"Are you new here?" I ask Gilbert as I ignore Bradley's presence and keep an eye on Ivy's expression.
"Yes, I'm a new butler," he replies while keeping his head low.
"I wonder why the Duke would hire a servant who can't even properly greet their master" I glare at him and, after understanding his mistake he asks for forgiveness.
"Kneel" I point towards the floor and the man looks around hesitantly. As a prideful assassin, he didn't want to show respect to his victim, but that only made this more amusing.
"Milady..." his dark brown eyes looked conflicted.
"He is a new worker milady, please be merciful" Ivy intervenes and I grab her by the neck harshly. I glare at her and her complexion starts to turn pale, she looked frightened.
"Both of you... Kneel!" their bodies sank on the floor as they instantly kneeled asking for forgiveness.
Several minutes passed and I just stared down at them, without saying a word but, then, without any notice, Gilbert looks up.
"Who told you to look up? I see you haven't been raised properly" around us several maids and butlers had gathered and were now watching the whole show. They were whispering while mocking the situation these two had been put in.
"Someone bring me a wooden plank" I state as Bradley quietly observed.
"Milady that's..." Olivia speaks up seeing how serious the situation had gotten.
"Olivia... Kneel!" she instantly bows down as, once again, she noticed her behavior had been out of line. I am not merciful enough to allow something like this slide.
One of the older butlers arrives with a big wooden plank and I grin.
"Beat him up ten times and if you guys don't stop gossiping you will be next" the servants flinch and the environment grows quiet. The butler starts beating him up but due to his lack of strength, there wasn't much of a reaction out of Gilbert. Truthfully it was annoying, I wanted him to hurt for his disgusting pride.
"Do you think that's how you punish someone!?" suddenly Bradley speaks up, his expression looked mad, furious in fact and I instantly felt the need to walk away from him.
"Then how would you deal with this situation my lord?" I glare at him and he grins. After clicking his fingers three servants approach.
"Aiden, beat this man ten times for his impertinence. Rats should know their place" a servant with dark green eyes and chocolate hair that passed his shoulders walks forward and grabs the wooden plank from the older butler. I had already seen this servant but I thought he belonged to this estate since he was always so far away from Bradley but now, I completely understand how foolish I was.
"Milady please have mercy...!" Gilbert begs loudly as he understood the gravity of the situation. Aiden was a tall and extremely fit man, Gilbert would be in a lot of trouble if he took this beating. I was well aware that this would delay his purpose but, even then, I must make him pay, little by little.
'Mercy? Like you were merciful to me... Instead of burning me alive you could've given me a swift death but no, you were too self-centered' his hypocrite words made me feel sick to my stomach.
"A man should bear the consequences of his actions, wouldn't you agree?" I smile at him coldly and, as he saw the dark expression on my face he realized there was no way out but, even then, he had to try and play all his cards.
"Please milady! I beg of you! Anything but this!" quickly he grabs onto the hem of my skirt strongly. Afraid of his touch I moved back and as I was losing my balance I feel a hand grab my waist.
"Aiden... Make it fifteen." Bradley's eyes were focused on Gilbert, glaring down at him almost as if he wasn't a human, almost as if he was nothing but a waste of life in a filthy body. Bradley's right foot pushes Gilbert away strongly, knocking him away from me.
Aiden grins and his expression darkens. His large arms swing the plank and beat Gilbert's back. He squirms in pain while trying to hold out his screams. As I watched this scene unfold several times I could notice a satisfaction in Bradley's eyes and in Aiden's smile as well.
'Two sides of the same coin' I thought as I realized how similar they were to each other even though their social statuses were completely different.
Gilbert's clothes were starting to rip as bloodstains began forming on the cheap fabric and, after the fourth swing he stopped holding back his screams. His yells filled with despair and pain were echoing through the estate but, even then everyone else was quiet. Olivia and Ivy didn't raise their heads. I assume that they knew that if they spoke up they would be next and, truthfully, their judgment was right.
"What is happening here?! What is with all this racket!?" without noticing Duke Wharton arrives with his servants. His confused expression soon became enraged as he saw the scenery that unfolded before him: Bradley had his hand around my waist while his servant was beating up the new butler.
Of course, to an outsider, it must've looked like Bradley was courting me, and even the Duke, no matter how oblivious he was, already had his suspicions regarding the eldest son of the Trace's. The Duke found extremely peculiar all his recent visits and now everything became crystal clear.
