How to Tame My Beastly Husband — Chapter 33. Sweet and Sour
This chapter has been re-worked by Regan
Raphael had no particular expectations for which restaurant Annette would choose. Surely it would be the most luxurious restaurant on the street, with the refined air of every other place she went to.
Raphael’s expectations were about to be brutally betrayed.
“Oh, look, Raphael! Look at that pig, it’s so big!”
She had chosen an open-air restaurant where an immense pig was visible from the street, sizzling as it roasted on an iron spit. Even the apple stuffed in its mouth was smooth and delicious. Annette, who had only ever been served perfectly cooked portions of meat, lit up with excitement at the sight of an actual pig.
“It smells so good,” she said. “Black pepper, basil, cumin, and…what else is it? Oh, goodness, look at that glaze!”
The chef was excited too, with a pretty noblewoman looking at him so hopefully. For a moment, he had been worried that the dazzling couple in their rich clothing had come to make trouble. But they were very quiet, and ordered the most expensive item on the menu. For such distinguished patrons, he was willing to go the extra mile.
“You won’t find a more perfect roast!” He boasted. “Here, I will give you the best cut.”
With a terrifying saw in one hand and bone knife in the other, the chef began to carefully cut, theatrically exaggerating his motions. Anyone could have told from his wide-eyed grimace that he was putting on a show, and a seasoned swordsman like Raphael found it all ridiculous.
“Oh, look, that’s so amazing!” Annette exclaimed, clapping her hands with excitement. “I’ve never seen anything like that!”
Forgetting herself, she flinched as she accidentally struck her bandaged hand, but even this wasn’t enough to quench her. Her cheeks were flushed pink and her eyes were sparkling like stars. Raphael was dumbstruck, seeing his elegant wife excited like this.
“Annette, come here and sit properly.”
Raphael didn’t want to say something like that to a grown woman, especially Annette Bavaria, who must have known her etiquette since childhood. But it was the first time he had seen her so excited, and he was worried she might make a mistake.
As she was about to lean forward on her injured hand again, he couldn’t stand it anymore and caught her elbow to support her, dislodging the napkin she had tucked at her neck, in preparation for the feast.
Why the hell am I doing this?
“Come, try it! It is our restaurant’s masterpiece!”
Having finished cutting the roast, the chef approached them, dabbing at his brow. He had been kind enough to cut it into small portions to make it easier to eat. Surprisingly, all the restaurants’ utensils and tableware were made of real iron, which gave an air of authenticity to the rustic dining.
It was a new and thrilling experience for Annette, stimulating both her mood and her appetite. The steaming pork smelled so good. Eagerly, she snatched up her fork.
“Wait, Annette.” Frowning, Raphael reached to stop her. The pork was straight off the spit, it would burn her mouth if she ate it right away. And even if the chef had taken special care in serving their portion, the pieces were still pretty big. Raphael glanced at her bandaged hand. Even if he doubted whether he had caused the injury, he couldn’t help worrying about it.
Scowling, he lifted his own knife to cut the pork into very small pieces for her. It was something he had seen courtiers do to impress their female companions, and he felt ridiculous. He had never imagined he would do such a thing for a woman.
“Here. Let it cool before you eat it,” he said, setting his knife down and pushing the plate toward her coldly.
Picking up a bit of crackling with her fork, she put it in her mouth. The taste was beyond anything she had ever expected, crunchy and spicy with the glaze. The more tender meat under it almost melted on her tongue, filling her mouth with salty flavor. Somehow, eating it outside with a cool breeze blowing made it taste even better.
“It’s really delicious,” she said, covering her mouth with one hand, savoring it. From the other side of the table, Raphael smiled at her pleasure, the first time he had ever smiled without sarcasm or malice. Flustered, she held out a fork to him. “Here, Raphael, try it.”
The fork, held between her thickly bandaged fingers, was shaking and about to fall onto the table. Raphael shook his head and took her plate back, cutting the meat still smaller. At this point it was very nearly mashed.
Only then did he take the fork from Annette, devouring the meat in one bite and replacing the fork with a spoon.
“Just eat with this,” he said. “It’s not a formal restaurant, no one will care.”
