How to Tame My Beastly Husband — Chapter 17. Ludwig
This chapter has been re-worked by Regan, we have picked up the novel from chapter 64
Annette’s eyes widened at the hint, and Claire burst out laughing at the naive reaction. Really, Annette was so cute. But at her touch, Annette flinched back with a yelp.
“Oh, did I hurt you? I’m sorry, Annette.” Surprised, Claire quickly lifted her hand from Annette’s head and examined the spot. Her sharp eyes quickly found the healing cut on her forehead, and Claire’s face turned cold.
“Who did this, Annette?”
Her playful expression was gone in an instant. Though she had asked who did it, Claire was quite sure of the culprit. Only a few people would dare to hurt Annette, and that could only be enemies of the Duke of Bavaria.
“No, Claire,” Annette said, quickly denying it when she saw Claire’s misunderstanding. “I just…bumped into a pillar in the garden, by mistake.”
Annette felt strange. Obviously, she was telling the truth, but it sounded like the excuse of an abused wife. Claire’s green eyes were skeptical.
“What do you mean, no? That buggering bastard Raphael dares to touch my sister…!”
Thoroughly enraged, Claire rose with such violence, she overturned the table, knocking the gift to the floor. Annette was pleased by the words my sister, but now was not the time for sentiment. She had to calm Claire down before someone overheard, and started a rumor that Raphael Carnesis was beating his wife.
“Really, it wasn’t! I hit my forehead against the edge of a pillar when I was picking up a book. Look, look closely, you can see it’s not the kind of cut that would come from being hit, is it? You can see, it’s sort of torn.”
Annette swept her blonde hair back so Claire could see the evidence. The wound was actually quite small, considering how much she had bled, and healed after only a few days. Really, Annette was impressed with Claire’s sharp eyes. It was hard for Annette herself to spot the place when it was covered by her hair, but Claire had seen it right away. She was amazing.
Claire’s eyes narrowed as she scrutinized the injury. Trained as a knight since childhood, Claire was familiar with such wounds. And it was true, this one did look accidental.
“All right. But I’ll be watching, Annette. If he ever lifts his hand to you, you can tell me anytime. I will crush him.”
How the hell would anyone crush him? Annette laughed at the threat, her eyelashes fluttering happily. Though Claire couldn’t beat Raphael, it was reassuring to know someone was on her side. She could see why Arjen loved Claire so much.
Annette was accustomed to the cold menace of the Bavaria family. It was so normal to her, she had never realized how much she craved some kind of familial love. Arjen was kind, but he had always been busy, cultivating his extraordinary mind. A genius had no time to pay attention to his little sister, six years younger.
Annette had wanted her family to love her, so she had been a very good child. She had been laboring under the delusion that if she met her father’s expectations, he would love her. How naive she had been! She hadn’t realized how wrong she was until she had lost her chance to be Crown Princess, and her father abandoned her utterly.
The only people she could call family now were Arjen, Claire, and Raphael. And Raphael hated her, but maybe they could find some way to make it work. She wanted to get along with him. He was a better husband than she had thought, in spite of his intimidating demeanor.
Belatedly, Claire bent to retrieve Annette’s gift from the floor. She laughed as she handed it back, a little embarrassed by her impulsive behavior.
“Well, I’m glad Raphael Carnesis isn’t the sort of son of a bitch who would hit his wife. Here’s a hard-won gift. I got one like it to help get along with my husband. I still wish I could keep this one.”
“What is it really?”
“Aren’t you curious?” Claire asked with a mischievous smile. “If you want to know, go home and open it with your husband.”
Claire shrugged and teased Annette, but would not tell her what the present was even as they parted. Annette fiddled with the gift as she walked along, distracted.
What on earth could it be? It must be something scandalous, to arouse even gay men to want a woman. No way, it couldn’t be an aphrodisiac, is it? Those are illegal.
Annette eyed the package as if it might have contained a bomb. Her suspicions did not allow her to peer through the packaging.
