“You’ve been busy.” Whitney wiped her brow and sighed, the weight of the world on her shoulders. The community center where Henry and the teenage boys had gathered and organized supplies in preparation for their early departure the following morning was strewn with overflowing backpacks, weapons, and provisions.
Whitney had been holed up with the Mayan girls most of the evening and was finally done for the night. Henry handed her a recently boiled and filtered bottle of water and pulled out a chair for her.
She took the proffered water bottle and sank onto the folding chair. Propping her feet onto another chair, she leaned back and drank heartily. “Thanks, I needed this.” She recapped the bottle and closed her eyes.
“I know you just sat down but you won’t want to get too comfortable. Aaron and I arranged for you and Xavier to each have a hotel room at the resort in San Ignacio, compliments of his highness.”
“Let me get this straight—” Whitney opened one eye but didn’t lift her head from where it slumped on the back of her chair. “—that kid with you is seriously a prince?”
“Uh… yeah.” Henry pulled up a chair, turned it backward and straddled the seat so he could lean on the back and face Whitney. He glanced to the side to where Aaron and Felicia were sitting on similar folding chairs across the room. Not sure how much Aaron could hear, Henry spoke quietly. “Aaron sort of abdicated his throne, but I’m not sure it was ever really his to begin with. Another civil war on the opposite side of the world I’m glad I don’t have to fight. I suppose if the people in Madain Saleh were kidnapping and raping young girls I’d be more concerned.”
“Where the heck is Madain Saleh?” Whitney opened both eyes.
That caught Aaron’s attention and his head lifted. Henry spoke a little louder, knowing there was no reason to try to hide his snarky response. “Somewhere in the Arabian desert. I don’t know. The country barely exists anymore.”
“I resent that,” Aaron called from across the room.
“Go live in the desert then, Your Highness,” Henry called back.
“I’m good. I’ll stay here in the jungle where the heat retains its humidity.”
“This is a forest, not a jungle, but good try,” Whitney teased, getting in on the banter.
“Are you guys about ready to head to the resort?” Aaron stood and helped Felicia off the chair where she’d been sitting. “My bride and I are exhausted.”
“Is that what you’re calling it now?” Whitney smirked. “Earlier today you were bored and now you’re exhausted.”
“Yes, well, we haven’t had a chance to be bored yet today so let’s get a move on.”
“Are all newlyweds this sappy?” Whitney asked.
“I don’t know,” Henry teased back. “I’ll let you know a few days after our wedding.”
“Oh, you will, will you?” Whitney laughed. “Help me up so you can take me to your hotel. And don’t get any ideas about which room is yours.”
“Why, Ms. Olson, I’m shocked at your insinuations.” Henry helped her to a standing position and fought the urge to wrap his arms around her. “You think just ’cause we flirted in a Jeep for three hours that I’m going to invite you to my hotel room? What kind of a man do you think I am?”
“Think? Or hope?” She raised her eyebrows and smirked.
The sound that emerged from the back of Henry’s throat was almost a tiger purr. He met her gaze and spoke low enough for her ears only. “Ya know, after we get all done rescuing teenagers, you and I should go out to dinner or something and continue this conversation.”
“Something to look forward to, Cap’n Henry.” Whitney winked at him and walked away, shifting to Spanish to ask Felicia if she’s coming with the rescue team the following morning.
“Wait—” Henry hurried to catch up to the ladies as they walked through the door out into the near blackness of late evening in the middle of a forest shrouded with a thick canopy and noticeable lack of modern electricity. He was glad they were heading to a hotel. “—are you coming on the trek with us?”
Whitney turned to face him. “Uh, yeah.” The word sounded more like ‘duh’ and Henry felt silly for asking. She was the aftercare aid worker in charge of treating the girls once they’d been rescued.
“Right. Of course, you are. What was I thinking?”
“I dunno. What were you thinking?” Whitney looked him up and down with flirty eyes.
“I’m thinking you’re a little punch drunk and we need to get you a good night’s rest so you can save the world tomorrow.”
“Saving the world is so overrated.” Whitney turned and followed Aaron and Felicia out to the trail where they met up with Xavier, Joab, and Kisa.
“Who’s riding with whom?” Joab held up his car keys.
Kisa was the first to respond. “I’ll leave my car here and ride back with you and my niece and her prince charming.”
“You might want to drive fast, Joab,” Henry stage whispered. “Who knows what might happen with two bored newlyweds in the back seat of your Highlander.”
“I’m never going to live that down, am I?” Aaron pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Nope.” Henry popped the P in emphasis.
“Fine then, I’ll own it,” Aaron said, turning to Joab. “Might want to drive fast.”
“I’m a driver for a living,” Joab said. “I can handle fast. Besides the faster I drive us to the hotel, the faster I can get Kisa alone for a few minutes of our own.”
Henry turned to Xavier and Whitney. “I’m riding back to the hotel with you guys.”
They all chuckled and turned on flashlights so they could navigate the uneven forest path up the hill to El Pilar.