Authors: Lily Worthington
Tags: #Poseidon DPG
Before Skyla could form a retort to his egomaniacal order, she was falling into a bottomless pit, the same sensation she had felt many times before when she traveled in time, except this time she hadn’t activated the portal device on her utility belt.
In less than a heartbeat, the falling sensation stopped. She opened her eyes and there she was, back to the headquarters located 200 feet below Times Square in New York City. She was not in the Portal Room with the bustling technicians and various equipment. Instead, she was standing under the sterile, soft white light in the hallway outside of her team squadron room. Knox and Vivienne, two members of Team M, were rushing toward her down the normally quiet hallway.
"Skyla, are you all right? We got your potential threat signal. Butch and Gus are suiting up in the Portal Room as we speak." While Knox was holding a scanner and checking her vitals, Vivienne pressed a micro com against her neck, firing rapid commands to the portal techs. “Abort, abort. Skyla’s returned. Standby for further instructions. Do you copy? Abort, abort.” A muffled affirmation, “Copy that,” could be heard from Vivienne’s ear piece.
Skyla brushed Knox’s ministrations aside and said quickly, "I didn’t come back by choice. We have a serious problem. Someone or something packed enough explosive power to bring down the entire building and blew up the vault. Not only was he after the steel box, he just sent me back through time without so much as blinking his eyes." Both Knox and Vivienne stopped what they were doing and looked at her. Their expressions reflected her thoughts—trouble, big, big trouble.
Before explaining further, Skyla ran to the elevator bank, heading toward Level 5, the restricted area, to see their boss.
Knox kept pace with her. "Wait, I need to do a more thorough scan on you since you didn’t come back through time using our protocol. There could be complications, you know."
She nodded at him and swiftly stepped into the elevator. “There is no time now. I’ll come by after I debrief the director. Something just happened or is happening in the past. The director needs to know now.”
It was one of the colder winters in the 1930s. Rei stood on the balcony of his three-story townhouse overlooking Central Park. He only had a thin burgundy cashmere sweater and a pair of charcoal-gray wool pants on. The frosty air didn’t bother him one bit. He was used to much harsher weather than this. Compared to the long and bitterly brutal winters in his homeland, New York City winter was refreshing.
He took in a deep breath of the early morning air and slowly exhaled. Puffs of mist formed immediately. He repeated the exercise a dozen times to calm his mind from his chaotic, exhilarating thoughts. Had he finally found Elizabeth after half a millennium? The female agent he had encountered inside the bank vault, barely an hour ago, looked so much like his Elizabeth. Similar height, lovely high cheekbones, oval face. And those big, luminous brown eyes were intense and as rich a brown as her chestnut hair, Elizabeth’s chestnut hair. She was Elizabeth, he was almost certain of it, because his body reacted to her immediately. What made him doubt his sanity now was that she looked at him with no hint of recognition.
He was pretty sure she was a government agent from a future time. The weapon she carried was a modified .357 SIG, a signature weapon for the United States Secret Service in the late
twentieth and early twenty-first century. Beyond the striking physical resemblance, the woman in the vault had nothing else in common with Elizabeth. Instead of brimming with warmth and compassion, the female agent’s eyes flashed coldly, calculating the best way to subdue him. Very much like what he would have done if he were in her shoes.
From the precision of her two warning shots, just a couple of millimeters away from blowing his head off, she was a trained killer, again very much like he was. And her attempt to fight him off was lethal, giving no quarter.
Rei took in another deep breath of the refreshing, frigid air. She couldn’t be Elizabeth. His Elizabeth was nothing like the female agent. Most importantly, his Elizabeth would have recognized him. Recognized them.
A long ago past blurred his sight—the memory of the lecture hall in Florence, 1856. Rei had arrived in the city not long before. He was intrigued by the whispers of the possibility of time traveling advocated by a local Renaissance master. As soon as he stepped inside the lecture hall, he saw her. She was standing among an all-male audience, eagerly waiting for the lecture to start. Her beauty was incomparable—smooth, creamy soft skin with a hint of rosy tone on her face. Those big brown eyes sparkled with so much joy and intelligence. Her thick chestnut hair was braided, reaching down to her shapely, firm ass. He was hooked like an addict immediately and needed to see more of her, to feel her, to possess her.
