1 Did I scare you?



She chewed on her nails, looking nervous. Her bare legs waved back and forth as she peered into the book in front of her. Anna was almost at the end of the story. She wanted to know if the hero would save the girl from the monster. Sad endings broke her heart, and given how her life was, books were her only source of ever seeing a happy ending. It was the first time that she was coming across such a strange book.

Her oldest brother had gotten her the book on one of his trips to England. She didn't know that such monsters existed in that part of the world. Anna remembered reading Bram Stoker's Dracula, and it had brought nothing but nightmares to her. She refused to go with her brothers to the faraway country only in fear of that creature. She didn't want to believe that there were also monsters who could transform from humans to wolves and back.

The creature was gaining speed on the hero. Although the protagonist was human, he was faster than the wolf-beast. He even had a sword with him made of pure silver. The metal was supposed to kill the beast. Her heart raced as the two kept running through the woods, the man carrying an unconscious maiden in his arms.

"Run, Nicholas! Get away from that thing!" Anna whispered in encouragement.

She bit down on her nail once again, the picture of the chase vividly getting drawn in her head. Just when the beast swung his hand up, she heard it.

"What are you reading?" A low voice whispered right next to her ears.

Startled, Anna jumped back, screaming in horror. She felt like her heart had leaped out of her chest at the moment. Her head hit the edge of the bed, sending shock-like waves through her spine. She cursed under her breath, dropping down on the queen-sized mattress clutching her head. She heard a loud laugh coming from the direction of where she had sat only seconds ago. It was a very familiar sound that she had to bear with for at least thrice every day. It was not that she hated her sister, but she was just too irritating for Anna to really like her. But deep inside, the sisters did share a strong bond of love. Maybe even as strong as the one between their father and his money.

"Did I scare you, little sister?" A sweet voice asked as she felt the weight shift on the bed.

Anna glared at her sister, rubbing the back of her head. The spot was throbbing with pain. She'd most probably have a bump by the afternoon, she thought grudgingly.

"Rose!" She exclaimed. "You aren't supposed to startle people like that. What if I get a heart attack?" She asked, scrunching her brows in irritation.

Her sister was sometimes too much- especially when she was reading. For some reason, she knew how to walk around the room without making any noise. She had been startling her like this for as long as she could remember. Although they were only two years apart, Rose was much more childish than she was. Often that worked to her advantage.

With her bigger sister being one of the most beautiful women in their country, her child-like behavior only made her look more attractive. That was one of the sole reasons why Rose was getting marriage proposals from noble families all over the world at only seventeen. Though the large dowry that would go into the marriage played a significant role in many of such business proposals, the number of men who stood outside their house to get just a glance at Rose was not meager.

"It would spare you from a bad marriage," Rose replied with a shrug.

Anna huffed. "I'm not going to marry any of those rich idiots who know nothing about good books or fun." She said, throwing a pillow at her sister.

Rose easily dodged the attack, beaming at her. She scooted close to Anna and lay down on her lap.

"You'll have no choice. Unless you have something planned." She teased, jiggling her fingers in front of her eyes.

Anna laughed at the taunt. She knew why her sister was in her room at the time. She remembered overhearing her mother talk to one of her maids. Rose was to meet with one of the younger sons of the erstwhile king. Though deposed of his political powers by the colonial state, the man was still influential among both the Britishers and the foreign traders.

Their father being the businessman that he was, didn't want to waste a good opportunity when he saw during one of the king's banquets that the youngest prince was around Rose's age. Everything he did in his life was to make his business empire bigger. And since daughters were an easy way to make lasting connections through marriages, Rose's freedom was at stake.

Though her sister liked the attention that she got every day, settling down wasn't part of her plan yet. But she was already eighteen. It was an age regarded as too old for an unmarried woman in their part of the world. In fact, most of Rose's friends had little kids who were close to their youngest brother's age. Their mother never failed to remind her of that. And even Anna had to go to random dinners and parties with her sister since she was already sixteen. But unlike Rose, she had a good two years before the pressure of marriage would be looming large above her head like an inescapable specter.

She knew that her sister was desperate to find ways out of the arrangement and was trying to get her help for it. But Anna didn't plan on giving in that easily. After all, the same plan never worked twice, and she had her own suitors to fend off.

"Actually, I do," Anna replied with a mischievous smile.

Rose sat up quickly, hope flashing in her eyes. She reached out to grab her hand with a happy sigh. Anna let her sister have the moment for herself. After all, she was going to be quite disappointed in a moment's time, she thought, smiling inwardly. Her sister couldn't blame anyone but herself for interrupting her reading session. She would have thought of being nicer if only Rose had been polite.

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