Chances by axianbeauty
Summary: (CO-WRITTEN w/ SCARLETT) She lives like a daredevil stuntwoman. . He has secrets bound to duties in his family. They met in a usual circumstance but neither thought that it could change their lives forever. Read the enchanting yet unusual story of Xenia and Nick in this story of romantic love.


Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Kevin, Nick, Other
Genres: Alternate Universe, Romance
Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 17 Completed: No Word count: 23140 Read: 17444 Published: 02/28/05 Updated: 04/25/05

1. ONE by axianbeauty

2. TWO by axianbeauty

3. THREE by axianbeauty

4. FOUR by axianbeauty

5. FIVE by axianbeauty

6. SIX by axianbeauty

7. SEVEN by axianbeauty

8. EIGHT by axianbeauty

9. NINE by axianbeauty

10. TEN by axianbeauty

11. ELEVEN by axianbeauty

12. TWELVE by axianbeauty

13. THIRTEEN by axianbeauty

14. FOURTEEN by axianbeauty

15. FIFTEEN by axianbeauty

16. SIXTEEN by axianbeauty

17. SEVENTEEN by axianbeauty

ONE by axianbeauty
“Damn the riches, this is the life!” Xenia muttered with excitement as she jumped off the plane, followed by her instructor. It’s her first time for the real sky dive after a few training sessions. She never felt so carefree and alive like this before. Adrenaline rushed through as rapid winds in high altitude greeted her outside. “I am a bird!” she shouted. Her body pulled her greatly by gravity in such an intense speed.

“Yahoo!”

In a few moments, she reached the altitude in which she’ll have to release her parachute. And then along with her friends who skydive, they slowly went down towards the ground. Managing the moment, she took the chance to savor the sights around her. Lush green mountains are grouped in a distance. Xenia imagined they were curious onlookers witnessing the most daring stunt she had done so far. Looking below is a quilt-like picture of crop fields, which comes in different earth colors. Houses and establishments are like Lego play sets. She saw all of it whenever she’s on a plane but it’s different and overwhelming when she saw the view herself as she plummeted down to earth.

“Alright, Xenia!”

“”Wahoo!”

Xenia heard her friends cheered as she comes closer to the ground. With the training on how to land safely, her friends gave her time to settle herself from the parachute that’s still holding her. After all has got through, she met her friends who were there to watch and wait for her. “That’s so cool!” Yvonne exclaimed as she reached and hugged her best friend.

“I never felt better like this before. This must be the fountain of youth!” Xenia laughed. “It’s overwhelmingly fun!” Yvonne didn’t make to try skydiving because of her fear with ultimate heights. But she also had her share of adventurousness, and can only tolerate wall climbing. She wouldn’t be Xenia’s best friend for nothing.

“If only your brother could see this,” Halley added. She is Alex’s girlfriend. Alex is Xenia’s older brother who’s currently on a business trip in their kilt business in Scotland.

“If he learned about this, he’ll be mad. Big time.” Xenia laughed as she left with her friends and started towards her instructor, Ivy. “He even argued last week that skydiving is not covered by my insurance,” she added and shrugged. “So I said, what’s the use of my trust fund anyway? They can pay that for my funeral.”

Yvonne frowned. “Now, that’s too much air, Xenia. I wouldn’t like hearing that from you again.” Xenia just stuck out her tongue at her.

“Alex would be really mad now that you continued with this,” Halley rolled her eyes.

“I don’t think so, because I will go home alive and un-bruised. There’s no need to worry now that I’m back safe on the ground,” Xenia told her. Ivy greeted them.

“That’s right, and welcome back to earth.” Ivy hugged her pupil. “How does it feel, princess?”

“I want to try it again.”

“Oh,” Ivy chuckled and shook her head. “Not for now, Miss Xenia. But I got news for you that you finally earned a license for landing perfectly safe on the ground. You did your homework, eh?” The two shook hands. “Congratulations.”

Xenia smiled with pride and joy. “Thank you so much.”



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Xenia looked at the large dining table after she just announced to her family that she wanted to take over the family business in Scotland. It was her back-up plan so that her parents won’t worry too much with her extra-curricular activities.

“Am I hearing this right? Xenia is finally taking a serious move towards the business world,” Alex said, breaking off the silence. It was Sunday and they usually had dinner over their parents’ place in South Hampton. Both Alex and Xenia had their own apartments in New York while their parents are already retired and enjoying life together in their peaceful home in South Hampton. “Have you grown tired of your adventures?”

“No, I didn’t say I’ll give those up,” Xenia replied and smiled sweetly at her charming brother. “I decided that there's a need for me to focus on something beneficial and rewarding. I’m not getting any younger.”

Matthew Wilkins looked proudly at his youngest child. “That’s nice to hear, Xenia. I thought you’re going to decide next on sticking around with the likes of those socialites I’ve been reading on the society pages of the New York Post.”

Xenia snorted. “I never liked them, Dad, don’t worry. You won’t see me hanging out with them.” She reached for something in her wallet, which is in the back pocket of her jeans. “By the way, I finally got my license. See?” she showed everyone her card. No matter how they clearly opposed to her daredevil attitude, she always wanted to share with them a piece of what she has earned from it.

“What license?” Alex borrowed the license card from her.

“License for skydiving. I’m now eligible,” Xenia excitedly replied, ignoring the disapproving look coming from them. She’s used to it.

Alex shook his head and returned the license to her. “Someday, you’ll have to regret doing those adventures, Xenia. What’s your next agenda? In Scotland?”

“Please, Alex. Don’t give her any more ideas.” Olivia Wilkins told her son. She turned to Xenia. “I’m getting worried with this life you’re leading, Xenia. What have we done that you’re not yet satisfied of? Aren’t we giving you enough love? We love you, honey.”

“Don’t worry so much, Mom, but thanks anyway.”

Matthew raised an eyebrow. “And you’re seemed proud about it. May I remind you, young lady that my patience with your daredevil attitude is starting to wear me out? You’re going to fly in Scotland this weekend and manage our business but in one condition.” Everyone looked at Matthew as he spoke. “You’re not going to do anything risky and life-threatening or else, I’ll be seeing you married off to some man within two months.”

“Matthew!”

He seemed so content and happy with the idea, Xenia thought as she listened. Her father knows that her free-spirited attitude comes with a package of no commitment involved in a romantic relationship. She believed that she doesn’t need a man to depend on. She could rely perfectly on herself and with no one else. Xenia met her father’s look. She knew when Matthew Wilkins is serious. “Is that going to be a forever condition, Dad?” She still managed to challenge her father with that question. Alex just grinned and watched them.

Matthew wanted to smile by his daughter’s courage to ask him but prevented himself not to. He’s serious and he wanted his daughter to see it that way. He’s getting worried of Xenia’s extra activities too. “It will be if you don’t lay down yourself from doing such.”

“What are the bounds?”

“No activities that will reach an altitude of more than twenty feet, whether it includes diving from a plane, climbing a rock mountain, anything that is not covered in your life insurance or whatever it is that correlates with such,” Matthew replied. “That goes the same below sea level. No dealing with life-threatening tools, too.” He continued to blab on as Xenia’s jaws slowly dropped open as she listened.

“In short, be boring,” she said in the end.

“Life isn’t boring at all, Xenia, with or without your so-called activities.”

Xenia groaned.
TWO by axianbeauty
Nick cursed for the nth time as he continued troubleshooting his car’s engine. He knew how to fix it but somehow, he couldn’t figure out right now what’s happening with his brother’s Jaguar. Suddenly, thunder roared in the sky signaling the forthcoming downpour.

“Oh, please,” he groaned. What could be wrong with Aaron’s car?

A glass-tinted Bentley drove the down the road and stopped beside his car. Nick got stuck in an isolated area for so long and the next civilization is five miles away. Of all the misfortunes, he even forgot his mobile phone in his cousin’s house in London.

“Hey,” a woman called. Nick saw her peering over the car window. She threw something in which he caught with his hands. It’s a box of matchsticks. “The Jaguar needs to be roasted in the fireplace. Better get the old junk thrown into the fire than waste your time on it.”

Nick frowned and watched the car parked in front of his car. “Junk, huh?” he muttered angrily. People who knew him never messes up with him whenever he’s in a bad mood. He saw the chauffeur went out, followed by the woman. Nick crossed his arms and watched them come near.

“I’m just joking,” the woman started with a smile. “Let me help you tow the car until we reached the next town.”

“Funny how you insulted me first then offered me help,” Nick retorted, looking down at the brunette. He had this thing with brunettes and this one is the most unusual he’d ever seen. She’s no more than taller than him, just in the right height for a kissing distance, Nick thought amusingly. The woman’s face is a classic beauty and her skin must be silky smooth. “You’re American.”

The woman nodded. “I’m Xenia.” She offered her hand to shook with his.

“Nick,” he replied and took Xenia’s hand. He’s instantly attracted to the pretty brunette but he just couldn’t smile. Her joke still irritated him. “And thank you because I really need to get to the town right now.”

Xenia nodded and instructed her chauffeur to get ready with the thick rope they had at the trunk. Nick looked at it, probably wondering how did she have something like that on hand. “I used that for rock climbing and I brought it along with me.” Xenia shared, adding mentally that her father doesn’t even know that she brought her gears along. She’s not really familiar with the place but she still had intentions of doing more adventures. Nick didn’t comment on her explanations. “Do you live here?” She asked Nick as she watched the two men connect the two cars with the rope.

“As of now, yes. I’m American too.”

“Really? What state are you?”

But Nick didn’t answer her question. He turned instead to the driver and instructed him. Xenia frowned. No one ignored her before, including men. “If you’re ready, we can now leave.” She said and stomped off inside the car.

Nick tried not to smile. “Rich kid huh? Only child?” He turned to ask the driver who has introduced himself as Jordan, probably in mid-twenties just like him.

“Youngest child, Sir. But Miss Xenia is a nice person.” Jordan replied with a smile.

“Well, for you. I still don’t know her,” Nick said then patted the man on the shoulders. “Anyway, thank you. I’ll follow you in my car. I’ll take care of the wheel so that it won’t maneuver on the wrong lane. It might cause us accident.” He smiled genuinely then both decided to get going.



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“What do we have here, Nick?”

Nick smiled as he scratched his head. Xenia turned in question at him. They stopped at the first car repair shop they saw when they finally reached the town. Xenia figured out that the old man knew Nick.

“The last time you dropped by the shop, you’re with a woman too.” The old man added his joke.

“That’s a friend, Uncle Marcus, as well as our friend here. By the way, this is Xenia. The car couldn’t start on my way here and she offered me to tow the car.” Nick replied. “Xenia, this is my Uncle Marcus.” The two shook hands after being introduced.

“It’s nice meeting you, Sir.” Xenia said. Jordan told them that the car has already been detached from Xenia’s Bentley. “We should be going by now,” Xenia announced to the men.

“Thanks,” is all Nick could say. Xenia nodded then went inside the car.

“Pretty brunette, huh?” Marcus said as they watched the car drove away. His Uncle is his mother’s youngest brother. Louise Carter, Nick's mother, is the second oldest among the brood of three who were naturally born and grew up in Scotland. Louise met her husband when she pursued studying culinary arts in New York. Robert Carter, on the other hand, is a son of a wealthy restaurateur. The two had a case of love at first sight and were inseparable ever since they got married. Louise gained her citizenship when she married Robert and bore him five children. Her Scottish roots were never forgotten and when she died five years ago due to heart attack, Robert chose to bring her home and be buried in the family ancestral home in that little town in Scotland. His mother’s death brought along some family duties for Nick as the eldest child and since then, Nick is frequently visiting his mother’s hometown. But two months ago has made him decide to change address when his uncle, Louise and Marcus’ eldest sibling, died of cancer. Nick inherited a particular business from his uncle, which now binds him to stay in Scotland and continue the family duties.

“Pretty and a little feisty,” Nick replied to his uncle.

“Watch out,” Marcus advised him. “Next to Justine, you got another woman that will divert your attention. I think she’s the new manager of the kilt business here in town with Leah.”

“I don’t care,” Nick replied as they turned to his kid brother’s car. “Something’s wrong here that I couldn’t understand, Uncle…”
THREE by axianbeauty
Xenia watched as her cousin, Leah, walked around the room carrying her seven-month old child, Alix. “I didn’t know that you already had given birth.” She said.

Leah smiled. “Because you’ve been busy with your adventures, Xenia. When I was giving birth, I was told that you’re in a forest expedition for Raleigh International.”

Xenia nodded. “I was on a charity mission that time,” she gently took her cute niece from her mother. “Alix is so adorable. I wonder what my own baby would look like.”

“I think she’s going to have her mother’s eyes and nose, and the lips will be from her father’s,” Leah predicted with a joke. “But that would come in about ten years later because you’re so busy with your life to even bother to notice the men around you and consider marrying one of them.”

Xenia raised an eyebrow. “I think it’s the men who don’t have time for me. I’m just waiting for someone to sweep me off the ground but,” she snapped her fingers, “nada.”

“Because men looked at you as a very confident and independent person. They wanted someone of whom they could show their ability to protect and support. You didn’t seem to qualify that part.”

