Authors: Lily Worthington
Tags: #Poseidon DPG
Skyla hesitated a few moments, debating whether she should tell Vivi and Knox the truth.
“Skyla?” Vivi’s concerned voice caught Knox’s attention. Over Vivi’s shoulder, she could see Knox abruptly stop what he was doing with the tissue samples and look up at them from his lab desk.
“Skyla, what is it? What happened back there?” Sudden concern ricocheted off his question.
She took a deep breath, and then told them about the explosion inside the bank vault, the shadow figure, and how easily he had disarmed her and sent her back to the present time.
“When he spoke, I felt I knew his voice.” She paused a moment and then cast her eyes downward. “And when he immobilized me, I didn’t want to fight him.” She wished Knox weren’t there so she could tell Vivi that not only her body did not want to back, and she had gone all soft and was aroused by the stranger.
When she was describing how easily the shadow figure overpowered her inside the vault, Knox’s body tensed up immediately. She was afraid Knox would do something rash if she let on more details of the encounter.
Already the way Vivi was looking at her would be enough trouble to deal with. Vivi always had an uncanny sense of telling lies from truths. And her intuition was frighteningly accurate—100 percent of the time. Skyla always thought that if Vivi had been from the past, she would have been called a seer or a witch and likely persecuted for her unique ability.
Skyla got up immediately to diffuse the twins’ probing. “Knox, let’s run your little tests. The director gave me a day off, and I think I’ll make a quick trip to see Mom and Dad.”
Knox and Vivi exchanged a glance in some kind of silent communication before Vivi headed out and Knox started pulling the testing equipment together. Skyla let out a relieved breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
The usually heavy traffic on the Westside Highway and I-87 was thinning out by the time Skyla left TSCCA late in the evening. Knox had offered to drive her to her parents’ house in Westchester, but she needed time alone to think. She had been replaying her encounter with the man inside the bank vault. It was not the first time she had been bested by an adversary, but it was the first time her instincts didn’t want to fight back. It was as if her body knew the man from somewhere. Of course, the million-dollar question was, from where and when? Speeding her Jeep down I-87, her mind tried to sort through the only part of her childhood she had memory of: after the car crash, after the coma, starting twelve years ago. But nothing. There was not even a wisp of memory that might lead her to believe she had met the stranger in her past. So if she did not know him from the past she could remember, did she know him from the past she couldn’t remember?
She eased her foot off the gas pedal as she approached her parents’ house. The colonial-style house, her home, emerged as she rounded the final curve of the road toward the gate. Her parents’ house could actually be considered a small compound. It was surrounded by a twelve-foot tall, imposing, black iron fence, around which Mom had insisted on planting elm trees, even when their head of security strongly opposed. There was too great an opportunity for a perpetrator to hide between dense foliage. Next to the gate, there was the two-bedroom cottage, housing security specialists hired by her father. They guarded the grounds twenty-four-seven. She had been inside the cottage many times when she was younger and had always been fascinated by the top-notch surveillance and communication equipment. Until she started working for the Secret Service, she hadn’t truly appreciated the sophistication and seriousness of the security measures her father had arranged for just the three of them. Many times she had asked her parents why they needed such thorough security. All her parents had said was that her father had been a high-level diplomat before he had gone into private practice with the law firm in the city. It was standard protocol to provide former high-ranking diplomats with that kind of security even after they left the diplomatic corp.
After Skyla left for college, the security detail at her home was relaxed. Now, instead of two teams of five specialists guarding the house around the clock, there was only one team. She had tried to use her clearance from the Secret Service and TSCAA to find out what sort of diplomatic missions her father had done in the past, but with no success. Even with her clearance level, just three notches below the Joint Chief of Staff, she couldn’t get any details of her father’s past diplomatic record except the general description and ranking, which matched what her parents had told her. Well, it was neither here nor there. Now she just wanted to be with Mom and Dad and regroup from the unsettling feeling of dread she hadn’t been able to shake off since inside the vault.
Passing the security guards, she waved at a decent-looking young man with a crew cut. He looked like he had just left the Army. The security specialists guarding the house changed every three months. The arrangement was almost like the presidential protection details.
