Read an Excerpt
The River of Time Series
By Lisa T. Bergren
David C. CookCopyright © 2011 Lisa T. Bergen
All rights reserved.
Mom freaked out when she saw us, of course.
I couldn't blame her, with Lia in her medieval gown. And me looking like I'd been mauled by a bear. Especially when two meaty guards were hauling us into Dr. Manero's tent. "It's all right, Mom," I said, hands out, as she rushed toward us. Her face was white.
"Lasciateli," she shouted in irritation—let them go—brushing the guards' hands off our arms, staring at the blood on me. "Girls, what in the—"
"She's all right, Mom," Lia began. "It's not as bad as it looks."
"It's okay," I said, pushing her hands away as she touched my underdress—a gown made hundreds of years before—and tried to figure out what kind of wound had made me look like I'd been doused in ketchup. "I'm fine, Mom. Really."
But her fingers remained on the raw weave of the silk fabric. Her beautiful blue eyes widened, then her narrow brows lowered as she rubbed it between thumb and forefinger and bent to study the weave. She turned and touched Lia's gown. "Where did you get these clothes?"
"Mom," I whispered, "can we talk about it alone?" Manero—Dr. Manero, my parents' long-time adversary, a bigwig with the Societa Archeologico dell' Italia—was staring at us with a smug look on his face, as if he had us all exactly where he wanted us.
"They were found in Tomb Two, Dr. Betarrini," he said, crossing his arms. I pictured him stuffing a cigar into his mouth, leaning back in a chair, and putting his feet up on the desk, hands behind his head. "You know what giving unauthorized persons access can do to one's site approvals."
Mom frowned now and shook her head a little. "Impossible. They'd never ..." Her words faded as she saw the sheepish looks in our eyes. "No. Girls, tell me you weren't inside. No. Why?"
"Mom, we need to talk to you alone," I said again.
She stared at me, eye to eye—we're exactly the same height—and then at Lia, and finally at Manero. "Ci serve un' attimo." We need a minute.
"What's to say? Yes, your papers are in order, but you clearly need my help here to secure the site. If your own daughters feel free to run roughshod over—"
"We were not 'running roughshod' over the site," I bit back at him. "We were just peeking in."
He raised one dark brow. "Climbing inside hardly constitutes peeking."
Mom looked at us in horror.
"We need a minute, Mom," I said for the third time. "We can explain."
She was getting that There's-No-Explanation-for-Trespassing kind of wild fury look in her eyes. The sort that usually left her sputtering before she found her steam and really let us have it.
Lia saw it too. "Mom," she said, "can we go outside?"
"No need," Manero said, chin in the air. "I shall leave you three to discuss your business. I'll return in fifteen minutes to discuss our business."
"Thanks for the warning," I muttered. He paused but did not turn, then left the tent.
Mom crossed her arms and took a seat on a folding stool. "Start talking."
Lia and I shared a look. My head and heart were swirling. It was better that Lia told her. I sat down on a stool by the desk, face in my hands, looking at my mother and sister but thinking how lucky I was to be alive, and of Marcello Forelli, the most amazing man on the planet—of all time even. The guy I'd left in the past.
I'm not talking about breaking up yesterday. I'm talking about the past-past—as in the 1300s past. Lia was telling Mom about it, whispering as fast and as clearly as she could ... how we'd put our hands on the prints in the Etruscan tomb—prints that seemed to be our own, they matched so closely—and how it had taken us back in time, to medieval Italy.
Mom's eyes got bigger and bigger, her expression telling us that she thought we'd gone crazy. "Did you hit your head?" she asked, reaching for Lia's blond hair, scanning her scalp for blood.
"No, Mom," Lia said, lurching away in irritation. "Listen to me. I know it sounds crazy, but you have to believe us! Look at my gown. At Gabi's!" Scientific fact, that's what she was bringing it around to. That was something Mom could get her head around.
I turned to Manero's computer, staring at the clock and the date, trying to get my head around the facts too. About a half hour had gone by since we'd first put our hands on the prints. We were probably only gone about twenty to twenty- five minutes. But we'd experienced about twenty days in ancient Tuscany.
My heart skipped a beat. I was no math genius, but if my calculations were right, our ten minutes here meant we'd already been gone from Marcello's time for ten days. Ten days. No wonder I was in agony. I missed him like I was experiencing ten days of pain in ten minutes. I'd left a piece of myself back with him. It was physical, leaving me all empty and achy inside.
I logged on to Manero's laptop and typed "Siena history" into Google's search window.
"Gabi—" Mom began, brows lowered.
"I'll be fast, Mom. I just need to know something." A quick stop at Wikipedia, and I knew two things: Siena would face the plague in five years. But Florence wouldn't conquer her for another couple hundred years. Not that there weren't serious battles before then ...
