Jared couldn’t believe he was actually looking at her. After all this time, Kate Bennett was less than a foot away from him. And not just any Kate Bennett…Kate Madison Bennett. A woman who’d proved difficult to not only pinpoint from genealogical reports, but also to find in real life. It was bad enough that she’d gone off the grid for the last year, but the fact that it was his fault made his life with the Legions a living hell for the last 365 days. But, as he’d expected, she had come out of whatever hole she’d stashed herself in and had finally deigned to join the land of the living.
Not that she looked all that lively at the moment. She was downing, what…her eighth drink already? She had already drawn snickers and whispered comments from the restaurant’s waiters and waitresses, who currently had a bet going on what time she’d hurl all over their floor.
Jared shifted in his bar stool, glancing at Kate from the corner of his eye as she huddled over her plate, sniffling at the picture she gripped tightly between her thumb and forefinger.
“Kate,” her dad berated quietly, awkwardly trying to avoid more attention. “I know its tough, but you’ve got to get a hold of yourself. You’ve already had too much to drink tonight, and that’s no way to work through your grief.”
“What do you know?” She drew the back of her hand across her face, wiping away her tears. “I tried, you know. I really tried. I just don’t think I can do this anymore.” Her forehead dropped onto her crossed arms, her hair barely missing the mashed potatoes and gravy. Kate lifted her head once more, wiping her tears away again before she turned her head toward her father on the left side of her. “You still have Mom, and you still have me. You don’t know how this feels.”
Jared winced at the pure torment in her voice and in her very demeanor. He’d seen the pictures of the car when it had been pulled from Forestport Reservoir. The car had not only driven off the bridge into the water, but the reservoir’s bed had done insurmountable damage during the crash.
“Besides,” Kate continued with a shrug, “it’s worked pretty well for me for the last twelve months.”
“That’s no way to live, Kate. Drinking yourself into a stupor, while you’re hiding away at the cabin? What happened to running? You love to run.”
The cabin? Jared thought. That’s where she’d been? He hadn’t even known her family owned a cabin. Had he and the Legions known, he could have reached her months ago instead of wallowing in his own failed attempt; watching other Legions shake their heads at him in mock sympathy. Those who’d never lost a charge.
He was no idiot. Even now there were others nearby, watching and waiting for him to screw up again. Waiting for him to miss his chance at sending Kate back in time.
Just then, waiters and waitresses shuffled from the kitchen doorway, the leading waitress balancing a plate with a slice of cake on her palm. The employees following her had already started clapping as they made their way through the bar and around the corner to a large table of customers, who had started clapping in rhythm as a birthday song was sung.
Kate’s father excused himself then as he made his way toward the bathroom. The poor guy had tried probably a thirty times to get Kate out of the restaurant; out of view of other people as she experienced a complete meltdown. And yet, all Jared could think was: Here it is. The best chance I’ve had for a year.
He nudged the pocket watch on the bar slowly toward her as he leaned in, slowly so that she might not notice, and offered her a smile. “Sounds like you could use another drink. Mind if I buy you one?”
Kate’s eyes bugged momentarily as she looked in Jared’s direction, almost as though she’d been surprised there was someone there. “I’ll take one if you’re offering,” she slurred before tossing back the last of her drink. “Just know it’s not going to lead to anything. I’m sure you’re a nice guy and all, but—”
Jared lifted a hand and shook his head. “It’s not like that. I can just tell you need another one.” He looked at the bartender. “Another one of whatever she’s having, and can I get my bill?”
“You got it,” the bartender said, immediately grabbing a new glass and pouring Kate’s drink. After setting it on a coaster, he shuffled off to the computer to print off his bill.
She wasted no time in bringing the glass to her lips. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” Jared threw some cash down on the bar after seeing his total due. Standing up, he slid his bar stool back under the counter. “Don’t worry ma’am. I have a feeling things will be looking up for you soon.” He gave her a smile and strode away.
“It can’t get any worse,” she muttered, almost imperceptibly.
He reached the first set of doors and walked through as the hostess held one open for him. Please pick it up, please pick it up.
“Hey!” Kate yelled.
Jared rushed through the other door and turned left as he reached the sidewalk.
Kate’s voice called out from behind him. “Hey, uh…sir. You forgot this.”
He turned, meeting her eyes as she more or less stumbled toward him. She would have caught up to him easily under normal circumstances. Then again, under normal circumstances her mind would have already picked up on the fact that something was wrong.
Kate’s progress slowed and her brows furrowed as she peered down at her hand.
Come on, come on…hurry. There was no one on the sidewalk that could see anything; but that didn’t mean a million things couldn’t go wrong: a customer could look out the window, or Kate’s dad could waltz out of the door, a driver could pass by on the street, or for the love of God, a customer could head toward the restaurant seeking a bite to eat—any of which could witness the inexplicable phenomenon of someone disappearing into thin air. None of it mattered to him at the moment; it was a chance he had to take. Not that he had any choice now.
“Hey…wha…ow! What the hell!” She tried to fling the watch from her hand, but it had already latched onto her skin. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she began to crumple to the ground. Just before her body hit the ground, she completely disappeared. He knew she hit the ground somewhere though, just way, way in the past.