"It was small, about the size of

One of her school books, and about

as deep as one too, and was made of

A dark wood that had been sanded to

Smoothness and then carved with roses."

* * *

My Dearest Natalia, May 28th, 1915

By the time you receive these letters, I am afraid that I will be long gone, either dead, or hiding, of which I am not sure. The following letters, I am sure, will instill upon you a sense of mystery and fear, but, my dear, it is all for you.

I wish that I could stay by your side and watch you grow, but as you pass your first birthday and near your second, the danger for your mother and I, and you, increases heavily. Your mother and I can no longer put your life at risk. We will go into hiding, as will you, until this danger subsides, should it ever.

If your mother could be next to me now, I know that she, as I am, would smile down upon you as you lie in your cradle. I am afraid that your mother and I got into quite a bit of trouble before you were born, and it has spun and woven itself into a dangerous, and even deadly game.

There is only one person that I can trust to keep the whereabouts of my being secret, and safe, if you should need him, but as of now, you do not. On a later date I will enclose his name and current address.

Please, My Dearest, My Heart, do not get yourself in a such a web as I have. I fear that if you do you will sorely regret it.

Happy Birthday,

Your loving father,

Joshua Haven

Natalia set the letter down carefully and raised one soft, beautiful hand to her mouth. Her gaze flickered back and forth between the letter before her, and the man, she had, up until a few moments ago, called her father. "Is it true then?"

The man in the doorway was short round, and graying, but he had been the kindest man ever present in her life. Honest and trustworthy, until she'd read the first letter, one of sixteen, unopened. The man, wore a mask of frustration on his wrinkling face, but he stayed in the doorway, respecting her confusion and fear. "We wanted to tell you, we really did, but we weren't supposed to, not until today."

Natalia lifted a hand to smooth her hair back into place. "Father–John, I suppose it should be, for now–I would like to be alone, if you don't mind, please."

John Middleton nodded and left the door way, allowing the door to slip quietly closed behind him. Natalia looked once more at the wooden box that encased the letters. It was small, about the size of her father–John's–dictionary that sat in the library. It was made of a smooth, dark wood, and engraved with delicate, and intricate roses. Such was the design so beautiful, so delicate, that she could have stared at it all evening, but what she needed was to think. So, carefully, she put the first letter back and closed the lid gently, placing it on the top of her vanity table.

Once she had dressed for bed, she sat once more on the soft blankets and began to think. For as far back as she could remember she saw only John and Isabel, her adopted parents. They had shown her kindness from the time she was adopted at age three, but now to find that they weren't even related by blood, that her life had been a lie, was certainly a shock, but wasn't something that she didn't want to believe until she received proof of some kind. For now the only evidence that she did have were the letters. She would read the next one in the morning–she was tired and knew that she really needed a good night's rest.