Snow swirled down from the London night as Sir Jacob Frye hurried down the street. He only had one thing on his mind, and he was damned if anything got in his way. He knew deep in his heart that he would not hesitate to stoop to killing if it meant that the mission would be over and done with faster.
Within minutes, the Black Thorn came into view, and if anything, the sight of the brothel only made the man speed up until he was almost at a sprint. He reached the front doors and entered, his eyes alive with fury.
“Where is the madame?” he demanded to know in a furious voice. All activity inside the brothel came to a halt at the angry man glared into nothingness.
“Ah, welcome back-” cooed the woman, scuttling out from her office, wearing too much makeup and a twitching smile. She ignored the death stared the man was giving her as she turned and waved over a prostitute. “Lily dear, can you go get a room-”
“I’m not here for pleasure,” growled Jacob, taking out a letter from the pocket of his coat and shoving it into the woman’s hands. “Where is she?”
The madame’s face turned ugly at the words on the letter and barked out a cruel laugh.
“You fancy a go with her? Be my-” she started to scoff before being slammed into the wall, Jacob’s hands wrapped around her throat. The letter in her hands fluttered down to the floor.
“You offer her body out?” Jacob’s fingers began to squeeze the air from her throat as anger clouded his vision. “I’ll ask once more- where is she?”
“Madame keeps her in the attic,” Lily offered, her tired eyes strong and determined. “Follow me.”
She limped her way towards the stairs and Jacob all but threw the madame from his sight before hurrying after the young woman. They passed by many bedrooms, where loud sounds of women pleasuring their customers reached Jacob’s ears. He gritted his teeth and focused on reaching the attic with Lily.
Lily found a candle and lit it, holding the source of light close to her as she ventured deeper into the hallway, stopping below a trapdoor and pointing to it.
“She’s up there,” she explained. “Anna?”
Jacob’s heart clenched in his chest as he waited for some sign. Slowly, the trapdoor loudly creaked open and a dirty face peered out at the assassin. Jacob had to steady himself at the sight of the four year old girl. Right off the bat, he knew that she was the spitting image of her mother, with her flaming red hair and delicate bone structure. But the eyes that were staring down at him were a dark hazel green.
“Anna,” Jacob smiled at her, removing his hat. “I’m here to take you to a better life- a life that you deserve.”
A small smile crept onto her face and she disappeared from the trapdoor, leaving it open. She appeared a moment later, draped in a thin shawl and carrying an old doll. She sat on the edge of the trapdoor, her skinny legs and dirty, bare feet dangling.
“You’ll catch me?” she whispered in a hungry voice.
“I promise,” he smiled, holding his arms open to show her that he would indeed keep his promise. She hesitated before taking a leap of faith with her eyes squeezed shut. Jacob caught her, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from swearing- Anna weighed barely anything at all.
“Are you ready to leave here and start a new life?” he asked her softly, tucking her into his jacket, hoping to banish the frigid early December chill from snuffing out her already dim flame of life. Slowly, she nodded, resting her head against his collarbone. Jacob wasted no time at all, whisking the little girl from the brothel and into a carriage, giving the driver stern directions to make all haste to his home.
“Here.” Jacob reached into his jacket and came up with a small loaf of bread, still piping hot. He had barely handed it off to the starved child when it disappeared into her mouth.
“Where take me?” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes as she snuggled in closer to him.
Jacob chuckled humorlessly at her question before answering, “I’m taking you home. You’ll meet my wife tonight- she have a bath and supper ready for you- and my sons, Emmett and Jack, tomorrow.”
“Why?” she asked, letting out a giant yawn as Jacob tapped her cheek.
“Please stay awake, love,” he begged her. “Emmett and Jack were already in bed when I received the letter alerting me of your existent, and I should hope that they remain in bed.”
When Jacob hurried into the house, he saw that Emmett and Jack were, despite his words to Anna, up and helping his wife get ready for the newest member of the family.
“Jacob, in here,” Elena Frye ordered her husband, taking the girl from him, ignoring all the dirt and grime that was getting on her nightgown. At once, the child began to whimper and reached out for the man, her whines growing louder by the second.
“Don’t worry, Anna,” Jacob soothed her as Elena set the girl into a warm bath after peeling off her torn dress. “I’m not going anywhere, I promise, love.”
Anna settled down some at his words, keeping still as Elena began to wash her hair.
“There we are,” cooed the mother, rinsing the redhead little girl. “Doesn’t that feel good?” Anna giggled and patted the water a little, making sure not to accidently splash water outside the tub. Elena gently rubbed the girl’s back, washing away the grime that clung to her like a second skin.
The water turned black and Elena gently lifted Anna out of the tub, wrapping her in a fluffy towel.
“Jack, can you please go and fetch one of Emmett’s nightshirts?” she called out and a shuffling sound at the door caught the girl’s attention. She looked and saw two young boys hurrying to go and get what Elena had asked them to bring to her.
Jacob chuckled and stood from where he’d been kneeling next to the tub, offering assistance. Anna reached out for him once more, and Elena finally passed the small daughter to her father.
