Sampler: Timeless Moments by Michelle Kidd

This stirring novel seamlessly weaves together two characters in an intricate balance of emotion and hope that all things are possible.

What’s hidden in the dark will be brought to light . . .

When Jewel Wiltshire marries, she vows to love, honor, and obey. Little does she know that her husband’s secrets will push her faith far beyond anything she can imagine. For two years she remains a prisoner until a mysterious stranger appears offering friendship and hope.

Jack Vines has the Victorian home of his dreams–or so it seems until he discovers an intriguing beauty lurking in the shadows. Stunned, he finds they share the house but live a century apart. She is a prisoner of the past, shrouded in a world of dark mysteries. He holds the keys that will protect their future. When her letters suddenly stop, can he unravel the mystery that threatens to alter both their lives forever?

Timeless Moments is a spine-tingling suspense laced with faith and love that you won’t want to put down. This stirring novel seamlessly weaves together two characters in an intricate balance of emotion and hope that all things are possible.

Sampler: Timeless Moments

Prologue:

January 1975 ~ Lynchburg, VA

Michelle Kidd

Jack pressed his nose against the car window. The chilled sensation made shivers race down his spine, or maybe it was anticipation. He enjoyed the way the pale yellow sunlight streamed through the morning fog. The light shimmered across the damp street of Rivermont. How he loved the smell of wet pavement. He didn’t understand his excitement. He only knew it stirred him, this small feeling like the flutter of butterfly wings in his stomach.

To his eight-year-old mind, the Victorian homes emerged from the mist and stood like ageless soldiers along the avenue. His house was coming into view—it wasn’t his house, he corrected himself, not yet, but someday.

Here, time stood still. He closed his eyes and pictured the horse-drawn carriages, imagined the clip-clop of their hooves against the street. But if he shut his eyes, he might miss something, and he loved to look at the grand houses.

He knew every stone, every window. His heart beat faster at the grandeur. His eyes locked on each feature, the steps, the porch, down to the black numbers nailed with precision to the side of the door. He loved each detail, including the massive oak whose branches stretched out a welcome.

In autumn, the yellow-orange leaves lit the street with a peaceful glow. They fell by the hundreds, surrounding the base of the tree like a fancy dress worn long ago. Sometimes when he squinted just so, it appeared to be a grand lady calling to him. Someday he’d answer, some day.

Chapter 1

Present Day

JACK VINES sat at the kitchen table, stroking the dark stubble on his chin. His Bible lay open, but his attention remained absorbed in the changing landscape outside the window. He noted pewter-colored skies and the way they embraced the earth with a sulky heaviness, their moisture permeating the air. Colors and shapes gradually materialized from the murkiness, revealing a stark, frigid morning.

Despite its monotone simplicity, there was a particular beauty in the bleakness of January. Winter branches stretched upward into the marbled dawn. The snow forecast for tonight would add to that splendor, but more likely the precipitation would fall in the form of freezing rain.

He enjoyed a cup of coffee while the soft hues filtered in to define the shelves and cabinets in the Victorian kitchen. The room smelled of damp plaster and ancient wood. He took pleasure in the rustic feel of the room, thankful any attempts to renovate the kitchen over the years had at least left the original brickwork intact. The dim light accentuated the crumbling brick.

All stood quiet save the tick-tock of the kitchen clock, which read 6:40 a.m. Jack loved this time of the morning. Such a shame the stillness had to fade. Soon the world outside his window and beyond the high garden walls would awaken.

A faint sound from outside caught his attention, but he dismissed it. Probably that crazy cat who’d shown up a few weeks ago. Several seconds later, he heard it again. His brows knit in concern. It sounded like someone crying.

The garden walls stood six feet high and were made of stone. It wasn’t likely anyone would be trespassing, but hewas sure it wasn’t a cat.

Definitely crying—no mistake. His chair scraped the tile floor in his haste to move to the window. What he saw caused him to jerk back. Dear Lord . . .

A young woman sat on the bench in the center of the garden, her head bowed, her shoulders racked with emotion. Only a thin gown provided protection from the harsh cold.

“What on earth—” He stopped, too stunned to finish the thought. How had she gotten in, and what sane person would be outside in freezing weather wearing only a nightgown? Curiosity set his feet in motion.

Jack left the window and opened the door leading into the garden. Bitter air blew through his thin T-shirt. “Ma’am?” His voice sounded harsh in the early morning.

She scrambled to her feet. Her hair tumbled around her shoulders and clung to her tear-streaked cheeks. Wide eyes darted between him and the kitchen door. Even her disheveled state did not detract from her beauty. He noted the modest way she clutched her gown. He felt surprised and ashamed for startling her.

“Stay away from me!” She took several steps backward. “Culpeper?” She looked confused, calling out to some unknown person. Dark eyes flashed at him with accusation. “How did you get in my garden?”

Her garden? She must be delusional. Taking note of her bare feet and white gown, he thought of the hospital a few miles down the road. Could she have escaped from the mental ward? He dismissed the idea. On closer inspection, she appeared merely scared and doelike.

He spoke, this time, in a soothing tone to calm her. “Ma’am, this is my garden. You’re obviously upset . . . confused. Why don’t you come inside where it’s warm? I’ll call someone for you?”

