Authors: Teresa Reasor
“How do you know?” Henry asked.
Because Quinn Douglas had taken an immediate dislike to her the moment she came out of the water. Or had he? “Just trust that I know.”
Henry focused on something behind her. “Well here comes more trouble.”
She looked over her shoulder at the dive team to find Quinn headed their way. The deliberate way he placed his feet and the graceful athletic shift of his body as he strutted toward her captured Regan’s attention. How long had he been doing saturation dives? Not long enough yet for the pressure to cause him joint problems.
“Are you four about finished here?” he asked, when he reached them.
“Yes,” Stephen answered for the group.
“Good, you can turn the goose back in down by the dock and go with me to
. I need a few volunteers who know their way about boats.”
“You just found them,” Rick said, his West Texas drawl as distinctive as Quinn’s Scottish brogue. His dark hair fell over his forehead as he peeled the waders down his long legs like a banana skin and stepped out of them.
“What did you find out about the pump motors?” Henry asked as the group continued down the path.
“Lightning hit them and cracked two housings and even blew one of the fan blades off.” Quinn shook his head. “Crazy stuff this. We’re running
on a skeleton crew. Four of my divers are in Edinburgh and the other six are going into the water. I need more hands on board to monitor communications and video and help with the insertion and recovery.”
“We’re your crew then,” Regan said drawing his attention momentarily and earning a glare from Henry that as good as said
this is how you fly under the radar?
“Here, Quinn.” Logan handed him the wrist compass. “You might as well have this since it isn’t working properly.”
Seeing Quinn study the mechanism and giving it a shake, Regan debated whether or not to speak up. She announced, “There was something wrong with my compass yesterday. I checked it this morning and it’s still unable to give a reading.”
Quinn frowned. “Do you remember when it began to swing back and forth?”
“Just a few minutes before I reached the cofferdam. That’s why I couldn’t find it in the silt. I was looking for something to attach my emergency line to when I found the stones.”
“And got into trouble.”
She bit the inside of her lip to keep from snapping at him. Counting to ten she held her temper. Every time he poked at the sore spot, she wanted to argue with him. She started to turn away and felt his hand on her shoulder.
“You can handle the skiff can’t you?”
At her brief nod he said, “The men will be submersing from
instead of the skiff. I trust you’ll get your friends there safely with the gear while I follow with the others.”
“I can do that.”
In the ROV control room, Regan fastened her attention on the monitors overhead while Quinn typed a command into the keyboard and moved the joystick that controlled the ROV he called Noggie. The remote control vehicle skimmed just beneath the water at about three knots, filming the condition of the cofferdam.
After nearly half an hour of silence watching one long blue panel after another go by on the screen Regan could stand it no longer. “Why do you call him that?”
“It’s short for Crannog which means lake dweller.”
Her lips quirked. Maybe these Scotsmen had more of a sense of humor than she thought. “Well—that’s certainly appropriate.”
Quinn’s grin deepened the creases in his cheeks and projected a charm that set off nervous jitters in her stomach. Was she attracted to him because of the vision she had experienced, or because she was truly attracted to him? She shook her head at the thought. If Quinn knew what she was thinking, he’d probably be just as eager to drive her to the nearest psychiatric hospital, as he was the airport.
Anxiety lanced through her. Had it really been narcosis, or something worse? As fear started a numbing climb up her chest, she dragged her mind back to the present.
have some meaning, too?”
“Aye. He was a God of mineral springs. There’s a small shrine to him close to Edinburgh. I think he was supposed to be a God of healing and harvest, as well.”
A voice came over the speakers mounted just above the row of camera monitors on the wall. “This is team three. We’ve finished our sweep. Everything looks good.” The diver’s vocal pitch sounded higher than normal due to the Nitrox gas they were breathing. She had finally gotten used to the sound and was able to decipher the words.
She pushed down the button on the mic and said, “Roger team three, come on home.”
