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Passionately Swept Away

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In a world where arranged marriages bind the fate of noble houses, Tatiana Beaumont finds herself thrust into a union that slowly unravels her life. As secrets and forbidden desires intertwine, she is exiled, her path diverging in ways she could have never foreseen. From the sacred walls of a convent to the scandalous underbelly of a pleasure house, Tatiana's resilience is tested at every turn. But when a new beginning beckons in the exotic city of Azura, will the ghosts of her past conspire to destroy her again? Betrayed and ensnared in a web of intrigue that spans kingdoms, Tatiana must forge her own destiny, no matter how perilous the journey. In this captivating tale of love, loss, and the human spirit's unbreakable resolve, what price will one woman pay for freedom? And can she ever escape the chains of her former life?

Chapter 1

CHAPTER ONE

 

Tatiana gazed wistfully out the tall, mullioned window of her bedchamber, admiring the verdant hills rolling gently in the distance. A light breeze rustled the leaves of the tall oak and maple trees dotted across the landscape. How she wished she could feel that breeze and smell the fresh outdoors.

But the walls of Beaumont Manor had been her home and her prison for all of her 19 years. She pressed her hand against the cool glass pane, imagining what it might feel like to walk barefoot through the grass, the morning dew kissing her skin.

As a child, she'd begged and pleaded with her father to allow her outside, if only for a few minutes under his close watch. But Lord Henri Beaumont refused to even entertain such a notion. A young lady of noble birth had her place, and the wilderness of nature was not it.

A wistful sigh escaped her lips as she leaned against the window frame. She wondered what the velvety petal of a rose would feel like between her fingertips or the tickle of grass on her bare feet. What might it be like to amble through the woods, no walls or fences hemming her in?

Just then, Tatiana was startled from her reverie by a familiar stern voice.

"What are you doing over there dreaming the day away?".

She turned to see Ariana sweeping into her bedchamber, raven hair pulled back severely beneath her white linen cap. Tatiana self-consciously smoothed the skirt of her cornflower blue gown.

"I was just...admiring the view," she offered meekly.

Ariana's sharp gaze drifted toward the window. "It's time you stopped wasting time on such fancies. You know Father would not approve."

Even after all these years, Ariana remained a loyal follower of their father's restrictive rules. She had embraced her role as mistress of Beaumont Manor and saw no reason to yearn for anything more.

"I'm sorry, you're right," Tatiana murmured, turning from the window. She knew Ariana meant well in steering her toward more productive pursuits.

Tatiana turned back to the window, lost again in bittersweet daydreams, when Ariana spoke again.

“I’m afraid I have some rather unfortunate news. Father informed me he has arranged for you to be betrothed to the eldest Mancini son.”

Tatiana whipped around, eyes wide. “What? No! Father cannot just marry me off without so much as asking my opinion.”

Ariana sighed. “You know very well he can. It is your duty as a daughter of the Beaumont family. This match will bring greater prestige and fortune to our house. You would do well to accept your fate gracefully, as I have accepted mine as future mistress of the manor.”

Tatiana fumed, her breath coming in short, sharp bursts. How dare they barter her away like chattel! She would not be chained to some man she barely knew, no matter her father’s wishes.

Just then, the bedchamber door opened, and three maidservants entered. The eldest, Mrs. Bertram, stepped forward.

“Pardon the intrusion, Miss Tatiana. But your father has instructed us to help you prepare for the Orthavian bathing rite.”

Tatiana scowled. The ceremonial cleansing was meant to purify a bride-to-be’s body before marriage. She wanted no part of such traditions - not when her father was forcing her into this betrothal.

But she knew the maids were only following orders. With a resigned sigh, she waved them over to the adjoining washroom.

Mrs. Bertram directed the two younger maids to ready the ornate tub and begin heating the water. Tatiana stood rigidly, watching their preparations. She cared little for their fussing and primping. This whole ritual felt like another way to strip her of what little freedom she had.

At last, the bath was prepared with aromatic oils and flower petals strewn across the surface. The maids stood waiting to aid Tatiana in disrobing.

“I can manage myself, thank you,” she said tersely, turning her back to them so she could unbutton her gown.

“But Miss, we are supposed to help bathe you thoroughly as part of the ritual,” one of the younger maids protested.

Tatiana whirled around, eyes flashing. “I am fully capable of bathing alone! I neither need nor want your assistance.”

The maid shrank back at her mistress’s tone. Tatiana felt a twinge of guilt but refused to back down. This was her last stand before she was married off and truly lost control of her fate.

Once fully undressed, Tatiana stepped into the fragrant bath, letting out an involuntary sigh as the warmth enveloped her. She took her time, savoring this rare moment of peace and solitude.

A gentle cough interrupted her reverie. Mrs. Bertram stood solemnly by the tub’s edge.

