This is another one of my favorites! I was in the middle of writing book 5 when this one popped into my head – it was the first time I was writing two books at the same time. Normally the books wait for me to at least write the rough draft of one before the next one blossoms in my head but not this one. I couldn’t write it fast enough. I also think I cover a lot paranormal categories, we have a shapeshifter and a couple of time travelers along with the basic SF story line.
Available at Phaze on Sept 24th:
Heather and Storm’s Story continues…
Storm is lost in time and without his memories and Heather has to go after him. As much as she wants to she can’t just bring him home she has to make him remember before they can return to their own timeline. So she has to find a way to jar his memory free. While she is back in time she finds out Ialog is there and has been slipping something to Storm to keep his memories form coming back.
Storm held Heather close as she continued to sleep. His fingers brushed against her soft skin. As busy as their schedule was, it was nice to have a little of the morning to themselves. Heather still wasn’t getting enough rest dealing with the twins and he did his best to let her nap when he had the chance, even though he could think of other things they could be doing right now.
“You do have a one track mind.” Heather opened her eyes and looked at him.
“You are supposed to be sleeping.” He ran his knuckles along her jawline.
“It’s hard to sleep when you keep thinking of our intimacy. Were those memories or fantasies?”
He gave her one of his bone melting smiles as he pressed her back into the bed. “Yes.”
“Yes?” She smiled up at him.
“Because somewhere along the way my fantasies become reality and then memories.” He nuzzled her throat.
“Is the door locked?” She tilted her head so he could have better access.
“No. Why?” His lips caressed her mark, sending little frissons of heat through her blood.
“Because your son has figured out how to open the door.”
“He’s not tall enough to reach the panel to open the door.” Storm stopped long enough to lift his head and looked at her. “But it doesn’t surprise me he figured out another way. He is our son.”
“I sure don’t want him tottering in here at the wrong time.” She touched his face.
“Then he won’t.” Storm surged into her. Tendrils of excitement filled her as he entered her. She wrapped her legs around his waist.
“What?” She shifted so she could accept him in deeper.
“Haven’t you noticed that they are never looking for us when we’re arguing, amorous, or intimate?” He pulled out and drove back in. “You have a mental connection with them that tells the children when it is safe to come in.”
She brushed her fingers against his mark and was greeted with him sucking in his breath. “Too much talking.”
He chuckled as he pressed his lips to her mark. “I have created a monster.”
“One you are very proud of.”
“Oh yes.” He pulled her into a sitting position, bracing his arm along her spine to give her support as she slid up and down his length. Her muscles rippled against him as she moved. They shared everything, including their intimacy. He could feel her desire as it swirled through her, filling her with excitement.
Storm leaned her away from him a little so he could hit the spot that brought her more powerful orgasms. Each time he brushed the spot, her need blossomed to a point where she felt her body shake with each stroke. One particular stroke drew a moan out of her. She was close, so close. Muscles tightened against Storm, her blood hummed. Slowly the heat built in her stomach. The flames licked along her insides until it enveloped her, sending her out to the stars.
Storm eased her back unto the bed as he continued to rock into her. Another moan escaped. Everything tightened again. The heat of his mouth latched onto her mark as his release started to unfurl. Feeling his orgasm brought her to the brink again. She soared through it with him.
“Beautiful.” He brushed hair from her face. “My heart.”
“A great way to start the day.” She smiled up at him. Her smile widened when she sensed her son opening the door. Someone has come to visit.
“Papa?” Terrik, their son, totted over to the bed.
“Yes, son?” He touched her face once more before rolling off her and looked down at his son. One of the biggest joys in his life was their children. Terrik was brilliant like his mother yet had the ability to strategize like him. A sharp wit and a smile that reminded him of his own gave Storm a hint at what his mother went through with him before he mated with Heather. His daughter rivaled her brother in intelligence and her mother in beauty. Shyer than her brother, she would look at people with her big violet eyes and melt any male’s heart who saw her. He knew he would have his hands full when his children started coming of age but he welcomed the challenge.
“Mama wake yet?” He looked up at Storm with gold eyes surrounded by a violet ring and a bright smile.
“Yes she is.” Storm offered his arm to his son who grabbed it just above his wrist so his father could lift him to the bed. Something they had started when Terrik had been old enough to crawl to the side of their bed. He held his son until Heather could move. She always needed a few moments to regain her mobility after they were intimate. “You’re awake a little early today.”
The boy snuggled against his father as Heather watched him. “Heart.”
“I know, she’s my heart, too.” He pulled his son close and pressed a kiss to his head. Storm smiled at how fast the twins picked up on key phrases and words.
Heather smiled when he crawled to her side. He was careful to not disturb her too much as he snuggled against her.
“You’re my heart too, sweetheart.” She touched his face. “Just like your sisters and your father. Where is your sister? She’s normally right behind you.”
“Perhaps we should go check and see if she is awake now.” Heather sat up with the cover wrapped around her.
“Do you need some time, my heart?” He looked at his son curled up against her. She normally spent a little time with the children when they first woke, but had promised to be ready quickly. They had hoped to be back before the children would wake up. This changed things. “We need to travel to Bert’s compound this morning. I told him we would be there as soon as we got up. He is expecting us, but I’m sure we can take a little time if you need it.”
“We can go as soon as I get dressed. It won’t take me long to get ready. Kuarto and Tiko have promised to take care of the twins while we’re gone.” She stretched, careful to keep the cover up to shield her nakedness. Nudity wasn’t something Vespians found embarrassing, but being raised on Earth she still was a bit shy showing her body to her children.
