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Authors: Maggie Shayne

A Husband in Time

BOOK: A Husband in Time
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Kate Fortune's Journal Entry

That old clapboard New England home holds such special memories for me. I'm so pleased that my granddaughter Jane and her son, Cody, are making good use of it. She and her little boy have had a rough time of it. When Cody's father abandoned Jane before Cody was even born, I knew the road ahead would be difficult. But her family has always been there to support her. Now I hope some of the “magic” of the house weaves its spell around her. And that she'll finally be able to discover true love….

A LETTER FROM THE AUTHOR

Dear Reader,

It isn't often I get the chance to speak directly to you at the beginning of a book, and I'm so glad my editors at Silhouette gave me that opportunity with
A Husband in Time.
I'm very excited to be a part of this special series, and was even more thrilled when I learned the
type
of story I would be asked to write. When you read it, I'm sure you'll see why.

A Husband in Time
is my twelfth novel with Silhouette. From the very first book, I've felt the warmth of those of you who read them. Through the letters you send me, and the books you buy, you let me know that the work I put in to these stories is worth the effort, because someone, somewhere, is getting pleasure from reading them. That's what makes it all worthwhile. And it's also what keeps me punching away at the keyboard, day after day. As long as you keep enjoying them, I'll keep writing them.

Happy reading!

MAGGIE SHAYNE
A Husband in Time

MAGGIE SHAYNE,

a
USA TODAY
bestselling author whom
Romantic Times
calls “brilliantly inventive,” has written more than twenty-five novels for Silhouette.

Maggie has won numerous awards, including two
Romantic Times
Career Achievement Awards. A five-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA
®
Award, Maggie also writes mainstream contemporary fantasy and romantic suspense for MIRA Books, and has contributed story lines to network daytime soap operas.

She lives in rural Otselic, New York, with her husband, Rick, with whom she shares five beautiful daughters, two English bulldogs and two grandchildren.

 

Meet the Fortunes—three generations of a family with a legacy of wealth, influence and power. As they unite to face an unknown enemy, shocking family secrets are revealed…and passionate new romances are ignited.

JANE FORTUNE:
The single mother secretly dreams of finding a husband, and a father for her six-year-old son. She has almost given up hope until a mystery man comes to her out of nowhere….

ZACH BOLTON:
He can't explain who he is, or where he's come from. He feels at home with Jane and her son, but can he stay with them—forever?

MONICA MALONE:
She now owns major shares in Fortune Cosmetics. What further havoc will she create to claim the rest of the Fortune wealth?

JAKE FORTUNE:
The hardworking family man is hiding a deep, dark secret. Is he in cahoots with Monica? Once his secret is discovered, the Fortune empire might come tumbling down….

NATALIE FORTUNE:
Kindhearted schoolteacher. Could a farmhouse and St. Bernard inherited from her grandmother lead to the exciting romance with a dashing man she's been dreaming of?

 

LIZ JONES — CELEBRITY GOSSIP

I
s anyone but me wondering why Jake Fortune sold Monica Malone sizable shares of stock in Fortune Cosmetics? After all, Monica is just a faded starlet coasting on her former glory and fame. Do you suppose Jake and Monica are having a torrid affair? Or perhaps the shrewd Monica is holding some juicy secret over Jake's head and blackmailing him? Rumors are running rampant.

The rest of the Fortunes are up in arms. Now Monica owns a big piece of the business, and who knows what type of control she'll want to wield.

This is going to be a battle to the bitter end. And I'm putting my money on the Fortunes!

One

August 4, 1897

S
ix-year-old Benjamin Bolton rested against a stack of pillows in his bedroom—the first room on the left, right at the top of the stairs. He couldn't get out of bed very often, not at all without his father's help. But Father had turned his bed around and tied the curtains open so that Ben could see the sky as he lay there. And tonight, as he stared up at the sparkling night sky, he saw a shooting star…and then another, and a third. They zipped across their blue-black home, leaving white-hot trails, and though it wasn't very scientific at all, Benjamin closed his eyes and wished with everything in him.

