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CHAPTER ONE

Surveillance

Cold, black eyes glared out at me from beneath the glass. A sudden thrill shivered through my body. Ten Union Army officers stood in front of a field tent, but one familiar face stared right through the centuries like he could see into the Minneapolis Institute of Art and knew I was there, looking at him looking at me. Unfortunately, the caption didn’t identify the officers, but I didn’t really need his name. I knew there would be no record of him—no record of birth, death, or anything in between. I snapped a close-up of him with my phone.

The soft click of the MIA curator’s high heels echoed in a nearby hall. I moved on to the case that displayed drums and flutes used for marching into battle. I didn’t want her to catch me staring at that photo. Don’t ask me why. I pretended to be enthralled by the instruments instead. Banu rounded the corner a moment later.

“Sofia. How nice to see you again.” Her lilting accent always sounded sad.

“Hello, Banu.” I gave her my best innocent smile. It was illogical to feel guilty about looking at pictures in a museum. I knew that and yet, it didn’t change the fact that I did. I pulled the ponytail out of my brown curls and busied my hands putting it back.

“Enjoying the exhibit?” Banu leaned toward the photograph of the officers, her long black hair cascading over her shoulders. She squinted at the stern faces. Her fingers drifted to the wide ruby and diamond necklace around her throat and started stroking the stones.

“You know me, geek for military history.” My laugh sounded fake and nervous, but maybe she didn’t notice.

Banu raised one eyebrow and pressed her lips into a thin line. That unwavering gaze always made me feel like she was sizing me up. “Geek for photographs, I think,” she murmured, turning her critical eye back to the officers.

She knows. I concentrated on keeping my breathing steady. She couldn’t know. This guy was my find. “I guess I’m just an anomaly,” I joked.

“Quite.” Banu straightened to her full height. Even with the heels, the top of her head barely came to my chin. Her lips curved in a delicate smile that didn’t ease the sorrow in her eyes. “Have a good day, Sofia.” She turned and left the room the same way she had come. The click of her heels against the marbled tile followed her in a trailing echo.

With a long sigh of relief, I wound my way through the illuminated cases of the visiting exhibit. The excitement of the find was already wearing thin. Banu never said much, but she always seemed to know when I was in the museum and she always managed to walk up when I was staring at Stephanous—that’s what I called him. That was the name of the Athenian politician I believed he used to be. The beautiful, diminutive curator made me so nervous.

I pushed through the heavy glass doors at the museum’s entrance and stepped out into the bright October sunlight. It was twenty after four—too late to reach Nefriti at work before the librarian left for the day. I made a mental note to call her later.

Dry leaves crunched under my feet as I unlocked my bike from the rack. The ride back to my downtown condo passed in a blur as I pedaled on autopilot. Most of the cars on Hennepin gave me a wide berth. Meaning I was probably swerving all over the bike lane. My brain was already in my office, trying for the millionth time to make sense of the puzzle of the undying officer. No matter how many times I found evidence of him, in how many eras, I couldn’t make sense of what it meant. Except that he was probably immortal, or near enough. That much I could figure out.

Chilly wind buffeted me on my way over the bridge over the Mississippi River. I jumped off my bike half a block from my building and pushed it the rest of the way. A yellow moving truck sat backed onto the curb and the security doors stood propped open with a cardboard box. Master of the obvious that I am, I guessed the association had approved the application to sell the empty penthouse unit in record time.

The girl at the front desk looked up at me as I pushed my bike into the entry and checked my mailbox. S. Adams, 15B. The box was empty. Bills and new credit card offers are all I got anyway. The pony express stopped showing up after Granny died.

I stashed my bike in the underground garage, dashing down and up the poorly lit stairway between the building and the garage as quickly as possible. That stairway was somehow left out of the tour when I bought my unit two years ago. It might have changed my mind.

