Eternal Time Shadows 1
Sweetly Romantic Time Travel Mini-Adventures
Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Shea / Minerva Webworks LLC
All rights reserved.
Cover design by Lisa Shea
Book design by Lisa Shea
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Mary’s voice thrummed with excited energy. “Elizabeth, I can’t believe we’re really here!”
I nodded at her, my body tingling. I’d had to resist pinching myself at least ten times already. Especially when the valet had drawn open the door to my beat-up old Honda Civic just as if it were a Porsche 918 Spider. Which, as it happened, had pulled up to the mansion right in front of us. The couple who had elegantly emerged from that gun-metal-silver vehicle was dressed to perfection in a tux and a Michael Kors floral gown.
I looked down at my own outfit. It was the very best I owned. A goes-great-with-everything black dress which I’d been told looked quite good on my slender curves. Mary had drawn my long, dark-brown hair up into a tousled updo and tossed in a few silver flowers for good measure. Sometimes it was handy to have an art student for a roommate. Even if she had decided last month to repaint our ceiling to mimic the Sistine Chapel.
Mary’s smile nearly reached her ears, stretching beneath that blonde, elfin pixie-cut of hers. Her springtime outfit was hot-pink and form-fitting. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. Of course, it was probably more ideal if we’d been in Miami where it was warm. Here in Massachusetts there was three feet of snow on the ground, evidence of the snowiest winter on record. I knew that most of my classmates were craving a vacation somewhere sunny. Maybe the Mediterranean.
And here Mary and I were, at an Italian mansion.
Not a real Italian mansion, I had to remind myself as we stepped up the beautiful Carrara marble staircase. Elegant statues of beautiful young maidens flanked us on either side, and the massive mahogany doors stood open even in the chill night air. This humongous home was the brainchild of the Argento family – a banking dynasty which, on the mother’s side, traced back to the original blue bloods of Boston.
Mary was practically bouncing with glee as we stepped over the threshold.
A pair of black-masked servants greeted us in the high-ceilinged foyer. They bowed to us, then silently waved hands to the silk-draped table to the right.
It was laid out with masks in every shape and size. Large, silver masks with fox eyes. Small, delicate black masks edged with satin. Textured leather masks with large peacock feathers sprouting out of the top.
Mary giggled and reached for one in sunshine yellow sporting flashes of white lightning on it. She slipped it on over her short hair, then turned to me. “What do you think?”
I nodded in approval. “It’s you to a T.” I turned back to the table. “But I’m not sure which –”
And then I saw it.
It was beautifully crafted white porcelain, covering the whole face. The top half was layered in shimmering gold, with raised swirls creating an elegant design. The lips were painted in matching gold. Only the eye-holes allowed a glimpse of the person within.
I nodded and drew it up. “Here we go.”
Mary nudged me. “Just like you, hiding behind a full mask.”
I drew it in place, and I actually did feel safe. Like I could pretend to belong and fit in, if just for a little while.
Mary tugged on my arm. “And here we go!”
We stepped through the foyer.
It was everything I could have imagined – and more. Waiters and waitresses in formal black outfits served silver trays of Champagne, caviar, and salmon. A twelve-piece classical music group in the far corner of the ballroom played beautiful Strauss. Couples waltzed in perfect symmetry, heads held just so, while artwork worth millions hung glittering on all sides. A bank of French doors on the far side of the room opened out to a perfectly manicured lawn. Somehow the entire expanse had been cleared of snow so that the sculpted shrubbery, elegant fountain, and classic hedge-maze were all on display.
I could just imagine a team of gardeners out there with tiny brushes and hand-held heat-guns, making sure no speck of white interrupted the flawless presentation.
Mary stretched up high on her four-inch heels, peering around like the most avid groupie at her favorite band’s concert. “Do you see him? Lizzie, you’re taller than me. Is he here?”
I smiled. Being five-foot-eight did have a few advantages over Mary’s diminutive status. Like being able to hide my Mallomars up where she couldn’t see or reach them. Now it gave me an extra boost in trying to find our quarry for the evening.
I looked across the sea of swirling, laughing people. Each one was wearing clothing which could easily pay off my substantial student loans and leave enough for me to live on for a year.
There were grey-haired men escorted by model-perfect women who could easily be their granddaughters. A pair of bottle blondes stood side by side, holding matching Champagne flutes, glaring at a middle-aged woman in disdain. To me she seemed to be in the same high-fashion outfits as the rest of the group, but clearly I was missing something. And over there, by the far set of open French doors …
My breath caught, and I staggered.
From far away I could hear Mary asking, “Elizabeth? What is it?”
It wasn’t just that he was handsome. There were a number of handsome men in the room, in all shades of white, black, and brown. I had seen countless photos of Robert Argento when the news of his family’s donation to the American Antiquarian Society had been announced. I knew what to expect. Six-foot-two. Thick, dark hair. A build like a rugby player and a focus in his eyes which said he knew what he was doing. The well-tailored tux had been fitted to him by an expert.
No wonder he’d been voted most eligible bachelor in Boston for three years running.
But it wasn’t any of that. It wasn’t the chiseled features which could have perfectly matched the statuary in the back yard. Or the fact that he was heir to the glittering billionaire-level fortune which surrounded us on every side. It was something deeper. Something which swirled in my soul, spun faster, and resonated … resonated …
He turned and stared right at me.
A kaleidoscope of shimmering colors – silver, gold, sapphire blue – spun in my gaze …
Mary was shaking my arm. “Elizabeth? Jesus, are you all right?”
I blinked back into awareness. The music spun up around me as if power had returned to an old record player. The waltzers were still spinning their precise circles; the laughter continued in its bright joy.
He was gone.
Mary’s brow creased. “C’mon. Let’s get you something to drink. And some food, too. You haven’t had anything all day long, you’ve been so tense about tonight. Heck, if I’m gonna be your plus-one on this, the least I can do is make sure you don’t keel over before you even get to talk to the guy.”
She guided me over to one of the lace-draped buffet tables. She handed me a stuffed mushroom and I dutifully put it into my mouth, following it down
A cultured voice sounded from my elbow. “Oh, look, Sofia. Another Macy-ite.”
My face burnished bright red; thank goodness the mask hid that from view. I had, in fact, bought my black dress at a sale at Macy’s.
Every instinct in my brain pleaded that I not turn to look.
It was the blonde pair I had seen earlier. They seemed completely at ease with me meeting their gazes. The one who had spoken was probably a natural auburn, judging from her skin coloring, while I had to guess the other would have been a red-head. But both shone gold under the twinkling candelabras.
Red-head, who I took to be Sofia, nodded to her friend in agreement. “Shoes from WalMart, Anna.”
That wasn’t true, but it wasn’t that far off, either.
Mary tucked her arm into mine, giving me a tug. “C’mon, Elizabeth, we have better things to do than to sit around like abandoned wall-flowers. No wonder those two aren’t dancing, with sour faces like that.”
The blondes’ mouths opened in outraged shock as Mary and I slipped into the currents and eddies of people, moving toward the musicians.
Mary’s eyes shone in delight. “You really scored, if you’re already on those two’s radar.”
I looked at her in surprise. “You know them?”