The Art of Stealing Time: A Time Thief NovelKatie MacAlister
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS
OF KATIE MacALISTER
A Novel of the Light Dragons
“Once again I was drawn into the wondrous world of this author’s dragons and hated leaving once their story was told. I loved this visit and cannot wait for the next book to see just what new adventures lie in wait for these dragons.”
—Love Romances & More
“Fast-paced . . . an entertaining read and a fine addition to MacAlister’s dragon series.”
“Balanced by a well-organized plot and MacAlister’s trademark humor.”
It’s All Greek to Me
“This author delivers again with yet another steamy, sexy read with humorous situations, dialogue, and characters. . . . The plot is fast-paced and fun, typical of MacAlister’s novels. The characters are impossible not to like. The hiccups in their relationship only serve to make the reader root harder for them. The events range from amusing to steamy to serious. The reader can’t be bored with MacAlister’s novel.”
“A fun and sexy read.”
—The Season for Romance
“A wonderful lighthearted romantic romp as a kick-butt American Amazon and a hunky Greek find love. Filled with humor, fans will laugh with the zaniness of Harry meets Yacky.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Katie MacAlister sizzles with this upbeat and funny summer romance. . . . MacAlister’s dialogue is fast-paced and entertaining. . . . Her characters are interesting and her heroes are always attractive/intriguing . . . a good, fun, fast summer read.”
“Fabulous banter between the main characters. . . . Katie MacAlister’s got a breezy, fun writing style that keeps me reading.”
A Tale of Two Vampires
A Dark Ones Novel
“A roller coaster of giggles, chortles, and even some guffaws. In other words, it is a lighthearted and fun read.”
—The Reading Cafe
Much Ado About Vampires
A Dark Ones Novel
“A humorous take on the dark and demonic.”
“Once again this author has done a wonderful job. I was sucked into the world of Dark Ones right from the start and was taken on a fantastic ride. This book is full of witty dialogue and great romance, making it one that should not be missed.”
“An extremely appealing hero. If you enjoy a fast-paced paranormal romance laced with witty prose and dialogue, you might like to give Much Ado About Vampires a try.”
“I cannot get enough of the warmth of Ms. MacAlister’s books. They’re the paranormal romance equivalent of soul food.”
—Errant Dreams Reviews
The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons
A Novel of the Light Dragons
“Had me laughing out loud. . . . This book is full of humor and romance, keeping the reader entertained all the way through . . . a wondrous story full of magic. . . . I cannot wait to see what happens next in the lives of the dragons.”
“Katie MacAlister has always been a favorite of mine and her latest series again shows me why. . . . If you are a lover of dragons, MacAlister’s new series will definitely keep you entertained!”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“Magic, mystery, and humor abound in this novel, making it a must read . . . another stellar book.”
—Night Owl Romance
—Midwest Book Review
ALSO BY KATIE MACALISTER
TIME THIEF, A Time Thief Novel
A TALE OF TWO VAMPIRES, A Dark Ones Novel
SPARKS FLY, A Novel of the Light Dragons
MUCH ADO ABOUT VAMPIRES, A Dark Ones Novel
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF DRAGONS,
A Novel of the Light Dragons
IN THE COMPANY OF VAMPIRES, A Dark Ones Novel
CONFESSIONS OF A VAMPIRE’S GIRLFRIEND,
A Dark Ones Novel
LOVE IN THE TIME OF DRAGONS,
A Novel of the Light Dragons
STEAMED, A Steampunk Romance
CROUCHING VAMPIRE, HIDDEN FANG, A Dark Ones Novel
ZEN AND THE ART OF VAMPIRES, A Dark Ones Novel
ME AND MY SHADOW, A Novel of the Silver Dragons
UP IN SMOKE, A Novel of the Silver Dragons
PLAYING WITH FIRE, A Novel of the Silver Dragons
HOLY SMOKES, An Aisling Grey, Guardian, Novel
LIGHT MY FIRE, An Aisling Grey, Guardian, Novel
FIRE ME UP, An Aisling Grey, Guardian, Novel
YOU SLAY ME, An Aisling Grey, Guardian, Novel
THE LAST OF THE RED-HOT VAMPIRES
EVEN VAMPIRES GET THE BLUES
IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME
BLOW ME DOWN
HARD DAY’S KNIGHT
THE CORSET DIARIES
MEN IN KILTS
THE ART OF STEALING TIME
A TIME THIEF NOVEL
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA)
Copyright © Katie MacAlister, 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
Also by Katie Macalister
Writers take inspiration from all sorts of things, and in this case, my heroine’s two mothers have their origins with Shannon Perry, who works tirelessly to keep me organized, tidy, and happy. This book is dedicated to Shannon and her two moms, with hopes their lives are as happy as their literary inspirations.