Up on my floor, the door to the other unit was propped open with another moving box. Thankfully, my new neighbor was nowhere to be seen. The deadbolt on my door clacked open, loud in the peace and quiet. I didn’t bother flipping on the lights on the way to the spare bedroom that I used as an office. Bright afternoon sunlight streamed in through the floor-to-ceiling windows along the kitchen, giving the whole place a nice, warm glow.

My office looked like a shrine. Or a conspiracy theorist’s lair. Grand Central Headquarters for all my Stephanous-related research. Printed pictures and evidence of the mysterious, grim-faced man stretched along one wall, creating a timeline that went back to Athens in the fourth century BCE. I’d tracked him through major military actions through two thousand years, but the trail turned cold after 1945. He definitely seemed to have bloodlust. Or at least battlelust. The name and rank he went by—when I found them—changed, but his face never did. He hadn’t aged a day in over a thousand years.

“So where are you now?” I asked the line of pictures along the wall. Like him, I had no family, no connections. That’s not true. I had Lorelyn, who put on a concerned big sister act when she needed something from me. But unless I counted Nefriti, I had no real friends to speak of anymore. Stephanous was the closest I’d come to a boyfriend in two years. Ordinarily that didn’t make me feel completely pathetic, but today it did.

I sent the new picture to the electronic collection on my hard drive. The printer droned to life and spit out a fuzzy enlargement of the close-up of his face.

A familiar chill swept through my veins when those haunting, empty eyes caught mine. His clean-shaven jaw cut a hard line against his Union blues. His narrow nose climbed up to a high forehead and close-cropped white hair. Even across the centuries, through the lens of a camera and a low-quality print job, those eyes compelled attention. I couldn’t help but feel like I knew him somehow. But that was silly.

The room around me blurred at the edges and faded into the background. Stephanous’s eyes were all I could see. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

“No one’s watching you,” I said out loud. Lorelyn always said I should get a cat so that I stopped talking to myself. My sister could be a pain in the ass.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. Startled, I dropped the picture and watched it drift to the rug in a fluttering spiral. The lighted display on my phone identified the caller as James Robinson—Doctor James Robinson, as he reminded me regularly—my boss.

“Hello, Dr. Robinson,” I answered, imagining the skinny older man’s nervous, twitching eyebrows and leering stare.

“Yes, Miss Adams,” his nasal voice greeted from the other end of the line. “When will you be able to bring those notes by the office?”

I cringed. A sizable stack of books I hadn’t cracked in a week sat on my dining room table. Dr. Robinson referred to me as his research assistant. I referred to me as his book slave. His latest cuckoo idea involved evaluating the strategic military abilities of certain medieval bloodlines. I had no idea what he wanted from me and I knew better than to ask.

“When do you need them?” I stalled. Long moments of silence followed, punctuated by Robinson’s wheezing breaths.

“I have it on my calendar that you agreed to have them ready this week. This will be the third time you are late.”

Huh. He noticed. I racked my brain for a good excuse. “That’s not what I meant. I will have them ready this week. It’s just that I’ve found something that I think you’ll find interesting, but I need to cross-reference a few sources that didn’t arrive until yesterday. So I was wondering how much time you would be willing to give me to do that.” I crossed my fingers.

“Very good, Miss Adams. I’d like them before the conference this weekend. You do remember the conference?”

“How could I forget?” He’d been talking about it for months.

“Bring them by my office Friday morning. If you continue to be late, I’m going to have to find someone to help you keep up with my requests.”

“I’ll have them on your desk by noon.” That gave me two days. Two days of trying to figure out what the hell he even wanted out of this assignment. Maybe I should just quit.

“Yes, well,” he said, clearing his throat. I imagined his eyebrows wiggling like agitated caterpillars.

I smiled in spite of myself. The man had a brain that functioned well enough in historical contexts, but conversations with a live person? “Goodbye, Dr. Robinson.”

“Yes. Of course.” The line went dead.

“Well, Stephanous, I’ll see you Friday night. It’s a date.” I taped the new photo to the right place in the timeline and closed the office door behind me.

