Flirting with Forever

Flirting with Forever

by Gwyn Cready

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492631033
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 1,228,729
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Gwyn Cready is a writer of contemporary, Scottish, and time travel romance. She's been called "the master of time travel romance" and is the winner of the RITA Award, the most prestigious award given in romance writing. She has been profiled in Real Simple and USA Today, among others. Before becoming a novelist, she spent 25 years in brand management. She has two grown children and lives with her husband on a hill overlooking the magical kingdom of Pittsburgh.

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Flirting with Forever


By Gwyn Cready

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Gwyn Cready
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4926-3104-0


CHAPTER 1

Covent Garden, London, 1673


Peter pressed his exquisitely cobbled shoe against the side of the desk drawer and rubbed his aching temples. Despite all the appointments of success — the fine clothes, the freedom to paint when and what he chose, the admiration of a highly appreciative king, row upon row of apprentices at his command, a full waiting room, and an even fuller account with his bankers — he felt nothing but despair. Even the fat emerald ring, once such a prize, was a torture, for it reminded him of Ursula and how he had treated her. It had been heartbreaking to live through that part of his life the first time. And now to be asked to live through it again was a sorrow so exquisite he could barely speak.

"Peter," Mertons said, "I hope you know how much the Guild appreciates this."

Peter grunted. The Executive Guild managed the souls passing through the Afterlife, specifically those within the artists' section, and Mertons was the time-jump accountant who had been assigned to this case. Time-jump Accountant was his official title, but Peter knew the unofficial reason the Guild had sent him was to ensure the moody, unreliable painter they'd enlisted managed the mission properly and stayed within the prescribed rules, so perhaps "nursemaid" would be more appropriate.

"It wasn't as if I had a choice." Peter slitted his eyes and let the dying November sun warm his face. The evenings were the hardest. During the day he could lose himself in painting, but at night ... at night, all he had was wine and his memories. How could he have once held success in such esteem?

Mertons shrugged. "You will get what you want, Peter — a new life as an artist." The Guild had the power to choose the new life into which a member of its constituency — in this case, painters — would arrive, bundled in his or her new mother's arms, with only an obscure hint of the sadness or joy of their former life to tint their memories.

And while Peter desperately wanted a new life as an artist — he couldn't imagine himself, or at least his soul, spending the next sixty years as a barber or dairyman — what he really wanted was a chance to redeem himself, which he knew he would never find. He had finally agreed to slip back into the pinched, desiccated skin he had sloughed off at his death two years earlier for one reason only — to try to return Ursula's good name to her, an intention he had purposefully not shared with Mertons.

"Tell me again what we know." Peter had heard the story several times since their arrival a week ago. Nonetheless, Mertons liked to tell it, and it would give Peter time to review his plan. He glanced at the clock and then at the small storage room off the office. Just before five. Good.

Mertons sighed and looked down at his clipboard. "To be honest, we know very little. The writer's name is Campbell Stratford — a Scot," he added as if that provided a significant detail to the understanding of the event. "The book will be an embarrassment to the Guild —"

"An embarrassment to Van Dyck, you mean." Peter had immense respect for the work of the man he'd succeeded as royal portraitist — Van Dyck to the court of Charles I and he to that of Charles II — but it irked him that the Guild would jump through hoops to help certain of its dead members but not others.

"An embarrassment to one of our members is an embarrassment to the Guild, Peter. We don't want Van Dyck's ill-considered contretemps with a few women outside his marriage to overshadow a career that should be judged strictly on its professional merits — merits, I might add, that are both numerous and laudatory."

A few women? Peter, who had known Van Dyck well, rolled his eyes. "I expect the Guild doesn't particularly like the idea of someone on Earth running around with access to a time tube, either."

