Lance shivered. A cold ache seeped from his bones, chilling his flesh. He clutched at the blankets, felt them against his skin, but they did not bring the coveted warmth. Pain blazed in his skull, heralding the return of some of his memories but, more importantly, his woman's name.
"Molly," he mumbled to the tapestries.
The medicine made him drowsy. The time-lag illness added an element of weakness and disorientation. One moment, he felt as if he were melting into the mattress, the next, floating near the ceiling. Images of her crowded his thoughts, shoving for dominance.
Her name was Molly. Molly Shark. No, that didn't fit. Molly Sharp. No, but it was closer. The furnace kicked on, stirring the tapestry by the bed. The knights and ladies danced on the fabric. He blinked away the hallucination. Her name was Molly Stark.
She wasn't his wife or lover.
She was his housesitter.
And he'd been an ass.
His skin flamed, not with fever but embarrassment. He'd strutted about naked, demanded she take care of him and pawed her like a rutting beast. Small wonder she hadn't run screaming from the house.
His mind's eye recreated the pictures on the hallway wall. So many of him and his family, only one of her and her son. Her son, not theirs. Jealousy pummeled him. She'd borne another man's son.
She'd been married before. And the bastard had hurt her.
Lance groped for more information. The memory of their only meeting played like a reel of film in his mind. She had stared at his boot throughout the entire interview, occasionally peeking at him through her long lashes. The more he'd tried to charm her, the more she had withdrawn. Desperate, he had brushed against her when she took his pen. Awareness shot up his arm. The need to touch her consumed him. He had bent down next to her to sign the lease and inhaled the scent of her. She smelled of soap ... and cinnamon. He had offered her his hand as she rose to leave.
To his surprise, she had accepted his assistance, but in the next instant, he had been alone in his office, watching the gentle sway of her hips as she ran down the hall. At least, he knew the answer to one question that had plagued him for the last six months.
She tasted of cinnamon.
He shook himself out of his musings. Abuse would explain her skittishness as much as would shyness. Nothing excused his behavior. He would need a lifetime to atone. And perhaps, another lifetime to charm and court her.
But he didn't have that long. She had been firm when she stated during their interview that she didn't want to live in his house with him there.
Could Molly be his heart's desire? Another memory skimmed his consciousness and disappeared before he could make sense of it. Urgency prodded him, preventing him from giving in to the weariness infusing his bones. His return signaled the end of his quest, didn't it? Yes, Sam had given him the Emerald, to keep it out of Gerand's reach.
Had the stone made the journey? Rolling over, he stared at his clothes strewn across the floor. No fist-sized lump poked through his thin tunic or wool pants. That made sense. Someone may have owned it in the Middle Ages, but here in the twenty-first century, Lance's father protected the Emerald and the Sapphire. The stone must have been returned to him when Lance came forward in time.
Problem solved. Lance's muscles relaxed, and his eyelids drifted closed. Dozing, he became a phantom haunting the twelfth century. He heard the remaining Knights plotting the final attack on Gerand's fortress and screamed himself hoarse, shouting to be heard. Seconds later, he awoke. His frustration skyrocketed. Why send him back if he couldn't help?
Twenty-first-century reality. Twelfth-century reality. Sights, sounds and smells swirled in the cottony mass that made up his cerebellum. His head pounded.
Molly will die. The old man's prophecy surfaced from the shadows of his memories. Lance tried to sit up, but his muscles turned to jelly, defying his determination.
Someone would come after the stones.
Molly was in danger.