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ECHOES OF CHANGE

When the music stops, the world ends.

A madman from the past is rising in power. One who believes a woman's place is in the kitchen and rock 'n roll is the work of the devil.

Shawn and Rayna must travel back to 1963 just as Beatlemania sweeps across the United States...or does it? 

It's their mission to ensure all goes according to history, but what are they to do when the world as they know it has already ceased to exist?

Faced with this new bleak, authoritarian landscape of prison camps and military police, it soon becomes clear that fixing this broken timeline won't be easy. 

And this time, everyone wants Shawn dead.

If you enjoy time travel with a healthy dose of 1960s nostalgia including The Beatles then you'll be swept away by Echoes of Change, book two in USA Today Best-Selling author Rylee Swann's new time travel science fiction romance series. Can be read as a standalone book.

Chapter One

 

1963

 

Shawn Paros tumbled through time as frigid air blasted him, stealing his breath and penetrating his bones. He held fast to Rayna Newman as she clung to his waist. Her fingers dug into his flesh and he tightened his grip, fearing what might happen if he lost contact with her. They spiraled out of control in a maddening head over heels fall. He’d never had someone piggyback a trip through time with him.

 

Utter blackness surrounded them, devoid of shadows to give any sense of light or spatial objects. They traveled in the absolute absence of everything. Although he’d often traveled through time, he sometimes still got the urge to tap his chest to make sure he was still there.

 

Not used to the dizzying plunge—time traveling was usually a quick, straight line to his destination—he hoped Rayna hadn’t knocked them too far off course.

 

Rayna. A woman he couldn’t let go of since they’d met a year ago. She’d changed his life for the better, and now, he had to ensure she survived this trip to the past.  He had extensive time travel training, but how would she fare? Being half human and half Parosian allowed him to pass through time, but she had only human blood coursing through her veins.

 

Landing on his ass with a dull thud—this had to be another result of Rayna tagging along—he winced at the unexpected shock. He always landed on his feet.

 

Years ago, he and his brother had joined a brand-new Earth/Paros time travel program. Kyle had been nineteen years old and he sixteen. He had been eager to leave his home planet. Unlike Kyle, who had blond hair, pale skin, and amber eyes like all Parosians, Shawn had inherited their human Native American mother’s looks. While proud of his heritage, black hair, bronzed skin, and black eyes made him a target for taunts and ridicule. He’d grown up isolated and miserable. Earth offered him a chance at a new beginning.

 

Now twenty-seven years old, he’d arrived on Earth a little over five years ago as a time traveler, so time travel was second nature to him, except for Rayna, the unexpected passenger. Like an offensive tackle, Rayna’d barreled into him as he was leaving 1983, ignoring his warning that she couldn’t come with him. And since his new mission was urgent, there was no turning back. An echo—a disturbance in the fabric of time that only he could sense—must not be ignored.

 

He rose to a crouch, his fingertips on the ground. Pavement. A quick survey of his surroundings revealed that they were on a walkway of some sort, filled with people rushing to and fro. Backed against the wall of a large concrete building, he and Rayna were half hidden in shadows on an overcast, gloomy day. No one had noticed their arrival. 

 

That was the good news. Looking down at an unconscious Rayna, the bad news hit him like a punch to the gut. Leaning over her, he heaved in a relieved breath when she moaned.

 

“Ray? Wake up. You’re alright. Time to wake up.” He gently shook her shoulder.

 

Her eyelids fluttered and she shivered. Rushing through time was always brutally cold but the air around them now had a cool bite too. They both wore jeans and lightweight shirts, having left a mild November in New York of 1983. They weren’t prepared for winter.

 

He had to get her somewhere warm and safe.

 

Dropping to his knees, he lifted Rayna up into a sitting position. Her head lolled onto his chest, her face obscured by long, wavy chestnut hair. Pushing aside the silken locks, Shawn tapped her cheek with the flat of his palm. She moaned again, and he tapped a little harder, using just enough force to make her feel it.

