Somewhere in Time: Chapter 1
At the moment her life changed forever, Emilie was standing on a step ladder on her front porch watering a flowering begonia plant that had seen better days. She was considering whether or not to put the poor thing out of its misery when the roar of a car engine brought her up short. She wasn't expecting anyone. The most traffic her street usually saw was the appearance of the red-white-and-blue US mail jeep every morning and the jeep's engine sputtered rather than roared.
She climbed down from the ladder and, wiping her hands on the sides of her pants, she glanced toward the street. The sound grew closer then, to her amazement, a shiny black foreign car turned into her driveway. She didn't know too much about foreign cars, but it didn't take an automotive genius to figure out you could run the Crosse Harbor school system on what the driver had paid for that sleek beauty. It roared up her driveway as if it were the home stretch of the Indianapolis 500 and she bristled with indignation when it screeched to a stop near her own sedate sedan.
She hated people who drove fancy cars as if they owned the road and everyone on it. As far as she was concerned, a car was nothing more than a hunk of metal, four rubber wheels, and a lot of extra parts that broke down when you could least afford it.
A Porsche, she noted. Flashy, sexy, impossible to ignore.
She'd only known one person in her life who wouldn't be overshadowed by a car like that and she'd been crazy enough to marry him--and sane enough to divorce him six months later.
"It couldn't be," she said as she stood on the top step, doing her best to ignore the sudden jolt of excitement that urged her to fly down the porch steps and tear open the car door. Tinted windows should be outlawed, she thought crazily. It wasn't fair that the driver could see her while she--
The car door swung open and the driver of the Porsche climbed out.
She leaned against the railing for support, feeling as if she'd looked into the heart of the sun. Real men didn't look like that. He looked like the pirate-hero on the cover of a romance novel, dangerous and compelling and totally out-of-this-world.
She pinched herself sharply on the inside of her arm then looked again, but he didn't disappear the way dreams always did. Instead he started toward her, his long legs eating up the distance between them with powerful strides. She wanted to run. She wanted to hide. She wanted a crash course in 101 Reasons Why Divorce Was The Only Solution.
Hiding her trembling hands behind her back, she offered up an easy smile.
He didn't smile back. Why was it gorgeous men never smiled? She wondered if it was some code of honor or a congenital incapability.
He had a small cleft in his chin, a stubborn jaw, and the most unabashedly sensual mouth she'd ever seen. She remembered how that mouth had felt pressed against--
"Been a long time, Emilie," he said in a voice so rich with testosterone that it made her knees buckle. "You look great."
"Don't tell me," she said, "let me guess. You were in the neighborhood and decided to drop by." She snapped her fingers. "So what if it's been five years?"
"Still the feisty redhead. I'm glad some things never change."
"Did it ever occur to you to call first?"
"Why?" he countered. "You're here, aren't you?"
She glanced pointedly toward the watch on her left wrist then back at him. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"You're not going to ask me in?"
"I hadn't planned on it."
He flashed his movie star grin. "You used to be a lot friendlier."
"And a lot dumber. You're here for a reason, Zane, and it isn't to talk about old times." She sounded cool and collected. He'd never in a million years suspect the way her heart was thundering inside her chest.
"I have a package in the car," he said. "I'd like you to take a look at it."
"I'd be happy to," she said, "but you'll have to make an appointment."
"But I'm leaving for Tahiti tomorrow morning."
"Then you can make an appointment for when you return." He'd always been on his way to Tahiti or the Hamptons or the Cote d'Azur, too busy looking for a good time to see that happiness had been right there for the asking.
And he'd always been able to do this to her, turn a sensible, intelligent woman into a hopeless romantic with a soft spot for happily-ever-after....
Don't give up so easily, boy. Convince her. Zane started at the sound of Sara Jane's voice in his ear. He hoped his grandmother was enjoying this encounter more than he was.
Sara Jane had to be enjoying it more than Emilie was. His ex-wife was glaring up at him with that redhead's intensity that had always been part of her appeal. The other part of her appeal was obvious. She was a beautiful woman--difficult, but beautiful. Their brief marriage had been a wild blend of sexual chemistry, romantic love, and the absolute certainty that it could never last.