The muscles in Mertons's jaw contracted. The Guild, like every organization that managed souls in the Afterlife, had a stake in ensuring the tubes were tightly controlled. Representatives of the Guild, or, like Peter, those chosen to serve their needs, were the only people allowed to travel the tubes as conscious adults, and then only under very special circumstances. The thought that this Stratford fellow would find a way to breach the tube terrified the Guild, who claimed that alteration of the fabric of time could be as dangerous as an asteroid hit. No one on Earth had done it in decades. Peter didn't doubt there was some level of danger, though he suspected the Guild's concern was just as much about retaining power as averting chaos.

"No, Peter, the Guild does not care for it, and neither should you. The results would be unimaginable."

Peter made an ambiguous noise. A few more minutes, and then all he'd need was a way to distract Mertons long enough to do what he needed to do. "Tell me, how did you come to know the writer would be traveling here?" This was the one part of the story Mertons had not shared with him, and pride showed in the man's eyes. Fortunately, Peter thought, there's nothing like a time-jump accountant for long-winded self-aggrandizement, especially when it comes to the intricacies of time travel.

"I probably shouldn't be telling you this —"

Peter gave him a conspiratorial nod.

"— but it was me. Dawson, the associate in External Affairs, was reviewing the daily log and saw Stratford's book had spiked a seven-point-three on incongruity. Normally you'd ignore something like that unless it happened again, but when Dawson brought it to me, there was just something odd about it. A seven-point-three on an art biography? An art biography by an unknown author? I got permission to check it against the Alexandrian tables, the safest way for someone in the present to examine future occurrences, and the book — that is to say, the book that Stratford will write if we don't stop him — was filled with details knowable only to someone who'd been back in time."

"Perhaps he guessed. Some writers are very good at that, I hear."

"Perhaps he guessed Van Dyck liked his eggs poached in cream and sprinkled with nutmeg? Perhaps he guessed Van Dyck entertained his closest friends with a portrait of Lord Harwich painted with horns and a snout?" Mertons lowered his voice to a whisper. "Perhaps he guessed Van Dyck needed a brisk paddle to ensure the structural integrity of his 'monument to Cupid'?"

"Oh dear."

"And it's worse than that."

"I'd rather not hear."

"Stratford gave himself carte blanche to fill the rest of the book with whatever lies he wanted. He calls it a 'fictography.' Do you see? A fictional biography. An abomination, if you ask me. Why can't writers stick to the truth?" Mertons returned his gaze to his ever-present clipboard. As tall as a boat pole and nearly as thin, with a crown as hairless as a baby's, Mertons looked about as much like an apprentice painter in 1673 as he did a centurion at the Battle of Thermopylae. Nonetheless, that was the cover the Guild had instructed Peter to provide him.

"And why does Stratford come to me?"

Mertons shuffled his feet. "We don't know."

"Don't know?" Peter cultivated surprise. This was his favorite part of the story since the answer could not be found on Mertons's clipboard.

"No. Perhaps he's broken the security algorithm. Perhaps he's found a tube we're not aware of. All we know is this biography — pardon me, fictography — will change the way thousands of people feel about Van Dyck. So our job is to stop Stratford from writing that book. The book is nothing but lies."

"Nothing but lies? You mean Van Dyck didn't pass around a portrait of Lord Harwich?" Peter had seen it himself once. He declined to call to mind the other, more picturesque details of his colleague's personal life.

Mertons flushed. "There's a difference between telling a story and appealing to the prurient interest of readers. Stratford takes the story, embellishes it, and with The Girl with a Coral Earring, makes the entire seventeenth-century art world seem like some sort of giant sultan's tent in which artists run, satyr-like, over pillowed beds, chasing willing and unwilling women to their reputational doom."

Peter considered the artists he had known, including himself before the settling influence of Ursula, and found the description to be more accurate than not.

"I see you're amused." Mertons crossed his arms. "I wonder if you would feel the same if the subject of the biography was you."

