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THE DUKE I DON’T KNOW

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Zoya always dreamt of a fairytale love life with her one true love, Greg. However, everything crashed when her family ran into debt, and Zoya was given out to the ruthless Duke with no face. Torn between survival, love and her thirst for freedom, Zoya must learn to stay submissive to the arrogant Duke with a mask on. *** He is a mysterious man with a past he would kill to bury and secrets that must remain hidden... And she, she is a simple girl with a dream to experience love... Would the Duke ever be able to give her that life she so much desires, or would his past consume him?

Chapter 1: MARRY THE DUKE

ZOYA’S POV

“You will love the Duke, I promise.” My Mother said as her long, slender legs hiding underneath the flowing gown made their way towards me. Her fingers landed on my shoulders in a bid to calm my nervousness. However, the act only caused my heart to thump louder.

I knew that smile. That particular one she had on right now. The one she always had on whenever she had something up her sleeves or trying to convince someone. I could see it from the reflection in the mirror.

“I have heard so much news about him. Good ones.” She added while my stomach fluttered out of nervousness.

“Have you ever seen him?” I asked out of sheer curiosity.

Growing up, I always knew that, just like everyone else, I would be given off to a man that I had no idea who was. But a part of me had always wished that, for once, things would change.

That just this one time, I would be granted the privilege to marry my one true love, Greg.

My sisters, however, never failed to remind me every day of how my dreams of having a happy family were nothing but a fairytale because according to them, my parents' marriage wasn’t anything close to happy too.

And I felt like they were right and that the only thing keeping them together was the society and us.

My mind drifted towards them, and it made me wonder just where Emily and Anna could be. Probably playing and joking while my life fell into nothing but crumb, although a part of me was glad that they at least still had their innocence.

For now.

Because with time, it would be just as tarnished as mine was about to get.

Father didn’t show his face, and he hasn’t done that since he informed me of my new fate. And I loved to believe that he was somewhere beating himself up over it and hating himself for doing this to his beautiful, innocent daughter.

Perhaps he was somewhere jubilating, too, and thinking of all he could get from this.

The thought caused me to sigh silently.

“Well, that doesn’t matter. The Duke is too busy to see commoners like ourselves.” Mrs Plainstone responded, our eyes locking in the mirror.

The words rolled off her lips like it was some sweet lollipop because she made it sound so normal and natural.

“But we aren’t commoners. I’m his bride.” I responded even though I hated those words. I didn’t want to claim him. Not now. Not ever.

Nonetheless, he should have shown up himself. He should have shown some concern.

Maybe it would have made me feel a bit less sore.

“Zoya!” She called, causing me to drag my eyes from my outfit to meet her eyes. “We are bankrupt. You need to marry him so that he can pay our debts. Besides, he wants no dowry. It is hard to get someone like that around here. You just have to do this for your sisters so they can have a chance of getting good suitors.” She added.

I wanted to scoff, but instead, I sent her a nod and forced a smile.

I knew she was right, yet everything felt right and wrong at the same time.

If I was really doing this for good reasons then why did I feel so sad? Why was I so heartbroken? Why do I feel wronged and used?

Tears welled in my eyes, and I bit my lower lip to hold them back.

Knowing that I was nothing but a commodity that had a price made my heart ache. I could feel the pain spreading from it to the tip of my fingers.

I was human. Flesh and blood. I had a voice. One I can never make known.

“You look beautiful.” Mother said confidently and strode away from me.

My eyes ran over my dress again, taking in every detail once more. The Yellow material was of a luxe fabric, the most expensive one I owned. Mother had insisted on going in it even though I could barely breathe from the layers of tunics I had on, especially the Panniers. It was aimed at giving me the perfect waistline and hip shape, only that it caused me discomfort.

I heard Tania take some steps closer, dragging her feet on the marble floor. I could see the tiredness etched boldly on her face. Being the only maid in the whole house must definitely be tough on her, given that Mother had to dispose of the others since we couldn’t afford to pay anymore. Her slim fingers shook vigorously as she stroked my hair, then went ahead to braid it.

The feeling of pity engulfed me. I badly wanted to tell her to rest or take the whole day off just to get back on track, but I just couldn’t afford to. I had no say in the house. I was nothing but a puppet of theirs. A bait to clear their names and restore their reputation.

