BY: RAMONA FORREST
Registered nurse, Alaina Lowell, has seen enough troubled marriages to sully her view of wedded bliss, so she has no plans to marry—or let a man have any over control her life—ever. On the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Flagstaff, Arizona, one weekend, she pulls off the freeway and stops for a short break at the Petrified Forest National Monument. Leaving her car in the parking lot, she hikes a short ways on the paved trail before venturing off the path to check out an interesting tree. As she turns to head back, she trips over a rock, hits her head, and blacks out.
When Alaina comes to, the paved trail, the parking lot, and her car are gone, and nothing looks the same. Thinking she had merely wandered farther off the path than she realized, she heads in the general direction she believes the parking lot and the freeway to be. But instead of Interstate 40, she finds a rough road that’s hardly more than a trail, and a stagecoach, drawn by six horses, is rushing headlong, right at her. She soon discovers that she has somehow been transported one hundred years back in time to 1888. Dressed in tight-fitting jeans, a blouse, and sneakers, Alaina knows she doesn’t fit in. She needs to adapt, and fast. But without a penny to her name and not a soul she can turn to—as no one she knows has even been born yet—Alaina fears she may have to do the one thing she always swore she would never do: get married and let a man support her.
Federal Deputy John Claymore, a passenger on the stagecoach, falls hard for Alaina and asks for her hand in marriage, promising to always take care of her. But can she trust him, or any man, not to become a monster once they marry? Even if she can, what happens when she makes it back to her own time in 1988? Or worse, what happens if she doesn’t? How can she possibly survive in this harsh and unforgiving world? Especially when the man who loves her is heading off to war…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Lost in Time by Ramona Forrest, Alaina Lowell is a registered nurse in 1988 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Harassed by an intern at the hospital where she works, who threatens to destroy her career unless she sleeps with him, Alaina decides to go visit her parents in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a long weekend and get away for a while. One the way, she stops for a break at the Petrified Forest National Monument, where she trips on a rock and hits her head. When she wakes up, she is in 1888, doesn’t have a penny to her name, and no one she knows has even been born. In order to survive, she may have do something she promised herself she would never do—get married.
Once again, Forrest has created a world in a past century that is both vivid and authentic, this time combining the distant and recent past in an intense, intriguing, and moving story of love that lasts through time.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Lost in Time by Ramona Forrest is the story of a registered nurse who has a passel of trouble. Alaina Lowell works at a hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1988, where she is being sexually harassed by an intern who threatens to destroy her reputation and career with lies if she refuses to sleep with him. Alaina, who doesn’t care much for men in the first place, having seen too many abusive men in her life, never plans to marry and refuses to be forced to sleep with someone she doesn’t want to. Desperate to get away from the nasty messages the intern leaves on her answering machine, she decides to call in sick to work and take a long weekend to visit her parents in Flagstaff, Arizona, as they are not well. Starting out early in the morning, she takes a break from the long drive in the Petrified Forrest, hits her head on a rock, and wakes up in 1888. Dressed in what the people of the time consider men’s clothes—tight-fitting jeans and sneakers—and wholly in appropriate, Alaina has no money and no one to turn to, except Federal Deputy John Claymore, who is willing to support and protect her—if she will marry him.
Seamlessly combining both past and present (or at least the not too distant past), Forrest has created a tale of love that transcends the bounds of time. Lost in Time is charming, moving, and a page turner. Romance fans should love it.
April 13, 1988:
Alaina Lowell, with shoulders slumped and footsteps lagging, made her way out of Mercy Care Hospital and Research Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She walked in short, shuffling steps to the employees parking area. It was the best she could do, feeling so tired and dispirited as she did. It was even difficult to maintain her usually fine posture as she shuffled along, muttering to herself. “If that miserable, leering, filthy-minded bastard doesn’t knock it off, I’ll have to take matters into my own hands.”