I stripped off my street clothes and dropped them in the mountain of dirty ones next to my bed. Most women in their mid-twenties would love a walk-in closet like mine. The clothes I actually wore were separated in three piles on or near the bed: clean, reasonably clean, and unwearable. I pulled on a tank top and yoga pants from the pitifully small clean pile. “Coffee,” I said to my reflection in the mirror on my closet door. The next two days were going to be hell.

* * * * *

Sofia? A soft, masculine voice filled my head. I looked around, but saw only a muted yellow glow all around me.

Sofia.

“Who—” The words caught in my throat when I tried to speak and I mouthed the rest of the question in silence. I felt the presence of another person, but couldn’t see anything.

A lost soul wanders the earth. You must save him.

The light faded, darkness growing at the edges of my sight as the presence before me retreated.

Careful.

The last word echoed as I became aware of a painful twinge in my neck. Something hard pressed against my cheek. The lingering feeling of the dream dissipated and ran from my memory before I could think about what it meant. I lifted my head and opened my eyes.

A piece of paper with my scribbled handwriting stuck to my forehead for a moment. It fell away when I scrubbed my hands against my face.

That dream. I hadn’t had it in months. It was always the same voice, the same light, but a different message. At least, I thought it was always a different message. I could never quite remember the words after waking up. This was the first time the voice tried to warn me.

I arched my back and felt the stiffness all over my body from falling asleep at the table. Late afternoon sunlight bathed the large dining table that I used primarily for research. Open books stacked on top of open books littered the surface. Granny would have killed me for breaking the spines like that.

I worked all through the night and found nothing that sounded like it would support Robinson’s assignment. I did have plenty of filler notes he would find interesting, though.

An empty mug lay on its side on one of my sheets of notes. “At least I emptied you first this time.” I grabbed the cup and carried it back to the pot on the counter. The acrid smell of burnt grounds tickled my nose. I debated whether to make a fresh batch or to try to get some sleep in an actual bed later.

The phone buzzed, making my decision for me. Nefriti—home.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“One of the books you put on reserve for Robinson’s research came in yesterday, but I thought you were going to stop by to get it.”

“I don’t remember saying I was going to come in yesterday,” I frowned. Or had I? “I told you I had everything I needed until those books came in and if I didn’t know you had them, why would I stop by?” I twirled a long, frizzy brown curl around my finger. A lingering feeling of…something stirred in my memory. Something about that dream.

“You could have stopped by just to say hello—or anything else you might want to tell me.”

I didn’t buy her casual tone. “How do you always know when I have something to tell you?”

“So you do know something.”

“I found him.”

Nefriti’s end of the line hissed faintly. Several long seconds passed in silence.

“Are you still there?”

“Where?” she asked.

“Civil War. Looks like he fought for the Union Army.” I waited for Nefriti to say something. The librarian was the only other person who knew about Stephanous.

“Of course he did. The bastard hates losing.” Nefriti’s voice carried a sharp edge through the airwaves. “You took a picture, I assume?”

“It’s him,” I said. “No mistake.”

“I’m out the door. Come by around ten tomorrow.”

I eyed the stacks of books on my table and remembered Robinson’s threat to find a new assistant. “I can’t. I have notes due to Robinson on Friday before noon.”

“Tell me you’re joking. Killing yourself in research that Robinson’s going to get the credit for is more important than making the most historically significant find of the century?” Nefriti’s fingernails drummed an annoyed rhythm.

I sighed. Nefriti never quite understood my desire to be a part of Robinson’s research. A part of anything bigger than myself, really. Possibly because I couldn’t really describe why I constantly felt like something was missing, like part of me just wasn’t there.

“Ten o’clock. You know where to find me.” Nefriti hung up before I could protest.

“Resistance is futile,” I muttered. The door to my office called to me. Stephanous was more than just the most historically significant find of the century. I reached for the doorknob, but I knew that if I opened it, that would be the end of me getting any work done tonight.

