That moment when you first wake... is it one am or eight?

Was it a dream ...

"Good morning,"

or a memory...


or a nightmare? No one called me Olivia except-

"Nathaniel?" I looked around the unfamiliar hotel suite. "What am I doing here?"

"It's past checkout. We thought maybe it would be better to move you to my room so you could sleep it off."


"Candice helped bring your things over. Her flight already left."

That sounded right. I never blacked out from drinking, but I had definitely gotten sloshed at the reception.

"That bottle of water is for you."

"Thank you."

I noted I was in my slip. Candice had helped me wrangle out of my fancy dress and it was draped over the plush chair. I didn't bother with false modesty, too much, as I got up. Nathaniel had seen me naked before after all but he didn't even look up from his newspaper as I went by to the bathroom. I was groggy but I didn't get hangovers, and this time hadn't thrown up, thank god. I washed my face and completed the other business of waking up. This was the kind of swanky hotel that had robes and I gratefully pulled one on. This place also had the kinda swanky price tag that I was thankful to Candice for sparing me the extra charge for oversleeping.

Nathaniel was already dressed in a button up, vest, and slacks; his usual weekday 'casual'.

"Bagel?" I sat down across from him. He was a broad shouldered tall man and it made the table look tiny. I felt a bit surreal as I lifted the bagel, plain and toasted -he remembered- to take a bite.

"When you're feeling cogent, I have a proposition for you," he said turning the page. Of course he still read real newspapers and of course this place had them on hand.

With some bagel, water, and quiet, I pulled myself together. I was fairly confident I hadn't done anything in my inebriation other than look unsteady.

"So what did Candice tell you?"

"Not much- that you were only booked for last night but might appreciate sleeping in before your flight."

It's true I had scraped up enough to get here one-way, stayed in the same hotel as the reception, despite its expense, to balanced out not having to pay for taxis or rental cars, and then I had planned to go sit in the airport waiting who knows how long on a cheap standby flight out. All because things had gone to shit with Jonas at the last minute.

"Candice might have mentioned a groomsman..." Nathaniel quirked an eyebrow. A groomsman who had ditched me for a bridesmaid but I wasn't going to let Jonas shame me out of coming to our mutual friends' wedding. Though I really couldn't afford the extra travel cost of replacing my ticket- especially with my adjunct teaching load being so small last semester.

I responded by inquiring about coffee.

Why would it have been more damning to my pride to miss the wedding than it was to now be here in the debt of someone I had dated five years ago? Especially after drinking too much to deal with seeing Jonas at the reception...

But Nathaniel and I were on good terms. I hadn't seen him much lately, but I should have realized he'd have been invited to this wedding, too. I remembered hearing his lightly Euro accent at the next table and making small talk with him.

"How long are you staying here?"

"For the next week. I'm evaluating a site; it's a bit of a favor for an old friend but it could turn out to be something. That's what I wanted to bring up with you."

"A wreck? Really?"

"I had planned to contact Wanchese for a local diver to assist me if needed but if you don't have to be back right away, I thought you might be available? I would cover your airfare home."

I didn't have anything to rush to and I could certainly use the distraction, airfare would be a huge help, but...

"I'd have to find a room nearby."

"You would be welcome to stay in my room," he said. "But I'd have to strongly consider whether I would bed you tonight or not."

I barked a laugh. "And that's up to you, is it?"

"Of course not," he chuckled. "It would be completely your decision, but I would be happy to accommodate you either way."

Truthfully, he would be an impeccable gentlemen if I required it of him. He had more self control and comportment than anyone I'd ever known, maybe too much. But would I require it? How much distraction did I need?- from Jonas, from everything... I wasn't normally a no-strings type.

I had forgotten that Nathanial's sense of humor was almost black and he may not have really been offering. Either way, if I said no, then it would be all business. I could easily crash the loveseat fold-out he had slept on last night, but I had to admit the idea of indulging was a temptation. Some time with my normal life on hold, to just forget the whole Jonas bit ...

"I'll stay for the job and take your offer to share the room, at least."

"Excellent," he said and made no more inuindoes.

"I have to go out for about an hour to make some preparations. Can you be ready by then?" I nodded. "Good. I'll forward you what we have so far. Are you using the same gmail?"

I showered and wore my bathing suit under my travel cloths. Of course I had brought one, plans falling to shit or not this was still the beach.

I pulled up his email on my tablet. The photos were pretty hazy, probably from silt stirred up from the diver's finning. There were hundreds of wrecks along this part of the coastline but a new one was still pretty exciting. It had been awhile since I'd done a maritime project, so it would be good to use my underwater conservation skills set again. If it did turn out to be something, and if he took on the project, would Nathaniel consider keeping me on? We had first gotten to know one another at a maritime archaeology convention and had worked on projects together before. He knew I had the chops but there were tons of local experts he could pull in. One step at a time...

As soon as he returned to the room he held out a wet suit- the long sleeved style that I preferred. "A present." It even had magenta trim.  


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