Authors: Teresa Reasor
“Thank you for coming for me.”
“It wouldn’t have been necessary had you surfaced when you became lost from your dive partner.” The brusque impatience of his tone, laced with anger, thickened his brogue.
“I couldn’t find Henry. I looked for him for five minutes, then thought perhaps he might go to the stones and wait for me there. I didn’t want to surface without him.”
“You risked your life for a brief visit to a forty ton stone. You could’ve drowned. You would have, had your partner not surfaced and reported you missing.”
“I don’t dive for sport. I dive because it’s part of my job. I didn’t risk my life to see the stones.” That wasn’t completely true but she continued. “I was looking for my dive partner.”
“When you didn’t find him, why did you not surface then?”
Regan hesitated. “I couldn’t.”
What was she to say? How could she explain what had occurred without sounding crazy? She looked down at her palm and remembered the sensation of being glued to the stone, becoming part of it, feeling it come up and over her, making it hard to breathe. She shuddered. She eyed the reddened skin of her hand for any sign of injury, but there was none. All she had done was touch it.
“I don’t know. I intended to release an emergency line and follow it up, then— I don’t know what happened.”
“You were unconscious, or nearly so when I found you. ‘Tis why they call it the rapture of the deep. You grow so drunk from the nitrogen in your system you lose control of your faculties and think yourself safe and happy.”
Was that what had happened? The woozy feeling and the narrowing of her vision that went along with nitrogen psychosis hadn’t occurred. Even if it had, it wouldn’t explain everything that had happened.
Regan studied Quinn’s features once again. It was him, the man in her vision, dream, whatever it had been. How could someone she had never seen, or met, step into her dreams? How could it all have been so real? She had felt the breeze upon her skin, had smelled the peat smoke in the air. She had felt him come inside her. Tingles rushed over her skin. She retrieved the water bottle and focused her attention on it. If she tried to explain, they’d think her crazy. Fear tightened around her chest making it difficult to draw a full breath. It was just a dream. Just a dream.
“You’ll be staying aboard tonight. Should you have pain in your joints or limbs, we have the chamber aboard.”
Taking exception to his bossy tone, she looked up. How did he fit into the hierarchy of the dig? How much authority did he have?
“Should you be thinkin’ about arguing with me, forget it. Any dive to the stones falls within my control. You should have notified me of your plan before you ever got wet.”
Regan drew a deep breath. She held onto her temper by an eyelash. “No one told us that.”
“Ignorance is not an excuse. The Scottish government is only tolerating this expedition because of the possible economic benefits to the area.”
If she reached out and touched him would she experience the same emotional and physical desires she had experienced in her vision? Would he? The power of those emotions swept over her again. Despite the exhaustion that left her limbs feeling like cooked spaghetti, an ache of need nestled between her legs. Her gaze rose to meet his.
He propped a water darkened deck shoe upon the bench and braced an elbow on his knee as he leaned close, his body language intimidating. The action jerked her back from the emotional haze.
“Should we lose a diver, Historic Scotland might pull our permits. And I don’t think Mr. Nicodemus would be happy about that, do you?”
“No he wouldn’t.” Her face felt stiff with her efforts to control her expression. She tried not to buy into his efforts to frighten her, though he was doing a good job. Anxiety tightened like a band around her chest, and her breathing grew choppy.
Damp strands of dark hair had begun to dry and curl around his ears. His eyes were dark Kelly green just as she knew they would be. His body had trembled with anger and fear for her. She had felt it. But he wasn’t the same man, he couldn’t be. But he looked so much like him, it was impossible to separate the two. But the other one was a dream, he wasn’t real.
Regan controlled the impulse to tear at her hair in frustration. She had to get these thoughts out of her head; otherwise, they were going to cost her everything for which she’d worked.
Quinn straightened and lowered his foot. He studied her for another moment, his bold masculine features harsh with a frown. “When you feel up to it, Rob can take you to a cabin and show you where the head is. You’d probably fancy a shower and a nap before dinner.”
