When Esmé Rogers meets Luke Carlisle in 1987, she never expected to end up on board the Titanic for its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912. But what started with confusion and questions turns into the greatest love of her life.
As the date of the ill-fated sinking of the ocean liner approaches, Esmé questions whether or not she should try and change history. However, one question keeps coming back to haunt her: Does she survive?
With frigid waters and a predestined collision on the horizon, can she change the fate of those she loves?
Cover Design: Robin Harper, Wicked by Design
Esmé Rogers flinched at the throb behind her temples. The pain had gained momentum and, with how sensitive she’d become, the sound of people murmuring and talking, along with loud laughter, silverware clinking, and even a dish breaking was making it worse. She wasn’t sure how much more she could handle. Her fiancé, Jake, knew she was suffering, but he insisted on staying the course. The business dinner could see him as the new partner at the law firm where he currently spent all his time.
New York had changed her fiancé and she no longer felt like she was part of a couple. His long hours at the firm had put a distance between them, to the point she didn’t really know him anymore.
She’d thought about leaving him. Maybe go back home. Then Jake would do something romantic, and she’d stay, even though she’d end up just as unhappy as before.
Esmé rubbed her temples again as she looked around the dimly lit room. Jars of decorative oils, dried pastas and hot peppers dotted the shelves around the small, family-run Italian restaurant. Waitresses rushed by in aprons with pens and pads sticking out of their pockets, and one guy nearly lost a tray of steaming food over two customers. He laughed it off while he quietly heaved a sigh of relief.
Her gaze slowly moved on and landed on an elderly man in a wheelchair who was seemingly staring back from under his lowered lids. He looked to have been a strong man once, but he’d lost his build and height with age. The more she stared, the more she thought he looked familiar. Maybe they’d met before?
She shook her head, which sent pain from her neck to her temples, reminding her of the headache she’d been nursing.
Not wanting to join in with Jake and his guests, Esmé glanced back at the elderly man, and saw he’d whispered something to his companion—a granddaughter maybe, or even a great granddaughter? She was young, and looked around the same age as Esmé—twenty-five. Her thick blonde hair hung in long, graceful curls over her shoulders. She was petite and flowerlike.
The woman glanced over, holding Esmé’s confused gaze while her companion continued to talk to her. Esmé sensed urgency in the man as he urged the young woman in her direction.
“Honey, Bill just asked you a question,” Jake nudged her side. She ignored him and waited, knowing she was the final destination of the young woman.
Jake tried to snare her attention for a moment, until he gave up and mumbled something to his guests.
The young woman tugged anxiously on her slim fingers as she approached, her teeth worrying away at her bottom lip. She came to a stop directly in front of Esmé.
She inhaled deeply. “I know this is an unusual request.” She glanced at her companion and then back to Esmé. “I’m Sienna Taylor, and I was wondering if you’d mind coming to meet Luke. I’m his caregiver. He’s been agitated all day really. Now more than ever, saying he knew you a long time ago.”
Sienna glanced over her shoulder again. When she focused on Esmé, tears sparkled in her eyes. She begged, “Please? I know he’s imagining you.” She softly laughed. “I mean you can’t be much older than me, except to hear him talk, it’s as though he knew you when he was our age.” Taking her hand briefly, Sienna added, “In his own mind, he believes what he’s saying, and, the thing is, I need him to calm down. He’s a hundred and two, and...well, his health is failing.” She twisted her fingers together. “I know he’s done well to get to such an age, and I’ve grown to love him.” She gave Esmé a watery smile.
As Esmé listened, her curiosity was piqued. What made this all the more intriguing was the fact that when she’d first set eyes on the man, he’d felt familiar.
She had a good memory for faces and his wasn’t one that came to mind, but something told her she knew him.
Suddenly realizing she’d been sat staring, Esmé got to her feet and, as though in a trance, she walked beside Sienna toward the elderly man. “Can I ask you his name?”
Luke Carlisle…How do I know you?
When she reached his side, Esmé pulled a chair close. Perched on the edge, she forced herself to lift her gaze to his face. His eyes were cornflower blue and glittered with an unknown emotion.
Luke reached out toward her with hands that trembled, so Esmé quickly covered his with her own. That’s when she realized he was clutching something in his hand that he tried to pass her.
She took hold of what turned out to be an aged gold locket on a slim chain. Sienna gasped behind her, causing Esmé to sharply turn her head to look at the other woman, questions in her gaze.
“Luke’s son, William, once told me that Luke wears a locket around his neck, and has done since he survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. William thought it had once belonged to a woman his father had met on board the ship. Luke would always get a faraway look on his face when I asked him about it.” Sienna stared at the locket in Esmé’s hand. “This is the first time I’ve seen it from his neck,” she whispered, looking at Luke in shocked surprise.
Esmé frowned, staring at the antique locket, covered with an intricate engraving of orange blossom flowers and swirling scrolls. She wondered why Luke had passed it to her if it obviously meant so much to him.
Old hands closed over hers and sealed her palm around the locket. “I don’t know how,” he whispered, “but I promised I would find you.” Luke swallowed and started coughing. Sienna helped him take a sip of water and the coughing soon settled.
“I don’t understand.” Esmé shuffled closer. “How do I know you?”
“You actually know Luke?” Sienna asked, kneeling on the floor beside his chair, her gaze on Esmé.
“I honestly don’t remember,” Esmé licked her dry lips, “but, everything about him teases at a memory.”
Luke smiled softly and nodded his head. “You need to come back to me.”
He ignored Sienna and forced Esmé to meet his gaze. “Find me in the past... Please.” As soon as the words left his mouth, his eyes drooped and he fell still and silent.
Panicked, Esmé quickly glanced at Sienna, who shook her head. “Don’t worry. He’s sleeping.” Moving to the chair beside the one Esmé occupied, Sienna stared at the locket Esmé held in her hands.
“I don’t understand any of this,” Esmé admitted, looking at Sienna with pleading eyes. “Why? And what did he mean, ‘find me in the past’? I need to talk to him again.”
Sienna stared at her and then she nodded her head, as though she’d decided something. “Come to his home tomorrow morning.” Sienna opened her purse and, after rooting around, handed a gold-embossed business card to Esmé. “He’s more awake first thing in the morning, so hopefully he’ll make more sense.”
Inside, Esmé was shaking. “What time?”
“Anytime after seven-thirty.”
Esmé nodded and slowly made her way back to where her angry fiancé waited.