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“Despite the conflicts of the past few decades, the Middle East continues to be an incredible treasure trove of information for archaeologists. This having been said, thanks to the instability of the region, a lot of artifacts have disappeared, either destroyed or sold on the black market to private collectors--though some have found their way into museums through various means.”
Pacing the front of her lecture hall, talking as much with her hands as anything else, Alisa “AJ” McConaway, Ph.D., didn’t necessarily look the part of an archaeologist. Dressed in her plaid skirt and lightweight cardigan, her hair drawn up into a ponytail, the only hint to her profession was a healthy bronze to her skin and a medallion around her neck—pewter or iron in a knotwork motif—that looked like it might have been something she dug up from a Bronze or Iron Age dig site in northern Europe or the U.K.
It was a large lecture—larger than usual for this particular point in the year—filled with mostly undergraduates and a smattering of graduate students listening in. The graduate students, and a few of the upperclassmen that peppered the hall, knew the experienced fieldworker’s reputation. They knew that she was more than a library archaeologist, that she’d done her time in the sands of Iraq, in the Valley of the Kings, and dozens of other sites across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Of course, that was the job that everyone thought she had.
A door opened and closed at the back of the lecture hall. She ignored it, continuing to talk, pacing. It was probably someone slipping out early to catch a bus. She’d done that herself once or twice as an undergrad. “Even though most of the time treasure-hunters are our scourge as scientists, sometimes they manage to inadvertently help as they carry off priceless artifacts before they can be destroyed.” She stopped at the center of the platform at the front of the hall and smiled at her class. “But enough of my ranting. For next meeting, please read Brashler and Reed chapters one through five. We’ll be talking about the investigations of Petra and there may or may not be a quiz on the material. Any questions?”
A young man she didn’t recognized raised his hand, too young for the standard freshman. Either he’d never shown up for class before, or he was a guest of someone else, someone curious who’d wandered into her introduction to Middle Eastern Archaeology lecture.
But then why raise your hand?
“In the back,” she said, pointing to him.
“What style of questions on the maybe, maybe not quiz? Are we talking multiple choice or essay?”
“Short answer and multiple choice,” AJ answered, then let her gaze sweep the hall. “I can’t emphasize enough that you lot do the readings. I assign them for a reason and I do expect them to be done.”
Her gaze landed on the young man in the back, his expression thoughtful, as if he was about to ask another question.
Not going to play that game.
“I’ll be in my office for the next two hours if anyone has questions about...anything. Now get out of here and go out to the places you’ll be from.”
Most of her students wandered out, but a few headed in her direction.
The man in the back stayed, a charming, golden smile flashing every few moments, and AJ couldn’t help her slight frown.
I know that smile. I’ve seen that smile. Damn. Where? A dream?
She rubbed at her temple. It wasn’t often that she couldn’t place things and it always made her nervous when it happened. It meant she’d seen something she couldn’t remember and that usually didn’t end well for her--or anyone else.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Wes settled back in his seat, watching the professor deal with last minute questions from students. She glanced up at him from time to time, and he tried to smile a charming, reassuring smile but it didn’t seem to be helping.
When the students cleared out, she packed up her notes and grabbed her travel mug, then headed toward the doors, stopping a couple rows away from his seat.
“You’re not one of my students.”
“No. And I wouldn’t have been. Completely different major. And I went to Columbia.”
“It’s a good school.”
“I’m given to understand that that’s true.”
It wasn’t the response she expected. She arched a brow quizzically.
Wes shrugged and gave a crooked grin. “I’m not really here to talk about school.”
“I didn’t think so,” she said, crossing her arms. “I had a dream about you.”
He thought of Carmen, always dreamwalking, and hoped that she had something to do with it. If she didn’t, he would have to commit himself to the notion that they were all gifted. But he kept his thoughts buried deep and aimed a roguish smile at her. “A nice one, I hope.”
Maybe the charm offensive was working. She said, “Cute. Come on. My office.”
Wes pushed himself up, though he said, “I really just need to find Brigid.”
“I can arrange a meeting if that’s what you want,” she said, and then she added, “Hell, I can call her and she’ll probably make it down here in fifteen minutes, half an hour.”
“Or you could just point me in her direction.”
She smiled crookedly. “On-duty or off-duty?”
Wes tilted his head. He didn’t want to tell this woman more than he had to, or give her too much time to study him. Maybe it was paranoia, but if he could reduce the number of hoops he had to jump through... “She told me that you could tell me where to find her.”
"She was right. I can." She took pity on him, and glanced at her watch. "She'll be at Miller's Pub in the South Loop in half an hour. Though it's an open question whether my brother will be with her or not."
That could work out for me. He made a show of careful consideration. “Well, he was the less bossy one.” She gave a sudden, genuine laugh, and he couldn’t help but crack a smile again. “What, is that abnormal?"
“Mm. Alright. I’ll take my chances. Pub it is.” He paused, tilting his head. “You gonna warn them?”
“If you don’t, I can still decide to bail at the last minute,” he pointed out, and put just a little wheedling in his tone for good measure. “Which would be nice for me. If I decide to do that.”
She shrugged. "I'm pretty sure I've got nervous undergrads waiting and my phone's practically dead. You'll get there before I talk to either of them anyway. If you choose to make it there.”
“Nice.” Wes grinned. “Thanks. I’ll try not to crash your class and ask stupid questions again.”
"It wasn't a stupid question to ask." She smiled, and her expression softened. "Thank you for what you did."
He shifted uncomfortably. “It was a monster. Monsters need killing. I like killin’ ‘em. It wasn’t far out of my way.”
She just nodded.
He smiled again, and she met it with one of her own. “Take care,” he said, turning to head for the door.
Here’s hoping it’s this easy with the other one, he thought and stepped out into the hallway.
Go here for Chapter 14.