She decided to hurry home to inspect this dangerous gift in privacy. The place where she had met Claire was to the west of the palace, and it was a long walk to get back to the south gate, where her carriage was waiting. Annette’s footsteps naturally became hurried.
It was then that a long shadow suddenly fell before her, and when she turned to look up, her eyes widened.
“…greetings to the Little Sun of Deltium.”
The person before her was none other than Prince Ludwig. The man she had once believed she would marry. The man that she had never seen again, after the false charges against her.
She was embarrassed to see him before her now, after all these years. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago in this life, but to her it felt as if five years had passed. Though she was always polite, Annette trembled inside. The timing of this encounter could hardly be worse.
What if there really are illegal aphrodisiacs in this box?
She couldn’t believe she had to worry about this in front of him, and after she hadn’t seen him in so long. And that thought made her feel sad. Prince Ludwig seemed very lonely, looking down at her. After a few moments of silence, he reached out to his former fiancée.
“You don’t have to kneel before me, Annette. Get up.”
Fortunately, he didn’t seem interested in the box in her hands. His blue eyes were fixed only on her, and there was pain in them. But Annette rose on her own, politely refusing his hand. Now that she was married to another man, this was correct. Ludwig frowned and withdrew his hand at the indirect rejection.
“If it’s all right, I’d like to walk with you a while,” he said earnestly. “I have something I’d like to tell you.”
Annette closed her eyes at the unexpected request and said nothing. Honestly, she didn’t want to. Walking with Ludwig would do her more harm than good now, and if anyone spotted them, all those rumors would begin again, about how she still hadn’t given up on the throne. And if any of those rumors reached Raphael’s ears…
Just thinking about it was terrible.
Seeing her hesitate, Ludwig reached for her, his graceful fingers lightly trembling as he grasped the lacy edge of her sleeve.
“Please, Annette,” he whispered painfully. “Please.”
His face was still just as beautiful as she remembered, though pale with anxiety and nerves. Annette let out a sigh. It wasn’t as if Ludwig didn’t understand the situation, or what he was doing. She glanced around and reluctantly accepted.
“But bring at least four attendants with us. I have to go home before it gets too late, so I can only stay for half an hour. Is that all right?”
“Of course, Annette.”
Only then did a smile bloom on his sad face. He quickly understood her request. Quickly, he beckoned to four servants standing some distance away, and as they moved closer, Annette felt relieved. At least it was an improvement on standing alone with him, and fortunately, he took her to the Crown Prince’s palace, which no one could enter without his permission. It greatly reduced the chances of gossip. An excellent location.
Ludwig sat down on a bench and then was quiet for some time, clearly agonizing over what to say. Annette looked slightly away from him, waiting patiently. He looked more thin and nervous than she remembered, and her eyes filled with pity.
You poor thing.
Outwardly, Ludwig seemed like a perfect man. He was tall and lean, with flawless skin, and features as delicate and beautiful as a woman’s. His long, silver hair cascaded to his waist, shimmering like moonlight, and only made him more conspicuous. This was the man that would soon be crowned king.
Unfortunately, Ludwig had one fatal flaw.
Ludwig had risen from his seat as if he had come to a decision, and immediately stumbled over his own feet. With the ease of long practice, Annette caught his arm and pulled him back. Ludwig was a man who preferred to bloom where he was planted. In his life. In the future of Deltium. In his chair.
“Are you all right, Your Highness?”
“Oh, thank you, Annette. How embarrassing,” he said as she righted him. Ludwig had a perfect appearance and looked as if he ought to be good at everything, but that was far from the truth. He was incredibly clumsy. Anything requiring coordination ended in disaster. He could never dream of any intense activities like horse riding or sword fighting. Even on a completely flat surface, he would still go sprawling and eat dust.
Having just taken a tumble in front of Annette, Ludwig was blushing. He drew a deep breath and looked up at her. Annette blinked at him, wishing he would get up and get it over with. The moments their eyes met, pain flashed through his beautiful face. His crimson lips moved.
“I’m sorry, Annette,” he whispered painfully.