Hourglass, Page 1Myra Mcentire
We bring stories to life
First published by Egmont USA, 2011
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806
New York, NY 10016
Copyright © Myra McEntire, 2011
All rights reserved
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hourglass / Myra McEntire.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Emerson uses her power to manipulate time to help Michael, a consultant hired by her brother, to prevent a murder that happened six months ago while simultaneously navigating their undeniable attraction to one another.
ISBN 978-1-60684-144-0 (hardcover) — ISBN 978-1-60684-254-6 (e-book) [1. Psychic ability—Fiction. 2. Space and time—Fiction.
3. Murder—Fiction. 4. Brothers and sisters—Fiction. 5. Orphans—Fiction. 6. Science fiction.
7. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.
For being my best friend and helping me throw strikes.
And to Andrew and Charlie,
Never be afraid to chase your dreams, because they really can come true.
What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
My small Southern hometown is beautiful in the haunting way an aging debutante is beautiful. The bones are exquisite, but the skin could use a lift. You could say my brother, the architect, is Ivy Springs’s plastic surgeon.
I shuffled through a relentless late-summer downpour toward one of his renovation projects … our home. I couldn’t care less about the weather. I was in no hurry. My brother might know what to do with feng shui and flying buttresses and other architectural things, but with me? He had no clue.
Before I’d escaped to take out my frustrations on a treadmill, Thomas and I had argued about my upcoming senior year. I didn’t think attending school was necessary. He, being a traditionalist, disagreed.
I reached our building only to find a wide-eyed Southern belle wearing a Civil War–era dress blocking the front door. A silk parasol and a full hoopskirt completed her ensemble. I wore something like it to a costume party once, but hers was an original. Frustration was back, and now it was in my way.
In the form of freaking Scarlett O’Hara.
Sighing, I stuck my hand through her stomach to turn the knob, meeting no resistance. I rolled my eyes as she gasped, fluttered her eyelashes, and disappeared in a puff of air.
“You know, Scarlett, Rhett didn’t give a damn, and frankly, I don’t either.”
A loud crack of thunder sounded as the wind slammed the door shut behind me. I trudged up the stairs and made my grand entrance into our loft—actually a “warehouse to loft apartment conversion”—with my long hair plastered to my face and my pink raincoat dripping water. I found my brother at the kitchen table, a set of massive floor plans spread out in front of him.
“Emerson.” Thomas looked up to greet me, folding the plans in half and then unfolding them again. His hopeful smile was the twin of my own—three years’ worth of first-rate orthodontia— except I wasn’t smiling back today. “I’m glad you’re home.”
That made one of us.
“I thought I might have to hitch a ride on the ark.” Not mentioning my encounter downstairs with Miss O’Hara, I shook the rain from my coat, causing him to wince as a puddle formed on the floor beneath me. He probably had an umbrella stashed somewhere that color coordinated with his outfit. Thomas the Boy Scout, perpetually prepared. That part of our family’s gene pool missed me altogether.
We shared the same blond hair and moss-green eyes, but Thomas inherited our father’s square jawline while my face was heart-shaped like our mother’s. He was also blessed with Daddy’s height. I got shorted in that department. In a major way.
Thomas smoothed out his floor plans a few more times than necessary, hedging. “I’m sorry about our … disagreement earlier.”
“It’s fine. It’s not like I have another option.” I looked at the floor instead of at him. “I can either go back to school or let a truancy officer haul me to juvy.”
“Em … we could try new medication. Maybe it would make going back easier?”
“No new meds.” Actually, no meds at all. Not that he knew that. The guilt of keeping such a secret almost forced a confession from me. It was on the tip of my tongue, so I opened the fridge to grab a bottle of water and hide my face. “I’ll be fine.”
“At least you have Lily.”
Lily was the only childhood friend I had who still talked to me, and possibly the only good thing about coming back from the boarding school where I’d spent my sophomore and junior years. The official line was that my scholarship for senior year had been cut due to “dwindling alumni donations,” but I wondered if maybe they’d just run out of charity for girls with dead parents who occasionally hallucinated and made their classmates uncomfortable. I had money for incidentals from the small trust fund my parents left, but not enough to cover my last year of school. Thomas offered to pay for my senior year so I could stay in Sedona, but I declined. Often and loudly. I would live with him because he was my legal guardian, but I wouldn’t accept his money outright.
Back to Tennessee it was. Surely I could survive anything for a year, even public high school.
