by Patricia C. Lee
No-nonsense medical examiner, Kelly Richards, relies on the familiar comforts of science and scalpels to get her through the day. So when a not-so-dead guy who claims he's from the past lands on her autopsy table, she considers calling the men in white coats to escort him to a padded room. But Jarek's old-world ways and hot gaze trick her heart into falling for him—a mistake she swore she'd never make again.
When Jarek, Prince of Leisos, discovers someone he trusts has been slowly poisoning him, he travels to the future in search of a cure. Driven by vengeance, he enlists the help of an impudent scientist to return him to his time. Caught between his growing desire for Kelly and the need to expose his would-be assassin before he strikes again, Jarek must either forfeit his ticket home or lose the only woman he's ever loved.
Copyright © Patricia C. Lee
All rights reserved — a Crescent Moon Press publication
Apparently she made it home, since she was sitting in her apartment parking lot, but Kelly had no recollection of driving. Her eyes zeroed in on the blue rose lying on the passenger seat.
He was here.
Her heart thudded in her chest. She stumbled out of the vehicle, locked it, and ran to the entrance of her building, glancing over her shoulder every few feet. David had found her. Did he want to resume their relationship? Maybe the flower was only a token to say hello. If so, he would have left a note.
Her hand shook so much, she dropped her keys. She retrieved them from the carpet and cupped her right hand with her left to slide the key into the lock. With a heavenly snick, the lock gave. She zipped inside.
And collided with a compact wall of muscle. Shrieking, Kelly backed against the closed door. Her heart raced like a trapped animal.
"Kelly, Kelly." The hall light flicked on. Jarek stood in front of her, arms outstretched, his eyes darting to the door behind her.
She took a step forward, slid her arms around his solid, warm body, and held on tight. Since her parents died, she'd relied on no one. But she needed Jarek now. As his powerful arms held her close, the steady beat of his heart calmed her, and the adrenaline burst ebbed.
Jarek tucked her head beneath his chin and caressed her back in slow, soothing strokes. When she broke their embrace, he held on a moment longer, then gave her a final squeeze. A tremor danced through her when he stepped away and framed her face with his hands. Craving more of his touch, she started to close the gap between them, but changed her mind. Best to keep her distance.
"Are you all right?" His eyes mirrored the concern in his voice.
Kelly flushed. She was a grown woman and shouldn't be running to the nearest person for comfort-especially a man who claimed to be a time traveler, but in all likelihood was from the loony bin. She couldn't meet his gaze. He took her wrist, led her to the living room, and pulled her down to sit on the couch. Jarek tilted her chin to look in her eyes.
"What is wrong?" His lips pursed into a thin line. "Something frightened you. Tell me. Perhaps I can help."
His old world charm pulled a smile to the edges of Kelly's mouth. Whether he was crazy or not, his concern warmed the iciness in her veins. It might be good to tell another person of the guilt she lived with every day, the pain invading her soul.
Kelly pressed her lips together and plucked at an unseen fiber on the couch. Jarek took her fingers in his strong, warm hand and caressed them with his thumb.
"After my sister died, I was in a really dark place. I broke off my relationship with David, the man I was seeing at the time. Naturally, he was disappointed and upset. He didn't understand why I wouldn't want him to help me through a difficult period of my life. But I needed to be by myself. And I needed time to heal, away from everyone and everything. The best way for me to deal was not to deal.
"I threw myself into my studies, doubling up on courses. When I wasn't at school, I took whatever extra shifts I could at work. David thought that once I finished grieving, we could get back together. And maybe, unconsciously, I sent that message, but it wasn't intentional. He said I was avoiding him, but in essence, I was avoiding life. Instead of giving me the space I wanted, he became persistent, waiting for me after work or wanting to help with my studies."
Kelly stopped speaking as she walked through memories of those dark days in her mind, seeing the shadows of her existence. School. Work. The fitful sleep. Not eating for days. The endless numbness.
The deep, soft timber of Jarek's voice broke into her reverie. "Perhaps it was the only way he knew to aid you."
"Maybe." But every time she saw him, she saw Stephanie. She couldn't tell Jarek that. Not now. Not yet. "I asked him not to contact me again. He became angry, defensive, accused me of playing him. It got to the point where I thought it best to break off all contact. So I left. I packed up everything I could take with me in a weekend and drove away."
Kelly leaned back against the couch and closed her eyes. Memories sliced her heart into jagged pieces. She sighed and then looked at him.
"Tonight, when I finished work, I found a single blue rose on the windshield of my car. David knows my favorite flower is a blue rose."
"You believe this man, David, has returned?" Jarek's brows knotted together.
"I haven't dated since I moved here a year ago. No one else knows what my favorite flower is, and a blue rose is not that common. He's here. I know it."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm not sure."
"Do you wish to resume a relationship with this man?" His hand tensed around hers.
"Why not? He has taken the time to find you, so he must care for you. Did you not enjoy his company when you were together?"
"Oh, I know David cares for me, but there is such a thing as caring too much."
"I do not understand." Jarek frowned, shaking his head.
"In my time, it's called stalking." Kelly blinked. In my time. Now why would she say it like that, as if she were explaining it to someone who wasn't from this era? Must have been a slip of the tongue.
"It's when a person doesn't take 'no' for an answer. They believe they're meant to be with you, no matter what. There are different degrees. David was persistent, but I'm pretty sure he would never hurt me. I just don't want to see him again. I don't have those types of feelings for him anymore."
A spark flickered in Jarek's eyes. "What do you mean?"
"You know, when you can't wait to see the other person. When they look at you, and your whole world lights up. The soft butterfly tingling in your stomach when they gaze into your eyes…"
She blushed and turned away. Why the embarrassment? It wasn't like she felt that way with Jarek. Hell, she didn't even know the guy. "Haven't you had those feelings before?"
His expression was inscrutable. He made no reply, but he held her gaze. Deep, steady, and unblinking, like he was trying to see into her heart. The silence dragged on for an eternity. There was only so much of her soul she was willing to reveal. The agony of that fateful night was still too painful and raw to expose to a virtual stranger.
Closing her eyes, she rested against the couch with a sigh. The weight on her heart eased a bit. The couch shifted as Jarek rose.
A series of four sharp pops split the silence.
4 STARS! "Lee’s first book in the Daughters of the Crescent Moon trilogy is an intriguing time travel with magic, attempted murder, a mystery solved and a story to be continued. Though the paradox of time travel is basically ignored, this story is an enjoyable journey into the land of what-if and make-believe." **** -- Romantic Times