Read Time Eternal Online

Authors: Lily Worthington

Tags: #Poseidon DPG

Time Eternal (9 page)

There were also photos of people suited up in biohazard gear examining a machine, a capsule, that looked awfully familiar…a draft of some kind of time traveling paper she’d glimpsed at during a recent Renaissance exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, the machine in the photo looked exactly like the one that had captured her attention at the Met.

“Oh my god, is that a time machine?” She could only imagine how shocked her face looked judging from the guilt and regret passing through her commander’s eyes.

“Yes.”

Not trusting her voice enough to say more, she looked at the stack of photos again. The next few photos showed the slight form of a person, possibly a female, being removed from inside the machine. The next photo hit her like a thunderbolt; she couldn’t move. Her hand was still midair flipping through the stack. Impossible! A closer shot of the girl in the photo showed an uncanny look-alike of herself, her younger self to be exact, after she’d woken up from her coma.

A firm, smooth hand reached over and squeezed hers. “Yes. That was you.” When Skyla looked up from the folder, her aunt’s expression was impassive. The only sign of any emotional reaction was her aunt’s slightly trembling hand.

“How?”

“We didn’t know then, and we still don’t know much.” The director stood up and walked to the tropical fish tank covering the entire wall behind her desk. “A rancher discovered the machine in a wooded area in Rhode Island, saw a person inside, and called the state troopers. After the state troopers arrived and saw the antique look of the machine and the clothes you were wearing, they alerted the nearby naval base. I was on assignment at the same naval base for the Secret Service in preparation for the president’s visit during the Memorial Day weekend. Because of my academic background, I was asked to visit the scene as a consultant.”

The director paused and looked at the colorful tropical fish moving in the floor-to-ceiling water tank like synchronized swimmers, contemplating what to say to Skyla next.

“When I got there, the biohazard team was already removing you from the capsule. We didn’t find any evidence that the machine had crashed onto the site. Nothing was burned around the area. In fact, there was no hint of any man-made disturbance at all. It was as if the machine and you were just ported there through thin air.” She raised a hand, tracing a bright orange fish with vivid blue stripes on its tail. “We did all kind of tests on the machine and you. The only conclusive result we got at the time was that you and the machine were definitely not from our time, but we did not know how you and the machine got there. At least, not until two years later, when our scientists finally cracked the secrets.”

Skyla listened intensively. Part of her mind was rejecting what the director was telling her, but another part of her was awakening slowly from a distant past, a very distant past. She looked at the file in front of her again and read it out loud, “The female subject was in a coma, likely induced by her mind to deal with the trauma of traveling across time or by some unknown terror in her past.”

She muttered to herself. “Great, in short, my mind went crazy and shut down. And the car crash was a made up story.” She gave her aunt an accusing glance.

She skipped the medical records of those three months she was in a coma. The next set of information was about the then-Secretary of Defense’s consultation with various government agencies, both publicly known and covert ones, to determine what to do with her once she woke up. “Dad, Mom…”

“This much is true. I was married to your Uncle Johan at the time. He was with the Defense Intelligence Agency, and I was with the Secret Service. And your father had just retired from the Foreign Service Corps after twenty years of stationing outside the U.S.”

Coming to sit next to her, the director continued. “When you woke up from your coma, the government didn’t know what to do with you. Our scientists hadn’t cracked the secrets of the machine yet, so we couldn’t send you back. Even if we could have, we didn’t know what time period you came from since you didn’t remember anything about yourself, although our forensic scientists believed you were from the late 1500s and lived in southern Europe.”

The director brushed a lock of stray hair off her forehead. “We had no choice but to integrate you into our time, our world. Because Tom and Pam had lived overseas, and we didn’t have any extended family or close friends, we knew no one would question you, a daughter coming back to the States with a foreign diplomatic couple.”

