Chapter 1

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Sunlight streamed in through the large glass window overlooking the breakfast room of the Lakewood estate. The grand mansion was composed of pale gray marble and dark red brick with a garden surrounding the entire perimeter.  The mansion consisted of six bedrooms, five bathrooms, vast kitchen, a music room, parlor, breakfast room, and drawing room.  The occupants of the grand estate we're a family of a small, but substantial income of about 5000 pounds a year.

Mr. Richard Harriet was a slender and tall gentleman with salt and pepper hair, dark blue eyes, and a gentle countenance. His wife, Mrs. Olivia Harriet, was a plump but lovely woman with salt and pepper hair, green eyes, and a gentle countenance. They had three daughters.

The eldest was Isabella, a beautiful young woman of 21 with her mother's brown hair, dark green eyes, and a radiant countenance. The middle Emma, who is also beautiful at 19, with her father's blonde hair, blue eyes, and a lovely countenance. The youngest was Mariah, at 17,  also having brown hair and green eyes like Isabella, as well as having a fine countenance. The sisters were all very close, but very much opposite of one another.

Isabella was very protective of her younger sisters, making sure that they knew exactly how to act in society, especially Maria.  She was admired by many, but did not feel cocky about it.  She wanted to find a husband, but not quite yet.

Emma was also very sweet and kind. She liked attending the balls with Isabella and Maria, but was more shy and reserved when it came to social gatherings, not wanting to draw attention to herself. She wanted to find a husband, as well, but in good time.

Maria was the most opposite of her sisters. She was wild, but sweet. She loved going to all of the celebrations with her sisters, and flirted incessantly with all of the gentleman who were present. She was very much wanting to find a husband, and quickly.

One afternoon, as the sisters were taking a walk through the gardens, Isabella came to an abrupt stop.

Emma glanced at her, curious. What is it?

Maria. Please do not tell me you spotted one of the officers. Or, no... Please tell me that you did!

Isabella rolled her eyes, but then gave Emma a sweet smile. I have noticed someone coming up the drive on horseback. And I believe we all know him, you especially, my dearest Emma.

Emma followed her sisters eyes towards the direction of where she was speaking of, and her heart flipped in her chest as she noticed the very handsome gentleman writing towards them on a black stallion.

The gentleman was very handsome, tall with broad shoulders and a very muscular build. He had dark brown hair, rich chocolate eyes, a fair countenance, and a smile that caused every single woman in the town of London to swoon. He was richly dressed in  a dark Crimson jacket, white linen undershirt, black pants, and black boots. His outfit was complete with a black top hat.

Her heart still flying in her chest, Emma immediately began to fix the skirts of her blue silk gown, making sure that no strand of her hair was out of place, or coming out of her elaborate bun, for that matter.

Isabella was also fixing her self, making sure that the skirts of her identical pink gown were perfect. She gave Emma a sweet smile.

As the gentleman came closer, he stopped his stallion and dismounted. His dark eyes fell upon Emma immediately, and he smiled. Afternoon, ladies. This is quite the fine day we are having.

Emma couldn't breathe. She felt as if she was going to faint from happiness. She knew that voice, knew the gentleman standing directly before them. She had not seen him since they were children. Cedric Hamilton, the Duke of Glouchester.

Cedric's dark eyes fell upon Emma, and registered recognition and... Admiration. The young man of 23 couldn't believe that he was staring at his childhood play mate, his best friend. his darling Emma. She looked so beautiful.

Mariah was the first of the sisters to speak. Dearest Cedric! What a pleasure it is to see you! What brings you to London?

Cedric cleared his throat, trying to compose himself. Well, Miss Maria Harriet, I was actually in town to state that I am hosting a ball this evening, and would like to invite all three of you. And your parents, if they wish.

Maria squealed. Are you certain? You are going to be throwing a ball? How was splendid! Do you believe any of the officers are going to be there as well?

Cedric. Well... I am not quite sure of that, Miss Maria. However, you may rest assured that some of the officers might be there. As far as who, I do not know.

Maria. That's all right, it does not matter to me! I can flirt with whoever is there!

Isabella. Maria, please! Show some respect for the Duke!

Maria. Dearest Isabella, I am showing the Duke some respect! I am only asking if several of the officers are going to be at his party this evening. There's no harm in that, is there?

Isabella. I do apologize for my younger sister's behavior, my Lord Hamilton. She is much more civilized than this.

Maria crossed her arms. How do you know I am more civilized than this?

Isabella grabbed her sister by the arm. You and I are going inside to discuss this. She glanced back at Emma. If you would like, my love, you may borrow one of my hair pieces to go with which ever beautiful gown you are to choose for this evening.

Emma gave her sister a smile. Thank you, and you may borrow one of mine.

Isabella gave her a returning smile of gratitude, before dragging Maria into the house.

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