Annette had been subjected to rigorous training in anticipation that she would become Crown Princess, and that had naturally included meal etiquette. But eating mashed meat with a spoon was something else she had never imagined doing.
But…there wasn’t any reason not to, was there?
Something whispered the question inside the reborn Annette, and she looked at the spoon for a second, then spooned up a large mouthful and pushed it straight between her lips. The meat Raphael had cut for her was still delicious and savory, but now much easier to manage. Annette was enchanted by the greasy, salty taste, unlike anything she had ever had before.
“Here, try this, too,” said Raphael, lifting the glass he was sipping and pushing it toward her. “It’s not too bad.”
It was a liquor that was both sweet and sour, with lemon and apple added to the white wine. The sharp taste immediately washed away the salt and grease of the meat, and the cool night breeze coming off the river made all of it inexpressibly pleasant. It was the sort of night for intoxication.
But what pleased her most was Raphael’s face looking at her from the other side of the temple. That beautiful face in the warm glow of the lights looked so much friendlier than usual. In her last short life, she had hardly ever seen him like this.
It made her feel as if maybe they had become just a little bit closer.
Maybe it was because she had watched him serve her meal for her with his own hands, but Annette forgot about her earlier sadness. All of their problems would be solved when she left, so there was no need to impress him. But before she said goodbye, she was glad to have this memory to share with him, so she could look back with a smile.
Annette smiled, tipping her glass. Despite her appearance, she could actually hold her alcohol well, so even after three full glasses of wine, she was still fairly steady on her feet.
“It turned out to be real spirits,” Raphael said jovially. He looked much more relaxed. “If you’d had much more, you’d have wine in your veins instead of blood.”
“I could still have had another glass or two. It’s a pity the restaurant closed so early.”
All the way back to the carriage, she bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t have more. Normally she didn’t enjoy alcohol very much, though she had a good tolerance for it, but she had wanted to drink her fill of that sweet and sour wine. Listening to her excited chatter, Raphael laughed aloud without noticing the change in his own behavior.
“No way, no more after all that. Wouldn’t that be a scandal for a lady’s reputation, to be carried home piggyback?” He teased. “Surely you wouldn’t want to go home that way.”
Those blue eyes that always looked at her so coldly were curved now, and sparkling under his long lashes. Annette couldn’t help smiling warmly at him. It was such a pleasant night, but so short. As they approached their carriage, it made her sad to think it was over, and soon they would go back to their usual selves, after the short journey home.
“Oh, it couldn’t be…is that Lady Annette?”
At that moment, someone approached them from the other side of the street. She had been smiling at Raphael, but when Annette turned to look, her happy smile immediately vanished. It was someone she knew very well.
“Lady Diana. What a surprise to meet you.”
The name of the woman with curly black hair was Diana McClaire, the second daughter of Count McClaire, who was famous for his variety of businesses. She had been Annette’s friend, when they were children, and though they had had little contact since then, one never forgot a childhood friend. Even after five years had passed, Annette instantly recognized her.
“You know, it is dangerou to be wandering about so late–ah! You are with your husband. Good evening, Your Excellency. Marquis Carnesis? I am Lady Diana McClaire, daughter of Count McClaire.”
Lifting the hem of her skirt in a curtsy, she offered a polite greeting, but as she glanced at him sidelong, her cheeks were red. Raphael was taller and more powerful than most men, and was regarded as very attractive. He was not only handsome, but his infamous arrogance and fiery temper only made him more attractive.
Annette watched her with a small frown. Diana wasn’t a bad person, but she had two major flaws. The first was a tendency to fall in love too fast, and Diana’s face was filled with admiration as she looked at Annette’s husband. Which wasn’t as bad as it sounded; while Diana would fall in love quickly, she was not foolish enough to do anything with a man who was already taken. Annette could safely ignore Diana’s blushing cheeks.
But she couldn’t ignore the second flaw. It wasn’t a big problem for Diana, but for Annette, it was a dealbreaker. Because Diana McClaire…
“Oh, come to think of it, Lady Annette–no, you are Marchioness Carnesis now! But did you hear, my friend Lady Keers has received two boxes of wedding gifts from the royal family. Won’t it be amazing to be Crown Princess?”
Diana McClaire was one of Lady Celestine Keers’ best friends.