“Three shooting stars, that's three wishes for me. I wish…” He bit his lip, thinking hard to be sure he'd word the wishes right, and not waste them. “I wish to be well again, so I can run and play outdoors, and ride my pony, and not die like they all think I'm going to, even though they don't say it out loud.”

He drew a breath, heard the wheezy sound it made as it whistled into his weakened lungs. His head hurt. He ached most everywhere, and he was dog-tired. His eyes tried to close, but he forced them open. This was important, and he still had two wishes to go.

“I wish for a mother. A real mother, who will love me and read to me… And who isn't afraid of bullfrogs, like Mrs. Haversham is.” He smiled after he made the wish, because he was sure he'd worded it just right.

Licking his lips, Benjamin squeezed his eyes tight, and made the third wish, the one he'd been wishing for all his life. “And I wish for a big brother. I promise I won't ever fight with him or tease. I would like for him to be smart, and brave, and strong, just like my father. I'll even share my pony with him.”

Ben opened his eyes, gazing out the window. No trace of the stars remained. But they'd been there. He'd seen them. And now an odd, warm feeling settled over him, just like a big woolly blanket. Somehow, he just knew everything was going to be all right.

August 4, 1997

Cody Fortune glanced up from the laptop computer his mom had given him for his tenth birthday, turning his head just in time to see the three shooting stars arching over their car as it rolled over the narrow, deserted roads of Maine, heading for the coast and their new home.

“Wow,” he whispered, craning his neck for a better look. Of all the things he'd seen on this trip from Minnesota, this was the most incredible. Three at once. It had to be an anomaly.

“Did you see that, Mom?”

“What?”

“Three shooting stars, right in a row!”

She smiled at him, only taking her eyes from the road for a second. “So, why don't you make a wish? Or are you too skeptical for that?”

Cody Fortune was far too intelligent to believe in any such thing as wishing on stars. But he knew his mom didn't like him taking life too seriously, and some touch of whimsy moved him to close his eyes and whisper the things that had been on his mind the most lately. “I wish I had a dad,” he said softly. “And a little brother, because it gets so darn boring being an only child. We'd have great times together. And I wish…” He licked his lips, opened his eyes and stared up at the sky. His eyes watered just a little bit, but he blinked them dry again. “I wish for my mom to be happy. Really happy. 'Cause I know she isn't. I can't remember when she was.”

He lowered his head, and his mother's soft hand stroked his hair. “Of course I'm happy, Cody. I have you, and a new house in a small town, just like I've always wanted. What more could I need?”

Cody smirked. He knew better, of course, but he'd never get her to admit her life was less than perfect. “You realize I've just wished on three hunks of burned-out rock, don't you?”

“It was still generous of you to use up a whole wish on me.”

He shrugged and turned to the laptop again. It wasn't so bad that he'd lapsed into childish fantasies for a second there. It was like his mom was always saying, he was still a kid, even if he did have the brain of a full-grown nuclear physicist.

“So, have you thought about what I told you?” he asked, and saw her brows rise.

“About what, Cody?”

Cody sighed. When he spent the weekend with his grandparents, he'd stumbled on something he knew must be important, but his mother, as usual, couldn't care less about the family business. “What I overheard when Grandpa took me to work with him last week. Don't you remember? That witch Monica was there, and—”

“Cody, that isn't very nice.”

“So? Neither is Monica. Anyway, she was being really nasty to Aunt Tracey. Said she knew some secret, and she'd tell if Tracey and her boyfriend, what's his name—? Wayne. Yeah, that's it. Monica said she wanted them to go away, or she'd tell some secret.”

Jane shrugged. “I wouldn't worry about it, Cody. We all know Monica's been wanting to get her hands on the business. She probably sees Aunt Tracey as one more competitor for it.”