 

After a third, harder slap, Rayna jumped and blindly flailed her arms, making gagging sounds.

“That’s it, Ray. Come on and wake up. Open your eyes.” He spoke in a soft croon, his heart thudding with worry.

 

She flipped onto her side, away from him, and vomited. Shawn held her hair away from her face and rubbed her back in a soothing circular motion. Her distress sent his own stomach into a spiraling lurch.

 

Humans were not meant to time travel. He should have prevented this.

 

He was the time traveler, and it was his duty to protect the timeline. It didn’t matter to him that Rayna had been stubborn when he’d said she couldn’t go with him. It was irrelevant that he couldn’t have foreseen her grabbing on to him at the last second, which had caused her to travel with him just like his clothing or any object he might be holding. No, this was his responsibility.

 

More important than that, he didn’t know what was wrong with her. Time travel had been developed for Parosians because they had highly developed echolocation. A Parosian human half-breed like him had been optimal since he’d be traveling exclusively on Earth. He’d never experienced a reaction like she was having. He’d never had any reaction at all. Time travel for him was like crossing the street. Getting from point A to point B. Reach out, think of it, and done.

 

Rayna threw up again, and Shawn’s heart banged against his rib cage, fear gripping him. She had to be alright. Had to.

 

Before he met Rayna, he didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything. 

 

She had been the one to show him unconditional acceptance and give him a sense of belonging that he’d felt nowhere else. He had a long way to go and a lot to learn about friendships and relationships, but she’d set him on the right path. Hell, it had been her idea to work for the government instead of being the lone gunman up on a rooftop, a killer for hire, and taking jobs more for sport than the paycheck.

 

Trust came hard for him, but he’d made a few inroads. His progress pleased him, and he owed it all to her. He couldn’t lose her now, or ever.

 

Rayna dry heaved, coughing up nothing but spittle, and continued to shudder. Shawn shifted his position, trying to protect her from the cool breeze, his muscles tense with impotent rage that he could do nothing more.

 

Someone stepped too close to them and Shawn shot his gaze upward, eyes narrowing on a couple as they approached. He made them for middle-aged, in their fifties. The man wore a gray pin-striped suit, the woman a navy blue dress that reached just past her knees. Hats sat atop both their heads, a fedora for him and a pillbox with a fancy white bow on the side for her.

 

From his knowledge of time periods, Shawn surmised they were either in the 1950s or 1960s.

 

“What have we here? Is she drunk?” the woman said in a middle-class British accent. The disgusted expression fairly popped off her face.

 

“Come now, it’s not our concern.” The man grasped her elbow as he tried to bustle her on her way.

 

“Another couple of hippies come to see those four boys who play nothing but the devil’s music. All day all night everyone going on about wanting to hold hands. They should have stayed in Liverpool.”

She frowned and spat out, “Get a haircut!”

 

Rayna stirred and pushed Shawn aside. She still shivered and had taken on a ghastly pallor, but her eyes were alert. “What a bitch.”

 

The disapproving woman gasped with indignation, bringing a hand to her heart.

 

Shawn suppressed a laugh but couldn’t keep a grin from spreading across his face. Rayna’s spirit was well intact. She would be alright.

 

“Let’s move along, dear,” the man said to the uppity woman, and led her away as quickly as possible.

 

When they were out of earshot, Rayna said, “Was she talking about The Beatles?”

 

“I believe so.” Shawn nodded toward another man in a suit hurrying by pushing a cart loaded with suitcases, the name “London Airport” printed on the side.

 

Rayna struggled to stand, stumbled, and Shawn caught her before she fell. “Wait, shouldn’t that say Heathrow?”

 

He lowered his voice to ensure only she could hear him. “I imagine we’re here in a time before it was renamed.”

 

“Oh, that’s crazy.” She glanced around. “I don’t know when that was but if The Beatles just arrived, it’s probably 1963. October. H-h-halloween. Why am I so cold?”