'What a great development' I smirk as I understand what was about to happen.
"Duke! What a surprise seeing you down here" understanding the situation Bradley removes his hand from my waist and signs Aiden to back away from Gilbert.
"Bradley Trace! Why was your servant beating up my butler?" his eyes were glaring at him as the Duke held back his anger.
"This young butler was rude towards Lady Ophelia and at her request, I punished him" Bradley explained but the Duke only frowned his eyebrows.
"Is that true Ophelia?" Duke Wharton approaches me and I smile politely.
"The butler was indeed disrespectful to me, however, I didn't ask anything of our beloved guest, it was never my place to do so" I keep on smiling as Bradley looks at me angered and flustered. Even then he had to restrain himself.
"I see... Bradley, I fear you have overtaken my consideration as negligence so it would be wise for you to leave. You are happy to return after the marriage has occurred." the Duke looks seriously at him as Bradley clenched his fists with rage. He knew he had been betrayed by me and that he was now seen as a disrespectful guest.
"I apologize for my rudeness and any inconvenience. I will go now Duke, thank you for having me" Bradley bows and takes his leave right after glaring at me with those emerald eyes compelled by anger.
"Ophelia, dear, make sure to clean this mess" Duke's kind smile returns and he leaves with his servants afterward.
"This is not a theater. Scatter" I stare at all the servants in the hall as they begin to walk to their respective areas.
Gilbert was laying on the floor with his back almost fully exposed. Blood came out of his fresh and deep wounds while his lifeless face held a deadman's expression. I don't think he was even listening to anything anymore. Ivy and Olivia were still kneeling on the floor.
"I take all of you learned a valuable lesson today. You can take this butler to his room but then come back and clean this mess" I glare at them right before heading back to my room.
"Wasn't that a show?" Mace appears from behind a wall.
I glare at him just to see his curious face. He was well aware I had done this for another reason but, even then, he didn't know what that reason was.
"My lord..." he understands my warning and quickly smiles right before walking towards the Duke study room.
As I enter my room I lay on the bed just to be followed by Nero. He rubbed his head onto my right arm and I pat his head. I guess that after all this time he finally got used to me and my touch. My attention flows towards the big windows that reflected the sun as a feeling of satisfaction grabs my heart.
✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽
And just like Ophelia suspected, several days passed by without any problems since Gilbert was too wounded to be able to attempt anything.
'It must take another week until he can leave his bed' I smirk as this thought runs through my mind.
"Milady, a letter has arrived for you", Olivia bows down and delivers me a small white envelope with the symbol of the Whartons attached to it.
[My dearest Ophelia,
After learning about your early arrival at Father's estate I was thrilled. I anxiously wait for the day we will be able to connect our fates.
I am sending this letter after knowing about the actions of Bradley Trace. I' already knew how he behaved but I never thought he would try to fetch someone already engaged. Once I return I will take measures to deal with his impertinence.
In the meantime make sure to keep yourself safe, you never know who might be watching.
Your fiancée, Terrell Wharton]
As I finish reading his letter I look at Olivia who had grown overly aware of me. Ever since that day the maids had become extra careful while approaching me. Her fingers were touching each other quickly, almost as if her nerves had won her over.
'This guy...' if I didn't know Terrel I would assume that this was only a worried man that was seriously concerned by my well-being however I am well aware that this is nothing more than a threat.
"Olivia prepare my dress, I'm going out," I smile politely as her expression looks confused. Of course, Olivia is a person that loves to hear every single type of gossip, she is extremely curious so I know that she read this letter as well since she was looking over my shoulder.
"Where are you going milady?" her graceful appearance made her almost seem like a perfect maid however, whenever she opened her mouth, that image was easily shattered.
"Olivia, who are you?" I frown and she instantly apologizes.
I've been keeping an eye on Ivy and Olivia and truthfully they don't act like they are spies, neither of them visited Gilbert and that infuriates me. I thought that by hurting the man hired by the Duke would bring out the spy but, of course, things needed to be stupidly hard. Even then, Olivia has been more passive-aggressive lately and that worries me.
She makes comments that shouldn't be allowed but repents right afterward almost as if they were honest mistakes.
'Something's not right,' I keep having something in my gut that warns me.
✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽
"Thank you for seeing me on such short notice" I bow down as Patricia Hillgarden enters the waiting room. Her long brown hair was loose as it blended with her caramel-colored dress. Her dark brown eyes glared down at me, suspicious of my presence.
