Dear Diary, it’s strange, isn’t it, how fast your life can change? One minute I was deciphering hieroglyphs on ancient, crumbling columns in the middle of the desert. The next minute, I was in the hospital, sitting next to Beckett’s bed. For days on end. And no matter how much I walked around or stretched, my butt was beginning to hurt from all the sitting.
Still, I couldn’t complain since Beckett had nearly been crushed to death under a pile of rubble that very well could have landed on me. I didn’t suppose my sore backside really rated a mention compared to what he’d suffered.
It did amaze me how quickly he seemed to be bouncing back. He must have bones of steel and nerves to match. I know I would’ve been a total wreck if this had happened to me.
Beckett slept a lot while in the hospital. As he grew stronger (no thanks to the food he was served), we walked the halls and chatted. As we made our way around the unit, he pushed the I.V. stand, one wheel always squeaking mercilessly.
Finally, the day came when a nurse came in and unhooked the tubing from his I.V. She left the catheter part in his hand (that’s what she called it) but at least now he had the freedom to move about without dragging or pushing the noisy stand with him.
It seemed to me, he’d be able to go home soon, but then what?
One of the last days we were there, he must have seen I was trouble because he asked me what the matter was.
“Our dig site is closed down because it was determined the skeleton isn’t ancient. The authorities have shut us all out and are investigating.”
He seemed troubled, too, after hearing this. “That’s awful. What are you going to do?”
Shrugging, I said, “I’m not sure. I figure I’ll hang out in Cairo for a while in case this is all cleared up and we can get back to work.”
“Do they know who it is? The skeleton, I mean?”
“I don’t know. Dr. Tammam said they’re keeping their information close to the vest so he doesn’t know any more than we do.”
Beckett’s eyes seemed to cloud over as he thought about what I’d said. Then he sighed and turned back to me. “I don’t think you should pay for a hotel while you wait. When I’m discharged, I’ll be going to one of my dad’s houses here in Cairo. I’ll still need some help with things, so why don’t you just stay at my place? Uh, if you want, I mean.”
“Will anyone else be there?” I asked. It was really strange to me that Mark Quinn, Beckett’s father hadn’t made an appearance while his son was hospitalized.
“No, it will only be us – the maid service comes in about once a week and we have a pool guy that comes every so often, but that’s it.”
“I’m surprised your father hasn’t come to see you or even called.”
He sighed before answering. “I told you, he hates me, Marty. Sometimes I think I may as well be dead already. If I was, he wouldn’t even miss me.”
“That’s hard to believe.”
“Well, you must have had a good dad, then.”
He was right about that. My father would have been on the first plane here if he’d heard I’d gotten hurt and was in the hospital.
Beckett’s home – or should I say, his father’s home – in Egypt was no small place. In fact, it looked nearly as big as the hotel I’d been staying in.
As for staying with Beckett, part of me wanted to remain independent and not take him up on his offer. However, while I wasn’t exactly poor, I wasn’t made of money and not having to pay for my room or eat out constantly did seem appealing. Not to mention I felt I owed Beckett some help after he’d saved my life and everything.
By the time we got to the Quinn estate, Beckett was exhausted and fell asleep almost immediately on one of the sofas. With nothing else to do, I took a look around the place.
The layout seemed a bit strange to me with tight corridors and staircases going this way and that. It didn’t take me long to get really confused. Finally, I found the living room again, much to my relief.
As he recovered, he spent days by the pool, getting some sun which glinted off the deep blue water, making it sparkle.
“Can I ask you something?” he said one day.
“Why do you dress like that?”
“Like what?” I huffed, my ire already spiking.
“Relax,” he smirked.
“Fine, I’ll relax, but if you’re saying I dress like a frump, I don’t think I’ll forgive you anytime soon.”
This time he laughed, the sound bouncing off the stone floor and half walls that encircled the pool. It made me smile slightly, despite myself.
“You’re not a frump, believe me. You just dress so plainly for someone so hot.”
This took me back. “Hot? Me?”
“Uh yeah! Especially with your hair down. I didn’t realize it was so long and beautiful. You’re really gorgeous if you don’t mind me saying. Why don’t you wear it that way more often?”
“Because I’m usually at a dig site, in the dirt and I don’t like my hair in my face. If you must know, I don’t have long hair on purpose. It’s just been years since I bothered to get it done.”
“Well, I hope you’ll leave it down… for me,” he said, almost shyly.
Almost. There was a slyness in his eyes that led me to believe this forward way of speaking he had wasn’t really embarrassing to him at all, he just wanted me to think it was. Still, it had been a long time since a man flirted with me. And even longer since I’d partaken in any type of romance at all. I guessed it was about time I opened up to some possibilities in my life. All work and no play… you know how the saying goes.
“I have an idea!”
Flashing my best genuine smile, I said, “Oh?”
“I’d really like to thank you for all you’ve done for me and I won’t take no for an answer. Consider it rude to say no, Marty. I mean it.”
I began to laugh. “To what am I not saying no to?”
“Tomorrow night, dinner, cooked by me, for you. Oh, and a special package beforehand.”
Instead of being put off by the mystery, I was sucked in, hook, line and sinker. I wanted a surprise. I longed for something new and exciting.
The next afternoon, Beckett was mysteriously absent. After a long swim, I returned to my room to find a package on my bed with a pretty blue ribbon on it. Inside was a black dress with white collar and fairly low heeled black pumps.
