COPYRIGHT © 2019 Miu
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the Author.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All pictures and multimedia used are not the author’s work and doesn’t claim any legal rights.
MATURE CONTENT and VULGAR words not suited for young readers below eighteen (18) years old.
“This is rare, seeing you so troubled.”
Alvaro didn’t have to look to know the voice came from Rozarria. He took one last drag before he threw his cigar into the blazing fire in time Rozarria sat next to him, holding a cup of hot chocolate.
“Did you already ate?” he asked. His gentleman façade was back as he took in her appearance. She was warmly wrapped in layers of jackets with the addition of a thick comforter draped around her shoulders. Her long hair was braided and was resting on one side of her shoulder. It was like she came out of a bath. He smelt a milky scented wash from her and saw the droplets of water thawed by the heat of the fire on her long wet lashes. She appeared fresh and very, much comfortable.
“Yes,” Rozarria replied before she noticed Alvaro was looking at her. “What?”
“Nothing . . . I’m thinking what it feels like hugging you.”
Rozarria didn’t reply, and Alvaro’s grin widened when he saw her lips quirked up, which she quickly hid.
“I take it that you’re not against the idea?” he asked. Though he already knew the answer.
“Even I said no, you’ll still do it anyway, right?”
Rolling her eyes with a stony face like that, she only appeared adorable in his eyes. Without a word, he grabbed the helm of the comforter and casually let himself inside the warm embrace of the thick fabric before he cozily wrapped themselves with it.
Rozarria leaned on his shoulder while his hand snaked around her waist, pulling her closer to him. These past days, they were sleeping together. Sometimes in her tent and other times in his. And most of the hike, they walked side by side, chatting if he was not occupied in rescuing Maxine. Needless to say, they were closer than before. Closer to be comfortable with each other’s presence.
After a period of silence, sipping her hot chocolate, Rozarria asked, “Aren’t you afraid your fiancée might see us?”
Chuckling, Alvaro answered in a playful tone, “You know, I already lost count on how many times you said that word. If you’re not jealous, then I don’t know what is.” He paused and added, “And answering your question, I don’t care if she sees us. And she’s not my fiancée.”
Rozarria didn’t answer, and for a time, only the flickering of burned wood and the whooshing sound of the wind echoed in their ears.
Alvaro pinched Rozarria’s waist, earning him a blank look from her.
“Tell me . . . why are you climbing mountains?”
Frowning, Rozarria jolted away from him, but the grip of his arm on her waist prevented her from widening their distance.
Eyeing him suspiciously, she asked, “What are you talking about?”
Alvaro stared at her with a serious face and said, “For five years, you’ve been climbing mountains in the month of deadly winter. More arduous and dangerous than the last. And based on my understanding, climbing mountains is never one of your hobbies.”
Rozarria raised a brow. “You mean base from your investigation, right?”
Alvaro shrugged his shoulders, neither denying nor affirming.
With a cold expression, Rozarria stared in the darkness ahead and voiced out her thoughts hidden behind her freezing armor of ice. “I have come to the point in time that for me to feel alive, I have to seek danger.”
“Don’t tell me. You’re one of those depressed billionaires who lost all meaning in life?” Alvaro asked, not one bit surprised by her answer since it was mostly the rich who were depressed while the poor were full of life, driven by the desire to reached success. But once they achieved it . . . what’s next?
Rozarria smiled, meeting his gaze as she answered, “Perhaps . . . I can get whatever I want with a snap of a finger. Life . . . had become dull . . . But even so, even with all the money and power . . . The one thing my heart wanted . . . I can never have.”
“Is that why you’re trying to numb yourself by sleeping with men?”
Rozarria’s pupils rounded. She was shocked for a moment before she turned back to her usual ice-cold face. “You’re perceptive.”
Alvaro grinned. “It’s not that hard to guess.”
Braking eye contact, Rozarria focused her gaze towards the darkness ahead. “Yes, part of the reason.”
“. . .”
“. . .”