“If they only knew,” she muttered silently, not wanting Leah to hear that. Leah watched her cousin. They grew up together in New York and have known each other deeply. Yes, she knew Xenia. She knew that beneath the strong face is a vulnerable, na´ve girl longing for love and security It’s not that she was deprived of it. Xenia had a lot of love from her family, but she seldom gets attention from the opposite sex due to her dominant personality.

“Oh, before I forgot, please come with me tonight at my friend’s birthday party. Since you’ll be staying here indefinitely, you might as well get to know some people around.”

“Of course, I’d be glad to come.”

“You should also meet Nick Carter. He’s a nice young man, and a handsome one, too.”

Xenia just nodded, feigning disinterest.

That night, Xenia went with her cousin to Alice’s birthday party. She learned that Alice is the town mayor’s daughter, and Leah’s college classmate in Cambridge. It was in college when Leah also met her now husband, Alvin, and decided to stay in Scotland with him. Alvin is currently out of town for business matters.

When they got there, Xenia could feel the curious looks from the people who are already there. She remained her confident smile as they walked through the front door of the house and Leah began introducing her to every people they passed by.

“So, you’re Matthew Wilkins’s daughter,” Mayor Oliver Flannery said when she was introduced to him and his family. “How is he? I haven’t seen him in a long time.”

“He’s doing well, Sir. He couldn’t come here because he’s watching over my Mom who had just got out from the hospital two weeks ago. They were busy. That’s why I decided to manage our business here. Aside from that, this is a wonderful place and I missed the peace and tranquility I never had back in New York.”

“So, you’re going to stay here for good?”

“I’m not sure but indefinitely, I will, Sir.”

“Good,” Mayor Flannery hugged her. “And I hope you’ll have a peaceful time here.” Xenia and Leah smiled then excused themselves to look for Alice. They found the birthday celebrant talking with her husband and another man.

“Happy birthday, Alice.” Leah kissed her friend on both cheeks then introduced her cousin to the group. The other man aside from Lawrence, Alice’s husband, is no other than Nick Carter.

“How do you do?” Nick Carter asked in a polite smile but Xenia could hint that the man is just compelled to say something to her.

“Doing fine,” Xenia replied him. She turned to Alice. “Happy birthday. You got a nice party her. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. It’s wonderful.”

“Thank you,” Alice said. “They’re really nice. And also thank you for coming. Nick here is just a newcomer from the States too.” Everyone turned to Nick and the man felt the attention diverted to him.

“I came here for family business. Likewise, Uncle Marcus got sick and he needed someone like family to take care of him.”

“What about your work in the US?” Xenia asked.

“It’s a family business, there are people who can take care of that,” Nick answered, his eyes keep on moving around. Xenia thought that he's not interested in talking with her.

“By the way, Nick’s uncle is also one of the town’s court judges.” Leah informed Xenia. She’s beginning to notice that the two are just being polite and civil with each other in respect for Alice and Lawrence. The two must have already met. Just in time to save the emerging awkwardness, a woman came and joined the group.

“There you are, Nick!” The woman surprised everyone when she granted Nick a full kiss on the mouth. When it ended, he saw Xenia looking, or rather watching, boldly at them. “I’ve been looking all over for you,” the woman added.

Nick just smiled at the woman who gave him that surprise kiss; he’s going to deal with her later. Alice introduced the woman named Justine to Xenia. Xenia learned that the woman is a bank teller in that town. She studied Justine: blonde beauty and an inch taller than her. She and Nick would look good together. Xenia noticed Justine linking her arm to Nick’s in a protective manner. Justine even gave Xenia a fake smile. Xenia raised an eyebrow. She managed to smile back.

“The two of you looked like a very cute couple,” Xenia told them. She turned to Alice and Lawrence. “May I have something to drink?”



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Xenia might have finally got away from Nick and his Barbie but later that evening, they found themselves into the same crowd again.

“Be careful with the punch,” Nick warned her. “I heard they put some hard Scotch whisky on that, or something like that.”

“Thanks for the concern,” Xenia replied. She actually felt tipsy but she won’t give this man the satisfaction to see her drunk and vulnerable. They just met but she couldn’t explain the reason for their mutual dislike. She decided to concentrate on listening to Alice and Leah’s conversation. They were talking about the places they are planning to take Xenia for a tour.

“Maybe we could take her to the Dawson Hall,” Leah suggested excitedly. “It’s one of the most beautiful estates I’ve ever seen.”

“Really?” Xenia asked. “How big is the house?”

“It’s a fifty-room mansion, including the function rooms. The Duke of Dawson opened the south wing for the tourists.” Leah replied.

Alice cleared her throat. “Leah, what I know is that it’s not open for the meantime because of the duke’s death. It was closed for tourists indefinitely.” Xenia looked at them thoughtfully.

“She’s right, Leah.” Nick butted in. “My uncle told me that a codicil was left for the duke’s heir which compelled the closure of the estate for the tourists for sometime.”

“Must be serious,” Leah’s face grew into concern. “Is the estate going to be put on sale, Nick?” The man just shrugged at the question. Xenia sighed but Nick just ignored her.

“I hoped that it wouldn’t. The Dawson Hall has been in the family for centuries.” Alice said.

“Whatever it is, let’s just hope that it could still be open for tourists soon enough,” Nick said. He excused himself then left the women. Xenia saw him being approached with Justine once again.
FOUR by axianbeauty
Xenia looked up at the family crest on the front gates of the Dawson Hall. She went there on the second day after the night she attended Alice’s birthday party. The mystery caught her curiosity and decided to tour her into the estate. Who knows? She might even meet the new Duke. She hasn’t seen any blue-blooded person before and she’s looking forward to this stupid adventure. This is different and something that couldn’t be classified into her father’s own list of daredevil, life-threatening adventures.

High walls covered with thick vines must have surrounded the whole estate. Only through the gate she could see the majestic grounds of the estate. From a distance, she saw a lagoon with two pairs of swans paddling around. She also catches a glimpse of the infamous mansion, which has an impressive renaissance architecture. It stands in the middle of the estate, boasting its elegance and –

Xenia was interrupted by the sound of a car approaching and stopped on the side of the road behind her car. Nick came out and judging from the look, his eyebrows are deeply furrowed. “You must be crazy, Xenia.” He started towards her. “What stupid stunt are you planning to do here? Don’t you know the consequences once you entered that property?”

“I will be charged for trespassing,” Xenia replied without being slightly worried. “Besides, I just dropped by the gates. Leah’s house happens to be a few kilometers away from here.”

Nick sighed, charging a mental note to himself. “Are you single with boyfriend, or just plain single?”

“Why are you asking -?”

“Just answer me.” Nick ordered impatiently.

“Plain single.”

She wondered if her answer has made Nick grin at her. “If you entered the Dawson Hall, you’re going to be a duchess. But that’s not a one-day wish. In order for that to happen, you must marry the Duke’s heir. That’s what the codicil is all about.”

Xenia’s eyes widened. “Really?”

Nick nodded. “And I think you’re not the marrying type, especially to a beast. The Duke’s heir is a beast, literally. He suffered into a fire a month before his father died. Neither knew who did that or what has really happened.” Nick watched Xenia’s face turned into a pitiful and compassionate expression. Then slowly dawned into a smile. He found it amusing. Her face is exquisite.

“You’re bluffing, Mr. Carter. How would you supposed to know that? You just don’t want me to go inside.”

Nick grinned despite the complexity of what they’re talking about. “You are a very stubborn woman, Xenia. By all means, you may go inside the estate and get charged for trespassing but ponder on the truth of what I’m trying to tell you. Because if you didn’t, you’re going to call your Dad to tell him that you just got married to a duke.”

Xenia glanced at the gates then back to Nick. “Alright, you convinced me. I’ll leave.” She walked towards her car. She didn’t saw Nick breathing out a sigh of relief. Nick glanced at the Dawson Hall first before going back to his car.



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She sneaked a glance at the clock located at the bedside table. It’s already dawn and she must really leave. She smiled wickedly when she heard the muffled groan coming from the man beside her. She met him on a club last night and after a few drinks, she managed to be taken in his hotel room to spend the cold nights in his warm bed. Slowly, she stood up and picked up the man’s wallet. She took out all the money she could find and quickly dressed up.

‘I had a good sex last night,’ she thought silently, ‘but nothing would be better if it would be Nick Carter lying on the bed beside me.’ The idea made her want to laugh as she recalls her schemes to hook the handsome and rich man. She finally got Nick’s attention but it never came close to stripping him within the areas of a four-walled room and a bed. Nick Carter is quite a challenge. She shouldn’t make another mistake this time. She didn’t mean on hurting the man before she met Nick. Her emotions were more powerful than her actual intentions then. She has been raging from jealousy that she forgot she just wanted the man for his wealth. Not with Nick. She must be careful with her feelings now. If she’d succeed on marrying him, Nick Carter is going to be her retirement fund.

And she must work harder now that another woman entered the scene and successfully gained Nick’s attention without even trying. The rich bitch is a threat to her hopes and dreams of living in luxury. She must do something to get rid of Xenia Wilkins. It’s now or never.


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“I already read the project proposal and I think we’re being demanded of higher than the actual raw price,” Xenia said after the Product Manager, Cecilia Orville, presented her report. She called for a meeting on that day to catch up on the business when she took over it. “I conducted a comparative analysis and I’m going to give this to you.” Cecilia took the diskette she handed over.

Xenia liked being the boss of the company but she knew that she wouldn’t be staying long sitting on the executive chair longer than her father would have planned for her. She did this just to give them a peace of mind. Her free-spirited nature is calling her back to the usual life she used to. Being confined in this four-walled, air-conditioned office is not her cup of tea.

“Sales Report,” She immediately called out. Daniel Wright, the Sales and Marketing Manager, stood up and began his presentation. The man seemed to fancy her ever since she was introduced to him a week ago.

“Sales are up to thirty percent. The new branch in Aberdeen will be opening next week. We are targeting our third quarter quota that is now reaching to sixty percent of our goals. The Sales Team is working to develop strategic plans to boost the sales more. Our branch near St. Andrews University boosts up because of the tourists flocking there to catch a glimpse of Prince William.” Daniel handed her a clear book file that summarizes his report.

Things are going well with the company. Leah has been a good manager. All she wished now is to leave the office and find a place to eat. Her cousin Leah, who went down to be the Assistant Manager, is keying notes to Daniel’s presentation. Leah was more than happy to step down from being the company’s manager. Her family is her top priority right now that Alix was born.

Xenia saw her mobile phone blinking. She switched it to silent mode earlier. She took it and saw a new message in the inbox. Surprisingly, it came from Leah across the table. “I’m actually hungry, cuz. Could you please wrap this up?” She just smiled after that.

Thirty minutes later, Xenia finally adjourned the meeting and the cousins found themselves entering a restaurant downtown. “I’m so hungry, I’m probably pregnant again.” Leah laughed at her own joke.

“Well, I hope that it’s going to be a boy this time.” Xenia told her. She didn’t saw somebody coming around and bumped into him. “Oops, sorry.” The person caught her waist to avoid her from tripping over. Xenia looked up and saw Nick, who’s managing to balance her and the stack of folders on the other hand.

“This is not a library, Mr. Carter.”

Nick’s smile made her knees go jelly. “I know, but I’m hungry.” He removed his arm from her waist. “Damn, you smelled very nice, Xenia.”

“In your case, you’re not a skunk too, Mr. Carter.”

“What’s with the aversion from my name? Call me Nick.” The handsome blonde one said, chuckling, then waved goodbye to her and Leah. They saw him join two men on the farthest corner of the restaurant. Nick looked at Xenia once again and gave her a wink. In reply, she just raised an eyebrow and rolled her eyes.

“You’re too cute to be a couple. I could imagine little Xenia and Nick around right now,” Leah teased as they found the reserved table when the waiter ushered them there.

“Well, I’m not a dog, so I’m not cute. And I’m not going to have puppies as children.”

“But I can tell that you like him, Xenia.”

“I do?” Xenia chuckled. “Your imagination is just running wild, Leah.”
FIVE by axianbeauty
“Who’s that?”

Nick looked at Xenia as he sat opposite his brother, Aaron, and his cousin, Kevin. They flew all the way from London to answer his desperate call of help. The two are on a vacation by that time and Nick took the chance he got to ask them to come over in Scotland. He met Xenia’s look and winked at her. His hormones are raging whenever he gets close to that woman. But he tries to ignore his desire for Xenia’s ravishing beauty before it could lead him elsewhere. There are more important matters that concern him right now.

“Xenia Wilkins,” he replied as he winked at the woman. Xenia raised an eyebrow and rolled her eyes in reply to him.

“The woman is not smitten,” Kevin laughed. Nick just grinned. His cousin-slash-lawyer drinks his glass of water. “So are you getting married?”

“No!” Nick quickly replied. His face grew serious. “Who told you that?” Kevin just shrugged. Kevin is their cousin from their father’s sister, Anne, who married a Richardson in Kentucky. Despite their large age gap, they unbelievably grew close with each other. Nick looked up to Kevin as a big brother. “I’d never settle down, not at least in a near future. I asked you to come because I need help to understand these papers, Kevin.” He gave his cousin the stack of papers he brought along for their meeting.

