**************************** Chapter One ****************************
The sea breeze was like a frigid kiss this evening as it swept in over the tall, cold Atlantic waves. The winds pushed the waves into the harbor, adding to their impressive power with each moment, until they crashed violently upon the docks. Heavy, black clouds hung low overhead, spitting tiny, stinging drops of rain through the wind. However, the awesome wind was not the storm's most brilliant feature. The thunder, and the almost constant lightning, created a churning light show that seemed just out of reach.
It was beautiful and intense, charged with an energy that could not be ignored. The storm threatened violence, inspired awe, commanded respect and made the present moment the only thing of any significance. Arianna Kent's emotions fed off of the storm overhead as she quietly opened the door of her aunt's seaside estate. She slipped outside, her maid Betsy right behind her. They were using the cover of darkness and a quiet evening at home to make their escape. There were no scheduled entertainments tonight. A ball was scheduled for later in the week, but Arianna would not be attending.
Not that ball, or any other in the future.
This moment was the start of a new path, a path that would take her from everything she had ever known, and give her the chance to be something more in this life. If she stayed here, her life would continue to be controlled by others. The best she could hope for was a "good match." She was twenty-one, still unmarried and what would be her fifth season was about to begin.
She would not be present for it.
She would rather be anywhere else on the earth than sitting in another fashionable drawing room, taking tea with some old biddie and her cronies, discussing the latest fashions, scandals, and upcoming entertainments. She wanted to be free. Free to experience life to it's fullest, free to experience things that proper behavior said she, as a woman, could not indulge in.
A shaky, indrawn breath between chattering teeth, reminded Arianna of her maid Betsy's presence behind her, Arianna slid the door firmly into it's frame. A click met her ears and Arianna eased her hands off of the paneled wood, lest it should creak in some way and give her up now.
Months of careful planning had led Arianna to this moment, sneaking from her aunt's home down to the docks, and boarding a ship bound for the colonies. She pulled her cloak tighter about her, fastening the ties at her throat and waist. She pulled her hood up around her face, as Betsy did the same, both women fighting off the cold, wet night air.
Arianna turned from the house and kept to the shadows, she crossed the elaborate and beautifully fragranced gardens, making her way around the grounds to the front of the house. The tall, leafy trees that lined the front drive kept them hidden as they made their way down it, onto the street beyond the brick walls. It was a short walk to the predetermined spot where they would meet the hired coach, but it could still be dangerous. Arianna had not wanted the hackney to come too close to her aunt's home and give her away. Discovery was not an option.
The girls made their way down the street and felt the ground begin to slope slightly downhill beneath their feet. They were getting closer to the waterfront with every step, Arianna felt her nerves rise the closer they got. The cobblestone street was covered in mud, at the next block the cobblestones would disappear completely. Riffraff of all types flocked to the less fashionable area of the port city, the very same area they were headed towards, as taverns occupied nearly every other storefront between them and their destination, but Arianna would not let that stop her.
Keeping to the shadows of the trees that lined the street, Arianna kept a quick pace knowing Betsy would be two steps behind her. Patting her skirt pocket, she felt the comfortable shape of the pistol she had borrowed from her father's study, before coming to visit her aunt. The thought of her father made her delicately winged brows draw together.
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The Duke's Daughter -Wattys2014 Collector's Dream Award Winner-Historical Fiction
The Duke of Marlborough has signed betrothal contracts on behalf of his daughter, Lady Arianna Kent. But Arianna is not the type to blindly follow her father's biddings. It is not long before Arianna has different plans for her life and as the weddi...