Summary: In an older age, Audrey must marry a man she doesn't know or trust. She keeps hidden a destructive secret, not knowing that her new husband from the House of Griffin too conceals something dark. Is love lost to them forever? Or will danger destroy them both?

Chapter One

I stared at the small diamond ring in my finger, slowly twisting it back and forth. The bright metal was cool against my skin, deceptively pretty. Until today, I had believed that trying to choke back my pride and despair while being married to a wealthy stranger I'd never even met before was possibly the hardest thing I had ever done. Now I knew better, because I was about to do something even more frightening- my wedding night.

When I was younger, I had entertained foolish fantasies about growing up, falling in love, and marrying, in that order. I never thought about the before or after, only how much I wanted it. When I was older, I'd tried to put aside such impossible dreams and become the lady I was supposed to be- Lady Audrey Gray, daughter of a prominent and wealthy lord. Despite this, I had still nurtured hope deep within my heart that one day, I would meet the perfect man- that is, until the morning I learned of my betrothal to a stranger, the only young lord considered good enough for the likes of me. Of course I was devastated, but what could I do? I was going to be married whether I liked it or not. It was just a matter of how much I would humiliate myself if I fought or searched for another way.

And now, here I was, literally hiding from my husband on our wedding night in the small sitting room that was connected to his-no, ours now-bedchamber. Because I was alone, and desperately scared. I knew I was expected to produce an heir. I knew I was expected to give my husband whatever he wanted. And because of this obligation, and because he was so much stronger than me physically, I didn't have a choice. That was the truth of it.

But I didn't love him. I wanted a happy ending so badly, but I wasn't going to get one. People had arranged marriages in the upper classes all the time. I should have expected this to happen; however, usually the betrothed couple at least met before they wed. I had never even set eyes on the young lord until we were taking vows, and now we were here-and I was still being a coward, hiding from the inevitable.

It felt like I was giving up so much, but in reality, I'd never had the right to such expectations to begin with.

Gathering up the edges of my beautiful dress, I slowly walked towards the door, knowing that each step brought me closer to a man I never wanted. A man who I didn't even know.

That was the part that pressed on me the most. The fact that I was now married to a stranger. But to be honest, I knew no one here. I wasn't even from this country! My father was an ambassador from Beldon, a country further north.

Irusia, our new home, was different. It was much warmer here, and the customs were perhaps a bit looser, but still I longed for my native city.

Relations had been failing, tension rising fast between our two countries, and war would devastate both. And so my father offered to make a tie of faith between them- a marriage, one binding his own daughter. And how could I refuse?

I opened the door, moving as sluggishly as I could. I was being silly, trying to postpone something that I was obsessing over in my lack of knowledge, because I didn't know how to do what was required of me- I'd never even kissed a man before, because of my parents and their hugely overprotective and formal ways.

Although, maybe they were right. Nobody should have been close to me. Not if I wanted to keep the truth buried. Secrets such as mine could never meet the light of day in Court, if I wanted to keep my life.

"Have you finished removing the pins?" a soft voice inquired, curiously mild. My face flushed, for I had lied and said I needed a moment to remove my elaborately crafted hairpins as an excuse to leave the room. When I looked up, my eyes connected with those of Lord Edward Griffin, the only son of the late Lord Bernard. His were a deep emerald, startlingly vibrant in contrast with his dark unruly hair. In reality, he was extremely handsome, and only a few years older than me. While I was seventeen, he was around the age of twenty-five or so. I was very lucky- in everyone's eyes but my own.

Suddenly I realized I was just standing there, staring at him while he sat upright in the bed we were preparing to share.

"Yes, thank you. I will…join you shortly," I answered, though my voice had faded to a whisper before I finished. I thought I saw him sigh, eyes downcast for a moment, but I had to have imagined it. The next moment he replied, voice still calm and steady. "Very well."

Making my way over to the far side of the room near the edge of the bed, I was suddenly struck by how large the bed was. It could hold several people if it had to, and its pattern of black, blue, and white was rather pretty. It was then I knew I must truly be going mad. I never cared about insignificant little things like beds. Touching the edge of the decorative coverlet, I almost had to stifle a giggle. Poor Lord Edward, stuck with a mad wife.

As soon as I thought the word wife, reality suddenly filtered back, leaving me with a sudden unreasonable terror, which probably only proved my madness, but was making my hands shake and my blood race. I was acutely aware that Edward was staring at me, and that my fists were now tightly clenching the coverlet. "I-I need h-help," I said shakily, gesturing to the back of dress I wore. I was regretting my mother's decision to choose a dress I could not take off without assistance. Now, I realized, it had most likely been her motive all along, to give me-or him- a way to get close to begin our wedding night with less tension for us. I was probably the more stressed of us two, though, because I was panicking, and he seemed calm and was most likely more experienced than I.

Across from me, he frowned, and I was struck with horror by the thought that I was a nuisance already to the Irusian noble. I was going to apologize, and had just opened my mouth to speak when he stopped me.

"Of course. Here, turn around."

