A Trespass in Time

By: Susan Kiernan-Lewis

Chapter 1




Ella adjusted her earpiece and squinted at the screen on her iPod. If the software sales copy could be believed, hearing the German phrases spoken while reading them was supposed to increase her language retention by thirty percent.

“Abfahrt,” she said, and instantly noticed the woman at the next table glance at her and frown.

Ella took a sip of her macchiato, and looked around the crowded coffee shop. Maybe it was too noisy in here to hear properly? It all sounded like so much gobbledygook. She was supposed to have a good ear for languages. Why was this one so difficult?

“Is this chair taken?”

Ella instantly knocked over her drink then snatched up a paper napkin to protect her new Kate Moss A-line.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.” He smiled broadly at her, innocently. He used his cowboy hat to gesture toward the chair. He appeared remarkably unaffected by the damage he had just caused.

“Take it,” Ella said, nodding at the chair and mopping up the worst of the river of coffee with the napkin. She glanced around the room in annoyance to see if it really were so crowded that her extra chair was needed.

He pulled out the chair and sat down.

“Do I know you?” she said with irritation. Now the wire to her earphones was dragging through the puddle of coffee on the table.

“Not yet anyway.”

She stared at him. A pick up attempt? Really?

“I was just wondering if you come here much,” he said.

“Only when I want to be alone,” she said pointedly.

“I saw you messing with your iPod. It looked like you were doing more than just sorting out your playlist.”

Was this guy for real?

“I’m using it to brush up on a language.”

“Which one?”

“German.”

“I took German in college.”

“So you speak German?”

“Not a word.”

Ella wiped off her dripping iPod cord and turned to give her full attention to this cowboy. He was good-looking in a rumpled, afterthought kind of way. Brown shaggy hair, but combed. A grin that touched his eyes.

The silence stretched between them.

“What I lack, however, in language proficiency,” he said, “I make up for in being able to take a hint.” He stood up.

“I have a boyfriend,” she said, which was a lie.

“I’m not surprised. Well, it was worth a try. I’m Rowan, by the way.”

“I’m Ella,” she said.

When he continued to just stand there as if waiting for something, she pushed the pile of wet napkins from her and picked up her iPod again. “It was nice meeting you, Rowan,” she said.

“You, too. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

“That’d be nice,” she said. “I do come here a good bit.” He was definitely cute.

He smiled and backed away from her, his cowboy hat in his hand.

Ella watched him go. She still had another fifteen minutes left on her lunch hour and the last thing she wanted to do was get back to work early. Strike that, she thought, as she watched Rowan leave the coffee shop and walk toward his car in the parking lot. The last thing she wanted was to meet someone interesting mere days before she was set to move to Heidelberg, Germany and begin her new life.

An hour later, after another relentlessly boring meeting had concluded and Ella returned to her desk, she saw that her father had called. A tinge of guilt crept into her otherwise placid mood at the realization that it had been weeks since she’d talked to him. With nothing else to do the rest of the workday but keep her chair seat warm until five o’clock, she punched in his number.

“Dad?”

“Sweetie, I’m so glad you called.” His voice was warm and loving. The memory of so many hugs and special chuckles flitted through her mind as she heard his deep, rich tones. “Thought you went off the grid on me there,” he said.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” she said. “I was doing some extra stuff at work. Kind of kept me busy.”

“Really?”

Ella could hear the tincture of worry that was usually in his voice replace the comforting warmth. “Was it after dark? You don’t approach these people alone, do you? And you still carry the Taser I got you?”

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