6. Second Visit
Ryan visited my store a week later.
Looking at how he always visited the store when it was about to close, I thought time allotted for his break was obvious.
“Welcome, please go to your favorite seat.”
—To say the least.
Just like last time, he merely came to have a drink.
I didn’t particularly mind it. We smiled at each other.
Ryan sat near the counter just like before and ordered a tea.
It’s not cocoa?
I was a little curious, but refrained from saying anything because there were still other customers in the store.
Since there were a lot of female customers that day, I didn’t want any strange rumors to spread.
Sure enough, Ryan was the center of the attention. Had that been a shop for commoners, surely, there’d have been an uproar by then.
However, as expected of refined noble ladies, those female customers maintained their sensibilities and didn’t overstay their welcome.
“…It isn’t cocoa today?”
When Ryan was the only one left in the store, I asked him.
Towards my straightforward question, Ryan’s eyes wavered. He looked a little bashful.
“Last time, I was busy with paperwork. I suddenly had a craving for something sweet.”
“Oh, is that so? Being a knight sure is difficult…”
I glanced at the documents spread on the table and sympathized.
He was a young and talented knight. I was sure he had a lot of responsibilities.
If I were to look closely, there were faint, dark, circles under his eyes. He looked somewhat tired.
“I didn’t know it’d come with baked goods.”
“…I’m sorry, the sweet food and the sweet drink must’ve upset your stomach.”
“Don’t worry, the baked good was delicious. I want to taste them more properly.”
“Well, if that is what you say, then it was worth making them.”
When I answered shyly, Ryan’s eyes widened.
“You make them? You’re a genius.”
“Thank you, ufufu~”
To be praised like that, I was honestly happy.
His words had no ulterior motives, no scorn, no flattery—they went straight to my heart.
They stood in utter contrast of Ricardolt’s words.
Since he had witnessed the annulment of my engagement, he should’ve known I was a baroness.
However, he wasn’t concerned about our differences in status in the slightest.
Even though he was from a duke’s family, I felt guilty for even comparing them in the first place.
“Do you like sweets?”
“Well… how do I say this, if I were to say that I like them, will you laugh at me?”
“Why? I don’t think that’s something to laugh about.”
Unsure of the intent behind my question, he scratched his head shyly.
“I’m a knight. The others are against anything that is regarded as feminine or childish.”
“What did you say!?”
I simply couldn’t understand that.
That was too muscle brained of a mindset.
There should be nothing against handsome, fine, macho, men enjoying their sweets!
I didn’t understand at all.
With utter resentment in my heart, I opened the fridge behind me.
Ryan anxiously called out to me, perhaps because my anger was too tremendous.
“This is a service!”
As I placed it on the table with a ‘don!’, Ryan’s shoulders jumped.
The guy is simply too cute!
Regardless of my fury, I still couldn’t help but take a note of that.
“Can I truly have this…?”
After staring at me with a troubled look on his face, Ryan regained some of his composure.
I cleared my throat and grinned.
“Please, do eat it. I’m sorry for giving you leftovers, though.”
While reflecting upon my untoward behavior, I pushed the plate of chocolate cake towards Ryan.
It was the chocolate cake requested by my regular, the old gentleman, last week.
I thought I made it well.
It was a last piece of service I’d usually serve to a regular.
As expected, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to overfeed a duke. However, I was hoping that he wouldn’t nitpick about such things.
Besides, the rich cacao aroma would surely go well with the tea.
“Is it really okay?”
“Yes, of course. Moreover, I’m proud of the final result.”
“Did you make this, too…? It looks delicious.”
He stared intently at the chocolate cake.
What was so funny about a macho man being enthusiastic about a cake?
The knights who despised him for such a reason were probably the most incompetent.
“…I won’t laugh.”
“Whether Lord Clifford has a sweet tooth, or enjoys spicy food, I won’t laugh.”
I answered his previous question while staring straight at him.
After a moment, he showed a radiant smile.
As I thought—the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes were truly attractive.
“Thank you… by the way, there’s no need to be so formal. You can refer to me as ‘Ryan.’”
“Alright, then… Lord Ryan.”
“The honorific is unnecessary.”
“That would be disrespectful.”
“It’s okay. I already said it’s fine, didn’t I?”
The man showed no sign of relenting.
Even if he allowed it, there was no way someone of a lower stature like me could address him so casually like that.
Even though he personally didn’t care about my status, I didn’t have the courage to speak to a duke in such a careless manner.
“…Then, please address me the same way, too.”
There was no choice but to make a compromise.
I couldn’t just refer to him without honorifics while he applied them to me.
It wasn’t that big of a condition, but I wanted to keep it neat.
I expected him to readily accept my suggestion—
—however, I was sorely mistaken.
Why didn’t he continue? What was so difficult about it?
In fact, why did he get stuck there?
Did he forget it?
…No, would a person who remembered the full name of a person he had only met once forget it just a week later?
I curiously reminded him. When I did so, Ryan’s cheeks turned slightly red.
“…I’m sorry, I don’t know why, but I suddenly feel embarrassed.”
“I, I see…”
“I’m not used to calling a woman by name, forgive me…”
To be honest, I was also shy.
An awkward atmosphere settled through the store.
For two adults to blush at each other while lowering their heads—what a strange sight, indeed.
I wondered why he was still unaccustomed to women when he was so popular.
Despite his looks, was he unexpectedly inexperienced?
Or, did it mean that he was so dedicated to his work, he had no time for romance?
I didn’t know which it was, but I had a good impression of him.
Suddenly being called in such a polite tone, I raised my head.
“It’s a beautiful name.”
When Ryan said that, I had to squint because he was too dazzling.
I desperately endured the incomprehensible urge to scream by biting the flesh inside my cheeks.
-Got white hair, if I wasn’t mistaken
…Yeah, I’m a slut for this guy now.
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