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By Ciar Cullen
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Ciar Cullen
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Rosa!" SinJin found her pulling fresh bread from the oven and hugged her tightly, laughing at her expression of surprise.
"What smells so wonderful?"
"Since we have company, so I thought I'd make your favorite, Pibil chicken. Did you have a good day on the site?"
"Awesome! Asombroso! Perhaps the best day of my life! I may have found what I'm looking for at Pacal-the tomb of Shield Jaguar. We'll see. Alberto will be here tomorrow or the next day, and he'll stay for a few days, at least."
"Professor Ramirez will come from Mexico City? Then this is terribly important!"
"He has to provide me with a permit to excavate further. I only had a partial nod from the government to do preliminary exploration of that section of the site. Understand?"
Rosa nodded enthusiastically.
"Rosa, where is the woman?"
"Tam. Dr. Tamara Martin. I have not seen her for hours. She went exploring, I think. Perhaps a swim in the cenote."
SinJin frowned. She couldn't have gotten far on those wounded feet. It wouldn't be very safe to swim in the sinkhole alone under any conditions, much less at night. He hurried to the back of the house and saw the light in the workroom.
"Son of a bitch!" His body tensed with fury as he strode to the hut and looked in.
She didn't hear him, but continued to work, glasses pushed down far on her nose, sweat dribbling in beads down her sundress. She sighed and stretched, then put down her tiny glue brush and gently rotated the wooden plank she had placed under the pot. SinJin watched in shock as she examined the exquisitely restored piece-a small cacao cup, one meant for a king. She read the turquoise and coral painted symbols aloud, almost reverently. "Spear Jaguar, son of Shield Jaguar." Then she pushed her chair back and sighed deeply.
Stunned, SinJin waited to hear if she'd say more. Could it really be the cup of Spear Jaguar-it meant he might be right about the tomb. If the son were at the site, would the father be far away? How had she put it together in one day? He had been putting off the job, sure it would be at least two days' worth of backbreaking work. How had she read the glyphs so easily? He would have needed to call in an expert. He rubbed his hand through his dusty hair as he watched her sketch busily in his notebook.
She stretched again, and this time, a different shock ran through him. He hadn't taken the time to really look at her this morning. Her legs went on forever, barely covered by her short dress. Her full breasts were falling out of her dress as she bent over the table, thinking herself alone. Her pale hair brushed her bare shoulder ... "She's a bombshell, as beautiful as in the dream."
"Damn it!" He pushed the metal door wide so it creaked loudly.
"Oh! You scared me! I didn't hear you."
"How dare you touch my notebooks? And my artifacts! Who the hell do you think you are?"
She sighed and rubbed her eyes. "All right. I took a chance, and it didn't work. I called you an asshole. Well, you are an asshole. A brilliant one," she indicated his notebooks with a sweep of her hand. "But an asshole, nevertheless. It doesn't matter how brilliant or hot you are. Nothing could make up for that horrible personality. I hope you choke on your King, Señor Suave."
"Nothing else matters to you, does it? I know your type. Can't say I blame you, actually. Spear Jaguar, son of Shield Jaguar. Is that what you want to hear? You were hoping for the father, I see." She shoved the chair back under the workbench. "Lovely cup. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. Congratulations- you've found your tomb. Will you give me a lift to the road tomorrow? My feet are still killing me."
SinJin saw her fight back tears-were they tears of anger or disappointment? Probably both. He didn't move from the doorway.
"How did you do that?"
"Put that together so quickly? And read it. Are you sure of what it says?"
He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Tamara, is it?"
"I know." She looked at the floor and hobbled toward the doorway, crying openly now. She didn't leave him any option but to move aside or be slammed with her body. He didn't move. She nearly bounced off him, but he grabbed her arms and steadied her. She took in a quick breath and looked into his eyes.
"I resigned from Princeton today." He laughed at her shocked expression. "You can't imagine someone doing that? They've instructed you to return immediately. Did you call me hot?"