“Europe suits you well, Nick.” Kevin noticed as he took the papers from his cousin.

“Uncle Marcus said that a woman named Justine has been hanging around and trying to hook you up,” Aaron added as Kevin started studying the files. Aaron is the youngest among his siblings, and is the only brother. He looks like Nick when he was at his age. Currently, he is an incoming freshman at the Columbia University.

Nick just laughed at that. “Justine? No way!” He turned towards where Xenia and her cousin are. The two are having a good laugh over something. He loved looking at the way Xenia’s eyes smile and her the way she talks. She could be an effective speaker. She could possibly get anyone’s attention whenever she spoke. He couldn’t dislike her for long. Xenia has a sweet, irresistible nature. She didn’t mean her joke on him when Aaron’s Jaguar had a problem on the first time they met. Nick sighed in frustration of not having time to get closer to her. He is bound to family duties and he got to settle everything first before focusing on Xenia. He turned back to the men in the table. “Kevin, Aaron. What do you think should I do to get through this problem?”

Aaron drew a deep breath. “I never imagined that it could happen, Nick. And I guess there’s just really one way,” he told his eldest brother.


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Xenia struggled for the bag of goods she bought at the groceries. Leah took Alix to the pediatrician, while her husband, Alvin, is still on a conference in Wales. Xenia volunteered to buy something for the kitchen and decided she would like to prepare her cousin some pasta recipes she learned to cook.

“Need help with that, Miss?”

Xenia peered through the bags she’s carrying on her arms. She saw Nick who looked dashing although his eyes were hidden beneath his dark sunglasses. He’s even wearing a suit, which makes Xenia wonder where could he be going today. Nick had this melting smile on his face once again. Xenia couldn’t help it but smile.

“Thanks. Just to my car, please.” Nick began taking the heavy bags from her. They went to Xenia’s car and placed the bags at the trunk.

“Where’s Jordan?” Nick asked her about her chauffeur she’s with when they first met.

“Jordan is at home, tending the stables.” Xenia replied. “Thanks.” She closed the trunk once everything’s done. They stood looking at each other. “It seems like you’re on a special meeting today, or are you going on a date?”

“This early? No.” Nick chuckled. “I’ll be catching up a plane bound to London. I got to meet my Dad and get on to some business with him. I didn’t even got the chance to have breakfast at home so I decided to dropped by the grocery when I craved for some cinnamon biscuits.”

Xenia nodded. “Nice choice. Top it off with some fresh milk. You’ll be energized for the day.”

“Thanks.” They still remained there standing. It was like feeling as though they are contented in just looking at each other.

“Xenia, hi.”

Both turned to see Daniel, Xenia’s Sales Manager. Daniel and Nick shook hands after Xenia immediately introduced the men to each other. “What’s up, Daniel?” Xenia asked her work colleague. Nick watched as the other man takes a serious glance at Xenia. The man must have liked the pretty brunette.

“Oh, just dropping by for some weekly groceries.” Daniel replied. “How about you, Nick? Looks like you’re on a special mission right now.”

“Looks like it. Anyway, I have to go. Bye, Xenia.” Nick waved goodbye at her then started towards his car. Xenia followed him with a look and wished that he’d stay longer. But he really has to go, and Daniel is here who seemed wanted to start a conversation with her. She turned to Daniel.

“As for me, I really have to go home now, too. Nice seeing you here, Daniel.”

Daniel let out a frustrated sigh in which Xenia noticed but would rather ignore. “Bye, Xenia. Take care while driving.”

“Thanks, I will.”


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


“I saw Nick today, he’s leaving to meet his Dad in London.” Xenia started after one bite from the garlic bread she had on her plate. Leah smiled teasingly. “What?”

“Well, I know for sure that you liked that man.”

“I find him cute, but as I said before, cute is for dogs. So I find him charming.” Xenia replied. “Do you have anything else that you knew about Nick, Leah?”

“All I know is that he’s Mr. Marcus’ nephew. He’s been going here back and forth from New York for almost four months now. He told me once that he had a house in London and that’s where he usually stays for almost six years for some family matters. He didn’t told me what is it but I think that Nick’s family is kind of really wealthy. He’s just too low-profiled, as well as Mr. Marcus with regards to their status.”

“I don’t think that I’m a true New Yorker because I haven’t heard of him, or is it really just because I was so busy going here and there for my extra-curricular activities. I’m not really aware of the people circulating within the NYC’s society. I don't even stay in New York in a long time. I always go someplace.” She drinks her juice before she continued. “They knew how to get along with other people, huh?”

Leah nodded. “Plus, I find Nick a really nice person, aside from being charming. I learned from Alvin that he’s a benefactor for one of the children’s homes in London, as well as in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. He most likely wanted to share his blessings to the less fortunate children.”

“At least, being handsome has its points beyond skin deep.” Xenia said.

“But he’s also been the prospect of many women around here, Xenia.”

“Justine, I know.” Xenia shook her head while her cousin chuckled.

“Justine, I think, is the former girlfriend of the Duke of Dawson living on the estate right now.”

Xenia whistled. “Really? Well, it seems like Justine really had an easy way towards high-powered men. Nick already had his attention on her.”

“I don’t think so. Because if Nick likes her, then why would he even bother to flirt on you whenever you met?” Xenia cast her cousin a glare. Flirt? She watched as Leah focused her attention to Xenia’s fettuccine.

“Why wouldn’t he? Any rich guy like Nick could have any women he would want with his good looks and charm.” Xenia retorted. She didn’t notice that she’s already making a mild massacre on her own garlic bread with the thought of Justine and Nick together. “Justine is actually quite a good catch. She’s a total onlooker.”

“But still in my own opinion, he’d rather have you than those other women. He’s safe with you. And you looked good together.” Leah finished. Xenia bit her lower lip as she stared down at her garlic bread. ‘But will I be safe with him?’ she thought. She never felt so hopeless and jealous like this before. She hates it and scared of feeling as if there are connections established between them when apparently, there's really none.
SIX by axianbeauty
Xenia sighed as she listened to her cousin on the phone. “I’m really sorry, Xenia. I just can’t go now. Alix just had fever and I can’t leave.” Leah said on the other line. Xenia invited her to watch a movie. She wanted to try the cinemas in the area and it happens that Mel Gibson’s new movie is now showing according to the marquee.

“Is that alright, Leah? Do you want me to come over?”

“No, everything’s fine now. Don’t worry.” She heard Leah chuckled. “Besides, it’s Mel Gibson. Watch it now before it goes out.”

“Alright. Thanks, Leah. I’ll be sleeping over at your place right after I watch movie, okay?’

“Okay. Bye, Xenia.” The line went off. Xenia started towards the ticket booth. She entered the movie house and decided to sit at the far end of the seats. She didn’t tell anyone that she’s farsighted. She doesn’t want to wear prescription glasses either. Just as the movie is starting, a man came to sit beside her and offered her popcorn. She turned to see Nick with a wide smile on his face.

“How -?”

“I saw you. Get some popcorn, the movie is good.” Nick told her and lounged himself on his seat.

“But weren’t you in London?”

“I just got home this afternoon. Dad is going back to New York tonight.” Nick replied and offered her popcorn once again.

“Thanks,” Xenia took a handful of popcorn for herself and started eating while watching Mel Gibson having a phone conversation with Julia Roberts on the wide screen. When she ran out of popcorn, she took more again. Just in time, Nick also sticks his hand into the bucket to get his share. They looked at each other and chuckled. Nick took her hand. Xenia felt her hand skips a beat when Nick brought her hand to his mouth and sucked the taste of popcorn from her fingers. “Nick…”

“Buttered cheese popcorn. I’ll bet the taste goes the same with your lips, but let me find it out myself.”

Xenia watched his face goes bigger as it comes closer. He’s going to kiss her. Do something, one thought popped into her mind. She sat there motionless as his tongue slid back and forth over her mouth. Moments later, she kissed him back too. Her fingers slid into Nick’s soft blonde hair as his hands were doing things that felt her nipples aching and tight.

Nick smiled warmly at her. “If this bothers you, Xenia, just shout.” He murmured to her ear.

“I would if I could. But Mel Gibson is far off my mind right now. However, I would like to request if you could stop. We’re in a movie house.”

Nick stopped and stared at her. Xenia could see the long, intense look he’s giving her. Nick cleared his throat but his voice remained husky. “That should do for now,” he held her hand and together, they continued watching the movie in silence. Only their hands savored the remaining passion they had for each other after that heated kiss.

Xenia really wanted to shout from her seat, not for harassment or anything violent but for overwhelming joy. She never felt her heart could feel like this before, only with Nick. She tried to deny it to herself before when she first saw him. She likes this man without even trying on anything. How could that be possible? She’s a woman of the world. She came to Scotland to seek adventures but instead, love found her. The last thought stopped her momentarily. Is it love that she feels towards this man?

When the movie ended, the two were oblivious from a pair of eyes watching their every move. Justine gripped the steering wheel tight. She saw Nick holding Xenia’s hand and kissed her.

“No way, Xenia. Not even you could take Nick away from me and my dreams,” Justine said through gritted teeth. She reached out for her phone and punched a familiar number.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


She didn’t understand the movie. That is the first Mel Gibson movie that she didn’t focus on well. Nick is the main distraction, as well as his hands holding hers on the entire movie. After that sultry kiss, they remained holding each other’s hands until the movie has finished. Nick invited her for a late night coffee but she refused. She reasoned out that she still had to go home to Leah’s house because her niece is sick. Nick then, offered to take her home but she refused once again. It’s been too fast for both of them. She wanted to take things slow so as not to be hurt in the process. Nick understands. He kissed her one more time before they went on separate ways.

Now alone in her car, all Xenia wanted is to hit the bed and get some sleep so that she could start dreaming of her and Nick together.

Xenia screamed when a shot suddenly come from somewhere. She looked around and saw a bullet was gunned through the glass at the back of her car. She shivered at the thought that it aimed to hit her on the head. On the rearview mirror, she saw a car with bright headlights following her. She failed to see who was in the car because the lights are blinding her. She’s on her way home and now passing by the dark, lonely highway towards Leah’s house. She increased speed.

Another shot came and it totally shattered the glass on the backseat. Xenia swerved in different directions to distract the gunman from aiming his next bullet directly at her head. She saw a dirt road on the right and made an instant turn. She made it through and turned off the headlights at the same time. With shivering hands, she decided to stop the car on a nearby tree, went out of the car and ran. She heard the car following her made its turn on the same road she has been. Xenia ran quickly as she could, did not mind the tall grasses or any animal she would pass by. Never mind the bruises, as long as she’ll get through this danger alive. She didn’t know that someone would want her dead. She has to make a cover for her own life.

She’s been running for some time now, and her knees are starting to get weak. Unbelievably, she found a high wall that came from nowhere. With her skills in wall climbing and rock-climbing, she found the nearby tree very useful. She quickly climbed up the tree and hold on to the branches that are sticking out over the wall. Another shot came and Xenia is really frightened, aside from being exhausted. Adrenaline rushed a few minutes ago and she’s now doing all the things she could think of just to save herself. She made a big leap on to the wall, stepped and holds on to it until she’s finally on the other side. She jumped quickly and ran once again, trying to find help. She saw a light in a near distance and made a quick prayer of thanks to the Lord.

Her mind and body is now weak, her vision begins to blur. She reached the house with every strength left that she had. She knocked a few times and called for help. The light went on at that area. She couldn’t take it anymore. The last thing she saw was an old woman who was surprised to see her and then everything went black.

----------------------------

Heat emanates from the fireplace and it became her sunlight as darkness enveloped the room. Her eyelids were heavy as slumber tries to pull her back. There was a dull, throbbing ache at the back of her head and a great weariness in her limbs. Her bruised body, stripped from her clothes, was now wrapped in soft, furry comfort.

Xenia pondered on what has happened. Her body shivered at the thought of being kidnapped or worst, getting killed. Eyes still closed, she groaned weakly. She rolled against the soft pillow and she caught a vague half-sweet manly scent. It is somehow familiar but she threw aside the thought because her mind isn’t able to function in this state that she had. Too tired to think, she groaned once again. And between her dreams and consciousness, she had a memory of that scent coming along with strong arms holding her close and her cheek resting against a shoulder. And was there…was there a moment when soft, sweet lips touched her own? She suddenly thought of Nick. She’s must be in a delirious state. Xenia passed out from consciousness once again.

Somewhere during the day, she woke up once again, but not entirely. She still had her eyes closed, trying to feel that everything around is safe. Not even knowing if it was a dream or for real, she felt instant security right within the confines of the bed she’s into. Feverish and witless, she now struggled to open her eyes to see the place. With too much effort, she opened her eyes and found herself in a dark room, lying on a large softest bed she’s ever laid on. Only the fire coming from the hearth serves as light. She slowly sits up and found herself naked beneath the furry covers. A memory passed through her that someone has been thoughtfully taking off her battered clothes, cleansing her body and taking care of her bruises.

