The problem with riding off into the sunset is that it inevitably gets dark afterwards.

Without the spectre (ooh, bad choice of word, Evelyn!) of a five-hundred-dollar bet hanging menacingly over our heads, the five of us--Jonathan, O'Connell, myself, and the camels--decided to camp for the night. Actually, the camels decided. They were tired, and I couldn't very well blame them; in point of fact I sympathized. The events of the past few days had been both exhilarating and sorely trying, and now that it was all finally over, I found myself without the strength to do much more than perform an absolutely top-hole impersonation of a sack of potatoes. The only thing preventing me from slipping away entirely into the sleep of ages was the comforting--albeit rather distracting--proximity of O'Connell.


I had to start calling him Rick now.

As I opened my mouth for what must have been the twelfth consecutive yawn, the camel simply slowed to a stop and sank down into the sand. "Yalla," I murmured drowsily into my companion's shoulder. For his part, he employed a few other words in Arabic--terms I don't particularly care to repeat--which could only have been addressed to the camel, since I certainly wouldn't tolerate being referred to in such an offensive manner. The beast ignored us both.

Jonathan's camel, after an inquisitive sniff at his fellow-creature's head, dropped gracelessly down beside us. Jonathan, echoing the sniff, made a sour face and and uttered a few words of encouragement: "Come on... lazy bugger... I want a nap too, but not here... not now..." Alas, to no avail; the camels, much like myself, were down for the count.

Rick rolled off the camel's back, landing with a muffled thump before assisting me down. He was rather rough-and-tumble most of the time, but, I'd found, could be possessed of a very delicate touch when the circumstances demanded it. Of course, the moment my feet touched the ground, he snatched me about the waist and flopped down beside the sleeping beast. Bound by the laws of physics, I landed neatly in his lap. So much for delicacy.

"Is there anything we can sleep on?" I inquired, squeaking as his arms tightened about me.

He shrugged. "Some priceless artifacts."

We had discovered the treasure in the saddle bags while looking for a canteen or other source of refreshment. That nasty little man in the fez--Beni, was it?--must have planned on beating a hasty retreat once his master's objective had been accomplished. Fortunately for us, his expectations had come to naught--and now we had a truly princely collection to present to the Museum once we got back.

"Hmm, doesn't sound very appealing, does it?"

Rick pulled the makeshift khafiya off his head, devil-may-care grin firmly in place. "I don't know... you're the best treasure of 'em all, and you seem warm enough... and soft enough..." Tender talk lured me into a kiss before I quite realized it, and it seemed only a second later that Jonathan was upon us.

"Only two bloody blankets in the whole lot--oh, not again!" he roared, throwing up both hands in defeat. "I might as well be by myself out here, for all the use you two are."

"We could use the camels' saddle rugs," I pointed out.

Jonathan wrinkled his nose. "Eugh, I'd almost rather make my bed in the sand."

"Forbearance is a virtue." I smiled serenely up at him. O'Connell dumped me onto the ground and stood to give my brother a hand. As they set about denuding the camels, I got to my feet, brushed the sand from my person, and attempted to tidy up a bit. The dry air, blistering sun, and scouring sands had all conspire to make me quite the ragamuffin: my throat was hoarse, my skin parched and reddening in patches, my hair a veritable birds' nest. Despite O'Connell's--Rick's--assertions, I did not feel the least bit attractive at that particular point in time.

As if sensing the turn my thoughts had taken, Jonathan chucked me under the chin. "Smashing as ever, old mum. Now, here's a nice, ragged, filthy, flea-ridden carpet for you to sleep on." With typical showman's flair, he snapped the rug to attention and let it drop softly into the sand. Another soon joined it, then a brightly-woven blanket that I distinctly remembered purchasing at the suk where we had acquired the camels. When he wielded the second blanket, I waved him off, feeling rather like the princess and the pea.

"You keep that." Going along with his opprobriously false cheer, I grinned. "What more could a girl ask for?" Besides food... and fresh water... and a bed... and clean clothes... hmm.

