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Authors: Helen Douglas

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BOOK: After Eden
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“Good morning, sleeping beauty,” said Ryan.

“Am I dreaming or am I in heaven?” I asked.

He raised one eyebrow.

“I don’t care which it is so long as you’re there.”

He gently brushed my hair back from my eyes. “You’re not dreaming. And you’re not in heaven.”

“Am I hallucinating? Did they give me morphine?”

He smiled. “No. I’m really here.”

“You can’t be. You left.”

“I came back.”

I blinked. He was still there. I touched his hand. It was warm. It felt real.

“What do you remember?” he asked, running his thumb across the back of my hand.

“Everything. Up until Travis pushed me under the water.” An image of blood, pink and foamy, fanning out around his head, filled my mind. “Where’s Travis?” I asked.

“Travis is dead,” he told me.

“In the water?”

Ryan nodded. “He was concussed and then he drowned.”

I shook my head. “That’s awful.”

“No.” Ryan’s voice was hoarse. “It’s the best thing. He would have killed you, Eden. He’s dead and you’re safe.”

He leaned over and kissed me gently on the mouth. Right on cue, the chirpy nurse came back to check my blood pressure. Ryan stood up to give her space.

“Too much excitement will raise your blood pressure,” she said, winking at me.

“Can I go home?” I asked.

“The doctor will be doing her rounds soon,” the nurse said, smiling at me. “If everything is okay, you should be free to go right after breakfast.”

I still had so many questions. How could Ryan be here? Who saved me? Where was Travis’s body?

“It’s a little high,” the nurse said, taking my reading.
She glanced at Ryan. “But nothing to worry about. Breakfast will be here in just a few minutes.”

“Is Miranda okay?” I asked once the nurse had left the room again.

“As well as can be expected.” He took my hand again.

“Does she know anything?”

Ryan shook his head. “She thinks that Travis was walking along the harbor wall, trying to take a photo of his restaurant. You were there too, helping him. Travis slipped and fell in and then you jumped in to try to rescue him, but he had hit his head on the rocks. Then I jumped in and managed to save you, but it was too late for Travis.”

“And how come you were there?”

“I told Miranda that we changed our mind and decided not to go back to America.”

“But really, how come you were there? How can you be here?”

“I came back for you.”

Breakfast arrived, putting an end to our conversation. Then the doctor. And finally Miranda.

She looked tired and drawn. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she wore no makeup.

“Thank God you’re okay,” she said. “Let’s get you home.”

“Ryan,” I said.

“Get some rest, okay?” he said.

“I don’t want any rest. I want to be with you.”

“Eden,” said Miranda wearily. “Travis is dead, and I have to try to contact his relatives. I don’t know where to start. I need you.”

I looked at Ryan. I’d said good-bye forever. I couldn’t do it again.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered in my ear. “Ever. Help Miranda. And come and see me tomorrow.”

“You promise you won’t leave?”

He nodded. “I promise.”

Chapter Eighteen

He was stripped to the waist, wearing nothing but a faded pair of blue jeans and a few splashes of white paint. Long ribbons of pink wallpaper were strewn all over the floor around him and one of the walls was painted white.

“I didn’t think I’d see you until tomorrow,” he said when he saw me standing in the doorway of the living room.

“I couldn’t wait that long.”

“You should have called!”

“Am I interrupting something?”

He shrugged. “I would have cleaned up, rather than have you see me looking like this.”

I ran my eyes over his body. “You look fine.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I’m going to take a quick shower.”

“Why are you doing this anyway?”

“If I’m going to be living here long-term, the wallpaper has to go.”

I almost allowed myself a glimmer of hope. “Define ‘long-term.’”

“The foreseeable future.” He grinned at me. “Make yourself comfortable. I won’t be long.”

* * *

Five minutes later he was back downstairs in a clean white T-shirt and fresh jeans, his hair wet.

He just looked at me. “You’re here,” he whispered.

I rolled my eyes. “My being here is not extraordinary. It’s you being here that requires an explanation. You left for the future. No going back. Good-bye forever. And then you show up in the nick of time to save the day. You’ve got some explaining to do.”

Ryan peered through the window. “It’s a beautiful evening.”

“Ryan. I don’t want a weather forecast. I want an explanation.”

“And you’re going to get one. But we don’t have much time. Come on.”

He took me by the hand and led me into the kitchen, which was beginning to look lived-in again. A small stack of dirty dishes was piled up next to the sink and a half-eaten loaf of bread stood on a wooden chopping board. Ryan opened the fridge, which was jam-packed with food. He crouched in front of it, moving things to one side until he found what he was looking for. A bottle of champagne.

“I thought you didn’t drink?” I said when he placed two champagne flutes on the table next to the bottle of champagne.

“I never said that.”

“But I never saw you drink. I saw you accept bottles of beer occasionally. But you never took a single sip.”

“I was working then. You don’t drink on the job. Not when the existence of the planet is at stake.”

“So does this mean you’re not working anymore?”

“I am definitely not working.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “You’re not back here to fulfill another mission?”

He grinned. “I have a mission. But it has absolutely nothing to do with work.”

He carried the bottle of champagne in one hand and picked up a large carton of strawberries.

“Can you carry those?” he asked, motioning toward the two champagne flutes.

Although the sun had set an hour earlier, a deep red stained the western sky, like spilled red wine.

“I replanted our tree and the time capsule,” he said, as we walked across the lawn. “It was the tree that tipped me off something was wrong.”

“How so?”

“We planted the tree because you said it would last a hundred years. When I went to the house, there was no tree. I realized it could have died or been chopped down, but it set off alarm bells when there was no sign of it ever having been there. Then I dug for our time capsule. It wasn’t there. So I looked you up, the way I said I would.”

