Based (loosely!!!) on my own adventures as an archaeologist in searing hot Tunisia many years ago, this novella was immense fun to write.
Here’s the first chapter of Digging Deep , to whet your appetite…
Irritably adjusting her wide-brimmed hat for the third time in as many minutes, Dr Beth Andrews felt the sting of the African sun sear the back of her neck through the tresses of her long, ginger hair.
She never dreamt she’d miss the stubborn, muddy clay of the British earth she was used to hunting through in her search for archaeological data, but the uncooperatively fine white sand of North Africa was enough to try the patience of a saint.
Throwing down her brush in overheated exasperation, Beth thought fondly of her excavation trowel. Her tool of choice had quickly been rendered obsolete in the face of so much sand, and a job that was, by necessity, slow was reduced to a snail’s pace as the metre by metre square of the Ancient Roman bath house site in which she worked backfilled in on itself with every sweep of her light bristled brush.
It had been a dream come true for Beth when she’d been selected to lead the University of Wales’s excavation team, digging the sprawling Ancient Roman city of Lepti Major on the outskirts of Sousse in Tunisia. She had longed to experience new exotic sites and see new exotic sights. The chance to uncover stunning mosaics and city roads that hadn’t been trodden for 1000 years was an opportunity she’d had no intention of letting pass by.
The fact she’d be sharing responsibility for the site with her archaeological hero, the unimaginatively named Dr Harrison Harris from Colorado, an American academic who’d been the subject of many of Beth’s private fantasies since she’d fallen in love with his work, not to mention the photograph of him on the back cover of his books, in her first year as a student, was neither here nor there.
Flicking her eyes covertly over towards Harrison, Beth averted her attention away from the slight increase in her pulse rate by recalling what the site’s previous supervisor had said about working in Africa’s extreme temperatures. “Scalding by day, and freezing by night”. Linda had warned Beth that her freckle-spotted, sensitive flesh would loathe being either fried or frozen just as much as her archaeological brain would relish the challenge of constructing a city from its remains.
Beth hated the fact that Linda had been right. She’d never been rendered so sweaty, not to mention so blotched with extra heat-induced freckles, in her life. There couldn’t have been a centimetre of her body that hadn’t got a fresh cluster of beige dots on it. After only a week under the sun, it was becoming a struggle to hold on to her generally calm approach to life, and Beth was finding that her temper, which rarely flared in the UK, was on a permanently short fuse.
What got to her most was that none of her colleagues seemed to be suffering at all. They were all happily tanning as they worked, and sleeping off their exhaustion with ease at night.
It hadn’t taken Beth more than a few hours of digging in the unshaded bath house on her first day to see that a survival technique was required to prevent the elements disrupting her professional judgement. She tried thinking about work, home, rain, and even walks in the snow as she worked, but only one thing successfully diverted her attention from the exposure of her unusually pale flesh to the elements, and that was to allow her mind to fill with erotic scenarios and fantasies, while her hands got on with the job in hand.
This specialised amusement had the benefit of taking her mind off the sun that managed to scald her back even through three layers of thin cotton, and had the added bonus of warming her at night. Lying on her thin camping mattress, Beth would recall all she’d pondered during the day, engendering an ardour between her thighs that her fingers deftly maximised, leaving her physically warmer and bodily sated, and thus making it easier for her to fall asleep.
At first, Beth had been determined that Harrison would not feature in her erotic musings. Her resolve had not lasted long, however, and although she did her best to make the men in her sexy survival scenarios anonymous, the American’s face crept in with increasing frequency.
Manoeuvring a layer of burning sand from one side of her section to the other, Beth considered her colleague. His reputation as an expert in Roman archaeology was renowned. Beth had never dreamt she’d ever meet him, let alone work with him as an equal. His knowledge and academic intellect had been enough to make her heart flutter for years. Yet what Harrison was like in reality was not at all how she’d assumed he’d be.
She’d envisaged him as being chatty, tall, slim, dark-haired, and weather-tanned. He’d probably wear glasses for reading, and be forever clad in T-shirts and large-pocketed shorts as he leapt around excavations like a gazelle.
In fact, she’d hardly heard Harrison’s distinct Colorado accent. He seemed to prefer his own company to that of the group. When he did talk to Beth, he called her “doll,” which made her feel like a lump of mass-produced, animated plastic.
Harrison was about 5 foot 7, not the 6 foot plus she’d pictured, and his spiked hair was a sun-kissed blond and not brown. His build was stocky and muscular, his bare arms and legs permanently gritted with granules of sand, and although he moved with a speed which would have been the envy of any gazelle, he managed to proceed around the site somehow without making a sound.
