Nisa stared at Oliver, watching his dilated eyes as his body stumbled around. It was the first time she had seen him drunk, but it also made him deadly; to himself.
“Oliver, you’re my best friend! Just tell me what’s going on with you!” Nisa said.
He stood on the edge of a building, wobbling as he stared down at what could possibly be his death. Every time Nisa walked toward him to grab his arm, steady him, or bring him back onto the main part of the roof, he started to walk off the edge.
If she wasn’t careful, she could lose him.
Oliver whirled around, but stumbled and reached his hands out to steady himself.
“Ever since Robert attacked me, you’ve been different. What—what is it?” The man’s name tasted bitter in her mouth. They had gone on a few dates and, for once, she had taken time away from her work for her personal life. Only, Robert wanted more from her than she was willing to give and the end result was weeks of PTSD, prayer, and therapy.
Oliver swallowed deeply and fell forward, so she caught him in her arms and dragged him away from the edge. “I—Nisa… I killed him.”
That had been the last thing she had expected to hear from him. Her eyes widened and she stared at Oliver in shock. His bloodshot eyes filled with tears and he sobbed; the sound made her wince; nothing should ever make him feel that way.
“Ollie…” Nisa whispered.
Oliver shook his head, sucking in a deep breath. “I—I—After you told me what happened, I followed him. S—saw him attacking another woman, so I—I stopped him, attacked. He—he had a knife. I remembered what you said… about the attack and I realized… if—if you hadn’t found a way to slip out the window of your apartment… he—he would have killed you, just like he planned to kill her.”
Nisa blinked and caressed his jaw with her fingers. “It was self-defense, Oliver. He came at you with the knife, right?”
Oliver nodded. “Yeah, b—but I attacked first.”
Nisa pursed her lips. “Did you turn yourself in? Oliver, the police might not—might not see it that way!” Nisa couldn’t bear for her best friend to go to prison because of her.
Oliver laughed mirthlessly, rubbing his eyes. “You know my father. He—he covered the whole thing up. Like it never happened.”
Oliver’s rich father always dealt with situations outside of the law—when you had enough money, you could afford to be above it, she supposed. He had always wanted to make a life of his own, which was part of the reason why she guessed he loved following her around the world on the digs.
“I—I deserve to die,” Oliver whispered.
Nisa blinked. Robert stood behind him, knife in hand as he lunged toward them both.
Nisa sat up on her cot, breathing heavily, body trembling. Sweat coated her in a thick layer, so she sat up and wiped off her face with a cool cloth. For the past three years, she had finally overcome the nightmares, but talking with Oliver about it last week had obviously brought them back—or a different form of them, anyway. They had plagued her every night over the past seven days and part of Nisa was afraid she would never get rid of them this time.
After that, Oliver had cut himself off from his father’s money and chose to live a regular job with her as her head of security. He didn’t start that way, but her past head of security retired two years ago and had hired him in his stead.
Blowing out a deep sigh, Nisa said a prayer to help calm herself and then turned on her computer. She reread over Edward Malford’s last email and chewed on her lip, as she tried to decide what to do.
If anyone could help her, it was him. At the same time, she had to be very careful with how much she told him. Finally, she opened up her email and started typing.
Dear Edward Malford,
What if I told you we had discovered something… major here? Something worth coming for, so you can take a look at it personally?
Something that could be what your father and my father spent their lives searching for?
Nisa held her breath as she read the words over and over again to make sure it sounded good. She knew better than to include any specific details; after all, she was still careful, and would be when it came to anything discovered in the pyramid. But she had to tell someone else, someone better involved with the historical society who could help her figure out what to do now that she had a way to translate the language. More than that, Edward could help her possibly find the other stories discovered in other pyramids and then they could even translate them too.
During the past week, the police had finally cleared them to work in the pyramid. For the past two days, Nisa’s team had begun excavating some of the deeper parts of it and more artifacts had slowly been pouring in. Nisa, of course, was still stuck on the first ones, especially with all the information they’d been learning of them.
