Loving a Regency earl is hard enough when you are a 21st century woman, but murder and mayhem make it so much more difficult…
Luc Franklin, 3rd Earl of Radcliffe might have worked out how to travel to join Cassie in her own time – once. But can he repeat the trick? And how are they ever going to enjoy whatever normality a time travelling love affair allows when murder keeps getting in the way?
The Viscount Tillingham is found dead, just a few doors from Luc’s London home, which is bad enough. But Lord Tillingham’s new secretary is Luc’s recent employee Adrien Prescott and he and his family have dangerously good motives for wanting to dispose of the pompous viscount. But then, so do a flamboyant courtesan, a disgruntled footman, a mysterious stranger from the East and an unhappy fiancée.
Discovering just what did happen to Lord Tillingham is difficult – and dangerous – enough, but then it seems that Luc and Cassie are going to be parted for ever. Is love ever going to be enough to reach across Time?
Book 5 in The Time Into Time Series
When your Significant Other was born in 1779 and you live in the twenty-first century, then life can be just a trifle complicated. I was gradually becoming used to time travel and to existing in two worlds – used to it and perhaps a little bit complacent. I should have been more wary because, when you are at your most relaxed, that’s when Fate decides to give you a wake-up call to see just how uncomfortable she can make you.
I’m Cassandra Lawrence, freelance technical translator, part-time volunteer Special Constable and resident of Welhampstead, a Hertfordshire market town popular with commuters for its forty-minute journey into London by train.
My beloved happens to be Lucian Franklin, third Earl of Radcliffe, and he has started time travelling too, although he is finding it rather more of a culture shock than I did…
Welhampstead, Hertfordshire, 20th June, not long ago.
‘Who were they?’ Luc demanded. He was damp from the shower, stark naked except for an inadequate (for coverage purposes, although excellent from my point of view) towel and he was blushing.
A degree of embarrassment was understandable, given that my three friends from the local firm of solicitors had just bounced in with an invitation to a barbeque and had retreated rather more slowly, with John and Frank dragging Lucy, who was getting in an appreciative eyeful, behind them.
I managed to stop laughing and dragged myself up from the floor in front of the fridge where I had slid in the grip of mild hysteria. Trubshaw, my ginger cat, gave me a disgusted stare and went to sit in a pointed manner by the tin of salmon I had been about to open for him when the junior contingent from Polworth, Prendergast and Ponsonby (est.1760) had waltzed in.
I explained who they were, apologised for leaving the door ajar when I’d been out to rescue a neighbour from Trubshaw’s loud pleas that he was starving and there was a Horrible Man in his home, and picked up the can again.
‘Those are solicitors?’
The legal profession was presumably rather staider in the early nineteenth century. Certainly P. P. & P. must have been when Luc had deposited various things with them to be delivered to me, more than two hundred years in the future. Fortunately I had left my bag, wallet and so forth behind the first time, so Luc knew where to direct the eventual delivery.
It was when they brought the first of the sealed tin boxes to my door that I met the junior partners. Whether they believed my tale about an entirely fictitious eccentric ancestress who had confidence that a descendant living in the twenty first century would bear her name and be at that address, I have no idea, but they were politely discreet on the subject.
Once Trubshaw was placated with salmon I went in search of a comb and something for Luc to wear. My father had left his painting clothes behind when he’d helped me redecorate the main room a while back, so Luc was soon decently, if unglamorously, covered in baggy track pants (too short in the leg) and rather tight sweat shirt, both with extensive paint stains.
‘Breakfast?’ I suggested.
Luc nodded. He was looking decidedly strained around the edges and I can’t say I blamed him. When I had dragged him out of bed in the small hours that morning it was the year 1807. It was urgent because I knew I had to get back to my time – not something I can control – and had to do so through the mirror in his mother’s dressing room. Time travel is so not convenient. When we were in London I had to break into Almack’s Assembly Rooms and use the mirror in the refreshment salon.
This time, no sooner had I landed back in my car, which I’d left parked in the grounds of Luc’s ancestral home, than Luc had decided to see if his own theory about how he could travel to my time would work. On arrival in the twenty first century he found himself subjected to a hundred-mile drive in a car: his first encounter with the internal combustion engine. Then he had been abused by my cat, ogled by a passing solicitor, been dressed in my father’s oldest clothes – and he still hadn’t had so much as a cup of coffee.
I peered into the fridge. One of the good things about the time shift was that I returned home moments after I had left it, so the contents were perfectly fresh. I made bacon, eggs and toast, brewed a vast pot of coffee, squeezed some oranges, dragged Luc away from the toaster, which seemed to fascinate him, and sat him down to eat.
‘I had better go and buy you some clothes,’ I said when he had demolished the food, ninety percent of the coffee and was beginning to look human again.
‘That would be a good idea for next time I am here,’ Luc agreed, sounding distracted. I followed his gaze to the window and spotted a group of our local Goths, arrayed in magnificent gloom, walking past on the other side of the street.
‘Funeral mourners?’ He must have caught a glimpse of black fishnets, which would account for the surprise.
‘Not exactly.’ I found myself unable to explain on the spur of the moment.
He turned his chair to face away from the street below and its constant distractions of passing traffic and pedestrians. ‘I am not going to stay, not this time. I need to go back and find out how long I have been away before I risk remaining any longer.’
When our plates were empty he got up and went to where his own clothes lay on the sofa and pulled them on, then took out the folding case that held the two sketches of his four-year-old twin sons. The boys had written their own messages on the backs. ‘I am certain this is going to work and return me home,’ he said, rubbing his fingertips over the childish scrawl. ‘But I have to be sure of what the effects are. How long will I have been away?’
‘Come back as soon as you can.’ I tried not to plead and managed what I hoped was a nonchalant smile, but I doubt I convinced him.
Luc gave me a disappointingly vague kiss, opened the case, touched the messages again and closed his eyes. For a moment he seemed to waver in the air, then he clutched the case in both hands and vanished with a sound like a deep intake of breath. Papers on my desk fluttered in a breeze I could not feel.