She caught sight of a towering black form that rose from the chair and walked towards her. Xenia tried to see the face until she realized that a mask has hid it, his hands were covered with gloves and his huge, cloaked form is more like hunched and disjointed. Fear came through her.
Xenia tried to move farther into the bed to get away from this monster. She clutched the thick blankets to herself to conceal her nakedness.

“I mean no harm.”

The heavy, masculine voice stopped her struggle. She unconsciously bit her lower lip as tears began to fall. “Where am I? Who are you?” She asked the masked man.

“You’re in Dawson Hall. I’m Gene Dawson. Fortunately, you’re safe from whoever is trying to harm you. Unfortunately, you just came across a legal codicil to be my wife.”




how is it? feedback please. thank you. :D
SEVEN by axianbeauty
The Duke of Dawson watched as her classic beauty went confused and slowly came into the realization of the truth of what he had just told her. His words finally sink in and the woman looked at him. He doesn’t want her to feel compelled to commit herself to marriage with him, but his legal adviser is very strict. He absolutely hated the codicil himself. When the old duke died, he was immediately granted the title amidst the circumstances of his birth, and has been awarded the management of the duchy, the Dawson Estate. But it all comes with a stipulation that the first single woman to enter the premises will have to marry him to secure the position. Upon learning that, he immediately hired security to ward off single females within the areas. He asked his tenants’ unmarried daughters to go home but will still be compensated to the duties they were supposed to do. Hell, he would do anything just to avoid the codicil. He remembered an elderly asked him one day, “Are you going to avoid marriage forever?” Of course, he’s just not yet ready for it right now. Most especially after tragedy struck him and his family months ago. It led him to being crippled, disjointed and beastly. And he’d gladly take revenge to anyone who had planned it.

“This is the Dawson Hall?” the woman asked quietly. He saw how vulnerable she is right now. He silently nodded. The woman has an extraordinary beauty and if only he’d have time, he’d court her until she’d give in to marriage with him. She is the first single female who successfully entered the Dawson Estate, thus making her bound to fulfill what is stated in the old lord’s codicil. Circumstances called desperately for them to be maritally united. “Then Nick is right.” He heard her softly said.

Beneath the mask, he raised an eyebrow. She muttered a man’s name, probably her beau.

“Thank you for saving me, Sir.” Xenia said.

“It’s my duty to protect those in need, Miss -?”

“Xenia Wilkins.” The woman replied.

The woman has a beautiful name that goes the same with her beauty. But beauty can be deceiving. He learned that lesson a long time ago. There was a long silence between them.

“Do you know who and why someone wanted to do you harm?”

Xenia shook her head. “No, Sir.”

“What’s with the aversion from my name? Call me Gene.” Xenia felt a hint of amusement beneath the mask. She remembered Nick asking her the same thing when they met at the restaurant. She wanted to see him. Is he looking for her right now? “I’ll be glad to ask my chauffeur to escort you home, Miss Wilkins.” The duke added.

“I’m sorry that I really couldn’t marry you.” Xenia said.

“I’m sorry but neither of us could get away from it.” He saw the helpless look from Xenia although she tried to hide it. “I don’t want to ask this but I got no choice. Will you marry me, Xenia?”

Instead of replying, Xenia gave him a series of questions. “Does that mean that even though I asked help from my attorney, it won’t do any help too?” Gene Dawson nods patiently as a reply. “Is there going to be a divorce?” Once again, the masked man shook his head to reply. There has been a long silence after that as the lord of the duchy waited for Xenia’s further inquiries. Xenia drew a deep breath, her fingers clutching the thick fur blankets tightly, her long brown hair in disheveled state, and her thick eyelashes moving frantically. “May I call my father?”


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The first thing she looked for upon arrival to Leah’s house is Nick. But he wasn’t in sight. Her cousin, Leah welcomed her with a hug, as well as Alvin. “Your Dad will be arriving this afternoon.” Alvin told her. She just nodded. Her family has already been informed about the upcoming nuptials. Everyone will be coming over to Scotland for her. Matthew Wilkins would even plan to make an appeal regarding the duke’s codicil. Xenia felt everything in her life changed since that night. Ever since she got out of the Dawson Hall, she’s been in shock for what’s in store for her for the next forty-eight hours. She wanted to see Nick, even as a single for the last time. Since there’s no other choice left, she accepted Gene’s offer of marriage.

“We’re glad you’re safe, Xenia.” Leah said, her face close to tears for two days of worrying about her cousin.

“I’m safe and alive, but I’m getting married to a stranger.”

“Hush, Xenia,” Alvin comforted his cousin-in-law when Xenia started to cry. “I met the new Duke some months ago before his accident. He’s a nice person.”

“I know. He’s been very nice to me when I was at the Dawson Hall. But I know that won’t make anything different.” The two gave her concerned looks. “I’m maybe an adventurous person but this is one chapter that I’ll ever get serious on. I would rather someone I could marry for love.”

“Oh, Xenia. We know that.” Leah hugged her.

“The only thing I can be grateful of is that His Grace is also against this kind of marriage and promised me that when we get married, he’ll provide me everything that I would need. Unfortunately, all I need is just freedom.”

“What does he look like?”

Xenia bit her lower lip. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean?” It’s Alvin.

“He’s donned into a mask. He told me that his face was scarred because of the burns he had from an accident, which includes fire. Leah, Alvin, I’m going to marry a beast-like creature.”






need to know what do you think of this one...
EIGHT by axianbeauty
Xenia dreamt that her wedding is the day she’s going to look forward to. But in this case, it was like her doomsday. She’s not afraid of the Duke of Dawson; because he assured her that he will do no harm to her as long as he lives. Amazingly though, she trusted the masked man easily. All that she really cares about against this marriage is Nick. She hasn’t seen him ever since she came home yesterday. Leah told her that Nick helped to look for her but on the second day, he received a call from London in which his presence was badly needed. He’ll just be surprised when he comes back and found her already married to the Duke of Dawson.

“Are you ready?” Olivia asked her daughter. It is her wedding day. Her family arrived yesterday afternoon, along with Halley and Yvonne. Everyone was surprised to learn about the news that she’s getting married and the circumstances that went with it. Upon arrival, they instantly went to the Dawson Hall together with their topnotch family attorney to examine the codicil. However, their mission still failed. The codicil has strong legal capacity upon effectivity. There is no way to get out of it but deal with it.

Xenia’s mind froze as she walked along with her mother towards the duke who stood beside the judge that will marry them. The judge is no other than Marcus Dawson, Nick’s uncle. Now that he’s officiating the wedding, it is possible that Nick had already learned about this. Nick still hadn’t shown up. He’s probably still in London, or maybe back in New York. Now Xenia wondered that since the judge and the duke had the same last names, could it be possible that they are relatives, as well as Nick? She remained the question for herself now and she intends to ask her future husband about it later. Right now, she has to perform this ceremony first.

The Duke of Dawson, in the light of the day, has its face and head covered completely by a leather helm, and there were holes to serve as openings for the parts in his face. The mask was obviously made with thoughtful fittings to shape his head without giving any hint of the features beneath. He is dressed in black tuxedo underneath the big flowing cloak covering most of his body. Leather gloves concealed the hands, on which the other was gripping dependently on a heavy, silver-handed cane. In addition to that, the lordship’s posture is slightly hunched evidencing the misfortune happened to him months ago.

His Grace made an effort to shake hands with Xenia’s parents while her brother and his girlfriend, Yvonne, Leah and Alvin stood nearby to witness the marriage ritual. “I must beg your pardon for my appearance. Once I was like any other man but unfortunately, a fire accident scarred me. I hope you could understand why I have preferred to remain unseen but rest assured that nothing harm will come to your daughter as long as I live, not even any harm from me.”

“We trust that you will stay true to your words,” Matthew said. “I entrusts to you my daughter, Xenia.”

“Thank you, Sir.” The masked man now turned his full attention to Xenia. With a trembling hand that she tried to remain calm, Xenia presented her hand to the Duke of Dawson. If she ever dreamed of marrying into a titled gentleman, she didn’t imagine it to be this way. Gloved fingers took hers and they faced Judge Marcus Dawson.

Few moments later, the wedding is done. Judge Dawson has finally pronounced the two as husband and wife.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Beneath the sunglasses, Nick looked at the majestic mansion ahead of him. Drawing a deep breath, he recalled the past week he just had. He’s been busy for important matters in London that he was compelled to do things in Scotland then leave for a while despite his worry for Xenia’s disappearance. And now the news…

It was Arman, the butler, who answered the door for him. It was on the North side of the mansion where the private residences are and off-limits to tourists. Nick nodded and went inside, only to stop on his tracks the woman who occupied his mind and he missed for a week. Arman thoughtfully excused himself and left the two alone.

Xenia was surprised to see Nick in the Dawson Hall. She struggled for anything to say to him. “Hi,” is all she could manage.

“It is true then, that you’re married,” Nick quietly said.

“Y-yes.”

“I thought you aren’t stupid enough to try going here. I already warned you.” Despite of what he said, Nick just remained calm.

Xenia raised an eyebrow. “It’s not stupidity when the only thing I could do to save my life from someone who wanted me dead is to enter a private property and ask for help,” she snapped, casting an indignant glare at him. She walked past him towards the main door. She has to go to the office and ignore Nick. Upon seeing him again, all she wanted to do is to run to him, to hug him and to kiss him. But she’s a married woman now, and she can’t bear facing Nick and seeing him discover what has happened in the most unforgettable week of her life.

Suddenly, Xenia stopped on her tracks before she reached the door. She turned back to Nick. “Why are you here anyway? Do you know my husband personally? He’s not here. Apparently, I always find him leaving here early before I even wake up.”

“Your husband is a busy man, Xenia. And to answer your question, the duke is my first cousin.”

“Oh. I thought about it when it was your uncle who got us married.”

“It’s nice of you to notice it immediately. You’re smart.”

“You said I was stupid earlier, and now you called me smart. I didn’t know he’s a judge.”

“He’s my legal advisor too.” Nick added. They stared at each other for a long time. “How’s married life?”

Xenia stared at the man she missed a lot. She remembered her wedding day. Right after they got married, there was a small reception prepared in the Dawson Hall but the Duke politely excused himself to retire for the day. He said that he is advised by his doctors not to engage himself in strenuous activities to avoid complications from the wounds and burns he obtained and just starting to heal. As a wife, Xenia stayed for a while but followed her husband shortly. She found him in his own bedroom, staring out in the large windows.

“Gene?” Xenia said as she enters. She went towards the bed and sat on the edge of it. “Are you alright now?”

“Your concern helps me, dear,” the man said behind the mask. “May I request if you call me by my name if we’re just alone with each other?”

“Any problem?” Xenia asked him. She watched him drew deep breath and hesitated to do something at first. But then, he softly took her hand.

“Are you afraid of me?” He asked instead.

Xenia bit her lower lip. “I was afraid of committing myself to marriage, especially to you that I didn’t even meet until that day.”

“I already made it clear to you that I mean no harm as long as we’re married. This mask is the only thing that hinders me to you and I don’t know if you’ll be ready to see the thing behind this. I don’t want to scare you away.”

“I’m sorry, Gene. I’m just really afraid.” Xenia said as Gene’s grip tightened on her.

“It’s alright, Xenia. I understand.”

“Now that we’re married, what do you expect of me, Gene?”

The masked man gives the slightest of shrugs. “What does a man expect from his wife but ease and comfort, understanding, to give him counsel when he needs to be and to bear his child in due time.” Xenia’s eyes widened as she stared at her husband in amazement. “I’m maybe scarred and hideous but I’m still capable of bearing a child.” Her husband added.

“It’s just that it didn’t occur the possibility to me that you would ask of it. We have a marriage of convenience although I am bound to the words I recited in our wedding but it is going to be hard for you are still very much of a stranger for me.” She stared at the dark holes in his mask. She didn’t notice herself frowning deeply. “Please understand that even though I had plans of fulfilling my part in this marriage, I still need time.” She took back her hand from his grasp.

“I understand. But I won’t tolerate you having lovers as well, Xenia.”

“Of course,” Xenia stood up. “Excuse me. I’m going to retire now.” She managed to remain her composure as she made her way towards the door. She could feel her husband’s look upon her. This is not the married life she imagined it to be. She dreamed of good and bright things, not gray ones. She felt like she was placed on a dark place and left there to adapt to the new things that will be introduced to her. She’s willing to take the risk from the adventures she had, but this one is more than she expected and is going to test her beyond the limits.

From her reminiscing, Xenia drew a deep breath and stared once again to Nick. “Married life is fine,” she answered. She turned to leave but Nick’s words stopped her.

“I wish I could have married you myself but I got a complicated life right now.” He said.

“Fate must have wanted this way, Nick,” Xenia replied and continued on her way.
NINE by axianbeauty
“I didn’t know that Nick Carter is your cousin,” Xenia started when she entered her husband’s office. She just arrived from work although her husband wanted her to stay in the house. But she is not the type who will just stay put and let the world go round on her. She wanted to keep on going.

The Duke of Dawson looked up from an old book he’s looking at. “Have you seen him lately?” He closed the book, strapped the two leather belts around it together and locked it.

Xenia nodded. “He came when I was about to leave earlier. Did you have a meeting?” She sat on a couch. Her husband nodded. “That seems to be a slightly odd old book. I’ve never seen anything with locks like those before. What is it?”

