Read Excavated Online

Authors: Noelle Adams

Tags: #Romance

Excavated

 

Excavated

 

Noelle
Adams

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or
dead, is coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2014 by
Noelle Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce,
distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.

 

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and
trademark owners of the following wordmarks referenced in this work of fiction:
Manolo Blahnik, Indiana Jones, Skype, and Google.

 

One

 

Lucy’s second fiancé
was being an ass.

She’d
been married once and engaged three times over the last ten years. Maybe she
should expect at least one of her former relationships to be an ass at any
given time, but her interactions with her exes were usually civil.

Only
recently had Mark become obnoxious. Now that her web series had become so
popular and lucrative, Mark was threatening to sue her, claiming Arthur, her
Bichon Frise, belonged to him as much as her. They’d been engaged five years
ago when she’d bought the dog, and now Arthur was an essential cast member on
Girl
Meets Ghost
.

Mark
was a lawyer. Lucy would think twice about dating a lawyer again.

“You
should be fine,” Dana said, checking the spiral-bound notebook she always
carried. “I looked at your files when Mark started hemming and hawing about all
this, and Arthur’s papers are in your name, not his. I checked your bank
records this morning, and there’s a record of your payment to the breeder. I
think he’s just blowing hot air. He doesn’t have a case.”

Dana
was a freckled redhead in her early twenties whose drawling Southern accent
belied her efficiency. Lucy had hired her as an assistant two years ago, when
the paperwork and research for
Girl Meets Ghost
became simply too much
for her to keep up with. Now, Lucy couldn’t function without her.

“I
hope not. I’m not giving up Arthur, and I don’t want to throw money at Mark
just for being an ass.” A biting wind whipped Lucy’s hair into her face as she
leaned down to peer into Arthur’s carrier at her feet. A rustic ferry between
two of the Orkney Islands was hardly an ideal location for a legal discussion,
but she and her small staff had learned to work wherever they happened to be.

Arthur
gave her a pitiful look through the mesh window, as if to say he didn’t
appreciate being hauled along on this particular expedition. The dog had never
liked boats.

Girl
Meets Ghost
, Lucy’s web series, featured a new
mysterious location from around the world every month, investigating stories of
hauntings or other supernatural phenomena. She, Dana, and her camera man,
Sawyer, were constantly traveling, often to remote places.

An
uninhabited island in Scotland’s Orkney Islands was their current destination.

“Just
say the word,” Sawyer said, looking up from the comic book he was reading,
impervious to the wind and waves buffeting the small ferry, “and I’ll go beat
him up for you.”

Lucy
and Dana both snickered. Sawyer was a twenty-four-year-old beanpole and hadn’t
worked out a day in his life.

“I’ll
hire
someone to beat him up,” Sawyer amended.

“I
appreciate the sentiment, but I’m sure we can handle this without resorting to
physical violence.” Lucy turned to Dana. “I assume Russell or someone else at
the firm is taking care of it?”

Dana
affirmed that Lucy’s lawyer was indeed on the case and that she needn’t worry.

Ever
since
Girl Meets Ghost
had become a runaway hit, Lucy had been
surrounded on every side with people looking for a piece of the action. She
never would have dreamed of being in a position to deal with such things when
she’d started a blog as a class project in an introductory anthropology course in
college twelve years ago.

She’d
taken the course to meet a general education requirement, and the major project
was to blog for the semester about something related to anthropology. Lucy had
chosen the caves near her school in Tennessee that were supposed to have
significance to a Native America tribe in the area. As her blog picked up a
surprisingly large audience, she started to include video segments with her
written posts and photographs, and she’d enjoyed it so much she’d kept it up
throughout college and then after she graduated.

The
first several years had been a very low budget affair, but her popularity kept
growing until she was something of an internet phenomenon. Four years ago,
she’d been able to quit her job at a marketing firm and work on
Girl Meets
Ghost
full time.

Which
was how Lucy ended up on an Orkney Island ferry on a cool, sunny day in July,
making her way to another mysterious site.

The
legal update concluded, Dana moved on to other items from the list in her
notebook. “Now, for this trip, I assume you want Neal Sanders and Maxine
Reynolds on call for possible interviews. They’re the leading authorities in
Neolithic hauntings, aren't they?”

“Yeah,”
Lucy agreed. “Definitely Neal. Maxine is a nut, but people love her, so I guess
we should use her too. And see if you can touch base with Michael McPherson. I
worked with him when I did the episode on Brodgar a couple years back. He knows
all about Orkney legends. He lives on Mainland, so he could even zip over here
for an interview, if we can convince him to show his face on camera.”

Dana
was busily taking notes, but she nodded to indicate she was up to date.

“You
arranged for the lead archaeologist to make time for us, didn’t you? I don’t
want to be fobbed off on a grad student like on Easter Island.”

“Absolutely.
It’s all arranged with the lead guy,” Dana said, flipping pages in her
notebook, “I guess he’s a big hotshot in his field. His name is—“

Lucy
gestured for Dana to silence when the ferry pilot called something out from his
perch behind the steering wheel. Despite careful attention on their part, they
couldn’t understand the individual words, so heavy was his accent. Lucy figured,
however, that he was alerting them to the nearness of their destination when
she saw they were heading into an inlet of the approaching island.

They’d
had to charter the ferry, since there was no airfield on the island and no
regular ferry service. Erland, the island they now approached, was uninhabited
except for two months in the summer when the archeologists worked the dig.

Erland
had an area of just under two square miles. Lucy could see as they approached
that there were no trees at all, as she’d learned was typical of the islands
the last time she’d been to the Orkneys to film at the Ring of Brodgar. The
only notable landmarks visible were two trailers a short ways down the coast,
some large standing stones farther inland, and a long hill near the stones
which she assumed was the barrow.

