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An Unexpected Romance

By Ann Shannon

Romance

Prologue



Chikako sat with her back to the cliff. The stone was warm despite the fact that the air was cooling in the late afternoon. She liked the warmth, it gave her strength and a sense of security. She reached out her arm and let her hand trail in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall she was sitting next to. This was her favorite place to be, the water brought her peace and the warm stone brought her strength. She watched as Takao sat on a large stone a distance away from her, he was idly tossing small stones into the water occasionally making one of them skip several times before it sank to the bottom of the pool before it snaked off into the river that ran along the edge of the compound she lived on with her father and the rest of the Hata clan.

Takao had been her constant companion since just before she'd left school four years ago. She sighed, she'd just turned sixteen and she knew that soon her world would change. She understood that her father would arrange her marriage and that it would strengthen their clan and the village of Iwa that he'd so recently formed. She knew and accepted this. But it terrified her.

Her parents marriage had also been an arranged one and she knew it was not a happy union. They rarely spent time together and almost never spoke even when they did. Chikako was young enough to still have romantic notions, she wanted to fall in love with a man, enjoy his company and look forward to growing old with him. She desperately hoped that something would change to make this a reality for her but deep down she knew that her marriage would probably be with a man who was much older than her and head of his own clan. That she would be required to conform to new traditions and find peace with a total stranger. And she knew that, like her father, it was likely his heart would belong to another.

She wondered what the next few years would bring her.

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