“My darling Allison, have you never heard a peacock’s call before?” Connor asks, green eyes shining with amusement as he watches my surprise.

The peacock’s cries are startling as he lifts his head again and opens his mouth to the sky, the repeated caws echoing over the grounds of the manor house and disappearing into the English countryside.

“I’ve heard them from inside the sitting room,” I answer. “But never in such close proximity. There aren’t many wild peacocks in Cornwall, I’m afraid.”

Connor looks at the bright blue birds that peck at the land, looking for their next meal. “These descendants of the original pair have lived on the property almost longer than my family has. It’s always striking that a bird with such astoundingly beautiful plumage would have such a grating and ugly cry.”

“ ’Tis unfair that the males are allowed to dress in brilliant colors and inventive patterns, while the females are simply dull, gray birds,” I tease.

The peacock closest to us takes a few steps in our direction, the blue of his head and neck shimmering like something otherworldly in the sun. As he turns toward me, he raises his tail in a display that takes my breath away—a fan of hundreds of feathers, dotted with blue and green, waving just slightly as he proudly turns so that the colors catch the light.

“It appears you have an admirer,” Connor says. He turns to me, his face all seriousness. “More than one, I’m afraid.”

My heart surges as the distance between us closes and I can’t help but look at him directly. His kind eyes are set in a face that is as handsome as any I have ever seen. I can feel the heat from his body on my skin as he reaches to cup my chin in his hand. “You are more beautiful than any peacock.”

I long to have the sensation of his lips on mine and hope that Mam is right, ’tis only a matter of time before we have leave to be together. Until then, I shall bide my time and play my position to the best advantage. “You make me blush, sir,” I reply quietly, trying to suppress the excitement that I feel.

“I hope I have the opportunity in the future to do more than simply make you blush,” he replies, tracing my cheek with his thumb.

I turn from him so he won’t see the desire on my face. Connor is so capable in every aspect, I’m not entirely convinced that he is unable to read my thoughts. The peacock turns and flicks his tail feathers in my direction, lowering them to the ground as he starts to walk away. He is so close that the feathers brush the bottom of my brocade gown and I bend down to feel the silken strands as they pull through my fingers.

Something tickles my cheek and I reach up to brush it off, feeling the soft strands of the peacock feather that Griffon’s holding. The image from the memory flashes through my mind and I shiver as I realize that something behind Connor’s eyes, something undefined, is familiar in a way I don’t want it to be.

Griffon’s face shows concern as he studies me. “Everything okay?”

I push the memory of Connor down as far as I can and try to erase the heaviness that’s sitting on my chest. Whatever our relationship was in the past, Connor doesn’t have anything to do with my life now. Griffon and I have been through so much in such a short time, I’m sure we’re meant to be together. We’re destined for each other.

I stand on my tiptoes to give Griffon a quick kiss. “Better than okay,” I answer. “It’s fate that we’re here, in this lifetime, together again.” A chill runs up my spine as I feel traces of the passion and desire that Connor’s green eyes stirred in me. In the sixteenth-century English me. “And you can’t mess with fate, right?”


Maybe you can’t change your fate. But you can change your mind.

“I can’t do this. We need to go back,” I say through gritted teeth, my hands in a tight grip on the bridge’s metal railing—the only thing separating me from certain death.

“I thought you were finally getting over your fear of heights,” Janine says. “After pulling Griffon back onto the roof of a three-story building, I figured walking across the Golden Gate Bridge would be a snap.”

“You’d think that,” I say. My stomach is churning as I stare straight out at the horizon, past the skyscrapers of San Francisco on one side and the hills of Marin on the other, to the point where the dark green ocean meets the edge of the world. “But then I had adrenaline going for me, what with Veronique pointing a gun at the two of us.”

“Come on, Cole. Just look down,” Janine says, bending over the railing toward the water hundreds of feet below like it’s no big deal.

“That’s what I’m trying to avoid. You know how much I hate this.” Watching my best friend fall from a rooftop a century ago makes me uncomfortable standing on a ladder; forget about being a few hundred feet above the waves of the bay.

“Which is exactly why I thought the bridge would be the perfect spot for our empath lesson.” The beads on the ends of her long braids make a clacking sound as she pulls away from the railing and looks at all the other pedestrians on the sidewalk. “Name a place in the city that contains more emotion.” She leans in toward me. “Think about it: you have the giddy tourists snapping photos on their phones to send to the folks back home, and the commuters driving their cars over the bridge, worrying about the errors in the latest spreadsheet.” Janine pauses. “And then you have the people who are so afraid they’re going to fall that they can barely move.”

I allow myself one quick look down, and it just confirms my worst fears. My hands start to sweat and I panic, sure that I’m going to lose my grip on the railing. “It’s not so much that I think I’ll fall,” I confess to her as a bike rider whizzes past us on the sidewalk. “It’s that I’m afraid that for one split second I’ll allow the crazy part of me to take over and I’ll jump. Because I know I’ll regret it in the first millisecond after my feet leave the concrete.”

