If I Could Turn Back Time – Chapter One

I can’t believe this book is coming TOMORROW!!! Where does the time go?

I’m so excited to share a sneak peek of chapter one. This is the PERFECT book for this time of year and spooOoOky Halloween!! It’s set in October, it’s sort of creepy (but not really), it’s full of mystery, steamy romance, a ferocious feline named Bob, and time traveling shenanigans!

Available at all retailers here!: If I Could Turn Back Time

Summary:

She’s a spectral cynic. He’s a time traveler racing the clock. 

Amelia Peters doesn’t believe in ghosts. After outing her late paranormal investigator parents as con artists, the natural skeptic wants nothing to do with anything even supposedly spooky. But her long-held disbelief in the supernatural crumbles when she inherits a small-town cabin… and keeps bumping into a handsome specter in the night.

Shaken by the mysterious hunk’s disturbing ability to vanish into thin air, Amelia is stunned to discover he’s no ghost, but a traveler who has slipped through time… and is destined to die within days. When their relationship takes an intimate turn, she vows to save his skin. But altering history means confronting her own guilty secrets first.

Can they undo the mystical mayhem scaring away their happily ever after, or will the time-space continuum keep them apart forever?

Chapter One

“What if I have family?” I glance over at Bob, lounging in the passenger seat like the lazy dictator she is. She flicks her orange striped tail with annoyance. 

“Can you imagine? Aunts, uncles, maybe even cousins my age.”

She yawns, baring her tiny feline teeth in my direction. 

“Then I could have conversations that are reciprocal instead of me talking to you, and you thinking you’re better than me.” 

She stretches, flopping back against the seat. 

“You’re right. You are better than me. You might be my pet, but I am your obedient servant.” I slow the truck, removing my foot from the gas as we enter town limits. “We’re almost there.” 

I swallow, palms slick on the steering wheel. The nerves thundering through me are a direct contrast to the quaint, wholesome, all-American small town surrounding us. 

The estate attorney’s office is at the other end of town, according to my GPS. I gaze out the front window of the truck, one eye on the road in front of me, the other taking in downtown Mystic Falls. It’s like driving through a movie set. One of those heart-warming dramedies with B-list actors, kids on bikes delivering newspapers every morning, and tree lined streets.

The brick storefronts are stacked closely together, wooden walkways running in a long line in front of them.  Red and yellow trees march in a colorful procession down the street. Halloween decorations pepper windows, skeletons and mummies. The occasional witch and giant black spider perches on stretched cotton webbing. 

A mountain rises in the distance, fat, fluffy clouds hanging above it in the bright blue sky.

I park behind a sleek black BMW, my ancient red pickup belching to a stop and clashing with the surroundings like a wart-covered troll in the middle of a picturesque meadow.

I take a deep breath. 

Focus on the next steps. One thing at a time. 

Restored Victorian-style homes line the street, all of them remodeled into businesses for a salon and spa, a coffee and tea shop, and a real estate office. A bronze placard reading Stone & Stone hangs on a home with blue and white trim. 

“Time to get into the carrier, Bob.” My voice wobbles with rising anxiety.

 What if I do have family, and they hate me? After all, Mr. Stone, the attorney, wasn’t surprised when I told him Dad never talked about my grandfather.

Your father and grandfather had a strained relationship, he’d said in apologetic, soothing tones. 

Ha. Strained relationship. That implies there was some kind of connection. Communication. Not complete silence. There was no relationship. Dad never mentioned his family. Neither did Mom. Ever. And when I asked, I would get the brush off or they would change the subject. Maybe I should have pushed harder, but, well, it’s too late now. 

I glance at the clock. It’s only two, and the appointment is at three. I’m early. But maybe I can get this over with and get up to the cabin before dark. 

I pull the carrier from the narrow backseat of the pickup, taking a moment to glance over the boxes stuffed in the bed of the truck. They hardly shifted the entire drive from LA to Northern California. I packed everything I own—which isn’t much—along with what’s left of my parents’ belongings, mostly notebooks and trinkets and things they collected over many years of traveling. 

I’m used to being a minimalist. We moved around a lot when I was growing up and nomadic lifestyles do not lend themselves to accumulating anything but the bare necessities.

Bob meows at me a few times in protest before climbing in. “Sorry. You know it’s better than the alternative.”

