‘She'd had a lot to drink, and said she was going to drive into town with or without me.’
Alice. Where was Alice? She had to get to Alice—The fuzz of static in her ears burst like the first clap of rain from a thundercloud. Suddenly, Etta was drenched in sound. Creaking, groans, slamming footsteps, pops of explosions in the air. Screams—
The words took shape, strung together like dissonant chords, smashing cymbals. The room was clogged with silvery smoke.This wasn’t the stairwell; this wasn’t any office in the Met. The walls were nothing more than panels of dark unfinished wood. When she turned, she could just make out the shape of a chair and a figure cowering in it, arms clasped over her head.Hello? she scratched out, surging forward on unsteady feet. She was caught again by shock, the feel of rough fabric against her arms and legs. For the first time since she’d come to, her adrenaline slowed to a complete stop.
She wasn’t wearing her black dress.This was…it was floor-length, some kind of pale shade Etta couldn’t make out. She ran her fingers over the bodice, tracing the embroidery in disbelief. The dress had her upper arms and chest in a chokehold, making it difficult to move.
A girl’s voice. The figure in the chair moved, rising to her feet. A trembling memory flickered through Etta’s mind. The girl. The girl from the concert. Etta charged forward, knocking her aside to get to the crack of light she could see just beyond her—a door.
She pushed me in the stairwell, she shoved me forward—once she had the first glimmer of memory in place, the rest fell into line behind it.What did Mr. Prest have to look forward to? An empire he ruled, a kingdom I could only imagine, in a palace I could only dream.
Tearing my eyes away, I did my best to silence unwanted thoughts and fall back into my lifeless position.You can look, he whispered. I have full intention of looking at you. His shoulders bunched as he reached over his head and grabbed the back of his t-shirt. With a dark glare, he wrenched the fabric off, undressing a torso I’d only seen in my fantasies.
For a man with mixed authenticities, his body wasn’t confused as to what made him excel in this world. Long, lithe arms with perfectly proportioned biceps and tight forearms. Broad but not too broad chest with pectorals and obliques and a washboard stomach that seemed too strong for his skin.But none of that mattered as my eyes drifted toward the sweeping masterpiece.