Gunshots waken Ian Tunbridge, an assistant curator of classical antiquities at the British Museum, on his first day on a dig in California. The only way to save his life is to run for it, but luck is not on his side. At least, not until he meets Lucas Arpini, the brash American photographer who seems to have some sort of clue what's going on. Together, they're supposed to be the tools in finding an artifact nobody believes is real -- nobody, that is, except Lucas and the man kidnaps them both.
Ian doesn't know what to believe. His colleagues are dead, he's injured, and he has no choice but to put his faith in a gorgeous stranger. Their escape should lead them straight to the police, but when Lucas shows him pieces of the puzzle they were meant to solve, Ian is too intrigued to walk away. He wants to solve the riddle as badly as Lucas does.
Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones ...
"Did you memorize my entire CV?"
"I had to convince Sultis you were the one for the job."
"The one that's supposed to put us both in the record books."
Even in the darkness, the twinkle in Lucas's eye was unmistakable. "That's the one."
Lucas probably thought he was charming, and perhaps, under other circumstances, he would have been. If Ian had met him in London, maybe, at a bar in Soho, or a theater in the West End, and Lucas had struck up a conversation with him, he would have freely admitted the American had a definite appeal. Even the harsh lines of his military appearance held a certain fascination, a raw sexiness that stemmed both from his brash personality and his striking features.
But this wasn't a social setting, and Lucas Arpini probably wasn't even gay, so considering him anything but the instigator of everything that was currently wrong with Ian's life was out of the question.
"The only job I'm interested in right now is the one that will get me out of this hole with all my body parts in working order, and then onto a plane back to London," he said grimly. "Then, I'll devote myself to ensuring you, Mr. Sultis, and everybody else involved in this debacle are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"Now, hold on. I've been in this hole all morning."
"And by your own admission, you're the only reason I'm here."
"Sultis would have found you eventually. Just like he found me."
That gave Ian pause. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, this whole adventure started out because of Sultis. But now that you're here, we don't have to play by his rules anymore."
His head was starting to throb at the same tempo as his aching ankle and stinging palms. "I still have no idea what any of this is about. Or how you think we're going to get out of this without them pulling us up."
Lucas rose to his feet, with the silent grace of a man who knew his body very well. "Do you trust me?"
His answer was instantaneous. "No."
Lucas smiled. "Fair enough. Do you at least recognize that we're both in the same predicament here?"
Ian glanced around, the memory of the other man's approach still searing across his mind's eye. Neither of them were getting out, and Lucas had been visibly upset by his injuries. "All right. I can concede that."
"How about conceding the desire for knowledge? The need to find the answer first, to solve the riddle before anybody else does."
"Any riddle. I'm speaking hypotheticals." He swept the torch around the cavern, randomly lighting a glimmer of water on a wall, a tangle of roots dangling from the ceiling. "Sultis is an idiot. He wanted us contained so we were easier to control. But he didn't do his research. This isn't just some hole in the ground. I's connected to a whole catacomb. I can get us out of here."
Ian snorted. "If you could do that, why were you still here when they lowered me down?"
The light swung back. Lucas was smiling, his gaze as brilliant as the illumination. "Because I wanted to meet you."
"I don't understand why. I'm nobody."
"You won't be by the time I'm done with you." He held out his hand, clearly expecting Ian to take it. "You don't have to trust me yet. After what you've been through today, I can't say that I blame you. But given the choice of sitting here and waiting for Sultis to come back with his goons and all their guns, or getting up and going along with the guy who's only got a flashlight, his brain, and his good looks as weapons, wouldn't you rather take a chance that just maybe I'm telling you the truth and want only what's best for you? For both of us."
In spite of his better instincts, Ian's mouth twitched at Lucas's self-description. "You don't lack for confidence, do you?"
"Now where would be the benefit of that?"