Brynne opened her eyes and found herself staring up at an unfamiliar ceiling. She was lying down in a bed that was not hers, and she had a massive headache. When she turned her head to find out where she was, the room spun, and she closed her eyes to try to get it to stop.
“Oh,” she moaned. She wasn’t even going to try sitting up.
A woman in a nurse’s uniform quickly appeared at the bedside. “Goodevening, Miss,” she said. “The doctor said you’d probably be waking about this time.”
Time. Time was important, but Brynne couldn’t remember what was so important about time.
“What time is it?” she asked. Her throat was sore. Why was her throat sore?
“Oh, it’s well after midnight, Miss,” the nurse said.
“In the morning?” Brynne asked.
“That’s right, Miss. The doctor had expected you to wake up around this time, but I had hoped you would sleep straight through ’til morning. I’ll go fetch the doctor, now. He asked to be alerted when you came around.”
The nurse left, and Brynne lay on her back, trying to piece together what had happened to her. She assumed that she was in the ship’s hospital now, but how had she ended up there? What was the last thing she remembered? She remembered leaving her stateroom to go down the hall …
The door to the room opened and a man entered, followed by Andrews.
“Mr. Andrews,” Brynne said.
“Brynne,” he said walking over to her bed, “Good Lord, you gave us all a scare.”
“What happened?” Brynne asked.
“We found you unconscious on the poop deck,” Andrews said. “A stewardess saw you running, and she thought something might be wrong, so she knocked on my door and pointed me in the direction she last saw you headed. She said you were headed aft.”
Brynne’s memories flooded back to her. “Yes. I remember. I left my room to go down the hall for a moment,” she began. “When I returned, there was a man in my room, tearing it apart, looking for something. When he saw me, I ran, but he came after me.”
“Why didn’t you come to me, or to one of the stewards?” Andrews asked.
“I don’t know,” Brynne lied. She couldn’t have run to him. It hadn’t been simply an ordinary thug running after her. He’d been after the notebook, which meant that he hadn’t been a native of this time. “I didn’t think, I just ran,” Brynne continued. “All I could think about was getting away from him. We ended up on the poop deck, and we fought there. I remember his hands around my neck, but I don’t remember anything after that.”
“That man, whoever he was, nearly strangled you to death,” the doctor said. “If he had squeezed much harder or much longer … ” He didn’t finish the statement, as he didn’t want to state the gruesome fact that everyone was already aware of.
“When we got to you, the man was gone,” Andrews said, picking up where the doctor had left off. “The Master at Arms thinks he must’ve jumped overboard. They couldn’t find any sign of him anywhere. I left them to investigate, and I brought you down here, to the hospital.”
Brynne suddenly looked at Andrews, alarmed. After hearing the whole story recounted to her and having her memories return to her, she remembered the date and the time. “Mr. Andrews – the ship,” she said, urgency filling her voice.
“What about it?” Andrews asked.
“The iceberg,” Brynne pressed. “Have they started lowering the boats yet?” She didn’t understand how he could remain so calm about all this. The ship was sinking out from underneath them.
“The boats. You mean the lifeboats?” Andrews clarified. “Why would we need to lower the lifeboats?”
“Because of the iceberg. Don’t you remember? The lookouts rang the bell, and we hit an iceberg.”
“No, Brynne. The ship is fine,” Andrews assured her. He briefly cast a worried glance at the doctor. “There is a lot of ice around, but we haven’t hit any of it. If we did, believe me, I would be among the first to know of it. I think, maybe you were dreaming.”
Brynne closed her eyes. What the hell was going on around here? Maybe nearly being choked to death had done something to her perception. Maybe it was the wrong day, or maybe Andrews was lying to her to keep her calm. But why would he do that? There would be no reason for it, none. Or, maybe this was the right day and the right time and something had gone very wrong with history.
“The doctor wants to keep you here overnight to make sure you’re okay,” Andrews said. “I want you to get some rest tonight. And tomorrow, for that matter.”
Brynne opened her eyes and looked up at Andrews. Concern clouded his kind, brown-eyed gaze. “I will,” she promised.
“I’ll be by tomorrow,” Andrews said. He laid his hand upon hers and gently squeezed it before turning and leaving.
Brynne closed her eyes again. This was all wrong. This was all so wrong.
Lounging on the loveseat in her stateroom Monday afternoon, Brynne sipped warm tea from a small cup. Before beginning this mission a year before, she couldn’t stand drinking the stuff. After spending so much time in Britain, where everyone drank tea all the time, Brynne found that she’d acquired a taste for it.