She had just finished a very tough p.m. shift and felt the emotional relief of voicing her satisfying and very snide invectives into the air, describing a certain medical resident—a man who used every opportunity, if he found the chance to do so unobserved, to make leering gestures and sexual innuendos to her. For months, he’d done so, trying in vain to attract her.
Saying those nasty things made her feel a little better, but, knowing it was futility, she ground out additional words. “And, of course, if I do what I’d like to—” She grinned and nodded. “—like giving him a knee in the groan, as Ginny constantly advises, I’ll be the bad guy. When they find him moaning and groveling on the floor—” She frowned at the thought. “—I’ll find myself fired, all thanks to him.”
Shaking her head, she saw, in her mind’s eye, the offending party groaning and clutching his privates, as he rolled about on the floor in agony. She did her best to put it out of her mind as she walked past several rows of cars to find her own older model Ford sedan and dug through her small leather purse for the keys.
But she couldn’t stop going over her recent encounter with the big, smug, and overly-proud-of-his-masculinity intern. The amorous fool constantly sought opportunities to entice her, sending unwelcome leering sexual advances her way while trying to cop a feel if he found her alone in a supply closet or medication room somewhere. More than once she had felt his warm, moist hands touching or trying to embrace her.
She shuddered, remembering with disgust the heated sexual messages he’d made very clear. Thinking of the sickening way he leered at her as he told her in full detail what he wanted to do to her, and with her, she muttered to herself, “Who’d ever trust a man with such narrow, evil-looking eyes. In my estimation, they’re set too close together, and it makes him look creepy. Maybe those other fool nurses can’t see him as a predator, but I certainly do.” She shoved her keys into the ignition, turned them to start the car, and headed out for her home. “Too damned bad, McGillacudy, I’ll not be having any part of you!” She voiced her disdain aloud, determined to never allow his secretive and unwelcome touches. She’d had enough! The foul touch of his hands had felt evil, and it was totally uninvited. His constant stalking kept her guts tied in knots during her eight-hour shift and for hours afterward.
She stepped on the gas too hard and felt her head snap back as she heard her tires squealing. Cringing at her own driving, she drove out of the parking lot onto the side street that led to the freeway and home. Her mind went over things as she drove too fast and too erratically. She loved her work, and as each new innovation came along, she applauded the fact that she enjoyed a great profession. Helping people, making them feel safe, and improving their state of health, if that was in the cards for them, made her feel good inside. Sometimes helping them face the end of life was her work, too. She’d done that plenty of times—too many, but it was a fact of life in nursing.
As Alaina made her way past the congestion of the city, out where the air was easier to breathe, she opened her window to enjoy feeling the flow of it. The freshness of the stiff wind tangled and whipped her hair as it cleaned the stale air from her car. The cleanliness of her surroundings helped her relax.
Alaina turned her face into the breezes. Catching the fresh scents of the oncoming spring weather, she enjoyed the fertile odors and the feeling of freedom as her unruly hair came loose and swirled out of the severe knot she’d kept it in for work. Her hair flowing about her and the soft, gentle smell of damp earth and growing things further relaxed her. Feeling a beginning sense of ease, she sighed and slowed her car.
Her exasperated snort sounded ugly, but she didn’t mind. Since she was alone, it didn’t matter what disgusting noises she made if it made her feel better. If that included talking to herself, she didn’t really care one whit.
She tossed her head. “How do I know what I’m talking about, and why I feel as I do?” From what she’d already seen in her life, her mind had been made up long ago. “I’ve seen that predatory look in a man’s eye all too often, and who knows better than I do what it means to a woman? I’ll never trust any man enough to consider marriage. How could I after seeing what a guy like that can do to a woman—like what my father did to my mother? How many times have I wanted to aim a gun at his head and pull the damned trigger?”
Alaina sighed aloud into the night air. “I guess I sound like an idiot talking to myself, but who better to discuss these things with? Who else would understand what I’m saying and thinking?”
