Lady Isabel Hale was a very content young lady indeed. She liked nothing better than to wake up of her own accord at whatever time she wished, to break her fast in the mid morning with a splendid buffet of good English delicacies, and to go about her daily ritual of reading, responding to, distributing, and fulfilling social invitations. She was a few months shy of eighteen years old, she was officially out in society, and, best of all, she was recently engaged to a wonderfully handsome and charming man, the elder son of an Earl. She was the queen of her social circle; all of her unmarried friends constantly consulted her and she crowed over them like a mother hen. Even more than the ease the engagement gave her mind, Isabel loved the power it gave her. Dressed in a pretty lilac frock with matching ribbons in her hair, Isabel sat on a pretty divan and began to read through her letters. Countless invitations to balls and teas and intimate family dinners, all of which she now had the power to say "yes" or "no" to. When she had first been out in society, she had been forced to accept every invitation that didn't directly conflict with a prior commitment. She had been on the lowest possible tier of society, although she was the daughter of a viscount. She had been respected because of her title, obviously, but she had not had any power. She had just been another debutante seeking important confidants and even more important potential husbands. But now! Oh, she was one of the first of her friends to receive an offer, and the first to accept a decent one. Soon she would be the Viscountess Marchington, and then, in time, she would be the Countess of Wright. It was absolutely divine! Invitations, invitations, a letter from her aunt, a few calling cards, more invitations... a letter from Alistair!...er...the Viscount Marchington! Isabel slid the knife under the seal impatiently and read it hungrily. My Darling Isabeau, I regret that I cannot find the time to call on you before my hasty departure, but my father the Earl has received urgent news of some important business matter at his estate in France that requires immediate attention. Because of his age I have volunteered to look into it for him. Not to worry, apparently the area I travel to is not at all involved in this horrendous Napoleon business. I should return in less than a month's time, and regret to inform you that you must make excuses for me at all of our social engagements until my return. Father and Mother look forward to your comforting company during this difficult time, and any of my correspondence that manages to make it through the lines will be sent to them. My brother Julian is also expected home soon from the war, and I'm sure you will make his acquaintance in my absence. I look forward to our reunion and the happy day of our nuptials. Until then, I remain, Faithfully yours etc., A.H. Ranson Isabel felt tears well in her eyes as she threw the letter onto the secretary in the corner. All of her plans for the next month ruined! And even worse (for she did truly love him) Alistair in harm's way in France, of all places!