Authors: Nichole van
because it all began with you,
my dearest and oldest friend.
And to Dave,
heart of my soul.
Love ya, babe.
he obsession began on June 12, 2008 around 11:23 a.m.
Though secretly Emme Wilde considered it more of a ‘spiritual connection’ than an actual full-blown neurosis.
Of course, her brother, Marc, her mother and a series of therapists all begged to disagree.
Thankfully her best friend, Jasmine, regularly validated the connection and considered herself to be Emme’s guide through this divinely mystical union of predestined souls (her words, not Emme’s). Marc asserted that Jasmine was not so much a guide as an incense-addled enabler (again, his words, not Emme’s). Emme was just grateful that anyone considered the whole affair normal—even if it was only Jasmine’s loose sense of ‘normal.’
Jasmine always insisted Emme come with her to estate sales, and this one outside Portland, Oregon proved no exception. Though Jasmine contended
particular estate sale would be significant for Emme, rambling on about circles colliding in the vast cosmic ocean creating necessary links between lives—blah, blah. All typical Jasmine-speak.
Emme brushed it off, assuming that Jasmine really just wanted someone to organize the trip: plan the best route to avoid traffic, find a quirky restaurant for lunch, entertain her on the long drive from Seattle.
At the estate sale, Emme roamed through the stifling tents, touching the cool wood of old furniture, the air heavy with that mix of dust, moth balls and disuse that marks aged things. Jasmine predictably disappeared into a corner piled with antique quilts, hunting yet again for that elusive log cabin design with black centers instead of the traditional red.
But Emme drifted deeper, something pulling her farther and farther into the debris of lives past and spent. To the trace of human passing, like fingerprints left in the paint of a pioneer cupboard door. Stark and clear.
Usually Emme would have stopped to listen to the stories around her, the history grad student in her analyzing each detail. Yet that day she didn’t. She just wandered, looking for something. Something specific.
If only she could remember what.
Skirting around a low settee in a back corner, Emme first saw the antique trunk. A typical mid-nineteenth century traveling chest, solid with mellow aged wood. It did not call attention to itself. But it stood apart somehow, almost as if the air were a little lighter around it.
She first opened the lid out of curiosity, expecting the trunk to be empty. Instead, she found it full. Carefully shifting old books and
, Emme found nothing of real interest.
Until she reached the bottom right corner.
There she found a small object tucked inside a brittle cotton handkerchief. Gently unwrapping the aged fabric, she pulled out an oval locket. Untouched and expectant.
Filigree covered the front, its gilt frame still bright and untarnished, as if nearly new.
Emme turned the locket over, feeling its heft in her hand, the metal cool against her palm. It hummed with an almost electric pulse. How long had the locket lain wrapped in the trunk?
Transparent crystal partially covered the back. Under the crystal, two locks of hair were woven into an intricate pattern—one bright and fair, the other a dark chocolate brown. Gilded on top of the crystal, two initials nestled together into a stylized gold symbol.
She touched the initials, trying to make them out. One was clearly an F. But she puzzled over the other for a moment, tracing the design with her eyes. And then she saw it. Emme sucked in a sharp breath. An E. The other initial was an E.
She opened the locket, hearing the small pop of the catch.
Her hands tingled.
A sizzling shock started at the back of her neck and then spread.
There are moments in life that sear into the soul. Brief glimpses of some larger force. When so many threads collapse into one. Coalesce into a single truth.
for the first time was one of those moments.
He gazed intently out from within the right side of the locket: blond, blue-eyed, chiseled with a mouth hinting at shared laughter. Emme’s historian mind quickly dated his blue-green, high collared jacket and crisp, white shirt and neckcloth to the mid-Regency era, probably around 1812, give or take a year.
Emme continued to look at the man—well, stare actually. His golden hair finger-combed and deliciously disheveled. Broad shoulders angled slightly toward the viewer. Perhaps his face a shade too long and his nose a little too sharp for true beauty. But striking. Handsome even.
Looking expectant, as if he had been waiting for her.
Emme would forever remember the jolt of it.
Surprise and recognition.
She knew him. Had known him.
Somehow, somewhere, in some place.
He felt agonizingly familiar. That phantom part of her she had never realized was lost.
The sensation wasn’t quite deja vu.
More like memory.
Like suddenly finding that vital thing you didn’t realize had been misplaced. Like coming up, gasping for air, after nearly drowning and seeing the world bright and sparkling and new.
She stood mesmerized by
until Jasmine joined her.
“Oooh, you found him.” The hushed respect in her voice was remarkable. This was Jasmine after all.
Emme nodded mutely.
“Your circles are so closely intertwined. Amazing.”
Jasmine turned the locket in Emme’s hand.
“What does this inscription say?” she asked.
Emme hadn’t noticed the engraved words on the inside left of the locket case. But now she read them. Her sudden sharp inhalation seared, painfully clenching.
The words reverberated through her soul, shattering and profound.
Emme didn’t recall much more of that day—Jasmine purchasing the locket or even the little restaurant where they ate lunch. Instead, she only remembered the endless blur of passing trees on the drive home, the inscription echoing over and over:
throughout all time
heart of my soul
Herefordshire, near the village of Marfield
April 30, 2012
mry Wilde was a disaster magnet.
She admitted it freely.
It was like she wore a t-shirt with the words “I attract acts of God” and a red bullseye. Basically, if the media coyly ended a disaster with
, Emme would find herself in the middle of it.
She planned. She prepared. Emme tried to anticipate every travel contingency. She hated the unexpected. But somehow the unexpected always found her. The universe took perverse pleasure in finding the most arbitrary calamity and thrusting her into it, front and center.
It wasn’t as if she were normal-adverse. More like adventure-prone. Highly, unanticipated adventure-prone.
All of which explained her current situation.
Powerful winds lashed her rented English cottage as rain pounded the roof. Emme gave a resigned sigh, grimacing at the water streaming down the windows. Thunder rattled the doors, shaking the ground. Outside, an oak tree creaked in the garden, branches groaning in protest. She had experienced horrific storms often enough to know that this one portended no good. It was an angry beast, growling to be let in.
It was all a terrible disappointment.
Freddie was supposed to help prevent travel disasters.
Mmmmm, no, not Freddie
. Emme did a mental hunt. Who should F be today?
Felix? . . . Francis? . . . No.
She thought further.
Yes, definitely still Finn, just like he’d been all week.
She sat in front of a roaring fire, curled up in blankets on a comfy velvet sofa, nursing a hot cup of tea in her hands, her feet warm in pink satin ballet-like slippers with wide ribbon ties and cushy soles. She wriggled her snug toes. Seriously, best packing choice ever.