“The perfect blend of mystery, sci-fi, action, cute guys, romance, history and gorgeous Scotland.” —Justine magazine on Into the Dim For the first time in her life, Hope Walton has friends . . . and a (maybe) boyfriend. She’s a Viator, a member of a long line of time-traveling ancestors. When the Viators learn of a plan to steal a dangerous device from the inventor Nikola Tesla, only a race into the past can save the natural timeline from utter destruction. Navigating the glitterati of The Gilded Age in 1895 New York City, Hope and her crew will discover that high society can be as deadly as it is beautiful. In this sequel to the dazzling time-travel romance Into the Dim, sacrifice takes on a whole new meaning as Hope and Bran struggle to determine where—or when—they truly belong.
About the Author
Janet B Taylor is the author of Into the Dim. She travels extensively to the places where her novels are set, often roaming at night to commune with historical figures. She lives in Arkansas with her family and Dorda the dog. janetbtaylor.com
Read an Excerpt
Decapitation. Decapitate, verb. From the Latin, decapitatus. To remove the head from the rest of the body. It happened in the bedroom. In my bedroom to be specific, though it still seemed bizarre to think of it as mine, this once-sumptuous chamber of velvet and marble and antique furniture that was so massive and solid it would likely survive the apocalypse. As with a prom queen at the end of a long night of debauchery, only touches of the room’s original glamour remained. Not that I had firsthand prom knowledge per se. But one does read about these things. After another excruciating day, which had included three muddy hours of stabbing practice, my muscles were in full-on noodle mode, and I was already mentally sinking into my comfy, if craterous, feather mattress. So when I pushed open the door, it took me a second to get it. Though I froze before the utter and complete annihilation scattered across the scuffed floorboards, my brain, Old Reliable, began to catalogue the horror. Splayed, crooked limbs. Clothing ripped to shreds. Matted clumps of hair strewn about a slim, fragile neck that was now nothing but a ragged stump. I did not see a head.
Yes, my life had become decidedly weird in the last few months. And though it hadn’t been what most folks would call apple-pie normal in the first place, at least there’d been no brain-twisty flights through time and space, no assault, no mutilation or bloodshed. That was no longer the case. Since arriving at my aunt’s manor in the Scottish Highlands, I’d seen medieval soldiers battle with blood and sword. I’d befriended a legendary queen. I’d been pursued by a vengeful saint. I’d engineered a prison escape and helped bring my mother back from the dead. I’d killed a guy. Maybe. Probably. The temporal jury was still out on that one. The fact that he’d been a very bad guy didn’t temper the horrible nightmares.
But this victim had been an innocent. Her destruction a direct result of my own negligence. I took in a breath and stepped inside. As I picked my way through torn lace and body parts, my heart tried to crumble into minuscule, crackling bits. No, I thought as I faced off with the murderess herself. This I will never forgive. This was assassination. For this I will forever swear vengeance upon your head.
With a smirk playing around her unrepentant mouth, the killer sat down on the floor amid the carnage she had wrought andwithout the slightest hint of remorsebegan to lick her own butt. “Oh, that’s real nice.” My best friend’s new calico kitten interrupted her bath, one leg raised in that peculiar contortion only cats can perform, and blinked at me with wide, oh-so-innocent eyes. “Oh, don’t you dare look at me like that,” I snarled at the little puff-head. “I know you did it.” The fur-ball stood on three stubby legs and glared at me for daring to chastise her. The right rear leg dangled, nothing but a nub, though it didn’t slow her even the slightest. Mac, Collum and Phoebe’s grandfather, had found her outside the barn. Wet, bloodied, one of her legs mangled beyond repair. After returning from the vet, the feline had quickly usurped control of the manor. She stretched languidly, back arching as she gave a yippy little yawn. I frowned and reached down to snatch a hunk of blond hair caught in her whiskers. “This.” I waved it before her. “Is evidence. See it? Red. Freaking. Handed.” With a little hiss, she raised a minute paw and batted at the blond curl. I jerked back just in time to avoid having my finger ripped open by needle-sharp claws. The kitten had evil in her, I was sure of it. She despised anyone with two X-chromosomes, though for some reason, she adored the guys. Mac, in particular, was smitten, toting her around, the little whiskered face peeking out from the pocket of his down vest. Her only redeeming feature was how utterly uncomfortable she made Collum, as she continually appeared out of nowhere and yowled at him to pick her up.
“Why?” I whispered as I surveyed the destruction. “What did I ever do to you?” She’d been delicate, beautiful. Ancient. Much, much older than the eighteenth-century house itself. The beheaded doll that now lay in scattered ruin across my bedroom floor was the only evidence of my true origins. The only reminder of the child I had once been. That is, the only tangible reminder. In a way that hurts my brain to think on, just twelve years had passed since someone had plucked her from an icy forest, keeping her safe until he could return her to me. Twelve years, give or take a few hundred.
