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“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?