Here and Then Linda Miller Lael ???? HarperCollins EUR A MATTER OF TIME Rue Claridge?s cousin Elisabeth had disappeared, and Rue was determined to find her. But she never dreamed that when she followed Elisabeth?s footsteps, she would find herself more than one hundred years in the past?and in jail, courtesy of Marshal Farley Haynes.She knew Farley was baffled but intrigued by her modern ways?and Rue was just as fascinated by the rugged marshal. Enough to dream that maybe he could live in her modern world and find a place with her on her Montana ranch. But could she ask him to choose between everything he had ever known?and a future with her??Miller is one of the finest American writers in the genre.? ?RT Book Reviews Selected praise for LINDA LAEL MILLER ?Linda Lael Miller is the greatest.? ?Affaire de Coeur ?Her characters come alive and walk right off the pages and into your heart.? ?Rendezvous ?Linda Lael Miller knows how to reveal the hearts of her characters, creating memorable people readers care about.? ?Romantic Times BOOKreviews on One Wish ?A complex plot, blended with sinister motivations and genuine emotions, makes this one terrific page-turner.? ?Romantic Times BOOKreviews on Never Look Back Here and Then Linda Lael Miller www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk) LINDA LAEL MILLER grew up in rural Washington as the daughter of a town marshal. The self-confessed barn goddess was inspired to pursue a career as an author after an elementary school teacher said the stories she was writing might be good enough to be published. Linda broke in to publishing in the early 1980s. She is now a New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty contemporary, romantic-suspense and historical novels, including McKettrick?s Choice, The Man from Stone Creek and Deadly Gamble. When not writing, Linda enjoys riding her horses and playing with her cats and dogs. Through her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women, she provides grants to women who seek to improve their lot in life through education. For more information about Linda, her scholarships and her novels, visit her Web site, www.lindalaelmiller.com. For Jane and Dick Edwards, the kind of friends I always hoped I?d have Contents Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter One Aunt Verity?s antique necklace lay in an innocent, glimmering coil of gold on the floor of the upstairs hallway. An hour before, when Rue Claridge had been carrying her suitcases upstairs, it had not been there. Frowning, Rue got down on one knee and reached for the necklace, her troubled gaze rising to the mysterious, sealed door in the outside wall. Beyond it was nothing but empty space. The part of the house it had once led to had been burned away a century before and never rebuilt. Aunt Verity had hinted at spooky doings in the house over the years, tales concerning both the door and the necklace. Rue had enjoyed the yarns, but being practical in nature, she had promptly put them out of her mind. Rue?s missing cousin, Elisabeth, had mentioned the necklace and the doorway in those strange letters she?d written in an effort to outline what was happening to her. She?d said a person wearing the necklace could travel through time. In fact, Elisabeth?gentle, sensible Elisabeth?had claimed she?d clasped the chain around her neck and soon found herself in the 1890s, surrounded by living, breathing people who should have been dead a hundred years. A chill wove a gossamer casing around Rue?s spine as she recalled snatches of Elisabeth?s desperate letters. You?re the one person in the world who might, just might, believe me. Those wonderful, spooky stories Aunt Verity told us on rainy nights were true. There is another world on the other side of that door in the upstairs hallway, one every bit as solid and real as the one you and I know, and I?ve reached it. I?ve been there, Rue, and I?ve met the man meant to share my life. His name is Jonathan Fortner, and I love him more than my next heartbeat, my next breath. A pounding headache thumped behind Rue?s right temple, and she let out a long sigh as she rose to her feet, her fingers pressing the necklace deep into her palm. With her other hand, she pushed a lock of sandy, shoulder-length hair back from her face and stared at the sealed door. Years ago there had been rooms on the other side, but then, late in the last century, there had been a tragic fire. The damage had been repaired, but the original structure was changed forever. The door had been sealed, and now the doorknob was as old and stiff as a rusted padlock. ?Bethie,? Rue whispered, touching her forehead against the cool, wooden panel of the door, ?where are you?? There was no answer. The old country house yawned around her, empty except for the ponderous nineteenth-century furniture Aunt Verity had left as a part of her estate and a miniature universe of dust particles that seemed to pervade every room, every corner and crevice. At thirty, Rue was an accomplished photojournalist. She?d dodged bullets and bombs in Belfast, photographed and later written about the massacre in Tiananmen Square, covered the invasion of Panama, nearly been taken captive in Baghdad. And while all of those experiences had shaken her and some had left her physically ill for days afterward, none had frightened her so profoundly as Elisabeth?s disappearance. The police and Elisabeth?s father believed Elisabeth had simply fled the area after her divorce, that she was lying on a beach somewhere, sipping exotic tropical drinks and letting the sun bake away her grief. But because she knew her cousin, because of the letters and phone messages that had been waiting when she returned from an assignment in Moscow, Rue took a much darker view of the situation. Elisabeth was wandering somewhere, if she was alive at all, perhaps not even remembering who she was. Rue wouldn?t allow herself to dwell on all the other possibilities, because they didn?t bear thinking about. Downstairs in the big kitchen, she brewed a cup of instant coffee in Elisabeth?s microwave and sat down at the big, oak table in the breakfast nook to go over the tattered collection of facts one more time. Before her were her cousin?s letters, thoughtfully written, with no indications of undue stress in the familiar, flowing hand. With a sigh, Rue pushed away her coffee and rested her chin in one palm. Elisabeth had come to the house the two cousins had inherited to get a new perspective on her life. She?d planned to make her home outside the little Washington town of Pine River and teach at the local elementary school in the fall. The two old ladies across the road, Cecily and Roberta Buzbee, had seen Elisabeth on several occasions. It had been Miss Cecily who had called an ambulance after finding Elisabeth unconscious in the upstairs hallway. Rue?s cousin had been rushed to the hospital, where she?d stayed a relatively short time, and soon after that, she?d vanished. Twilight was falling over the orchard behind the house, the leaves thinning on the gray-brown branches because it was late October. Rue watched as a single star winked into view in the purple sky. Oh, Bethie, she thought, as a collage of pictures formed in her mind?an image of a fourteen-year-old Elisabeth predominated?Bethie, looking down at Rue from the door of the hayloft in the rickety old barn. ?Don?t worry,? the woman-child had called cheerfully on that long-ago day when Rue had first arrived, bewildered and angry, to take sanctuary under Aunt Verity?s wing. ?This is a good place and you?ll be happy here.? Rue saw herself and Bethie fishing and wading in the creek near the old covered bridge and reading dog-eared library books in the highest branches of the maple tree that shaded the back door. And listening to Verity?s wonderful stories in front of the parlor fire, chins resting on their updrawn knees, arms wrapped around agile young legs clad in blue jeans. The jangle of the telephone brought Rue out of her reflections, and she muttered to herself as she made her way across the room to pick up the extension on the wall next to the sink. ?Hello,? she snapped, resentful because she?d felt closer to Elisabeth for those few moments and the caller had scattered her memories like a flock of colorful birds. ?Hello, Claridge,? a wry male voice replied. ?Didn?t they cover telephone technique where you went to school?? Rue ignored the question and shoved the splayed fingers of one hand through her hair, pulling her scalp tight over her forehead. ?Hi, Wilson,? she said, Jeff?s boyish face forming on the screen of her mind. She?d been dating the guy for three years, on and off, but her heart never gave that funny little thump she?d read about when she saw his face or heard his voice. She wondered if that meant anything significant. ?Find out anything about your cousin yet?? Rue leaned against the counter, feeling unaccountably weary. ?No,? she said. ?I talked to the police first thing, and they agree with Uncle Marcus that she?s probably hiding out somewhere, licking her wounds.? ?You don?t think so?? Unconsciously, Rue shook her head. ?No way. Bethie would never just vanish without telling anyone where she was going?she?s the most considerate person I know.? Her gaze strayed to the letters spread out on the kitchen table, unnervingly calm accounts of journeys to another point in time. Rue shook her head again, denying that such a thing could be possible. ?I could fly out and help you,? Jeff offered, and Rue?s practical heart softened a little. ?That won?t be necessary,? she said, twisting one finger in the phone cord and frowning. Finding Elisabeth was going to take all her concentration and strength of will, she told herself. The truth was, she didn?t want Jeff getting in the way. Her friend sighed, somewhat dramatically. ?So be it, Claridge. If you decide I have any earthly use, give me a call, will you?? Rue laughed. ?What?? she countered. ?No violin music?? In the next instant, she remembered that Elisabeth was missing, and the smile faded from her face. ?Thanks for offering, Jeff,? she said seriously. ?I?ll call if there?s anything you can do to help.? After that, there didn?t seem to be much to say, and that was another element of the relationship Rue found troubling. It would have been a tremendous relief to tell someone she was worried and scared, to say Elisabeth was more like a sister to her than a cousin, maybe even to cry on a sympathetic shoulder. But Rue couldn?t let down her guard that far, not with Jeff. She often got the feeling that he was just waiting for her to show weakness or to fall on her face. The call ended, and Rue, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, put on a jacket and went out to the shed for an armload of the aged applewood that had been cut and stacked several years before. Because Rue and Elisabeth had so rarely visited the house they?d inherited, the supply had hardly been diminished. As she came through the back door, the necklace caught her eye, seeming to twinkle and wink from its place on the kitchen table. Rue?s brow crimped thoughtfully as she made her way into the parlor and set the fragrant wood down on the hearth. After moving aside the screen, she laid twigs in the grate over a small log of compressed sawdust and wax. When the blaze had kindled properly, she added pieces of seasoned wood. Soon, a lovely, cheerful fire was crackling away behind the screen. Rue adjusted the damper and rose, dusting her hands off on the legs of her jeans. She was tired and distraught, and suddenly she couldn?t keep her fears at bay any longer. She?d been