The problem is, Beth thought as she traced the outline of what she suspected might be a Roman drain gully, I built up an image of him based on a book cover’s black-and-white out of date headshot, and I was way off.
She’d been right about Harrison wearing knee-length shorts, though. Everyone on the dig wore such shorts, except for the stick thin, heavy-chested blonde on the American team, who might as well have been wearing knickers her shorts were so scanty. Beth sighed as she looked down at her own attire. A protective covering of baggy clothing shrouded her limbs, and her porcelain neck was hidden beneath spirals of her ginger hair, which glowed as if she’d been hit by radiation rather than African sunlight.
Ryan wasn’t helping either. The most charismatic of her students had been so enthusiastic on his first morning that he’d headed to the site before everybody else, without waiting for Beth to detail where to dig. Consequently, he’d powered through the ground in an alarmingly gung-ho manner, neglected the recording of each strata-graphic layer and, with his six-pack and biceps shining against 120 degrees of sunshine, had crashed his shovel into the corner of a mosaic that had been safely protected by the landscape for hundreds of years, breaking off half-a-dozen exquisitely coloured tessera cubes, and rendering one of the depicted Medusa’s snakes partially headless.
Beth had gone ballistic. To his credit, Ryan had been mortified. He’d begged her not to tell anyone. For the sake of the university’s reputation, not to mention her fear that Harrison would take one look at her careless student, assume she was no good at supervision, and send her home, she had agreed it would be their secret. Ever since, however, Ryan had been driving Beth mad with his attempts to make it up to her at every opportunity.
Only that morning he’d lent so close to Beth as he informed her he was going to make up for his blunder that his soft Welsh tones had vibrated against her skin. His manner was so blatantly suggestive that she hadn’t been able to prevent the inappropriate smile that had very briefly crossed her lips.
Picking up her dustpan and brush, Beth stroked away the grains of sand that sat between her and her judgement as to whether the lines being revealed were part of the bath house drainage system or not. Expertly tracing the changing colours in the freshly uncovered ground, Beth, confident that her theory was correct, and that the ancient shadows of the gully she could see could be followed across the ground with ease, readopted her technique to deviate her attention from the cruel climate, while her fingers worked the earth.
What exactly is Ryan offering? she wondered. A sneaky snog behind the equipment cupboard? A cooling down of my chest with his tongue? Or is he more ambitious than that? Does he imagine me naked, face down, spread-eagled over an empty wheelbarrow with his cock between my legs; or see us together in the shower, washing off the worst of the sand that seems to be permanently stuck to my body while he shoves his dick down my throat?
For goodness’ sake, woman! she chided herself. Beth was surprised to find her chest, whose generous size she’d always loved before, but now heartily wished was small enough to go without the extra layer of material her bra provided, was becoming taut. Cross with herself, she shook her hair out from beneath her hat, as if trying to dislodge the thoughts from her head. Having random erotic dreams might be the only thing that keeps you sane in this blast furnace – but you must not consider your students! Get a grip!
Briskly returning to the matter in hand, Beth cut through a layer of denser sand, wishing Ryan wasn’t working the section directly behind her. She daren’t turn to check he was all right like she did her other students. The last time she’d done so, she had caught him ogling her butt with a suggestive wiggle of his eyebrows, which couldn’t have been mistaken for anything other than the type of lustful intentions her own imagination had just so colourfully displayed to her. Ever since then, she had been more than a little self-conscious of the stretch of her cotton combats over her backside.
Crouching on her haunches, letting her eyes roam across the site as a whole, Beth struck Ryan from her mind, and began weighing up the significance of what she was excavating in relation to what else was opening up on the dig before her. As she leant in closer, a glitter of something just below the upper level of the sand caught her eye. Trailing her brush across the yellow surface, she mentally listed all the hidden things that might shine: mosaic tesserae, jewellery, votive offerings to the gods …
With a sharp scream, Beth stumbled backwards out of her square in a mad scramble to escape. Her find was none of the things archaeologists dream of uncovering. In the haste to get away, her left foot caught on the guide string that divided her metre section from the next. Tripping, she fell heavily backwards.
Flushed with an embarrassment that enflamed her already pinkened features, Beth found herself being scooped onto Ryan’s lap, his arms wrapped protectively around her.
Alerted by the unexpected shriek, the other students in the immediate vicinity began to gather round. Most of them, however, backed away the moment they saw what had caused Beth’s unusual lack of professionalism; except for the leggy American, who looked at Ryan in disgust, pointedly rolled her eyes at Beth, and returned to her work.
Beth didn’t have time to think about the blonde’s unsympathetic reaction. All her attention was on the bronze snake which hadn’t appreciated its home being disturbed by an inquisitive human. She was convinced it was staring straight at her, its tongue flicking, smelling the air around it in an accusatory manner.
