Lia’s face crinkled into a frown.
Tilting her head away from him, forcing a note of confusion into her voice, she asked, “What do you mean”
“How did you manage it” He asked, closing the remaining distance between them.
The principal reached towards her, his hand nearing her breast.
In astonishment, she clutched the book she had been carrying to her chest, effectively stopping him from grabbing her.
This, however, did not deter him, as he grabbed the hem of her dress instead.
“I’m curious, is your underwear perhaps also that of a woman” He whispered, his voice low.
The putrid smell of his last meal, still on his breath, washed over her, invading her senses.
Lia breathed in sharply, clenching her fist.
She thought of the dagger Claude had given her, safely strapped to her ankle, and wondered if she would need to use it.
“Eddie Kirkham fancies men,“ she recalled Claude’s rich voice informing her.
He had sounded unusually affected when informing her of the information.
Lia desperately wished she had listened to him.
But she hadn’t believed it would affect her.
Oh, how wrong she had been.
She wondered internally if the Duke knew that the aid she was going to meet in the library would be Eddie Kirkham
“Stop,“ Lia growled, the threat in her voice apparent.
“There is no need to be ashamed.
I only wish to become acquainted with the intimacies of men.
I don’t mean to harass you,“ he said, his silver words dripping with velvet.
“Sir!” she threatened, her voice low, murder in her gaze.
As his hand moved towards her inner thigh, she heard the deep baritone voice of the Duke.
“It’s over,” he stated, touching a dagger to Eddie Kirkham’s neck.
Lia’s mind went blank at the sight of Claude.
He was drenched, his hair plastered against his forehead, his uniform clinging to his well-muscled frame.
Blood welled from where the cold metal touched Eddie’s neck.
The flustered principal lifted his hands and smiled obsequiously.
“I seemed to have caused offense,” the principal said placatingly.
“Didn’t I tell you never to touch a student again” the Duke inquired, his tone empty of all emotion.
“I wasn’t harassing Sir Canillian.
It was only a joke,” he said, trying to play it off casually.
“It didn’t seem like much of a joke,“ Claude responded coldly.
The Duke’s gaze fixated on Canillia, who looked terrified.
She saw something in his deep blue eyes, an unidentifiable emotion, shoved down, subdued, and restrained.
Claude moved the tip of his dagger from Eddie’s neck to his groin, declaring, “It’s just hard enough for me to cut.”
The principal blanched, his face draining of all color.
Duke… That’s too far.
Stop,” the pitiful man begged.
“Apologize,” the Duke commanded.
“Please excuse me, Sir Canillian.
I didn’t mean to harass you,” Eddie said, a glimmer of forced sincerity reflected in his voice.
Realizing where they were, Lia came back to her senses.
She grabbed Claude’s hand, the one holding the dagger.
“Sir Claude, stop.
There are people watching,” she implored.
“I thought you would be more grateful,“ he accused.
Of course I am.
But there are many people watching us closely, and I think it would be better to avoid causing more of a disturbance,“ she explained, hoping he would listen to her.
He stood near enough to her that she could smell the faint scent of lavender on him.
She had no idea why he was in the library, but she was thankful for his presence.
His gaze still fixed on her, Claude removed the dagger from Eddie’s groin and took a small step backwards.
“There will be no more warnings,” the Duke promised.
Now Lia understood why there was a rumor that the true owner of the Academy was actually Duke Ihar.
Eddie gingerly put a hand to his wounded neck.
The blood from the small cut soaked his lapel.
“Duke Claude, you don’t need to protect him.
Sir Canillian is not a child.
He’s a man who’s soon about to have a debutant,” the principal muttered under his breath.
“I should have cut your tongue out,” Claude growled.
“You don’t have a right to criticize me,” Eddie brazenly stated.
“You seem to be missing a few of your mental faculties, it appears you are still talking,” Claude said, his voice low and elegant, despite Eddie’s sarcastic remark.
Eddie stared at him, expression filled with suppressed anger.
Taking out a handkerchief and holding it to his wound as he turned, the principal shamelessly walked away.
The sounds of other students going about their business suddenly rushed in, washing over her senses.
Her nerves began to crumble, and her legs started to shake.
“Thank you, Sir Claude,” Lia whispered, her voice shaking.
Lia clutched her trembling hands to her chest and stepped away from the Duke.
He looked down at her bloodless face without a response.
“You look ridiculous dressed as a woman,“ he said with disdain.
Embarrassed, pink spots bloomed on her cheeks.
She feared that was what he had been thinking, but she had hoped to be mistaken.
Ashamed, she put as much formality in her tone as she could muster, thanking him, before grabbing the hem of her dress and turning around.
“Stop,” he ordered, before she had the chance to leave.
He grabbed her wrist, not giving her the chance to turn around.
Claude practically dragged her between rows of bookshelves, passing one after the other in rapid succession.
Heads of other students looked up at their brisk pace, and Lia feared someone she knew would see her.
Opening the door they suddenly found themselves in front of, he swore softly.
The door led into a huge resting area, restricted to high nobility.
The room was filled with priceless, luxurious furniture and artworks.
“Sir Claude” Lia asked, confused at being brought to this room, usually bard to her.
The wrist that he had grabbed pained.
He held it so tightly, the blood had stopped circulating properly.
“Please let go,” she pleaded, lifting her head to look at him.