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Deja Vu

She lived and breathed history, but when Margaux finds herself a hundred years into the past, she knows it's more than an episode of Deja Vu. First it was days, then weeks, then decades. And it's getting worse the more she thinks about it. Somehow, Margaux Pennington is reliving pieces of time. When she lands in the Old West, 1881, befriended by four ex-prostitutes, she's determined to beat out Roman Shaw, owner of the opposing saloon. Roman, however, seems to have more than business on his mind. But he's not the worst of her problems. For some reason, Margaux can't get back to the future. Then again ... she's not sure that she wants to.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release


Cass Andre     Founder and past president of River Valley Romance Writers RWA, Cass Andre has published poetry, periodical articles, and romantic fiction. She designs and builds websites for fellow writers in her spare time, while raising her four children. She and her husband also operate a home-based business in Bullhead City, AZ. 
     Cass strove to reach her personal goal of publishing before her twenty-fifth birthday. Just a year shy of that objective, came the sale of two of her historical romances, Winters' Desire and Veiled Hearts, to Hard Shell Word Factory. Cass loves to write romance, but plans to expand her horizons and give other genres a try.
Reviews

5 Stars

"Deja Vu is is a very well written time travel novel. If you like history, you will love this."

Marge Robbins -- www.simegen.com
Excerpt

Chapter One

Friday, April 13, 2001

Quincy, Arizona

"Basically, class, if Billy the Kid had lived in our time, we would've called him a misunderstood youth or a by-product of society." Margaux pushed her reading glasses higher on her nose and hastily scanned her notes before adding, "His case worker would explain that little Billy's antics are his way of communicating. And, of course, the state would give him a free education and a chance to, quote-unquote, be rehabilitated."

Like popcorn, sporadic snickering erupted throughout the classroom. In the front row, Gwen Adams, a bright-eyed girl who had an answer for everything, frantically waved her hand back and forth.

"But, Ms. Pennington," she said, not waiting to be called on, "does that mean that we've moved forward or have regressed?"

From the left, a white marble-sized ball arched through the air and pinged Gwen in the temple. It stuck momentarily to her hairline before dropping to the floor. Her hand flew to her head and she scowled at the grinning boy three rows over.

Once again, Mark Banuet had distracted the class with anything that could earn a snicker or a "high-five." Margaux gave him a sharp nod, his first warning to "chill out."

Mark's skinny arm shot in the air. "Since it's a holiday, can we go home early?"

Margaux forbade herself from rolling her eyes. She'd already answered that question a dozen times today.

"Friday the Thirteenth is not a legal holiday," Gwen snapped. "Sheesh!" She wiped the spitball moisture from her temple and looked hopefully up at Margaux. "I mean, is it better for us to give screwed up kids a chance like we do now? Or was it better to--"

"To hang by the neck until dead," Mark finished.

Gwen nodded. "Half the time when bad kids get a chance, they just grow up to be drug dealers anyway."

Her strategy a success, Margaux smiled. Her Billy the Kid comparison had always been a favorite. "That's your homework assignment, class."

A rumble passed through her students like a wave on the shore. As quickly as the groans sounded, they dissipated. During her ten years of teaching history, she had yet to say the word "homework" without receiving that reaction.

Facing the blackboard, Margaux lifted a piece of chalk over her head and scanned her notes again. "Your homework for the weekend is to partner up and find a specific difference between our time and the past. We'll limit the time period to between 1850 to the turn of the century." She wrote the two years on the board. "What did they do then that is different from what we do now? And which, in your opinion, is better? Between the two of you, one will give me the benefits of the present, and the other will take the past."

Whispers erupted from behind her. Without turning around, Margaux knew they were already in the midst of choosing partners.

She wrote the words "Due Monday" on the board then dropped the chalk in the tray. Sliding her notes onto her desk, she stared across the top of her students' heads. When the whispers subsided, she dusted off her fingertips and added, "Then I want to see a paper, of no less than two-hundred words, defending your time period and subject."

"Does it have to be about a law?" a voice called from the back of the room.

"It can be anything from an invention to a way of life." She adjusted her glasses again. "Are we better with or without the telephone? Was an eye for an eye truly justice? The subject matter is up to you, but no less than two hundred words."

A shrill bell raised the hairs on the back of Margaux's neck. Whether she was teaching or day dreaming, the day's end always caught her off guard.

