Authors: Cassidy Cayman
by Cassidy Cayman
Visit online at
Tilly’s finally decided she wants to stay with Ashford in 1814, but even though he professed his love for her, he keeps trying to figure out ways to get her home. She thinks they could be blissfully happy regardless of his cursed house, their little undead problem, and the looming threat of the wicked Povest coven.
An old curse comes to light that forces them to seek help from Ashford’s estranged relatives in Castle on Hill, where they find a way back to the twenty-first century that could easily be a trap orchestrated by his old nemesis, Solomon Wodge.
Ashford knows he could end up losing a showdown with Wodge, but even though he can’t stand the thought of letting Tilly go, he knows she’s better off without him, and he puts his life on the line to fulfill his promise to get her back to her own time.
Tilly quite liked the cozy cottage she and Ashford stayed at in the fishing village of Cachette-sur-Mer. It had three tidy rooms and a reasonably comfortable bed, and a view of the water if you stood on a bench in the dusty little patch of backyard. It was really one of the nicest available establishments.
She could just about fool herself that she and Ashford were on a vacation together, enjoying each other’s company, eating fresh eggs every morning and holding hands while watching the sunset over the sea each evening.
It would have been a lot easier if they weren’t waiting on pins and needles for Kostya to arrive from Scotland, and if Ashford’s heart hadn’t been so broken at finding out his twin sister had gone off the deep end, decimating the next town over so she and her undead paramour could have some alone time.
She worried about him, not sure how much of his inability to see reason was his loyalty to his only sibling, or the fact that she was pretty sure Camilla had put some sort of spell on him. When she asked him about it he nodded matter-of-factly and told her, yes, Camilla did put a spell on him.
“What? What did she do?” Tilly yelped, feeling his forehead.
The poor man had been walking around in a hapless state for days and just now admitted he was under some sort of magical hex?
He shrugged. “She made me want to get out of Rouleney and forget about her.”
“Well, at least you’re aware of it,” Tilly said.
He rolled his eyes as if it were a daily occurrence to have your mind played with by a powerful witch. Then again, she didn’t know much about his childhood. Maybe it was a daily occurrence.
“Should we have stayed? Should we be doing what she wants?”
“No, we needed to get out of there, especially before the Povests arrive, if they’re ever going to. Camilla needs to think she got what she wanted and feel safe so she doesn’t go into hiding again before Kostya gets here.” He frowned and shook his head. “I wonder why the Povests have let her get away with all that for so long. They’re usually quite swift with retribution.”
Tilly shuddered to remember the ‘all that’ Camilla had been allowed to get away with: the eery deserted village, the monstrously desecrated church filled with— she had to stop and forcefully turn her mind to something else. The fishmonger had come around that morning and sold her some nice shellfish she was planning to boil for dinner and she had a sole she needed to clean.
She’d become adept at cooking seafood in the days that they’d been waiting. Honestly, if things hadn’t been so overall screwed, she would have been happy living the quiet life with Ashford. Unless he worriedly brought it up in his bouts of self-torment, she rarely thought about going home anymore.
She had been in 1814 well over a month, and Dex would have had to come up with a story for her mother by now as to why she hadn’t returned to California. Perhaps he actually told her the truth. He could have had Emma back him up, since she was a time travel victim as well.
Tilly did feel bad for Emma, especially since Ashford believed it was extremely dangerous for her to be in her own timeline. Of the two people he’d known that to happen to, neither one of them had fared well, one dying and one going mad. But unlike Ashford, she didn’t torture herself with things she had no control over. Instead, she practiced avoidance, by learning how to cook all the delicious fish and crustaceans that were available, fresh from the sea every day.
“I simply can’t believe Camilla’s acting alone,” Ashford said, starting in on another endless loop of worry.
She understood him not wanting to think the worst of his sister, and while she mostly kept quiet about it, after what she saw, she couldn’t find it in her heart to feel anything but fear and revulsion toward Camilla. She prayed Kostya could get through to his wife, find whatever humanity that might be left inside her, but Tilly wasn’t sure how that was going to be possible.
“Perhaps the reason the Povests haven’t put a stop to her yet, is because they’re the ones controlling her. From afar, or somewhere we couldn’t see them.”
“Julian, stop,” she said. “You’re going to wear a path in the floor with your pacing. Come and sit by me.”
She batted her lashes, a silly thing she started as a joke when she first arrived in this time, but something she soon discovered Ashford found irresistible. His furrowed brow relaxed and his silvery grey eyes crinkled at the corners. His usually stern and somewhat haughty face relaxed into a smile. Her heart pounded a little faster as he moved toward her and she scooted to make room for him on the small, tweedy settee.
When he sat down, she eased onto his lap, smoothing the lapels of his burgundy wool jacket while enjoying the feel of his hard chest under her palms.