After another quarter-mile of winding up the driveway, Skyla killed the engine and stepped out of her Jeep. Her parents were already waiting for her by the front doorstep. She looked up at her dad and felt a warm tug at her heart. For a man in his seventies, her father was damn attractive and still in excellent physical shape, tall and lean with thick silver-gray hair. He had been a swimmer since high school, and he still kept up his swimming routine. Her mom, in contrast, was petite in size but had a full, voluptuous figure that would have made any Playboy Bunny envious. Her mom was also a good twenty years younger than her father. Skyla was told that on one of her father’s diplomatic missions in the Balkan states during the Cold War, he had fallen in love with her mother, the daughter of a military general. Their elopement had almost caused an international incident between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
Running up the steps, she gave her mom and dad tight hugs. “Hi, Mom. Hi, Daddy.”
“Skyla.” Her mother hugged her back with strength and warmth, the way she used to hug and hold Skyla whenever Skyla screamed from her faceless nighttime terrors. “I’ve saved some pot roast for you. Hungry?”
She had eaten before her drive up, but she was always up for Mom’s home-cooked meals. “Sure, Mom. That’d be great.”
“Pam, Skyla’s probably tired from her day at work and the hour-long drive up here. Maybe she wants to rest first.” Her father followed them to the kitchen with her overnight bag.
“It’s okay, Daddy. I want some food, and I need to talk to you both.”
There was a strange pause between her parents. Was that a flash of alarm she saw in her dad’s eyes? But before she could think more of it, her dad had disappeared into the dim hallway, taking her bag to her room upstairs.
“Mom, is Daddy okay?”
Her mom was pulling plates and cutlery out from the cupboard. “Of course. Why do you ask, honey?”
“Nothing. I’m probably tired, but I thought I saw Daddy frowning just now.”
“Oh, you know your dad. Always busy with his work, even though he should be retired by now. He’s probably thinking about his cases at the firm.” Her mom didn’t seem to think anything of it and pulled out the pot roast and vegetables from the oven.
“Hmm. Okay.” Skyla sat down by the breakfast counter and greedily inhaled the aroma of the delicious food. “Mom, it smells really good. I think I’m starving.”
Her mom chuckled. “I knew you would be. You’ve always had a good appetite.” After setting down a plate of warm, juicy pot roast with steamed cauliflower and string beans in front of her, her mom turned slightly toward the doorway. “Tom, would you like a plate too?”
“No, thank you, dear.” Her father emerged from the dark hallway into the kitchen and pulled out the stool next to her. He sat down and gave her a peck on her cheek.
“Sweetie, how’s work?”
“Work’s fine, Daddy. Knox and Vivi said hello to you and Mom.” She lifted a forkful of pot roast, breathing in the rich aroma before putting it into her watering mouth. The beef instantly melted like butter. “Hmm, Mom. I miss your food.”
Smiling, her mom poured a glass of scotch for her dad and started cleaning up the stove and oven.
For a few minutes, it felt like the old days when Skyla was still living at home. The harmonious silence was comforting and familiar. She had questions for her parents but did not want to disturb the comfortable, familial peace they were sharing now. It could wait until the morning, she told herself.
After polishing off her plate, she chitchatted with her parents a little before kissing them both good night and heading up to her room. It had been a long day, and now that her adrenaline was leveling off, her body felt like it had been run over by a four-by-four. Definitely time for bed. She was about to change into her tank top and shorts when she felt a pinch at the back of her neck. Her last conscious thought was, “Shit. Mom, Dad.” Then all the lights went out.
Furiously yanking on the ropes tying her wrists behind the back of the chair and binding her ankles against its legs, Skyla scowled at the man. “Who are you? What did you do with my parents?” She knew instinctively that he was the same man she had encountered in the bank vault.
He did not reply but only stared at her with such intensity that she couldn’t help but feel uneasy—on top of being pissed off big time. Not that she worried about him hurting her. She knew he would not. How did she know that? No idea. She just did. But she was worried about her parents. Did they hear anything? Had they seen him taking her? Did he hurt them just to make sure he could get away with her without sounding any alarm?
