Chapter Seven: Chagrin

Unaccustomed to waiting on others, his patience had all but dissolved when at last she had emerged from her bedroom. His own bedroom door had remained slightly ajar allowing him a brief glimpse to confirm it was indeed the vixen from the previous night before making his move. Even as he pulled her into his bedroom, he noted the tall lean figure from the previous night had transformed quite handsomely. Her features were classically refined, a sleek chin and jaw, a long yet proportionate nose, her dark hair and cornflower eyes complimented her olive complexion divinely. At first she said nothing, apparently studying him with the same curiosity he was providing her, but it didn't take long before she placed her hands on her hips and raised her chin in an unspoken challenge.

"You have much to explain Madame Feodrova," he stoically commented as he observed her unique height. He's never seen a woman quite as tall, yet she appeared so beautifully proportioned it hardly hindered from her beauty, in fact, it amplified it.

"It is you who has some explaining to do!" she snapped, "and if you are to use that forsaken name at least do so correctly, it's Countess Feodrova." Although his face remained impassive, inside he was amused. Did she not know who she was dealing with? No man or woman had ever dared talk to him with bravado. It was a genuinely a new experience. Her apparent loathing for her title and martial name did not escape his notice.

"You are mistaken Madame. Unlike you I have nothing to explain, while you have much to clarify and even an apology to extend.""I do not know who you are but neither do I care! I owe you nothing." Her hand reached for the door handle only for it to be slapped away.

Her eyes widen in indignation. Her mouth parted slightly yet no sound emerged. An amused smirk graced his lips as he noted the pink hue of her skin.

"I do not believe I have ever met a more ill mannered individual in my life," he commented with a hint of feigned boredom, "You inflict harm on my person, in a very sensitive area I may add, then attempt to cut my throat and refuse to apologize." He noted the blue in her eyes had all but disappeared. "Your demeanor mirrors your arrival. I cannot help but presume your husband must be searching for you as we speak."

"How dare you!"

"Oh, I dare."

"This is my home!" She fumed "I don't know who you are or why my father has allowed you into our home, but know I can have you thrown out for your contemptuous words."

"I would like to see you try, Madame."

"You Monsieur are picking a fight with the wrong person. I do take this kind of treatment from anyone! And in all cases it is you who owes me an apology."

"I owe you an apology?" An amused smiled breached his stoic façade.

"You attacked me first!" She accused.

"No one was supposed to be in that room." he reasoned as he leaned closer to her, towering slightly over her as their eyes remained locked. "You were dressed as a boy and more importantly you never identified yourself."

"Why would I need to identify myself in my own home?" She countered without shying away from him. "Everyone in this household knows who I am."

"Your lack of accountability is bewildering. One would have expected more of the daughter of Prince Nicholas Alexandrov."

"Monsieur, I do not know why you are in my home or why you are wearing that ridiculous mask when there is no masquerade ball anywhere in sight! But I will tell you this, you won't be here much longer, you arrogant little salaud!"

Stunned by her verbal assault he remained frozen in place utterly dumbfounded. No one had ever called him an arrogant bastard. The sting of suffering yet another humiliation at the hands of this woman slowly took hold of him as his astonishment gave way to fury. Yet just as quickly as it arrived it faded as astonishment seized him. He'd been so engrossed with his wounded pride; he failed to notice she had retreated from his room.

Tatiana stormed out the room furious. Besides Vladimir, no one had ever dared speak with her with such obvious disrespect. His callousness had stirred her anger, so much so she had wanted to slap that smirk off his face. Who did he think he was? She swore to herself no man would ever belittle her ever again. Whatever inclination she may have had of apologizing for their previous misunderstanding had quickly waned upon their unorthodox introduction, in which formalities were tossed to the wind. As she approached her father's personal rooms, she realized the man had never properly identified himself. She did not know his name or reason for currently residing in their home. Her ire was further fueled by the knowledge the stranger had obviously known who she was, evidently far more conversant than she.

She headed towards her father's bedroom still cursing the masked man who had made her feel like a fool. He had been right, she never identified herself, but what it matter? His unprovoked attacked had triggered her into action, she merely defended herself. She would have acted no differently if presented with the opportunity again. Bitterness engulfed her heart as she thought of previous physical altercations which had left permanent scars. "Never again," she whispered with absolute resolution.

Arriving upon her father's room she inhaled deeply before knocking. There was no answer. Could he still be with Madame Giry?

"I suspect you are ready for our conversation."

