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Authors: Cate Dean

Final Hours

BOOK: Final Hours
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Final Hours

Love in Time Book One

 

Cate Dean

 

Copyright, 2014

All Rights Reserved.

 

No part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission of
the author, except for use in any review. This is a work of fiction. The names,
characters, locales, and events are either pure invention or used fictitiously,
and all incidents come from the author’s imagination alone.

 

 

Cover design by Jes Richardson.

 

 

Sign up for Cate’s list:
http://catedeanwrites.com/join-my-list
to learn about new releases.

 

 

One man’s death will change the future.

 

Only two people can save him – if they
have the courage to trust each other.

 

Elizabeth
Barritt fought hard for the life she has, finally putting the ugly memories of
a childhood trapped in the foster care system behind her. She has the chance to
move forward, to reach out for a new, exciting future, surrounded by the art
that is her passion. All she has to do is take the first step.

 

Enter
Jackson Kane, who bursts into her life, literally out of thin air. He is a time
traveler, on the hunt for a rogue agent. Colliding with Elizabeth is not on his
agenda, as much as she intrigues him.

 

When
Kane is injured protecting Elizabeth from that agent, she makes a decision that
will change her life, in ways she can’t even begin to grasp. She takes him
home.

 

Once
he is healed enough to travel, Kane goes after the agent, chasing him back to
war-torn London. But his journey back takes a sideways turn, forcing Elizabeth
to make another choice. She follows him into the past, to help him stop one man
from changing their future.

 

Together,
they learn to trust. What they don’t expect is the connection between them - a
connection so strong they can’t fight it, even as they try. Because how can it
work, when their lives are centuries apart?

A Note From Cate

 

Though I do dive
into actual events, this is a work of fiction. I have been as historically
accurate as I can be, when the research is available. If I do take liberties,
it is to keep the story as a story, and not the dry history book you didn’t
read in high school.

One

 

Elizabeth Barritt spent
her last night in
London walking along the Thames, pretending her life was this perfect.

Pretending she wouldn’t go back to her dead end art gallery
job in two days. That she wouldn’t have to herd students through rooms of
mediocre paintings and sculptures, try to keep their attention when they
couldn’t care less. That she wouldn’t—

Stop torturing yourself, Beth.

She knew if she spent two weeks in London as an intern at
one of the most renowned art galleries in the world it would spoil her. By the
time she realized just how much, it was far too late.

With a sigh, she climbed the steps to the beautiful railing
that lined this part of South Bank, and leaned against it to study the view
along the river. Her fingers automatically moved to the gold heart locket at
her throat, her thumb tracing the engraved flowers.

How she wished she had her pocket sketchpad with her, so she
could capture the river, the city skyline, the beauty of all of it, one last
time.

From here she could see the glory of Tower Bridge, the ancient
bulk of the Tower of London crouching on its left. St Paul’s stood directly
across the Thames, its dome white and ethereal against the evening sky. Multicolored
lights from the buildings that hugged the river danced over its surface.

It was all so—magical. And she’d had so little magical in
her life, the thought of letting it go was physically painful.

To make it worse, they offered her a position. A permanent
position, one that would allow her to live here, work here, surrounded by some
of the most incredible art in the world.

She said no.

And she still wanted to beat her head against the nearest
wall for her kneejerk reaction.

“Okay—enough. I can always come back, when I’m ready.” She
shook herself out of the depression before it dragged her down, pushed off the
railing and took a deep breath. “I will come back.”

“All the world’s a stage, darling girl.” Elizabeth spun
toward the voice. An older, really good looking man dressed in black leaned
against the stone post of the water gate that led up to the Globe Theatre. Because
she stood directly under an ornate lamp post, she knew he could see the blush
that flamed her cheeks. “Find the part you want to play on it, and never settle
for less than a standing ovation.”

He executed an elegant bow, winked at her and disappeared
into the shadows.

She hugged herself, and smiled as she tucked away the
moment, another souvenir of her time here. She had met so many people like him;
friendly, wickedly funny people who lifted her out of her unhappy life, and
showed her what she could be. Who she could be.

For the first time since her parents died and left her alone,
a shy and withdrawn ten year old, she felt like she belonged. Elizabeth did not
want to let that go.

She could take steps—small steps, at the beginning. As long
as each one led to the life she now knew she wanted, she could be patient.

A cold breeze tugged at her waist length blonde hair,
reminded her of her surroundings. She huddled deeper in her suede jacket, and
headed for the charming, paved street that led to her hotel. The thinning post-show
crowds prompted her to check her watch.

