Authors: Kate Harre
Copyright © Kate Harre
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author.
“Time is an illusion.”
Time governs us all – the past, the present and the possibilities of the future are a finely woven cobweb in our psyche influencing our decisions, reactions and self-awareness.
As individuals some dates or moments in time affect us profoundly, while having little or no effect on those around us. Certain dates, however, have greater significance on the world at large – in fact, the precise moment one person’s heart stops beating can change the course of history. On 28
June 1914 the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated, setting in motion a series of events which led to the outbreak of the first ever world war. Four years later a generation of young men had been wiped out and the world was forever changed.
Most of these moments in time happen before we’ve had the chance to prepare for them. But there was one date that loomed large in our minds; one date many people around the globe waited for with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation – 21
December 2012. This was the date the ancient Mayan calendar predicted would be the end of the world. How exactly the world would end, no one knew. But it was assumed by many it would be some kind of cataclysmic, Amargeddon-type event. Doomsayers shouted prophecies with apparent glee. Some people took it seriously; many did not.
December 2012 we were still here. So the Mayan’s must have been wrong… or at least those who had interpreted their calendar.
But what if they were right? What if the only reason we’re all still here is because a small group of people have manipulated events in the past to ensure we have a future?
Emilia Delcourt gazed glumly under the hood of her car. It was a pointless exercise since she had no idea what she was looking for and, even if she found the problem, no clue how to fix it. But somehow it seemed the thing to do in situations such as these.
She was so frustrated she briefly considered kicking the tyre of her now completely useless car. But since she was wearing a pair of flimsy white slides, she thought better of it. No point adding a bruised toe to her problems. Still, the idea of kicking the darn thing to infinity and beyond was tempting.
Stacey, her best friend, slumped against the passenger door of the one year old Beetle – a car much too young to be sitting conked out on the side of the road – and lifted her long silvery blonde hair away from her neck. Because of course they’d broken down on the hottest day of summer so far! ‘Do you actually know what you’re doing? Pretending isn’t getting us any closer to the party.’
‘I wish! The whole point of a new car is you’re not supposed to need a mechanic, much less
one.’ She rubbed the spot between her eyebrows with a grimace. ‘I’ll have to call Justin and tell him we won’t be able to pick him and Kevin up.’
Gloomily, she ducked back into the car for her phone. Justin wasn’t going to be happy. Her high maintenance boyfriend was used to getting his way and he didn’t cope well when his plans were interfered with. Which was why Emilia had developed smoothing his way into an art form. But today, her car had let the team down big time.
Sure enough, when he heard the girls weren’t going to make it to his place, he was beyond unhappy… he was peeved.
‘Damn it, Emilia. Can’t you get anything right?’
‘I didn’t deliberately make the car break down, Justin. It’s not like I set out to sabotage your plans,’ she replied soothingly.
‘Yeah, well, Kevin and I are both half tanked already and can’t drive. So how are we supposed to get to the party now?’ he snarled. ‘I was relying on you, Emilia!’
‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered, the familiar feeling of inadequacy cramping her stomach. She’d anticipated this, but it still hurt. Why did he never notice how hard she tried to make things easy for him? She wasn’t a big drinker and had offered to drive tonight so everyone had a safe ride home. But she couldn’t control the caprices of modern motor mechanics, even if that was what Justin expected.
Blinking back tears, she turned towards Stacey, who was regarding her with sympathetic eyes. Kevin, her boyfriend, was easy going and a real sweetheart to boot, so she didn’t know what it was like to be partnered up with a more…
personality. But she’d seen Justin in action enough times to gather how he’d reacted.
‘Don’t worry about it, Em. He’ll get over it.’
‘Yeah. No chance of rescue from that quarter though, so I guess I’ll try Dad.’
Her father’s mobile went straight to message bank. Emilia dialled their home phone and hoped by some miracle he was back early from work. It was a long shot, so when the line was picked up she nearly dropped her phone in surprise.
‘Delcourt residence,’ a deep voice, which didn’t belong to her father, answered.
‘Seb? What are you doing at my place?’
‘Dropping some stuff off your Dad needed,’ he replied shortly.
Sebastian Gates had entered her life a little over a year ago, although neither of them was particularly happy about it. Emilia couldn’t quite fathom why he was around all the time. He did some kind of work for her father, but he wasn’t associated with Cornell University, where David Delcourt was Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology. So why they spent so much time together, she didn’t know.
