“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 helping Guatemalan refugees, 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?”