Home > A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(5)

A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(5)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

I do not want them to mourn me forever. I do not want that place in their life vacant forever. If I cannot return home, I want August to have found a woman who makes him happier than I did, a woman who can silence his demons, a woman who will love my son as her own.

And where does that leave me? Does the woman in the mirror stay frozen forever, aging but unmoving? Subsisting and existing but never truly living? Alone and lonely, the exact fate I would never wish on August?

Is it time for me to move on? More than a year will pass before I’m ready to answer that question.



It is year four. My son has just turned five. My husband will turn forty soon. I myself have celebrated my thirty-first birthday. Time passes, and I stay still, and I am, in this very moment, facing that as I’ve never faced it before. I stand in my bakery, looking at a man who could be part of my future.

He could or he could not, and either seems equally likely. I do not know him that well. We may realize we are not compatible. Yet it isn’t about this man so much as it is about taking this step.

Eight words. “Would you like to go for tea later?” Even if nothing comes of it, by speaking the words, I am acknowledging that I may never return to August and Edmund.

The man—Noah—has no idea what I’m contemplating. He’s pretending to choose two macarons. For over a month now, at precisely one o’clock each afternoon, Noah stops to pick up macarons for his afternoon tea. I’m not even sure whether he eats them. The first time, when he’d come wanting sweets for his mother, he’d declared he wasn’t much for pastries himself. That, apparently, was before he tried my macarons.

They’re decent macarons. Not my finest pastries. The delicate almond cookies sandwiched with ganache are currently in vogue, and I do them well enough. My minuscule bakery in the Shambles has won awards for my cannelés and my jam tartlets, but the tourists want macarons, and apparently, so does Noah. He’s just never certain what flavor he wants on that day, which is an excuse to linger and chat with me, and I am fine with that because he is an excellent conversationalist.

Do his visits remind me of August’s wooing? Of how my husband wandered into my shop looking for a gift—for a lover, of course—and left nearly an hour later with a basket of pastries, none for his lover? Do I compare and contrast August’s visits with Noah’s and find the latter lacking? Excellent conversation, to be sure, but bereft of the charm, the spirit and the sheer overwhelming Augustness of August that finally won me over.

It is not the same. Nor do I want it to be. I look at Noah, a handsome divorced thirty-five-year-old with a steady office job and a good flat and a kind manner, and I know that if I’m to take this step, he is an excellent man to take it with. He is safe.

I will not say he is boring. I will not. On a scale of one to ten, with one being deathly dull, Noah rates a perfectly respectable seven. It’s not his fault that August was a twelve, and really, if I’m being clear eyed with myself, honestly remembering the tumult and heartache of our last year together, perhaps I would, in the long run, be happier with a seven. Just as August, if he has found new love, has hopefully found someone more conventional, able to placate his jealousy in a way I could not.

Noah leans over the counter, dark hair tumbling forward as he peers through the glass at the jewel-toned cookies below. “They’re all too good, Rosie. That’s the problem.”

“I should suggest one of each, but I’m a terrible salesperson.”

He smiles. “And as much as my stomach would love that, my waistline would not. You need to start offering only two types a day, so I don’t need to choose.”

“Is that what you’d like?” I say. “Grab two and be on your way?”

Rosalind Courtenay, are you flirting?

Yes, I am, and when Noah lifts his eyes to meet my dancing ones, his cheeks color. “No, I suppose that isn’t what I’d like at all.”

I wait for him to say more. He won’t. His gaze slips to the wedding band on my finger, and that is enough. He knows I claim widowhood, but as long as I wear that ring, he is respectful of my grief. If a step is to be made, I’m the one who must make it.

We speak instead of local politics and an upcoming festival where I will have a booth. I’m debating what to sell—in addition to macarons, of course—and I ask his advice, and we chat until a queue forms and my shop girl—ahem, sales associate—cuts me a look that politely begs for help. Noah sees it and chooses swiftly, as considerate as ever.

He’s barely out the door when I make my decision. I will ask him to tea. Today. Now.

I serve one quick customer and then apologize to my assistant and promise to be quick. Apron off, I’m out the back door, ducking down the narrow alley to intercept him.

He’s moving fast, his tall and lanky frame expertly weaving through tourists milling through the Shambles. Tourists. I owe them my success. As lauded as my pastries might be, it’s my key location and those tourists themselves who allow me to pay the rent on both my tiny shop and flat. And yet, well, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there were times when I cursed them, muttering that the lack of tourist hordes was one thing definitely better about the nineteenth century.

With his height and his sharp suit, Noah easily cuts through the crowds. I’m a five-foot-tall, slight-figured blonde in a sundress. No one moves for me. No one even notices me. Well, yes, some men do, sadly, but not to move out of my way.

I’m weaving through the crowd when a child’s screech catches my attention. Children—particularly young ones and particularly happy ones—always have that effect on me. I’m like a pointer hearing a game bird. I stop whatever I’m doing as if that joyous cry might somehow come from my son.

This time, it’s not even a boy. It’s a girl of perhaps eighteen months. She’s spotted a bright-colored toy in a shop window and nearly launched herself out of her father’s arms, reaching for it. That makes me smile, even as a pang shoots through me.

I’m about to turn away when the father’s voice cuts through the surrounding burble of tourist chatter.

“Yes, yes, Amelia, that is a toy. A lovely toy, and we shall return for all the required closer examinations once your mother has shown me this magical bakery, which is apparently, even more magical than all the other bakeries she adores.”

The first thing to catch my ear is the name. Amelia. I’ve always liked that name. Then I notice the man’s tone. It’s oddly formal . . . and yet not. Almost a mockery of the speech of my own world, like an actor well-versed in older language, using it to humorous effect. Both of these, however, would not hold my attention if it were not for one more thing.

That voice.

I know that voice, and on hearing it, I turn slowly, my lips parting in a whispered, “William?”

While he’s facing the toy shop, his figure matches that of William Thorne. Dressed as I never saw Lord Thorne dressed, of course—in a casual shirt and trousers, with a zebra-striped baby bag over his shoulder—but he’s tall and broad shouldered with dark hair that curls at his neck nape. And the woman beside him, angled sideways from me?

I remember August’s words from that night in our stateroom.

I resolved not to tease him about his mysterious buxom brunette.

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