“I will sell myself to you.”
At Adele’s words, the man raised a brow, making her realize what she had just said.
‘Oh my God. What did I just say?’
Adele’s face turned pale.
‘Bang your forehead on the ground and pray he doesn’t misunderstand you, Adele Vivi!’
However, contrary to her inner thoughts, she calmly uttered the following words:
“Let me take on the role you just mentioned. Please use me and I’ll become the noblest lady in Santnar.”
Sweat dripped from her palms, dampening the polishing cloth in her hand.
That’s how desperate she was. But, the question is whether that earnestness had reached the man before her.
The man had dark blue hair that resembled the sea at night, which perfectly accentuated his distinct features like he was the product of a talented painter.
The man stared at Adele and quietly took out a cigar.
Tendrils of smoke quickly rose, creating a relaxing ambiance, and soon Adele was surrounded by the scent of almonds and dark chocolate.
‘Did you not hear me?’
Adele opened her mouth to speak again but stopped when her eyes met with his golden gaze beyond the smoke.
The man’s eyes were frighteningly cold.
For a moment, Adele forgot to breathe.
His eyes were refreshingly golden, like the midsummer sun. However, the warm color was not enough to mask his coldness.
Instead, his eyes only seemed to hold the dignity of the sun while discarding all of the warmest parts. Those were the types of eyes he had.
‘He is a man, who has received the greatest love from fate and God.’
These were the words the nobles used to describe ‘Cesare Buonaparte’, and Adele accepted it at once.
A man who had already become a Priori of the Signoria at an early age.
His father was of the great noble Buonaparte bloodline, and his mother was a member of the Orquenina royal family from across the sea.
Based on his lineage alone, no one in Santnar could compete, but fate and God had also blessed him with a splendid appearance.
A man that every lady in Santnar aspires to and the envy of every gentleman.
Adele realized much too late how ridiculous she had been. The cloth, dirty with shoe polish, was damp with a cold sweat.
But, even if she could turn back time, Adele would have made the same choice.
“I need a woman.”
“A woman that can be used to deceive the Della Valles by posing as a Buonaparte.”
The moment she heard the words he said to his companion, Adele realized it was her last chance, an opportunity granted by the Sea Goddess. That’s how dire her situation was.
“Adele, you’re a girl, aren’t you?”
Old Nino’s grumpy voice still resonated in her ears.
Nino was the old man in charge of the street shoe polishers in the Fornatier. Anyone who polished shoes in the vicinity had to answer to him.
“You had been deceiving me all along, you rotten wench. You’re stupid, aren’t you?”
“You better watch out. I’m not the type of person to go easy on women. If you can’t afford to pay the protection fee, you better be prepared for what comes next.”
His perverted gaze glanced over her chest as he spoke.
In the end, she was caught.
‘While I may not be a man, I’m no fool.’
Everyone knew old man Nino was in contact with a pimp in the back alley of Kimora, a slum.
Adele could easily imagine her future after being dragged into the back alley.
It all could be avoided if she paid her protection fees, but from that day onward the other shoe polishers took all her customers, leaving her with no work as if they had been instructed to.
She barely survived the last few days on a piece of black barley bread. She couldn’t even eat today because the protection fee was due the following day and she still hasn’t gathered enough money.
So, when Adele was brought to polish Buonaparte’s shoes in San Salina Square, she thanked the goddess of the sea from the bottom of her heart.
And when she realized that the Goddess wasn’t just blessing her with a few gold coins, her heart began to race.
“Are you serious? You’re really going to cheat the Della Valle family?”
“I am already looking for a suitable woman. I have been searching for fallen aristocrats, but it hasn’t been easy.”
“I knew you were crazy, but I didn’t know you were this crazy.”
Even Adele thought it was crazy when she heard it.
However, it was like a divine revelation from God to the shoe polisher, who was crazy enough to jump at the opportunity.
‘You can do it.’
As soon as Cesare finished speaking, a small whisper in her head pushed her forward.
“I’ll sell myself to you.”
With those words, Adele threw her life away.
For a moment, Cesare narrowed his eyes, as if he was trying to evaluate something. Even the faint lines around his eyes appeared to be painted with a fine brush.
The next moment, the beautiful man spoke.
“Are you a maiden?”
He gazed at her; his golden eyes devoid of judgment.
Adele immediately recognized the intent of his question.
“Yes, I’m a maiden.”
Cesare, who probably hoped Adele would back down on her own, grinned and laughed.
“I’m surprised a Fornatier shoe polisher knows what chastity is.”
At first, it sounded like a sarcastic remark, but there was no aggressiveness in the man’s tone.
Adele paused for a moment before she replied.
“I think I know better than Giacomo.”
Cesare burst into laughter.
Giacomo, a nobleman, was known as the scoundrel of the century.
Which means there is no difference in status when it comes to that.
“I wouldn’t know,” said Buonaparte’s prodigal son in a pleasant tone with a smile lingering on his lips.
Adele couldn’t help but notice how his smile was just as lovely as rumored, no, he was even more captivating than that.
He had deep dimples suitable for his large mouth, a smile that masked the coldness in his eyes. And there was a small, coy mole at the corner of his eye.
Even with such conflicting features, he was terribly attractive. So many ladies sought after him.
“Did you hear that, Jude? I think this shoe polisher speaks better than Lucrezia.”
The handsome man looked at his friend, who was sitting next to him, and said, “Miss Della Valle only stutters in front of you, Cesare.”
“I’m a bit attractive, but that doesn’t mean she’s not an idiot,” Cesare said as he pulled out a cigar.
Next to him, Jude smirked with a sarcastic expression.
“Miss Della Valle needs to know just how bad your personality really is.”
Jude. Jude Rossi.
Adele recognized his name because the newspaper generally introduced him as ‘an acquaintance of Cesare.
However, he was also the heir to the Rossi family, a great aristocratic family in Fornatier.
The successor of the Rossi family, who had his chestnut-brown hair pulled back neatly, finally looked back at Adele.
“Miss. Are you seriously going to get involved in this scam?”
“It’s Adele Vivi. And yes, if you let me.”
A light flashed in Jude Rossi’s green eyes.
“Miss Adele Vivi. Cesare forgot to mention this, but it’s not as easy as you think. I’m not questioning your intelligence, but do you understand the gravity of the situation?”
It was certainly noble of him to explain everything to ensure she had no doubts.
Before answering, Adele briefly glanced at Cesare.
Buonaparte’s prodigal son was observing their conversation with polite, yet frighteningly cold eyes, while pretending to be pleasant.
At the very least, Adele thought Jude Rossi would be easier to deal with than him.
“First, I apologize for eavesdropping, but can I first confirm if what I heard is correct?”
“Huh…. well… sure if you want.”
“It all started with the promise between the Buonaparte and the Della Valle families.”
Adele continued carefully to not stumble over her words.
“A long time ago, the heads of the two families signed a pact to have the daughter of the Buonaparte family and the son of the DellaValle family married.”
“However, no marriage took place in those days, so the pact has been documented and passed down.”
Priori: nine members that were chosen from the ranks of the guilds of the city. Six members were chosen from major guilds and two were chosen from minor guilds.
Signoria: (Italian for “lordship”) was the government of the medieval and Renaissance Republic of Florence, between 1250 and 1532.