Still, the sight of her stirred something inside him, something he hadn't felt in a very long time.
Unfortunately she didn't seem to be feeling anything but impatient and he pushed aside nostalgia in favor of the business at hand.
All it usually took was a sincere smile or two to win fair maiden. He had an address book filled with the names of women who enjoyed his company. How hard could it be to convince his ex-wife to look at a uniform.
"Look," he said, leaning forward, all charm and persistence, "this is important."
She started to protest but he held up his hand to stop her.
"I made a promise to someone I care about and you're the only one who can help me."
"How do you know I'm the only one who can help you? If I remember right, you thought my career was a lot of nonsense."
"You've built yourself quite a reputation out there, Em. I called two museums, a producer at Disney, and a professor at Rutgers and they all came back with the same name: yours." He upped the wattage on his smile. "I'm impressed."
"Don't be," she said. "It has nothing to do with you."
"I know," he said honestly. "And I'm still impressed."
"Well," she said, offering up her first smile of the encounter, "that's very flattering."
"It's meant to be." He gestured toward the car. "Will you take a look?"
"Five minutes," she said. "If I think I can help you, we'll work something out after you get back from your vacation."
Emilie waited on the top step while he jogged over to the car and retrieved a brown paper-wrapped parcel from the passenger seat. He cut a dashing figure in his tailored grey pants and white shirt of silky Egyptian cotton. Broad shoulders. Narrow hips. Powerful legs. Definitely the poster boy for pirate fantasies.
Too bad her idea of marriage had entailed more than great sex and a well-worn passport.
"Okay," he said, thrusting the parcel at her as he mounted the porch steps. "Here it is. When do we start?"
She eyed the package. "What is it?"
"Two hundred plus a decade or two."
She whistled low. "Bring it inside. We don't want to expose the uniform to any more light than necessary."
"Don't tell me you're one of those ozone layer crazies."
She shot him a look. "Don't tell me you're one of those idiots who think all's well with the world."
"You can't turn back the clock," he said as she led him inside the house. "Technology's given us a hell of a lot more than it's taken away."
"Right," said Emilie, ushering him into her studio at the side of the house. "Acid rain...smog...shall I go on?"
"I should've known you'd become an Earth Day groupie," he said as he tossed the package down on the work table. "Can't see the trees for the rain forest."
"Spare me your list of technological wonders," she snapped. "We could live without microwaves and computers. We can't live without clean water and fresh air."
"No wonder you're good with antiques," he shot back. "You always did think like one."
"Okay," said Emilie, folding her arms across her chest. I don't care how gorgeous you are. "That does it. Good-bye, Rutledge. It's been interesting, if not enjoyable."
He stared at her blankly. How anyone so good-looking could be so dense struck Emilie as a terrible waste of natural resources.
"What about the uniform?"
"That's your problem," she said with a dismissive look. A uniform, Emilie! A two-hundred year old uniform. My God.... It took every ounce of will power at her command to keep from ripping into the package. The last Revolutionary War-era uniform she'd actually worked on had come her way over four years ago and, unfortunately, it had proved to be a lost cause. Time and the elements had done damage not even Emilie could undo.
He glared at her from across the room. "You promised me five minutes."
"And I've already given you eight."
"You said you'd examine the uniform."
"Why bother? I know you, Zane. You've probably had it dry-cleaned three times and lined it with mink."
"Wrong again. Original equipment from collar to cuffs."
The temptation was more than she could bear. "All right," she said in her most businesslike tone of voice. "Let's take a look."
She approached the work bench with the edgy excitement of a high-roller at a no-limits table. Except no high-roller worth her weight in chips would have hands that trembled the way Emilie Crosse's trembled as she began to untie the string.
He would have liked to think it was his overwhelming male presence that brought about that reaction but he had the feeling she really found this stuff exciting.
"Damn," she muttered under her breath as her slender fingers worked at the knot. He'd already noticed she didn't wear a wedding ring and cursed himself roundly for looking.
"Need some help?"
"Scissors," she said, gnawing at her full lower lip. "The red ones on the pegboard."
"Real authentic," he drawled, as he handed her the scissors. "Didn't I see 'Made in Taiwan' on the blade?"