The alternative would be leaving her in the truck. And while the weather is mild enough that it wouldn’t be a safety issue, Bob goes a little berserk if I leave her in a confined space and I’m not within her line of sight. She’s a tad protective. 

I take just a second to glance at myself in the rearview mirror. My long dark hair is greasy and yet somehow also frizzy. My hazel eyes are puffy, outlined by gray smudges from a lack of sleep, but there’s no helping it now. 

Here we go.

A bell jangles overhead when I step inside.

Dark green wallpaper and mahogany trim greet me as soon as I enter the foyer. A narrow staircase on the left leads up to the second story, but the stairs are closed off with a thick burgundy rope. To the right is a closed door, to my left an open office space.

A woman with a bright and friendly smile pops out from behind a large maple desk to greet me.

She’s petite and dressed in an impeccably pressed bright blue pantsuit. She’s probably close to my age, mid to late twenties max. Her curly hair is pulled back, a few dark chocolate strands popping out to frame her face. 

“Hello. You must be Amelia Peters.”

“Yes.”

“Lexi Stone.” I shake her outstretched hand, hoping my palm isn’t sweaty as she gives me a firm and quick handshake. “Did you drive up from L.A. today?” 

I nod. “I left this morning.”

Her dark brows lift. “That’s a long drive.”

I shrug. “Nine hours.”

Her eyes dip to the carrier in my hand and she bends down. “And who is this?”

“This is Bob.” 

At the sound of her name, Bob yowls. 

Lexi laughs and reaches toward the crate door. “Hi, Bob.”

Bob hisses and swipes fully extended claws in her direction.

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” I yank the carrier away even as Lexi backs up a step. “Bob isn’t great at first impressions.”

But Lexi just waves me off. “I need a cat like that. Where did you get him?”

“Her. I rescued her from a trash can in Iowa when she was just a kitten.”

It was the first time I really fought with my parents. Animals aren’t easy to take care of when you spend your life on the road, but Bob had no one else. I couldn’t leave her.

“Bob is a girl, huh? I like that.” She grins. “You can bring her in here while you wait. Dad should be ready in just a few minutes.”

“It’s fine. I know I’m a little early.” I follow Lexi into her office. 

“Sit wherever you like. Would you like some coffee or something?”

“Coffee would be great.” I perch on the couch across from her desk and put Bob on the seat next to me.

While she gets the coffee from a side table, I take in the space. It’s mostly neat, some stacks of papers and files on the desk. A couple of framed diplomas line the wall. One photo is angled on the corner of the desk. It’s a close-up selfie of Lexi with a man. Their cheeks are squished together, their mouths open in laughter, their eyes crinkled shut. It’s goofy and a contrast to the professional surroundings. Funny. Lexi is pretty and she seems nice. It tracks that she would have a hot boyfriend or husband or something. 

And I’m alone. All alone.

Stop being melodramatic, Amelia. 

Bob grumbles next to me as she settles, like she can sense my thoughts.

I do have Bob. That’s something, I guess.

But maybe it’s all about to change. Maybe I do have family. Maybe they’re just not here yet. 

I open my mouth to ask but Lexi speaks. “Cream or sugar?”

“Uh, both. Please.”

It’s silent except for the faint jingle of the spoon in the ceramic mug. 

My heart pounds as I clear my throat and ask the question that’s been circling in my mind all day. “Are we waiting on anyone else?” 

She hands me the mug and then shakes her head with a smile. “Nope. Just you. You’re the sole heir.”

The words drop like stones, piling in my stomach.

Other people might be happy to be the sole heir, to not have to share their inheritance. Not me. I wish this room were full of people vying for a fortune. I’d take anyone. Nefarious aunts, creepy cousins, uncles who embellish family stories and hug you just a little too long. Well, maybe not that last one.

“I mean, I guess you aren’t the sole heir. The historical society and a representative from the church were both here the other day for their portion. But the rest is yours. Not that you need it. I heard they’re making a movie from your life.” She flashes a quick, bright grin. quick grin is bright and curious. “Congratulations on all your success.”

“Yeah. Thank you.” I attempt to muster a pleased expression. A book deal. Movie rights. It’s the dream, right? My happy act must not be convincing because Lexi’s smile falters.

Ill-gotten gains. The phrase lives rent-free in my head, circling like a vulture over a carcass, periodically taking bites. 

My parents were world-renowned paranormal investigators before they died. I published a story about one of their cases from when I was a kid. I’d wrote it in a moment of guilt, trying to work through my pain, not thinking anything of it beyond that. I’ve written hundreds of other articles about random things as a freelance writer, and not once did I have anything go viral.

