Chapter Twelve: Black with a hint of Golden

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The shining lights above me were blinding. I looked down to see everyone's eyes on me while mine scanned through the guests in search of his red eyes. However, no matter how much I looked around, he was nowhere to be seen. Mariah nudged me, shifting my attention from the search to the gaping eyes in front of me.

I cleared my throat and voiced, "A very good evening to all the esteemed guests who have blessed me today with their presence. It truly is an honour and although I am still quite lacking as a hostess, I am sure you will not be disappointed. Thank you for attending my coming of age ceremony and I hope you will all enjoy the evening to your hearts' content."

The entire ballroom burst into whispers. Some praised my humble manners while others complimented my queer yet attractive dress. I made my way down the stairs and the hall to my father.

Overwhelmed with emotions, a tear rolled down father's cheek, as he said, "You have grown so much. Thank you for growing into a fine lady. I am very proud of you."

"Thank you for raising me so well father. I am happy that you were the one who was my father in this lifetime," I said, in response to which he hugged me.

Everyone's eyes were on me when I sensed malicious intent from someone in the audience. I glanced around to spot Raelia, her face twisted with hostility and revulsion. I experienced a moment of ecstasy at the sight of her detestable face. She was green with envy as her cream coloured dress blended in perfectly with the wall.

Father released me from his arms at the sound of Duke Orion's voice, "Eli truly looks beautiful. I sometimes wonder how someone like Brandon can have a lovely daughter like Eli. I don't understand."

"Well then don't you think it's about time you stop wondering? It's beyond the comprehension of your narrow mind I believe," Father replied sarcastically.

I also have some wonders. I wonder why father always provokes Duke Orion even though I try my best to keep him happy. He is a Duke from a powerful family. How can he act like this? I should change the subject while I still can.

Quickly but gracefully, I bowed and addressed Duke Orion, "It is an honour to be in your presence Duke Orion. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and attending my coming of age ceremony."

"Oh, no need to be so formal. We are going to be family anyways. I did not come alone by the way. Uken is also here," Duke Orion announced as he looked behind him and gave his son a stern look.

Although hesitant, Uken took a hold of my hand and kissed it. He visibly addressed his discomfort towards me and his hate towards his father through his glaring eyes but greeted me with warm words, "Congratulations on your coming of age, Lady Eliza. You look breathtaking."

I knew Uken disliked Duke Orion for forcefully arranging an engagement between us but to portray such deep animosity with his expression...its quite unexpected as Uken is usually calm and collected.

"Thank you for attending the ceremony, Young Lord Uken. You, yourself look very dashing," I said with a slight bow.

In the distance, I could see Irene waving in order to grab my attention. I excused myself from my current company and headed over to Irene.

"Lady Eliza you look so pretty. I cannot believe my eyes," Irene complimented, her bead-like eyes shining.

I replied with a tender smile, "How many times have I told you to call me Eliza, Irene? And you are the one who looks beautiful. Your beige coloured, floral dress compliments your light pink hair perfectly."

With an admirable look, Irene commented, "How can someone be so beautiful and kind at the same time?"

As Irene and I chatted, a tall figure entered the ballroom. The light from the chandelier above fell on his face to reveal his jet- black hair and red eyes. It was Duke Zenos. He wore a black cape which was attached to his left shoulder using black fur. His full sleeved black coat under his cape sported golden buttons and a golden brooch at the right side which was not covered by the cape. The brooch was in the shape of a golden rose, the symbol of the Xavier Dukedom. It is said that there is a garden filled with golden roses in the Xavier estate due to the blessing of the Spirit of Darkness. Unintentionally Duke Zenos and my appearance matched because of our black and gold combination, both of us standing out. Everyone started whispering about how we suited each other and all the ladies began to surround me in hopes of gossiping and the birth of new rumours. Amongst the crowd I saw Duke Zenos following a woman outside and with all my effort I pushed through the mob and tailed behind them.

The full moon illuminated the path to the fountain at the center of the garden. In front of the fountain, stood Duke Zenos and the lady he had followed. I could hear her faint cries as I hid behind a bush to eavesdrop on them.

"Why won't you accept me? Do you have someone else in your heart?" the unknown lady voiced loudly, choking back her tears.

"No. I don't have time to be bothered by something as frivolous as love," Duke Zenos replied, coldly.

Breaking down into tears, she stammered, "Are..you-u just goin..g to thro-ow me away-y..like this-s..."

"Yes. You should also forget about me. Swayed by mere sentiments we take decisions which tend to ruin our lives," Duke Zenos responded, as if he had personally experienced the words he uttered.

"You are absolutely the worst!" the lady shouted and ran towards the ballroom leaving Duke Zenos and I to our own devices.

As I thought about my next move, Duke Zenos opened his mouth, "Isn't it about time you stepped outside, eavesdropper?"

Wait...is he talking about me?

"Yes, I am talking about you. Hurry and come out," he said in response to my question.

Huh, can he read my mind? Does magic allow you to do that?

I slowly stepped outside, sweat dripping down my temple.

"So, what do you want? It's rude to eavesdrop on people. I am sure you have learnt basic manners as the daughter of a Marquess, Lady Eliza Arielle Rosario," he stated, eyeing me suspiciously.

A chill went down my spine and I blurted out nervously, "That is...I had something important to talk to you about."

"Hmm. Which is?" he asked in a low tone.

I took a deep breathe and calmed my nerves. Confidence surged through me and I was determined.

Let's do this Eli. It's for your future.

I looked up to face him, fixing my amber coloured eyes on his blood red ones and shouted, "Marry me, Duke Zenos!"

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