TWICE A HERO By Susan Krinard

TWICE A HERO By Susan Krinard

TWICE A HERO By Susan Krinard

Part One

From a wild weird clime

that lieth, sublime,

Out of Space—out of Time.

—Edgar Allan Poe

Chapter One

What’s past is prologue.

—William Shakespeare

San Francisco, 1997

“YOU COME FROM a long line of adventurers, MacKenzie Sinclair. Damn it, Brat, I’ll haunt you from my grave if you break the family tradition.”

Homer Sinclair, his face flushed with passion, subsided back among the pillows. A vein in his forehead throbbed, and his left hand shook; MacKenzie leaned over the bed, stroking his flyaway white hair.

“Come on, Homer. Melodrama doesn’t suit you.”

“Don’t you patronize me,” he said, glaring at her. He could still manage a certain ferocity with that stare, even though his withered body had long ago lost its strength. “I’m dead serious, and I’m not going to see you grow old buried in books and moldy pottery, convincing yourself that’s all there is to life.”

MacKenzie stilled her hand on his forehead. “How many times do we have to go through this?”

“As many times as it takes to get it through that thick skull of yours,” he snapped. His glasses slid down his nose; Mac set them carefully back in place, and he batted at her fingers. “I’m not going to have your martyrdom on my conscience—”

“Martyrdom?” Mac unhooked her legs from the chair she’d been straddling and pushed to her feet. “That’s a low blow, Homer, and you know it.”

“Maybe that’s just what you need!”

She hooked her thumbs in the waistband of her loose jeans. No sense in letting him make her angry now; after six years she knew how to handle the brilliant and temperamental man in the bed. “Funny you should mention martyrdom. Of course it doesn’t make any difference that your academic career got derailed when you were stuck with your widowed daughter-in-law and her two kids—”

“Should I have turned you all out in the street?”

“—and that you raised me and Jason after Mom died, got us an education—”

“An education that’ll be wasted on you, Brat, unless you get your nose out of books and make yourself face the real world!”

Mac clamped her lips together and didn’t let Homer see that he’d scored a direct hit. I ought to have humored him, she thought. But they’d never been anything but honest with each other.

“You want a philosophical discussion on what’s real?” she asked wryly. She rested her foot on the chair and blew her bangs from her eyes. “Do you mind if we eat first? This could take all night.”

Homer gave a wheezing chuckle. “I should have known I couldn’t rattle you, Brat.” His chuckle became a cough; he waved off Mac’s concern with an irritable flap of his hand. “All right. No more low blows. Come here and sit down.”

Something in his tone made her obey without question, as she’d done as a child before she’d lost her awe of him. The high color in his face had drained away, leaving his skin nearly translucent. Fragile, like delicate glass. And that close to shattering.

“I don’t have much time left,” he said.

The usual protest almost escaped her; a small dishonesty, but one she clung to with stubborn determination.

“You know it, Brat,” he said, almost gently. “Your bullheaded denial isn’t going to alter the facts.” His hand felt for hers; thin fingers tightened with surprising strength. Their hands were much alike, blunt-nailed and sturdy. Or so Homer’s had been, once.

“I’m ready to take off on the big adventure, if you’ll forgive the tired cliché,” he continued. “This old body wants to rest. But I need assurance from you that you’re not going to let yourself wither away into an old intellectual prune, holed up with dusty books and artifacts in this house or in the museum because your mother and I robbed you of all the years you should have spent running wild and learning about life.”

Mac suppressed a sigh. Homer was like a terrier chasing a rat when he was fixed on his subject. “Running wild isn’t what it used to be in your day, Homer. I don’t think I was ever cut out for it.”

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Categories: Krinard, Susan