Peter stiffened. He hated to admit it, but Mertons was right. Seeing his own life splashed across the pages, stripped bare for the amusement of a reading public who would not care what parts were true, so long as the salacious bits of intrigue kept them turning pages, would be more than he could bear. There was a special place in hell for a writer like Stratford, who picked the bones of the dead to further his own career, and Peter supposed he should be glad he'd have a hand in bringing the blackguard down. But the thought brought him little joy, trapped as he was in one of the most unhappy times of his former life. He wished another artist in the Afterlife had been given the opportunity. He glanced again at the clock. "And here, in this studio, in this particular time, is the only — what do you call it? — point of intersection?"

"No, there are a number of intersections in Van Dyck's life as well, but the Guild is just about to place him in his new life, and, as you know, we cannot retrieve him once that has been done. You, being between lives, are available. Though perhaps when you said 'in this particular time' you were referring to this time in your own life?" Mertons unclipped the mass of paper in his hand and fanned it. "In that case, the answer is no as well. There were two intersections in your own life, each approximately equal in likelihood, but the other, you may recall —"

Peter remembered and held up a hand to stop him. "I recall. Thank you."

The other likely intersection point had been eight years earlier, when Peter and Ursula had been happy. While Peter hadn't told Mertons or the Guild his reasons, he had flatly refused even to consider returning to such a time. To live through that again burdened with the knowledge of what was to come after would destroy him. He'd rather feel the lash of guilt and sorrow in this, the aftermath of his vanity, than to see it coming at him like a runaway carriage, about to crush him. He gazed at the emerald on his finger as one would a malignant tumor.

Mertons was observing him closely. "Peter, is there something I should know?"

But Peter hadn't told anyone in the Afterlife about his despair, and he wasn't about to start. "Only that it's been a week, and I told you I would give you two, no more."

Mertons sighed and examined another sheet of paper. "I've reconfirmed the coordinates. There may have been a little trouble with our original calculation, but I can assure you the writer is within striking distance."

Peter had no interest in Mertons's coordinates or any of the dozens of other numbers routinely spouting from the man's mouth. "Well, it must end soon. I can't even take a piss without your approval."

"My dear Peter, it's not that I wish to constrain your freedom. As I've explained, it's that the Guild has given us a range of deviation of only plus or minus three point oh six two four seven. That is an average for the entire trip, which means the overages we anticipate with the writer's arrival must be balanced with something approaching zero deviation as we wait now."

"Hang on. Did you say three point oh six two four seven?" Peter scratched at a loose sheet with his quill in a fair imitation of a time-jump accountant. "No wonder this isn't working. You know I can't work at less than three point oh six two four nine two two."

"Jest if you will," Mertons said icily, "but the limits exist for a reason. Jumps are a risk. We must strive to ensure your days are lived exactly as they were the first time through. Unscrupulous or unthinking trippers could reorder time. We're lucky a novice like you was allowed to attempt it."

"I count my blessings hourly."

"Your intercourse with the rogue will cost us at least five points of deviation, and that's right off the top. Which means the rest of our time here must be kept below two point six." He scribbled on his paper. "Two point seven at the most. How revealing do you intend the intercourse to be?"

Peter considered both the question and Mertons's susceptibility to a double entendre, but abandoned his ambitions and said only, "I shall endeavor to bring it in under five."

"Excellent."

Peter turned his attention to a stack of mezzotints and reached for the pot of ink and his chop.

Mertons caught his sleeve. "What are you doing?"

"Placing my chop — my mark — upon them," Peter said. "They're for the king. Gifts for the envoy from Sicily."

Mertons held tight. "Were these done in your original life?"

"Aye," Peter growled. "I haven't forgotten the proscription against new marks."

Mertons pulled a sheet of paper from his sheath and looked at it. "'Eleventh of November,'" he read. "'Mezzotints of Charles II: Eight.'" He scanned the stack of mounted prints, counting, then relaxed. "Leaving your mark in this place — a child, a bride, your name on a painting, anything that was not marked before — will bind you here forever."

"Aye. I remember." Peter shook his arm free. There was no place he'd less like to be bound.

"You must stay as close to me as possible. That's why I'm here, Peter. To be your guide."