“It can’t be that late.” The clock bells at St. Paul’s
chimed the hour, confirmed what her watch told her. She walked faster, her well-worn
black boots tapping on the uneven pavers. “Daydreaming again.”

She tried not to berate herself for losing track of time, or
that she had to get up early for her flight, that she hadn’t even packed yet, that
if she didn’t get her act together she would screw up her entire schedule and
miss her plane—

Panic shot through her, and she fought to control it even as
her pace increased. By the time she passed the entrance to the Globe lobby she
was running.

Before her perfect evening ended in a full-on panic attack,
she went through the steps she worked out with her former therapist. Three easy
steps to calm herself.

“Step one: slow down,” she whispered. Just saying it out
loud moved her closer to her objective.

Elizabeth reached out for the brick wall of the building and
slid her hand along the surface. The sting of it on her skin gave her a focus
outside herself. It was the anchor she needed to get out of her head.

“Step two.”

She was breathless when she rounded the corner of the
building, but less frantic. She stumbled past a short staircase and grabbed the
black metal fence beyond it. Both hands clutched the narrow bars like a
lifeline.

It had been more than a year since she lost control like
that—long enough that she finally gave up the expensive visits as an indulgence
she didn’t need anymore.

Nothing like taking two giant steps back.

Her heartbeat evened out as the panic adrenaline faded. In
the aftermath, she used to curl up in a ball and cry until she exhausted
herself. Step three helped break that. Now she took slow, deep breaths, rubbed
her thumb over the warm surface of the gold heart locket until she felt calm.
Or something that resembled calm.

“Okay,” she whispered. She took in another cleansing breath
and pushed off the fence. “You’re going to be okay.”

Grateful there hadn’t been any witnesses to her freak out,
Elizabeth sagged against the brick building, wiped her sweaty palms on her
jeans.

A sharp
snap
whirled her around. She jumped as a
black circle appeared in front of her, the air around it rippling—right before
a man burst through it, out of nowhere.

Literally.

“Bloody hell—” He spit out the curse before he slammed into
her with bone jarring force.

He caught her around the waist and turned mid collision, so
he hit the wall instead of Elizabeth. She still managed to lose her footing and
smack her chin into his chest.

“Ouch—”

“Are you all right?” Warm, calloused fingers cupped her
throbbing chin, tilted it until she looked into a pair of clear grey eyes.

His arm trapped her waist, plastering Elizabeth against his
chest. The panic she thought she had under control roared through her. With a
fresh surge of adrenaline she yanked free and stumbled backward. She forgot
about the staircase until her heel jammed into the corner of it.

He caught her again, set her on her feet and backed off.
Like he knew she was on the edge. No one had ever cared before, outside her
therapist.

“You are safe, now. I’ll not touch you again.”

She fought to control her breathing, terrified that her
lightheaded gasping would have her passing out in front of a stranger. That it
would leave her helpless—

Stop. Focus. Breathe.

“Step one,” she whispered.

“You are safe,” he said again, his deep voice gentle. “I am
sorry I frightened you. It was not my intention. Tell me how to help.”

She shook her head, one hand clutching the locket. It was tangible,
outside herself, an anchor. “Step two.”

“What is step three?”

Instead of increasing her panic, his question had the
opposite effect.

She looked at him, her heartbeat slowing. Her erratic breath
evened out, until she could talk without wheezing. “Not crying like a baby.”

A smile tugged at his mouth. “Then the first two steps seem
to be working.”

“It was you.” She blurted out the words before her mind
could tell her to shut up.

“I’d say that impressive recovery was all you.”

Oh, she liked him. She couldn’t help herself; that dry humor
just sucked her in every time. But her admiration didn’t make her stupid. “You
came out of a hole—in the air.”

He ran one hand through his hair. “You were not supposed to
be here.”

“Right.” She backed away. Her hands still trembled from the
adrenaline overload that always came with her attacks. “You’re not going to
explain exactly where you came from, are you?”

“I shouldn’t be talking to you now. You’ve already seen—”

“Too much? This isn’t one of those ‘you saw too much so I
must kill you now’ scenarios, is it?”

His shout of laughter startled her.

“Sorry. No—we have no policy in place for killing accidental
witnesses. You’re my first.”

“I’m so—proud?”

He laughed again, obviously amused by her. “Can I ask your
name?”

Don’t tell him—
“I’m Elizabeth.”

“Allow me to return the introduction. Jackson Kane, at your
service.”

He bowed, light from the single street lamp flashing off the
silver stud in his left ear. Elizabeth fought not to smile at the archaic,
utter charm. She lost the battle when he lifted his head and winked at her. He
had a face that could have been on money—classic, aristocratic, the angular
lines blurred by what looked like a couple days growth of beard.

