NOW DUDES THAT IS NOT SO. What’s this then……
The Writer and The Rake. Chapter one the illustrated preview version. Time Mutants series.
Present Day. Dundee, Scotland.
If life was what happened as she dreamed, then what a bloody nightmare hers was right now. Flashlights pinged. “Sign this, Ms. Carter,” “Ms. Carter, over here,” “Brit-tany, Brit-tany,” screeched legions of adoring fans.
Some were trampled underfoot as she sashayed up stairs that dripped in red velvet, her carefully coiffed, exotically scented, chestnut hair framing her face, pink lips pouting, figure, slim as an ice pick in the little lime-green number she’d ordered from Saskia’s online. A snip at a thousand quid.
At least, in her fantasies people asked her for her autographs, her fans were being trampled and the dress cost that.
Not even a mouse at her book signing in some shitty Scout hall.
Another parking ticket to stuff in the overflowing glove compartment. If only the compartment was a magician’s box that would make it vanish. A thwack, as one windscreen wiper tangled with the other, breaking it off and pinging it across the car bonnet in the rain battering off the tarmac.
And need she ask herself what that noise was? The tinkling of a broken tail light. Not hers. As for the dress? Sufficient to say that Zaskia’s wasn’t Saskia’s. So it was stuck in transit somewhere over Europe. She’d fit it all right. For the past week yogurt was all she could afford. Her stomach growled with hunger.
She stuffed her cigarette in the ashtray and creaked open the car door.
“Well, doesn’t this just make my day, ma’am? Stoopid. Stoopid.”
The icing on the cake. A shaven-headed, Neanderthal in a long leather coat, down on his haunches, squinting at his car bumper lying in the road. American, so probably born with a legal writ in his hand. She’d planned on picking up Rab by nine and it was already ten minutes to.
“Look, please don’t blame yourself.” She dragged her cigarettes and lighter from her raincoat pocket. “An accident can happen to anyone. I’m perfectly certain if it’s the first time—”
“Do you think I meant me?”
Forget being sued. On a sliding scale in a galaxy of last things, Rab disappearing to the pub for a quickie because she was late, was her biggest fear. She flicked her lighter, dragged the hot smoke into her lungs, let the heavenly scent waft up her nose.
“Well, darling, I sincerely hope you aren’t meaning me. I mean, I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Brit. Hey, doll, is something up?”
Rab, proceeded by his beer belly, dark quiff plastered to his forehead, his feet rammed into unfastened trainers, splashed through the puddles, guzzling what looked like a half bottle of voddie in a brown paper bag. Or was it a full bottle? It didn’t bode well for taking her revenge on Sebastian when she was doing her best to stay calm.
“You might say, darling.”
“Fine. Why don’t I just get in the car then? Just—”
He almost fell his length while pawing the door handle. When she’d thought about picking him up, she should have realized it would be out of the gutter. She glanced the other way. At least he was here. Sebastian’s was only a fifteen-minute drive through the city and over the road bridge. They’d be there by nine thirty.
“I beg your pardon, ma’am.”
Ignoring Rab, and the butterflies rising in her stomach, she flicked her gaze over the man on his haunches, streetlight gilding his face.
“Did he just say, Brit?”
She forced a smile. If he had her name and went to the police with it, that would be the end of the plan to sort Sebastian.
He stood up, wiping grit and plastic specks from his palms, his voice just audible above the water gurgling down the drain, inches from her toes. “An unusual name. It’s not short for something, is it?”
“It’s second generation Norwegian actually.”
“Really? You don’t sound Norwegian.”
“Oh, I don’t sound a lot of things, that’s why everyone up here calls me a Sassenach. But my grandfather was Norwegian and my mother is English.”
“You don’t say. Brittany Carter? Yes?”
“And what’s that to you?”
Cold trickles of rain ran down her spine as she shot a glance at her car and more importantly Rab sitting like a mountain inside. With that long shiny raincoat and shaved head, this stranger’s faint scent of hot exhaust, mugging old ladies, and extorting money at knifepoint from women like her, were probably as much as he knew. Not that she had much money. He’d be sadly disappointed. Even if he read her books, it wouldn’t do to go leaping about the street. The trick was to appear calm even if she was actively fighting the urge to finger her neck. Waft a little smoke his way. “Well?”
“Fame, success, riches.”
“I think you must have mistaken me for someone else.”
“Trust me, darling.”
“Fame, success, riches.”
“In your dreams. Last month’s royalty statement wouldn’t pay for a loaf of bread.”
His lips cinched. “I should have added, the choice is yours. So long as you do it wisely.”
“Goodness. That sounds just like a book blurb.”
“Perhaps.” He dug in his pocket. “It only takes one thing.”
Good God Almighty. An autograph? He was a fan? A man like him? Her publisher had stressed the importance of appealing to all sorts. Men. Women. Why argue? Especially when she hadn’t appealed to anyone and this man pulled out a folded square of soggy paper. This was an awful lot better than exchanging insurance details.
“Hold on.” She opened her bag. She wasn’t exactly short of pens. “Although I must ask, do you mean, perhaps it only takes one thing? Or, perhaps? And then, it only takes? Oh, never mind. You’ve bought my books? The Captive Viking? The Captive Viking’s Bride? Then, of course, there’s my latest, A Viking for the Saxon Prince. It’s not as it sounds. The Viking is a lady. Her name is Frigga. Yours is?”
“My name? I don’t see what my name—”
“Unless you want me to guess, which I have to tell you darling, I’m in no mood for. You want a personalization, don’t you?”
She stared at the silver raindrop trickling down his face. An escaped lunatic was the last thing she needed tonight.
“Well, I—I just need you to sign if you are Brittany Carter, then all these things I mentioned can be yours.”
“How kind, but I still need your name.”
