Every Last Kiss

Page 14

She implored me silently with her eyes to not be angry and I tried very hard to make it seem as though I struggled with it.In truth, I was ecstatic.She was still continuing down her path.She hadn’t swayed.I need only worry about Iras, at this point.

“It’s fine, Cleopatra.I understand.I am mostly worried about Hasani.And of course, Antony.”My voice was pained- even I could hear it. And my emotion was real.I was worried about Hasani.

“You will have children someday too, you know,”she added as an afterthought, changing the subject from the painful one that I was headed down.“And you will be a wonderful mother.So, congratulations.”She smiled.

I had to laugh. Congratulations were in order for children that I hadn’t had yet.The thought was funny until the laughter died on my lips.I would never have children; not now, not two thousand years from now.It was impossible for a Keeper.We were barren.

“Now then,”she continued, patting my shoulder as she glided past me.“I am off to the nursery to play with the children.Let’s lunch together, shall we?”

She didn’t wait for an answer, because it wasn’t really a request.She knew I would be waiting for her in the banquet room at lunchtime to dine with her.She disappeared into the hallway, leaving me alone in her chambers.

I reveled in the quiet peacefulness for just a moment before I felt the twinges of restlessness.Walking to the balcony, I leaned over the edge, searching every direction for some sign of Hasani.No such luck.I didn’t see him anywhere.The day was warm and balmy as normal, though, and I found the sea calling to me.The gentle lap against the shoreline enticed me and I had the sudden urge to swim.

I made my way quickly through the palace and down the two hundred stairs to the beach, enjoying the crisp salty air with every step.The guards posted at the base of the staircase wordlessly allowed me to pass and I found myself facing the giant open expanse of the sea.

It was magnificent.More beautiful than words or any picture could express.The smell of the salt, the feel of the breeze coming off the water, the scream of the sea gulls over head… it was all so familiar to me.The sand was hot under my bare feet, so I quickly stepped onto the cool foam lip of the water.

My feet found instant relief from the burning sand and I felt myself sink into the wetness. The water was fairly warm and I knew it would feel heavenly the further out that I walked.Looking down the beach, I saw that there was no one else as far as I could see, except for the guards that I had already passed.

I waded further into the water, trailing my hands lightly on the surface behind me until it was chest high and I was wonderfully buoyant.I quickly dove into the waves, enjoying the reprieve from the sticky Alexandrian heat.It felt so good that I spent the next several minutes splashing and swimming in the sparkling blue-green Mediterranean water.

Charmian, come here.

I froze mid-stroke as the voice resounded inside of my head, as clearly as if it had been spoken aloud.


Inhaling a long, agitated breath, I rose from the water to find the old priest standing on the edge of the sea, watching me with placid eyes.His dark robes billowed around him in the wind, making him appear even more intimidating.

What have you done, Charmian?

I plowed through the waist deep water to reach him.Impatient, agitated…angry.

“I haven’t done anything, priest,”I hissed through gritted teeth.“Everything is falling apart and it is not of my doing.”

“Is it not?”he asked calmly, eyeing me curiously.Did he really think it was?

“Of course not!”I snapped. “What could I have done to cause this?”

“You banished Tehran from the palace, something that you did not originally do.You were not to change anything—yet you did and it tipped our hand.  And now, of course, Tehran is dead and Iras has been taken.”

“We don’t know that for sure,”I murmured hesitantly.

“About Iras?Of course we do. Or I do, I should say.Pothinus definitely has her.” 

I knew better than to question the mysterious way the Aegis just ‘knew’ things.  It was unsettling, but always correct.   

“Where? And how in the world did that happen?He died two years ago.”

“That I do not know.But I know that he has her.It is unmistakable.Our question now, is how to repair this.She needs to be here to die with you and Cleopatra in a week’s time.”

I swallowed hard.He spoke about our deaths so easily, as though we were simply blips on the pocket-watch of time.And I guess we sort of were.

His eyes glinted in their creepy, all-knowing way as he continued.

“I’m afraid, Charmian, that we must do the unthinkable in order to rectify this.”

His eyes were black and ominous as he stared at me.I raised one eyebrow and he sighed.

“You will need to explain everything to Cleopatra.You’re going to require her assistance to put things back on track. She trusts you.And we must hope that she will trust you enough to listen to your wisdom- that she must continue to make the decisions slated for her to make.”

I was aghast.“We can’t.She will be devastated.I don’t know if she can follow through with what she needs to do if she knows that it will kill Antony.”

“Haven’t you done that very thing, life after life?”

I gazed at the old priest. He knew that I had. I nodded.

“Are you saying that you are so much stronger than your Daedal that you can handle that type of sorrow and responsibility but that she cannot?”His raspy voice mocked me.