‘Oh. Is Dad there? I, uh, need him.’ Seb had always made her nervous. It didn’t help that his permanent attitude towards her bordered on outright hostile, but it was more than that. There was something raw and dangerous about his dark, brooding good looks that were a stark contrast to the refined, well-bred boys she had gone to school with. The air practically crackled around him with volatile energy, which made Emilia skittish and uncomfortable. He knew it too and wasn’t above playing on it when it suited him.
‘Nope. He’s got some kind of pow wow with the other heads of departments. Strictly no interruptions,’ he drawled. It was the longest string of words he’d ever uttered in her presence. Perhaps he was one of those people who was better over the phone than in person.
‘Damn,’ she muttered, irrationally annoyed Seb knew more about David’s schedule than she did.
‘What’s up, Angel? Are you in some kind of trouble?’
‘Sort of… not exactly.’ She sighed and ran her hand through her loose brown hair. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll figure something out.’
Seb was instantly alert. ‘Tell me what’s happened, Emilia,’ he demanded curtly.
‘It’s nothing major. My car’s broken down and I was hoping Dad could come and pick me up, but it doesn’t matter.’
‘Has the car got petrol in it?’ he asked slowly, like he was speaking to a child.
Emilia gritted her teeth. The fact he seemed to think her head was filled with cotton wool hadn’t exactly endeared him to her. It was one of many reasons why she disliked him as much as he seemed to dislike her. ‘Of course it’s got petrol in it,’ she snapped. ‘I’m not an idiot!’
‘Just checking,’ he said calmly, but she could hear the mockery in his voice. ‘Where are you? I’ll come and get you.’
‘No really, it’s fine. Stace and I can get a taxi and I’ll sort out the car tomorrow,’ she said hurriedly. The last thing she wanted was to be beholden to Seb.
‘Don’t make a drama out of it, Angel. Just give me the damn address,’ he growled irritably.
Defeated, Emilia glanced around for a letterbox and reeled off the street and number.
‘I’ll be there in ten.’ He hung up.
Emilia slumped back against the hood of the car and twisted her head around so she could look directly at Stacey, who lifted an enquiring brow.
‘Seb is coming to get us.’
Stacey’s eyes lit up and she rubbed her hands together gleefully. ‘Ohhh goody. I’ve been dying to meet the guy who gets you in such a tizz for ages.’
‘He does not!’
‘Come on, Em. You’re cool as a cucumber, even when Justin’s being more than usually obnoxious. But Seb only has to turn up at your house without warning and you’d think Lord Voldemort had descended.’
Emilia’s lips twitched slightly. ‘He’s not quite
bad… most of the time.’
Ten minutes later, almost to the second, a gleaming black SUV pulled up behind Emilia’s little yellow Beetle. The driver’s door opened and Seb slowly emerged. He was wearing dark jeans with a white T-shirt, which lovingly moulded itself to every muscled inch of his superb torso. Black shades covered what Emilia knew to be the most vibrant turquoise eyes she had ever seen. His short black hair was slightly ruffled, as though he’d absently run his fingers through it a few times – a habit he seemed unaware of.
Emilia and Stacey, who had been sheltering in the car from the direct sunlight, got out of the car as Seb strolled towards them. He stopped mid-stride and shoved his sunglasses on top of his head. His eyes dancing with surprised amusement, he swept his gaze down her length.
‘What the hell are you wearing, Angel?’
‘We were on our way to a Toga party,’ she said stiffly, wishing she wasn’t standing in front of him in little more than a white sheet draped over one shoulder and gathered at the waist with a gold, tasselled silk rope.
His gaze shifted to Stacey and subjected her to a similar scrutiny. Emilia noticed in disgust Stacey’s cheeks had turned a dull red.
‘Isn’t this my lucky day?’ he murmured, before heading to the front of the car to peer under the hood.
‘Holy crap, Em,’ Stacey whispered, her grey eyes wide with awe. ‘You never told me he was so
and I mean,
“hot tamale train” hot
‘Yeah, well, once you get to know him his rotten personality dims his attractiveness enormously.’ Which was a big, fat lie. He still knocked the breath out of her when he walked in a room, but she’d worked really hard to at least
indifferent on the surface.