His flinty eyes stared from the printed photos on the wall. His gaze drew me closer and closer until I stood mere inches from him. I studied the familiar features. The hard lines around his eyes, the smooth, unlined forehead, the two moles just beneath his right eye. That face never changed—no new wrinkles, no scars to flaw the pale marble of his skin. And never a smile.

My heart beat faster. A familiar feeling of certainty flooded through me as I traced the timeline from the chiseled bust from the fifth century to the painted oil canvas from sixteenth century Spain. My first find. My favorite. Stephanous stood next to a mounted Swiss mercenary, halberd in hand. The man on the horse was clearly meant to be the focal point, but Stephanous’s ice blue eyes captivated me. This painting had always had a strange hold over me. Through my work for Robinson, I stumbled across a photo of Colonel Bradley Stevens of World War I. After that, I became obsessed.

The timeline dead ended after 1945. His last known whereabouts were as Corporal Sam Stevens on the beaches of Normandy. The body was never recovered, but there was no record of his return either. He was declared MIA and by now probably presumed dead by anyone that might have known him. And then nothing in the last sixty years. Nothing that I’d found. Yet. But I would. Maybe it was fate, or destiny, something along those lines. I knew I would find him. It was only a question of time.

That strange, prickly feeling of being watched ran across the back of my neck. My hyperactive imagination made me check the lock on the front door and the two balcony entrances. Because if a stalker somehow made it to the fifteenth floor, the flimsy little sliding door latch would stop them, right?

Maybe coffee wasn’t such a bad idea.

CHAPTER TWO

Gambit

Cold air crept under the hem of my jacket. A chill ran through my upper body as I climbed off my bike. I stuck my hands in my pockets and tugged the coat down over the waistband of my jeans. Dark gray clouds swirled overhead and cast a gloomy pall over campus. It hadn’t looked so bad from my apartment and by the time I retrieved my bike from the garage, I didn’t want to go back up for a sweatshirt. Maybe one of these days I should buy a car and become one of these morons who couldn’t be bothered to check for bikers before making right-hand turns.

I headed for the Carlson building. Even though the Wilson Library was just a short walk, I would rather take the detour through the underground tunnels where there would be heat. My cell phone buzzed in my pocket, reminding me that I was ignoring my sister’s voicemail from earlier. Lorelyn was one of those crazy morning people. And she tended to forget that I wasn’t.

A warm wave rolled over me as I opened the door. I unzipped my jacket and readjusted the Twins cap on my head. I had woken up with no time for a shower and some extremely sexy creases down my left cheek from falling asleep on a book at the dining room table again.

At the moment the halls and stairwells were empty, but at 9:55 they would flood with students hustling to their next classes or dawdling because they had nowhere important to be. If I was lucky I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew. I hated their looks of pity when they found out I was still working for Robinson. I was always tempted to tell some of my snootier former classmates—most of whom were now in grad school—about Stephanous and how I might have stumbled onto the secret to immortality. But Nefriti might kill me if I did that. Plus, I wanted what he had for myself. Simple as that.

Bright neon papers covered the walls of the tunnel. Fliers advertised everything from the next featured show at the Coffman Union to furniture being sold by international students and pleas for new roommates in Dinkytown. A lime green notice proclaimed a book sale. I stopped to note the details. That strange, prickly feeling crawled across the back of my neck again.

Even though the hallway was deserted, I heard the soft fall of footsteps approaching. I glanced over my shoulder, but didn’t see anyone. The footsteps neared. My heart jumped, finding a new home in my throat. Any moment someone would round the corner from the stairs. I was sure of it. The footsteps stopped.

I cast one more look back at the stairs before heading down the short tunnel. A sharp right turn led to the library basement. A round mirror angled in the corner of the ceiling showed the hall ahead to be empty as well. I inched my way along the wall, glancing over my shoulder every few steps.

