CHAPTER ONE

Ellie

I stared into the depths of the murky brown liquid, pondering where my life would go from here.

“Ellie,” Temperance said, drawing my attention from the cup of tea in my hand. “Are you well?”

“Of course, I’m well, Tempe. Why would you ask a silly thing like that?”

Her full lips pursed as she tried to suppress a smile, knowing that I was teasing her. Before she could respond another young lady captured the attention of my best friend.

These tea sessions were all the same and I was quite over them. I was ready for something different, an adventure that wouldn’t make me want to impale my skull with knitting needles. For now, I settled on leaving the room for a few moments to get out of having yet another inane conversation with one of the other ladies.

I excused myself and walked to the powder room just down the hall from the sitting room. When I came out, Sawyer, Temperance’s older brother, was waiting for me. He looked handsome in his pressed suit jacket and pants, and a crisp white shirt but he was the same kind of man who's been courting me since I came of age.

“Hello, Lady Weston,” he said.

“Sawyer,” I said curtly.

“Why are you always so short with me, Ellie?”

He fell into step as I headed back to the sitting room.

“I do not mean to be. Accept my apologies.”
He narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to say something but decided against it. We were just beyond the sitting room now.

“Will you go to dinner with me tonight?”
“I’m busy tonight.”
“Tomorrow?”

I wanted to decline again but of course my mother could hear of this and scold me for turning down a date with a lord’s son.

“Very well,” I said.

“Very well,” he repeated. “I will pick you up at seven tomorrow.”
He bowed to me, turning to leave me standing in the hall alone. I went into the sitting room. I only had to endure thirty more minutes before I was released from my obligations. I was one of the first to leave. I climbed into the carriage and settled into my seat. Soon we were on our way and I let out a big sigh. I just wanted something different. When I got home, I found my mother in her sitting room. I sat on the couch beside her.

“Well, hello, dear. Did you enjoy yourself?”
“No.”
It was her turn to sigh, but didn’t ask why.

“Lord Gramercy’s son, Sawyer, asked me to go out with him tomorrow for dinner.”
“Oh, and what did you say, Elisa?”

“I said yes, of course.”
She let out a breath as if she’d been holding it. “Very well. We should go shopping for a new dress.”
She stood and went into her bedroom. I wasn’t getting out of this. What Mother wanted, Mother usually got. Before I knew it, we were back in the carriage and riding into town. The carriage stopped in front of one of our favorite shops. The coachman opened the door and Mother climbed out first. I followed her into the shop. I looked around and saw that the shop was kind of full. I noticed two beautiful women with sea-green eyes, ginger and auburn hair, and golden-brown skin. They did not look that much older than me. They had six children with them.

“What are you looking at, Elisa?” Mother asked, drawing my attention back to her.

“Nothing, Mother”

She walked to the counter to get the help of a saleswoman. I sat on one of the cushioned chairs. One of the little girls wandered to where I was sitting. She was adorable with her hazel eyes, mop of curly dark hair, and light brown skin.

“Aviana,” one of the women called.

“Mommy, I say hi,” Aviana called back.

She smiled sweetly at me and I couldn’t help but smile back.

“Hi,” I said.

“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Ellie.”
Her mouth fell open and she repeated my name and giggled. Another girl wondered over who looked like Aviana with the same hazel eyes and light brown skin but her hair was reddish-brown.

“Isla, this is Ellie,” Aviana said to her little sister.

“Ellie!”

“This is sissy, Isla.”

The woman came over. “I’m so sorry. They are friendly and love to talk.”
“Oh, it is no bother at all.”
“This is Mommy,” Aviana said. “But you call her Roxie. Mommy this Ellie.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Ellie. I think they like your name.”
“It seems to be funny to them,” I said.

“It’s not hard to amuse them,” she said. “Come on girls. Let’s leave this nice lady alone. It was nice to meet you, Ellie.”
“It was nice to meet all of you too.”

Roxie held out a hand to each of the girls. They waved to me before they each took one of their mother’s hand. Soon they left the shop and my mother herded me into a dressing room where she’d had a few dresses hung for me to try on.