“This is the book that held an accounting of all the births, deaths and marriages of the people living in the Dawson Estate, including my family.”

“And the last entry would be our marriage, I presume.” She stood up and walked towards the window. The entire estate looks beautiful day and night. She wished she would have time to walk on the grounds to relish the beauty of the surroundings, as well as to get to know the people who loyally serve the family. Her father once taught them that it is important to make friends and be kind with the people who work for them. It doesn’t only create loyalty and respect, but also a friendship bond they will make them richer than money.

“I hope that the next entry would be the birth of our child,” Xenia heard her husband brought up the topic once again. She faced him.

“For a fact, a man’s appearance is not really important to me but the personality, of how the person lives worthy of his life. Ours is a different kind of marriage, Gene.” She now stood in front of her husband’s desk. “I intend to know you better. I want this marriage work. Let’s start being friends.”

“Alright. Let’s have an agreement,” he stood up slowly from his seat and with full effort, he reached the couch and sat down. “Let’s have a chat.”

Xenia sat beside her husband and looked at the mask. “I wished we could look at each other without your mask. May I know what really happened?”

“Time will come that I will be ready to take this thing off,” Gene replied. He drew a deep breath before he continued. “It was months ago when I was caught in a fire inside my car. It just suddenly exploded.”

Xenia’s eyes widened in horror. “That’s horrible! Who would do that thing to you? Why would somebody wanted you dead?”

“That’s the part that still remains unsolved, Xenia. I will see that justice will prevail and punishment for the people who wanted me dead. That’s why I requested you not to call my name while others are around. It would be dangerous for both of us, especially to you. My enemies will think that you know enough to be a threat to them too. I’m now aware of these enemies lurking around and I want them to know that after the accident, I still lived to see them pay for what they’ve done.”

“Did you already make a move to threaten them?”

“My survival is already a threat to them. They would think that I’m indestructible. I didn’t made any effort for that matter.”

“Then surely they’ll try again.”

The duke nodded in agreement. “Yes, but they’ll catch me unaware. And I want you to take care as well. I’ll have you chauffeur-driven every time you go out.”

“You seemed quite sure of that. And I’m already grown up to take care of myself, mister.” Xenia only heard a mild chuckle as a reply.

“How about you? I didn’t know that you’re really quite the baby of the family,” Gene said, ignoring her last retort. He recalled the day he met Matthew Wilkins and how did the old man almost made a plea just to prevent the unconventional marriage and protect his only daughter.

“I am not,” Xenia rolled her eyes. “They’re the ones who thought I’m not yet old enough to do things. But I’m old enough. I am already twenty-five, good enough to marry a twenty-six-year-old like you.”

“Sometimes, maturity doesn’t come along with the age, Xenia. When the old duke was alive, he used to reprimand me with my immaturity and childish acts. I wasn’t much of a good boy then. But it all changed when my mother died. I began to think of the path I have to go through in my life. It’s a little complicated but I tried to be strong for my family. Honor, responsibility and nobility are the first things that count when I was bound to gain this title.” He paused. Xenia wished she could see his facial expression; to see how he’s been going through after all that has happened in his life. All she could do now is to slowly reach out her hand and brushed his arm reassuringly. Gene put his free arm on her shoulders and made her lean on his chest. Xenia didn’t felt scared right now. It’s amazing that she actually felt secure within the warmth of his body.

She heard him spoke once again. “Is that the reason why did you indulged yourself in risky adventures just to prove something to your parents?”

“How did you know about that?”

“Your father told me about it. He warned me about your unusual penchant to danger. Well?”

“I admit part of it is yes. But mostly the other part was that because those are my interests. There’s an overwhelming satisfaction after every extreme sports I’ve done.” Xenia answered.

“Nick told me that you had planned on sneaking into the estate the week before you did made your way inside. He even told you about the terms in the codicil. That’s stupidity, Xenia.”

Xenia frowned when she heard about Nick. “I wasn’t planning to, Gene! I stopped one day in front of the gates and curiously looked through the gates to see how does it looks like. I admit I had a wishful thinking of doing it but not actually planned on entering private premises. When Nick arrived, I joked him that I don’t care being charged for trespassing if I dared going inside.” She shook her head. “That man’s unbelievable.” Her husband’s chest shook as he chuckles.

“My cousin seems has his object of affection towards you.”

Her husband’s words made her close her eyes. Gene won’t see it anyway. If Nick told Gene about it, she wouldn’t dare to ask the details on how much he likes her. “I don’t care,” she lied. It would just be harder for her to tolerate her feelings towards the attractive man. “Besides, I’m a married woman. I vowed to remain faithful to you.”

Gene took the remote control on the side table. In just one press of a button, the lights inside the office went out. Xenia’s eyes widened when everything turned dark. She heard a rustle and felt Gene’s breathing coming close to her. Before she could think of anything else, she felt her husband’s lips suddenly upon hers. It is the first kiss that they had together. Xenia actually felt wonderful and eagerly responded to her husband’s kisses.

But the kiss didn’t last for long. Xenia groaned silently when Gene’s lips left her trembling ones. She realized that the sound she heard earlier came from her husband’s leather mask. He’s putting it back again.

“I wonder what could be behind that mask that you kept on hiding,” Xenia said and affectionately touched his cheek through the leather mask. She was surprised by her own emotions towards this man and she didn’t want it to be interpreted as pity. Gene doesn’t need it and she didn’t pity him either.

“We have to end before it could go to something you’re not yet ready to,” came the husky voice.

“I understand,” Xenia closed her eyes and felt contented in just lying on her husband’s chest.


What will happen if Xenia found herself torn between loyalty to her husband, and love to another man?
TEN by axianbeauty
Justine tried not to raise an eyebrow as she took the money from the man. Another five thousand pounds for monthly deposit, she thought. She encoded the amount in the bank system and stamped the depositor’s passbook. She stared at the name. Kevin Richardson. Nice name, she thought, but not rich enough. She remembered the same man who’s been depositing his savings monthly for almost a year now. She looked at the man. Kevin Richardson smiled at her. Her heart made a demure leap from that simple gesture and she silently reprimanded herself. This man wouldn’t be able to give her the moon if she asked for it. He’s not rich enough.

“I just came back into this town and I heard that the duke on the wonderful estate has just got married.” Kevin said to start a conversation with her. He always made an attempt to do that but Justine would make a short reply then ask him to leave and will call the next depositor in line. She stared at him for the first time after she heard what he’d just said. She realized that this man is no ogre. Kevin Richardson is quite a dashing young man.

“The Duke of Dawson? I don’t know. Did he burned himself inside his car who exploded by itself?”

“He must have lived. Sometimes, a person could have nine lives like a cat, you know. I just heard the marriage thing today.”

“To whom?” Justine asked trying to control her curiosity. She didn’t notice her knuckles going white as she gripped tightly on the partition of her booth. But Kevin didn’t miss it.

“To the manager of the kilt company two blocks from here,” Kevin replied. He winked at her. “I have to go. Thank you.” Justine watched him leave the bank. Then her thoughts went back to what she has just learned. Xenia Wilkins made another score against her once again. She gained Nick’s attention without even trying, she survived an ambush attempt that will see her dead, and now has gotten married to Justine’s ex-boyfriend.

“That should be me,” Justine muttered harshly as her thoughts raced for another plan.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Xenia sighed dreamily at the serenity of the place. Gene decided to take her for stroll to some parts of the estate grounds one day. She tried to say no, thinking about his walking condition but Gene insisted, telling her that he needs exercise as well. And so, along with Gene’s personal assistant, the couple walked slowly but leisurely in the grounds and talked about anything at all. Xenia discovered how worthy to spend time with Gene because he had so many things to talk about which makes sense. He didn’t bore her a bit.

Her husband heard the sigh and chuckled. “What are you thinking?” He asked. “That was a cute sigh.”

Xenia smiled. “This place is really beautiful. I wished that it’d be open to the tourists soon.” She glanced at the two large Doberman, a small cute pug, a Saint Bernard dog, and two big Labradors following behind their master. “Oh, you had so many dogs.”

“They’re pets of the family. The Doberman are usually used for security purposes of the place. They were trained as well. The others were actually household pets and would sometimes wander at the South Wing where the tourists are. They were considered added attraction.” Gene whistled and the dogs turned to them. Xenia watched them leapt and ran towards the masked man and made affectionate licks and barks at him. “Doggies, this is your new friend, Xenia. She’s my wife, so be nice to her.” The Saint Bernard and the two Labradors walked around Xenia and sniffing her. Xenia laughed as she glanced at her husband. If she could see him, he’s probably smiling at them.

“They are marking their territories on you,” Gene laughed. The small pug jumped and barked for their attention. Xenia amusingly leaned down to pick up the small dog. As soon as the dog was on her arms, it began licking her face.

“Oh,” she laughed and put down the dog. “Do they have names?”

“The brown Doberman’s name is Tosh, the black one is Pooch. The pug is Albert, while Ollie is the Saint Bernard. The twin Labradors are Jack and Jill because they are fraternal,” said the man who was with the dogs.

“Philip, I want you to meet my wife, Xenia. Xenia, this is Philip, the dogs’ trainer as well as a part of the security team.” The man bowed down as Gene was introducing her. She made a gesture of shaking hands with the man and Philip gladly took it.

“They were incredible.” Xenia said. As she said that, the dogs barked at her. They laughed.

“They said ‘thank you’,” Philip joked. “May I be excused as it was now their time to eat, Your Grace?”

Gene nodded. “Go ahead, Philip. Thank you.” They watched the dogs ran after Philip and made their way towards the nearby barn. Gene told her that there were beautiful and prized collection of horses by the stables and if they have more time, he’d take her there on another excursion. Keith, Gene’s personal assistant, announced that the head chef sent a message that the dinner is served. They decided to go back home now.

Xenia saw a large gazebo on a small forest she saw in sight, on the left side of the estate. “What’s in there?” She asked. Gene glanced at Keith before turning to his wife. “It’s a gazebo near the family mausoleum. That is where family members were buried.” He replied. “Don’t come there unattended because I have received reports once that there were trespassers seen on that area. Security measures are just about to be installed soon.”

Xenia nodded and followed her husband on the way back to the mansion.
ELEVEN by axianbeauty
Xenia had one question she itched to ask her cousin about. She invited Leah for dinner one day, thinking of catching up on the latest activities on the business and around town. She’s not regularly reporting to work because of Gene who wanted her to stay at home as much as she could. To answer the demands of her work, she created a new position in the company, which has resulted to recent organizational movements. And aside from reports being submitted to her, she also asked Leah about recent developments in the business.

“What’s on your mind?” Leah asked her. Her cousin must have read her mind.

“How’s Nick?” She asked quietly. There, she finally asked it.

“I haven’t seen him lately, ever since he was called to be in London. I don’t know the things that made him a busy man but I know for sure that he’s sad when he heard about you.”

“How did you know?”

“Because he told me that he likes you very much,” Leah replied then ate a piece of broccoli from her plate. Xenia couldn’t tell her cousin that Nick mostly spends his time at the Dawson Estate when he’s in Scotland. And from what Arman has told her, Nick has been having one-on-one meetings with Gene. For the sake of Gene’s safety, she couldn’t tell her cousin that Nick and her husband are blood-related.

“Is he still going out with Justine?”

Leah raised an eyebrow. “They never went out. Nick cleared it to me when I asked him about it too.”

Xenia blinked back the tears that started to form in her eyes. “Just when I met the man I’d ever wanted, I got married to another.”

“Hush, cousin.” Leah reached out for her hand. Xenia just nodded and sighed once again. “Alright. I just saw Nick coming in. And he saw us.” Leah said, as she looked past her cousin who had her back turned to the main entrance of the restaurant. “He’s coming this way. Brace yourself.” Xenia drinks her glass of water.

“Good evening, Leah” Nick greeted them. He turned to Xenia. “Your Grace.”

“Oh, please, Nick. I’m not used to being called in such formality. I’m maybe a duchess now, but we’re not in the Parliament or whatsoever.” Xenia tried to smile. She invited her cousin-in-law to sit. “It’s a coincidence that you’re here.”

“I came to see your husband and he told me that you’re here. I volunteered to escort you home to avoid the death threat to happen to you once again.”

“Were you and the duke closely related?” Leah asked him.

“We’re friends,” Nick answered. Xenia understood his reply. He’s protecting his cousin too.

“I came along with Johanne,” Xenia said, referring to the chauffeur she’s with. “You can follow us home if you want.”

“Unfortunately, Johanne has to leave. His Grace needs him to prepare to go to Edinburgh for matters regarding the recent developments on the investigation on his accident. He sends his apologies to you.”

Xenia felt her heart made unusual beatings at the idea of being alone with him inside the car on the long drive home. She proved it more when she felt somersaults in her stomach when they are really on the way home after thirty more minutes at the restaurant. Leah, on the other hand, will spend her night at her in-laws’ house.

Xenia promised loyalty to her husband and she’s afraid of the effect of Nick’s presence on her senses. It’s been quiet inside the car ever since they left the restaurant’s parking lot. She cast a glance beside her. She could smell the combined scent of a masculine perfume to nature fresh scent. She resisted the urge to ask him to stop the car so that she could kiss him when it’s safe.

