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Authors: Monique Martin

The Devil's Due

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The Devil's Due
Out of Time [4]
Monique Martin
Rating:
★★★★☆

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Time travelers Simon and Elizabeth return in book four of the Out of Time series.

Simon and Elizabeth's plans for their honeymoon are interrupted when they discover a list of unfinished business hidden in Simon's grandfather's journal. Picking up where Grandfather Sebastian left off, Simon and Elizabeth, along with Jack Wells, travel to glamorous 1933 Hollywood to save the life of movie star Alan Grant. But the Golden Age of Hollywood is more than parties and premieres. Behind the bright lights and bigger-than-life contracts, shadows lurk and no one is what they seem. It's a place where people will do anything for fame and fortune. And if Simon and Elizabeth fail, more than a man's life might be lost.

THE DEVIL'S DUE

(Out of Time, Book 4)

 

 

 

Monique Martin

 

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 © 2012 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: Jason G. Anderson

 

ISBN 10: 0984660747

ISBN 13: 978-0-9846607-4-2

 

 

For more information, please contact

Acknowledgements

This book would not have been possible without the help and support of many people: Robin, who keeps me from going insane, guides me and makes me laugh; Dad and Anne; Mom and George; Eddie and Carole; Michael; Melissa; Cindy; JM; Deb, and all the wonderful people who sent notes of encouragement along the way.

 

I’d also like to thank the thousands of people who help preserve the past through books, websites, museums and sheer will.

Prologue

1933 - Los Angeles, California

 

They always ran — from the man, from themselves, from the inevitable.

Daniel hated this place. Everything about it was a lie, from the promises of work to the endless sunshine. He knew there was no escape, but even in his despair he wanted to live. His feet slipped out from under him as he slid across the gravel of the Cornfield Yard. Even the name was another lie. There was no corn here. There probably never had been.

In the distance, somewhere in the night, he heard the rumble of an engine getting closer, wheels turning, racing just as he was, on a track and no way to get off. Daniel grabbed the edge of one of the parked, empty boxcars and yanked himself to a stop. He reached for the lever to the door and thought about trying to hide inside, but he knew, if he stopped, it would be the last thing he did.

He pushed off again. His new boots struggled to find traction in the loose gravel. He ran between the long lines of rail cars, sleeping giants, cold and dark. Until a week ago, he'd thought it had all been a dream. But then the man had come to remind him. His time was almost up.

It had been a moment of weakness, of desperation, and it would be the end of him. He knew that. His legs burned from the effort to escape his fate. He ran between the huge iron snakes with only the moon watching. But, he knew he wasn't alone. The man was here. Somewhere. Waiting.

As soon as the thought entered his mind, he felt it. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. The whistle from an approaching train cut through the quiet. Daniel spun around. Not more than twenty feet away, the tall, dark silhouette of the man stood on the empty tracks. He waited, patient and still.

Panic and sooty air clogged Daniel's throat. He turned, jumped between stationary cars, nearly tripping over their coupling before popping out on the other side. He ran as fast as his feet could carry him — between cars, under them, through them. He ran.

The distant train whistle blared again, louder, closer. Daniel skidded to a stop. He drew two quick terrified breaths before running again. He ran down the length of the Southern Pacific counting the cars, just as he'd always done as a boy. 23, 24, 25…

He felt the rumble of the coming train behind him. 26, 27, 28…If he could just make it to the end, he might be free. 29, 30, 31!

He clutched the handrail of the last car and swung himself around the end of the parked train. He leapt across the tracks, then across another set. The third would be his last. The headlight from the engine flashed brightly as though it were as surprised as he was. Even at the slow yard speed, the train was too close and moving too fast. Daniel barely had time to close his eyes. And then it was over.

The train rolled past, car after car, until finally the last of it disappeared into the night. The wind from the passing train briefly blew open the dark man’s coat. He pulled down his hat and waited.

A small, brown mottled butterfly rested on the back of Daniel's tattered and bloody coat. It spread its wings and nervously took flight. The man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and used it to capture the butterfly from the air. He held it gently in his hand. The butterfly fluttered inside the handkerchief, pushing against the fabric in a panic. The man watched it impassively for a moment, before stuffing it into his pocket.

Without even so much as a glance at Daniel's body, he turned and walked away.

Chapter One

Present Day - Santa Barbara, California

 

It was a perfect day. It wasn't because the sun was bright and warm or that the ocean sent a cool breeze over the hill at Elings Park, or even that the roses on the arched pergola behind him all seemed to bloom today. It was because of her.

Simon barely heard the birds in the trees or the rustle of the leaves. He barely noticed the man they'd hired to perform the ceremony or Jack Wells as he tugged repeatedly and nervously on his collar. All Simon could think of was Elizabeth, the woman who would soon be his wife.

He liked the sound of that word. Wife. He'd tried it on many times in the months before he'd worked up the courage to propose and each time it felt right. For nearly all of his life, Simon had accepted that a family wasn't in his future. His own family had soured the taste of it and his solitary life had all but ensured it. Then Elizabeth came along and everything changed.

