Falling Through Time by Deborah Dickey

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Painting Conservator and Columbia University Professor Dr. Meg Hardwick berates herself for becoming obsessed with a portrait she is restoring of the starkly sensual Elizabethan Era Sir James Winstanley. Suddenly she feels dizzy, spinning, faster and faster … only to find herself falling into a portal through time sitting on an ornate bench in the long gilded hall of Whitehall Palace in sixteenth century England where she meets the very man she has been lusting after…

When Sir James Winstanley meets Meg, he knows instantly that he is attracted to the lovely woman. There was no gainsaying she was not beautiful, he thinks as he looks at her doubtfully. He did not think she could possibly come from the future. He ponders what his closest friend Sir Shrewsbury tells him. By all the Saints! His confidant must be mad!


Excerpt:

New York City, 2022 AD.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dr. Meg Hardwick was working with watercolors to restore an English Renaissance portrait of a devastatingly handsome man from the Elizabethan Era. As she removed the flaking paint, retouched and painted over some parts, she felt a sudden raw sexual energy that pulsed deep inside—a need that radiated through her. The scent of a man, free of any male cologne, but with just a hint of something indefinable quivered through her. She felt his breath over her skin, felt his heat near her, felt his lust and hunger. She’d never felt such energy from anyone living and had never been so aroused without a look or touch. However, there was no one there, merely the portrait.

She was aware of how crazy she was being. She had always been proud of her practical nature. A professor of medieval history at Columbia University, she never did things like moon over some strange man in a portrait. There was no denying he was gorgeous, yet he was from the sixteenth century, she thought as she stared at the starkly sensual rendering of the handsome Sir James Winstanley. As she assessed the portrait, she berated herself for the heat that flooded her. What is wrong with me? Why am I so entranced? But the man in the portrait beckoned her and increasingly intruded on her thoughts and even interrupted her focus at work. She feared she was being pathetic and ridiculous, lusting after some strange man in a portrait! Logical and sensible Meg was not romantic, but she knew she was becoming obsessed.

“It seems as if you’ve taken a liking to Sir James,” the Museum’s Curator, Dr. Howard Shrewsbury said, startling her out of her reverie. Alarmed, Meg turned quickly. It was only Dr. Shrewsbury—a man with gray hair and kind blue eyes. Meg blushed. She felt foolish.

“He was a noble in Queen Elizabeth’s Court—one of her favorites along with Sir Robert Dudley, and Sir Christopher Hatton. After six years in the service of Sir Francis Drake, he won both fame and fortune in the service of the English explorer and sea captain aboard the Golden Hind,” Shrewsbury informed her.

“Ah, yes, as I recall, Drake was also a privateer, naval officer, and politician. When the ship sailed into Plymouth with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures, both men were awarded knighthoods by the Queen,” Meg replied.

“Yes, indeed. Sir James who was already a wealthy landowner, refurbished Winstanley Hall, a moated manor house situated on the edge of a hill with a commanding distant view of Wigan, Haigh Hall, Rivington Pike, and a range of the Yorkshire hills. His young wife Catherine was only fourteen when she died of childbed fever a few days after giving birth to a stillborn son. It was said that his heart died with her,” he explained at length.

“Oh, how tragic,” Meg replied.

“Yes, indeed it was, however, that is not all I have to tell you about the unfortunate Sir James. His lover was falsely named as one of the conspirators in the Babington plot—a conspiracy you must surely be familiar with as a professor of medieval history at Columbia University.”

“Yes, I most certainly do know of the Babington plot and of Sir Francis Walsingham who was also the principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a nobleman who became legendary for creating a highly effective intelligence network,” she began. “I am also well aware that the Babington plot was a plan to assassinate the Queen, thereby putting Mary Queen of Scots, her Roman Catholic cousin, on the English throne. Walsingham was fiercely determined to expose the conspiracy by using double agents and code experts who, unbeknownst to Mary’s agents, were supplying their means of communicating with Mary by way of coded letters smuggled inside a beer barrel,” she finished.

 “Well, my dear, you are well versed regarding this attempt on the life of the queen! I am impressed indeed. However, unfortunately, I fear that I must be getting back to overseeing the affairs of the museum and of course, to my own research,” said Dr. Shrewsbury. “Good night, Meg.”

“Good night, Dr. Shrewsbury,” she replied amiably.

After his departure, Meg started to work on the portrait once more. However, she began to feel herself spinning, faster and faster. Dizzy, she felt as though she had fallen into a vortex of eddying, swirling blackness, leaving her world behind. Her head ached, and she had the sensation of whirling in a black cloud. Dark was closing in. Meg shook her head to clear it. At least the spinning was slowing…

Whitehall Palace,

England, August,1586

When Meg opened her eyes, she closed them again in disbelief. She heard a woman’s voice coming from far away… and suddenly she found herself sitting on an ornate bench in a long gilded Hall of Whitehall Palace in England. She surmised it was the Elizabethan court, recognizing the fashions the courtiers were wearing. Lavishly dressed, they bustled back and forth in an endless stream interrupted only by an occasional lady gliding through like a silken water lily. Her brain raced as she scanned her surroundings. Exhaustion flooded through her body and mind. It was almost more than she could absorb.

She soon became aware that she was dressed in a rich purple satin gown with voluminous skirts that made her green eyes glitter like emeralds. She wrestled fear as she turned to gaze upon the young woman sitting next to her wearing a pale gold gown.

Meg recognized Lady Dorothy Edmunds at once from her flawless porcelain complexion, lovely glowing auburn hair and stunning hazel eyes. She had seen the attractive woman in the many portraits she had restored. Meg speculated that the lady must be wondering who she could be.

The woman asked worriedly, “My Lady, have you not heard a word I’ve spoken? ‘Tis the third time I’ve asked you for your name!”