a reporter for nine eventful years, and she knew only too well the terrible things that could have happened to Elisabeth. She went back to the kitchen and, without knowing exactly why, reached for the necklace and put it on, even before taking off her jacket. Then, feeling chilled, she returned to the parlor to stand close to the fire. Rue was fighting back tears of frustration and fear, her forehead touching the mantelpiece, when she heard the distant tinkling of piano keys. She was alone in the house, and she was certain no radio or TV was playing?. Her green eyes widened when she looked into the ornately framed mirror above the fireplace, and her throat tightened: The room reflected there was furnished differently, and was lit with the soft glow of lantern light. Rue caught a glimpse of a plain woman in long skirts running a cloth over the keys of a piano before the vision faded and the room was ordinary again. Turning slowly, Rue rubbed her eyes with a thumb and forefinger. She couldn?t help thinking of Elisabeth?s letters describing a world like the one she?d just seen, for a fraction of a second, in the parlor mirror. ?You need a vacation,? Rue said, glancing back over her shoulder at her image in the glass. ?You?re hallucinating.? Nonetheless, she made herself another cup of instant coffee, gathered up the letters and went to sit cross-legged on the hooked rug in front of the fireplace. Once again, she read and analyzed every word, looking for some clue, anything that would tell her where to begin the search for her cousin. Thing was, Rue thought, Bethie sounded eminently sane in those letters, despite the fact that she talked about stepping over a threshold into another time in history. Her descriptions of the era were remarkably authentic; she probably would have had to have done days or weeks of research to know the things she did. But the words seemed fluent and easy, as though they?d flowed from her pen. Finally, no closer to finding Elisabeth than she had been before, Rue set the sheets of writing paper aside, banked the fire and climbed the front stairway to the second floor. She would sleep in the main bedroom?many of Elisabeth?s things were still there?and maybe by some subconscious, instinctive process, she would get a glimmer of guidance concerning her cousin?s whereabouts. As it was, she didn?t have the first idea where to start. She showered, brushed her teeth, put on a nightshirt and went to bed. Although she had taken the necklace off when she undressed, she put it back on again before climbing beneath the covers. The sheets were cold, and Rue burrowed down deep, shivering. If it hadn?t been for the circumstances, she would have been glad to be back in this old house, where all the memories were good ones. Like Ribbon Creek, the Montana ranch she?d inherited from her mother?s parents, Aunt Verity?s house was a place to hole up when there was an important story to write or a decision to work out. She?d always loved the sweet, shivery sensation that the old Victorian monstrosity was haunted by amicable ghosts. As her body began to warm the crisp, icy sheets, Rue hoped those benevolent apparitions were hanging around now, willing to lend a hand. ?Please,? she whispered, ?show me how to find Elisabeth. She?s my cousin and the closest thing I ever had to a sister and my very best friend, all rolled into one?and I think she?s in terrible trouble.? After that, Rue tossed and turned for a while, then fell into a restless sleep marred by frightening dreams. One of them was so horrible that it sent her hurtling toward the surface of consciousness, and when she broke through into the morning light, she was breathing in gasping sobs and there were tears on her face. And she could clearly hear a woman?s voice singing, ?Shall We Gather at the River?? Her heart thundering against her chest, Rue flung back the covers and bounded out of bed, following the sound into the hallway, where she looked wildly in one direction, then the other. The voice seemed to be rising through the floorboards and yet, at the same time, it came from beyond the sealed door of the outside wall. Rue put her hands against the wooden panel, remembering Elisabeth?s letters. There was a room on the other side, Bethie had written, a solid place with floors and walls and a private stairway leading into the kitchen. ?Who?s there?? Rue called, and the singing immediately stopped, replaced by a sort of stunned stillness. She ran along the hallway, peering into each of the three bedrooms, then hurried down the back stairs and searched the kitchen, the utility room, the dining room, the bathroom and both parlors. There was no one else in the house, and none of the locks on the windows or doors had been disturbed. Frustrated, Rue stormed over to the piano on which she and Elisabeth had played endless renditions of ?Heart and Soul,? threw up the cover and hammered out the first few bars of ?Shall We Gather at the River?? in challenge. ?Come on!? she shouted over the thundering chords. ?Show yourself, damn it! Who are you? What are you?? The answer was the slamming of a door far in the distance. Rue left the piano and bounded back up the stairs, because the sound had come from that direction. Reaching the sealed door, she grabbed the knob and rattled the panel hard on its hinges, and surprise rushed through her like an electrical shock when it gave way. Muttering an exclamation, Rue peered through the opening at the charred ruins of a fire. A trembling began in the cores of her knees as she looked at blackened timbers that shouldn?t have been there. It was a moment before she could gather her wits enough to step back from the door, leaving it agape, and dash wildly down the front stairs. She went hurtling out through the front door and plunged around to the side, only to see the screened sun porch just where it had always been, with no sign of the burned section. Barely able to breathe, Rue circled the house once, then raced back inside and up the stairs. The door was still open, and beyond it lay another time or another dimension. ?Elisabeth!? Rue shouted, gripping the sooty doorjamb and staring down through the ruins. A little girl in a pinafore and old-fashioned, pinchy black shoes appeared in the overgrown grass, shading her eyes with a small, grubby hand as she looked up at Rue. ?You a witch like her?? the child called, her tone cordial and unruffled. Rue?s heartbeat was so loud that it was thrumming in her ears. She stepped back, then forward, then back again. She stumbled blindly into her room and pulled on jeans, a T-shirt, socks and sneakers, not taking the time to brush her sleep-tangled hair, and she was climbing deftly down through the ruins before she had a moment to consider the consequences. The child, who had been so brave at a distance, was now backing away, stumbling in her effort to escape, her freckles standing out on her pale face, her eyes enormous. Great, Rue thought, half-hysterically, now I?m scaring small children. ?Please don?t run away,? she managed to choke out. ?I?m not going to hurt you.? The girl appeared to be weighing Rue?s words, and it seemed that some of the fear had left her face. In the next instant, however, a woman came running around the corner of the house, shrieking and flapping her apron at Rue as though to shoo her away like a chicken. ?Don?t you dare touch that child!? she screeched, and Rue recognized her as the drab soul she?d glimpsed in the parlor mirror the night before, wiping the piano keys. Rue had withstood much more daunting efforts at intimidation during her travels as a reporter. She held her ground, her hands resting on her hips, her mind cataloging material so rapidly that she was barely aware of the process. The realization that Elisabeth had been right about the necklace and the door in the upstairs hallway and that she was near to finding her, was as exhilarating as a skydive. ?Where did you come from?? the plain woman demanded, thrusting the child slightly behind her. Rue didn?t even consider trying to explain. In the first place, no one would believe her, and in the second, she didn?t understand what was going on herself. ?Back there,? she said, cocking a thumb toward the open doorway above. That was when she noticed that her hands and the knees of her jeans were covered with soot from the climb down through the timbers. ?I?m looking for my Cousin Elisabeth.? ?She ain?t around,? was the grudging, somewhat huffy reply. The woman glanced down at the little girl and gave her a tentative shove toward the road. ?You run along now, Vera. I saw Farley riding toward your place just a little while ago. If you meet up with him, tell him he ought to come on over here and have a talk with this lady.? Vera assessed Rue with uncommonly shrewd eyes?she couldn?t have been older than eight or nine?then scampered away through the deep grass. Rue took a step closer to the woman, even though she was beginning to feel like running back to her own safe world, the one she understood. ?Do you know Elisabeth McCartney?? she pressed. The drudge twisted her calico apron between strong, work-reddened fingers, and her eyes strayed over Rue?s clothes and wildly tousled hair with unconcealed and fearful disapproval. ?I never heard of nobody by that name,? she said. Rue didn?t believe that for a moment, but she was conscious of a strange and sudden urgency, an instinct that warned her to tread lightly, at least for the time being. ?You haven?t seen the last of me,? she said, and then she climbed back up through the charred beams to the doorway, hoping her own world would be waiting for her on the other side. ?I?ll be back.? Her exit was drained of all drama when she wriggled over the threshold and found herself on a hard wooden floor decorated with a hideous Persian runner. The hallway in the modern-day house was carpeted. ?Oh, no,? she groaned, just lying there for a moment, trying to think what to do. The curtain in time that had permitted her to pass between one century and the other had closed, and she had no way of knowing when?or if?it would ever open again. It was just possible that she was trapped in this rerun of Gunsmoke?permanently. ?Damn,? she groaned, getting to her feet and running her hands down the sooty denim of her jeans. When she?d managed to stop shaking, Rue approached one of the series of photographs lining the wall and looked up into the dour face of an old man with a bushy white beard and a look of fanatical righteousness about him. ?I sure hope you?re not hanging around here somewhere,? she muttered. Next, she cautiously opened the door of the room she?d slept in the night before?only it wasn?t the same. All the furniture was obviously antique, yet it looked new. Rue backed out and proceeded along the hallway, her sense of fascinated uneasiness growing with every passing moment. ?Through the looking glass,? she murmured to herself. ?Any minute now, I should meet a talking rabbit with a pocket watch and a waistcoat.? ?Or a United States marshal,? said a deep male voice. Rue whirled, light-headed with surprise, and watched in disbelief as a tall, broad-shouldered cowboy with a badge pinned to his vest mounted the last of the front stairs to stand in the hall. His rumpled brown hair was a touch too long, his turquoise eyes were narrowed with suspicion, and he was badly in need of a shave. This guy was straight out of the late movie, but his personal magnetism was strictly high-tech. ?What?s your name?? he asked in that gravelly voice of his. Rue couldn?t help thinking what a hit this guy would be in the average singles? bar. Not only was he