It was like a gravitational pull. He couldn’t stop himself even if he wanted to. His feet took him in front of the beauty and her uncle, the Renaissance master. Up close, he was surprised by how young she was, a mere girl, sixteen or seventeen at the most. He should have been ashamed of having such a strong physical attraction to such a young girl. God Almighty, he was a good ten years older than she was.
It was all he could think at that moment.
Mine to possess, to love and cherish.
If he were honorable, he would have hastily retreated. Just as he was about to turn around, away from her, she looked at him and smiled. Her open, innocent smile sang to him like a mystical siren song. Before he knew it, he took hold of her delicate, small hands and introduced himself to her and her uncle.
As cliché as it was, that moment changed his life, Elizabeth’s life, his family, and his countrymen’s lives. Rei had never expected to find love during those bloody years, defending his father’s empire, but the Fates had other plans for him. They thrust him to his soul mate. He thought he and Elizabeth would live happily ever after because their love was so strong. Yet again, Fate had other plans for them.
Elizabeth’s face faded away. It took him a moment to step out of his past, his memory, and his grief. Rei closed his eyes and took in another deep breath before answering, “Yes, Herbert.”
“There is a telephone call for you, sir,” his butler informed him.
“Who is it?”
“Mr. X, sir.”
Rei scowled at the name before turning back to his study through the glass door on the left side of the balcony. “Yes.” Keeping his tone bland, he spoke into the black candlestick telephone while holding the cone-shaped earpiece to his ear. He had been steadily losing his patience with his once-convenient alliance with the elusive warlord. X’s agenda was bigger than mere silver or gold, land or power. X’s actions often countered the will of the gods whom Rei served. One of the reasons Rei had allowed their alliance to continue was because he was intrigued by X’s audacity to take on the deities—something very brave, yet very stupid at the same time.
“Ah, Rei, since you are answering the phone, I assume your business at the bank was concluded without any problem.” Rei knew what X meant. For some reason, X was showing uncharacteristic impatience about getting his hands on the steel box. He could tell from the insistent, anxious tone in X’s voice.
“Yes, it was. My men will deliver it to the agreed location tonight.”
“Excellent. The information you seek will be in an envelope for you.” X sounded relieved. Very odd indeed.
There was a long silence. Rei was about to hang up the phone when X spoke. “How much is it worth to you for information that would lead you to the young lady you’ve been looking for?”
Rei’s hands gripped both the telephone pieces with such force that he could feel the wooden materials began to crack. “Come again?”
Silence. X’s MO. Rei swore that man had the patience of a saint, except X was no saint at all.
How did X know he’d been looking for Elizabeth? The pieces of information he had been trading with X were no more than pieces of information. It was impossible for anyone to know what or who Rei had been looking for. Not even his men knew about it, except Sloan. Rei didn’t like where the conversation was heading. The best defense was a good offense. He must make sure X knew the boundaries of their alliance.
“You’d do well to mind your own business, X. I am not someone you want to cross. The next time you stick your nose in my business, our relationship will cease, and we will be enemies. Trust me, you don’t want that.” Rei hung up the phone without waiting for X to reply.
He looked up at the full-size portrait hung on the wall across his study above the liquor cabinet. “Elizabeth,” he called out her name softly, like the million times he had done before. He felt almost as if he called out for her enough times, he could summon her back to him.
It took the system precisely three seconds to confirm Skyla’s identity and her access privilege. A pleasant gender-neutral voice announced her credentials: “Agent Skyla Gray. Team Mu. Level 5 access cleared.” The same information was simultaneously sent to the director’s office, part of the multi-layer security and verification system. Besides the director’s office, TSCAA Central Command was also on Level 5. All operations were monitored and communicated through Central Command. It was the equivalent of StratComm for the Pentagon. Only a few specialists, along with currently mission-active agents, were allowed access to Level 5.