"Like Virgil through the circles of hell."

"And you're certain you recall what you're to do when you finally meet him? Shall I review that as well?"

"No," Peter said with exquisite politeness, "thank you." He stretched his long legs. Now was the time. "How is my patronage looking, Mertons?"

Peter hadn't been exactly eager to deal with his customers since returning, and the surprise showed on Mertons's face. With a tilt of his head, the thin man peered into the long hallway.

"You have a considerable line out there."

"Excellent," said Peter, who, in fact, couldn't have cared less. "But ..."

"But what?"

"I admit I am concerned, most concerned, about the appropriateness of each patron as far as our limits are concerned. Might you be willing to size them up, so to speak, from a jump risk point of view?"

Mertons's forehead creased, and he shuffled through the papers before finding one in particular. "I assume they're the same people you saw when you lived this day in your life before."

"Quite likely, aye." Peter carried the prints to the storage room. "But the point is one can't be sure. We assume the writer will be disguised, but what if there is more than one man with access to the unsecured time tube? What if there is a conspiracy to unravel the time fabric?"

Mertons paled. "You're right. There's a Robert de Manville on this list here whose name is giving me pause."

"Robert de Manville." Peter frowned. "I don't remember him. Seems a very likely candidate, Mertons."

Mertons sighed. "I explained you wouldn't remember everyone. It is just as if you were seventy, and returned to the neighborhood in which you lived when you were a child. Some faces you'll remember. Some you won't. It is not a reliable means by which to judge. You must exercise caution and foresight at all times — all times, Peter. Give me a moment. I shall examine the group versus the appointments you had for the day from our records and offer you my thinking."

"Take all the time you need."

* * *

And Mertons, feeling more than his usual sense of trepidation, did. Though Robert de Manville, upon rigorous cross-examination, proved unremarkable and the woman with the crimson frock and pockmarks gave him no pause, the man with the hooded eyes beside her — her husband, or at least the man who purported to be — alarmed Mertons almost enough to announce Mr. Lely was accepting no more clients for the day. But he took down a thorough description of the man, so thorough, in fact, the elaborate chime of Peter's Ottoman clock entered his consciousness as only a distant, barely noticed melody.

When he felt he'd observed enough to make a judgment on the security of the mission, he stepped back into the office and said, "I would like to offer a caution on — Peter?"

The desk was empty, and the door to the storage room was ajar.

"Er, I say, Peter?" He raised his voice a degree. "I would like to offer a stiff note of caution on a man named John Howell and his wife. I'm not certain, of course, but you must not take risks."

Peter did not reply. Mertons frowned and started toward the storage room. "Remember, this writer has enough heartless calculation to fool his readers, destroy the reputation of a gifted man, and thus far elude the Guild. I would call that more than a temporary irritant, Peter. I would call that" — in the storage room Mertons found nothing but curtains fluttering at an open window, and his warning sputtered to a close — "a cold-blooded villain."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready. Copyright © 2010 Gwyn Cready. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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.

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From the Publisher

“Fun and sexy . . .

a reading adventure you

don’t want to miss.”

—Janet Evanovich on

Tumbling Through Time

Interviews

"Why I Write" by Gwyn Cready

The question I am most often asked when I give talks is "What made you want to become a writer?" This is followed almost immediately by, "Did you always want to be a writer?" I have to admit I dread these questions these questions a little for the answer invariably changes what had been a lively, fun discussion to something more somber.

I began to write—and still write—to honor the memory of my dead sister. She was 31 and I was 35 when she passed away. She died without warning, and I never got a chance to say good-bye.

She and I couldn't have been more different. She was an artsy type—a poet and photographer who wore gypsy skirts, thumb rings and patchouli perfume. I have an MBA in marketing and spent 25 years working in corporate America. The only ring I dealt with was the ring of the telephone. We weren't close in age or in temperament growing up, but as we drew closer to our thirties, the differences between us diminished.