She’d certainly never wanted anyone to know about her early life, either. She’d never spoken of it to anyone, not even her best friend, Ginny. Those sad memories were better left in the past. Could she really ever forget what she’d seen? She didn’t think so. No chance—marriage for Alaina Lowell was not in the cards.
She felt the ease of being away from the hospital flowing through her body and mind. The constant hurry of an eight-hour shift had taken its toll. She pulled off the highway onto a side road and headed for her small side street. Her home sat on a lot far back into the wooded area that surrounded her house. It was hard to find for some visitors—she’d heard about that often enough from delivery men and visiting friends. She didn’t really care what others thought about her home. The place was hers, and she loved it.
She pulled into her driveway and left her car after locking the door. “It’d be really nice to have a garage, but I haven’t got one.” She slung her handbag over her shoulder, walked to the front door, and unlocked it. “Oh, but it’s good to be home after a busy shift.” Once inside, she saw the light from her answering machine blinking. “Oh, maybe it’s my mom in Flagstaff. I expected a call long before this—like yesterday.” She punched the button and listened to the message. “Oh shit!” Her face grew tight and her hands clenched as she heard the man’s voice:
“Hi, sweet darling—thought you got away from me, did you? You’re never getting away from me, my love. Ever since I first set eyes on that slim figure of yours, I’ve been madly in love with you, my sweet, hot, darling. I’m not a man to take no for an answer—no way, no how. I can’t get you out of my mind, and remember I know a few secrets about you that you wouldn’t want spread around, now would you? I’ll be calling you, or better yet, I’ll come visit you at your home some quiet night, or any time I feel like it—and don’t you forget it.” He rang off, leaving Alaina feeling sick to her stomach.
Then she heard the voice of her mother: “Honey, when are you coming to visit us in Flagstaff? I thought you were coming last week. Your stepfather isn’t feeling too well, and neither am I. Please, dear, we need to see you.”
Alaina slumped into a chair after listening to her mother’s plea and flipped on the TV. “I’ll call Mom in the morning. But if it wasn’t so darned late I’d call Ginny and see what she says, aside from telling me to give him a kick in the balls, as she always does.” She giggled at that—she always did.
She sat for a while, trying to get interested in a comedy program, but finally gave up. “Nothing is going to get better any time soon. I have a few days of sick leave coming. Why not visit the folks for a few days? I need to get away for a while. I’ll call Ginny from Flagstaff and let her know. Right after I call in sick to the hospital.”
Just then, her phone jangled. Hesitantly, fearing who it might be, she picked up and instantly relaxed as she heard the welcome voice of Ginny. “Hey, girl, I saw what was going on with that intern. You okay?”
“Oh, God, Ginny, I’m so glad you called,” Alaina answered. “He’s got some idea in his head and threatens some stupid lie he’ll tell about me if I turn him down. Too damned bad! But I’ll not crawl before that bastard, nor will I grace his bed. I may resort to taking your great advice, girlfriend, and I don’t know what’ll happen then.” She giggled again, imagining his agony as her knee slammed, firmly and sharply, up between his legs.
After a few more moments, they hung up. Alaina had always enjoyed the closeness of a friend to discuss things with, and Ginny was just the one to get those troubles off her mind. Shrugging, she returned to the TV, but nothing satisfied her or diverted her attention from her worries.
She turned her attention to packing a few things for the trip to Flagstaff. Considering everything—the worst being a nighttime home visit from that angry, demanding intern—she worried about how infirm her parents had become. She felt her pulse race as she worried they were sicker than she’d thought. Alaina decided right now would be just fine to head for Flagstaff. “I won’t mind driving on a nice, empty, and wonderfully quiet I-Forty.”
In the bathroom, Alaina studied her face in the mirror, murmuring, “He thinks I’m a looker—maybe. I suppose I am pretty, but being pretty has never helped me that I can see. Is it my eyes, that can’t make up their mind? Are they green, blue, purple, or gray?” She’d heard it all her life about her hair and eyes and decided it depended on the situation. And right now in feeling angry and almost desperate, she faced an impossible situation, and her eyes looked darker. Was it rage or a tinge of fear that made her eyes black…or was that purple?
