Status Update(7)

By: Annabeth Albert

“Thanks.” Adrian scribbled a quick message on the sheet. “You a writer?”

“God no.” Noah gave a bitter sounding laugh. “Archaeologist. If I were more of a writer, I wouldn’t be stuck spending my holiday trying to finish this book.”

“Archaeology? Like buried treasure? Or more like dinosaurs?”

“Indiana Jones or that dinosaur show on PBS are my only options?” A smile teased at Noah’s lips. His lips were slender but wide and when he smiled, it gave his whole face an unexpected devilish glint. “No. I’m the boring kind of archaeology professor. No big bones. No treasure. I’m actually a geoarchaeologist—I specialize in the study of how early civilizations interacted with their physical environment and how that physical environment influenced the artifacts we find.”

Professor—that made total sense. Noah’s intriguing combination of refinement and outdoorsman slid into new focus. The man was no Harrison Ford, but Adrian would bet he made his fair share of undergraduates swoon. Noah got more animated as he talked, muscles seeming to relax a bit. Tension unspooled inside of Adrian too, his internal sensors coming off red alert—Noah wasn’t an antisocial loner; he was simply one of those guys who didn’t really come alive until you got him talking about work. Adrian could sympathize. Being able to only talk about work was exactly how he’d landed in this mess.

It had been only too easy to get wrapped up in his Space Villager work until one day he’d looked up from his monitor and realized it had been two years since he’d had more than twenty-four hours away from the job, and months since he’d socialized with anyone not connected to work. And then along came Trent, and Adrian’s overworked brain and underutilized heart shorted out, failing to see the warning signs.

Adrian ducked out of the RV and put the note on the marker for his space. When he returned, Noah was clearing off the couch and dining table, collecting stacks of papers. His RV was bigger than the one Adrian had rented with Trent. It’d been the smallest the rental place had—one of the ones with the bed-over-the-truck cab and a small eating area and bathroom in the back. Adrian had gone with higher gas mileage and easy-to-park over comfort, something else Trent had bitched about. No doubt he’d be more approving of Noah’s bus-like RV with its flat face and side bump-outs that created more width for the kitchen and dining areas. An open door beyond the tiny kitchen led to a bedroom—complete with neatly made bed, while the front of the RV was almost like a living room with the driver’s and passenger’s chairs flipped around to face the long, narrow sofa. A flat-screen TV was mounted near the kitchen cabinets, completing the almost homey feel of the place.

“This is pretty swank,” Adrian said as he set Pixel down. Ulysses studied him cautiously, slinking off to the bedroom and flopping in the doorway, undoubtedly to keep an eye on the intruder. “You camp a lot?”

“Sort of.” Noah gave him another of his half smiles. “This is actually my primary residence—I’m out in the field most summers and on breaks, and I did enough tent camping in graduate school to make me decide to get this over an apartment. There’s a nice RV park close to campus, and I ride my bike everywhere I need to go in town.”

“Where do you teach?”

Noah looked away as he sorted papers on the counter. “Landview Christian College. It’s in Northwest Texas.”

“I’ve heard of it,” Adrian said carefully. He sat gingerly on the couch. Great. Great. Totally his luck to get trapped with a right-winger. Noah was probably no more accepting than Old Billy—only better at hiding his disdain for Adrian and his “deviant lifestyle.” He’d heard of Landview in an HRC piece on the least-accepting colleges in America, and their president had been a vocal endorser of the hate-filled “family values” candidate in the last presidential primary.

“Oh wait. You need dry socks.” Noah sounded a bit too hearty as he ducked into the bedroom. His voice didn’t have the typical Texas twang, instead tinged with something softer, a little more southern and cultured. He handed Adrian a cushy pair of hiking socks. Simply pulling them on felt so good on his chilled feet.

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