Levi shuffled his way back to his team of scientists wondering how they would react to the outdated tribal rules he’d just agreed to follow. All twelve of them waited with gaping mouths and wide eyes.
“First of all, what did you say that got Tiani so upset that she stormed away?” Nicholas asked. “And what happened in the tunnel? And what did you just say to her father?”
“Um… I am now officially on a quest to prove my worth to the tribal chief so that I’ll be ready on my wedding day to protect his daughter forevermore,” Levi answered his twin brother.
“You’re engaged?” Becky stepped forward, an excited gleam in her eye. Having recently married Nicholas, she was still riding the high of true love. “That’s so sweet.”
“You’d think… but it’s not that sweet when you consider the complete disregard for Tiani’s choices in forcing her to marry me.”
“Why would she be forced to marry you?” Nicholas asked.
“Because she touched me.” Levi realized he’d need to explain things in better detail but was interrupted.
“Woah, you move fast. How much fun did you have in that tunnel?” Matt asked. As the youngest member of their archeological team of scientists, he was also the least educated, still working his way through graduate school. “I thought you were just talking.”
“We were just talking.” Sort of. “She placed her hands on my chest when she got mad at us about speaking too many languages at the same time.”
“That’s what she got upset about?” Timothy asked. “That we were speaking too many languages?” Timothy led the team as excavation director, and was supposedly in charge, although Levi felt like the one in charge since he was the only one who could translate for the tribal members.
“She’d be forced to marry you because she put her hand on your chest?” Becky asked.
“Weren’t we speaking enough Spanish?” Kaden asked. As site administrator, Kaden had fewer responsibilities than his title implied, although he interjected his opinions frequently, often saying what everyone needed to hear.
“Let Levi explain,” Nicholas said, nodding for Levi to continue.
“In Houston you guys probably speak Tex-Mex all the time without even thinking about it,” Levi said. “But here they only speak Spanish when trading at the outposts. That’s not their primary language and they can’t keep up when you throw English words in with the Spanish.”
“Yeah, we do speak Tex-Mex in Houston,” Timothy admitted.
Levi continued his explanation. “Plus, everyone’s talking to each other as if we’re all a bunch of PhDs, which most of us are. So even the Spanish is over their heads.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Nicholas said.
“Then after we talked and laughed for five minutes, I turned to her and translated that whole conversation with one dismissive sentence. That’s when she lost her temper.”
“Feisty little thing, ain’t she?” Matt raised his eyebrows playfully. “I like that in a girl.”
“That’s my future wife you’re talking about.” Levi didn’t crack a smile, although he mostly meant his statement to be lighthearted.
Matt’s countenance shifted. “Sorry, man. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Are you really being forced to marry her?” Nicholas asked, true concern in the crease of his brow.
“No, she is being forced to marry me. There’s a difference. But I’m delaying the inevitable by claiming I need to prove myself worthy. Tiani and I hope this will slow things down. We barely know each other. Plus, if she marries me, I want that to be her choice, not her father’s choice, or because of some tradition. I want her to marry me because she wants to marry me.”
“What about you?” Becky asked. “What if you don’t want to marry her?”
Multiple guys in the group laughed at Becky. Nicholas pursed his lips together, obviously trying to hide a smile. Levi stuck his hands in his pockets and shuffled his feet.
“Don’t you dare make some comment about her beauty or the fact that she’s a princess or the daughter of a tribal chief.” Becky put her hands on her hips.
“Relax, babe.” Nicholas wrapped his arms around his wife. “I think we were all laughing in recognition of the fact that Levi has his tongue out like a faithful Labrador whenever she so much as glances his way.”
“Yeah, Levi wanting to marry Tiani is about as obvious as Nicholas wanting to marry you,” Timothy said. “He’s whipped.”
“Anyway…” Levi felt his cheeks heat as they laughed at him again. “Don’t we have work to do? A temple pyramid to document?” He pushed past the team members and headed toward the majestic building, a tiny grin pulling at the corner of his mouth.