“I don’t understand. Who is it?” Adrianna asked, her heart pumping with adrenaline and fear as she waited for her father’s answer. She had no idea who could have shown an interest in her so early on. She knew Baron Dorian had been showing a lot of interest in her but he was old enough to be her father!
“Count Alberto has written to me, praising your many virtues and your beauty. He has a very high regard for you.”
“But I have only met him once,” Adrianna protested. “Surely he can’t be thinking of marriage already?”
“A marriage between you and Count Alberto would be a highly desirable match on both sides. We would gain a connection with the royal family and Count Alberto would gain my political support, something he’ll need if he continues his plans to run for head of the King’s council.”
“So he’s more interested in marrying me for political reasons than because of my personality?”
“He thinks you are a very beautiful girl. You should be honoured that someone with such noble heritage, a member of the royal family no less, should even consider marrying you.”
“So I should be grateful and accept my fate? When will the wedding be held? Am I going to be consulted about whether or not I want to marry Count Alberto?” Adrianna could feel the anger beginning to rise up inside her again, threatening to spill over into violence.
“Whether or not youwantto marry Count Alberto is irrelevant,” the Duke replied firmly. “It is beneficial for your family for you to marry him so it is your duty to do as I tell you. The matter is non-negotiable. It isn’t even settled yet, he has only expressed an interest in you, not formally requested your hand in marriage.”
“But when he does make up his mind will he ask me to marry him or will he be asking you?”
“He will consult with me first, yes. If I accept his offer then he may choose to ask you as well or he could request that I inform you of his proposal. It depends on whether Count Alberto wants to stick to the old principles or if he is a modernist.”
“But either way, you make the decision for me.”
“That is the way it has always been for hundreds of years and it’s the way it always will be, so that is how your marriage will be arranged.”
“And if I refuse?” Adrianna pushed, aware of her father’s building irritation but not wanting to appear weak.
“Then I will either make you marry him or you will be disowned and one of your sisters can take your place. It doesn’t matter which of you marries him, but the fact that he has already shown an interest in you makes it a lot easier to continue with the negotiations.”
“Negotiations?” Adrianna spat. “You’re making this sound like a business deal, not the subject of my future happiness.”
“You should be happy that you can do this for your family, the rest of it isn’t relevant.”
“I don’t like your attitude,” Adrianna protested, standing up violently from her seat.
“It’s what every woman has to do,” her father shouted back. “Why should you be special enough to expect anything different?”
“I don’t think I want to be a part of this family any more,” Adrianna said, holding her ground as her father’s anger came at her in waves. “Maybe I’ll just leave and go somewhere women are appreciated.”
She turned to head towards the office door, wanting to storm out in a dramatic fashion, but her father ran around his desk and grabbed her arm, spinning her back to face him.
“Don’t you dare threaten me like that,” he hissed in her face. “You are a part of this family whether you like it or not and as such you will do as I say.”
“Let go,” Adrianna winced, her father’s grip was so tight it was hurting her arm. “You’re hurting me.” She tried to pull away from the Duke, yanking her arm backwards. But Duke Giordano’s grip held fast on his daughter as she struggled.
Adrianna continued to fight, her free arm flailing so wildly that without warning it made contact with the Duke’s face, the slap making a loud cracking noise that bounced off the walls of the office.
The Duke hadn’t been expecting the hit so immediately let go of Adrianna’s arm. The girl was still pulling her arm backwards in order to free herself so when the resistance vanished she flew backwards, hitting the wall hard, her head thudding as it made contact with the plaster.
The Duke looked down at his daughter in complete shock. “I-” He babbled, for once speechless.
“Stay away from me,” Adrianna shouted, pulling herself to her feet, using the doorframe as a support. “Don’t come anywhere near me,” she cried as she fought to get the door open, running out of the room and hearing the door slam behind her.
Fear gripped her as she fled. Her hands were shaking and she wasn’t sure where she was going, she just wanted to get as far away from her father as possible. She knew other girls were beaten by their fathers and husbands but she had been lucky enough that the Duke had never raised a hand to hit her. Until now.
“What’s wrong?” Vittoria exclaimed as her sister flew into her.
“He hurt me,” Adrianna said, feeling like a child as she held out her arm in Vittoria’s direction. “And I fell.”
“Are you alright?” Vittoria asked as Adrianna put a hand to the back of her head. “Who hurt you?”
Adrianna didn’t answer. She looked at the hand that had touched the part of her head that had hit the wall. It was covered in blood.
“Adrianna, you don’t look well,” Vittoria said. “You’ve gone white.”
“I-” Adrianna mumbled, staggering backwards, trying to escape from the sight of her blood.
“Adrianna, sit down,” Vittoria ordered, trying to steer her sister towards a chair. She made it just in time. Adrianna’s eyes flickered upwards and her world went black.