Home > A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(3)

A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(3)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

Through the thorny vines, I watch as the beast sprouts wings that disgorge two men. The one closer to me is dressed in blue trousers that fit as tight as riding breeches. Over his chest, he wears a shirt without collar or sleeves or buttons or cravat. He looks like a vagrant, unshaven with wild and uncut hair.

“What?” His shadowy companion throws up his arms. “Are we stopping for hallucinations now?” His voice is thick with the local accent, but it’s not quite right.

“I saw a girl in the road,” the other says. “A blonde in a blue dress.”

The first man snickers. “Like the one who shot you down tonight? Had one too many pints, and now you’re seeing her everywhere?”

“That was a purple dress. This one was blue. A long, old-fashioned dress.”

His companion gasps. “Oh, my God, you saw her!”

“Saw who?”

“The ghost of the moors.” The shadowy figure waves his hands. “Whooo! She’s coming to get you!” The figure starts climbing back into the beast. “Get back in the bloody car, or you’re walking home.”

The other man returns, and the beast roars off. I watch it go . . . and then I run.

I race back to Thorne Manor, up the stairs to that strange and empty room, where I wait to wake up.

I do not wake up. At some point, I sleep, instead, drifting into a fitful dream of hearing my son’s cries and being unable to find him. Then I wake from that to find myself on the floor of that bedroom, in a house that is and is not Thorne Manor.

I investigate. It is all I can do, short of sobbing in a corner, which would hardly solve anything. The house is empty. Long empty, although furnishings suggest it has not been abandoned. And those furnishings . . . the strangeness of them, like the house itself both familiar and not.

The kitchen is filled with devices I do not recognize, cannot fathom the purpose of, mingled with ones so familiar I find myself stroking them like talismans that will carry me home. The entire house is like that—things I know and things I do not. Somehow that is worse than if it had been entirely unfamiliar. It’s like seeing a portrait of my parents that does not quite look like them, teasing me with grief and longing and frustration.

I find water, and I find food, and I ponder my situation for a day and a night before coming to the only conclusion that makes sense. I have passed through time.

Later, I will laugh at how long it took me to realize what would seem obvious to any modern denizen of the world. Time travel is so deeply embedded in modern storytelling that it is almost cliché. Yet I come from a world that has not yet birthed H. G. Wells and his time machine. I have read both Rip Van Winkle and A Christmas Carol, which lightly touch upon the concept of moving through time, but that is nothing like what I experience.

And yet I have encountered the concept, in a way, which might be the only thing that keeps me from declaring I’ve gone mad.

It happened on my honeymoon. August and I were on a ship bound for Italy. It was our second day into the voyage, and we’d only left our stateroom for food. That morning, we were stretched out naked on our bed, the sea breeze drifting through the open porthole. I remarked on how incredible it was that we could travel to Rome in a few days, and I mused on how much faster it might be for our great-grandchildren.

“You should ask William about that,” August said, cutting an apple and handing me half. “I believe he may have secret knowledge of the future.”

“It certainly seems like it, with his gift for investing.”

“Not a gift at all. As I said, secret knowledge.” He slid closer and lowered his lips to my ear, as if we were not alone in our stateroom. “I believe he once knew a girl from the future.”

I sputtered a laugh. “The future?”

He rolled onto his back. “The summer we were fifteen, he became incredibly, irritatingly distracted, with scarcely any time at all for me.”

“No time for you? Or your youthful shenanigans?”

“Shenanigans? True, I was a bit of a rascal, getting myself into this bind and that.”

“Bind,” I murmured. “Now that is a word I have never heard used to refer to a lady’s private parts.”

He choked on a bite of apple, sputtering as he coughed it out. He waggled a finger at me. “I was a very proper young man, Rosie, who saved himself for his marriage bed.”

That had me laughing hard enough that someone rapped on our door to be sure we were all right. August assured him we were.

“So William shunned your company,” I said. “That summer you were busy falling into binds, and he did not wish to join you.”

August shook his head. “I will not rise to your bait, only saying that your opinion of my youth is very wicked. Not inaccurate, but still wicked. So William spurned me, and being mildly jealous—”

I cleared my throat.

He gave me a look. “All right. Very jealous. A man must have one flaw, and that is mine.”

“One flaw?”

“Others have more. I have but one.” He coughed to cover my laugh. “And so, to resume my tale, I became jealous and resolved to learn the reason for his distraction. It was a girl.”

I gasped. “Truly? A young man distracted by a young woman. What a twist in the tale!”

He rapped my bare bottom with one finger. “You mock, but William was not me, and I had never seen him display more than mild interest in the fairer sex. Yet there he was, enthralled by a secret love. Even more remarkable was the girl herself, who dressed and spoke in the oddest way.”

“Because she was”—I gripped his arm, my eyes mock wide—“from the future!”

“Well, no, at first, I thought she might be French. Or American. Or perhaps some fae creature from his beloved moors. After that summer, William fell into the darkest brood, and I realized the affair had come to an unhappy end, and I resolved not to tease him about his mysterious buxom brunette. Then, years later, when his mother passed and he realized the family coffers were near to empty, he began making the maddest gambles, investing in newfangled ideas that seemed destined to failure.”

“Yet they succeeded, and thus he filled the family coffers to overflowing. And somehow that is proof that this girl was from the future . . . ?”

“She gave him information on the future. On inventions yet to come.”

“So William Thorne fell madly in love with a girl from the future, who broke his heart but shared secret knowledge of her advanced culture.” I peered at him. “Are you sure she wasn’t French?”

He laughed and pulled me to him for a kiss. And that was the end of the conversation as we resumed our honeymoon and promptly forgot everything else.

I still do not leap on August’s speculations as the obvious answer. Yet there is another aspect to the tale that forces me to consider it.

August hadn’t merely raised the possibility of traveling through time as a hypothetical fancy. He’d been talking about William Thorne, who’d met a strange girl at Thorne Manor, a girl with odd dress and odd speech, whom William kept hidden, a girl August believed came through time.

A girl who came through time at Thorne Manor. Where I opened a box and tumbled into the dusty and abandoned bedroom of a girl.

It is then that I remember the kitten. I return to the bedroom and, in the light of day, clearly see tiny feline tracks on the dusty floor. Tracks that lead to the foot of the bed and disappear.

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