Lord Renyald Hamilton of Bristol was tired. Not just physically tired, but emotionally as well. His health had been ailing for years now; a constant pain in his head and long periods of time when every movement took extra effort. The doctor's continued to blow it off as being "under the weather", but Lord Hamilton knew: he was sick and it was only getting steadily worse.

As easily as he had come to that conclusion and understood it, it never changed that fact that he couldn't accept it. His beloved wife had passed away nearly eight years before, leaving him to raise their two daughters alone.

A stab of guilt clenched Renyald's heart. He had hardly been father to them. The girl's childhood had been filled with a flurry of governesses and nannies, rarely parents to nurture and guide them. Charlotte had been better than him, he conceded bitterly. While he locked himself away in his study, she would sometimes take walks or play with her young daughters. He beautiful laughter filled voice would drift up from the garden in through his open window where he would be working. More oft than not, he would become irritated and move to shut the windows tight, but every once in a while, he would pause and listen with tenderness to his family.

That was the thing about growing older and nearing death: one begins to feel regret. Renyald regretted many things… He regretted not loving his wife enough. Of course he loved her, would never stop loving her, but feared that he never really showed her that love. He regretted the many hours he spent working on futile business proposals to further enhance his already massive estate and fortune. But most of all he regretted not being a father to his children; not it was too late; the chance to build that relationship lost forever…

Lord Hamilton rose from his desk and began pacing steadily across the room, completely lost in thought. Step, step, step, turn. Step, step, step, turn. Back and forth. His mind was filled with remorse about a past he couldn't change, yet he struggled to lift the burden off his shoulders.

Renyald Hamilton had aged gracefully. His light brown hair was just beginning to have the dignity of grey streaks. Aristocratic upbringing fairly exuded from his high, prominent cheek bones, and bright grey eyes. It was only the furrow of his brow that created a mass of wrinkles on his forehead that gave any sign that there was something bothering him.

A single family portrait hung on the wall across the room. It had been painted two months before Charlotte's death, yet one not knowing she was already dead, would never have guessed it. They had been arranged in the garden on a sunny, bright day that contrasted visibly with Renyald's mood. He'd been agitated about having to postpone a meeting for a "ridiculous waste of money" as he had so kindly put it. If he had only known his wife would be dead hardly two months later, maybe things would have been different.

Ava, his oldest daughter, had been wearing that brand new dress that she had insisted on prancing around the house in, with pink ribbons tied up in her hair. Her cheeks were rosy and her dark green eyes were sparkling with suppressed mirth.

Julia, the younger, almost seemed to blend into the surrounding scenery. Her quiet, pensive attitude was easily seen in her posture and carefully arranged face.

Lord Hamilton sighed. If only they were that young again and things could be changed.

A soft tap at the door startled him out of his nostalgic thinking as he turned to open the door. One of the servants (Renyald could hardly be expected to know his name) stood at the threshold. "My lord," he said, bowing slightly, "There is a Brennan Mason here to you, sir." After Renyald nodded his acquiescence the servant hurried away and returned with a young man by his side.

The man could have been no older than twenty-five. He has curly brown hair and tanned face, both of which Lord Hamilton frowned upon for the lack of regality they possessed. It was obvious immediately that he was of inferior birth and Lord Hamilton immediately wondered what Professor Kristof was playing at. The older man had promised a well educated teacher and Lord Hamilton made no pains to disguise his skepticism.

Slowly, Lord Hamilton walked to his desk and poured himself a glass of Scotch. "So," he paused and took a deliberate sip. "You're to be the tutor for my daughters?" he felt his eyebrow raise.

"Yes, sir," Brennan answered, not shying away from the older man's obvious authority.

Renyald had just opened his mouth when Ava burst into the room. She had grown up a lot since the portrait was taken on his wall. She wasn't what Renyald would call gorgeous, certainly not compared to her sister, but she had some kind of natural beauty about her that he simply couldn't define. Her dark brown hair curled softly to frame her delicately featured face. But instead of her usual smiling appearance, she now looked utterly put out.

"Father! I…" she broke off at seeing Brennan standing in the middle of the room. A moment of confusion flashed across her face before she looked uncharacteristically embarrassed. "Oh." Her eyes darted between the two men. "I apologize for interrupting," she said, dropping into a curtsy and starting to leave the room.

But Renyald took advantage of the break in the previous awkwardness. "No, no Ava dear. It's perfectly alright. Allow me to introduce you to Brennan Mason, your new tutor." He smiled tightly.

Ava immediately dropped into another curtsy and muttered a 'how do you do" before standing up and smiling brightly. Renyald couldn't help but think that she looked unaccountably flustered and vaguely wondered what she came come in here for in the first place.

Everyone was grateful when the maid came in to serve afternoon tea.