Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lost in Time: His Lady in Green 13

‘Eve – no!’ But Sebastian was already fading as she stepped back, his outline blurring. The electric lights began to flicker like flames.
‘Yes. I must go back.’
‘You met someone.’ His voice sounded flat. ‘Do not risk it, Eve, however you feel for him –‘
‘I don’t know.’ The draft around her ankles bit like ice now, the bulbs had vanished and the only light was from candles. ‘I do not know! They are all part of you and you, of them. I don’t know what is right, what I want.’ Who I want. ‘I only know that I must go back…’

Her voice trailed away as he vanished. The room was the same, but furnished now. A fire blazed in the hearth and under her feet a thick carpet covered the ancient flagstones.
‘Oh, Sebastian.’ Eve shook herself, there was no time for regret or worry. She must find the emeralds and make her choice, whatever the consequences to herself. She had never been in this chamber before on her travels, but that did not mean she could dismiss it. The furniture was massive carved oak. The carpets and hangings rich and sophisticated, blue and white china stood on every flat surface. Over the mantle hung a gilt-framed portrait of a man with very familiar features beneath a curling wig.

‘Restoration,’ she murmured. It was a relief to be able to put her knowledge into practice. At least she knew when she was now. She would search every drawer, every cupboard, every box for the necklace.
She flung drawers open as she had seen on crime films, starting at the bottom as she rummaged rapidly through the contents of each, then abandoned them to open the great oak cupboard that stood in the corner. It was full of folded cloths.
Six were on the floor and she was shaking the seventh when the door opened.
‘Zounds! A thief!’ The man who strode in had his sword half out of its scabbard already. With alarm she realised her dagger was lying on top of the chest. Then he stopped, his darkly handsome face a mask of amazement. ‘My lady.’
It took her a moment to recognise the elegantly dressed man in red-heeled shoes, a cascade of lace at his throat as the battle-weary Cavalier. ‘Rafe Daubenay.’ And well, and prospering, the first of her men from the past. The way her heart leapt at the sight of him took her by surprise: she had expected to be focused on her quest to find the emeralds, not experiencing pangs of – of what? Attraction? Love? ‘You survived the war and exile – I am so very glad. What year is this?’ She tried to tell his age, late thirties perhaps, and all the more attractive for that. Concentrate, Eve!

‘The year of our Lord 1660, my lady,’ he said impatiently, reaching for her.  ‘You have come back to me.’
‘No –’ she held him at arm’s length, no easy feat. ‘You must be married now, surely?’
‘I waited for you,’ he replied simply and, to her horror, knelt at her feet. ‘You have come back and I swear I will make you the happiest of women. As my wife – ’
‘I cannot.’ Suddenly she was certain it was not this man who was her destiny, courageous and loyal as he was. ‘I cannot be yours. I came back to try and find the emeralds, they are lost.’

Rafe stood, his face grim. ‘Then you shall see them, but you cannot take them. Come with me.’ He opened a door in the far wall and Eve followed him. Under the window stood a great iron-bound chest that yielded to a key he pulled from his coat.
‘Here, they are quite safe.’ The small jewel box he lifted out opened to his impatient, beringed fingers. It was quite empty.

‘The devil!’ He had gone white to the lips.
Eve backed away, the familiar sense of disorientation beginning to swirl through her. They were not here, in 1660. Did that mean they were lost in time before this date? Or had they vanished from everywhere at the moment they had gone from her neck?

‘One last kiss, sweeting,’ Rafe said, his voice husky. He caught her to him, and she reached up to pull him close, press her lips to his in something like desperation.
‘I will hold you here,’ he murmured into her hair.

‘Rafe, if you love me, let me go.’ Eve pulled herself free. ‘Find a lady worthy of you and raise children together, safeguard the future. But I must go, I have no choice.’
The dagger… it was in the other room. Did it matter? Somehow she knew it must. Eve turned and ran for the door, her feet stumbling, as the mist began to rise and swirl. Could she get there in time?

Louise Allen

Louise Allen is the author of more than forty historical romances and two books of walks through historic London.
Find out more at www.louiseallenregency.co.uk. Louise blogs here and at http://janeaustenslondon.com

January: Forbidden Jewel of India Harlequin & Mills & Boon
April: Scandal in the Regency Ballroom Mills & Boon
May: Tarnished Amongst the Ton Harlequin & Mills & Boon
July: Walking Jane Austen's London Shire Publications

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