The Shoes Come First: A Jennifer Cloud NovelJanet Leigh / Fantasy / Romance & Love
The Shoes Come First
A Jennifer Cloud Novel
By Janet Leigh
Copyright © 2014 Janet Leigh
All rights reserved.
ISBN 13: 9781502416650
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014916855
This book includes the “Mr De Haviland” font, © 2011 Alejandro Paul
Ebook formatting by MrLasers.com
To my fabulous family
About the Author
May 2004, Monaco
The old man stood leaning against the wall of the garage. He had a good view of the track as the drivers finished their test runs for the day. The cars whizzed by, blurring into a mosaic of colors. Rolling his cigar between his fingers, the old man waited patiently. He knew smoking was prohibited this close to the cars, but a few puffs of his favorite Cuban eased the tension that showed in the deep crevices on his forehead.
The red Formula One race car slowed as it pulled into the pit. As the car came to a final stop, its roaring engine ceased, and the driver was assisted out by his team. Marco Ferrari smiled as his teammate, Enzio, walked over and gave him a high five.
“Fantastico, Marco. That was your best time today.”
Marco laughed as he pulled off his helmet, exposing his blond curls, coiled tight with sweat, to the cool air. “Thanks. Just don’t beat it tomorrow in that overdecorated junk heap of yours.”
“I’ll have you know, my friend, I get paid a lot of euro by my sponsors.”
“Yeah, but I can barely see the color of your sled for all the advertisements.”
“Would you like to make a wager?”
Marco raised an unnaturally dark eyebrow at his friend. “Does this wager involve women or alcohol?”
“Maybe a little of both.”
“Then I’ll pass. The last time I made a bet with you, I couldn’t drive for three days from the massive hangover. Not even a golf cart.”
The crew moved Marco’s race car to the garage. After signing off on his test times for the day, he walked over to double-check his car. The setting sun blinded him to the figure leaning against the garage wall. As he moved closer, he could smell the familiar Cuban cigar, and he smiled, as he knew it had to be his grandfather.
Giorgio Ferrari was extremely proud Marco had decided to follow in his footsteps, not only as a Formula One driver but as a time traveler as well. Only the lucky inherited the gene that made time travel possible, and his grandson had been blessed with the gift. The day he passed his key to Marco had been one of the happiest in his life. Now he had to ask for it back. Only temporarily, of course, but Marco used his key to drive his time vessel, his Formula One race car. He only used the key when absolutely necessary, but that was Marco. He wanted to win using his skill, not his magic, and he wouldn’t give his key or his car up easily.
“Nonno,” Marco said as he walked up with open arms to embrace his grandfather.
Giorgio placed the cigar in his mouth and returned the hug.
“Did you come to see my race tomorrow?” Marco asked.
“No, I am sorry, Marco, but I need a favor,” his grandfather answered in his thick Italian accent.
“What do you need, Nonno?” Giorgio knew Marco preferred to speak English, and a small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as Marco quickly made the change to Italian out of respect for his grandfather.
“Let’s go inside.” Giorgio motioned to the garage. A few remaining members of the pit crew were completing the final cleanup on Marco’s car. Giorgio motioned for them to leave, and they obeyed as they had in the years when they had been in his service. “She looks good.”
“You know there is no smoking in here, Nonno.” Marco hung his helmet on the equipment rack and turned to face his grandfather. He was mature for his eighteen years, and his grandfather respected him with the same respect he commanded from others. Giorgio extinguished the cigar and moved closer to the car. He ran his fingers down the rear wing of the vehicle as if he were caressing the cheek of a small child.
“I need the key.”
“You know I can’t race tomorrow without my car.”
“Elma is in trouble. She transported with her new defender yesterday, and he came back a short time ago barely alive. He hasn’t regained consciousness. I need to go help her.”
“No. You gave your key to me. She has caused nothing but heartache for my nonna.” Marco crossed his arms over his chest in a defiant manner.
“Your grandmother and I have an understanding that doesn’t concern you.”
“I need my key and my car tomorrow.”