One of our last conversations was about a book my friend, Leslie, had given me, a book called Outlander. I loved it—not in a way you love a new pair of boots or even a yummy red velvet cupcake. I LOVED IT. I couldn't put the darned thing down. And I wanted her to read it, especially since the heroine's name was Claire and my sister's was, too.

She never got the chance. She died when her throat swelled shut in an attack brought on by an extremely rare disease called hereditary angioedema.

Claire's death devastated me. She was my only sister, and I'd already survived the death of my mother when I was eleven. There are undoubtedly worse things to go through in life—abuse or the loss of a child comes to mind—but I wouldn't wish the life- upending double-wallop I went through on anybody.

I'd already named my daughter after my mother and my son after my father (I have a very generous husband), and those were the grandest tributes within my power to give. If I'd been planning to have a third child, I would have simply named the baby Claire (or Clarence) and been done with it. Unfortunately, I didn't want to have another child.

I decided that the next most enduring tribute would be to create a piece of art that I would dedicate to my sister. Since the only talent I have that even approaches artistic is writing, I decided I would try to write a book. And since Diana Gabaldon, the author of Outlander, had made me fall in love with romance novels, a love story was the sort of book I settled on trying.

Within a month of Claire's death, I began to write. That was May, 1997. My first book, Tumbling Through Time, was published in January, 2008. It took almost eleven years from the time I began writing until I could open a cover and read the words that told me I'd finally fulfilled my mission.

For my sister, Claire, who would have laughed.

And she would have laughed. Her no-nonsense sister, Gwyn, writing steamy romance novels? Heck, she would have howled.

I'm a full-time writer now, writing my seventh book, and I thank Claire often for the gift she's given me. My life is immeasurably better, and not just because I'm a writer. My life is immeasurably better because Claire was my sister.