Immediately I obeyed, putting my back to him while he pulled himself across the bed to where I still stood by the edge. I noticed he was wearing nothing beneath the bedcovers, but before this could fully register, I felt cool fingers at the back of my neck. I stiffened, and they moved downward, easily undoing the ties. My pulse picked up speed, and suddenly moisture was spilling down my face as Edward grasped my shoulders and spun me around.

"Audrey? Lady Audrey, what's wrong?" he asked in a low, urgent voice. I should have been elated that he was concerned, that he was good enough to care that I was crying, but I could feel nothing but my own fear as my dress slipped off, forming a little puddle of expensive cloth. I was left in only my corset and very little in the way of undergarments. When I didn't respond, Edward pulled me onto the bed, his hands still on me as he spoke.

"Audrey, tell me! Why are you upset?" he cried out, frustration and confusion sweeping across his features.

My mouth began to move of my own accord, out of my control. "Please, no, don't make me do this!" I sobbed brokenly, my overwhelming emotions out of control as I completely fell apart, losing my last remaining vestiges of self-control. My body refused my commands, stubbornly defying me while I despaired. My voice grew increasingly desperate. "Please, don't make me-"

This was bad. I could feel something in the back of my mind stirring. My panicked heart picked up speed, and I knew I had to control myself better, unless I wanted things to go horribly wrong. He could never know what I was, but already I was dangerously close to revealing it. The foreign feeling in my head swelled, and I almost missed my new husband's words as I fought it down.

"Audrey, calm down." His voice was strained as he cut me off. "You don't want me to make you do what?" he asked, still trying in vain to console me.

"Tonight, we h-have to, and a heir, and I-I can't, and you, and-"

This time, I managed to stop myself. I tried to turn away to hide the tears that were flowing down my cheeks, but his hand was gripping my arm and I couldn't move. I was bleary eyed, but I could still see the distinct emotions that flitted across my new husband's face. Confusion, then understanding and shock. When I saw the anger and horror settle across his strong features, I braced myself, flinching away. My own mother had told me this could happen. That the young lord would only care about what I was to give him as a wife, and that he could be rough and would hurt me if I didn't obey. Because I was a girl. I was nearly a servant to my husband, because I had to do whatever he required of me. And seeing the look on Lord Edward's face made me prepare me for the worst.

When his hand tightened almost imperceptibly on me, I tensed, afraid of his reaction to my fear. I wasn't anticipating anything good, and I was trying unsuccessfully to curl up, away from him.

"Look at me," he commanded. Slowly I raised my eyes to his verdant ones, almost gasping for breath. "Do you think I'm going to hurt you? Or did you not wish to marry me, because this was arranged? Because I'm not going to harm you, and I'm guessing this marriage was in your control about as much as it was in mine." His voice was still hard, and I could tell he was upset. His attempts at helping me gain my composure were a failure, because I couldn't trust him. I didn't know him, and he still expected me to do this tonight, all the while claiming he wouldn't hurt me, even as he held me in place by force.

So I sat in silence, having no answer for this man who was leaning over me, acting as though I should believe him. As his face grew expressionless and distant, his frustration was still apparent, though he tried to disguise it. "Why won't you listen?" he groaned, more to himself than me.

"Because," I choked out, fresh tears streaking from my eyes, "I don't want to be used, and I will be, no matter what you say. You're lying to me. You said you wouldn't hurt me, but you are!"

There was a long silence where the only sound was my now reduced sniffling, and I watched as Edward's eyes widened, shock flooding his face for a second time, followed by disgust. It made it all worse, that he was disgusted by me. Disgusted and probably repulsed, too, by the foreigner's daughter he'd been forced to bind himself to.

"Is that what you think, Audrey?" he asked softly, his features now unreadable.

Instead of answering, I tried to jerk away, attempting to wrench myself free of his vise-like grip. Suddenly he let go, dropping my arm as if it had burned him like a hot coal. He leaned away, eyes dark.

"We won't do anything tonight, Audrey," he whispered, while reaching for me again. I shied away, until he had a hold of my corset. Numb, I allowed him to unlace and remove it, so that very little of me was covered. He tossed the hated thing from the bed and kept his eyes averted from me. I waited for him to do something, like remove the rest of my clothing, but he instead pulled the covers back and draped them over me. I was still just staring blankly, utterly spent. Turning his back to me, the Irusian slid under the sheets on the opposite side of the bed, as far away from me as he could get. When he blew out the candle, I could only see his vague silhouette. Panic gripped me again for a moment, before I saw his shadowy form lay down, still facing away from me.

I sat there for a long time. As drained an exhausted as my awful night had left me, I still didn't want to sleep. It was as if laying down and being in the same bed as the man I was married to, even if we hadn't…done anything, would make it feel real. Final and irrevocable.

My silent vigil ended when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. The kind of darkness that only exhaustion can induce claimed me, and I sank willingly into the depths of unconsciousness.

A/N: The story is set in a fictional time and place somewhat based off of the Victorian era. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask. I'm not the best of writers, I know. So please let me know, is this worth continuing? I've already written several chapters. I'm in love with the plot, but that could just be me being biased.

-Lonely Tylenol