Tracy Del Campo
Quinn’s phone vibrated. She picked it up and stared at the screen.
ARE YOU COMING?
The singles event. She’d completely forgotten. Intentionally? Perhaps. The answer lay somewhere in the corner of her psyche. But who could blame her? The last event had been painfully boring. Two hours of her life wasted on idle conversation, lame pick-up lines, and awkward silence. No thanks. She was done putting herself out there. Done reading profiles and scrolling through selfies. She’d much rather be home, on the couch, eating takeout, and watching BritBox.
SORRY. CAN’T. STILL AT WORK.
At least her excuse was legitimate.
IT’S 7:30 ON A FRIDAY NIGHT.
YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO MEET SOMEONE.
Her friend’s words irked her. There was nothing wrong with being single. She was content. Wasn’t she? She bit her bottom lip as she pondered the thought. No matter. From now on, she would leave love to the hands of fate, the stars, or whoever was pulling the strings.
She polished off a half-full mug of tepid bergamot tea before pushing up from her chair. A steady rain pelted the paned windows of the laboratory. Lightning lit the murky sky. She tugged down her sleeves and shoved a stack of papers into her tote. It had been a long week—lectures on quantum principles, research, committee work, more research. Her stomach rumbled. Kung Pao chicken was calling.
She slung the tote over her shoulder and pulled the lab door shut, smiling at a custodian as he lumbered by. After descending a flight of stairs, she entered the main hall where portraits of distinguished professors with solemn faces lined the walls. Thunder cracked, and the centuries-old building shuddered. The lights flickered, then went out. “Great.”
Quinn fished her phone from her tote, then stilled at the sound of footfalls on the marble floor. Someone was approaching, their breathing rapid and shallow. She fumbled for the flashlight on her phone. The beam landed on a man standing in the shadows, his eyes wide and face taut.
She gasped. “You startled me.”
“I―I beg your pardon.”
His accent was peculiar. Brahmin, perhaps. He edged into the light, revealing striking features and perfectly imperfect tousled dark hair. Is tea breath a thing? She tucked a curl behind her ear.
“Thornton College. Correct?”
“It is.” Quinn’s gaze strayed to his waistcoat, knee breeches, and buckled shoes. Another production of Pride and Prejudice. Of course. “This is the science building. The theater is—”
“Can you tell me what year it is?”
She narrowed her eyes. “What year?”
“Please.” His tone was deep. Serious.
The color drained from his face.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m a bit out of sorts at the moment.” He wrung his hands. “Perhaps you can help me, Miss…”
“Professor Quinn Keller.”
His brow shot up. “Professor? Of science?”
He released a breath. “Professor Keller, I’m going to tell you something that defies logic and reason, but I’m asking you to believe me.” His brown eyes pleaded.
She braced herself. Why did he look familiar? Wait a minute. Her gaze searched the walls before resting on a portrait in muted colors of oil. The same hair. Cleft chin. Period attire. Her mind raced, struggling to comprehend what he was saying.
What was she thinking, bringing a stranger home? It went against her better judgment, and yet, here they were, sitting at her table, eating Chinese food. Quinn pinched herself. No, it wasn’t a dream. She cast a sideways glance in his direction as he struggled with the chopsticks in an awkward, but equally charming sort of way. He caught her looking and pressed his lips into a smile. Heat rose up Quinn’s neck and spread to her cheeks.
“So, Thomas, tell me again what happened.”
He wiped his mouth with a napkin and cleared his throat. “I was attempting to harness energy from a storm cloud. There was a flash. A portal… Sounds utterly mad, I know.”
She turned her attention to the screen on her phone. “According to Wikipedia, Professor Thomas Woodbine was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1803. Educated in Philadelphia. No spouse, no children.”
“Too preoccupied with my studies, I’m afraid.”
Quinn took note of the wistfulness in his voice before continuing. “A brilliant scientist known for his contributions to physics and the study of electricity.”
“Brilliant?” He leaned forward. “What else does it say?”
“Disappeared March 10th, 1835.” She placed her phone on the table. “Today is March 10th. Somehow, you’ve managed to time travel 188 years into the future.”
The room fell silent.
“On a lighter note, you look remarkable for your age.”
A laugh escaped him. “I appreciate the dose of humor.” He settled back in his chair. “I’m curious to know what has transpired in the last nineteen decades. Please, tell me everything.”
“Gee, where do I begin?”
Thomas stirred on the couch.
“Did I nod off?” He rubbed his eyes.
“You did. Somewhere between the Golden Age of Television and the moon landing.” Quinn handed him a mug of coffee. Goosebumps pricked her arms when their fingers grazed. He felt warm. Real. “Do you like sunrises?”
They stood on the balcony, mugs in hand, as the sun peeked over the cityscape. The air began to warm around them.
“I’m sorry. About all of this. I didn’t mean to disrupt your life.”
“Don’t be sorry.” She peered over the rim of her mug. “I’ve enjoyed your company.”
“And I’ve enjoyed yours.” His gaze lingered on her until a street sweeper passed. “Nevertheless, I should get back.”
“Stay.” She stiffened, surprised by her response and the emotions stirring within. He was intelligent. Thoughtful. Intriguing. She was falling. Head over heels falling.
“If you’d like to, that is.” She sipped her latte. “Maybe it was fate that brought you here.”
He wiped a bit of foam from her nose as his cheeks lifted into a smile. “I’m going to need new clothes.”
Fond of history, Tracy also fancies old houses, classic movies, museums, photography, and road trips. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides in Southern California with her husband, and is the mother of two.
You can find her online at Twitter and Instagram.