Zealous anticipation racked Nola and Quint as the massive airliner approached its final destination in Singapore. The elaborately dressed flight attendants doted on Nola and the baby and continually commented how well behaved Ava was and politely offered them snacks and beverages. Most of the other passengers slept peacefully in their comfortable seats, extended out to beds. Anastasia's flight from Heathrow was scheduled in an hour before their flight, and she planned to meet them at the gate.
Anastasia squealed when she saw her jet lagged family make their way off the plane. "Mom, Daddy, Ava!!"
"Stacey!!!" Quint embraced his daughter, then took Ava from Nola so that she could properly greet their daughter.
"How was your flight?" Anastasia inquired.
"It was long," Nola said with a sigh, "but the baby was so good and the service was excellent. Iíve always loved that airline."
Quint commented, "Coming from different corners of the earth, I can't believe this worked out so seamlessly."
Handing the baby to Anastasia, Nola asked, "How was your flight?"
"Not as long as your flight, but long enough. Then again I wasn't sitting in the nice first class seats like you were."
"I told you I would pay for you to fly first class," Quint noted.
"I know, Daddy. But I can sleep anywhere so it was fine." Anastasia gently bounced her baby sister, "I swear, she looks so much bigger already."
"She's a growing girl," Nola said in a baby voice.
"Now, I need to get all my girls back to the hotel. If we're going to be worth anything at the dinner tonight, we should get to the hotel to take some naps."
That night many of the scientists and family members on the Sabah project met for dinner and meet and greet at the Four Seasons Hotel. Some of the attendees including Quint, Nola and Anastasia were staying at the beautiful hotel. The original plan for a small get together had evolved into a full blown gala event. Nola was excited to meet many of those that she had been corresponding with via email and phone. Reetta and Timo Nieminen were to be there, as well as a young archaeologist that Quinton had some dealings with, Jack Riley from Sydney, Australia. Quinton had never met the twenty eight year old, young man, but had heard of his reputation both good and bad. He had worked on some extremely impressive projects in a very short time, but was very young and not known as a people person. Quinton, however, was impressed with his credentials and was able to overlook the interpersonal shortcomings, as that was often the case with the scientists he met. Quint questioned some of his educational background, but his field experience was stellar.
The Chamberlains arrived at the event elegantly dressed for the semi-formal occasion. The concierge had made arrangements for a nurse to care for the baby for the evening. They scanned the room, hoping to find a familiar face. An attractive, young couple approached them, and in perfect English, but with a thick Finnish accent, introduced themselves as Timo and Reetta Nieminen.
"You were easy to spot," Timo explained. "Not too many people here are in groups of three."
"And the lovely family photo you sent helped a lot too," Reetta commented.
"It's so exciting to finally meet you face to face," Nola beamed.
Anastasia noted, "Looks like the project coordinators really wanted to make this a nice event. Everything's so lovely."
"Timo, I've heard a lot about you. It will be exciting to work with you."
"You flatter me Dr. Chamberlain. And I mean this as no disrespect, but I have been reading your books since I first became interested in the sciences when I was in primary school. I particularly enjoyed your writings on the Tanquir excavation."
"That project was very special to me."
"Yes, I remember reading your special acknowledgments to your mentor, Professor Archibald Renfield, and then the loving words to your wife and young children."
"And now we get to meet them," Reetta interjected.
"Now two of my children are all grown up, and one is an archaeologist herself," Quint said with pride. "My daughter, Anastasia is a PhD candidate at my alma mater, Oxford."
"I'm sure she'll prove to be invaluable on this assignment," Timo replied.
They continued the friendly conversation and drank champagne that the wait staff generously circulated. A young, tall, unshaven man with curly blonde hair, dressed in jeans, work boots and plaid shirt approached the Chamberlains and Nieminens. He was drinking a glass of champagne, speaking with many of the guests and then quickly moving on.
"Daddy, who is that guy over there? He's acting like a guest, but look at him."
"I have no idea. Maybe he's at the wrong meeting?"
The other four, one by one so not to be rude, glanced over to see whom Anastasia was referring to.
Timo quietly laughed, "Oh, you have not yet had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Jack Riley?"
"Thatís Jack Riley?" Quint said with shock.
"The one and only," Timo confirmed.
"Looks like he needs a bath," Nola joked.
"At least a bath," Anastasia added.
"G'day, bloody nice rage!! Those old coots really know how to spend the cash, when they want to." Jack extended his hand to Quinton, "I'm Jack Riley, nice to meet you, man."
"Ah, yes Quinton Chamberlain." He turned to the Nieminens, " Timo, Reetta, good to see you again."
"Always a pleasure to see you, Jack."
"Quint, so who are the two fine sheilas with ya?"
Quint responded, taken aback, "Excuse me?"
"Your women, who are your women?"
"Oh yes, this is my wife, Nola Chamberlain, and this is our daughter, Anastasia Chamberlain."