Jonathan winked at me, then bounded over to the remaining camel and continued his work. Our adventures seemed to have permanently cured him of the lassitude that had characterized most of his exploits thus far; he'd smartened up admirably and come through when I needed him most--although, when he'd gotten his first look at the treasure, the glint in his eye had suggested he was mentally calculating how many bottles of his favourite poison it would purchase.

With little else to do, I sacked out on the mouldering rugs and pulled the blanket over me. Once I managed to stop picturing what sorts of loathsome creatures might be sharing my makeshift bed, it was actually quite comfortable. I was drifting pleasantly in that twilight place between lucidity and slumber when a sudden displacement of the air and sand beside me jolted me back to the land of the living.

O'Connell landed heavily on his rug, strategically close to my own, by virtue of what could only have been a flying leap. He rolled onto his side and gave a cavalier wave. "Hiya."

"What on Earth do you think you're doing?"

He elected to consider the question from its most literal standpoint before replying. "Uh... going to sleep?"

"Where's Jonathan?"

He pointed to the large, looming bulk of the sleeping camels. "On the other side there. Nice of him to give us our privacy."

"You get over there with him," I ordered.


"You can't sleep here, it's not--well, it's just not proper!"

"You didn't seem to mind back at Hamunaptra."

"It's different when we're all in a group, especially when there are mummies and curses and things floating about... I have my reputation to think of--what would people say?"

O'Connell shook his head as if to clear it. "What are you talking about? Who's gonna talk, the camels?"

"Well, you see... there's always the chance that... just go away, won't you?" I rolled over, closed my eyes, put my fingers in my ears, and counted to three. When I peeked over my shoulder, he was still lying there, hurt and confusion clearly etched upon his face.

"Evelyn, did I miss something? Are you mad at me?"

"Of course not! Perhaps I'm being old-fashioned about this, but... well, it would be different if we were married. Or even engaged. But we're not. So you can't be here. You have to be over there."

He sat up, obviously still puzzled. "Evelyn..."

"I'm not saying you have to propose right now, O'Connell," I retorted hotly.


Right. "Right."

"I'm not gonna try anything, if that's what you're worried about. I just feel like I should be here... you know... to protect you."

I smiled, thankful the night air was there to chill my blush. "If anyone needs protecting, it's Jonathan."

He shrugged, silhouetted shoulders rippling with a fluid grace that suddenly made me short of breath. "Somehow, I don't quite get the same protective itch when it comes to your brother."

"I think I'd be worried if you did."

"So it's settled." He lay back down on the rug and crossed his arms with an air of finality.

"I suppose it is."

An odd, mewling cry rent the still night. "What was that?" I whispered, reaching for O'Connell's arm.

"Shh!" he shot back. Every muscle tensed and tightened beneath my hand, and when I looked over at him he had his gun out and ready.

The cry melted away into a groan, then a growl, and finally a hacking snort. One of the camels was having a nightmare, apparently. I fell limply back onto my ersatz pallet with a gasp, clutching at my chest with both hands in an attempt to still my erratically pounding heart.

"Huh." Rick stretched out beside me again, and before long I could hear him breathing deeply and evenly. I took this to mean he was asleep, until he shifted, propped himself up on one elbow, and asked, "Do you want to get married?"

I was speechless with astonishment for quite some time, finally managing to force out enough breath for a feeble "What?"

"I said, do you want to get married?"

"To you, you mean?"

"Yeah, unless there's some other guy you haven't mentioned before now."

"Of course there isn't! What do you think I am? Some sort of--"

"You're avoiding the question," he pointed out.

"Well... are you asking me if I want to, or telling me you want to?"

"I don't know... both? Neither?"

I couldn't quite contain my amusement. "You've thought this through, I see."

"You're gonna make me go bunk up with Jonathan, aren't you."

"No, no... I will admit, the idea had occurred to me. Getting married, I mean."


