Chapter Twenty-Seven

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When I finally came to, my eyes fluttered open and it took a moment for the blurriness to clear. The pain, dizziness and nausea I had felt had disappeared, but I was a little concerned that I had lost consciousness the second time round.

Laying still on the hard timber floor, I tried to focus on the room above me, not yet having the energy to move the rest of my body. I didn't need to look around to know the cold and darkness of the cottage was back. No warmth from the fireplace, no lit candles or lanterns. Just emptiness.

I was back.

Swallowing the lump that had formed in my throat, there was no doubt I had mixed emotions about returning to my time. Of course, I was happy to be able to see Anna and my family again, but sad I had to leave Nicholas behind. Oh, Nicholas. I would never see him again.

Squeezing my eyes shut, I held back the tears that so desperately wanted to fall. There wasn't time for that now.

As I pried open my eyes once more, I carefully lifted my head, then continued into a sitting position, checking for any injuries I may have sustained after my collision with the floor. Confident I was feeling no aches or pains, I got to my feet and glanced around the room.

Everything looked exactly as I'd left it two months before. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed or moved. The spiderwebs, the dust, all there. Not even any crime scene tape. Huh. And there was my phone, untouched, sitting on the mantelpiece, torch still shining bright. I plucked it off the shelf, pushed the button and the screen lit up. No flat battery after all this time. No service, though.

Wait. Two months. I'd been gone two whole months. Wouldn't someone have come looking for me? Anna? Bradley? They would have come that day and not found me here. It seemed strange they would just leave my phone here.

What had happened during that time? Were they still looking for me? Had they given up? Did they declare me... dead? I gulped and started for the front door. They needed to know I was back. I had to tell someone. I needed to find someone.

The front door was wide open as I stepped out into the sunshine, eyes squinting to adjust from the darkness inside to the brightness outside. The sky was blue and cloudless, very similar to the day that I visited the cottage. Wait a minute, it was daylight? But I left 1869 at night. How long was I unconscious for?

As I headed for the road, I checked my phone again, groaning when I found there was still no service. Glancing up from my phone, I stopped abruptly with what I saw.

My car. My car was sitting right there, on the side of the road, where I'd left it two months ago. What? They didn't even bother to move my car? Then a thought struck me. The keys. What did I do with my car keys? They weren't on me when I went back in time. Did I drop them in the house or outside?

As I walked up to my car, I scanned the area, hoping to find them on the ground. Subconsciously reaching for the door handle, I pulled on it, surprised to find it was unlocked. I swung open the door and there were my keys, dangling from the ignition, glistening in the sunlight. I laughed out loud.

"You stupid girl," I mumbled to myself. "But, boy, am I glad I was stupid that day."

Without hesitation, I jumped in, started the car, and drove as fast as I could to Hettie's B&B.

~

The first thing I noticed when driving down Hettie's driveway was Bradley's 4WD parked in front of the house. What was he doing here, I thought. But I was glad the first person to inform I was back wouldn't be a stranger.

I pulled up alongside it, got out, and hurried towards the front door.

Feeling nervous, I reached out for the door handle, but hesitated. Do I knock or do I just walk in? What should I say to them? Do I tell them the truth about where I've been all this time? But who would believe me? My head was swimming with questions. I hadn't had any time to think about this.

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