The third book in the Time After Time Saga, by Lynette Endicott and Tami Dee. When Eliza O’Malley leaves Ireland for America her mother hopes and prays she will escape the heartache that was inherited with the Heartmark.
It was not to be. As she keeps house for her father and brothers, and holds the family together through Wyoming winters and a terrible tragedy, she is being watched by a neighbor who will do anything in her power to keep Eliza from her true love.
Excerpt from Survival Instinct — an ancestral memory from Eliza
Steam wafted around her. The hot water soothed stressed tendons.
Images filtered through her mind, odd images, which seemed to take on a life of their own, separate from her will.
She frowned and shifted in the water. Her heart beat increased and thrummed through her entire body.
The scent of grass, dirt and dust filled her nostrils. The cast iron tub she reclined in became an oval shaped wooden barrel, not quite long enough to let her stretch her legs out. The sterile white walls of her own tiny bathroom became what looked like clumps of earth, pushed into the spaces between sod blocks. There was one window, and through the wavy glass tall, green prairie grass swayed in a breeze.
Why did she think she was bathing in a homestead, a sod house no less, in Wyoming?
The wooden door opened and a silhouette of a man filled the frame.
Winter’s breath caught in her throat. It wasn’t fear that filled her, but an excitement, a longing, which almost brought her to her knees with its intensity.
“Frank,” she said, but it was not her voice that spoke. It was the woman in the tub. Winter watched the scene as if she were a spectator, rather than a participant.
The woman in the tub was not her, she was certain. Her hair was as dark as her own, yes, but it was long, piled atop her head with small strands curling in the bath steam around her pretty, Irish face. She was young, and gauging by the shining of her big eyes as they gazed at Frank she was very much in love.
Bubbles concealed her nakedness, and Frank strode into the hut as if he had every right. His eyes never left the woman’s as he knelt beside the wooden tub.
“Eliza,’ he murmured. Tears filled his eyes and his large well-muscled body shook with emotion. “I’m sorry, I should have believed you. Can you ever forgive me?”
“How could you have listened to Meredith?” she asked a catch in her voice. “How could you take your sister’s word over mine? I’ve never known a man, never.”
Pain and regret filled his face. “I know.”
“How?” she demanded, her chin firming. “How do you know?”
His light head lowered, then raised until his eyes met hers. “I overhead her speaking to David. They set you up, Eliza, they arranged the whole thing so I would think the worst of you.”
She lowered her head. Winter’s own heart pinched for her. The love Eliza felt for this mountain of a man — kneeling at her side with tears running in a torrent down his weather rugged handsome face– reached through the centuries and intertwined with Winter’s own heart.
And Winter knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that what she was experiencing right this moment was a memory which was not her own, but of her ancestress.
Winter also knew that Eliza would forgive Frank, even though his reason for at last believing her was less than it should have been.
At least he was being honest.
“I should have believed you, Eliza,” he told her, grasping her wet hand and clutching it within his large, calloused hands. “I promise, Eliza, if you marry me, now, today, I will never doubt you again, no matter what I may see or hear. I will not wait to overhear a conversation I should not have heard to believe in you.”
Tears now ran down Eliza’s cheeks. Winter’s own eyes filled with tears that spilt unchecked down her cheeks.
Eliza nodded once, and Frank pulled her from her tub and enfolded her in a bear hug. He kissed the top of her head, he fully dressed, she nude and pink from the hot water, a Heartmark clear to see on the back of her neck, right at the base of her hairline.
Desire curled low in Winter’s tummy, she sucked in a breath and Mike’s face floated across her mind’s eye, replacing the hut set in the middle of a prairie. Eliza and Frank faded back to their own time to be replaced by her own longing for a golden-eyed agent she could so easily give her heart to.
If she were not so afraid.
Winter wondered about Frank’s sister. Why had the woman tried to destroy the couple?
Had she been the one set to distribute ancient revenge on Eliza, the Heartmark woman?
Winter pulled the rubber plug with her toe and stepped out of the tub, wrapping herself in an oversized towel.
She walked to the broach and picked it up. From what she’d just witnessed, Winter would have to say that Eliza and Frank had overcome the obstacles Meredith had placed in front of them.
Hope blossomed within Winter’s heart.
Maybe she and Mike had a chance at happiness after all. If, that was, he felt the same way about her that she was pretty sure she felt about him.
She dressed in sweats and a tee and grabbed a cold beer from the fridge.
The cat meowed and rubbed against the small in table where the diary sat, unopened.
Winter sat down in the chair next to the small table and patted the cat. “I suppose I should read this now.”
Big golden eyes stared up at her and Winter shivered once, then picked up the diary.