“And?”

He reached for my hand. We walked down the gravel driveway to the lane.

“You weren’t in any of the census returns. There was no marriage certificate. No children. It was as if you had disappeared from Earth without a trace. Which is exactly what a cleaner would do. Eliminate you. Kill you and destroy the evidence.”

“Are you trying to tell me that Travis killed me?”

“Yes.”

“He killed me.” I whispered the words.

Ryan squeezed my hand. “In the first timeline. But not in this one. He’s dead.” We had reached the lane.

“Where are we going?”

“Down to the cove.”

“Why? There’s no one at the farmhouse but me and you. No adults. No Cassie. No one to interrupt us.”

“There’s no rush. We have all the time in the world.” He smiled. “Indulge me.”

I shrugged. “So how did you find out that it was Travis?”

“I went through my father’s files. We changed the future, but my father still runs Westland Travel, the only four-dimensional travel company on Earth. As one of the senior members of the Guardians of Time, he still has access to confidential files on all time missions. I accessed the files on my mission and saw his name. Travis returned to 2122 forty-eight hours after I did. His mission report said that cleanup was straightforward. One female to eliminate. It had to be you. I checked the newspapers from that time and you were reported missing.”

God. I was supposed to be dead.

“How did you get back here? You said that time travel was difficult. That almost no missions ever get approved. That fuel’s hard to come by and that traveling back to a time where you’ve been is dangerous.”

We’d reached the cove. The tide was high and the water flat and still. There was no suggestion of the storm from the
night before other than the seaweed strewn along the high-water mark. I followed Ryan across the pebbles to the rock I’d once seen him sitting on while he sketched picture after picture of me.

“I stole a ship. The one we used to get here the first time. It was supposed to be scrapped because it had sustained some damage during our portal home. I tinkered with it a bit. I got hold of some fuel.” A shadow crossed his face. “But it took months to get my hands on it. They don’t just leave these things lying around.”

“But you were only gone for a day.”

“One day in your timeline. Nine months in mine.”

“You were gone for nine months?”

He nodded. “I knew I had to get back here, but I knew there was no way an official mission would be sanctioned. My dad—the board—would have considered one life an acceptable price for the future of the planet. But it wouldn’t have been fair. You’re the one who saved the planet.” He smiled at me. “You’re the one who made a fool of herself ensuring that Connor didn’t get to look through a telescope.”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

We sat on the rock, side by side. “So I came back. To change history one last time.”

I frowned. In the last ten minutes Ryan had told me that he would be living in the farmhouse for the foreseeable future and that we didn’t have much time. Much as I didn’t want to know when he was leaving, the not knowing was worse. “When will you return to your time?”

He shrugged. “I won’t. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. There was only enough fuel for a one-way trip.”

I let that sink in for a moment. He was here forever. “You’ve given up so much for me. Your destiny. The life you’re supposed to live in the time you’re supposed to live.”

“Eden, I haven’t given up anything. My destiny might have been in the twenty-second century, but my heart was back here with you. Do you remember you once asked me if I believed in Fate?”

I nodded. “You said to ask you in a hundred years time.”

“Well, I’ve seen a hundred years later and I know the answer to that question. I don’t believe in Fate. I believe that we make our own destiny. And my destiny is with you.”

As we sat on the beach, the sky charred and blackened as the world turned away from the sun, toward the feeble light of distant stars.

“These Guardians of Time. Won’t they be able to tell that you’re here?” I asked, gripping his arm. “You said before that they looked for energy signatures.”

“Yes. But I portaled in yesterday. Just one day after we originally portaled out. With a bit of luck the energy signatures will be muddled and they won’t be able to tell.”

“And what about Travis?”

“His funeral will be in the newspaper. They’ll see that he died on the job. His wife will get his death benefits.”

“He was married?”

“Apparently.”

“What if they do come for you, Ryan?”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. But I’m not planning on getting caught.”

“But …”

Ryan put a finger on my lips. “No more worrying about what might happen. I’m here to stay. And you’re alive. I’d say we have quite a bit to celebrate.”

He pushed the champagne cork out of the bottle with a pop. I held the two glasses while Ryan let the champagne spill into them. I wondered if I would like champagne, if it would taste the way I’d imagined. Above us a million stars turned on like possibilities.

“You once told me that your perfect date would be spent drinking cold champagne and eating warm strawberries while watching the sun set over the ocean.”

I felt my heart surge.

“With someone I love,” I said.

He looked me in the eye. “I’m making assumptions here—I guess I’m hoping that you feel the same way about me as I do about you.”

“You don’t really need to ask me that, do you?”

He smiled shyly. “I’ve made quite a leap of faith.”

I clinked my glass against his. “Here’s to making our own destiny. And watching the sun set over the sea with someone you love.”

And then he kissed me and time stood still.

Copyright © 2013 by Helen Douglas

All rights reserved
You may not copy, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (including without limitation electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages

First published in Great Britain in November 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Published in the United States of America in November 2013
by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
www.bloomsbury.com

This electronic edition published in November 2013

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to
Permissions, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Douglas, Helen.
After Eden / by Helen Douglas.
pages       cm
Summary: Eden, sixteen, must choose between helping Ryan, a time-traveler, and her best friend Connor who, according to Ryan, is about to become famous through a significant scientific discovery that will ultimately ruin the world.
[1. Science fiction. 2. Time travel—Fiction. 3. Best friends—Fiction. 4. Friendship—Fiction. 5. Love—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.D7467Aft 2013         [Fic]—dc23         2013011982

eISBN: 978-1-6196-3131-1

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BOOK: After Eden
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