Book 4 > Highlanders Through Time
New Orleans, Louisiana
And just like that, Reik was gone too, leaving Ian alone in the cavernous house.
How many times had Ian looked around the Quarter and said to himself, I’ve seen stranger shit than that? Having grown up in a place with a history of accepting the unwanted, the “freaks” of society . . . Ian was pretty much used to anything.
But this took the cake.
All three of his damn brothers had officially disappeared, presumably into the past.
Ian stared at the ancient silver cross in his hands, the one he and his brother had been holding together a few minutes earlier. It was unnaturally cold, but it hardly looked like a relic that had the power to send one person into the past, let alone three. And yet, there was no denying Rhys, Grey, and Reikart had all disappeared while holding it.
This was some crazy shit. But he couldn’t sit here all day and dwell on it. He had work to do.
Laying the cross on his father’s desk, he strode to the picture window, grateful it overlooked the private garden. St. Charles Ave. was probably swarmed with reporters curious about the increasingly strange affairs of the McCaim family. Dad in a coma. His brothers’ disappearances getting more and more difficult to hide.
And wouldn’t they have a field day with this?
Ian slipped his phone out of his perfectly tailored pants, which would only garner strange looks where he was going. He found his cousin’s number, then called him on speaker and tossed the phone onto the mahogany desk next to him. It would only make him more anxious if he had to watch it shake in his hands.
“Reik’s gone,” he said as soon as his cousin answered.
Jeremy, completely up to speed on everything that had happened since the day Rhys disappeared, must be beyond shock at this point.
“I’m here. It’s just . . .”
Yeah, I know.
The whole thing was nuts, which was why they’d assumed their father was crazy the moment the words time travel left his lips. For five years, he’d been claiming their mother hadn’t left them—that she was, in fact, a time traveler from ancient Scotland who’d been called back to her time. The best investigators money could buy had disagreed, saying she’d walked away from the family and scrubbed her identity to avoid being found.
She didn’t leave us. Your mom is from the past. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m going to prove it to you. When I figure out the chant, I will prove it.
They hadn’t laughed him off—he was their dad, after all—but they hadn’t believed him either. Ian felt guilty for that now. They all did. Especially since their father was in a coma. His dedication to finding their mother had taken a toll on him, and he’d suffered a breakdown.
“We worked it out. Jeremy . . .” Ian closed his eyes, blocking out the bright sun streaming in through the picture windows. “I’m going too. You know what to do.”
Jeremy would serve as McCaim Shipping’s interim director and take the lead in convening executive sessions. If they weren’t back in two weeks, he would step in to help lead Ian’s public relations team, the one he’d put together over the last four years. After a month, a search firm would be hired to replace all four of the brothers.
They’d come close to losing the business when his mom had first gone missing. Investors had lost faith in the McCaim patriarch, and they’d threatened to walk—so Rhys and Grey had done the hard thing and forced their father out. But Rhys and Grey were gone, and Reik and Ian had agreed they would stop at nothing to go with them. While Ian had wanted to try again immediately, Reik’s cooler head had prevailed. He’d reminded Ian that they were the only two McCaim brothers left in good enough health to run the company. Provisions had to be made. For the company. For their father.
Mom had been gone for five years. What if they were gone as long?
What if they never came back at all? Without the cross, they couldn’t get back. Presumably. And it was still here in his father’s study.
So they’d made their contingency plan. Told their cousin everything to ensure someone would be here for Dad, someone with the best interests of McCaim Shipping in mind.
Now it was time to put it into action.
“Jesus, Ian. I can’t believe this. I mean, I do believe you, but . . . he’s seriously gone?”
Ian turned to look at the spot Reik had occupied moments before.
“He’s gone. And I can’t screw around here. None of us knows how the rules work. If I don’t do this right now, who knows when, or where, I’ll end up. This way, at least I’ll have a good shot at finding Reik.”
“Are you prepared?”
Ian moved toward the duffle bag he’d prepared.
“More than Rhys and Grey, for sure,” he said, unzipping the bag. He hadn’t even changed from work yet. But unlike when he and Reik grabbed the cross earlier, as they’d done most days since Rhys had vanished in front of them, this time, he knew it would work.
He’d watched first Rhys, then Grey, then Reik succeed where he’d failed . . . He knew now which word had tripped him up and was confident he would be joining his brothers next.
“And you’re sure about this?”
Ian tried to ignore the censure in Jeremy’s voice. His cousin didn’t understand the choice he was facing: abandon his mother and brothers in the past or his father and the company he’d built in the present. In the end, nothing mattered more than his family, and the doctor had made it clear that his dad was all but screwed. His brain was still swollen, his prospects dim. So he would go back, find his brothers and mother, and use this silver cross to bring them all back.
Maybe, just maybe, hearing their mother’s voice again would bring their father back too.
He had to hope.
“I’m sure.” He began taking off his dress shoes. “Thank you, Jeremy.”
“Good luck, cuz. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”
Ian pulled off his socks next and then dumped the jeans, T-shirt, and hoodie out from his bag. What was one supposed to wear to time travel, anyway?
Certainly not a suit.
“Take care of him.” Ian would not get emotional again. He and Reik had already visited the hospital to say their goodbyes to a father who couldn’t hear them.
This time, the silence wasn’t broken by his cousin’s voice. Jeremy had hung up.
Ian finished changing, and before his brother could get too far ahead of him—if that was even how this worked—he grabbed the cross and took a deep breath.
He’d only been this scared three times in his life.
The night they’d learned their mother was missing. The day they’d gotten the call that their dad was in the hospital. And the first time one of his brothers had disappeared before their eyes. And now he was about to follow in his older brothers’ footsteps, as he’d always done, for better or worse.
Ian’s hands refused to stop shaking. What a chickenshit he was.
Just say the words.
He didn’t need the slip of paper anymore, Ian knew them by heart. He’d listened to Reik’s recording of the words over and over again. His brother hadn’t thought he was listening—it wasn’t something he was known for in the family—but this time, he had been all ears.
Roll the gh on the last word.
“Talamh, èadhar, teine, usige ga thilleadh dhachaigh.”