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Chapter 1

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"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home." Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

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One Chance

Chapter One

Sussex, May, 1812.

"Bella, Elle, get out of there now!" cried Annaliese Dawson. Annaliese nervously checked over her shoulders to make sure that her two younger sisters could not be seen by any passers-by.

Annaliese had always been the most sensible of Mr and Mrs Dawson's three daughters. As the eldest, it was Annaliese's responsibility to keep her sisters out of trouble. She failed. Often.

It was an unusually warm Sussex afternoon in May, and the Dawson sisters had been sent into the village by their parents to purchase new ribbons for the upcoming London season. On their walk home, Isabella and Eleanor had decided to jump into the village pond for a swim to cool off in their underclothes.

Isabella and Eleanor enjoyed venturing into the village to spend their parents' dwindling funds. Annaliese, however, felt anxious about it. She was the only one who knew about their parents' financial situation. Annaliese had always had a talent for arithmetic, but her father had refused to acknowledge her bookkeeping skills until it was too late. Mr Julian Dawson had always resented the fact that he did not have a son, and so he insisted on his daughters being subservient women.

Had he simply allowed Annaliese to budget their money, they might not be in such a situation.

The Dawsons were near destitute and Annaliese's parents were in utter denial. They pretended as though they had money to burn, sending their three daughters off to buy new dresses and bonnets ready for the upcoming season, adding to their accounts which they would not be able to pay.

Annaliese was not to mention money. She had one job: control her sisters. If she failed, then she would be punished. Her mother had one talent. Slapping. Annaliese's cheek could sometimes sting for days.

That was why Annaliese was desperate to control her sisters. Isabella and Eleanor's underclothes were sodden, and completely transparent. If a man were to walk by and see ... Annaliese shuddered. The humiliation would be terrible. The Dawsons were a respected family in Sussex, which was mainly why they denied their dire financial crisis.

"Do not be so tiresome, Annaliese," cried Isabella, giggling as she splashed Annaliese with some of the murky pond water. Annaliese shied away from the water, even though the cool temperature was tempting in the sun.

"You do not always have to be good, Annaliese," added Eleanor, who promptly dived underneath the water, popping back up a few feet away.

How would Annaliese explain this to her mother? She would be in such trouble.

Eleanor was right. Annaliese was always good. She never stepped a toe out of line. She never said the wrong thing. She never talked back. In fact, she hardly spoke at all. She was quiet in public, and in private. Annaliese was reserved and polite because that was what was expected of her.

"Please, girls," begged Annaliese. "Get out now. We have to go home and you need to change. If Mama and Papa see you like this then they will be angry."

Isabella and Eleanor exchanged a knowing glance before they both nodded. They trudged out of the water and climbed up onto the bank where their dresses were laying in and amongst their purchases from the village shops.

Annaliese did love her younger sisters, no matter how silly they could be. Isabella was closest to Annaliese in age, at sixteen years old. Isabella was very beautiful. She had golden blonde hair and dark brown eyes. She was the tallest of the three Dawson sisters, and she had a very feminine figure. Half the men in the village were in love with Isabella, and she thrived on the attention.

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