Twice Upon a Time (Lovers' Leap #2)


by Olivia Cunning

Prologue

360 days in the future…

Lara took Reece’s hand in hers and gazed up at him, hoping he’d see reason. He had that look of discovery in his striking hazel eyes: passion, awe, anticipation, excitement. She had her work cut out for her here, but she had to convince him that what he proposed was dangerous. Potentially disastrous.

“You can’t risk using it, Reece. You have no idea what the consequences will be.” Reece ran the fingers of his free hand over the cookie-sized disc of stone on Lara’s desk. He watched his fingers glide over the hieroglyphics carved into the sand-colored surface in concentric circles. He sometimes looked at Lara like that when he touched her—as if she was the greatest treasure on Earth—but at the moment, her treasure-hunting fiancé only had eyes for the ancient Egyptian artifact beneath his strong and attentive fingertips. The amulet didn’t look impressive. The carvings were worn and at some point in its long history the flat stone had been broken in half. One half of the disc had a hole through it and was attached to a leather cord which was many centuries newer than the original artifact.

Using her knowledge of hieroglyphics and some reference books kept by the museum where she worked, Lara had just finished translating the symbols carved into both pieces of the stone disc. As Reece had suspected, the artifact could be used to jump through time. Or so it claimed. Lara wasn’t sure if she believed any of that magic mumbo jumbo. From what Lara could garner from the symbols, a person who leapt through time using this strange piece of jewelry gave up his or her body and shared an existence with a person of that time. That wasn’t what had Lara concerned. She would love to try that out herself. Not to just see the past or study it in action, but to actually live through history through the eyes of a contemporary. Amazing. The more she thought about it, the more tempted she became. She would have been onboard with Reece’s desire to try the amulet’s power if not for the warning message inscribed at the end of the incantation. Something had to be sacrificed to get the thing to work and ancient sacrifices didn’t usually entail throwing twenty bucks in a col ection plate.

Since the body was given up when leaping into the past, Lara would put her money on the sacrifice being the time-traveler giving up his body permanently. Lara was rather attached to her fiancé’s body and the rest of him for that matter. She didn’t know what she’d do with herself if he died. As far as she was concerned, using the amulet wasn’t worth the risk, no matter how seductive its power was.

“You know ancient civilizations put that kind of warning on everything,” Reece said.

“Mostly to scare people. I’m sure it’s safe. If it even works, which seems doubtful.” She tugged his hand and he tore his gaze from the amulet to look at her. His hazel eyes shifted back to the amulet for a brief instant before finally fixing on hers. “Reece, please listen to me. I think that warning means you will die if you use it. Promise me you won’t try it.”

“I could just try it once. For a few minutes. To see if it works.” Lara touched his face and stood on tiptoes to brush her lips against his. “Promise me you won’t try it,” she repeated. She kissed him again. This time he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back. A familiar heat and longing swirled through her body encouraged by Reece’s seeking tongue. At least she had his attention now and he definitely had hers.

“Are you two at it again?” a deep voice said behind Reece.

Lara reluctantly pulled away from Reece and offered his partner, Carl, a smile of greeting. “Hey, Carl.”

“So were you able to work out the hieroglyphics?” Carl asked, coming to stand beside the desk so that he could stare down at the artifact. Carl stood well over six-foot tall and was built like a truck. Blond-hair. Blue-eyes. He always unsettled Lara. She wasn’t sure what it was about him, but she never felt entirely safe around him and on the few occasions that she’d been alone with him, she’d wanted to flee. He’d never threatened her or been anything to her but courteous, so that feeling of unease baffled her. Reece had known him for years. They’d grown up together. Maybe she was just jealous of his relationship with Reece. Reece never shared much about his past with her. He seemed to think it would lower her opinion of him. He couldn’t seem to get it through his skull that she loved him unconditional y.

“Not yet,” Reece said.

Lara’s brow crinkled. Why would Reece lie to his partner? Carl had half-ownership of the amulet. Perhaps there was a basis for Lara’s continued uneasiness around the man.

“Can you tell what it does?” Carl asked Lara.

She opened her mouth to speak, but Reece interrupted. “Nope. We think it’s just an ugly piece of jewelry.”

“Really ugly,” Carl said. He picked up a piece of paper next to the amulet where Lara had written down a translated incantation. She and Reece had decided the incantation was what activated the amulet, but neither of them had attempted to read it aloud. Yet. Carl held no such qualms. He read from the page and muttered the words under his breath, but as he had no knowledge of ancient Egyptian, he pronounced most of it wrong. Lara held her breath as he stumbled over the syllables. She stared down at the amulet with her heart in her throat waiting for the swath of death and destruction she feared.

Nothing happened.

“What’s this?” Carl asked and ruffled the paper in his hand.

“Some nonsense,” Reece said. “It doesn’t mean anything. That’s why we think the symbols are just there for show. To make an ugly piece of jewelry a little more interesting.”

“Well, that’s a shame,” Carl said. “I thought we might actually be on to something big this time.”

