What in the hell just happened!
Kenzi’s heart pounded inside her chest. Unable to focus, she felt an aura of numbness sweep through her body. Frightened and dizzy, she staggered away from the cheval mirror and collapsed into an armchair.
She shook her head, desperately trying to gather her thoughts as she glanced around the room that wasn’t the attic. Across from her stood a dressmaker’s form, beside it a treadle sewing machine. On the tabletop next to her was a kerosene lamp, a magazine laid beside it. Kenzi read the heading: Godey’s Lady’s Book, New Fashions for Spring, 1884.
She turned and faced the upright mirror again. Her reflection stared back at her just as it had a minute ago … the hair rose on the back of Kenzi’s neck … before she had stepped through the glass. Damn! This has to be a dream.
The loud clopping of horse’s hooves drew Kenzi’s attention to a large front window. Outside a carriage passed by followed by two men on horseback. A couple walked by, their steps resounding on what must have been a wooden boardwalk.
Maybe she was hallucinating? Damn sure not a hangover this time. She’d given up drinking and partying when she’d given up dating.
Been watching too many westerns on TV, gal! Either that or getting too involved in American history research with her students. She laughed, certain she’d awaken and once again be sifting through the antiques she’d discovered in the attic of the house she’d rented.
She closed her eyes and eased back in the chair, waiting for the dream to fade and reality to take hold.
“Oh, hello, I didn’t hear you come in. May I help you?”
Kenzi jumped, a gasp escaping her throat. A few feet away in an alcove, a middle-aged woman smiled at her, a dark eyebrow arched above friendly brown eyes.
Kenzi swallowed hard. Try as she might, no words would come. She definitely wasn’t dreaming. This lady dressed in Victorian attire was no apparition. Face it, as unbelievable as it was, she had walked through that antique mirror and into some kind of time warp.
The woman frowned. “Are you all right? You look a bit pale.”
“I … I’m sorry, I came in to, um … get away from the heat. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, of course not, dear. Even in the mountains, the summers can get so hot and humid.” She moved to a wash stand and reached for a pitcher. “Let me pour you some water.”
She handed a glass to Kenzi. “Forgive me for saying, but that outfit you’re wearing seems more suited for winter.” She chuckled. “Perhaps you’d like to try on one of my custom made dresses.”
Kenzi looked down at the full-length skirt she was wearing and recalled trying on old-fashion shoes and garments she’d found inside a trunk. Sipping the water, she observed the room again, recognizing items she’d seen in the attic: the sewing machine, a roll-top desk, even the cobalt blue inkwell and pen tucked inside the trunk was now placed on top. She wondered if she looked inside one of the drawers, would she find the leather-bound diary she had set aside to read later that day. Near the inkwell was the same tintype portrait she’d found of a man wearing a Stetson hat, a lawman’s badge pinned to his vest. A little girl in a pinafore dress and flowered straw hat stood beside him.
Embarrassed by her silence, she tried to mask her inner turmoil. She set the glass on the table and rose. “Forgive me, I should introduce myself. I’m Mackenzi Lane.” She offered her hand as she bided her time, trying to think what to do next.
The woman smiled and took Kenzi’s hand. “I’m Abigail Hawkins.”
Kenzi couldn’t stop glancing over at the mirror. The glass seemed to waver in front of her, taunting her. Could she walk through it again? Back to the attic and the 21st Century? Could it be that easy …?
Not caring what Abigail might think, Kenzi stepped to the mirror. Reaching out, she touched it. But unlike before, the mirror felt hard, not allowing her hand to penetrate it. As her fingertips smeared the shiny surface, a warm energy coursed up her arm. She snatched her hand away, stunned to see her hazy reflection smile and nod, then fade, Abigail standing behind her, coming back into view. A telepathic sense of well-being came over Kenzi as her reflection seemed to bid her goodbye.
“Gracious, that mirror needs cleaning,” Abigail muttered.
Grabbing a cloth off the wash stand, she stepped around Kenzi just as the front door burst open and a man ran in yelling, “Miss Abbey, come quick! Emma fell out of Jimmy’s rowboat and the sheriff dove in to get her. But …,” he gasped for breath, “he can’t find her.”
“Oh, mercy!” Abigail dropped the cloth and rushed out the door with the man.
Instinctively, Mackenzi followed them around the back of the building and down a grassy slope to a lake where a man carried a young girl up the bank. He laid her on the ground and knelt beside her. “Emma … sweetheart, it’s Daddy … please, look at me!” Fear in his eyes, he gripped her shoulders. “She’s not breathing!”