good-looking, in a rough, tough sort of way, he had macho down to an art form. ?Rue Claridge,? she said, just a little too heartily, extending one hand in friendly greeting. The marshal glanced at her hand, but failed to offer his own. ?You make a habit of prowling around in other people?s houses?? he asked. His marvelous eyes widened as he took in her jeans, T-shirt and sneakers. ?I?m looking for my cousin Elisabeth.? Rue?s smile was a rigid curve, and she clung to it like someone dangling over the edge of a steep cliff. ?I have reason to believe she might be in?these here parts.? The lawman set his rifle carefully against the wall, and Rue gulped. His expression was dubious. ?Who are you?? he demanded again, folding his powerful arms. Afternoon sunlight streamed in through the open door to nowhere, and Rue could smell charred wood. ?I told you, my name is Rue Claridge, and I?m looking for my cousin, Elisabeth McCartney.? Rue held up one hand to indicate a height comparable to her own. ?She?s a very pretty blonde, with big, bluish green eyes and a gentle manner.? The marshal?s eyebrows drew together. ?Lizzie?? Rue shrugged. She?d never known Elisabeth to call herself Lizzie, but then, she hadn?t visited another century, either. ?She wrote me that she was in love with a man named Jonathan Fortner.? At this, the peace officer smiled, and his craggy face was transformed. Rue felt a modicum of comfort for the first time since she?d stepped over the threshold. ?They?re gone to San Francisco, Jon and Lizzie are,? he said. ?Got married a few months back, right after her trial was over.? Rue took a step closer to the marshal, one eyebrow raised, the peculiarities and implications of her situation temporarily forgotten. ?Trial?? ?It?s a long story.? The splendid eyes swept over her clothes again and narrowed once more. ?Where the devil did you get those duds?? Rue drew in a deep breath and expelled it, making tendrils of her hair float for a few moments. ?I come from another?place. What?s your name, anyhow?? ?Farley Haynes,? the cowboy answered. Privately, Rue thought it was the dumbest handle she?d ever heard, but she was in no position to rile the man. ?Well, Mr. Haynes,? she said brightly, ?I am sorry that you had to come all the way out here for nothing. The thing is, I know Elisabeth?Lizzie?would want me to stay right here in this house.? Haynes plunked his battered old hat back onto his head and regarded Rue from under the brim. ?She never mentioned a cousin,? he said. ?Maybe you?d better come to town with me and answer a few more questions.? Rue?s first impulse was to dig in her heels, but she was an inveterate journalist, and despite the fact that her head was still spinning from the shock of sudden transport from one time to another, she was fiercely curious about this place. ?What year is this, anyway?? she asked, not realizing how odd the question sounded until it was already out of her mouth. The lawman?s right hand cupped her elbow lightly as he ushered Rue down the front stairs. In his left, he carried the rifle with unnerving expertise. ?It?s 1892,? he answered, giving her a sidelong look, probably wondering if he should slap the cuffs on her wrists. ?The month is October.? ?I suppose you?re wondering why I didn?t know that.? Rue chatted on as the marshal escorted her out through the front door. There was a big sorrel gelding waiting beyond the whitewashed gate. ?The fact is, I?ve?I?ve had a fever.? ?You look healthy enough to me,? Haynes responded, and just the timbre of his voice set some chord to vibrating deep inside Rue. He opened the gate and nodded for her to go through it ahead of him. She took comfort from the presence of the horse; she?d always loved the animals, and some of the happiest times of her life had been spent in the saddle at Ribbon Creek. ?Hello, big fella,? she said, patting the gelding?s sweaty neck. In the next instant, Rue was grabbed around the waist and hoisted up into the saddle. Before she could react in any way, Marshal Haynes had thrust his rifle into the leather scabbard, stuck one booted foot in the stirrup and swung up behind her. Rue felt seismic repercussions move up her spine in response. ?Am I under arrest?? she asked. He reached around her to grasp the reins, and again Rue was disturbed by the powerful contraction within her. Cowboy fantasies were one thing, she reminded herself, but this was a trip into the Twilight Zone, and she had an awful feeling her ticket was stamped ?one-way.? She?d never been on an assignment where it was more important to keep her wits about her. ?That depends,? the marshal said, the words rumbling against her nape, ?on whether or not you can explain how you came to be wearing Mrs. Fortner?s necklace.? Leather creaked as Rue turned to look up into that rugged face, her mind racing in search of an explanation. ?My?our aunt gave us each a necklace like this,? she lied, her fingers straying to the filigree pendant. The piece was definitely an original, with a history. ?Elis?Lizzie?s probably wearing hers.? Farley looked skeptical to say the least, but he let the topic drop for the moment. ?I don?t mind telling you,? he said, ?that the Presbyterians are going to be riled up some when they get a gander at those clothes of yours. It isn?t proper for a lady to wear trousers.? Rue might have been amused by his remarks if it hadn?t been for the panic that was rising inside her. Nothing in her fairly wide experience had prepared her for being thrust unceremoniously into 1892, after all. ?I don?t have anything else to wear,? she said in an uncharacteristically small voice, and then she sank her teeth into her lower lip, gripped the pommel of Marshal Haynes?s saddle in both hands and held on for dear life, even though she was an experienced rider. After a bumpy, dusty trip over the unpaved country road that led to town?its counterpart in Rue?s time was paved?they reached Pine River. The place had gone into rewind while she wasn?t looking. There were saloons with swinging doors, and a big saw in the lumber mill beside the river screamed and flung sawdust into the air. People walked along board sidewalks and rode in buggies and wagons. Rue couldn?t help gaping at them. Marshal Haynes lifted her down from the horse before she had a chance to tell him she didn?t need his help, and he gave her an almost imperceptible push toward the sidewalk. Bronze script on the window of the nearest building proclaimed, Pine River Jailhouse. Farley Haynes, Marshal. Bravely, Rue resigned herself to the possibility of a stretch behind bars. Much as she wanted to see the twentieth century again, she?d changed her mind about leaving 1892 right away?she meant to stick around until Elisabeth came back. Despite those glowing letters, Rue wanted to know her cousin was all right before she put this parallel universe?or whatever it was?behind her. ?Do you believe in ghosts, Farley?? she asked companionably, once they were inside and the marshal had opened a little gate in the railing that separated his desk and cabinet and wood stove from the single jail cell. ?No, ma?am,? he answered with a sigh, hanging his disreputable hat on a hook by the door and laying his rifle down on the cluttered surface of the desk. Once again, his gaze passed over her clothes, troubled and quick. ?But I do believe there are some strange things going on in this world that wouldn?t be too easy to explain.? Rue tucked her hands into the hip pockets of her jeans and looked at the wanted posters on the wall behind Farley?s desk. They should have been yellow and cracked with age, but instead they were new and only slightly crumpled. A collection of archaic rifles filled a gun cabinet, their nickel barrels and wooden stocks gleaming with a high shine that belied their age. ?You won?t get an argument from me,? Rue finally replied. Chapter Two Rue took in the crude jail cell, the potbellied stove with a coffeepot and a kettle crowding the top, the black, iron key ring hanging on a peg behind the desk. Her gaze swung to the marshal?s face, and she gestured toward the barred room at the back of the building. ?If I?m under arrest, Marshal,? she said matter-of-factly, ?I?d like to know exactly what I?m being charged with.? The peace officer sighed, hanging his ancient canvas coat from a tarnished brass rack. ?Well, miss, we could start with trespassing.? He gestured toward a chair pushed back against the short railing that surrounded the immediate office area. ?Sit down and tell me who you are and what you were doing snooping around Dr. Fortner?s house that way.? Rue was feeling a little weak, a rare occurrence for her. She pulled the chair closer to the desk and sat, pushing her tousled hair back from her face. ?I told you. My name is Rue Claridge,? she replied patiently. ?Dr. Fortner?s wife is my cousin, and I was looking for her. That?s all.? The turquoise gaze, sharp with intelligence, rested on the gold pendant at the base of Rue?s throat, causing the pulse beneath to make a strange, sudden leap. ?I believe you said Mrs. Fortner has a necklace just like that one.? Rue swallowed. She was very good at sidestepping issues she didn?t want to discuss, but when it came to telling an outright lie, she hadn?t even attained amateur status. ?Y-yes,? she managed to say. Her earlier shock at finding herself in another century was thawing now, becoming low-grade panic. Was it possible that she?d stumbled into Elisabeth?s nervous breakdown, or was she having a separate one, all her own? The marshal?s jawline tightened under a shadow of beard. His strong, sun-browned fingers were interlaced over his middle as he leaned back in his creaky desk chair. ?How do you account for those clothes you?re wearing?? She took a deep, quivering breath. ?Where I come from, lots of women dress like this.? Marshal Haynes arched one eyebrow. ?And where is that?? There was an indulgent tone in his voice that made Rue want to knuckle his head. Rue thought fast. ?Montana. I have a ranch over there.? Farley scratched the back of his neck with an idleness Rue perceived as entirely false. Although his lackadaisical manner belied the fact, she sensed a certain lethal energy about him, an immense physical and emotional power barely restrained. Before she could stop it, Rue?s mind had made the jump to wondering what it would be like to be held and caressed by this man. Just the idea gave her a feeling of horrified delight. ?Doesn?t your husband mind having his wife go around dressed like a common cowhand?? he asked evenly. Color flooded Rue?s face, but she held her temper carefully in check. Marshal Haynes?s attitude toward women was unacceptable, but he was a man of his time and all attempts to convert him to modern thinking would surely be wasted. ?I don?t have a husband.? She thought she saw a flicker of reaction in the incredible eyes. ?Your daddy, then?? Rue drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. ?I?m not close to my family,? she said sweetly. For all practical intents and purposes, the statement was true. Rue?s parents had been divorced years before, going their separate ways. Her mother was probably holed up in some fancy spa somewhere, getting ready for the ski season, and her father?s last postcard had been sent from Monaco. ?I?m on my own. Except for Elisabeth, of course.? The marshal studied her for a long moment, looking pensive now, and then leaned forward in his chair. ?Yes. Elisabeth Fortner.? ?Right,? Rue agreed, her head spinning. Nothing in her eventful past had prepared her for this particular situation. Somehow, she?d missed Time Travel 101 in college, and the Nostalgia