Please welcome my longtime critique partner and wonderful writer, Nicole McCaffrey. She's here to tell us about her newest book.
I’ve always loved the idea of writing a time travel story, but I knew if I ever made the attempt, I’d want a slightly different spin on it. Instead of sending a modern day woman back to be romanced by a man with 19th century manners and morals (dreamy sigh) I wondered what would happen if I sent a 21st century guy—accustomed to the looser morals of today’s society—back in time and introduced him to a 19th century woman. My passion for the Civil War often leads me to that era for story settings, and I knew I’d want to incorporate that into the story. But that’s as far as I ever got. The idea seemed destined to gather dust in the back of my imagination since I never could figure out where my characters would meet…or how.
Then one evening as I drove by an abandoned Greek Revival style house that I often drive past, I had one of those “eureka!” moments.
My hero would buy an abandoned old house with every intention of tearing it down. He soon learns it was once the home of a famed Civil War spy, and on inspection of the home, he steps into one of the upstairs bedrooms and encounters her. But is she real--or a ghost?
Below is the blurb for This Moment in Time and a brief excerpt—I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Leave a comment for a chance to win a free pdf of this story!
Not even captivity can sway Southern widow Josette Beaumont from spying for the Confederacy. Under the nose of the Union army, she willingly risks her life to pass information to her sources. Until a stranger appears in her bedroom one day with a cryptic message: stop spying or you'll die. She has no reason to believe his warnings about the future, but his company is the only solace in her long days of imprisonment and his friendship quickly comes to mean so much more. If only she could make the sacrifice he asks of her...
To hell with history, real estate mogul Jamie D'Alessandro has no intention of saving the historic mansion he's purchased, even if it is the home of a famous Confederate spy. But when he steps into an upstairs bedroom of the old house, time suddenly shifts, bringing him face to face with a very beautiful and irate Southern lady. Against his will he's drawn into her cause--to save the Confederacy. But Jamie has a cause of his own. According to his research the lady spy has only days to live. Should he change history to save the woman he loves--or sacrifice life in his own century to be with her for This Moment in Time?
The flash light glinted off the top of a framed painting. Jamie lowered the beam, illuminating the portrait. A woman with dark hair and smoldering dark eyes. A modest hint—downright puritan by today’s standards—of pale bosom peeked over the ruffled bodice of a white dress. Somehow that hint of creamy flesh seemed more forbidden—sexier — than any modern woman he’d ever seen. There was something prim and ladylike about her that made it feel wrong to stare at her like that. Was this the famous spy? Her name escaped him, but he made a mental note to learn more about her.
A loud thump from the second floor caught his attention. His heart leaped to his throat, and for a moment, he felt like a scared kid in a haunted house. He shook his head, chuckling at himself. The house had been locked up tight since the renovation team had come through to inspect it, there was no one around. Probably a rodent or critter had gotten inside. Still, he had no intention of spending the night listening to the scratching and thumping of a wild animal.
He shone the flashlight ahead of him until he found the winding, elegant staircase that led to the second floor. Common sense warned him not to trust the stairs; the old house was full of wood rot. But curiosity got the better of him and he tested the first step before putting his full weight on it, and the next, and the next. Fully expecting to go through the boards and land on his ass, he continued the same tenuous journey until he reached the second floor.
Amazed he’d actually made it, he gave a quick glance behind him, then began to move around the second story. Shining the light upward, he saw the staircase continued to a third floor, but wasn’t about to push his luck any further.
He paused, waiting until he heard the scratching again. With the beam of light at his feet to illuminate the floor, he took slow, cautious steps, following the sound. As he drew closer he paused, wondering if he should have brought something for protection. What if the creature was rabid?
Stepping fully into the room where he’d heard the noises, he paused to appreciate the huge windows that overlooked the valley. They didn’t make houses like this anymore, and while he had nothing but the utmost appreciation for the trappings of modern society, he had to admit, there was something about the way they built things a couple of centuries ago. They didn’t need high tech gadgets and expensive fabrics to scream wealth and elegance. It was right here in the architecture.
Forgetting himself for a moment, he stepped across the room. The loud groan of a floorboard caused him to freeze, wondering if the floor could support him. The banging now came from behind him. Heart suddenly pounding, he whirled. A door—to a closet, perhaps?— rattled insistently. He swallowed. He’d never believed in ghosts, had laughed off any notion that they existed. So what the hell was this?
As he stood there, a cold draft of air swirled about his feet. Wasn’t it supposed to get really cold when a ghost appeared? No, no, he wouldn’t allow his imagination to take him there. Dammit, he was James D’Alessandro III; he’d never allowed anyone or anything to intimidate him. It would take more than an abandoned old house to spook him.
On silent feet, he crossed the room to the door, mentally counting—one, two… three. He yanked it open. His breath left him in a relieved exhale. Nothing stood behind it. The cold breeze continued, whistling through a broken window. The branch of a tree had long since grown inside and as the wind blew, it scratched against the wall. A gust must have blown the door shut; that was probably the bang he’d heard from downstairs.
He took another deep breath to help slow his heart rate. While he was out gathering tools tomorrow, he’d have to get something to put over the window. He’d never get any rest with that door thumping all night long, and the air blowing inside would only make the house colder.
Chuckling at his own ridiculous fear, he started to turn. A voice—not the howling of the wind this time— and the sudden sensation of warmth at his back stilled him.
“Honestly, Sebastian, he can’t keep me locked up here much longer. I’ll go mad.”
A woman? She sounded calm, perhaps a little angry.
“Drat it, now I’ve lost count.” A heavy sigh followed. “The last I remember was twenty strokes, I’ll have to start over from there.”
Heart back in his throat, he turned just enough to glance over his shoulder. The first thing to greet him were the windows—the very same windows he’d admired moments ago. Only they were now adorned with white lace. To the left, a warm fire crackled in the fireplace, casting a golden glow across the gleaming hardwood floor. And directly in front of him, a dark gray cat lay sprawled across an ornate four poster bed, calmly grooming itself. It paused, tongue in mid stroke and stared up at him with curious green eyes.
“Twenty one. Twenty two. Twenty…”
Swallowing, he forced his gaze from the cat to the source of the voice. A woman sat at a vanity, tugging a brush through long, dark hair. In the mirror, he watched as her gaze moved from her reflection. To him. She let out a gasp. The brush fell from her hand. She whirled on her seat to face him.
“Wh—who are you?”
She could see him!
If it’s possible to be born a writer, then I certainly was. I’d probably have started sooner if there had been pen and paper available in the womb! But for as long as I can remember, I have heard voices in my head. Fortunately for me, they’re all characters—begging me to tell their stories.
I’ve been married to Peter, my best friend, for fifteen years, and am a work-at-home mom with two busy boys ages ten and twelve. When I’m not working, writing, or buried nose-deep in a research book, chances are I’m baking, taking long walks with my beloved border collie mix or just kicking back and hanging with my guys.
This Moment in Time is available: