A few days after my second rendezvous with the masked man my mother called me into her sitting room. I can remember few times that I was actually called there for any reason besides to talk about a suitor. Now the thought makes me shake. I've met someone who makes me feel whole and welcome, someone who makes me feel perfect and I don't have to try to be someone I'm not. But I can't tell mother about him. She'll probably lock me up in a tower and keep me there forever. Or if she doesn't I'm positive my father would. And I don't know if he would come for me or just leave me there.

I shake my head quickly to get rid of the negative thoughts then I knock on the doors. A set of white French doors with a faux gold scroll trim. My mother has always had a thing for her French heritage, eating the food, dressing the same way, and having at least a similar look to her housing. "Come in." I pull the right door open, since I am right handed, and I slide in and close it behind me, careful not to get my baby blue dress caught in the door.

"You called for me mother?" I dip a small curtsy, not that it is a completely normal thing to do anymore, but mother appreciates it.

"Yes." She sips her tea elegantly, sitting up right like she has a rod in her back, and I suppose in all technicality we all do, her long raven black hair fanned out and wavy. Her bangs tied in a bun behind her head to keep the strands out of her eyes, which are just the prettiest ocean blue. She sets her rose covered tea cup down and looks up at me. "I cannot take 'no' for an answer anymore."

My heart skips a beat, and I know my hazel eyes have widened, "What are you talking about... Mother?" I try to keep my fear out of my voice, though it still wavers a bit. I don't want to give it up after coming so far. He's absolutely perfect, though I wish he would talk to me. And show me his eyes. But he is clearly a good man and-

"I have picked a suitor for you. Your father has a young man working for him and he has family wealth and status. He is kindly and from what I have seen of him quite a handsome man. I want you to marry for love as does your father, but we just can't wait any longer, Annabelle."

"Mother-" I try to speak, desperate. She simply holds up her hand.

"Let me finish." I remain silent while my thoughts are screaming and throwing a tantrum, "We want what is best for you, and right now that is for you to marry and be happy with a man. His name is Elias VonGhiggan. I know and understand that this is a scary thought, to be married off so quickly," She stands up and walks over to me, her green dress righting itself as she stands and follows her movement while her black hair sways as she takes each step. Her gentle hands cover mine and she holds them, looking into my eyes, "but you will be happy. I promise you, you will be happy." Her pink lips turn up in a soft smile. "And who knows, you may even fall in love with him."

But... I do not want to marry him. I want to marry a man you don't know, a man I don't know, but I still-... I just nod a bit, going rather numb from just the thought of marriage. I know I am too old to be staying home at this point. That it's just too much strain on the family since my eldest sister is long gone, ran off with a merchant years ago, and they need comfort that I will be taken care of. But I can't help but feel this is unfair

She gives a sigh, exhausted with this conversation and my attitude already. "You will meet him in two weeks. You may go." She turns around and goes back to her couch while I give a awkward, shaking curtsy.

I open the door again and slip out. I try to breathe for a moment then tears burst from my eyes along with a sob from my throat and I run back to my room. With each step I feel more and more compelled to just run out of the mansion and away from here. I'm positive that he could find me and heal me. That he would take me in and care for me and maybe even love me the way I love him.

I come to a halt and I place my hand on the dark red-purple wall. My breath comes out as short pants and I bend over a bit, my eyes widening again while my mind reels with my thoughts replaying. I voice it out loud to make sure I heard myself correctly.

"I love him." I bring a shaking hand to my lips while my back presses against the wall and I slide down onto my buttocks.

I tremble for a moment, tears slipping down my cheeks further. How can I love someone I don't know? How can I love a man who will not tell me his name or show me his face fully? How did I come to love him so quickly?

I close my eyes and I just sit there, feeling myself calm down as I try to blank out my mind and all these thoughts. Before I know it I end up asleep with dreams of a masked man. My mind awakens to a familiar feeling. Plush mattress beneath my body and an even softer pillow holding up my head. I remember this place. I open my eyes and sit up, if I am here then so is... But I don't see him. I feel my facial features turn from excited and almost happy to cresent fallen and sad. I look down at the white sheets, moonlight shining through the balcony window and a light, spring breeze passes through.

I feel something next to me move, causing me to jump and look at the thing, shocked. To my great surprise it's him. He's here, in the bed, with me. He's here. I smile bright and I instantly bring my hands around him. I snuggle in close and hug his middle tightly, never wanting to let him go. I feel his strong arms wrap around me and hold me close as well, making my heart skip a happy beat and just speed up. My lips are smiling so much it almost hurts. But then a thought strikes me like lightning and it returns to a frown.

"... My mother has picked a suitor for me." He remains silent and still, no sign of a reaction, "I will be meeting him in two weeks. I don't know... I don't want him." I pull away from him a bit and I look in the direction of his eyes, the ever present mask covering them, "I..." My voice trembles, scared of how he will react. What if he runs away again? What if he doesn't return? "I... am..." My hazel eyes flicker away for a moment then they return to his, "I am... in... love with you."

The tears prick at my eyes again, hoping for a reaction, a reply. Something. I haven't met him before, but even if I haven't spoken to him I still feel what I feel and I don't want to hide it from him. I bring my hands up, my right hand on the mask while my left unties it from the back of his head. If I won't see him ever again I want to at least SEE him once. I gently pull the mask off, slowly, waiting for him to stop me. But he doesn't... I stare in wonder while his identity is slowly revealed.