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Authors: Susan Kiernan-Lewis

Tags: #romance, #love, #sex, #danger, #europe, #germany, #warlord, #heidelberg

Heidelberg Effect

BOOK: Heidelberg Effect
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THE HEIDELBERG EFFECT

 

Susan
Kiernan-Lewis

 

Ella Steven’s stubborn independence is the
keystone of her identity—unfettered by romantic involvements or
family demands—until the day she takes an exciting new job in
Heidelberg, Germany. There, she stumbles onto a hidden time portal
that takes her to 1620 Heidelberg where all her modern-day techno
toys and proud self-reliance can’t protect her from the brutal
realities of every day life.

 

Befriended by a convent of seventeenth
century nuns who stand on the executioner's block of the bloodiest
warlord in all of Europe, Ella, struggles to survive in this
primitive and brutal time. Soon, with the help of a sexy US
Marshal, she tries to break out of her closed world of protected
autonomy to help her new friends. When she does, she learns the
hard way that when it comes to the things that really matter in
life—love, trust and friendship—sometimes opening yourself up to
others is the only true way home.

 

San Marco Press/Atlanta
2013

Copyright 2013 by San Marco Press. All
rights reserved.

Published by San Marco Press at
Smashwords

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com
and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Epilogue

Author’s Note

The Cairo
Effect

 

Chapter 1

Ella adjusted her earpiece
and squinted at the screen on her iPod. If the software sales copy
could be believed,
hearing
the German phrases spoken while reading them
was
supposed
to
increase her language retention by thirty percent.

“Abfahrt
,” she said, and instantly noticed the woman at the next
table glance at her and frown.

Ella took a sip of
her
macchiato,
and looked around the crowded coffee shop. Maybe it was too
noisy in here to hear properly? It all sounded like so much
gobbledygook. She was supposed to have a good ear for languages.
Why was this one so difficult?

“Is this chair taken?”

Ella instantly knocked over her drink then
snatched up a paper napkin to protect her new Kate Moss A-line.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.” He
smiled broadly at her, innocently. He used his cowboy hat to
gesture toward the chair. He appeared remarkably unaffected by the
damage he had just caused.

“Take it,” Ella said, nodding at the chair
and mopping up the worst of the river of coffee with the napkin.
She glanced around the room in annoyance to see if it really were
so crowded that her extra chair was needed.

He pulled out the chair and sat down.

“Do I know you?” she said with irritation.
Now the wire to her earphones was dragging through the puddle of
coffee on the table.

“Not yet anyway.”

She stared at him.
A pick up attempt? Really?

“I was just wondering if you come here
much,” he said.


Only when I want to be
alone,” she said pointedly.

“I saw you messing with your iPod. It looked
like you were doing more than just sorting out your playlist.”

Was this guy for real?

“I’m using it to brush up on a
language.”

“Which one?”

“German.”

“I took German in college.”

“So you speak German?”

“Not a word.”

Ella wiped off her dripping iPod cord and
turned to give her full attention to this cowboy. He was
good-looking in a rumpled, afterthought kind of way. Brown shaggy
hair, but combed. A grin that touched his eyes.

The silence stretched between them.


What I lack, however, in
language proficiency,” he said, “I make up for in being able to
take a hint.” He stood up.

“I have a boyfriend,” she said, which was a
lie.

“I’m not surprised. Well, it was worth a
try. I’m Rowan, by the way.”

“I’m Ella,” she said.

When he continued to just stand there as if
waiting for something, she pushed the pile of wet napkins from her
and picked up her iPod again. “It was nice meeting you, Rowan,” she
said.

“You, too. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

“That’d be nice,” she said.
“I do come here a good bit.”
He was
definitely cute.

He smiled and backed away from her, his
cowboy hat in his hand.

Ella watched him go. She still had another
fifteen minutes left on her lunch hour and the last thing she
wanted to do was get back to work early. Strike that, she thought,
as she watched Rowan leave the coffee shop and walk toward his car
in the parking lot. The last thing she wanted was to meet someone
interesting mere days before she was set to move to Heidelberg,
Germany and begin her new life.

An hour later, after another relentlessly
boring meeting had concluded and Ella returned to her desk, she saw
that her father had called. A tinge of guilt crept into her
otherwise placid mood at the realization that it had been weeks
since she’d talked to him. With nothing else to do the rest of the
workday but keep her chair seat warm until five o’clock, she
punched in his number.

“Dad?”

“Sweetie, I’m so glad you called.” His voice
was warm and loving. The memory of so many hugs and special
chuckles flitted through her mind as she heard his deep, rich
tones. “Thought you went off the grid on me there,” he said.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” she said. “I was
doing some extra stuff at work. Kind of kept me busy.”

“Really?”

Ella could hear the tincture of worry that
was usually in his voice replace the comforting warmth. “Was it
after dark? You don’t approach these people alone, do you? And you
still carry the Taser I got you?”