Jack shook hands with Nola and Anastasia. "Nola, Anastasia, you both look so dressed up, I hope you don't mind a little dirt on my hands."
"Not at all, I've had dirt on my hands too," Nola remarked unfazed. "Nice to meet you, Jack."
Jack quipped, "Nola, were you ten years old when you had Anastasia, here?"
Anastasia reacted more obviously to Jack's unkempt appearance. "I think you might have a little more problem with the dirt than your mum?"
"No, I get my hands dirty too. I'm getting my PhD in archaeology at Oxford. I've been on many digs."
"Oh, you're a fancy girl with a fancy name and going to a fancy school. I should have known just by looking at ya." Jack eyed the attractive girl up and down.
"Oxford is one of the best schools for archaeology," Anastasia remarked.
"Everyone has their opinion, just like everyone has . . . Well, you know." Jack rubbed his belly, briefly revealing his ripped abdomen. "I wish they would put the grub out. I'm starving. And that wussy food they're passing around wouldn't fill up a bird."
"You can grab a plate from the table over there and grab a bunch of the hors d'oeuvres all at once and make a meal," Nola suggested.
"I like the way you think, Nola. That's a grand idea."
Without excusing himself, Jack headed to the table that Nola pointed to, grabbed a plate, and followed after one of the servers, then emptying off her silver platter. Without batting an eye, he took off after another unsuspecting server.
"Can you believe him?" Anastasia gasped. "He's so rude."
"I think he's just really down to earth?" Nola remarked.
"Well, it is impolite to arrive at an event and not follow at least the minimum dress code," Quint commented.
"Yes, it is," Anastasia concurred. "Did you hear how he put down Oxford? He wishes he went there."
"He should be interesting to work with," Nola said. "Did you catch his six pack?"
"Nola." Quint teased.
"Like you always say, honey, I'm not dead yet." Nola lovingly patted her husband's tummy, "And besides, I'll take your two pack anytime, dear."
"So sweet, but actually, Nola, we won't be working with him. Anastasia will."
"Daddy!" Anastasia gasped.
"Honey, appearances aside, heís a well respected archaeologist, a little unorthodox, but respected. And the areas where he's lacking, youíre strong and vice versa. It makes sense to have you work as partners."
Anastasia whined, "But look at him. He's a nightmare."
"Don't pout, honey. It will be good for you."
Nola cleared her throat and uttered under her breath, "Spoiled, little, rich girl alert."
"Mom, that's not fair."
"You told me to tell you when," Nola shrugged. "He seems okay to me."
"It will be a good experience for you. You have to learn to work will all kinds of people."
Defeated, Anastasia inquired, "Does he know this?"
"I think so," Quinton answered.
"Why didn't he say anything?"
Quint shrugged, "I have no idea. He seems a little disorganized. Maybe he forgot?"
"Or playing games, but I guess no one said this was going to be easy," Anastasia remarked with her adjusted attitude.
"ńlš huoli, don't worry about it, Anastasia" Timo assured the young woman. "I'm sure it will be a good experience for you. And he did get a lot of positive attention when he worked on that dig in the Philippines."
The next day everyone flew into Kota Kinabalu and settled into their comfortable lodge accommodations. Nola and Quint got a suite of rooms for themselves and the baby. Anastasia was given the room next to theirs. The property of the lodge was lush and green and surrounded on all sides by the virgin rainforest. Nola couldn't think of a better place to spend the upcoming year.
Intense work was going to start soon, and Nola did not want to be left behind, so she had to get right on finding a nurse for the baby. She had the names of many candidates, but most seriously she was considering a Malaysian nurse, Rohana that Reetta had suggested. Reetta had used Rohana for her children when they were last there and Elias was an infant. Rohana was great with infants, and Reetta assured Nola that she would not be disappointed.
The day that Nola was interviewing potential nanny candidates, Anastasia and Quint went to their first work meeting with Jack Riley. Jack had managed to get himself a suite of rooms in a building not too far from where the Chamberlains were staying. He even insisted on having one room set up as a full study and another as a makeshift laboratory.
When they rang his doorbell, Jack swung the door open. He was yelling at someone on the phone in Malay, and he was wearing nothing but a pair of tight jeans. Both Anastasia and Quint tried not to look at the half naked man as he ranted away on the tiny cell phone. Jack made no efforts to cover himself, nor to contain his loud voice. Anastasia could pick up a few words that he was saying, having spent a good amount of time practicing the language before their trip. His muscles rippled as he pounded his fist in the air, clearly enraged and frustrated with the person on the other end of the line. Anastasia flinched when he slammed his hand on the table, then noticing the colorful, large tattoo on his right biceps. He made no effort to cut his raging short in order to make his guests feel comfortable.