“Not the great spoiler?” Storm picked up his son and placed him on his chest.
“Your mother has council meetings today and the last time your son was in council chambers he was a bit too active. He disrupted several disputes, forcing Kuarto to go and get him. She had to promise to take time off when she watched the children after that.” Heather didn’t keep the laughter out of her voice. “I promised her it would be her turn next time. Bert said we could bring them with us, but Kuarto has been pestering to spend time with them.”
“You have come to trust Bert,” Storm commented as he entertained their son while Heather got out of bed and dressed.
“He has been honest with us so far and has taught us a lot about our abilities. I feel he can be trusted.” She closed the seals on her gown then reached for the boy. She touched his nose as she turned from the bed. “And how is my little protector this morning?”
He pressed his hand against her heart the way he had seen his parents do so many times. “Hungry.”
She laughed, hugged him and headed to the twin’s room. “Then let’s get your sister and feed you two.”
Storm climbed out of bed and dressed while she fed the children. He came into the main room once he sealed his uniform and picked up the cup of coffee Heather had waiting for him. “Do you think Terrik knows what the gesture means?”
“He knows that gesture is one of the ways we show affection for each other.” Heather leaned against her mate with her cup when he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “The fact he wants to do it too is just so sweet.”
“You still have trouble leaving them behind, don’t you?” He hugged her close when he heard her voice fill with such emotion.
“You have the same problem.” Careful of their coffee, she turned in his arms and touched his face. “Besides it will only be for a few hours.”
“And we need to get going.” He took her cup and placed his and hers on the table. “The transport is ready. Is your brother coming here or are we bringing the children to him?”
“I’m coming here,” said Kuarto as he walked in.
“You don’t knock?” Storm growled when he realized the man was behind him.
“I was told I didn’t have to.” He walked up to Heather and kissed her on the cheek. “Being family has its perks.”
“The children are almost finished with their breakfast.” Heather started running through her list of things to do for the children. “I have their clothes laid out on their beds. Um, they do dress themselves but you might need to help Terrik. He has a little trouble getting the seals closed properly.”
“They’ll be fine, Heather. Stop worrying.” He sat with the children as they finished their meals. “Now go. We’re going to have fun today.”
“Mama?” asked their daughter, Zunarka. “You leave us?”
“You get to be with Kuarto and Toki for a little while today.” She touched her daughter’s cheek. “We’ll be back soon.”
“Can we go into the garden?” asked their son. He had already dismissed them and was ready to play.
Storm put an arm around Heather’s waist and escorted her out the room. “Your soft heart would keep us there another hour if I didn’t pull you away.”
“I’m not that bad.” She looked up at him. “Am I?”
“It’s one of the reasons why I care for you so much, my heart.”
It didn’t take them long to get to Bert’s compound. Once the elders had a chance to question Bert they gave him permission to stay on some land in a remote area of Vespia so he could do his research on what happened to the rest of the ancients. They felt it was better not alerting the entire race that they had a living, breathing ancient among them. If the planet was aware of his presence they would never leave Bert alone.
Heather and Storm walked into his main computer room and found him working on assembling a large piece of equipment. He had parts floating in the air as he used a three dimensional image to move them around until they were ready to be put into place. There were small clamps on the pieces floating that allowed them to defy gravity.
“You have been busy.” Storm looked around at all the different components Bert now had up and running, not sure if he was happy with the elders’ decision. The only other ancient they had been involved with had a fixation on his mate and he feared the same thing would happen again over time, but Heather trusted the man so he kept his opinions to himself.
So far Bert had been the exact opposite of Ialog, but how long would that last? Would he develop that strange overpowering desire to have Heather that Ialog had? She was part of his visions. He had told them she was important to the future of their races. Would he try to take matters into his own hands like Ialog did? Storm knew he had to be leery or they could be caught unawares.
“A lot of the equipment I need for my search was already in my ship so it was easy to transfer it. Others I brought from my other compound, plus I have been working on a few more to make sure I have everything I need to begin my search.” He looked at Storm. “I know you have no reason to trust me. Ialog did ruin that, but I promise I have no ulterior motive. I just want to find my people. It is hard knowing I am alone.”
Did the man just read his mind?
Heather touched Storm’s arm. He could see that she understood. She had lived with being unique all her life. He placed his hand on top of hers. He trusted her. If she felt Bert was safe then he would too. For now.
The simple gesture had him wanting her again. She started smiling at him so he knew his eyes had started glowing once more. Good thing they had the ship with their favorite chair in it. He just might get a scream from her on their way back.
Storm walked around, looking at the different pieces of equipment. All types of machines covered the walls along with several large screens. “Fridon would love this place.”
“Then bring him next time.” Bert grinned as he worked on connecting a board to one of the screens. “I enjoy his sharp mind.”
Storm nodded as he rested his hip on one of the consoles.
“Oh, Storm don’t lean there–” Bert frowned as Storm winked out of sight. “Oh, dear.”
Bert sprinted to where Storm had stood only seconds ago. This wasn’t good. Storm wasn’t supposed to disappear this soon. Was he? The information he had gave him the impression it wouldn’t happen for a few months. How did the timeline get off? Using a handheld device he scanned the area then started pulling up data.
“Oh dear?” Heather grabbed him by the shoulder, turning him to face her. “What do you mean by ‘oh dear?’ Where did he go?”
