Across The Universe

ATUEbookAnika Butler lives a quiet, unremarkable life. Without friends, family, or a love life to keep her occupied, she spends her spare time daydreaming over the painting of a man who was born in the 1800s.

When she joins the other residents of Saint’s Grove to witness a rare lunar eclipse and planetary alignment, the man from the painting appears in front of her claiming to have traveled through time, and she will discover that she is anything but ordinary. When he tells her of their past lives together as lovers, Anika knows that it must be impossible … yet strange dreams begin to feel like memories, until she can no longer deny that something within her recognizes him as her eternal soul mate.

Isaac Parker lost everything when his fiancé, Aurora Barton, was murdered right before his eyes. The witch who killed her also afflicted him with a curse: he can never die, making it impossible for him to be reincarnated. When the eclipse and planetary alignment occurs, allowing him to travel through time, he returns to Saint’s Grove seeking the Star Anthame, the ancient weapon that was used to curse him. With only seven days to locate the relic and break his curse, this is his only hope for finding Aurora again in his next life. He never imagines he will find her in Saint’s Grove where he last saw her, now reincarnated as Anika Butler.

However, a witch with a grudge will re-emerge into their lives, forcing them to fight for their futures, and for love. If the curse isn’t broken, they may lose their chance at happiness together … not just in this life, but in all the lives to come.

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Shaking her head, she inclined it and studied him further, unashamed to stand there boldly assessing a virtual stranger. “You’re really him, aren’t you? Isaac Parker. But, how?”

Taking a deep breath, he released it on a sigh. “There are a lot of things you need to know about what’s happening here in Saint’s Grove. I don’t want to overwhelm you, but there isn’t much time.”

Nodding in understanding, she gestured toward the small kitchen. “Let’s sit in here. I didn’t eat dinner before I left, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to fix something to eat. You’re welcome to join me if you like. I’m not a chef or anything, but I do okay in the kitchen.”

He smiled, remembering that she’d once been a terrible cook. Yet, he’d eaten her food anyway without complaint. Hopefully, Anika proved a better cook than Aurora.

“Whatever you make would be fine,” he replied. “I’m hungry, too.”

Despite his curse, he still suffered from fatigue and never ceased being plagued by hunger and thirst. He supposed it was the sole thing he had left to remind him of his humanity. That, and the deep, resounding ache he felt every day that he lived without the woman he’d been created to be with.

While she moved to the refrigerator, he took a seat at her small, round kitchen table. Despite there being three chairs, he did not notice any signs that she lived with a friend, relative, or lover.

Folding his hands on the table, he watched her back as she moved to the counter, arms brimming with vegetables.

“When the eclipse began, what did you see?” he asked.

She paused, a large kitchen knife in one hand and a head of lettuce in the other. “It was beautiful. Right as the moon darkened, the aligned planets appeared. I noticed Mars because it glowed red and stood out from the others. And then … I don’t know. Something started shooting down from the sky. Meteorites, maybe? They looked more like stars. It was spectacular and terrifying all at once.”

Stopping again, she began chopping her lettuce, head lowered and gaze fixed on her wooden cutting board.

“After that, it’s all a blur. I saw a lot of things I didn’t understand, including that wolf and vampire. There might have been two angels … I’m not sure, but they had wings. I know Halloween is coming, but I got more thrills and chills tonight than I think I bargained for. I didn’t believe it could be real, but when you appeared and confirmed what I was seeing, I had no choice but to believe.”

He cleared his throat. “The creatures you saw tonight are real, and there are plenty more where they came from. The world as you know it—as I once knew it—exists in only one of many dimensions. In truth, our universe is far vaster than human beings could ever imagine.”

Anika chuckled. “And on the eighth day, God created the vampires and werewolves. When he saw what he had made, he said ‘what the hell have I done?’”

He laughed as she portioned out the chopped salad ingredients into two large bowls. “I guess they left that verse out of the book of Genesis.”

Crossing to the refrigerator, she reached for a pitcher of what appeared to be iced tea, before setting it on the counter and going up on tiptoe to retrieve two glasses from a cabinet.

“So, how does it work? I mean, there are a bunch of planets in the universe where these things live? How did they get here?”

