Prologue (Birth in Bloom)
It was a stormy day in early April when a baby girl took her first breath and filled the over-charged air of the delivery room with her triumphant cry of arrival. There was a collective sigh of relief and awe. Life had just burst into the room. And it was a healthy, five-pound, eight-ounce bundle of life.
“It’s a girl,” announced Doctor Elaine Henderson. “But we’ve still got the next one. Come on, Del. You can do it. Just push.”
The mother took in a breath and gritted her teeth as the father provided a hand to hold and encouraging words. A storm calmed outside, but it was background, unimportant to what was going on in this room at this moment. More life arrived, in the form of a six-pound, three-ounce baby boy.
The parents huddled together, happy, tired, and proud. Laine passed the baby off to a British nurse who cleaned and dressed the babies while she finished the birthing process. The nurse, knowing the doctor’s relationship to the tired mother and the pleased father, passed the baby girl to Laine first after the baby was cleaned and wrapped in a pink blanket. She cleaned the baby boy and put him directly in his father’s arms.
“Here we go,” Laine murmured as she walked to her little sister with her niece in her arms. “Now the little ones get to see their mommy and daddy.”
Adelaide Henderson, better known as Della, felt tears in her eyes as she accepted her child from her older sister. All feelings of fatigue were burned away, overshadowed by an immense wave of love. Laine stepped away to allow the father to get a good look at his baby girl. They locked eyes. He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead for giving him the ultimate gift.
“What are we going to name them?” Orlando Bloom asked softly.
Della stared down at her little girl’s relaxed face. She had her mother’s nose. “I don’t know. What do you think?”
Orlando thought for a moment. They had talked about names, but had never settled on one. They had agreed that they would choose upon the children’s birth. Looking down at his daughter, he said the first name that came to mind.
“Rosalind,” Orlando responded. “From As You Like It.”
No doubt that he would pick a Shakespearean character for inspiration for a name since his own name was the name of a Shakespearean character. Della liked the name. However, before she spoke, the sun broke out from behind dark, stormy clouds, and filled the room with golden light. Suddenly, Della smiled with her own inspiration.
“Aurora,” Della supplied. “For the goddess of the dawn.”
Something clicked in Orlando’s brain. Yes, Aurora and Rosalind would be perfect names. But what combination of them?
“Aurora Rosalind,” Orlando declared suddenly. “Aurora Rosalind Bloom.”
Della’s smile turned into a full-out grin. “Perfect.”
As if feeling like he was being neglected, the little bundle in Orlando’s arms began to cry in earnest. They looked at each other again.
“Got any ideas for this little lad?” Orlando asked.
Della considered this a moment. “Orlando Junior?”
“This is not the time to mess me about, love,” Orlando told her, and she pursed her lips to keep from laughing.
* * *
A few moments later, the weary group of Margaret Larkin, Nicholas Barton, Monique Johnson, Itazura Satsu, and Penelope Henderson crowded in the window of the nursery, clamoring to get a look of the Bloom twins.
“Where the bloody hell are they?” demanded Nick. “I want to see them.”
“Shut up,” Monique snapped, slapping him on the arm. “This is a hospital, dammit.”
Nick grumbled and didn’t say anything.
A few moments later, two nurses appeared behind the glass with two newborns. Itazura gasped loudly as they were placed in their beds. She pointed at them as the nurses placed a placard on the front of their beds. Aurora Rosalind Bloom. August Rutherford Bloom. The group began to ooh and aww over the Bloom twins.
“Look at them!” Monique exclaimed in awe. “They’re so cute!”
“Who do you think they look like?” Itazura asked.
“Aurora looks like Della, I think,” Margo said. “August looks like a cross in between.”
On the other side of the glass, Aurora opened her mouth and started crying. August just opened his mouth and yawned. He opened his eyes and blinked. The group awed again.
“Brown eyes,” Megami commented. “They’re probably going to look like Orlando a little. Very exotic.”
“They’re going be beautiful,” Nick said.
Monique hit him again. “You idiot. They are beautiful.”
As Nick complained, Penny watched her new niece and nephew closely. A nurse consoled Aurora and she quieted. August just shifted and went off to sleep.
“All I can say is that this is going to be an interesting adventure,” Penny remarked. And she was quite right.