“I wanted to share with you what’s the crazy thing that’s been going on in my mind right now.” Nick started, breaking off the silence.

“Can’t you just keep it to yourself?”

“I remembered a movie I saw called ‘Chase’ a long time ago,” Nick continued, ignoring her retort. “I’ve been wondering how could two people made love in the car while it’s driving off the freeway.” Xenia’s brows furrowed when she turned to him. “Gloria Swanson made love to Charlie Sheen while he’s driving her BMW.”

“Really? So what’s the essence of it right now? Do you want me to do that to you?”

“One of the things that I liked in you is that you’re smart, Xenia.”

“I’m sorry but I don’t intend to do that to you. I’m a married woman.”

“You seemed to have a sheer delight in reminding me about it, Xenia.”

“I just wanted to let that stay in your mind as long as you shall live. I’m loyal to my husband, Nick.”

“Do you love him?” came the question. Xenia turned to him.

“And if I do?”

“Do you think it will make me love you less, Xenia?” Nick stopped the car on the side of the road. He turned to her. “I don’t know how or why I love you in just a short time that we knew each other but one thing’s for sure, it’s been tormenting me to see you on that mansion and married to him.” He met her look and stayed. “I’m jealous of him because he has what I don’t have. And I definitely hate that mask! If there’s an only way to alternate things and turn back time, I’ll be more than willing to give away what I have just to know that I had hopes of making you mine. You see, Xenia, I’m not so selfish enough but I’m still hoping for a chance to be with you.” He softly held her on both shoulders. “I have so many complications in my life but I’ve never been so sure like this before, only to you. I had plans for both of us. I had plans on how to win you, proving to you that my feelings for you are real.”

“Nick…”

“I love you, Xenia. I wish you could come with me and leave your husband.”

“No! Don’t make things hard for both of us, Nick.” Xenia fought back the tears from falling. Nick loves her. Oh, how she wished she could tell him the same but things are different now.

“I know you’d say that.” Nick quietly said. “I don’t want you to ruin your life for me. I love you so much and I don’t mean you harm.” He turned back to the wheel and started the engine. There was silence in the car again. Xenia could see Nick’s tight grip on the wheel as he drives them home.

“I will always love you, Xenia.”

Xenia turned away. She couldn’t bear seeing him hurt like this. It is hard for her too. But this is something she cannot make a good fight for. She’s bound loyalty and honor to her husband and his name.

Few minutes later, they reached the Dawson Estate. As Nick turns the car in front of the mansion’s North wing, Xenia saw her husband’s Lincoln parked near the mansion. She seemed to forget Nick as she immediately went out of the car as soon as it stopped. Nick was left to follow her inside.

“Arman, is my husband here?” She asked the butler.

Arman glanced back to the man who came with her. Nick was left behind, slowly making his way towards the front door. He turned back to his mistress. “Yes, Your Grace.”

“Thank you, Arman. You may go and rest now,” Xenia tapped her on the arm. “Good night.”

“Good night, Your Grace.” Arman said as he watched the lovely lady of the house made her way up the stairs. He turned to see Nick standing beside him.

“The mistress is right. You should retire now, Arman.”

“Yes –“

Nick gave the butler the gesture to keep quiet and leave. Arman nods and silently walked off. As for Nick, he made his way up the stairs and towards the room intended for him in the mansion.




Ever wonder what Nick is going to do next just to have the woman he loves?
TWELVE by axianbeauty
Xenia drew a deep breath as she now stood in front of Gene’s bedroom. She already changed into her sleeping attire after taking a night shower and her other evening rituals.

She’s been thinking about this in a long time. She couldn’t deny the fact that she’s thinking about Nick while she’s married to another. She longed for Nick’s presence, as well as his one-time kisses and embrace. But she’s married now and no matter how much she longed for the godly presence of a man, she vowed to stay loyal to her beast-like figure of a husband, or whatever did he looks like. She denied her husband the rights of their vows and yet, there is within her this disabling desire to yield the same to another man.

Before Xenia could change her mind, she turned on the knob and entered the bedroom. It was filled with darkness. She heard a soft sound and felt a movement within the dark shadows. There came next a hoarse, muffled whisper that sounded loud in the room. “Who is it?”

Xenia’s heart fluttered but there’s no way back now. She slowly walked towards the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress. “It’s Xenia.” She loosed the belt and dropped her robe, showing off her silky black nightgown. “Gene, I’ve been thinking a lot and I’ve come to realize that I’m ready. I intend to be your wife in the very essence of the word.”

“A-are you sure?”

As a reply, she leaned forward to take the silken mask away from her husband’s head but the duke’s hand caught her wrist to stop her from doing her intent.

“Let’s leave it at that, Xenia.” Gene said as he pulled up half of his mask and kissed her hand instead. Unfortunately, there was no bright moon that night. The room is totally dark and Xenia couldn’t even tell how his bare lips would looked like. She felt her nightgown being slipped from her until the only thing left is her lace underwear. There are movements in the bed, as her husband seemed to have taken off his remaining garments, too.

Gene’s strength was unexpected as he lifter her easily, taking her and laying her down with him on the bed. She felt his warm body now pressed against hers, his lips caressing her throat with warm passion. It made her gasp; realizing how her husband could roused her to a different feeling she never thought could be possible. A name formed in her lips but squelched it tightly before she could utter it out loud. It was the name of another and she didn’t want to shatter this moment, which has introduced her to a different meaning of love and passion. She cared affectionately with her husband and she doesn’t want to hurt him.

She wrapped her arms about his neck and felt scars along the rippling muscles in his back. This is no doubt her husband, the scarred one and not Nick Carter.

Gene’s caresses grew bolder as he continued his way down, exploring the deeper depths of her being, making her feel wonderful. Xenia moaned aloud and writhes in eager response beneath him. Her husband’s giving her surprises. She’s expecting fumbling eagerness and rough uncertainty. But Gene has been gentle. His hand slowly traveled downward, wandering over every detail of his wife’s body and smiled at the trembling response of his slightest touch.

The darkness of the room has been the silent witness as the two soared together in a blissful passion, consumed towards a goal where their bodies strained, muscles flexing and limbs entwined.

Sometime during the night, Xenia felt her husband rousing from sleep and exploring her body with warm caresses until she would respond and held him close. They would make love once again.

Gene roamed his hands over his wife’s body, caressing and feeling every thing in her. He thrusted himself inside her. Xenia moaned as intimate pleasure surged within, grasping on her husband’s shoulders. She breathed a name and momentarily, the world seemed to stop. Xenia, with her eyes closed, edged herself forward to meet her husband’s chest and kissed his shoulders. Just then, Gene moved once again, loving her until he filled her. Still catching her breath, Xenia felt her husband rising up from the bed and left the room quietly.

Xenia wondered why did he left abruptly. Didn’t she satisfied him enough? What could be wrong from what they were doing then? Just then she gasped as she recalled the time when she was all consumed with passion that she whispered of another man’s name. Nick. Curving herself in a fetal position, she silently cried.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Xenia slowly opened her eyes and felt the presence of her husband at the edge of the bed. He almost covered the sunlight coming through the windows, shielding Xenia from it. She hesitated to take the gloved hand he extended to her but she took it anyway and sat up, swinging her long silky legs over the side of the bed. Gene enjoyed the view as he watched his wife sat beside him.

“Good morning,” Xenia greeted. She couldn’t look at him straight in the eye.

“Excellent morning it is, as you made it so, Xenia.” The Duke of Dawson said. He noticed her avoiding his look and exactly knew why. With the situation they had in this marriage, she still amazed him with her decision to be his wife in full. “Aren’t you afraid of me anymore?” He asked.

Xenia finally looked at the masked man. “I wasn’t afraid much of you. I was apprehended because you were a stranger to me. But through the times that I’m with you and I get to know you, I realized that there’s nothing to worry and be afraid of. You’re a nice person and probably, I’d grow to love you someday. But as of now, I intend to be your wife in every way.”

Stunned at the commitment he sensed from her reply, he resisted the urge to kiss those lovely lips once again. He didn’t expect her to yield her loyalty to him in a short period of time. Now, she’s even trying to break the boundaries that stood between them.

“I’m sorry about last night, Gene.” She bit her lower lip. “I, uh…”

Her husband is just there, looking at her. “There’s still a lot to know about each other and we have a lifetime to do it, Xenia.”

“I wish I could see your face,” Xenia added. “I feel that you’re hiding something from me. I can feel that your face isn’t really scarred at all. I wonder if you…”

“No.” Gene firmly said which has made her stop. Her hands paused in mid-air. She watched as Gene dragged himself, as if in pain, away from her.

The Duke of Dawson turned from her. How could this woman, having spent a night with him, guess what he is trying to hide? After giving herself to him, it has been more difficult to get rid of the mask. It wasn’t important if she moaned another man’s name last night. If she will know the truth, she would hate him and he’d lose everything. That’s far from his mind right now. There are more pressing matters he needs to finish before setting it straight with his wife.

“You’re indeed hiding something from me!” Xenia’s eyes widened. She stood up and quickly dressed up. “Who are you? I now doubt if you even have any impairment or you’re just making everything up. If I’m indeed your wife, I hope you could trust me from what has been bothering you. We vowed to support each other through and thick and thin. Can you give me that chance?”

He made a turn towards her but was surprised when he didn’t expect Xenia’s hands are suddenly on his mask. Before he tries to struggle away from her, it was instantly off.

“Xenia…”

“Nick!”


uh oh... Nick's busted...
THIRTEEN by axianbeauty
Nick drew a very deep breath as Xenia gaped at him in surprise. He could see the hint of an upcoming rage from those lovely brown eyes. “Nickolas Gene Dawson-Carter, Duke of Dawson, at your service,” he bowed down at her.

Xenia could not form a question as the recent event has caught her in utmost surprise, she couldn’t even think of proper logic to associate with it. “So when I got married, is it really you?” Xenia’s eyes blurred from tears that threatened to fall down her cheeks. She kept them away. No, Nick isn’t going to see her cry. “How? Why?”

“Yes, it was me you married, Xenia. I’m sorry if I didn’t get to tell you about this. It’s a charade I already had when I came here from London two months ago, as the new duke. The butler, Arman, and my personal assistant, Keith, as well as Uncle Marcus is only some of the people here who knew that it was I behind the mask. I did that because I wanted everyone to know that the true descendant, my cousin Louis, lived after the fire accident he had five months ago. If the people here will believe that he lived, they’ll be threatened – whoever planned to kill him then.”

Nick met his wife’s look. He tried to come near as azure eyes commanded her attention. He towered over her. “I, as a cousin and the new duke, seek justice to those who planned for Louis’ death. He doesn’t deserve that. I knew him well. In the city, I posed as Nick, the businessman, but I’m just there to spy on those people who have come close to my cousin before he died. The presence of the masked man in the Dawson Hall will confuse my cousin’s enemies.” Nick reached out to take her against him but Xenia stepped away.

“Don’t touch me,” she firmly stated, casting him a glare, which has made Nick sighed in sad frustration. He is heavily guilty and he can’t even condole his feelings towards her.

“Xenia, I’m sorry. After last night, it has been more difficult for me to tell you the truth. I love you so much and I couldn’t possibly hurt you. I wouldn’t prevent either to see you hurt by my cousin’s enemies, which is why I have bodyguards sent out to watch over you. I couldn’t escape my uncle’s codicil but I was glad it was you who has come into the estate. You’re the only one I want and I took the opportunity to marry you immediately.”

“You took advantage of it. Maybe that’s why you didn’t pressed more when I whispered your name in the dark. Because that was you, after all.”

“I thought you’d have recognized me, that’s why I stopped and saw your eyes were closed. I realized that you were unconsciously whispering my name in the dark. That’s when I knew that you still liked me even after you got married.”

"You took advantage of it. I thought it was someone else last night, especially when I felt scars in your back."

"I got it when I had an accident back in the States." Nick said to her.

"You still lied to me, tricked me and my family to believe that it was some stranger who unfortunately, couldn't face anyone without donning his mask. You must have a good laugh at us, especially to me when I came to you so willingly last night.” Xenia said, as her face is deep red with anger. She rushed towards him and hammered his chest with her closed fists. Nick didn’t stop her from doing so. He just stood there, taking all of Xenia’s anger.

“I never laughed at you, Xenia. I love you and it’s been more difficult for me to do these pretensions to seek some clue to the identity of my cousin’s murderers.”

“You could have told me and eased my uncertainties. But you let me suffer on the first week of our marriage. I was unsure, confused and worried that I tried hard from preventing myself to run away from this marriage. I was trying to find you and explain what happened but you were in London, as you’d told everyone. I don’t know what to do.” Xenia’s voice was ragged with emotion. She stopped hammering Nick’s chest. Her hands are now resting on him, and Nick’s arms are now wrapped around her.