“Everything I know was a lie.” Stunned by the revelation, Skyla wanted to scream at the utterly out-of-control feeling. “Neither you nor Mom and Dad would’ve told me the truth, would you? If the stranger from the bank vault hadn’t kidnapped me, I’d still think I am Skyla Gray, the only child of Tom and Pam Gray.” Her voice was steadily rising from the anger and the feeling of betrayal, not only by her family but also by her commander with whom she had trusted her life during countless Agency missions. And she actually preferred feeling angry than feeling helpless, the helplessness of not knowing who she really was and what Rei, the stranger, had to do with her. And he had to have some kind of relationship with her, well, with her past self, in order for him to take such a risk, abducting her, exposing his existence to the Agency.

Desperately trying to keep the hurt from her voice, yet knowing she was failing miserably, she nodded curtly. “Excuse me, Director. Instead of embarrassing myself or you by saying things I’ll likely regret later, I need a timeout for myself.” With that, she marched out of the office, praying to God that the gnawing sense of betrayal would not mark her soul forever.

 

Chapter Eleven

Skyla turned to her bedside clock. It was half-past midnight. An incident report flashed on her personal comm device a few hours ago, shortly after her visit at the director’s office. It said a breach happened at headquarters but was contained. The same report also noted that there was a guest staying in the guest quarters tonight. She would bet her next pair of Jimmy Choo sandals that the guest and the breach were one and the same—the stranger who kidnapped her. She wasn’t surprised Rei had followed her back here. What surprised her was that the director had put him up in the guest quarters as if he were a friend of the Agency instead of an unknown threat.

More puzzles with no new clues. She let out a frustrated grunt and got out of bed. After pacing for a while and telling herself to stay away from Rei, she found herself heading out the door. For all she knew, he might have been the reason why she had to leave her time and used the experimental time machine. He might have been the one from whom she was running away. But she also knew that he was the key to finding out who she really was.

Like a cat burglar, she left her suite stealthily and took the stairs two flights up to the guest quarters. Once she got on the floor, she saw a faint light was coming from underneath the fourth door down the hall. That must be Rei’s assigned guest suite. There were no other guests staying at the Agency at this time. Quietly, she moved toward the door while strategically avoiding the various micro cameras monitoring the area. Because this was the guest quarters, and the Agency always vetted their guests thoroughly before authorizing any stay, the security detail in this section was not as intricate as in other areas inside the Agency. The cameras were not set at a fixed angle but on a rotation to maximize coverage. She knew their locations and rotation sequencing, so it took her no time to bypass them all.

The door was slightly ajar. She gave it a soft push. Once she was inside, her eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the dim lighting. She knew the layout of the guest suite well. Each was arranged like a hotel suite, the sitting and dining area close to the entry. The furnishings here were more cheerful and less severe than the director’s black-and-white sitting area. A modern minimalist sofa in soft orange-colored fabric was accompanied by a white-lacquered oval coffee table. Peonies floating in a low square glass vase sat atop of it. The velvety light from the wall sconces reflected off the water like the soft moon reflecting on a lake. The same reflection was floating on the smooth, small round glass dining table off to the left of the seating area. It would have been easily mistaken as the guest suite for an upscale hotel room in some exotic locale. But in fact, this guest suite was one hundred and fifty feet below one of the busiest cities in the northern hemisphere and inside one of the most secretive government agencies on the planet. As a matter of fact, the floor directly above the suite was the Agency training floor, which housed all kinds of weaponry, from ancient claymores to the latest warfare gadgets, and training sessions went on 24/7. The soundproof insulating layers wrapped around the concrete between the two floors did a superb job. One would have never guessed what was going on upstairs given such a tranquil atmosphere inside the guest suite. She smiled at the irony. Only her aunt—well, her adoptive aunt to be precise—would think of blending tranquility alongside combat training.

Toward the bedroom area, the sliding French door was partially open, and her body was already feeling the familiar pull. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and slipped inside. A shard of soft light from the living area shone directly on the man that had been mesmerizing her these few days. His very sexy male form was twisting and turning in a restless sleep. The thin white sheet covered only the lower part of his body, and it was in the process of sliding off. Her gaze followed the sheet’s erotic movement, revealing a perfectly firm butt and muscular thighs one delicious inch at a time. Oh my god, he was completely naked underneath. Skyla should have the decency to look away, but her eyes had a mind of their own. They were transfixed.

