Echo of Roses (Echoes in Time #1) by Paula Quinn



Chapter One





New York City

July 2019

The sun broke through the clouds and bright sunshine filled the loft where Kestrel Lancaster lived with her four roommates.

She didn’t want to open her eyes. Her bed and pillow were too comfortable, and besides, it was Sunday, her day to rest. It had been Lilith’s suggestion. Lilith observed the Sabbath and had talked Kestrel into taking off one day a week with her. Kes had been doing it now for the last year, and her rest days were growing more and more enjoyable. Rest for her meant no reading anything historical, no watching anything historical on her phone or television. No visiting museums or other historical societies. It was a day to meet her dad for dinner and live in the now, as another roommate, Jack, had put it. It was a day to take a break from her work, her passion, to stay out of her head and whatever century she was working on.

And whatever man had broken her or one of her friend’s hearts this past month. Jack was having the same issues with the women he dated, so it seemed to be that people in general sucked and love wasn’t real anymore.

She pulled her pillow over her head.

Brian McGill sucked the worst. Kes had talked with him on a dating site. They hit it off and met. Things were going smoothly. At first, Brian was all romance and flowers. A month in, and his attention wandered to a girl he met at work, and that was the end at that. Before him, there were others, some a little more serious where talk of love was involved and then forgotten as if it hadn’t existed. Because it hadn’t.

She was getting older. Twenty-five and still no serious relationships. Men just seemed like something to pass the time. There was nothing substantial. And she wasn’t alone. Her friends went through it, too. Like her, all four of her roommates had been cheated on. They’d gone through terrible pain. She’d watched them fall apart, cry, or stay silent holed up in their rooms, or try to get revenge by sleeping with a dozen more people. It was all too easy. Men and women could have someone else at the touch of a keypad.

Kes wanted no part of it anymore. She wished for a time when life seemed easier and the world wasn’t so small. When objects didn’t come before relationships and “love” wasn’t so instant and so fickle.

The front doorbell was ringing. Ugh. Was no one else already up? She didn’t see anyone moving around inside the loft. What time was it? She pulled her phone to her. 10:12am. Seriously? Who was at their door on Sunday morning? She got out of bed, put on her soft, furry robe and lumbered toward the door across the entire length of the loft. She didn’t bother brushing her hair. It better not be Brian. She’d dumped him a week ago. She would never take him back. If it was him, she was going to let him have it.

She pulled back the heavy lock and opened the door after another angry ring.

“All right,” she grumbled and rubbed her eyes.

A young guy stood on the other side. He stared at her huge blue-green eyes, then smiled.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

He said nothing. He kept smiling and handed her an envelope. “Um…would you like to—?”

Kes shut the door.

She hated being rude, but she wasn’t in the mood for flirting or dating. She wasn’t sure she ever would be again.

“Who was at the door?”

Kes looked up from the envelope at her friend and roommate Kim coming from her screened-in space.

“A letter was delivered to me from a company called ISOAP Corp.” She carried the letter to one of the overstuffed sofas taking up room in the wide-open space and sat down. “Ever hear of them?”

Kim shook her head and russet curls sprang up and down around her neck. “Nope. Must be important if they’re sending a messenger on a Sunday. Open it.”

By now, Jack and Lilith had left their beds and gathered around the sofa. “Constantine went out early this morning,” Lilith told her when Kes looked around for him.

Kes read out loud.

“Ms. Kestrel Lancaster,

Your presence is requested at our office on this date to discuss a legal matter. We await you at your earliest convenience this afternoon.

Regards,

G. Green.”

Jack took the letter and pulled out his phone the way a knight might brandish his sword. He dialed the number on the letter and waited. There was no answer. “Closed.”

“Not entirely if they want to meet with me.” Kes frowned. So much for resting. Now she was going to have to travel to West Seventy-third because she was probably being sued by someone. Talk about raining on her parade.