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Juliana sat in her room, crying. She was lying sprawled out on her bed with her face buried into her pillow. Why? Why did he have to get married again? I hate her! She ruined my life and destroyed my family! She sat up, wiping her eyes on her sleeve and grabbed a picture frame from her nightstand. There was a picture of her with her parents at the beach in it. She was just a toddler when that picture was taken. Her father was holding her in his arms with a big smile on his face while her mother leaned in close to them to kiss his cheek. They looked so happy in that picture. Juliana started crying again. Why did you leave me, Mom? Why wasn’t I good enough for you?

No matter how many years passed, Juliana knew she would never forget the day when her mother told her she never wanted her and walked out of her life.

“I can’t believe it. My baby sister’s getting married,” Parker whistled softly, walking into Matilda’s room to see her all dressed up in her wedding gown, looking stunning. He spotted the black bow on her otherwise pearly white gown and frowned. “You don’t have to wear that, you know. You can wear all white if you want to. That… that wasn’t by choice. It doesn’t count as far as we’re all concerned.”

“I want to wear it,” Matilda insisted. “I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve accepted it. Thaddeus helped me to accept it and move on from it,” she told him. Parker smiled and hugged her close.

“He’s a good guy, Mattie. Don’t let him go,” he told her.

“I know. I won’t,” Matilda assured her brother. Just then, Thaddeus peeked his head inside the room, but Parker quickly ushered him out and shut the door behind the two of them.

“No seeing the bride before the wedding. It’s bad luck, and with the kind of luck my sister has, she doesn’t need any more bad luck thrown on top of her,” Parker told him. Thaddeus sighed.

“I’m sorry, but I’m looking for Juliana. She was supposed to help Katie dress Marina, but we can’t find her anywhere. Have you seen her?” Thaddeus asked. He looked worried. Parker shook his head.

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“No, I haven’t seen her since this morning at breakfast,” he told him. “I’m sure she’s around here somewhere. Charm Manor’s pretty big. I have trouble keeping track of my daughter sometimes, too,” he grinned. Thaddeus grinned back weakly, but still looked tense and anxious.

By the time the sun had set and the wedding was due to take place at Stoney Falls, Juliana was still missing and Thaddeus was starting to panic. He went to Katie, his hands shaking. “Katie. I still can’t find my daughter. I don’t think she’s anywhere on the property. I’ve looked everywhere. I tried calling her cell phone, but it just goes to her voice mail. I’m getting worried.” Katie frowned and shifted Marina’s weight in her arms. The active little toddler was trying to crawl over her mother’s shoulder.

“Well, it’s only been a few hours. Let’s just get you and Matilda married first and we can send some people out to search for her right after the ceremony,” she assured him. “She can’t have gone far. She’s only fourteen. She can’t drive yet and she doesn’t have money from a job to get a bus out of Sunset Valley.”

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Thaddeus reluctantly agreed and decided to watch a few minutes of television before they had to leave just to relax himself, but was only stressed out more by what he saw on the news.

This just in: Geoffrey Beilleau, convicted of the brutal rape of Matilda Charm nearly a decade ago has just been released from prison on parole…” the news anchor announced, showing his picture and a shot of the bruises on Matilda that were taken when the attack had happened on the screen. It went on to describe the attack in excruciating detail. Thaddeus felt sick to his stomach hearing about the abuse the woman he was about to marry had suffered and how her pain had been broadcast all over the world without a care. He stood up and turned around to see Matilda staring at the television screen, her face as white as her dress. He supposed it was too late to worry about seeing her in her gown before the wedding and went over to her, rubbing her hands.

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“Matilda? Sweetheart? Are you alright?” he asked gently. “We don’t have to get married today if this is too much for you to handle,” he told her, but Matilda blinked hard and shook her head.

“No…” she muttered. “I’m not going to let this ruin my wedding day. That’s what he’d want; to keep me under his control; to keep me afraid. I won’t let him have control over me anymore. I’m going to get married and be happy today, and tomorrow, I’m going to work on getting him off the streets again when I go back to work,” she told him. Thaddeus smiled proudly at his wife-to-be.

She’s so strong and she doesn’t even realize it, he thought to himself.

An hour and a half later, everyone was gathered underneath the rushing waterfall where Matilda’s mother and grandmother were married, smiling with anticipation for the current heiress of the Charm family to take a husband and begin her duty of producing another heiress to carry on after her. Matilda could feel the mist sprinkling her skin and breathed in the fresh scent of rushing water. It was a beautiful, crisp night.

She could tell something was wrong as soon as Thaddeus met her underneath the waterfall and she looked into his eyes. “What’s wrong?” she mouthed silently to him.

“Juliana’s missing,” Thaddeus mouthed back. Matilda’s eyes went wide and her heart started hammering.

“What?!?”

“We’re going to search for her as soon as the ceremony’s finished,” Thaddeus mouthed back. Before Matilda could protest, he started saying his vows to her. His words were so hopelessly romantic and beautiful that they made tears spring to Matilda’s eyes. As he slipped the wedding band on her finger, she smiled more radiantly than anyone had ever seen before. The monotonous, outwardly emotionless Matilda Charm was beaming with joy as tears glistened in her eyes.

“I’ve never seen her smile like that. It’s… beautiful…” Parker mumbled to his wife, holding his sleeping daughter in his arms.

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Thaddeus Corcoran was officially declared Thaddeus Charm and the two exchanged a kiss to solidify the new union between them. Matilda leaned in close to Thaddeus’ ear. “Let’s go find your daughter,” she whispered.

“Our daughter,” Thaddeus reminded her. Matilda nodded with a small smile.

“Right. Our daughter,” she agreed.

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