He first saw her in the autumn, at a ball filled with the young and the beautiful, when the falling leaves were the same colour as the molten spray of her hair. She is reaching the end of her out season, eighteen years old and uncourted for her false smile filled with teeth flashing like knives in the dark, clenched so offputtingly to trap acidic, unladylike words. He studied her face, nose like a knife, lips so thin, delicate bones moving beneath papery white skin. That pale flesh would wrinkle soon; there are already thin webs around her startling blue gaze and her coy mouth is bracketed by thin laughter lines. If she continued to stand still and alone beneath the shedding trees, the leaves would gather around her, moulder and cocoon her in decay, snake into her serpentine eyes, writhe beneath the cage of her ribs and snuff out the thudding ruby beneath. She would rot in her own self-hatred and odd lack of faith in the world. He could let her. He should let her.

And then she turns, catches sight of him like a trick of the light in the corner of one of her brilliant eyes. And she smiles.

Richard Carlisle arranges to meet Rosamund Crawley's father in the next week.

The month after that, Rosamund writes in neat, flowing cursive onto a dotted line her first name, hand steady, fingers arranged gracefully.

The wedding band bruises the knuckle of her ring finger as she scratches Carlisle after it.