The Irregulars return home to 1803 England safely, but their worldview has changed. Not only have their heroic efforts at Dunkirk given them pride and confidence but their dangerous mission has increased their magical powers.
Tory delights in the ever deepening bond she shares with Allarde until she discovers how powerfully he is connected to his ancient family estate―the lands he will not inherit unless he denies his magical powers and chooses a nonmagical mate. If Tory really loves him, she must walk away―but does she have the strength to leave the love of her life?
Cynthia's heroic efforts at Dunkirk have won her the respect of the Irregulars, but her sharp tongue keeps everyone at a distance. Isolated and very alone at Lackland Abbey over the Christmas holidays, she reluctantly agrees to join Jack Rainford and his family for their celebration even though they're commoners, far below her own noble rank. The warm welcome of the Rainfords makes her feel happier and more accepted than she has ever been. But she can't possibly be falling in love with flirtatious Jack! Can she?
Then the Irregulars are drawn into a dangerous attempt to rescue a vitally important French scientist from Nazi-occupied France. Tory and Allarde must work together because countless lives are at stake. Disaster strikes and not only is their mission threatened, but their very lives. Can magic and their loyalty to each other help them survive to return home?
Find out in Dark Passage--M.J. Putney's thrilling follow-up to Dark Mirror.
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M. J. Putney is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Dark Mirror. As Mary Jo Putney, she is the New York Times bestselling author of historical romances. M. J. is fond of reading, cats, travel, and most of all, great stories.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
England, June 1940
Traveling through time was not for the faint of heart. Lady Victoria Mansfield wiped damp palms on her skirt as she contemplated being torn into screaming pieces, dragged through a magic mirror, and dropped one hundred thirty-seven years in the past, exhausted and ravenous. But this was the only way home.
She surveyed her friends. “Everyone ready to brave Merlin’s mirror again?”
There was a mutter of assent, with Lady Cynthia Stanton’s edgy “I want to get this over with!” the clearest comment.
Elspeth, flaxen-haired and fey, said to Cynthia, “Since you had the most difficult time coming through the mirror to get here, take my hand and I’ll see if I can send you extra energy to make the trip easier.”
Cynthia nodded ungraciously—she was often ungracious—and took Elspeth’s hand on one side and Allarde’s on the other. Allarde, dark-haired heir to a dukedom and a powerful mage, gave Cynthia an encouraging smile. Though he was jaw-droppingly handsome, Tory loved his kindness even more than his looks.
He laced the fingers of his other hand through Tory’s. Energy sparked between them. She always felt calmer and stronger when they were together.
The last of her group, Jack Rainford, clasped Elspeth’s hand to complete the line of magelings. “Lead on, Tory!” He wiggled his blond brows at her. “But if you take us to the wrong century, I’m going to be very, very cross.”
She smiled innocently. “Do you want to lead us through the mirror, Jack? I’ll be happy to defer to you.”
He looked horrified. “I’ll stick to weather magic, thank you. You’re the expert on traveling through time.”
A wise choice on his part. Jack was surely the best weather mage in England in 1940, and quite possibly would be the best when they returned home to 1803. But Tory seemed to have the most talent for moving through the mirror portal to other times—and taking others with her.
Tory gave a last smile to the four twentieth-century friends who had come to see them off. “Good luck and stay safe.”
“If you ever come back, we’ll find beds for you,” Nick Rainford said with a grin. His family was descended in some way from Jack’s family, and he and Jack shared similar blond good looks. They could easily pass as brothers.
Tory smiled, but they all knew it unlikely they’d ever see each other again.
She turned to the end of the chalk tunnel and raised her right hand. Though the time travel portal called Merlin’s mirror wasn’t yet visible, she could feel the burn of its magic. Summoning all her power, she visualized the time and place of their destination.
Take us back through time. Return us to Lackland Abbey in 1803. Take us to just a few minutes after we left. Take us home ...
Magic was mostly a matter of will, and she had plenty of stubbornness as well as a talent for invoking the time portal. As she concentrated, a tall silver mirror shimmered into view. For an instant she saw the five of them reflected, somber and dressed in the clothing of their own time rather than the strange garments of 1940.
Stepping forward, she laid her palm against the mirror. The silver surface turned black—and she pitched into the abyss, dragging her friends behind her.
* * *
Passing through time was getting a little easier with practice, though not by much. Tory still felt as if she were being torn into small pieces and reassembled. But for the first time her mind was clear enough that she sensed other pathways through the dark screaming chaos. Other portals leading to ... different places? Different times?
Allarde’s hand held hers in a death grip. Through him she felt the energy of the others, like notes of music.
Tory returned to normal space with wrenching abruptness. She collapsed on a cold chalk floor, the others crumpling down behind her. She almost passed out, but this time she managed to stay aware.