She finished packing, tossing things into the small bag that lay on her bed, washed her face, and put on fresh make-up. Her eyes looked a bit reddened, but she thought they looked as good as ever with the eyeliner and mascara. Who would see her anyway, driving the darkened highway?
Alaina realized it was very late to travel to Flagstaff—almost two in the morning, but she knew she wouldn’t sleep either. It was too late to call her mother now, too. If they thought she was coming, they’d wait up for her, and she didn’t want to put them through that.
Alaina thought about the gentle soul her mother had married after her father’s death. At last, her mother had the kind of closeness and love in her life a woman had the right to expect when she married. Alaina had seen and appreciated their happiness, yet, for herself, found it hard to imagine ever being married. There might be a few really good men in the world, but could she ever trust one enough to put herself under a man’s thumb? She didn’t think so. And if you married a man, didn’t you put yourself under his control—a little? Even now, with the independence women enjoyed in modern times, she still considered the idea of being married a subservient state at best.
“Maybe I haven’t met the right man. I don’t know if there is one for me.”
She sighed at her ruminating. But, for her, tying her life to some man wasn’t anything she’d consider—it wasn’t even a promise on the far horizon. If she had any regrets, it was that she might never become a mother. She’d never have the chance to hold a precious newborn in her arms.
Her mind returned to preparing for her trip. She tossed several items on her bed but then decided on wearing her favorite designer jeans. They nicely outlined her trim figure, and with a snug fitting white silk top with a frilly Jabot down the front, she felt ready for the tedious drive into Flagstaff. She loved that top the best with her jeans. Ready to head out the door, she took a last look in her mirror. “They call me a beauty, but I’ve never felt that way. I’m taller than most and that helps me look slim, too. But this hair! It is so thick and unruly and can’t make up its mind to be blonde or brunette or red with all those colors streaked in together.” She pulled the thick mess into a bulky ponytail and slipped a rubber band on it. With a thin scarf tied around it, and trailing down her back, Alaina was satisfied with her looks. She donned a jeans jacket and left her house in the dark of night.
She decided to drive slowly, make it into Flagstaff by early morning, have a bite of breakfast at the Weatherford Hotel, and then go see her folks. She had packed a few things, enough for the three day week-end she had coming and a few more after that. As she drove, she went back over things. That bastard intern, Ben, had warned her he would claim she had over-dosed a patient, who had died of cancer, with morphine. As was usual in these cases, the patient had been kept comfortable with morphine, and plenty of it. The man had died and been buried for several months. If he was disinterred, his remains would show heavy traces of the drug. Then it would be her word against Ben’s about an overdose, and the truth would be impossible to discover. True or not, his claim would tarnish her record, no doubt forever, as well as destroy a career she was good at and truly loved.
Driving had always been relaxing for Alaina, and she enjoyed the quiet feeling of the lonely, dark, free-way though she knew what her mother would say, “You must be crazy to be out cruising on the highway at this ridiculous hour.”
She laughed aloud in the quiet of her car. It was nearly three a.m., and the traffic was scarce—a few cars and the occasional tractor-trailer rig.
After driving for an hour, Alaina began to feel alone, isolated, and a bit drowsy. Her troubles, and a tough shift had tired her, and it was pitch dark on US I-40. She also felt the loss of seeing the scenery along the way, the old ancient runs of solidified lava flows that spoke of an ancient time so long ago when the Earth had been far more volatile and fiery.
Finally, feeling the onset of severe drowsiness, Alaina shook her head and shoulders to ward off her sleepiness. “I’d better find an open facility along the way and stoke up on a coffee or two if I don’t want to end up on the rocks.” The feeling of fatigue had come seeping through her as she’d left the environs of the city of Albuquerque.
