Odd stares were following Nicholas as he inspected the cargo with Caldrick, the Captain of his cargo ship Divine. Nicholas is quietly admired around here, however, the odd stares he was getting were nothing out of admiration. It has something akin to pity and concern. Nicholas dislikes being pitied of all things. He is a capable man and could work as hard as the next man, titled or not. There is no reason for them to pity a man like him, or look at him like that.
”What has transpired this time, Caldrick? ” He inquired, eyes glued to the tabulation in his hands. Caldrick cleared his throat, hesitation coming in waves.
”Out with it, Caldrick, ” he said, nodding his head when he found the tabulation coinciding with the cargo. He could attend the landowners assembly in time if things went smoothly.
”Have you read todays morning paper, my lord? ” At this question, Nicholas turns his head to the uneasy Captain. He already has an inkling about what the fuss was about, nonetheless, he had to make sure how far she went this time.
”I gather you didn , ” Even though Nicholas asked everyone to call him by his birth name, it was useless as the commoner folks would always address him by his title. Something to do with respect and admiration according to them. They are proud that a commoner could go far in life.
”The scheming Baroness, evil Baroness, a madwoman, the beauty turned psycho, ” It seems like Caldrick is listing the headlines of todays morning paper. Lawrence might have gotten a morning paper with a tamer headline on it, or outdated if he did not inform him of something concerning as this.
”What had she done? ” He asked, a little thud starting in his chest. There is nothing usual in those words.
The Baroness was never labeled as someone evil, or a madwoman. She was always known as someone of divine beauty, a beauty that could befall any man. Then a temptress, seductress of the ton. She was always admired by the peerage in a twisted kind of way. Debutantes would seek out her knowledge for a successful debut, even the married genteel, man or woman. Everyone revered her beauty above everything else. Baroness Krona is the darling of the ton. To know that she is labeled as an evil Baroness spooked Nicholas.
”The Baroness might have staged a ruination for a noble lady, ” Caldrick said in haste, afraid of being caught saying something inappropriate. Everyone under Nicholas employ were of commoners origin. It is no surprise how they are always careful around the nobility or even the mention of it.
”A lady high in hierarchy, my lord. Some of the papers name her as the daughter of Marquis Leorick, ” the Captain added.
Nicholas rubbed the back of his nape, a mannerism he acquired every time a scandal was circling around the ton and has something to do with his errant wife. Ruining a ladys reputation is something not to be trifled with. Even though duels were long gone a century ago, there are still a handful of occurrences without the tons knowledge. Ruining a lady would mean a duel or marriage, and if Astrid did something as ruining a ladys future, Nicholas was bound to receive the brunt of it.
There is no chance of marriage if the Baroness orchestrated the whole dilemma. The involved man would be absolved of guilt and obligation leaving the fault to the person behind the ruination.
Nicholas can wield a pistol but he is not highly skilled with it. If the weapon of choice is something sharp and short, a dagger to be precise, he might have a chance of winning. Nicholas excelled at using a dagger, he is a farmer after all.
”Finish up here, Caldrick. I might have to change some clause of my last will, ” The Captain gaped at his words as he stride out of the docks and purposely traced the steps leading to his small office.
All the Baroness has ever given him was an endless cycle of hardships, and near-death experiences.
If only Astrid was also gifted with a heart of gold, then he doesn have to worry all through these years, Nicholas would have no reason to glance over his shoulder every night. She might be a celebrated beauty, but her personality was far from it. She was once dubbed by the gossip mongers around Clevon as an angel with a black heart. And no, she has no sad story behind her black heart, she was born with it.
Astrid Clermont was a beauty with poisonous thorns, she thrived in every chaos she caused and would have a field day over the trail of broken hearts left in her wake.
Nicholas was aware, enlightened and gobsmacked with the truth about his wifes hatred of him. Astrid is disgusted with everything that has to do with commoners. She hated inconveniences and found it fun to make some of the noble ladies suffer the time they crossed her path. She loves the rich and lavish lifestyle. Everything that is opposite of Nicholas.
He could envision Astrids devastation upon knowing she was wedded to a mere commoner Baron by her father, and with the full support from the King. They were married on paper. He might have not seen his wife in the flesh, nonetheless, she made it her mission to slap his face with every affair she committed herself with.
Every ball she attended, every soirée and every gathering the ton would come up with, Astrid would be there to parade her lover. A different man each gathering, and of noble birth.
Nevertheless, it wasn a secret that Astrid would rarely entertain men with lower station in life if they are fitting for her when it comes to physical features. He heard about the servant she favored among others in her household, an actor she frequented in the operas, a poet.
Even knowing about Astrids indiscretions, everyone was aware of Nicholas foolishness in the early days of their marriage. He was a fool to believe that he could conquer his wifes heart in the beginning. She was the eleventh-hour clause the King added. A beauty he could protect and guide, that is what the Archduke said. He fell in love with the thought of a beautiful wife and a land of his own, a family he could finally have. An orphans every dream. He fell in love with his wife. A wife he had never seen.
It was pathetic.
The whole Barony knows how he adores his wife, how he penned letters after letters for her to come home so they could finally meet. He penned his devotions and promises of good life. Nicholas worked day and night to make his land bountiful and productive. That way the King, especially the Archduke won regret their trust in him, and his wife would have the comfort she is accustomed to her entire life.
Two years of foolishness was met with infidelity every single day. Nicholas belongs to those broken hearts in Astrids wake. Some of those broken hearts acted on their hearts desires and attempted to end his life just so they could have Astrid for themselves. It was a messy business.
There was one instance where he almost lost his life because one of the men who got his heart broken by the Baroness shot him while he took rounds visiting his tenants. The villagers were quick on their feet to help him, and at the same, captured the deranged man. He fought for his life that day and the following fortnight. Nicholas has two scars to prove it.
What made it worse was the perpetrator recited one of his letters he wholeheartedly penned to Astrid, mocking Nicholas while telling him about how Astrid would read his letters to her paramours, getting a kick out of it. It was a cruel awakening, dampening his hopes, crushing what remains of his heart.
”My lord, a letter arrived in the manor with urgency, ” Allan, one of his footmen, greeted Nicholas the moment he stepped inside his small office. In his hand was a letter with the Archdukes seal on it. He was expecting the Kings seal following his appliance for divorce these days, not the Archduke. Maybe he had heard about his daughters scheming and wrote to him to know how he is faring. It was ironic how the Archduke inquired for his well being every single time, instead of asking about his daughter.
Nicholas took the letter, thanking Allan. ”You know the way to my solicitors office, don you Allan? Please deliver this letter directly to the hand of my solicitor, ” he handed a letter with a ready made template to summon someone with urgency.
”I understand, my lord, ” Allan bowed his head.
”After delivering the letter, you can take the whole day off Allan. You can come back here for refreshments or roam around the town, ” Nicholas handed him a silver coin. ”Go ahead, ” he added.
The footman nodded in thanks, clenching his hand tightly, the one where the coin resides. Allan left the office with determined steps, the letter tucked in his pocket.
Nicholas watches the footman for a moment before he turns his eyes on the missive sitting on his small desk. The Royal seal glints as the light shines on it through the small window on his left. He wonders what the Archduke wrote to him about this time. All sorts of good news would be welcome.
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