After a dozen gulping breaths, she sat up and surveyed her surroundings. Mage lights glowed on the ceiling. She may actually have succeeded in bringing them home the same night they’d left.
“That is a really terrible way to travel,” Jack groaned as he sat up.
“A massive understatement,” Elspeth said raggedly. “Are you all right, Cynthia?”
There was no reply. “Cynthia? Cynthia!” Elspeth rolled to her knees and laid her hands on the other girl’s forehead and midriff. “She’s not breathing!”
Terrified, Tory scrambled to her feet. She was still dizzy from the transit and lurched toward the wall. Allarde caught her before she crashed into it. She drew a steadying breath, then moved to Cynthia’s side.
For an instant, Tory had the horrible impression that Cynthia was melting, her features distorted by the difficult passage. But then she blinked and Cynthia was her normal beautiful self, except for her corpselike pallor.
As Elspeth poured in her powerful healing energy, Jack grabbed hard on to Cynthia’s hand, resting his other hand on Elspeth’s arm. Tory and Allarde gripped Elspeth’s shoulders, each of them adding their power. Tory couldn’t see the magic, but she could feel its fierce potency, like a river of white fire.
Learning how to combine their powers was a vital part of what they learned down here in the secret underground school known as the Labyrinth. The aristocratic outcasts of Lackland Abbey studied as equals with talented locals like Jack. Collectively, they were Merlin’s Irregulars, sworn to use their magic to defend Britain.
Tory had a special gift for blending different magics, and she’d needed that as the five of them pooled their power and varied skills to control weather over the English Channel. They’d been aided by twentieth-century Rainfords who were descendants of Jack’s family. Together, they’d enabled the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied troops desperate to escape the Nazis.
This time, their combined power was channeled through Elspeth, the best healer. After an agonizing moment, Cynthia choked, gasped, and breathed again. Opening dazed eyes, she snarled, “I. Am. Never. Going. Through. That. Horrible. Mirror. Again!”
Tory laughed and sat back on her heels. “You don’t have to. None of us do. We’re heroes and heroines of Britain, even if we can’t tell anyone.” Nor would anyone believe them if they did speak. “Now we settle back into our normal lives.”
She tugged Cynthia’s skirt down so the other girl’s trim ankles weren’t exposed. Probably it was silly to worry about that when all three girls had worn shockingly short skirts and even trousers in the twentieth century. But here, it mattered.
“I’ve had enough adventure for now.” Jack slid an arm under Cynthia’s shoulders to help her sit up. As soon as she was sitting, Cynthia batted his hand away with a scowl. Jack grinned at her. “You’re recovering well, I see.” Which made her scowl even more.
Jack got to his feet, moving with less than his usual bounce. “The mage lights are the same as when we left, so I think you successfully brought us back to the same night, Tory. I’ll see if there’s anyone still in the hall.”
Elspeth made a face. “If this isn’t the same night, we’ll have a lot of explaining to do to the Lackland masters.”
Allarde looked thoughtful. “What would happened if we returned before we left? Could we meet ourselves then?”
Cynthia looked horrified. “That would be awful!”
Tory frowned, wondering how she’d feel about meeting herself. The idea made her stomach queasy. “I’m not sure that could happen. It doesn’t feel possible.”
“I hope you’re right. The idea is just too strange,” Jack said. “I’ll report back as soon as I’ve checked out the hall.” He walked swiftly down the passage, conjuring up a mage light to illuminate his path as he turned the corner.
Cynthia attempted to stand and made it up with the aid of Allarde’s hand. She’d always had her eyes on him. Even though she grudgingly recognized that it was Tory Allarde wanted, she still looked for excuses to touch him. Tory was confident enough of the bond between her and Allarde that she didn’t mind. Much.
As Cynthia leaned against a wall, a small object came flying through the mirror. They all jumped, then stared as a paper-wrapped stone clattered along the passage and stopped near Allarde. He scooped it up, undid the paper and grinned. “It’s for you, Tory.”
She took the paper and called down a mage light from the ceiling to help her read. “It’s a message from Nick,” she said with surprise. “He wanted to see if it’s possible to send messages through the portal.”
“Apparently it is,” Elspeth said. “And much easier than traveling in person!”
The rock and paper looked perfectly normal, unchanged by their journey through time. Tory asked, “Does anyone have a pencil?”
Allarde pulled one from inside his coat. “As my lady wishes.”
She gave him a private smile before scrawling, “It worked! We all got back safely and never want to travel through the mirror again! Tory.”
After neatly retying the paper around the rock, she faced the mirror and concentrated on the destination she wanted to reach. 1940, Nick Rainford ...
When the goal was crystal clear in her mind, she tossed the rock through the mirror. The missile touched the surface of the shining energy and vanished. “We’ll have to check here regularly in case he ...
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