Every Last Kiss

Page 8

“This one, I think,”she murmured, seating herself at her vanity once again.The light from the balcony shone directly into the room, gleaming against her oil infused skin.

I quickly twisted her hair into a simple bun at the nape of her neck and deftly worked her wig down over it.From a nearby jewelry chest, I chose several golden chains and layered them around her crown.Whenever she moved, they tinkled lightly.It was a detail she enjoyed.

Leaning back, I examined the finished product.As normal, she was beautiful.Her perfume was delicate, yet distinct.No one else in the world smelled like she did- she had perfume makers custom make her scent.Her slender arms were adorned with jeweled arm cuffs, her ears were decorated with large golden earrings.Her obsidian eyes, as black as night, met mine in the mirror.Hers were twinkling.

“Do I pass inspection, then?”she laughed.

“You always do, my queen,”I smiled.“Thanks in no small part to me.”

“As I said, you’re just as cheeky as ten people put together, sweetling,”she answered.But she smiled and stood, linking her arm with mine.

“Come, Charmian.I wish to have a large breakfast, to entirely gorge myself in a very unladylike manner on roasted fish and cinnamon toasted pecans.But first, I have a mind to see my Lotus blossoms.They are lovely this time of year.”

I shook my head.Cleopatra, like almost every other woman on the face of the planet, past and present, was a stress eater.She would eat herself silly and then moan about her stomach ache and wonder why I had allowed her to act in such an un-queenly way.But at this point, it really didn’t matter.We would be dead long before she had time to get fat from the bad habit, something that was not a comforting thought.

I took her arm and we walked from her opulent bedroom.She was right.The royal gardens were absolutely beautiful this time of year.


We wound our way through the decadent palace, nodding at a pair of house-servants as we encountered them on the wide marble staircase.Regardless of the stairs, they immediately dropped to the floor, their backs hunched as their foreheads pressed firmly to the stone.Both women kept their dark eyes downward until Cleopatra had passed.

I had forgotten the level of deference shown to the queen.My western upbringing as Macy reared its head and I suddenly found the behavior insanely hilarious since I had been away from it for so long.They literally stuck their faces into the floor just because Cleopatra walked by.It was… crazy. And it struck me as hilarious.

Cleopatra glanced sharply at me as I chuckled.

“What?”She demanded, looking around us for the source of the joke.

“Nothing, my queen,”I smirked.“There is just a lot of pomp and ridiculousness involved in walking with you. I’ve never really thought of it before.”

She elbowed me in the ribs as we both giggled.I looked over my shoulder to find the two servant women picking themselves off the floor, making me laugh all the harder.

We swallowed our giggles as we worked our way through the massive rooms and winding halls, finally emerging onto an elaborate stone courtyard behind the palace. It had taken us at least fifteen minutes to work our way across through the sprawling building, but the scenery surrounding us now was well worth the walk.

The gentle breeze lifted my hair away from my forehead and I inhaled the floral scent in the air as it drifted towards us over the magnificent royal gardens.Bright blue Lotus flowers drifted serenely in small rock-lined ponds, while white chickpeas softly swayed in the breeze intertwined with intricately sculpted shrubbery.Cleopatra bent and picked a Lotus blossom, tucking it behind her ear as I stood in the serene garden and watched.

The scent here was intoxicating. The heavy, sweet scent of Jasmine hung thickly in the air as we walked past the yellow blossoms lining the walkway.It was no wonder that I smelled jasmine when I first picked up the bloodstone.The air here was pregnant with it. 

We continued on past two silent Nubian guards and a bronze statue of Isis, my bare feet padding lightly on the stone pathways.I had to admit, I felt incredibly elegant and sexy dressed the way I was…now that I had gotten used to it once again.

My barely there tunic fluttered lightly in the wind, the soft breeze permeating the thin fabric and brushing against my skin. I felt the urge to release the elaborate up-do wrapped in thin gold chains on top of my head so that I could let my hair blow freely in the wind, but resisted.I needed to blend, not draw attention to myself.

As the breeze blew over me, I caught a whiff of my own scent and pulled my wrist to my nose so that I could inhale it.One of the many things the Egyptians had gotten right was their mastery of perfume oils.I had never smelled as feminine as I did right now.It was subtle, soft and exquisite. I felt sexier than I ever had.

Cleopatra walked to the short stone wall overlooking the bay of Alexandria.The sea was pristine and tranquil, the blue water lapping gently against the shore.She tilted her head back, closing her eyes as the sun bathed her face in its warm glow. I crossed the terrace to stand at her side, enjoying the strikingly familiar scent.Lotus blossoms, jasmine, sea salt. No wonder I loved the water.I had lived by the sea.

After a minute, Cleopatra opened her eyes, staring down at the city below.

“Charmian, this is the most beautiful place in all the world.Don’t you agree? It saddens me to think that it might fall under Roman rule.”

Her almond-shaped eyes welled up as she stared at the statue of her father guarding the palace at the base.I had to share in her despair, although she didn’t know the half of it.