“Ticket, yes. Passport, right here. Boarding pass . . . dammit. Where did I put that? I know I printed
it out.” I did a little dance peculiar to people arriving at an airport, the one where you slap various pockets and juggle luggage, magazines, and purses in order to peer into every easily reached receptacle. Finally, I found the sheet of paper I’d printed before leaving my mothers’ flat. “Gotcha! All right, I think I’m set. I just hope the security line isn’t too long.”
People streamed past me out of the tiled corridor that led to the airport tube station, hauling luggage, children, and parcels of every size as they traveled the moving sidewalks, escalators, and plain old stairs into the airport proper.
A woman next to me, pausing to wait for two bickering teenagers behind her, yelled in a flat American accent that she would happily leave them behind in Wales if they didn’t get their asses in gear. She caught my eye as I was rearranging my travel documents to be readily available, giving me a grimacing smile. “I swear, I’m never traveling with kids again. Everyone said I was crazy to bring them along with me, but I thought they’d be old enough to appreciate seeing another culture.”
I glanced back to where the teen girl and boy were arguing over what appeared to be a carrier bag filled with magazines. “Didn’t work out as you planned, eh?”
“Lord, no! And we still have Amsterdam and Germany to do. How I’m going to survive another week is beyond me.” She gave me an appraising look as I finished tucking away my magazine, stuffed my purse (denuded of travel documents) into my carry-on bag, and pulled out the handle of the monstrous wheeled suitcase that housed the bulk of my possessions. “You’re American, too?”
“Actually, I was born here in Wales, but I’ve lived so long in Denver that I pass for American.”
“Ah. Here on business?” the woman asked. If she had been British, I’d have wondered what was up, but many decades of living in the U.S. had made even the most personal of questions seem totally natural when asked by a relative stranger.
“You could say that. My mothers live in a small town near the coast. I visit them every six months or so.”
“Mothers? Plural?” Her forehead wrinkled for a moment, then smoothed out quickly with an “Oh! You mean your mother is . . . How . . . interesting.”
My mouth tightened. If she was going to be one of those people who hated on my mothers, I would have a thing or two to tell her.
She shrugged, turned back to warn the still-arguing teens that they had exactly three seconds before she would abandon them to the airport staff, and said simply, “It takes all kinds.”
“It certainly does. Good luck with your trip,” I said politely, and gathering up my things, I moved off before she could say anything more. The experience had left me feeling a bit prickly, which in turn made the inevitable delays at the security lines all that much more annoying. But a memory of my mothers’ teaching about tolerance got me through it without once wishing I could remember the spell to give people ingrown toenails.
I had just settled down in the waiting area with all the other people who would be on the flight to Orlando (my connecting flights to Chicago, and then Denver would extend the trip by another seven hours) and pulled out my tablet computer to see if there was any news in the alchemists’ forum, which I frequent, when my cell phone buzzed in my jacket pocket.
The number displayed on the phone didn’t ring a bell. I ignored the call, figuring it was just another solicitation to try some service or buy something that I didn’t want, so when the phone buzzed a second time, I started to turn it off.
Mom Two, the text said above the photo of a face almost as familiar as my own. I frowned. I’d had somewhat hurried good-byes earlier with both my moms, hurried because of some bizarre notion they had that I was in danger and the sooner I got out of Wales, the safer I’d be.
“Hi. What’s up?” I asked, answering the call. “You can’t be missing me already, Mom Two. I left you guys less than . . . what . . . four hours ago?”
“Of course we miss you, Gwen. We always miss you when you leave. But that’s not what I wanted to say, although I do, in fact, miss you despite having seen you earlier this afternoon before you went to the airport. Your mother misses you as well, although just at the moment she’s a bit busy with Mrs. Vanilla. I just wanted to warn you to keep your eyes peeled for that besom in a cherry red dress.”
“Besom?” I tried to dredge through my mental dictionary. Mom Two, aka Alice Hill, my mother’s partner for longer than I’d been alive, had once been a headmistress at some posh girls’ school and frequently used words that most people didn’t recognize. “A woman? Wait, you’re not still talking about that woman who you claimed was chasing me at the shrink’s office yesterday, are you? Because I thought we worked that out.”
