Five years later…
“This might be the dumbest idea I’ve ever had,” Ben warned Henriqua when he suggested taking the kids to Alaska for the summer.
At four and three, Louisa, who was named for Henriqua’s mother, and BenBen, as Louisa had tagged her younger brother, were a handful.
Henriqua went along with it, mostly because she was as stir-crazy to be in the field as he was. They each managed a few short trips a year on behalf of KVB Minerals, the exploration company Ben had established in partnership with Kaine and Viktor, but they rarely went away together and had never taken the children. Henriqua actually headed KVB because Ben was making too much money for Viktor. Every time he tried to quit so he could devote more time to exploration, Viktor gave him a raise and talked him into “one more year.”
Expecting to spend more time parenting than sampling, they brought a full field team with them, but the kids were surprisingly game for long walks over terrain where glaciers had receded and human feet had never trod. Today they’d found their way to the shoreline of a glacial lake of silty blue.
“BenBen, if you go in that water, I’m taking you straight back to camp to dry off and you’re staying there,” Ben warned.
The kid was like a Labrador retriever, magnetically drawn to water and didn’t care if it was only a few degrees above freezing.
“Can I pan?” Louisa asked, mirroring her mother as Henriqua crouched to sift sand through her fingers.
Ben’s heart wanted to burst whenever he saw his wife in his children, whether it was their melted chocolate eyes or their inquisitive, tactile natures or even their stubborn streaks of independence.
Panning would get them all soaked for sure, but Ben said, “It’s on my pack.”
He stepped away for one second, his antennae already telling him it was a mistake to turn his back on—
“BenBen, no!” Louisa cried, even as little splooshes sounded.
BenBen was up to his knees, straightening with a rock in his hand, scowling as he said, “It’s cold.”
“It is,” Henriqua said, already on him, wrinkling her nose at the one foot she’d stepped into the lake to scoop BenBen out of it. “We’ll all go back,” she said, exchanging a fatalistic look with Ben as she set their son on his feet.
“BenBen is right, Mommy. It’s gold,” Louisa said.
Ben glanced at the filling-sized nugget in the boy’s still-dripping hand and almost said a word that shouldn’t be said in front of children.
“Trow it?” BenBen started to pitch it back into the water.
“No!” Henriqua cried, grabbing his hand and making the boy tear up at being shouted at.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said, hugging him and laughing and trying to make up with him with loving kisses as she handed the nugget to Ben.
The weight was unmistakable.
“You put that there for him to find,” Ben teased his wife.
“I did not.” She shot him a scolding look while keeping her arms wrapped tight around their son.
“Next time, show me first and ask me to get it,” Ben said, squatting to kiss BenBen’s forehead. “We still have to go back to camp for dry clothes, but it was a good find and guess what? You get to dig some sand first.”
He handed the kids shovels and empty sample bags then stood to exchange an incredulous look with his wife.
“People spend their whole lives prospecting and our kid is a human dowsing rod.”
“Got it from both sides, it would seem. For the record, this was the best idea you’ve ever had.” She looped her arms around his waist and leaned on him, mouth tilted up for a kiss.
“I was thinking hiring you was, but I’ll take it.” He kissed her smile with his own.
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