Will is my fiancé. The shy man I met years ago in college. The person I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life with.
This is the life I’ve always wanted until finding a picture of four men changes everything…
Etienne says he’s my husband and the year is 1912. He can’t stand the sight of me, but I don’t know why.
Oh, and he’s one of the men from the picture.
I’ve done the impossible and have become trapped in time and I know Etienne is my key to going home.
The more time I spend with Etienne, the further I fall for him, until I’m questioning which time I belong in and if the life I left behind is the one I truly desire.
All I know for certain is I need to survive time.
I need to survive love.
And I need to make it out on the other side alive.
Right then, someone places a hand on my arm. I turn and see Nat. Her eyes are wide with panic. “Étienne is here.” I stare at her blankly, and she frowns. “Did you hear me? I said Étienne’s here. He’s livid.”
Judging by Nat’s frantic expression and tone of voice, I know this Étienne is someone important. But I don’t know who the hell he is or why I should be the slightest bit nervous.
I’m getting ready to say that when she plants her hands on my shoulders. It’s impossible to tell if the gesture is more for her benefit or mine. “You’re in no shape to see him. I’ll distract him. That should afford you some time to hurry to your room.”
Before I can reply or ask who in the hell this Étienne is, the whispers start. Word spreads like wildfire until conversations practically cease.
“Go,” Nat pleads.
No sooner has the word escaped her mouth before the doors at the far end of the room slam open. People stop what they’re doing. Even the musicians appear unsure and stare at each other in confusion.
Nat and Livingston move in front of me like a pair of bodyguards. I stand on my tiptoes and try to peer between their shoulders, but all I can make out is a stark white shirt. I’m confident it’s the Étienne man Nat was talking about.
In the hushed silence, I can distinctly hear his powerful steps. People inch toward the walls or the double doors.
“What are you still doin’ here? Go!” Nat whispers to me.
Why would I go? It’s just getting interesting. A thrill courses down my spine and spreads throughout my body. Minutes ago, I wanted to leave, but the dramatic reaction elicited from everyone and the giant question mark stamped over this mysterious Étienne makes me stay put.
Plus, this is a dream. Right now, I’m merely a cat with nine lives. If danger comes my way, I’ll survive. By the ninth, I’ll wake up.
For now, I’m safe.
The closer he gets, the louder his footsteps become. My heart pounds in sync with his footsteps. When he stops walking, Nat and Livingston’s shoulders are practically fused together. All I can see is the man crossing his tan arms.
There’s a beat of silence before Nat speaks. “Étienne. This is a pleasant surprise. I didn’t know you’d be here.”
“I live here. This is my home.” His voice is laced with the same slow, Southern drawl as everyone else I’ve heard speak tonight. But I think it’s the deep timbre that makes my pulse jump. Yes, that has to be it. “Who’s behind you?”
“No one,” Livingston and Nat say in unison.
“Are you sure? Because I swear I see the top of Serene’s head behind your shoulder.”
He knows my name. How does he know my name? Once again, I remind myself that anything goes in dreams. But something about this isn’t sitting well in my gut.
Livingston and Nat turn at the same time. They wear expressions of pure shock, as if they had no idea I’d been standing behind them.
“Oh, it’s Serene.” Livingston shares a well-practiced look of confusion with Nathalie. “I didn’t know she was there. Did you, Nat?”
“I did not.”
Damn, these two are good. If this were real life, we’d be fast friends. From how they play off of each other’s body language and words, I know they’re siblings; my brothers and I covered for each other the same way.
I can’t see the man’s expression, but I’m willing to bet he’s not buying anything they’re saying.
“Step aside. I need to talk to her.”
No one makes a sound. My legs shake.
When Livingston and Nat don’t budge, he says, “Move. Now.”
Nat’s shoulders slightly sag in defeat. I’m half-tempted to tell her not to give in to his demands, but my tongue becomes three sizes too big for my mouth.
As she steps to the right, she gives me a quick once-over and whispers, “I tried to warn you.”
They move away, and it feels as if I’ve been thrown to the wolves. Now I’m facing the leader of the pack. The first thing that comes to my mind once I see him is, Shit. I should’ve listened to Nathalie.
Because this isn’t the good ol’ boy every mother wants their daughter to end up with. No. This is the man every mom has warned their daughters about. You run, not walk when you encounter someone like him.
I stand there as though I’m nailed to the floor and watch as the man gazes around the room. He sighs as if everyone is wasting his precious time.
Then he turns his eyes to me, and when he does, the realization hits me like a bolt of lightning.
It’s my mystery man.
The man from my dream.
The man from the picture.
Standing inches away from me.
Calia Read lives in Texas with her husband and their five kids.
Calia will be giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card to one winner (open international) and a signed set of all of her books to a second winner (open US only)