He carefully glided across me to collect and answer the cell. "Goodmorning. No it's fine, I was up." He listens, amusingly he nods, "Yes, I'll have the initial report written up today and to you by evening. I'll sort the media and send along the most pertinent... Yes. Alright, I'll be in touch. Cheers."

Today was slated for indoor work. We were staying reserved but the coin was a good find. After studying the photo, I could start to make out the letters 'CALI' and almost opposite "ALL". Nathaniel had set me to comparing against the National American History Museum's collection of gold coins.The 49er gold ship the SS Central America had coins with an eagle on one side but it wasn't quite right and the letters didn't match up at all. That had however at least been the right playing field because I narrowed it down to another gold rush piece- a $5 dollar coin minted by Noris, Gregg, and Noris in 1849: "California gold without alloy".

This was right up Nathaniel's alley; they had been smart to contact him, and I was plain lucky to have been on hand. When we broke for lunch, I mentioned as much over my salad at the hotel restaurant.

"Oh this was no coincidence," He said nonchalantly as he continued eating. "I paid that cheap groomsman to abandon you before the wedding."

It took everything I had not to spit my water across the table. After I finished choking- "You what?"

He was laughing, "Olivia, don't be ridiculous. Knowing I was coming here for the wedding made me the perfect choice for the consult. You being here too and this all falling into place is because of our mutual connections in the field, the museum conservation circle, Candice... it's how we all know one another."

Seeing I was still rattled, he took my hands. "I am sorry. My dear you're right, the luck was all mine. When I saw you at the wedding and Candice then said you might be interested in taking on the work because of... circumstances, I was over the moon."

I relaxed but it was scary realizing, "I still think you're capable of that kind of orchestration."

He appeared to consider it. "Perhaps. Though honestly I haven't kept up with all the details of what you've been doing. I'm not exactly the Facebook type..." I had to smirk at that.

"But would you really want to be with someone who could have been so easily bought? A man who would leave you with no explanation shows only a deficiency in himself."

I slowly pulled my hands away and sat back.

"And when I did it to you?"

I braced for his answer.

"It showed your deficiency: your lack of self worth and confidence. I could not give those to you. I could only wait in hopes that you would find them for yourself."

He was absolutely right but that didn't make it feel good to hear him say it.

"I've done most of what I can with the jpgs. I'm going to grab a swim and then I'll proofread for you if you would like?"

He nodded. When I walked away he had a charmed little smile on his face. 'Paid off the cheap groomsman...' I was kinda pissed but had to admit in retrospect it was pretty funny.

I stayed longer on the beach than I had meant to. Nathaniel came down in an open shirt and panama hat to enjoy the last of the afternoon sun. He sat beside me on the towl and I leaned into him to show he was welcome. He kissed the top of my wet hair.

"The other possibility of course was that I wasn't the type of man you wanted," He said with no segway. Maybe I had made him nervous being gone so long. "There was nothing I could do to change that outcome, either." He had really thought about this. Five years ago or this week?

"I'm not an effusive man, but maybe you won't need such embellishments?"

Had the ever confident Nathaniel been contemplating his own flaws? I kissed him as it was the only answer I had at the moment.

"You are valuable, intelligent, and talented. You deserve to be treated well. If you believe that, maybe you can trust me."

I kissed him more then took him back to our room.

I woke in the dark caught in the circular thinking of night. He was right of course that I hadn't trusted his feelings for me. I hadn't been able to justify them. There had never been a lack of physical attraction between us and back then I was afraid that was all it had been for him. But I was starting to understand I wasn't just a convenience then or now.

Damnit there were always strings.

He was so goddamn perfect. I couldn't imagine him ever belching, or watching a stupid movie, or cyber-stalking an ex on social media. How did one live within those standards? Was he the kind of man I could be with? I hadn't thought so before but I was five years and a few bad relationships wiser now, maybe.

I slipped out of bed to get a glass of water from the kitchenette and saw my phone notice flashing. I had barely paid attention to it all week, mainly leaving it in the room to not use roaming data and I had been pointedly ignoring all contact from Jonas, sending it directly to the trash. But here was something different.

I opened the Hangouts app to see a cat eating martini olives, which was Candice's favorite way to address me.

>Whats up? I meant to check on you sooner. Did everthing turn out ok mon? Ive been so busy getting ready for the opening this Fri.

She had just sent it last night. I sat down to answer. In response to her olive cat- she knew I hated the nickname Olive- I sent her a cartoon lollipop. This was my 'hey suckka' ie Candy, reply.

>Still here. Good diving site. I'll prob miss the opening. Sorry.

I was surprised when she answered right back.

>You took the job for Nate? Where are you staying? A bunch of people from the wedding are still there for the week right?

I hadn't thought about that. I hadn't run into anyone but of course they were still here. Hadn't Jonas and I been talking about making it more than a long weekend? Crap. I wasn't sure what I thought about that. Was Jonas still here? With that bridesmaid? I sucked it up and thought her name- Sarah, his ex-girlfriend.

>I've been staying with N.

Let her chew on that one I smiled, getting up for some ice.

>like WITH N?

>yes WITH. bad thing?

There was no one else I would have told this to but Candice was probably my closest friend. I was curious to see what she thought. Candice had actually introduced me to Nathaniel at the convention. She had been the initial bridge between us and really almost everyone I knew from the museum side of our world was through Candy. Wait hadn't Nathanial been her postdoc advisor?

>not bad! If youre happy Im thrilled! Its criminal for a hot man like him to go unappreciated- Lol

>just between us though

>mum. I going bck to sleep. Ttyl?


What had I expected? Surely she wouldn't have crashed me down on Nathaniel if she wasn't okay with him. She'd say if she didn't approve. She hadn't been shy about giving her opinion when I first told her about Jonas.

"The installations guy?"

"He's a preparator..."

"Yeah, yeah- he's also got a rep. I mean why is he still single?"

"Stupid- I'm still single. What about you? And Dawson and..."

"Alright, alright," she laughed. "We're all middle aged museum nerds past our first failed relationships of youth. Speaking of which did you get your save the date for Marty's wedding in your inbox?"

But there was something to that. Why were we all single? Jonas was obviously a very charming cheater. Candice was incredibly picky. Was Nathaniel right about me, that I had low self esteem and didn't feel like I deserved better? And him? He was older than us and unattached. Come to think of it, I hadn't heard about him seeing anyone else since I'd backed out. Though, he was the discrete sort so that didn't mean anything. Why hadn't someone nailed him down? Married to his work?- not really. That was more like Candice. I'm sure he's disterning, but could it be perfection was his fault? He admitted to being overly stoic but could his perfection really be a lack of flexibility?

In his world I had felt like a novelty of flaws. A scruffy puppy or a precocious child kept for amusement. I was always afraid he would get tired of my humanity but maybe he actually needed it. To be fair, I wasn't that scruffy...

"You are thinking awfully hard for six in the morning," he said. "Everything okay?"

"Candice says, 'Hi'." He didn't look concerned at this I noted.

"Preparing for her opening?" He pulled back the blanket and I got back in. I loved seeing him like this- sleepy, slightly rumbled, not impervious to everything. I couldn't resist sliding my hands inside his shirt and wrapping my leg over his. 





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