The footsteps resumed. I froze and glanced up at the mirror. Still nothing. No one ahead, no one behind. Suddenly I longed for early dismissals. I put my back against the wall and listened, trying to get a grip on my rampaging imagination, which was convinced I was in the middle of a bad horror flick.

The creaking of doors and thundering footfalls from the floor above reassured me. In a minute the tunnels would be flooded with people. I closed my eyes and sighed in relief as I turned the corner. My shoulder rammed into something solid. The impact threw me off balance. My bag flew backwards. The weight of the books inside almost toppled me right off my feet.

Strong, cool fingers wrapped around my arm, saving me just moments before I hit the ground.

“Watch where you’re going!”

The confident grasp of the fingers around my wrist amplified my already pounding heartbeat.

“Sorry,” a deep, masculine voice said. “I should know better than to read while I’m walking.”

I stared into his brown eyes. My indignant retort died before it reached my lips. “It’s okay, really, I should know better than to walk with my eyes closed.” An odd sensation tingled through my skin where he touched me. I tried not to focus on the strange connection or the fact that he hadn’t let go, but that only made my eyes wander to the broad shoulders under his long-sleeved t-shirt. It had all the right cling in all the right places.

He smiled down at me, his longish red hair falling into his face. His eyes had a peculiar clarity that captivated me. It shamed me to admit it, but I suddenly understood why the romance heroines in the trashy books Lorelyn liked always seemed to be breathless.

“Here, allow me,” he said, stooping to pick up my bag. The physical connection severed, leaving a stinging sensation on my skin.

My eyes trailed down his back for a moment before I realized there was no way he wouldn’t notice me staring. The heat of a blush crept into my cheeks. I couldn’t meet his eyes as I took the bag from his hand. The chatter of voices and squeaking of wet tennis shoes signaled the approaching hordes.

“Thanks,” I managed to squeak out.

“Least I could do.” He smiled again, a lopsided little grin that set my heart fluttering. He raked his hair back from his face and with a quick wave, he turned and continued down the tunnel.

Say something! My brain shouted. Don’t just let him get away! I opened my mouth without the slightest idea of what was going to come out, but a group of students rounded the corner and destroyed whatever illusion of privacy we’d had a moment ago. I looked for his back in the mirror, but couldn’t make out his figure amidst the sea of faces.

Just as well. He probably thought I was a klutz and Nefriti hated it when I was late. I looked one more time, but the mirror was full of strangers.

* * * * *

Wilson smelled like a wet, woolen mitten, as per usual between October and April. Nefriti worked in the James Ford Bell Library, a smaller division of the Wilson nestled among the rows and rows of books on the fourth floor. I first met her two years ago, while researching a theory Robinson had long since discarded as a possible book topic. More than once Nefriti helped me snag some rare prints and old texts that weren’t in circulation. But beyond an affinity for history, I didn’t know that we had much in common. At least, I assumed we didn’t. Nefriti always rejected my invitations to get together outside of the library.

I trekked up to the fourth floor. I had to dodge the teeming masses streaming down the wide stairwells. While running headfirst into the good-looking guy downstairs again didn’t sound like an altogether terrible idea, I really didn’t want to fall down the concrete backwards. By the time I made it to the Bell and its old world international trade archives, I was late and sweating. Nefriti stood at the door, tapping her stiletto heel against the floor.

Despite the fact that I was a head taller, Nefriti gave off the distinct impression that I was the peasant to her queen. I had never seen anyone go toe-to-toe with Nefriti and not cave to her air of authority. Her jet black hair fell in a stylish, asymmetrical bob that just barely grazed her shoulders. Carefully smudged eyeliner accented her large, almond-shaped eyes and her full lips sat poised in a permanent smirk that made her look like she knew more than she was telling.

“I know, I know,” I said before she could start. “I got run over in the basement on the way here.”

Nefriti made a dismissive gesture with her hand and ushered me through the door. The air in the room smelled musty—the comforting, dry scent of old paper, leather, and ink mixed in my nostrils. “We have ten minutes before the Marlboro Association is back from break. You brought the picture?” The question wasn’t so much a question as a command.