 

Wrapping an arm around her, Shawn led her toward a building with an “Oceanic Terminal” sign above the entrance. “Come on. Let’s get you inside. How do you feel?” As the words left his lips, he marveled at them. Until meeting Rayna, he’d never given a damn about how anyone felt.

 

“Honestly? I feel terrible. It’s like my insides were pulled apart and then put back together wrong. I could go for a drink of water. My breath must stink.” Coughing, she lowered her head and let Shawn guide her.

 

“Don’t worry about that now.” But he worried. A lot. Maybe all of her hadn’t traveled and what she described was accurate. For her though, he kept his voice steady. “I’ll see if there’s a water fountain inside.”

 

The murmur of voices and the click-clacking of heels on an austere tile floor greeted Shawn as he pushed open the door to the Oceanic Terminal. Although brightly lit, the building seemed like they’d entered the Paleolithic period compared to 1983. The room that assisted thousands of passengers on a daily basis appeared old-fashioned and out of touch. He had to remind himself that this was cutting edge for the time period.

 

Leading Rayna to a long row of connected yellow chairs, he wondered how people in this time period could get anything done at all. He helped her sit down on one of the chairs at the far end. She settled back, resting her head on the gray concrete wall, and rubbed her arms to warm herself.

She was still pale. Too pale.

 

“Stay right here. Don’t go anywhere. Listen to me this time.”

 

She peered up at him. He loved her bright blue eyes but they now seemed like a dark, turbulent ocean, her forehead creased with worry lines. “How mad at me are you?”

 

“Very.” He turned to walk away but she waved a limp hand at him.

 

“Hey, wait. I can’t tell if you’re joking.” She lowered her hand to her lap like it was too heavy to hold up.

“I’m not.” The words came out gruffer than intended, and he bent to her ear. “I told you that you couldn’t come with me. You didn’t listen. I don’t know what time travel does to humans. You could have died.”

 

“But I didn’t,” she said.

 

Not yet. He didn’t speak the words out loud, but he swore his heart skipped a beat.

“Stay here. I’ll find some water for you.”

 

Following the signs to the cafeteria-style airport restaurant, he drew stares. He gazed back surreptitiously, noting that everyone looked similar in dress and even hairstyle. The travelers passing by wore suits with ties or dresses that showed no cleavage and ended below the knee. The men had crew cuts or short comb-overs, and the women wore their hair in flipped bobs, beehives, and teased updos. They conducted themselves with reserved, genial manners, except for the occasional frown tossed his way. In 1963, he was an anachronism in acid-washed jeans and a long-sleeved blue graphic tee shirt.

 

Shawn’s long, straight black hair flowed down his back except for a thin braid decorated with small wood beads that framed the left side of his face. He stood out among the sea of conservatives as he strode past to reach the cafeteria. Strangers eyed him like he was some sort of alien. If only they knew. He didn’t care for being the center of attention, and his hands had unconsciously clenched into fists at his sides.

 

Reaching the cafeteria, he looked for but didn’t find a water fountain. He’d have to ask the cashier for a cup of water for Rayna.

 

Fortunately, the man standing behind the old-fashioned metal cash register was a young Elvis wannabe with a slicked back pompadour and pockmarked skin. Shawn wouldn’t get any flak from him.

 

“Would you be able to give me a cup of water?” Shawn used his practiced polite voice as he stepped up to the counter.

 

“Yes, sir. Coming right up!” the cashier replied in a pleasing middle-class British accent. He grabbed a large Styrofoam cup and set it under the spigot. “Want ice?”

 

“Just a little, thanks, to keep it cool.”

 

“You got it!” With a metal scoop, he shoveled a small amount of ice into the cup and filled it almost to the brim. “Care for a cover, sir?” He set the cup down on the counter in front of Shawn.

 

“Yes, please.” The kid’s politeness got to Shawn and his mood lightened.

 

“Straw?”

 

Shawn shook his head, and the cashier put a lid on the cup, ensuring it was properly latched all the way around.

 

Glancing up, he jutted his chin toward Shawn. “You flying?”