“It’s not quite that simple,” he said. “They aren’t exactly planets, though that’s a good way to think of it. They’re just different planes of existence, and on most days, they don’t intersect with the human world. But, every now and then, an Event happens and it turns everything on its head. The seals holding those creatures in their own worlds are broken, and it all converges in the human dimension.”

Turning to face him with the two bowls in hand, Anika gaped at him with a slack jaw. “Are you saying the eclipse and the meteor shower allowed those things to appear here?”

He nodded as she approached. “The planets aligning likely played a role, as well. Cosmic incidents such as the one that took place tonight are extremely rare. The universe rules everything and everyone that inhabits it. When things start shifting around up there, it has an enormous impact on us all.”

Anika fell silent while placing the glass of iced tea beside his bowl. “It’s not much, but I made the dressing myself.”

He gave her an encouraging smile as she settled across from him with her own bowl. Digging in, he speared lettuce, tomato, and cucumber on the end of his fork. The flavor of the dressing was tangy with a hint of sweetness. He liked it.

“It’s perfect,” he said after he’d chewed and swallowed. “Eating a heavy meal so late isn’t the best idea, anyway.”

She smiled back at him and took a sip of her tea. “Exactly. So … tell me more about how this works. Is there some sort of supernatural free-for-all happening here? Why are these people—or, things—coming through these openings, and what do they want?”

“They’re coming through because they can,” he answered. “Some of them have been here before and want back in. Others have unfinished business. The bad ones are just looking for a little fun, which unfortunately for us, means mayhem and destruction.”

Anika frowned, staring down at her bowl. “I don’t know what we’ll do. This is a small town, and we’re a bit removed from the big cities. I don’t think we’re equipped to fight off a gang of vampires and werewolves.”

“Don’t forget the witches,” he muttered.

“Oh, never,” she quipped with a sly smirk.

Isaac found himself caught in her stare, remembering how strong she’d always been. While most women he’d known—in every lifetime—tended to grow hysterical in disastrous situations, it always seemed to him like bad circumstances brought out the best in her. Apparently, no amount of death and rebirth could take that away from her.

“What about you, Isaac?” she murmured between bites of salad. “You’re supposed to be dead.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Am I? Who told you I was dead?”

His teasing tone seemed to affect her, causing her to lower her gaze. He wondered if her face still grew warm when she was embarrassed or aroused … which only led to him pondering how he might go about finding that out.

“Local history, mostly,” she said. “Everyone knows about the Parker family. Mason Parker … founder of Parker Foods, and his son, Isaac, who you bear an uncanny resemblance to. You died, the stories say. Because you were childless, the family business passed down to your brother, who then left it in the hands of his son. Parker Foods has gone down in history as the wealthiest black-owned business in American history … not to mention the longest standing. It was mostly due to your diligence, if the stories are true. You’re a legend around these parts, Isaac.”

He grimaced, remembering vividly the day he’d faked his own death in order to disappear. It had become too apparent that he did not age, and his family could not be kept in the dark forever. And what could he say to them? Nothing that they would believe, of that he felt certain.

So, his brother would go on to uphold the Parker family tradition and manage what his father had built. It had always been Mason’s dream for his sons to own something, instead of having to grovel and beg as people like them had been forced to do at the time of his birth. If nothing else, Isaac took comfort in knowing that Parker Foods would be in good hands for years to come.

Anika’s hand landed on top of his, snapping him out of his reverie. He glanced up to find her staring at him in concern.

“Hey, are you okay?”

He nodded. “Yes. I apologize; it’s a bit difficult to reconcile in my mind … hearing my family business and my death talked about in the past tense. For me, where I came from, it is very much a part of the present.”

She furrowed her brow. “What do you mean?”

He plunged right in, not wanting to mince words with her. “The truth is, one of the seams of the universe is the one that controls time. Under normal circumstances, time moves forward in a straight line, with nothing to slow or stop it. However, when something like tonight’s cosmic event happens, it blurs the lines, and time becomes more circular than linear. In short, movement through time becomes far less cut and dry.”

Blinking several times, she eyed him with disbelief. Despite having seen for herself that he was, indeed, Isaac Parker, she’d just been informed that time travel was real. It could not be an easy pill to swallow for someone unaware of her own transcendent nature.

“Are you telling me that you came through one of those openings from the past?” she whispered.

He nodded. “Yes, Anika, that is exactly what I’m saying.”