After about ten minutes of this, he finally got off the phone. Immediately, it was as if the whole phone call scene had not even occurred. "Quint, Tasia, let's get right to it." Jack plopped himself down at a chair around the dining room table. The table was covered with half eaten take out food. Errant articles of clothing: jeans, shirts, boxer shorts, were scattered on the floor and over the backs of the chairs.
"My name is Anastasia, not Tasia," she clarified, pushing the jeans off a chair with the back of her arm. Anastasia sat down across from him, and Quint sat next to his daughter.
"Anastasia sounds so formal. I'm not a formal guy, but I guess I can get used to it. It does suit you. Are you okay with Quint?"
"Yes, that's fine," Quint replied.
"You speak fluent Malay?" Anastasia inquired.
"Yes, you speak it too? Then you know what I was yelling about? Damned moron!"
"I picked up a word here and there. But I hardly speak it."
"Stacey is very good with languages. We traveled extensively when she and her brother were children."
"Ah, Stace, I can call you Stace. I like that. Much better than Anastasia."
"Only my brother and mother call me Stace. I guess I can live with that, but I prefer Anastasia."
Jack looked squarely at Anastasia, "Of course you do. So it looks like you and I will be working together on this project."
"Yes, I think you and Anastasia will be good partners," Quint remarked.
"Iím not going to lie to you, Quint. I was more than a little pissed to hear that I was only getting a student and not a trained archaeologist."
"Excuse me, I am trained. I'm almost done with my PhD at Oxford. I have done extensive field work, and I spent my childhood on excavations with my parents."
"Well, thatís a very quaint story, but little family trips and student digs do not make for a trained archaeologist in my opinion."
"Mr. Riley, I have been doing this since before you were born. I can assure you that Anastasia is more than qualified, and I think you should give her a chance to show you what she can do."
"What else is the proud papa to say?"
"Now, Mr. Riley . . ."
Jack interrupted, "Where is your cute little wife, Quint?"
"She's back at our room interviewing nannies."
"Stace looks big enough to me to not need a nanny anymore."
"It's for my little sister," Anastasia sneered.
"My wife and I have an infant daughter. The nanny is for her."
"Good going, my man. Breeding over several decades. I respect that. Just leave a sock on the doorknob if you ever don't want to be bothered."
"Mr. Riley, can we please just speak about business? My personal family business is none of yours."
"All right, well I have a few ground rules," Jack stated.
"And what would those be?" Quint inquired.
"It's done my way or no way."
"Rude," Anastasia whispered under her breath.
"Yes, sometimes I am rude, Stace. Get used to it. But I'm good too. Anyone will tell you that."
"Would you mind putting some clothes on?" Anastasia finally blurted out.
Jack looked down at himself, "Huh, I didn't realize that I didn't. Jack indicates to his bare chest, "Does this make you uncomfortable?"
"You could at least put on a shirt in the presence of a young lady," Quint chimed in.
"Yes, and there is a young lady present, isn't there?" Jack got up and fumbled on another chair for an available shirt. "I certainly wouldn't want to make the young lady uncomfortable."
"Please," Anastasia burst out, trying to hold back a smile.
"Mr Riley . ."
Jack cut Quint off, "Please call me Jack. I don't even know who Mr. Riley is."
"Jack, if this experience is going to be beneficial for everyone, I must now say that your attitude of it being Ďyour way or no wayí, is just not going to work."
"It isn't?" Jack inquired.
"No, you were partnered with Anastasia because as fabulous as you think you are, there are areas where you have had problems, and many of those skills are areas that Anastasia excels in. You can learn from her, just as she can learn from you."
Anastasia looked smugly over at Jack.
"Of course youíre going to say that about your own daughter."
"Jack, don't question my professionalism. Iím the most senior archaeologist on this project. I have the most experience, and the best credentials. I know what it takes, and I know that Anastasia, whether she is my daughter or not, has it. She is a brilliant, hard working, young woman, and youíre lucky to have her."
"Okay, I'll give it a shot.." Jack grabbed for a bunch of papers haphazardly spread out on the table and handed them to Anastasia. "Here are some of the notes I took so far, if you can read my handwriting, would you mind cleaning them up and putting them into my computer?"
"Sure, I can do that," Anastasia smiled.
Jack asked, noticing the ring on Stacey's finger, "Are you married?"
"No, I just got engaged. My fiancť is back at Oxford."
"And he lets you come all the way to Sabah by yourself?"
"I'm not by myself. I'm with my family."
"Well, congratulations on that fiancť thing. Hope it works out for you?"
"Why wouldn't it work out?" Stacey defensively queried.
"We never know what will happen from day to day," Jack explained. "So when's the big day?"
"We haven't set a date yet. We were going to wait until I, at least, finished school."
"Very prudent decision," Quint chimed in.
"No need to rush into marriage too soon. I'm going to wait for a long time before I ever think about that. My mum was married three times, and I know what that was like for her."
"Sorry about your mother, but I have two great role models that prove marriage can work. My mom and dad have been married over twenty years, and just last spring they renewed their wedding vows. I believe in lasting love and romance."