She shook her head, her expressive eyes wide. “Sir, I’m not sure how you got in, but Culpeper will be here any second—Culpeper!” She yelled again. “You’d better step away from the door or else.” A spark in her eyes warned she wouldn’t hesitate to bring the entire neighborhood running.

“O-o-k, lady. I don’t mean you any harm; I’m just trying to help you. You seem . . . upset. Let me—”

“I said get away from the door!”

“S-sure.” He took a few cautious steps back to placate her, watching her luminous eyes waver between him and the kitchen’s entrance. Every muscle looked poised for flight. She was a tiny thing, not much bigger than a child, with thick hair that tumbled past her waist. He longed to say something to put her at ease, but he feared the slightest movement would send her sprinting away. He stepped backward, losing his footing against a stone.

*****

JEWEL WILTSHIRE studied the medium-built man, taking in his wild chestnut hair, unshaven face, and powerful brown eyes. He wore the most outlandish outfit: pants covered with yellow smiling faces.

His eyes held a look of reproof as if he’d caught her trespassing. How had this vagrant wandered into the neighborhood and scaled the wall? He appeared harmless enough, but you could never be too sure. Besides, in her present state of dress, it was quite embarrassing and highly improper. What if Hunsdon should . . . No. The thought was too frightening.

She observed him closely, so that when he stumbled and lost his footing she took the opportunity. Making a mad dash for the house, she sailed passed him and through the door, slamming it behind her.

Inside, Jewel spotted Addie as she retrieved a hot pan from the oven. Light flooded the kitchen along with the warm, heady scent of freshly baked bread. Steam rose from several pots on the stove. Her stomach grumbled at the aroma of bacon and fresh-ground coffee.

“Land sake, miss!” Addie spun in fright, clapping a hand to her breast. “You give a body a scare. I just about dropped my pan.”

The housekeeper’s sharp blue eyes swept her tousled appearance, but Jewel cut her off before she could voice her disapproval. “Have you seen Culpeper? There’s a strange man outside.” She hurried on, anticipating Addie’s next question. “I don’t know how he got in the garden. He must be a drifter.”

“A man, you say?” Addie looked alarmed, wiping her hands on her apron. Her ample figure hindered her as she rushed to peer out the window. Craning her neck, she stood searching on tiptoes. “There’s no one out there, miss.”

“What? But I just—” Jewel blinked in confusion. “That can’t be. I just saw him.”

“And you outside . . .” She shook her head. “You’ll catch your death.” Addie dismissed her young mistress and waddled back to the stove to continue stirring. If Addie noticed her tear-stained face, wisdom caused her to hold her tongue.

“Where’s Dr. Wiltshire?”

Something in the slight curl of Addie’s lip left no doubt concerning the housekeeper’s opinion of her husband. “He’s in the dining room, taking Culpeper to task, miss. The silverware did not meet with the master’s expectations.”

Jewel opened her mouth to respond but caught her bottom lip between her teeth. “The stranger must still be out there. Fix him a plate, would you, Addie?” Jewel laid a delicate hand on Addie’s plump arm. Remembering the kindness in his voice, she regretted her flighty disappearance. Now safely on the other side of the door, she realized she might have overreacted. “I’m sure a hot meal would do him good.”

Addie raised a wrinkled brow. “Indeed, miss. If you don’t mind me saying so, you’d do well to attend to your own appearance. What would Dr. Wiltshire say if he saw you running about in your bedclothes? I’d be taking the back stairs if I were you.”

Jewel adjusted her gown and fidgeted. Heat colored her cheeks as she shuffled to hide her feet beneath the long material. “Yes, yes, I suppose you’re right. Thank you, Addie. You’re a love.”

The housekeeper returned to her work, shaking her head and clucking to herself.

*****

Momentarily stunned, Jack watched the retreating figure fly past him and into his house. In her haste, he saw something flutter to the ground. He stopped to retrieve the fallen object. Seconds later, his brain kicked into action and prompted him to give chase. He flew after her but careened to a halt when he realized there were no signs of her anywhere in the kitchen.

“Hello?” His voice reverberated off the high ceiling and back again.

He strained his ears, listening for the sound of footsteps in the house. Silence. How could she have disappeared? Uneasiness rippled down his spine. He didn’t believe in ghosts. Obviously, there had to be another explanation.

His search of each room produced nothing. Had she gone out the front? An eerie chill coursed through him, however, as his eyes caught sight of the still-bolted door. Just to satisfy himself, he removed the chain, opened it, and searched one way and then another. Several cars drove by as he stooped for the newspaper. He shoved the News Advance under his arm and shut the door.

Stunned and weak, he dropped into the crescent-shaped window seat in the foyer. The morning light fell through the stained-glass window, dappling the floor with ethereal shadows. He suddenly remembered the recovered object. Looking down to study the dainty handkerchief still in his hand, he noticed two initials neatly embroidered on the corner: JW. He brought it close to his face, inhaling the sweet fragrance of jasmine. To his surprise, the fabric felt damp. He frowned as he struggled to make sense of conflicting realities. He knew what he’d seen. In his hand, he held proof that he hadn’t been hallucinating, but women didn’t simply disappear, either. His senses tingled. Whatever it was that had happened, he felt as if he’d just been sucker-punched

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