“We’ll leave from Houston with my boss, Dr. Timothy Cathcart, who is the Excavation Director.” Becky’s suggestion made perfect sense seeing as how Timothy was the main financier, and person responsible for pretty much everything. “It’s just over a two-hour flight from Houston to Cancun as the crow flies over the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Which would be a really long flight for a crow.” Levi scooped a large bite of noodles onto perfectly positioned chopsticks and lifted the bite to his mouth.
“We used to have family in that area,” Nicholas said, holding his bite of orange chicken a few inches away from his face until he finished his thought. “Mostly in Puerto Aventuras just south of Cancun.”
“Well we won’t be staying in Cancun for long,” Becky said. “There won’t be time for sight-seeing. We have a four-and-a-half-hour flight to the Mundo Maya International Airport in Flores.”
“And Flores is where base camp is located, right?” Nicholas remembered that from his conversation with Becky while they were walking on the beach. But he was too distracted by that kiss to remember everything clearly. Plus, Levi hadn’t been part of that conversation.
“Yes, that is where we’ll meet the rest of the team. We’ll spend a few days working through the logistics before driving up to Tikal. With a project this complex, we can’t skimp on the planning.”
“From an archaeologist’s standpoint, this is more of an exploration than an excavation,” Nicholas said. “The most important people on the team will be the field guides and cartographers. We’re basically following a map that doesn’t exist—outside of a computer—to a place none of us have ever been in search of a city no one knew existed.”
“You two will fit right in,” Becky said. “I’m the person who will be out of my element. My remote sensing and cartography skills will come in handy, but outside of a computer lab I’m pretty useless.”
“Just stick with us and we’ll protect you,” Levi said with a confidence Nicholas didn’t feel. There were logistics Becky probably hadn’t considered.
“Do you know how to pitch a tent?” Nicholas was fearful of her answer.
“I can learn…”
“Cook over an open fire? Dig your own latrine? Find and purify water? Ration your food so you don’t starve?”
“So… basically you need me to become a Boy Scout.” Becky chuckled nervously and gulped. “I’m in trouble, aren’t I?”
“Nah, like Levi said, we’ll help you. Get me the name of the site manager and I’ll find out what he already has and what we need to bring for you. We’ll do some shopping while we’re still in the States.”
“Okay.” This confident professor didn’t seem so confident now that she realized there were more moving parts than she’d considered.
Nicholas thought of another aspect they’d need to address, and the subject was a little more delicate. “I don’t want this to come across as sexist but having a woman with us on this expedition adds another layer to the logistics.”
“How so?” Becky raised her chin in defiance. “I can do anything a man can do.”
“Really? Can you whip it out and pee behind a tree? Over the six weeks we’ll be travelling will you have any periods? Those are things we don’t have to deal with as guys.” As Nicholas spoke, Becky’s shoulders fell. “Sorry to be blunt but this has nothing to do with what a woman can do compared to what a man can do. Women’s bodies are physiologically different than men’s. We have to take those things into consideration or you’re going to be miserable.”
“Have you been on expeditions with women in the past?” Becky bit her lower lip, but her eyes were hopeful.
“Of course. And the site manager will be prepared for all that. I just want you to be cognizant of the challenges.”
“I’ll do a little more research and planning,” Becky said.
“Speaking of research,” Levi interrupted. “Can we get back to it and quit talking about women’s bathroom habits?” He stood and gathered empty take-out containers from their Chinese food eating frenzy. I need this kitchen table back.”
“Well, I need my computer back,” Becky said. “It’s getting late and I need to head over to my hotel.”
“Can you share those images with me in a Dropbox or something?” Levi asked, sliding Becky’s laptop toward her.
She clicked on the keyboard and mouse for a few minutes then closed the computer down. “That should do it. You realize those are only a few snapshots with a drone, right? There will be hundreds more images once we get there and start collecting data in situ.”
“I know”—Levi opened his own laptop and navigated to the files— “I’m just excited to get started.”
“Get through the end of your semester and I’ll have the director contact you with travel plans. Well, more accurately his assistant will contact you.”
“Sounds good.” Levi was already distracted with his computer and codices.
“I’ll drive you back to your hotel.” Nicholas stood and grabbed his keys from the key holder near the door while Becky tucked her laptop away.
“See you in the morning, Dr. Stephenson,” Levi said with a smirk.
“That jokes getting old, Dr. Stephenson.” Nicholas smacked his twin lightly upside the head. “I’ll see you in a little while.”
“Wait until the rest of the team starts laying into you.” Levi laughed, completely unapologetic. “Might as well get it over with now while you still have some privacy.”
“I would apologize for my brother’s rude behavior,” Nicholas told Becky. “But there is no excuse for him.”
“Wait until he meets the right woman. Turnaround is fair play you know.”
“Send her my way when you find her,” Levi called after her. “Nice meeting you, Dr. Benson.”
“You as well, Dr. Stephenson,” she called back. “Don’t stay up too late with that research.”
“I’m sure I’ll get more sleep tonight than you two will,” Levi mumbled playfully.
“I’m so sorry.” Nicholas turned on the light in the garage and shut the door, drowning out any further taunting. He opened the car door for her to climb into his Lamborghini.
“He’s just saying what you’re thinking.” Becky brushed past him on her way to climb into the car.
“What about you?” Nicholas asked, pushing her gently against the side of the car and wrapping his arms around her waist. “What are you thinking?”
“The same thing you’re thinking,” she whispered. He highly doubted that. “I’m thinking I look forward to getting to know you better before we jump into anything physical.”
“Yeah… that’s exactly what I was thinking too.” Not. “I’d better drive you back to your hotel now.”
“If you insist.” She pouted.
“Keep that up and the guys won’t have anything to wager.” He leaned down and kissed her neck then reluctantly pulled away and offered her his hand to help her into his car. He needed to drop her off at her hotel so he could come home and take a cold shower.