The chemist reports from the mysterious bottles found inside one of the chambers had come in and Nisa hadn’t had a chance to read them last night—she’d fallen asleep after working sixteen straight hours.
Pursing her lips, Nisa picked up the chemist reports and eagerly started to read them. Voices echoed from outside, temporarily distracting her, but Nisa tried to ignore them. The shouts only grew louder, drawing her conversation away from the chemist reports. Frustrated, she tossed the papers onto her desk and stormed out of her tent.
Some of the workers stood in a circle, shouting and cheering two people on inside. Fights didn’t often break out in her camp—fighting would result in being “arrested” on site. The two caught fighting would be placed under guard until the situation and reason for fighting had been resolved. Her immediate suspicions went to Chris—not that she could blame him for attacking whoever Susie had had an affair with.
When the workers saw her emerging from the tent, they parted like the Red Sea, eyes staring at her in complete and total surprise and shock.
“What’s going…?” Nisa’s voice trailed off as she came to stand in the center of the circle. She stared at the two men as shock rippled through her.
Oliver and another worker she couldn’t remember the name of rolled around on the sand, coated in dirt and sweat. He slammed his fists against the man’s nose, but he kneed Oliver in the chest and scrambled away from him.
In a situation like this, Nisa’s immediate reaction would have been to get Oliver to arrest them both. This time, that would be slightly more difficult.
Nisa’s eyes scanned the crowd until she found four of Oliver’s security men. She marched right up to them and snapped her fingers at them. “What are you gawking at? Do your job and arrest them both!”
“B—but, ma’am… Oliver…” One security man’s voice trailed off.
Nisa glared at him. “I don’t care. You know the rules here and there are no exceptions! Arrest them both. Bring Oliver to my tent.”
“Yes, ma’am.” With that, the group of security men darted up and grabbed Oliver and the other worker by the arms and yanked them apart.
Oliver’s face reddened as the other man lunged toward him, but the security men held him back. Nisa’s chest tightened as Oliver’s eyes stared at the man in cold fury.
As the security team dragged them both away—and in Ollie’s case, took him to her tent, as she’d asked—Nisa stood in the center of the crowd. “None of you should condone or cheer on this behavior! Fighting on site is prohibited! And there are no exceptions! Now, get back to work!” she shouted, voice rising over the entire crowd.
Frustration and worry rattled her as Nisa made her way back to her own tent. Oliver had never done anything like this; he wasn’t the kind of man to lose his temper or get into brawls. The nightmare from before flashed in her mind and she tried not to imagine that the fight with this man might have turned deadly had she not stopped it. No, she mentally told herself. Oliver saw Robert attacking a woman, about ready to kill her. That is completely different from starting a brawl on the work site! She tried not to be angry with him, but he was her head of security. He couldn’t just go around acting this way! Even if the shooting last week had deeply affected him; it had her too, but they didn’t need this kind of trouble.
Inside, Oliver’s hand had been cuffed to the leg of her desk, across the desk from her chair.
He looked up when she walked inside, lip bleeding on the side. His green eyes softened for a moment, but it was gone as he glared at the ground. “You still going to banish me off site?” His jaw clenched.
“What was this all about, Ollie?” Nisa murmured. She sat in her desk, and lowered her laptop, so she could see him where he sat across from her.
Oliver shook his head, staring blankly at the side of the tent.
“Ollie!” Nisa reached across all the papers and her laptop and placed her hands on his. “The last time you were this closed off with me…” Her voice trailed off.
Oliver winced and finally turned his eyes to meet hers. “The guy’s name is Frank. My team was running typical background checks on all new people as they come in. He arrived several weeks ago, but something… odd just now came back. So, I had my guys run it again.”
“And?” Nisa prompted.
Oliver’s jaw clenched again. “And it seems Frank is just one of many fake names. I went to confront him about it; give him the chance to explain himself before I contact the US Embassy to have him deported.”
“And he attacked you?” Nisa felt reassurance wash over her like cold water after being in the hot desert sun. The nightmare last night had left her stressed and worn, but this was her Ollie. She should have remembered that sooner.
Oliver shook his head and instantly, all that reassurance fled, leaving her feeling empty and afraid.