I set my bag on the high work counter and pulled out a copy of the close-up of the unidentified officer.

“Curse the gods and all that’s holy,” Nefriti muttered, squinting at the fuzzy photo. “That is most definitely him.” She turned a suspicious look at me. “This is all?”

“The only one I saw at the exhibit.”

Nefriti sucked in her cheeks, making her angled cheekbones even more prominent. “I mean the only evidence. No name to go with it?”

“You’re kidding, right?” I plopped onto a stool at one of the workstations and dropped my coat and cap on the floor. A pencil secured my tangled hair in a quick knot. This branch of the library always seemed five degrees hotter than the rest of the building. “There were ten officers in the photo. The caption read ‘Ten Union Army Officers’ and I haven’t had time to do any other digging. Besides,” I said with a shrug. “Robinson is on my ass to get him notes before the conference on Saturday. I’m not going to have time until next week.”

“I don’t know why you put up with him,” Nefriti huffed as she stuffed the photo in an unmarked file folder. She slid open her workstation drawer and dropped the folder on top of a black leather-bound book. “He isn’t half as smart as your work makes him look.”

I shrugged. For now, a byline and something to keep myself busy between Stephanous sightings was enough. I didn’t want to admit I was afraid that without this job, I would have nothing in my life that anchored me to the rest of the world and I would somehow just drift away.

Nefriti squinted at me, suspicious again. “Have you told Robinson about him?”

“You’re the only person I’ve told.”

“You’d better not let anyone else take the credit for this,” she demanded for the hundredth time.

My eyes rolled before I could stop and make myself slightly more mature. “What happens if we do find him?” That question always lingered in the back of my mind.

“What do you mean, what happens? We become highly respected historians and have money piling at our doorsteps for book deals and exclusive interviews.” She rearranged the already neat counter and drummed her fingernails against a stack of papers.

“I mean, do you think he wants to be found?”

Nefriti snorted and glanced at her watch. “I would think that anyone with the key to immortality would want that secret guarded, but what do I know?”

“Don’t you think it would be lonely? Think of all the people he’s probably seen die.”

“As a soldier? Think of all the people he’s helped die.”

“But why else let himself be photographed? And painted. And sculpted.” I couldn’t believe anyone would want to spend eternity alone.

“Arrogance. Pride. Sheer hubris. Take your pick. I don’t think he’s sitting around waiting for someone to rescue him from his solitary existence. He seems pretty pleased with himself.”

I frowned. We had two very different interpretations of Stephanous. The door to the room swung open. A pair of red-faced library employees who smelled of freshly burned cigarettes walked in and avoided looking at us. Nefriti shot a contemptuous sneer in their direction before turning back to me.

“I have to get back to work. That book you wanted is at the circulation desk under your name.”

“Thanks,” I started, but Nefriti had already turned her attention back to her work. I grabbed my things and headed for the first floor.

After checking out the book, I headed outside. I was tempted to take the tunnels to see if I could run into that guy again, but the next classes were in session and I had no desire to walk through the deserted tunnels by myself.

By the time I walked in the entrance to my building, I couldn’t feel my nose, except for the fact that it was running. A cold Minnesota winter was definitely on the way. I spent the rest of the afternoon poring over the books that littered my dining room table and drinking an entire pot of coffee. Try as I might, I couldn’t get that lopsided grin out of my head. I swore I could still feel his fingers on my wrist. Maybe Lorelyn was right. Maybe I needed to get out more.

That reminded me. I played her voicemail on speaker.

“Hey, kiddo, it’s me,” Lorelyn’s fully-alert-at-six-a.m.-voice greeted. “I found another box of Granny’s things while I was packing and I don’t think I’ll have room for it at the new place. I didn’t want to leave it in my garage because I won’t have a private stall anymore, so I was kind of hoping you wouldn’t mind storing it for a while, since, y’know, you have that storage space anyway—”

I rolled my eyes. My storage space was full of things Lorelyn didn’t have room for but didn’t want to throw away.