Her initial shock subsiding, and abruptly sensible of where she was, and how it must appear to see one of the supervisors in the embrace of a student, Beth scrambled shakily to her feet. She wasn’t sure if she was more mortified by her public reaction to the snake, or by the fact that her body felt more than a little content at being cradled so protectively in Ryan’s arms so recently after her erotic ruminations had headed in his direction. ‘I’m sorry, everyone! That was a bit of a shock. I’m not good with snakes.’
‘Don’t worry about it, boss.’ Ryan ran a consoling hand down Beth’s cotton-covered arm, creating small prickles of uninvited lust that appeared on top of the prickles of fear already there, and sending them both tripping towards her crotch.
Rueing her kinky imagination, Beth took another step away from her student. Moving rather too fast, she collided with the stocky frame of Harrison Harris. He’d crossed the site on his ever-silent feet to see what all the fuss was about without her even noticing, causing Beth to jump out of her skin for a second time. ‘Honestly. Harrison, don’t you ever make a sound when you move?’
‘Hardly ever!’ He treated her to one of his Colorado smiles, making Beth suspect that he was privately laughing at her. ‘You OK, doll?’
Not stopping to waste her breath on asking him for the umpteenth time not to call her “doll”, Beth did her best to ignore the twinkle in Harrison’s eye that confirmed he found the situation hilarious, and settled for being grateful that he hadn’t vocalised his mirth in front of their charges.
‘I’m fine. The snake took me by surprise.’
Beth had no doubt this little episode would be site folklore by dinner time. She didn’t usually care about that sort of thing, and was always one of the first to laugh when she made a fool of herself, but now she found her face darkening with embarrassment in the face of her colleague.
‘Is that all?’ Harrison bent down and retrieved the brush Beth had abandoned in her hurry to move away from the snake. ‘You’re sure?’
‘I’m sure. Just shock. I don’t like snakes. I haven’t damaged anything, I hope.’
‘No harm done.’ Harrison shot Ryan a look which plainly said “this time”, making Beth wonder if the timing of the breaking of the mosaic had gone unnoticed after all. ‘Here you go, doll.’ He gestured to the creature. ‘He’s just a sand snake. Won’t do you any harm. I’ll move him somewhere safe.’
‘Thank you.’ Beth’s words came out rather weakly as the unfortunate creature was picked up and repositioned against a dune of previously excavated sand, into which it quickly disappeared. Seeing Harrison rehome the creature with no more fuss than if he’d moved a worm from a flower bed to a vegetable patch made Beth even more cross with herself for being so feeble in front of a man she’d so badly wanted to impress. She found herself babbling in explanation, ‘Insects I have no problem with. Spiders are cool. But snakes … I can’t stand them.’
This time Harrison did laugh openly, wiping one of his calloused palms across his forehead, smearing dirt into his spiky hair and knocking back his faded Stetson in the process. ‘You’re a regular Indiana Jones, doll!’
Keen to keep the general atmosphere light, Beth added, ‘Well. As long as I don’t get chased by any oversized boulders or attacked by a tribe of pygmies with blowpipes then I guess I can live with the comparison!’
Taking a hefty swig from her water bottle, she smiled, relieved that her ability to laugh at herself was finally reasserting itself after days of being diminished by the heat.
Harrison grinned as he strolled to his side of the dig. ‘Gotta love that dry English sense of humour, doll.’
Beth called after him, ‘Thanks for the snake removal, Harry.’
He kept walking as he corrected her. ‘Harrison. It’s Harrison, I told you. I don’t like being called Harry.’
She shouted at his retreating back, ‘And I don’t like being referred to as a doll. It makes me sound like a character in an American B-movie! Message received?’
Still laughing, Harrison didn’t look round, but held up a hand as if in defeat. ‘Gotcha, doll! Message received.’
Stepping back into her square, Beth looked at her watch. It wasn’t even ten o’clock in the morning, and the heat was already making it feel as if someone was systematically pouring paint stripper across her shoulders. She could hear her students chatting happily as they worked. All except for Ryan, who was unusually quiet.
Beth sighed as she recalled Harrison’s glare towards Ryan, and realised it wasn’t just her rationale she’d left in the colder climate of home, but her common sense as well. It was time to come clean about how Ryan had messed up the mosaic and, more importantly, why she hadn’t reported the incident straight away.
Her decision made, Beth’s hands returned to working the ground, while her imagination speculated how it might have felt if Harrison had been the one she’d accidentally sat on. Would I have wanted to get up quite so quickly? Her pussy twitched as if in confirmation, as her green eyes studied the Roman drain …
Digging Deep is available as a download or a paperback from all good retailers, including-