Chapter One – The Geek Twins
“Dr. Stephenson, are you almost ready to go?” Nicholas called up the stairs to his twin brother, Levi. He already had the kickstand lifted, his helmet on, and his backpack strapped in place. His patience was wearing thin. “I have a meeting with a grad student in twenty minutes.”
“Dr. Stephenson, why do you insist on calling me Dr. Stephenson when we are still at home?” Levi answered as he hurried down the stairs to where his bike propped against the wall in the ground floor garage of their townhouse. As Levi walked past the candy apple red Lamborghini Urus that they supposedly shared, Nicholas snapped at his brother.
“Don’t scratch my car, dude.” Nicholas realized a luxury SUV imported from Italy was the least likely choice of a Harvard professor, but he just couldn’t resist temptation when he saw the concept car at the Beijing Auto Show. Without blinking an eye, he paid the $270,000 in advance and secured one of the coveted first run of a thousand off the production line. The perks of growing up a billionaire.
“Did I, or did I not, pay for half of that beauty?” Levi asked, strapping on his helmet and lifting his bike from where it rested against the inside wall of the garage. “Not that I’ve ever driven it.”
“I’m oldest. I get to drive,” Nicholas said, rolling out into the parking lot.
“By seven minutes. That hardly counts.” Levi mounted his bike and reached for the button to close the garage door.
Nicholas watched longingly as his prized possession disappeared behind the protective barrier between his baby and the elements that threatened its paint job. He wondered if he’d ever get tired of looking at his new toy. He shook off the nostalgia and pushed away from the curb, engaging the pedals of his bike.
The light breeze blowing through his thick brown hair made him smile as he let gravity and momentum pull him toward campus where they both taught.
As a professor of environmental archaeology, he worked closely with his brother’s expertise in ancient languages to reconstruct past civilizations, particularly the Mayan culture. Levi was at least partially fluent in all the main branches of the Mayan languages, particularly the Quichean.
The Geek Twins, as their childhood friends used to call them, had been fascinated with the cultures in Guatemala all their lives. There were interwoven ties between their father, who served in an Army Special Forces unit during a humanitarian crisis along the Texas-Mexican border, and their father’s cousin who married a Mayan princess who was also somehow a distant cousin of theirs and shared their last name.
The confusing blood lines and generational interconnections were fascinating, and the twins had devoted their life’s work to understanding and preserving their heritage.
Because their family was so wealthy, Nicholas and Levi had never needed to work traditional jobs. They had devoted one hundred percent of their adult lives to their studies and flown through their undergraduate and post-graduate programs. At the ripe old age of twenty-nine they were world-renowned in their fields.
They were also bachelors. Dating and marriage had barely crossed their minds. They joked they’d have to find girls who were also identical twins, loved traveling to archaeological sites in Meso-America and didn’t mind microwave meals and long nights of research. In other words, they’d be bachelors forever.
The bike rack beside the door to the Tozzer Anthropology Building, where they shared an office, was sparsely populated this early in the morning. They locked their bikes and Nicholas held open the door for his brother, who unhooked the strap from his bike helmet as they began the three-story trek up the stairs.
“Man, I hope I don’t look as ridiculous as you do with your sweaty helmet head,” Nicholas said, chuckling as he removed his own helmet. He ran his hand through his thick hair, trying to straighten out the fly-a-ways, and fluff the parts that were matted down.
“We’re identical twins,” Levi said. “If I look ridiculous, you look ridiculous.”
“Good thing I don’t have any meetings this morning.” Nicholas turned at the first landing, his legs still strong even after their bike ride. He was proud of their commitment to maintaining an active lifestyle, a requirement if they were going to be ready at a moment’s notice if someone needed them at an archaeology dig.
“I thought you said you were meeting with a grad student.” Levi had no trouble keeping up as they turned the corner at the final landing, and they almost seemed to race up the last section of stairs.
“Yeah, but he won’t care what I look like,” Nicholas said, pushing his brother out of his way, his spirit of competition kicking into high gear during those last few stairs. Just as he pushed open the heavy door to the third-floor hallway, he said, “No one cares what I look like.”
“I care,” a sultry voice startled him as he entered the hallway.
Nicholas stopped short when he noticed the gorgeous blond leaning against the wall next to the nameplate near the door to his office. Her blue eyes danced with amusement and Nicholas was caught in her gaze as his brother plowed into him.
She chuckled but didn’t move from where she stood with her arms crossed, a professional Navy button-down dress shirt and khaki slacks so different than the jeans and t-shirts worn by the college kids. She had a sport coat draped over her folded arms and computer bag at her feet.
