Attending to his duties took up his nights and when he should have been sleeping during the day, blackout curtains pulled to cut off the sun, he busied himself about his other project: a machine to amplify his abilities and let him truly be with her once more.
Sheridan claimed he’d lost it. Their fight about the subject took up a couple bottles of tequila and most of three hours before she conceded she wasn’t going to be able to change his mind about what he intended to do. All he needed was time. The functional theories had been worked out previously by another mathematician, Herbert Ainsworth, a former colleague from Alexander’s days as a reputable sort of individual who kept a nine to five job. They still spoke, but Alex didn’t talk about his work. Better to keep those few untainted folks in the dark. Now it was time to test it.
He didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t plan on being gone long. Just long enough to prove his theory. Someone would try to stop him if they knew he planned on attempting to cross a dimensional barrier. The theory was sound, the math made it seem easy, but any sane person would most likely stop to consider what kind of damage one could do by following through on this idea.
Alexander hadn’t been sane since the day she died.
The bulky contraption strapped around his chest like a heart monitor and attached through his thin shirt to electrodes piercing his skin. He wanted as much contact with his body as he could get without exposing himself to possible electrical burns.
Powering it on, he ignored the sudden rush of pain and concentrated on a single thing: the street corner where he’d last seen her. He imagined her there, just as she had been before, but there was no rain. It was as if time moved before his eyes. The rain had stopped. It was a different day, but it was still his Lore standing at the corner waiting to cross. If he reached forward, he could just barely put his fingertips on her white coat.
She turned to look at him and gaped before making a hurried step backward and stumbling off the curb. One blink, then two, she lay in the road. Traffic whizzed by. A truck barreled toward her. He hadn’t anticipated her reaction. Hadn’t expected…
Alexander moved without thinking, blinking forward to grab her off the asphalt and then back to his room, heart thundering all the while. He held her awkwardly, his machine frying from the exertion of carrying not one but two across a barrier no one was meant to cross. He set Lorelei, a full foot shorter than himself, down on her feet and blacked out, hitting the floor with the dead thud of the unconscious.
“You’re an idiot.” Sheridan’s voice muttered over his head. Something cool had been placed against his skin and he knew without looking he’d been burned in several places as the machine fried. “You’re such a fucking idiot.”
“She’s in the other room trying to make sense of what the hell is going on and I’d like to say, I’d love to know too. You disappear for a week and come back with a woman who looks, sounds, and acts just like the girl who was your girlfriend, same name and all. I was half-tempted to check her for a serial number.”
“A week,” he said. “I was gone thirty seconds.”
“Nope, seven days. You were supposed to come down to go to some stupid charity function and you didn’t come down, so I came up looking for you. That was a week ago. Now you’re back and you’ve got a hunk of metal slammed into your floor, second degree burns on your torso, and a woman who is threatening to call the police to report a kidnapping. Except she’s dead here, so she can’t be kidnapped. What in blue blazes did you do?”
“I crossed dimensions. I found Lorelei.” His thoughts faded and all he wanted was to see her face. “I’m—“
“Tell it to her, not me. I’m just your housekeeping.”
Sheridan slid off the bed leaving him there alone and he immediately missed her overabundant warmth.
“He’s awake enough to talk now,” Sheridan said to Lorelei who must have been waiting just outside the field of his vision.
The petite blond stormed into his presence with all the forgiveness of a hurricane.
“Where am I?” Her voice grew strident with each word. Then she tossed a framed photograph on his chest. It was of the two of them together, one of a few candid photos Aliyah had taken, depicting them sitting together reading a book. What the photo didn’t show was him three weeks clean off cocaine content with the shown bottle of scotch. “What is this?”
He picked up the photo and set it on the bedside table.
If it had been his Lore, he would have been hit with something much worse for making her emotions so high. She came from a family of psionics, each generation seemingly more powerful than the last. She read minds and could, if she wasn’t careful, control the minds of others. Except this wasn’t his Lore. This was a different Lorelei Lake. A different dimension’s Lorelei. How different would they be? If he kissed her, would she taste the same?
“Who are you?”
Her questions peppered him like small shot and he found each one stung with accusation. He dragged her out of her world and into his without even so much as a hello.
“Lorelei, let me explain.”
As if words would somehow make all of this all right. Seeing her there, uncertain of herself and even angry, threw cold water on his obsession. His Lore was dead. This Lore was her, but wasn’t her. Nothing would ever bring her back.