The Timeseer's Gambit (The Faraday Files #2) - Kate McIntyre

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For my Papa

If you were here today, I know you’d be proud.

I wish you could see who I’ve become.

I wish I could share it with you.

I couldn’t possibly be more honoured to wear the McIntyre name.

ly with me! Hey, darling―fly with me!

The singer’s beautiful smoky alto danced over the sound of a band in full swing. The lyrics of the song were very appropriate, because Julia Buckley was flying.

She pressed one hand against the cool glass of the window. Her heart pounded in a thrill of wonder as she looked down, down, and down to Darrington City a world below. A thousand tiny lights sparkled in the darkness, echoes of the centre of civilization momentarily forgotten. A vast metropolis sprawled beneath the clouds, and the only world that mattered was this one. “We’ll touch the sky, we’ll kiss the moon, so come, now, come, oh, come and fly with me!” the young woman in her sparkling gown exulted up on the stage. A delighted little giggle bubbled up and escaped Julia’s lips.

A laughing couple passed within a foot of her, both of them decked to the nines in clothing even more luxurious than her own. She swayed on her feet. The pair’s emotions ran high, and they pressed up against her like invisible sea creatures nudging her hull. The woman’s mood was merry, but the man had things on his mind other than the music and the champagne. Vicarious heat flooded Julia and warmth swept along her cheeks. Catching her breath, she gathered her skirts and hurried away.

Five hundred wealthy members of Darrington society had been invited to the opening of the Floating Castle, and all five hundred were packed into this one room with its marble floor, its grand staircase, its marvellous ice sculptures and bubbling fountains. Julia raised her chin, shielding her eyes to look directly at the chandelier sparkling above. Tiny salamanders, fire spirits with rainbow-hued scales and darting tongues, flitted merrily about the fixture, looking for all the world as if they were playing.

It was a night of wonders.

“So darling, darling, kiss that moon with me!” The singer finished, and the room burst into applause. Julia joined in, heart pounding in excitement. The singer in her shimmering gown bowed with a flourish and left the stage as the musicians started into the next song. Their frenzied notes spiralled down into a mild instrumental number, and Julia felt the mood of the room change.

She experienced a moment of dizziness as the unity and rhythm of the gathered emotions swirled away and each individual person fell into their own beat. She tried to close herself to the slurry of separating, disparate feelings, but the happy chaos that surrounded her caught her up and tossed her like a ship at sea. She found herself wandering through the crowd in a daze, following one trail of emotion and then another.

A familiar face stepped before her. Strong hands came to rest on her shoulders. She looked up blearily. Was that her husband?

No.

She took a sharp step back, trying to force reality back into focus. “Doctor!” she gasped, a hand flying up to her throat.

“Missus Buckley!” her unexpected guest effused. “Why, I thought I recognized you floating about. Though I must admit, you hardly look yourself at all. Why, a fellow could confuse you with the Queen herself tonight.” He looked her up and down, and his feeling of genuine pleasure rolled against her, setting all her attempts at composure awry.

“Doctor,” she murmured. Guiltily, she glanced about, sure she would see someone watching them. She sorted through the emotions close at hand, brushing against them and feeling them echo back, searching for even a single twinge of suspicion. She found nothing. “Good evening,” she finally said, sounding weak to her own ears.

“Goodness, Julia,” the doctor said, his voice thick with concern. He dropped his hands from her shoulders, and the places where they had been burned. “Is everything quite all right?”

She took half a step closer to him. Not so near as to raise eyebrows, but she could lower her voice to a polite little murmur. “Doctor,” she repeated, “this… well, this is quite a shock. I hardly expected to see you here tonight. I didn’t know that you ran in these circles.”

The doctor chuckled, but she felt his pleasure wane. She tried to focus on his face. He was an extremely handsome man with thick, broad shoulders pulling at the stitches