As the seconds ticked by, so did my anxiety and nervousness. I could feel my hands trembling and my legs trying to give up on me.

My heart clenched tightly at the thought of how blurry my life was about to become. I was about to get married to a total stranger. Someone I didn’t know existed till days ago.

A soft knock landed on the door, letting out a squeak as it opened.

“The carriage is ready, Ma.” I heard an overly familiar voice say, causing me to jerk my head up to stare in the mirror. A voice I listened to all night and day. The same voice that sang me to bed most nights.

There he was, standing with his head bent briefly as a sign of respect. I watched him bring his head up through his reflection in the mirror. Our eyes meet.

I could feel the sadness that traveled through every part of me. His once vibrant eyes looked so lonely and empty. Lacking all ounce of life and happiness.

The same man I loved. The only man that taught me the meaning of true love.

My hands found the sides of my dress and clutched them, gripping them so tightly that it could rip them off.

I was pissed. Pissed and angry at myself for giving in so easily.

I had to fight for us. I knew I had to say something or do something. But I was helpless.

Tears stung my eyes so badly, threatening to flow out. The rate at which my heart thumped increased at such a high speed.

The whole thing played out slowly. Their words and their body movement go by slowly. It was like someone in charge of time had decided to give me a chance to take a breath before things would change.

Breathe Zoya.

A voice in my head echoed.

But it seemed to do little to help. The words rang in my head again, and on the third attempt, I found myself dragging in shaky breaths and letting them out.

‘I’m strong. I’m beautiful. I can’t give up.’ I mumbled inside my head as I awaited my vision that was starting to find its pace back.

Finally, all was back to normal.

I blinked back my tears again and forced my lips to curl up in a smile.

“It’s time, Zoya.” I heard Mother say.

****

Greg said nothing as he held my right hand and helped me into the carriage. He looked pale, and his face was a bit red. He looked like he held back his breath.

There was a tinge sensation and warmness that spread from his fingers to my toes. The feel of his touch on me for the last time.

Last time!

I repeated.

Who would have thought that things would go this way?

One minute, we were lying in each other’s arms, staring at the beautiful sky and promising one another never to leave. His breath fell on my neck that fateful night.

The night I tried to give myself to him.

But he refused.

He reminded me of how precious my body was and how he only wanted to have it properly with the consent of my Mother and Father.

Now that I thought of it, I guess he knew all along.

He knew we were going nowhere, and that was why he tried not to commit too much.

That was the only way to explain why he was sitting so comfortably on the other side of the seat. He was obviously avoiding me because he hadn’t looked my way since he got in.

There was no expression on his face. Anything at all that conveyed that he felt as much pain as I did. Nothing to show that he really cared about me, just like he claimed.

He looked way too relaxed.

Maybe I expected much because I grew up hearing stories of ladies eloping with their men out of love. Stories of men standing up and fighting for their love, even if it meant having the whole world go against them.

I heard stories like Romeo and Juliet. Stories like that of Cinderella. There were lots more.

Stories that showed me how beautiful love could be.

I clenched my teeth together because I felt stupid. I felt dumb for thinking that he loved me for believing in a future together.

I knew I deserved an explanation. I deserved to know why he did what he did, why he tricked me. Why he was willing to let go so easily?

I deserved answers.

“Stop the carriage!” I ordered, my voice firm even though I could feel my whole world falling apart

Chapter 2: MY ONE TRUE LOVE

ZOYA’S POV

“Is everything fine, milady?” Greg asked, his eyes finally on me, yet I could feel the distance between us. I could feel the wall he was trying to build through his words.

“Fine? Really? Really, Greg?” I questioned out of disbelief. “You really would sit over there like some kind of statue and ask me that. Huh!” I snapped, my blood starting to boil from how nonchalant he acted.

He opened his mouth to say something, but the words fell dead on his tongue because he dragged his eyes away to stare at the space beside me.

“Stop the carriage now! Don’t make me say it another time.” I yelled aloud, causing the carriage to stop abruptly.

My breathing was getting ragged as tears welled in my eyes. The pain I felt deep in my heart became unbearable, alongside the rate at which my heart thudded.

I could feel the air in the carriage getting thicker. I could barely breathe well, and it was only because I had a whole lot on my mind. A whole lot that

Heroes

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