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His eyes shifted as he studied the map. “The source must be a spring beneath the pool. But what has this to do with finding evidence of the Templars?”

“I believe they hid something in the spring itself. Something they never wanted anyone to find. And whatever it was, it served as the foundation for the legend of the fountain of youth.” She closed the laptop and switched it off. “We have to search the bottom of the pond.”

“That will be difficult to do in the dark.” He regarded her. “You are serious? Alys, that pond is covered with ice.”

He was right, of course, but she wasn’t planning to stay in the pond long enough to develop hypothermia. “The surface never freezes solid. I’m a good swimmer, and I only need a few minutes.”

“A few minutes in water that cold will stop your heart.” He took the laptop and set it aside. “You are not going in the pond.”

“I don’t need your permission.” The conversation was turning adversarial, something she had hoped to avoid. “Think about it. It makes perfect sense that they would conceal the treasure underwater. Hardly anyone in their time could swim. They may have even created the pond just for that reason by digging it out and diverting the water to fill it. The feed from a spring would maintain the water level, and the silt on the pond’s bottom would conceal the entry point from view.”

He didn’t look convinced. “You would freeze to death to prove this. What if you are wrong, and the pond is nothing more than a pond?”

“It’s not,” she insisted. “If it were natural, the Indians would have used it, but we’ve found no signs of activity anywhere around the pond. And why didn’t the missionaries use it for their water supply, instead of digging that well we found beside the kitchen?”

He switched off the lanterns. “Natives have all manner of taboos. As for the missionaries, perhaps they didn’t care to walk half a mile carrying filled buckets.”

She sat up. “Beau, they were medieval Catholic priests. They enjoyed suffering so much they invented self-flagellation. Besides, they had to know the water in the pond was drinkable. The well would have taken days, maybe even weeks, to dig.” She frowned. “Unless they dug out the pond after the well, in which case they’d have to haul water from the nearest river.”

He came to stand over her. “You can theorize all you wish, Alys, but you can’t go into that pond. You’ll have to find another way to search it.”

“All right. We are in Florida, home to most of America’s finest marine biology programs. Maybe one of the local universities has some underwater cameras or robotic gear we can borrow.” She watched his shadow retreat to the other bed. “If you’re never cold, why do you wear your clothes to bed?”

“To preserve your modesty, madam.” As always he pushed aside the covers and lay flat on his back. “At home I don’t wear a stitch of anything when I sleep.”

“Oh.” She turned over onto her back. “Well. Thank you.”

“Good night, Alys.”

Alys opened her eyes to the sound of children laughing, and sat up to see two little mischievous faces peering over the foot of her bed. “How did you get down here?”

The thin, strawberry blond girl grinned, showing a gap where her front teeth should have been. “Grand-père sent us,” she said in her lisping French accent.

“He isn’t our grandpa,” her companion, a tiny brunette with a head full of curls, scolded with a distinctive American voice. Her dark eyes gleamed as she looked at Alys. “He’s our great-great-great-great-great-forever-and-ever-great-grandpa.”

“I’m sure he is,” Alys told them, climbing out of bed. “But you two can’t stay here. We’re not prepared to look after little girls.”

“We want to see the Indian village.” The French girl tugged at her hand.

“No, we want to go swimming,” the American insisted.

“Children. Please.” Alys took hold of their hands and marched them over to the steps. “You need to go home.” She hesitated. “Do you know how to get back home from here?”

“We do.” The French girl’s face grew solemn. “But we can’t go away, not yet. You are very close, ma demi-sœur. Soon you will find them, and it will be very bad for you.”

“Very, very bad,” the American intoned.

The blonde nodded toward Beau’s bed. “He is last, like you, Grand-père says, so he must not fail. You must not let him fail, Alys.”

“You know my name.”

“We know everything here.” The American girl beckoned for Alys to lean down and, when she did, whispered, “He has a secret. We can’t tell you what it is because that’s not fair, but it makes him sad and lonely. You could make him happy again.”

“How?” Alys whispered back.

The brunette’s cheeks dimpled. “You know how, silly.” She grabbed the French girl’s hand, and the two of them skipped up the stairs, vanishing from sight halfway to the top.