Kenzi dropped to her knees on the opposite side of the girl who lay motionless. She swept wet strands of blond hair from her face. Sudden recognition clicked in Kenzi’s mind. The sheriff and the girl were the two she’d seen in the photograph.
“I know CPR, let me help.” Not waiting for his reply, she felt Emma’s neck. Feeling no pulse, she quickly placed her hands on Emma’s chest. She braced her arms and began repeated compressions.
The sheriff shoved Kenzi from the girl. “What the hell are you doing?” he demanded, hysteria in his voice.
Stunned by his reaction, Kenzi glared at him. His clothes were drenched; water dripped from his black hair down his face and mixed with tears that flooded his eyes. “Please, don’t stop me!” she said. “I’m trying to save her life.”
She lifted the girl’s head back to open her airway, then pinched her nose and laying her mouth over hers, blew in two breaths. She hovered over Emma hoping for a response. Seeing no movement, she silently prayed for a miracle while she repeated CPR again and again.
Still no sign of life, she pleaded with the distraught man. “Do you know CPR? Can you do the chest compressions while I breathe for her?”
The sheriff stiffened, looking confused. Of course, he didn’t know CPR. She had no idea when CPR came into practice, but certainly not in the 1800’s. And there were no phones to call 911.
He swiped at his tears. “Tell me what to do.”
Suddenly Emma drew in a deep breath, then started coughing. Opening her eyes, she cried out and reached for her father. He gathered her in his arms and hugged her to him.
Behind Kenzi, Abigail burst into tears. “Oh, praise the Lord!” As Kenzi rose, the woman grasped her arm. “I declare, you’re an angel sent straight from heaven!”
Cradling his daughter, the man stood. His dark eyes met hers. “Don’t know how you did it,” he looked down at the little girl clinging to him, “but you saved my Emma’s life.” His gaze lifted, his ruggedly handsome face smiling at her for the first time. “Not enough words to thank you, ma’am. I’ll be forever indebted to you.” he said in a low, husky voice, his words resonating in Kenzi’s mind.
Had she been sent back for the purpose of saving this girl’s life, she wondered. Or was what happened the foretelling of a future she had yet to live?
She shook her drifting thoughts aside, concerned for the child’s welfare. “She should be examined by a doctor.”
“Someone has already gone to fetch him,” Abigail said. “Grant, carry her to my shop. The doctor can meet us there.”
A short time later, after his examination, Doctor Thomas pronounced Emma in good health, but recommended a couple days bed rest. Sheriff Grant Hawkins had insisted after what Kenzi had done that she accompany him with his daughter and sister, Abigail to his ranch outside of Simpsonville.
Though Kenzi hated to lie, in order to save face, she told them her baggage and purse had been stolen at the previous train station. She said she was a teacher … no lie in that … and hoped to procure a position at a school in a nearby town. To her relief, seeming to accept her story, Abigail pointed out that a boom town like Simpsonville, Wyoming, with a growing population of children, could use another teacher.
The woman had made her feel at home, offering her their guest bedroom. Close to Kenzi’s size, she even loaned her some of her clothes. She had no choice but to accept their hospitality for the time being. As soon as possible, she would apply for the teacher’s job and be able to rent a room at the town’s boarding house.
The rest of the day seemed as much of a blur as when Kenzi first stepped through the mirror. A dinner that would have taken her no more than an hour to prepare, took Abigail all afternoon. She marveled at how the woman went about the time-consuming chores, first building a fire in the wood stove before baking the from-scratch biscuits; drawing water from their outside well before cooking fresh vegetables she’d picked from their garden; even killing and plucking the chicken before she fried it. No bagged salad, no Pillsbury biscuits, no frozen vegetables or chicken in this world, Kenzi reminded herself. How many times had she discussed in her classroom all that was required of women in the nineteenth century to maintain a household? Yet not until now did she fully appreciate the time, energy and commitment it took.
Kenzi tried her best to help, but was completely at a loss how to stoke a fire in the cast iron stove instead of turning it on with the touch of a button. More than once Abigail lifted a quizzical brow and shot her a somewhat impatient look, finally to Kenzi’s relief, suggesting she see how Emma was doing.
Before she could knock on the door, it opened and Emma, a dimpled smile on her face, grasped Kenzi’s hand. “I heard you coming up the stairs.” She pulled her into the bedroom. “Come and sit,” she said, indicating a place beside her on the bed. She curled her legs underneath her, tucking her nightgown around her. Kenzi guessed her age at twelve.
