Every Last Kiss

Page 26

“Here, your highness,”I handed her the small jeweled saucer.“Eat something.”

She snatched it from my hands and grumpily chewed on the bread as she stared out at the harbor.“Charmian, you know we will still need to summon Tehran today.This doesn’t change that.”

“I understand, Cleopatra,”I acknowledged.“But what shall we do about Iras?”

She turned to me in confusion.“What is there to do, Charmian?But wait?”

I nodded dejectedly. She was right.There wasn’t a thing that we could do.But perhaps burn a few bunches of incense to Sekhmet.I would utter some frantic prayers to God, too, even though Christianity hadn’t even been thought of yet.It wouldn’t hurt to cover all of my bases.


Tehran impatiently sat in Cleopatra’s sitting room, looking horribly out of place on a delicate golden chair.His oily face caught the light from the windows and I could barely contain my repulsion.His bony arms clutched a tea cup and I could see his hands shaking slightly.So much for his pretense that he was cool as could be.He was a thinly concealed weasel. He probably almost had a heart-attack when Cleopatra had sent her guards to bring him to her chambers.

Very few people saw her personal chambers and he was getting a prolonged look, as Cleopatra was making him wait.I knew that she was probably doing absolutely nothing in her bedchamber, but she wanted to make him understand that as queen, she could do as she wished.If she wanted him to wait for four hours, so be it.I personally prayed that it wouldn’t be that long.I had to stand in here and supervise the worm.We obviously couldn’t leave him alone.

Thankfully for me, she emerged just a few moments later, appearing as calm as she could be.Her face was cool and collected as she stared regally down her nose at him.He quickly set his teacup aside and dropped to the floor, touching his nose to her Persian carpets.

“You may rise,”she commanded coolly, gliding silently to a chaise lounge adjacent to the chair he had been sitting in. “Please…sit,”she instructed.

As she crossed her legs delicately, she appraised him slowly, pursing her full lips as she did so.

“Tehran,”she drawled softly, narrowing her heavily made up eyes.I noted with amusement that she had added a thick layer of additional kohl since I had originally done her face this morning.I rolled my eyes before I could stop myself.Leave it to Cleopatra to be extra-dramatic.

“We all know why you are here,”she purred smoothly, as she fiddled with a thick string of pearls. Tehran’s eyes widened noticeably as he watched her, but he didn’t say anything for a minute.

He gulped hard and finally said, “We do, your majesty?”

I found myself transfixed on his prominent Adam’s apple, which bobbed with every word he spoke.The man was just all-around disgusting.

“Of course we do,”she nodded.“Let’s not play games, Tehran.You know about the unique pendant that your master has in his possession. And I obviously know about it, as does Charmian.Especially Charmian, since it is hers.”

Tehran’s eyes flitted to me briefly before he returned his nervous gaze to the queen.I noted that he was frantically tapping his heel against his chair.

“So, since we are all in on the secret, let’s get down to business, shall we?”She asked, narrowing her eyes again.“Pothinus stole it from its rightful owner and I know that somehow, you have been involved.”

Tehran started to deny it as sweat broke out on his brow.

“Now, now,”she reassured him.“That only means that you are quite bright and very loyal… to help your master in such a way.”

The dulcet tones of her voice were as smooth as honey and Tehran’s face went from nervous to confused to flattered in about two seconds flat.I almost laughed out loud.Cleopatra’s infamous charm seemed to be working once again. She was like a well-oiled machine.

He watched her eagerly for her next words and I realized that he was practically eating out of her hand already.This would be a piece of cake.And really, now that I thought about it, I didn’t know why I had doubted it.Knowing Pothinus, he wasn’t exactly the best master.He was probably ungrateful and harsh.Not exactly loyalty inspiring.

“I know that this will be a difficult decision for someone as loyal as you, Tehran,”she continued, “but I could really use someone of your cunning and intelligence on my staff.You see… Pothinus has become a thorn in my side.And I have discovered that I can’t handle him alone.”

She batted her eyes femininely and I almost choked again. She was really laying it on thick…the whole, I’m-a-helpless-female-and-I-need-you-to-rescue-me routine, and I could tell from his smitten face that it was working.No one could resist her when she put her mind to it.

“Well, I… I don’t know what you need, my queen,”he stammered.

“I need you on my team, Tehran,”she purred again.Rising fluidly from her seat, she crossed to him, bending to murmur in his ear.Her musky, distinct scent enveloped them and he closed his eyes as he inhaled.

“Tehran, will you please help me?”she whispered huskily into his ear.

He all but melted into a pool at her feet as he nodded, his eyes still closed. He didn’t see the exultant, triumphant look that Cleopatra shot me over his head.I smiled and shook my head.

“You will have my undying gratitude, Tehran, as my loyal servant.”She looked to me. “And you can ask Charmian about how I treat my loyal staff.”I was quick to reassure him.

