A Wind of Change(A Shade of Vampire,Book 17)(13) by Bella Forrest
“Grandpa,” I said, standing up and interrupting his conversation. “Hassan and I are going to go for a short walk. We won’t go far.”
“Okay,” he said. “But be careful.”
Neither Lalia nor Dafne made any move to come with us. They were too full. So Hassan and I left the sitting area together and descended the veranda steps. Grains of sand filled my shoes as soon as we reached the bottom. We walked slowly forward. Now that we were away from the shelter of the veranda, the breeze was stronger.
“Watch out for snakes,” Hassan said suddenly.
I jolted back. “Snakes?”
“Yes. Cobras. They tend to come out at night.” He reached for my hand and pulled me closer to him.
Oh. Nice move. I rolled my eyes.
We remained close to the streetlights that bordered the desert as we ventured further along the sand.
“Have you gone with your father on a lot of digs?” I asked.
“Will you be there tomorrow also?”
“Oh, certainly,” he said, smiling.
“I’ve never stayed the night in a desert before. Do you have any advice about what I should pack?”
He thought for a moment, then shook his head. “Not really. The camp is well-stocked. Plenty of water and even toilet accessories. You’ll find packets of toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo… pretty much everything a man or woman could need. The tents are also very comfortable—and spacious. The toilets are a little walk away, however—the only real inconvenient thing about the experience.”
Hassan averted his eyes away from me again, and stopped in his tracks.
“You see something over there?” he said, squinting as he stared into the distance.
I followed his gaze. I walked closer, straining to see. If my eyes weren’t mistaken, they were tanks. And there was a crowd of people surrounding them.
“They’re tanks, aren’t they?” he said.
“Looks like it,” I replied. “I guess they’re from the army?”
“I guess so. They just seem to be standing around and talking. Shall we move closer and see?”
I looked back toward the restaurant, now quite far behind us, and then back at the tanks. They weren’t all that much further. I shrugged. “Okay.”
As we moved closer, I heard voices more clearly. I’d been expecting to hear Arabic, but to my surprise, it sounded like the crowd of men were American. Before we were close enough to make sense of what they were saying, two of the men left the crowd and approached us. They wore dark beige uniforms and thick belts around their waists held an array of odd objects. Each carried a boxlike device with a red flashing light, a sharp spear-like weapon carved from wood and a silver gun with an odd bulbous barrel.
“Can we help you?” one of the men asked, his voice gruff.
Hassan looked taken aback. “We were curious as to what you’re doing out here.”
“It’s nothing you need to concern yourself about.”
There wasn’t anything Hassan or I could think of to respond to that. I looked past the men toward the crowd behind them, now all silent and looking us over, before we backed away and took our leave.
“Americans,” Hassan muttered once we were out of earshot. “Odd.” He was quiet for the next minute as he pondered it over, then shrugged it off and pointed back to the restaurant. “Shall we return? They might be starting to worry.”
I agreed that was a good idea. I was still feeling nervous about cobras.
Dafne and Lalia looked a bit more lively as we returned. They sat cross-legged on either side of a coffee table and were playing snap. Dafne must have brought it with her in her bag.
“Did you have a nice walk?” my grandfather asked.
“Yes,” I said. “We came across a group of American soldiers, or so they seemed to be, standing by a bunch of tanks.”
“Americans?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes,” Hassan replied. “We approached to see what they were up to but they gave us a non-answer.”
“That is odd,” Yusuf said, looking out toward the desert. “Hopefully it’s nothing to worry about.”
We speculated some more about the American soldiers, then decided to call it a night and left the restaurant. Fariss was already waiting outside for us.
“Well,” my grandfather said, hugging Yusuf and Hassan, “we will see you early tomorrow.”
My sisters and I shook hands with Yusuf and Hassan, then got in the car. Lalia had fallen asleep by the time we reached home. She was heavy for her age, but with the help of Fariss and my grandfather, we lifted her out of the car. I shook her gently.
“Laly, get on my back,” I said.
She opened her eyes drowsily, then I helped her climb on my back and we entered the house. I headed straight for our bedroom and insisted that she brush her teeth before falling into bed. I was feeling hot and sweaty, so I took a shower and changed into a nightgown before joining Lalia on the mattress.
I lay on my back and stared up at the ceiling, my sister’s snoring in my ears.
I thought about the dig tomorrow, then about my mother, my brother, and my father, but for some reason as I drifted off to sleep that night, it was those odd American soldiers we’d found in the desert who were on my mind.
￼Chapter 4: River
It was the day we were due to leave for the dig and we had to get an early start. Yusuf and Hassan would be pulling up outside at 8am sharp. We didn’t have time for breakfast, so after we had washed, dressed and packed up some belongings, we headed downstairs. Bashira had prepared some containers of hot food for the journey, but apparently there would be plenty of food once we arrived at the site. There was a large caravan that served as a kitchen and dining room, according to my grandfather.