"Resigned? But why now, when you might have found Shield Jaguar?"
"I might have found Shield Jaguar." SinJin let the thrill of the words sweep through him, then pulled himself together at the sight of Tamara's tears and confused expression. "Today seemed like a good day to let the Mexican Government know what I have down here. My friend, Ramirez, is in charge of all Mexican antiquities." He didn't elaborate, seeing she recognized the name. "I've accepted his offer of employment, as a Professor of the University of Mexico. He won't make me teach, thank God. Just some dog-and-pony shows, fundraisers and such. You said I was hot, I'm sure I heard it."
"Princeton's been pressuring you to come back and teach?"
"That's so short-sighted."
"Won't Princeton make a claim on your finds?"
"They can't touch it. Not a dime of the funds came through them, and they don't hold the permit. They know the Mexican Government owns anything I pull out of the ground and they can't afford to piss off the Minister of Antiquities here, who happens to be my good friend. I don't want anymore politics. Ramirez is a straight-shooter, at least I think he is."
"I see. You can let go of me now, mate."
He moved his hands to her hips, wondering if she'd slap him, or respond.
"I don't think I want to let go of you."
"Listen, Professor, under any other circumstances, I'd be sweeping your precious finds off that table and giving you the time of your life. But I'm not much in the mood, after getting fired. So get your fucking hands off me now."
SinJin let go. She slipped by him and hobbled towards the hacienda.
She wouldn't consider it, would she? No, she was young, her entire career ahead of her.
He caught up to her in a few strides and grabbed her wrist.
SinJin put both hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him.
"Curb your foul language and listen to me."
Tam opened her mouth, as if to protest and he clamped a hand over her lips. They stood in near silence for a moment, and as if to fill the empty space, the cicadas sang out in rhythm with the gentle warm night breeze.
SinJin took in a deep breath and searched for the right words, the perfect words. "You have a choice. You can put that suit back on and take up your duties at some college, teaching the unappreciative urchins all about the wonders of the ancient world, probably never putting your full talents to use. Or, you can have a piece of Pacal, as a contributor. Not as a co-author, mind you. My assistant. Same pay as Princeton, but only one weekend day off. The work continues straight through the rainy season, inside the storerooms. You've only been here a day, so you don't know how isolated we are, how hard we work. It's no picnic, and Cozmano isn't the Plaza. I suspect I know your answer already, but I'll give you the night to think of a nice way to refuse my offer."
He tried to ignore the movement of her breasts beneath the thin fabric of her dress as she panted under his grasp. She was so close, the scent of her light perfume filling the air, heated by the warm night air. Her brilliant blue eyes grew huge, and she looked very confused. He slowly removed his hand and let it slide down her arm, taking a final opportunity to feel her smooth skin. It shocked him to realize he hadn't touched a woman since Laura, except to hug Rosa.
Doctor Martin, if you could read my mind, see my dream, how you'd be cursing me now.
Regarding him carefully, silently, she slowly pulled her arm away and stepped back. He saw her swallow nervously. It didn't seem in character, and he waited for the barrage of insults. They never came. Instead, she simply nodded.
"What does that mean?"
"I called you hot."
A sly smile crept to her eyes and he felt a tremor of hope and life stir in his gut, a sensation he never expected to feel again.
"I thought so. But I can't compete with Princeton."
"I came here for Pacal, for the tomb. Not for Princeton. I hate teaching the 'urchins', as you call them. And we'll see about that co-author clause, Professor."
"Everything's negotiable, SinJin."
"Then you'll throw in that lap-dance, along with long hours sketching glyphs and restoring pottery?"
"Before the season's over, I'll throw in a lap dance." She turned her back on him and headed towards the house. Rosa stood on the veranda, motioning for the pair to come to dinner.
Before the week's over, if I have anything to say about it.
Excerpted from Mayan Nights by Ciar Cullen Copyright © 2006 by Ciar Cullen. Excerpted by permission.
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