"Very funny," she said, not looking at him. The string fell away at the first touch of the implement then she moved to fold back the thick brown paper.
An odd sensation moved its way up his spine, raising the hairs on the back of his neck. See, Zane! I told you so. It's starting to matter! Sweat broke out at his temples. He felt like he was standing at the end of a long pier and Circe herself was beckoning him into the flood waters rushing past.
There was no reason for hearing voices--or for the almost unbearable sense of anticipation that gripped him by the throat and refused to let go.
Emilie's sharp exhalation of breath echoed throughout the room as the centuries came to life beneath her fingertips. It's your imagination. You've read too many books... Still there was no explaining the sound of drums beating cadence in her ears or the icy winds of Valley Forge raising goosebumps on her arms and legs.
I know this uniform, she thought. Each decision made by that long-ago tailor was one she would have made herself. The alterations had been skillfully rendered, made even more unusual by the fact the sleeves had been altered to fit a shorter man.
Zane broke the silence. "So what do you think?"
She swung around to look at him, her eyes flashing fury. "If this is some kind of joke, so help me I'll--"
"It's not a joke."
She traced the collar with her fingertips. She'd always favored that method of rolling a collar, although she'd never seen it used in colonial era garments. "It's a reproduction--it has to be. The color is too rich...the weave is still tight...."
"It's not a reproduction," he said. "It's the real thing."
"Believe me, two hundred years leave their mark on a garment. I've made a career out of undoing the damage time can cause."
"Okay, then prove it's a reproduction." She didn't expect him to leave so soon, did she? Damn it, he wanted to watch her breathe just a little while longer....
She turned the uniform over and held the back seam up to the light. "Look at this," she ordered. "The fibers are long and supple. Very little stress on any of the stitches. This wasn't worn more than a handful of times." "I suppose you're going to tell me the fabric is polyester?"
She shook her head. Okay, so she still didn't have a sense of humor. She was still beautiful.
"It's wool, all right. Tight weave...." The texture and weight and smell of the wool used in colonial army uniforms. The drum beat louder inside her head. "I just don't see how--"
"But it's possible?"
"Logically, no." She pressed the uniform to her nose, inhaling the heavy smell of wool and vegetable dye. It couldn't be...it simply couldn't.
"There's one way to find out," she said, looking up at him. "If you could give me an hour, we'll know for sure."
"I don't have an hour. I have a long drive back to New York."
"And a plane to catch."
He looked at her sharply. "And a plane to catch."
"Then I can't give you an answer." She sounded cool and self-possessed but inside her stomach was twisted in sailor's knots. Oh God, she thought. You can't leave now. There's something happening here...something I don't understand. Everything about the uniform seemed strangely familiar, from the braid of stitches that formed the buttonhole to the hand-finished seams.
He reached for the uniform and their fingers brushed. A brief spark flashed between them. She pulled her hand away as if burned.
"Static electricity," she said, ducking her head to hide her embarrassment. She still felt his touch reverberating through her body.
"Right," he said, totally unconvinced.
There was enough sexual electricity in that room to light Atlantic City and he found it impossible to believe she wasn't aware of it. She was close enough for him to catch the scent of spring flowers in her hair and his blood quickened.
No way was he about to make that mistake again.
He glanced at his watch. "An hour's pushing it," he said. "Thirty minutes would be better."
"It's a deal. Just let me run a few tests on a fabric sample and see what we come up with." She pointed toward a wooden stool to the left of an enormous spinning wheel. "You can sit over there while I get started."
He took his first real look around him. The studio was a dizzying blend of color and texture and style. Colonial samplers vied for wall space with Erte prints and a Renoir poster of an extremely healthy female nude. Despite the 20th century intrusions, however, there was no mistaking the fact that the love of Emilie's life was the colonial era in American history. Back when they were first married he had teased her mercilessly about living in the past. Little did he know she'd end up doing it professionally.
"Do you really use this thing?" he asked, inclining his head in the direction of the spinning wheel.
"Of course I do," she said, casting a curious glance at him.
He spun the wheel, listening to the creak of wood. "Seems like a lot of work to make a piece of thread." He'd always believed if you couldn't find it in a store, you didn't really need it.
