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Time to Remember

Amy Bennet knew she was different from other little girls the day she levitated the cat. She was five. Twenty years later Amy uses her abilities to investigate ... investigate paranormal events. When she visits the haunted Dunmore mansion seeking information about the Dunmore curse Amy discovers she has lived, loved and died tragically in two previous lifetimes. Her fate is entwined with the mansion's present owner Robert Dunmore, and she must find a way to end the curse so she and robert can find love and fulfillment in this lifetime.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release


Roberta Warren

     Time To Remember is my first E-book and I am excited about being published in this new medium. I think writing romance or any other kind of fiction is like having an imaginary playmate as a child. It allows me to continue talking to people who don't exist, even ghosts, and no one thinks I'm crazy. I have been writing for ten years and am also paper published in historical romance. I am presently working on two books, Twice Loved and Etched In Stone. I live in Missouri with my husband, four married daughters, assorted grandchildren and a head full of heroes and heroines waiting impatiently for me to get them into print. I hope you enjoy Time To Remember.

Reviews

"I was hooked from the opening line, 'Amy Bennet knew she was different from other little girls the day she levitated the cat.' Time to Remember is a category-length reincarnation romance, with the action well-divided between the present and the two past lives. Ms. Warren's characterizations are a delight, including the housekeeper who may or may not turn into a cat, the ghostly children who like to play with doors, and the aged proprietress of the local historical society. The story was well-written and engrossing, holding my attention right up to the ending."

SF Romance
Excerpt

Chapter 1

Harmony, South Carolina

Amy Bennet knew she was different from other little girls the day she levitated the cat.

Amy smiled at the childhood memory. She was five, again, and her playmate, Marsha Long, giggled, clapped her hands and shouted, "Make the cat go higher!" She hadn't, of course. The poor cat was terrified, and so was she. It had taken many long talks with Aunt Mae over the next several years for Amy to understand and accept the abilities she possessed.

Marsha, Amy mused, as her red Mustang purred along the interstate at sixty-five, had accepted the fact she was different immediately and was still her best friend. Now her editor at Stranger Than Fiction Magazine, Marsha always encouraged her to use her abilities to the fullest.

"A perfect opportunity for someone with your talent," she'd said, when she'd asked her to investigate and write an article about Lost Glen, the allegedly haunted Dunmore mansion.

Amy slowed the car to read the highway sign coming up on her right. Fifteen miles to Harmony, but she didn't need to go that far. The turn she was looking for should be the next right.

Glancing again at the bank of gray-black storm clouds brewing on the western horizon caused unease to snake through her. She hoped the storm wasn't an omen, and that it wouldn't hit before she reached the mansion. Truth to tell, she was a little spooked, and had been since Marsha asked her do the article. She'd intended to turn the job down because it would interfere with the work on her latest novel. And she would have, if she hadn't seen the photograph of the mansion clipped to a folder on Marsha's desk. One look had changed her mind. The longer she'd studied the picture, the stronger the compulsion to go there grew, and she knew from past experiences it was wise to heed her instincts.

Love and happiness had coexisted with fear and hate in that mammoth pile of gray stones. That could be said of all old houses, Amy supposed, but the picture evoked the strongest sense of deja' vu she'd ever experienced, and no psychic worth her vibes would turn her back on something like that.

Lost Glen held secrets she needed to expose, mysteries she wanted to solve. The sense of urgency the picture caused could not be ignored. There had to be a reason for feeling drawn to the house. She had no idea what it was, but she couldn't shake the suspicion that the events of the next few days might well be the most profound experiences of her life.

She wasn't afraid, exactly. Curious, uptight, anxious... .sure. Any sane person would be. Amy chuckled at that thought. No one had accused her of being sane, lately.

Believing she'd been picked for this task by whatever power ordained that kind of thing might seem crazy to some people, but she'd long ago ceased allowing what others thought to influence her judgement. She'd do the investigation and see where it led.

Amy spotted the road she was looking for and turned off the highway onto a gravel track that looked like it hadn't seen a grader in years. Bumping along the miserable excuse for a road with excitement and anxiety her companions, she actually looked forward to this adventure.