“I guess not,” Reece said. “We might as well head out on another expedition. How about Central America this time? You’ve always wanted to go fight big bugs in the jungles.”

Carl smiled. “I’m onboard for that. Maybe we’ll find a horde of gold artifacts.”

“Yeah, this stone sure isn’t worth what we went through to get it,” Reece said.

Carl’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Seems strange that a worthless piece of stone jewelry was protected by so many traps and hidden so well in that tomb.” Reece shrugged. “Because the leather cord is much newer, I’m guessing that someone else found the real treasure years ago replaced it with this piece of junk.” Carl nodded slightly. “That makes sense.” He pounded Reece on the back. “We’l find something spectacular on this next expedition. I’ll start prepping right away.”

“Looking forward to it.” Reece clasped wrists with Carl. He then turned and wrapped both arms around Lara. “Now where were we?” he murmured.

Reece kissed her and everything but him seemed to disappear. Lara melted against the love of her life, al owing him to turn her knees to jel y and make her heart pound with excitement.

“I’ll just leave you two alone then,” Carl said.

When his footsteps had receded from the room, Reece released Lara immediately and scooped the broken amulet and the inscription from her desk. He stuffed both into his pocket.

“I thought you were going to let the museum keep that piece,” she said.

“I wouldn’t want to risk someone getting their hands on it,” he said.

She crossed her arms over her chest and lifted an eyebrow at him. “Yeah, it’s a lot safer in your pocket than it would be in a locked case inside a high security museum.”

“Since no one knows it exists besides me, you and Carl, it actually is safer in my pocket.” He pecked her on the cheek. “I have some stuff to do to get ready for the next expedition. I’l see you tonight though, okay?”

“Do I get a massage?” she asked, her flesh already begging for his touch.

He grinned at her crookedly with promise in his gaze. “That and so much more.”

“I like the sound of that.” She kissed him gently. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He turned to leave and strode toward the door. Lara’s gaze feasted on the perfection of his backside, which was almost as spectacular as his front.

“Don’t forget that you promised not to try the amulet,” she called after him.

He paused on the threshold. “I said I wouldn’t. Don’t you trust me?”

“Yeah.” Even though she’d just witnessed how easily Reece could lie to Carl, she did trust him, because she loved him. But it hadn’t always been that way.

As Reece took the stairs to the ground floor of the museum, he slipped his hand into the pocket of his cargo pants and gripped the broken amulet. He’d promised Lara he wouldn’t use it. He’d promised Lara. Promised. Six months ago that promise would have meant nothing, but her love had made him a better man and he had no intention of breaking his promise to her. Even though the object in his hand could make his dreams a reality.

He shook his head at the turn in his thoughts. The only dream that mattered to him was Lara Kensington and he wasn’t going to f**k that up by going back on his word.

“Central America?” Carl said from the shadows near the bottom of the stairs. “You hate jungles, Reece.”

Reece hid his nervousness with a smile. “I hate deserts, too. Do you think there are any good relics in Tahiti?”

Carl grabbed Reece by both arms and pul ed him into a dark corner behind the stairs. Reece’s attempts to distract him had apparently failed.

“Cut the bul shit, Reece. What’s special about the amulet?” Reece shook his head unconcernedly. Carl intimidated most people, but he didn’t intimidate Reece. Reece knew him too well to be scared of him. He also knew him well enough to know what drove him. It wasn’t to save the world. Carl had a singular self-appreciating agenda. Reece had once been that way—that’s why his partnership with Carl had been such a success—but now that Reece had Lara in his life, he knew there were more important things than fame and fortune. Carl hadn’t discovered that yet.

That’s why Reece had decided to hide the amulet’s power from him. While Reece might be able to deny the allure of using the amulet, he knew Carl wouldn’t hesitate to use it at any cost.

“Not a thing. I told Lara she could put it in one of her displays in the museum. She offered me a pretty good price for it.”

“Is that why it’s in your pocket?”

Reece’s heart skipped a beat. “Carl…”

Carl had that eager look on his face. The one he’d sported in his youth, but had been taken from him by a hard life. “What does it do, Reece? Can it travel through time like you thought?”

“Would I be standing here if it could travel through time?”

“Yeah,” Carl said, “because you handed your balls to Lara the day you asked her to marry you.”

Reece scowled and shoved Carl aside. “If I wanted to try it, I would. I don’t want to.

It’s dangerous.” Perhaps he had misplaced his balls. He sure wouldn’t have been worried about danger six months ago.

Carl grinned. “If you’re afraid, give it to me and I’l try it. Just tell me what to do.”

“I’m not afraid. Something bad will happen if we activate it. It requires a sacrifice.”

“So we throw a goat into a volcano. Problem solved.” Carl’s eyes lit up with wonder.

“How does it work?”

Reece pul ed the amulet from his pocket, holding the two halves together in his palm. Carl stared down at it, his tongue running over his upper lip repeatedly. It seemed a shame to toss this opportunity aside when they’d finally discovered something that might truly be remarkable. He and Carl had travelled the globe raiding tombs for almost a decade. They’d unearthed plenty of artifacts and treasures, but nothing like this.