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Alys showed him how to clip the mesh straps to the grommets in the canvas, which he then accomplished in a few minutes. She followed behind him, releasing the ties and securing the edge of the mesh to the ground.

Beau circled around the tent, finding and opening the entry flaps to step inside. “Is this where you’ll have your meals?”

“The canopied table over there is our dining area,” she said, pointing at it. “We use this tent for our lab work.” She followed him in. “We’ll bring everything we process in here for cleaning, labeling, and cataloging.” She touched the inside of the mesh. “This keeps the area reasonably clean and isolated from the rest of the excavation, which prevents any accidental contamination of the finds. You’re very handy for someone who has never worked a dig. Are you a camper, or a hunter?”

“A bit of both.”

On impulse she asked, “Have you ever been to France?”

“I came to America from England when I was a boy,” he said smoothly. “I’ve not left the States since.”

“I see.” She felt disappointed, and then, strangely relieved. It couldn’t have been him anyway; he would have been only a boy. “You should visit it sometime. France, I mean. It’s a beautiful country.”

“So I’ve heard.” He went to hold back a flap for Chan and Paolo, who carried in one of the long folding worktables. “What do you expect to find out here?”

“Typically Florida sites yield unorganized burial sites, some pottery sherds, refuse pits, shell middens, stone tools.” She nodded toward the church. “Spanish priests, like the ones who founded this mission, introduced things like glass beads and forged metals.”

“Dr. Al gives a great seminar on coprolite analysis,” Chan told Beau. “She’s profiled the cultural features of a bunch of villages based solely on accretional deposits.”

Alys waited until the boys had left the tent before she said, “My interns are prone to exaggeration. I’ve only profiled two villages. You don’t know what coprolites are, do you?”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Something you dig out of the ground, I expect.”

“They’re preserved feces.” His expression made her smile. “Don’t look so disgusted. We learn a great deal by analyzing human waste and other preserved ecofacts. Latrine pits and garbage dumps help us identify what the inhabitants hunted, the crops they might have planted, the seasonality of their diet, even who in the surrounding region traded with them.”

“All that,” he said, “from digging through shit?”

“We are what we eat, Mr. York. In a few hundred years some scientist may examine what you left behind in order to know who you were.” Alys saw the odd look he gave her. “Do you wonder what his conclusions will be?”

“No.” A strange sadness flickered over his features. “I’ll take care not to leave anything behind.” With that, Beau strode out of the tent.

Chapter 5

Once the equipment had been sorted and the work areas prepared, Beau excused himself from sharing a meal with the team and busied himself by adding fuel to the generators and stowing unneeded packing materials and empty cases inside the church. When he emerged, he found Alys setting up a second, smaller tent to one side of the tower. “What is that used for?”

“Me.” She finished knotting a cord through the loop of a ground stake. “The interns will be staying at the hotel in the city, but I have to remain on-site for the duration. This is where I’ll be sleeping during the day.”

“Not outside, you won’t. It’s already been seen to.” When she stared up at him, he held out his hand. “Come with me.”

She pushed herself to her feet. “What’s been seen to?”

“Your comfort.” He drew back his hand, annoyed with her for avoiding his touch. He could understand such reticence if she had reason for it, but he had spent most of the night trying to anticipate and carry out her wishes, and treat her as Harlech had suggested, like a much younger sister.

“Dr. Stuart?” The buxom, dark-haired intern named Brenda joined them, and gave Beau a meltingly sweet smile before she spoke to Alys. “If you don’t have anything else for us to do, we thought we’d head back to the hotel now.”

Alys scanned the site before nodding to the girl. “That should do it for tonight. I’ll come and see you off.”

Beau followed the two females to the vans, where the rest of the interns had congregated.

“Hey, Beau, you need a ride back into town?” Charles asked.

“Thank you, but I’ve made my own arrangements.” He opened the van side door and helped Brenda up inside. “Do be careful on the drive back, then.”

She gave him a drowsy smile. “God, I love the way you talk.”

“Good night, everyone,” Alys added. “You did very well today. Just be sure to report back here tomorrow by sunset.”

