1861 Brighton, England

Lady Margaret Wellesley, daughter of the Earl of Renwick, sucked in her breath anxiously. What was she thinking? She would never be able to measure up to the kind of wife Henry expected. And well, she knew it. It was part of the reason that Margaret had never let herself truly get close to him. She kept hidden so many parts of herself because she was afraid to really let him know her. Deep down, she worried she would disappoint him if he saw her imperfections.

She arched an eyebrow as she looked at herself critically in the mirror. She tucked and pulled at the folds of her ivory, satin gown to make sure every detail was in place. Her dress had a corseted waist with a full, bell-shaped skirt that tiered down in cascading layers. The corset was accented with tiny rows of shimmering pearls that crisscrossed and complemented her petite frame. The gown was beautiful and she had waited for weeks for it to finally be finished. She had been promised that her dress would be the most spectacular and stunning one at her ball. Coupled with her contrasting raven locks that were accented with strands of pearls woven through and a matching set that lay around her neck and on her ears, she was pleased with her ensemble.

Margaret made her way from her dressing chamber towards the ballroom. She descended the grand staircase, pausing at the middle flat and resting her gloved hands on the banister. This was her big moment. Tonight, she would finally be presented to society.

Alfred, the family butler, came from around the corner and announced, "Presenting Lady Margaret, the daughter of the Earl of Renwick."

All the eyes of the assembled guests fastened on the freshly blossoming sixteen-year-old girl. Everyone in the English nobility, or "the ton" as they were more commonly referred to, had heard the rumors of Lady Margaret's alluring beauty.

From the moment her name and description circulated amongst them, the eligible noblemen had started to seek out her father to try to pursue her. She had inherited her late mother's aristocratic face and delicate bone structure and her father's Irish white skin and dark violet eyes.

Margaret smiled with graceful ease as she overtly scanned the room for Henry.

"He is not here yet."

The hair on the back of her neck stood up. Whose voice was that? She had never heard it before. It was deep and resonating.

Slowly, she turned to her left and looked up. Her eyes met the most piercing set of blue eyes she had ever seen. After a second's pause, she took in the rest of the man who matched the voice.

He was... beautiful. There was no other way to describe the stranger standing before her. He had curly brown hair that enhanced the blueness of his eyes. His face and body were flawless, built perfectly and gleamed golden like ripe olives. And he was so tall; he towered over her.

Dashing in his formal attire, Margaret stared at the striking stranger, wondering who was he. She had never seen him before, and she knew everyone who socialized in her circle.

"To whom are you referring, my lord?" she asked with pretend naiveté.

"Why, to your betrothed, certainly... or have you forgotten him already? Not that I mind, considering that it puts my task much more in the realm of attainability."

She liked this stranger and his easy banter. Deciding to shuck her coyness and participate in his game, she replied with purposeful playfulness, "I have not forgotten because I have not the intent or a good enough reason to do so."

"That is because you have not met me until now. I am going to change everything."

Margaret was rather astonished by the stranger's blatant statement but did not want him to realize it. She opted to counter in an effortless tone, "Why, sir, you presume I plan to get to know you."

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