Time-traveling PhD student Sydney Dahlquist’s first mission sounded simple enough—spend two weeks in December 1810 collecting blood samples from the sick and wounded of Wellington’s army, then go home to modern-day Seattle and Christmas with her family. But when her time machine breaks, stranding her in the past, she must decide whether to sacrifice herself to protect the timeline or to build a new life—and embrace a new love—two centuries before her time.
Rifle captain Miles Griffin has been fascinated by the tall, beautiful “Mrs. Sydney” from the day he met her caring for wounded soldiers. When he stumbles upon her time travel secret on Christmas Eve, he vows to do whatever it takes to seduce her into making her home in his present—by his side.
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“What is that thing?”
His voice shook a little, she thought. But not much. He was an officer and a gentleman, so he couldn’t let himself freak out over something new and strange. If he was scared, he hid it well. She admired that. As a time traveler, she tried to live by the same kind of code.
“A carriage, sir,” she said. “And a broken one, at that.”
“No, Mrs. Sydney,” Captain Griffin said in a tone that reminded her of Professor Krakowski in lecture mode. “It appears to be a carriage, externally. Inside is something very different. I saw it. I may not understand the evidence of my eyes, but I’ve never been given to hallucinations. And,” he added with a musing, distant look that called her mentor even more strongly to mind, “if I were to suddenly take leave of my senses, I doubt very much I should hallucinate something I’d never imagined existed before.”
Disguise had failed, so she must distract and deflect. “I don’t see why not,” she said. “After all, isn’t that how strange religions start?”
He shrugged. “Perhaps. But you’re no angel, are you? Although,” he allowed, “you’re tall and golden enough for one.”
She shook her head. There had been concern among the review board that at 5’11” she was too tall a woman to go more than a hundred years into the past. Time travelers were supposed to blend in to their destinations. “No,” she said. “Anyway, I’m shorter than you.”
He smiled. It wasn’t fair how the expression made him look even hotter, with white teeth straighter than anyone born before orthodontics had a right to in a soldier’s sun-browned face. “Not by much. But stop trying to distract me. I know what I saw.”
She crossed her arms and tried to look lofty. “What if I told you it was none of your concern and refused to say more?”
Now he grinned, a wicked twinkle in his eye. “Then I should be obliged to found a strange religion based on my suppositions. How do you think I would do as a mad preacher, ma’am? On Christmas Eve, I saw the most celestial vision …”
He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. “You’re far too rational a gentleman to do anything so mad,” she said.
“True. But—hang it all, Mrs. Sydney, you must tell me something!” Now his voice shook, and she could hear the fear and amazement he’d been working to hide. “You cannot expect a man to see a light that glows bright as sunlight without a flicker of flame or a—a portrait frame that changes its contents with the touch of a fingertip, and walk away and never think of it again.”
She bit her lip and fought to control her shaking breath. Maybe she could’ve passed off the electric light as some new and improved oil lamp, but he’d seen her iPad. What could she do now? She couldn’t think of a single lie that wouldn’t make everything worse. The Protocol made no allowances for this, but he’d already seen too much to be distracted or deflected, and wasn’t it safer for such a curious man to know the truth? Who knew how badly he’d destroy the timeline with his guesses if she left him ignorant.
“It’s my time machine,” she said in her own accent, “my broken time machine. I was—I will be born in 1987. I came here from America in 2013.”