“I had something else to talk to you about.” Thomas flattened the plans again. I kept expecting the ink to rub off the paper. “We … We have a new contact. A consultant who says he can help.”
Every few months or so Thomas heard a rumor about someone who could help me. So far, they had all been freaks or flakes. I slammed my water bottle down on the counter, crossed my arms over my chest, and leveled a
glare at him. “Another one?”
“It’s different this time.”
“It was different last time.”
Thomas tried again. “This guy—”
“Has a third eye you can visibly see?”
“I don’t have a lot of faith in your contacts,” I countered, crossing my arms more tightly, as if I could protect myself from the onslaught of unwanted “help.” “I swear, you must get their names from the popup ads on the paranormal sites you search all the time.”
“I only did that … twice.” He tried not to grin. He failed.
“Where did you find this one?” It was hard to stay mad when he was trying so hard to help. “Fresh from rehab?”
“He works for a place called the Hourglass. The founder was part of the parapsychology department at Bennett University in Memphis.”
“The department that was shut down because no one would fund it? Stupendous.”
“How did you know about that?” Thomas asked in surprise.
I gave him a look that loosely translated as: I’m a teenager. I know how to work a search engine.
“The Hourglass is a very reputable place, I promise. My contact—”
“Okay, okay … if I say I’ll meet him, can we stop talking about it?” I asked, holding up my hands in mock surrender. Thomas knew he would win. He always did.
“Thanks, Em. I only do it because I love you.” His expression turned serious. “I really do.”
“I know.” He really did. And regardless of any disagreement, I loved him, too. Eager to avoid any displays of emotion, I looked around for my sister-in-law. “Where’s the wife?”
Thomas and Dru were a renovation dream team—interlocking pieces of a puzzle—their skills complementing each other perfectly. I once watched Dru take a sledgehammer to a wall to help speed up work on a job site. When she finished, her manicure was still intact.
“At the restaurant with the new chef. He wanted her opinion on which wines to serve tonight.”
“She would know.” Her taste was impeccable. Thomas’s cell phone started chirping. Seeing my chance at escape, I threw my empty water bottle into the recycling bin. “Getting late. Need a shower.”
As the door swung shut behind me, I inhaled the scent of new paint. Dru had recently refinished the walls in the front room with a deep red Venetian plaster. Cozy leather couches with silk-covered pillows in sepia tones complemented hardwood floors. One wall was nothing but plate-glass windows; another was lined with bookshelves holding leather tomes and ragged paperbacks. I ran my fingers across their spines, itching to grab one and settle in. Not tonight. Thomas and Dru had renovated the old phone company into a chichi restaurant that they actually decided to keep and operate instead of selling to an investor. The big opening was in a few hours. My attendance had been requested, sort of as a reintroduction to town society.
My brother had a gift for making broken things shine. I was pretty sure he was hoping that tonight his magic would work on me.
Losing our parents four years ago threw us together, even though Thomas and I hadn’t been close when I was growing up. I was a surprise baby, and there were almost two decades between us. He hadn’t exactly been ready to raise his younger sister, and I’d done my best to keep my particular brand of crazy out of his life. Receiving that scholarship had been an answer to a prayer. I wanted to get away from my hometown, all its memories, and Thomas’s renovation sites. I didn’t like the position I was in, now that my scholarship had evaporated.
Mainly because of “my problem.”
The unfamiliar voice threw me off balance. I spun around to see a man standing by the wall of windows, looking unreasonably at home and completely out of place at the same time. Exceptionally handsome, tall, and slim, he was dressed in a black suit. A lock of hair the color of wheat fell over one eyebrow but didn’t mask the elegant features of his face. Slipping a silver pocket watch attached to his vest into his pants pocket, he clasped his hands behind his back.
“Can I help you?” I tried to keep the sound of apprehension from my voice but couldn’t. He hadn’t been there a second ago.
“My name is Jack.” He made no attempt to move toward me but stood still, his bright blue eyes assessing me. I shivered. He was giving my goose bumps a field day. I sure hoped this wasn’t the new contact Thomas was talking about. He was a little creeptastic for my taste.
“Are you here to see my brother?”
“No, I don’t know your brother.” A slight smile lifted the corners of his mouth, causing my heart to skip a beat. “Actually, I’m here to see you, Emerson.”
The pocket watch and the suit could be from another generation. His hairstyle didn’t fall into any specific era. Maybe this guy was one of my hallucinations, but if so …
How did he know my name?
Thomas!” I yelled, before anxiety choked off my air supply.