“Would you have been relieved to find yourself married to me?” Nick asked softly. “I knew you liked me on that night at the movies, but when you got married, you’d clearly stated your loyalty towards your masked husband. I don’t even know if you would still even care to think of me. Every time we meet, you’re trying your best to avoid me. I blamed myself for what happened when you almost got harmed, and that I didn’t have the chance to court you because we have to get married unconventionally. I wasn’t prepared for any of this, but God knows how I wanted and love you. I wanted so much as to tell you that it was me you married to. I hate that mask because I am compelled to lie to you. But I was glad, and still is, when you whispered my name. For a moment, I felt I’m not into a charade. Now that you found out this charade, let me tell you everything that has caused me to do this.”

I always think of you, Xenia wanted to say it but couldn’t. She wanted to run her fingers in that silky dark blonde hair and kissed him. But she’s still hurting and there’s no room to reveal her own feelings right now.

Nick sighed as he continued; “It’s true when I told you that my life is complicated because of the codicil, which has left me hanging on to the fate I inherited from my uncle. Five years ago, my mom died of a heart attack. Since she was my grandfather’s second child, she has been left of duties bound to the family as a daughter of the duke. I inherited those duties when she died and became a titled lord. That’s the reason why I’ve been going back and forth to London for years. More than five months ago from now, Louis had an accident. His car mysteriously exploded right after he gets inside and started the engine. I was in London at that time with his father, the former Duke of Dawson, who was in a hospital for his cancer treatment. Uncle Marcus called me when that happened and I immediately hired a helicopter to take Louis to the same hospital were his father was. But Louis didn’t live long enough. He died three weeks after the accident. More than two months after that, Uncle Anthony gave up his fight over cancer.” The muscles flexed in his cheek, giving evidence of his constrained anger. “Uncle was now buried with my Mom in the family’s mausoleum, near the gazebo you saw the last time we had a walk. Louis has been my closest cousin and next to Kevin, I see him as an older brother I never had. I seek justice for his unfair death.” Nick turned back at her. Xenia saw a tear fall down his face. He blushed and looked away.

“And since Uncle Anthony was a duke, his heir was gone before he did, the next successor would have been Mom. But Mom has been long gone and as her eldest child, I succeeded the title and the responsibilities that come with it. I left my life in New York and secured permanent address here in Scotland. But aside from the codicil in my Uncle’s last will and testament, there’s also this matter of securing my family’s title because of my nationality is being questioned now in the House of Lords. That’s the reason why I’ve been in London now and then. My Dad, Uncle Marcus, and my cousin, New York’s topnotch lawyer, Kevin Richardson, is helping me prove my right over the duchy. If I didn’t marry you then, I would have to give up the family’s legacy, which has been here for many years. I wouldn’t like to lose that. It’s something me and my sisters can share to the next generations of the Dawson family.”

“And if you didn’t win your case at the House of Lords?”

“The family’s long-time legacy will cease to exist.”

Xenia kissed her husband fully on the lips. For a moment, Nick sensed a spark of hope that she has forgiven her. But Xenia pulled herself away from Nick. “Good luck, then,” she said in a feigned tone of strength, her head held up high. “You had so many lies and it will give me some time before I could believe and trust you again.” With that, she turned and left the room.

As soon as Xenia got out of the room, she let the tears she’s been holding back to fall down her cheeks. She felt relieved that Nick is her husband after all. But she felt her pride has been bruised for the lies he’s done. It will take her some time to cool things down. She’s distressed on thinking that her thoughts of Nick is equivalent to cuckolding her husband when that same man is actually her husband after all. And to stop Nick’s kisses from her memory, she surrendered herself to the masked man only to making him find out about her affections towards him when she says his name while they’re making love.

Recalling everything that has happened, Xenia realized that she could accept him after all her shortcomings and lies. She’d be willing to stay with him through every thing he’s going through right now. And that is for the reason that she truly loves him with all her heart and soul.
FOURTEEN by axianbeauty
“These are excellent brownies, Xenia,” Marcus said as they shared Xenia’s newly baked goodies. The former went to visit her at the Dawson Hall while Nick went back to London. It’s been two days since Xenia found out about the truth with her husband.

“I actually just learned how to make those, Uncle Marcus. I’m glad you liked it,” She sets down the pitcher of juice for them. “Is Nick going to stay long in London? How’s his fight for his right as the duke?” She suddenly asked. Marcus looked at her in surprise. “I missed my husband, Uncle.”

Marcus fell silent and stared at Xenia.

“Yes, I already knew, Uncle. I deliberately took off his mask one day when I was asking him about it. As a judge, I know that you should know when and how a witness is having inconsistencies with his sworn statement. Nick has been inconsistent. I began to think then that my husband didn’t trust me enough although he already told me his dilemma concerning the people who had caused the accident to happen. I decided to take off the mask. I didn’t even care whatever might be revealed after doing it.”

Marcus drinks his juice first. “Did he get mad?” he quietly asked. He was never wrong when he considered Xenia as one sprite, courageous woman.

Xenia shrugged. She wiped her tears. “I cannot tell. But after that, Nick told me everything. How’s he, Uncle?”

“Today’s the final hearing on the case. His cousin, Kevin, is a good lawyer. I had hopes that he’ll remain the duchy in our family.”

“I’d like to know where in London he lives. I wish I could follow him there.”

“He used to live in an apartment when he first got there after his mother, Louise, died. But when he became a duke, he inherited the family’s mansion and that’s where he is staying right now.” Marcus replied. Hs looked at his nephew’s wife and reached for her hand. “Nick has told me a lot about you and I’m equally glad it was you he got married into. I am a good judge of character and I know that you are a nice person who could make my nephew happy. I hope you’d forgive him, as well as me, for the charade we have to make up to bring about Louis’ murderers.”

“I could never be mad for long, Uncle. I’m just hurt for being lied to. But it’s all in the past and I understand why you needed to do that.”

“Thank you, Xenia. Anyway, would you like Johanne to take you to London today?”

“Probably on the weekend, Uncle. I have to clear things at my business first. I’m giving back the management to Leah because I knew then that business isn’t my forte. I used to do daredevil stunts and risky sports in the past but all of that would change now that I’ve decided to be Nick’s wife.”

“You love him that much?”

“Nothing could be more risky than being Nick’s wife,” Xenia said with a smile. “Seriously, I love him with everything I am, Uncle Marcus. I love Nick even before I realize that he’s the man behind the mask. It has been hard for me to ever think about him when I am with my husband. I love Nick and yet, I have developed an unexplainable affection towards the masked man. It confused me and I was guilty thinking that I’ve been cheating on the masked man with all the thoughts of Nick in my head. I was saved from an impending sin when Nick and the duke are of the same person, who he’s really my husband after all.” Xenia answered. “I hope that it’s not yet too late to show him how much I love him.”


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


“Good morning, Your Grace,” Arman greeted Xenia when she came down the stairs the next day. Xenia smiled and noticed the man’s ear accessory once again. It’s an earphone for security surveillance. She didn’t noticed it before but when Nick told him about Arman, she then learned that the butler is actually Nick’s assistant head of security and assigned to guard her and the safety of the mansion.

“Good morning too, Arman.”

“You have an early morning call, madam. She said her name’s Justine Shawn and wanted to see the Duke.”

Xenia didn’t notice herself frowning upon learning that has come to see her husband. Did Justine know about Nick’s charade? “I’m going to see her. Where is she?”

“I asked her to wait at the Sitting Room, Your Grace.” Arman replied as he followed his mistress towards the Sitting Room located at the ground floor of the mansion. When they got there, Arman discreetly left Xenia after giving a watchful eye on their guest.

Justine stood up but didn’t budge a smile at Xenia. “I came to see Louis.” She said without a greeting.

“Good morning to you, too.” Xenia motioned her to sit down, and she made herself comfortable in a single couch located across Justine. “My husband is not here. Would you rather relay to me instead what do you want to him?”

“It’s rather private.” Justine replied.

“Oh, really? I think I got a right to know since I’m his wife. Now, if you don’t have any intentions to tell it to me, you may join me for breakfast instead and let’s get to know each other. I understand that you were my husband’s ex-girlfriend before we got married.” Xenia tried to smile but met Justine’s glare instead. The latter stood up.

“No, thanks. I have to go now. I’ll come back to see your husband again. Just tell him that I dropped by and I missed him.” Justine winked at her then they both turned towards the door, only to find Nick standing there. Both women were surprised to see him, but for different reasons. Justine was surprised to see him in the Dawson Hall and wondered what Nick could be doing there while Xenia was surprised for Nick’s unannounced arrival from London. All she could do now is to stare back at her husband to prevent herself from running to him and kiss him with so much hunger and passion. She still hadn’t spoke to him ever since she learned that he’s the one behind the mask.

“I’m sorry, I must be a bother.” Nick said with a smile. “The butler told me that Xenia is here with a guest.” He looked from Xenia to Justine. “Hi, Justine.”

“My husband isn’t here, Nick, as what I’ve told Justine. Is there something you want from him?” Xenia asked in a civil tone.

“Oh, yes. There’s just something I’d like to inquire about some business. But I guess I’ll just have to go back sometime.” Nick replied. He just stood there by the door. He looked charming with that laid-back smile of his, as he stood there with his hands on his pockets. “Did I hear that you’re about to leave too, Justine?”

Justine smiled widely. “Yes. It’s nice that you’re here. We can go back to town together, shall we?” She turned one last time to Xenia then walked over to Nick. “Let’s go, Nick.” She took the arm when Nick offered it to her. When she turned her back on Xenia, Nick looked at his wife and mouthed the words ‘I’ll be back’. Xenia just gave him a disapproving look in reply. The door was closed behind the two.

Heaving a sigh of frustration, Xenia went out of the Sitting Room to have breakfast in the kitchen. Judging by the distance of the mansion to the main gates, and the entire Dawson Estate from the city, it will take Nick a long time before he gets back. She should start her day on her own now.
FIFTEEN by axianbeauty
“Have you been constantly going at the Dawson Estate?” Justine asked as soon as they hit the road.

“Not really,” Nick just replied in brief.

“How did you know about the duke then?”

Nick smiled. “Why did you like to know?” He glanced at her then back to the road.

Justine shrugged. “Nothing. He’s my former boyfriend and he hasn’t really introduced me mostly to his friends and family before. Louis said they were in London, looking after his father.”

“Didn’t you urged him to go to London then and took care of his father?”

“No. I admit that I don’t want him out of my sight then. But things got a little hazy and we broke up. He’s a great man. Xenia is lucky.” Justine said, looking out at the window. Nick glanced at her, hinting that he somehow saw regret in her eyes for letting go of Louis.

Nick sighed. “Yeah, she’s lucky.” Just as then, Justine turned to him.

“Do you like her, Nick?”

“Huh?”

“Do you like her?”

“Yes, but I can’t have her now. She’s married to my friend,” Nick replied, his eyes on the road and he didn’t saw a grin across Justine’s face. Then he glanced at her and saw it. “What’s with that? What are you thinking, Justine?”

“Nothing. Forget it.”

Nick placed his hand over Justine’s leg. “Oh, come on.” He smiled. “Tell me. What are your plans?” To my wife, he added silently. “Who knows? I might agree with you.”

“Well…” Justine’s hand traveled on her own and found Nick’s thigh. “What if you and me work together to separate the two? Lure Xenia to ran away with you and I will have the duke back?”

“Perfectly good idea, but no. I cannot do that,” he swallowed hard as her hand reached between his thighs and caressed it softly. Well, he’s a man, married or not. But he only wanted Xenia. He took the hand away from there. “What do you think are the chances that you’ll get the duke and I’ll have Xenia?”

“I know that Xenia likes you. That’s a woman instinct. Who could resist you anyway? Even I wanted you in my bed, Nick.” He felt her breathing when Justine’s tongue flickered on his earlobe. Nick cursed her and himself silently. “And I know that I could still get Louis.”

“Really? Then why didn’t he marry you instead of Xenia?” Nick’s question caught her off-guard.

“He just wanted me to get jealous, Nick. And now that he does, you’re going to help me get him back. You’ll have Xenia and I’ll have Louis. That’s fair enough. You take Xenia back to New York, the duke wouldn’t mind.” She met his unconvincing look. “Trust me, Nick. I knew Louis.” She watched as Nick grew silent for a while, pondering on what she proposed. “Think of those lovely doe eyes, soft lips and warm smile greeting you every morning when you wake up, Nick. Make her fall in love with you and you’ll have her forever. She doesn’t need a beast for a husband, but I do. I want Louis.” Her hopes soared when Nick smiled.

But Nick is thinking of something else. No matter how absurd was Justine’s sense of reasoning, he wanted to give in. He’s thinking of ways to make Xenia totally fall for him, but not with what Justine wanted. He had an insight on how Xenia wanted him when they’re making love. Xenia is already his wife, in which Justine didn’t know. He has his own plans. It’s impossible for Justine’s plan to happen. He is the duke, and not Louis of whom she thought he was. “I would like to make Xenia fall in love with me,” he announced. His mind raced to thoughts on the ways to show Xenia how much he loves her, and she’s going to moan and shout his name in complete surrender.

“That’s nice to hear, Nick. After dropping me off to the city, you may start luring Xenia with your charms,” she winked at him. Nick could only smile. Almost an hour later, he parked the car in front of the bank. It so happened that Kevin was passing by the sidewalk and saw the two.