Channel mostly covered the 1940s. She sighed to herself. If she?d been sent back to the big-band era, maybe she would have known how to act. ?I?m going to let you go for now,? Haynes announced thoughtfully. ?But if you get into any trouble, ma?am, you?ll have me to contend with.? A number of wisecracks came to the forefront of Rue?s mind, but she valiantly held them back. ?I?ll just?go now,? she said awkwardly, before racing out of the jailhouse onto the street. The screech of the mill saw hurt her ears, and she hurried in the opposite direction. It would take a good forty-five minutes to walk back to the house in the country, and by the looks of the sky, the sun would be setting soon. As she was passing the Hang-Dog Saloon, a shrill cry from above made Rue stop and look up. Two prostitutes were leaning up against a weathered railing, their seedy-looking satin dresses glowing in the late-afternoon sun. ?Where?d you get them pants?? the one in blue inquired, just before spitting tobacco into the street. The redhead beside her, who was wearing a truly ugly pea green gown, giggled as though her friend had said something incredibly clever. ?You know, Red,? Rue replied, shading her eyes with one hand as she looked up, and choosing to ignore both the question and the tobacco juice, ?you really ought to have your colors done. That shade of green is definitely unbecoming.? The prostitutes looked at each other, then turned and flounced away from the railing, disappearing into the noisy saloon. The conversation had not been a total loss, Rue decided, looking down at her jeans, sneakers and T-shirt. There was no telling how long she?d have to stay in this backward century, and her modern clothes would be a real hindrance. She turned and spotted a store across the street, displaying gingham dresses, bridles and wooden buckets behind its fly-speckled front window. ??And bring your Visa card,?? she muttered to herself, ??because they don?t take American Express.?? Rue carefully made her way over, avoiding road apples, mud puddles and two passing wagons. On the wooden sidewalk in front of the mercantile, she stood squinting, trying to see through the dirty glass. The red-and-white gingham dress on display in the window looked more suited to Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz fame, with its silly collar and big, flouncy bow at the back. The garment?s only saving grace was that it looked as though it would probably fit. Talking to herself was a habit Rue had acquired because she?d spent so much time alone researching and polishing her stories. ?Maybe I can get a pair of ruby slippers, too,? she murmured, walking resolutely toward the store?s entrance. ?Then I could just click my heels together and voil?, Toto, we?re back in Kansas.? A pleasant-looking woman with gray hair and soft blue eyes beamed at Rue as she entered. The smile faded to an expression of chagrined consternation, however, as the old lady took in Rue?s jeans and T-shirt. ?May I help you?? the lady asked, sounding as though she doubted very much that anybody could. Rue was dizzied by the sheer reality of the place, the woman, the circumstances in which she found herself. A fly bounced helplessly against a window, buzzing in bewilderment the whole time, and Rue felt empathy for it. ?That checked dress in the window,? she began, her voice coming out hoarse. ?How much is it?? The fragile blue gaze swept over Rue once again, worriedly. ?Why, it?s fifty cents, child.? For a moment, Rue was delighted. Fifty cents. No problem. Then she realized she hadn?t brought any money with her. Even if she had, all the bills and currency would have looked suspiciously different from what was being circulated in the 1890s, and she would undoubtedly have found herself back in Farley Haynes?s custody, post haste. Rue smiled her most winning smile, the one that had gotten her into so many press conferences and out of so many tight spots. ?Just put it on my account, please,? she said. Rue possessed considerable bravado, but the strain of the day was beginning to tell. The store mistress raised delicate eyebrows and cleared her throat. ?Do I know you?? Another glance at the dress?it only added insult to injury that the thing was so relentlessly ugly?gave Rue the impetus to answer, ?No. My name is Rue?Miss Rue Claridge, and I?m Elisabeth Fortner?s cousin. Perhaps you could put the dress on her husband?s account?? The woman sniffed. Clearly, in mentioning the good doctor, Rue had touched a nerve. ?Jonathan Fortner ought to have his head examined, marrying a strange woman the way he did. There were odd doings in that house!? Normally Rue would have been defensive, since she tended to get touchy where Elisabeth was concerned, but she couldn?t help thinking how peculiar her cousin must have seemed to these people. Bethie was a quiet sort, but her ideas and attitudes were strictly modern, and she must surely have rubbed more than one person the wrong way. Rue focused on the block of cheese sitting on the counter, watching as two flies explored the hard, yellow rind. ?What kind of odd doings?? she asked, too much the reporter to let such an opportunity pass. The storekeeper seemed to forget that Rue was a suspicious type, new in town and wearing clothes more suited, as Farley had said, to a cowhand. Leaning forward, she whispered confidentially, ?That woman would simply appear and disappear at will. Not a few of us think she?s a witch and that justice would have been better served if she?d been hanged after that trial of hers!? For a moment, the fundamentals of winning friends and influencing people slipped Rue?s mind. ?Don?t be silly?there?re no such things as witches.? She lowered her voice and, having dispatched with superstition, hurried on to her main concern. ?Elisabeth was put on trial and might have been hanged? For what?? The other woman was in a state of offense, probably because one of her pet theories had just been ridiculed. ?For a time, it looked as though she?d murdered not only Dr. Fortner, but his young daughter, Trista, as well, by setting that blaze.? She paused, clearly befuddled. ?Then they came back. Just magically reappeared out of the ruins of that burned house.? Rue was nodding to herself. She didn?t know the rules of this time-travel game, but it didn?t take a MENSA membership to figure out how Bethie?s husband and the little girl had probably escaped the fire. No doubt they?d fled over the threshold into the next century, then had trouble returning. Or perhaps time didn?t pass at the same rate here as it did there?. It seemed to Rue that Aunt Verity had claimed the necklace?s magic was unpredictable, waning and waxing under mysterious rules of its own. Elisabeth had mentioned nothing like that in her letters, however. Rue brought herself back to the matter at hand?buying the dress. ?Dr. Fortner must be a man of responsibility, coming back from the great beyond like that. It would naturally follow that his credit would be good.? The storekeeper went pale, then pursed her lips and sighed, ?I?m sorry. Dr. Fortner is, indeed, a trusted and valued customer, but I cannot add merchandise to his account without his permission. Besides, there?s no telling when he and that bride of his will return from California.? The woman was nondescript and diminutive, and yet Rue knew she?d be wasting her time to argue. She?d met third-world leaders with more flexible outlooks on life. ?Okay,? she said with a sigh. She?d just have to check the house and see if Elisabeth had left any clothes or money behind. Provided she couldn?t get back into her own time, that is. Rue offered a polite goodbye, only too aware that she might be stuck on this side of 1900 indefinitely. Although she power walked most of the way home?this drew stares from the drivers of passing buggies and wagons?it was quite dark when Rue arrived. She let herself in through the kitchen door, relieved to find that the housekeeper had left for the day. After stumbling around in the darkness for a while, Rue found matches and lit the kerosene lamp in the middle of the table. The weak light flickered over a fire-damaged kitchen, made livable by someone?s hard work. There was an old-fashioned icebox, a pump handle at the sink and a big cookstove with shiny chrome trim. Bethie actually wanted to stay in this place, Rue reflected, marveling. Her cousin would develop biceps just getting enough water to make the morning coffee, and she?d probably have to chop and carry wood, too. Then there would be the washing and the ironing and the cooking. And childbirth at its most natural, with nothing for the pain except maybe a bullet to bite on. All this for the mysterious Dr. Jonathan Fortner. ?No man is worth it, Bethie,? Rue protested to the empty room, but Farley Haynes did swagger to mind, and his image was so vivid, she could almost catch the scent of his skin and hair. Desperately hungry all of a sudden, she ransacked the icebox, helping herself to milk so creamy it had golden streaks on top, and half a cold, boiled potato. When she?d eaten, she took the lamp and headed upstairs, leaving the other rooms to explore later. She?d had quite enough adventure for one day. In the second floor hallway, Rue looked at the blackened door and knew without even touching the knob that she would find nothing but more ruins on the other side. Maybe she?d be able to get back to her own century, but it wasn?t going to happen that night. Reaching the master bedroom, Rue approached the tall armoire first. It soon became apparent that Bethie hadn?t left much behind, certainly nothing Rue could wear, and if there was a cache of money, it wasn?t hidden in that room. Finally, exhausted, Rue washed as best she could, stripped off her clothes and crawled into the big bed. Farley didn?t make a habit of turning up in ladies? bedrooms of a morning, though he?d awakened in more than a few. There was just something about this particular woman that drew him with a force nearly as strong as his will, and it wasn?t just that she wore trousers and claimed to be Lizzie Fortner?s kin. Her honey-colored hair, shorter than most women wore but still reaching to her shoulders, tumbled across the white pillow, catching the early sunlight, and her skin, visible to her armpits, where the sheet stopped, was a creamy golden peach. Her dark eyelashes lay on her cheeks like the wings of some small bird, and her breathing, even and untroubled, twisted Farley?s senses up tight as the spring of a cheap watch. He swallowed hard. Rue Claridge might be telling the truth, he thought, at least about being related to Mrs. Fortner. God knew, she was strange enough, with her trousers and her funny way of talking. ?Miss Claridge?? he said after clearing his throat. He wanted to wriggle her toe, but decided everything south of where the sheet stopped was out of his jurisdiction. ?Rue!? She sat bolt upright in bed and, to Farley?s guarded relief and vast disappointment, held the top sheet firmly against her bosom. Farley Haynes was standing at the foot of the bed, his hands resting on his hips, his handsome head cocked to one side. Rue sat up hastily, insulted and alarmed and strangely aroused all at once, and wrenched the sheets from her collarbone to her chin. ?I sure hope you?re making yourself at home and all,? Farley said, and the expression in his eyes was wry in spite of his folksy drawl. He wasn?t fooling Rue; this guy was about as slow moving and countrified as a New York politician. Although the marshal hadn?t touched her, Rue had the oddest sensation of impact, as though she?d been hauled against his chest, with just the