Chapter 1 Wedding Night
“It’s getting late. Let’s go to bed.” The man’s deep voice pulled Calliope Gingrich out of her reverie. She raised her eyes to meet his dark gaze, which seemed to be overflowing with a multitude of feelings that she could not comprehend. Calliope gripped the hem of her dress as her heart started to race in anticipation. After entering the room, she carefully lowered herself onto the edge of the bed and stayed there, her body rigid. As time ticked by, she made no movement to take off her wedding dress, instead choosing to keep it on. It wasn’t until the man stepped out of the shower that it finally dawned on her that they would be spending their wedding night together. Calliope was at a loss when it came to interacting with her new husband. After all, she had been thrust into the role of his wife, taking the place of someone else. As the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy family, she had to marry a poor man in place of her sister, Penelope Gingrich, in order to fulfill the marriage arrangement that had been made by the previous generation. In exchange for her acquiescence, she was promised a considerable sum as her dowry. With the money, she could cover both her mother’s medical expenses and her younger brother’s school fees. This was the only feasible way for their family to make ends meet. Calliope took a deep breath and made her way to the bathroom timidly. “I-I’ll go take a shower.” The man’s gaze turned dark at her words. Calliope hastily slipped into the bathroom, her hand reaching for the knob, only to realize that the old wooden door lacked a lock. That discovery came as a surprise to her. Despite being accustomed to enduring difficult times, she was never this poor. Her eyes turned slightly red as she remained standing in the bathroom, a visible sign of her inner conflict. Minutes stretched on, but she was unable to bring herself to slip out of her dress. As though he had sensed her dilemma, the man suddenly declared, “I’ll step outside for a cigarette, so take your time.” Calliope felt her heart rise into her throat as she pressed her ear against the door. She heard his footsteps gradually fading into the distance until they were gone. The door clicked shut, and finally, there was nothing but silence. The red décor stuck to the wall was a stark contrast to the peeling paint, which seemed to mockingly reflect the neglected state of the house. The day before the wedding, a violent typhoon roared through the city, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Trees had been uprooted, and branches were strewn across the streets, while broken billboards added to the chaotic mess. Despite the chaos, Calliope tied the knot with this man. There was no grand wedding car to take her away. Instead, she had to walk a long way to a simple van that transported her to a rural village. The journey seemed to take forever. Upon arrival, the muddy path stained her shoes and wedding dress. The older generation believed that a couple who tied the knot in this weather would not experience marital bliss. However, Calliope couldn’t be bothered about marital bliss. Soon, she walked out of the bathroom while drying her hair. Her husband was still lingering outside, taking an inordinate amount of time to finish his cigarette. Calliope paused to take in the sight of the house. She noticed that the roofs were in need of repair, as there were several places where rainwater was seeping through. Although the place was a bit rundown, she was determined to make it livable by giving it a thorough cleaning. Calliope’s lips curled as she quickly tidied up the space before the man returned. As she knelt on the edge of the bed, her hands slowly pulling back the rumpled blankets, the sound of the door creaking open alerted her that the man had returned. Calliope whirled around, her motion so sudden that the towel that had been covering her nude form slipped down. Yelping in fear, she instinctively folded her arms around herself. However, the man had seen everything. Calliope’s heart was racing as her cheeks flushed a bright pink. She quickly grabbed the blanket and pulled it up over her body. The man gulped as the look in his eyes turned dark and complicated. Slowly, he trudged over to her and spoke in a deep, husky tone. “It’s late, so we should sleep.” This time, he deliberately stressed the word “we.” Calliope’s heart was hammering in her chest. Her eyes were shut tight as she sensed a pair of arms wrapping tightly around her body. She could feel her body melting into his embrace as he pinned her to the bed.