So for this excerpt, I thought I’d go back and finish Chapter 1. This starts where the first excerpt left off. It’s a little long, but I love it because it starts to show the interplay between two of the main characters, Grady and Kayla, which I LOVED to write. Plus, you get to meet Jack, whose character was so much fun to explore! Enjoy!
“Jack, can you shine some light down there?” Kayla offered what she hoped was an overtly flirtatious smile in Jack’s direction. A little light flirting always seemed to win their handyman over.
Her plan worked like a charm. Jack McFarland wheeled an industrial spotlight over to the correct spot. “Anything for you, sweetie.” As the oldest worker on site, Jack was well-liked by everyone. He always had a nice word to say and a questionably interesting story to tell, if you had the time to stick around to hear it.
“I think we’ve hit the jackpot, Kayla,” came from one of the dig’s excavators.
Kayla gave a quick nod, but didn’t look up to see who’d made the comment. She was too busy leaning over the shoulder of the computer tech on site, Dr. Grady McGready, trying to make sure the lighting was just right.
She watched as his deep blue eyes, eyes that complimented his short yet unruly dark brown hair perfectly, surveyed the scene expertly from behind his computer screen. A colleague of hers at the University of Central Florida and an expert in Mayan religious rites and traditions, Grady was now also filling the shoes of the dig’s usual computer tech – the one who’d fallen violently ill just yesterday and had been medevacked to the States for treatment – thanks to his degree in computer science. One of his many degrees, if what she’d heard about him was true.
She took half a step back and looked at him more closely. They’d never really spoken to each other – excepting the occasional “hello” or nod as they passed in the hall and the usual business conversation at department meetings – and Kayla’d never really given him a second thought. But something about the way his sapphire eyes were examining the screen in front of them with such an understated confidence…
As she moved back toward the screen in front of them, she stole a glance at him out of the corner of her eye. He was only a few inches taller than her but easily outweighed her – though nothing about him made her think he was overweight. He just looked… strong. Like he spent a few hours a week running, maybe some occasional weight-lifting, but never spent much time at the gym.
Kayla didn’t really think he needed to.
She chastised herself. He was her coworker, nothing more. No need to complicate things. She’d been down that road before, and it hadn’t ended well. And that was an understatement.
Grady’s voice jolted her back to the present. “Shine that light a little to the left, Jack.”
Kayla struggled to get her mind back on task. Thoughts like that would only distract her. She was here to do her job – nothing more. She leaned up close to Grady, checking the monitor to make sure the lighting was right. Once she was satisfied that everything was ready, she called out to their long-suffering handyman.
“Hey, Jack, we’re all set. Thanks!” She waved him over.
Jack smiled at her as he headed their way. The group of people surrounding them – mostly the excavators that had made the discovery – now gathered behind Grady and Kayla to stare at the computer monitor.
The light illuminated a deep and narrow shaft. Though the light didn’t reach the bottom, the widening walls of the shaft made Kayla think it was close. Embedded in centuries of dirt and debris, darkened skeletons lined the sides of the shaft. On one side, jutting out from between the layers of skeletal remains, were crude yet flat rocks that stuck out from the wall in a sporadic but oddly recognizable pattern.
“Hey, are those steps?” one of the onlookers queried, pointing at the screen.
Kayla’s heart skipped a beat as she walked the ten yards to the shaft, taking the flashlight off her belt and pointing it down the hole. She broke into a grin. “I think so!” This is great, Kayla thought. I’ve only been here a few days, and we find this!
She could feel Grady’s gaze on her back. “So what’s the plan, Dr. Harrington?”
Kayla sighed, still gazing into the shaft. Then she looked up at the darkening sky and headed back toward Grady and the computer. “We’re losing the light. Let’s start on this first thing tomorrow. And please, it’s Kayla.” She smiled sweetly at him, then turned back to the group and raised her voice. “Okay, everyone, let’s get some rest. We’ll start on this as soon as the sun is up.”
Grady grinned from behind the computer monitor as the crowd surrounding him dispersed. Kayla’s tenacity was infectious – and quite endearing.
He started to join her at the edge of the shaft, but suddenly he couldn’t move. As though his mind had opened a gateway to the future – one possible future, anyway – he could see them together. He saw their nondescript home back in Florida, saw them having breakfast in their small kitchen every morning, saw her lying next to him in bed with the sunlight streaming through the window illuminating her cheek as she slept…
Grady shook his head violently, trying in vain to erase the idea of Kayla and him together. His inexplicable vision of them together was…well, unsettling to say the least. Where had those images come from?
He looked back at the monitor – hid behind it, more accurately – concentrating a little too hard on bringing his mind back to the present. He barely knew Kayla – she’d never given him a second glance, he was certain of that – but something was there, hiding just below the surface. Something he just couldn’t quite put his finger on.
He’d never really considered dating her – not seriously enough to act on it, anyway. She’d only ever been a coworker in his eyes. Oh, she was attractive – beautiful, he’d thought more than once – but she always seemed out of reach. Like he wouldn’t have anything close to a chance with her.
Life was cruel. Why had his mind conjured up those images of them together? He didn’t – couldn’t – have a future with her, not in this lifetime.
Then she was standing right next to him. “Dr. McGready, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Grady jumped. He hadn’t said anything aloud, had he? That would be…unbearable. “Call me Grady.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “And yeah, what’s up?”
Kayla looked over at him and smiled, leaning in just a little and lowering her voice. “Care to get started tonight? Our little secret?”
Grady grinned at her, feeling much more at ease. When he wasn’t thinking about them together, she tended to have a calming effect on him. Odd. “Sure, I’d love to.”
As the sun started to disappear behind the trees of the surrounding forest, they worked together getting the markers set up for the computer to read, sending a light down the middle of the shaft to help them better determine its length, and ensuring the lighting below would be sufficient enough for them to do some preliminary exploring.
Personal feelings aside, Grady was excited to have Dr. Harrington – Kayla – working with him on this project. He had been in Belize for the spring semester working on this site – one purported to be an important religious site for the ancient Mayans, though no one had yet determined why – and was glad to finally have another expert on the dig. And not just another expert, but the leading Mayan language expert in the U.S., if not the world.
“Okay,” Grady said as soon as he’d checked the computer screen one last time, “we’re all set. Let’s go.”
Kayla couldn’t miss the hint of a smile on Grady’s lips. She reached for the flashlight she’d laid by the mouth of the shaft and smiled back at him, pointing the light toward the hole in the ground. “You first.”
Grady grabbed his own flashlight, attached it to his belt, and headed toward the illuminated shaft. Kayla felt a wave of warmth caress her skin at the sight of the brilliant smile he flashed her way before climbing down.
After he’d descended the first few steps, he peered over the edge of the hole. “You coming?”
Kayla grinned and snapped her own flashlight to her belt. “Wouldn’t miss it.
I would love to hear any thoughts you have! I hope to post more soon. Until then, keep reading!