“It’s not the where I’m that worried about, it’s the when.” The data he looked through on his hand held also filled one of the screens. Heather watched in awe as he flipped through thousands of images in seconds. It didn’t take him long to find him.
“The when?” Heather rubbed her forehead.
“I know this doesn’t make sense.” He had been watching her out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at Heather before he turned back to the machine. “The thing Storm rested against is a time machine. I have used it in the past to watch and learn about people as well as travel to times and places I wanted to learn more about. I assembled it here so I can travel where and when I need to gather clues on what happened to my people. It was on because I was finishing the installation. But it wasn’t set properly. Normally I have a timeline and location set, along with how long I plan on being there. It also has the DNA sequence of the person going back so they don’t get harmed by the transfer. Storm set it off without any of that being done so I’m not sure where or when he went or what he might remember. This image shows he arrived wherever safely. Now I have to see how we go about extracting him.”
“Wait. A time machine? No one has been able to control time travel yet.” Heather move close to the machine but Bert blocked her way. If she touched it the same thing would happen to her and he didn’t need two of them lost in time.
He hoped he was right about where Storm was supposed to arrive, but until he could check history to be sure, everything could have changed. If Storm was where he should be then he was safe and the next step would be to send Heather after her mate.
“None of the races you’re familiar with have the technology yet, but we have been able to successfully control it.” He moved to another computer to get historical data before going back to the time machine.
“Great. So my mate is trapped back in time somewhere? Bert, we have to bring him home.”
Bert watched her as she looked at the machine. He knew she was thinking if she did what her mate did would it send her back to the same point in time? Heather instinctively moved toward the machine to find her way blocked by Bert again.
“Please don’t touch anything. Without it being prepared properly you don’t know when or where it will send you and your mind will be wiped. You could end up on another planet and timeline if I don’t do this right. That won’t do Storm any good. Once I verify his location we’ll work on bringing him back. It shouldn’t take too long. I promise.”
Bert laid his handheld on the surface. The equipment he sat it on hummed as it worked.
“Why didn’t your machine send that little handheld off to who knows when?” Heather asked when the device didn’t disappear.
“Safety protocols because of my DNA.” He gestured to it. “It’s on the handheld.”
Heather gave him an exasperated look.
“Dealing with a time machine is tricky work. In order for me to touch it over and over without being sent all over time uncontrollably I set protocols for my DNA. It knows me and will only send me through time when I program it. Normally I have it set not to send anything without permission, but because I was still installing it and never expected Storm to touch it I hadn’t quite gotten to that. It’s hard to install the protocol when the machine isn’t fully installed and calibrated.” Although he should have. He knew Storm time traveled, he just didn’t know when until now. He had thought it happened a little too early, but the timeline hadn’t changed so he was feeling more optimistic. Bert pressed a few buttons. “Storm is on Earth. Looks like the western section of the…oh dear.”
“Again with the ‘oh dear?’ What now?”
“He’s in the early twenty-first century. Looks like Washington State of the United States.” He turned to look at Heather. Storm was where he was supposed to be. He didn’t see the connection with the location until now. “Isn’t that where Ialog kept you when he kidnapped you on Earth?”
“Yes. It is also where I was found as a child and where I left Sam after I wiped her memories. Wonder why that area seems to be a focal point.” Heather pointed to the machine. “Have you calibrated it?”
“So retrieve him.”
‘It’s not that easy.” He picked up his handheld and looked at the data on the screen. “Because the machine hasn’t been configured for his DNA it can’t read him properly. Retrieving him won’t work. Someone will have to go after him.”
“I’ll go.” She took a step toward the machine.
“There’s a complication.”
“What sort of complication? You can bring him back, can’t you?” Now she knew how Storm felt when she disappeared. The thought of him not being here for her had her stomach in knots. A feeling she didn’t like.
“His mind was overloaded by the transport. According to the records I’m finding in history, he’s been in that timeline for about two years. There have been no ripples in our timeline so he was supposed to go back there to have the universe we know. I can’t change that or we could find ourselves in a different timeline. And what is going to be a problem is your mate has been diagnosed with amnesia.” He looked at Heather. “He won’t know who you are.”
“But I can still go back and get him, right?”
“Yes, but I’ll need a little time before you leave. You can’t go back and just drag him forward. I’ll need to create a life for you in that timeline. A history that withstands scrutiny. Although their computers were still in the beginning stages, their security systems were great at ferreting out false information. You need to have an iron clad identity. I also need to give you the proper supplies to survive then as well.”
Survive? Wasn’t she going in and just bringing him home? “Why are you going through all this if I’m just going in and extracting him?”
“You might be there a little longer than for a simple extraction, but I’ll explain everything in a bit.” Bert crossed to another screen and worked a keyboard near it. “It won’t take long to get everything ready.”
Heather didn’t like the fact that her mate had been on Earth with no memory of her for two years. He had a libido that would cripple the normal human. How many women had he slept with since he had been gone? And how many had he put in the hospital?
The sooner she went back and found him the happier she would be.
“I need to make a manual upload to your insert.” He stepped up to Heather and made adjustments to her device. “There. You should have all the details of the life I have made for you. I have also given you timeline events that need to take place. If you see anything out of the ordinary you need to let me know.”
Images and information flooded her mind. “Wow.”
