The Secret of the Codex Excerpt #2 (from Chapter 8)

So here's something I just edited today; enjoy! Excerpt from Chapter 8, The Secret of the Codex by Melissa Frey**********************************************************************Just outside the Mercenaries’ CampNa-um still couldn’t believe it. Over the past few days he’d sent dozens of groups of soldiers into the surrounding forest. And every single man had returned with the same report: the Americans were gone. How could a group of four people elude them so completely? Na-um could accept one or two groups missing something, but by now he’d sent everyone he had – and not a single one had been able to track them down. Even Holun was still clueless.Something was off; Na-um could feel it in the air. It was almost as if Destiny…no. He couldn’t admit that, even to himself. They were right in their quest, he and his men. The Secret could not be released upon the world. It was much too dangerous.But somewhere, deep in the recesses of his mind, that small voice repeated, over and over again: What if something was helping those four Americans, something bigger than all of them? Wouldn’t that mean that their cause was just?Not seeing another choice, Na-um returned all his men to their training. Let the Americans go now; he would catch them later on.After all, he did know where they were going. Belize RainforestKayla’s food supply was quickly depleting, and, even with rationing it, the water was almost gone. The long night of rest had helped them regain their strength, but Kayla was eager to get home. She wouldn’t feel safe until they were back at the dig, or, better yet, out of the country. Maybe not even then.On the morning of the fifth day, Kayla heard a muffled sound. The others had heard it, too; all four crouched instinctively, concealing themselves in the tall undergrowth. Who knew that five days in the wilderness would so drastically hone their survival instincts?The sound was coming from in front of them, and seemed to be getting closer. Kayla glanced over at Grady, whose expression matched what she was feeling exactly. Had the Mercenaries been close all along, waiting for them to wear down, waiting for the perfect moment to attack? Had the menacing army of men finally tracked them down?As the noise came closer, Kayla slowly began to recognize the sound – was that a car? All four remained frozen in their defensive positions, but began looking at each other with questions in their eyes. What now?Then a Jeep came into view. They were well hidden in the trees, but from her vantage point, Kayla could see the driver of the vehicle. She exhaled, then heard the others follow suit as they recognized their savior. Jack McFarland drove up to them as they came out of the trees, waving him down.Justin spoke first – a little too loudly, Kayla thought. They had been out here for far too long – her instincts were all off. Certainly the danger had passed. “Man, are we glad to see you!”Jack grinned as he stopped and the four weary travelers climbed aboard. As soon as they were inside, he headed back the way he came, not wasting any time. “I thought I’d never find you guys! I’ve been out looking for days, hoping against hope that I would somehow find you. Looks like I was right.”Kayla tried to get her bearings, but after nearly a week in the forest, the trees had all started to look the same. “How close are we to the dig?” She desperately wanted to shower and get out of the clothes she’d been wearing for the past week.“Only a few miles.” They all groaned loudly. Jack laughed. “You’ve been gone awhile. We’ve all missed you.” He patted the hand that Kayla was resting on the passenger seat.She smiled over at him. “You have no idea how grateful we are. We’ve been walking for five days.”Jack whistled low in surprise. “No worries. We’ll get you all cleaned up and feeling up to par in no time.” Jack smiled, then his expression suddenly changed. “Oh! Kayla, I almost forgot. I’ve got a gift back there for you.” He jabbed his right thumb between the seats toward the back of the vehicle. “Grady, a little help?”Grady leaned back and reached for something stashed behind the Jeep’s backseat. When he turned around, he was holding Kayla’s backpack, the bag that held every one of her prized possessions – at least the ones that’d traveled with her to Belize.“Oh, Jack, thank you so much!” She reached back and grabbed the bag from Grady, hoisting it between the seats while being careful not to hit Jack with it. “You don’t know how lost I’ve been without this.” She began rifling through it, utterly relieved to find everything still in its place, if a little worse for wear.Jack smiled at her. “I thought as much. It was just laying there in the tall grass, near the Jeep…”His voice trailed off and Kayla’s mind immediately recalled that fateful explosion. When she thought of the men she’d really only met an hour or so before they were gone, she was grateful that Jack had declined joining them on the trip. The decision to stay had saved his life.The remainder of the short ride was quiet. Kayla stared out the window while Mandy and Grady laid back, resting their eyes, and Justin sat with his eyes closed, rubbing his temples. Kayla glanced back at him and sighed. Glad this whole mess is finally over.If she had been able to see what was coming, she wouldn’t have jinxed it.The mess was just beginning.**********************************************************************I'd love to know what you think! Obviously, I've skipped quite a lot since my last post, but thought skipping around might be more fun. Hope you like it!