"Good for you, sheila."
Quint, Anastasia and Jack got wrapped up in the details of the project, and before they knew it, three hours had elapsed, and Quint needed to get to another meeting with Timo Nieminen. He left Anastasia behind so that she and Jack could get to work.
"How did all your meetings go today," Nola asked her husband.
"Oh Nola, this is going to be a fascinating project. I can't tell you how excited I am to be getting out there again. I love teaching, but actually doing the work, invigorates me."
"And I love to see you invigorated," she seductively kissed her husband.
Quint tenderly held her close, "Did you hire someone for Ava? Because I want you working with me. I can't do it without you. I don't want to do it without you."
"Yep, I hired that woman that Reetta suggested. I think she's going to be great, and she can start the day after next."
"Oh Nola, with the two of us working together out on the digs, it's going to be just like old times " Quint suggestively growled and devoured her neck.
"Quinton," Nola giggled, "now you actually have to let me work. We can't just flirt all the time. And no complaints about getting too hot or too cold or too something . . .."
"Now Nola, you know I can't resist your cute, little behind in khaki, and you also know that I don't have the energy you do, but I'll do my best not to disappoint you on the excavation."
"Okay, as long as you try, that's all I can ask," they both responded to each other with another sensuous kiss. "Oh, you have to tell me how the meeting went with that Jack Riley."
"He's certainly an interesting character. Knowing more about him, I have to say I do feel a tiny bit guilty now that I put Stacey with him."
"Why what happened?"
"When we got there he was berating someone on the phone in Malay, and barely acknowledged we were there. It was very uncomfortable. And he's just so incredibly arrogant."
"Stace can handle him."
"I think he's really going to test her."
"It will all be good," Nola assured. "You can't coddle her forever."
"Can I coddle you forever?" Quint brushed Nola's hair aside and nipped gently on her ear.
"Uh huh," she barely uttered and squirmed with the pleasure at the provocatively placed kiss, "oh Quinton, that tickles."
"Mmmmmm, well how about this spot?" He lifted up her hair on the other side of her neck, and slowly laved her neck with his lips.
"Ahh, that's a good one too," she purred, "but if you keep this up, I mean, we already have Sabah marked off on the map?"
"That's okay," he murmured between kisses. "We'll make the next time and the time after that and the time after that for good measure." He tickled his fingers down her back, squeezed her buttocks, and pulled her tightly to him.
She teased, removing his ascot, "I like the way you think."
"I donít want you focusing on how I think," he growled.
"But what if Stacey shows up?"
"She'll know what the ascot on the doorknob means. Now, no more talking."
They both fervently devoured and undressed the other.
Two weeks passed, the work on the excavation was harder than either Quint or Nola remembered, but they loved it and quickly got back in the groove. Nola's contagious energy out on the site energized her husband, and kept them both going long after they thought they no longer physically could. It appeared that Jack and Stacey were also making a good team. She did find him to be extremely rude and obnoxious at times, but she had to admit that he knew his stuff, and in spite of herself, he made her laugh sometimes. Nola, on the other hand, was not bothered at all by Jack. She found him to be down to earth and often funny. And it needs to be said, the young man's harmless flirting with her couldn't help but flatter.
"Nola, I noticed that you and Quint were late for dinner last night. Did I see the that ascot on the door again?"
"Yes, you did Jack!" Nola chirped, not shifting her main attention for the work at hand.
Stacey shook her head, enjoying the playful banter that helped them all during those long days.
"Quint, my man, I have to give you props where props are due for keeping it going even after a long day out in the heat and sun."
"I do what I can, Jack."
"You have to keep a sassy, little wife like that happy. Should I be calling the women that run the main office to set aside another room for you when you have another little one on the way?"
"Don't worry about that, Jack," Nola patted her husband's behind. "We have it all taken care of."
Those were the fun moments, but Jack remained difficult to work with. Stacey did not mind the large amounts of work that he constantly threw at her. But he was not in the least bit kind if everything was not precisely as he wanted it. And his lack of organization drove Anastasia mad. Even through all these struggles, there was something about Jack that made Anastasia want to please him. Perhaps, it was that he did not kowtow to her, and treat her the way she had been treated most of her life, like a princess. He challenged her, and she liked that. There was just something about Jack that she couldnít put her finger on. Something that got to her. Something that she wouldnít dare admit and caught her totally by surprise.
She knew that he had to be toying with her, but Jack had this habit of often forgetting to be completely clothed whenever she showed up at his suite. He played it off as if he didnít even notice, and that it was part of his earthy, "one with nature" mentality, and that she was the one being silly. But Anastasia knew that it had to be intentional. Initially she would request that he put on his shirt. On a few occasions he even answered the door in his underwear, and one time just wrapped with a towel around his waist after a shower, still all damp and glistening. But as the incidents increased, she felt her complaints would seem more and more intentional and suspect, and she thought she would only draw more attention to herself by protesting too much.
