Part Seven

They woke in the middle of Sydneyís kitchen floor. Sydney was on her side in a fetal position, her body curved toward her colleague. Nigel was draped over her, his cheek flush against her breast and his hand over her heart. He didnít move, didnít breathe, and he was undecided whether he was more interested in the sensations raised by the unplanned intimacy, or if he cared more about living to see another day. Finally he asked, "You okay, Syd?" Gingerly, he removed his hand to safer territory on her upper arm. He was relieved when she made no immediate move to kill him.

She responded slowly. "I think so." Her voice was unsteady.

Her response was too slow and too unsteady, to Nigelís way of thinking. He raised his head and peered at her. "You donít sound terribly okay."

A blush stained her cheeks, and for just a moment he allowed himself the luxury of wondering if she wanted him to remain where heíd been. He banished the thought instantly, knowing its pursuit would only get him into trouble. "Maybe I should call the paramedics. You were out cold. I couldnít find a pulse, and you werenít breathing." Worry instantly crowded out more prurient designs.

"Iím fine. No paramedics. I just need some caffeine."

Doubtful, he nonetheless helped her up and to another chair. The overturned one sported a fractured leg, rendering it useless.

He knelt beside her, frowning. "Syd, what just happened? I mean, was it a dream? Do you recall the same thing I do?"

Sydney returned his gaze, and he saw genuine fear in the depths of her chocolate eyes. "I donít know," she confessed. "I sawÖ" She drew a deep, shuddering breath, and let her eyes close. "I saw Daphne, the magicianís assistant. I couldnít have done that, it had to be a dream."

Nigel hesitated, uncertain of propriety when one was in oneís bossís kitchen with her in her pajamas. He knelt next to her chair, one hand on the chair arm and the other halted in the middle of reaching for her.

Then again, they were now in a much less compromising position than mere moments before. He completed his gesture, pushing an ebony strand from her eyes. "I canít say for certain," he replied, "but it sounds like we had the same dream. If it was a dream. I recall Daphne, too. And a riddle."

Sydneyís head jerked up and she sucked in her breath. "You remember the riddle?"

"Yes, I do. She said we canít figure out the moon message on our own. And as much as I hate to admit it, I think she may be right. There are symbols in the embedded message that I simply canít find in any of the texts."

Go to Part Eight.

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