 

Again, Shawn shook his head, and the kid gave a knowing nod.

 

“Here for The Beatles, then?”

 

“Is it that obvious?” Shawn played his role, releasing a good-natured laugh.

 

The cashier joined in the laughter. “Yes, sir. Was the length of your hair what gave it away.”

 

Nodding, Shawn picked up the cup of water. “Then you should know there’s no need to call me sir.”

 

“Aye, mate. Have a good day!”

 

“Same to you. Hey, before I leave, would you mind telling me the quickest route to where they are?”

 

The cashier’s bright face shifted into an expression of sadness. “Ah, mate, I’m sorry to tell ya. They’re already gone. Drove off in a big black limo a few minutes ago amid quite a commotion. I got back to my post here just before you arrived.”

 

Shawn stifled a curse. “Ah well, there’s always next time. Thanks again.” He turned away as silent anger blossomed in his chest.

 

The broken timeline had something to do with The Beatles or he wouldn’t have arrived where they were. It was no coincidence that music had disappeared from 1983, or that Rayna had been searching for an album of theirs when the echo hit him. Rayna hitching a ride had delayed him, and now he’d missed his best chance to correct the timeline.

 

The echo always landed him where he needed to be, but not this time. Rayna’s interference had knocked his arrival off-kilter.

 

Now what?

Chapter Two

When Shawn got back to where he’d left Rayna at the row of yellow chairs, she wasn’t there. He turned in a circle, scanning the busy terminal, but saw no sign of her.

 

This often infuriating woman had saved his life. He’d been shot, near death, and she had bandaged him, made willow bark tea, a Native American substitute for aspirin he couldn’t stomach, and got him to a pool where he could swim and heal. She’d known who he was but wasn’t frightened, as she should have been. He hadn’t admitted it to himself at the time, but from that moment on he’d never wanted to be apart from her.

The instant chemistry still baffled him.

 

When it came to Rayna, these damned human emotions were often unfathomable, complicated, and a pain in the ass. Panic clawed at him, trying to take hold. At this moment, the clearest thought in his head was that he wanted to be in the ocean. He needed to swim. Too much uncertainty and stress clouded his thinking. Parosians needed to swim as much as they needed oxygen to stay alive. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the luxury of time to handle this frustration in the Parosian way. He had to stay on land, find Rayna, and set the timeline back on its rightful path.

 

An older couple rested in chairs just down from Rayna’s empty seat. He could ask if they knew where she’d gone. Suppressing a frown at what he figured their reaction to his unusual appearance would be, he took a few steps toward them. He came to a sudden stop at his name being called.

 

Rayna rushed toward him, arms waving, and her bottom lip caught between her teeth.

He waited until she reached him, and before she could speak, hissed in her ear, “I told you to stay put!”

 

She flinched and gazed up into his face, her own filled with contrition. “I’m sorry. I thought I’d be back before you. I had to use the bathroom.”

 

Shaking his head, he grabbed her arm and led her back to the seat she’d vacated. He sat beside her and spoke in a low voice so he couldn’t be overhead. “I missed the window. The Beatles are already gone. I didn’t get a chance to do what needs to be done.” He narrowed his eyes, letting his irritation blaze as he stared at her until she squirmed.

“I said I was sorry. I just really had to go.”

“No, you don’t get it. You being here slowed me down. If you’d listened…” He waved an exasperated hand toward the ceiling, and tears welled in Rayna’s eyes. “I’m going to find out what the nearest hotel is and get us a room.”

 

He stood and gazed down at her until she raised her head.

 

“Here’s your water. Don’t move from this spot. Hear me? Don’t move.” He shoved the cup into her hand and strode off without a backward glance.

 

“The only two people who’ve spoken to me since we got here are a bitch and an asshole!” she shouted at his back.

 

Shawn’s back muscles automatically stiffened, but he didn’t turn around. He had to make her understand how critical this mission was. They weren’t playing a game. Putting the world back the way it was supposed to be rested on his shoulders, and he owned the responsibility. If he had to be a bastard to get that through her head, as much as it might hurt him to hurt her, that’s what he’d have to do.

