Read Clocked Online

Authors: Elle Strauss

Tags: #Romance, #science fiction, #1800s fiction, #time travel, #novelette

Clocked (6 page)

BOOK: Clocked
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You better get ready,” she said. “We’re supposed to meet Robert Willingsworth in Boston. Finally, we get to do something interesting.”

I was already doing something interesting. “You know,” I said, “I can see your silhouette with the candle burning.”


What?” Casey’s voice went up several notches. “Close your eyes!”

She made me laugh.


Shut up!”


I didn’t say anything.”


Just be a gentleman and turn around.”


And if I don’t?” I teased.


If you don’t, I’ll–I’ll tell Jessica!”


Jessica who?”


Your girlfriend.”


Oh, her.” As if I didn’t know. I enjoyed yanking her chain. “No need to freak. I’ve been turned around for ten minutes already.”

 

***

 

We took one of two carriages owned by the Watsons.


We need to use both,” Sara explained, “to get the whole Watson family to church on Sundays.”

I couldn’t help staring at the altered sights out the window. I must’ve been gawking because Casey elbowed me and told me to shut my mouth. It was crazy to see a Boston without automobiles or electric streetlights. Just lots of horses and horse manure mounds plopped everywhere. All the modern buildings made of glass and steel were gone.

The carriage stopped at a three story brick building that had a sign that said
The United States Hotel.

Never heard of it.


This building isn’t around anymore,” I said, stating the obvious.


Now we have Chinatown.”

Casey looked stunning in the fancy blue dress she’d borrowed from Sara. It had a lot of fabric below the waist puffing out like an upside down bowl, but not much above it, a look which suited me fine. I tucked on the dinner jacket I’d gotten from Willie and then offered her a hand out. She rewarded me with a smile. I’d like to see more of those.

Across the cobble street was a group of men, black mostly, who stood quietly holding a hand painted sign that said ABOLISH THE FUGITIVE ACT. I recognized one of them as being the guy at the breakfast table, Samuel.

There was an energy in the air, an unrest, and I hoped there wouldn’t be any trouble.

We followed Sara and Willie into the hotel lobby.


This is a political meeting,” Casey said once we were inside. “The keynote speaker is discussing the hot issue of states’ rights and slavery.”


So, a fun, light evening, then,” I said. “Will we see Lincoln?”


No, but if you look to your right you’ll see Ralph Waldo Emerson seated beside Nathaniel Hawthorne.”


Ah, the author,” I said, remembering my introduction to Sara Watson.

Sara was speaking with a tall, dark-haired man who wore a top hat and long coat with tails. Even from a distance I sensed his self-importance. He wasn’t listening well to whatever it was that Sara was saying. I felt my stomach churn. His eyes had locked in on Casey.

Soon his long thin legs had him at her side.


Miss Donovan!” he said boisterously. Then he took her gloved hand and lifted it to his lips, a pompous move that I knew Casey would find disconcerting and it made me grin.


What in heaven’s name happened to you at Faneuil Hall?” he said. “You disappeared into thin air!”


Yes, I had to leave suddenly. A courier had delivered news that my mother was very ill and I rushed home immediately.”


I’m so sorry to hear that.”


But,” Sara said, having joined us, “she returned to us with her brother.”


Oh, yes,” Casey said. “Robert, I’d like you to meet my, uh, brother, Nathaniel.”

He stretched out his hand. “Mr. Donovan. It’s my pleasure.”

Mr.
Donovan?
Casey’s eyes sparkled with humor. I bit my cheek to keep from smirking.

This Robert guy was really annoying. He pushed his way in as we selected seats, ensuring that he had a chair next to Casey. It was more than obvious that he was into her. This awareness made something in my gut twist. For the first time since we’d arrived, I wished I wasn’t masquerading as Casey’s brother.


He is so into you,” I whispered into Casey’s ear, wanting to see her reaction. I wanted to know if she could possibly return the feeling.

All the answer I got to that was a “shhshh” to be quiet.


I heard that if Lincoln wins,” Willie began,” the southern states threaten secession.”

Robert nodded. “There is talk about a separate union. The Confederacy.”


That’s dreadful,” Sara said, pushing a stray red curl away from her forehead. “All so they can work humans like animals.”


Well,” Robert said, “one could blame the north for that phenomenon.”


How so?” I said. Casey shot me a warning look that said stay out of it.

Willie answered me. “The industrial advancement of the northern states, particularly in the case of factories that spin cotton and weave cloth, has created a greater need for raw material.”


The only way to meet the demand for cotton,” Robert added, “is to increase the work force. Thus the need for slaves.”