“Of course not.But clearly we are not meant to explain anything to her.We have kept our secrets for thousands of years for good cause.It is too tempting to change fate if one doesn’t like what it holds for them.”

He shook his bald head slowly from side to side. “That matters not.We have no other alternative.Do your job and control your Daedal.”

And he was gone.God, I hated it when he did that.  

I looked down the beach to find him and was surprised to find Hasani striding down the beach.No wonder Ahmose disappeared.I waved and waited for him until he approached me through knee-deep water, wearing only a simple white loincloth.

“Hasani!What are you doing out here?”

I put dark thoughts aside for the moment and felt my face light up as I smiled widely at him.

I continued wading toward him, perfectly aware that my thin cotton shift was virtually transparent now and clinging to my curves.He was entirely too aware as well and his eyes were frozen to my wet form.

“Charmian… the better question is, what are you doing out here all alone?”

His stern words did not match his pleased expression, but I expected no less from him.My safety was always his utmost priority.

“You know that times are not safe now.”

I reached where he stood and stood toe-to-toe with him. I ran my wet, cold hands along the flat planes of his bare chest, smiling when he shivered in response.

“Are you cold, my love?”

I laughed lightly, but did not remove my hands.

“Warriors do not get cold, my lady,”he answered arrogantly.“You know that.”

He clasped both of my hands in one of his and bent his head to kiss me.

“What do warriors get, then?”I asked saucily after the long kiss was over.I felt my cheeks flush.

“Anything they are brave enough to take,”he answered, his shiny dark hair blowing around his face.I reached up and tucked it behind his ears, leaning up to whisper in his ear.

“And what are you brave enough to take, General?”I whispered, as I let one hand trail down the side of his face.He went completely still next to me at the brashness of my question.

“Charmian…”he began hesitantly, but I interrupted.

“You are brave, are you not?”I asked innocently, while I stared at him sweetly, running my hands over his hard chest again.He squeezed his dark eyes shut and then opened them wearily.

“Charmian,”he sighed, “You will be the death of me.”

He grasped one of my hands and pulled me from the water and I trailed woodenly behind him, transfixed in horror at his words.He was right.I would be the death of him.He just didn’t know it yet.

“It’s not safe out here, my love.Please promise me that you won’t come out here alone again,”he beseeched me once we were on dry sand.

The white fabric of his loincloth was every bit as drenched as I was and it left very little to the imagination.I tried to keep my eyes on his face as I nodded in agreement. I found it to be difficult…my gaze kept flickering downward.

“I promise.I won’t come swimming alone again.”

I hoped he didn’t notice that I didn’t promise not to come out of the palace alone.And he didn’t.He nodded in satisfaction, pulling me close him.

“Woman, I love you. And it’s a full-time job keeping you safe.”He kissed me gently and sweetly. “But it’s worth it.”

“I love you, too, Hasani,”I murmured, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him down to me.

He broke the embrace a moment later, taking a deep breath as he stepped away.I had to admit that I liked the effect that I had on him.It was only fair that it was reciprocal, because he turned me completely inside out most of the time.

“My lady, we should get back to the palace. I’m sure that you will want to dress for lunch.”Drat.I had completely forgotten that I was to meet Cleopatra. I would need to hurry, because I sure couldn’t meet her looking like this- and she hated to wait.

We walked quickly across the hot sand of the beach toward the towering staircase, the warm breeze quickly drying our clothes.Hasani kept his arm wrapped tightly around my waist and I leaned into him as we climbed the stairs.Every time I climbed them, it seemed as though more had been added.

When we reached the top, we turned to the left and continued strolling on the stone walkway towards a smaller entrance that was closer to my chambers.As we reached the door and I waited for Hasani to open it, I glanced absently towards the street bustling below the palace.

The fat, doughy face of Pothinus stared back at me.


His head was almost completely obscured by the scarf covering it, but I could easily make out his face as it tilted backward to look up at me.The second that Pothinus recognized me, he disappeared quickly into the crowd.My breath caught in my throat and I froze in place.

“Charmian?”Hasani prompted, as he held the door.“Are you coming?”

I quickly pulled myself together and entered the palace with him, parting at a T in the hallway.He needed to return to his own chambers to change his clothing.I hurriedly by-passed my own chamber and practically ran for Cleopatra’s, ignoring the curious stares of the servants I encountered on the way.

Ahmose had been right.Pothinus was here, actively seeking out the queen.She would need to be told if we were going to set things right. I could see no other way. 

Without knocking, I burst into the suite abruptly and barged into her bedchamber.In my panicked state, it hadn’t occurred to me that she might not be alone.The last I knew, Antony had barricaded himself in his quarters to mope.That was so not the case now.

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