“I won’t be able to talk to you directly, so making sure those things happen will allow me to follow you as you move through the timeline.” He stepped back and went to the console that sent Storm away. “I know you’re anxious to get going, but I have a few more things to do before I can send you back. My job right now is to make sure you have everything you need to bring him home.”
“Just hurry, Bert. I want my mate back.” Heather crossed her arms over her chest while she waited. She knew she looked like Storm, but didn’t care. Not knowing what she was going to find when she found him had her nervous.
“Bert.” This was taking too long.
“I know you’re anxious.” He finished what he was working on. “For you.”
Heather walked around the motorcycle Bert showed her. She liked the sleek design. This was going to be her mode of transportation back in time? It made her smile.
“This vehicle has two functions. One is for you to use in the timeline you are going to. I have created it so it will fit in with the vehicles they use. The other is it is your time traveling device. It will take you there and bring you both back.” He patted the seat. “I thought the design fit you.”
It reminded her of the air bikes on Vespia. The two tires were where the resemblance ended. “Tires, really?”
“Yes. They still used personal vehicles instead of transports. Everything traveled on roads instead of in the air like you’re used to.” Excitement danced in his eyes. “When you are going still relies on fossil fuel to run their transportation. They have started to work with alternative fuels but so far it is only solar and electric when it comes to transportation. This will store the fossil fuel they use and I have programmed the bike to use it, so you won’t draw attention to yourself by running a machine that never needs gas, but it will take a lot longer to disappear than any of the vehicles there and it will burn the gas cleanly. No pollution. If someone asks you about what kind of mileage you get there are three key words to use. One is new, the second is prototype, and the third is hybrid. The mileage you will actually save won’t be believed. If you have to come up with a number for someone who is a little too curious take the average mileage for a motorcycle and double it. That data should be in the information I have downloaded already.”
She nodded. There was a lot of data in her mind for her to go through so she could fit into the timeline. She hoped it would be easy to sort it out when she needed it. Heather touched the handlebars. “I do like the design.”
“Good. I did my best mimicking the designs of the timeline. It does have a few perks from our timeline that will work there. In order to make sure it can travel back and forth the energy source is protected against EM pulses and time fluctuations.” He pulled up the computer system. “I have included a shield that will protect you if you were to have a spill as well.”
“I’m a good rider, Bert.”
“I’m not questioning your abilities, but during this timeline there are accidents because people aren’t paying attention. Although they have GPS and cell phones, the computer systems in their vehicles haven’t been designed to drive the car yet. You could get bumped by a car switching lanes because they didn’t see you. The bike also has a holographic program what will hide the fact that you can’t damage the machine. If you get into something where the bike should be damaged the system will create a false image that can be seen and touched from any angle.” He turned on the hologram so she could see what he was talking about and grinned at her. “I’m quite proud of that.”
Heather walked up to the bike which now looked like it had slid across concrete and touched the damage. It felt real to her. “That is wonderful.”
“All you need to do to get the original look is rearrange the crystals here.” He opened a panel and moved a couple of the crystals and the bike went back to normal. “Even damaged the bike will still work so you do have to be careful if you do end up in some sort of fender bender as the locals call it. Make sure the bike working seems believable if you do get in an accident.”
“Wow.” She loved this.
“There are a few other things I’ll go over before you leave but I want to focus on this garment first.” He moved to her suit and held it up for her to see. “This is designed to withstand the temporal change. There is a second one for Storm that I have put in the bottom of the saddle bags.”
“And the suit will protect us?”
“Yes. A spare helmet, boots, and gloves are built into the frame of the bike for Storm when he’s ready to come back. The suit will also double as a regular garment while you’re there. If you don’t close all the seals you can wear it in units and it will look like a biker outfit.” He separated the seals so she could see what he was talking about. “This will keep you protected while you’re riding so please use it when you should.”
“Why is that important?”
“Because I think you’re going to be there a while. According to history Storm was a bit of a recluse, only leaving a mountain hideaway to do photoshoots. You might not find him right away.”
“He’s a photographer?” Heather shook her head. “I would have thought he’d be in the military. I can see him as a drill sergeant.”
“He probably doesn’t know how to control his shifting so keeps to himself as much as possible.” Bert handed her a small pile of clothing. “This should be up to the fashion there. You can pick up more once you arrive.”
“What type of bartering system are they using?” She didn’t like the sinking feeling she was getting. How hard was this going to be? “Cash?”
“Yes, and I have that for you as well. They also use plastic.”
“I’ll explain that in a few minutes.”
Heather nodded. This was a lot to absorb.
“I can get you to the area he has shown up the most, but there is no record of his address in any of the files. Any money he received for his work was done with direct deposit, and he had a post box as a mailing address. There’s no record of a physical address. If he needed something delivered he used a local diner. That is where I would start.”
“It was a small box one could rent from the postal service where your mail could be delivered. The area I’m sending you to is remote. It is possible he doesn’t live in a location where they could deliver mail to him.” He touched her collarbone. “I won’t be able to communicate with you. The delay will be too great.” He handed her a small communication device. “But with this we will be able to get messages to each other in case of an emergency. Like I said earlier cell phones are prevalent when you’re going so I created this handheld to mimic the standard smart phones most have there. You can also use it to fill in the gaps as you interact with the local people. You hear something you never heard of this will tell you what you need to know so you don’t raise flags. The people then were into texting so that is how a lot of the data you might need will appear. All you need to do is glance at the screen. Since so many do the same thing you won’t look out of place.”