"It is quite alright Lady Ophelia, I wasn't busy either way" her fake smile reminded me of the night of the ball as her eyes looked at me filled with fear. "Please have a seat" the maids place several cookies and pieces of cake alongside some linden tea on top of the wooden table.
"You are very kind" we both sit down on the parallel couches and the maids take their leave, as a growing deafening silence remained.
"So my lady, what brings you here today?" I grab a teacup and place it against my pale pink lips as I analyze her. Even though Patricia tried to hide it, I could see how anxious she was. Her hands were stuck together to prevent any rebel emotion to pop out. She wanted me to leave.
"Honestly I was a bit unsure if I should come here or not but I figured I needed to apologize" I place down the cup of tea and get up right before bowing down in front of Patricia.
"Lady Ophelia?" once my eyes capture her dumbfounded expression I gulp.
"You can't right? I was counting on that... I'm sorry for wasting your time, I'll be going now" tears started to gather around my eyes and, as I was about to open the door I feel a hand grabbing my arm.
"Wait! That is... Please, drink a little bit more tea" Patricia's worried expression turned flushed as she saw the tears run down my cheeks.
After placing her hand on mine she guides me towards the couch and sits by my side.
"Take this" Patricia grabs her handkerchief, filled with beautiful embroideries and a calm scent of roses.
"T-Thank you my lady" I wipe my tears away with her gift as she looks at me confused and conflicted.
"What were you apologizing for?"
"That night... At Lady Catherine's ball... I was drugged and I couldn't control myself, my lady... I ended up scaring you and Lady Holly"
"Drugged!? Who would do such a thing?" her shocked expression made me smile for a glimpse of a second.
'I got you' I thought as Patricia continues to babble about the events of that night.
Amanda has two so called "friends", Patricia Hillgarden, the second child of Earl Hillgarden, and Holly Statton, the third child of Earl Statton. In my previous lives I ended up learning a lot about both of their families and, the most important factor is that, despite what might look like on the outside, they both despise Amanda.
Yes, they do follow her around like dogs but they are forced to do so by the Earls. Both Patricia and Holly had to be friendly and obey Amanda's every command since they are trying to grow their influence by using Duke's Criswell status.
Even then, they are not entirely innocent. Patricia loves to order people around and her true personality can be even more wicked than my sister's however, on the other hand, Holly is always kind and grateful, no matter the situation she's in which only makes her more suspicious.
Right now, as I sit in Patricia's mansion, crying tears of regret of my past actions, is equal to a forbidden fruit in her eyes. A young, frail girl, denied by everyone around her was now showing a side that no one knew, a side easy to use for one's benefits.
The moment I was about to leave the door, Patricia could've let me go easily but she saw on opening to become friendly with the Criswell's child and the Wharton's fiancée. Besides, news of the bad waters between Amanda and Bradley have spread like wildfire so I am a safer bet for the Hillgarden's, and she knew it.
"Do you have any clues?" her fake concerned eyes made me want to gouge them out of her pretty face.
"I don't... But I might have an idea to find out who did it" Patricia's eyes widen with surprise as I pretend to be a helpless little puppy, easy to control.
"What is it?" I could tell she was dying to know.
"If I could host a tea party with all the guests of that ball then... But I can't. I can't bring myself to ask Duke Wharton since I just met him and my father is so busy with my sister's wedding arrangements that..." as I was about to finish talking, Patricia interrupts me.
"We could host it here! We have a big garden and that way you wouldn't be troubled!" her eyes were sparkling with expectation and I smiled innocently.
Of course, for a daughter of an Earl this invitation was as sweet as honey. Within the kingdom, one has to follow the hierarchy so an Earl could never invite Dukes, Marquess or even members of the ministry to a ball or a tea party that they organized. One had to follow this system and she knew she found a way to get pass it.
"Are you sure Patricia!? I don't want to trouble you..." she grabs my hands and smiles brightly.
"It is quite alright! Just make sure to invite everyone!" her voice was a pitch higher than usual.
'Finally, my opportunity has arrived! Who cares about finding who drugged you? Finding a wealthy husband is way more important, stupid girl' Patricia thought as she pretended to genuinely care for my well-being.
"Then let's make it a week from today!" we both agree on the date and soon after I leave towards my carriage.
"How did it go my lady?" Jade asks me while helping me enter our ride.
"Like it should" I smirk and we both enter the carriage.