Authors: Teresa Reasor
He shook his head. “I’d not believe it was illness. Illness wouldn’t have just claimed the lives of the males of the clan.”
“I’m trying to play devil’s advocate and not get my hopes up. But it could have happened when the water covered the stones. But we can’t just assume that without evidence.”
“We need to move on to the other materials and see if there’s anything in them that will lead us back to this,” Quinn said. He rose to return the register he’d been working on. He grabbed two of the microfilm canisters from the cart.
“I’ll ask Mr. Morgan to make copies of these pages for us.”
Regan picked up the register she’d been working on and cradling it, moved toward the help desk at the front of the room. When she returned with the copies, Quinn was deep into reading at the machine. She paused to run a glove-covered hand down the back of his head to his neck. He looked up and she fought the urge to kiss him.
“Thank you for helping me with this,” she said.
“Where else would I be?” He grasped her hand.
His thumb moved over her wrist where the burn had been and was no more. He hadn’t been the only one healed that night. The area didn’t even hold the pinkish discoloration that usually accompanied such an injury. It looked as though it had never happened.
His brows drew together in a frown as his moss green gaze focused on her. “I nearly stepped through that door, Regan. I really wanted to do it. I had no free will. ‘Tis dangerous that. And powerful. And amazing. If I learn enough about the stones, maybe I can protect you and my brothers. And everyone else in this world. I’m as driven to do that as you are to succeed.”
As Braden had protected Coira. But had she done the same for him? “Do you know the locations of any cemeteries in the Loch Maree area?”
“Aye. A few. Why?”
“I thought perhaps we could find Braden’s grave. Assuming he died in the area. From the song, we know he was a warrior. And that they were separated for long periods while he was fighting. But we know from your visions he returned from the battles.”
“We can explore and check all the cemeteries in the area. But he may have remained at the hut and been buried there,” Quinn said.
“That’s what I would have done,” Regan said. “And that site was covered by a parking lot, darn it.”
Quinn smiled. “I don’t suppose you thought of inquiring about songs.”
“I did. Songs were passed down, but rarely written down, during the medieval period. I called the National Library, too. They said the same thing. They don’t have any reference to your song there. And they pretty much have every song written in Scotland since they’ve been publishing them, as well as some that were hand written.”
Regan limped back to the table and settled back into her seat with a stack of the copied material.
Two hours later Quinn returned and laid the Microfilm cartridges on the cart. “There’s speculation that the Hebrides may have been part of a trade route three hundred years before, but there’s no proof that the coin may have come from that area.”
Regan rubbed at the cramped muscle in her shoulder as she shifted in her seat. “I’m not having any more success with finding any reference to the monoliths, either. But I thought there might be some mention of an earthquake in the area. It had to have been some kind of seismic event that broke the earth away enough to flood the area and cover the stones. So, I looked for a reference to one during that time period. There’s one recorded for that day, but there was no other information. It just says that it occurred in England on that day, and it was bad. It doesn’t say anything about Scotland.” She rubbed her hand over her forehead and brushed back her hair. “If we knew what clan Coira originated from we might be able to trace her and Ross, or their family. There’s never been any clue where she came from other than her diction.”
“We need a break,” Quinn said rising from his seat. “Let’s go for a meal and we can come back tomorrow.”
“They’ll hold the rest of the materials we’ve reserved until tomorrow. What time is it?” Regan asked as she began gathering her things.
Quinn glanced at his watch. “’Tis nearly three. We’ve worked through lunch.”
She rose from her seat. “We have another appointment at five.”
He paused in gathering the materials and placing them on the cart. “What sort of appointment?”
Regan looked around the room. Researchers sat in scattered groups about the room.
He straightened and continued to study her for a moment.
She moved around the table to help him load the cart. “Please don’t yell when I tell you. Just think about it until we get outside, all right?”
Quinn’s gaze bore into her. “Who’s it with?”
