Part 1

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I was jolted awake by the bumpy, country roads passing beneath the carriage. The empty scenery outside made me groan in bored frustration as I remembered where I was, and what I was doing there.

I, Lady Felicia Hastings, was being shipped off to some pathetic little equestrian school for wayward girls. I was banished from my family's London estate almost two days ago. Apparently, I had pushed my parents past the breaking point, and now I was being punished.

Why? Because of my "shameless" behavior, as my father put it. Apparently, it was "shameless" to have a little fun. My parents took pleasure in dull balls and boring dinner parties, but those activities held no interest for me. Now, the music halls and the gambling dens were far more entertaining. My father thought so too; after all, he had visited the dens and had dalliances with the ladies on stage for many years. Of course, he was a man and had remained discreet, so it was perfectly acceptable for him to do so without consequences. I, on the other hand, was not afforded such luxuries because I was a woman and had no care for who saw me, where they saw me, or when they saw me.

I suppose when my intended, Lord Lumley, saw me blowing on a gentleman's dice for good luck, my parents decided enough was enough. To embarrass them was one thing. To embarrass my betrothed and risk losing such an advantageous match was quite another.

It wasn't my fault; if Mr. Lumley had been even slightly less droll and more adventurous, perhaps I would have been able to behave myself better. After listening to him drone on and on and on about such boring subjects like the value of his estate, the "fascinating" events of his stationary business, and how our marriage will be of our mutual advantage, I simply had to go out and be around far more interesting individuals. Yes, the music halls were full of prostitutes, and the gambling dens were full of scoundrels. That's why I liked those places; the patrons there were far more interesting than my fiancé, my father, and every other lord I had ever met. There was never a dull moment.

I had to wonder what Lord Lumley was doing at the den the night he caught me sitting on the big winner's lap. He never struck me as someone who would be very adventurous, but perhaps he was a hypocrite like my father. The lord above knew that the noble families of England were full of hypocrites.

My parents were waiting in my room when I finally snuck back to the estate. They knew I had, essentially, blackmailed my personal housemaid into assisting my daily escapes from the prison that was Hastings manor. They knew full well that she had never stolen anything, but they fired her on the spot for helping me instead of stopping me. Of course, as a final slap in the face, they made her pack my bags before she could pack her own. Considering how quickly they had arranged a carriage with two drivers, they had known precisely where they were going to send me for many months before.

Lord and Lady Hastings didn't want anyone to know that their daughter was being shipped off to the Sayed Equestrian Academy for wayward girls. Thats why they hired two drivers; no stops were permitted along the journey, not even to rest for the night. So while one man drove the carriage across the vast, empty English countryside, the other sat in the carriage with me to eat his meals and sleep. My father had to be paying the drivers a fortune; nothing I offered them could persuade them to look the other way while I slipped out of the carriage. I didn't necessarily have a plan as to where I could go if I managed to escape, but anywhere would be better than Hastings Manor or this equestrian school that no one had ever heard of.

After seeing the resting driver still enjoying his sleep, I turned my attention back out the window of the carriage. There had been nothing to see since we left London's city limits. Nothing but the dark clouds that were typical with English weather casting over the fields and green and the ruins of long-forgotten empires.

If I thought it was boring at Hasting Manor with my mother, father, and Lord Lumley, I was going to die from the boredom that awaited me at the Sayed Equestrian Academy.

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