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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.”

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