No
one but archaeologists and ghost hunters visited the island now, but ancient
peoples had evidently used it as a place of worship and burial. Lucy had filmed
at most of the famous world sites—she’d looked for pagan spirits in Stonehenge,
mummies at the Pyramids, and ghosts in the Parisian catacombs. But she
preferred lesser known sites where it was more likely for something genuinely
unexplainable to be going on. She’d been excited when a fan wrote into her, suggesting
she visit Erland, virtually unknown to a popular audience but boasting a
reputation for being haunted by the ghosts of Neolithic warriors.

When
the pilot secured the ferry at the makeshift dock, Sawyer scrambled off and
reached over to help her and Dana off too before he hauled their luggage and
supplies from the boat.

Lucy
always filmed a short segment on her arrival at a new location, so she was
dressed for filming in a pencil skirt, four-inch heels, and a flirty, feminine
top—today a silk blouse with a ruffle down the front.

She
took Arthur out of his carrier and picked him up so the little white dog was
tucked in the crook of her arm against her side.

She
couldn’t film
Girl Meets Ghost
without Arthur and her notoriously
impractical outfits.

The
wind seemed even stronger once she stepped off the boat. It blew her hair out
of her low chignon and, even in July, it chilled her. Despite her discomfort,
she waited patiently until Sawyer got his camera ready, asked her to move to a
different position where the lighting would be better, and debated with Dana
about whether the ferry should be in the background of the shot.

Finally,
he told her to begin, and she gave a lively spiel about where she was and what
she was expecting to find here. Neolithic standing stones, vaguely reminiscent
of Stonehenge. A millennia-old barrow full of the bones of ancient kings and
warriors. And an experienced archaeological team to give her the background and
history they needed to investigate the stories of the spirits of the dead still
haunting the lonely grasslands.

She
could do introductions in her sleep, and Arthur yipped enthusiastically to the
camera when she gave him the signal. After Sawyer called, “Cut,” she put the
dog down and noticed Sawyer winking at Dana.

Lucy
was pretty sure the two were sleeping together, although neither of them had
said a word to her about it.

They
were both young, attractive, and intelligent. There was no reason why they
shouldn’t get together. Lucy was happy for them.

And
a little jealous.

She
was very happy with her life and thrilled with the success of her somewhat
eccentric career, but she would still love to be in a relationship. Her dad had
walked out on her and her mother when she was ten, and it still hurt her to
think about it. She’d been very wary of men until she’d fallen hard during her
freshman year of college, but then Philip had stomped all over her heart. It
still hurt to think about that too. And it also hurt each time one of her endless
attempts at a romantic relationship imploded.

Stories
about the success of
Girl Meets Ghost
sometimes called her a “runaway
bride,” but that wasn’t really what she was. She just couldn’t find the right
man, and she’d always called it quits before the wedding plans were made,
except for the one time she’d been married for less than a year in her mid-twenties.

She
wanted to commit. She did. She just hadn’t met a man she could fully trust.

Mark
and his asshole-lawsuit was a case in point. She might be able to size up a
worthwhile mystery to explore or a good potential sponsor in about two seconds
flat, but Lucy clearly had bad judgment when it came to love interests.

She
hadn’t given up, though. She wasn’t dating anyone now, but that could always
change.

She
was only thirty-one years old. She kept telling herself she had plenty of time.

***

Philip Wentworth
watched one of his graduate students brush the dirt away from a broken piece of
pottery she’d just unearthed. He had to swallow over an automatic directive
about how to perform the delicate process more efficiently.

He
liked having doctoral students at his digs—since they needed the experience and
they could do most of the endless grunt work required at archaeological
excavations—but that meant he had to loosen his controlling tendencies and let
someone else do what he could do better.

Most
of the time, he could give corrections or instructions patiently enough that he
hadn’t gotten the reputation of being impossible to work for. He knew he was
called the Tyrant at the university, but he could live with that appellation.
There was no shortage of grad students and junior faculty who competed to work
with him. He didn’t have to be friendly or demonstrative—just basically polite.

But
he was in a bad mood today, and he would have snapped the student’s head off if
he hadn’t restrained himself.

It
wasn’t the girl’s fault that he was going to have to put up with a nitwit ghost
hunter and her crew for the next ten days.

Philip
had asked Randall, the owner of Erland Island, not to burden him with such a
senseless disruption to his work. When Randall still persisted, Philip had
pleaded with the man—something he never did and definitely resented. It had
taken Philip two years to convince Randall to let him dig on the island at all,
but now the eccentric millionaire had decided he wanted to raise the profile of
the ancient remains on his property, and so he’d insisted on Philip allowing
the nitwit to visit and film as she wanted.

Philip
had then asked if he could just hand her off to a grad student while she was
here, so he wouldn’t have to waste his time with her, but apparently the woman
preferred to interview and be shown around by the leading expert on the
location.

Philip
was the leading expert on the Erland henge and barrow. That mean he was stuck
playing tour guide.

He
glanced over his shoulder toward the dock and saw the ferry had arrived.
Suppressing the urge to make a face, he gave the grad student a final reminder
of how to precisely catalog the pottery she’d found and then walked back toward
the trailers that housed the field staff during the two months of the dig each
year.

As
he passed the grad student trailer, he heard an uproar of loud laughter.
Curious, he stuck his head in to see what they were doing.

Three
of them were gathered around a laptop computer, watching something on the
screen.

Noticing
his presence, one of the guys—Kurt, although all the males looked the same to Philip—said
to him, “You’ve got to see this. It’s the funniest thing ever. No wonder it’s
so popular.”

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