Until that damn story.

The door by the entrance swings open. 

“I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.” Mr. Stone’s voice is rough with age and experience. 

He has white hair, a friendly lined face, and gold-rimmed glasses. His dark suit and blue tie matches Lexi’s pantsuit.

Cute. 

“Your three o’clock is here, Dad,” Lexi tells him. 

I stand and move toward him to shake his hand. 

“Ms. Peters. Thank you for making it today.”

“Are you Gregory’s granddaughter?” the woman standing next to him asks. She’s probably about the same age as Mr. Stone, maybe early to mid-seventies. Her hair is white, pulled back into a soft bun exposing luminous pearl earrings and a matching necklace. She holds a cane in one hand, dark wood, delicately carved but sturdy and thick, the head of some kind of animal with jeweled eyes. Old money might as well be tattooed on her forehead.

“I guess I am.”

Her eyes soften even as her smile widens. “I knew him well. My husband’s family sold the cabin’s property to your grandfather when your father was just a baby. Oh, I’m forgetting my manners. I’m Claire Blake.”

She reaches out her hand for me to shake and her grip is as delicate as a hummingbird, a contrast to the forcefulness of Lexi and Mr. Stone. 

“It’s nice to meet you.”

“Your grandmother was a friend as well. She’s been gone now nearly twenty years, you know, God rest her soul. If you ever want to join me for coffee and pie to hear stories of your family, my house is open.”

“You definitely don’t want to turn down Claire’s famous strawberry rhubarb.” Mr. Stone pats his stomach and grins.

“I make them from scratch using fruit from my garden.” 

I cling to the idea–stories of my family, making friends. It’s better than the nothing I’ve got now. Maybe we’ll start a smutty book club or something. “Thank you so much. I would really appreciate that.”

One-handed, she smoothly retrieves a business card from her clutch and hands it to me. It’s heavy, cream, expensive paper with her name and phone number. 

“Any time, my dear.” She pats my arm. 

“Would you like help out to your car, Claire?” Lexi offers.

“Yes please,” she says before turning back to me. “My son is waiting for me. It was a pleasure to meet you.”

“You, too.”

I grab Bob and then follow Mr. Stone into his office, the ambience a continuation from the entry, all masculine colors and chunky furniture.

Bookshelves take up the entire wall behind his desk, the leather-bound tomes lending everything an authentic, rich, antique vibe. Everything is pristine and yet somehow also well worn, like it has some sort of history. Multiple pictures of family sits on his desk, Lexi, and what must be his wife. A family photo features a large group of people in matching shirts like it’s a reunion. People don’t know how lucky they are. 

I sit in a leather seat across from him and try to pay attention while he reads the details of the inheritance. 

My grandfather left his main property, which was within the town’s historic district, to the city. Money and most of his other assets went to the church.

My portion is a small cabin just outside of town, up an unmarked road in the woods sitting on fourteen acres. 

The only stipulation is that I have to live in it for one year. It’s completely paid off. I only have to cover property taxes, insurance, utilities, and general maintenance and upkeep. 

“You can stay for the year?” 

I nod quickly. “Yes.” Hopefully longer. Hopefully forever. 

So I don’t have any family. So what? I’ve been alone for years now. Maybe this small town is where I can find my family. Establish roots. LA never felt like home. It felt like a city full of individuals who cared only about themselves and how things appeared, not how they were. 

Once he’s finished listing all the legal details, I sign the paperwork. 

“Lexi has the directions and all the keys. She’ll let you know exactly what to expect when you get up there.”

“Thank you.” 

“There is one other thing you should be aware of.” His expression is somber. “Not because it’s a problem, but because in a town this small a lot of people like to talk, and it’s not always accurate.”

“Okay.” I brace myself. What could this be about? 

“Your grandfather used the property as a rental for a short time.” He pauses, his mouth turning down.

“Is someone still living there?” Or were they, and then they got evicted because of me? That’s a lovely way to make a fresh start in a new place, by getting people kicked out of their homes.

“No, no, nothing like that. It’s been vacant for going on three years now. Your grandfather had a hard time leasing it after the last renter—” He clears his throat, takes off his glasses, and sets them on the desk before meeting my eyes. “There’s no easy way to say this, but he died there on the property.” 

Keep reading here! Releasing 10/29/2021

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