“Begging your pardon, miss. But it is tradition for the maids to wash the body of the bride-to-be while reciting blessings for her future union.”

Tatiana’s jaw tensed. Even now, they would not grant her a few minutes of autonomy.

“Please, Miss Tatiana,” the older woman implored. “Allow us to complete the ritual so we do not face punishment. And so, you may enter your marriage with a purified body.”

Tatiana met the woman’s earnest gaze. She had no desire to bring trouble to the servants for her own defiance. With a resigned nod, she relinquished, leaning back so the maids could lather soap over her hair. As their fingers massaged her scalp, the women sang old wedding hymns passed down for generations.

Mrs. Bertram squeezed her shoulder reassuringly as she sent the younger women to fetch towels.  “It is a grave wrong for one as lowly as me to doubt the innocence of a Beaumont, Mrs. Tatiana. But alas, the holy scriptures demand it.”

"I have yet to know a man in the most intimate of ways," Tatiana recited in a dull voice.

"Excellent!" she exclaimed with a clap. "Miss Tatiana, you will make a truly splendid bride.

The maids worked with practiced efficiency. One dipped a long-handled loofah in a bowl of fragrant water, gently scrubbing Tatiana’s arms and torso. The other, hands nimble and reverent, cleaned her feet, whispering blessings of fertility with each stroke. The scent of rosewater and jasmine hung heavy in the air, masking the nervous sweat prickling on Tatiana's skin.

Mrs. Bertram, her face etched with a solemn expression, stood guard by the tub. Her eyes, however, held a flicker of sympathy that Tatiana dared not acknowledge. The rhythmic chanting of the hymns grew louder, punctuated by the splash of water and the soft squeak of the loofah.

As the maids moved on to Tatiana’s back, the older woman spoke again, her voice barely a murmur. “The moonflower petals, Miss Tatiana, a symbol of new beginnings and purity.” She reached into the water, gingerly picking up a large white bloom and placing it over Tatiana’s heart. It felt cool and surprisingly heavy against her skin.

Suddenly, a sharp rapping echoed from the bathroom door, startling everyone. The younger maid jumped, her hand accidentally sending a spray of water across the room.

“Apologies for the intrusion,” came a gruff voice from outside. “Lord Beaumont requests Miss Tatiana’s presence downstairs. Urgent business.”

A cold dread coiled in Tatiana’s stomach. Urgent business? What could possibly be so urgent it couldn’t wait until after the ritual? She stole a glance at Mrs. Bertram, whose face was a mask of worry.

“Tell Lord Beaumont we cannot be disturbed,” Mrs. Bertram instructed, her voice surprisingly firm. “The purification ritual for the bride is a sacred tradition that cannot be interrupted.”

Another hesitant beat of silence followed before the voice replied, “With all due respect, Mrs. Bertram, the matter pertains to Miss Tatiana’s dowry. It seems there may be a slight…discrepancy.”

Tatiana’s breath hitched. Her dowry? This couldn’t be happening.

“Please, inform Lord Beaumont that Miss Tatiana will attend to him as soon as the ritual is complete,” Mrs. Bertram pressed, her voice tight with controlled anger.

A final, “Very well,” came through the door, followed by retreating footsteps. Silence descended once more, heavy with tension. The chanting of the maids had faltered, replaced by nervous glances exchanged between them.

Tatiana closed her eyes, the moonflower petal feeling like a weight upon her chest. What kind of discrepancy could there be? Had something gone wrong with the land her father had promised?

Looking at Mrs. Bertram’s grim face, Tatiana knew postponing the inevitable was pointless. “Tell Lord Beaumont I’ll be down shortly,” she said, her voice hoarse.

The older woman nodded, a flicker of sadness passing through her eyes. The fragrant water, once a source of solace, now felt like a prison. As the maids helped her out of the tub, wrapping her in a soft linen sheet, Tatiana couldn’t help but feel a dark premonition settle over her.

Chapter 2

CHAPTER TWO

 

Tatiana lay curled on the small bed in the dark upper room where she had been confined for over a week since the cleansing ritual. Heavy velvet drapes blocked any sunlight from filtering in, leaving her in perpetual gloom. The only interruptions were the silent maids who brought meager meals and emptied her chamber pot before disappearing like ghosts.

She hadn't seen another living soul in days, left alone with nothing but her increasingly desperate thoughts. Her mind turned again to her failed escape on the second day of her imprisonment. When one of the timid maids had arrived to bring lunch, Tatiana had shoved past her with surprising force and sprinted for the stairwell.

But the maid, possessing unexpected strength, had grabbed Tatiana's arm in an ironclad grip and held her back until the door was locked once more. Tatiana had shouted and pleaded to no avail - it was as if she were invisible and inaudible to them all.

She curled tighte

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