The Girl Who Stepped Into The Past
by Sophie Barnes
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Genres: Adult, Time-Travel, Murder Mystery, Romance
James Sullivan, Earl of Camden, is convinced Jane had something to do with his sister’s murder. Until he learns she lacked the ability to accomplish the feat. Still, her explanation about stopping by his home in the middle of a rainstorm to seek employment, doesn’t add up. And yet, when he offers her the position she supposedly seeks, he discovers the smart resourceful woman she is. Which makes him wonder if marrying his new maid, might be worth the risk of scandal.
Hastening down the steps to the gravel path below, Jane ignored the gathering clouds now obscuring the sun and the increasing chill in the air. Instead, she all but ran toward the man-made ruin, not halting until she was able to reach out and touch one of the fallen columns. She snapped another picture and admired the work. It would have provided the Summervale residents and their guests with a very romantic destination for their afternoon walks. Perhaps the earl had taken a young lady here to declare his feelings for her? Jane knew he’d never married, and yet she could not help but wonder.
Her chest tightened in a puzzling way she could not explain. Recognizing the feeling, the surge of envy that clawed its way through her, she cast the thought aside. What on earth was wrong with her? What reasonable woman would feel any jealousy for a potentially fictitious girl who’d lived in a different century than herself?
Shaking her head, Jane started back toward the manor. Her breakup with Geoffrey had obviously affected her more than she’d thought. Because here she was, visiting an English manor and falling for a man from a bygone age – a man she didn’t even know anything about.
A drop of water fell on her hand, then another as she turned to snap some more photos of the folly, and another still as she put her phone back in her purse. Before she knew it, the clouds were spitting with increased fury until they suddenly split apart, drenching her in seconds.
Where on earth was the sunny sky from an hour ago? It seemed unfathomable for a climate to change this drastically in such short time, but apparently it had, so rather than ponder the impossibility of it, Jane started to run. Her flats hit the gravel, crunching it beneath her feet as she darted straight for the terrace. It was going to be a long walk back to the village if this rain persisted, but perhaps the manor had a cafeteria where she could stop for a hot cup of tea until it passed.
She was almost at the steps, water streaking over her head, when a crack of lightning tore through the air, the silver-blue glow spearing the ground before her. Gasping, Jane came to a halt. Then a bellowing rumble descended upon her. It was followed by a thunderous roar that propelled her forward once more and with such great haste that the tip of her shoe caught the edge of the step and she tripped. Another flare of lightning lit the sky and flickered across the terrace as Jane went down, dropping her purse in order to break her fall with her hands. And then the world exploded with light, and Jane bent her head to brace herself against the thrashing wind.
The stone slabs were cold and wet beneath her palms, and her knee ached in response to the hard landing it had endured. With droplets of water sliding rapidly over her face, Jane waited until the storm had eased a little, then rose and bent to pick up her purse. But it was gone. She blinked, searching the steps but finding nothing. Perhaps it had fallen into one of the flowerbeds? She started to go and look when lightning zigzagged its way through the air before her, and she hastily turned away with a new thought in mind. She would seek shelter first and look for her purse later. Because if there was one thing she didn’t plan on doing, it was getting struck by lighting and dying on the steps of Summervale House.
So she started back up the steps with the skirt of her dress tangling around her legs, impeding her progress. Darkness descended once more, resembling night rather than day and obstructing Jane’s vision. Still, she continued forward, so eager to get inside that she almost tripped once again, this time over the body blocking her path.
With a jolt, her heart slammed against her chest. A chill pricked her skin. Dear God. Was that..? She swallowed hard, rain streaking over her hair and shoulders as she stared down at the twisted limbs. The glow of occasional lightning eerily highlighted details: an expensive gown draped over a female form, long hair spread out on the shimmering granite slabs, a face Jane had seen only a short while earlier.
It can’t be.
And yet, she recognized Lady Tatiana’s appearance immediately, the blood pooling close to her neck as real as the wetness numbing Jane’s bones. Shouts sounded from inside the manor. They were followed by the thud of footsteps approaching at a rapid run. The French doors flew open and several people appeared. Jane stared, her attention now fixed on the man who marched toward her. His face conveyed his fury, the rage he would no doubt unleash upon her at any second. It bore no semblance at all to the charming expression conveyed in his portrait.
Although her mind struggled to accept the reality of it, Jane knew who he was in an instant. Not an actor, but the actual Earl of Camden himself, in all his aristocratic glory.
“I will have you hanged for this,” he snarled while glaring down at her upturned face.
Jane flinched. “What?” She’d been so dazed by the strangeness of the situation in which she found herself, her mind attempting to comprehend it – to logically explain it – she’d forgotten about Tatiana and how her own presence would likely be construed.
“Who are you?” Camden demanded while two other people remained a few steps behind him. His hands gripped Jane’s arms, shaking her slightly as if to force her to speak. And yet, in spite of his obvious hatred toward her in that precise moment, she could not help but appreciate his strength. Which was probably the most useless thing for her to be thinking about at the moment.
“I’m…” Jane stared at him through the falling rain. This wasn’t possible. It simply wasn’t. And yet the evidence was in Tatiana’s lifeless body, the blood, and the very real earl who addressed her. “What date is it?”
Camden’s brow knit with obvious frustration. “Are you mad?” She shook her head and his grip on her tightened. Turning, he addressed one of the men behind him. “Take her to my study, Hendricks. Keep an eye on her until I arrive.”
Without further ado, Jane was handed over and led away. If she had indeed been transported back to 1818, she dared not think of what might be in store for her. Tatiana’s murder had never been solved, the villain never found, yet Jane was now the prime suspect, and she had no idea how she was going to change that without convincing everyone here that she belonged in Bedlam.