Read One Last Time Online

Authors: Denise Daisy

One Last Time (6 page)

BOOK: One Last Time
6.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

I pull at the overgrown grass, uprooting it and tossing it aside. I hate the fact fear controls my life. It has kept me from doing so many things. I’ve always dreamed of being fearless, of taking on an impossible task and overcoming the prison I’ve been trapped inside my entire life. It’s funny. The one time I relent and let my guard down a minute, look where I end up. But then again, maybe it’s why I am here. Maybe the life I am supposed to save is mine.

“So we have a month to do this?” I break the silence.

Quillan nods and hope blossoms on his face.

“And I go home afterward whether we succeed or not?”

He nods again, but this time there’s a hint of sadness behind his affirmation.

“I’m thinking you must have a plan of action since you’ve made it this far.”

The corners of his lips pull up in a smile, making him look pretty hot again. “I thought so. So, what’s first on the itinerary?” I claw at the million chigger bites on my legs.

“Well,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes, “we need to change clothes because we will be dining at the Faulkner Estate this evening.”

 

 

Chapter 11

 

I’ve been waiting hours for Quillan to come back from town. He left me here at the mouth of a cave, hidden deep inside the woods, while he went to buy us some clothes. I asked him how he intended to do it with no money. He proceeded to pull a wad of bills from his pocket, explaining his grandparents were collectors and accumulated quite a bit of antique money over the years. He came on this quest prepared, that’s for sure.

I wish he’d hurry. It seems he should be back by now. I couldn’t go with him because Steffi’s dress would get me arrested. He didn’t think it was a good idea for me to stay at the safe house either, which was fine with me because the place stunk to high heaven. I don’t mind the cave since it’s cool inside, best thing to air conditioning I can get. Still, I’m bored as hell and starving. I jump at the sound of snapping twigs, only to see a couple of rabbits scamper by. If I were Katniss Everdeen, I would have already fashioned myself a bow and arrow and killed those critters. Now, there’s somebody who didn’t let fear stop her from doing what needed to be done. I wish I was more like her, but unfortunately, I’m no Katniss, so I sit and wait for Quillan, not daring to venture out of my safe little spot.

My mind torments me with dire thoughts that suggest a worst-case scenario, like what if something should happen to Quillan. I’d be doomed for sure, left to live out the remainder of my life in the 1800s, struggling in a world where I know no one. My mind goes crazy with a million hypothetical situations, pushing me to tears, when the sound of his voice calls me from my fearful stupor and back to reality. I’m thrilled to see him, and I am sure it’s written all over my face because his eyes sparkle and his mouth spreads into a wide grin.
Damn it, Averie.
I scold myself for letting my guard down.

He unloads a few packages wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. He opens a burlap sack and hands me a warm loaf of bread, then sets out a jar of strawberry jam, a jar of honey, and a block of cheese wrapped in a soft cloth. My mouth waters and without thinking, I clap like a kid at Christmas. There goes my guard again. Next, he pulls out a flask. I’m wondering what his beverage of choice is. He catches my eye and grins. “Sorry, Ave, it’s clear water minus the sulfur.”

I smile at him, thankful for his kindness, yet even happier he shortened my name. I break the bread, spread strawberry jam with my finger, and then lick it clean while I watch Quillan open the packages. He pulls out a hairbrush and dangles it in the air, taunting me. I laugh while I chew. We both know my hair is a mess. “Was it the first thing you bought?” I ask with my mouth full.

“Sure was.” He winks at me, and his flirting makes my morning. He pulls out some hair ribbons and pins and lays them beside the brush. The next package he unwraps reveals silk stockings and a pair of low-heeled boots. I wince, not able to fathom sticking my sore feet inside those tiny-looking shoes. By the time he finishes unpacking his plunder, there is a dress, a pair of silk gloves, a parasol, a satin purse, some sweet-smelling perfume, a few pieces of jewelry, and clothes for him. No wonder it took so long.

I hand Quillan a piece of bread dripping with honey. “So what’s your plan? Tell me how you intend on preventing James Faulkner from hanging Lunar.”

“I don’t know,” he answers before shoving the entire piece of bread into his mouth.

What?
“What do you mean, you don’t know? I thought you had a plan.”

“I do.” He wipes honey from his lip and then sucks it off his finger. “But I don’t have all my bases covered. My plan got us back here and will get us to the Faulkner Estate this evening. The rest we’ll have to play by ear.”

