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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.