Spilled Candy Traditional
This book was originally published as Maybe This Time by Pinnacle in 1996. The Prophet’s Lady is Vicki’s original title.
“Ms. Barrett is a mistress master of words. A novel well crafted and a story beautifully told.”
– Belles and Beaux
“Victoria Barrett’s ingenious concept of time and time-travel will captivate readers who crave the unusual, intelligent, and fresh approach to an old idea. Barrett brings a refreshing, clever and intriguing concepts to readers and then adds three enthralling romances to craft an unforgettable reading experience.”
– Romantic Times
“Barrett writes a complex, extremely entertaining tale. Classy tale of eternal love, a very special offering that doesn’t come along often.”
– Affaire de Coeur
“Warning: If you need sleep, do not start this book at night! Maybe This Time will keep you turning pages well into the wee hours. Highly unusual, highly entertaining. Deliciously vivid. Will capture your heart from page one.”
– Rebecca Sinclair
“A truly wonderful book. Teaches us love is stronger than anything, even death.”
– Genie’s Women’s Fiction Exchange
“A multifaceted gem. Exceedingly mesmerizing. Readers will clamor for more of Victoria Barrett’s novels involving the mysterious elders.”
– America Online
“One great story about everlasting love and the trials that go with it. Sensuous but sensitive, and you definitely will not set it down until you’ve read the last page.”
“A non-stop read for time-travel and reincarnation aficionados.”
Contemporary New Orleans
The amulet at his neck vibrated.
Kevan Buchannan vacillated, turned off his computer, then stared at its blank screen. Muted sounds drifted in through his office window; a blues band belting out jazz, people laughing and dancing in the French Quarter street below. Though tempted to kick back and relax, he couldn’t. Soon he’d be “gifted” with yet another glimpse of the future, a gift natural to him . . . frightening to others.
But not to Alyssa.
A dull pain lodged in his chest. Had it really only been three days since they’d argued over her refusal to marry him? It seemed forever.
He stared at his desk lamp’s distorted reflection in the computer screen. They’d been good together. Better than good. How could he understand her reasoning? How could any man? She wouldn’t make a lousy wife. And she wasn’t just his lover. She was also his love. His . . . love.
The woman was driving him insane.
Again the amulet vibrated at the hollow of his throat. After months of waiting and wondering when the next vision would come, when he would again image the Elder, it was finally time.
Kevan closeted his thoughts until his pulse leveled, until the tick of his office clock grew to a steady thump inside his head. Then he opened his mind to the vision.
The ticking sound faded.
The vision started.
Surrounded by darkness, he stood alone. A slight wind ruffled his hair and breezed lazily across his skin. On the horizon, light flickered and gnarled fingers of mist swirled together, thickening to fog and descending on him.
As a boy, how many times had he imagined a giant face behind him, mouth puckered, cheeks hollowed, sucking at the fog until it engulfed him?
When the familiar cool mist gathered on his skin, he lifted his face to it. Maybe here he would find peace–if there was any.
The fog parted, revealing the bumpy stone path. He walked down to its end. When the fog merged into a solid wall in front of him, he stopped and waited, feeling hollow, empty, and alone–emotions he wouldn’t have recognized before Alyssa came into his life. He’d loved her. He still loved her. He always would.
A low hum sounded. The fog retreated to the horizon then weakened to misty trails that disappeared.
Cold rain soaked his jacket. Kevan squinted, helping his eyes to adjust. Pale moonlight streaked through a lattice fence, casting weak shadows on the ground. Beyond the fence, tombs blackened with mold and cracked by age stretched up toward the sky like unwelcoming sentries.
Hesitant, he followed the weed-ridden path and entered the crumbling cemetery, then followed the scent of roses to a freshly dug grave. An uneasy shiver crept up his spine. A funeral had just been held here. He’d never before envisioned a funeral . . .
Concentrating, his vision of it grew more focused, more clear.
It was Alyssa’s funeral.
Holding a black umbrella, Kevan stood alone beside her rain-swept grave, staring at the gaping black hole, at the lone spray of thorny white roses stripped naked of leaves. Heavy raindrops pelted his umbrella and pinged off her silver coffin, now suddenly inside the hole.
