Part 1 - Prologue

Prologue

Winston Manor - LONDON February 1832

While London's streets seeped soot through its gutters and drain pipes, rain splintered the morning air. Early workers shuffled around preparing for the day ahead, as local harlots returned home from the previous evening’s work. And as the lower class began its day, several blocks away in a much more upper class area of St James, two twin brothers were locked away in their study, procrastinating while staring at raindrops dripping down a glass window that was giving off an impression of a courtyard’s gazebo distorting right in front of their eyes.


"What the hell do we do now Seb? Mammy cannot cope with any more stress, Gene hasn't stopped crying and Marcus is inconsolable right now." Tristan was ‘once again’ complaining to his brother Sebastian; eldest by three minutes. Marcus their elder brother; now the new Duke of Winston, was not doing well after their father's death. Having been a Marquis from birth hadn't done him any favours. Now with the inheritance of their father’s title and all the responsibilities that went along with it, the twins were afraid this latest chapter in their complicated lives would finally send Marcus over the edge.


Sebastian shook his head in defeat, knowing Tristan was completely correct in his concerns. They were all anxious about his health. More to the point, his drinking problem.


“Did you know he grabs that god damn whiskey decanter every morning and locks himself away in that old tomb of a library without surfacing for air until way past sundown? Then he’s as foxed as a bloody rabbit in a fox’s lair.” Marcus's valet had helped him up the stairs every night this week due to his overindulging nature to get completely intoxicated. His drinking was getting worse, and they were all concerned for him. Ever since his wife Evelyn succumbed to childbirth, Marcus hadn’t been able to recover. He wasn't even able to look at his little girl Abigail because she reminded him so much of her.


"What a god dam bloody mess!" Tristan rubbed his right temple and took a long breath while looking between his mirror image and the whiskey glass he currently held between his fingers.


"Fuck." They both knew what needed to be done; one of them had to step up and fix the family coffers before the debt collectors sent them all to Newgate. The thought of the Ainsleys' ending up at the worst prison in England was inconceivable and caused Tristan to sweat profusely. He wiped his brow, feeling as if he had just aged ten years. He could imagine the gossip their imprisonment would bring the Tonnies society over the next decade. One of the most honoured and influential families going down in disgrace and shame. Dear God.


"We cannot let this happen Tristan. Mammy won’t survive the turmoil. She's emotionally drained, and poor Gene, not even wed yet. If such a scandal was to ever surface, there would be no chance of our dear little sister making a good match. She would probably end up alongside us in Negate prison, or worse, a lady of the night." Tristan twisted away from the window in utter shock.


"Good gad Seb, and they say I'm the one with morbid views? You certainly matched me with that one." There was only one thing they could do. Tristan had to get the ‘Cora’ a new crew and set sail to the Caribbean continent fast to bring back some form of profitable endeavors, while Sebastian remained in England looking after the family. He knew there was good coin to be made in the West Indies.


"England’s shores pay a high price for Indian spices, sugar and that damn awful tea mammy makes us drink." Neither of them ever had the heart to tell their dear mother that they would both rather lick dog's bollocks than drink her bloody tea. The twins looked at each other seriously for a moment, before both having a good chuckle over their poor mother’s delicate ways.


“Besides, I would rather sail on my ship for several months than face the Ton’s matchmaking mammas. You just make sure Genevieve enjoys herself this season and finds a husband, because it may be her last chance unless I perform some blasted miracles."


Tristan sat down with an 'oomph' on the chase. He was tired. They all were. Something had to be done, but the thought of what Sebastian had to deal with was making him nauseous.


"Bloody Hell Seb, I don't envy you at all. I think I'm getting the better deal here." He closed his eyes, imagining a flock of overweight mammas pushing their overstuffed and over powdered silly ninny daughters in front of his view. Girls with too many pink frills, overlapping teeth and screeching giggles repeating the same words, I like whatever you like My Lord, My Lord, My Lord, My Lord, bloody bollocks and then some. Suddenly he could feel another headache coming on.


"The sooner I leave our shores, the better. You are welcome to the debutante's of 32' dear brother."


Sebastian could do nothing but laugh at his little brother, knowing exactly what Tristan was thinking and feeling. Unlike Tristan, Sebastian enjoyed the Ton life. The balls, parties, card games, especially the garden trysts and bedroom assignations with wealthy widows and unhappily married women of high society. There was always room for a naughty slap and tickle in Sebastian's life, especially when there were no strings attached and no expectations for future developments with whatever particular lady was currently within Sebastian's sites. A rogue through and through, he loved the power of an Earl title. Together with his handsome looks and penetrating charms, he had the pick of the Ton's wives and widows to enjoy a good shagging with. It was always the same. While Tristan searched the high seas for adventure, Sebastian played the part of the handsome Rogue in a ballroom.


"You've got yourself a deal little brother. Get your crew and set sail and see what you can bring back to get us out of this bloody mess, and I’ll look after mammy, keep Gene in line for her season and try to sort Marcus out once and for all. That little girl of his needs her father and her most beloved uncle is going to sort it out." Sebastian smiled to himself as he thought about his sweet little niece. What a precious little jewel she was. His brother spoke up before Sebastian could finish the daydream of one day having a little girl of his own.


"Who said you're her favourite uncle?” Sebastian wasn’t the only one who cared a great deal for the little snippet of a girl.


“She is the one reason in my life that makes me believe that even though it will be painful as hell, I too will one day succumb and stop procrastinating long enough to find myself a wife to breed with." The 6,3 inch twins fell into a fit of laughter so loud even the servants could hear them through the study door. There was nothing unusual about that, because when the Ainsley twins were together, laughter wasn't far behind.


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