“Becky?” Nicholas shook off his stupor. “I mean, Dr. Benson. What are you doing in Massachusetts?”
Chapter Two – Treasure Hunting
“Nice to see you too, Nick… I mean Dr. Stephenson.” Becky pushed away from the wall, leaving her computer bag resting next to the door to the office Nicholas shared with his brother. Either she had no idea how beautiful she was naturally, or she knew darn well how her playful grin affected him.
As he’d imagined a million times in his days as a grad student, he longed to reach up and remove the clip that held her long, blond hair in an elegant twist and watch the locks of gold fall heavily and rest on her shoulders. He watched it happen once, when she thought no one was in the computer lab.
Nicholas had felt like a stalker standing in the doorway to the computer lab late that night when he thought he had the building to himself and found her in the corner completely engrossed in whatever remote sensing data analysis she was running.
She had stretched and yawned then unclipped her hair and let it fall. She moaned—actually moaned—in relief. That hair twist had to be weighty on her neck and he wondered why she never left it down. She always had to be so professional, so polished. She never let her guard down, or her hair. A shame.
After gawking like a nervous schoolboy for a few minutes, Nicholas had turned and left the computer lab. He couldn’t even remember what project he’d planned to work on that evening. He was madly, passionately in love with his advisor’s teaching assistant, who was completely off-limits.
He’d gone home that night and headed straight for the workout gym in the dorms, lifting weights and riding the stationary bike and then finally donning his swimsuit for a dozen laps in the pool. What he needed that night was a cold shower. He never even told his brother what had happened, and he told Levi everything.
But Becky wasn’t a grad assistant anymore, and he wasn’t reliant on her approval for a passing grade in Digital Imaging. They both had post-doctoral educations, they both taught at major universities, and they were both top in their respective fields. She was a peer. And she was even more beautiful than his childish fantasies remembered.
When she’d graduated with her PhD in Geography & Environment from Boston University, he’d lost touch and had almost pushed her to the back of his mind as a dream that was never within reach to begin with. He never thought he’d see her again. Yet here she stood, waiting for him to lift his gaping jaw and regain his ability to speak.
Levi cleared his throat. “Uh… Dr. Stephenson, would you like to introduce me to your… friend?”
“Sorry, yes.” Nicholas glanced at his brother “Dr. Stephenson, this is Dr. Benson.”
“I gathered that.” Levi reached out a hand to Becky. “How exactly do you know each other?”
“Nick used to flirt mercilessly with me when I was his professor’s grad assistant way back in the day.”
“I did not flirt with you.” Nicholas coughed and could feel his face and neck heating in an embarrassing rash.
“Okay, he didn’t flirt, more like drooled over me.”
“That’s closer to the truth. I never got the nerve to speak a full sentence to you without sounding like a complete idiot.”
“Which is laughable since he’s probably the only guy I’ve ever met who was smarter than me.”
“According to IQ tests, I’m even smarter than my brother.” Levi wiggled his eyebrows with a playful smirk and wrapped his arm around Nicholas’ shoulder.
“And he’s modest too.” Nicholas shrugged out from under Levi’s arm and stepped forward to lead Becky toward the door to their office. “Come on in. As you can see from the door placard, this is the very small office I share with my twin brother, who apparently is smarter than me.”
Becky giggled like a girl. “This playful side of you is refreshing, Nick. You’ve grown up since I saw you last.”
“I had to catch up to you.” Nicholas cleared off the chair beside his desk, setting aside the stack of books he kept there to deter anyone from sitting too close and invading his personal space.
“You could never catch up to me,” she teased. “I’ll always be two years older than you, but I like your confidence.”
“Maturity has nothing to do with age.” Nicholas found himself less nervous around Becky the longer they teased one another. He pulled his desk chair closer to the chair in which she now sat, leaned down to eye level allowing himself to flirt a little more. “What brings you over to the East Coast? I know you didn’t come all this way just to see me.”
“Actually, I did.” She turned around to glance at Levi, whose desk sat facing this direction. “Both of you.”
“See, now I was just starting to feel special,” Nicholas teased. “You had to go and bring my brother into the conversation.”
“She needed to meet the smarter half of the geek twins.” Levi pulled a chair over to squeeze in beside Becky. “How can I be of assistance, Dr. Benson, or may I call you Becky?”
“I’ll think about it.” She rested her finger against her lips as in deep thought. Lucky finger. Now all he could think about was her lips. “For now, I need your linguistics expertise.”
“See that, Dr. Stephenson, she needs an expert.” Levi leaned over and nudged Nicholas in the arm.
“I need an archaeology expert too.” Becky glanced at Nicholas. “And I need you both to pack up and come with me to Guatemala for a treasure hunt.”