Like a hurricane rushing through the classroom, her students leapt to their feet, swept their belongings up, and tidal waved past her desk.

"Research your history," Margaux called after them. "And when I say research, I don't mean reruns of the Flintstones."

A few students chuckled as they made their way out the door. Others mumbled their suspicions about Friday the Thirteenth. Three students, known as The Stooges, tipped their heads back and howled. It was no wonder they were repeating freshman history.

Relieved by the bell, Margaux sighed. Finally, the weekend was hers. What a shame there was nothing to fill it up with.

Margaux moved to pick up her lesson plans, but eyed Mark as he tripped Gwen on their way out to the hall. She had a Mark in her class each year, one boy infatuated with every female member of the student body.

Sliding her lesson plans into her leather valise, Margaux ignored Gwen slapping him on the back of the head. Grinning, both students walked arm and arm down the hall.

Kids....

Was she ever that young?

Lifting her favorite history-of-the-west book, Margaux scanned the open pages and hesitated on Billy the Kid's quirky smile. Almost smug, he gazed back at her. His face had become an old friend, reliable and unchanging. Margaux touched the photo and ran her finger along the brim of his floppy hat.

"That's right, Mr. McCarty. If you were born in our time, you might have made it past twenty-one." She tapped his blurred nose and gently closed the book. "And you certainly wouldn't have called yourself 'the Kid.' " Leaving the classroom, she flicked down the light switch and locked the door. "Maybe 'Billy the Homeboy'..."

Swinging her valise over her shoulder, Margaux walked down the hall. Somehow, she didn't think Billy would be too impressed with the nickname.

• • •

Stretching the sore muscles in her neck, Margaux rolled her head from side to side. She shook off a yawn and lifted a cup of hot chamomile tea to her lips. Home alone on a Friday night wouldn't get her down. She wasn't a complete loser. A lot of people stayed home on "date night." People like new mothers and the ill. Nuns.

Sipping her tea, Margaux carefully lowered herself onto the couch and placed the cup on the end table. The digital clock beside her screamed 6:58 in bold red numbers.

Almost seven o'clock, it reminded her. Time for Jeopardy!

As if on cue, Margaux yawned. Exhaustion seemed to creep up on her earlier and earlier every night.

"The school year is almost over," she comforted herself.

Picking up the sleek remote control, she clicked the television on. The tune of Jeopardy! faded in and perked her ears. Who needed a date when Alex Trebec was available to quiz her on information no one knows? Snuggling deeper into the thick cushions, Margaux waited patiently for Alex to call out tonight's categories.

"Film. Women's Literature. Religion. The Old West..."

Margaux straightened. The old west? Finally, it looked like she might have a chance at this blasted game.

A shrill ring snapped Margaux out of T.V. land.

Mental note, she thought: change your phone number and don't give it to your mother.

Of course, then the damn thing would never ring.

Margaux tried to concentrate on Alex's dialogue as the answering machine clicked on and played its computerized message. A loud beep followed.

"Margaux, darling," her mother's voice, flat and distinct, hummed from the machine. "Margaux, it's your mother. Darling, I'm calling to see how you're doing." She paused, then continued, "Okay... Well, I guess you're watching that show of yours. Call me later, dear. It worries your father when you don't answer the phone... Okay, then... Bye-bye."

Margaux chuckled to herself. She knew her father was locked in his den, watching the same program as she. He always did. And that's probably why her mother sounded so irritated on the other end. She had no one to knit-pick between seven and seven-thirty.

Refocusing her attention, Margaux gulped down the first half of her chamomile. The heat traveled down her throat and made a beeline for her bladder.

Damn!

Keeping her eyes glued to the set, she inched across the living room. When she could stand it no longer, she slipped into the bathroom. Vaguely, she heard Alex give the next answer.

"What is Virgo?" one of the contestants said.

"What is Aquarius?" Margaux corrected.

"What is Aquarius?" Alex said after a beat. "That will cost you three hundred dollars."

"I coulda been three hundred dollars richer," Margaux muttered.

Standing, she flushed the toilet as the Jeopardy! theme faded to a commercial break. She quickly adjusted her overly large T-shirt around her thighs and she peered into the medicine cabinet mirror. Her eyes, an irregular hue of blue she'd never been able to name, shifted to each side and inspected her complexion.

