She had made a mistake.
Jasmine swallowed a silent scream at the horror revealed to her by the light of the morning sun. She was in an unfamiliar room, ruffled blankets, clothes, and underwear scattered across the floor—and a man next to her, naked and sleeping without a care in the world.
What made it worse was that the man was someone she knew. Someone she knew well.
She knew who he was by his sharp nose, black hair, round and protruding lips, and eyes—though closed—that she knew to be as blue as the autumn sky.
With his armor discarded, his looks gave way for something wilder, more disheveled than his usual pristine image. And, yet, Jasmine still knew who he was. Anyone in the Imperial high society would have known who he was.
Duke Richard Aion.
As the future commander of the Empire’s military, a renowned swordsman, and a respected knight, he possessed a presence that was hard to ignore, regardless of any rumors there might have been of him. But Jasmine knew him more than that, she knew him more than anyone else.
And it was only natural, of course. It was a well-known fact that Jasmine of the Grand Duchy of Liovanni held Sir Richard close to her heart. Jasmine was capable of recognizing him from afar, even if she could barely make out the shape of his head and even if he wore rags. That was how much she loved him.
But, looking around the mess of the room, Jasmine knew that whatever she had done was far beyond what she was capable of.
While everyone else obsessed over love, Jasmine had remained passive, even ignorant and conservative when it came to s*x. It was mostly her father’s fault, the man had sheltered her all her life, and so she was left scared and inexperienced.
How did this happen? she thought, ruffling her coveted blond hair as she groaned. Her hair was a mess. Think, think!
Then she suddenly remembered the night before. She had gone to a party and had drunk more than she should have.
“Do you want to sleep with me?” she remembered herself asking. Jasmine felt like pulling her hair out.
But that wasn’t all. The more she remembered, the worse it seemed to get.
“I want to move on from you, Richard.”
She felt herself screaming on the inside, blood running cold at the thought of her foolishness. She hastily kicked the blanket away and hurried to find her clothes on the floor.
This is insane! she thought to herself. She was dying of shame, her throat tightening like she was about to be hanged.
She paused. Had Richard been sane at the time?
She had been drunk and her senses had been robbed from her, but she didn’t know how they might have ended up in this situation if he hadn’t also agreed to her proposition.
“I don’t know anymore,” she mumbled, rushing towards the door.
Then, a voice spoke up from behind her. “Where are you going?”
A hand gripped her wrist to keep her still before letting go. She turned and found Richard looming over her, his scent immediately filling her senses. Her heart seemed to stop as she realized that he was looking right at her.
“Jasmine,” he whispered, voice hoarse and subdued.
* * *
Unrequited love was a tiresome thing.
Every night before going to bed, Jasmine would look at herself in the mirror, feeling heavy and weighed down by her pain. She would think to herself, what the hell is wrong with you?
By Imperial standards, Jasmine was considered beautiful. She had luscious blond hair and dark violet eyes, her skin pale and unblemished. She had to admit that even she found herself beautiful.
And yet she still had to live with the fact that she loved someone who would never love her back.
Did he not find her attractive enough? Did he detest her personality? Could it be because of her House?
She shook her thoughts away knowing that her father, the Grand Duke, would not allow her to think such things.
Jasmine was a popular young woman with confessions, love letters, and proposals coming in from all over. She had many friends and was in good standing in high society. Her family’s name reminded everyone that she was a virtuous woman, a good woman.
But what was the point? She still had to deal with the unrequited love she had been harboring for seven years.
She loved the Duke Aion for everything that he was, but it was also those things that made him impossible to have. Richard was like an iron wall, he would never pay attention to someone like her.