“Two ghosts?” Alys sighed and went back to her bed, pushing at the lump under her covers as she tried to get comfortable. The tangle of linens wouldn’t budge, so she draped one arm and leg over it and used one end as a pillow.

As awkward and bulky as its shape was, the mound felt very nice against her body. She burrowed against it, smiling as she felt it grow warmer. Just as she was falling back asleep, she felt a caress on her cheek.

The girls again. Alys kept her eyes shut. “I don’t believe in ghosts. Go away.”

The annoying, nonexistent spirits muttered something as one of them nuzzled the top of her head. The touch didn’t feel like it came from a little girl, however.

“I mean it, whoever you are,” she warned. “I’ll throw you on the floor.”

“You can try,” a deep voice said.

She opened one eye and saw the pattern of the coverlet fading and smoothing out into a golden brown bulge—but the one on her bed was purple. “Why aren’t you violet?”

“I’m not a flower.”

Alys lifted her head to see Beau’s face, and went very still. “What are you doing in my bed?”

“Let me show you something.” He reached out and switched on the lantern nearest to them, and pointed toward the other side of the room.

Alys looked over at her empty bed, the coverlet and sheets in a rumpled pile on the floor, and groaned as she let her head fall against Beau’s chest. “Not again.”

“I woke up when I heard you talking to the stairs,” he informed her. “Then you came over to my bed, flopped on top of me, and here we are.”

“I am so sorry.” No, if she was honest, she wasn’t. Being sprawled on top of him felt good—more than good—and his voice stroked her like a warm silk glove. It made her whole body want to rub itself all over him.

I want to have sex with him.

Alys had never felt such a purely physical impulse, but it didn’t frighten her. Neither did Beau. Although he was big and quite strong, he’d always been careful with her while they were working. He would probably be equally as gentle if they were naked. She wanted to be naked with him.

She looked up at him again. “Do you like me?”

He laughed. “Yes, Alys, I like you. I like you very much.” He sat up, holding her in his arms. “Any bumps or bruises this time?”

“No, I feel wonderful.” She should flutter her eyes at him, or rub her hand on some part of his body, but she wasn’t sure which would be more effective. She also didn’t want to appear clumsy, not when she wanted to be graceful and alluring for him.

Beau’s muscles tightened as he gathered her up in his arms.

He’s going to initiate this. Alys felt relieved; for her the first physical overture had always been the most awkward part of sex.

As Beau stepped off the bed and straightened, she glanced down. “What are you doing?” Could they have sex standing up? Considering the differences in their heights, it seemed unlikely. Unless he held her up in the air.

“I’m putting you back to bed.” He carried her over and gently put her down on the mattress before he retrieved and shook out her linens. “Was it another nightmare about the church?”

“No, we were here. The girls and I. There were two little girls.” As he draped her sheets and coverlet over her, Alys subsided against the pillows. “No one has ever carried me like that. It’s nice.”

“I can be a very nice man.” He said that oddly, and bent over to kiss her forehead. “Sleep, and try not to walk while you do.”

Sleeping was the last thing on her mind, but she pretended to as she listened to him return to his bed. That he hadn’t wanted to have sex with her made her stomach feel tight, but she acknowledged that she had misinterpreted his actions and come to an erroneous conclusion.

She wished she hadn’t. Beau behaved as if he liked her, and never appeared bored around her. She’d already admitted to herself that she found him very attractive. Hearing his voice made her feel safe, and being in his bed had aroused her. But he hadn’t responded to her subtle overtures, and took no initiative of his own.

A thought occurred to her. “Beau, are you still awake?”

He muttered something unintelligible in response.

“Are you married, or emotionally involved with someone?”

He made an odd sound, and then mumbled what sounded like a “No.”

With the way Brenda and all the female interns had been ogling him, that didn’t seem probable to Alys. “Why not?” Another possibility came to mind, and she sat up. “Are you gay? Is that it?”

The sound of a thud came from his direction. “No, Alys. I’m not married or involved, nor do I chase after other men. What I am is bloody exhausted. Now, good night.” He pulled the pillow over his head.

Chapter 8

“Usually we don’t have a problem with borrowing equipment from other colleges,” Charles said to Beau as he handed him a case of bottled water from the back of the van. “I thought we’d be able to get at least one research submersible on loan. But these other teams got there before us and grabbed everything, even scuba gear and wet suits.”

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