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He gave a dismissive wave, moving to a trunk near the bed. “It hardly matters, seeing as it’s clearly not Ironwood, Jacaranda, or Hemlock.”

Sophia had said there were three other families who could travel, Linden included. But she and Nicholas had both also said that the other families were gone now, or had been forcibly merged into the Ironwood clan.

“Your mother was the last living traveler of the Linden line, until we learned of you.”

Cyrus found what he was looking for in the depths of the trunk and pulled it out. He held it out for her to take, and only then did Nicholas release his hold on her.

It was a small leather-bound book, embossed with the initials RCL and a gorgeous golden tree. Etta found her eyes tracing the shape of it over and over, the slight curve of the trunk, the branches that stretched and twined until they disappeared into the heavy, full body of leaves. The roots of the gold tree were similarly interwoven, the thin lines weaving in and out of each other’s paths.

“You don’t recognize it, do you?” Ironwood said, clearly amused by this. “Your mother and her grandfather, Benjamin Linden, were so blasted proud of their heritage. It’s your family’s sigil.”

“Each house has a tree sigil,” Nicholas said quietly when she looked up for confirmation. He nodded at the chest, its lid emblazoned with a magnificent, strong-armed tree, its thick branches so low that they seemed to rise directly from the ground.

Her grandfather. Her mother had told her she’d been raised by her grandfather. So then…everything wasn’t a lie? Just a carefully crafted truth?

“We crossed paths with Rose, sightseeing in Renaissance Italy—it seemed quite the happy accident at the time, as her grandfather had recently passed, and she found herself alone,” he continued, something accusing in his gaze. “I’d made the necessary arrangements to bring her into our family, to marry Augustus and rescue her from a life alone, but your mother disappeared seventeen years ago, and we’ve been searching for her ever since.”

Her hands clenched around the book until she couldn’t resist opening it. She flipped the cover open, scanning the neat notations—all in her mother’s handwriting. It felt like opening a random door and finding her waiting there.

Victorian London. Rome in the fifth century. Egypt in the early twentieth. There must have been a hundred different places listed, all with small journal entries, like Saw the Queen as she and the Prince rode past us on their way to Buckingham Palace and The camel nearly ate Gus’s hair, ripped it from his scalp like grass and My God, if I never see another big-bellied man wrapped in a toga…

“Travelers keep journals,” Nicholas explained in a low voice, “noting the times and dates of when they move through the passages, to avoid crossing paths with themselves by accident.”

Etta nodded, her fingers pressed tight against the leather, but her mind spun. What did that mean, crossing paths with yourself? Why would they need to avoid it?

“Stand up straight, child—you’ll give yourself a hunchback before you’re even an adult. My God.”

Instead, Etta began to pace.

Her mother went missing? Or ran away?

The realization ripped her down the center. Her mother had run away. She’d run away from an overbearing foster father. One who’d tried to control her life.

Etta turned, studying the old man from under her lashes. The remaining members of the other family lines had been adopted into the Ironwood clan. What if that’s what her mom had really meant? If, after her grandfather died, she’d been forced to become an Ironwood?

“I, too, looked for her.” Cyrus turned, pulling a leather satchel up from the floor. He thumbed through the bag, finally plucking out a piece of parchment and thrusting it at Etta. She took the parchment and carefully unfolded it. Inside, the handwriting was unfamiliar.

January 2, Our Year 1099


I’m about to make my report to Father, and yes, gladly receive the punishment, but I’ve been battling my conscience over whether or not to tell you this. You’ve kept a brave face about it, but I know it’s been a considerable source of pain for you over the years. Surely knowing is better than living the rest of your life with the uncertainty hanging over you? These are the questions I’ve sat with for days now.

Earlier this week, I found a passage near to where I was staying in Nassau, and well, chap, the truth of it is that I was bored and more than a little resentful at being called back again to 1776. Why must I follow every absurd lead in his never-ending quest to find this blasted obsession of his? So I heard it, and I went—and you can imagine my surprise when the passage put me out well past 1946, into what looked to be some kind of museum. I’ll spare you the rather vulgar actions of the people around me and say that, upon checking a newspaper, I realized I was in Manhattan in 2015.

Yes. You read that correctly. It was an absolute crush of humanity all around, and the amount of building that’s been done to the island is startling. You’ll see for yourself soon, I believe.

But here is where I hesitate again. Will you hate me for this? I can’t be sure, knowing how one sight of her in Paris tormented you for years. Gus, I read through the newspaper, trying to get a sense of what was happening in the world—better to butter up the old man with it, right? But in one section I saw a photo that nearly stopped my breath, because I thought, with all certainty, it was of our Rosie.

Instead, it was a girl named Henrietta Spencer—she’s a violin virtuoso, and the article was about a competition she’d just won in Russia. I skimmed it to the end and sure enough, there was mention of a mother—a Rose Spencer.