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Twice Upon a Time

Olivia Cunning

  Twice Upon a Time

  Lovers' Leap 2


  Olivia Cunning

  Copyright 2011 Olivia Cunning

  Smashwords Edition

  All rights reserved.

  Books Currently Available by Olivia Cunning

  Sinners on Tour Series

  Backstage Pass – Sinners on Tour #1

  Rock Hard – Sinners on Tour #2

  Lovers’ Leap Series

  Loving on Borrowed Time – Lovers’ Leap #1

  Twice Upon a Time – Lovers’ Leap #2


  360 days in the future…

  Lara took Reece’s hand in hers and gazed up at him, hoping he’d see reason. He had that look of discovery in his striking hazel eyes: passion, awe, anticipation, excitement. She had her work cut out for her here, but she had to convince him that what he proposed was dangerous. Potentially disastrous.

  “You can’t risk using it, Reece. You have no idea what the consequences will be.” Reece ran the fingers of his free hand over the cookie-sized disc of stone on Lara’s desk. He watched his fingers glide over the hieroglyphics carved into the sand-colored surface in concentric circles. He sometimes looked at Lara like that when he touched her—as if she was the greatest treasure on Earth—but at the moment, her treasure-hunting fiancé only had eyes for the ancient Egyptian artifact beneath his strong and attentive fingertips. The amulet didn’t look impressive. The carvings were worn and at some point in its long history the flat stone had been broken in half. One half of the disc had a hole through it and was attached to a leather cord which was many centuries newer than the original artifact.

  Using her knowledge of hieroglyphics and some reference books kept by the museum where she worked, Lara had just finished translating the symbols carved into both pieces of the stone disc. As Reece had suspected, the artifact could be used to jump through time. Or so it claimed. Lara wasn’t sure if she believed any of that magic mumbo jumbo. From what Lara could garner from the symbols, a person who leapt through time using this strange piece of jewelry gave up his or her body and shared an existence with a person of that time. That wasn’t what had Lara concerned. She would love to try that out herself. Not to just see the past or study it in action, but to actually live through history through the eyes of a contemporary. Amazing. The more she thought about it, the more tempted she became. She would have been onboard with Reece’s desire to try the amulet’s power if not for the warning message inscribed at the end of the incantation. Something had to be sacrificed to get the thing to work and ancient sacrifices didn’t usually entail throwing twenty bucks in a col ection plate.

  Since the body was given up when leaping into the past, Lara would put her money on the sacrifice being the time-traveler giving up his body permanently. Lara was rather attached to her fiancé’s body and the rest of him for that matter. She didn’t know what she’d do with herself if he died. As far as she was concerned, using the amulet wasn’t worth the risk, no matter how seductive its power was.

  “You know ancient civilizations put that kind of warning on everything,” Reece said.

  “Mostly to scare people. I’m sure it’s safe. If it even works, which seems doubtful.” She tugged his hand and he tore his gaze from the amulet to look at her. His hazel eyes shifted back to the amulet for a brief instant before finally fixing on hers. “Reece, please listen to me. I think that warning means you will die if you use it. Promise me you won’t try it.”

  “I could just try it once. For a few minutes. To see if it works.” Lara touched his face and stood on tiptoes to brush her lips against his. “Promise me you won’t try it,” she repeated. She kissed him again. This time he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back. A familiar heat and longing swirled through her body encouraged by Reece’s seeking tongue. At least she had his attention now and he definitely had hers.

  “Are you two at it again?” a deep voice said behind Reece.

  Lara reluctantly pulled away from Reece and offered his partner, Carl, a smile of greeting. “Hey, Carl.”

  “So were you able to work out the hieroglyphics?” Carl asked, coming to stand beside the desk so that he could stare down at the artifact. Carl stood well over six-foot tall and was built like a truck. Blond-hair. Blue-eyes. He always unsettled Lara. She wasn’t sure what it was about him, but she never felt entirely safe around him and on the few occasions that she’d been alone with him, she’d wanted to flee. He’d never threatened her or been anything to her but courteous, so that feeling of unease baffled her. Reece had known him for years. They’d grown up together. Maybe she was just jealous of his relationship with Reece. Reece never shared much about his past with her. He seemed to think it would lower her opinion of him. He couldn’t seem to get it through his skull that she loved him unconditional y.