One morning when she knocked on his door ready to work, she couldnít help but think what state of undress Jack would be in. Despite her efforts to resist, she couldnít deny the extra time she was taking in the morning to get ready to see Jack. She actually caught herself reaching for her make up, something she almost never did when she was working, and opting to wear her hair in more down, relaxed styles than her usual pinned up, scientist girl look.
Jack threw open the door, and was chatting on his cell phone. Much to her disappointment after her efforts that morning, he practically ignored her as she entered his room. He was dressed in his usual pair of jeans and nothing else. Instead of yelling into the phone, he was chatting more quietly and spoke in an even more hushed tone when Anastasia entered the room. She tried to make out what he was saying, but couldnít. Jack actually seemed serene. She had been trying to get a better look at the tattoo on his arm. She did not generally like tattoos, but she had to respect the beauty of this one. It was a colorful medusa head from Greek mythology. Besides the serpents that hideously sprung from her head, his Medusa was absolutely stunning and detailed. When he went into the other room, and she realized he was going to be more than a few minutes, she sat down at the computer and started working. Who was he speaking to so intimately? Why did she feel almost jealous that it could be a girlfriend? She had certainly spoken to Seamus almost every night. What was wrong with her? Until she was able to find out who he was speaking to on the phone, she found it impossible to concentrate on work.
After about half an hour had passed, he came back into the room where she was working.
"Sorry Chamberlain, I had to finish up that phone call," he said in an exasperated tone.
"Is everything okay?" Anastasia pried.
"Yeah, just some pain in the ass business back home."
"You never mention your home, I didnít think you had one."
"I like to forget about it sometimes."
"Why would you want to forget about your girlfriend?" Anastasia bluffed.
"Ex-girlfriend, Chamberlain, ex is the operative thing to remember. But I have to keep in touch with her, because she has my son."
Anastasia turned pale and felt the blood rush from her head, "You have a son? You never mentioned that before."
"Well, itís kind of painful, Chamberlain. My work keeps me away from him most of the time, and we were so young when he was born, and now sheís married to some other guy, and that bloke more or less took over as his father. Heís a good guy, and itís really less confusing for the kid."
"Iím sorry. Whatís his name?"
"Jonathan, and heís ten years old now. Cute lil ankle biter."
"Wow, you really were young?"
"Yep, young and stupid. But Jonathan is a good, smart kid. Heíll be all right. Did you get a lot of work done?"
"No, I was kind of distracted."
"You better get undistracted now," he sternly stated. "We have a lot of work to do today."
"Oh, so you can spend half an hour of our work time on a personal call? And now you chew me out."
After his brief display of vulnerability, Jack had miraculously snapped right back into his usual rudeness. "Iím not here to babysit you, nor do I have to explain myself to you. Iíve been up since five working, knowing I had to take that call."
"I guess I can forgive you, being such a cute sheila," Jack said in a feigned off-handed manner, deliberately turning from her after setting the bait to work on something else.
Anastasia shot a look at him walking away. She didnít think she had ever seen anyone look quite so fine in a pair of jeans. And she felt light headed that Jack had called her cute. It was really the first time he acknowledged her in that way. When Jack quickly turned back toward her, she snapped her head back to the computer screen.
"Chamberlain, are you wasting time again?"
She stammered, "No, I was just . . ." She couldnít think of a cover.
"Just get back to work, will ya?" he smiled to himself.
Damn it, she thought. Focus, focus! She forced herself to concentrate, and speedily clicked away on the keyboard.
"Thatís the sound I like to hear," Jack announced from the other side of the room. He finished getting dressed, and got to work.
After about an hour of intense work, Jack approached Anastasia. He leaned over her shoulder to see what she was typing. "Looks great, Chamberlain."
Anastasia could feel his breath warm against her neck. "Your notes are a mess, but I think I have finally, at least, mastered deciphering your hand writing."
He leaned in even closer, "I have to give you credit for that."
"Iíll take a compliment from you wherever I can," Anastasia stammered.
Jack immediately picked up how nervous his closeness was making his partner. "Do ya think Iím that hard on you, Stace?"
"Sometimes," she quietly replied.
"Well, youíre doing a good job. Youíre surprising me. I thought you were just a spoiled, little, rich girl. A spoiled, little, rich girl, who smells as sweet as my nanaís hot cross buns."
"Thanks," her heart pounded, and she closed her eyes, overwhelmed by his closeness and his own masculine scent.
He looked intensely at her in profile and brushed her hair aside, trying to locate what he thought would be a sweet spot on her neck. The tense moment was broken by a frantic knocking at the door.
"Who the hell is that?" Jack stated with annoyance.
"I donít know," Stacey replied dry mouthed, trying to gain her composure.
Jack answered the door to a frantic Nola holding Ava. "Oh, Jack, thank God, youíre here. Is Stacey here?"