sheet between them. ?What are you doing here?? she demanded furiously when she found her voice at last. She felt the ornate headboard press against her bare back and bottom. He arched one eyebrow and folded his arms. ?I could ask the same question of you, little lady.? Enough was enough. Nobody was going to call Rue Claridge ?honey,? ?sweetie? or ?little lady? and get away with it, no matter what century they came from. ?Don?t call me ?little? anything!? Rue snapped. ?I?m a grown woman and a self-supporting professional, and I won?t be patronized!? This time, both the intruder?s eyebrows rose, then knit together into a frown. ?You sure are a temperamental filly,? Farley allowed. ?And mouthy as hell, too.? ?Get out of here!? Rue shouted. Idly, Farley drew up a rocking chair and sat. Then he rubbed his stubbly chin, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. ?You said you were a professional before. Question is, a professional what?? Rue was still clutching the covers to her throat, and she was breathing hard, as though she?d just finished a marathon. If she hadn?t been afraid to let go of the bedclothes with even one hand, she would have snatched up the small crockery pitcher on the nightstand and hurled it at his head. ?You would never understand,? she answered haughtily. ?Now it?s my turn to ask a question, Marshal. What the hell are you doing in my bedroom?? ?This isn?t your bedroom,? the lawman pointed out quietly. ?It?s Jon Fortner?s. And I?m here because Miss Ellen came to town and reported a prowler on the premises.? Rue gave an outraged sigh. The housekeeper had apparently entered the room, seen an unwelcome guest sleeping there and marched herself into Pine River to demand legal action. ?Hellfire and spit,? Rue snapped. ?Why didn?t she drag Judge Wapner out here, too?? Farley?s frown deepened to bewilderment. ?There?s no judge by that name around these parts,? he said. ?And I wish you?d stop talking like that. If the Presbyterians hear you, they?ll be right put out about it.? Catching herself just before she would have exploded into frustrated hysterics, Rue sucked in a deep breath and held it until a measure of calm came over her. ?All right,? she said finally, in a reasonable tone. ?I will try not to stir up the Presbyterians. I promise. The point is, now you?ve investigated and you?ve seen that I?m not a trespasser, but a member of the family. I have a right to be here, Marshal, but, frankly, you don?t. Now if you would please leave.? Farley sat forward in his chair, turning the brim of his battered, sweat-stained hat in nimble brown fingers. ?Until I get word back from San Francisco that it?s all right for you to stay here, ma?am, I?m afraid you?ll have to put up at one of the boardinghouses in town.? Rue would have agreed to practically anything just to get him to leave the room. The painful truth was, Marshal Farley Haynes made places deep inside her thrum and pulse in response to some hidden dynamic of his personality. That was terrifying because she?d never felt anything like it before. ?Whatever you say,? she replied with a lift of her chin. Innocuous as they were, the words came out sounding defiant. ?Just leave this room, please. Immediately.? She thought she saw a twinkle in Farley?s gem-bright eyes. He stood up with an exaggerated effort and, to Rue?s horror, walked to the head of the bed and stood looking down at her. ?No husband and no daddy,? he reflected sagely. ?Little wonder your manners are so sorry.? With that, he cupped one hand under her chin, then bent over and kissed her, just as straightforwardly as if he were shaking her hand. To Rue?s further mortification, instead of pushing him away, as her acutely trained left brain told her to do, she rose higher on her knees and thrust herself into the kiss. It was soft and warm at first, then Farley touched the seam of her mouth with his tongue and she opened to him, like a night orchid worshiping the moon. He took utter and complete command before suddenly stepping back. ?I expect you to be settled somewhere else by nightfall,? he said gruffly. To his credit, he didn?t avert his eyes, but he didn?t look any happier about what he?d just done than Rue was. ?Get out,? she breathed. Farley settled his hat on his head, touched the brim in a mockingly cordial way and strolled from the room. Rue sent her pillow flying after him, because he was so in-sufferable. Because he?d had the unmitigated gall not only to come into her bedroom, but to kiss her. Because her insides were still colliding like carnival rides gone berserk. Later, ignoring Ellen, who was watchful and patently disapproving, Rue fetched a ladder from the barn and set it against the burned side of the house. At least, she thought, looking down at her jeans and T-shirt, she was dressed for climbing. She still wanted to find Elisabeth and make sure her cousin was all right, but there were things she?d need to sustain herself in this primitive era. She intended to return to the late twentieth century, buy some suitable clothes from a costume place or a theater troupe, and pick up some old currency at a coin shop. Then she?d return, purchase a ticket on a train or boat headed south and see for herself that Bethie was happy and well. It was an excellent plan, all in all, except that when Rue reached the top of the ladder and opened the charred door, nothing happened. She knew by the runner on the hallway floor and the pictures on the wall that she was still in 1892, even though she was wearing the necklace and wishing as hard as she could. Obviously, one couldn?t go back and forth between the two centuries on a whim. Rue climbed down the ladder in disgust, finally, and stood in the deep grass, dusting her soot-blackened hands off on the legs of her jeans. ?Damn it, Bethie,? she muttered, ?you?d better have a good reason for putting me through this!? In the meantime, whether Elisabeth had a viable excuse for being in the wrong century or not, Rue had to make the best of her circumstances. She needed to find a way to fit in?and fast?before the locals decided she was a witch. Ellen had draped a rug over the clothesline and was busily beating it with something that resembled a snowshoe. Occasionally she glanced warily in Rue?s direction, as though expecting to be turned into a crow at any moment. Rue wedged her hands into the hip pockets of her jeans and mentally ruled out all possibility of searching Elisabeth?s house for money while the housekeeper was around. There was only one way to get the funds she needed, and if she didn?t get busy, she might find herself spending the night in somebody?s barn. Or the Pine River jailhouse. The idea of being behind bars went against her grain. Rue had once done a brief stint in a minimum-security women?s prison for refusing to reveal a source to a grand jury, but this would obviously be different. Rue headed for the road, walking backward so she could look at the house and ?remember? how it would look in another hundred years. A part of her still expected to wake up on the couch in Aunt Verity?s front parlor and discover this whole experience had been nothing more than a dream. Reaching Pine River, Rue headed straight for the Hang-Dog Saloon, though she did have the discretion to make her way around to the alley and go in the back door. In a smoky little room in the rear of the building, Rue found exactly what she?d hoped for, exactly what a thousand TV Westerns had conditioned her to expect. Four drunk men were seated around a rickety table, playing poker. At the sight of a woman entering this inner sanctum, especially one wearing pants, the cardplayers stared. A man sporting a dusty stovepipe hat went so far as to let the unlit stogie fall from between his teeth, and the fat one with garters on his sleeves folded his cards and threw them in. ?What the hell??? After swallowing hard, Rue peeled off her digital watch and tossed it into the center of the table. ?I?d like to play, if you fellas don?t mind,? she said, sounding much bolder than she felt. The man in the stovepipe hat had apparently recovered from the shock of seeing the wrong woman in the wrong place; he picked up the wristwatch and studied it with a solemn frown. ?Never seen nothin? like this here,? he told his colleagues. Being one of those people who believe that great forces come to the aid of the bold, Rue drew up a chair and sat down between a long-haired gunfighter type in a canvas duster and the hefty guy with the garters. ?Deal me in,? she said brightly. ?Where?d you get this thing?? asked the one in the high hat. ?K mart,? Rue answered, reaching for the battered deck lying in the middle of the table. She thought of bumper stickers she?d seen in her own time and couldn?t help grinning. ?My other watch is a Rolex,? she added. Stovepipe looked at her in consternation and opened his mouth to protest, but when Rue shuffled the cards deftly from one hand to the other without dropping a single one, he pressed his lips together. The gunfighter whistled. ?Son of a?Tarnation, ma?am. Where?d you learn to do that?? Rue was warming to the game, as well as the conversation. ?On board Air Force One, about three years ago. A Secret Serviceman taught me.? Stovepipe and Garters looked at each other in pure bewilderment. ?I say the lady plays,? said the gunslinger. Nobody argued, perhaps because Quickdraw was wearing a mean-looking forty-five low on his hip. Rue dealt with a skill born of years of practice?her grandfather had taught her to play five-card draw back in Montana when she was six years old, and she?d been winning matchsticks, watches, ballpoint pens and pocket change ever since. Rue had taken several pots, made up mostly of coins, though she had raked in a couple of oversize nineteenth-century dollar bills, in this game when the prostitute in the pea green dress came rustling in. The woman?s painted mouth fell open when she saw Rue sitting at the table, actually playing poker with the men, and her kohl-lined eyes widened. She set a fresh bottle of whiskey down on the table with an irate thump. ?Be quiet, Sissy,? Quickdraw said, talking around the matchstick he was holding between his teeth. ?This here is serious poker.? Sissy?s eyes looked, as Aunt Verity would have said, like two burn holes in a blanket, and Rue felt a stab of pity for her. God knew, nineteenth-century life was hard enough for respectable women. It would be even rougher for ladies of the evening. Quickdraw picked up Rue?s watch, which was lying next to her stack of winnings, and held it up for Sissy?s inspection. ?You bring me good luck, little sugar girl, and I?ll give you this for a trinket.? ?I think I may throw up,? Rue murmured under her breath. ?What?d you say?? Stovepipe demanded, sounding a little testy. Losing at poker clearly didn?t sit well with him. Rue offered the same smile she would have used to cajole the president of the United States into answering a tough question at a press conference, and replied, ?I said I?m sure glad I showed up.? Sissy tossed the watch back to the table, glared at Rue for a moment, then turned and sashayed out of the room. Rue was secretly relieved and turned all her concentration on the matter at hand. She had enough winnings to buy that horrible gingham dress and rent herself a room at the boardinghouse; now all she needed to do was ease out of the game without making her companions angry. She yawned expansively. Garters gave her a quelling look, clearly not ready to give up on the evening, and the game went on. And on. It was starting to get embarrassing the way Rue kept winning, when all of a sudden the inner door to the