“Hi, Justine. Hi, Nick…”

Justine felt herself blushed when she received a cheerful greeting from the handsome man. She admits she secretly likes Kevin but she’s a very ambitious woman. Kevin Richardson won’t give her the luxury and power she’s craving for. He’s just one of the many depositors in the bank who had less than the target bank account she’s looking for. “You knew Nick?” She asked him instead returning his greeting.

Kevin glanced at Nick first then to her, “Yes. Anyway, how are you, Justine?”

“Doing fine,” Justine replied with disinterest.

“I was thinking if we could have dinner sometime…”

“I’m sorry but I can’t, Kevin. I’m really busy right now.” Justine said and excused herself. She left the two watching her leave. Kevin sighed.

“What does that mean, cousin?” Nick asked quietly as he stood beside him. “Do you like her? She’s obviously just looking at men’s bank accounts.”

Kevin shakes his head in frustration. “Yes, I know about that. She’s one of our suspects for Louis’ death and if she is guilty of the crime, I am prepared to see her go to jail as well.”

“Kev…”

“It’s alright, Nick. Maybe I just got carried away with her charming beauty. But if she did and went to jail, I could still accept her once she got out from there. Damn, I didn’t know what hit me, Nick. That woman’s poison. She keeps on rejecting me, and I’m so much wanted her. But first things first,” Kevin gave his cousin a smile. “And you? Why don’t you go home and woo your wife?”

“I’ll do that later. Right now, I have to tell you what Justine had just proposed to me…”
SIXTEEN by axianbeauty
“I didn’t expect you here.”

Xenia turned and saw Nick standing at the entrance of the family mausoleum. From the corporate clothes she’d seen him wearing earlier, Nick is now wearing plain white shirt and cream cargo pants. He always looked charming no matter what he is wearing.

“Where’s Louis’ tomb? I haven’t seen it here.” Xenia asked him instead.

“He requested to be cremated if he dies, and that’s what we did. And because of the plans, we didn’t bury him here yet.” Nick replied and starting walking near the tombs. “He’s in the house in London. Have you met Mom?” He asked as he sits on the marble floor, in front of a tombstone with an angel beside it.

“Yes. We talked a lot about you,” Xenia replied, trying to add a joke in their conversation.

“Mom can be really feisty and talkative when meeting a new and interesting person,” Nick smiled on her joke. “I missed you, Mom.” He said to his mother. Xenia watched him traced the tombstone with his fingers. “She was a wonderful woman and we missed her so much. She groomed me into this responsibility ever since but I disregarded it because I thought that it would be impossible to become titled lord when I was born and grew up in the States. She died anyway and inherited this responsibility. I embraced it wholeheartedly, in memory of Mom. She had me prepared for everything.”

“I never met the rest of your family yet. Are they all in London?”

“Only Dad and Kevin are there. My youngest brother, Aaron, just flew back home to New York to continue his studies. I got three sisters back in New York. They wanted to see you but I told them that they have to wait until things are okay and Louis’ murderers have been caught.”

“Are your sisters the socialites in New York?”

Nick chuckled. “How charming as they are, no. Of course, they go to parties and stuff, but they are more focused on school first and the business they put up to themselves than doing publicity for everyone to see.”

“That was aside from their respect to their parents,” Xenia added. Nick looked at her and nodded. He stood up and went to her.

Xenia stepped back when he got near. She wanted to do anything to show Nick that she loves him, too. But now that Nick is right in front of her, she doesn’t know where to start.

Nick didn’t make any attempt to touch her. “I understand that you’re still mad at me.” He stared at her for a moment then left. Xenia watched him go. She couldn’t let the moment pass. This is her chance to set things straight with her husband.

“Nick…”

Nick turned almost immediately as soon as she called him, as if he expected that she’ll be doing it. “Yes?”

“I can never be angry at you for too long. And I’m trying to understand the situation that you, and now I, are into right now. So let me tell you this before you leave,” a tear falls from Xenia’s face. “I love you, too. I love you, too.”

“Oh, Xenia.” Nick turned back and held her in a close embrace. “Thank you for loving me. I love you, too.” He embraced her and let her cry until she would have ran out of tears to shed. “That’s a lot of crying, sweetheart.”

“I cry when I’m happy, very happy,” Xenia replied as she pressed herself closer to Nick’s body. “I actually felt relieved being married to you and I never felt so in love like this before.”


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Xenia locked the door of her husband’s office as soon as she gets inside. She felt Nick’s look upon her behind the mask, probably surveying her body from head to foot. Nick’s visitors have just left and she took the chance to sneak inside her husband’s office as soon as everyone is gone.

Nick was relieved that Xenia didn’t get mad at him for long or else, he would have to endure her anger indefinitely. For the past days, they’ve been on good terms. They even planned on having a delayed honeymoon somewhere in the Pacific Coast after everything is over. It would just mean of making their marriage ties stronger. “I could still remember how soft it feels to run my hand over your smooth skin,” Nick began as he takes off his mask. Xenia smiled and ran towards him, went around the large office desk and sat into his lap. She gives her husband a full, scorching kiss on the mouth.

“I missed you, darling,” Xenia whispered at him.

Nick chuckled huskily. “We just made love two hours ago. And I missed you, too, sweetheart. But we have to rest for now and save our energies later after dinner. I have to show you something.” He opened the top drawer of his desk and takes out the old book, in which Xenia had seen before. Nick opened it to the last written page.

Xenia, still sitting on Nick’s lap, looked over and read the last entry. “His Grace Nickolas Gene Carter-Dawson, Duke of Dawson, married. September 25, 2008. Miss Xenia Cassandra Wilkins of New York, Duchess of Dawson.” She looked at Nick, who is gripping her hand. “It feels good to see it written on the family’s logbook, Nick. And I’m excited for you to log the birth of our first baby.”

Nick smiled. “And now, you understand my eager anticipation for us to have a baby.” Xenia met his lips once again.

“The last other entries were the consecutive deaths of your uncle and Louis,” Xenia said as she faced the book again. “How’s the investigation?”

“We had suspects and Justine is one of them.”

“Justine is your cousin’s former girlfriend. What could be her motive?” She asked her husband while tracing his face with her fingers. She saw his brows furrowed in deep thinking, sighing before he answers her.

“I don’t know. But on the day that she went here and I took her back to the city, she laid out a plan.”

“What plans?”

“She wanted me to make you fall in love with me as the normal Nick whom everyone knows, so that I will be able to convince you to leave the duke. She, on the other hand, will try to win back her ‘ex-boyfriend’s’ attention so that ‘he’ can leave you for her.” Nick replied. “Of course, I agreed to her plan.” He began nibbling her ears as his hands caressed her breasts. “I had so many ideas on how to lure you away from your ‘husband’. At the same time, I’ll get to know her motive when she comes here to talk to me as ‘Louis.’”

“Well, I don’t like the idea of her talking to you,” Xenia pouted. “I could already imagine those painted hands crawling over you.” Nick swallowed when he heard her. Xenia eyed him curiously.

“She did crawl her hands on me before,” Nick admitted. “But I did nothing, promise.”

“I trusted you, not her,” Xenia told him. “I wished this would end so we could walk together as husband and wife, without your mask. So that every woman who wanted to go after you will realize that you’re already hitched. And I can tell everyone that a wonderful man like you married a crazy woman like me.”

“That makes me crazy, too,” Nick chuckled and kissed her.

“So, darling, how would you like it if I started crawling my hands on you right now?” Xenia purred, her hands are already taking off his shirt.

“Sweetheart, you know that is just one of my fantasies. I want you so much to do these kinds of things to me.” Nick huskily replied.

“Perfect. Then your wish is my command…” Xenia bent down her head as she started trailing kisses from his lips downwards.
SEVENTEEN by axianbeauty
Xenia entered the Sitting Room to see who has come to visit and talk with her husband. Nick left at dawn for London for some pressing matters that needs his immediate attention, saying that he’ll be back in the afternoon. As Xenia went in, she saw a tall man whose body is built like those of the US Marines she’s seen back home. Another thing is that this one is a natural charmer. He’s cute.

“May I help you?” She asked him.

“I’m Neil Starling, a friend of Louis. I presume that you are his wife?”

“Xenia Dawson,” she said as they shook hands. “My husband isn’t here. The tea will come soon enough, please make yourself comfortable.” She asked the visitor to sit as she settled herself on the seat opposite of him.

“I was surprised to learn that Louis got married,” Neil said, eyeing her with curiosity. “You’re far more different from his typical woman.”

“Things differ from what you used to know, Mr. Starling.”

“Neil. Do call me that, please.”

“Neil.” Xenia repeated. “How long are you and Louis have been friends?”

“Since kids. I just lived two kilometers east, at the Pearl Estate. My father is acquainted to the duke. Louis and I are practically best friends.” Neil said to her.

“Did you know about the accident that he had?” Xenia asked. She noticed the man’s jaw clenched upon mentioning it, and she wondered why.

“I’m sorry. I heard about it but I can’t go home that time. I’m with the Royal Navy and had a mission in Northern Ireland. This is the only chance I got to visit home. I’m glad Louis is well and got married. And I’m sorry to hear about the duke’s death. Uncle Anthony was a wonderful person, and has been my mentor then.”

Xenia bit her lip. She felt guilty for not telling Neil that his best friend is already dead too. She saw the authentic grief from the man’s eyes. “I wished I met him, too.” She said, referring to the father and son she never met.

“Yes,” Neil quietly answered. “You should have met him. Anyway, how did you and Louis meet? Papa was surprised to hear of Louis’ marriage and didn’t get invited. But he’s giving Louis the chance to explain.” He winked at her. “Louis is almost his son. He must have loved you so much to marry you in haste.”

“Yes.” That’s all Xenia could say to Neil. She doesn’t want to continue with her husband’s charade but she has to, even if it will take to fool innocent friends like Neil and his father. She wished Nick is there to help her. “I’m from New York.”

Neil chuckled. “I could imagine Louis charmed his way enough for you to leave the city you grew accustomed to and live with him here in the quiet country. Have you met Nick, his favorite cousin?”

“Yes.”

“That young man transferred here from New York years after his mother died. Despite being American, he had gained a title and does his duties in London. That’s another nice bloke, I’d say. Louis treated him as a brother, as I do too.” Neil said. Xenia just smiled. She heard the familiar car engine and sighed in relief. Her husband has arrived. She wished Arman informed him immediately about his visitor. Now, Xenia waited for the door top open and wondered if either Nick will come as himself, or ‘Louis’ will enter through the doors. She heard the footsteps on the marble floor and found the answer.

“L-Louis?” Neil exclaimed in surprise as he saw his friend donned in a mask. Xenia stood up and meets her husband halfway. “Do you know him?” she whispered when she pressed her cheek against him. Nick nodded.

“Anyone who did this to you must pay, Louis,” Neil added. “How are you now?”

Nick turned to Xenia and nods again. Xenia gave him a questioning look. Then turned to Neil. “I forgot to tell you, Neil, that since the accident, my husband wasn’t able to speak anymore. He mightily had so many scars and burns, and it’s been lucky that he’s still alive. He’s doing fine by now,” Xenia said. She smiled as her husband reached for her hand when she sat beside him.

“Neil just came from his mission, Louis.” She added to Nick.

“Yes. And I just came here as soon as I unpacked my things. Besides, Papa was worried when he learned that you got married and didn’t invite him.”

“Apologies to your father, Neil.” Xenia said, in behalf of her husband. There was silence for a moment when a maid entered to bring them tea. “Atty. Richardson and Uncle Marcus are already investigating the incident that occurred,” Xenia continued when the maid left the Sitting Room.

Nick is looking at him. Xenia wondered if Neil could notice the difference between Louis and Nick merely by just sitting there and looking at her husband. If there’s a difference, that’s probably the reason why Nick chose to play dumb speechless and let her carry the conversation. If chances came to it that Neil will find out, Xenia is willing to back-up on Nick’s explanations. Nick turned to his beautiful wife and met her look. There’s a silent understanding between them with the exchanged looks they had.

“Oh, my lovebirds,” Neil said and glanced at his watch. “I better get going for now, but I’ll be back.”

Xenia helped her husband get up from his seat. “Thank you, Neil,” she said, “from us.”

Neil nodded. “Don’t bother walking me to the door. I’ll take my way out. It’s nice meeting you, Xenia.” Neil kissed her hand, nodded at the masked man then left the Sitting Room. As soon as Neil has gone, the two went by the window to see him leave.

Nick puts his arms on his wife’s shoulders. They watched Neil get inside the car. “Louis and I spoke differently. He has the Scottish accent, while I got the Yankee brawl. That’s why I pretend not to be able to speak, so does to the other people here in the Hall.” Neil’s car went off. “Neil’s father is Viscount Starling. They lived on the Pearl Estate, just two kilometers from here.”

“I felt guilty not telling him that his best friend is already dead.”

“I’m sorry that I had to make you lie to other people, Xenia. Don’t worry. We’ll tell Neil soon enough.”

“Yes, but not soon enough. Honestly, I’m not yet trusting him fully enough to let you reveal yourself.” Nick look at her upon hearing that.