Once the students had departed, Beau cupped Alys’s elbow and steered her toward the cloister. “I’ve no wish to interfere with how you do your work, but you are not sleeping in that tent.”

She looked down at his hand. “I didn’t think the matter was up for debate.”

“It shouldn’t be,” he chided her. “You know it is foolish to sleep outside in this weather. You’ll catch a fever.”

“Bacteria and viruses cause fevers, not weather. I also have a very strong immune system. I’m never sick.” She pulled her arm away and peered inside the open doorway. “I also have no way of knowing if these buildings are safe for occupancy.”

“They’ve survived this long without crumbling. Nothing will fall on your head, I promise you.” He led her inside and over to the short stairs leading down to the underground vault. He picked up and switched on a battery-powered lantern before he guided her down the steps and handed her the light. “Wait here.”

His Kyn eyes allowed him to move easily through the dark to each of the other lanterns he’d placed around the cellar. He heard a soft gasp as he turned on the last of them, and looked back to see Alys’s pretty mouth forming an O.

He glanced around at the furnishings he’d arranged, feeling pleased with himself. “So, then. Is it to your liking?”

“My liking?” She met his gaze. “Mr. York, this isn’t a cellar. It’s an apartment.” She moved past him, examining first the beds and then the desk before scanning the rest of the chamber. “There aren’t any windows. Of course there aren’t. We’re underground.”

“If it feels too cold for you, I have several space heaters to warm the air.” He pointed to the boxes he’d stacked neatly in one corner.

She went over to the adjoining lavatory and ducked her head inside before turning toward him. “My budget doesn’t allow for this kind of expense. How am I supposed to pay the rental fees for all this?”

“Hylord has covered the cost.” Beau doubted Tremayne would care if he had turned the mission into a restaurant and nightclub, as long as the emeralds were recovered and delivered to him. “We will be living out here for weeks. Proper shelter is a necessity.”

She turned around to face him. “We?” Her eyes went to the beds, and then to the cases he’d left by the window. “You mean me.”

“You cannot stay here alone, unguarded,” he advised her. “You are a woman, and this place is too isolated. If you needed help—”

She produced her mobile. “I’d do what everyone else in trouble does, and call 911.”

“Check it,” he told her. “You’ll find you have little to no reception.”

Alys glanced at the display before she shoved it back into her trouser pocket. “It doesn’t matter because nothing is going to happen to me. This is private property, surrounded by an electrified fence. My interns will be on-site every night. I’m sure I’m not this safe in my apartment back in Boston.”

“You are not in Boston,” he said patiently. “You are here, and Hylord wants you comfortable and protected. So during the days, I will be sleeping with you.”

Her mouth went tight. “I agreed to let you join my team, Mr. York, not climb into my bed.”

“That is why I installed two of them.” She refused to use his name, and it was beginning to grate on him. “Stop calling me Mr. York. I told you, my name is Beau.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Then why don’t you tell me the truth, Beau? You got two beds because you thought I was a man. Now that you know I’m not, what will happen? Are we going to push them together?”

The change in her scent tempted Beau to smile—Alys’s natural, faintly cinnamon scent practically sizzled and snapped in the air when she was angry—but he managed to keep his expression neutral. “I see no reason for that. You needn’t worry, Alys. You will be perfectly safe here, with me.”

She started to say something, paused, and then spun on her heel and went back up the steps.

Guessing she wouldn’t soon return, Beau closed himself in the lavatory, where he had concealed under the floorboards his cache of bagged blood. The cold ground would keep it from spoiling, but he disliked the thick, chilly taste of the stuff. Still, there was nothing to be done about that.

Aside from Alys and her team, there were no mortals in the area for miles. Even if he were to curtail his feeding and take only every few days the small amount he needed to live, he could not compel Alys, and the thought of making use of her young students turned his stomach.

Once Beau made his way outside, he saw Alys waving toward the two vans driving away from the mission. A glance around the site revealed they were alone, and dawn would arrive within minutes. “They are good workers, your students.”

“Wait until tomorrow night, when they begin whining about how sore and exhausted they are.” Alys turned and inspected him. “You don’t seem tired. You must be in marvelous shape, too. All that work you did today, and I never saw you once break a sweat.”

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