saloon crashed open. There, filling the doorway like some fugitive from a Louis L?Amour novel, was Farley Haynes. Finding Rue with five cards in her hand and a stack of coins in front of her, he swore. Sissy peered around his broad shoulder and smiled, just to let Rue know she?d been the one to bring about her impending downfall. ?Game?s over,? Farley said in that gruff voice, and none of the players took exception to the announcement. In fact, except for Rue, they all scattered, muttering various excuses and hasty pleasantries as they rushed out. Rue stood and began stuffing her winnings into the pockets of her jeans. ?Don?t get your mustache in a wringer, Marshal,? she said. ?I?ve got what I came for and now I?m leaving.? Farley shook his head in quiet, angry wonderment and gestured toward the door with one hand. ?Come along with me, Miss Claridge. You?re under arrest.? Chapter Three Farley Haynes set his jaw, took Miss Rue Claridge by the elbow and hauled her toward the door. He prided himself on being a patient man, slow to wrath, as the Good Book said, but this woman tried his forbearance beyond all reasonable measure. Furthermore, he just flat didn?t like the sick-calf feeling he got whenever he looked at her. ?Now, just a minute, Marshal,? Miss Claridge snapped, trying to pull free of his grasp. ?You haven?t read me my rights!? Farley tightened his grip, but he was careful not to bruise that soft flesh of hers. He didn?t hold with manhandling a lady?not even one who barely measured up to the term when it came to comportment. To his way of thinking, Rue Claridge added up just fine as far as appearances went. ?What rights?? he demanded as they reached the shadowy alley behind the saloon. He had the damnedest, most unmarshal-like urge to drag Rue against his chest and kiss her, right then and there, and that scared the molasses out of him. The thought of kissing somebody in pants had never so much as crossed Farley?s mind before, and he hoped to God it never would again. ?Forget it,? she said, and her disdainful tone nettled Farley sorely. ?It?s pretty clear that around this town, I don?t have any rights. I hope you?re enjoying this, because it won?t be long until you find yourself dealing with the likes of Susan B. Anthony!? ?Who?? Farley hadn?t been this vexed since the year he was twelve, when Becky Hinehammer had called him a coward for refusing to walk the ridgepole on the schoolhouse roof. His pride had driven him to prove her wrong, and he?d gotten a broken collarbone for his trouble, along with a memorable blistering from his pa, once he?d healed up properly, for doing such a damn-fool thing in the first place. He propelled Miss Claridge out of the alley and onto the main street of town. Pine River was relatively quiet that night. They reached the jailhouse, and Farley pushed the front door open, then escorted his captive straight back to the jail?s only cell. Once his saucy prisoner was secured, Farley hung his hat on a peg next to the door and put away his rifle. It didn?t occur to him to unstrap his gun belt; that was something he did only when it was time to stretch out for the night. Even then, he liked to have his .45 within easy reach. He found a spare enamel mug, wiped it out with an old dish towel snatched from a nail behind the potbellied stove, and poured coffee. Then he carried the steaming brew to the cell and handed it through the bars to Miss Claridge. ?What kind of name is Rue?? he asked, honestly puzzled. This woman was full of mysteries, and he found himself wanting to solve them one by one. His guest blew on the coffee, took a cautious sip and made a face. At least she was womanly enough to mind her manners. Farley had half expected her to slurp up the brew like an old mule skinner and maybe spit a mouthful into the corner. Instead, she came right back with, ?What kind of name is Farley?? If she wasn?t going to give a direct answer, neither was he. ?You?re a snippy little piece, aren?t you?? Rue smiled, revealing a good, solid set of very white teeth. Folk wisdom said a woman lost a tooth for every child she bore, but Farley figured this gal would probably still have a mouthful even if she gave birth to a dozen babies. ?And you?re lucky I know you?re calling me ?a piece? in the old-fashioned sense of the word,? she said pleasantly. ?Because if you meant it the way men mean it where?when?I come from, I?d throw this wretched stuff you call coffee all over you.? Farley didn?t back away; he wouldn?t let himself be intimidated by a smudged little spitfire in britches. ?I reckon I?ve figured out why your folks gave you that silly name,? he said. ?They knew someday some poor man would rue the day you were ever born.? A flush climbed Rue?s cheeks, and Farley reflected that her skin was as fine as her teeth. She was downright pretty, if a little less voluptuous than he?d have preferred?or would be, if anybody ever took the time to clean her up. Considering that task made one side of Farley?s mouth twitch in a fleeting grin. He saw her blush again, then lift the mug to her mouth with both hands and take a healthy swig. ?God, I can?t believe I?m actually drinking this sludge!? she spat out just a moment later. ?What did you do, boil down a vat of axle grease?? Farley turned away to hide another grin, sighing as he pretended to straighten the papers on his desk. ?The Presbyterians are surely going to have their hands full getting you back on the straight and narrow,? he allowed. Rue stared at Farley?s broad, muscular back and swallowed. She was exhausted and confused and, since she hadn?t had anything to eat in almost a century, hungry. She kept expecting to wake up, even though she knew this situation was all too real. She sat on the edge of the cell?s one cot, which boasted a thin, bare mattress and a gray woolen blanket that looked as though it could have belonged to the poorest private in General Lee?s rebel army. ?Did you ever get around to having your supper?? Farley?s voice was gruff, but there was something oddly comforting about the deep, resonating timbre of it. Rue didn?t look at him; there were tears in her eyes, and she was too proud to let them show. ?No,? she answered. Farley?s tone remained gentle, and Rue knew he had moved closer. ?It?s late, but I?ll see if I can?t raise Bessie over at the Hang-Dog and get her to fix you something.? Rue was still too stricken to speak; she just nodded. Only when the marshal had left the jailhouse on his errand of mercy did Rue allow herself a loud sniffle. She stood and gripped the bars in both hands. Maybe because she was tired, she actually hoped, for a few fleeting moments, that the key would be hanging from a peg within stretching distance on her cell, like in a TV Western. In this case, fact was not stranger than fiction?there was no key in sight. She began to pace, muttering to herself. If she ever got out of this, she?d write a book about it, tell the world. Appear on Donahue and Oprah. Rue stopped, the nail of her index finger caught between her teeth. Who would ever believe her, besides Elisabeth? She sat on the edge of the cot again and drew deep breaths until she felt a little less like screaming in frustration and panic. Half an hour had passed, by the old clock facing Farley?s messy desk, when the marshal returned carrying a basket covered with a blue-and-white checkered napkin. Rue?s stomach rumbled audibly and, to cover her embarrassment at that, she said defiantly, ?You were foolish to leave me unattended, Marshal. I might very well have escaped.? He chuckled, extracted the coveted key from the pocket of his rough spun trousers and unlocked the cell door. ?Is that so, Miss Spitfire? Then why didn?t you?? She narrowed her eyes. ?Don?t be so damn cocky,? she warned. ?For all you know, I might be part of a gang. Why, twenty or thirty outlaws might ride in here and dynamite this place.? Farley set the basket down and moseyed out of the cell, as unconcerned as if his prisoner were an addlepated old lady. Rue was vaguely insulted that the lawman didn?t consider her more dangerous. ?Shut up and eat your supper,? he said, not unkindly. Rue plopped down on the edge of the cot again. Farley had set the basket on the only other piece of furniture in the cell, a rickety old stool, and she pulled that close. There was cold roast venison in the basket, along with a couple of hard flour-and-water biscuits and an apple. Rue ate greedily, but the whole time she watched Farley out of the corner of one eye. He was doing paperwork at the desk, by the light of a flickering kerosene lamp. ?Aren?t you ever going home?? she inquired when she?d consumed every scrap of the food. Farley didn?t look up. ?I?ve got a little place out back,? he said. ?You?d better get some sleep, Miss Claridge. Likely as not, you?ll have the ladies of the town to deal with come morning. They?ll want to take you on as a personal mission.? Rue let her forehead rest against an icy bar and sighed. ?Great.? When Farley finally raised his eyes and saw that Rue was still standing there staring at him, he put down his pencil. ?Am I keeping you awake?? ?It?s just?? Rue paused, swallowed, started again. ?Well, I?d like to wash up, that?s all. And maybe brush my teeth.? In my own bathroom, thank you. In my own wonderful, crazy, modern world. Farley stretched, then brought a large kettle from a cabinet near the stove. ?I guess you?ll just have to rinse and spit, since the town of Pine River doesn?t provide toothbrushes, but I can heat up some wash water for you.? He disappeared through a rear door, returning minutes later with the kettle, which he set on the stove top. Rue bit her lower lip. It was bad enough that the marshal expected her to bathe in that oversize bird cage he called a cell. How clean could a girl get with two quarts of water? ?This is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention,? she said. Farley looked at her over one sturdy shoulder, shook his head in obvious consternation and went back to his desk. ?If you hadn?t told me you and Lizzie Fortner were kinfolk, I?d have guessed it anyway. Both of you talk like you?re from somewhere a long ways from here.? Rue sagged against the cell door and closed her eyes for a moment. ?So far away you couldn?t begin to comprehend it, cowboy,? she muttered. Farley?s deep voice contained a note of distracted humor. ?Since I didn?t quite make out what you just said, I?m going to assume it was something kindly,? he told her without looking up from those fascinating papers of his. ?Don?t you have something waiting for you at home?a dog or a goldfish or something?? Rue asked. She didn?t know which she was more desperate for?a little privacy or the simple comfort of ordinary conversation. The marshal sighed and laid down his nibbed pen. His wooden chair creaked under his weight as he leaned back. ?I live alone,? he said, sounding beleaguered and a little smug in the bargain. ?Oh.? Rue felt a flash of bittersweet relief at this announcement, though she would have given up her trust fund rather than admit the fact. Earlier, she?d experienced a dizzying sense of impact, even though Farley wasn?t touching her, and now she was painfully aware of the lean hardness of his frame and the easy masculine grace with which he moved. It was damn ironic that being around Jeff Wilson had never had this effect on her. Maybe if it had, she would have a couple of kids and a real home by now, in addition to the career she loved. ?You must be pretty ambitious,? she blurted out. The sound of heat surging through the water in the kettle filled the quiet room. ?Do you often work late?? Farley put down