Allie and her handsome companion Drifter have been thrown into time and space by their ship, and landed on the banks of a beautiful lake with a dark secret. She’s shocked when they’re greeted by an old friend from the past who has arrived in their future without any memory or knowledge of who they are.
Taken in by the familiar stranger, Allie soon discovers that the household of the married Lady Douglas is unsettled. Shadows stalk the halls of the ancient castle, some of them stirred up by an intruder who’s been seen skulking about the woods. The arrival of the lord of the castle doesn’t lighten the mood when Drifter recognizes him, but not as a friend.
Trapped in that time and place, Allie and Drifter have no choice but to unearth the secrets of the castle, delve into the past of their old friend who may not be what she appears, and find out just what lies behind the brilliant blue eyes of the mysterious lord.
Time waits for no man, but while it doesn’t have any patience it does have a sense of humor.
At that moment Allie was too excited to have any patience herself. She had her hands pressed against the glass wall of Drifter’s spaceship and watched them zoom past the twinkling darkness. Planets and suns flew past, teasing her with adventure and danger. She couldn’t be tempted as she thought about their destination.
“Do you think Bina will believe us when we tell her what happened at the mine?”
Drifter stood at the console and cast a covert glance at her. A melancholy expression passed over his face, though his full thoughts were hidden in his eyes that were guarded by his thick glasses.
He straightened and cleared his throat. “Probably. She’s quite old and has seen much of the galaxy.”
Allie furrowed her brow. “How old is she?”
He returned his attention to the console and pressed a button. The screen popped up as he shrugged.
“I’m not really sure.”
Allie’s eyes showed her surprise as she half-turned to him with one hand still on the glass. “Really? I thought you knew everything.”
A sly smile curled onto his lips. “I know enough to get me into and out of trouble, but to know everything would mean life has lost its meaning.”
Allie strolled over to the console and studied the screen in front of them. It showed a map of the stars that passed outside the walls. “So you’re people built this machine, and you ‘permanently borrowed’ it? Why?”
He stared straight ahead without so much as a glimmer of looking at her. “I thought I could have fun with it.”
She snorted. “I can believe that, but didn’t they try to chase you?”
He grinned. “How? I have a time machine and they didn’t.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “You mean this is the only time machine they built?”
“Well, the only one that worked. The others tended to break apart on reentering normal time.”
Allie leaned her rear against the console and folded her arms together as she studied him. She was quiet for a long time, and at last Drifter squirmed beneath her attentions. “What is it? Do I have breakfast on my chin?”
At mention of food Allie’s stomach rumbled. He cast a bemused look at her stomach as she sheepishly grinned at him. “Sorry. I can’t remember the last time I ate.”
He smiled as he pressed a few more buttons. “Well, the stars willing we should be back aboard the Belmonte in a minute. Now-” His finger hovered over one button. “Let’s see what they’re having for breakfast.”
He pressed the button and the machine shuddered. Allie stumbled off the console and fell onto her hands on the floor. She whipped her head up and saw that Drifter grasped the underside of the console to keep himself upright. “What happened?”
He pursed his lips as he pressed a few buttons. “The time vortex has activated!”
She climbed to her feet and clutched onto the console. “Is that a bad thing?”
“It means our breakfast with the Baroness has been canceled,” he mused as he watched the screen. Numbers and maps flew past too quickly for Allie to comprehend them. “And we’ve been thrown into the time stream.”
Allie swept her eyes over the clear walls. The stars and suns swirled about the ship like a sparkling tornado of color. “Can’t you do something to control it?”
Drifter shook his head. “Only if I rip the control unit out, but the sudden stop might tear the ship apart.”
Allie winced. “Do you know where we’re headed?”
Drifter pressed a few buttons and the screen stopped moving. He scanned the contents and pursed his lips. “Earth, the middle of the nineteenth century, and somewhere in Europe.”
The machine made a soft humming noise. Allie whipped her head back and gawked at the ceiling as the music echoed around the glass room. It was a sweet lullaby that reminded her of nurseries and green summers.
Drifter frowned and a few muttered words passed his lips. “Damn these ghosts. . .”