"But... I don't know. Everything's happening a little quickly, don't you think? We don't even know each other that well."

"I know everything I need to. Besides, it doesn't have to be the second we get back to the city... just, you know, eventually. You can get a nice dress--"

"What makes you think I don't already own a nice dress?!"

O'Connell slapped a hand to his forehead. "Damn it, Evelyn, you can wear whatever the hell you like or nothing at all, it doesn't matter!" Before I could protest that it most certainly did, he rushed on with, "Jonathan can give you away--"

"Don't bother to wait 'till the wedding for that!" my brother called, from what seemed like a very great distance--although it was apparently close enough to eavesdrop... one of Jonathan's specialties. "I'll give her away this instant. She's yours, O'Connell, lock, stock, and barrel, and all the rights pertaining thereto. Enjoy."

"You babbling ninny!" I shouted back, irritated and embarrassed. Unable to contest this assessment of his character, Jonathan fell silent--and, one might hope, asleep. When I resumed the discussion, it was in a whisper. "Are you saying you want to marry me, O'Connell?"

It was hard to tell, but I sensed he was giving me a very dirty look. "We are not having this conversation until you call me Rick."

"In that case, good night, Mister O'Connell." I curled up on my side, facing away from him, and pillowed my head on my arm. There was no way I was getting to sleep now--my thoughts and feelings were more in turmoil than ever. It was pretty damn presumptuous of this man to think he could just barge into my life and read me like an open book... and what made it doubly difficult to bear was the uncanny way he had of being right.

He obviously wasn't engaged in such intense self-scrutiny; before long, I heard him chuckling. "I'm glad you find this so bloody funny," I muttered.


"Care to share the joke?"

"It's nothing, I, uh... I just realized what I said earlier, and this picture popped into my mind."

"Picture? Of what?"

I could hear the grin in his voice. "You getting married... wearing nothing at all."

I lashed out blindly with my foot until I struck what felt like a vulnerable spot. "Stop it!"

"Ow! Stop what?"

"Stop imagining me naked! You're not allowed to do that!"

"My mistake. I apologize."

"Oh, be quiet."

Surprisingly, he obeyed.

I was the one who broke the silence next. "Rick...?"

"Yeah?" He jerked to a sitting position with a start, and I realized he must have been asleep. Oh, good show, Evelyn, the man saves you from being ritually sacrificed by an immortal monster and you won't even let him rest?

"I didn't mean to wake you--I'm sorry," I stammered. "I--I can't sleep, that's all. I mean, I'm not tired."

"Oh." It was more of a low rumble than a word. Like distant thunder. "Something wrong?"

"N--no. Of course not."

"You're shivering. And your teeth are chattering."

"I'm cold."

He shuffled around a bit in the darkness. "I'd give you my blanket if I had one."

"I know."

His hand, warm and reassuring, found my shoulder. "Come here," he whispered. Confound reputation, I thought, and closed the distance. He put his arms around me, moving tentatively, as though he were afraid I might crumble (or perhaps that I might kick him again). After a bit of dithering about on both sides we managed to get comfortable under the one blanket we did have. His chin rested in my hair, my cheek against the coarse fabric of his shirt. "Better?"

"Much... thank you."

"Want to sleep, or talk?"

"Can we talk?"

"Sure. Tell you what--you think we should get to know each other better, right? Ask me something. Anything."

"All right..." Thus accorded free reign to pick Rick O'Connell's brain, there wasn't a single thing I could think of to ask. He'd told me most of his life story in snippets over the past week: first-generation American, younger son of well-off parents who called him Richard, left to make his own way in the world... and what a way it was. I suspect he glossed over a few parts, but at the time I felt rather like Desdemona listening to the tales of Othello. He was someone different, someone outside my experience of the world but, by means of his adventurous spirit, connected to the bold life my parents had embraced. "What's your favourite colour?"

"Green. No reason, really, I just like it. What's yours?"


"Why am I not surprised?"