“Anything else?” She wanted to get there and find her mate.
“Yes. I’m going to try to drop you into a secluded area, but you might be seen. Your landing will cause an EM pulse and knock out all power there. I’m hoping there won’t be anyone around, but you need to hide the bike and the suit as quickly as possible if you find there are too many who might see you and you can’t ride away immediately.”
Heather removed her dress and climbed into the suit, snapping her gloves and helmet on, but left the visor open. Sealed, it resembled the Vespian security uniform.
“I’ll need to cover your mark.”
“Why?” She placed her hand against where it was hidden by the suit. Her mark was something she wore with pride. It proved she was Storm’s mate.
“Storm has the same mark. You could frighten him by having the same tattoo he does. That is what most people will think it is. Not having his memory he’s not going to know that it shows his bond to you.”
She hadn’t thought of it that way. “Do we have to?”
“I think it’s best.”
Heather nodded. Not something she wanted but she did see the logic in it. She removed her helmet and bared her neck.
“I promise it will still be there. It will be like Skye’s. Unseen, but still there.”
Bert had a few more last minute things that kept cropping up. She just wanted to go.
“If you’re ready I’ll send you back. Once you arrive I’m going to continue to stream data to you so you have as much info I can give you to function there.” He handed her a thin card.
“What is this?” She flipped it over.
“A credit card. That is what most of the people use there to store their money.”
“And how did you get money into this timeline?”
“We have been traveling through time for a while. This is the generic account for any ancient to use. As long as you don’t use too much of the money in one place you shouldn’t draw any attention to you.”
“And what is too much?”
“During this timeline? Ten thousand or more.”
“Good to know.”
“I have also made you money from that timeline. It should be enough to afford hotels and food for about a month.” He handed her a thick wad of bills.
“That sure seems like a lot.”
“I didn’t go any higher than a hundred dollar bill and those will raise eyebrows if you use too many at the same time.”
“I’ll try to be careful.” She slipped the money inside her suit.
“You’ve never dealt with money like this. Try to stick to the smaller bills and only use the bigger ones when your total is high enough to warrant it. Cash can’t be traced, but people in this timeline worry about people who flash too much cash. Try to give exact change whenever you can. Once you get there and start breaking bills you’ll be getting coins as well.”
“Change. Right. The coins are less than the bills.”
“Just remember this timeline is when homeland security had just started. It is what Earth security blossomed from. But when it first started they were a bit overzealous because of what had happened.” He went to the time machine. “To us it is ancient history but to them it was only twelve years ago.”
“What are you talking about?”
“September eleventh, two thousand and one.”
“Oh.” There were many things in history that changed the shape of the world. The attack on the twin towers and the pentagon was one of them. That one day started a series of events that led the planet to the world she knew. “Right. I’ll be careful of what I say.”
“The colloquial language is a lot different there too. Be prepared for that download. There is a lot.” He tapped a few keys on the small pad he held. “Ready?”
She nodded. How bad could it be? Her mind was flooded with so much so quickly. She said the first thing that popped into her head. “Holy shit!”
“The download worked.” He grinned. “The language of the time will flow naturally from you although you might mentally question your choice of words.”
“This is crazy. Can I go now?” She grinned back. That was strange to her.
“Almost.” Bert held out his hand. “You need to leave your rings behind. I know they mean a lot, but they might cause more trouble than you want with Storm.”
“He’s still going to see the marks they left behind.” She sighed as she pulled them off and dropped them into his open hand.
“I know but it is easier to explain the lack of rings than why you’d be willing to break your vows with a stranger. And that is how Storm will see you and any relationship you might try to start with him.”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“There is a button on the bike that will bring you home when you’re ready.” He pointed to the button in question. He looked at her before answering her question. “Storm must remember before you can bring him back. If he fights the memory then you need to stay with him and wait for him to remember.”
“He’ll never believe he’s from another timeline or another planet. Forcing him to come back without knowing the truth could cause more trouble than you realize.”
“But my brother has the ability to unlock the mind. Why can’t I just go and bring him home? It doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m trying to keep the timeline intact. The handheld will also guide you to do the same thing. Any tiny changes could create a world you don’t recognize when you come back so please understand that I ask you to listen to me without question. I can’t explain everything because I’m afraid of changing things back there as well as here. I promise it will all make more sense when you’re back there.”
He was asking for a lot, but she needed to get to Storm and bring him home. She had to trust him. Heather nodded.
Bert smiled and continued explaining everything he could. “You also can use the button if you get into a situation that could cause bodily harm. But if you come back early I might not be able to send you again so use it wisely.”
She nodded again. The sooner she got going the sooner she could find her mate. She closed the helmet so she was sealed in.
“One last thing. If everything goes right no time will pass here while you’re gone. You should return within a minute after you leave.” He tapped a few more keys then looked at her. “Go stand by the bike and I’ll send you on your way.”
Heather did as he asked. The scene in front of her started to soften and then stretch as it broke into a thousand pieces. It felt like her body was being squeezed then pulled as she flew across the galaxy and time. Landing on Earth stunned her. She just stood there until Bert’s comment about getting going as fast as she could filled her mind. She looked around and saw no one, jumped on the bike and took off.
Tires crunched against the rock filled road she zipped along. Then she hit asphalt. The bike weaved a little as she adjusted to the new surface. It didn’t take her long before she had control and was eating up the miles between her and her mate.
