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Authors: Eugenia Riley

PHANTOM IN TIME

BOOK: PHANTOM IN TIME
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“I think we must dance, ma belle.”

 

Bella watched Jacques
stride over to a handsome gramophone, crank it up, and put on a shellac record.
She heard some scratching sounds, and then the tinny though plaintive refrain of
“Love's Old Sweet Song” spilled out. Again shivers racked Bella.

Jacques approached
her. “Dance with me, Bella?”

She was reeling. It
was all too much! Here she was alone with Jacques, drowning in his beautiful
eyes, his tender, inviting smile—and hearing the very same sweet song he'd used
to woo her across time. Knowing
his
time might run out far too soon.

Helplessly, she
turned away, clenching her fists. “Oh, God. I can't dance with you—not to that
song.”

“You do not like the
song?”

“That's . . . not what
I meant.”

She sensed him moving
up close to her, felt him taking her hand, raising and kissing the coiled fist.
She winced with yearning.

“Why won't you dance
with me,
chérie?
Why not to 'Love's Old Sweet Song'?”

“I—I can't explain
it. It's too . . .”

“Too tender, too
moving?” Pulling her around to face him, he drew her into his arms, his
expression fervent, intense. “But I want to move you, Bella. To tenderness—and
to passion.”

He already had! Bella
was melting at his husky words, his exciting scent, his vibrant nearness. “Oh,
Jacques . . .”

He hugged her close
and she gloried in the welcome haven of his embrace. “Don't think,
ma
belle,”
he murmured against her hair. “Just
feel
the music with me.
Let it carry you away.”

And he swept her
around the room to the poignant, lilting song. Bella was in heaven. Dancing
with Jacques was like waltzing on a cloud, so skillfully did he lead her, so
perfect was his timing. As when he sang or played, he became the music, the
rhythms of his body an expression of the song itself.

Such powerful
emotions welled in Bella that she was surprised her legs supported her. Jacques
was so near, so alive, yet soon he would become a ghost. He was so sexy,
handsome, and carefree, yet soon he would lie dead with a knife in his back. What
if she could not save him? How would she bear it? The beautiful song of his
existence would be silenced forever. And it seemed so much more a sacrilege
because he
could
sing, sing so gloriously; because his soul was so
alive, while hers lay smothered by fear . . .

The music stopped. He
stared into her eyes and whispered, “Now you must give me that kiss . . .”

 

 

 

PHANTOM IN TIME

by

Eugenia Riley

 

Time
Travel Romance

Eugenia
Riley Classic

Copyright
© 1996 by Eugenia Riley Essenmacher

Publication
History: First Avon Books Edition, 1996;

First
Kindle Original Edition, February 2012; v. 3a.

 

Cover Image
Copyright
© Thomas M Perkins 2012
; Used under
license from Shutterstock.com

 

PHANTOM
IN TIME is a novel. Although the book incidentally portrays a few actual
characters from the history of the times, all non-historical figures are
strictly imaginary, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or
to actual events is purely coincidental.

 

All
rights reserved, including the right to reproduce or transmit this book or any
part thereof by any means whatsoever, without written permission of the author,
except where permitted by law.

 

Address
inquiries to:
Eugenia Riley Essenmacher
P.O. Box 840526 Houston, TX 77284-0526

[email protected]
   
www.eugeniariley.com

 

Click
HERE
to follow Eugenia Riley Classics on Facebook.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

Epilogue

 

 

PHANTOM IN
TIME

by

Eugenia
Riley

 

Chapter One

Back
to Contents

 

New Orleans

1996

 

Bella
De La Rosa walked onto the stage of the St. Charles Opera House and was greeted
by a ghost.

The
lights in the huge old auditorium were dim, and aside from Bella and the
unknown specter, not a soul was in sight. At first, she was not even sure she
saw the nebulous figure of a man taking shape across from her on the scarred
old stage. But as she blinked and stared, he materialized and grew more
vibrant, more real. A shiver washed over her, and her fingers trembled on her
portfolio. She had just arrived to audition for the opera, but she'd never
expected to be welcomed by a phantom!

For
the space of a second, her gaze was riveted on him. Half shadow, half
substance, he was tall, slender, broad-shouldered, wearing snug black trousers,
boots, and a flowing white shirt that was rakishly open halfway to his waist.
He appeared as if he belonged in some operatic melodrama, and was ready at any
moment to launch into bawdy song. He was extending a beautifully shaped hand
toward her in invitation. His face arrested her most of all: the lines of his
jaw were strong and angular; his smiling lips full and sensual; his nose
straight and cleanly etched; his cheekbones high; his eyes dark, deep-set, and
mysterious, topped by elegant masculine brows. His hair was thick, dark brown,
curly, slightly rumpled, with one lock dangling over his forehead, as if a
woman's fingers had just sifted through the rich mass.

Even
as she gaped at the glimmering phantom, he grinned back—a lusty grin—and his
dark eyes seemed to bore straight through her. Longing jolted her with
unexpected intensity, and her heart thumped frantically.

