Anticipating his return tonight, excited to discuss their future, she had gotten up early, handpicked fresh produce, cooked, and tidied the house. Her efforts felt futile upon hearing the gut-wrenching news.
"Our marriage was essentially a business arrangement," Declan snapped, flicking ash from his cigarette. "Plus, Eliana will return soon."
So that was it.
Eliana Patel, the woman who occupied his heart, was the one he could never let go of.
With her tongue pressed to her palate, Hannah felt a familiar ache. She bowed her head, her mind a bit cloudy. Whenever Eliana showed up, Declan disregarded everything, even his own principles.
Back then, he married her out of obligation. Throughout their years together, his devotion never strayed from Eliana.
After a seemingly endless silence, Declan glanced at the woman before him.
Hannah was undeniably beautiful, her skin smooth, her nose finely shaped, and her lips akin to rose petals. Even behind thick-framed glasses, her eyes sparkled now and then in the light.
Yet, she was unexciting, almost to the point of being boring.
Her demeanor was always mild. The dutiful wife persona she had maintained for so long was as uninteresting as a glass of water.
She fit the role of Mrs. Edwards just fine, but she could never be the woman he truly wanted.
Cigarette in hand, Declan stubbed it out in an ashtray and began, "You once..."
Pausing, his eyes flicked towards Hannah's expression. She kept her head bowed, making him inexplicably feel she harbored both complaint and flattery.
Switching gears, he said icily, "Given your background, you might face difficulty finding a job in the future. So, beyond the property agreements, you'll get three more villas. You can also keep the limited-edition Ferrari, and I'll personally throw in fifty million dollars."
Once, when Eliana had moved abroad, Declan had followed out of love. The patriarch of the Edwards family was so incensed that he nearly disowned Declan. Only a dramatic act by his mother, a suicide threat, had pulled Declan back into the family fold.
To reclaim his family's favor, he had agreed to marry Hannah, who was rumored to have recently been released from prison.
Though he felt nothing for Hannah, he was willing to offer her a generous settlement, acknowledging her years of service and trouble-free relationship with the Edwards family.
It was akin to keeping horses for pleasure but knowing there was a cost involved.
Declan gestured to the contract with his long index finger, on which was a meaningful ring that had remained on that finger for four years. Hannah's eyes stung momentarily.
"You have three days to think it over. But don't keep me waiting. My patience has its limits."
Hannah picked up a black pen beside her and signed her name at the designated area.
"I'm clear-headed. I'll move out today and won't be in your way anymore."
"Very well," Declan acknowledged, unfazed.
He had to admit, even now, Hannah remained poised and sensible, never causing him concern. It should be called a twist of fate that he had always loved another woman.
In truth, as Mrs. Edwards, she was arguably the most suitable wife among society's elite.
Unfortunately, love was not something that could be dictated.
Just as Declan was about to speak further, the door burst open. Sadie Edwards, Declan's younger sister, stormed in, blurting out, "Declan, I heard you're parting ways with the jailbird today. Mind if I take that limited-edition Ferrari?"
Her eyes met Hannah's, who had just turned to look, and she rolled her eyes dismissively at Hannah.
Annoyed, Declan said, "How many times must I remind you? When I'm discussing business, you need to knock before entering. Your behavior hardly befits a socialite."
Leaning against the table, Sadie grinned slyly. "Alright, got it. Now, give me the car keys. I've got plans with my friend to go for a drive."
Always indulgent of his headstrong sister, Declan nodded towards Hannah. "Give her the keys."
Hannah's eyes lowered, her voice even. "I thought you said that car was mine."
Her words were soft as ever, but Declan sensed an unfamiliar chill.
Infuriated, Sadie lunged at Hannah and shoved her forcefully. "What are you talking about? Everything here belongs to my brother. What do these things have to do with you? Hand over the keys!"
For all her years as part of the Edwards family, Hannah had always been good-hearted toward Sadie.
Sadie was nothing but a magnet for trouble, always running to their mother when things went awry.
Once, Sadie had provoked the youngest daughter of the Mitchell family, finding herself held captive at the top of a tower by Bryson Mitchell, the family's third son as well as the patriarch. If not for Hannah's intervention, Sadie might have been crippled for life in a fall from that height.
But Sadie repaid her kindness by labeling her a jailbird.
Hannah was resolute, locking eyes with Declan. "I want the car. You did promise, Mr. Edwards. You've always been so generous. It's just a car after all."
Yet, in that moment, Declan felt as if the woman before him was a completely different Hannah than the one who had been picked on all the time before.
Taking a brief pause, Declan coolly addressed Sadie. "We have plenty of cars at home. Go to my garage and choose one for yourself."
Sadie, however, was a pampered girl with a stubborn attitude. Except for that one time she'd crossed Bryson, nobody ever dared to challenge her, especially not a woman with a criminal history like Hannah.
Pointing an accusatory finger at Hannah, Sadie demanded, "Answer me. Are you giving me the car or not?"
A stinging slap landed on Hannah's right cheek.
"You've got some nerve, acting so audacious here. Who do you think you are? You're not even fit to serve me!"
Declan's eyes flickered momentarily before resuming their neutral expression. "Sadie, watch your language."
Cradling her slapped cheek, Hannah cast a sideways glance at Sadie. "Clearly, someone failed to teach you manners."
Sadie's arrogance grew; she lifted her chin in defiance.
"So what... Ah!"
Ignoring the flowers still in it, Hannah grabbed a nearby vase and drenched Sadie's head with its water.
"Consider it a lesson from someone who cares enough to teach you."