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Flirting with Forever 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
vampiregirl76 on LibraryThing 19 days ago
This was my first time reading Gwyn Cready and for me it was an entertaining read. Ms Cready has a very nice writing style. I loved that humor was blended in with the romance. I did think the way that Cam got to the 16th century was a bit odd, but very creative. Flirting with Forever was a light, fun read. Full of romance and mischief. I don't read too many time-travel stories but this was a good read. If you like a bit of humor and time-travel with you romance - you'll enjoy this one.
BrokenTeepee on LibraryThing 19 days ago
Suspend belief.If you do this is a delightful time travel romance. Especially for an art history major like me. Don't worry, though if you are not. It is written in a way to bring everyone to the easel as it were - whether you know anything about Restoration art or not. It is fast paced, joyful and full of lots of great details for those of us that do love art history.If you like time travel novels (and I do) this is a fun read. Our hero, painter Peter Lely is brought back into his life to stop our heroine, Campbell Stratford, from putting details into her biography of Van Dyck that no one had ever known. She learned these details by traveling back in time and it is important that she be stopped. Of course Campbell is a dead ringer for Lely's dead lover. Sparks fly. Intrigue flows. Love grows. Then, betrayal! Can our two lovers find happiness?I couldn't put it down.It was a great days reading and well worth the time. And isn't that cover just gorgeous?
Cajunbooklady on LibraryThing 19 days ago
This was the first time travel romance I've read and I was impressed. I was surprised at the the length of the book, but I came to the conclusion that this was because of having to pop back and forth in time. I assume in time travel romance that this makes attention to detail very important.Even though it was a longer book (for a mass market) Gwyn's writing is excellent, so that wasn't a problem for me. This was a "carry around in my purse" book...I'm sure you all have those LOL! I would read it here and there, and it was always easy to get back into.I was happy with the characters in the story, and of course delighted by the end. My ONLY complaint is that I thought Peter should have had to face a bigger hurdle. *eh* (Not that I think character's should be tortured or anything) Overall...I thought it was a good read and I enjoyed the time travel. It was a first for me, and I look forward to reading more of this type!
bookwormygirl on LibraryThing 19 days ago
I've never really read a time travel romance and I think Ms. Cready has opened my eyes to a whole new genre. I really like the way the time travel bit is done in this story. I think there was good development when it came to both the 17th century and the present time. I never found myself confused or disoriented as to what time frame I was in. I'm sure there was a lot of homework done by Ms. Cready to accomplish that with such vivid details.I have to admit that it had a slow start for me but once Cam is swept away into the 17th century and Peter is in the picture... well, needless to say, it picked up rather quickly after that. There were some very funny moments scattered throughout that not only brought a smile to my face but more than once had me laughing out loud. From Cam's zany antics trying to text message and get enough bars to make a call on her iPhone to her use of names that were definitely not recognized in the 17th century (i.e. Antonio Banderas, Katie Holmes, etc.)This was a fast-paced romance with plenty of drama, mystery and comedy all wrapped up within that uber cute cover (love the shoes). Not to mention there was that age-old struggle in choosing happiness over ambition. All in all, it was a fun, sexy romp that I found very entertaining.As a side note, there's this fantastic scene where Cam plays Peter's muse that was utterly steamy and toe-curl worthy. le sigh. ;)This book was provided for review by Simon & Schuster.
nicole on LibraryThing 19 days ago
Considering Cam¿s life, how could she not find the 17th century art world a better option? Her ex-fiancé, who cheated with the woman who made Cam¿s engagement ring, wants her to move to London so they can try again; her snotty older sister is competing with her for a promotion; and she¿s struggling to publish (which she needs to do to seal the promotion) her biography of Anthony Van Dyck because it isn¿t sexy enough. So when she selects the browse inside option on Amazon and is instead transported to the studio of artist Peter Lely, who can provide information on Van Dyck, it¿s actually a good thing. What she doesn¿t realize is that The Executive Guild has instructed Lely to feed Cam misinformation to stop her from publishing a book the Guild has deemed embarrassing.Cready does an excellent job placing Cam in both current time and the 17th century. Later on, she brings two characters from the past (including, of course, Cam¿s crush Peter) into the present with great comedy. Imagine the uptight Time-jump Accountant in a Rage Against the Machine shirt. I actually feel like I learned a little something about art through the beautiful descriptions; Cready also had Peter explain to Cam a technique he used, which I found as interesting as Cam did. I just wish Flirting with Forever had started with Cam¿s problems rather than the rather dry Mertons explaining the situation to Peter. It took a bit more time to get into the book than it otherwise would have because of that slow start.
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bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
Cam is writing a book about 17th century painters and she's calling it "fictogrophies". As an art historian, Cam does know a thing or two about the great artists she is focusing on. Some would say that she knows a little too much. What's a girl supposed to do with a newly found time portal? At first I thought that this would be a tad bit corny - I like corny, so that was why I agreed to review this book. It wasn't quite what I expected, it was better. I wonder if Cam will show me this time portal... It's a really fun read, especially if you're looking for a romance book that is unlike any other.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Executive Guild of the Great Beyond directs agent Peter Lely to go to 1673 London to locate biographical writer Campbell Stratford and prevent a time travesty as she is writing a tell all tale for her twenty-first century audience. Stratford is authoring a book about seventeenth century artists that contains personal sordid details re the infamous painters that only an eye witness with a time tube portal would have. In modern day Pittsburgh, Cam is completing her manuscript on the painters of the seventeenth century that she hopes to find a publisher. However, while conducting research over the Net, she is transported to Peter's home in London in circa 1673. They are attracted to one another, but he completes his mission by misdirecting the biographer. When Cam returns to Pennsylvania, she realizes what Peter has done to her and her book. When he shows up in contemporary Pittsburgh, he vows to not allow anything to get in the way of the woman he loves, but the first barrier is her. Putting aside plausibility, Flirting with Forever is a superb time travel romance starring two wonderful protagonists and the occupants of the Great Beyond. Fast-paced in both centuries, fans will enjoy Gwyn Cready's charmer as no one will look at paintings and artists in quite the same light. Harriet Klausner