Did all thirty-five year old women look this tired?

Pulling her shoulder-length auburn hair back, Margaux swiped a rubber band from the cabinet and wrapped it around her ponytail. Remembering the homework she'd given her students earlier, she grimaced at her reflection. A hundred years ago she would've been considered an old maid. Now that was a subject they could write more than two hundred words on.

Turning to the side, she pulled the T-shirt tighter around her narrow waist.

At least you have your figure, her mother would say.

"And a figure is everything," Margaux imitated the matter-of-fact tone.

Saving her from further self-criticism, Jeopardy!'s theme sang from the television.

Margaux stretched her arms over her head and made her way to the living room. The digital clock beside the couch glared 6:58.

Almost seven o'clock, it reminded her. Time for Jeopardy!

As if on cue, Margaux yawned. Exhaustion seemed to creep up on her earlier and earlier every night.

"The school year is almost over..."

Frowning, she froze at the sound of her voice. Had her life become so monotonous that even her thoughts seemed repetitive?

Sitting, Margaux reached for her cup, but her hand touched nothing. She glanced over the couch's arm and bit her lip. Now what the heck had she done with her tea?

Searching for the mug, she heard Alex Trebek reading off the categories for tonight's show.

"Film. Women's Literature. Religion. The Old West..."

Margaux swallowed. Licking her lips, she tasted the sweetness of chamomile still lingering in her mouth.

And then... the phone rang...

"Déjà vu..." she murmured. "Too weird."

She headed for the kitchen and the cup of tea that had disappeared. The answering machine clicked on and took the call.

Margaux shook the confusion from her mind and filled a clean cup with tap water.

Of all things, she obviously needed a vacation.

"Margaux, darling," her mother's voice, flat and distinct, hummed from the machine. "Margaux, it's your mother. Darling, I'm calling to see how you're doing." She paused, then continued, "Okay... Well, I guess you're watching that show of yours. Call me later, dear. It worries your father when you don't answer the phone... Okay, then... Bye-bye."

Margaux blinked dumbly at the answering machine. Her teacup overflowed and lukewarm tap water ran across the back of her hand.

"I need a vacation," she whispered. "Or at least some serious therapy."

• • •

BZZ! BZZ! BZZ!

Rolling over, Margaux slammed her hand on the clock beside her bed and silenced the alarm. She squeezed her pillow over her ears and reminded herself that it was only Saturday. The day when sane people slept in past six a.m.

Her dream still lingered in her mind, a gentle remembrance that she'd tossed and turned all night. She recalled clutching a rain- soaked T-shirt to her cold, clammy body and standing outside the iron cage that fenced Billy the Kid's grave site.

Adjusting her pillow, Margaux flipped onto her back and stared at the ceiling. As always, dismissing the dream would be impossible.

What'd she expect when she thought about him and his time eight hours a day?

Reminding her of how cold she'd been in the dream, a chill raced up her spine and gave her goose flesh. Ice cold, she'd gripped the bars around the grave as if her fingers were frozen in place.

Sitting Bull had been there, too, flinging spitballs at Jesse James. Frowning, Margaux recalled the group of mourners that had lingered behind her, people she only knew from legend. Bat Masterson. Buffalo Bill and the Younger brothers. And George Custer had been giving the eulogy of all things!

She wrinkled her brow as the dream began to fade. What was that Indian doing, flying in with a bright red parachute and screaming, "Geronimo!"?

Then she remembered who'd changed the dream. Her mother.

"Margaux, darling, come in from the cold," she'd said. "Your father wants you to come watch Jeopardy!."

Billy's gravesite had dissolved around her then, replaced by the inside of her parents' grand house. Margaux had looked up to see her father's den door open. He peeked out and gave her a broad smile.

"Best hurry up," he said, waving her into the room she'd always been forbidden to enter. "You're gonna miss Jeopardy!."

Refusing to share the remainder of the dream, Margaux's mind went blank. She frowned with irritation and whipped her white satin comforter back. For cryin' out loud! Couldn't her mother at least leave her alone in her dreams?

Swinging her legs out of bed, Margaux scratched her cheek. Saturday meant she had to take her mother shopping. There were a thousand things she'd rather do... like preparing her tax return or getting a root canal.

• • •

Margaux balanced a sack of groceries in one arm and struggled to unlock her apartment door. Blowing her bangs out of her eyes, she jingled the key in the doorknob.