Nisa frowned, squeezing his hands. “I need you to tell me everything, Oliver.”
Oliver cursed. “I’d heard the rumors from the other workers that the guy was weird. One woman was afraid of him after he had first arrived, so I had one of my men on him for a few days, but nothing happened, so I let it go, thinking maybe she was just paranoid or something. But when I went to confront him about his fake identities, he—“ Oliver’s voice darkened and he glared at the table with that same, cold fury. “He said he’d been watching you. That he could get to you at a moment’s notice. That I better forget I found his other identities, or he’d kill you.”
Nisa’s eyes widened.
“That’s when I attacked him.” Oliver slowly slid his gaze up to meet hers.
Nisa chuckled lightly. “Ollie, couldn’t you have just arrested him?”
Oliver shook his head and his green irises stared deeply into hers, as if he could see everything about her. “No, I couldn’t, Ni. I—I’ve loved you for a long time,” he blurted, the words pouring from his lips faster than Nisa could fully process them. “Almost losing you last week and then his threat today, I just… I can’t lose you and I’m tired of not saying how I feel just because I was afraid.”
“Afraid?” Nisa whispered, feeling tears in her eyes. “That I would reject you?” she asked and the tears finally spilled over. How could he not see how deeply she loved and cared for him?
Oliver shook his head, fingers intertwining with hers. “No. Afraid that if I let us go there… like I knew we both wanted… that you would get to know the real me and—and—“ He choked, glaring at the table.
Nisa stood up from her chair and darted around the table. She fell into his lap, wrapping her arms around him. His free arm—left—tightened around her back in a warm embrace. “And what?” she whispered in his ear.
“…and realize that I’m not good enough for you.”
Nisa pulled back and brushed a blonde curl out of his green eyes. “Ollie, I already know you and you—you are perfect for me. I’m tired of letting my career hold me back from being truly happy. I have God, and this passion for history God has given me. I have my career… and you with me. That’s—that’s all I ever need, Oliver.”
Oliver’s entire body relaxed and sagged into her, as if the weight of his fear had kept him tense and unstable until now. “I love you, Nisa.”
“I love you too.” Nisa glanced down at him and then glanced at the tent entrance. “I’ll have your guys release you and keep an eye on the worker while I send some guys back to the US Embassy and tell them he needs to be deported.”
Oliver nodded, tapping his fingers on the desk. “Ni? I’m sorry. For causing all this trouble. When it comes to you… sometimes, I can’t control myself.”
Nisa shook her head with a laugh. “No. No, you really can’t.” She stepped toward the entrance, but still felt the weight of his gaze on her back.
“Nisa?” Oliver murmured softly, his voice breaking.
Nisa paused, her hand on the edge of the tent flap.
“I’m not—I’m not… good. How—how can you believe I’m good enough for you?”
Nisa smiled and looked at him over her shoulder for a long time. “Because, Oliver,” she started. “You gave up money and the greedy, dirty life your father wanted for you, for this instead. You have saved countless lives and always try to do the right thing. The fact that you feel guilty about a scumbag like Robert proves you’re better than him. I mean, you know that after his death, they found out he had actually killed women before me, don’t you?”
Oliver swallowed deeply and shook his head. “I put it out of my mind after that night, Nisa.”
She turned around, eyes softening on him. “I know. God has forgiven you as long as you’ve repented. There was nothing for me to forgive in the first place. You saved a woman’s life and, who knows? Robert might have tried to hurt me again. You deserve to be happy, too, you know. I know your dad believed money to be happiness, but you know it isn’t. You’re not a failure. Not in my eyes. I love you for the man you are, Oliver. The kind, compassionate, caring man who puts everyone else before himself. Yes, even the man who blames himself for everything. That’s the man I fell in love with. The man I was so afraid to lose, I hid my feelings from. You are good enough for me.”
Oliver looked up and met her eyes with tears in his own. “Nisa…” he whispered. “What did I do to deserve you?”
Nisa shook her head. “We didn’t do anything to deserve each other, Ollie. We’re a gift from God to each other.”