To her credit, Mom seemed to be giving Lia's story half a chance. But her eyes told me she thought it was like a fable that had to have some sort of real basis, a foundation that would make it all make sense. Like grainy Sasquatch film clips that really starred an escaped pet gorilla. Or a UFO sighting that boiled down to a NASA rocket test. She was getting all Science Maven-y on us, trying to put two and two together.
"Mom, there are two castles within two miles of this site. The one we pass every day, on our way in here, and the one over the hill, past the tombs." I reached out and took her hands. "We've been in both. But they were whole—full-on homes for people. Lots of people. Lia could sketch them both for you. One was inhabited by a man who fought for Firenze; the other by a family who was loyal to Siena."
I glanced to the tent doorway, its flap still and hanging, and rose. I lifted the edge of my gown and showed her my wound, now nothing but a white scar on my skin. "Look, Mom. Check out the length of it. How it looks old? Like I got it five years ago, right?"
She blinked rapidly, as if she was seeing things. Trying to make sense of it all.
I dropped my gown and gestured to the bloodstain, directly over my scar. "It's bloody because I was bleeding like crazy, just a half hour ago. I got the wound in that castle," I said, gesturing in the direction of the Paratore ruins, "when Lia and I were fighting for our lives. There's something about the tomb, coming through time, that heals. It healed me."
She bit her lip, still looking at the blood.
I shook my head, irritated at how long it was taking to convince her. "How else could I get that scar? Without you knowing about it?"
Her eyes met mine. "It makes no sense."
"No," I said. "It doesn't. But look at the facts, Mom. Haven't you and Dad always taught students to catalog the facts and then move to theory?" I had her there. I'd heard her say the exact same thing a hundred times.
Her eyes flitted between us and then down at her hands, back and forth, still trying to puzzle it through.
If only Dad were here ... He'd always been the more impulsive of the two. He followed his heart. Mom liked to consult her brain first, and there was no way that our story was going to be figured out logically. No way. Hadn't scientists been trying to figure out the whole time/space continuum thing for centuries?
Mom looked up at us then, unblinking. "Show me," she said lowly. "Let's go to the tomb now."
"In front of Manero?" I frowned.
"No," Lia said, shaking her head. "We just got back."
But I was nodding. "I need to go back."
"For what ... forever?" Lia spit at me. "There's so much we don't know, Gabi. What if you get sick again, going back?"
"I won't get sick again. I was healed. Time has passed, both here and there."
"You don't know that."
"I do. We 'left' about twenty-five minutes ago. But what'd we experience back in 1342? About twenty days, right? If we go—"
Mom held her hands up, silencing us both. "No one's going anywhere," she said. "I simply want you to show me exactly what happened. On site."
"She thinks she's in love with a dude named Marcello," Lia said accusingly, her distrusting blue eyes on me. "She'll do whatever she has to to get back."
Mom looked at me. "Is that true? You think you're in love with this Marcus person?"
"Marcello Forelli," I corrected, each lilting syllable twisting my gut. "And, uh, yeah. I fell pretty hard for him."
Mom's eyes moved from my face to my clothes again, as if she was trying to remember that there was scientific evidence to support our story. Otherwise, she probably would have dismissed it as some wild dream ... like we'd both hit our heads or something.
"That's how she got hurt," Lia said, pressing now, sensing she had the upper hand. "I mean, she got hurt in a battle and I had to stitch her up, but she's in love with a guy who already has a girl. And then that chick poisoned Gabi!" She walked over to me, hands on her hips. "You really want to go back? Back to where I almost lost you?" She shook her head. "I can't do it, Gabs. Not after Dad. I can't deal with it. I'll lose it, seriously lose it, if something happens to you."
"Nothing is going to happen to anyone," Mom said, stepping up beside us.
"Mom, just give me a chance. Let me show you the tomb. How it happened." I eyed the computer screen. Another ten minutes. Another ten days, for Marcello, thirty now that I'd been gone. Was he giving up? Giving in to Lady Rossi and the pressure to follow through on their marriage agreement? Had he guessed that she might have been poisoning me?
Mom was still staring at me, at Lia, assessing. "Come on," she said finally, lifting the back of the tent and bending.
She was going to sneak out. My mother never sneaked anywhere. She boldly went where she wished.
I stood up and went to her, looking back to Lia. She hesitated, frowning, and then with an exaggerated roll of her big blue eyes—so like Mom's—followed us. We ducked under the edge and looked around. We could hear voices on the other side and up the hill by the tombs. Just as it looked like we could make a clean escape, a guy in a Societa Archeologico hat came around the corner.
Mom froze for a second and then took my arm. "Come on, Gabi," she said, "we'll take care of you."