“Heather, you’re going too fast. Speed limit here is sixty-five and they will stop you and give you a ticket if you’re too far above that limit. You don’t need to get yourself into any of the databases here.”
She heard the computer’s voice in her ear. She grinned as she slowed to the proper speed and continued. “I didn’t know you were coming with me, Cim.”
“Bert felt you might need me to assist you in this timeline. A friendly voice so to speak. I’m also tied into the phone Bert created for you.”
“Ah. My hand held. Did he also alter the way you talked to fit into this timeline?”
“Yes, and the proper word is cell phone. They will merge with the handhelds but right now they are two different devices. In this timeline handhelds are also known as tablets. The most famous one is the iPod. It watches movies, surfs the web, reads electronic books that can be downloaded into the device. It’s like a computer in many aspects.”
“Pretty basic stuff then.”
“But to these people they are the cutting edge of technology.” Her visor showed a truck stop that started to blink. “What is that?”
“A restaurant that Storm has been known for frequenting. It is also where he has packages delivered.”
“Then I think we should go in for some coffee.” Heather steered the bike into the parking lot. The place was busy. She turned her machine off and climbed off the bike. She felt nervous. Would he be here?
A little bell dinged when she entered the restaurant. The place was packed. The only empty spot was at the counter. Walking up to it, she felt lots of people watching her. Perhaps she should have removed her helmet outside.
“I believe it is the way you look in the suit,” said Cim. “Heartbeats in most of the men have increased as they spotted you. They are aroused by your outfit.”
“Great. Just what I need.” She sat on the stool before releasing the seals on her gloves. Then she released the seals on her helmet. “Are you also part of my insert?”
“You want to know what happens when they see your face? I’ll send you a text.”
Heather pulled off her helmet and put her gloves inside. Her almost white hair now fell more than halfway down her back. Having it short for most of her life she was never one to spend a lot of time on it. A quick brush and she was done. Storm didn’t mind, he loved her hair. One of the reasons it was so long now.
She heard a beep and looked at the phone. Cim’s data on the men watching made her want to laugh. No matter where she was she always got the same reaction.
A very pregnant woman stepped up to her. “What a ya’ have?”
“Coffee for starters.” Heather smiled at her. “When are you due?”
“About a month from now.” She rubbed her womb absently. “Cream?”
“Please?” Heather picked up the menu that the woman handed her. There was a wide variety of food on the pages. So many she found it hard to pick something. Most of the people had gone back to what they were doing, giving her a chance to see what they were eating around her. A lot had breakfast in front of them. She looked up at the clock. The digital face said ten a.m.
The young woman came back with her cup and a few small white containers that she sat next to it. Heather picked one up. Okay. What was she supposed to do with them?
“Hey Patti, can I have the usual to go?” A man in jeans and a flannel shirt stepped up beside Heather.
“Where you off to now?” She pulled a pad out of the pocket of the apron she wore, jotted down some things and slapped it on the sill of a small window. “Order to go!”
“Florida. Got me going from one end of the country to the other. Have four days to get there.”
“Four?” She poured coffee in a tall white foam holder then sat the same small containers on the counter. He peeled the top back and poured the contents into the cup. He gave it a quick stir and the coffee lightened. Next he grabbed a few packets in a small dish and poured them in as well. He took a sip and grimaced. He grabbed a few more packets. “Who made this? It takes like mud.”
“Princess. Who else?” She pulled the empty packets off the counter. “Four days is pushing it, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but if I can do it in four days I’ll get a bonus. Got mouths to feed.”
“You be safe.” A bell rang behind her and a large brown bag filled the small window. Patti picked up the bag and handed it to him.
“See you in two weeks.” He lifted his cup to someone in the kitchen and headed back out.
Heather would love to ask a ton of questions, but at least she now knew what to do with the little white containers.
“Have you decided what you want?” Patti had turned her attention back to her.
“Um, yeah. Eggs, bacon and toast.” She closed the menu.
She opened the menu and pointed to the title of the dish. “Bobby’s favorite.”
“Oh.” She felt like an idiot. “Sorry. Sure.”
“You get grits or gravy with it.”
“Don’t really need either.”
“I’ll bring you gravy. It is the best. How you want your eggs?”
“You got it.” Patti turned and gave her order to a cook. Tall good looking man with dark hair and a well kept beard filled the little window as he read over the order. They resembled each other. Heather would bet they were related somehow.
Heather picked up the creamer container and opened it, and poured it into her coffee. Since the computer always gave her a perfect cup she didn’t know how strong or how weak this cup would be. Her first sip wasn’t bad but she could still taste a touch of the bitterness she didn’t care for. She looked at the small container that held the sugar packets. There were white ones, brown ones, pink ones, blue ones, and yellow ones. The white one said sugar so she went with that one. The packet tore open easily and she watched as the crystals fell into the dark liquid.
“A real sugar user, huh?”
Heather looked up at Patti. She looked tired.
“I love real sugar, but turned diabetic with this bundle of joy. Found the yellow stuff closest to the real thing in coffee, even though I have to drink decaf.” She rubbed her stomach. “Once the baby is born I’m hoping for my first real cup of coffee in months. Decaf just isn’t the same when you want high test.”
“Don’t they taste the same?”
“Not to me.” Patti frowned for a moment.
“Sure, sure.” Patti smiled at her. “I’ll bring your food to you as soon as it’s ready.”