A bit after four a.m., Alaina pulled off the highway and stopped at an all-night Quick Stop. Entering, she saw a few patrons. A couple of truckers sat at the counter and most of the booths were empty. She slid into a seat at an empty booth and plopped her purse on the seat beside her. She mumbled to the overweight waitress that shuffled up to her table with a frosty glass of ice water, “Coffee, please—black.”
Alaina sipped the coffee and found it fresh and invigorating. “This ought to get me to the Weatherford in Flagstaff anyway,” she mumbled to herself. She figured, by then, she’d have enough appetite for a decent breakfast.
She looked around, seeing the usual curios and supplies for sale, and the few other travelers. She decided the two men at the counter were truckers talking “truck” to each other as they took in huge meals and several cups of coffee. A young couple with a fussing baby sat in the only other occupied booth. Seeing nothing exciting suited Alaina’s beleaguered mind just fine. Her coffee finished, she rose from the booth. She left her payment and tip on the table as she headed for her car.
Back on the scantily traveled, nearly vacant freeway, it was nearly five in the morning. Alaina settled in to finish her drive into Flagstaff. The thought of seeing her mother and her mild-mannered stepfather lifted her spirits. Feeling a touch of excitement at the thought of a nice relaxing visit, she drove on. In addition to that, she waited to see the morning sun gleaming off those glorious, soaring, snow-tipped San Francisco Peaks once again.
Later on, Alaina sensed the growing light behind her toward the eastern skies and felt the delight of a new day’s dawning. She kept waiting to see those up-thrusting peaks, and thought of how they would look, knowing they’d be as they always were—lovely and pristine in the early morning sunrise. And that was a sight Alaina always counted on seeing when she visited her parents.
Seeing the turn off for the Petrified Forest National Monument, she decided to stop and walk about. Fatigue was creeping in, and maybe it would wake her up to have a quick look at those stone remnants of ancient trees lying about in what was euphemistically called a forest. It was just off the highway to the left, and there was just enough light to see things now.
Ready to stretch her legs a bit, Alaina pulled off and parked in the designated parking lot, all nicely black-topped and marked for visitors. She got out, and not seeing anyone around so early in the morning, left her purse in the car and didn’t bother to lock it or take her keys. “Maybe I should lock up.” She looked around. “But it definitely looks quiet enough around here. After all, I’m only going a few steps away.”
She left everything in the car and walked toward the nearest broken bits and solid trunks of trees that had long since been turned to stone by the sun, wind, and weather in the arid environs of this southwestern desert. She breathed in deeply of the dry desert air. “It feels good to get out and walk a bit.”
Seeing one particularly nice tree trunk, she left the well-defined, paved trail to have a look. She was fascinated by the nicely preserved bark, patches of smooth trunk, broken limbs lying beside it, all turned to solid stone. “Amazing! It looks almost alive it’s so well preserved.” She wondered what things had looked like at that time so long ago. Certainly, they had a lot more rain, judging by the good size of that broken trunk, long since turned to mineralized stone. Actually, it must have been a huge forest with trees this size. “It makes a person wonder at the age of the Earth when seeing things like this.”
Alaina walked a bit farther, seeing a multitude of fallen, solid stone tree parts just lying where they had fallen eons ago. Then, feeling stupid for leaving everything in an unlocked car, she scolded herself. “I’d best get back. How silly of me to leave my purse, keys, and everything I have in an unlocked car!” It was out of her sight now, and with a slight feeling of alarm, she turned back toward the parking lot. “I’d better hurry before some fool rips off my car. What a ditz I was to have left it like that.”
Disgusted at her carelessness, she decided her stress over that intern must have clouded her common sense. She hadn’t heard any other vehicles turning into the parking lot, but she needed to get back on the road as she had a good ways to go yet.
She took a step without looking and felt herself twisting and falling as she tripped over a twisted stone root that had jutted out. Unable to stop what was happening, she felt her body falling…falling…
When she hit the rocky ground, she felt a sharp blow to her right shoulder and head, saw a few bright stars, heard a ringing in her ears—then, everything went black.
© 2019 by Ramona Forrest