Chapter One

London, England, 1904

When I woke up this morning, I didn't realize how much my life would change through the day.

I awoke to the sound of my brothers running through the hallways of our home, screaming in their play. Quickly, I dressed and put my hair up, ready to help my mother by caring for my younger siblings.

When I step out of my bedroom, Earl, who is six, throws himself around my legs, and Clyde, who is eight does the same.

"Aren't you two getting a bit too old for these games?" I asked them, not really scolding them, a bright smile on my face. They laughed and ran away. Chuckling, I go down stairs to see my mother balancing Archie on her hip while trying to take a pen away from Ben.

"Ben, listen to your mother, and let go!" She said, trying to pry the pan from his fingers

"No!" he cried, twisting away from her. I couldn't help but smile as I stepped forward to grab the pen from Ben.

"Angel!" He screamed and gave me his angry face.

"You need to listen," I said, lifting Archie out of mother's arms.

"Thank you, Angel," Mother said before rushing after Ben, who was off to cause more trouble.

Through the rest of the day I kept an eye on Earl, Clyde, and Archie. My other brothers didn't need me to look out for them.

An hour before dinner, my mother said, "You'd best change into a nice dress and fix your hair. Your father is bringing home someone from the bank."

So, I put on my best dress and made my hair up fancy, wanting to impress whoever our guest was. I came downstairs when I heard father walk through the door, little Archie balanced on my hip. I almost gasped when I saw our guest.

He was a young man, though older than me, with black hair and deep blue eyes. His eyes met mine and I blushed. He was handsome! Letting my eyes travel quickly down his body, I saw that he was fit and toned even though I was sure he worked at a desk.

"Ah, Angel. I'd like you to meet Mr. John Clark." My father said with a smile that told me he knew I approved of Mr. Clark.

I nodded at him, sweeping a piece of hair behind my ear. Smoothing my dress, I hoped and prayed that I looked decent. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Clark."

"Ms. Angel." he replied, giving a little bow at the hips. A piece of his dark hair fell across his forehead and for some odd reason I wanted to swipe it gently back into place. Taking a few deep breaths, I tried to calm my wildly beating heart.

Mr. Clark talked with my father about the bank, while my mother and I sat and listened. It was long before we were called in for dinner.

I kept quiet through the meal, though I noticed that John's eyes strayed to my face several times, always making me blush.

After dinner, we sat in the sitting room, when my mother said,

"Angel, why don't you sing for us?"

My heart sunk into my stomach and I glanced at Mr. Clark. Please, please say it isn't necessary.

"That would be wonderful," he said instead. "Actually, I play the piano, so maybe I could play as you sing."

I relaxed a little. "Yes, I'd like that."

Mr. Clark went to the piano and I stood beside him. his fingers rested on the keys for a moment before he started to play "The Solid Rock."

I sang along and was surprised when he joined in with me. His eyes stayed on me as we sang, and a hot blush covered my face and neck.

Before Mr. Clark left, he went with my father into the office, and they shut the door behind them. I couldn't help but wonder what they were talking about.

"Angel!" Felix called and I turned to him. "Ben wants you to tuck him in."

I smiled and went upstairs, ready to kiss all my little brothers goodnight.

"Angel, will you sing me to sleep?" Ben asked as I sat beside him on the bed. I didn't really want to sing again, but I couldn't resist his cheeky smile. After singing "Amazing Grace" two times, he finally fell asleep.

When I went back downstairs, Mr. Clark was just leaving.

"Good night, Ms. Angel," he said with another bow. I nodded in return, too shy to say it back. When the door closed behind him, my father turned to me, a grin on his face and his hazel eyes sparkling.

"Angel, he wishes to court you," he said, and my face blazed red again.

"He did?" I asked, shock filling my voice. Why would anyone want to court me?

"He did. I told him that I approved, and if you agreed, you two may court. What do you say?"

My heart pounded and I could hardly think. He would be my very first beau. He was very handsome, and from what I saw, he was very kind and gentlemanly. "I'll court him," I whispered, excitement making my stomach twist and turn.