Eventually, everything we were looking at would be sitting at the bottom of the bay.An earthquake would rumble through Alexandria and the entire city would slide right off into the sea.On the bright side, the silt would at least preserve all of Cleopatra’s beautiful things from the sea water.Archeologists and scientists would comb the ocean’s floor, hoping to learn more of the mysterious Queen Cleopatra.

“Don’t mind me,”she murmured, reaching out to grasp my hand.“I’m just feeling sorry for myself.I have worked my entire life to skillfully rule Egypt- to reduce our debt, stabilize our relations with Rome and quell civil unrest.And now it all seems out of my control.”She swallowed hard and gazed back out at the water as she composed herself.

I hated to see her in such distress.She was right- she had spent her entire life working for the good of Egypt.Her end was horribly unfair. I doubted that there were many who would argue against that fact.

“Cleopatra, it is true… Rome is closing in on us and it seems impossible to bear.But you are strong and resilient.Everything will work out the way it is meant to.”

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to explain exactly what that entailed—our untimely and tragic deaths.Although, even if I had told her, I was sure she would find happiness in the fact that both she and Marc Antony’s deaths had become legendary.She was dramatic to the core.

“Thank you, Charmian.As always, you are too good to me.”

She smiled gently and squeezed my hand again before gazing absently out at the horizon once more.Her expression changed and I turned my head to follow her line of vision.

Antony and Hasani were still sparring on the edge of the water.I knew she was again thinking of how she would fail them.

“Don’t think about it right now,”I insisted.“Let’s just…spend time with them, breathe them in… and love them enough to last for eternity no matter what comes later.Can we do that?”

Cleopatra nodded curtly, deciding for once not to press me.We walked quickly down the two hundred stone steps that led to the beach.Tiny stones and sand tumbled off each step as we walked, but we were walking so quickly that we barely even noticed.Cleopatra nodded to the two guards stationed at the staircase as we stepped from the bottom stair onto the sandy shore, but her eyes were focused on the two magnificent men twenty yards away, as were mine.

As we approached, Hasani’s eyes met mine and he stopped abruptly in mid-swing, grinning broadly.His beauty took my breath away. Literally.I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. And to breathe again. And again.

As a member of the Ptolemaic Guard, he was not a full-blooded Egyptian.He was descended from a long line of Greeks that had served the Ptolemy family for generations.His mother was Egyptian however, and he had inherited the best traits of both of his parents.What had resulted in him was a man that was too beautiful for words.

He quickly stuck his sword in the sand and knelt in deference to Cleopatra, his strong shoulders rippling as he crouched in the surf.The breeze floated in from the water, wafting over the two men.I inhaled their masculine scent- the musky, sweaty tang and felt a flood of warmth.I knew that smell.How had I ever forgotten it?How had I ever forgotten him?It was unfathomable.

“Hasani, please get out of the water.”Cleopatra grinned lightly at him, but she wasn’t looking at him.Her attention was focused on Antony.Antony was glaring at her insolently, but his eyes were twinkling warmly.

“By the Gods, woman!Don’t you know not to interrupt men when they are fighting?”he demanded.“Don’t you know we’re training to protect your kingdom?”

His voice was severe and his brow was furrowed, but in direct contradiction with his words and tone, he snaked out his arm and pulled her to him by her waist, smashing her against his metal breastplate.

Cleopatra seemed as small as a child compared to him and he kissed her lustfully, long and sound, before he spoke again.When they finally broke their embrace, she stared up at him, flustered.I can honestly say that the few times in Cleopatra’s life that I had ever seen her flustered… had been because of Marc Antony.No one on earth had ever unnerved her but him, not even her first love, Julius Caesar.

“Where have you been, my love?”Antony casually asked, still keeping one arm loosely wrapped around her as he tossed his sword in the air with his other hand- catching it, flipping it and then tossing it again. I grimaced.Only Antony would make a game out of playing catch with a deadly weapon. “Attending to important matters of state, I imagine.”

“Oh, just here and there,”Cleopatra murmured and I had to cough to hide my snort.

I couldn’t help it.It was all so outrageous that it boggled my mind.Everyone truly thought that we had been safely ensconced in the palace attending to the queen’s private matters, and I guess we had been, but in reality I had been two thousand years away from here.I coughed again to hide my laughter.It was an awkward character flaw of mine… I laugh when I’m nervous.It was interesting to realize that I had always been that way.

Hasani stared at me curiously and I found myself mesmerized by his dark gaze.I wanted to rush to him and cling to him as Cleopatra had Antony, but due to convention, I could not.We couldn’t show such affection in front of the queen- it just wasn’t done…not in the daylight hours.It would be considered disrespectful.I was sure that Cleopatra wouldn’t mind, but Antony and Hasani would both think I had lost my mind.

So, I consoled myself with looking at him.As I stared at his face… at his deep, fathomless eyes, I pondered the fact that two thousand years after being with him, his eyes would still haunt me. Even though I hadn’t known who he was, my soul had apparently never forgotten him.I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved by that or outraged at the injustice of it all.But I didn’t have time to think about it further because Cleopatra distracted me.

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