“I thought the boys would be sound asleep by now,” he commented as Jack raced into the bathroom, with Emmett close on his heels. The older boy skidded to a stop, accidently causing for the smaller boy to plow into him and almost fall.
“Emmett, go to bed,” Jack urged his little brother.
“No,” protested the little five year old with a pout, rubbing at his eyes with a fist. “I wanna meet my new sister!”
Elena sighed exasperatedly at her sons before telling her husband, “They insisted on staying up after you went barging out.”
Jacob chuckled once more as he accepted the nightshirt from Jack and quickly dressed Anna.
“I don’t blame them,” he said, hoisting the little four year old up further into his arms. Anna rested her head onto her father’s shoulder, already feeling better. “Are you hungry?”
“I am, I am!” chanted Emmett with a little dance.
“You’re always hungry,” Jack pointed out, to which his brother’s response was to poke his tongue out at him.
“Boys,” Elena said in a warning tone of voice. “A quick midnight snack for the two of you, then off to bed!”
A few minutes later, Jacob was feeding his daughter, who was perched in his lap while Jack and Emmett feasted on cookies and milk. Elena had gone up to ready the guest room for Anna, and told Jacob to make sure that the boys went straight to bed after finishing their snack.
“Papa, can we help tuck in our sister?” Emmett asked, finishing his cookie first and watching the girl drift off to sleep in her father’s arms.
Jacob thought for a moment before agreeing. “But then, it’s off to bed!” He smiled down at Anna, who was almost sound asleep in his arms and kissed her head.
He led the way up the stairs, slow enough so that Anna could be lulled to sleep. By the time they reached the guest bedroom, the girl was sound asleep in her father’s arms.
Jacob gently placed her into the giant bed, pulling up the covers and tucking her in securely. Emmett came into the room, having located Anna’s old doll, and tucked it in next to her before taking a step back.
Jacob smiled fondly at his sons before kissing Anna on the forehead.
“Sleep tight, love,” he murmured softly before dimming the lamp and exitig, leaving the door open a crack.
Chapter 2: chapter 2
In the middle of the night, Jacob woke up with a start. It only took him a moment to realize that muffled weeping was coming from Anna’s room. He threw back the covers, unintentionally waking up Elena, who sat up as well.
“Do you think she had a nightmare?” wondered the mother, yawning quietly behind her hand before getting up as well. “I’ll go make some hot cocoa.”
When Jacob entered Anna’s bedroom, his nose was automatically met with the foul smell of urine, and he knew what had happened. A quiet chuckle escaped his mouth as he sat on the bed, alerting his daughter to her father’s presence. She looked up at him with fear in her watery eyes.
“Oh, Anna,” he murmured softly, not moving. A few minutes passed like this and finally the small girl crawled into his lap.
“I’m sorry…” she choked out through a whimper.
Jacob placed a hand on her head, noticing how she flinched back from his gentle touch, and began to comb his fingers through her freshly washed hair.
”Don’t cry, I’m not angry at you, my love,” he told her in a quiet voice. At his soothing words, Anna threw her arms around him and snuggled deeper into his chest. Jacob stood with the child in his arms and went to the bathroom, where he quickly cleaned her up and placed her into a cloth diaper.
Elena was pouring hot cocoa into three mugs when Jacob and Anna made their way downstairs and she automatically seemed to know what had happened.
“I’ll go take care of the bed,” she announced, kissing her husband on the cheek and bustling out the kitchen and towards the stairs.
Jacob lifted Anna onto the counter and helped her choose a mug- it didn’t escape his notice that she choose the smallest mug. When she took her first sip, her eyes widened in delight and Jacob had to chuckle as she gulped the hot drink down.
When she finally lowered the mug, she had a brown mustache on her upper lip. Jacob chuckled once more and used his thumb to gently wipe away the lingering drink. Anna made a face and giggled as Jacob wiped the finger on a dishcloth before quickly having his own drink. When he finished, he couldn’t help but notice that little Anna was almost sound asleep.
“Come on love, it’s time for bed,” he told her firmly, lifting her up into his arms once more and kissing her nose. Anna yawned and rested her head onto his shoulder, already almost asleep. Jacob carried her up the stairs, humming a quiet song as to help her fall asleep quicker. When he reached her room, he found Elena pulling back the covers for the girl to snuggle into and get comfortable.
Man and wife kissed before laying Anna down together, lovingly careful as they tucked her in together. Jacob saw the doll she had brought with her and placed it under the covers as well. Anna smiled in her sleep and nestled into the pillow more.
Jacob and Elena both left the room with the door partway open, so if Anna needed anything, all she had to do was call out.
Chapter 3: III
The following morning, Anna woke up, drowsily comfortable. She snuggled deeper into her pillows, drawing the quilt closer to her chin as she rolled over and began to drift off to sleep once more.
The door to her room opened quietly and she bolted upright in bed, terror written all over her face as a boy about two years older than she peeked into the room. His strawberry blonde curls were messy from sleep and his hazel green eyes twinkled with laughter.
“Oh good, you’re up!” he greeted her cheerfully. “Mum’s making pancakes. Are you hungry?”