She took a quick look at her surroundings. Judging from the antiquated setting of the room, she would not be surprised if the man had taken her back in time. Before she could finish her survey, the man’s deep baritone voice drew her attention back to him. “I mean you no harm.” He sounded almost apologetic. She would’ve believed his sincerity if she had not been tied up. She was about to snort back at him when a sense of familiarity struck her.
He had a strong, square jaw; cold, stormy-gray eyes; and short, thick, black hair, which curled at the tips, giving him a boyish charm in complete contrast with his hardened gaze. Interestingly, the man wore a T-shirt and jeans, though they were somewhere back in time. Skyla’s observation habits had kicked into full gear. She could tell the man’s corded, muscular physique was from harsh outdoor training instead of the soft-core gym workout men were so obsessed with in her time. He could not have been from the twenty-first century. He exerted pure power and dominance. Such traits were lost to the men in her time.
He took two steps toward her and was about to raise his hand to brush back some stray hair from her forehead when he stopped midair, as if he had caught himself just in time. Instead he gave her an old-fashioned bow.
“My apologies. It’s necessary to bind you for the time being. Based on the information my men gathered, this is the only way to ensure your safety.”
“My safety?” Skyla snorted. “You mean your safety, right?”
“If you wish, my lady.” A corner of his mouth curved up into a faint smile. It sent another familiar tingling sensation up and down her spine, yet her logical mind was denying any familiarity because, honest to God, she had never seen this man before.
Oh for God’s sake, Skyla! It’s only a smile.
But it was more than the smile or the danger of the situation that forced her pulse into double time. It felt like her consciousness was on the edge of discovering something major, not just a few horny hormones.
In the icy voice she reserved for interrogating terrorists and criminals, she asked, “Who are you? Where am I? Where are my parents?”
“Forgive my manners. My name is Rei. You are safe here. I just have some questions for you. That’s all. And your parents are at their house. If all goes well, they won’t know you’re gone yet.”
Her rapid heartbeat slowed down somewhat at hearing that her mom and dad were okay. She tilted her head slightly, giving him a mocking look. “Questions? Why do you think I would answer any of your questions after you broke into my parents’ house and kidnapped me?”
To his credit, he did not take the bait. “I could’ve taken you from TSCCA instead of from your parents’ house. For that I apologize.” There was a mocking tone in his reply.
She was immediately alarmed by his mention of the Agency. How did he know? And what did he know? To the public, TSCCA was part of the Department of the Interior, and its mission was to monitor geological signals impacting the eastern seaboard. No one, except the team and government personnel with top-level clearance, knew the real name and the real purpose of TSCAA.
Not willing to let him see her surprise, she didn’t acknowledge what he’d just said. Instead she looked around the room hoping to find clues of where and what time period she was in. The room looked like a library or study and was decorated in early twentieth-century décor. Ornate wood and brass work covered two of the four walls. The remaining walls were covered by rich, forest-green wallpaper with a slight golden sheen. The furniture looked so well-crafted that she had no doubt they were handmade from solid wood, probably mahogany judging from the deep espresso color. Two huge armchairs were padded with thick, smooth, leather cushions. No one in the twenty-first century had this type of lavish setup anymore. In her time, people’s tastes were minimalist, dictated by smaller living quarters and mass production. Skyla had never liked the modern style of home setup. It was too cold and efficient for her taste.
To her right, there was a floor-to-ceiling glass window with a door leading out to a balcony.
Is that Central Park? Am I still in New York City?
Turning her attention back to the man, she asked him icily, punctuating each word, “I will ask one more time. Where am I?”
Not a bit frayed by her frosty, demanding tone, he replied politely, “We are in New York City.”
“And what year is this?”
The corner of his mouth curved again, sending another wave of tingling sensations up and down her spine. “January 6, 1933.” And without giving her any further chance to ask more questions, “I beg your pardon. I must leave you for a few moments to attend another urgent matter.” He gave her another very proper gentleman’s bow before leaving the room.