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“Excuse me, my lady. The carriage wheel is broken…”
Rackley snapped out of her past reverie at the raspy voice coming from outside the carriage.
The air was hotter than in the capital, and it filled her lungs deeply.
She was currently leaving the capital and heading for a villa in the south.
She could not stand being at the mansion any longer.
Unable to bear it, she decided to leave the mansion.
As she got off the carriage, the coachman was looking at the carriage wheel stuck in the mud with a troubled expression. The wheel was misaligned due to the impact and broken from the inside. Sharp pieces of wood protruded between the spokes.
Even Rackley, who did not know much about carriages, thought it would be dangerous to move it now.
It must have been shaken quite a bit to be in this state.
‘So I was really lost in my thoughts.’
She had not felt the impact at all.
“What should we do? We were so close. I don’t understand why this happened when we had it well-maintained. I am truly sorry.”
“How long will it take to fix?”
“I can finish it quickly. With my experience, this is not a big deal.”
Sweating, the coachman took out some tools from his seat.
A hammer, nails, a chisel, a saw, and a few simple tools.
Rackley had seen coachmen repairing rented carriages on the road before. Two strong coachmen had fixed the carriage on a stand and changed the wheel.
‘He won’t be able to fix it alone.’
She planned to wait under the shade of a nearby tree with a book since she could not help. But when she turned her head, she saw a long straight road.
Although there were no stones on the road, it looked well-maintained, perhaps because it was an area where nobles’ villas were clustered.
The coachman looked into the underside of the carriage, changing tools one by one. His helpless state of mind was evident even just by looking at his back.
‘He said we were close.’
The weather was perfect.
“How far is it to the Solomon estate?”
“Oh, it’s close. If you follow this road straight, you’ll see a sign, and if you follow that, you’ll be there in no time.”
The coachman looked back at the carriage again.
He had to temporarily repair the wheel, pull it out of the mud, and then fix it again entirely. It was impossible for him to do such a laborious task alone.
As Rackley watched the coachman struggling to hammer the carriage, she turned her head toward the long straight road.
At noon, there was still plenty of time before the sun would set. It wasn’t too hot, making it a pleasant day for a light walk. The weather today was much better compared to the summer.
Suddenly, there was a cracking sound, like a tree breaking, and the coachman cried out in panic.
The carriage tilted dangerously. The coachman stumbled, looking at Rackley for guidance.
“I-I can fix it. If you could just wait a little longer.”
“You said the Solomon estate is close, right? I will go and call for help.”
“No, no, that’s not necessary. I can fix it quickly if you just wait.”
“I want to walk. Sitting for so long has made my back hurt.”
Speaking softly, the coachman’s tone softened as well.
“But… you’re a noblewoman, and…”
“You said there would be a sign along the road?”
“Yes, it’s the villa with the blue roof… but are you sure you’re okay with this?”
“I’ll send someone when I get there. Please send my luggage then.”
“Oh, thank you. I’m so sorry, my lady.”
“It’s an accident.”
Rackley was relieved that the coachman didn’t insist further.
She took out her hat from the carriage and also brought a water bottle. Then, she started walking slowly along the road.
She had begun walking with the thought that moving would keep other thoughts at bay, but she soon regretted her decision.
Whether the coachman meant it was close by carriage or not, she walked for a long time, and the sign still didn’t appear. If she hadn’t brought the water bottle, she might have collapsed from thirst.
Rackley had good stamina for her thin body. She often walked around the spacious mansion, and with few servants to do the work, she often had to do the dirty work herself. However, that only meant she had better stamina compared to other young ladies who moved less.
“Ah, the sign!”
Finally, a fork in the long, straight road appeared. There was a sign with the names of other families and the Solomon family.
Rackley breathed a sigh of relief. Her heart fluttered and sweat flowed into her cleavage.
The strict Count Winer wished his unmarried daughter not to expose her flesh, so even though she wore a trendy low-cut dress, she had to cover the front with a scarf. When she hung the scarf around her neck, it felt more bearable.
Following the sign, she turned onto a side road and walked a little more. Another fork appeared, but this time, there was no sign.
Between the trees on one side, she caught a glimpse of a blue roof.
“The Solomon estate has a blue roof, right?”
Rackley didn’t see the sign hidden in the bushes and walked towards the blue-roofed mansion.
Soon, the villa with the blue roof appeared.