Delighted that everything fit, I twirled in front of my mirror a few times before making my way downstairs to the dining room.
Beckett was checking the oven and whatever was in there smelled really good. My stomach growled in appreciation as I realized it might be lasagna.
He turned to face me with a bright smile and twinkling eyes that appraised me in my new outfit.
“Well?” I asked, a bit breathless by his openness.
“You look just like a little china doll.”
Huh? I wasn’t sure that was a compliment until he took my hands in his and kissed my cheek.
“So you approve.”
“Well, I wish your hair was still down, but you are a vision, Marty.”
“Thank you,” I said. “Dinner smells really good.”
“It’s going to be a little bit still before it’s ready. Shall we go to the living room?” Without waiting for my answer, he produced two glasses of wine, giving one to me, then lead me into the living room.
The lights were dimmed and soft candlelight flickered in a slight breeze from open windows. The light played and danced along the walls and ceiling as he tapped his glass to mine and took a sip.
I wasn’t a heavy drinker so I knew enough to sip it slowly and take my time or else the fizz of intoxication would soon muddle my brain. It really didn’t take that much for me.
As I gazed out the window, he turned the stereo on and soft music began to play that was just as intoxicating and romantic as any alcohol.
Coming up behind me, he slipped his arms around me as if they’d always belonged there. It seemed a good enough fit to me, anyway. Leaning in closer, his breath in my ear, he whispered, “I’ve really grown to like you. A lot.”
A soft smile played on my lips as I considered what he said. “Really?”
“Yes,” he said as he began to sway slightly to the music, bringing me with him. “We’ve had so many great talks. I’ve been thinking endlessly for the past week that I’m falling in love with you.”
Turning me around to face him, he never missed a beat. It was all one fluid motion and we continued to sway to the music.
“Could you ever feel that way about me?” he asked.
I gulped, feeling a constriction in my throat. If I would just let myself go, I knew I would allow him to seduce me. What I didn’t know was whether he was just trying to do that or if he was sincere with what he said. It’s not like I had a ton of experience in this department.
When I didn’t answer right away, he shrugged it off. “Nevermind. That isn’t what matters right now. What’s important is that we have this amazing connection. I felt it from the first moment I met you.”
Looking into his eyes, I had a choice. I could kick him where it hurts the most and tell him to back off in pure Marty fashion… or I could do another Marty thing. I could throw caution to the wind and jump in with both feet, just letting this take me wherever it wanted to.
I was still debating my options as he put his hand on my waist, his fingers caressing me lightly, his eyes smiling into mine.
Before I knew it or was ready, he pulled me right against his chest and planted a big one on my lips. I know that’s not a romantic description, but I never said I was a romantic, did I?
At first, I pushed against him, trying to get him to stop. When he finally did, he casually stepped away and I guess he was waiting to see what I would do.
In that moment, my mind was made up.
Grabbing both his hands, I pulled him back to me and kissed him. This time, I was in charge as our mouths worked furiously against each other. Our kiss became so intense and feverish, we were nearly gasping.
In a mocked faint, I stretched out on the floor, right there, my lips still tingling and wanting more.
He knelt down next to me and our eyes met again.
“I want you, Marty,” he said, his voice wrenched from his throat. And that’s all it took.
He wanted to carry me to his bedroom, but his sides were still too sore from the accident to manage it. That was fine with me, though, as even in a moment like this, I preferred to stay on my own two feet, under my own power.
We raced like two giddy teenagers to his room, quickly undressing each other, our hands everywhere…
… afterward, to my disappointment, he fell asleep immediately. I don’t know how long I stayed like that, watching him as he snored very softly, but after a while, I turned out the lights and snuggled down. It didn’t take long at all before I was sleeping, too.
I abruptly sat partway up, my eyes blinking against the darkness, willing them to see. Had I been dreaming?
Straining against the enveloping night, I listened for any sound, wondering again if it had been real or a dream.
No, there it was again. It sounded like… crying. A woman sobbing in misery.
Sitting up all the way, my eyes began to get used to the dark as my feet touched the floor. Beckett stirred, lifting his head.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice heavy with sleep.
“Nothing. I thought I heard something, but it’s probably nothing. Go back to sleep.”
Slowly, I stood and crossed the room, my ear against the door. Then I heard it again. A woman wailing as if her heart was broken and it could never be fixed.
Quickly, I yanked on the doorknob and stepped out into the dark hallway, standing statue still. I was hoping to hear where the crying came from but was met with only silence.
Not wanting to get lost in the dark, I checked the nearby rooms and one floor below me to see if I could figure out where the noise had come from. But, I had no luck.
Suddenly, Beckett’s arms were around me again, holding me close against his warm chest.
“What’s wrong, babe?”
“I thought… I mean I did… I heard a woman crying.”
“I don’t hear anything,”
“That doesn’t mean I didn’t hear it,” I reasoned. “You sure no one else is staying here?”
This made him chuckle, much to my dismay. “I think if anyone else was staying here, we would have noticed by now. Besides, I told you, it’s just us.”
Still feeling unsettled, I shivered.
“You’re freezing,” he said. “Let’s get you back to bed.”
As I began to protest, he took my lips with his. Despite my earlier trepidation, I began to feel better and let him coax me back to bed.
It was easy to dismiss one occasion of hearing these strange cries. Hopefully, I would never hear them again.