A rusty iron fence on the right side of the road came into view. She remembered seeing it in the picture of the mansion. Rounding a curve, she saw the entrance to the estate, and had to hit the brake hard to make the turn into the drive. Gravel crunched beneath the Mustang's tires as it fish-tailed to a stop. A rusty gate suspended between two massive stone pillars hung open like a greedy mouth in search of a meal. Amy wondered if she might be the first course. That was an odd speculation. She grinned. Her scary-bone must have been working overtime. Her gaze shifted from the gate to the lawns on either side of the lane leading to the house. A wild tangle of flesh-pink roses vied for room with waist-high grass, creating a jumbled kind of beauty in the forsaken lawn. A sudden, clear image of a dark, strikingly handsome man standing in the moonlight, his arms full of the sweet-scented flowers filled her mind. The fragrance filled her senses, and a wave of longing swept through her. She blinked. The image fled, and a sense of loss hit her.

Sweet Heaven! Amy put a hand to her heaving chest. She'd had visions before, but none as intense as this one. Was Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome part of the mansion's history? Was he the reason she'd been drawn here? She hoped not. She'd had enough of men for a while, thank you very much.

Amy took a steadying breath. Easing her car through the gate, she slowly drove up the narrow, tree-shrouded lane. The storm clouds that had chased her for the past fifteen minutes hovered like vultures in the rear-view mirror as she drove toward the house.

Hemlock trees, which long ago must have formed a hedge, stood like sixty-foot guards along both sides of the drive. As the storm drew nearer, the entwined branches overhead created a canopy that twisted in the wind; the keening sound as it tore through the trees was enough to give a girl the creeps. The lane became a long, dark tunnel, the wind a banshee trying to overtake her. Amy involuntarily gripped the wheel tighter and pressed the accelerator, urging the car forward. If Lost Glen was this spooky in the daylight, what would it be like at night? It was probably best not to speculate about that, right now.

When the mansion at the end of the lane came into view, her mouth fell open. She snapped it shut and jabbed the brake, almost setting the car on its nose. A knife-sharp jolt of remembrance sliced through her. "My God!" She'd seen this house before. In another lifetime, maybe? Not in this one, she was positive of that. A chill slithered up her spine. Somewhere in her subconscious a memory existed that she couldn't retrieve, but knew eventually would come to her.

The house was a God-awful, medieval nightmare. It even had a tower, for Heaven's sake! She loved it, and hated it, and desperately needed to know why. Her heart thudded as her gaze swept the two-story pile of dark gray stones looming over the drive like a predator about to spring on unsuspecting prey. She wished her mind would stop making those frightening comparisons. There was absolutely nothing scary about old houses. They were just walls and rooms. Amy squared her shoulders, refusing to acknowledge the anxiety churning her stomach, and diverted her mind by studying the structure.

Pointed, stone arches capped all the deep-set windows. A coat-of-arms decorated the lintel above the recessed front door. Evenly spaced buttresses reinforced the heavy stone walls. The house looked like it belonged in the Scottish highlands, or on the English moors. It was dark, brooding, totally without warmth, but so damned familiar it caused an ache deep inside her. She could very easily have stepped through a hole in time, she thought, trying to sort through her jumbled emotions. There were forces at work here. She felt them in the clashing clouds overhead, in the shriek of the wind, and deep in her soul.

Through a tiny break in the mounting clouds, a beam of red-orange sunlight hit the house like a thousand-watt flood. Reflecting off the wavy glass windowpanes, the light created the illusion that the rooms behind the glass were aflame. The boiling storm clouds shut out the eerie light an instant later, but the effect brought to mind the dream she'd had last night of eyes, glowing red in an ash gray face. Gooseflesh formed on her arms. This was what she'd seen.

Dreams that foreshadowed events were a part of her psychic ability. As a child, they'd frightened her. Now, as an advisor to the N.Y.P.D.'s missing persons unit, she put them to use and felt good about it.

Drawing her courage around her like a shroud, Amy dug a large, ornate key from her shoulder bag, then stepped from the car. The storm that had pursued her down the lane was directly overhead, now. It was nearly dark, and the walls of the mansion took on a greenish cast in the gathering gloom. The odd effect triggered another memory of the same dark-haired man she'd glimpsed, earlier. This time, he was astride a huge, black stallion. A second later, the memory slipped away.

