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?”
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.