hers through it as they walked the few short blocks together. “I guess it’s because I always had Gabe. He ensured I never felt alone or unloved.” “You’re lucky,” Florence whispered again, unable to hide her envy. “I know. But you are alone?” Richard asked. “Yes, I have no one. My entire family died in an outbreak in one of the tenements when I was seven. I was the only one to survive, and then I was brought to an orphanage.” “Was it as horrible there as they say?” Richard studied her, his blue eyes gleaming with frank curiosity. “My aunt was always threatening to send us to an orphanage with hopes we’d be sent on one of those orphan trains or on a ship out to sea, lost forever.” He felt an involuntary shudder run through Florence and sent her an apologetic smile. “It wasn’t terrible. I was fed, educated, clothed. But it wasn’t home, and I wasn’t with my family. It’s hard to realize, at such a young age, that your life is going to be very different than you had envisioned.” “Now that I understand,” Richard murmured. He squeezed Florence’s hand as she reached her corner where he left her. “I’ll try to be on time tomorrow,” he murmured. She smiled and nodded her good-bye, her eyes luminous as they met his for a moment before she walked away. Richard stood on the corner, watching Florence bob in and out of increasingly busy foot traffic, wanting to keep her in sight for as long as possible. “Rich, what do you think you’re doing?” Richard spun to face Gabriel and missed the last few moments of watching Florence walking toward the South End. He pushed Gabriel in the chest, shoving him back a pace. “Were you following me?” “You know you’ve not been acting like yourself. It’s not like you, and I needed to know why.” “I have not been acting strangely.” Gabriel folded his arms across his chest as he watched his middle-born brother with amused disbelief. “Who is she, Rich?” “A maid who works for a widow in the South End.” “And her people?” “I don’t know much about her, Gabe. I’m just getting to know her.” “But you like her.” “Yeah. She’s feisty. A survivor.” Gabriel nodded. “Like us.” “Yeah, like us.” “And the only way you can see her is by meeting her in the morning when she goes to the bakery? You have to know Aunt or Henry will figure it out soon. Then you’ll be in a lot of trouble.” “I come this way before I grab the trolley to the smithy.” Richard flushed at Gabriel’s implacable stare. “I’m not late everyday, Gabe. I promise.” “But more than the one time?” At Richard’s nod, Gabriel shook his head. “This won’t work. You can’t be late. Old Man Harris is understanding, but . . .” Gabriel shook his head again and rubbed the back of his neck. “I thought you were as eager as I am to move out of Aunt’s house. To help me earn the money needed so that we could be free of her at last.” “I am. I didn’t expect to meet Fl . . .” “I assume she has a name. What is it?” Gabriel was unable to hide his amusement at Richard’s attempt at being circumspect. “Florence Butler.” “Hmm . . . never met any Butlers before. I wonder what tenement they lived in? How old is she, Rich? What does she want from life?” “I don’t know! We’re just getting to know each other,” Richard said. “I wouldn’t get a young lady’s hopes up if you aren’t serious about her. And, by my count, this is the third time you’ve met with her.” His deep blue eyes held a warning. “It wouldn’t be fair to her, especially as it seems she’s an orphan and has no one to look out for her.” “We’re just talking, Gabe.” Richard shook his head in exasperation. “Well, look what talking got Mum and Da.” Gabriel smiled sadly as he thought of his parents and the story his da had told about gathering his nerve to talk to the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.