The man's eyes moved to my bloodstained gown, and he hurried over to us. "Ti posso aiutare?" he asked. Can I help?
"Si, I just need to get her to our car," Mom responded in Italian.
Smart of her, I thought. The parking lot would get us halfway to the tomb.
The man took my arm as if he thought I'd faint at any point, and I accepted his help as if I just might. A couple of other guys were walking up at the far end of the tumuli, but they ignored us. "I can take care of her from here," Mom said to the man.
"You're sure?" He opened the door and settled me onto the seat.
"I can call for an ambulance."
"No. It looks worse than it is."
Still, he hesitated.
"Lei ha le sue cose," I said, turning wise, pained eyes on him, meaning that time of the month, or as they said it here, she has her things. Whatever. We didn't have time to waste. How long had I been away from Marcello now? A month?
He frowned and immediately began to back away. The blood's location made no sense with the explanation, but I knew it'd send him running.
Mom gave me a little smile and grabbed the medical kit. "In case anybody else starts asking questions," she said, lifting it in my direction. She tucked it under her arm as the man disappeared back among the three tents—Mom's white one, flanked by two khaki peaks from the Societa Archeologico team. "Let's go," she said.
Hidden by dense scrub oak, we climbed up the hill. At the clearing, where the twelve tombs rose from the soil in grass- covered domes, we paused and caught our breath, waiting for those two dudes we'd spotted earlier to turn their backs. Any minute now, Manero would go back into the tent and realize we had escaped.
"Now," Lia whispered when we all saw them turn the corner of the tomb.
We hurried over to Tomb Two and scrambled through the narrow igloo-like entrance, Lia and me slower than Mom, since we were in the long gowns. At the end, we stood up, and Mom flicked on the small flashlight she kept in her belt. I pointed to the two handprints.
"I've wondered about those," Mom said. "So unlike any other fresco motif we've ever run across ..."
Lia backed up a couple of steps, as if she didn't want us cascading back in time by accident.
"Go on, Mom," I said. "Pull out a glove and touch the prints. See if they're warm." She had a thing about letting the oils of our skin touch ancient frescoes, given that it was her job and all to preserve them.
Mom frowned, then pulled on a pair of cloth gloves from her belt. After a second's hesitation, she touched one, and then the other. "No. Nothing. Cold stone. Why did you expect heat?"
I could tell from her expression that I was losing her. I lifted my hand for a glove. "Let me try."
"Gabi," Lia growled.
"Calm down. I'm just checking. You know that nothing will happen without you," I said. "I tried, remember? We both tried."
I put on the glove and touched her print first, then mine. Even through the fabric I could tell that hers was cold. Mine was hot. Just like last time.
"I know it feels like plain old stone to you," I said to my mother, "but for me and Lia, our prints are hot." Mom stepped forward and touched it again, then turned and then felt my forehead. I laughed under my breath. "I'm not running a fever, Mom. It's real." I put both palms on her face, so she could feel the residual warmth from my right. "Feel that?"
I knew from her expression that she did. She was beginning to believe. Being there, so close to the portal, made my heart pound. I knew I wanted to go back. But I couldn't. Not without Lia. And she was nowhere close to jumping back in.
"What if we don't pull off the wall in the same time period, Gabi?" she asked, reading my look. "What if we end up in Etruscan times?"
"That'd be all right by me," Mom said drily. As an archaeologist specializing in the Etruscan era and populace, she dreamed of seeing everything firsthand.
I frowned. I hadn't thought of that. There was no dial, no program, no way to set the year you wanted to hop into. Last time, I'd pulled my hand away when I finally figured out what was happening. I just happened to end up in 1342.
I looked around the tomb, trying to figure out an answer. "The urn! When it's broken, we'll know we're there."
Mom frowned and bent by the remains of the urn, picking up a piece and staring at its edges under the beam of her flashlight. She looked up at me and I bit my lip, but then seized on the situation, as a means to an end. "Look at that, Mom. The shards, the layer of dust atop them, like it's been there for centuries, right?"
She nodded slowly. "Grave robbers, most likely."
"That would make sense. But I broke it the last time we came through. When I went back to 1342, this place was sealed up tight. There was no hole in the ceiling. It was totally pitch black inside. I couldn't see where I was going, and knocked it over. Sorry," I added quickly, with a grimace. After all, I was an archaeologist's kid, and I'd just admitted to destroying a priceless artifact. I knelt next to her. "But think, Mom. Think hard. When we first got to this site, was the urn broken or whole?"
She paused for several seconds and blinked rapidly. Two memories clearly collided, as I hoped they might. Conflicting memories. One of the urn, whole. One of it broken. "I ... I don't think it was broken."
Excerpted from CASCADE by Lisa T. Bergren. Copyright © 2011 Lisa T. Bergen. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.