They exited the national archives building. Quinn drew a deep breath to try and ease the building pressure of concern. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, he pulled her into the alcove between the stairs and the building. He struggled to keep his tone level and reasonable. “What do you hope to accomplish by doing this, Regan?” he asked. “It’s dangerous. It’s like waving your hands at a charging elephant in the hopes it will run you down.”
“It may be the only way we can find out what happened to Coira. And it may be the only way we can discover how to control the stones. Or use them to discover what happened to Coira and Braden.”
Quinn grasped her arms and gave her a small shake. “You can’t control a force of nature, Regan. You already know how seductive they are. They suck you in, physically—mentally.”
“But there may be a way to control that, or turn it off.” Her gaze dropped from his.
“You’re not a fool, and you don’t believe that any more than I do. We’ve both been through too much for that.”
She bit her lip as she tilted her head back to look up at him. “I can’t go back to the site unless I learn more about this, Quinn. Every time I touch them something might happen. And I can’t walk away any more than you can. Once you gain a reputation for abandoning a job, it follows you wherever you go. It could destroy my career. It could destroy your business.”
Damn her career. And damn his. This damn dig wasn’t worth putting either of their lives in jeopardy. A sound very much like a growl tore its way up from his chest. “Fuck!”
She continued, “We aren’t going to be able to find out what happened without this. We’re running out of time.”
“If the dates are right we have until November to find out.”
“I won’t be here, Quinn. My work visa is only until the end of August. I have school to finish. If Coira really is trying to prevent her death, we have to find out how we can help—
And we don’t know when Bryce died. What if there was some way we could help her save him?”
Jesus. He hadn’t even thought of that. Only of Regan. “We’re insane. The both of us.” He raked his fingers through his hair. He had experienced moments of fear during dives, but this idea scared the shite out of him. “This whole fucking thing is insane.”
“Quinn.” She moved close and rested her hands on his chest. “If it’s insane, we don’t have anything to lose. We may not find out anything. It may all just be—” She shrugged.
It wasn’t a shared delusion. The things they had both experienced were too powerful—too real. And what if they were so real Coira could reach through from one world and pull Regan right into another? As the stones had tried to do to him. “You could become so deep a part of Coira’s reality you might—lose yourself.”
“You’re going to be there with me. You’re not going to let that happen. As long as I can hear your voice I’ll be fine.”
“How do you know that will work?”
“I just do. You’re going to be my tether to the real world.”
“You’ve a grand trust in me, Regan.”
“Quinn Douglas.” A woman’s voice came from behind him and he stiffened. When things couldn’t get any worse they usually did.
Marissa’s fingers clasped and loosened around her glass. She hadn’t changed. Her honey blond hair still spiraled around her ear as she tucked it behind. Her movements still conveyed nervous energy. And her green eyes still focused on whomever she was speaking to with an intensity Quinn had misinterpreted once as sincere interest. She’d been insistent about their joining her for something to eat. Her pit bull perseverance hadn’t changed, either, and had he not been so surprised to see her, he’d have avoided it.
“So you’ve come to Edinburgh to do research at the National Archives,” Marissa said her gaze fastened on Regan.
“Yes,” Regan answered as she pushed bits of bread about her plate, her sandwich only partially eaten. “I wanted to find out more about my family, so I was researching them.”
“Did you find anything interesting?”
“Just a few names that might be connected.”
“Keep plugging. It never comes easy.” She shifted her attention to Quinn. “Does it?”
“We spent hours in the archives looking at maps, tracing the history of different vessels until we found the key to locating
. Then we discovered the site, surveyed it and recovered the artifacts.”
“How long did the recovery take?” Regan asked.
“About six months.”
Quinn forced himself to participate in the conversation. “Using saturation diving cut down on the time and the cost was offset by a grant.”
“Quinn wrote the grant and got the money. The recovered artifacts were, of course, turned over to Historic Scotland, and some of them are housed in the National Museum here in Edinburgh.”
“A lot of fuss over some ballast stones and cannon balls,” Quinn said with a shrug.