"Not because of its value... gold is everywhere. It's the colour of sunsets, of the sands and the stones of the pyramids, of Egypt itself. All the things I love." It's true. One of the first things I noticed about O'Connell after he'd gotten himself cleaned up was his hair, gilded by the sunlight. Spun gold. "And my mother... the colour gold always reminds me of her. My father used to call her his golden goddess."


"He loved her dearly, even though she was always getting herself into some disastrous scrape... she was brilliant, though. And beautiful."

"Yeah. I saw the picture. Sounds like someone I know." I smiled into his chest. He dropped a kiss into my hair. "See? I'm learning about you already. Okay, next question."

"Umm... what did you think of me when you first met me?"

He laughed. "That you were only interested in me because of Hamunaptra."

"Well, I was," I blurted. "I mean, that was why I came, you know that. But what I meant was... when we met, did you--like me?"

"You know something, Evelyn?"


"I loved you the moment I saw you."

"Oh, don't be ridiculous," I sighed--but somehow, in that desolate desert landscape, under the motley patchwork of stars and clouds, love at first sight seemed almost tangible. Because I had felt something too, the instant I'd clapped eyes on him--a condemned prisoner, a wild man, but with a spark of something indestructible in his look. A diamond in the rough.

"I mean it. When I looked at you, I saw one of those girls that you just want to throw over your shoulder and carry off to safety. But you weren't scared of anyone or anything--not scared enough to let it stop you. You knew what you wanted and you went for it. Just walked right into that prison like you owned the joint. I saw men twice your size take two steps in and faint from the stench."

"I can well imagine. It was an awful place."

"You're telling me." His arms tightened around me reflexively. I inched upwards and planted a sympathetic kiss on his chin, reminded again of Othello: She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them. "So, Evelyn... how about you? You hated me, right?"

"Well, I thought you were ill-mannered, crude, possibly unbalanced, certainly dangerous... but I also couldn't stop thinking about that kiss."

"Me neither."

"Even though it wasn't all that good."

"No, but I knew the next one was gonna be."

"I wasn't sure there would be a next one."

"Me neither, especially when you agreed to go with him--"

"Rick--Rick, you're squeezing me too tight, I can't breathe."


"I had to go, darling, you know that." Darling? Where had that come from? No matter. It felt natural to say it, so why not? "You would have done the same for me," I finished.

"Yeah... I almost lost it though. If they hadn't held me back I would have gone tearing after you. All I could think was, what if she doesn't make it? What if I never get to tell her..." His voice was steady, but I could feel a tremor building in his body.

"But it all came out all right in the end," I observed.

He kissed my forehead. "Better than all right."

"Were you--were you serious about our getting married?"

"Sure. Keeping you out of trouble is a full-time job, but I think I can handle it."

"That's awfully arrogant of you, to assume I'll say yes when you haven't even asked me properly."

O'Connell threw off the blanket and dragged me to my feet.

"What are you--" The night air was a slap to my senses. I stood there, freezing, feeling faintly ludicrous. He knelt before me, took both my hands in his own.

"I don't exactly have a ring, but I'm sure if we look we can find something in the saddle bags."

Tears pricked and tingled behind my eyes. "That's all right."

"Evelyn, will you marry me?"

I looked up to the star-filled sky, down to the sand, then at him. And nodded.

"Is that a yes?"

"Yes--oh, Rick!"

He was on his feet in seconds, kissing me madly--cheeks, forehead, nose, mouth, and chin. Anywhere. Everywhere. Abandoning all notions of propriety, I reciprocated with a fervor that surprised us both.

"Thank God that's settled!" came the unmistakable voice of my brother. "Now maybe I can bloody get some SLEEP!"

We collapsed onto our rugs, alternately kissing, laughing hysterically, shushing each other, and whispering "I love you", until at last sheer exhaustion took over. As I sleepily sought the comfort of my fiance's embrace, I thought to myself, Evelyn O'Connell... I rather like the sound of that...