Jack indicated for Nola to enter the room.
"Mom, whatís up? Is something wrong?"
"Rohanaís poor mother is sick, and she has to take her to the doctor today, so she canít watch Ava. And I have to meet your father at the excavation site in half an hour, and I need you to watch your sister today."
"Sure, Mom, but Jack and I have a lot to get done today too. I donít have any of her things here."
"Can you grab her bouncer seat and whatever else you need from our room? I hate to just dump her on you like this, but I have to run."
"Donít worry about it, Mom."
Nola handed the baby and diaper bag to Stacey. "There are plenty of diapers, wipes and formula. She has a little bit of a rash, so make sure you use Desitin on the tender spots. Thank you, honey." Nola kissed her two daughters. "Mama be back soon, sweetheart," she cooed to the baby. "Oh, I just changed her, but sheís going to be hungry soon," and with that Nola dashed off as quickly as she came.
"Oh great, so how am I going to get any work done with a screaming brat?"
"Ava is not a brat," Stacey sternly corrected. "Jack, I canít help it. Itís an emergency. Would you want my mother to sit out all day and watch Ava?"
"No, I guess, she does get more done than all you Oxford grads put together. Well, actually you arenít even a grad yet."
"Are we going to do this again?"
"What was that fancy, over-priced American school that you did your undergraduate work at?"
"Just keep that darling little rugrat quiet, so I can work."
"Sheís a good baby," Anastasia insisted.
"Thatís an oxymoron. Besides sheís just another little American princess-to-be, if you ask me, unless your mum can be her main influence."
"You refuse to give me and my father any credit at all."
"I give you credit when itís earned. And I absolutely respect Quint. Heís one of the most distinguished scientists I have had the pleasure of working for, but he over indulges you and treats you like a baby. Anyone can see that."
"Sorry that he loves me."
"Would be nice if he treated you like a woman for once."
"You donít know the first thing about fathers and daughters at all. Much less the special relationship I have with my father."
"I never was a daughter, and I donít have a daughter, so I guess I donít," Jack paused and continued with confidence, "but I know what I see."
"Ugh, you think you know everything!"
"Most of the time," he arrogantly replied. "So you think that you and your father invented something new and different between the two of you?"
"Yes, actually. Thereís a lot you donít know about us."
"Why donít you tell me?"
"Because itís none of your damned business. Thatís why."
Ava started whimpering for attention.
"It starts," Jack muttered under his breath in disgust.
"She probably just doesnít like you. Even a three month old baby knows better."
The excavation continued in earnest. The days were long and exhausting in the heat, but the rewards of discovery more than made up for it. Quint, however, made sure that he and Nola had plenty of free time, as well, to go scuba diving, hiking in the rainforest, and of course, visiting with the orangutans. Jack flirted mercilessly with Anastasia, but it was intermingled with endless amounts of criticism, argument and interruptions that she had convinced herself it was harmless enough. Quint had no clue about the tensions between Stacey and Jack. Nola had questioned her daughter a couple of times about some things she witnessed, but Anastasia stuck to her story that she could barely stand him and only tolerated him for the work.
In his laboratory, Anastasia and Jack catalogued some of the recent finds. In frustration, Anastasia pulled pieces out of the box, looking for some sort of marker or inventory list. Jack quickly went through another box, jotting down notes as he went over each artifact.
"You know, if you were more careful and put these in some sort of order originally, we wouldn't have this mess now," Anastasia complained.
"Calm your jets, Chamberlain. I know exactly what everything is. I don't need to spend extra hours organizing and wasting time, when I know exactly what I'm looking at. I know those fancy schools teach you to laboriously go over every little detail by the book, but that's not how I operate."
"I noticed, and everythingís a mess."
"Call it a mess if you like, but when youíre out having a pint at the boozer in an hour, and everyone else is still up to their ears in mud and dirt, you'll be toasting to me."
"Yeah, as if that will ever happen."
"Oh, you know you want a piece of this. Maybe if you would stop just checking out my bum and do something about it, we wouldn't be having these problems."
Anastasia gently put down the piece that she was looking at. "Jack Riley, you're the most arrogant man I know." She walked toward him, "Do you see this ring around my neck? It's the engagement ring from my fiancť. I want my fiancť, not your scruffy ass."
"That ring means that maybe the guy will marry you, and if it was so special, why are you wearing it around your neck?"
"Because we're working in mud and dirt as you say, and I don't want it getting damaged."
"Well, that still does not explain why I constantly catch you checking out my bum."
"Youíre making me crazy. I have not once looked at your bum."
"Maybe Daddy believes that, but I never will. "
"Don't you talk about my father! He's a gentleman, something that you will never be."
"I respect your father. He still knows how to bang up your middle aged mum. I like that. That darling baby girl is a trophy to his manhood.""
"You can make everything beautiful disgusting, can't you?"
"I think I caught your ol' mum checking me out too. She's not half bad for a gal her age."