A frown flickered across Marissa’s features. “He’s downplaying the importance of it. The
was an East Indiaman built in the 1640s. She sank with a full cargo. We recovered very little of it, but we did manage to raise her cannon and other weapons. We recovered some of the personal belongings of the crew, too. Because of the work we did, the ship’s been listed as a protected site.”
“That’s a wonderful accomplishment, Quinn. Why didn’t you tell me about this?” Regan asked an edge of accusation in her tone.
He shrugged. “The dig was important enough to get the current job. That’s all it was worth to me.”
Marissa’s eyes widened. “How can you say that?”
He took a drink of his ale and set the glass aside. “Archaeology is your passion, not mine. I’m a diver and paid to recover articles other people think are important from places they can’t reach themselves. The science is your domain. I don’t know much about it and don’t claim to.”
“This is your heritage,” Marissa argued.
“Aye. And so are the Bruce and Loch Ness and Culloden and a million other things. But what counts is the people you care about in the present. Not what happened seven hundred years ago.”
Regan’s hand on his thigh jerked his attention to her face. She gave his leg a squeeze. His anger subsided, and he covered her hand with his.
“I’m going to the restroom. Our appointment is in half an hour.” Regan rose from her seat. Quinn focused on her retreating back as she zigzagged through the crowd to the back of the pub.
“I wouldn’t have thought she’d be your type, Quinn,” Marissa said. She leaned back and draped an elbow over the back of her chair. The pose thrust her breasts out in relief and showed her body off to its best advantage.
At one time, looking at her had caused his blood to rush, and he’d have reached for her. Now, aside from recognizing a beautiful figure, no response leaped through his system. Quinn remained silent.
“She’s an archaeologist, too.”
Quinn raised a brow, and amusement quirked his lips. “Aye, but her interests extend beyond that.” Regan was the polar opposite of this woman. Why hadn’t he seen that before?
Marissa leaned forward. “I cared about you Quinn. I wouldn’t have slept with you if I hadn’t.”
“Yes, you would have. I was a means to an end.” He shrugged. “And as for the sex, it wasn’t bad. But it isn’t really my style to maintain a fuck buddy for the duration of every job.”
Her features tightened at the insult, and her green eyes narrowed. “Then what are you doing with her?”
“I’m discovering my roots in ways you’d never understand. She isn’t using me to get anything.”
“Not that you’ve discovered so far.”
“Regan doesn’t have any hidden agendas, and she doesn’t play games. She’s up front with everything she wants.”
All the ways, physically and emotionally, Regan had left herself completely vulnerable to him came to mind. He had to believe what he was saying was true. “Aye. We don’t have any secrets.”
“Everyone has secrets, Quinn.”
“Some more than most. And some are users and some aren’t. I’ve learned to tell the difference since last we met.” Quinn spotted Regan making her way back from the bathroom and rising, reached for the ticket.
“Ready?” Regan asked as she arrived at the table.
Regan extended her hand to Marissa. “It was nice meeting you.”
“The same goes,” Marissa said shaking her hand briefly. “I’m interested in seeing how much progress you’ve made on the Loch Maree dig. I may have to take a trip up that way soon and see if I can lend a hand.”
Regan’s smile appeared subdued. Her tone remained neutral. “Dr. Fraser is always on the lookout for volunteers who know a little about archaeology. I’m sure he’d be pleased to take you on.”
Marissa blanched. Her eyes narrowed.
Quinn smothered a bark of laughter with a cough. “Excuse us.” He grasped Regan’s elbow and guided her to the front of the pub.
As he paid the bill, he studied Regan’s expression. Her gaze remained hooded by her dark lashes making it impossible for him to read her reaction.
“How long were you involved?” she asked as they strolled east toward their motel.
Quinn studied her profile. “I was in the SAT system for three of the six-month length of the dig. One month on, one month off. Of the six months, I slept with her for the three I was out of the system.”
Regan nodded. “When we first met, you thought I was like her.”