  “Not yet,” Reece said.

  Lara’s brow crinkled. Why would Reece lie to his partner? Carl had half-ownership of the amulet. Perhaps there was a basis for Lara’s continued uneasiness around the man.

  “Can you tell what it does?” Carl asked Lara.

  She opened her mouth to speak, but Reece interrupted. “Nope. We think it’s just an ugly piece of jewelry.”

  “Really ugly,” Carl said. He picked up a piece of paper next to the amulet where Lara had written down a translated incantation. She and Reece had decided the incantation was what activated the amulet, but neither of them had attempted to read it aloud. Yet. Carl held no such qualms. He read from the page and muttered the words under his breath, but as he had no knowledge of ancient Egyptian, he pronounced most of it wrong. Lara held her breath as he stumbled over the syllables. She stared down at the amulet with her heart in her throat waiting for the swath of death and destruction she feared.

  Nothing happened.

  “What’s this?” Carl asked and ruffled the paper in his hand.

  “Some nonsense,” Reece said. “It doesn’t mean anything. That’s why we think the symbols are just there for show. To make an ugly piece of jewelry a little more interesting.”

  “Well, that’s a shame,” Carl said. “I thought we might actually be on to something big this time.”

  “I guess not,” Reece said. “We might as well head out on another expedition. How about Central America this time? You’ve always wanted to go fight big bugs in the jungles.”

  Carl smiled. “I’m onboard for that. Maybe we’ll find a horde of gold artifacts.”

  “Yeah, this stone sure isn’t worth what we went through to get it,” Reece said.

  Carl’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Seems strange that a worthless piece of stone jewelry was protected by so many traps and hidden so well in that tomb.” Reece shrugged. “Because the leather cord is much newer, I’m guessing that someone else found the real treasure years ago replaced it with this piece of junk.” Carl nodded slightly. “That makes sense.” He pounded Reece on the back. “We’l find something spectacular on this next expedition. I’ll start prepping right away.”

  “Looking forward to it.” Reece clasped wrists with Carl. He then turned and wrapped both arms around Lara. “Now where were we?” he murmured.

  Reece kissed her and everything but him seemed to disappear. Lara melted against the love of her life, al owing him to turn her knees to jel y and make her heart pound with excitement.

  “I’ll just leave you two alone then,” Carl said.

  When his footsteps had receded from the room, Reece released Lara immediately and scooped the broken amulet and the inscription from her desk. He stuffed both into his pocket.

  “I thought you were going to let the museum keep that piece,” she said.

  “I wouldn’t want to risk someone getting their hands on it,” he sa

  She crossed her arms over her chest and lifted an eyebrow at him. “Yeah, it’s a lot safer in your pocket than it would be in a locked case inside a high security museum.”

  “Since no one knows it exists besides me, you and Carl, it actually is safer in my pocket.” He pecked her on the cheek. “I have some stuff to do to get ready for the next expedition. I’l see you tonight though, okay?”

  “Do I get a massage?” she asked, her flesh already begging for his touch.

  He grinned at her crookedly with promise in his gaze. “That and so much more.”

  “I like the sound of that.” She kissed him gently. “I love you.”

  “I love you, too.” He turned to leave and strode toward the door. Lara’s gaze feasted on the perfection of his backside, which was almost as spectacular as his front.

  “Don’t forget that you promised not to try the amulet,” she called after him.

  He paused on the threshold. “I said I wouldn’t. Don’t you trust me?”

  “Yeah.” Even though she’d just witnessed how easily Reece could lie to Carl, she did trust him, because she loved him. But it hadn’t always been that way.