"It is a lot of work." She filled a basin with liquid from a brown bottle then stirred the mixture with a wooden spoon. "It's also a lot of fun."
He looked skeptical but Emilie ignored him. He hadn't understood her when they were married and there was no reason to assume he'd understand her now. He was a fast food/fast car type of man while she longed for the days of butter churns and coach-and-fours.
She worked quickly, easing open a seam and snipping a tiny swatch of fabric. She was painfully conscious of every detail in the room, from the scratchiness of the wool, to the sound of his breathing, to the way she couldn't quite shake the feeling that the adventure of a lifetime was about to begin.
Zane had no idea what the hell she was doing over there at the worktable and he didn't particularly care. He liked watching the way she moved, studying the graceful line of her shoulders and back, remembering how she had felt beneath him, all warm and open and ready....
He shifted position on the stool, grateful she had her back to him.
She wasn't particularly friendly, and she'd been anything but flirtatious, still he found himself content to sit there and watch her fiddle around with inanimate objects as if she was a first-run movie and he was her captive audience.
But she'd always had that effect on him. The only thing they'd ever had in common was a major physical attraction and they'd leaped head-first into marriage, refusing to believe they'd ever need anything else.
The marriage was over.
He couldn't say the same thing about the physical attraction.
Maybe it was the fact that she seemed totally immune to his masculine charms that made her more alluring by the second. Was she in love with somebody? Not that it mattered to him, but he glanced around the work room looking for clues. No photographs hanging on the walls. No men's clothes or shoes anywhere. He considered excusing himself to use the john and taking a quick look through the rest of the house for any tell-tale signs of an active love life but, all things taken into account, he'd rather just sit there and watch her breathe.
Why on earth was he watching her so closely? Emilie could feel the heat of his gaze burning through the thin fabric of her shirt. For a man who claimed disinterest in the uniform she was examining, he hadn't taken his eyes from the proceedings...or from her.
"It's getting terribly hot in here," Emilie tossed her hair over her shoulder as she positioned a tiny scrap of fabric on a glass slide. She tried to sound matter-of-fact but had the feeling she'd failed miserably. "Would you raise the air-conditioning, please?"
She heard the scrape of the step stool against the tile floor, followed by Rutledge's footsteps as he walked across the room to the thermostat on the far wall.
"Thanks," she mumbled, not looking up. "Strange the way it got hotter after dusk, isn't it?"
"No," he said, his voice a rough caress. "Doesn't seem strange to me at all."
She waited for the sound of the stool scraping against the floor again as he sat back down, but it didn't come.
"I'll be a while longer," she said, struggling to sound casual and unconcerned. "Make yourself comfortable."
She jumped at the sound of his voice so close to her ear. "Don't stand over me like that, Zane. This is very precise work."
"I won't get in your way."
"You are in my way." She gestured toward the overhead fixtures. "You're blocking the light."
"I thought you were using the microscope."
"Would you please sit down?" she persisted, her voice unnaturally high. "This is serious business." And she was having a terrible time remembering that fact with him standing there next to her, close enough for her to breathe in the smell of his skin.
He retreated to the wooden stool. "Is this good enough?"
"I don't want to get in your way."
"You're not in my way any longer."
"I'll just sit here and watch you."
Not great. There was no way on earth the air-conditioning system could keep pace with the heat building inside her body. Damn it. They'd been divorced for almost five years. Wouldn't you think she'd be immune to him by now?
She cleared her throat. "Wheel of Fortune's on. I have a TV in the front room."
"You could catch the end of local news."
"Not interested." He glanced up at the clock. "You going to be much longer?"
"Just...another...minute." She bent over the uniform, squinting against the harsh glare of a high-intensity light clamped to the side of the work table.
There was something happening in that room, something he didn't understand, but apparently he was the only one aware of it. He didn't like the way she made him feel, off-balance and hungry for something he couldn't put a name to.
The hunger was soul-deep and it scared the living hell out of him. It had always been like this. From the first moment he'd seen her, pinning a satin dress to a skin-and-bones model in a Hollywood costume studio, he'd known Emilie represented the one thing in the world he could never have.