"Come on," she mumbled, giving it another shake.

Inside the apartment, her phone rang. When the key finally gave, Margaux shoved the door open with her shoulder and nearly toppled to the floor. Balancing herself, she rushed across the room and lifted the phone receiver to her ear.

"Hello?"

"Ms. Pennington?" the woman on the other end said. "Ms. Pennington, this is Mrs. Stevens."

Margaux grimaced. Why would the school's secretary call her? And on a Saturday?

Setting the grocery bag on the counter, she braced the receiver between her ear and her shoulder to unload the sack. "How is everything, Mrs. Stevens?"

"You'd think it was a full moon around here, being Friday the Thirteenth and all. Students are practically climbing the walls."

Friday the Thirteenth? Margaux glanced at the small calendar magnet on the refrigerator, the one she'd received as a cheap free gift from her dentist. No, today was the fourteenth. Not the Thirteenth.

Poor Mrs. Stevens. She was probably working on her third pot of coffee for the morning. The woman could never find student enrollment forms, much less remember the day of the week.

"What can I help you with?" Margaux finally said.

Mrs. Stevens cleared her throat. "Well, Mr. Reynolds isn't too pleased. He said he would appreciate it if you would give some kind of notification when you can't come in."

Margaux opened a bottle of Dr Pepper and took a sip. "I don't understand."

"That way we can get a substitute to fill in for you."

Slowly, Margaux nodded. "If I ever decide not to come in, I'll be sure to do that."

The receiver went quiet for a moment. Then Mrs. Stevens said, "Well, we found your lesson plans in your desk and--"

"I have my lesson plans."

"Um... no. We found them in your desk. Anyhow--" the high shrill of a bell interrupted the woman. She released another thick sigh. "That would be the third period bell," she mumbled. "Every kid will be in here with one excuse or another to be let home early. Just, please, Ms. Pennington, next time make sure you call us in advance if you're ill and can't attend class."

Lamely, Margaux said she would and hung up the phone. She stared at the calendar for a moment longer, repeatedly running through the days of the week.

What were students doing at school on a Saturday?

Beside the door her valise beckoned her. She was sure she'd grabbed her lesson plans yesterday, just as she did every Friday.

Picking up the lightweight case, Margaux sat on the couch and unzipped it. Peering in, she frowned at its emptiness. Where else would the damn thing be? She put a hand on her forehead and let out a small moan.

"In your desk," she answered, "just like Mrs. Stevens said."

Margaux shook her head. She could've sworn she put her lesson plans, her other supplies, and that copy of her favorite western book inside yesterday.

Was she losing her mind?

Had she lost track of days?

People did do that. How many times had she and a thousand others asked, "What day is it?"

Confused, her head ached with irrationality. Splaying her fingers, she counted the days of the week on each digit.

Monday. She tapped her pinky.

Tuesday. She wiggled her ring finger.

Wednesday. She squeezed the tip of the middle digit.

And Thursday... She touched her index finger...

Thursday she'd gone in and had a manicure.

That only left Friday. She lingered before touching her thumb. Friday... was yesterday... wasn't it?

Letting the valise drop to the floor, Margaux swallowed the knot in her throat.

Had she been hallucinating when she heard the bell through the phone and the kids' voices in the background?

Standing, she went to the kitchen to finish putting away her groceries. What was it her mother had said to her this morning? She'd asked what Margaux was doing there. In fact, her mother hadn't been dressed and ready to shop like she usually was.

She'd just stared at Margaux with that dumb-struck expression when she'd said, "But, darling, you're a day early."

Margaux had passed it off as old age and figured her mother was just being as batty as ever.

How embarrassing! She slapped herself on the forehead. She'd obviously screwed up the days of the week and missed work as well!

How stupid could one person be? And now she'd thrown off her mother's entire schedule, making her think today was Saturday too.

Margaux frowned and recapped her Dr Pepper. She could swear that yesterday was Friday. Hadn't she given her favorite homework assignment out? Hadn't Mark tried to weasel his way out of the last few minutes of class, claiming that Friday the Thirteenth was a holiday?

She hadn't dreamt it, had she? That was possible of course. If she could dream about Geronimo flying in on a parachute, and Sitting Bull flinging spitballs, she could certainly dream about a day in school. A day that apparently never happened.