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Rukhsar Shafi

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Prologue

1702 “We can’t keep this a secret any longer,” a boy whispered, hiding behind the ornate column. He wore a short royal blue waistcoat above his long ruffled-sleeved white shirt. The Rhine graves shimmered under the candlelight. His hold around the girl in front of him tightened. “Let go of me.” She hissed. He stared at her bright turquoise eyes before letting her go. The girl straightened her fluffy mantua dress before facing him. “You don’t understand. If anyone found out about us, about me, they would kill us,” she said as her fingers caressed his face gently. Just then, they heard loud footfalls coming their way. She tugged on his hand, leading him behind the staircase. “Come, let’s go before they see us.” He looked at the girl with a sorrow-filled gaze. “How much longer? How much longer should I keep this a secret?” he murmured. “I don’t want to wait much longer. You are my wife. I shouldn’t be hiding you in my room. I want to parade you out on the streets as I have finally got you.” His voice choked, removing her hands from his face and cradling them in his palms. “My love.” Her eyes brimmed with tears. A crash boomed near the staircase, and they heard a gruff voice cursing loudly. “Fleur! Why in God’s name are the pots and pans laid out here and not in the kitchen!” The man yelled. “I’m sorry, Mr. Sweeting. Violet and I were organizing the kitchen. We had to place the pots here so it wouldn’t come in between our cleaning,” Fleur said. Mr. Sweeting growled lowly. “It’s alright. Just put it back in. Anyway, do you know where my boy could be?” “I’m sorry, sir, but I haven’t seen Master Sweeting since morning,” Fleur said in a low, hushed voice. The man sighed. “It’s alright, Fleur. You may go back to cleaning.” The man’s heavy footsteps thudded away from the kitchen and the couple hidden behind the back stairs. The boy stared at the girl in the violet mantua in front of him with adoration. “You make my father worried, darling. What should I tell him? I don’t want to lie anymore,” he whispered. His green eyes twinkled with sadness and worry. The girl enveloped him in a hug and cried. “I am truly sorry, my dear! I don’t mean any harm. But I could not stay married to him anymore. I don’t love him. I had to do this. If I had to be with you, I had to do this. But I would understand if you no longer wish to be with me.” The boy hugged her tight before pulling away and brushing her tears off with the pads of his thumb. “Are you out of your mind, love? I wouldn’t have gone through so much trouble if I did not want you. I just… I just don’t want to hide our love anymore.” He kissed her gently on her lips. “But it doesn’t matter. I would hide it as long as it keeps you safe. I would do anything for you. I love you immeasurably.” “You do, don’t you, Xavíer.” She smiled weakly. “Unconditionally, Adora.” He kissed her again.