The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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Sexy Russian Spies

April 22, 1931
London, England

London was supposed to have been magnificent. At least, that was what Brackston had always imagined based upon the countless tourist photos he saw on the internet. Instead, it was damp and dreary, with traces of a spooky fog that left the city looking as if it belonged in a horror film.

Brackston was fascinated to see the iconic Big Ben in its earlier days, though it was still considered old by this point in time. The sight of the double-decker buses driving through the busy city streets were a grateful distraction from the few visitors flashing him a smile with their disturbingly crooked tooth grins. He was suddenly aware that his teeth were too perfect for this timeframe. Squirming uncomfortably in the period appropriate clothing they had stolen, Brackston glanced at Ivan and Carter, who were walking quickly through the city. “Where are we supposed to look? London is huge… Like the older, bigger British sister of New York City. Whittaker could be anywhere,” Brackston stated, watching as Carter’s eyebrows furrowed together.

“I’m not sure. We don’t even know what exactly it is that Whittaker is looking for,” Carter reminded him, his tone irritable.

Brackston shrugged his shoulders, understanding Carter’s frustration. Lula would usually have an idea right now about where to go, who to ask… All Brackston knew was that Whittaker was looking for a key of some sort.

Ivan was only half listening to the ramblings of Brackston and Carter as they tried to figure out their next course of action. He was less worried about what Whittaker was looking for and more concerned about Elinor being mixed up in this whole scenario. If she was still alive, he wondered how her mind was handling the reality of the situation. Elinor was a lot tougher than she let on but there were only so many burdens a person could handle at a time. He was concerned about her mental well-being in all of this.

Ivan glanced over at the buildings next to him, slowing to a stop in front of a little shop with large windows. He felt someone walk into him, glaring back to see Brackston had bumped into him as a result of not paying attention.

“Why are we stopping?” Carter asked curtly, his jaw tightening. “We need to keep moving if we’re going to find Whittaker.”

“We’re not going to find Whittaker just by walking the streets and grabbing the arm of every redhead that walks by,” Ivan responded gruffly, nodding to the store. “We need to ask around. Odds are if Autumn is trying to blend in, she’d need supplies to do so.”

“He has a point.” Brackston shrugged his shoulders, glancing hesitantly at the building. “Though, not to sound like a broken record but am I even allowed to go in? Last I checked, history wasn’t exactly the kindest to people of color.”

Carter frowned at this notion, opening his mouth to respond but was quickly interrupted by Ivan.

“Racial equality for Britain didn’t really happen until World War II,” Ivan explained, earning a surprised glance from both Brackston and Carter. “You can wipe the dumbfounded looks off of your faces. Lula told me this before we boarded the time machine, just in case the issue came up.”

Brackston rolled his eyes, shoving his hands into the pockets of his slacks. “I get it. Stay outside, keep your head down.”

Ivan glanced at Brackston apologetically, somewhat understanding what he went through. His accent unfortunately gave him a lot of problems, though he was certain the reactions he’d receive from people in history would be nowhere as severe towards him as they would be towards Brackston. “We’ll only be a few moments,” Ivan assured him, turning to make his way towards the building, when he accidentally collided with someone coming out of the shop.

Ivan bit back a curse, quickly steadying the person he had bumped into to keep them from falling over with the supplies he had knocked out of their arms. He ignored the sounds of Brackston snickering and Carter biting back a snort, which was easy to do the moment he locked eyes with the person he had bumped into.

Ivan was a bit surprised to see that the person was a woman younger than him with a striking pair of eyes that held a mischievous glint to them. He was thrown off guard by the woman’s soft, beautiful face. The last person to throw him off like this was Elinor. This woman sort of reminded him of her, with her dark hair pulled back into a neat bun, her soft, but devious expression. The similarities brought a small pain to his chest. “My apologies,” Ivan managed finally, licking his lips nervously as he gently removed his hold on the woman’s arms. “I’m afraid I wasn’t watching my step, miss.”

The woman gave him a smile, producing a dimple at the corners of her lips. “I suppose I can forgive you,” she spoke firmly, amused that her presence seemed to fluster Ivan. “However, I prefer if you would just address me as Moura.”

Ivan nodded slowly, averting his gaze to the ground where her supplies had fallen. Kneeling down, he gathered the small bag of produce that he had fortunately not damaged with his clumsy ignorance, before standing slowly to hand them to her. “Well it’s nice to meet you, Moura.” Ivan nodded his head, stepping back from her. “I hope I didn’t ruin anything important you might need.”

Moura’s playful expression melted into a slight frown, taking away the teasing glint in her eyes. He could tell that his acknowledgement brought an unpleasant thought to her mind. “Oh,” she began, shaking her head slightly. “These are for some dinner plans I have tonight with H.G. Wells.”

Ivan tried his best to keep his expression neutral at her announcement. He was thankful that she didn’t realize the sudden shift in his behavior and if she did, she was choosing not to acknowledge it.

Moura sighed, rolling her eyes lightly as she glanced up to Ivan’s gaze. “He has a new mistress coming over tonight. Some redhead with a hard scowl and a bitter gaze.” She glanced between the three of them wearing surprised glances, her eyes lingering on each one of them. “Do yourselves a favor, be a better man.”

With her opinions voiced, the woman brushed by Ivan and started down the busy London street.

Ivan waited a few seconds to make sure that she was far enough ahead before he beckoned for Brackston and Carter to follow him, keeping his gaze on the woman. “Did her description of Wells’s new mistress sound familiar to you?” Ivan questioned, not paying attention to see if either one of them were listening.

“Oh, what?” Brackston started with a bitter tone, his face scrunching up. “Redhead with a resting bitch face? Clearly she was talking about Autumn.”

Ivan nodded slowly, opening his mouth to make a comment when Brackston’s voice interrupted him. “I just can’t believe you didn’t realize who you were talking to,” Brackston admitted, watching as Ivan’s hard expression melted into a look of confusion.

“What are you talking about?” Carter grumbled, glancing at Brackston. “She’s just some maid who disagrees with Wells’s very active sex life.”

Brackston snorted, shaking his head at Carter’s lack of knowledge. For this matter, Ivan’s as well. He wished Lula was here to put these two into their places. “You were just speaking to Moura Budberg. She’s like, Russia’s sexiest secret weapon, seeing as it’s believed that she’s a spy,” Brackston rattled off. “Plus, she’s not Wells’s maid. She is one of his many mistresses.” Brackston frowned at that statement, a look of disgust quickly forming on his face. “I don’t know what’s more disturbing, that Wells in his older age finds himself hooking up with so many young women, or that since we’ve gotten here, we have now discovered that Wells is hooking up with Autumn.”

Brackston,” Carter groaned, both disturbed by that image being put into his mind and by how much Brackston seemed to know about this Moura woman. “Does Layla approve of you looking into sexy Russian spies?”

Ivan decided to tone out Brackston’s and Carter’s disturbing conversation as the two bickered about Brackston’s alarming knowledge of Moura. He kept his gaze on the woman that they were following at a considerable, safe distance. His heart had been pounding, his mind racing with thoughts from the moment Moura brought up Autumn. In the uncertainty of everything that had gone down in the last day, it felt good to have some knowledge and a clearer path. Ivan’s only hope at this point was that Moura would not only lead them to whatever it was that Autumn was searching for but that it would give him answers. At this rate, the only thing he truly cared about was to know whether or not he’d find answers about Elinor.

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