There was a knock on my study door before it opened. Alden stepped inside, leaving the door open.
“Sir, I think you should come to the door,” he said.
I frowned. Alden has been with me for five years. In that time, he has never asked me to come to the front door with him. He asks me where I’d like the visitor to be escorted to if he isn’t sure if it was pleasure or business. I did not question him but just pushed my chair back and followed him out of the room. The front door was closed and three people stood in front of it. I looked at Alden.
“Mr. Price,” I said to my solicitor. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
I glanced at the little girl hiding behind the woman standing beside Price. I recognized the woman as an assistant that works in Price’s office. The girl was clinging to her hand. All I could make out were her dark curls.
“Can we sit?”
I looked at Alden who led us into the parlor on the other side of the front door. The woman sat in a chair whose back was to the window and put the girl in her lap. I looked at her. She had beautiful hazel eyes, chubby cheeks, and a mess of dark curls. Her skin was a golden brown and she looked to be one or two years old. She looked familiar but I knew I’d never seen her before. Her eyes gave me pause. Price sat on the couch and I sat in the chair directly across from where the woman and little girl were sitting.
“Alden, please have Ayleen bring tea and coffee for us. And some milk and cookies for the little princess,” I said.
She nodded and left the room. I turned my attention back to Price. I was starting to get impatient. He seemed to get that and started pulling papers out of his briefcase.
“Do you remember a woman named Rosella Moore?”
“She worked at The Whispering Ghost.”
“I believe she was a waitress,” he said. “She had golden brown skin, dark brown hair, and green eyes. Average height. I think you met her a couple of years ago.”
I looked at the little girl again and I knew who Rosella was. I had favored her for a few months before she disappeared.
Ayleen came in with refreshments. The little girl jumped off the woman’s lap and walked to the table where Ayleen had set the tray. The little girl sat on the floor in front of the table and Ayleen set the plate with two cookies in front of her.
“Be careful with the milk, sweetheart,” she said to her.
“Okay,” the girl said in a sweet voice.
She picked up one of the cookies and took a bite. Ayleen smiled at her before turning to us. She poured me a cup of black coffee and handed it to me. She poured tea with a lot of milk and sugar for Price. He’s been here enough times that she knows what he likes.
“And what would you like, ma’am?”
“Tea with a splash of milk and plenty of sugar.”
She gave the woman the cup once she finished. We waited until she left the room before Price continued.
“Anyway, she claims you are the father of Aviana. She has your last name and Rosella claims she’d only been intimate with you for a few months when she became pregnant and fled home to Chisendale.”
I looked at Aviana again. She was eating the second cookie and watching me. I sighed. Now I knew why her eyes drew me in. She had my eyes in shape and color. Her mouth was also shaped like mine. She looked like me and Rosella.
“Where is Rosella now?”
“She died last week.”
“That’s why she came to me. She wanted me to take care of everything. I guess she remembered me from you mentioning me. She was very sick and she wanted her child taken care of. Her mother passed last year so it was just her and her daughter. If you will not take her, then I have to turn her over to the state.”
I glanced at Aviana. She was trying to drink the milk but it was spilling down her shirt. She looked sad because I’m sure she remembered Ayleen telling her to be careful. I stood up and walked over to her. I crouched before her and helped her take a drink. She smiled at me and if it wasn’t Rosella’s smile. She was beautiful like her mother. I shook my head. How could Rosella not tell me she was pregnant? And then when she comes back she doesn’t come to me but goes to my solicitor?
“This is my daughter,” I said. “She’s staying with me.”