That hadn't stopped him, however. Their courtship had been as swift and wild as a summer storm and their impulsive wedding had been more the act of a desperate man, hell-bent on hanging onto something he really didn't understand.
She'd always managed to elude him. He'd known her body intimately but he'd never quite managed to touch her soul.
He brought himself up short. Introspection had never been his strong suit. This whole escapade had been a lousy idea and the sooner he escaped, the better he would feel. "Look," he said, approaching the work table, "but I've run out of minutes. I've got a long drive ahead of me."
"What about the uniform?"
"I trust you," he said. "I'll pick it up when I get back."
"Don't trust me." She turned around to face him. "I think it's the real thing."
He arched a brow. "I thought you said that was impossible."
"Lots of things are impossible. That doesn't mean they don't happen anyway." She smoothed her hands over the chest of the uniform jacket, palms tingling from the scratch of wool. "Try it on."
"I need to see how it drapes."
He gestured toward a mannequin in the far corner of the sunswept room. This whole damn night was getting out of hand. "Let your pal try it on."
She shook her head. "Not good enough. I need some motion."
What are you afraid of, Zane? It's only a uniform. "Shut up, Sara Jane," he mumbled.
"What was that?" asked Emilie.
"Nothing," he said, vaguely embarrassed. He reached for the uniform. "Let me try the damn thing on then I'm out of here."
She held up the jacket for him to slip his arms into the sleeves. "I know it's none of my business any more, but you really should do something about that attitude of yours."
"There's nothing wrong with my attitude." He rotated his shoulders, settling the regimental jacket into place, then changed the subject. "It fits."
Emilie's eyes widened. "Like it was made for you." She tugged at the cuffs, settling them over his wrist bones. The fit was perfect. "The odds of finding a uniform large enough for a man your size are--"
"A million to one?"
Of course it fits you, boy. You're a Rutledge, aren't you?
Emilie tilted her head and looked at him curiously. "Did you say something?"
He shook his head.
"I'm sure I heard something." Her brow furrowed and she looked at him even more closely. "Are you okay?"
"You don't look fine."
"I will once I get out of this thing."
"But I wanted you to try on the breeches."
"I don't wear tights." He yanked off the coat and handed it to her.
"They're not tights," she said, a grin tugging at her lush and beautiful mouth. "Spandex is a new invention."
"I don't give a damn if George Washington wore them. I don't."
"You'd probably look great in them. You always did have terrific legs."
"Okay," she said. "I give up. I'll wrap the uniform back up and you can be on your way." She should have known better. She'd made this same mistake the first time they'd met, only she'd been younger and naive enough to believe in happy endings. That's why they were called fantasies; no woman in her right mind expected them to come true.
"You can keep the uniform."
"No," said Emilie. "This is a piece of history."
"History means nothing to me," he said bluntly. "You might as well keep the uniform for all the good it'll do me." This isn't going the way I'd hoped, Zane....
"If it doesn't matter to you," she shot back, "why did you come here?"
Again that odd sizzle of electricity in his veins, a rush of adrenaline with no place to go. How did you tell your ex-wife that your dead grandmother's voice had told you to come? She'd be dialing 911 before he reached the hallway. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Remind me to tell Professor Attleman at Rutgers to recommend someone else next time around." She reached for the brown paper the uniform had been wrapped in.
"I wasn't kidding about the uniform. You can have it. It already means more to you than it ever will to me."
"If sentiment doesn't carry any weight with you, how about money? It's worth a small fortune."
"I'm rich. I won't miss it."
"Don't you care about anything?"
"Not if I can help it."
"You haven't changed a bit," she said with a shake of her head. "I feel sorry for you."
"Don't. I do what I want, go where I want, whenever I want. Most people would kill to have my life."
"You can't run forever," she said, not understanding why she cared. "Sooner or later you'll have to slow down long enough to figure out why you're so lonely."
He laughed out loud. "Lonely? Give me a break. You don't know a damn thing about my life any more."
She looked at him as if she could see into his soul. "I'm right, aren't I?"
He bent down and kissed her hard and fast on the mouth, a kiss of anger and need and lost possibilities.
"Have a nice life, Emilie. I'm out of here."