“Yes, Tehran.You will not find a more appreciative queen anywhere,”I nodded.“Cleopatra is most unselfish.She always desires only the best for Egypt.It is her driving force.”

His eyes flew open.“But what about me, my queen?Pothinus has said that you only want to kill us both in your efforts to save Egypt.”

Cleopatra shot me an exasperated look before she answered him.I had almost blown it, apparently.But her fluid voice drizzled down over him like warm honey once again.

“Tehran, of course my greatest concern is and always will be Egypt.But that is what makes me a fair ruler.I will never jeopardize you for another person.Think of Pothinus.You are entirely expendable to him.He wouldn’t hesitate to kill you in a second.I would never have you killed,”she promised as she gazed at him through half-closed, bedroom eyes.And she was telling the truth.

She would never have him killed, but she would allow him to die his already plotted natural death.She left that part out, sneaky girl.

“Okay,”he finally agreed.“I will help you, my queen.It would be my greatest honor.What would you like for me to do?”

His weasely face was surprisingly eager and I noted that he did really seem to want to please her.I sighed.Men! They were all ruled by one thing.

She was perfectly aware of what that one thing was, as she laid her arm on his shoulder, purposely putting her perfumed breasts in his face.He closed his eyes again, inhaling deeply, resting his cheek against his soft cleavage.

She rolled her eyes above his head before she bent once more to whisper into his ear.

“I need to catch Pothinus unaware,”she stated calmly, her voice as smooth as velvet and as thick and husky as the night.His eyes flew open. “We need Charmian’s bloodstone back.”

“But your majesty, I do not think that would be right to ambush him…”But she interrupted him.

“Tehran, poor Pothinus has been corrupted by power.It happens sometimes to those who weren’t born to rule.They simply can’t handle the power that is handed to them.”She shrugged her slender shoulders.“It’s not his fault, really.”

I had to blink hard. She was very convincing.If I didn’t know otherwise, I would think that she really felt sorry for Pothinus, at the unfair manner in which he had been corrupted.She was very, very good.

“Where do you usually meet Pothinus?”she asked innocently, her eyes wide.

“Down the beach a ways, my lady,”he answered.“There is a small cave hidden to those who aren’t already aware of it.”Cleopatra’s gaze met mine knowingly.We did know of it.We used to play there when we were children.

Tehran continued, “He sends a boy to instruct me of the time.”

Yep, just like he sent a message to me about the lighthouse.I bristled at the memory of his ‘summons’.

“And what if you need to see him?”Cleopatra asked, all innocence and light as she smiled at him encouragingly, her small hand stroking his knee.He was entirely captivated by her presence and withheld nothing now. It was amusing.

“I can’t.He always summons me.”At her crestfallen expression, he was quick to add, “But he has already arranged a meeting for tonight, my queen.In the cave an hour after nightfall.”

Cleopatra smiled exultantly, removing her hand from his leg. He looked disappointed when she moved away from him.

“You are a most loyal servant, Tehran, and I appreciate your candor and helpfulness.”She turned to me.“Charmian, can you please escort Tehran into my personal library and provide him with lunch?”I nodded.

Before I could say anything, she had turned to Tehran again, and was smiling engagingly at him once again.

“Tehran, you will be an honored guest in my personal guest chambers for the time being.I do not want Pothinus to misunderstand your loyalty to your queen.I certainly wish for no ill to befall you.”

He nodded in agreement, obviously deeply infatuated now.I had to laugh.He had no idea that her words translated to mean:‘Charmian, please arrange for a personal guard so that Tehran cannot leave his rooms.’Too funny.

“Tehran, if you will come with me?”I paused politely at his elbow and he obligingly followed me- having no clue as to what had just hit him.

After I had gotten him stationed in a set of guest rooms with guards at his doors, I hurried back to Cleopatra.

“Did you instruct the guards to not let him leave?”She asked me as soon as I opened her door.

“Of course,”I answered with a smile.“Cleopatra, may I just say… that was very impressive.He probably still doesn’t understand what happened.”

She smiled smugly as she dropped into her vanity table chair.“I know,”she sighed delicately.“It’s a gift, what can I say?”

She shrugged her shoulders delicately again, but I had to admit…it really was a gift.A gift that would stand the test of time and still be talked about two thousand years in the future.That was quite an impressive talent.

Her gaze sought out mine in the mirror.

“Now then, Charmian, now that that is done, how should we proceed?Tehran is safely out of the way and already had a meeting in place.That was convenient.”

I nodded in agreement.

“Do you think it was too convenient, Cleopatra?Don’t you think he conceded much too quickly? Do you think this was a strategy hatched by Pothinus to get us to the cave tonight?Perhaps he has realized that he needs me in order to use the bloodstone.”

Her eyes widened quickly.

“I hadn’t considered that,”she admitted, her shoulders slumping. “It’s entirely possible, I guess.”

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