She liked him better when he brought her roses. Good Lord, my mind's full of strange notions, today. Still, she wondered, had he brought her roses? If so, when? Why?

When Amy reached the massive front door, she inserted the key, and turned it. The door swung slowly open. No creaks. No groans. Just a blast of musty, dust-laden air that could have been centuries old, or simply the result of a closed house. Beyond the entrance, the interior was as black as a tar pit, and as silent as a crypt. A prickle of anxiety taunted the back of her neck.

"Hello! Is anyone here?" Where the heck was the housekeeper Marsha said she'd hired?

A rumble of thunder prompted Amy to rush back to the car. The air seemed electrically charged, and the change in pressure caused by the approaching storm made it difficult to breathe. She grabbed her luggage and laptop computer. The storm struck as she turned toward the house. The screaming wind filled her mind until she thought her head would explode. A glance over her shoulder at the wall of rain sweeping toward her increased the speed of her dash for the front door. The thought of being swallowed by the rain, if it caught her, kept her one step ahead of the deluge.

She slammed the heavy door shut behind her, feeling weak and shaken. Gasping for breath, she placed her baggage on the floor, and leaned against the door for support. Seconds later, the rain beat against the wooden planks at her back, demanding admittance. Why did she feel as if she'd just managed to outrun a demon, when she knew it was only a storm?

As Amy stared into the darkness, a tiny light appeared. She watched in fascination as it bobbed toward her. In the flickering glow of a single candle, the disembodied face of an old woman seemed to float toward her. A heart-stopping moment later, she realized the woman's high-necked, black dress blended with the darkness, creating the illusion. Amy drew a steadying breath, then pasted a smile on her face. The woman's eyes were as pale as the whitecaps on a wind-tossed winter sea. Hair the color of bleached grass appeared halo-like in the candlelight.

Logic told Amy the woman was the housekeeper, not the Wicked Witch of the West. If she could get her pounding heart under control and her breathing back to normal, she just might believe that. After all, the woman blended perfectly with the Halloween atmosphere surrounding this place.

"I'm Gilda," the woman said, her voice crackling like brittle paper.

"Are you the housekeeper?"

"Aye, lassie, I am. Ya should'na be wanderin' about in a storm such as this."

"That's for sure. It's not a fit night for man, nor beast."

"Nor any other kind of a thing, either," Gilda replied, lighting an oil lamp that sat on a small writing desk.

Amy wondered what that remark was supposed to mean as she studied the strange woman with the touch of Scotland in her speech. She tried to pick up some psychic vibrations from her, but Gilda's mind was closed to her.

"I'm Amy Bennet."

"Aye. I've been expectin' ya." Gilda pointed a long, bony finger at a flight of stairs that were almost invisible beyond the lamp's glow.

"If ya're of a mind ta stay, your room's ready. Up there. First door on the right. I'll bring ya a tray." She turned in a swirl of midnight cotton, and disappeared into the gloom at the back of the hall. Amy gulped, and managed a weak grin. There was a definite possibility her trip here might be in vain. Gilda's mere presence was enough to scare off every self-respecting ghost in the place.

She grabbed her suitcase and shoulder bag and started up the stairs with the sounds of the storm for company. Halfway, she stopped. The storm crashing around the house and the dark stairway ahead were intimidating. Where was her courage, her resolve, when she needed it?

She'd probably left them in the hall with her heart when that disembodied face floated toward her. She needed a flashlight or a candle, and her overactive imagination under control before venturing further. "Okay, girl, you really do need to get a grip," she muttered.

As Amy debated whether her next step would be up or down, Gilda reappeared in the hall. A lighted candle in a short brass holder sat among covered dishes on the tray she carried. Amy watched the flame waver in the draft caused by Gilda's movements as she climbed the stairs.

When Gilda reached her, Amy took the candle from the tray and led the way. Reaching the upper hall, she dropped her luggage outside the first door and turned the knob.

A small fire burned orange and blue in a white marble fireplace, casting a friendly glow. Gilda placed the tray on a table beside a wing chair drawn close to the fire, then scurried across the room to light an oil lamp similar to the one downstairs.

