New York, January 2000

Jack Cole Kowalski-Harkett woke up groggily. It was winter, and it was cold in the orphanage house. He was an orphan, found abandoned on the Golden Gate Bridge and brought to New York. He had messy black hair, and intelligent brown eyes. He liked to read, but at the same time, he was also street-smart.

He often wondered what his parents would be like. Different types of people, surely. Like, one who's studious and prim and proper, the other a stealthy cunning pickpocket. He wondered how they met each other.

Though Jack is an orphan, he had an air of sophistication. Jealous orphans called him "Polish-Posh. But he didn't care. He was aristocracy.

Jack likes to use long words; he had a photographic memory, meaning he tops the class and gets extra "pocketmoney". He's dangerous, a killer-gentleman.

He wondered about his name. He didn't mind about Jack, though it sounded common, and uncouth like, like a pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow. Cole was a common enough middle name, but Kowalski-Harkett… Sounds like Polish. And Harkett. There was a guy living a century ago with that surname.

Anyway, "Pirates of the Caribbean" was hot in the cinemas, and Cole was a handsome devil in Charmed, the acclaimed television series, and it was probably cool to be mix-blood, like Polish-English.

Then, a bell gonged and disrupted Jack's thoughts. Mother Molly, the orphanage mistress, bustled into Jack's room, which he shared with another boy, Ben. Ben was still sound asleep. Mother Molly rushed up to them.

"Jack! Benedict! Wake up now! Some rich Parisians have come to adopt you!" Mother Molly cried.

Ben sat up straight, his fair hair touseled, but his cornflower blue eyes shining bright. "Oh, cor! Are we really getting adopted?" He asked excitedly. Ben had always dreamed of people adopting him.

Mother Molly nodded. "Make yourselves presentable!" she called. Ben didn't need another telling. He grabbed his cleanest clothes (a long-sleeved shirt and black pants) and went to the bathroom. Jack just sighed, and wore some T-shirt and jeans.

On his way out, Jack passed by Em's room. Emily Cole was Benedict Cole's sister. Their mother had died during childbirth, and their father soon after that, and their kind guardians, Uncle Edwin and Gramp Adensnap, had died eight years ago, when Em was six and Ben was five. Since then, they had been living at London's Orphanage House.

Em was dressed in a proper dress. She pulled a face, "Why can't I just wear T-shirt and jeans like you?" she grumbled. "Just because Ben's like that, it doesn't mean I enjoy wearing 'elegant dresses'!" Jack burst out laughing. Em was a right tomboy. Even so, Em was a beauty, with thick mahogany hair, warm brown eyes, and delicate features. Jack somehow felt an electric bolt run through him."

They all assembled in the sitting room. The couple was a vicomte and his wife.

Vicomte de Montargis was a Frenchman. He was appointed as embassador for France, so he came here. He was a very large and jolly man. His wife was an exquisite and stern lady. They had with him a little girl of ten, looking elegant and spoilt with golden hair and blue eyes.

"Nice to meet you. My name is Henri de Montargis, but you may call me Uncle Henri. This is my wife, you should call her Mrs. de Montargis. And this is my daughter, Dominique. My ancestors have left a will indicating that we must always help Coles and Harketts. So now we're adopting you. Come along now."

Ben, Em, and Jack were ushered into a limousine. Even Jack was awed by the automobile. Ben and Em looked around in wonder. The vicomte told his chauffeur to drive back home. Dominique began telling them all about her house.

"Moi house, is tres big! Trois floors up! Tres grand, many servants! Moi love moi home!" Dominique cried.Em smiled politely and whispered to the boys, "Talking in such a smattering of French and English, it's so messy!"

Ben and Jack grinned. Em was in her school teacher mode, again.

"Moi stay in your house avec plasir. Merci bien, madame, monsieur, mademoiselle." Em smiled back. The vicomte's wife looked shocked that Em knew how to speak French, and was now copying Dominique's queer mixture of English and French. She glared at Dominique.

"Dominique, stop speaking like that!" she scolded. "Either talk in proper English or French, not both!"

Poor Dominique looked surprised at this. The vicomte cleared his throat. "And now, we're at my house."

Ben, Em, and Jack got out and simply look at the building. Dominique was right. It was grand and big. A butler stood outside, welcoming them home.

"Bonjour, Monsieur!" The butler greeted. The vicomte simply nodded. Mrs de Montargis led them to the kitchen.

"Voulez-vous quelque choses à manger, choses à boire?" she asked.

"Oui," Em said.

"Would you like something to eat, and something to drink?" The vicomte translated.

"Oh, yes!" Ben and Jack chorused.

"Qu'est-ce que vous voulez avez?"Mrs de Montargis asked.

"Une limonade, s'il vous," Em said back.

Jack, deciding he had had enough of translating, said, "Us too!"

Mrs de Montargis glared daggers at Jack and told the cook. The cook brought out three cups of lemonade.

"Bon appétit, children!" The vicomte smiled, and proceeded to his study. Mrs de Montargis went to the living room to sew, and Dominique went to play in the garden.

"Phew! I can't stand that woman! So proud, and always speaking in a foreign language!" Jack said.

Ben agreed. "Looks like now she met her match, Em. You were wonderful. Even though you only learnt a year of French."

Em blushed. "I had a good memory, that's all. Besides, I love French."

Jack rolled his eyes. "Yeah, and Latin, Japanese, and the Mayan language too."

They stopped talking when Dominique came back. "Play?" she asked Em, holding up a doll. Jack and Ben smiled. Em hates dolls.

Em forced a smile. "Er, non, belle. I'm tres busy avez le limonade."

Dominique frowned. "Then je voudrais bring you to your rooms.

That's Benedict and Jack's room. Emily, you will be sharing a room with moi."

Em's heart sank. Share a room with a spoilt rich brat?

"Moi parents buy new clothes for you. It's in there." She pointed to a gilded wardrobe. "Ben's and Jack's clothes are in… Où are they?"

Ben and Jack had taken the time to escape to their rooms.