“We’re testing some new communication devices for a Russian company,” Quinn said. “Andrew Argus, Nicodemus’s assistant, arranged for them to be released to us ahead of schedule just for this job. The sound quality is very good.”
“Yes, it is.” Her gaze homed in on something picked up by one of the cameras. “Wait a minute Quinn, can you back Noggie up? What is that?” As the silt cleared from the camera lens, a wrench took shape, stuck to the side of a panel. Surprised by the object her brows rose. “How do you suppose that got there?”
Quinn shook his head. “I’m wondering how it’s hanging there since there’s no screws for it to be hooked to.”
He maneuvered the ROV into a straightforward position and manipulated the robot’s arm to grasp the tool. The claw-like device shoved it across the panel until it hit a seam and it became stationary enough to grasp. The metal fingers plucked it from the cofferdam.
How long had he practiced with the manipulator to get that good at it? She’d like to try it but more than likely he’d never let her. “It has to be magnetized for it to stay in position like that.”
Quinn glanced at her briefly. “There would have to be a strong electric current traveling through it to magnetize it. I don’t think the lightning from last night would do it. It would have to be a continuous flow of current.”
Regan frowned. “I’ve seen screwdrivers with magnetic tips but not wrenches. So it would have to be magnetized by coming in close proximity to a powerful magnet. But there aren’t any magnets around here.”
Quinn shook his head, his expression grave. He turned the ROV to continue its sweep and raised his gaze to the monitor above him. “The lightning, the pumps, the generators, and now a magnetic wrench. Nothing about this makes any sense. I don’t like it, not one sodding bit.”
After another thirty minutes, the first and second team made contact. They had completed their sweep.
“Go topside and tell the men I’ll be bringing Noggie home. He’ll have to be captured and brought aboard,” Quinn said.
Regan nodded, rose to her feet, and slipped from the room. Quinn appeared topside with a portable control unit just as the ROV popped up on the starboard side of the vessel. Henry and Rick hurried to swing the arm of the docking unit out and lower it into the water. Quinn maneuvered the vehicle within the wire cage, and with a high, screeching whine the crane folded and brought the unit aboard.
Stephen grasped the wrench the unit held in its claw. Tugging it free he turned the tool in his hand. “Has Noggie been doing repairs of some sort?”
“It was hanging on the side of the dam,” Regan said. “Quinn had Noggie recover it. See if it’s still magnetized.”
He touched the wrench to the frame of the cage and it stuck.
Regan smiled. She’d been right. The thing was magnetized.
Stephen’s brows rose. “I’ll be damned.
Quinn handed the ROV’s control unit to Regan and tugged the wrench loose from the cage, then rubbed his thumb over the metal. “It’s clear of algae, so it couldn’t have been in the water long.” His brows knitted in a frown. “Put it on the work table away from any of the electronics just in case. I’m going to check over the ROV while the rest of you keep an eye out for the divers. Regan, go below and keep tabs on communications.”
As she reached the door of the control room, she heard a high-pitched voice coming from the speakers. “Team two to
Regan ran to the mic. “
here, team two.”
“We’ve found something at the base of the cofferdam.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a skull. A human skull.”
Quinn bit back the expletive as he dragged his attention away from Regan’s quick, liquid movements as she paced. The narrow control room seemed to have grown smaller since she’d returned from a quick topside trip to notify the other students about the discovery.
As she strode back and forth, her eyes never left the monitor where the video images were projected.
“It doesna good to fash yourself about it, lass. They’ll be back topside soon enough with the thing, then you can all see it,” he said. He adjusted the angle of the SUV camera a little farther to the right. The picture grew fuzzy with snow and he leaned forward to punch keys on the control panel to clear the image. The image came in and out of focus. Now what?
Regan paused by his shoulder. “You don’t realize how much time it takes to document something like this. A grid must be established and soil samples taken. Then each layer of mud will be removed spoon by spoon until the skull is exposed. It will be very fragile and will need to be packed in a Styrofoam container and kept covered with water until it can be preserved. If it is several hundred years old, I’m surprised it survived the trauma of being dug up.”
