The silence that followed Gavriel's question was deafening as Evie was utterly tongue-tied. Her lips trembling a little as she could only look at him with wide eyes. No matter how much she tried, she could not deny the shocking and foreign emotions that had flooded her insides since she saw him dancing with Thea. The question had struck her damned hard.
"No! J-jealous?! W-why would I be jealous?!" She stammered as she took a step back, shaking her head forcefully as if to also convince herself of that statement, as she dropped her eyes to the ground, avoiding Gavriel's eyes.
Gavriel watched her carefully and something gleamed in his eyes. His thin lips slightly twitching as if he was suppressing a smile. In the end, he caught his lower lip between his perfect white teeth and silently looked elsewhere to get his bearing.
When he returned his gaze to her, his expression was serious but gentle. He took a step closer, but Evie stepped back, causing him to sigh.
"Look at me, wife." His voice was compelling and warm. Yet Evie turned away, showing him her blatant defiance. "If you're not jealous, then why are you reacting like this?"
Evie's grip on her skirt tightened and she felt her body about to tremble. "I said, I'm not! I just want to leave this place, now!" she yelled at him, unaware that she was looking as though she was about to cry.
Gavriel stilled and became silent. His gaze never leaving her face. After another moment of observing her distraught face, his low and husky voice filled the silence. "Okay, I understood. I'll take you home, now."
He offered her his hand and Evie's gaze settled on it. Why does he always do this? Why did he always offer her his hand like this? She had just yelled at him and yet he's still…
Evie knew that every time she accepts this large, warm and strong hand, she was letting him come a step closer to her. And if she was honest to herself – a step closer towards her heart too. Since their eyes first met that night of their wedding, Evie had been running on adrenaline and emotions that had been centred on this man before her. She couldn't believe that it's only been a few days and she was already this overwhelmed. Evie was starting to feel scared and worried because she was not a fool not to understand the reasons behind her very own actions and emotions. At this rate, if she let him come any closer than this, she was terrified of the consequences. It would be unimaginable!
Tightening her grip on her skirt even harder, Evie steeled herself. Her gaze still not landing on his person even once.
"I want Elias to take me back. Please go back inside, the ball is not over yet. I'll be fine on my own," Evie said decisively. Her voice now softer but firmer with solid determination as her gaze skittered around everywhere but on his face.
Evie waited for him to retract his hand and when he didn't, she began to feel a little anxious. Was her refusal still not enough? As she was struggling to think about her next move, Gavriel spoke.
"I'm afraid your request came a little too late now, wife. Everyone already left just a while ago."
His words made Evie whipped around just to see that the men behind her were gone. Her lips parted in disbelief and then, she found herself turning to stare at him. He was rubbing the back of his neck as he looked at her with an apologetic gaze, causing Evie to fall even more speechless.
Evie didn't know that while she was refusing to look into Gavriel's eyes, the man had been ordering his men to disappear and leave before him despite their strong refusal. Gavriel had somehow foreseen that his wife would try to distance herself from him again and he was glad he had seen that coming.
"Now let's go. Before the emperor sends someone to call us back inside." He reached for her hand and without giving her a moment to protest, he lifted Evie, princess-like, and leapt from the ground.
All Evie could do was wrap her arms around his neck and as her forehead brushed against his jaw, she felt like he had smiled. He pulled her head back to look at his face. "Did you… just smile?" she asked, her expression still serious.
Gavriel craned his head a little. "Am I not allowed to smile too? Wife?"
Evie blinked. "T-that's not what I meant…" she stammered in surprise. "And what do you mean by 'too'?"
"Well, I figured I am not allowed to accept anyone's offer to dance with me because it will make my wife angry."
His words made Evie looked like a blow had struck her, hard. While she was tongue-tied, Gavriel continued.
"If smiling will make you angry as well, then I shall not –"
"D-don't be ridiculous. Why would you smiling make me angry?" she blurted and then the sly prince turned his smile on. That smile that was enough to turn any woman's brain to mush and make her voluntarily crawl into his bed.
When Evie saw that smile, she didn't know why but she felt like she had just made one of the greatest mistakes in her life.
"If my smile won't make you angry, then I think I should smile more –"
"I… I mean… don't smile when there's no reason. Else… you'll look like a fool."
He chuckled and Evie felt like she just brainlessly committed another grave mistake. She must get away from this dangerous man. She couldn't believe that even his laughter could gravely affect her.