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CHAPTER ONE — HOME




Emilia D'Alessio did not, under any circumstance, get nervous.

The adrenaline-fuelled-hurricane-of thoughts that many often found themselves imprisoned by, simply did not run in her blood.

Her father, Lucas D'Alessio, led the way for that. His ability to always remain in control was unmatched and, in many instances, rather admirable. There was not one situation where his calm exterior did not allow him to preserve the upper-hand. Well, it was either that, or his pure arrogance managed to outweigh everything else.

Edith, her mother, was an incredibly level-headed and rational women (she'd have to be to put up with Emilia's father for so long). Edith's entire aura exuded a subtle but secure sense of self assurance that Emilia could only ever wish to possess a fraction of in her lifetime.

On the other hand Leo, her brother, was bold and brash. There was clearly no room for nerves amidst all his pig-headedness. If Emilia was being honest, she wasn't entirely sure Leo could actually produce a single intelligent thought, so wondering whether he felt any sort of self doubt was completely out of the question.

Her younger sister, Gabrielle, soft spoken, but quietly capable, always gave the impression of being very well put together. It was rather an impressive feat, actually, considering, at only twenty, she had managed to achieve something that Emilia, in her twenty five years of existence, had not – having her life in order.

Emilia wouldn't describe herself as a mess, per say. She had an excellent education, which had proved to her that whatever she put her mind to, she could achieve. Once more, her mother had always encouraged her to pursue her dreams, ensuring she would get exactly what she wanted from life. Now, if things were to go slightly upside-down during that pursuit, or if intentions were to get a tad skewed along the way, was that Emilia's fault?

The increasingly pressing weight of society's pressures and expectations were enough to keep her anchored down, though. Emilia was now in her mid twenties, unmarried and, as Lady Whistledown had so wonderfully described three years ago, when she'd emerged from another season without a shiny engagement ring, an ineligible crone.

Emilia presumed she'd earned the label because she had indulged in other opportunities available to her, ones she deemed more important, such as the enticing world adventures she wanted to embark on before doing the thing she dreaded most – settling down.

Edith would add that it was because her eldest daughter was strong-minded and very aware of what she wanted. Lucas would argue that his daughter, whilst effortlessly charming and, on occasion, an endearing young woman, was also impetuous, insubordinate and, to put it simply, trouble.

So, whilst Emilia certainly did not usually get nervous, stepping foot in Grosvenor Square for the first time in two years filled her with an entirely new sense of dread that she seemed to feel in every bone in her body.

For, Emilia was to return to society as a lady, and not the recluse bohemian she had enjoyed becoming during her travels. And, unfortunately, she was very aware that time was no longer on her side anymore.

Emilia hadn't seen her parents and siblings in around four months. They had been travelling around Europe with her for the past two years, but returned to Mayfair earlier than originally intended. Thankfully, Emilia was allowed to fulfil the rest of her stay in Italy, with the family members they had been visiting, seeing it as an opportunity to further her independence and enrich her knowledge of cultures, and her education. (She also thought it had something to do with the Italian gentleman she'd become acquainted with, but she was going to have to deliver the disappointing news to her parents that it hadn't worked out the way they'd hoped).

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