Allie is a normal woman with a normal life, but one day she decides to take fate into her hands and have a little adventure. That choice leads her down a blue-colored rabbit hole and into a new world, and also into the arms of a handsome and mysterious stranger.
Trapped on a ship and surrounded by creatures from myth, Allie grapples with fear, confusion, and a desperate desire to return to the safety of her own world. Her arrival, however, catches the attention of a mysterious man who roams the ship. His dark features are mirthful, but there's a chill there that both frightens and interests her.
The pair find themselves drawn into the middle of a dangerous mystery as guests begin to pop up very much dead. The deaths look like suicides, but the strange man knows better. He enlists Allie to help him find the truth behind the deaths. Together they gather the clues about the case, and along the way they learn a little about not only each other, but themselves.
What if. A question that haunts dreams, a companion that waits at the crossroads of everyone’s what was and what could be. Every choice, every action is decided by a roll of the dice, and what-if is the arbiter of those die. Fate is the thrower and grants a mirage of choice to the individual who watches as their choices are tossed into the unfathomable abyss of what-ifs.
Sometimes, though, in a fleeting moment, the choice belongs to you.
A screech of car wheels echoed up and down the street. A man snatched a woman’s hand and yanked her out of the way as the vehicle came to a stop where she had tried to cross. The woman stumbled against a fire hydrant as the man loomed over her, anger and fear on his face.
“You need to watch where you’re going!” he snapped.
The woman turned around and revealed her twenty-something face to him. Her youthful appearance was framed by mid-length brown hair and bright brown eyes.
She wore a plain white blouse and black pants that hung loose on her slim and petite frame.
The young woman shrank under the scolding look of her savior. “I-I’m sorry. I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Well, pay attention next time!” he snapped as he tossed her hand away from him. He turned and marched away. “Damn idiots always on their cell phones. . .”
The woman ran a hand through her hair and happened to catch sight of the cell phone tucked safely in the purse that hung over her shoulder. “I can’t even use that as an excuse. . .”
Her eyes ghosted over her wrist and widened. The woman’s heart skipped a beat and she rushed off down a sidewalk crowded with early-morning pedestrian traffic. The clock that hung high above the throngs of humanity struck the nine o’clock hour. Not enough time. She was going to get another earful of-
The new scolding came from a woman of forty with a round face and bright blue eyes. Her tempered black hair bounced up and down as she marched over to the cubicle where the young woman plopped herself down in her chair.
The older of the two glanced at her watch. “Five minutes late again, Miss Daniel.”
“I’m. . .I’m sorry,” the young woman breathed out as she set her purse on the floor. “I nearly got ran over and-”
“Again?” The accusatory word made the young Miss Daniel cringe. Her older companion crossed her arms over her ample chest and frowned down at her. “Miss Daniel, you used that excuse last week. At least try to think of something new when you come in late next time.”
Miss Daniel inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. No pink slip that day. “I will, I swear, Miss Schafer.” Miss Shafer arched an eyebrow and the color drained from the face of her younger compatriot. “Not that! I meant to say I won’t use that excuse!” She could have slapped herself. “I mean there won’t be a need because I won’t be late, I swear!”
Miss Shafer sighed. “I hope for your sake that you’re right. Three tardies in a month and you’re out, and these last five years will mean nothing.” She turned and strode away.
Miss Daniel’s heart sank and she stared at the keyboard without seeing it. “Five years. . .has it really been that long?”
Miss Daniel’s heart rate quickened from a slow waltz into a tango and she nearly leapt out of her skin. She did leap out of her chair and dropped into a heap on the floor. A face younger than hers popped into her vision. The woman sported a Cheshire grin and blue eyes that suited her long blond hair.
Allie clutched her heart and glared up at the other woman. “Do you have to do that every morning, Amy?”
Cara laughed and held out her hand. “Of course. It gets the blood rushing so you start out the day right.”
Allie sighed as she accepted her friend’s hand. “I think I’ve had enough shock today.”
Cara pulled her to her feet and shook her head. “You can’t tease me like that without telling me what happened, now ‘fess up.”
Allie dropped into her chair and told her tale of nearly being splattered on the side of a vehicle. As she finished Cara plopped herself down in the spare, bleak chair in that tiny space and leaned back. She crossed her arms over her chest and her leg over the other, and frowned at her friend. “You didn’t take my advice, did you?”
Allie turned away to face her computer. “What advice?”
Cara wagged a finger at her friend. “Don’t play dumb with me, Allie Daniel. I know that you know that I know you’re not dumb, you’re just frightened.”
Allie paused mid keystroke and looked to her companion with a frown. “Frightened of what?”
