Vortex A Tempest Novel Online - Julie Cross

PROLOGUE

MARCH 15, 2009

The only things that gave me the strength to pull myself off that grassy spot and walk farther from Holly were the images that flashed through my mind—Holly, sitting in that orientation, hiding the book in her lap with her name carefully written inside, her hair twirling around the pencil she was using to take notes. I had sat three rows behind her that day … today … and watched her the whole two hours. And even though she hadn’t once looked back at me, I figured she must have known I was staring because she rolled her eyes at me outside the building, just before I got in my car. There was something both affectionate and challenging in that look she had given me.

Now, repeating that day, I felt so much relief knowing I wouldn’t be in that room with her, allowing her life to collide with mine in such a dangerous way. I just had to keep playing those memories over and over, removing myself from the picture in my head, and I knew I’d get through this. I’d live without her as long as I could imagine her life without me. More importantly, her life would be better without me.

The moment I walked into Dad’s place, my arm in a sling and a whole lot of crap to explain, it was a little easier to temporarily set my thoughts of Holly aside … for now.

MARCH 15, 2009, 6:00 P.M.

Dad took one look at my injured shoulder as I leaned my good arm against the door frame of his home office and strode quickly across the room. “What the hell happened to you, Jackson?”

“I got shot.” I let out a breath, prepping for his reaction. “In August of this year … by Raymond … one of the Enemies of Time. He’s dead now … well, he was dead in August … which hasn’t happened yet … so, I guess I’m not sure…”

He froze in his spot, eyes widening. I reached in my pocket and removed the memory card that August 2009 Dad had given me, and offered it to him. “This is yours … sort of.”

He completely ignored the memory card and moved closer, resting his hands on my face, looking me over carefully. “Are you okay? Tell me you’re okay.”

And this was the moment when I knew for sure that I could trust any and all versions of my dad.

“Physically, I’m fine.” I tugged his hands from my face and placed the memory card in his open palm. “But we have a lot to talk about and we might need Chief Marshall and Dr. Melvin.”

He nodded, still half in shock, probably wondering how I knew Chief Marshall, then pointed to a chair for me to sit down in. I waited patiently while he zipped through notes on his computer. I couldn’t read any of his code, but I had guessed what he might have read by the time I heard him draw in a breath and rub his hands over his face.

“I’m sorry about Eileen,” I said finally.

He closed his eyes for a moment and then turned in his chair to face me. “We aren’t going to tell anyone about Holly or this Adam Silverman kid … not Chief Marshall or Dr. Melvin. No one.”

“Good,” I said immediately, glad we were on the same page.

“I have a plan for keeping tabs on them.” He stared over my shoulder at the wall, lost in thought. “A reliable source that will make sure everything stays under the radar. But you have to promise me you won’t look up their emails or Facebook or anything that’s traceable. Understood?”

I swallowed the lump in my throat, feeling the finality in my answer. “Understood.”

“And there’s no way I’d ever let you join Tempest,” he stated flatly, as though he’d read my mind. “I’m not sure what my other self was thinking … maybe he took a blow to the head before agreeing to this, but it’s not happening.”

Didn’t he understand why I’d made the choices I’d made? “I have to. I’m not going back to my old life. I can’t. I know about Jenni Stewart. I met her in 2007 … in that other universe or whatever. She was only my age and Chief Marshall let her join the CIA.”

My knee bounced up and down, anticipating his argument. It felt like a clock was ticking inside my chest. If I didn’t dive in, headfirst, to something totally new, I would find myself