Prologue

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The loud click-clack of Thomas Blackmore's shiny black formal boots reverberated in the desolate corridor to the East Wing of his family's Vipera Manor, a rather large palatial townhouse near the center of the capital city of Brighton.

He passed countless portraits of his ancestors, as he often did on his way to his father's study. Each portrayal appeared to stare him down with a signature look of pure disgust- a familial trait that had grown to be one expected by society. Of course, the form of particular nastiness that had been likened with Thomas's family had been rooted to courtly gossip passed down by the nobility to their own for generations; however, it is also said that some rumors can, at times, hold some validity to them, and the Blackmore family were no stranger to fate-sealing rumors.

Thomas nodded to a maid who scurried past him before pausing at the foreboding dark oak door that sealed his father's study. Heaving a sigh, he raised his fist and knocked twice, before his father's low baritone barked enter, and footmen heaved the heavy door open.

Cornelius Blackmore, Duke of Somerset, was a tall, raven-haired man of strong build, and a true Blackmore through and through- although some may say his cruel nature surpassed what was to be expected.

"What is it, son?" The man huffed as he leaned back in his chair, a massive desk occupying the space before him. He motioned for Thomas to sit down, but he instead chose to stand, ready to leave the room in haste if necessary.

"I am due to be traveling to the Palace near teatime. I have arranged to meet with the Queen at half-passed two." The young man twists a button of his coat between his fingers, gauging his short-tempered father's reaction to his introductory statement.

"On what grounds?" The Duke insisted, a hint of annoyance already sharpening his gruff tone.

"Father, if I may, I am going to be direct." Thomas swallows, staring again at his father, unblinking.

"Go on boy." He frowns, noting his distaste for the way his son prefaces difficult statements as opposed to being forthcoming, as he had so often reminded him.

"I think you should allow Adalie to be welcomed into Society this season, the same as Lillibet." He spoke clearly, fixing his gaze on his father's forehead to avoid the glaring anger in his calculating green eyes.

He leans forward in his chair, removing the spectacles perched on his nose and placing them on his desk."Thomas, it would be wrong of me to introduce Adalie to society along with Lillibet, for I do not want her posing any sort of difficulty in her sister's path to becoming queen. She is childish in her actions. I do not believe her ready."

"I understand the importance to her season, but Lillibet is already an Elite, and Adalie is not. She could never possibly pose a problem. And she is her twin sister." Thomas rebuts, struggling to maintain a neutral tone. Lord Blackmore frowns, eyeing his son, who opposed him for reasoning he could not grasp.

"You must know there is a great deal she can do to hinder anyone's approval of her sister." He refutes.

"I know that you..." Thomas swallows, hoping to gather just one more shred of courage before finishing his statement, the words tasting as poisonous in his mouth as bile, "I know, for some incomprehensible reason, you hate her. But she is your own daughter, father- your kin! A Blackmore! Surely you cannot deny her a chance at happiness in this way." He reasons, knowing his words will likely come to be of no avail.

"I may do as I please, boy. It would do you well to begin to understand that." Lord Blackmore seethes, his eyes narrowing on his son's pale, youthful face, distaste burning in his chest at the sight of the black stubble he had chosen to keep despite his demands that he be rid of it.

Thomas stared at his father furiously, fire in his normally calm, vivid emerald eyes.

"Adalie will be debuting at court whether you are the one to sponsor her or not. She is my dearest sister and I will not sit idly by as you deny her this- this birthright! I will fund her in your stead- the Queen will be hearing of the securement of her place today." He laid all of his cards on the table, knowing his father would not challenge him anymore, for he had no qualms in damaging his already questionable public image even further.

When Lord Blackmore looked as if he would not honor him with a final response, Thomas turned to leave, ordering the footmen to have his carriage readied.

"You must know, my son, that this will be a great waste of your funds." The eerily calm, cold voice stopped Thomas in his tracks, his shoulders rigid. "No nobleman in his right mind would even spare her a glance, much less court her. I certainly wouldn't."

Thomas's hands curled into fists at his sides, and he took a deep, inaudible breath.

"I should hope not, father. I do believe she deserves a man much better than one of any similarity to you." At that, he fully exits the room, the heavy door closed behind him, by footmen, with a faint click.

Too bad, he thinks. If he were to close it after himself, he would have slammed it.

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