West (Chapter Four, page 1 of 18)


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I stretched luxuriously beneath the warm blankets. The crackle of a fire almost put me back to sleep if not for the sunlight streaming through a window onto my face. For a moment, I was back in the dream where I had been blinded by a ball of light.

Weird.

I cracked my eyes open and recognized what I assumed was the tray ceiling with ornate crown molding of the historic hotel where I had fallen asleep. I lay still. All I needed was a mocha, and I would be set for the trip back to California.

Excited to be home, I tossed off the covers and swung my legs over the side of the bed.

And stopped cold.

My heart turned over in my chest, and a chill went through me.

I wasn't in the hotel. This room was large with a hearth, tall windows and a sitting area. The period furniture looked new and was of high quality, the quilts, rugs, and blankets all brightly embroidered. The drapes had been pulled back to let in the sunlight.

A quick assessment of my clothing revealed a long, loose nightgown of homespun cotton. It was plain, soft and comfortable, covering everything from the top of my feet to my neck.

I crossed to the window, praying I would look out over the cars parked along the street near my hotel.

My chest tightened so fast, I gasped. Outside my window was a sea of rolling grassland beneath a wide blue sky. The tall grass was punctuated by a herd of fluffy white sheep I would squeal over, any other time.

The night, and the reason my hair was still damp at the roots, returned to me.

Carter had sent me back in time. "He really did it." Butterflies churned in my belly. Where was I?

"Miss Josie."

I turned. A middle-aged woman in period costume resembling that of the women I had seen in Tombstone stood inside my doorway. She wore an apron over a dress that was apricot in color. Her leather shoes were worn and well kept.

Starting to smile, I marveled at how well she fit in with the surroundings.

"I didn't expect to see you awake," she said, scrutinizing my features. "Are you warm enough?"

I nodded.

The woman closed the door. "Are you well?" The words were a whisper.

I didn't respond.

"Can you remember me now?"

"I'm sorry but no," I replied. "Who are you?"

The older woman's severe features softened into pity. She went to the bed and patted it.

"Lie down, child," she said. "They say you're taking on this illness to avoid a certain obligation." She moved across the room to add wood to the fire as she spoke.

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