"Good. I've worked with John for a while now, and he is a godly, kind young man." My father said, patting my arm.

I just nodded before turning and hurrying up the stairs to my room. I went to my window and looked up at the few stars I could see. London was always so clouded and smoggy.

"I have a beau," I whispered up at the night sky. It was about time I started courting. At eighteen, it was close to the time I should marry. Marriage. My heart skipped a beat. If everything worked out alright, Mr. Clark and I would be married. Oh, but it's much too soon to think about that.

There was a knock on the door and Mother stuck her head in.

"Can I talk to you, darling?" She asked and I nodded, moving to the bed and patting it for her to sit down. She came in and sat beside me.

"I wanted to talk to you about men," she said and I blushed a little.

"Go on," I said, hoping she wouldn't say anything that would scare me away from Mr. Clark.

"Well, men are very passionate creatures. John might try to...fool around with you," she said and I clapped my hands over my ears.

"No, he won't. I won't allow it." I muttered. "Let's not talk about this."

"Honey, if you're courting somebody, I want you to know these things." Though she wasn't smiling, her brown eyes held a glint of laughter. "I've told you how I was foolish when I was young. I don't want you to make the same mistakes as I made."

I removed my hands from my ears and looked into my mother's eyes. "I promise you, I will remember everything you have taught me. If John wants to fool around, then I will stop courting him. I'm not a man's plaything."

She nodded, taking my hands in hers. "Good girl, Angel. I love you, sweetheart."

"I love you, too."

A few days later, Mr. Clark came again, this time to call on me. I answered the door to find Mr. Clark standing there in a suit, with flowers. His hair was slicked back and his face smooth, free of stubble. His blue eyes sparkled like he knew a secret.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Angel," he said with a smile that made my heart speed up.

"Come in, Mr. Clark," I said, stepping back so he could enter. Clyde, Earl, and Ben all stood in the parlor, watching Mr. Clark. Ben's mouth was haning open for some reason, Clyde was eyeing him suspiciously, and Earl was grinning.

"Would you like to sit in the garden and drink lemonade?" I asked, my voice shaking a little bit.

"That's sounds great," he said and I called for Mother and told her our plans.

"I know I should keep an eye on you two, but I have to watch Archie. I'll send Morris out with you," she said and I tried to hold back a groan. Morris was my oldest brother. At sixteen, he was still a pest to me.

We continued out to the garden, which was starting to die. The trees were beautiful, turning gold, red, orange, and purple. I couldn't believe November was only a week away.

Mr. Clark and I sat on a stone bench, far enough apart to be proper.

"How has your day been?" He asked, his black hair ruffled by the breeze. My gosh, he was handsome.

"Good. How was yours?" I asked, hoping he couldn't hear how nervous I was.

"Long. I wanted to get here so I could get to know you." He grinned, showing off his beautiful white teeth. It seemed like everything about him was perfect.

Morris walked up, sitting down on the bench across from us. He glared at Mr. Clark. I frowned at him, even though he wasn't looking at me.

"May I ask how old you are, Mr. Clark?" I asked, trying to focus on my beau, not my brother.

"Twenty two," He answered, and I noticed how his eyes ran over my body. I didn't know what to do or say, so I remained silent.

"What books do you like?" Mr. Clark asked, and I relieved that he was willing to carry the conversation.

"Well, my favorite book is A Tale of Two Cities," I answered, watching two sparrows hop along under a bush. "What's your favorite book?"

"I'm not much of a reader," he said and laughed. I looked up at him, into those brilliant blue eyes.

"Your eyes..." I started to say shyly, "are as blue as the ocean. I could drown in them." Oh, gosh, did I just say that aloud? My face blazed red, my whole body turning hot from my flirtatious words.

His face softened and his eyes held laughter. "I wouldn't want you to drown."

Blushing, I glanced down. "Tell me about your family."

"I grew up in Warwickshire, and am a only child. My parents still live there. We are no longer in touch. They wanted me to become a preacher, but I didn't feel I was being called to be one, and now they think I'm wasting my life away working at a bank," he said, a tiny frown forming between his eyebrows.