She nodded, averting her eyes to her hands in her lap. The little boy seemed to notice how skittish she was and bounced into the room, taking her by the hand.
“Come on, little sister,” he coaxed her gently. “If we don’t hurry, Jack will eat all the pancakes!”
Anna silently threw back the covers and climbed out of the bed, accidently flashing her diaper at him.
“Don’t worry, little sister,” Emmett told her as he guided her to the kitchen by the hand. “Me and Jack will protect you.”
When the two arrived at the kitchen, Anna saw the Frye family- her family- for the first time. Her father was a handsome man in his mid twenties with dark brown hair and a tall build. His wife, Elena, was a sweet motherly woman with a kind face and pump body. Jack was a blonde nine year old lad with bright blue eyes and an athletic body.
The three in the kitchen looked up as Emmett, leading Anna, entered the kitchen. Elena paused in her cooking to smile at Anna while Jacob stood from the table and scooped his two children into his arms.
“Good morning, Anna, Emmett,” he greeted them happily, sitting back down with a child on each knee. “How did you sleep?”
Emmett looked at Anna and she knew that the entire family was waiting for her answer.
“Okay…” she mumbled, burying her face in her father’s neck and breathing in his comforting smell. She didn’t see the looks that Jacob and Elena exchanged, nor did she catch Jack swiping a handful of blue berries from the counter.
She peeked out at Jack and saw him holding a berry for her to eat. She opened her mouth and he popped in the treat.
“Jack!” Elena scolded him with a smile. “If you would just wait, breakfast will be ready in two minutes!”
“Sorry,” he said. “Little Anna looks starved.”
The girl smiled at her nickname as he popped another blueberry into her mouth. She was so hungry!
“Here’s pancakes!” Elena sang out as she brought the platter over to the table and set it in the middle. Emmett scrambled off of Jacob’s lap to snag a chair as Jack filled two plates, one noticeably fuller.
“Don’t worry Jacob, I’ll feed Little Anna,” Jack told his mentor as he began to cut the pancakes into small bites. Anna reached around him and snagged a perfectly round pancake and began to stuff it into her mouth. “Small bites! Yikes, you’ll choke!”
Anna ignored the looks on the entire family’s face as she continued to stuff herself, moaning at how delicious the treat tasted. When she had finished, Jack was holding a fork out to feed her himself. The girl allowed him to fuss over her, finding happiness for the first time in her life.
Chapter 4: chapter 4
Anna learns about Christmas
Two weeks passed. Emmett and Jack learned to be quiet whenever they played with Anna, or else she would hide behind a sofa for under a table in fear from the gleefully raised voices. Elena had almost immediately begun to make little outfits for Anna, happily breaking out her knitting needles and sewing basket, refusing to stop even when the child had more clothes than Jacob, Emmett, Jack and herself had combined. Jacob loved spending time with Anna in his lap as he read quietly to himself or penned a letter to the council, at the dinner table for meals or as the two napped together.
Little Anna was slowly fitting into the family with a few bumps along the way. She still wet her bed on occasion, and she turned out to be terrified of the dark- just going down the hallway at night on her own was enough to make her start crying uncontrollably. Jack and Emmett have taken to sleeping in her room, switching off every other night to help her if she should need it.
It soon was December, and Anna refused to go anywhere without being wrapped in a blanket, much to Jacob’s amusement. Every day when the little girl would come out of her room, there would be something new set up somewhere in the house- tinsel on the mantle, mistletoe tucked away in corners, and little toy soldiers marching in single file line across tables.
“It’s almost Christmas!” Emmett gleefully told Anna while she was busy helping her big brothers decorate the tree. The six year old lad caught the confused look on his little sister’s face. “Don’t you know what Christmas is?” Anna shook her head, quietly chewing at the end of one of her braids, a calming tactic that she seemed to have picked up at an early age.
That was all that Emmett needed to know before wondrous words began to tumble out of his mouth- sweets, presents and sleigh rides, caroling, feasts and toys! Little Anna soon became overwhelmed with information as she took in all of Emmett’s seemingly exaggerated tales. The front door opened to reveal Jack and Jacob, both with rosy cheeks and frostbitten noses. The nine year old lad immediately made a beeline for his little sister, cutting of Emmett as he was telling his little sister how their mother made hard candies.
“Hello, Little Anna,” Jack greeted her fondly, hoisting her up into his arms. The girl snatched his cabbie cap from his head and plopped it down on herself, squealing as the hat slid down over her eyes. She wrapped her arms around her big brother’s neck, shivering as the melting snow from his jacket chilled her arms.
Jacob chortled at how close his children were before catching Elena around the waist and kissing her softly. She leaned into her husband, giggling as he twirled her around the room, the children watching with acute attention.
Jack began to dance with Anna still in his arms, making her yawn and rest her head on his shoulder. In close to no time, she was sound asleep, but Jack still kept dancing.
“Don’t worry, Little Anna,” he whispered to the small girl, planting a loving kiss on her forehead. “I’ll always watch over you and protect you, no matter what. I promise.”