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Lady Selina Hamilton woke in a meadow, grass tickling her nose. The first rays of the sun reached her, spreading warmth over her face as she brushed an ebony lock of hair from her eyes. She stretched and slid her spectacles back into place on the bridge of her nose. The sunrise was beautiful, causing the dew to sparkle, though she preferred the night sky with its twinkling diamonds.
Sunrise! I’m going to be late!
Her father would be expecting her at breakfast before he went out to the stables. She pushed herself up, grabbed the blanket she’d been lying on, and grabbed the small bag with her writing utensils and charts. With care, she checked to make sure the rolled sheets of paper in the bag were present and unharmed, and then she ran with unladylike speed toward the servants’ entrance. The gardens she loved became a blur of spring color as she raced through them.
Father warned you not to leave the house at night again.
I wasn’t finished mapping my star charts and I can’t go to London without them.
She grimaced. London was everything she detested. Crowded, polluted, and the home of her twin sister, Martha. It was enough to make her consider feigning an illness to stay. She began to silently catalogue the diseases she knew enough about to be convincing.
What are you doing? You promised your aunt you would chaperone Anne for her first Season.
I must be a candidate for Bedlam to have agreed to such a thing, after my own wretched Season.
Who else could have done it? Your grandfather is too ill, and Aunt Margaret cannot leave him to flit about London with Anne.
Selina’s stomach lurched as memories flooded her. She had no time to dwell on them, because she caught sight of her mud-splattered skirts. Her maid was going to throttle her. The wrinkled day gown was too short for her tall frame and a bit tight in the chest, but she didn’t mind because it was the warmest one she owned.
She reached for the door handle but stumbled as Clara, her maid, pulled it open. Clara eyed her from head to toe and shook her head.
“I know,” Selina said, heading off a lecture. “Just help me get ready for breakfast.”
Her maid grumbled, but followed her up the stairs.
“Not to worry, miss. You know you only have to smile at him and all is forgiven.”
“And what of you? Does a smile earn your forgiveness, too?” Selina turned and grinned, batting her eyelashes.
“Nay.” Clara’s tone was harsh, but the corners of her mouth betrayed her. “Save those looks for the earl. He’s already arrived in the breakfast room.”
“Oh!” Selina bolted up the remaining stairs to her room, pulling hairpins out as she went.