She turned to see her father's affectionate gaze. As far as she could remember he had always played a central part of her life. Their fealty and affection mutual, for some times, she had genuinely believed it would always be just the two of them. There seemed to be no need for another to intrude in their small family. Maturity had lifted the veil on many of her childish ideals. Whereas she had believed him to be distinctly devoted to her, she had realized there was another woman who occupied a very guarded part of his heart. Initial resentment and petty jealously had dissolved and replaced with acceptance and understanding. It was difficult to fault someone for forming sentimental attachments before her birth, especially when she knew firsthand how constrained her parents' marriage had been. Her father had been discreet about his personal life, taking extraordinary care to shield her from malicious gossip. Her father had attempted to shelter her from unpleasantness all her life, the irony was not lost on her. She kissed his check as he embraced her.

How long had she dreamed of being back with her father? How many nights had she wished to return home? Even as she inhaled his scent, she doubted it was truly a reality. He motioned for her to enter his room; she opened the door to reveal his sitting room. His bedroom was attached through the hidden door near the fireplace. The layout had designed by her grandfather who had insisted the main personal chambers should remain private. The study was designed to host anyone seeking to disturb the patriarch of the family as he rested in his personal champers. The eccentricities of nobility were uniquely their own, she mused.

Nothing had changed, she noted as she glanced around the room. The sitting room was decorated in velvet and gold. The walls appeared to have been made out of gold, as did the furniture. The gilded wood carvings covered the furniture, walls, and doors. The fabric on the curtains, chairs, and sofa were the same cloth her grandmother had selected upon the creation of the room. The artwork decorating the walls were not masterful pieces of art, but rather paintings crafted by her grandparents. Everywhere she looked her family's legacy was engraved. A legacy that was resting on her shoulders to continue.

She sat beside her father as she struggled to find her words. Her gaze fell upon her hands as she struggled to find her voice.

"I'm under no illusions regarding your impromptu visit," her father began, "As your husband has declined all invitations to visit, I can only ascertain the boldness of your actions were not without reason."

"There is much you do not know," she began as she continued to avert his gaze, "it's difficult to voice what has not been voiced before."

"Tatiana, please tell me the truth." Her father urged. "You have my support regardless, but I must know the truth. I will not reproach you anything without understanding the circumstances which have brought you here before me."

"I do not wish to return to him father," she confessed, "I refuse to return to him."

"Did he harm you?"

"Yes." She admitted as she faced her father. "Far more than anyone will ever understand."

"What did he do?"

"Papa, I was only a prize to him. He didn't love me, he couldn't love me." She licked her lips slightly as she struggled to find the adequate words. "He assured me, he would be loyal even if he could not remain faithful."

"He had a mistress?" Her father pressed lightly.

"He was very candid about his paramours, perhaps more than the necessary, but he was honest. I was young and naïve, I didn't understand, I was shocked by his bluntness."

"As any decent girl would have been," Nicholas squeezed her hand, "You were ill prepared for such indecent conversations." She lowered her head. "Do not be ashamed, for you have done nothing to be ashamed about."

"There is much I am profoundly ashamed of," she confessed with a trembling lip, "to even speak of it is humiliating."

"Tatiana what is wrong?"

"I was ignorant and afraid; I didn't know about intimacies," her eyes began to burn, "I failed to discriminate between right and wrong. Having no understanding of such things I relied on his guidance and knowledge, except I failed to realize his taste in such matters was deemed unhealthy by many. Gradually I came to understand his inclinations were perverse, and when I refused to comply, he would punish me." She inhaled deeply. "My will folded unable to withstand his aggressions. I learned to yield to his wishes, forsaking my moral compass and retreating inwardly to cope with the shame and disgust his commands caused."

"What did he make you do?" She shook her head. "I must know it all, however disturbing it may be, I must know."

"I always did as he asked." She closed her eyes. "I always did as he asked, except -" she couldn't finish, she didn't want to. "Father, I have done something horrible."

"What have you done child?"

A/N: Not a long chapter, debated merging two chapters but thought it worked better as two chapters versus one. Will have the next chapter up within a day or two. For those of you reading this story, I thank you. It's been interesting re-reading the story and revising it some more. In case some of you were wondering, the original story was over 356,000 words. Yeah, it's a beast. So apologies if I'm updating at my own pace, as there really seems to be no reason to post at an accelerated pace, I'm merely enjoying the leisure of revising the story as a hobby. Thanks for reading and as always feedback is welcomed.