I turned my head toward the sound of a chair clattering to the floor in the kitchen. It seemed to go on forever. When I looked back at the windows, Jack was gone. Thomas flew into the room, skidding to a stop beside me.
“Why, why, why?” I asked, slumping back against the side of the bookcase, hitting my head against it with each question. “Why do you have to keep renovating buildings? Why can’t you just put up a new one?”
Thomas’s mouth dropped open in shock. “It happened? Here?”
He was asking about my problem with those who were … no longer living.
Not dead, exactly. I hadn’t quite figured out what the things I saw were; I knew only that I’d never heard a ghost story that involved the ghosts popping like balloons and dissolving if someone touched them. I’d started seeing them when I was thirteen, just before my parents died. Thomas had been renovating an old glass company, turning it into office spaces.
My first time on the job site I’d had a lovely conversation with an older man wearing a hard hat. He smelled of tobacco and sweat. His nose sat slightly off center, the veins decorating the bulbous end indicating he liked his brewski. He was pleasant enough, even offered to share his dinner. I declined, but he insisted I have a taste of the icebox pie his wife had included in his well-used lunch pail.
That was when things got tricky. As he tried to place the food in my hand, I realized he wasn’t solid. He came to the same conclusion, dropping the pie and pail, screaming like a woman who forgot to take her panties off the clothesline before the preacher came to call. Then he disappeared. Poof.
Welcome to insanity. He was followed by a long string of people—dead people—who showed up in the strangest of places and disappeared only when I touched them. From my restroom stall at Denny’s to the dressing room at Macy’s, I never got used to it.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into living here. I should have known nowhere this old was safe. And this guy knew my name.”
That had never happened before.
Thomas visibly tensed. “He knew your name?”
I nodded, closing my eyes. Jack had also said he was here to see me. Thomas didn’t need to know that part.
“Em, I thought it stopped.”
My boarding school had been in Sedona, Arizona. Pioneers didn’t roll up on the town until the turn of the century, so it wasn’t real hard to tell the difference between an ancient Yavapai potter and, say, my gym teacher.
I had thought things were better, but now I wasn’t so sure. Unless their clothing was obviously from a different time period, I couldn’t always tell if people were part of the here and now or that window from the past. I had become a historical fashion guru, not because I loved clothes but because being able to identify attire from different decades was helpful. Women were easier to nail down, but with the exception of the butterfly collars and blue tuxedos of the 1970s, classic menswear spanned generations and posed a bigger problem.
I avoided any theme parks or museums where the employees dressed true to period. C
omplete nightmare. I also spent a lot of time trying not to touch people. Unless they happened to be wearing a hoopskirt. And they were standing in my way.
“It did stop. I thought it did,” I said.
At least until I flushed my meds.
My brother had walked a hard road with me. Keeping the grief locked away inside—both from losing my parents and the insanity of seeing people who weren’t really there—hadn’t been a good mental health choice. Hospitalization followed by a strong cocktail of medications to stop the “hallucinations” worked for a while. But last winter, tired of living in a zombielike fog, I took the plunge and weaned myself from the pharmaceuticals without telling anyone.
The visions slowly returned. Em the Zombie Girl was gone, but Em the Potentially Psychotic Girl wasn’t working out so well either. Now I was back to wondering if the people I spoke to on the street were real.
“I’m sorry, Em.”
I looked up at Thomas. “You have no reason to apologize.”
“I am the one who bought the building.” His eyebrows were puckered so close together it looked like a caterpillar was inching across his forehead.
“Well, hells bells, by all means change your occupation to coddle your freakish little sister.” I pushed myself away from the bookcase. “Like I haven’t caused enough trouble in your life already.”
“Don’t say that. You’re still going to come to the restaurant opening, aren’t you?” Thomas asked, anxiety evident in his expression. “Bring Lily.”
Since my feelings of guilt were already on the surface, it didn’t take much for Thomas to swing the decision to his advantage.
“We’ll be there.”
To avoid any more accidental freakiness, I went to Lily’s to get ready.
Most of the people I had grown up with avoided me like a cold sore. It all stemmed from the one key public event that got me committed. Long story short, I had a loud argument with a guy in the cafeteria at school about how rude he was to take my seat when I’d only left it to get a fork. I then proceeded to threaten to poke him with said fork.
No one else saw him.
In case the straight-up screaming argument with thin air wasn’t enough to convince the lunch crowd I’d gone over the edge, the hysterical laughing that followed did. It turned to blubbering when Lily wrapped her arm around my waist and hurried me to the bathroom.