“We didn’t work it out. We simply decided that since we lost the besom in the mad dash from the psychologist’s office—which, really, was a complete waste of time since Dr. Gently couldn’t cure you of that wild notion you have that you died and went to heaven and came back to earth—we decided that we’d just stop talking about it, which would placate you. Your mother felt strongly that your last day with us should be a happy one. It was a happy one, wasn’t it?”
“Very happy,” I said, my brain a bit of a whirl with the conversation. Mom Two, when she really got going on a subject, could talk circles around you to the point where you didn’t know which of the many conversational tidbits to follow. I decided to go with the most obvious one. “And I’m not crazy. I did die. I did wake up to find myself in Anwyn, which incidentally isn’t heaven. It’s just an afterlife, like the ones you Wiccans go to when you die.”
“Nothing is like Summerland,” Mom Two said complacently, then evidently clapped a hand over the bottom of her phone for a few seconds, if the muffled voice was anything to go by. “Not even the Welsh version of the afterlife. Especially since your mother tells me that there are all sorts of legends tied up with Anwyn. But we will discuss that another day. I must dash, Gwen. Your mother sends her love. Mrs. Vanilla would most likely send her regards as well, but she doesn’t speak. We just wished to remind you to be on guard. Do not talk to any women with short dark hair and red wool suits! Shun them, Gwen. Shun them with all the power of your shunningness!”
Mom Two was also prone to making up words where they didn’t exist. “Who’s Mrs. Vanilla?” I asked, a faint sense of unease tingeing my amusement with the conversation. I adored both of my mothers, even though they were sometimes scatty when it came to focusing on the here and now, but as a rule, Mom Two was the more reliable when it came to making sense out of confusion.
“She’s our student.”
“Wait . . . I thought you guys were taking the entire summer off from classes so that you could focus on renewing your bond to the craft.” Wiccans varied widely in their beliefs, but most found it necessary periodically to recharge their spiritual batteries through some communing with nature, study, and bonding with fellow Wiccans.
“The Lambfreckle School for Womyn’s Magyck is closed until the Autumnal Equinox,” Mom Two said primly.
I winced at the name of their school, just as I did every time I heard it. “One of these days J. K. Rowling is going to hear about you—”
“There is nothing wrong with the name of our school!” Mom Two protested, then put her hand over the phone again. “I must go, Gwen. Have a safe journey, and blessings go with you. Stay away from red-suited women!”
The phone clicked and slowly I lowered it from my ear, wondering why I had a growing sense of unease. Why did they have a student with them if they had closed the school for the summer? Why didn’t my mother get on the phone to say good-bye one last time? It wasn’t like her to at least not yell something while Mom Two was talking to me. And was some woman really following me, as they said? If so, why? The moms had never given me an answer to that question. I had a faint idea that perhaps this mysterious woman might be an attempt by them to distract me from something that they didn’t want me to know.
I started to put my phone away, shook my head at my fancies, and despit
e that, typed out a message for my mother. Who is Mrs. Vanilla?
Who, dear? came the answering text.
Mrs. Vanilla. Mom Two says you have a student with you named Mrs. Vanilla.
Yes. She is our student. Don’t worry. She wanted to come with us.
“Oh, like that’s not going to make me worried as hell,” I muttered as soon as the text appeared on my phone’s screen. I thought briefly of calling my mother, but I had a nasty suspicion she would not answer the phone. She tended to shy away from confrontation if she could help it, leaving Mom Two to do the dirty work.
Where are you? Why would I worry about you having a student? What is going on?
There may be a bit of a fuss, but don’t pay it any mind, my mother texted back. Fear started to grow in the pit of my stomach. What the hell were they up to now? Disregard any mention of kidnapping. She wanted us to save her. It was the only thing we could do.
And that pushed me over the edge. I dialed my mother’s cell number, sure that she wasn’t going to answer, and was more than a little surprised when her breathless voice said almost immediately, “Gwenny, I just told you not to worry, didn’t I? And now here you are worrying. Don’t deny it. I can tell you are. Turn right, dear. No, the other right!”
I looked wildly to my right (and left, because long acquaintance with my mother had taught me that she had difficulty telling directions). “What? Why should I turn right?”
“Not you, dear. That was for Alice. Oh, my. No, no, dear, don’t get onto the main roads. Don’t you remember that show on the telly we saw last month?” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “They have those spiked things they lay in the road.”
Spiked things? What spiked things? What was she—? With a horrible presentiment, I suddenly knew. They were on the run from the police.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked, my voice rising loudly at the end of the sentence, enough that everyone around me stared. I turned in my plastic seat so that I half faced the wall behind me, dipping my head down so I could speak sternly, but more quietly, into my phone. “Mother, are you, at this moment, running from the police?”