Finding them staring at her again, “What now?” she asked irritated with their presence and unnerving manner.
“I think we should introduce ourselves, after all we are sharing the cave tonight.” The major replied and made his way toward Paige.
Putting her apple down and getting up to meet the major half way, she accepted his hand, but instead of shaking it he took her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles gently.
“Major Alexander Robson, but call me Alex, at your service ma’am.” Alex smiled.
“Paige Thornton,” Paige greeted taken aback by his manner.
“So Miss Thornton, this as you may not know is Commander Corvan Steel,” Alex introduced and was acknowledged by just a nod. “This is Lieutenant Neal Samuels.”
Neal walked forward and politely shook Paige’s hand, the same gesture was made by Corporal Edward Smyth, known as Eddie and Corporal Arnold Jenkins, known as AJ. Once all formalities where taken care of, Paige asked them to use her name and not Mrs. Thornton as it reminded her of her ex. They laughed and agreed. About to settle down again Alex and Neal joined her at the fire and suggested Eddie and AJ get more firewood, now that the rain had stopped.
Paige sat back down at her map and finished her apple when she realised the three men left in the cave had made themselves comfortable around the fire and was drinking out of large flasks watching her again.
“So now that you found my cave, what are you planning to do here?” Paige asked as she started to fold up her map.
The Commander started shifting irritated with her question, but decided to say nothing just in case he may say something he would regret later. Instead he looked over at the Major, who replied in a very serious tone. “If we tell you, we will have to kill you.” The Major smiled. The Commander quickly looked over to Paige to see how she would react to that comment. If he had said it, he was sure she would stab that knife into his heart, but because it was the Major, she laughed.
“Ditto” she replied before they asked her the same question.
“Ah, so you on a secret mission too then?” The Major asked taking another sip from his flask.
“Something like that.” Paige smiled slyly.
“So what makes these caves yours?” The commander could not resist asking, making the Major clear his throat. Paige noticed the two men’s why of communicating. She now realised the Major and his charm would get far more information from her than the Commander, she smiled at the interaction.
“Its mine because I have permission to be here.” Paige tried to say politely but failed as her mouth twisted into a sneer.
“Why do you think we don’t have permission?” The commander scoffed.
“Well if you had, you would have had the co-ordinates to find them, but instead you had no idea where they were.” Paige replied and stood up in frustration, looking down at the men, “Commander these caves have sensitive and historical data buried deep inside its cavities and I do not want you and your men entering these caves and upsetting or destroying evidence before I had a chance in retrieving it. I don’t know what you are after and to be honest I don’t really care, but what I do care about are these caves and the dig.” Paige advised finding her temper boiling again.
The Major stood up and joined her, “Ma’am I understand your frustration and I do sympathise with you, however, our presence here is classified and very necessary.” The Major explained in an even voice.
Paige looked at the three men now all standing anticipating a showdown, when she backed up a little and picked up her backpack angrily and threw it down again. “Okay, I’m not going to get into a pissing match with you, so I am willing to compromise.” She said, taking a deep breath to even her temper a little and then added, “I am willing to work with you, if you respect my space and I will respect yours. I understand you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t necessary and I get that, but please respect my place and the ground you tread on. Deal?”
The Major looked over to the Commander and the Lieutenant, they nodded. “Deal” the Major replied. Walking over to where he placed his backpack took out his bedroll, lay it out and sat on it. Using his backpack as a backrest, and settled in for the night.
The men did not sleep, instead they watched Paige settle down and lay on her back watching the ceiling for a bit then shivered by the sounds of the night and move her bedroll closer to the fire. Finding her shine her flashlight over them, they pretending to be asleep. As Paige settled down again, Corvan watched her most of the night trying to fall asleep and finally when she did he found she did not rest easily. He had a suspicion this agreement with them sharing this cave and its secrets will reveal many other personal ones that may not be easy to explain. The first and largest secret of all was what he and his men where and what they were after, this secret may cost her, her life. Not knowing why he was so attracted to her, but he had to ensure at all cost that she would remain innocent throughout this mission and not compromise their secrets. Now how was he supposed to do this, he was not certain but he had to try. He watched as the fire gave her skin an orange glow, it gave her an aura of power and mystery that surprisingly aroused him.
WAKING UP THE next morning was just as surprising, Paige moaned and stretched as she started to wake up, stiff from sleeping on the ground, Paige gently lifted herself up to find the men dressed and ready for the day. The sun had not made its way over the mountain yet and so a thick fog hung like a heavy curtain over the caves entrance. Not concerned about the outside of the cave, Paige got up without a word and took out a can of beans and opened it, then placed it on some hot coals. While that was warming up as breakfast she took out her toothbrush and paste to brush her teeth, then brushed her hair, tied it back and then took out a deodorant stick, lifted her t-shirt and ran it under each arm. Corvan watched her every move from the corner of his eye as he made as if he was reading something. Quietly he watched and studied her as she carefully removed the hot can of beans off the fire and gently forked its contents into her mouth. Finishing it off she put the can in the same container she had her apple core the night before and put it to one side. How meticulous she was, everything had a purpose and a reason. Finally, a half an hour later, she was geared up and ready to explore the caves.