Riley Poole was at the bookstore…again. It was where he always went when he felt depressed. After all, where better to go to get cheered up than to a place where beautiful women would recognize him from his book and beg for his signature? That was just the cure he needed for his depression, which had recently been brought on by Brianna when she broke up with him at their last date, or, "Our last date until hell freezes over," as she had put it. He hadn't meant anything by his flirtation with that waitress…Rachel, was it?...Brianna was just overly sensitive.
He wandered absentmindedly through the history section, waiting for a young woman to suddenly recognize him and ask for a signed copy of his book. Riley sighed and leaned against one of the shelves. He had been in the store for nearly two hours, yet not one woman had approached him.
"The store will be closing in ten minutes. Please move to the front desk to make your final purchases," a bored voice said over the PA system.
Riley sighed again. A Friday night and no date. Why hadn't he asked for Rachel's number?
"Excuse me." Riley looked up into beautiful chocolate-brown eyes. "Are you Riley Poole?"
"Y-yes!" Riley stammered in surprise. His luck was getting better! "Yes, I am."
The woman standing in front of him smiled. "You wrote that book, the one about the Templar Treasure and other myths, right?" she said, tucking a lock of wavy brown hair behind her ear.
"That aren't really myths," Riley added with a smile.
The woman laughed. "Perhaps." She held out her hand. "Alexandra Brown."
Riley smiled and shook her hand. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Brown. Or would you prefer Alexandra?"
"I'd prefer Alex," she said with a grin. "And it's a great pleasure to meet you, Mr. Poole."
"Riley," Alexandra repeated. "Is it true that you're in the process of writing another book? One about your experiences finding Cibola? I'd certainly love to read it."
Riley smiled broadly. He most definitely liked Alexandra. "It won't be published for a few months, but…I could tell you about it now." Another announcement came over the PA system. "But since we don't have time here…would you like to go out to dinner, and I can tell you all about my latest adventure?"
Alexandra smiled shyly. "Really?"
Riley nodded. "How does Italian food sound to you? I know a restaurant a few blocks from here that has the most amazing Spaghettini al Pomodoro." He was very pleased at how smoothly the foreign words rolled off his tongue. Riley had practiced it before coming to the bookstore, just in case.
"I love Italian."
Riley smiled. "Great!"
The two walked to the nearby restaurant, though Riley made a point to stop at his Ferrari to "pick up his sunglasses," which he discovered in his pocket a minute after failing to find them in his car.
"You have the coolest car I have ever seen," Alexandra said as they walked to the restaurant. "Red is my favorite color, and…"
"I know. I have a sweet ride." Alexandra laughed, not taking this as arrogance, but as a joke, just as Riley had hoped.
Riley was extremely pleased with his performance during dinner as he told Alexandra all about finding the lost City of Gold, embellishing a little, of course. Alexandra hung onto his every word. The sun had set by the time they had finished eating dinner and had moved on to dessert. Riley discovered that Alexandra had a very strong love for chocolate, seeing as she ordered a slice of double-layered chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate sauce. The excess amount of chocolate involved was likely the reason it was given the name "Chocolate Lover's Cake."
"So what about you?" Riley asked as he ate his ice cream sundae (with extra chocolate sauce). Alexandra looked at him questioningly. "What do you do? What do you like? Besides chocolate, anyway." Alexandra laughed softly. She had a cute laugh.
"My life is not nearly as interesting as yours," she said. "I have a degree in American History from William and Mary." Riley was slightly disappointed to hear this—she would certainly outshine Riley when it came to history, like Ben and Abigail always did. But it was a small sacrifice.
"Impressive. What sort of job can you get with that?" Riley asked.
"Well, I work for the CIA."
Riley spit out the ice cream that was in his mouth back into the bowl. Alexandra laughed brightly. "I'm sorry for being so blunt, but I love seeing people react to hearing that."
Riley quickly wiped his mouth with his napkin and smiled nervously as he leaned forward. "Are you allowed to tell me that?" he asked in a low voice.
Alexandra grinned broadly. "I don't do anything secret—I don't do much at all really. I sit behind a desk and do paperwork. I'm not that important or high-ranking. Only the spies and some of the higher members of the organization need to keep their identity and job secret."
Riley was very much put at ease—it had worried him at first that a member of a US intelligence agency had read his book so closely and had eagerly listened as he told his story about finding Cibola. He knew that his love of conspiracy theories had caught the FBI's attention shortly after his first book was published, but he hadn't gotten into any sort of trouble for it. He decided that there was no reason to worry.
"Hey, Riley! Who's your friend?" Riley couldn't help but groan quietly when he heard Ben's voice coming from behind him. Riley forced a smile, turned, and said, "Hey, Ben." Riley's good friend Benjamin Franklin Gates was standing nearby, appearing to have just entered the restaurant. Ben nearly always managed to outshine Riley, while Riley was often considered the sidekick. That wasn't quite as true nowadays, ever since Cibola, but Riley still had the fear that Alexandra, especially having a history major, would rather talk to Ben than Riley. "This is Alexandra Brown. We met at the bookstore."
"I'm sorry to be interrupting," Ben said, reaching out to shake her hand. "I just saw my friend here through the window and wanted to say 'hi'. I'm Benjamin Gates. It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Brown."
"It's an honor to meet you, Mr. Gates," Alexandra said with a smile. Riley sighed. Ben was able to undo everything he'd been doing for the last hour in mere seconds.
"No doubt Riley's already told you about him helping me discover some of America's greatest treasures."
"Go away, Ben…" Riley muttered in a singsong tone under his breath, unheard by anyone as Alexandra nodded and spoke to Ben.
"He didn't have to—I read his book. You were very fortunate to have such a friend helping you." Riley thought through this sentence twice before it sank in. Riley grinned as he realized that Alexandra didn't seem to be any more impressed with Ben than with Riley himself.
"Well, that's his point of view," Ben said, clapping a hand on Riley's back. "Only kidding. I couldn't have done it without him." Ben looked at the food the two had in front of them. "I guess I'll leave you two to your dessert. I'll see ya later, Riley. It was nice meeting you, Miss Brown. I hope our paths cross again sometime." He shook her hand again before leaving. "Good night."
"See ya, Ben," Riley called after him. He turned back to Alexandra and smiled. "So, Alex…"