Sensing movement, he looked left. Two men in black, hooded coats appeared near a sagging gate, their chins dipped low, obscuring their faces. Mocking the rain, a twisted oak limb stretching out over their heads, ignited and burned. The fire sizzled. Crackled and hissed. Its bright flames licked at the bark, the leaves, and glinted on something shiny in the men’s hands. What were they carrying?
Treading to Alyssa’s grave, they made sucking sounds with their shoes in the mud. They carried shovels. “Good evening,” Kevan said. Golden shovels.
They moved past him without a word or a glance. Why were they ignoring him? Others encountered in his visions conversed openly. And why were they hiding their faces?
The men stabbed their tools into the mound of wet dirt, then dumped mud onto Alyssa’s coffin. The clods splattered, then thunked hollowly. And with each clump that fell, the pain searing Kevan’s chest intensified. His breathing shallowed. His pulse thrummed. He tried to look away and couldn’t. Adrenaline, terror, regret, gushed through his veins.
Squeezing his eyes shut, he forced himself to accept the inevitable. He couldn’t stop the ground from swallowing her, but he couldn’t watch it. Dear God, he couldn’t . . . watch.
The steady rain grew to a thunderous downpour. His tears, his anger at her leaving him, knotted in his throat. He lifted his collar against the icy chill seeping into his bones, and blinked, allowing himself no other release of the pain clawing holes in his stomach. He had to hold on to the pain. It was all he had left now. She didn’t love him. Why didn’t she love him?
Lightning flashed, setting blaze to mighty oaks, to vines smothering the tombs, to rocks that logically could not burn, conjuring visions that flickered through his mind like snapshots. Alyssa, angry and spattered with mud, clinging to him even as she cursed him. Alyssa, bold and defiant, glaring down at him from the back of a white mare, a pre-tartan Scottish plaid draped across her shoulder. Alyssa, proud and challenging, standing at the altar of a candlelit church, dressed in an eighteenth-century wedding gown and about to marry an English lord she didn’t love. And then Alyssa–just as he’d seen her three days ago, when she’d refused to marry him. Beautiful, sitting in her sterile office, absorbed by the only thing capable of absorbing her: a computer.
The storm raged to a tempest. “Leave!” A male stranger screamed inside Kevan’s mind. “Run! Hurry!”
A violent wind whipped up. Howling through the trees, it carried a portentous warning and plastered Kevan’s eyelids shut. Panic seized his stomach and, furious because he’d yielded to panic, he clenched his jaw, shielded his eyes, and forced them to open. Immediately irritated by flying debris, they began to tear and ache.
“You must leave!” The stranger insisted.
An image of Kevan running down the stone path flooded his mind. Deep in his soul, he sensed eternal danger. Black and bleak and lethal. He fought the urge to heed the warning and escape before it was too late. But Alyssa was here. “No! I can’t! I won’t leave her like this!”
The wind whistled a high-pitched shriek. Cringing, Kevan dropped the umbrella and cupped his hands over his ears to block out the sound. Rain drove into him, stinging his arms, his legs, his back. Lightning lashed at the sky; deadly streaks that ripped through the darkness, slammed into the ground, then exploded in flaming balls of fire. Heat scorched his skin. His eyes stung, his throat felt raw, and the warning voice inside his head grew deafeningly loud. Kevan bellowed. “I’m not leaving her!”
Pain stabbed through his chest. He bent double and sank to his knees in the mud. “Do what you will!” he rasped out. “I’m not going without her!”
An ominous whisper pierced the roaring wind. “Affix time.”
The pain stopped as abruptly as it had started. The rain gentled to a fine mist. Gasping, drained and weak, Kevan tried to make sense of this. Affix time. Was the moment of Alyssa’s death the key to this vision?
He mentally collected his energy, focused, then studied the image of himself beside her grave. No gray streaked his black hair, no new lines creased the skin at his eyes. The suit was one he wore often–the one he wore now–and his were the only footsteps near her grave-site.
Her death would come soon.