Authors: Monique Martin
SANDS OF TIME
(Out of Time Book #6)
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright ©2013 Monique Martin
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission.
Cover Photo: Karen Wunderman
Cover Layout: TERyvisions
Formatting: Polgarus Studio
ISBN 10: 0984660771
ISBN 13: 978-0-9846607-7-3
For more information, please contact
This book would not have been possible without the help and support of many people: Robin, who helps me in too many ways to count; Dad and Anne; Mom and George; Eddie and Carole; Ian Recchio, for generously sharing his time and snake expertise; Michael; JM; Melissa; Cindy; the Diasporians.
I’d also like to thank the thousands of people who help preserve the past through books, websites, museums and sheer will.
Egyptian Desert, 1920
It was a scene straight from one of his nightmares—Elizabeth’s hand slipped from Simon’s grasp. He called out her name in a panic, but the wind threw it back in his face. He twisted and turned, trying in vain to catch a glimpse of her white dress in the unrelenting fury of the sandstorm. But he saw nothing.
It had come upon them so suddenly they’d barely had time to head for the small outcrop of rocks and ruins they’d passed just a few moments before. A fifty-foot wall of sand and dust and earth overtook them before they could reach the relative safety it could provide. He’d dismounted his camel and raced to Elizabeth’s side, barely able see his own hand by the time he reached her. Sand cut into every inch of exposed flesh as they struggled to orient themselves. They had to find shelter. Simon saw the faint outline of something more than desert sand and pulled Elizabeth toward it.
A ferocious gust of wind came. Like a giant hand it had shoved him aside. He struggled to stay upright, and in that instant of struggle, he’d lost her.
And now he couldn’t see her at all.
Raising his forearm to shield his eyes against the sand and dust that ripped into them, he reached his other hand out into the emptiness in a vain attempt to touch what he could not see.
She couldn’t be far. He took a stumbling step forward, but didn’t dare take another. He could be going in the wrong direction. Another step could be another step away from her. His breath was hot and heavy against the scarf that covered most of his face.
The wind howled and roared around him. Tiny pieces of sand bit into the palm of his hand like a thousand needles.
He thought it might have been a trick of the wind at first. He turned around and saw nothing but the storm raging around him. Then, he heard it again.
He took a step toward it and thrust out his hand into the void.
Fingers gripped his and his heart started beating again. He pulled her toward him so fiercely, she lost her feet, but he held her upright.
Holding her close to his chest, he allowed himself just one moment of triumph, of relief, before knowing they had to move again. They didn’t dare stay where they were, out in the open. They’d be buried alive.
His arm wrapped tightly around her now. Not bothering to shorten his long strides, he half carried her along with him as he started them up the small hill toward what he hoped was the shelter. A brief break in the wind told him he was right. Barely visible, but there, just twenty feet away, were the remnants of a stone wall. It seemed to take forever to cross the short distance, but finally, he felt the hard stone against his hand. He felt his way around to the leeward side of it. It was scant protection against the storm, but it would have to do.
“Down here!” he yelled over the roaring winds as he pointed toward the ground. Elizabeth nodded quickly and wrapped her keffiyeh scarf more tightly around her face. She knelt down and leaned against the stone wall. Simon crouched down behind her, shielding her with his body as best he could. Pulling the edges of his jacket around them both, he bent his head down, held her and waited.
He’d been a fool to agree to this. It had sounded simple enough. Didn’t they all in the beginning? But here they were, barely 48 hours into their mission back in time, and they’d already nearly been killed. If the wind didn’t stop, there was still a good chance they wouldn’t see the dawn.
Simon started to grind his teeth, but felt the omnipresent sand in his mouth. He couldn’t even brood properly in this damn place.
It could have been ten minutes or thirty, he couldn’t tell, but the wind began to abate and the roar dulled, until finally, it stopped altogether.
Slowly, Simon lifted his head and felt the accumulated sand fall from his shoulders and run down his back.
It was Hassan’s voice, but he ignored him. He had someone more important to tend to. Simon eased back from his position behind Elizabeth and tilted her scarf-covered head up. “Are you all right?”
Elizabeth’s blue eyes blinked back at him from the small slit in her scarf wrappings and she nodded. She tugged at one end of the keffiyeh and puffed out a relieved breath when her face was finally exposed. “Holy moley.”
Simon stood and held out his hand to help her stand.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
He nodded. His eyes stung from the grit and his body felt bruised and welted, but he knew they were lucky.
“Mister Cross!” Hassan said as he came to their side from his sheltering place.
Hassan, the dragoman they’d hired in Cairo to be their guide and interpreter, was short and round around the middle. Despite that, he moved through sand with surprising ease, his long robes billowing out behind him. His weathered face was relieved and a little amused. His long dark mustache twitched as he fought down a smile.
Not finding anything the least bit amusing in what had just happened, Simon glared at him. Hassan schooled his features and raised his hands in apology, but the broad smile he’d worn when they’d met him at the docks couldn’t be contained.
Everything is fine, trust in Hassan
it said. They could have been on fire and he would have smiled that smile.
Everything is fine, trust in Hassan
“You are both all right?” he asked.
Simon wanted to find fault with him, to blame someone or something for this disaster, but the man had acted quickly and decisively when he saw the storm approach. He could hardly be blamed for the capricious nature of this damnable place.
