By some stroke of luck, none of the team members, or tribal members, paid them any attention the following morning. There was no teasing or taunting or innuendoes. Everyone knew the day was set aside for planning and preparing and resting. Some people weren’t even awake or out of their tents when Nicholas emerged.
For the second day in a row, the team was treated to a full hot breakfast complete with a cornbread, tortillas, eggs, and some sort of sausage similar to chorizo but with a slightly different flavoring. If there wasn’t still an underlying urgency to begin research at the temple pyramid, they might be tempted to stay in this beautiful village forever. Maybe not during the rainy season though.
After the mid-day meal, Tiani approached Levi and spoke to him briefly, then pointed over in a westerly direction. The two of them walked over to Timothy where he stood together with some of the team members, including the field guide and site manager.
Timothy was preparing to fly the drone up and over the last mound to get a lay of the terrain. He had already used the satellite phone to call the support team who would be dropping off supplies at the final destination and gave them the full explanation of this turn of events.
Nicholas was curious enough to head in that direction and eavesdrop. Tiani was telling them something about a slightly larger cenote nearby that the tribe used as a bathing area. That caught Nicholas’ full attention. There were many of these sinkholes in the region, some very large and famous. Others, apparently quite well hidden. Some seemed bottomless and boundless caverns travelling miles underground with sparkling clear water and mysterious caves. Others, tiny like a pond.
As Becky had mentioned the previous evening, they’d gone four days without running water and thus without proper hygiene. They had expected to be settled at their more permanent campsite by now. Once there, the drop team would send them the equipment to build a makeshift shower. A well had already been dug. A bath in a cenote sounded like heaven in comparison.
Word spread quickly that later in the day they would have a chance to bathe and spirits were lifted by the mere thought. Several of the guys jockeyed to go first but Nicholas held back, a plan developing in his mind. He turned to Becky.
“You and I should go last,” he whispered.
“Like, together?” Becky raised her eyebrows.
“Sure, why not? We’re married now, right? If you’re not comfortable with the idea, I’m totally fine. Or if, maybe you’d like to keep swimsuits on and just think of it as going swimming in a pond together.”
“I think I could handle going swimming together.” She still sounded hesitant, but Nicholas was willing to give her space and time to get used to the idea. “I could use some help washing my hair.”
“I would love to help you wash that incredible mane of yours.” He stepped closer and wrapped his arms around her waist.
“You did suggest I wear my hair down at our wedding.” She rested her hands on his forearms and glanced up at him with a demure flirt in her eyes.
“We’re just drawing out our wedding over the course of several days.” He leaned down and kissed her lightly, looking forward to that evening.
After a hearty meal of homemade stew and cornbread, guys began trickling down to be the first to bathe. They returned with wet hair wearing clean clothes and euphoric expressions. Nicholas got more and more excited and nervous as the numbers dwindled.
Levi was one of the last to bathe and when he handed off the soap, he winked and said, “Take all the time you want and I’ll have a surprise for you when you emerge from the cenote.”
“What surprise?” Nicholas called after him, talking to his retreating back.
“You’ll see,” Levi called over his shoulder. “Have fun.”
Nicholas turned to Becky. “You ready?”
She had already changed into her swimsuit, which she wore under a modest cover up.
“Where did you get this?” He fingered the material, a woven cloth similar to what the tribal women wore.
“Tiani loaned it to me.” Becky twirled as if showing off an exclusive gown on the runway of a fashion show.
“It’s beautiful.” He held out his hand to lead her toward the sinkhole. “Come on, let’s go for a swim.”
A limestone cavern had been partially exposed by a collapsed portion of rock to form a little cavern of cool water so natural and clear they could see the bottom even in the near-darkness that had already crept upon them. A sliver of sunlight angled in such a way as to make the cavern almost glow. The tribal members likely knew this when suggesting the time and location to the team of scientists.
Nicholas removed his T-shirt and sandals but left on his swim trunks, as promised. When Becky slipped off her modest cover up, his breath caught, and his jaw dropped. She was an elegant lady while wearing business attire, relaxed and casual in a science lab, and an outdoorsman while on the trek. But in a swimsuit, Becky was voluptuous. Nicholas had been taught to be a gentleman and not ogle women but having her as his wife meant he had permission to appreciate every curve of her beautiful body.
Lifting his jaw off the ground, Nicholas held out a hand to assist Becky down the short staircase into the glowing pool. The cylindrical sides formed vertical walls that dropped off quickly into an area not quite up to his chest but almost to Becky’s shoulders. His disappointment at concealing her body was assuaged by the knowledge that he was allowed the honor of helping wash her hair.
Never had anything in his life felt so provocative as weaving shampoo up and around and into her hair, taking his time and relishing the opportunity, rinsing and rewashing. When he’d done as good of job as he could do in a jungle sinkhole, she asked if she could wash his hair. That required Nicholas to crouch down for her to reach his head. It would have taken him less than a minute to wash what little hair he had, but she made the experience last several minutes. He moaned in pleasure at the feeling of having her hands massaging his scalp.
When his hair was finally rinsed, Nicholas didn’t want to wait any longer and turned around, pulling Becky close and crushing his lips to hers, hungry with desire. She matched his hunger with a near frenzy of passion. Slowing his kisses, he boldly reached to untie her bikini top and tossed the tiny article of clothing onto the bank near the stairs.
Neither of them needed a roadmap to explore every hill and valley on each other’s bodies. Neither of them suggested an end to their swim, if that was still an accurate description of the experience. Neither of them wanted to stop, nor did they.
Eventually the remaining parts of their swimsuits rested on the bank and nothing stood in their way.
As he’d predicted over and over the past few months, everything about that night was worth waiting for. Everything about Becky was worth waiting for. Everything about marriage was worth waiting for.
“We need to get to our tent,” Becky whispered. “We’re nearly out of daylight and this cavern will be pitch black soon.”
They helped each other up the stairs, gathered discarded articles of clothing and wrapped themselves in towels. They hoped to sneak into the camp and slip into their tent unnoticed, avoiding the need to don clothing just to remove them again. When they came around the corner past the screen of trees and shrubs, they found Levi’s surprise.
Their tent had been moved and placed within twenty feet of the cenote where they’d spent the past hour. One flap had been tied open, revealing a display of tiny flashlights arranged like romantic candles. A note rested on the bedroll in Levi’s handwriting.
Congratulations on your recent nuptials. Enjoy an evening of privacy and relaxation. Signed, Your Excavation Team
“Well, gosh, don’t have to ask me twice.” Nicholas held out his arms to welcome his new bride into what quickly became the best night of their lives.