“Daddy said I should call you, Miss Mackenzi,” she said. A distant sadness crept into her green eyes. “I’m thankful that you breathed life back into me,” she hesitated, her eyes tearing, “but if I’d gone to heaven, I would’ve seen Momma.” She shrugged and exhaled a deep sigh. “But then, I wouldn’t be here with Daddy and Aunt Abbey.” She took Kenzi’s hand again. “And I wouldn’t have met you,” she added, a lilt in her voice, her trusting smile sending a warm glow through Mackenzi.
“I’m sorry that your mother isn’t here, Emma.” Kenzi was careful how she phrased her words, aware of the girl’s fragile emotions. “I would like to have met her.”
“I was a baby when she died. Daddy said you look a lot like her. She had long golden hair like yours and blue eyes.”
Suddenly she leaped from the bed and reached for a small book off the nightstand. “When I write in my diary, I feel like she’s watching me.” She grinned. “Sometimes she even tells me what to write down.”
Emma opened the diary. “I’ve already written what happened today.” She pointed at the page. “Did I spell your name right?”
Nodding her head, Kenzi stared wordlessly at the journal Emma held in her hand. Could it be the same leather-bound diary she’d seen in the attic? Good Lord … her eyes met Emma’s … if it was and she was able to return to her time, to that attic, would she read her own name written on that page? An eerie feeling wavered up Kenzi’s spine. Or if she had gone back too soon, then maybe Emma would have drowned and there wouldn’t have been any more written pages in her diary.
As a strange myriad of thoughts whirled in Kenzi’s mind, she was unaware that Abbey had entered the room until she spoke. “Emma, put on a wrapper and you both come on downstairs. You know your father doesn’t like to be kept waiting when supper’s on the table. Always hungry, that man is!”
* * * * *
Later that evening, Kenzi stood on the porch of Grant’s sprawling ranch house and stared up at the stars. The same stars that she had viewed in another place, another time, another dimension. Such a realization brought tears to her eyes, not of sadness but of wonderment. She kept wanting to pinch herself. Only a day had passed, yet she felt like a lifetime had passed. She smiled. Maybe it had, she mused.
The life she’d left behind no longer mattered. She didn’t want to go back. She’d left no one behind. She had no family to go back to, having lived all her childhood in foster homes. She’d worked her way through college, then recently settled in Cheyenne with her first teaching job.
The sound of spurred boots clinking across the wooden porch roused her from her thoughts. Knowing it was Grant, she pulled the shawl Abigail had given her over her shoulders and continued to peer out at the mountainous horizon barely visible in the approaching darkness. From the time she’d arrived at his home, she’d been extremely conscious of an undeniable magnetism building between them. Not knowing what to make of it and thinking it was more his feeling of gratitude for her saving his daughter’s life than any attraction, she tried her best to avoid being near him most of the day.
“If you’re cold, we can go inside.”
Kenzi turned and faced him. He had no idea how sensual his voice sounded to her; nor the sexy way he stood before her; his compelling dark eyes, chiseled features, and the confident set of his broad shoulders. Dressed in denim jeans, chambray shirt and a sheriff’s star pinned to his black leather vest, damn if he didn’t look like he’d walked right out of Universal Studios.
“I’m fine, really.” Was that a quiver in her voice? She’d never been this nervous around a man before.
Grant’s gaze trapped her eyes, not letting her look away. “Emma’s quite taken by you, you know. She said because you brought her back from the dead, she thinks you have magical powers.” He grinned. “You know how imaginative kids are.”
She may be right, Kenzi thought to herself.
“You called what you did for her, CPR. What’s that?”
“Stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”
“That’s sure a mouthful.” His gaze lowered to her lips then back up to search her face.
“It’s often referred to as the Kiss of Life.”
“Yes, I can understand why,” he said. He took hold of her shoulders, the shawl slipping down her back. “Mackenzi, I know we’ve never met before, but darlin’, I feel like I’ve known you all my life.” He slid his hands down her arms and squeezed her gently. “Am I making any sense?”
“Perfect sense,” Kenzi replied. The air around her suddenly seemed electrified.
“And I know that if I were to kiss you,” he hesitated a second, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes, “you wouldn’t slap me.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “Right again,” she whispered. There was a bond between them, the realization coming from a place beyond logic and reason.
Grant’s arms locked around her and when he laid his mouth over hers, she felt the invisible threads that bound them tighten.
And she knew.
His kiss was her destiny ….