“Yeah, but Aunt Tracey only just found out she
was
a Fortune.”

“If she's a Fortune, Cody, she can handle empty threats from Monica Malone.” She sent him a sideways glance. “This is just one more example of why I want no part of the family business, pal. All the scratching and clawing and fighting to hold on to it.” She gazed out the window at the rugged coastline as they passed it. “It's going to be so much better here.”

Cody sighed. It was no use talking to his mother about business. She just didn't care. He stared at the dark ocean, and the whitecapped waves crashing to the shore, and then he thought maybe she was right.
It was kind of pretty here. “So how much longer till we get there?”

“I think… I think this is— Oh, my, Cody, this
is
the place. Look at it!”

Cody looked up at the house their headlights illuminated as the car turned into the gravel drive. “Looks like something out of a Stephen King novel.”

“Isn't it
great?”

He grimaced at his mother's enthusiasm as she brought the car to a halt and killed the engine.

“I thought you liked Stephen King novels,” she said.

“Yeah, but I don't want to live in one.”

She smiled at him. Then he turned his gaze to the house once again, and froze. From the corner of his eye, he'd seen some kind of flash in an upstairs window. Like…lightning or something. His mom was already opening her door, but he put a hand on her arm, stopping her. “I think…somebody's in there.”

“What?” She frowned and looked where he pointed. “I don't see anything.”

“Maybe it was just a reflection.” But he didn't think so. He folded up the laptop and pulled his penlight from his pocket. He never went far without it—not that it would make a very good weapon, but at least he'd be able to see whatever horrible creature sneaked up on him. “Better let me go in first, Mom, just in case.”

She ruffled his hair, which he hated. “My hero,” she said, but he could tell she wasn't one bit nervous about going into that big, empty, dark house. She must be nuts.

Headlights spilled through the rear windshield, and Cody turned to see a second vehicle bounding over the gravel drive. A police car. He bit his lip before he could say, “Thank God!” Though he was still a bit nervous. In Stephen King novels, the small-town sheriffs of Maine never failed to be good guys, but they usually got killed off pretty early on, leaving the innocent mother—and her son, who knew all along something wasn't quite right, but who couldn't get anyone to listen—to fend for themselves.

Sure enough, a reed-thin man in a gray uniform with a shiny badge, stepped out of the car, and came over just as Mom stepped out of theirs.

“Quigly O'Donnell, ma'am. You must be Ms. Fortune. You're right on time.” He had the same accent as the old man who'd lived across the street from the main characters in
Pet Semetary.
Cody shivered.

“Call me Jane,” his mom said, and shook the sheriff's hand. “And this is my son, Cody.”

Cody nodded, but didn't shake. He was too busy watching the house. “I thought I saw something up there,” he said, pointing, hoping the sheriff would go against character and check it out, hoping the guy would survive the experience.

“Ayuh, I wouldn't worry about that, son. Probably just the ghost.”

“Ghost?”

“Some say the ghost of Zachariah Bolton still rattles around the old place. Not that I'd give it much credence, mind you. It's just a tale the old folks like to tell now and again. Gives 'em something to talk about over checkers, it does.”

“Checkers,” Cody said, raising a brow. “Gee, Mom, thanks for bringing me to such a cultural mecca.”

“Mind your manners, Cody. Sheriff O'Donnell, if you brought the key along, I'll—”

“Got it right here,” he said, and the last word sounded like “hee-ya.” Mom would call that accent charming and say it was local “flavor.” Cody found it irritating as all get-out. The sheriff held up a big old key on a brass ring. Like a jail-cell key from an old western. Or the key to the dungeons in a horror flick. Cody felt the tone slipping from King to Poe. This was not a good sign. “I'll help you with your things, if you like. Power's been turned on, and everything should be ready for you.”

“That was kind of you, Sheriff.”

“Yeah,” Cody put in. “I'm glad to know we've got pow-uh.”