Anastasia grabbed her backpack and started to storm out of the room. "I am leaving. You're so full of yourself that there's no room left in here for me."
"Don't leave, sheila. We just got started."
"No, I think we're finished," Anastasia fumed.
Jack held up a small handbook, "You forgot your little diary with all your scholarly notations."
Anastasia moved toward him to take the notebook. Jack swiftly grabbed her wrist and pulled her up close to him.
"I'll let you get away if you want, little one, but I think what I have planned is going to knock your socks off . .or something," he taunted.
Anastasia's nostrils flared, and she huffed, "Why do you have to be like this?"
"This is just the way I am." He pulled her closer, and searched her eyes for the invite that he was certain was there. He kissed her quickly, and waited a moment for her to respond which, as he expected, she greedily did. They hungrily assaulted one another's mouth with their tongues. Her pent up reactions and quiet moans indicated to him that she absolutely wanted more. He hastily pulled her shirt over her head, carelessly tossed it onto the floor of the lab, and backed her into the bedroom across the hallway. "Ah, a little tiger," he muttered, barely able to get the words out between her desperate kisses. Pulling one breast out and sucking it, he released the hooks of her bra. She eagerly reciprocated by massaging his already full erection, tightly restricted under the denim. She undid his belt, zipper and pulled down his pants, releasing the impressive hard on and wantonly pulled him onto the bed with her. Within moments, they were nude and intimately tangled together.
Quint, Nola, Timo and Reetta gathered at a cozy Thai restaurant for dinner. Anastasia was expected, but had not yet arrived. The Nieminens had been instrumental in helping them find and hire the new nanny, Rohana, and Quint and Nola wanted to take them out to dinner to show their appreciation. Impatiently, Quint checked his watch from time to time.
Quint covered, "I'm really sorry that Anastasia is not here yet. It's not at all like her to not show up and not call, but I know she had to categorize some items with Jack tonight, and with the sloppy way he works, they could have gotten behind."
Timo replied, "Ensin tyŲ, sitten huvi, as we would say in Finland."
"What does that mean?" Nola inquired.
"Basically, work before pleasure," Reetta answered.
"That perfectly describes our daughter. Anastasia is a very serious worker and student. I'm sure that she just lost track of time. I feel bad that Stacey has to work with Jack, but she will help clean up his messes."
"Jack Riley has earned quite a good reputation in the last couple of years, but his schooling is really lacking," Timo noted.
"I know, and he constantly likes to criticize those of us that are properly schooled," Quint scoffed.
Nola attempted to change the subject, "Don't you all think that Jack Riley is a boring topic for dinner? Since it looks unlikely that Stacey will show up, I think we should go ahead and order dinner. I'm starved."
"Me too," Reetta agreed.
They ordered dinner and drinks, but Anastasia never showed. When Quint and Nola got back to the lodge, they had a message saying she had gotten tied up with work, and then went to bed early. The Chamberlains were relieved that their workaholic daughter was safe and, as expected, was simply swept away with work.
When Stacey awoke in the strange bed the next morning, Jack was already up and working across the hallway in the laboratory. In the light of day, realizing she was completely nude, and what she had done, she curled up under the sheets and held her head as if in agony. As she saw Jackís figure periodically sweep by the doorway to the lab, she tried to figure out what to do. She wanted to get out of that bed and disappear without saying a word to Jack. When she hadnít seen Jack in a few minutes, she figured he was busy with something and that the coast was clear. She jumped out of the bed and scampered about trying to locate all her clothing. But the messy room was riddled with obstacles, including their various, discarded condom wrappers, and many articles of Jackís clothing. It was difficult to find her things. She finally spotted the lavender of her panties, and with relief went for them. As she stood up to put them on, Jack, wearing only his boxer shorts, was standing at the doorway watching her with a salacious grin.
"My little tiger finally wakes from her slumber."
Embarrassed in the daylight, Anastasia reflexively attempted to cover her nakedness and snatched the sheet off the bed.
"I was inside you all last night. And saw every bit of ya. Donít know why youíre so shy now."
"Jack, donít make this any harder than it needs to be."
"Just watching you now is making me awfully hard."
"Can you please help me find my clothes? I have to get out of here." Concealed behind the sheet, she successfully slipped into her panties.
"Not even one more go at it?" He let the head of his erection peak out of his shorts. "Iím all ready to go."
"Iím not, and I have to go."
"Too bad, the little tiger turned back into a scared, in denial, little kitten. Iím already missing that sweet little pus . . ."
Before he could go on, Anastasia put her hand over his mouth, "Please, just help me find my clothes. I have to have time to think this whole thing through."
"You think things through too much. Youíd get what you really want, if you let yourself react the way you did last night."
"Thatís your opinion," Anastasia spotted her pants. Jack located her bra and handed it to her, then went to the laboratory to get her top.