She had returned to her room earlier that day after the doctor had determined that she was well enough to leave the hospital. Andrews had indeed stopped by her hospital room to visit and had escorted her back to her room. Brynne was grateful for Andrews and his kindness toward her during this ordeal, but she couldn’t help but think of Jeremy and wonder why he hadn’t come to see about her. It was early afternoon, and he was certain to have spoken with Andrews by now. Maybe he was busy, Brynne reasoned. With Brynne out of commission for the rest of the trip, his workload must have doubled.
Why did she even care that he hadn’t come by to see her? This was what she’d wanted – distance. It would probably be best for both of them if he didn’t come to see her at all and if she never saw him again.
Carmen walked into the room. “We’ve got to figure out what went wrong, Carmen,” Brynne said. “Who was that man?”
“I can’t be sure, but I have an idea,” Carmen said. “He’s a time criminal. I’d thought the chances of running into one of them here would be minimal at most, given the benign nature of our mission. Guess I was wrong.”
“What did he want with that notebook?” Brynne directed the question inwardly toward herself as much as she did outwardly toward Carmen.
“I don’t know,” Carmen admitted, shaking her head. “He didn’t want to use it for anything good, that’s for damn sure. That was a good call, tossing it into the water.”
“I didn’t have any other choice.”
Carmen began to slowly pace the small distance between the bed and the sofa. “You know, I bet he has something to do with why we missed that iceberg.”
“You think so?”
“It has to be. I can’t think of anything else, any other factor, that was off. He had to do something. But what?” Unable to formulate an immediate reason, Carmen sat down on the bed.
“Maybe he warned them somehow,” Brynne suggested. “Or altered course. Or slowed us down. There’s about a million things that he could have changed to alter the course of history.”
There was a knock on the door. Carmen rose immediately and went to answer. She was surprised to find a very unpolished-looking Rose. When Brynne saw who it was, she stood, not having been expecting her.
“Rose?” Brynne asked. “Is everything all right?”
“Things are more perfect than they’ve ever been in my entire life,” Rose gushed. “Almost.”
“Is there something I can do to help?” Brynne offered.
“Well, I need someone to talk to, some advice,” Rose revealed. “And I felt like you were one of the only people who could help because I have a feeling that you will understand my plight.”
“Do come in and have a seat,” Brynne said. “I’ll be happy to help in anyway that I can.”
Rose stepped into the room. She walked over and perched on the sofa while Brynne sat down on it beside her.
“That’ll be all for now, Carmen,” Brynne said. Carmen curtseyed slightly and left the room, giving Brynne and Rose some privacy. Brynne saw Rose’s dark eyes flit from her wrapped wrist to the bruise on her cheek.
“I have to apologize for my appearance,” Brynne said. “I had a little accident yesterday.”
“I’m sorry,” Rose said, alarm rising in her voice. “If I had known … perhaps I should come back another time, when you’re feeling better.” She made a move to rise from the sofa, but Brynne quickly stopped her.
“No, don’t worry about it in the least,” Brynne insisted. “I’m fine.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, what happened?” Rose inquired.
“It’s quite embarrassing, really,” Brynne said. “Mr. Andrews and I were finishing up some inspections, and I slipped and fell down a flight of stairs.”
“Good gracious,” Rose gasped.
“I managed to knock myself out-cold in the process, but that was the only major injury besides a few bumps, bruises, and a mildly sprained wrist. It scared Mr. Andrews to death, though. Poor man. When he saw me fall and land at the bottom of the stairwell, he thought for sure that I was dead.”
“Thank goodness you’re all right.”
“Yes.” Brynne absently felt her neck, which was covered by the high collar of her dress. There were marks there, too, very prominent bruises that created a distinct pattern of fingers on her neck. But it wouldn’t do for Brynne to be walking around the ship with what looked like evidence of strangulation. Brynne and Andrews had concocted the stairwell story on the walk from the hospital to her room. They, after all, had the reputation of the ship to think of. It couldn’t get out that someone had actually been attacked on the ship and that the perpetrator hadn’t yet been caught, or even that he was believed to have jumped overboard. People wouldn’t feel safe at all.
“What is it that you need my advice about?” Brynne asked, denying Rose the opportunity to ask anymore questions about her ‘fall’.
Rose struggled for her words. “I’ve decided to leave Mr. Hockley,” she said.
