How to Tame My Beastly Husband — Chapter 32. A Simple Decision
This chapter has been re-worked by Regan
By now, the name she saw on the tombstone was very familiar.
Robert Smith, Died Age 27. Killed in battle, suppressing the Letan Resistance.
Robert. That was the name of the person Raphael spoke to so often when he was sleepwalking in his nightmares, begging him again and again for forgiveness. Perhaps the name engraved on this tombstone was the same man who was so painfully engraved in Raphael’s heart.
He did not look back at her. He was so still and beautiful as he looked at the tomb, he might have been one of the stone angels, or the god of death, guarding the cemetery.
“You know this name, don’t you?” He asked, biting his lips. “Every night, when I…”
His face twisted as if he were confessing to something utterly abhorrent, and even though he didn’t finish the sentence, she knew what he meant. Raphael was a proud man. He could not accept this weakness.
Automatically, she reached for his hand, affectionately squeezing. She couldn’t bear to see him looking so tormented. And surprisingly, he didn’t protest. He glanced down at her hand, but didn’t shake her away.
“What kind of person was he?” She asked quietly, to give him time to calm himself.
“He was my aide-de-camp. He stayed behind, to hold back a Letan unit, but he stumbled into one of their trenches and broke his legs. He couldn’t escape. If I had stayed with him…we both would have died.”
Raphael stopped, his hands clenching at his sides. Perhaps he had fought to the end and then been forced to retreat, leaving Robert behind. And that guilt still tormented him. Every night, he dreamed again of Robert’s death.
Of course, she felt sorry for him. If she had had to leave Claire in danger while she fled herself, she would have felt guilty the rest of her life. No words could console him. Annette held his hand tighter.
He didn’t say anything else. Silently, he reached out to wipe away the dirt from the tombstone and clean away the moss that was growing over the letters. It was a rough action, but there was clearly a warm sentiment behind it.
Watching him, Annette smiled inside. In her past life, after her death, would Raphael have visited her grave? Would he have tended it like this?
She felt dizzy just thinking of it. If he had come to stand before her tombstone, dressed in a despised black suit, what would he have looked like? Would he have been happy, thinking that his sickly, burdensome wife was finally gone? Or would he have been alone, and lonesome?
It was a mystery she did not want to solve. She would not die like that again, and so she had no choice but to leave him. Every time she thought of him saying he hated her, her heart ached.
But he never told me about Robert before…
In her last life, she had never been close enough to Raphael to know about any of this. Not the trauma he suffered from the war, or the wound Robert had left on his heart, like a thorn, still pricking.
She hadn’t even asked. Raphael had chosen to tell her first. Did he really hate her? She had to think about it, but she couldn’t help feeling a small bloom of hope.
Annette had never been good at guessing what someone else might be thinking, to adjust her behavior accordingly. She had always just asked directly. And though she might be hurt again if he repeated that he hated her, she would be that much closer to the truth.
“Why did you bring me here?” She asked, looking up at him.
Raphael’s dark eyes met hers. His red lips and white chin were strikingly beautiful.
“Because you know my secret.”
“Is that all?”
“Should there be another reason?”
The small ray of hope in her heart immediately withered. Of course, she really didn’t expect him to say something like, I don’t hate you as much as I used to. But that cold, clipped voice seemed to warn her not to expect anything else. That alone would have been hard enough, but Raphael bent his head, gripping her shoulder tightly.
“Don’t even think of breathing a word about it to anyone else,” he whispered. “Keep your mouth shut.”
His deep blue eyes glared down at her fiercely.
So he had only shared this secret because he had to, not because he wanted to confide in her, or open his heart in any way. Annette swallowed a sigh and said nothing.
It was time to go back to the Guild of Secrets.
She was silent as they left the cemetery, looking blankly out the small window of the carriage. Her golden lashes were lowered and fluttered faintly, and the pink lips under her small nose were pressed tight together. The sight made Raphael’s chest feel inexplicably tight.
Are you offended?
Raphael had taken for granted her habit of always smiling at him and making conversation. After taking care of her, he had some small affection for her, whether he liked it or not. That was why he had brought her to Robert’s grave.
But because of his own contrary nature, he couldn’t help being wary of her, and was embarrassed to show her his secret. If Annette told someone about this…he had a lot of enemies. It was too horrible to think about.
If only he had enough time to tell her his secrets, but he hadn’t been ready, and only told her this because he had been caught. It was probably the worst way to try to explain himself, and Annette had clearly taken his order to keep her mouth shut very much to heart.
I should have said it more gently.
Raphael frowned, regretting it. There was only one way a bastard could survive in noble society. To lift his chin, to hold his head higher, to defy anyone that pointed and slandered him, and bite them first, ferocious as a beast.
A man who had always been surrounded by enemies would be wary and sensitive. His aggressive manner of speaking could not be changed all at once. He had been sure he would be alone all his life anyway, and until now, he had never regretted it.
This time, he regretted it.
“Yes.” She turned her head, and as their eyes met, her lips moved in her usual elegant smile But there was no smile in her pink eyes.
It made his heart sink. Somehow, though she was sitting beside him, she felt very far away, as if she would open the door of the carriage and vanish. And he was quite right; Annette was thinking of the Guild of Secrets at that exact moment.
Raphael had always been something of a noble beast, with very sharp instincts that prompted him to do something. Now.
“Annette, if you don’t mind, let’s stop for dinner here,” he said, an anxious impulse. “What do you think?”
“…here?” Intrigued, her eyes brightened. They were passing a small town, quite far from the mansion, an exciting place for the sheltered Annette. She had lived all her life on streets owned by the Bavaria family and had never been to a restaurant in a place like this. “Okay.”
She would need to get used to the life of a commoner anyway, if she meant to move to Osland and start over. Raphael poked his head out of the carriage window to pass instructions to the coachman. About ten minutes later, the carriage stopped on a busy street.
With great care, Raphael descended first and held the door for Annette, taking her hand. It was a much more attentive gesture than his usual neglect, but Annette was too excited by the busy, chaotic streets to notice.
“Oh my goodness! I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
The market was a far cry from the aristocratic shopping districts she was used to, and Raphael was a little worried. There was not a place suitable for her refined tastes; it mostly served the lower genty, and wealthy merchants. But she seemed very excited.
“Everything from there to there is restaurants, I think,” he said, clearing his throat and pointing. “Look around and pick the place you want.”
“I…can I choose?”
“Sure,” he answered easily. That was nothing to him, but she absolutely beamed with him, a smile so beautiful that it left him breathless. He felt as if something had hit him very hard.
Why is she so happy?
That smile was like watching flowers bloom right before his eyes.
Raphael couldn’t know that Annette had never been allowed to make even this simple decision in her entire life. Her father was an extremely conservative aristocrat, a tyrant who controlled everything around him. Annette had just been one of his possessions.
That was the reason she had not tried to change anything in her past life. But she didn’t want to live like that this time, and Raphael letting her choose made her incredibly happy. Annette looked at the many restaurants and made a little skip beside him, deciding where to go.
“Let’s go…this way,” she said with a broad smile, forgetting all her other troubles. She didn’t even realize he hadn’t moved, standing dazed as he looked down at her.