Uncharacteristically for Solomon’s taste for big and flashy things, the villa looked small and discreet. It had a quaint, glamorous charm, as if it were a secret place where a noble would bring their lover.
Catching her breath at the entrance, Rackley knocked on the door, and a thin, old butler appeared.
“I’m Rackley, staying here for a few days.”
The old butler rudely scanned Rackley from head to toe. Her hair was damp with sweat and stuck to her face from the long walk, and her chest heaved with every breath as she had untied her scarf. The dress she wore was made of high-quality fabric but worn out. In addition, the hem of the dress had been dragged through the dirt during her walk.
She looked dishevelled, to say the least.
Feeling embarrassed, Rackley blushed and tried to brush her dress off in vain.
However, even after her greeting, the old butler did not show hospitality. He maintained an awkward silence.
“Uh, didn’t you receive any notice?”
‘Irina said she would contact them.’
As she opened her mouth to mention her friend Irina Solomon’s name, the old butler stepped back and moved aside from the entrance.
“Please, come in.”
The interior had a strong feminine vibe, just like the small garden and the quaint exterior. The pink decorations that exuded a dense atmosphere were placed throughout, giving an odd feeling.
“The servants and I will stay in the annex. We won’t be here at night, so if you need anything, please ring the bell.”
Rackley had guessed from the exterior, but after seeing the inside, it was clear. This was a villa for enjoying time with a lover.
Even Rackley, who didn’t engage in extensive social activities, knew that many nobles openly had lovers. She just didn’t expect that it would happen in her own home.
“On the way here, the carriage wheel got stuck in the mud, and it broke down. Can you send someone? I also need my luggage.”
“The servant has gone to town to buy some things and won’t be back until evening. It might be impossible to bring your luggage today. Is that okay?”
“Yes, there’s nothing we can do.”
“You can use this room.”
The old butler led Rackley through a tearoom-styled drawing room and to a room at the back of the building. As soon as the door opened, an intense fragrance poured out.
The scent was different, but it reminded her of the new mistress’ room at the mansion. When her mother’s room became Lady Rowena’s room, the strong perfume scent settled as a vulgar image in Rackley’s mind.
However, as a guest who was indebted to them, she couldn’t ask for a different room.
Unable to express her dissatisfaction, Rackley leaned against the southwest-facing window, letting the evening light in, and looked back at the old butler.
“I’ll be staying here for a few days, how should I address you?”
“Ah, you can call me Brand.”
Though it was only natural to respect a housekeeper, the old butler Brand seemed momentarily taken aback by Rackley’s polite manner before regaining his composure.
“There are women’s items in the room, but if you need anything else, please let me know. We also have a maid.”
“Please rest until dinner is prepared.”
When the old butler left the room, silence returned, as if she had been alone from the start.
The room tinted in rosy hues, with its glamorous and feminine interior that was completely different from her taste, only intensified the unfamiliarity of the strange villa.
“Should I not have come?”
However, she had no other course of action beyond such timid rebellion.
She couldn’t protest to her father, Count Winner. Their relationship wasn’t close enough for her to speak candidly about her feelings.
‘Although we were related by blood, I was no different from the servants my father employed.’
She had felt this truth whenever she saw how the Count treated Edward.
When dealing with Edward, the Count had a genuine fatherly expression, unlike the one he showed Rackley. Whenever she saw his expression, Rackley felt she had no significance to her father.
When managing the mansion and keeping busy, she had needed time to herself. But as soon as Rowena took everything, Rackley found herself helpless, like a child abandoned at the market.
Rowena only called for Rackley’s help through a bell when necessary. She had never called for her directly.
The servants treated Rackley awkwardly, considering Rowena’s position as their employer, and some even pitied her.
There was no place for her in that mansion.
Still, she tried to adapt to the situation somehow. However, Count Winner’s harsh words wounded Rackley’s heart.
‘We’ve decided to host a party and invite relatives. Since Rowena has become the Countess, we need to introduce her to people.’
And the Count’s proud gaze at Edward.
‘We should also introduce Edward, who will lead the house in the future.’
These words were spoken at a dinner with Rowena and Edward. There was no consideration for Rackley.
After hearing the Count’s words, she felt so suffocated that she could no longer eat.
That night, Rackley suffered from indigestion. No servant came to her room to check on her as she groaned in pain.
Worse still, Count Winner ordered Rackley to prepare a welcoming party for her new stepmother, Rowena, right then and there. It was too cruel.
But what she hated most was that she couldn’t refuse and had agreed at the time.