She wouldn’t let him see how frightened she was. It took every bit of her self-control to appear unaffected by his diatribe. Her hands trembled as she unscrewed the cap of the water bottle and took another long drink. Fastening the lid back on, she banked the empty container into the garbage can next to the refrigerator. She rose, her legs rubbery with exhaustion. “I’m ready for that shower now.”
Rob grinned at her and gave her a wink. “Come this way, lass.”
Quinn eyed the doorway they had passed through. The walls of the galley closed in on him as his thoughts circled tighter and tighter. In a rush, he left the galley and climbed the stairs to the deck. Lightning streaked toward the monoliths like a bomb, striking one and sending up a shower of sparks. Thunder followed nearly on top of it and the air trembled. Fucking stones. Sodding rocks. Perhaps the lightning would beat the bastards to dust and end this whole thing. With an effort, he quelled the unreasoning anger that urged him to strike out at the blocks. He drew several deep, steadying breaths to calm his heart’s racing.
Who the fuck was Regan? Where had she come from? He clenched his fists to still his shaking hands, then shoved them into his pockets. And how had she invaded his dreams?
The water looked pitch black beneath cloud-smothered skies as he guided the small boat to the dock. The choppy movement of the loch made it difficult, but after two tries he managed to tie the vessel to the dock and get out.
Rain drummed hard atop his head. He raised the umbrella he had borrowed and followed the gravel path. Pausing at the crest of the hill, he turned to view the site. Without the cover of the cofferdam to act as a buffer, the wind whipped around, attempting to wrench the umbrella from his grip. He jerked the flimsy thing forward, tilting it into the wind as he swung his attention below.
The monoliths stretched majestically upward out of the ink-black water pooled around them. Flood lights, placed at equal intervals, cast elongated shadows that sank into the marshy depths. Transfixed by the sight, the sound and feel of the rain faded away. He focused on the dark hulking shapes strung together like a giant’s building blocks. They were everything he thought they’d be, and then some.
Lightning singed the sky like a molten vein of gold and arrowed down to the stones below. Temporarily blinded by the strobe-like effect, he threw up a defensive hand. The thunder caught him unaware. Startled, he yelped as it crashed around him, vibrating through the bottoms of his feet.
Goose bumps erupted on his forearms, and he flung aside the umbrella. Tilting his head back, he screamed into the cloud-darkened sky in a show of defiance. Lightning would not frighten him away. Never. Once again, he was standing in the stones’ presence, absorbing their power, like static electricity racing over his skin.
A bluish-white bolt slashed downward, hitting a twenty ton lintel balanced between two posts, sending up a shower of sparks. He jerked, covered his ears against the thunder’s onslaught, and looked about for some cover.
The boxy shape of a structure stood fifty feet away. He ran through the rain, his feet slipping on the grassy bank, his breath coming in jerky spurts. He leapt inside the wooden storage shed. The heavens opened with a display of angry power as bolt after bolt lashed and whipped at the stones, again and again. The thunder rumbled like deep, terrible music.
As suddenly as it began, it ended. For a moment, he remained crouched against the door of the shed. Silence stretched first one beat, then another. The frantic drumming of his heart eased, though excitement still thrummed through every nerve ending.
The floodlights out, darkness wrapped around him. The smell of damp earth and burnt ozone mingled with the scent of machine oil. He stepped out into the misty drizzle that continued to fall and tilted his face upward. He laughed as pleasure jetted through him.
The stones drawing lightning in such a way must surely be a reflection of their power. The archaeologist would theorize why it happened, and how it was possible. Driven as scientists to analyze rather than believe, they would think with their heads instead of their hearts. And they would never understand. He didn’t want them to.