Heather nodded as she watched the waitress move to one of her other tables. Another waitress passed her to drop off an order before heading to another group of tables Heather hadn’t noticed right away. This place was a lot bigger than she first thought.
She watched her waitress. Patti wasn’t moving right. Then it dawned on her. The baby had just dropped, making her waddle more than walk.
The cook came out of the kitchen with Heather’s meal. After setting it on the counter in front of her he watched Patti as well.
“When did she say she was due?” Heather asked.
“You sure?” Heather looked at him. “She looks like she’s going into labor now.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The fact that the baby has dropped since I got here. Her walk too. The baby is getting in the way of her movements. It looks like her little bundle of joy is getting ready to come out.”
“Hmm. Excuse me for a moment, will you?” He stepped away.
Heather took a bite of her eggs. Patti came up beside her and stopped moving for a moment, gripping the counter as she stood there.
“Sure wish you’d stop acting up.” She spoke to her baby as she rubbed her stomach. “It’s really starting to annoy me.”
Heather looked at the large clock on the wall in front of her, noting the time.
“You want some more coffee?” Patti asked her.
“Sure.” Heather watched her as she continued to move slowly.
Patti brought over the coffee pot and freshened up her cup. “Oh, you already have your meal?”
“Your cook brought it to me while you were at a table.”
“Mike didn’t need to do that.”
“I didn’t want her food to get cold.” He stepped out of the kitchen at that point. “And I had nothing left on the stove.”
“Ha. You wanted to get a better look at the pretty biker chick.”
“Patti!” He glanced at Heather, embarrassed by her comment.
“What? She is pretty and does ride a bike.” Patti grabbed the counter again and frowned as she stopped moving for a minute.
“You’re in labor,” commented Heather as she took another sip of coffee.
“Don’t be silly. I’m not due for six weeks.” Patti let go of the counter, but hadn’t moved.
“Right. And babies know how to read a calendar. You grabbed this counter five minutes ago. That was when you complained that the baby was acting up. And you’re doing it again five minutes later. You’re sweating and I’m guessing it’s from the pressure the baby is causing.” Heather put down her coffee. “Shall I go on?”
“I’m not in labor!” Patti stomped her foot. Her face showed fear when her water broke and gushed to the floor.
“Yeah. I tend to disagree.” Heather stood and brought her to a chair near an empty table. “Sit.”
“I can’t be in labor yet.” She lowered herself to the chair. “Mike needs me for four more weeks. This is his busy season. And Bo won’t be back for three weeks.”
“Don’t worry about the store and I’ll call Bo.” Mike pulled his cell phone out of his pocket.
“But you’ll be short of help.” She looked at him.
“Patti, I can help him out if that will stop you from worrying.” Heather crouched down beside her and placed her hand on the woman’s stomach, wishing her brother or Micali was here. They knew a lot more than she did about birth.
“That will work, won’t it, sis?” Mike spoke to her in between answering the person he spoke to on the other end of his call.
“I guess.” She didn’t look happy.
Sirens grew louder as a large white vehicle pulled into the parking lot. A well fit man walked in first, pulling a bed. Heather’s mind translated it to stretcher. Another man came in with him steering the bed from the other end.
“Good thing we were on our way here for lunch or Patti might have had the baby in this diner. How far apart are her contractions?”
“Five minutes,” said Mike. He stepped out of the way so they could get her ready to go.
“No problem.” They did what they needed before securing her to the stretcher. “See you at the hospital, big brother.”
“Thanks, Bob. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” While the paramedics moved Patti out of the building, Mike got on the phone and started making more calls.
Heather was worried that one of the other waitresses would slip on the fluid on the floor. She stepped behind the counter and looked for towels.
Mike spotted her behind the counter and put his hand over part of his phone. “What are you doing?”
“Looking for towels.” She pointed to the floor.
“Oh. In the back, there. All I have are small ones, but there are paper towels back there, too. If the roll under the counter isn’t enough.” Then he went back to the call.
She saw the roll under the counter and pulled it out. Unraveling a big wad she dropped it to the floor to mark the spot. At least the other two women would see the paper on the floor. All this man needed was to lose another waitress because she slipped on amniotic fluid.
She found the small towels as well as a few more rolls of the paper ones. Looking around she also saw chemicals. Another thing she needed to finish cleaning up the mess. What should she use? Heather decided to just get the fluid up off the floor then she found a spray bottle of multipurpose cleaner. That would work.
It didn’t take too long before she had all the liquid picked up and the floor cleaned. Mike was still on the phone. Sitting back on her stool, she picked up her cup of coffee and took a sip.
“What are we going to do about Patti’s tables? I’ve been slammed today and can barely keep up with my own,” asked one of the waitresses as she walked behind the counter.
“It’s okay, Princess,” replied the one who was following her. “The rest of us peasant girls will pick up the slack.”
The one who spoke first flicked her ponytail and walked to the window in front of the kitchen. “Where’s Mike? I have an order.”
“He’s busy right now, but you walked right past him,” commented Heather. The young girl acted like Patti’s baby was an inconvenience to her. One word popped into her head. Spoiled. “What do you do when he’s busy in the kitchen?”
The second woman snatched the ticket from the princess and slipped it up in a silver round thing hanging in the window. “We normally put it here so the cook on duty can see it and she knows that. But the princess doesn’t like to be put out.”
Heather was right. She was spoiled. The place was packed and more people were waiting for tables. Heather knew by the way the princess was acting she didn’t want to have anything to do with Patti’s tables and the other woman would end up doing all of it. She needed help. “If you show me what to do I can at least get Patti’s tables cleaned.”
