Published by Sourcebooks, Inc. on 2015-04-07
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Romance, Time Travel
For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has lain unread. Now, amateur code breaker Sara Thomas has been sent to Paris to crack the cipher.
Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing—for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.
As Mary’s gripping tale is revealed, Sara is faced with challenges that will require letting go of everything she thought she knew—about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women will be united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the coincidences of fate.
CONTEST:Sourcebooks is offering 10 readers the chance to attend a LIVE online event with Susanna Kearsley. To enter, find the HIDDEN MESSAGE within the excerpt below and use it to crack the SECRET CODE. Email the correct answer to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be announced on March 20th.
The parking gods of Paris smiled kindly on us, leaving us one space for the Ducati in the row of motorcycles parked beside the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a lovely ancient church of pale stone with a soaring tower that allowed it still to hold its own in that great boulevard of buildings that rose six and seven stories high. The pointed tower with its belfry rose above them all.
I wasn’t sure if this was the church Mary Dundas had written about in her diary, the one where she’d gone to hear Mass, but I wasn’t inclined to run the gauntlet of the group of tourists milling round the entrance to go in. There were too many people on the pavement for my liking, too, all pressing past and chattering, weaving through a cluster of more Christmas Village vendors’ stalls at this side of the church.
Seen up close, the stalls showed their simple design—like white boxes with peaked roofs and flaps at the front and sides that had been lifted and propped open to reveal whatever wares lay inside on display—but they’d all been made festive with fairy lights strung round and warm lights within and green garland with tinsel roped up and down over the peaks of the roofs in a glittering line. Some stalls offered jewelry and some offered food or warm wine or embroidered white linens. One had a display of fur hats in a rainbow of colors, and one had been stacked full of glass jars of honey of different varieties, claiming that it would add years to your life and more life to those years. But the stall that attracted my eye was the one with the strings of pashminas and bright woven scarves. There was one scarf draped over a hanger, a beautiful fringed scarf of cornflower blue shot with silver that made me slow my steps and feel my pocket for my wallet, but apparently of all the things I’d thought to bring, my wallet wasn’t one of them.
I found the pen, the notebook, my small booklet of Sudoku puzzles, and the mobile—took them out to make quite certain there was nothing else in either pocket—and had put them back and was preparing to move on when Luc strolled over, chivalrously carrying both motorcycle helmets by their chin straps, one slung over his left elbow and the other in his left hand. He asked, “Which is it you want? The blue one?”
“That’s all right, I have a lot of scarves. It isn’t necessary.”
“When did it become a crime to want what wasn’t necessary?”
I was left to try to form an argument to that while Luc stepped up to greet the woman in the stall. He’d pointed out the scarf to her and paid for it and had it wrapped and handed me the parcel by the time I could reply, “I only meant that I’d survive without it.”
With a shrug he said, “Surviving life is not the same as living and enjoying it.”
I couldn’t really argue that, and anyway it was too late—he’d moved into position as he’d done before, a half step to my side and just a little bit in front of me, and with his easy stride began to clear a path for us along the pavement through the crowd. I followed him and frowned a little, realizing the only thing to do was tell him thank you. “Thanks,” I said. “I’ll pay you back the money.”
“You will not,” he told me. “That’s a gift.”
“But you don’t have to give me gifts.”
“I do. It’s New Year’s, it’s tradition.”
We’d reached the curb now and Luc stopped and turned to look down at me, smiling his perfect symmetrical smile. “Are you always this difficult?”
I thought about that a moment and answered him honestly. “Yes.”
His smile briefly turned to a grin, but he seemed to be trying to hide that by looking instead at the cars passing by on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. When he looked back at me he only had a faint curve to his mouth. “Give it here, then.”
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He held out his hand for the paper-wrapped parcel and I passed it over, not really wanting to have him return it but realizing that was the logical consequence of all my arguing.
“Thank you. Now take this.” He handed me my helmet, leaving both his hands free while he opened the parcel and drew out the length of blue shimmering silk. Taking hold of it firmly he reached to arrange it around my neck, tucking the ends through to make a loose knot. “There,” he said, folding the paper into a small square that he tucked deep in one of his pockets, “you’ve worn it, it can’t be returned, and I won’t take your money. You’ll just have to keep it.” He reclaimed my helmet, and held it as effortlessly as before in his left hand. “Now, where are we going?”