An unusual glow from below captured his attention. Curious, he moved down the hill toward the monoliths. Rain ran down his face and wet his clothes, plastering them to his body. A flickering light drew him forward. He sucked in his breath. His heartbeat leapt. His arms itched as the wet hair on them tried to rise. Excitement danced inside him as sharply as the static electricity that leaped between two of the pillars. And there was something else—
Twenty feet from the stones he stopped. For just a second an image took shape from between the stones. A shadowed field sloped upward and behind it the loch gleamed in the moonlight. And a woman stood between the pillars, slender, small, with dark hair that hung down her back in a braid. She turned presenting her profile, and for a moment he recognized her. It was Regan—yet it wasn’t. The scene vanished. The heavy weight of the cofferdam behind the stones stood sentinel.
He shivered? What had just happened? What had he seen? Had he become so obsessed by her- by the stones- he was seeing things? Or had it truly happened?
Of course it had. He wasn’t crazy. Did this have something to do with the power of the stones? It had to.
Impatience tightened the muscles at the back of his neck as he viewed the asymmetric shape of the circle. The recovery would be moved forward. A suggestion to the right person would ensure that it did. He would make the monolith’s restoration and repair their first priority, instead of the recovery of artifacts hidden beneath the mud. They would want to spend hours, weeks, and months digging in the muck. And they could, but only after the stones were in place. Once they were aligned, he would discover how to use them.
And he would make all that they were, or could be, his.
Regan curled beneath the heavy wool blanket, fascinated by the lightning’s furious flicker as it played across the walls of her cabin. The ship’s metal bulkheads seemed to hum each time the thunder hit. What would happen if the boat received a direct hit? Could electricity travel through the metal floors to the bunk she lay on?
The sudden cessation of both light and sound was almost as unnerving as the storm. She lay still, listening to the steady drip of water outside and feeling the slow pitch of the ship. Her stomach growled. She glanced at her dive watch. Everyone else would probably be awake and stirring. She might as well get up.
She groaned as she wiggled free of the blankets and rose. Her muscles, stiff and sore from the exertion the day before, protested every movement. Gingerly, she shed the man’s t-shirt that hung to mid thigh and donned the long underwear she wore under her dry suit.
She finger-combed her hair as she wandered through the dim corridors, lit by wide-spaced safety lights. Just outside the galley her bare foot hit a damp spot, and she frowned. Someone had been up on deck and forgotten to wipe their feet. The stale smell of fried fish lingered on the air as she entered the galley. Surprised not to find someone already there, she chose a bottled soft drink from the small refrigerator and wandered into the kitchen area.
She scanned the shelves of the industrial-sized refrigerator for something to ease her hunger. Cold fish and chips did not look appealing, and everything else had to be cooked. A bright red apple shone in a basket on the counter. She grabbed the fruit at the same time she nudged the fridge door closed.
She sauntered out onto the deck. The loch appeared calm. The gentle rock of the boat was barely discernible. For a moment she paused to study the rugged beauty of Mount Slioch as it thrust into a sky so clear a blue it almost hurt to look at it.
After the storms the night before and this morning, Regan renewed her opinion that Scotland was indeed a country of extremes. Thus far she had seen rolling hills, boggy marshes, thick clumps of forest, and craggy mountains like the one that stood before her. The glaciers that had dragged, cut, and carved their way across the area had left behind a terrain that was both harsh and so beautiful it brought an ache to her throat.
She wondered at her reaction. Since she had arrived, there had been times she felt as though she were grieving a long absence. Perhaps her emotional attachment to this place had fed the fantasy of the day before.
Niggling worry settled in the pit of her stomach, making her feel queasy. Perhaps the stress of working on her Archaeology degree, doing research, and holding down a job had exhausted her to the point her mind was wandering. She pressed the heel of her hand against the bridge of her nose. She couldn’t afford to blow things now. She was too close to her goal. She couldn’t let her parents down. She needed to relax and just absorb the experience here and learn all she could.
As she lowered her hand, a movement to her right caught her attention, and she focused on the dark blue cofferdam only a few hundred feet off the starboard side of the ship. She shivered and folded her arms against the early morning chill as she watched a man walk along the top of the structure. He paused halfway across and bent to dig in the sand that filled the inner core. He withdrew something from the surface and held it up to study.