again... and secure a confession. I will make sure she gets a proper punishment."
No one said anything.
When Chloe turned around, determined, I asked.
"Are you sure you won't do anything?"
Chloe's eyes widened as she turned around in surprise at my question.
"Are you certain that you will truly stop at nothing to make sure your mother gets the punishment she deserves?"
I was asking if she had enough resolve to resist lending Victoria a hand, even though it would save her blood relative.
The family kept glancing back and forth between me and Chloe.
"Would you believe me if I say that I can do it?"
"Yes. I will trust you."
"Alright. I will make no effort whatsoever to save my mother, no matter what punishment she ultimately receives."
"You probably won't see her for quite some time. Is that okay with you?"
"It can't be helped, even if I won’t be able to see her for the rest of my life. Because she had the nerve to commit such a heinous crime..."
My mother let go of my hand and squeezed Chloe's. No matter how warranted it was, it was sad seeing Chloe have to condemn her own mother.
“You will have to give up your shares in House Philippe as well.”
"I don't need them."
"Not only Chloe, but all of House Philippe’s shares in the Elias family businesses will also have to be removed. Father, if House Philippe's stake in the company is completely removed, will it be a huge blow to House Elias?"
Father's jaw hardened, but he answered with a determined look in his eyes.
“We won't be able to avoid losses entirely, but it will not be too much of a blow because I've been buying stock in House Philippe's company under a borrowed name account since the Dragon Fruit incident. Our operations may be tight for about a year, but it is fully recoverable. I am resolved to bear it, for you, Tara, for the sake of our family, and for Brandon."
I nodded my head seriously at my father’s words, I could tell he was resolute.
"What are we going to do? Is there a way?" Chloe asked as she sat back down.
I nodded once more and said to my family.
"A betrayal from within is more terrifying than your worst enemy."
"I'm going to have House Philippe take care of themselves."
Editor’s Note -
* This is a reference to their first kiss way back in chapter 185 where Tara makes the excuse she learned how to kiss from reading romance novels in her family library after Kyle got suspicious about why she's such a good kisser. Kyle didn't entirely buy this explanation and jokingly threatened to check the Elias family library for 'educational materials'.
But that kiss ajgdsjfhsdjkflk... Someone please! Get these two some peace and quiet!
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