I couldn’t help but think of my buddies who were black, and I felt the muscles in my face grow tight. “Couldn’t you meet that demand by hiring free men? Black or otherwise?”


We’re talking about the need for an enormous amount of manpower, impossible to manage, not to mention a centuries old tradition.”

I felt Casey’s hand squeeze mine under the table. She was telling me to stay out of it. I closed my eyes and squeezed back, letting her know I understood.

The host announced the arrival of Senator Charles Sumner. Loud applause rose as a man in a tweed suit limped to the podium, his cane knocking the wooden floors.

Casey leaned towards me. “He once spoke against slavery,” she whispered, “with a speech called
The Crime against Kansas
. A congressman from South Carolina beat Sumner with his cane until he was unconscious. Do you believe it? That’s why he limps now.”

I didn’t know this.
Unbelievable
.

She continued, “This beating became a symbol in the north of southern brutality. I’m sure we’ll hear about it tonight.”

This girl was endlessly surprising. “How do you know all this?”

She smiled widely. “I told you, American History is my best subject.”

The room grew quiet and Charles Sumner cleared his voice. “To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson,” he began, who, I see is kind enough to attend tonight, “An immoral law makes it a man’s duty to break it....’”

 

***

 

After the lecture the stage was cleared and a four-piece band began to set up.


What’s happening now?” Casey asked.

Sara clapped her hands, her face bright with anticipation. “A dance.”

The hall filled up with couples swirling around the room. The women were in big frilly dresses, the kind actresses wore in those period movies Jessica made me watch, and the men in tuxes and top hats. I felt like I was on a movie set and that some director was going to shout, “cut” at any minute.

Willie snagged Casey before I had a chance to, though watching her laugh and engage in an animated conversation while dancing with him was quite enjoyable. I sat at the table waiting for my turn to step in. I wasn’t sure why I was so eager to dance with her again, except that something drew me to Casey. I wanted a legitimate reason to touch her.

I should’ve paid closer attention to what was going on with Casey because Robert Willingsworth had cut in on her and Willie when I wasn’t looking. I found it comforting to see the delight on her face diminish as they waltzed around the room. His mouth kept moving like he was in love with the sound of his own voice.

I didn’t like the way he stared at her. She was something he coveted and I had the feeling Robert Willingsworth was the kind of man who was used to getting what he wanted.

Without thinking it through, I was on my feet, tapping on the guy’s shoulder. He stopped, startled to see me, like I had committed some kind of
faux pas
. Which I probably had.


Do you mind if I take a turn with my sister?”


Of course,” he said with fake politeness.


Thank you,” Casey said, once she was in my arms.


You looked uncomfortable.”


I was,” she said, smiling brightly at me.

I smiled back. “You know, you surprise me, Casey.”


What do you mean?”


You’re nothing like I thought you were, back at school.”


Which was?”


I don’t know. Quiet, boring, uninspired.”

That sounded harsher than I meant it to, and I felt her bristle.


And now?” she said.


Obviously, the opposite.” And it was true. I was really taken with this girl. Her smile returned and I couldn’t help but pull her a little closer.


You’re not a bad dancer,” she said into my ear.


Neither are you.” I wasn’t imagining it. Something was sparking between us. We had chemistry. The way she held my eyes, held her breath, I could tell she felt it, too.


Isn’t this how it all started?” I said.


What do you mean?”


With a dance. How we ended up here. Together.”

She pulled back and I knew she’d taken my words the wrong way.


We’ll get back, Nate. I don’t know why it’s taking so long, but we will get back.”

I didn’t care about that right now. I mean, I wanted to get back, but right now, I just wanted Casey. She was beautiful, intelligent, and adventurous. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her.

She shifted under my gaze. “Robert and Sara are watching us,” she said. “Remember, we are brother and sister.”

Oh, yeah.


Do you think your buddies got a good laugh?”


What?” Where did that come from?

Her lips tightened and her eyebrow arched. “The dare.”


My only regret is that it took a dare to get me to dance with you.”

We swirled around the room a couple times without speaking. I wanted Casey to say something. To respond to what was a declaration of sorts. I liked her.

Her eyes were sad when she looked back at me. “Let’s not complicate things any more than they already are.”

I stiffened. “Is that what we’re doing?”


Complicating things?” she said. “I can’t imagine a more complicated situation.”

So that was how it was going to be. I got it. Besides, technically, I was still taken.

The night came to an end and I helped Casey with her shawl before the jerkwad Robert could do it. It was disgusting how he kept fawning all over her.


My dear Cassandra,” he said, totally ignoring me. “I do hope to see you again soon. Perhaps I will call on the Watson family sometime and see you there?”

BOOK: Clocked
8.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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