Stacey looked at her a bit queerly, but Emilia shrugged it off. She had to deal with Seb in a way that worked for her and having the hots for the unwelcome interloper in her life was not part of the game plan.
Seb came back around the side of the car, wiping his hands on a handkerchief he’d pulled from his pocket.
‘Looks like your engine overheated. There must be something wrong with the cooling system.’ He reached through the open driver’s door and removed the keys from the ignition, before closing the door and locking the car. ‘I’ll give you two a lift to your party and then get someone to come and look at it.’
‘You really don’t need to do that,’ Emilia protested. ‘I can call a garage tomorrow and get it sorted out.’
He shot her a quelling look. ‘It’s not up for discussion, Angel. Your Dad has done a lot for me; the least I can do is help his daughter out of a tight spot.’
‘Come on, Em. A guy is offering to rescue you – that’s what they were invented for, so let him do his job.’ Stacey grinned cheekily at Seb. ‘Besides, we’ve got a party to attend!’
‘I’m not in the habit of being rescued,’ she muttered ungraciously. But she knew she was outvoted and climbed in the front passenger side of the SUV with only a tiny sigh.
Seb just smirked and pulled his sunglasses back down over his eyes. Which suited Emilia perfectly – with his eyes covered he was a smidgeon easier to deal with.
‘Where to, ladies?’ he asked, as he started the vehicle.
Stacey told him the address and he pulled out into the street.
‘Isn’t it kind of early for a party to start?’ Seb asked curiously.
‘You only graduate high school once, right? So we all figured it should be a party to remember.’ Stacey chatted away, her elbows propped on the two front seats so she could be level with Emilia and Seb. ‘The party started about an hour ago with a barbeque, swimming and tennis. Ian – he’s the guy who is hosting – his folks have got a massive pool and
tennis courts, so there’s plenty of room for everyone.’
‘Must be a pretty big place,’ Seb offered.
Stacey nodded enthusiastically. ‘Uh huh. Once it gets dark we’re going to have fireworks and then the party will really get started.’
Seb glanced over at Emilia. ‘Sounds like it’s going to be quite a night. Are there going to be any adults present, Angel?’
Emilia rolled her eyes. ‘How come you’re suddenly so talkative?’ Usually it was all grunts and sarcasm, none of this protective older brother stuff.
‘I talk,’ he protested. ‘I just don’t engage in meaningless conversation for the hell of it.’
‘Or maybe it’s just that you don’t talk to
.’ She looked pointedly at Stacey, who grinned unrepentantly back. ‘But when there’s a gorgeous girl around…’
Seb snorted. ‘If that was the case I’d be talking to you all the time.’
Emilia couldn’t help it, she gaped... yep, her jaw literally dropped. Not once, in the entire time she’d known him, had he indicated he found her attractive. ‘Okay, who are you and what have you done with the rude, unkind, grumpy Sebastian I know and loathe?’
‘You loathe me?’ he asked, his voice wounded.
Emilia flushed with shame. She hadn’t meant that. But somehow when she was around Seb her tongue tended to get ahead of her and she never knew quite what was going to come out of her mouth.
‘Forget I said that. I don’t loathe you, I don’t even hate you.’ She hesitated. ‘You’re kind of hard to get to know, which can be… exasperating.’
‘I know,’ he replied quietly. ‘And I deliberately goad you. I’m normally quite a nice guy.’
‘Yeah, right.’ Emilia raised a disbelieving brow.
A rare grin spread across his face, softening the almost harsh planes. ‘Maybe not
‘This is fascinating!’ Stacey, who had been watching their byplay with interest, collapsed against the back seat with a delighted sigh. ‘You two are so
‘Whatever,’ Seb and Emilia chorused in derisive unison.
Stacey laughed. ‘You’re just both too stubborn to admit it to yourselves!’
Emilia twisted around in her seat so she could look her best friend in the eye. ‘Stace, we tolerate each other for Dad’s sake, that’s all. Right, Seb?’
He nodded and pulled up in front of the elaborately scrolled, white steel gates, which closed off the Halvorsten property. ‘Trust me, Stace, the Angel here is not my type. I like my women a bit more down and dirty, if you know what I mean.’
Oddly offended, Emilia shot him a look filled with disdain. ‘Trust you to resort to gutter talk.’