Excerpt from Final Hours

Elizabeth Barritt spent her last night in London walking along the Thames, pretending her life was this perfect.

Pretending she wouldn’t go back to her dead end art gallery job in two days. That she wouldn’t have to herd students through rooms of mediocre paintings and sculptures, try to keep their attention when they couldn’t care less. That she wouldn’t—

Stop torturing yourself, Beth.

She knew if she spent two weeks in London as an intern at one of the most renowned art galleries in the world it would spoil her. By the time she realized just how much, it was far too late.

With a sigh, she climbed the steps to the beautiful railing that lined this part of South Bank, and leaned against it to study the view along the river. Her fingers automatically moved to the gold heart locket at her throat, her thumb tracing the engraved flowers.

How she wished she had her pocket sketchpad with her, so she could capture the river, the city skyline, the beauty of all of it, one last time.

From here she could see the glory of Tower Bridge, the ancient bulk of the Tower of London crouching on its left. St Paul’s stood directly across the Thames, its dome white and ethereal against the evening sky. Multicolored lights from the buildings that hugged the river danced over its surface.

It was all so—magical. And she’d had so little magical in her life, the thought of letting it go was physically painful.

To make it worse, they offered her a position. A permanent position, one that would allow her to live here, work here, surrounded by some of the most incredible art in the world.

She said no.

And she still wanted to beat her head against the nearest wall for her kneejerk reaction.

“Okay—enough. I can always come back, when I’m ready.” She shook herself out of the depression before it dragged her down, pushed off the railing and took a deep breath. “I will come back.”

“All the world’s a stage, darling girl.” Elizabeth spun toward the voice. An older, really good looking man dressed in black leaned against the stone post of the water gate that led up to the Globe Theatre. Because she stood directly under an ornate lamp post, she knew he could see the blush that flamed her cheeks. “Find the part you want to play on it, and never settle for less than a standing ovation.”

He executed an elegant bow, winked at her and disappeared into the shadows.

She hugged herself, and smiled as she tucked away the moment, another souvenir of her time here. She had met so many people like him; friendly, wickedly funny people who lifted her out of her unhappy life, and showed her what she could be. Who she could be.

For the first time since her parents died and left her alone, a shy and withdrawn ten year old, she felt like she belonged. Elizabeth did not want to let that go.