Dear God, he'd been so terrified those first few weeks. Falling in love with her put him in a near constant state of fear, fear of loving her, fear of losing her. When he'd finally come to accept that, despite the absurdity of it all, she loved him as much as he loved her, the world seemed to start again. And now, here he was, waiting to make her his wife.

Simon stared down toward the small copse of trees and his breath caught in his throat as she stepped forward. She was so beautiful it made his heart swell and ache. They'd decided on a private ceremony and now he was gladder of it than ever. He didn't want to share her or this moment with anyone else.

Jack and the Justice of the Peace were there by necessity, but he willed them away in his mind, until it was just Elizabeth and he. Step by step, she walked toward him. Alone. That had been his one regret. Her father had long passed and anyone else who could have served was lost in time long past. She was alone. But after today neither of them would be alone again.

Elizabeth caught his eye and smiled as though she'd read his mind. She had a way of doing that, a way of seeing inside him, of somehow seeing things in him he could not see himself. Simon smiled back hoping he could be the man she saw in her heart.

She took a last few steps and came to his side. She shifted the small bouquet of flowers she'd picked that morning into her left hand and Simon took hold of her right.

They both turned to face the Justice of the Peace who smiled at them before beginning. “Marriage is a promise, made in the hearts of two people who love each other, which takes a lifetime to fulfill. Within the circle of its love, marriage encompasses all of life's most important relationships. A wife and a husband are each other's teacher, listener, critic, partner and best friend. It is into this state that Elizabeth and Simon wish to enter.”

The Justice nodded to Simon indicating it was his time to speak his vows. Simon had written a dozen versions and thrown them all away. In the end, he'd decided to trust his heart and let it speak.

Simon gazed down at their joined hands. He gently rubbed his thumb back and forth across the soft skin of the back of her hand before trusting his voice enough to speak. He looked up unto her eyes and, as always, found what he needed there. “When I first met you, you were irritating.”

Elizabeth laughed. “I'd grown so used to being alone,” he continued. “I'd gone from accepting to embracing my misery. And then there was you. And no matter how hard I resisted, how painfully hard I resisted loving you, there was no escape and I thank whatever powers might be every day for that.”

A tear slipped down Elizabeth's cheek and Simon brushed it away. His heart was so full it ached in his chest. “My dear Miss West, there is not a day that has come before or a day that has yet to be that I want to spend with anyone but you. I love you more with every passing second, with every beat of my heart. There is nothing in this world or any other that can keep us apart if you will be my wife.”

Elizabeth sniffled and let out a deep, steadying breath. Her grip on his hand tightened and he could see her fight back her emotions. “Simon. When I was a little girl, I believed in fairy tales and magic. I believed in the impossible. Even when people said none of it was real, I still believed. And I searched. And from the fifth row, seat 26 in Hadley Hall, I found it. I found you.
You
are magic to me. What we have is magic. And you are all the proof I’ll ever need to believe in the impossible. I loved you that first day. I love you now, here, today. And I will love you tomorrow and every tomorrow to come.”

If Simon could have, he would have stopped the world then. It was a perfect moment in time. The Justice of the Peace cleared his throat and drew Simon and Elizabeth's attention back to him. The rest of the formalities were a blur. The only thing Simon would remember was the way she looked and the way she looked at him.

“You may now kiss the bride.”

Simon didn't need to be reminded. He took Elizabeth into his arms and kissed his wife.

~~~

Elizabeth closed her eyes and listened to Simon's heart beat out a steady, strong rhythm as the limousine drove them back home from the wedding. Their home. It felt a little odd to think of it that way. The house was so very Simon. But now, Simon was so very much hers too.

She opened her eyes just as the car pulled up front and stopped.

Simon kissed her temple. “Ready, Mrs. Cross?”

She heard the intensity of emotion behind the lighthearted question. “Very.”

Simon stepped out of the car and held out his hand to help her. She took it and he gently pulled her up to his side. The sun had set over an hour ago and she felt the start of the night's chill in the air as they walked to the front door.

Simon unlocked the door and pushed it open. Before Elizabeth could wonder if he was going to carry her inside, he swept her off her feet and walked across the threshold. Once inside, he held her in his arms for a long moment. The depth of his love for her always took her breath away. His arms tightened around her urging her to lean up just enough for their lips to meet in a kiss.

He set her down gently and caressed her cheek. “I have something for you.”

Elizabeth couldn't help herself and arched an eyebrow.

He chuckled and led her into the living room. “That too,” he said, “but first just a small wedding gift.”

“You didn't have to do that,” Elizabeth protested as Simon opened a cabinet in a seldom-used credenza.

He pulled out a gift box and held it out to her. “I wanted to.”

Elizabeth took the box, which was about the size of breadbox, and set it down on a small table. It was light and far too big for jewelry, which she seldom wore anyway. “What is it?”

He looked purposefully at the box as if it say,
open it and find out
.

She flipped back the lid and inside, nestled into white satin cushioning was a small stuffed tiger. It was old. Very old, from the Twenties. The stiches were loose and pulling apart. And it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Tears filled her eyes as she remembered their first kiss. On Coney Island, when they'd traveled back to 1929, Simon had won her a small stuffed tiger, exactly like this one, and she'd left it behind in anger after their argument.

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