“I know you’re worried,” she said, working at the buttons of his waistcoat. “But there’s nothing we can do until Kostya arrives.”
“If he’s even left yet. If he got my message at all.” Ashford’s words were half-hearted as he slid his hands around her waist.
She continued her distraction techniques by leaning over and kissing him just above his snowy white cravat. He tilted his chin back and made a satisfied noise, so she kissed him again.
“I’m sure he got the message, and I’m sure he’s on his way. Kostya’s very reliable, right?”
His waistcoat now open, she tugged until his shirt was free of his breeches, sliding her hands across his flat belly.
“Mmmhmmm,” he said, and she wasn’t sure if it was in answer to her question or a positive reaction to her touch.
He swept away the loose tendrils of hair from her neck, kissing her along the side of her throat and she simply didn’t care either way. No matter how much they fretted over what was going to happen, right now there was nothing they could do but wait, and the specter of her time here being limited constantly loomed over her. Ashford was determined to keep his promise to get her home, to do the same for Emma, and she had no doubt he would find a way. The only thing she had doubts about was if she still wanted to go back.
Even though Ashford admitted he loved her, it had been in a high stress moment, right before they had to face Camilla’s zombie boyfriend, and he’d never said it since. He’d been plenty affectionate since they ended up hiding out in this darling little house, right this moment he was deftly popping open the dozens of buttons down her back while kissing behind her ear, but they hadn’t spoken of their confessions again.
It was a terrible situation they were in, watching the post for messages from London in case anything changed with the house, listening for news of strange murders along the coast, checking all the incoming ships to see if Kostya had arrived. Nagging him about anything was out of the question. Tilly would have eaten a bag of raw fish eyes before being the clingy sort, but it would have been so lovely to hear it again.
How did he manage her buttons so fast? He edged her sleeves down and nuzzled her shoulders, working down the front of her chest with feathery light kisses. She got in a more comfortable position straddling his lap and got serious about getting his jacket and shirt off.
She wondered for at least the tenth time what would happen if she just came out and said it again. It seemed ridiculous that she should be so worked up about it. He was a man after all, and Ashford to boot. It probably hadn’t occurred to him that she might like to hear that he loved her more than once in a lifetime.
She ruffled his hair until it stood up in dark wavy tufts, then smoothed it again, kissing his brow, then his nose, and finally his mouth. He tasted salty and smelled of the sea air, and she knew he’d been roaming the docks again, checking on ship arrivals.
“I want to make you forget everything for a little while,” she murmured, kissing him again.
She pressed herself against him and dug her fingers into his shoulders, wanting to pull him out of himself and set him free of the worries that plagued him.
“Everything?” he asked.
He wrestled her dress lower and smiled dreamily at her breasts, running his fingers tantalizingly down the sides of them. She shivered and leaned into his touch.
“Everything but me,” she said, nudging his chin so he raised his eyes back up to hers.
“I couldn’t forget you if I lived a thousand years.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her fingertips before resting it against his heart. “You’ll always be here, Matilda.”
She blinked at him, chest aching at the sweet sentiment. She felt guilty for doubting his love. What were words, when she could see so much feeling in his eyes?
He surprised her by holding tightly around her waist and lifting her up. “I think we’ll be more comfortable in the bedroom,” he said.
She wrapped her legs around him and held on as he carried her through their cozy house. She closed her eyes and wished it could last.
Solomon Wodge liked being rich. Or, rather, he liked the way people who weren’t rich treated him. The money itself was just a means to an end, and now that he was the proud owner of a very old mansion in London, he didn’t care a bit what became of the rest of his billions. He couldn’t even properly write out the amount of money his bankers told him he had. So many zeros, it made his head spin.
He was everyone’s hero at Belmary House, his greatest admirer being that poor cracked girl, Emma something or other. He could never remember their names, their faces only barely registering to him. He’d never stayed so long in one place— not since he’d discovered his distasteful ability to flit from year to year— so he’d never had to remember anyone’s names.
He kept his eye on Emma, though, waiting for her to completely blow. Being trapped ten years in her own past hadn’t done wonders for her health, and he could tell at one glance that she’d been spending time in close proximity to her previous self.
He knew the portals wouldn’t send someone within their own lifetime as a general rule, but as much as they hated to admit it, witches were human, and their spells went wrong every now and then. Some poor soul would get stuck in a time when he already existed, would get curious, or worse, decide he could make things better for himself, and boom. Goodbye, brain.
He himself loathed going to times he’d already been. Oh, he did it, sometimes it was necessary to get what he wanted, but it made his skin crawl. When he found out Emma had been stuck for more than a year he wondered how she hadn’t been hospitalized yet, or stepped in front of a speeding bus. Being around a version of yourself that already existed was no joke, and he had to admit he had a grudging respect for the head curator of his lovely new museum.