"I'm sorry. They just don't understand you," I said, wanting to take his hand and comfort him. Instead I offered him a compassionate smile.

"You're a sweetheart, aren't you?" he said and reached out to touch my cheek, but then my brother cleared his throat and Mr. Clark's hand fell back into his lap.

There was quiet for a while as I gazed into his eyes, the only sounds were the birds chirping in the treetops and leaves rattling in the breeze.

Children's laughter filled the air as Ben and Earl came running through the garden. They came over to me and Earl sat between me and Mr. Clark, Ben sat in my lap.

"Are you gonna marry Sissy?" Earl asked, gazing up at Mr. Clark.

He laughed and ruffled the boy's hair. "I'll let you know as soon as I plan to ask."

Earl giggled and looked at me with his big brown eyes. "Would you say yes?"

I grinned and shook my head at him. "Six year old boys shouldn't be worried about their sisters getting married."

"But if you marry him, you'll leave and go live with him. I don't want you to go." Earl said, his eyes welling with tears.

Hugging him close, I placed a kiss on top of his head. "I'm not going anywhere, Earl."

Ben turned in my lap and looked at me. "You not leaving?"

Ah, Ben was such a cute little four year old. "No, little buddy."

Ben nodded, his dark hair shining in the sun. He looked at Mr. Clark and asked,

"You play hide and seek with us?"

Before Mr. Clark could answer, I said, "Oh, honey, I'm sure he doesn't want to play. But I promise to play with you later."

"Actually, I'd love to play." Mr. Clark said. "I'll count while you hide. I'm sure Angel will play, too." He looked at me with a charming smile.

"Of course. Begin courting," I said and took my brothers' hands. "Come, let's hide!"

Mr. Clark turned his back and covered his eyes. "One...two...three..."

Earl crawled under a bush, getting dirt all over himself. Ben huddled behind a water fountain, while I darted behind a tree.

"Twenty! Ready or not, here I come!" Mr. Clark called and I heard his footsteps coming closer. Ben squealed when Mr. Clark found him, and they both laughed.

"Come, Ben. You must help me find your brother and sister." I heard him say, coming closer yet to the tree I hid behind.

"I know where Sissy is." Ben said and I rolled my eyes. Thanks a lot, little Ben. Mr. Clark and Ben popped around the tree.

"Boo!" Ben said and I laughed, sweeping him up in my arms.

"Let's find Earl," I said and we crept through the garden, searching for him. I knew where he was hiding, but didn't want to give him away. Finally Ben shouted,

"Under the bush!"

Earl emerged, covered in dirt and dead leaves, a playful grin on his face.

"Alright, you two. Go inside and see if Mama will give you a snack before dinner. And Earl, she'll scold you for playing in the dirt, so be respectful to her if she does."

The boys nodded before taking off for the house.

"I'm sorry they've bothered our courting time," I said, turning to face Mr. Clark. Morris was still sitting on the bench, looking bored out of his mind. I almost felt sorry for him.

"Don't be, I had fun," he said with a smile. "You'll be a fantastic mother some day."

Again I blushed, wondering if Mr. Clark wanted me to be the mother of his children. Surely because we'd just met, that wasn't the case. "Thank you," I whispered, not knowing what else to say.

"Well, I should probably be going. Don't want to out stay my welcome."

"You are always welcome, Mr. Clark," I said, not wanting him to leave.

"Call me John. And thank you," he said, giving a polite nod. "But it's almost dinner time and I must be heading home."

I walked with him to the door, where John kissed my hand goodbye.

After he was gone, I ran up to my bedroom and looked at myself in the mirror. My face was flushed, my eyes sparkling, and my lips spread in a wide grin. That was the best afternoon of my entire life! Twirling around my room, I imagined myself in his arms, dancing the night away.

Through November and into the New Year John visited me, and soon we were close friends along with being sweethearts. Though I loved my time with just me and him, and Morris watching over us, I loved seeing him with my little brothers. He always played with them and never got frustrated with them. As I sat and watched them play, I knew he'd make a fantastic father.