“We’re fine,” Simon said tersely as he reflexively reached into his pocket to make sure the watch hadn’t been lost in the sands. He felt the familiar outline of his grandfather’s pocket watch and sighed in relief. It was safe. As long as it was, they had a way to return to the future.
“That was some storm,” Elizabeth said, her Texas accent more pronounced than usual.
Hassan shrugged. “It was fierce, yes, but tiny.” He held up two fingers to emphasize his point. “A great khamaseen can last for days or even weeks here in the desert.”
Elizabeth glanced up at Simon. “Weeks?”
“And swallow an entire town until there is nothing left to see but the shifting sands.”
Simon frowned. “Wonderful.”
Hassan laughed. “Welcome to Egypt, my friends.”
Simon squinted against the sun and the sandy grit that filled his eyes. He reached up to rub them when Hassan grasped his arm. Hassan shook his head and barked out an order in Arabic to one of the men of their small company.
“Water,” Hassan said, pointing to his eyes.
When the man didn’t move quickly Hassan yelled again and clapped his hands impatiently. It had the desired effect. The other man hurried as fast as he could through the deep sand to their side. He held out a large goatskin that served as a canteen.
Hassan snatched it from his hands and sent him off with another order. The other man nodded his head repeatedly and hurried off to see to whatever it was Hassan had been on about. All communication Simon had seen in Egypt so far involved a great deal of hand waving and pointing and no small amount of yelling.
Hassan turned to Simon and pasted his broad smile back upon his features. He held out the goatskin and gestured for Simon to use the water to flush his eyes.
While his eyes were irritated beyond measure, he hated to waste such a precious resource.
Hassan noticed his reluctance and waved a placating hand. “The oasis is not far. Wash your eyes. We will have more water soon.”
Simon frowned down at it.
“Yes, yes,” Simon said as he took the bag. “Trust in Hassan.”
Hassan beamed and then bowed. He left Simon and Elizabeth alone as he went to bark more orders at his men.
Simon looked for his mark on the bag. Satisfied it was one they’d treated with iodine, he uncorked the waterskin. Bacterial infection from untreated water was a very real danger here.
Sadly, it was just one of many diseases that threatened the unwary traveler. He and Elizabeth had also gotten a raft of vaccinations and taken several different kinds of medication in preparation for their trip. The rest was, as they say, in the hands of Allah.
“Here,” Elizabeth said. “Sit down and I’ll do it.”
Simon handed her the skin and took a seat on a bit of the ruined wall they’d sheltered behind. The ruins could have been a hundred or a thousand years old. In the desert, it was difficult to tell.
Elizabeth touched his chin. “Tilt your head back.”
He did and she flushed his eyes with the refreshingly cool water. When she was finished, he nodded for her to take the first drink.
“Oh, that’s heaven,” she said after she swallowed and handed the bag back to him.
He drank a little, but not much. Despite Hassan’s assurances, Simon was not going to get stuck out here with nothing to drink. He would conserve water until he had a cool pint of whatever passed for beer here firmly in his hands.
Simon re-corked the bag and watched Hassan lord it over his men. One of the camels had apparently wandered off in the storm. A few of the men were sent to find it while the others made sure the remaining camels and supplies were unharmed.
Elizabeth sat down next to Simon and leaned into his side, resting her head on his shoulder as she stared out at the seemingly boundless expanse of desert before them. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
In spite of its apparent desire to bury us alive
, he thought. In the two days they’d been on caravan following George Mason, the desert had proven every bit as formidable as he’d feared. Stark and endless. Flat and featureless. Rare sandstone formations seemed to rise out of the desert floor only to be cut down and shaped by the whims of the ceaseless winds. It was dusty and hot and cruel.
Simon looked down at Elizabeth. She smiled dreamily at the horror. “Beautiful,” he said.
She lifted her eyes to his and then her smile was for him. He leaned down to kiss her—
Simon turned his head. “Yes, Hassan.”
Hassan beamed at them as he walked up the small hill. “Good news! We have found the camel.”
“That is good news,” Simon said as he stood and put out his hand for Elizabeth.
“And your hats!” Hassan said triumphantly as he held out the misshapen masses that used to be their hats.
Elizabeth took hers. “Thank you, Hassan.”
He bowed. “We are ready to continue when you are, Mister Cross.”
Simon slapped his fedora against his thigh to shake off the dust and sand. Fitting it back on his head, he pulled the brim down, grateful for the shade it provided. He glanced over at Elizabeth who had managed to secure her large brimmed sun hat again.
Simon nodded and they started down the small hill to the camels. “How far to the oasis, Hassan?”
“An hour, perhaps two, no more.”
Simon knew that meant three, at the very least. He glanced up at the sun and hoped they’d reach it before dusk.
At the bottom of the hill the men and their camels waited. Simon helped Elizabeth mount hers. Despite the animal kneeling on the ground, the saddle was still a good four feet high. For Elizabeth, at just over 5’ 4”, mounting by herself was a tall order, and hardly the custom for a lady.
The first time she’d tried, one of the men had simply put a hand on her bottom and hoisted her up. After that, Simon had made it clear that he preferred to perform that particular task.