The lamp sat on a table beside a high, tester bed, providing just enough light to hold the shadows in the corners of the room at bay. The top sheet was turned back on the bed, and a soft patchwork quilt lay across the foot. Amy sighed with relief. Everything was perfectly normal, she decided, watching Gilda hurry back to the door.

"Thank you, Gilda." Amy gave her a tentative smile. "I'm a bit concerned about the lack of lighting. Is there something wrong with the electricity?"

Gilda shrugged. "Ain't none. The haunts like it dark and scary. Ya're na afraid of the dark, are ya?"

"No, I'm not," Amy said firmly, "and I don't frighten easily, either. So you won't frighten me off with talk of 'haunts', if that's your intention. Or was it a warning?"

"I'm thinkin' after seein' ya, that ya've been sent here a purpose, and a warnin' would na stop ya. I'm leavin' now. I might be back tomorra, and then again, I might na. Depends on what the cards tell me."

Curious, Amy asked, "Cards? What cards?"

Placing her hands on her hips, Gilda gave Amy a look that said she thought her mentally deficient. "The tarot cards, girl. I don't do nary a thing without a readin'." Gilda turned and disappeared into the dark hall. Amy walked to the doorway and peered out. It was black as midnight beyond the splash of light coming from her bedroom. Gilda had moved with surprising speed for someone her age, and must have eyes like a cat's, since she hadn't taken the candle.

That was one strange, but interesting old lady. Did she really intend to leave the house during a storm as violent as this one? Amy felt a bit guilty; she should have suggested the woman spend the night.

The house was quiet, but the rumble of thunder and the shriek of the wind grew louder. Amy dragged her bag into the room and closed the door. There was a bolt lock and she shoved it home. Not because she was afraid, but because it was wise to be careful. She sensed that in this room she was safe. She didn't understand why, but found comfort in the feeling. Another feeling, hunger, this time, forced her across the room to the tray Gilda had placed on the table.

The tea was weak, the bread dry, the cheese sharp. Gilda's culinary arts left a lot to be desired, and she wouldn't win any awards for congeniality, either, but that was okay. Amy had slept in worse places, known people less friendly, and eaten worse food.

Being raised by a maiden aunt, especially one as strange as Aunt Mae, hadn't been fun and games, but she'd loved the batty old woman, learned to deal with the unusual, and adjust to her environment. She'd long ago decided her unconventional upbringing had been a blessing.

The fact that Marsha lived next door had been a blessing, too. Everyone needs at least one friend, and Marsha was a good one. And a demanding editor. Amy decided she really should record her impressions of the house and Gilda while they were fresh in her mind.

"Darn it!" She'd left her laptop downstairs. A trip along the dark hall and down the stairs didn't seem like a good idea, and she didn't suppose she'd ever forget any of tonight's events, so tomorrow would be soon enough. She could survive one night without the laptop.

The word survival brought to mind a more pressing problem. She really hoped this place had a bathroom. The only other door in the bedroom opened into a dark, empty closet. A chamber pot peeked from beneath the bed adding to the room's ambiance, and since she didn't want to venture out into the dark hall, she used it. Then, she washed her hands and face in water she poured from a pitcher into a bowl on the dresser. The facilities here were a bit primitive, but sufficient to her needs, for now. Tomorrow would be soon enough to launch a search for the bathroom.

Fed, bathed, and exhausted, Amy blew out the lamp, crawled onto the high bed, and settled between cool, clean sheets. As she listened to the wind wail around a house with no electricity and maybe no plumbing, she wondered what century she'd landed in.

Smiling at the absurdity of that thought, she watched the lightning flash beyond her windows. In the morning, she'd concentrate on the haunts, as Gilda so colorfully called them, and begin to explore the house. She wondered if there was an historical society in Harmony. She'd check that out with Gilda in the morning.

"Tomorrow... tomorrow... tomorrow." Breathing the words, she willed her mind and body to relax and slipped towards sleep. Her body felt boneless, her mind feather-light.

The sound of shattering glass, then a gust of cold, damp air hitting her jerked Amy back to awareness. The embers in the fireplace blinked at her, but gave little light. In the next lightning flash she saw the window curtains billow inward. Thunder shook the mansion so hard it shuddered. Amy jumped from the bed. Standing in shocked silence, she watched a glowing apparition float through her broken bedroom window.