Her overactive imagination could see him, striding over a
moody moor, that thick brown hair blowing around his face, greatcoat streaming
behind him like a cloak, all Gothic and mysterious as he headed for the woman
he loved, the only woman to put a smile on his noble face—

“Elizabeth.”

Her heart jumped and she crashed back into the moment.
“Sorry.” Her second blush of the night spread across her face when she met his
amused eyes. “I—” She cut herself off, embarrassed enough without him knowing
what she’d been picturing. “I was admiring your face—” She clapped one hand
over her mouth, to stop herself from saying anything else.

“Then we are mutually admiring. That blush becomes you.”

His smile eased her mortification. It reached all the way to
his eyes, and sent a thrill through her, right down to her toes. Oh, no. She
was in worse trouble than she thought. She was attracted to him.

“I—” She didn’t want him to think she was a love starved
idiot. “I work in an art gallery at home, so I tend to look at things from an
artist’s perspective. Your face makes me wish I could draw well enough to do
you justice.” No—that didn’t sound love starved at all.

His smile widened. “Flattery accepted.”

This had turned out to be the strangest, most exhilarating
conversation of her life. With a man she shouldn’t even be talking to. But he
didn’t set off the warning signs she always relied on, warnings that had been
her survival strategy for too many years.

Oh, no—he set off a whole other kind of alarm. One that told
her to run in the other direction before she formed any kind of attachment.

She decided to take her own advice. Even if it was too
little, too late.

“I have to go.”

“Elizabeth.” He started to reach for her, lowered his hand. “I
want to make certain you’re all right.”

“I really have to go.” She kept her gaze on him as she
backed away, expecting him to stop her. Part of her wanted him to; the stupid
part that shot heat through her every time he smiled. She ignored herself and
spun toward the street as soon as she was out of grabbing range.

A familiar
snap
halted her.

This time she saw it. A flash of light, just before the black
circle shimmered out of nothing and the air began to shift—

She retreated, wanting to put distance between herself and
whoever appeared this time.

“Elizabeth!” Kane’s desperate shout whirled her around. He
sprinted toward her, pointing a sleek silver pistol. “Get down!”

The circle disappeared, right before a second
snap
and flash bit the air between them, blocking Kane. A figure dressed in black
stepped out of the rippling circle and grabbed her arm. Elizabeth froze as she
recognized him.

“Hello, darling girl.”

He was the man from the steps of the Globe.

Before she could free herself he yanked her forward, turning
her at the last second to trap her against his chest.

“Let her go, Guy. She has nothing to do with this.”

“Ah, but she has seen me now, hasn’t she? A chance meeting
is easily forgotten, but to watch me appear out of the portal—that I cannot let
pass.”

“It is no longer your call to make. I’m here to take you
home, to answer for the dead you left in your wake.”

Elizabeth stilled, staring at Kane. The mystery man she
thought so charming, standing on the steps like a character out of Shakespeare,
was a murderer.

“I am sorry for that, Kane. If they hadn’t tried to stop
me—never mind.” The touch of humility that edged his voice disappeared. “I was
going to steal up behind you and knock you senseless before sending you off to
some primitive past as a diversion. But when I saw you had such lovely company,
my plan changed.”

“You will not involve her.” The threat in Kane’s deep voice
scorched her. “I will see you dead first.”

“Have we come down to this, my friend? Exchanging insults
and threats of death?” Guy tightened his grip on Elizabeth’s waist and took a
step back. She waited for the panic to incapacitate her. Instead, anger welled
up, and a need to help the man who had been so kind to her. “I promise you, I
will leave her in a safe time, and send you her location.” Her heart jumped at
his casual mention of time travel. “All I ask in return is your word that you
won’t follow after me.”

Elizabeth studied Kane, watched the struggle on his face. As
he opened his mouth, she already knew the answer.

“No.” He raised the sleek, silver pistol. At least, it
looked like a pistol. The low hum coming from it told her it did much more than
fire bullets. “Let her go.”

Guy chuckled, like Kane had told him a joke. Elizabeth let
out a gasp when the cold, sharp edge of a knife pressed into her jaw.

“At a stalemate now, are we? You always did enjoy a good
chess match, Kane. What will your next move be? Will you sacrifice the pawn to
take the knight?”

Kane didn’t even blink at the veiled threat. “Elizabeth.”
She met his eyes, saw anguish flash in the grey depths. “I need you to trust.”

BOOK: Final Hours
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ads

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