 

At the ticket counter, an all-buttoned-up prim attendant without a blonde hair out of place flashed a lipstick smile at Shawn. “May I help you, sir?”

 

Tamping down his anger, he nodded. “I hope so. Can you tell me where I might find the closest hotel?”

 

“Certainly, sir.” She grabbed a pamphlet from a rack on the counter. “This hotel is walking distance, less than half a mile, but if you have luggage I’d be happy to direct you to our airport trolley. It makes regular runs up that way.”

 

Shawn accepted the pamphlet. “That won’t be necessary. You’ve been very helpful, thank you.”

 

Folding the pamphlet, he stuffed it into his back pocket. He leaned against a nearby wall and took a moment to think. To get a hotel room, he needed money. Looking around, he spotted a sign for the men’s restroom. That would be the location of his first crime in 1963.

 

Two of the six urinals were occupied, but Shawn was more interested in the four stalls. Only one held an occupant, and he stood just to the side of the door, waiting for it to open. When it did, he started to push his way in, bumping into the gentleman trying to exit the stall.

 

“Hey, man, really sorry about that.” Shawn slurred his voice, taking advantage of what most people here thought of his hippie appearance.

 

“Watch where you’re going,” the man said in an annoyed British accent as he attempted to circle around Shawn.

 

Shawn didn’t make it easy for him to pass, jostling the man as he forced his way into the stall. Muttering something about longhairs, the Londoner finally stumbled from the stall, and Shawn closed and locked the door.

 

Sitting down on the seat, he opened the man’s wallet to check the contents. A few credit cards, two traveler’s checks, and on a quick count, around five hundred British pounds. An excellent haul.

 

Shawn stayed in the stall for a couple more minutes, then flushed to keep up appearances, and made his way back to where he’d left Rayna.

 

Pleased that she hadn’t wandered off again, he motioned for her to join him. She jumped from the chair and dashed to his side.

 

“We’re going to a hotel not far from here.” He pulled the brochure from his back pocket and handed it to her.

 

Glancing at the front, she nodded. “Okay, seems nice. Let’s go.”

 

Shawn took her hand, and she squeezed his, her warmth seeping into his skin like a soothing balm. He dared not look at her, needing to stay focused, stay angry so he could complete this mission without further mishap.

 

They walked most of the way to the hotel in silence. When they arrived at the address, another grouping of perfectly coiffed Londoners stared at them like they had the plague. Shawn led Rayna around them and down the path to the hotel entrance.

 

“We’re going to have to blend in better,” Rayna whispered as he held the door open for her.

 

“I agree, but for now, let’s just get the room and have a little chat.”

 

Their hotel room was small but tastefully appointed. Overlooking a quaint garden, airplanes were visible as they soared into the sky or approached to land. The rumble of jet engines intruded into the room despite the closed windows.

 

“I hope we won’t have to sleep here,” Rayna said, joining Shawn at the window.

Shawn moved back into the center of the room, taking a seat at a small round table for two. He held out a hand toward the empty chair across from him.

 

“Well, this is familiar, isn’t it?” She took the offered seat. “I guess hotel rooms are our thing, huh?”

 

He ignored her question and hardened his expression even as memories rose unbidden of the many hotel rooms they’d shared. The day they’d met, he’d been shot by an unknown assassin. While he didn’t believe in fate, something had led him to her home from the many choices on that quiet Long Island street, and he’d crashed inside, demanding her help. From there, they’d gone on a whirlwind campaign from hotel to hotel to stay alive, while their attraction to each other grew.

 

“I’m going to talk and you’re going to listen.” Rayna opened her mouth to speak and he shook his head. “This isn’t open for debate.”

 

Rayna slunk back in her chair, lips set in a grim line. She waved a hand at him as if to say, “go ahead,” but he waited a moment longer, until she settled down. She still wore an annoyed expression, but that made two of them.