I’m shaking my head in disbelief.

“What are you afraid of?” he asks me.

“Everything,” I reply with a sarcastic laugh.

“Does it include trying?”

Bam! He hit me hard with that one. “No.” I come to my own defense. “I’m not afraid to try some things. I guess it depends on what it is.”

“Then you’re afraid of risk.”

“What are you? Some kind of therapist?”

“No.” He cuts two slices off the block of cheese with his pocketknife and hands me one. “I just knew someone like you once. Not taking a risk when they should have pretty much sealed their fate.”

I nibble at my cheese before I come back with a smart-ass reply. “All I know is I took a risk last night. Now look where I am. I think taking a chance has sealed my fate.”

“I see you’re one of those glass-half-empty people then. Great, I get stuck with a pessimist to help me change the future.”

“How dare you! I’m not a pessimist. Believe me, I make the best of what life offers me. Unlike you, elitist on Mr. Brackett’s guest list, I don’t have a disposable income. I was working for the caterer, remember? You may be the wealthy grandson of a business tycoon who has nothing better to do with his spare millions than experimenting with time travel and collecting old money, but I’m not that privileged.

“I am the abandoned daughter of a plastic surgeon who cheated on my mother over and over again with his wealthy, bitchy clients. I’m the daughter who lives in poverty because her mother had enough self-respect to leave the bastard, even if it meant being cut off financially and living in a small two-bedroom apartment, barely making ends meet. I’m the daughter who took a risk and went to her dad, begging him for financial help the day we got an eviction notice on our door, only to be turned away by his lying receptionist, who told me he was out of the office, when I clearly saw his BMW in the parking garage. I’m the daughter who can make a feast out of Top Ramen, make outdated clothes look trendy, and fake my way through a haircut and color at the salon, just to earn enough money to pay the rent while my mother is away. If anyone here knows how to survive, it’s me, so back off.”

“Life is not about survival, Averie. It’s about living.”

“Well, when I can stop worrying about things like eating and keeping the electricity on, or if I get to sleep in my bed one more night, then I’ll try living it up some. How’s that?”

Quillan just stares at me. I glare back, feeling like I need to stand my ground and protect why I am the way I am. Even though I sometimes dislike myself for being so lame, I don’t like anyone else criticizing me. After a few minutes of close inspection, he interrupts the silence and suggests I get dressed while informing me he has secured us a room at the hotel.

“We should go there and clean up before we attend the soiree at the Faulkner Estate this afternoon.” He begins unbuttoning his shirt. I’m mesmerized and force myself to turn away, fearing I might drool if I watch. I snatch up the dress he purchased and move behind a large boulder for some privacy.

The dress is pretty, but I look like I am ready for trick or treat. There is enough fabric here for a bedspread, pillowcases, and matching drapes. I walk out from behind the rock and notice Quillan stealing a glance my way. Acting like I didn’t notice, I sit on the ground and begin pulling the silk stockings over my dirty feet. They snag against my chigger bites, giving me the chills like fingernails scratching on a chalkboard. I slip on the low-heeled boots and groan. They are much too narrow for my wide feet. My toes curl on top of each other, and I wish I’d trimmed my toenails earlier. I can just imagine how my rough nails will cut my toes. Standing, I dust the dirt from my dress and look at Quillan.

“Your hair.” He hands me the brush.

Sighing, I run it through my curls, but it fluffs my hair even more. I can see Quillan’s expression. He’s suppressing his laughter, I can tell. Heat starts in my neck and radiates up into my face. I am pretty sure my cheeks are blossoming into full color about now. I know I must look quite ridiculous. He, of course, is even more delicious in eighteenth-century attire. His suit coat hugs his chest in all the right places. I gather my massive mane in my hands, twist it a couple of times, secure it in a sloppy bun, and allow a few tendrils to escape the roundup. Quillan hands me the ribbons. I protest. “You gotta be kidding me.”

He tilts his head in a way that encourages me to pin in the ribbons. How could this happen twice in less than twenty-four hours. First Mike, now Quillan. Tonight’s party better have a much more pleasant outcome.