  As Reece took the stairs to the ground floor of the museum, he slipped his hand into the pocket of his cargo pants and gripped the broken amulet. He’d promised Lara he wouldn’t use it. He’d promised Lara. Promised. Six months ago that promise would have meant nothing, but her love had made him a better man and he had no intention of breaking his promise to her. Even though the object in his hand could make his dreams a reality.

  He shook his head at the turn in his thoughts. The only dream that mattered to him was Lara Kensington and he wasn’t going to fuck that up by going back on his word.

  “Central America?” Carl said from the shadows near the bottom of the stairs. “You hate jungles, Reece.”

  Reece hid his nervousness with a smile. “I hate deserts, too. Do you think there are any good relics in Tahiti?”

  Carl grabbed Reece by both arms and pul ed him into a dark corner behind the stairs. Reece’s attempts to distract him had apparently failed.

  “Cut the bul shit, Reece. What’s special about the amulet?” Reece shook his head unconcernedly. Carl intimidated most people, but he didn’t intimidate Reece. Reece knew him too well to be scared of him. He also knew him well enough to know what drove him. It wasn’t to save the world. Carl had a singular self-appreciating agenda. Reece had once been that way—that’s why his partnership with Carl had been such a success—but now that Reece had Lara in his life, he knew there were more important things than fame and fortune. Carl hadn’t discovered that yet.

  That’s why Reece had decided to hide the amulet’s power from him. While Reece might be able to deny the allure of using the amulet, he knew Carl wouldn’t hesitate to use it at any cost.

  “Not a thing. I told Lara she could put it in one of her displays in the museum. She offered me a pretty good price for it.”

  “Is that why it’s in your pocket?”

  Reece’s heart skipped a beat. “Carl…”

  Carl had that eager look on his face. The one he’d sported in his youth, but had been taken from him by a hard life. “What does it do, Reece? Can it travel through time like you thought?”

  “Would I be standing here if it could travel through time?”

  “Yeah,” Carl said, “because you handed your balls to Lara the day you asked her to marry you.”

  Reece scowled and shoved Carl aside. “If I wanted to try it, I would. I don’t want to.

  It’s dangerous.” Perhaps he had misplaced his balls. He sure wouldn’t have been worried about danger six months ago.

  Carl grinned. “If you’re afraid, give it to me and I’l try it. Just tell me what to do.”

  “I’m not afraid. Something bad will happen if we activate it. It requires a sacrifice.”

  “So we throw a goat into a volcano. Problem solved.” Carl’s eyes lit up with wonder.

  “How does it work?”

  Reece pul ed the amulet from his pocket, holding the two halves together in his palm. Carl stared down at it, his tongue running over his upper lip repeatedly. It seemed a shame to toss this opportunity aside when they’d finally discovered something that might truly be remarkable. He and Carl had travelled the globe raiding tombs for almost a decade. They’d unearthed plenty of artifacts and treasures, but nothing like this.

  Reece glanced up the stairwell towards Lara’s office. Even though he wanted to, he’d promised her that he wouldn’t use it, and he would keep that promise.

  “It doesn’t work,” Reece lied in a last ditch effort to dissuade his partner. “We tried it and nothing happened.”

  “You tried it without me?”

  “Yeah. It’s junk. Like I said.”

  “I don’t believe you, Reece. I can tell when you’re lying to me.” Carl wrapped both hands around Reece’s, trapping the amulet within their combined hands. “Say the incantation, Reece. I know you know it by heart already.” He did, but he wasn’t going to say it. “Let it go, Carl. It doesn’t work.”

  “Prove it.”

  Reece could just make something up. Carl would never know. Reece spoke the first three syllables of his fabricated incantation and the amulet in his palm began to hum.

  Carl’s pale blue eyes widened and he gasped with excitement. “It does work. I knew it.”