 

Shawn leaned forward, resting his muscled forearms on the table. “Fixing timeline problems is the reason I’m on Earth. The reason I’m allowed to be on Earth. Of all the things in my life, past and present, and hell, future, my duty to fix history is the only one I take seriously. Deadly serious. This, above all else, means more to me than anything. Yeah, sure, I took the job with the CIA that you suggested, rather than continue killing for profit, and it was a good move. I don’t regret the decision, but I could give it up just like that.”

 

He snapped his fingers, startling Rayna.

 

“But not this. Not my responsibility to time ruptures. If I screw up, the world as we know it ceases to be. Do you get that?”

 

Biting her lip, she nodded, her expression sorrowful. She opened her mouth to speak but seemed to think better of it as she fidgeted in the chair. Her hands took on a life of their own, flitting up to her hair then to her shirt, until she clasped them together on the table.

 

Glancing at the ceiling, he ran a hand through his hair before settling his gaze on her again. He didn’t enjoy coming down on her like this, but it had to be done. “You are not supposed to be here. Whatever happens because of that is on me. In fact, 1983 might already be very different from how you remember it.”

 

“But I’ve been careful!” Rayna blurted out, obviously unable to help herself.

 

Shawn leaned forward until his face was inches from hers. “That woman you called a bitch could have been the catalyst that changes everything. You have no idea what sort of ripples your words might have caused, and neither do I. Time is too fluid and too damned unpredictable.”

 

Rayna flinched but remained otherwise still. “But you didn’t get an echo, so doesn’t that mean everything is okay?”

 

He sat back with a frown. “I don’t know. I’m an alpha tester of time travel, so there are still a lot of unknowns. It’s possible I can’t get a second echo while the first is still in play. Or, because we’re together, I simply wouldn’t get one if you break the timeline. There are countless possibilities.”

 

“So, maybe it’s a good thing I’m here. You can find out the answers to these questions and report back to whoever, right?”

 

“Are you really trying to spin this in your favor?” he asked, his voice filled with irritation.

 

“Look, I understand everything you’re saying, and I get it, I really do. But I’m here, and damn the possible consequences, you need me.”

 

“I need you?” He barked out a laugh. “How?”

 

Color had come back into her cheeks and her expressive blue eyes—eyes he could so easily get lost in and had on several occasions—were bright, shining with inner strength. Even her luxurious mane of wavy chestnut hair no longer seemed limp. She was back to herself after time traveling. He was grateful for that, but now he’d have to contend with chatty Rayna who wanted to dissect and discuss every comment he made.

 

Looking at her now, he forced himself not to crack a smile at her determined, adorable little face.

 

She quirked up one eyebrow at him. “Well, for one thing, do you know what was supposed to happen with The Beatles at the airport today?”

 

“You’re saying you do?”

 

She rolled her eyes, smirking in triumph. “Ed Sullivan was supposed to hear the commotion. You know, all the screaming fans, and ask about it. When told about The Beatles, who are almost completely unknown in the States at this point, he made a snap decision to have them on his show. If that doesn’t happen, maybe the entire British Invasion doesn’t happen, which sets off some sort of chain of events that leads to the musicless, totalitarian nightmare 1983 is right now.”

 

Pushing back his chair, he stood and walked to the window. Rayna had all the answers. Without her, he would know this was about The Beatles, but the details would have eluded him. He did need her here to help explain what might be off about the timeline, but that didn’t excuse her glomming onto him so she could travel back too. And, dammit, he loathed admitting he liked that she was here with him.

 

“This doesn’t give you a free pass,” he said, turning back to her.

 

“I think we’ll have to agree to disagree about that.” She stood and went to the nightstand, opening the drawer and rummaging inside. “Here’s the room service menu. Let’s order some food.”