The walk to town proves miserable. For the life of me, I don’t see how women survived this time period. We should have become extinct years ago. It must be ninety degrees already, and here I am wearing a comforter and silk stockings, which are tickling my legs and making my chigger bites come alive and itch me to death. Plus, the most uncomfortable pair of boots I’ve ever shoved my feet into. I can’t take the heat any longer, so I lift my dress up high, holding it right below my hips.

Quillan does a double take before shaking his head. “You can’t do that in public you know. And while we’re at it, you need to watch your language. Ladies don’t curse here, and you, my dear, have a potty mouth.”

I gasp. “I do not have a potty mouth, thank you very much.”

“Yes, you do,” he fires back.

“Do not,” I proceed in childish banter.

“Do, too. Why, I’ve counted several damns, a couple of hells, a bastard, and the word bitchy.”

“Well shit!” I say. “I didn’t realize I was cursing so damn much.”

He shakes his head again and sighs. I grin and keep marching forward in my makeshift minidress.

 

 

Chapter 12

 

Everyone is looking at me as we walk along the wooden sidewalks toward the hotel. Perhaps it’s because I stick out like a sore thumb, wobbling in these tiny boots and tripping over the circus tent I’m wearing. Quillan slips his arm through mine, steadying me, and then whispers in my ear that we are registered at the hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Quillan Robison. Forget my wobbling feet. My knees buckle, and my stomach takes a nosedive. I desperately wish he’d cleared his bright idea with me first.

We stop at the stables. Quillan suggests I wait outside while he rents us a carriage. I’m more than happy to oblige. I have no desire to stroll among the horse dung. From where I’m standing, I can already smell manure. A rustic bench draws my attention. I try making my way over there as graceful as I can, hoping it’s downwind of the shit. I take a seat, and my dress covers the entire bench. I’ve worked up a sweat, and now streams of perspiration are running down my legs, soaking my stockings and tickling the chigger bites. The air is hot and muggy. There hasn’t been a breeze all day. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more miserable. With one hand, I lean over and claw my legs. With the other, I open my satin purse and pull out my fan. I try to cool my heated face and tingling legs while I wait and watch the people on the street. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was on a movie set, waiting for the director to shout “action.” A few years ago, Hollywood came to town and filmed some scenes of a movie set in Charleston. Momma suggested we drive over and watch. The casting people were asking locals to sign up as extras. Momma encouraged me to do it but, of course, I was too nervous, so I just watched everybody else have fun. Later, I hated myself for not having the balls to do it.

The street is buzzing with activity. As far as I can pick up by the snippets of conversation, everyone is excited about tonight’s garden party at the Faulkner Estate. I overhear a couple of women discussing the dresses they will be wearing. Hundreds of years and some things never change. I guess women will always be concerned about looking their best and impressing people who don’t really matter. I smooth the fabric on my new dress. Like prom night, this picnic must be the social event of the year. Thanks to Quillan, I have something pretty to wear.

The humidity hanging in the air is unbearable. I shift on the hard wooden bench as tiny beads of perspiration race down my legs while I stew in the sun. Flies from the stable swarm around my face, drawn to the sweat. I smack the annoying little boogers away with my fan. I’m not sure if it’s my arm pits or the stench coming from the stables but something around me is beginning to reek. God, this is agonizing.

What’s taking him so long? I crane my neck hoping to see him emerge from the stables. Instead, I gasp when I catch a glimpse of the same muscular African American man from the tunnel coming out of the feed store next door with a heavy burlap bag flung over his shoulder. He’s a handsome guy, built to perfection. He loads the heavy bag of grain into the back of a wagon for an overweight gentleman leaning on an ornate walking cane and puffing on a big cigar. A pregnant black woman, holding a couple of brown-paper packages like the ones Quillan brought to the cave, appears from the stables. She’s waddling my way and stops beside my bench. She seems to be exhausted, as if she might faint. Beads of sweat trickle out from under a drenched scarf tied around her head. Her eyes look heavy, and she is swaying back and forth as she attempts to balance the packages. One thing my momma always taught me is good manners, one being, never sit when the elderly or pregnant are standing.

BOOK: One Last Time
6.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Stroke of Midnight by Olivia Drake
Like Bug Juice on a Burger by Sternberg, Julie
The Shining Badge by Gilbert Morris
Viaje alucinante by Isaac Asimov
Gossip Can Be Murder by Connie Shelton
Exit Stage Left by Graham Ison
Age of Druids by Drummond, India
Entrelazados by Gena Showalter