Fifteen hours is a long time to be sitting in one place. Kathy Bennett intended to spend the first ten hours of the trans-Pacific flight sleeping. She’d put it off for too long. The nap on the way south to Mexico had been divine but now she had a chance to get a good night’s sleep. She had chosen the inside seat with John on the aisle so no one would disturb her. It was nice to be with a man who was safe enough to go to sleep beside.
She adjusted her sunglasses and leaned back on the protective nano-tech cover she had gotten from Chuck. Kathy smiled as wondered if they might’ve come from the mad scientist’s shop in East Tennessee. Chuck had given her a bunch of futuristic gadgets. Like these sunglasses. When her eyelids were closed for several seconds they darkened, but when she opened her eyes the lenses lightened.
But Chuck wasn’t what Kathy was thinking about as she drifted off to sleep. It had been a long, hard day that had started nearly twenty four hours before. She’d been on her feet or on the road most of that time. She was ready for sleep.
Kathy Bennett was drained. Greg’s betrayal had sapped her emotional energy, forcing her to draw on reserves. He’d hurt her in ways she didn’t even realize were possible. He was the one man—the one person— she had believed she could totally open up to. And in one instant he had placed a gap between the two of them that could not be bridged. She needed to rest and recharge.
The rustle of papers next to her made her think of another emotional stressor. Kathy was glad she’d met John Parker. She liked the guy—a lot. But the fact she liked him complicated things. Right now men were not her favorite subject. The fact there were great guys out there and she had picked a complete loser didn’t make her feel any better.
The way she’d treated one particular great guy made it even worse. She’d lied to him and to his family. It hadn’t been fun but she had to do it for her job. If he’d rejected her, disowned her and cast her away it wouldn’t have been so hard on her. But he hadn’t.
Their relationship had been strained and he’d seemed to move right past it. She was left to sort things out on her end so she could live with herself and work with him. Ironically his kindness and goodwill were causing more stress than hostility and rejection would have. She didn’t need another relationship with an unresolved issue looming over it.
Kathy closed her eyes and began a meditation routine to wind down. She need to relax, needed to sleep. She needed someone to talk to. She was alone, by herself.
She reined in her plunge into depression. It wasn’t as bad as it could be. While Kathy hadn’t wanted to doze in his car, now she was glad to be next to a man she could trust. He’d be watching her back all the way to China.
Unaware of the chaos he was causing, John Parker delved deeper into the contents of the leather satchel. There were several books and some folders with papers and maps in them. He chose a large twelve inch by twelve inch book, about two thousand pages thick. A faded title on the spine read The Hidden World of the Maya.
About a hundred fifty years ago began bringing a British diplomat in modern day Belize began buying artifacts from a Yucatan sponge fisherman. Despite their condition but the diplomat recognized them as the authentic Mayan artifacts. Soon he had enough to realize this was a major find.
To get access he supplied arms to the rebel Mayan government and paid the fisherman a load of. The man led him to a shallow, marshy area off the coast. An entire city lay in about twenty feet of water. He hired locals to document the site and recover artifacts. Using a camera and carbide lamps encased in glass he took five hundred photographs revealing wide streets, sturdy foundations and stelae. He also managed to get plaster casts of the stelae.
After about a year a turn of events in the Yucatan rebellion forced him to abandon his work. He devoted the remainder of his life to cataloguing his finds and his children published the book. It had all five hundred of the underwater photographs plus pictures of a thousand artifacts. Fifty site maps were enclosed but the site’s location wasn’t mentioned.
John leaned back and closed his eyes. This was the problem with so much of the nineteenth century archaeology. The diplomat had found a valuable Mayan site, recorded it at his personal expense, but failed to document it properly. Aside from the book the city was lost to posterity. This had happened all around the globe. Troy was the most glaring example.
Heinrich Schliemann was a German fur merchant fascinated by the Trojan Wars since childhood. He made his fortune, had a midlife crisis and ran off to Greece. He married a Greek girl, found Troy and dug it up. Later he admitted to damaging the very city he was looking for.
He opened his eyes and sat up, inadvertently brushing his pencil to his right. Instinctively he turned to retrieve it, then stopped. It had rolled into the center of Andrea Litz’s lap and now lay between her knees. He decided to let it be and turned back to his book.
John ran a hand over his shaved scalp as he remembered Andrea wasn’t even her name. He wondered if this mattered. He wished it didn’t. After a moment he admitted that after less than twelve hours together, he liked this woman.
Of course, he told himself he couldn’t take that too seriously. He’d just met her. She was working incognito—for a good reason, of course. He didn’t even know who she was but wished he did
The journalist stopped himself there. John knew he really wanted to be in a relationship. Andrea—or whatever her name was— appealed to him on several levels. She looked great. He enjoyed talking to her. But he had to wonder how much of this was an act, just part of her job.
John had accepted the fact she was a government agent of one type or the other. She had chosen to put him in danger, but for a good reason. Besides, he had known for years that Oscar was the real threat to him. A nameless gunman in Cancun was just a tool in his boss’ hands.
Of course over those years he’d never really met anyone like Andrea. She was more confident and capable than any girl he’d known. His few dates since college really were nothing more than an attempt to ward off loneliness and stay sane for a little longer. A man needed someone to talk to and to listen to. Women were complicated but their companionship made life worth living.
He had to go way back for his last serious relationship. Well, not that far. It had been Alice, an education major at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee. In his last year of college they’d worked together at that tourist trap off Highway Eleven just below her college. They’d hit it off but nothing ever came of it. Just two ships passing in the night.
Okay, so it had been more than that. He’d wanted a girl who was nice and she’d wanted a guy who didn’t want more than she was willing to give. Neither wanted pressure to end up in bed. They’d exchanged letters for a year or two college. But she was getting her Master’s in Pensacola and he was on the road. It hadn’t been meant to be. But it had been nice and probably kept the two of them out of trouble.
John shook himself from his reverie and smiled. He was falling for Andrea. Only that wasn’t her name, she wasn’t who she claimed to be and she lied for a living. It was for a good cause, of course, but it was still lying. If only he knew more about her. If only they’d met somewhere else. He didn’t want to fool around. He wanted to marry a nice girl he could trust. He just wasn’t the wild type.
As he began reading the diplomat’s book he decided that was his problem. He was just too nice. In the fifteen years since college he’d been on maybe six dates. And they’d been just that—dates, nothing more. He didn’t want to be bad, but he didn’t want to be alone. If only Andrea had been the one.