His mom's elbow dug into his ribs, but the doomed sheriff didn't seem to notice Cody's mimicry. He just nodded. “Least I could do for your grandmother, ma'am. Kate Fortune was one hell of a lady, if you'll pardon the expression. When she asked me to watch after the place for her, I was more than happy to do it. Pity we've lost her now.”

Jane nodded. “I miss her terribly.” She slipped an arm around Cody's shoulders and squeezed. “We both do.”

The sheriff nodded, cleared his throat. “Well, come on and follow me. I'll show you around. And while I'm at it, I'll tell you all about our town's one and only claim to fame. This place's original owner, and resident ghost, if you believe in that kind'a thing.
Zachariah Bolton.” He walked as he spoke, in that slow, lazy pattern that left every sentence sounding like a question. They followed him up the porch's wide steps and across it to the front door, which was tall, and dark, and to Cody's way of thinking just a little bit scary.

Then Quigly O'Donnell opened the front door, and he decided he'd been wrong. It was a
lot
scary.

 

Quigly O'Donnell snapped on a light.

It was
fabulous!
Everything Jane had ever wanted in a home was in this house. Oh, she knew most of her family thought her hopelessly old-fashioned, but she wasn't fond of modern society and all its trappings. Modern-day values were what had landed her pregnant and alone ten years ago, and that shock had gone a long way toward guiding Jane to her own perhaps outmoded system of morality.

This house was the embodiment of the life she wanted for her and Cody. A simple, old-fashioned life. With one notable exception. There would be no father in this traditional American family. Jane was mom and dad and everything in between. Everyone said she couldn't do it all, that she was pushing herself too hard. But she could. And she'd do it without her family's money. She wanted no part of the family business or the wealth that went with it. It was a rat race, everyone fighting to hold on to their share of the pie and always worrying about someone trying to take it from them. No. That wasn't anything she wanted to be involved with.

This, though—this would be perfect.

“I never thought my modern-minded grandmother
had a clue what to make of me,” she whispered as she moved through the modest entry hall and into the Gothic living room, with its high ceilings and intricate, darkly stained woodwork. “But Grandma Kate knew me better than I ever imagined. She must have, to have left me this place.” All around them, furniture stood draped in white sheets, like an army of ghosts.

“And that guest house out front will be perfect for my antique shop.” She couldn't stop smiling. The place was her dream come true.

“The house isn't the half of it, ma'am,” Sheriff O'Donnell offered. “It's the history that goes along with it that makes it so special.” He'd carried in two of their suitcases, and he set them on the hardwood floor. “You've heard of quinaria fever, of course?”

“Heard of it?” Jane glanced behind her, but Cody was already off exploring nooks and crannies, flashing his ever-present penlight into closets and cupboards. Her heart twisted a little in her chest at the mere mention of the disease. “I nearly lost my son from it,” she said quietly. “He was exposed as a baby. Thankfully, we caught it in time.”

Frowning, the sheriff tilted his head. “Well, now, if that don't beat all…” Then he shrugged. “Hell of a coincidence, ma'am, if you'll pardon the expression.”

“Why's that, Sheriff?”

“Well, Zachariah Bolton was the man responsible for finding the cure. Tryptonine, you know. Same drug we use today, with a few modifications, of course. If it hadn't been for him— Ah, now here's the dining room. Floor-to-ceiling hardwood cup
boards on two walls. See there? Same as in the kitchen. And the ones here on the wall in between…” He opened a cupboard door, left it wide, then meandered into the kitchen. Opening the cupboard from that side, he peered through at her. “See that? Accessible from either side.”

“That's very nice.” But she was more interested in the tale he'd been telling before.

Cody joined them then, having heard the tail end of the sheriff's comments. “You're dead wrong about tryptonine, Sheriff,” he said, then grinned innocently at his mom and added, “if you'll pardon the expression.”

“Cody!”

BOOK: A Husband in Time
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