Chapter One: The Woman

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Seven Months Later

Harry's sitting in his study alone at his desk with his candles lit, hand poised and ready to begin scribbling away. He writes to his mother, father, two brothers, and sister every Monday morning to inform them about his previous week and the adventures of his weekend – though since his hibernation, he's found nothing to report back. If words run dry, he'll usually include pieces of his newest compositions as he continues to create them, however, that too has been a struggle as he hasn't written anything new in months.

As he sits there, pen dipped in ink, the heading finished and letter ready to be written, he thinks about how miserable of a man he's become, how he's dug a hole that only continues to sink deeper and deeper with every waking moment. Unable to stop it, he readies himself to succumb to the feeling. He puts the pen down and crumples the paper.

Harry reaches for his mail instead. The top envelope contains an invitation. He reads it. "Roger?"

Roger enters silently. "Sir?"

"Discard this vile thing immediately."

"Sir," Roger says quickly when he sees the Ahman gold emblem. "Lord Ahman has threatened the estate if you, er, destroy the invitation."

Harry turns his steely gaze to Roger. "He threatened?"

"Well, he threatened to send over a thousand of the same invitations and block off your other mail due to his personal relation with the Royal Postal Service." The last few words must be Faiz's exact ones because Harry's heard him say it all too many times.

Faiz's family have one of the most shareholders in all of England and Scotland combined, effectively controlling how business is done through the service. Though instated by the Queen, the Ahman family's influence comes from the many people in his family sitting in Parliament. If Faiz needs to, he will bribe the service to ban all mail from being delivered to Harry's estates. Even letters from his sister from college.

Faiz has the largest country house in Manchester and he uses the space well and far more frequently than Harry would.

He regularly fills it to the brim with hundreds of people, offering his vacant rooms leniently as if it were a hotel. The mansion itself has impressive architecture. It has pale stonework and jagged edges mixed with the near hundred steps at the front that Harry always wonders why Faiz hasn't removed or renovated into a ramp due to his disability.

Bestowed with his family's inheritance, Faiz has clear plans to use it for his pleasure and recreation. Somewhat more smart with his lesser salary, Harry is keen on saving what he can, as his salary is shared with his sister until she finishes her education. It is where Harry's money goes: to pay for her room and board, and the leftover is spent on himself, though he doesn't think he's lacking in his resources. His own estate shows his family's wealth. He is grateful and comfortable.

Because of the space at his country house, Faiz enjoys hosting fancy parties and balls for every occasion he can consider worthy of a party. Harry is invited each time. The last one Harry successfully dodged was a costume party on All Hallows Eve. He recalls looking at the invitation for the party and then ripping it, laying it on his fireplace to watch the paper turn to ashes.

Harry grits his teeth, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Did he also say he'll pay me a visit to view the evidence of my compliance as well?"

Roger nods. "He'll be here for dinner, he said, sir."

Harry's lips thin with impatience as he releases his nose. "Tell the kitchen to set up an extra plate for Lord Ahman. Will he be alone?"

"He didn't say, however, due to his recent engagement..."

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