 

He stalked across the room to Rayna. Grabbing the menu out of her hands as she cried “Hey!” he scanned a few items and frowned. The offerings were unappetizing, mostly processed food. If he had to stay here for any length of time, he’d be going hungry and living with a stomachache. Born and raised on the planet Paros, he required all-natural food. Too much of anything else could kill him. “We don’t need food, we need a plan.”

Sitting cross-legged on one of the two twin beds, she brought the clunky black rotary phone from the night table onto her lap. “Give me that notepaper and pencil.” She pointed to the table where they’d been sitting.

 

Shawn brought them over, dropping them onto the bed beside her. “What are you doing?”

 

Removing the handset from the cradle, she placed the receiver to her ear and dialed zero for the hotel operator. “You said you needed a plan. I’m getting you one.”

 

“But what—?”

 

Rayna made a shushing gesture and spoke into the receiver. “Yes, could you put me through to the concierge desk?” She picked up the pencil and doodled on the pad as she waited. “Hello, I need the phone number to London Airport information desk. Do you have that?” In a moment, her doodles turned into numbers. She circled the phone number and underlined it with a flair. “Thank you very much.”

 

Disconnecting the call, she started to dial the number.

 

“Wait.” Shawn pressed his fingers down on the prongs of the phone, killing the connection.

 

She snapped her head up as a frown formed on her lips. “Would you just let me do this?”

 

“Tell me what you’re doing first.”

 

Raising her eyes to the ceiling as if seeking strength, she smoothed back her hair. Only then did she meet his gaze. “Shawn, you have to let go of this anger. I’m here, whether I’m supposed to be or not. Get over it. Like I’ve already said, I understand your concerns but you’re not seeing my side. I really think you should.”

 

Shawn made a disparaging sound in his throat. She couldn’t have a side to stand on, and he almost said so. Yet, her eyes were so bright, so pleading, so filled with something—worry or fear? He wasn’t sure which, but her desperation softened his demeanor.

 

“Go on,” he said in a less intimidating tone.

 

“I have the memory of both timelines in my head, the wrong one and the right one. The wrong one is in my head like I’d been living it as normal for years, maybe forever. But, at the same time, I knew it wasn’t normal because I remember the correct timeline too. The thing is, you can’t possibly know how bad the wrong one is. It’s terrifying. So full of hatred and intolerance, when the slightest misstep could get you sent to a prison camp with no hope of ever being let out again. Worse than Russia and their gulag in Siberia. People are being indiscriminately shot in the street in the name of keeping the peace. Guilty before being proven innocent is the law. The police are stormtroopers, and I don’t mean like in Star Wars. The thought of staying home in that crazy, wrong world was unbearable. With you about to leave me alone in such a terrible 1983, I was terrified and grabbed onto you at the last second. Maybe what I did wasn’t right, but I don’t regret my decision.”

 

She chewed on her lower lip while he considered her words. Finally, with a muttered “Dammit,” he sat beside her on the bed. “Alright, I understand, and what’s done is done.”

 

He placed a thumb on her lower lip until she stopped biting it.

 

“You shouldn’t be here, but we’ll make the best of whatever is thrown at us. I just hope we recognize the future when we get back to it.”

 

Her face lit up with confidence. “Oh, we will. It’ll be our 1983.”

 

“How can you be so sure?”

 

“Because it’s the only option, and we’ll make it happen no matter what.” She spoke with conviction, and he hoped she was right.

 

Buoyed by her faith, he leaned toward her, reaching up to play with a strand of her hair. She gazed up at him, desire in her eyes and a sweet little smile on her face. Moving closer, he captured her lips with his in a firm, commanding kiss, nothing hesitant about his desire. He licked and teased, prodding at the seam of her lips, demanding she open to him. She moaned as she did, and he thrust his tongue into her hot, inviting mouth.

As he led her down onto the mattress, they were interrupted by a loud, unpleasant squawking.

 

“Oh, god, what is that?” Rayna jerked back up to a sitting position.

 

“It’s the phone. The handset has been out of the cradle too long.” He gazed down at her, longing filling him. But work came first. “You better make that call to the airport and get this plan of yours in motion.”

 

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