“I don’t know what to do with it otherwise and I don’t want to throw it away. I mean, we already got rid of so much of her stuff and we should hang on to some of it so…” she took a breath on the recording. “Anyway, yeah, so call me later. We should get together. Okay. Bye.”

I deleted the message. Sometimes I couldn’t believe she was older. Weren’t older siblings supposed to be the responsible ones?

* * * * *

At six thirty the sky outside my kitchen balcony was dark. The clouds that had hung around all day obscured the usual glow of the sunset. I was closer to going bald from tearing out my hair than I was to finding anything I could present to Robinson. Cartoonish doodles filled the margins of my notepaper. I’d given up trying to take notes on my computer ages ago. The paper made a satisfying crunching sound as I balled it up and tossed it at the trashcan. Couldn’t do that with a computer.

For a moment, I entertained the thought of asking Robinson for more direction. The last time I asked him to clarify a thesis statement he had given me a withering look. His response epitomized everything Nefriti disliked about him. You’re a smart girl. Find me something brilliant.

“Brilliant,” I sighed to myself as I surveyed the few pages of notes I hadn’t crumpled up or thrown away. “This is anything but that.”

My phone buzzed, rescuing me from having to decide which book to go through next. Speak of the devil.

“Hello, Dr. Robinson.”

“Yes, Miss Adams. The conference on Saturday…”

I waited for him to finish the thought, but his voice trailed off in silence. “I have notes ready to drop off tomorrow morning, like we agreed,” I said.

“Tomorrow.”

“Yes, tomorrow,” I repeated with extra emphasis. “Tomorrow, Friday morning before noon, remember?” I knew he wouldn’t. Current events were not his forte. The line was quiet so long I wondered if he hung up. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

“But they’re ready now?”

Damn. It was easy to forget that he actually paid attention to what I said sometimes. “Technically, yes,” I hedged, running my tongue over my teeth. The taste of stale coffee made me grimace. “But they’re a mess. I don’t want to give them to you until I have them laid out properly.”

Another silence. This time followed by an irritated sigh. “Very good, Miss Adams.”

“Goodbye, Dr. Robinson,” I baited him into ending the conversation. “I’ll see you tomorrow before noon.” I hung up before he could say anything else. Then I stuck my tongue out at the phone.

A burgeoning headache threatened to break just behind my forehead. I considered telling Robinson about Stephanous. He would want to write a book about him. And I’d end up doing all the work anyway.

Maybe I should just write the book. That thought crossed my mind at least once a week. Two months ago, I had gotten as far as putting together a draft outline, but I could never bring myself to sit down and write. Despite Nefriti’s urging, I really didn’t want to share this with the rest of the world. Stephanous was mine. I could picture his somber face cracking into a smile as he held me in his arms. I saw myself as a permanent fixture of time, watching history made and remade before my eyes.

The cold breeze outside turned into a harsh, biting wind that whistled and shrieked against the windows. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. My skin prickled with the sensation of unseen eyes spying on me. Stephanous called to me.

The hardwood creaked under my feet as I walked to the office. I hugged my arms and tried to rub out the chills that suddenly chased down my spine. Shadows played against the taupe paint on the walls. Goosebumps ran up and down my arms.

Careful. The warning from my dream sprang into my memory, as clear as bottled Evian. My heart thumped a staccato rhythm in my chest.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Nadja thinks there aren't enough smart, sassy heroines in speculative fiction. Her novels are filled with smart, sassy women. Coincidence?

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
Readers can sign up for announcements of new releases at https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r6n8x0 or read my free graphic novel at www.impurebloodwebcomic.com. It's also fairly easy to find me on social media.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
Trying Neaira by Debra Hamel, Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, and the German translation of the Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks.
Q. What books have influenced your life the most?
A.
Favorites that are always worth another read are Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

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