Brynne’s eyebrows rose immediately. “You mean, cancel your engagement?” she asked.
“Yes,” Rose answered.
Brynne had no doubt that the young woman was determined to follow through with her plans, but there was a hint of uncertainty in her voice. “Well, Rose – that seems like a very bold move, but I’m certain you have good reasons for doing so.”
“Oh, I do,” Rose said eagerly. “Very good reasons. Do you remember Mr. Dawson?”
“Of course I do,” Brynne said. “The young man from third class. The artist?”
“Yes, well … ” Rose hesitated. “This may sound quite absurd, but I’m in love with him.”
Brynne nodded slowly, the picture now complete. “Is that so?”
“Yes, and I’ve decided to disembark with him when we reach New York.”
“I see. And what did your mother and Mr. Hockley have to say about this development?”
“Therein lies the problem.” Rose’s demeanor deflated. “They don’t know. And I can’t tell them. I can’t go back there and tell them this. It isn’t an option. Cal is the type of person who refuses to be upstaged by anyone. There’s no telling what he’s capable of in a situation like this.”
Brynne’s heart went out to the girl. The reality of it was that she was just a scared kid who wanted a better life. “Rose, it sounds to me as if you’ve already made up your mind in this matter. I’m not quite sure what you need my help with.”
“I look at your life and the way people react to you. You’re in a man’s profession, and from the looks of it, your being a woman doesn’t even seem to make a difference. Men regard you as an equal. They don’t coddle you or treat you like some expensive showpiece. When they’re having a conversation, they don’t overlook you; they ask you your opinion, and when you give it, they don’t dismiss it because you’re a woman. Now, I know that I can be naïve at times, but I’m aware enough to realize that it can’t all have been easy for you.”
“Ms. Larence, I seek your opinion and your advice. You lead an unconventional life for a woman. What did your family say when you told them that you wanted to pursue a career instead of marriage? Do you think I’m being foolish? Maybe I’m making the biggest mistake of my life, but it feels so right. Should I trust my feelings like that, so blindly?”
Brynne stood and walked over to her window. She turned to Rose again, who was now standing in front of the sofa. “Rose, you should never blindly dismiss what feels right,” she said. “It is your life, after all, and you’re the one who has to live it. You have to do what’s going to make you happy. So, how my parents responded to my life choices is actually irrelevant when you look at it with that sort of attitude.” Brynne paused and sighed. Her parents had actually been thrilled when she’d told them of her intentions to enter architecture school. But her parents were 21st century parents, and 21st century parents were very different from the parents most commonly found in1912.
“That being said,” Brynne continued, “you do have to temper your feelings with your brain sometimes. There are plenty of things that we want in life but we’re not supposed to have them. Everything that’s good to you isn’t always good for you. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Rose nodded. “I think so.”
Brynne returned to the sofa. “I’m glad that you’ve found someone that you can truly be happy with. You’re so lucky, because there are a lot of people who never find that. I just hope that you’re prepared for the life that you’re about to step off of this ship into when we dock. It won’t be easy, Rose. It’s a world that’s vastly different from the one you know. There are no valets, no maids or servants. Sometimes there won’t be a bed or a house or food even.”
Rose’s posture straightened, and she looked Brynne squarely in the eye to convey that she thought she was prepared for anything life with Jack might throw at her. “I’m aware of that,” she said.
“Good. If you know about the hardships you’ll face with this new life, and you still want to do it, my advice is to go for it. Love doesn’t always knock twice.”
Rose smiled, cheerfully reassured that her decision to leave Cal for Jack was the right one for her.
Brynne couldn’t honestly dole out advice like that without at least considering it for her own situation. She couldn’t be certain that what she had with Jeremy was budding love, actually; then again, she couldn’t be certain that it wasn’t. She had known him for a year, after all, and had come to care for him. In the past, he had toyed with the idea of what a romantic relationship with him might be like, but she had never seriously entertained the possibility until they’d boarded Titanic.
Brynne didn’t know what to think about her increasingly awkward relationship with Jeremy. She knew that she enjoyed the time she spent with him. She knew that he was a talented architect and designer. She knew he had a nice body, which she wanted to let her hands run wild over, and that his kiss had momentarily robbed her of her senses.
Rose had only known Jack for a few days, and she was ready to give up a life of privilege for a one of probable poverty and guaranteed love. Brynne had known Jeremy for a year. What would she be giving up if she chose him, even if it were only for one night?