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When In Petra…

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“You have a choice, Mahakus,” for that was how Nazim pronounced his name. “Please explain to…” he gestured to Nat and looked questioningly back at him.

“Natasha.” Marcus spat out.

“Natasha. What a beautiful name,” Nazim said with a smile, and Marcus ground his teeth together as Nat stared at them. “Tell her that you are both coming with me and my friends, that we will treat you well, and you are free to walk in comfort, as long as there is no more fighting.” Nazim stroked Nat’s cheek with one hand, and stroked Marcus’ opposite cheek with the other. He seemed fond of them both, as if there was some deep emotional connection between them, like dear friends or… lovers.

Marcus grit out the translation, trying to decide what to do. Two more men had joined them in the canyon, and it looked like he and Nat would be going along with Nazim no matter what stunt Marcus tried to pull. Frankly, he’d rather walk out on his own than have to be lugged out in a fireman’s carry, or worse, dragged. An unwanted cartoon image of a caveman dragging his conquest by her long hair flickered across his mind before he shut that down. No way, Marcus thought, I am NOT a damsel in distress. Shit, he thought. I am.

For the millionth time, Marcus cursed his looks. Earlier, when he was lying helplessly under Nazim’s heavy body, the man’s dazzling smile had warmed him even in defeat, until he’d said those words: “I hope you bring this much fire and passion to our bed, my boy.” Until then, Marcus had been thinking that the “virgin” Nazim wanted to “wed” was Natasha. But Nazim’s words made it clear that it was actually Marcus, or maybe both of them, he wanted.

Now as Nazim stroked his cheek, Marcus trembled. He was honest enough with himself to admit that as far as men went, Nazim was a stunningly attractive one, with his mile-long lashes and full, sensual lips. Marcus had had thoughts about handsome guys before; they just weren’t usually the ones who hit on him. If they’d met at a coffee shop in Toronto, and flirted, and exchanged numbers, he would probably have dated this guy. But this wasn’t a coffee shop, and Marcus wasn’t being given a choice about when he’d like to meet up again. Besides, he was with Nat now, and she was everything he’d ever wanted, or at least seemed to be, after only a few days together.

“Okay,” Nat said. “We’ll walk.” Marcus nodded, and repeated her decision in Arabic. Nazim untied their legs, but left their hands bound. He cut the sash in the middle so they were no longer tied together, and helped them up to a standing position. Natasha was still wearing her backpack, but Marcus’ was on the ground. When Nazim saw it, he instructed one of his men to retrieve it, and guiding Natasha by the elbow, he led the way out, through the slot canyon.

They had to walk in single file a long ways, until the canyon widened enough for two to walk abreast. Not much was said, and Marcus used the time to try to figure out what to do. If they took the same route down out of the hills, they would end up shouting distance from the dig site, and since they weren’t gagged (yet), enough screaming would probably bring the archaeologists running. He clung to that thought until they got to the end of the canyon, and the whole vista of the valley opened up before them. What he saw nearly made him fall over. This was not the same valley.