“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.
“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.