his pen again and scratched the nape of his neck before emitting an exasperated sigh. ?I don?t plan on spending my life as a lawman,? he replied with a measured politeness that clearly told Rue he wished she?d shut up and let him get on with whatever he was doing. ?I?ve been saving for a ranch ever since I got out of the army. I mean to raise cattle and horses.? At last, Rue thought. Common ground. ?I have a ranch,? she announced. ?Over in Montana.? ?So you said,? Farley replied. It was plain enough that, to him, Rue?s claim was just another wild story. He got up and crossed the room to test the water he?d been heating. ?Guess this is ready,? he said. Rue narrowed her eyes as he came toward the cell, carrying the kettle by its black iron handle, fingers protected from the steam by the same rumpled dish towel he?d used to wipe out the mug earlier. ?I?m not planning to strip down and lather up in front of you, Marshal,? she warned, standing back as he unlocked the cell door and came in. He laughed, and the sound was unexpectedly rich. ?That would be quite a show,? he said. Rue wasn?t sure she appreciated his amusement. She just glared at him. Farley set the kettle down in the cell, then went out and locked the door again. He handed Rue a rough towel and a cloth through the bars, then ambled over to collect his hat and canvas duster. ?Good night, Miss Claridge.? With that, he blew out the kerosene lantern on his desk, plunging the room into darkness except for the thin beams of moonlight coming in through the few windows. It was remarkable how lonely and scared Rue felt once he?d closed and locked the front door of the jailhouse. Up until then, she?d have sworn she wanted him to go. She waited until she was reasonably sure she wouldn?t be interrupted before hastily stripping. Shivering there in that cramped little cell, Rue washed in the now-tepid water Farley had brought, then put her clothes back on. After wrapping herself in the Civil War blanket, she lay down on the cot and closed her eyes. Although Rue fully expected the worst bout of insomnia ever, she fell asleep with all the hesitation of a rock dropping to the bottom of a deep pond. She awakened to a faceful of bright sunlight and the delicious smell and cheerful sizzle of bacon frying. At first, Rue thought she was home at Ribbon Creek, with her granddaddy cooking breakfast in the ranch house kitchen. Then it all come back to her. It was 1892 and she was in jail, and even if she managed to get back to her own time, no one was ever, ever going to believe her accounts of what had happened to her. She would definitely write a novel. A movie would inevitably follow. Priscilla Presley could play Rue, and they could probably get Tom Selleck for Farley?s role, or maybe Lee Horsely?. Rue rose from the bed and immediately shifted from one foot to the other and back again. ??Morning,? Farley said with a companionable smile. He was standing beside the stove, turning the thick strips of pork in a cast-iron skillet. ?I have to go to the bathroom,? Rue told him impatiently. ?And don?t you dare offer me a chamber pot!? The marshal?s white teeth flashed beneath his manly mustache. Expertly, he took the skillet off the heat, setting it on a trivet atop a nearby bookshelf, then ambled over to face Rue through the bars. ?Don?t try anything,? he warned, gesturing for Rue to precede him into freedom. She stepped over the grubby threshold, concentrating on appreciating the sweet luxury of liberty, however brief it might be. The marshal ushered her outside and around the back of the small building. Behind it was a small, unpainted cabin, and beyond that was an outhouse. Rue wrinkled her nose at the smell, but she was in no position to be discriminating. She went inside and, peering through the little moon some facetious soul had carved in the door, saw Farley standing guard a few feet away, arms folded. When they were back in the jailhouse, he gave her soap and a basin of water to wash in before setting the bacon on to finish cooking. Rue felt a little better after that, though she longed for a shower, a shampoo and clean clothes. ?I suppose you?ll be releasing me this morning,? she said after Farley had brought her a metal plate containing three perfectly fried slices of bacon, a dry biscuit and an egg so huge, it could have been laid by Big Bird?s mother. ?After all, if playing poker were a crime, you?d have to arrest Stovepipe and Garters and Quickdraw.? Farley, who was perched on the edge of his desk, consuming his breakfast, laughed. Then he chewed a bite of bacon with such thoroughness that Rue grew impatient. Finally, he responded. ?I reckon you?re referring to Harry and Micah and Jim-Roy, and you?re partly right. It isn?t against the law for them to play poker, but Pine River has an ordinance about women entering into unseemly behavior.? Farley paused, watching unperturbed as Rue?s face turned neon pink with fury. ?You not only entered in, Miss Claridge?you set up housekeeping and planted corn.? ?That?s the most ridiculous thing I?ve ever heard!? Rue thought about flinging her plate through the bars like a Frisbee and beaning Farley Haynes, but she hadn?t finished her breakfast and she was wildly hungry. ?It?s downright discriminatory!? Farley went to the stove and speared himself another slab of bacon from the skillet. ?Nevertheless,? he went on, ?I can?t ask the good citizens of this town to support you forever.? ?If you?d just wire Elisabeth in San Francisco?? ?Nobody?s heard from Jon and Lizzie,? Farley interrupted. ?They were in such a hurry to get started on their honeymoon, they didn?t bother to tell anybody where they were going to stay once they got to California. They weren?t planning to return until Jon?s hand has healed and he?s ready to start doctoring again.? Rue finished her breakfast with regret. Although loaded with fat and cholesterol, the food had tasted great. ?People have mentioned a little girl. Did they take her with them?? Farley nodded. ?Yes, ma?am. Looks like we?ll just have to wait until Jon decides to write a letter to somebody around here. When he left, he wasn?t thinking of much of anything besides Lizzie.? After handing her empty plate through the bars, Rue folded her arms and sighed. ?They?re really in love, huh?? The marshal?s blue eyes sparkled. ?You might say that. Being within twelve feet of those two is like being locked up in a room full of lightning.? Rue took comfort in the idea that this whole nightmare might not have been for nothing. If Bethie was really happy and truly in love with the country doctor she?d married, well, that at least gave the situation some meaning. ?I understand there was a fire and that nobody really knows how Dr. Fortner and his little girl escaped.? Farley stacked his plate and Rue?s neatly on the trivet and poured the bacon grease from the frying pan into a crockery jar. ?That?s right. Of course, what?s important is, they?re alive. There are a lot of goings-on in this world that don?t lend themselves to reasoning out.? ?Amen,? agreed Rue, thinking of her own experiences. After fetching a bucket of water from outside, Farley put another kettle on to heat. ?You are going to give back my poker winnings, aren?t you?? Rue asked nervously. She needed that money to buy some acceptable clothes and pay for a room. Provided she could find someone willing to rent her one, that is. Farley took a mean-looking razor from his desk drawer, along with a shaving mug and a brush. ?It?d serve you right if I didn?t,? he said calmly, studying his reflection in a cracked mirror affixed to the wall near the stove. ?But I?ll turn the money over to you as soon as I decide to let you go.? Rue?s temper simmered at his blithely officious attitude, but she held her tongue. It was a technique she usually remembered after a conflagration, not before. She watched, oddly fascinated, when Farley poured water from the kettle into a basin and splashed his face. Then, after moistening his shaving brush, he turned the bristles in the mug and lathered his beard. Presently, he began using the straight razor with what seemed to Rue to be extraordinary skill. The whole process was decidedly masculine, and it had a very curious?and disturbing?effect on Rue. Every graceful motion of his hands, every turn of his head, was like a caress; it was as though Farley were removing her clothes and taking the time to explore each new part of her as he bared it. And that odd feeling that she?d just collided with a solid object was back, too; she gripped the bars tightly to hold herself up. When Farley gave her a sidelong look and grinned, she felt as though the bones in her pelvis had turned to warm wax. Rue had spent a lot of time on a ranch, and she?d traveled and met people, read hundreds of books, watched all sorts of movies, so she had a pretty fundamental understanding of what was happening in her body. What she didn?t comprehend was exactly what it would be like to make love, because that was something she hadn?t gotten around to doing quite yet. It wasn?t that she was scared or even especially noble?she just hadn?t found the right man. Farley finished shaving, humming a little tune all the while, rinsed his face and dried it with the towel draped around his neck. The jailhouse door opened, and Rue noticed that Farley?s hand flashed with instinctive speed and grace to the handle of the six-gun riding low on his hip. His fingers relaxed when a big woman dressed in black bombazine entered. Her eyes narrowed in her beefy face when she caught sight of the prisoner. Two other ladies in equally somber dress wedged themselves in behind her. ?Something tells me the Presbyterians have arrived,? Rue murmured. ?Worse,? Farley whispered. ?These ladies head up the Pine River Society for the Protection of Widows and Orphans, and they?re really mean.? The trio stared at Rue, their mouths dropping open as they took in her jeans, sneakers and T-shirt. ?Poor misguided soul,? one visitor said, raising bent fingers to her mouth in consternation and pity. ?Trousers!? breathed another. The heavy woman whirled on Farley, and Rue noticed that a muscle twitched under his right eye. ?This is an outrage!? the lady thundered, as though he were somehow to blame for Rue?s existence. ?Where on earth did she get those dreadful clothes?? ?I can speak for myself,? Rue said firmly, and the other two women gasped, evidently at her audacity. ?This is called a T-shirt,? Rue went on, indicating the garment in question, ?and these are jeans. I know none of you are used to seeing a woman dressed the way I am, but the fact is, these clothes are really quite practical, when you think about it.? ?Well, I never!? avowed the leader of the pack. Rue?s mouth twitched. ?Never what?? she inquired sweetly. Farley rolled his eyes, but offered no comment. It was plain that, although he wasn?t really intimidated by these women, he wasn?t anxious to cross them, either. ?Are you a saloon woman?? demanded the leader of the moral invasion. The moment the words were out of her mouth, she drew her lips into a tight line and retreated a step, no doubt concerned that sin might prove contagious. Rue smiled. ?No, Miss?What was your name, please?? ?My name is Mrs. Gifford,? that good lady snapped. Holding one hand out through the bars, Rue smiled again, winningly. ?I?m very glad to meet you, Mrs. Gifford. My name is Rue Claridge, and I?m definitely not a ?saloon woman.?? She dropped her voice to a confidential whisper. ?Just between you and me, I think I?m probably overqualified for that kind of work.? Mrs. Gifford turned away and gathered her bombazine-clad troops into