  Reece’s heart pounded. He spoke several additional syllables of the incantation as if someone else was controlling his mouth. He wasn’t sure if he were saying the real words that Lara had deciphered or making up his own, but they tumbled from his lips in rapid succession. A brilliant white light filled their hands, bursting from between their fingers. They released their grip and stared down at the disk. Yellow sparks crackled between the two broken edges of the amulet. The brilliant light faded along the stone’s surface except for a series of symbols along one edge which glowed white in rhythmic pulses. Reece’s heart sank when he realized the glowing symbols were the request for a worthy sacrifice. A thick black mist rose up from the disc and faded out of existence.

  An instant later, the glowing symbols requesting a sacrifice flickered and changed into different symbols. Reece wasn’t an expert like Lara, but he knew enough hieroglyphics to understand their meaning.

  “What does it say?” Carl asked.

  “The world is yours.”

  “So,” Carl said, the excitement in his expression matching that in Reece’s chest,

  “when would you like to go first?”

  Lara exited the elevator of the parking garage and hurried toward her car. Her thoughts were in chaos. Why had Reece taken the amulet with him? Did he mean to use it? Would he break his promise to her? Why else would he have put it in his pocket instead of leaving it at the museum?

  She paused a few feet away from her car and listened. A presence lurked behind her. She reached into her purse for her can of pepper spray and turned slowly. Before she could even ask if someone was there, an inky shadow materialized in a swirl of thick fog. “Its power may only be released by someone who can offer a great sacrifice.” Lara didn’t actually hear the raspy words. They echoed in her mind in an obscure language that she somehow understood. Long arms extended from the shadow and col ided with her chest. Lara felt the warmth drain from her body instantly and watched a brilliant light burst from her chest before it was extinguished within the shadow. The cloaked apparition backed away and Lara crumpled, dead before she hit the ground.

  In our last volume, Loving on Borrowed Time, Reece goes back in time to try to save Lara from her untimely death. Using the amulet, he arrives one year before Lara’s unintentional sacrifice and convinces her that she is in grave danger. He tells her that in the future he found her dead in a parking garage and he has the newspaper clipping to prove it. Though this past Lara has never met Reece, something about the way he looks at her gains her trust. They use the half of the amulet still in Reece’s possession to outrun Carl, who
wants to make sure Lara stays dead. Two random leaps through time later, they are still on the run from Lara’s tragic future and find themselves in a new time and place...

  Chapter One

  Lara flopped down on the hot sand and put her head between her knees. She took several deep breaths, the desert heat searing her lungs and drawing moisture from her already dehydrated body. Maybe she was overreacting. It wasn’t Reece’s fault that the ancient Egyptian amulet had chosen a particular man as his host. Their leaps through time were random. Reece didn’t get to choose whose body he shared and neither did she. It wasn’t Reece’s fault that they’d left the cool, moist lands of medieval England to arrive in this brain-baking desert. It wasn’t Reece’s fault that someone had murdered her in the future, so they were forced to find refuge in the past. It wasn’t Reece’s fault that he was so sexy the thought of being unable to make love to him for three short (or more likely exceedingly long) days was unbearable. Actually, that was his fault. He should try to be less irresistible.

  “Lara?” Reece’s shadow blocked the glaring sun from the back of her neck. “Are you okay?”

  “Oh yeah,” Lara said. “Just fine. Give me a moment to adjust to this new body. I think this woman has the flu or something. I feel kind of queasy.” This was no flu. Lara felt queasy because her lover would be doing no loving no matter how much she wanted him. This blew.

  Lara stared at their half of the broken amulet dangling from the worn leather cord around her neck. It swayed gently in hypnotic circles. She lifted a hand and fingered the hieroglyphics carved into the artifact’s stone surface. Maybe if she repeated the words represented by those strange little symbols, the freakin’ thing would take them out of this place. Not in three days, like it usual y did, but now. Right now, damn it! There was nothing but hot sand in every direction. She had no idea where they were or when they were. She wasn’t typically a complainer, especial y when it concerned things she couldn’t control, but she had just admitted to Reece that she loved him moments before they leapt here and this had to happen. The amulet had forced Reece’s consciousness to share the worst possible body. It simply wasn’t fair.