Alvaro continued to look at her, which prompt Rozarria to made a sidelong glance at him.
“What?” she asked.
“I’m waiting for you to tell me more.”
Rozarria didn’t answer. Instead, she played with her cup before she faced the man with unwavering eyes. “If I tell you, I have to start from the beginning.”
Alvaro tilted his head, a charming smile on his face. “The night is still young.”
“. . .”
Rozaria stared at those mesmerizing ashen eyes. They were like stars amidst the milky dark sky. She drew in slow, steady breath and break away from his hypnotizing gaze.
“My family, as you probably know, is very strict, especially my grandfather. All of it changed when Eric was born.” Rubbing her fingers on her cup, she continued, “Mike was the oldest, followed by me then Dimitri and finally Eric. Our gaps weren’t the normal one to four years. Mike is older than me by five, and I’m also older than Dimitri by five, and Dimitri was older than Eric by seven years.”
Rozarria paused and flicked her eyes on Alvaro, who remained looking at her with a serious face. She smiled and said, “You probably guess my age by now, so I won’t tell you the exact numbers.”
When Alvaro didn’t answer, just remained looking at her still, she broke eye contact and continued, “Mom was already in her forties when she had Eric. No one expected it. And even with the danger, my mother wanted to give birth to Eric. And thus, Eric was born at the cost of our mother’s life.”
“Is that why you’re cold towards Eric?” Alvaro asked.
Rozarria shook her head and laugh a bit with no humor. “No. The exact opposite actually. When Eric was born, we already have a mature understanding of things due to our upbringing. Mike and I were already away, working for our quotas while it was the time for Dimitri to be sent away to an orphanage to start his trial.”
Gazing up, Rozarria looked at Alvaro with vacant eyes but smiling lips.
Alvaro only felt sadness from her expression even though her face was smiling.
“Though our family was strict, my mother was a very loving person. She gave us her love, her wisdom, her patience . . . We grew up with a mother’s love . . . But Eric didn’t have any of that. And maybe because of that reason, all of us doted on him the most.”
“And for me . . .” Rozarria eyes softened as if remembering something. “For me . . . it was different. When mother died, grandfather soon followed, and father became somewhat lenient. To facilitate Eric’s growth, he needed a mother figure, and I was given that task. I was asked to return to Frizkiel to take care of him, but it wasn’t an excuse for me not to reach my quota in the time given. I still had to work for the family in a pretense of being an orphaned, taking care of some rich family’s child. I have to juggle work, my studies, and taking care of Eric at the same time. It was not easy, but everything was worth it when I came home and saw Eric’s innocent smile. It purifies my heart, and every exhausted cell in my body disappeared.”
Alvaro didn’t say anything. He just sat there, looking at Rozarria’s expression that continued to soften every time Eric’s name came up. Then it reverted, more freezing than before as she stared at him, undeniable threat in her frigid voice as she spoke.
“I have watched Eric grew from a baby up to where he was to be orphaned. I was his mother, his sister, his best friend . . . and I will not allow anything nor anyone to harm him.”
“. . .”
Of course, Alvaro precisely knew what she was getting at. He chuckled and raised his arm in playful surrender. “Harming my future brother in law is out of the question. So you can rest easy on that.”
“It’s best we made it clear. Even if Evangeline Heart is your cousin, I won’t spare her if she hurt Eric.”
Alvaro’s eyes dimmed a little while the smile on his lips rose in a dangerous smirk. “Of course . . . But let’s be clear, even if Eric is your little brother, I won’t spare him if he hurt Evangeline.”
“. . .”
“. . .”
The atmosphere turned silent and tense. There was even a static sound battling between the two as they kept looking at each other. Their faces were calm, yet their eyes were full of threat and warning.
After a moment of the suffocating standstill, Alvaro was the one who spoke first. He beamed, the warning and danger in his eyes gone. “What happened next? I’m sure it’s not because you’re in love with Eric, that’s why you kept sleeping with men because you can never have him, right?”
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