“Morte.” His voice rumbled like distant thunder in his chest.
“Mort? How interesting. Short for Mortimer, or Mortmain, is it?”
He shrugged, his face dead as stone. The smile wasn’t a smile. “If you say so, lady.”
“Well, if you’ll just open the paper?”
She waited while he pulled the ends of the piece of paper apart. Screeds on it, in fancy rain-smeared lettering she could barely get her eyes in gear to decipher, stranger than the black symbols etched into his shaven head.
What were they? Crude attempts at reproducing crop circles? A problem with his barber? She screwed her eyes up tighter. She’d signed that mortgage with Sebastian without thinking after all. Now he kept defaulting. She couldn’t even get a credit card company to touch her. Shouldn’t she at least try to see, look knowledgeable, prevaricate? This might be an insurance disclaimer. He moved closer.
“Is there something wrong?”
She jerked up her head.
“Let me, ma’am.” He shrugged and turned around.
“You can sign it right there. Use my back as a desk.”
How obliging. More so than any man she’d ever met and she wanted to get to Sebastian’s tonight. Besides, she’d dreamed of this. What possible harm could there be? She tossed the cigarette aside, stepped forward, wedged the piece of paper between his soaking shoulder blades.
“All good wishes.” She scrawled in the wet creases. “‘To Mortimer, my only, I mean my number one fan, with love from Brittany Carter.’ How’s that? Now, if you don’t mind, I really must be getting on my way.”
“Not at all, Brittany. It’s very good of you to sign. Just . . . just remember what I said about choice. It’s important you choose wisely, do you understand?”
“Your car . . .”
He’d asked for her autograph and now she glanced down in the yellow light. That was quite a dent in the boot.
“Don’t worry about it.” A shrug of his expansive shoulders. “I won’t need it where I’m going.”
“Somewhere close at hand, is it? After all, you wouldn’t want to get wet in all this rain if there’s a problem with it.” Or cadge a lift. She dropped the pen back into her bag. “Now, talking rain, I really must go. But, so lovely to have met you, Mort. Take care of yourself, won’t you?”
She nearly shot out of her skin. Thunder clapped right above her head. The street lamps flickered. Sparks showered on the cobbled road inches from her toes so she’d done her damndest to stand there and muffle the shriek. Mort merely stared.
“You should go.”
“I will. Don’t hang about yourself. Goodbye.”
She sloshed towards the car, relief and alarm coating her skin. Rab had fallen over and was sprawled across her seat. She shoved him upright, squeezed inside.
“There you are, Brit. What was all that about?”
She stuck a cigarette between her teeth. “Not that you were paying any attention, but it was a fan.”
“Well, I do have some, darling.”
“Did I say you didn’t?”
“You didn’t have to.” She glanced in the mirror. “His name’s Mort and he wanted my autograph.”
So badly he was splayed on his knees kissing the paper in a dancing sea of rain, raising it heavenwards, the hem of his coat frothing in a perfect circle around him. The unlit cigarette dangled from her lower lip. Who needed a legion of fans when she’d one like this? She’d better be careful driving away. It would be terrible to run him over.
Rab’s yell split her eardrums. The bolt of lightning hadn’t just struck behind them. It had struck Mort. Her fan. Her only fan had flames licking all over his coat. And he knelt there, doing nothing. She must save him. She couldn’t lose her only fan. There would be no one to buy her next book.
“Quickly Rab, the extinguisher.” She raked under the seat. “Get the car rug. Hurry. Hurry. Phone 999.”
“Jeez, Brit, what the hell do you think I am? Superman?”
She stumbled out, grabbed the extinguisher. Flames pooled at the hem of Mort’s outspread coat. They spread like golden butter up the coat itself while he sat with his eyes closed, his dark brows in a straight line, his lips too. The acrid smell of burning leather stung her nostrils. Fortunately her eyes didn’t water. She could see.
Her unlit cigarette was still wedged between her teeth. It gave her something to bite down on as she took aim. Foam scooted in a frothy jet, spattering Mort’s rugged face, covering his eyelids like snow. “It’s fine, darling. I’ve got you.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“You don’t have to be afraid.”
Shock obviously did things to a person. It’d done things to Mort. He couldn’t see blackened, smoking holes punctured his coat and seared his flesh. He hadn’t even fallen over.
“Rab has phoned an ambulance.”
“You’ve interrupted a process here.”
She bit her lip, the cigarette along with it, scooshed more foam. “Well, if that’s your head going up in flames, I’m glad I did. Or you’d be crisped, darling. Now, just let me get that blanket for you.”
“Do you think that is going to solve anything? A goddamned blanket?”
She turned. The poor man. She shook the blanket out and tucked its soft folds around his shoulders before he got even more aggressive. At least it would be warm. Good for shock.
“There. Let’s just get this properly round you. That’s it. There. Till the ambulance gets here.”
His dark eyes, weary beyond ages held hers. “No. You don’t understand. This is about choices. You just made the wrong one.”
He saw her coming. If he’d known her effect he’d have walked away.
When it comes to doing it all, hard coated ‘wild child’ writer, Brittany Carter ticks every box. Having it all is a different thing though, what with her need to thwart an ex fiancé, and herself transported from the present to Georgian times. But then, so long as she can find her way back to her world of fame, and promised fortune, what’s there to worry about?
Georgian bad boy Mitchell Killgower is at the center of an inheritance dispute and he needs Brittany as his obedient, country mouse wife. Or rather he needs her like a hole in the head. In and out of his bed he’s never known a woman like her. A woman who can disappear and reappear like her either.
And when his coolly contained anarchist, who is anything but, learns how to return to her world and stay there, will And when his coolly contained anarchist, who is anything but, learns how to return to her world and remain, will having it all be enough, or does she underestimate him, and herself?