Then
he was gone, as if in a puff of smoke! Bella gasped, glancing around the empty
stage, to find no trace of him. She heard no sound except her own roaring
heartbeat; her starved lungs sucked in the theater's unique smell of dust and
age, mingled with the odor of fresh paint.

Perplexed,
she peered out at the cluttered auditorium, which was clearly amid renovation.
The aisles were strewn with sawhorses, smudged tarps and cans of paint, while
stuffing protruded from split seams in the worn velvet seats. Her eyes scanned
upward over two sweeping balconies, the lovely old private boxes outlined in
gilded plaster scrollwork, the high, water-stained ceiling hung with yellowed
but still magnificent chandeliers. Her gaze shifted back to the stage and the
striking fixture hanging above it—four mammoth tiers of aged yet glittering
crystal prisms.

Those
prisms were silent, and the ghost was nowhere in sight. Then she heard a soft masculine
voice behind her, and practically jumped out of her skin.

“Ah,
miss, look at all this dust.”

Bella
whirled, her hand on her heart, to face Mr. Usher, the elderly janitor who had
admitted her to the theater moments earlier. Tall, rangy, gray-haired, dressed
in a flannel shirt and baggy pants, he stood resting his weight on his broom
handle and regarding her with a kindly smile that sent wrinkles rippling over
his tanned, leathery face.

Nervously,
Bella laughed. “Mr. Usher, I didn't hear you.”

“And
I didn't mean to frighten you halfway out of your wits,” he apologized.

“Oh,
that's okay,” Bella assured him.

He
gestured out toward the auditorium. “I don't understand why they have to tear
the place apart. I'll never get it back to rights again.” He whisked his broom
to and fro. “So much dust.”

Bella
glanced around. “Well, they're obviously renovating, and it should look better
afterward, don't you think?”

He
shrugged a frail shoulder. “I liked it the way it was. Been this way nigh onto
fifty years, and I see no reason to change it.”

“I
suppose.”

He
regarded her curiously. “If you don't mind my asking, what made you jump like
you did when I walked onstage?”

Fighting
a smile, Bella took a step forward and cupped a hand around her mouth. “I—I
know this must sound crazy, but I think I just saw a ghost.”

To
Bella's surprise, Mr. Usher threw back his head and laughed. “So you saw old
Jacques LeFevre, did you, young lady? I'm not surprised that rascal would come
out to play, with a lovely young thing like you here to tempt him. Mind you,
you're hardly the first pretty girl who has enticed old Jacques into making an
appearance at the opera house.”

Bella's
mouth had dropped open. “You mean there really is a resident ghost at the St.
Charles? My grandmother has mentioned the theater being haunted . . . but I had
no idea!”

Mr.
Usher nodded. “Oh, yes, miss, there's a phantom at the St. Charles, all right.
A century ago, Jacques LeFevre was the most brilliant tenor the South had ever
seen. Real ladies man, too—had all the women of
la belle
New Orleans
swooning over him. That is, until the tragedy . . .” He paused, shaking his
head.

Bella
felt a shiver streak down her spine. “What tragedy?”

“Well,
Jacques must have offended one husband too many, perhaps even someone in the
opera troupe itself, for almost a hundred years ago, shortly after the St.
Charles opened, he was murdered during a performance of
Kaleidoscope
.”


Kaleidoscope
?”
cried Bella, aghast. “Why, I'm auditioning for the centennial restaging of that
very revue!”

Mr.
Usher grinned, revealing crooked, cracked teeth. “So you are, miss, and I hear
a lot of talk among the troupe that the restaging will likely bring out old
Jacques more than ever before.” He wiggled his eyebrows conspiratorially. “Perhaps
he's still seeking revenge against his murderer, eh?”

Bella
shuddered. “This is all . . . beyond comprehension. Are you sure this ghost
business isn't a practical joke, perhaps an optical illusion engineered by a
member of the production crew? I've heard of such tricks being performed
before.”

Usher
shifted his weight on his broom handle. “No, Jacques is not a hoax. Just go
look at the files of the local newspapers. He's been making his ghostly
appearances here for almost a century now. Why, some nights he even comes out
to sing.”

“Amazing,”
muttered Bella. With an attempt at humor, she asked, “Does he prefer Verdi or
Wagner?”

Usher
chuckled. “Not sure, miss. I've most commonly heard him singing 'Love's Old
Sweet Song.’”

“So
you've
heard him!” Bella exclaimed.

“Indeed,
yes. He's a rogue, that Jacques LeFevre. He's been rumored to tease the ladies
in the audience, to brush his fingertips over their hair or even steal their
shawls or gloves. Why, five years ago, he gave some poor debutante the willies
when he whispered an untoward suggestion in her ear. Ran out of the theater
screaming, she did, and put her highfalutin mama in a faint. It made all the
papers.”

BOOK: PHANTOM IN TIME
9.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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