No one breathed. Even the bird calls were silent as he rubbed and rubbed at a spot until he felt ivory beneath his fingers. A shiver ran down his spine. Turning to Heather and Jeremy, Stephen blinked. And blinked twice more. Funny how he remembered that. “Gang,” he said, his voice rising from a whisper to a shout, “I suspect we’ve uncovered parts of an extinct animal.” Standing up, he grabbed their hands, broke into a wide smile. “This looks and feels…yup…very much like an Ice Age mammoth tusk!”

That was the moment he learned how to do the happy dance.

And meet the hero and heroine….

“I’m here to confess.” Stephen Lathrop’s soft voice floated across her desk in the sheriff’s office.

Startled, Megan looked up. She took a deep breath, smiled. “What are you admitting to?”

“A desire to find out if you’re free next Sunday.”

“But…you know I’ll be back in Middlebury.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll pick you up there.”

“It’s nice of you to offer…” She sighed. “I usually work weekends, Stephen. Now that school is back in session, I’m afraid our schedules don’t mesh.”

“Too bad.” He pretended to pout, but she could tell he hadn’t given up. After a second’s pause, Stephen tried again. “Well, how about some evening? Dinner and a movie? Kings and queens do have to keep up appearances, you know.” He sounded sincere, but he couldn’t hang onto his earnest pose for long. Megan watched it disintegrate into chuckles.

“Of course, I wouldn’t want to disappoint the town…”




The gleam of gold reflected in the flashlight’s beam. Jill freaked, forgetting her vow to leave. Reaching in, she pulled out handful after handful of precious objects. A necklace in spun gold. An intricate nosepiece of electrum—she was beginning to recognize that odd amalgam of gold and silver. A huge chunk of rock crystal dangling from a heavy silver chain. Ear spools. Pendants. Bracelets. She was breathing so hard she had to sit down.

Legs spread out on the cold rock, forgetful of danger, Jill took piece after piece of fine metalwork from the sack. How collectors would covet these works of art! Well, she had her answer. She had to get out of here. With the tide rising, the bandits were sure to return. It was unsafe to hang around any longer.

With a deep sigh, Jill picked up her flashlight and stood up.

Suddenly, a noise.

A footstep.

Terrified, Jill looked wildly about. The sacks weren’t tall enough to hide behind. The evidence of her presence was strewn upon the ground. There was no place to conceal herself.

She had only one chance. As the footsteps came closer, she switched off the flashlight and loped over to the tunnel entrance, skidding to a stop at its side. Raising her arm, she held the flashlight high, ready to strike.


Here’s a bit to clue you into Dex and Jill’s relationship. On their way to the archaeological site, they stop to picnic at a ruined pyramid.

Dex reached into the basket and brought out several bundles wrapped in waxed brown paper. A whole roasted chicken was in one, two rolls in another, shredded lettuce with chopped tomatoes in a third, and ripe mangoes in the last. Except for a packet of salad dressing, there was nothing else.

Holding out his empty hands, Dex apologized. “I guess they forgot the utensils.”

Jill stared at him. “No knives, no forks, no napkins?”


“Well really,” she said, her irritation growing. “Why didn’t you check at the hotel? How are we supposed to eat this?”

“Like the ancient Peruvians did.” He gestured toward the pyramid. “Improvise. Pretend you’re a Moche priestess and dig in.” His crooked smile held a challenge.

Jill’s heart lurched at his look, but she refused to succumb to his charm. “You should have thought to check,” she scolded.

“Picky picky.” He ripped off a chicken leg and held it out to her…

Cautiously, she took a bite. The chicken was succulent. Cumin and other spices made her mouth water. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was. Already, food was taking the edge off her headache.

As she finished the leg and picked up a wing, Jill glanced at Dex. He had ripped open the packet of dressing with his teeth and was using his index finger to mix it into the shredded lettuce and tomatoes. He licked his finger, and she closed her eyes. A vision of sucking it clean for him flashed through her mind.

At the inappropriate thought, she laughed… She’d been bitchy. This man stirred a response in her she didn’t want to acknowledge. But she couldn’t help herself.

Their eyes met and he, too, snickered. Jill’s mouth was greasy, her hands sticky, and she’d rubbed at a smudge of brown spice on the middle of her cheek.

Pointing at each other, they laughed harder and harder till they fell back on the blanket, too shaken to eat. The fit of giggles finally stopped, and they returned to their picnic, amazement reflected in two guilty grins.  Jill hadn’t laughed so uninhibitedly in years, and was willing to bet Dex hadn’t either. For a while there, he became unglued. Good to know…

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Taking The Tumble

“Mac, are you quite sure about the job offer?” Cyn asked. ”It’s such a big responsibility…and your father?”

“Big M’s agreed. He believes I know what I’m doing.” Mac looked pleased to say the words. “Suppose we try it for six months, at a salary commensurate with the position. And did I mention benefits? Health insurance, pension, sick days, dental plan…the works.”

“The works, you say? Just what other benefits do you have in mind?”

“Your own corner office, big desk, couch.”

“Any other fringe benefits?”

“Making out with the boss?”

She giggled. “I’ll want that written into the contract.”

“Deal!” Pressing her close, he ran his fingers down her spine. “I’m sure I can accommodate whatever you want. This is definitely a job with perks.”

Cyn clung to him, wriggled her hips, then pulled away. “Come inside. My driveway is no place to make such a momentous decision. You can keep me company while I consider it—from several different positions.”

Oh yeah…. He nudged her toward the front door.

As Mac stepped over the threshold, he turned back, glanced around. This was not the moment for a chill to creep up the back of his neck. “Dammit,” he muttered. “What’s wrong now?” The icy feeling shocked him, momentarily wiping out his euphoria.

Someone was watching.