“Marco, this is important. I wouldn’t ask otherwise.” He moved around the car and laid a hand gently on Marco’s shoulder. “Besides, you know I will return in just a matter of hours.”
Marco knew he was going to give in. How could he deny his grandfather? While his parents were flitting around the world going to parties, his grandfather and grandmother had raised Marco and his sister instead of leaving them to the care of the slew of servants his parents left behind.
“Fine… take it.” Marco peeled the zipper of his racing suit down, revealing a stone medallion suspended by a silver chain that hung from his neck, the key to his time travel vessel and his most prized possession, his race car. He reached behind his neck to remove the key, a feat only his hands could do unless he was dead. He handed it over to his grandfather, and a small electrical tingle shot up his arm when they touched. Giorgio immediately secured it around his own throat.
“Thanks, Marco. You are a good boy.” Giorgio climbed into the car.
“Nonno, what are you doing? You can’t transport in here. There isn’t enough room.” But his words were drowned out by the roar of the motor. There was a sharp crack, and Marco shielded his face from the exhaust. In an instant the car and his grandfather were gone. Marco stood in the empty space, alone and concerned about the trouble that Elma woman had caused his family. She helped his grandfather capture criminals. It should be a job and no more. Nonno had a family, a wife.
Marco changed out of his gear. When he was dressed, he looked more like a high school student than a Grand Prix driver. He wore a faded T-shirt and jeans, an outfit that caused his mother to frown and caused his sister to refer to him as a “tool.” He liked the artistic drawings imprinted on his Archaic shirt, and he loved his favorite jeans, a pair of broken-in Diesels. Thanks to private tutors, Marco had finished high school two years early, allowing him more time to race. College was on the back burner. His father would like him to go for a business degree at Harvard, but what was the point? He had everything he needed.
Marco moved outside and locked the garage. Digging in his pocket, he found a half-smoked cigarette. He dropped his backpack on the ground and lit up, leaning against the wall the same way his grandfather had been when he found him. He would have to forfeit the race tomorrow if Giorgio didn’t return with his car and his key. Marco took a long drag on his smoke and looked up at the moon. It had just begun to wane; possibly a day would be all the time they would have left to return safely.
A loud crack broke the silence. Marco pulled away from the wall to see if his grandfather had come back with that Elma woman. Behind the garage was an empty field with a huge oak tree holding court in the center. Marco’s car stood waiting under the tree. He flicked his cigarette to the ground, smashing it with his shoe as he proceeded to the vessel. The race car was empty. A few minutes later, Elma’s vessel appeared almost on top of him. He dodged quickly out of the way. Elma stumbled and almost fell out of her vessel, holding up a half-conscious Giorgio.
“Marco,” she cried helplessly. “I tried to save him, but there were too many of them.” Marco’s heart froze as he helped Elma lay his grandfather down on the ground.
A pool of blood was forming on the center of Giorgio’s chest, staining his white shirt a deep crimson. He opened his eyes for a brief second and ran the backs of his fingers across Marco’s cheek.
“We found it, you know.”
“Hold on, Nonno, I am going to get help.” Marco looked at Elma, who was wiping the tears from her aged face as she held Giorgio’s hand in hers.
“Marco, you are such a good boy,” Giorgio whispered as his eyes went empty and he died in Marco’s arms.
Elma’s arm was badly injured. She removed the key from around Giorgio’s neck and reaching up, removed her own. Using her good arm, she pulled Marco to his feet, and she handed both keys to him. Marco thought she had incredible strength for such a tiny woman.
“You must take these and get your car back into the garage.” She looked around nervously. “Wash the blood from your hands and return to help me get your grandfather to headquarters.”
Marco just stood rooted to the ground.
“Do it now, boy; we don’t have much time.” She looked at him with damp eyes the color of the sea. “Marco, you must protect the gift. I need you to give my key to my niece, Jennifer Cloud.”
Marco looked down at her. “Your niece?” he asked, bewildered. “But she can’t have the gift.”
“Promise me you will do as I ask. It’s imperative for the future of my gift.” She gave him a little push. “Go now—get your vessel safe.”