Chapter 1. 1827
The carriage drove down the cobblestone road towards the London orphanage, the wheels of the coach rattling. The sky was clear and blue, a soft breeze blowing through the trees. The August day was pleasant and perfect.
Nestled inside the carriage, 38 year old Andrew Elliott felt as if he was going to burst with excitement. He was on his way to the London orphanage to officially adopt the newest member to his family. He and his wife Priscilla had their own children. They had a son named Jonathan, who is 18 years old and attending Oxford University and a nine-year-old daughter named Felicity.
Andrew smiled to himself. He was proud of his son, immensely proud. He knew Jonathan was going to do very good things for himself. He was, however, quite wary of Felicity. His daughter was rebellious, demanding that everyone wait on her hand and foot. He shook his head, rubbing his face. He hadn't been told very much about the newest member to his family, only that her name was Maria and that her parents had tragically died in a carriage accident six months ago.
When the carriage pulled up to the orphanage, the footman jumped out of his seat and rushed around to open Mr. Elliott's door. He tipped his hat to his employer and told him that he would wait outside until the gentleman collected his young charge and brought her back.
Andrew gave the young footman a tender smile before making his way into the orphanage. He wasn't a wealthy gentleman by any means, but he did have 5000 pounds to his name that would be eventually passed to Jonathan once he died. However, for the time being, he wasn't worried about inheritance. Walking into the front lobby of the orphanage, he came across the woman behind the front desk who he had been corresponding with for the last two weeks.
The woman behind the desk, Mrs. Natalie Darby, looked up at Mr. Elliot and smiled. "Good morning sir. I hope that you had a pleasant journey here."
Andrew smiled back at her. "Yes I did, thank you. Where might I find my newest little rose?"
Mrs. Darby smiled, rising from her seat. "She is waiting for you in the front room sir, follow me."
The two of them walked from the lobby and into the front room of the orphanage, which was decorated with several crystal vases and plush velvet furniture. There was a blazing fireplace, tall glass windows overlooking the city of London, and a wooden table piled with books and little plates of sweets and nuts.
Andrew admired the room, but his admiration was soon caught by the beautiful little girl seated on the chaise by the window. He noticed that unlike Felicity, who had chestnut brown curls and hazel eyes like Priscilla did, this child had lovely strawberry blonde curls and porcelain skin.
Mrs. Darby smiled softly. "She's very sweet, loves to talk with whoever she comes across. Miss Carter, your new father is here sweetheart."
Andrew felt his heart fly into his throat as he met a pair of beautiful teal eyes. A pair of eyes that sparkled brilliantly when they met dark brown eyes. He opened his arms as the child rose from her seat by the window and ran directly into his open arms. He cuddled her close, careful not to damage the frills at the bottom of her teal dress that matched the teal ribbon she was wearing in her hair. His arms tightened as he heard her sniffling.
After several minutes, Maria Carter came away and stared into the eyes of her new father. Without needing to be asked, she leaned forward and kissed both of his cheeks. "Thank you for being my new father. I didn't think I would ever have one again."
Andrew reached out and gently wiped her tears away. "Of course my darling, I promise you that you are going to be loved by me and your new mother and your brother and sister. You are never going to be sad again." He knew that Jonathan was going to love this child, but he wasn't sure about Felicity.
Maria's tears instantly disappeared, and the sweetest smile curved her lips. "Did Mrs. Darby tell you that I am eight years old?"
Andrew chuckled. "I don't believe she did, but I'm glad you told me."
Mrs. Darby. "Miss Carter, I mean Miss Elliot, doesn't have very much when it comes to belongings. She only has one other dress aside from the one she is wearing, as well as one other pair of shoes."
Andrew. "Don't worry about her, she's going to be very well taken care of."
Once the paperwork was signed and returned to Mrs. Darby, Andrew took his new daughter into his arms and carried her out of the orphanage. His eyes sparkled as he watched her reaction to the large carriage that was waiting for the two of them. His heart overflowed with love for his new daughter as he watched her interact with the footman, Robertson. Helping her get settled inside the carriage, he asked Robertson to put Maria's small trunk into the back of the coach before climbing inside.
Maria stared out the window of the carriage as it started back towards Elliot Manor. She couldn't wait to meet her new brother and sister, couldn't wait to be in the arms of her new mother. Her biological mother and father's death had been tragic, and she had grieved for quite some time. But now, she was ready for a new life of happiness.
Andrew smiled, reaching out and gently playing with one of her strawberry blonde curls that was hanging from her chignon. When he felt her crawl into his arms once again, he held her close. His life, and her life, had changed completely.
Arriving to Elliott Manor 45 minutes later, Andrew and Maria climbed out of the carriage and walked inside. After being introduced to the household staff, they walked into the parlor where Priscilla and Felicity were waiting for them. Jonathan wouldn't be arriving home from university until the following day, but his father had written to him of the news that he would have another sister.
Priscilla was on her feet the minute her husband walked into the room, her hazel eyes sparkling as she moved toward Maria. Kneeling in front of her newest child, she pulled her into her arms and held her close. "Welcome to the family my darling."