The Duke of Caltiber cast my father a look that seemed relatively understood. My father nodded wordlessly to him, and the Duke stood, crossing the room to stand in front of me where I stood frozen in the doorway.
He placed his hand under my jaw and forced me to look into his eyes.
"Such beautiful green eyes," he whispered, his lips curling back as he gave me another look that I found very much uncalled for. "I am lucky to be marrying such beauty," he continued, this time so that my father could hear.
I jerked away. "I won't be marrying you," I spat, glaring at him with such deep loathing I was completely surprised he did not burst into flames. The Duke glared right back.
"I don't believe that is your choice to make," he said, a smile crossing his face. My father suddenly cast me a pleading look, and I realized there was something more to this arrangement.
"Oh yes it is. I'd rather marry an octopus than you. You're not fit to marry the dirt on the bottom of my shoe." The Duke looked geniunely shocked.
"Marina, please calm down," my father said, shooting me another look. I turned on him.
"You want me to marry this filth. You expect me to marry him? I'm your daughter! And you give me to the first man who walks in the door, probably because you want his money! Well, I have news for you! I'm not marrying him or anyone else you choose. And if you try and force me, you'll be sorry!" I turned again.
"So you can leave," I spat at the Duke. He glared, but this time I was slightly afraid of what I saw in his cold nearly black eyes. He came right up to me, so his mouth was only millimeters away. I could smell his foul breath. I froze. What was going on here?
"That tongue of yours will have to be tamed," he hissed. That did it! I wheeled back and brought my hand full across his face, so hard that spittle flew from the corner of his mouth. Then I ran as fast as I could out of the room.
"You will be mine, Marina!" the Duke yelled after me. "You cannot escape me." I turned back, and I saw that my father's face was a pale oval of shocked horror.
The second I reached my room I locked and chained the door, and whipped around, to face yet another man. But this one didn't make me tense up. Instead I collapsed on my bed.
"Darren..." I said, and then I burst into tears. The next few moments I will remember for the rest of my days. Darren sat on the bed beside me and pulled me into his lap.
"Shhh," he whispered, his mouth close to my ear. "Everything's going to be okay. I promise you. I won't let that man hurt you." His whispered assurances calmed me down, and finally I wiped away the last of my tears.
"Darren? Why are you here?" I was vaguely aware that I had my arms around his neck and that I was sitting in his lap, but I wasn't remotely abashed. It felt... right.
Suddenly Darren's face filled with an emotion I'd never seen before, and he closed the few inches between our lips and kissed me. That kiss answered every quesiton I had. He loved me! Darren loved me! When we finally broke apart, we were both breathing hard. He slid his hand gently along my jaw, looking me straight in the eye.
"I love you, Marina," he answered. "And I'm going to get you out of here." He told me to pack a bag of necessities, and to meet him at the cliff as soon as possible. I agreed, tears coming to my eyes once more, though I wasn't exactly sure why.
"Everything's going to be okay," he whispered, before kissing me and sliding out of my window to the ground below. I was about to obey what he had asked me to do, when there was a loud knock on the door.
"Marina!" It was my father's voice. "Open up!" I did so, though very reluctantly.
He came through the door and scanned my tearstained face. "You have to marry him, Marina." I suddenly very much wished I had not let him in.
"No!" I cried.
"Listen," he shouted, grabbing my hands in his own. "It's for the good of the family!"
"I don't care if it's for the good of the family!" I shouted back. "I won't marry that scoundrel. Didn't you see the way he looked at me?" I ripped my hands out of his grasp. "Don't touch me!"
"Marina, you have to do this."
"Why? Why should you make your only daughter marry a cruel villain who will abuse her for the rest of her days? Why?"
"Because I owe him money! If I let him marry you, he'll cancel all the debts!"
"That's all you care about? Your money!" I was in tears now. "You don't even care about your daughter. You don't love me!"
"Marina!" my mother cried, rushing into the room. She caught my father by surprise and shoved him out of the room, locking the door behind him. I collapsed in her arms, sobbing harder than ever. She fondled my hair lovingly, comforting me. "You must go with Darren," she whispered. "He'll keep you safe."
"I can't leave you," I sobbed.
"I'll be fine. I won't see you hurt like this." My father had given up pounding on the door and I heard his raging footsteps echoing down the hallway. "You have to go." She looked me straight in the eyes, her gaze filled with gentle urgency. She helped me pack a small bag, kissed my forehead and helped me out the window.
As I ran away form the only home I had ever had, my tears fell softly to the ground below. Not only that, but they fell to the ground I wasn't sure I'd ever set foot on again.