Chapter Twenty: Unexpectedly Expected

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Father, an uninvited guest, quickly took a seat beside me to face Duke Zenos.

"So, what brings such an esteemed guest such as Your Grace, uninvited to my territory, today? It can't be that Your Grace has forgotten his manners, worse has yet to learn them?" father pried, bitterly.

Look at him, he isn't even trying to hide his hostility...

Before Duke Zenos could respond, I took the lead, "Father, I believe this is the first time Duke Zenos and you have met after finalising the engagement."

"As I have said before, just call me Zen" Duke Zenos said and turned to face my father to add, "You are wrong about that, Eli. Father-in-law and I met a few days ago regarding the murder of the palace maid."

Oh right, I had forgotten that the information I had acquired was from eavesdropping on my father's conversation with Sir Elliot. I wonder how shocked he was at the sight of the empty crime scene.

"Eli? Zen? I see, you two have gotten quite familiar with each other in the past couple of days," Father uttered, his teeth clenched tight.

"Indeed, father-in-law," Duke Zenos agreed.

"Father-in-law? Since when were we close enough for you to call me that?" father questioned in fury.

"We are close, after all we will soon become family," Duke Zenos stated.

Here he goes again with his tagline.

Father asked in an attempt to regain his composure, "Fine...if we are family, then why haven't you still told me how you knew about the whereabouts of the palace maid?"

Wait, isn't he inquiring about me?

"That is the only thing I cannot tell you, unfortunately," Duke Zenos answered, apologetically.

My saviour, Duke Zenos...

Although Duke Zenos's reply was in my favour, it was a fatal blow to my father. The complexion on his face displayed all the colours of the rainbow, one after another. Once truly angered, my father's rage knew no limits. I looked around for help and waved towards Sir Elliot, who I spotted in the distance. He soon arrived at my side and after much struggle managed to drag father into the mansion with work as an excuse.

I successfully sent father into the mansion but why do I still have this ominous feeling? Just in case, I should send Duke Zenos back for today.

As if he had read my mind, Duke Zenos asked, "You are not thinking about sending me home already, are you?"

"Of-f cour-se-e not-t," I stammered in denial.

"Good. I have heard rumours about how pretty the gardens in the Rosario estate are, especially the Rosen Garden. Can I trouble you to give me a tour of it?" Duke Zenos questioned, a slight smile on his face.

"My pleasure," I replied.

We slowly treaded down the garden as Duke Zenos admired the fragrant red roses.

"This garden indeed lives upto the rumours which surround it," Duke Zenos complimented, enjoying the view of the roses in full bloom.

As a wave of emotions passed through me, I said, "Its beauty has been maintained throughout the years as it holds an important place in both father and my heart. You see, my mother loved flowers, especially roses. So, my father had this garden built for her after their marriage. Apparently, she spent most of her days in the Rosario estate, tending to this garden. That is why even though she is no longer here, I feel her presence...ah I apologise for rambling on by myself."

"No, it's fine. Talking about it will help you feel better," Duke Zenos said, wondering how to comfort me.

"Of course, this garden is nothing compared to the garden filled with golden roses at the Xavier Estate. I may have not seen it first hand but the rumours of its beauty are widespread," I stated, changing the topic.

"You will eventually see it when the right time arrives," Duke Zenos ensured.

As I was preparing to respond, distant shouts interrupted our peaceful talk.

A servant soon arrived to inform, "Miss, 'it' is happening again."

"The trash is back? Get rid of it quietly as you always do," I replied, my face twisting with revulsion.

"But Miss, 'it' is being very persistent today," the servant voiced his concerns.

"Just when I thought the day couldn't get any worse...take me to the trash. I will get rid of it myself," I ordered.

I looked towards Duke Zenos and said, "I apologise in advance as you have to bear witness to something so unsightly," to which Duke Zenos nodded in response, although he didn't know what was happening.

The moment Duke Zenos laid eyes on the trash in question, he burst out laughing.

Duke Zenos barely uttered the words in between his loud laughter, "The trash you-u mean-nt haha...was-s...haha...Uken...hahaha."

"Who are you calling trash, huh? What are you doing here?" Uken shouted, his face red with fury.

"I am just visiting my fiancé's house which is perfectly normal. Eli, you didn't tell me you were having trouble getting rid of trash from your estate before. I would have helped you," Duke Zenos replied, snickering.

"Who is whose fiancé? Lady Eliza, tell them all who is your fiancé!" Uken continued to shout, demanding an answer.

Time to bring out your inner actress, Eliza.

Tears swelled up in my eyes and I said with a pitiful expression, "Please don't be like this, Young Lord Uken. Zen and I are passionately in love with each other. I hope you will not become a thorn in the flowery path of our pure love."

In the middle of our heated conversation, suddenly, entered a third party following my touching confession.

"Oh my, sister, how could you be so cruel? Young Lord Uken and you have known each other from childhood. At least, consider that bond before uttering such brutal words," the sweet voice of the interrupter stated.

Was I wrong to have hope? To hope for this day to not get any worse? Only her involvement was left and now this day has successfully become the worst day I have experienced since I travelled back in time.

As I was about to shift my attention to Raelia, a chill ran down my spine. I reflexively looked behind to see Duke Zenos glaring at Raelia. However, it wasn't the glare he would usually throw at people due to his cold demeanor. The glare was a product of intense hate and repulsion. For a second, it felt like his hate for Raelia was on par with, maybe it even surpassed mine. His expression, however, soon shifted back to a cold one, familiar to me. I wanted to ask him what caused him to visibly delineate his disgust, but there were more pressing matters at hand.

"That's right! We have known each other from childhood! And how come you two are in love? As far as I know, you never interacted with Zenos in the past," Uken said, desperately.

"Yes, sister. Even I haven't seen you two meet before your coming of age ceremony," Raelia agreed, her lips slowly curling into a smirk.

Her shamelessness knows no bounds. Look at her sucking up to Uken.

"How annoying..." Duke Zenos whispered under his breath.

The next few seconds were a complete blur. Duke Zenos grabbed my waist with one hand and with the other caressed my hair tenderly. His grip on my waist grew tighter, his lips only inches away from mine. Was it because of the warmth his skin radiated or was it because of the short distance between our burning lips that I knew what was coming? Both, maybe. Yet it did not calm the fervent beating of my heart. Locking his blood red eyes with mine, he gently cupped my face and pulled me into an intimate kiss.

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