The ship shuddered and the music stopped. The stars about them slowed, but their forms morphed into a sea of blue. For a moment Allie’s heart leapt as she thought perhaps they had arrived at the right destination, but this blue water was smaller and darker.
A lake formed beneath them, and surrounding it was a vast forest of ancient trees. Night lay upon the fantastical land, but a moon shone brightly in the sky. Its silver rays cast themselves upon the forest, and the silent sentinel that stood near the edge of the lake waters.
The sentinel was a small castle of gray stone. Its fortifications had long been torn down and crafted into an elegant patio that stretched out to the sandy shores, but the formidable walls still stood proud and imposing to the ground some fifty feet below their parapeted peaks. Flickering lights cast their brilliance through the windows of the ground floor. The picture was finished off by a detached garage and a winding dirt road that led up to the front door.
Or rather, that’s what Allie surmised as they approached the foreboding structure from its rear. The time machine slowed and descended so close to the surface of the lake that she could see her face reflected in the calm waters. The ship touched the surface and skipped like a stone. Their velocity toward shore, however, promised for something more bumpy.
“Get down!” Drifter shouted as he lunged at Allie and pushed her under the console while he protected her by placing his back outward in the direction of the walls.
The ship struck the shoreline and bounced like rubble. The world turned upside down as the machine flipped end-over-end across the green lawn. They struck the edge of the high-stones patio and came to a jerking halt in an upright position. The walls flickered like a light bulb before the translucent view changed back to solid.
Drifter stood and most of his body disappeared out of Allie’s sight. A sharp hiss didn’t escape her, though. “Damn it. . .”
Allie’s heart skipped a beat as she slid out from her hiding hole. “What is it?”
Drifter looked down at his open palm where the locket lay. The front cover was cracked. “We’re stranded.”
Allie’s eyes widened. “What do you mean stranded?”
Drifter closed his fingers around the compass and pursed his lips. “Without this compass in perfect condition the ship won’t fly, or rather, we would be putting our lives at a great risk by trying to use it to guide the ship even out of this planet’s atmosphere.”
“Who’s in there?”
The shout came from outside the ship. Drifter tucked compass into his coat and grabbed his hat that hat tumbled onto the floor. He half-turned to the door, but cast a quick look at Allie. “Let me do all the talking.”
“Step out right now!”
Drifter strode over to the door with Allie behind him and opened the portal. Two pairs of hands grabbed him about the shoulders and yanked him out of Allie’s view.
“Drifter!” she shouted as she rushed into the doorway.
Another pair of hands grabbed her about the arms and pulled her into the dazzling light of the starry sky. Whoever held her was a head taller and stronger than she. They gave her a hard shake. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“Stop that, you fool!” one of the party shouted at him. “That’s a woman you’ve got there!”
Her captor stopped his roughing her up and Allie was able to see that Drifter and she were held by three men. They wore simple but clean uniforms with side-buttoned tops and crisp pants. Their clothes had no adornment except for a small purple flower pinned to their left breasts. Belts around their waists had two tasks, that of holding up their pants and holding the holsters from which the butts of revolvers stuck out. Allie had no doubt they were loaded.
One of the men who held Drifter nodded his head at the ship. “What sort of contraption is this that can fly across the waters?”
Drifter smiled. “A new-fangled one of my own invention, but I would rather speak to the master of the house about such a sensitive subject. I assume with the presence of so many armed guards that he is home.”
“The master is away. Only our mistress is home, and she will not see anyone-”
The pair of French doors that led into the main body of the castle opened and heavy candlelight streamed onto the porch. The light fell short of where they stood, but was bright enough to cast in shadow the front of the person who stood in the doorway. The lights, however, only accentuated their regal feminine form.
Their voice floated over to them. “What have you found, Olaf?”
Allie furrowed her brow. The voice sounded familiar.
Olaf inclined his head to the woman. “A couple of trespassers, my lady. You needn’t worry about them.”
“That is for me to judge,” the woman countered as she walked toward them. Her high heels clacked against the stone and with each footstep the shadows that hid her features fell away to reveal them.
By the time she stopped just a few feet from the edge of the patio Allie had a full view of her, and her jaw dropped open.
It was Bina, and she was standing.