“Most people do,” she says, watching the whitecaps on the water below us. “I know an Akhet who died this way in his last lifetime. Said the same thing—regretted it all the way down until he hit the water. Splat.” She takes one last look over the edge and I know we’re both counting the seconds it would take for a body to fly through the air and land with the smallest splash down below. “Come on, let’s walk.”

“I don’t think I can,” I say. We had only made it a few hundred feet away from where the water hits the rocks on shore—not even to the middle of the bridge—before I had to stop.

“You can,” she says. “Just put one foot in front of the other.”

I let go of the railing with one hand. “On one condition. I get to walk closest to the road.”

“Okay,” she says, starting off without me. “But you know you have a much greater chance of being hit by a car crossing the bridge than you do of accidentally flinging yourself off the side.”

“I’ll risk it,” I say, already feeling a little better now that I’m a few feet away from the edge.

Janine gives me a smile that looks just like Griffon’s. Although her skin is darker than his, certain gestures or expressions remind me that, despite the fact they’re both Akhet, Janine is definitely his mother in this lifetime. I wonder if it’s weird for her that I’m with him.

I look around at the people on the bridge. Even though it’s unusually bright and sunny for a San Francisco summer day, the wind up here is fierce, and most everyone pulls their jackets tightly around them. “So are we really going to do a lesson outside? In front of all these people?”

“It’ll be fine,” she says. “Maybe things will go even better in the fresh air.” Which is a nice way of saying they haven’t been going so well the last few weeks cooped up in her office at the university. If the past few training sessions are any indication, my empath skills may be as developed as they’re ever going to get.

“If you say so.”

“I say so,” she says. “Haven’t you heard it takes ten thousand hours of practice to master anything? I’m sure you put at least that into the cello over your lifetimes.”

Janine glances at the scar that runs down my left arm. The shattered window has been fixed for months, but the physical damage to my hand seems to be permanent. In a split second and with a single shard of glass, Veronique managed to change the course of my life forever. Instead of touring the world playing cello, I can barely hold a bow, much less manage the complicated fingerings that an orchestra demands. “Look,” she says. “The cello brought you a long way in this lifetime. And from what you’re remembering, it sounds like it took you a long way in the past too. But maybe that phase is over now.”

As much as I know she’s right, I wince at hearing the words out loud. They seem so final. “Mom and Dad don’t want to admit it’s over,” I say. It’s so much easier to push my anxieties off onto them. “They think this is all just a temporary setback, that I’ll be back to playing in no time despite what all the doctors say.”

“And what do you think?”

I take a deep breath and risk a glance back down at the water through the slats in the railing. “I don’t believe in miracles.”

Janine looks at me. “Sometimes a miracle is just a lot of luck and sweat in disguise.”

I nod, not trusting my voice. I don’t know what I think anymore. One minute I know my cello career is over even before it began, and I’m okay with that. The next minute, the thought of never playing in front of an audience again feels like a punch in the stomach.

“Maybe you won’t be able to play at the same level anymore,” Janine says. “But maybe there are ways you can utilize your other skills to make the greatest difference.”

“But my empath skills suck so far.”

“They don’t suck,” Janine says, and I can’t help smiling. She never swears, and even that word sounds funny coming out of her mouth. “You’ve done it before; you were able to harness those skills when you needed them most. You just need more practice to be able to do it on command.” We walk a little way in silence and I look up at the tall orange metal towers that hold up the cables on the bridge.

“Even though you were gifted with the cello as a child,” she continues, “your parents still got you lessons, didn’t they? This is the same thing. Taking an innate skill and honing it until you’re a master. And since a true empath is rare, these skills are more important than ever.”

“What for? Even if I do figure out how to do this and become an empath, how is that going to help anyone?”

“Mankind’s greatest failing is not understanding one another—a lack of communication between individuals and cultures. Someone like you, who can bridge the gap, so to speak”—Janine grins at her own joke—“who can make one person truly understand how another feels and be able to probe the depths of a person’s psyche to find a hidden meaning? That would be invaluable.” She pauses. “Not to mention being able to tell when a person is lying. The Sekhem are already asking how your training is coming along. Trust me, they’re interested.”

Even though she’s said variations of all this before, it still sounds so unreal. Me, being a valuable part of such an important organization. Crazy. “Then I guess we’d better start practicing.”

Janine stops on the edge of the sidewalk and puts her hands about two inches in front of mine. “At some point, you might be able to read people without even touching them, by sensing the magnetic field that surrounds them. For now, we’re going to concentrate on using physical contact. I just think it’s easier that way.”

“Except for the usual Akhet vibrations, I don’t feel anything.”

She shrugs. “It’s a theory I’m working on. This level of empathy is totally new to all of us, but I think with your innate abilities, you can become so sensitive that physical contact won’t be necessary.” She turns and starts walking again. “Let’s go this way around the tower,” she says, pointing to the left. “It’s less crowded on this side, and we can decide if we want to go all the way across or turn back.”

“I already vote for turning back.” There are a few people at the railing, mostly taking pictures or craning their necks to see the top of the tallest tower. But there’s one older guy in a blue jacket who stands out as if he has a spotlight on him. Everyone else fades into the shadows as I study him. He’s not doing anything at all, just standing motionless at the railing, but even from here I can feel that something’s not right.