Skyla sprinted through the titanium double doors and down the steel-gray hallway, heading straight into the waiting area of Director Laura Chin-Jensen’s office. As expected, she came to a screeching halt right outside of the door. Curtis, a.k.a. the Bulldog, stood in front of her. She knew bypassing the director’s tenacious pain-in-the-ass assistant would be nearly impossible, but what had just happened back in 1933, and the way she had been sent back to the present time, was too important to waste time playing nice with the impeccably dressed guard dog.
Keeping her composure, Skyla gritted out her impatience. “Get out of my way, Curtis, unless you want some holes in your fancy sweater.” Of course the Bulldog didn’t budge. He just lifted his brow at her and gave her a “Are you out of your mind?” look. That’s why they’d nicknamed him Bulldog.
She had to strike where it would hurt most. So she causally said, “The new fall line from Marc Jacob?” She reached toward him to rub the buttery-soft material of his sweater. “Very nice and…very
"Skyla, you know the rule. The director’s office hours have not started yet.” Curtis brushed off her hand, effectively dismissing her threat as if she were a harmless insect, before he walked back to his desk.
She narrowed her eyes at him, like a lioness tracking her prey before pouncing at any moment. No time to waste. Skyla mentally weighed how much damage she could inflict on him without getting herself into serious trouble with the director.
Normally, Skyla would’ve made some sarcastic, clever comment as a retort to his arrogance, but she also saw the small red bar lit up on top of the director’s office door. It didn’t happen often, so something important must be going on behind the door. Nevertheless, she knew in her bones something far worse was happening in the past—something that would unravel the world as they knew it in the present. And for some unexplainable reason, she knew she was the key to this impending disaster. The thought of that made her heart race and her palms clammy. It was almost as if she was having one of the many black nightmares she had when she was a teenager, except she was wide awake.
“Curtis, this is urgent. Let me see the director or—do you remember the dart games we had at Pigs ’n Whistle last week? If I’m a dead shot with the darts, imagine what I can do with knives.” She’d pulled two knives from her utility belt, and they were already flipping in her hands as she smiled at him smugly.
She was pleased to see Curtis’s back stiffen a little even though his expression and tone of voice remained placid.
He turned to her, and his turquoise-blue gaze flashed with irritation. “No can do. You can threaten me all you want, Skyla Gray, but the president and the Homeland Security director have just called in for Laura unexpectedly. Whatever urgent matter you have, you just have to wait because apparently the big boys have something more urgent going on. And interrupting them is out of the question.” He was already turning back to his computer before finishing his sentence. “Take a seat. I’ll let Laura know you’re here as soon as the call is over.”
Skyla mentally counted to ten, her fingers itching to throw the knives at his sweater sleeves, pinning him to the desk. Instead, she huffed out, “Fine.”
The sitting area of the director’s office was decorated with clean lines and a minimalistic sofa—black, rectangular, leather. The walls were painted stark white with only a few photos—the president, the director of Homeland Security, and the famous black-and-white photo of Iwo Jima, with soldiers raising the American flag. The floor was inlaid with antique cherry wood and covered by modern rugs in different geometrical patterns.
When she sat on one of the sofas, her backside immediately protested. Too firm, too much support. It lacked the comfort of a well-worn, cushy sofa. Groaning inwardly, Skyla focused on clearing her mind so that she wouldn’t be fussing around, futilely looking for a more comfortable position. She steered her mind to isolating any events in her past that might have caused her absolutely irrational reaction to, and out-of-the-blue recognition of, the man inside the bank vault. But nothing. She had no memory of ever coming across the man in the vault. And the most annoying part of this encounter was not her recognition of his voice but her body yielding to him when he trapped her from behind. His iron hold was meant to immobilize and intimidate her, yet her body reacted as if it were a lover’s caress. Not that she had that much experience of lover’s caresses; the only guy she had seriously dated was Knox, when they were in college, and they had never gone past second base. Inside the vault, her agent’s mind was screaming, “Danger!” but her body just softened against her captor’s well-honed body. It felt so right. It felt safe. It felt like they had embraced in such intimate positions many times before.