Shame on you, Skyla Gray, you little hussy. Oh shush, when was the last time your libido actually got into an overdrive? Never!
Her inner vixen was arguing with herself. Great, just great.

She had seen a lot of nude male and female bodies in her art history classes and in her training with the Agency for both medical and combat reasons. Every agent must know instinctively how to save and take a life effectively and efficiently under any circumstances. But no male form, no matter how perfect, had made her body hum as it did now, not even Knox’s.

Skyla took an involuntary, bold step closer to Rei. She couldn’t stop herself even if her life depended on it. The need to be closer to him was urgent, imperative, irrevocable. Perspiration covered his face. Even partially hidden in the shadows, she could see that his brows were tightly knit together. Low, desperate groans were coming out of him as if he was fighting off someone or something. “No… Elizabeth…no… Father, run!” Then an agonizing scream tore from him liked a tortured animal. Without thinking, she reached down and touched his shoulder, wanting to give him comfort and wanting him to wake up from whatever nightmare he was in.

The heated energy shocked her like being electrocuted. Skyla tried to jerk her hand away, but it was too late. She saw someone who looked just like her sitting in front of a fireplace in an antiquated, ornate room that was jarringly familiar to her. Then Rei walked through the door with a torturous grimace on his face, coming urgently to her, or rather to the girl she was, now that she knew what the director had hidden from her all these years.

•●•

Rei knew he was dreaming again. It was the same nightmarish memories that haunted him over the endless centuries. It was the memory of the last time he had been with Elizabeth. Part of him wanted to wake up, to not experience the heart-wrenching pain again, yet part of him desperately needed to see and feel Elizabeth again. His memories of her were the only thing that kept him going as his hope of finding her diminished with each passing century. So he let his body sink into the bittersweet dream…

“Rei!” Elizabeth looked up from her book and smiled happily at him. “Have you asked Papa yet?”

Every time he saw Elizabeth, she took his breath away. She was sitting in front of the fireplace. The soft, warm glow from the fire surrounded her like a halo, making her smooth, creamy skin more pure and her thick chocolate-brown hair more sumptuous. Her innocent face reminded him of the angel in one of Master Botticelli’s paintings,
Madonna and Child with an Angel
. That painting had been commissioned by the previous lord of the Medici family, a powerful ally to the Ottoman sultan. The Medici family was also the patron of Elizabeth’s father and uncle’s scientific work.

He had never seen anyone more beautiful and pure than Elizabeth. Her smile outshone the sun and warmed his blood, long frozen by the constant battles against enemies invading his ancestral land.

Instead of returning her smile, he just looked at her silently. If he could bottle her joy and purity, he would, because he knew this could very well be the last time he would see the angelic smile from her, at least for a very long while, and only if she would forgive him.

“What is wrong, Rei?” Her bright smile dimmed a bit.

He walked up to her slowly, deliberately, before kneeling in front of her. He took hold of her small, soft hands and looked up at her gravely. “Elizabeth, I have to leave now. The Ottoman sultan has declared war against the Serbian Empire, and the Turks are preparing to strike at my father’s kingdom as we speak. A royal messenger just reached me with the news.”

“W-what?” Color drained from her warm, rosy cheeks. They were now frozen and white like the ice lake where he used to fish when he was a boy. “I-I don’t understand, Rei. What do you mean your father’s kingdom?”

Pleading with his eyes for her forgiveness, he reached up and gently cupped her cheeks with his slightly trembling hands. “Please forgive me, my love. I’ve not been honest with you. I’m not the eldest son of a Greek merchant.” As soon as those words came out, the light in her golden brown eyes dimmed along with a flash of alarm. At that very moment, he knew he was killing what he had built with her, for her, this past year, but time was running out; he must leave before the Medici family found out who he really was.

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