Cara grinned. “Of your own shadow.” Allie cast her one last dirty look before she turned away. “Come on, Allie. I didn’t mean it like that.” Allie’s fingers flew across the keyboard. Cara grabbed the back of her swivel chair and spun her around so they faced each other. “You know what I meant. You’re afraid of change.” She raised her hand to her face and used her thumb and forefinger to make three sides of a box. “You’re afraid to take that one little shortcut I told you about-”
“It’s a back-alley full of dingy trash,” Allie reminded her as she turned back to her computer screen.
“And it chops five minutes off your walk here,” Cara countered as she leapt to her feet. “That’s fifteen minutes of your life you can keep to yourself if you just take a chance. Or you can keep nearly getting hit by a car almost every week because you don’t want to have one tiny adventure.”
Cara strode out of the cubicle. Allie typed away a few more lines before her shoulders slumped and she hung her head. “Damn it, Cara. Why do you have to be so spot-on?”
Cara popped her grinning face over the wall. “Because that’s a friend’s job.”
Allie stabbed a finger in the direction of her friend’s cubicle. “Away.”
Cara rolled her eyes, but ducked out of sight. Allie swiveled around to face her screen once more, but her fingers merely lay on top of the keys. Her face fell and her heart grew heavy as she thought back to what Schafer had said.
She sighed and shook her head. “Five years and I can’t even show up on time. . .”
And why couldn’t she show up on time? Because she was too afraid of a short alley that stretched across two blocks. Allie winced. Not exactly a gold star for effort. She returned to her desk job, but the thoughts nagged at her mind all the long work day.
When the clocks announced the five o’clock hour she stood and turned to find Miss Schafer’s hulking figure in the doorway. “I expect you to arrive on time this coming Monday, and no excuses.”
Allie nodded. “Of course.” Schafer gave her a disbelieving look, but left. Allie closed her eyes and sighed.
“Stop that.” Cara’s head popped over the wall of her cubicle. “You’re blowing away all the good air.”
A ghost of a smile tinged Allie’s lips. “I’ll have to remember to install a fan next week.”
“Just don’t make it a loud one,” Cara quipped before she disappeared and reappeared in the doorway with her purse slung over her shoulder. She jerked her head toward the exit. “But let’s blow this popsicle stand before the weekend starts to melt.”
Allie and her friend left their source of income and stepped out onto the busy street. People swarmed everywhere, all eager to partake of as much weekend as they could bite into.
Cara looped her arm through one of Allie’s and turned them in the direction of Allie’s home. “So what are you up to this weekend?” she wondered as she marched her down the sidewalk.
“Not much,” Allie replied as she looked over her shoulder in the opposite direction. “But what are you doing?”
“Walking with you.”
Allie arched an eyebrow. “But you live in the opposite direction.”
Cara shrugged. “Well, maybe I want to walk home with you just this once.”
Allie rolled her eyes. “I know what you’re trying to do, and the answer is no.”
Cara feigned shock. “Me? Trying to do something?”
“You’ll come with me and try to get me to go into that alley,” Allie accused her.
“Maybe I was, but maybe you do need a bit of an adventure.”
Allie sighed. “Listen, Car, I appreciate what you’re trying to do-”
“Do you?” Cara teased.
Allie dug her heels in into the sidewalk and they skidded to a stop alongside one of the tall buildings. She turned around and faced her friend as she clutched the strap of her bag. “I really do understand that you’re trying to get me out of my shell, but there’s just some things I have to figure out on my own.”
Cara’s face fell. “That sounds lonely, Allie, and as your friend I really disapprove of that.”
Allie clasped Cara’s hands in hers and gave her a smile. “I’ll see you Monday.” She turned and walked in the direction of her home.
“Live a little, Allie!” Cara called after her. “You might even meet a handsome guy doing it!”
Allie waved at her friend without turning around and soon had other things on her mind, like safely crossing the street. She followed the flow of traffic, but the farther she walked from the commercial district the more the crowds fell away until the sidewalk was only sparsely populated. Her footsteps rang out on the sidewalk as the buildings created an artificial horizon and blocked out the setting sun. They cast their long shadows over her and the street, and the lamps flickered on like trapped fireflies.
Soon Allie reached that spot. The point of decision. She could see the dark maw of the alley some thirty feet ahead of her on the left. Twenty feet now. Ten. Allie paused and looked down the long alley. The alley was an anomaly, being the only one along the path to her home that ran in that direction and cutting the city block in two.
She looked at the way ahead of her and then to her left. Darkness had completely settled on the city and only a single flickering street lamp shone its weak light a few feet into the alley. Allie grasped the strap of her bag with both hands and bit her lower lip. Her eyes slowly moved to the safe but longer route ahead of her.
That’s when a small light caught her attention. She paused and squinted into the darkness of the alley. There was definitely something down the way, but she couldn’t figure out what it was other than the color was of a slightly bluish tinge. Perhaps it was an LED flashlight, or a door left slightly ajar. Nothing that would really interest her, and definitely not something to risk stepping off the beaten path.
Allie took a deep breath and turned left.