“Or it could be some poor sot who fell into the loch while fishing whose body was never recovered.” Quinn resisted the urge to smack the monitor when the snow in the image grew and all they could see were shadows.
“Not likely, but that’s why the coroner has been notified.”
She seemed so serious, so focused, the urge to tease her was too great to resist. “Seems a big fuss to me.” He grinned as he caught her narrow eyed look. His smile widened as she sat down in the chair beside him.
He adjusted the resolution on the screen and the image cleared a little. “What made you want to be an archaeologist?”
“I’ve always been fascinated with the past and the paths we’ve taken to get where we are today. War, religion, pestilence, and disease have all played a part in our society’s structure. I find it amazing that we’ve actually survived it all. It gives me hope that we may be able to continue doing so. But mostly, I want to learn about
we are. What made us so resilient in the face of such adversity?”
Quinn’s lips quirked in amusement. “I can tell you that from my own family’s experiences.”
Regan’s dark brows rose in inquiry.
“Pure, stubborn, pigheadedness.”
Regan laughed. “I can see that in you. It’s written in your features, your cheekbones, your jaw, and the way you get that V of concentration between your brows. I can almost picture you with a claymore in your hand.”
The way she looked at him, studied his face with such intent interest, had a response running straight to his groin. For a moment he had a vision of her naked, her skin like warm, creamy satin against his. Just as it had been in his dreams. He drew a deep breath and dragged his attention back to their conversation.
“When you live in a place that your family has known for hundreds of years, lass—When you hear the stories passed down from your parents and your grandparents, you know what kind of stock you come from.”
“I envy you that, because it’s something I’ll never have.”
“America is not so young that your kin dinna have stories. What about the Boston tea party and your past troubles with Indian tribes on the way west?”
“My parents and their parents are English. They have stories about where they come from. But I don’t. I was adopted.”
A quick twinge of sympathy brought his gaze to her face. There was something comforting in knowing who his ancestors were. They tied him to the past and remained a part of his future through what he had inherited from them. It had to be difficult not knowing from whom or where she came. “So you look for who the rest of us are, so you’ll know who you are as well.”
Regan was silent a moment, her black brows drawn together in a frown. “I’d never thought about it in quite that way, but I suppose so.”
Her attention shifted to the porthole where Mt. Slioch was visible. It was the stillest he had ever seen her. He read an interest in the mountain as she focused on it.
“I love this place. I would never grow tired of looking at the mountain or the loch.” Her gaze swung back to his face. “I feel at home here.”
Quinn studied the plains of her high cheekbones and the wing-like tilt of her brow. He clenched his hand to keep from touching her. “Then maybe you are, lass.”
He forced his attention back to Noggie and drew the mic toward him. “Rob, check the ROV camera, we’re getting nothin’ but snow in here.” Lord, he wished.
The high-pitched sound of a fiddle and the smell of grilling meat greeted Regan as she pushed open the pub door. She stepped into the dim interior and paused at the entrance to allow her eyes to adjust. Hannah MacKay, the only Scottish Archaeology student on the team, stood and motioned to her. Her round glasses reflected the dull gleam of the candle flames dancing in glass chimneys on each table.
Regan wove her way through the crowd. Rick drew in his long legs so she wouldn’t have to step over them to get to the chair at his right.
Stephen Berthold rose and pulled out her seat. “Where are the others?”
“They’ll be along in about five minutes. Sheary and Helen were still primping when I left. Henry was waiting to drive them up.”
He nodded and took his seat.
She looked around the pub packed with locals. Catching Hannah’s eye, she leaned forward to speak with her. “I’m not a drinker, Hannah, what should I order?”
“You could order a ginger beer. ‘Twill look as though you’re drinkin’ though you’re not.”
Regan shot her a grateful smile.
“What’s the word on the skull?” Hannah asked.