Lost in Time

Chapter One

Paradiso

TheyleftAlexandriajustasthemassesarrivedtoescapethe heat of Cairo. "We always seem to be going in the wrong direction," Schuyler said, watching the traffic crawl, inch by inch, on the opposing freeway. It was the middle of July, and the sun was high in the sky. The air-conditioning in their rented sedan barely worked, and she had to place her palms right in front of the passenger-side vents just to cool down.

"Maybe it's the opposite. maybe we're actually going in the right direction this time." Jack smiled and put a little more gas on the pedal. In comparison to the hordes descending upon the beach city, the traffic leading into the capital was light, and for Egypt, they were practically cruising, if that was the correct way to describe the chaotic scene on the highway.

The Alexandria desert road was notorious for fearsome bus crashes and fatal accidents, and it was easy to see why: cars sped wildly, bobbing in and out of lanes at whim, while massive trucks looked as if they would pitch and roll every time they swerved to attain the slightest advantage. Once in a while someone would hit a random speed bump - either a huge unmarked crater or debris that had never been cleared - and traffic would screech to a halt without warning, causing a massive pileup. Schuyler was thankful Jack was a good driver; he seemed to know instinctively when to speed up or slow down, and they weaved through the careening vehicles without a scratch or near miss.

At least they weren't driving at night, when cars didn't even have their headlights on, since Egyptian drivers believed headlights burned through gas too quickly, and so made do without them. It was fine for vampires, of course, but Schuyler always worried for the poor humans who were barreling through in the dark - driving blind, like bats fluttering in a cave.

For seven months, she and Jack had lived in Alexandria, wandering through the picturesque cafes and airy museums.

The city had been designed to rival Rome and Athens at their height. Cleopatra had made it the seat of her throne, and while there were a few traces of the ancient outpost still visible - a scattering of sphinxes, statues, and obelisks - there was actually very little that remained of the ancient world in the bustling metropolis.

When they'd first arrived, Schuyler had been filled with hope, and heartened by Jack's faith and presence, she was certain they would soon find what they sought. Florence had been a decoy, and Alexandria was the only other possibility regarding the true location of the Gate of Promise according to her grandfather's files, which had documented Catherine of Siena's travels from Rome to the Red Sea. Schuyler's mother had trusted her with the family legacy: to find and protect the remaining Gates of Hell, which kept the world safe from the demons of the underworld.

They had checked in to the Cecil Hotel, a favorite of Somerset maugham's and one that had been popular during the British Colonial era. Schuyler had been charmed by the 1930s-style caged elevator and its splendid marble lobby, which oozed old Hollywood grandeur. She could imagine mar-lene Dietrich arriving with a dozen trunks, a footman to carry her feather-trimmed hats alone.

Schuyler began her search at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, an attempt to recreate the great library that had been lost over two thousand years ago (or so the Red Bloods thought, as the library still existed in the New York Coven's Repository of History). Like the original institution, the grounds of the Bibliotheca sprawled to include acres of gardens, as