“Hey, Hope, have you seen Hec . . .” Phoebe MacPherson skidded to a halt in the doorway. Her hair, previously spiky and the color of blue-raspberry soda, now bore a sleek, chin-length bob, and was dyed what could only be described as shrieking purple. Freckled, barely five feet, and sporting her favorite panda-print jammies, my friend would’ve looked closer to twelve than sixteen if it hadn’t been for her rather abundant chest. Phoebe gasped as she took in the shredded, headless body. “Oh-h-h,” she moaned. “No-o-o. No no no! Tell me she didn’t.” I shrugged. “She did.” I turned away before she could notice my lips trembling. “My fault. I must’ve left the door open.” Phoebe knelt, and carefully scooped up the fragile carcass. Bits of yellow silk floated to the ground. We both looked around for the head. I spotted it first, half-buried beneath a pillow. “Got it.” I climbed up the three wooden steps and stretched out full-length across the mattress. As my fingers closed around the round shape, the cat jumped up on the bed to claim her prize. Avoiding her, I sat up and stared at the delicate painted face in my cupped palm. I sniffed. Stupid to get upset about a dumb doll. Still. Soft fur rubbed against my elbow. I glanced down as Sister Hectare “Hecty” MacPherson gave a sympathetic meow and nestled against my side. “Oh, no. I do not accept your apology, you furry little butt-head.” Hecty nudged me. “Don’t you get all purry with me, missy,” I said. “You are a bad, bad kitty.” Phoebe climbed the steps and settled in on my other side, holding the carcass’s torso in her lap. I tried to maintain my ire, but when the kitten put her paws on my leg and looked up at me again in that melty, Puss-in-Boots way, I groaned. Conceding defeat, I reached down to scratch the velvety spot just behind her ears. She hissed, and tried to rip the head from my hands with her tiny teeth. I snatched it away just in time. Disgusted, the cat hopped down andtail highstalked out the door. “Doesn’t really match the name, does she?” I said. “Sister Hectare was nice. That thing is a nightmare.” “Well, the good sister did have sharp claws, aye?” I huffed. “That’s true enough.” The stud through Phoebe’s eyebrow glinted as we shared wobbly smiles, both of us thinking of the decrepit little nun who’d used up the last bit of her strength to save our lives. To us, Hectare had died only a few weeks before. Not a thousand years in the past. Her image, and that of the incomparable Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, remained sharp in both our minds. Though the history books chronicled many details of Eleanor’s life, Sister Hectare’s story had disappeared into the mists of time. “So.” Phoebe sniffed and swiped at her eyes. “Is it broken, then?” I examined the head in my palm. The carved wooden features were blessedly intact. But the paint was scratched, and there was a bald patch on one side where the kitty had snacked on the brittle golden strands of real hair imbedded in the skull. “No,” I said. “I don’t think so.” I should have known better than to leave it lying right there on the bed, with full-on feline access. But I’d taken to sleeping with the doll. Stupid, I knew. Childish. Still, it was all I had left of that murky “time before.” And . . . the only thing I had left of him. Of Bran Cameron. The only physical evidence that weas a wehad really existed. That what had happened between us was real.
Every morning when I woke, there were always a few sleepy seconds before it hit me. A hammer blow to the chest. Not one word in all this time. Not since he’d gone back. To her. To his mother, Celia Alvarez, the woman who’d trapped my mother in the past, then left us all there to die. And though she’d allowed Bran to return to the Timeslippers, I didn’t want to think what kind of torments she’d inflicted on him for his betrayal. “Oi.” Phoebe reached out and took my hand, squeezing hard enough to pull me back from the dark place. “He does love you, you know.” “Oh, really?” I jerked away and rubbed my bloodless fingers. “Then why not one word in all this time, huh? It’s been nearly two months. Two bloody months.” I scowled when her pointed nose crinkled and one side of her wide mouth curled up. “What?” “It’s just funny to hear you say ‘bloody.’” She grinned. “It’s all like . . . bluudee.” “Shut up.” I jabbed her with an elbow. But a reluctant smile began to tug at my lips. We sat in silence for moment. None of us had any idea what Celia was planning. Where or when she might decide to travel next. The only thing we knew for sure was that she would never give up, not until she found the Nonius Stone, the infamous opal she believed would allow her to better control the entity we knew as “the Dim.” This we could not allow. And the thing that knotted my stomach the most was that I knew Bran. He’d take crazy risks. To protect us. To protect me. And if Celia caught him thwarting her plans, adopted son or not . . . I had no doubt what she’d do. As if she’d read my mind yet again, Phoebe said, “He’s okay, you know. I mean, it’s Bran. If anyone can talk themselves out of a tough situation, it’s him.” I sat up straighter at that. “Well, that’s the truth. He does have a kind of knack for getting out of trouble, huh?” When Phoebe beamed that grin at me, the one that lit up an entire room, I couldn’t help but return it. “That’s my girl.” She gave my leg a pat and launched herself off the bed, clearing the steps in one acrobatic leap. Despite her petite size, my best friend was freakishly strong. I followed, easing down the steps in my own distinctly unathletic manner. “Gram can fix her, you know.” Phoebe plucked the doll’s head from my hand and stuck it in the pocket of her jammies. Cradling the battered torso in one hand, she said, “I’ll drop her off in the sewing room, then I’m for bed.” She gave a huge yawn. “It’s late and you could use some beauty sleep yourself. You look like something the dog dragged in.” “Thanks a lot,” I said. “But I think I might—” “To bed. No excuses,” she ordered, giving me her sternestno use arguingface. In that moment, she looked and sounded so much like Moira, I raised my hands in submission. “Okay, okay.” “Good girl.” At the doorway she turned. “Actually,” she mused, “think I’ll drop off our mangled friend here, then scoot downstairs and see if I can’t entice my Doug away from that damn computer of his. Lad’s been working around the clock, and it’s not good for his condition.” “Good luck,” I said. “But you’d better watch out. I swear he and that thing have something going on the side.” She gave a lewd wink. “Oh . . . I’m not worried. I’ve a few moves I doubt that blasted computer can match.” She sashayed out the door, hips swaying. I shook my head, grinning because I knew she was right. Our resident genius might be deep down his computer rabbit hole. But I’d seen Phoebe bring it before, and I had no doubt that in the end . . . she’d have himprobably literallyeating out of her hand.