Ella remembered why she tended to let so
much time go by between phone calls.

“No, Dad, it wasn’t like that. All my
investigative stuff is on the phone or the computer. You know that.
I don’t do any fieldwork. I promise.”

“Because, I’m telling you, Ella, you can’t
trust anyone to be who they say they are. You know what I
mean?”

Ella did know. An ex-CIA asset like her
mother, her father had aged into an insecure, nervous wreck in
retirement.

“Dad, trust me, okay? The stuff I do is tax
shit and tracking down debts and car titles and like that. I might
as well be in a call center in Sri Lanka, okay? No one knows me.
I’m the epitome of anonymous in my job.”

“I hope it is as you say it is.”

“Trust me, it is, Dad.”

“You know, darling, at the risk of sounding
like a broken record, you can’t go through this life without back
up, you know?”

“I know, Dad. I
know.”
God, not this again.

“When you need help, you
need to be able to ask for it. That was
not
something your mother could do
and I have to believe she would be alive today if she could
have.”

Ella’s mother had died during a mysterious
overseas operation that all and anyone could only later describe as
a guaranteed suicide mission.

“Dad, I know,” Ella said. “My job’s not like
that. But if I ever do need help,” she said hurriedly, “I am always
first in line to ask for it. Okay? But you know, I’ve got a meeting
in like about thirty seconds so I need to sign off. Talk to you
later? Give my love to Susie.” She wasn’t very close to her
stepmother but she knew it made her father happy when she pretended
she was.

“Alright, sweetie, I will,” her dad said,
the warmth and ease back in his voice. “Don’t go so long between
calls, okay? I worry.”

“I know, Dad,” she said. “Love you.”

After she disconnected,
Ella found herself wondering, as she frequently did, how dowdy,
middle-aged Susie could be so different from the exciting woman she
had been told her mother was. Jane Stevens had died when Ella was
five. Not for the first time, Ella wondered what the point of

full honors from a grateful
nation
” was if nobody knew about
them.

 

Rowan Pierce pulled in
front of the Starbucks on Abernathy Road. He debated leaving his
cellphone in the console but decided he better keep it on him in
case one of his parents called and wanted him to pick something up
at Kroger. He got out of the car and looked around. It was a habit
he’d gotten into at Glynco which had served him well many times in
the past. Besides, at thirty-two, he was too old to start learning
new methods of behavior now. He naturally took in his tactical
environment wherever he was, even if he was just on Abernathy Road
planning to stake out a mocha
venti
.

It occurred to him as he entered the coffee
shop that these five weeks home with the folks were originally
designed to help him recover from the gunshot wound without added
stress. The combination of wanting to take care of his elderly
parents together with meeting Ella was making his enforced vacation
anything but relaxing.

He couldn’t say he’d been
stalking her, exactly. He
had
noticed her before he finally approached her.
They shared the same neighborhood Starbucks after all. Every time
he saw her in there, she was always focused on something—her iPod,
a newspaper, her e-reader—and she rarely looked up. It wasn’t a
surprise to him that she acted like she had never noticed him
before. But because of his job, he always looked around at everyone
and everything, which meant she had been on his radar for
weeks.

He took his
venti
outside, and
looked for a place to sit and enjoy the pleasant October weather.
He was briefly sorry that he hadn’t gone to his usual Starbucks,
near his parents’ house, but he wanted to avoid making Ella
uncomfortable again. Hell, could he help it that as a US Marshall,
dating and stalking tended to take on the same hue? He was just out
of practice. Besides, who knows? He had two weeks left on his
medical leave. Maybe they’d meet up again before he went back to
Alabama.

Rowan shifted on the stone bench outside the
café and sipped his coffee. No wonder there was nobody else sitting
out here. The exhaust fumes from the traffic on Abernathy—not to
mention the noise—reminded him of why he had always been less than
in love with Atlanta. Even the birds were annoying, he thought, as
he watched a bold sparrow peck at his shoe.

“No, biscotti this time, pal,” he said,
waving the bird away. It was when he stood up and slapped his jeans
pockets for his car keys that he saw her.

She walked like she drank coffee—totally
focused on the task before her—so she never noticed him sitting
outside the café. She was a little shorter than he’d gauged before,
but slim. She wasn’t dressed for the weather, which was warm, but
in a short leather jacket and a tight skirt that fit her ass like a
handmade glove. Without thinking too much about it—especially since
he knew the whole reason he was at this Starbucks in the first
place was to give her some space—he tossed his coffee in a nearby
trash bin and started to follow her in.

 

The first thing Ella
thought when her mind was able to connect two thoughts together was
that it was all happening like some terrible nightmare that she
couldn’t stop. When she marched up to the counter, she did note
that it was odd for there to be no line at this time of day. Plus
the cashier was looking at her strangely. It was when she saw the
man standing
behind
the cashier that she began to realize things were not
right.

BOOK: Heidelberg Effect
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