a huddle. While the conference went on, Rue stood biting her lower lip and wondering whether or not Farley would turn her over to these people. She thought she?d rather take her chances with a lynch mob, if given the choice. Farley scratched the back of his neck and sighed. Judging from his body language, Rue was pretty sure he wanted to let her go and get on with the daily business of being a living, breathing antique. Finally, Mrs. Gifford approached the cell again. ?There will be no more prancing up and down the street in trousers and no more poker playing,? she decreed firmly. Under any other circumstances, Rue would have defended her right to dress and gamble as she liked, but she wasn?t about to risk getting herself into still more trouble. For all she knew, Mr. Gifford was a judge with the power to lock her away in some grim prison. ?No more poker playing,? Rue conceded in a purposely meek voice. ?As for the?trousers, I promise I won?t wear them any farther than the general store. I mean to go straight over there and buy a dress as soon as the marshal here lets me out of the pokey.? The delegation put their heads together for another consultation. After several minutes, Mrs. Gifford announced, ?Rowena will walk down to the mercantile and purchase the dress,? she said, indicating one of the other women. ?Great,? Rue responded, shifting her gaze to the marshal. ?Will you give Rowena fifty cents from my winnings so I can get out of here?? If the Society tried to make her go with them, she?d make a break for it. Rowena, who was painfully thin, her mousy brown hair pulled back tightly enough to tilt her eyes, swallowed visibly and backed up when Farley held out the money. ?Poker winnings,? she said in horror. ?My hands will never touch filthy lucre!? Now it was Rue who rolled her eyes. ?I?ll get the dress,? Farley bit out furiously, grabbing his hat from its peg and putting on his long canvas duster. A moment later, the door slammed behind him. The church women stared at Rue, as though expecting her to turn into a raven and fly out through the barred window. Thank God I didn?t land in seventeenth-century Salem, Rue thought wryly. I?d surely be in the stocks by now, or dangling at the end of a rope. Basically a gregarious type, Rue couldn?t resist another attempt at conversation, even though she knew the effort was probably futile. ?So,? she said, smiling the way she did when she wanted to put an interviewee at ease, ?what do you do with yourselves every day, besides cooking and cleaning and tracking down sinners?? Chapter Four When Farley returned from his mission to the general store, looking tight jawed and grim, he opened the cell door and handed a wrapped bundle to Rue. Rue?s fiery, defiant gaze swept over Mrs. Gifford and her cronies, as well as the marshal, as she accepted the package. ?If you people think I?m going to change clothes with the four of you standing there gawking at me, you?re mistaken,? she said crisply. Farley seemed only too happy to leave, although the Society hesitated a few moments before trooping out after him. If she hadn?t been so frazzled, Rue would have laughed out loud at the sheer ugliness of that red-and-white gingham dress. As it happened, she just buttoned herself into the thing, tied the sash at the back and tried with all her might to hold on to her sense of humor. When the others returned, Farley slid his turquoise gaze over Rue in an assessing fashion, and she thought she saw the corner of his mouth twitch. The ladies, however, were plainly not amused. ?Just let me out of here before I go crazy!? Rue muttered. Farley unlocked the cell again and stepped back, holding the door wide. In that moment, an odd thought struck Rue: she would miss being in close contact with the marshal. Their hands brushed as he extended the rest of her poker winnings, and Rue felt as though she?d just thrust a hairpin into a light socket. ?I?ll try to stay out of trouble,? she said. All of a sudden, her throat felt tight, and she had to force the words past her vocal cords. Farley grinned, showing those movie-cowboy teeth of his. ?You do that,? he replied. Rue swallowed and went around him, shaken. She?d been in an earthquake once, in South America, and the inner sensation had been much like what she was feeling now. It was weird, but then, so was everything else that had happened to her after she crossed that threshold and left the familiar world on the other side. The Society allowed her to leave the jailhouse without interference, but the looks the women gave her were as cool and disapproving as before. It was plain they expected Rue to go forth in sin. Once she was outside, under a pastel blue sky laced with white clouds, Rue felt a little stronger and more confident. The air was fresh and bracing, though tinged with the scent of manure from the road. Rue?s naturally buoyant spirits rose. She set out for the house in the country, determined to take another crack at returning to her own time. Not by any stretch of the imagination had she given up on finding Elisabeth and hearing her cousin tell her face-to-face that she was truly happy, but Rue needed time to regroup. She figured a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza with black olives and extra cheese, followed by a long, hot bath, wouldn?t hurt her thinking processes, either. Soon Rue had left the screeching of the mill saw and the tinny music and raucous laughter of the saloons behind. Every step made her more painfully conscious of the growing distance between her and Farley, and that puzzled her. The lawman definitely wasn?t her type, and besides?talk about a generation gap! When Rue finally reached Aunt Verity?s house, she stood at the white picket fence for a few moments, gazing up at the structure. Even with its fire-scarred side, the place looked innocent, just sitting there in the bright October sunshine. No one would have guessed, by casual observation, that this unassuming Victorian house was enchanted or bewitched or whatever it was. Rue drew a deep breath, let it out in a rush and opened the gate. With her other hand, she touched the necklace at her throat and fervently wished to be home. The gate creaked as she closed it behind her. Rue proceeded boldly up the front walk and knocked at the door. When the crabby housekeeper didn?t answer, Rue simply turned the knob and stepped inside. Remarkable, she thought, shaking her head. Bethie and her new husband were off in California and the maid had probably left for the day, and yet the place was unlocked. ?Hello?? Rue inquired with a pleasantry that was at least partially feigned. She didn?t like Ellen and would prefer not to encounter her. There was no answer, no sound except for the loud ticking of a clock somewhere nearby. Rue raised her voice a little. ?Hello! Anybody here?? Again, no answer. Rue hoisted the skirts of her horrible gingham dress so she wouldn?t break her neck and bounded up the front stairway. In the upper hall, she stood facing the burned door for a moment, then pushed it open and climbed awkwardly out onto a charred beam, praying it would hold her weight. The antique necklace seemed to burn where it rested against her skin. Clutching the blackened doorjamb in both hands and closing her eyes, Rue whispered, ?Let me go home. Please, let me go home.? A moment later, she summoned all her courage and thrust herself over the threshold and into the house. When she felt modern carpeting beneath her fingers, jubilation rushed through Rue?s spirit, though there was a thin brushstroke of sorrow, too. She might never see her cousin Elisabeth again. Or Farley. Rue scrambled to her feet and gave a shout of delight because she was back in the land of indoor plumbing, fast food and credit cards. Looking down at the red-and-white dress, with its long skirts and puffy sleeves, she realized the gown was tangible proof that she actually had been to 1892. No one else would be convinced, but Rue didn?t care about that; it was enough that she knew she wasn?t losing her mind. After phoning the one restaurant in Pine River that not only sold but delivered pizza, Rue stripped off the dress, took a luxurious bath and put on khaki slacks and a white sweater. She was blow-drying her hair when the doorbell rang. Snatching some money off the top of her bureau, Rue hurried downstairs to answer. The pizza delivery person, a young man with an outstandingly good complexion, was standing on the porch, looking uneasy. Rue smiled, wondering what stories he?d heard about the house. ?Thanks,? she said, holding out a bill. The boy surrendered the pizza, but looked at the money in confusion. ?What country is this from?? he asked. Rue could smell the delicious aromas rising through the box, and she was impatient to be alone with her food. ?This one,? she replied a little abruptly. Then Rue?s eyes fell on the bill and she realized she?d tried to pay for the pizza with some of her 1892 poker winnings. The mistake had been a natural one; just the other day, she?d left some money on her dresser. Apparently, she?d automatically done the same with these bills. ?I?m a collector,? she said, snatching back the bill. ?Just a second and I?ll get you something a little more?current.? With that, Rue reluctantly left the pizza on the hall table and hurried upstairs. When she returned, she paid the delivery boy with modern currency and a smile. The young man thanked her and hurried back down the walk and through the front gate to his economy car. He kept glancing back over one shoulder, as though he expected to find that the house had moved a foot closer to the road while he wasn?t looking. Rue smiled and closed the door. In the kitchen, she consumed two slices of pizza and put the rest into the refrigerator for later?or earlier. In this house, time had a way of getting turned around. On one level, Rue felt grindingly tired, as though she could crawl into bed and sleep for two weeks without so much as a quiver of her eyelids. On another, however, she was restless and frustrated. As a newswoman, Rue especially hated not knowing the whole story. She wanted to find her cousin, and she wanted to uncover the secret of this house. If there was one thing Rue was sure of, it was that the human race lived in a cause-and-effect universe and there was some concrete, measurable reason for the phenomenon she and Elisabeth had experienced. She found her purse and the keys to her Land Rover and smiled to herself as she carefully locked the front door. Maybe the dead bolt would keep out burglars and vandals, but here all the action tended to be on the inside. Rue drove into town, past the library and the courthouse and the supermarket, marveling. It had only been that morning?and yet, it had not been?that the marshal?s office and the general store and the Hang-Dog Saloon had stood in their places. The road, rutted and dusty and dappled with manure in Farley?s time was now paved and relatively clean. Only when she reached the churchyard did Rue realize she?d intended to come there all along. She parked by a neatly painted wooden fence and walked past the old-fashioned clapboard church to the cemetery beyond. The place was a historical monument?there were people buried here who had been born back East in the late seventeen hundreds. ??? ???????? ?????. ??? ?????? ?? ?????. ????? ?? ??? ????, ??? ??? ????? ??? (https://www.litres.ru/pages/biblio_book/?art=39925922&lfrom=390579938) ? ???. ????? ???? ??? ??? ????? ??? Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, ? ??? ????? ????, ? ????? ?????, ? ??? ?? ?? ????, ??? 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