“You don’t mind?” The second woman looked over at Mike who had now walked outside, still talking on the phone. “We have been busy. There’s a gray buss tray you can use. They’re stacked over near the sink. Just put the plates in them and bring them to the dishwasher. If you put her tips in a glass or cup we’ll make sure she gets it.”
Heather nodded and got up. She found the trays and headed to the first table. She stared at the plates for a moment. Was she supposed to leave the food on the plates? The waitress she had been talking to came over.
“Never cleaned a table before?”
“It’s easy.” She picked up the plates, scraping the food from different plates all onto one then sat the stack in the grey bin. She took the cups and glasses next and stacked two or three the ones that didn’t have a lot of liquid in them before putting one that did on top. The stacking allowed her to put more into the container. Heather had brought a clean glass which the woman put the bills and coins in. Then she sprayed the table with a bottle she had brought and wiped it with a cloth. “Got it?”
“Yep.” That was easy. She cleared the rest of the tables in Patti’s section first and lifted the heavy bin. Now what was she supposed to do with it? She carried it back behind the counter. Mike had come back in and saw her. He hooked a thumb behind him. Once again she found herself back in the place where she found the towels. A loud clang and several swear words made her walk past that area and into a hot little room.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Um, helping out for Patti?”
“Patti?” He arched a brow at her. “She finally dropped that bundle of joy?”
‘“Bout damn time. She’s been whinen’ since Tuesday.” The man washing the dishes spotted the tray in her arms. “Put that there. Can you take the other one back with you?”
Heather picked up the tray filled with clean dishes.
Mike stopped her before she made it back to the counter. “I only agreed with you to get my sister out of here. You don’t have to do this.”
“I figured that, but your waitresses are slammed and I offered to help them so they can get caught up. I like busy work, keeps me from thinking about things.”
“Problems at home or something?” He reached for the bin she was carrying.
“No, I just got back from overseas.” Heather gave him the container. “Saw things I wished I hadn’t.”
“Military discharge?” He walked to the counter and sat it down.
“You’re not going to go postal on us are you?” He looked at her.
“No.” Heather laughed. “I got into a sticky situation and the doctors suggested I take some time off to see if I really want to stay in the service.”
“Officer or enlisted?”
“Lieutenant.” She climbed back on her stool. “This might just be what the doctor ordered.”
“Okay, but I have rules. One, you need a uniform. That outfit might get you more tips, but I ask the girls to wear a pair of black shorts and a white t-shirt so everyone looks the same. For now, I think there is a spare set around here somewhere. The girls always leave clothes in case they get called in and don’t have their uniform with them, but you’ll have to go and get your own somewhere along the line.”
“Okay.” Heather couldn’t believe her luck. He was going to hire her. Now she had the perfect excuse to hang around long enough to see if Storm would come in.
“Two. Everyone but Princess is a relative and all of them only work for tips.”
“Oh, no problem. I can do the same thing.” Heather smiled. “I guess I need to find a place to stay though.”
“You haven’t checked in anywhere?”
“I stopped for a cup of coffee.” She shrugged. “I was going to see if there was a hotel nearby, but never passed one before I got here.”
“Now I feel really bad. My sister is right, this is my busy time and I could really use the help, but if you want to continue on please don’t feel obligated to stay. We’ll work it out. If you stay I can help with a room. There’s a small efficiency above the restaurant. I lived there before I built the house around back. But I must warn you that will put you on call all the time. If one of the other girls calls in sick you’ll be the first one I go to.”
“I don’t have a problem with that.” It might work in her favor. Cim told her Storm came here a lot and he could drop in anytime. The more she worked the better chance she had of running into him. She had tried to reach out to him, but his mind was blocked off somehow.
Mike disappeared for a moment. When he came back he held the outfit for her. “You have a different pair of shoes?”
“In the saddles of my bike. Sneakers okay?”
“They’ll do. You don’t want anything too thin. You could burn yourself if a pan slips or could hurt yourself if you drop a tray of food. And you want shoes that don’t slip.”
Heather went out to her bike and pulled the shoes out. Bert had included the shoes with the pile of clothes he had handed her, but she hadn’t tried them on yet. She also grabbed a pair of socks. A soft piece of lace peeked up at her. She needed undergarments here, didn’t she? Better to be safe than sorry. The more delicate items she stuffed into her suit.
Hoping she didn’t forget anything, Heather walked into the bathroom and changed. Her biker suit was soft and pliable, allowing her to fold it up small enough to fit in the saddle bags easily. Heather checked out her outfit in the mirror once she had finished changing. The course material felt strange on her. After having perfect fitting clothing all the time to have something on this loose was weird, but the waist band was stopped by her hips so she didn’t have to worry about it falling off her.
She stepped out to find Mike waiting for her.
“Sorry it’s a little big.” He handed her a large rubber band and pointed to her hair. “Needs to be up.”
“No problem.” She pulled her hair up into a ponytail and wrapped the band around it. Not having a mirror made it a little difficult, but she got it back and off her face.
“Okay. Get to work.”
“Let me stick this in my bike and I’ll be ready.” She held up her uniform.
When she came back in he explained how the sections were broken down so she would know what tables she was responsible for. He also explained how the work load was broken down so they always had silverware rolled in napkins, coffee and tea ready. Once he felt she knew what to do, he let her get to work.