Must Love Chainmail - Angela Quarles
And Kynon the son of Clydno asked Kai for that which Arthur had promised them. “I too will have the good tale which he promised to me,” said Kai. “Nay,” answered Kynon, “fairer will it be for thee to fulfil Arthur’s behest in the first place, and then we will tell thee the best tale that we know.”
The Mabinogion, an ancient Welsh romance
If she were caught—caught doing what she’d promised to give up—what would the cost be? Too high. Oh, but the need. The need itched across her skin, jerked her fingers toward her phone.
Outside a stacked-stone Welsh church in Flintshire, Katy Tolson snugged her pashmina scarf tighter against the pine-scented October breeze whipping through their tour group and across the rocky terrain. Ruining our bachelorette vacation, my butt.
Maybe just a quickie?
Katy slipped her phone from her coat pocket and clutched her connection to the world—to her wedding preparations. Restricting herself to five uses a day? Not possible. But if her bridesmaids caught her with her phone for, okay, the umpteenth time, they might make good on their threat of a penis piñata.
Katy had managed to make her bridesmaids behave during their week-long trip, but only because she’d promised they could do the traditional wild party on the last night. And that was tomorrow. The trade-off was, for every illicit phone use on Katy’s part, they got to add something tacky or outrageous to the night’s festivities.
The rest of the group stared down a stone well. Ha, her chance at last. She slipped around the church’s corner and pulled out her phone, thumbs flying across the keyboard, the relief at being able to take care of tiny details poignant. At the next corner, she pulled up short.
A dark-haired man, dressed in form-fitting coat and pants—as if he were an extra in a Jane Austen movie—leaned against a headstone, his back to her. A tour guide? Grief hunched his shoulders, a spray of violets clutched in his gloved hand.
He turned slightly, revealing glasses perched on a handsome face. He pulled a small object from the inside of his coat and extracted a small card from it. He kissed the card and placed it on the headstone, his fingers tapping it several times.
His head jerked up. Had she made a noise? She flattened against the wall just before his bespectacled gaze swept by her. She cast her gaze skyward. Why the heck was she hiding from the guy?
She peeked around the corner. Air shimmered around his form, the autumn leaves and crumbling headstones in his vicinity wavy and ultra-saturated with color, as if she were looking into a water tank.
Uh, yeah. That wasn’t normal. What the hell?
The air compressed, and the minor concussive force pushed her back, her elbow scraping against the stone wall. Everything within a foot of the figure pinched to a small point and then flashed bright. An object, glinting silver in the afternoon sun, dropped from the flash point and landed with a bounce and a dull clunk.
The man was gone.
As in—Not. There. Anymore.
Her mind seized up at the impossibility even as she staggered down the slight incline and slid, leaves scrunching and scattering, her heart beating in what-the-heck spurts. He had to be there. Fallen behind a headstone, head bashed in and bleeding. Or something.
The murky sun glinted off a smallish metallic object nestled between two moss-covered rocks. But no Austen-dressed man.
She picked up the object, the metal warm against her skin, a tiny stream of energy surging into her body like an aftershock. Her pulse missed a beat and skittered onward with a reverberating thunk-thunk. Because the object she held—no bigger than her palm—looked like Isabelle’s calling card case, the one that for some woo-woo-weird reason allowed her friend to time travel on nothing but a wish. Four months ago, Isabelle had made a careless wish to visit 1834 London on a case such as this. And had. And stayed. Damn her.
Katy turned the case around. It lacked the engraved monogram. So, not the same case.
Katy did a quick pivot. Still no one near. She pinched the button on the side of the case and eased it open. Hand-engraved calling cards clustered inside with just one line:
Mr. Bartram Podbury, esq.
Podbury. Podbury. Definitely familiar. A connection to Isabelle, said a little niggle in her gut. Or was it only the eerie similarity of their cases and the dark-haired man disappearing? Disappearing in a flash of light. The hairs on the back of her neck rose as if