A shell shocked Anastasia made the dreaded walk of shame from Jack's suite. She knew her father would already be at the dig site, but she hoped that her mother would still be around waiting for the nanny. She had to talk to someone. She tried to smooth out her hair and clothing, as best she could, before she made it to the building where she stayed with her parents. She carefully looked down the hallway to her room, then quickly sprinted to her door, hoping no one would see her. As she was turning the key to her room, Nola opened the door and walked out into the hallway carrying Ava.
"Stacey, what have you been doing? I've been trying to call your room all morning. And we missed you at dinner last night."
"I must have been in the shower, Mom."
"For a whole hour? What's going on with you?"
"I guess I just didn't hear you."
"Stace, aren't those the same clothes you were wearing yesterday?"
"Mom, please don't ask me so many questions," Anastasia pleaded as she entered her room, followed by Nola with baby in tow.
"Are you just getting home or something? Were you out all night?" Nola closed the door behind her, and put the baby in her swing.
"Mom, please. I don't want to talk about this."
"Honey, I just want to know if somethingís wrong."
"I'm fine, Mom. We'll mostly fine."
"Did someone hurt you?" Nola snapped with concern.
"No, Mom, no one hurt me. I just really really screwed everything up."
"Whatíre you saying? Screwed what up?"
"I was with Jack Riley. Okay, I said it. I was with Jack last night."
"Anastasia Louise Chamberlain, what are you telling me?"
"I made a big mess of everything, Mom. I slept with Jack, and I'm just now getting home."
"From the way you're acting, I assume you didn't get much sleep," Nola commented in a shocked tone.
Anastasia shook her head, disgusted with herself.
"You slept with Jack? Stacey, how could you let that happen?"
"I don't know, Mom. It just happened. Heís been driving me crazy and taunting me, and I thought I just hated him, and then it just changed, and he kissed me, and I lost my head."
"But losing your head doesnít mean you go back for more and stay the whole night."
"I know," Stacey whined. "Thanks a lot for the support."
"I'm sorry, honey. This is just a lot for me to take in all at once. I knew I saw something between the two of you, but you kept telling me no."
"I guess, I just thought if I said it enough that it would be true."
"I suppose, I can see why you would be attracted to Jack in kind of an animalistic way."
"Yes, animalistic. What kind of terrible person must I be? What kind of terrible person to do this to Seamus. Oh my God, Seamus. Mom, what am I going to do?"
"You're not a terrible person. Obviously you're not ready for this kind of commitment with Seamus." Nola put her arm around her daughter, "And it's better this happened now than after you were married."
"But I do love him, Mom. And this is just the worst thing a person could do to someone they love."
"You're just not ready. This is life telling you that you need to experience more before you settle down. You're so young. You have plenty of time. Maybe you need a few Jacks before you find your Seamus?"
"But I never wanted to hurt him, Mom. He's been so good to me, and loving, and now I'm just this terrible bitch that cheated on him."
"I don't think you need to tell him about this. It would only hurt him, but you have to tell him that you're not ready for the kind of commitment you have and give back the ring. And then you either go on and wait until you're ready with him, or with someone else. I don't think you should tell him."
"Mom, do you think this happening means that Seamus is not the one for me?"
"I don't know about that, but clearly youíre not ready."
"Am I not supposed to ever feel attracted to another man if I love someone else?"
"Absolutely not, but you can't act on it. You won't want to act on it."
"Do you ever look at other men besides Daddy?"
"Sure, you'll see someone in a nice pair of jeans, and you'll check them out, but that's it for me. I would never dream of doing anything about it. Your father is my life. I sowed my wild oats before I met him. I was ready for the kind of commitment he offered. And it must have really been what I wanted since here we are, many years later, still happy and together."
"I always thought that Seamus and I were so much like you and Daddy. I thought it was what I wanted."
"Baby, youíre so different from me in so many ways, and even though youíre the same age I was when I married your father, your circumstances are completely different. I had you when I married your father. My life was so different. You can do whatever you want. You have this whole life of privilege. There's just no rush."
"Mom, please, please, don't breathe a word of this to Daddy. He would be so disappointed in me, and I think he would kill Jack with his bare hands."
"Trust me; your father is the last person in the world I would share this tidbit of information with. I donít need to be a widow or the wife of an inmate before Iím fifty."
"Thanks. At least there's one good thing."
"Your father just barely tolerates Jackís cocky attitude and . . ." Nola smirked, "Sorry, Stace, I guess that comment has a whole new meaning now."
"That's not funny, Mom."
"I know, but I couldn't resist. I always want you to feel that you can be completely honest with me and come to me with things like this. Well, maybe not this exact thing ever again . . ."
"I always do." Anastasia hugged Nola.
"But youíre going to have to take responsibility for this. You spent the entire night with the man. Thatís not just one moment of not knowing what youíre doing."
"I know," Stacey hung her head.
"What are you going to do about Jack?"
"I have no idea."
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