Love—it’s the real thing. And complicated as hell…
Archeologist Eliza Schneider assumes her meeting with an exotic stranger in the Egyptian desert was a heat-induced hallucination…until he materializes in New York. She has to give the tall, handsome Egyptian high marks for originality with his pick-up line: they’re fated to save the world together. The master/servant thing goes a long way toward sweeping her off her feet, but it’s easier to believe he’s just another in her long line of poor romantic choices.
Kasdeya, the Fifth Satan, waited eons for his Keeper to find her way to his tomb amongst the ancient ruins. He only has a limited time to convince Eliza that her role is critical to help defeat the loathsome Deumos, a female demon who has laid her claim to bearing his child—a child that will bring down mortals.
Trouble is, Eliza doesn’t even believe Kasdeya is real. If he can’t convince her he isn’t an illusion—and neither is their love—Deumos will win.
This book is not work safe! May cause hot fantasies about sexy immortals and lead to poor productivity.
Copyright © 2009 Ciar Cullen
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
From the shade that brought little relief, she gazed out over the shimmering landscape marred by the broad trenches her team had etched during days of hard labor. Screw it. I’ll give it just a few more tries, she swore. Eliza wiped her brow and brought her scarf back over her mouth before stepping into the blazing heat.
Her leg muscles protested in agony as she bent to pick up her shovel and stepped into the trench. For the hundredth time, she visualized the manuscript and the map that pointed to this very spot at the northeast end of the temple. With the little strength she had left, she lifted sand from the trench, small bit by bit. The compulsion to drive on, to dig down, stirred her soul and strengthened her resolve. Something had led her to this point, and if she had to die trying, she would finish the job.
Stunned at the deep raspy male voice on the wind, she turned in all directions to see who had joined her. She was alone. So, the heat had taken a serious toll. She was hallucinating. That’s a new one. I don’t think I like it.
“Damn, even my imaginary voices are bossy.” Two more shovelfuls, she swore. The clank of metal against metal sent a shock up her arms, and she fell back to the sand with a squeal of triumphant joy. Crawling to her knees, she brushed at the sand with her gloved hands until she felt the object. She pulled off her gloves and brushed away more sand to reveal an ornately carved ring, the size of a large doorknocker.
Even with her vision clouded by the sunlight and whipping sand, Eliza knew the workmanship wasn’t ancient Egyptian, but more recent. Her heart raced with her mind. That makes sense, she thought. The ring would probably date to the time of the manuscript—a few hundred years AD.
She dug her heels into the sand and pulled at the ring. It didn’t budge. She brushed away more sand frantically, not understanding why the small object was stuck.
“Pull, yes, pull!”
“Shut up, jerk,” she chastised her hallucination. “I’m doing my best.”
With one deep intake of breath, she laced both hands in the ring and leveraged her legs until they burned with exertion. Then she pulled with every remaining ounce of strength.
The ring popped out of the sand, and with it, a lid to a golden box. As she leaned to look into the box, which was quickly filling with sand, a blast of spicy cool air pushed her back to the ground.
Frankincense, she thought numbly, trying to regain her composure. It must be a box of spices. How disappointing.
A shadow blocked the sun as Eliza crawled to her knees, and she stared up, shielding her eyes at the unmistakable male outline before her. He towered over her, and while she couldn’t make out his features, it was clear he was not one of her crew. His long black hair brushed his massive shoulders. He was naked except for a thin cotton wrap flowing around his waist.
Wordlessly, he held out a hand as if to help her to her feet. She scrambled backwards, fearful of his size, stunned by his sudden appearance.
“Where did you come from?” Her words were barely audible in the wind, her mouth parched and throat raspy. But he heard her.
“Eliza, my servant.” His voice rolled on the wind, the voice of her hallucination.
“Excuse me? Who the hell are you and what the hell do you mean by calling me your servant?” She pushed herself to her feet and took in his features from a yard away. Her legs nearly failed her. He was exotic, beautiful, with a presence that made her stomach churn in excitement and fear. A golden tattoo circled one arm in an ornate script. His chest was bare, bronze, and massive.
He reached out impatiently with his hand again, in silent command for her to take it.
“No way, mister. I’m not alone here, you know.”
“Eliza. Attend to me.”
What was the accent? Not modern Arabic. Oh, hell, had she stumbled on some sleeper cell of bad guys out in the desert? Was he going to take her to his training installation as a hostage, or sell her into slavery?
She scrambled out of the trench in the direction of her team’s camp, but he was on her in an instant. With a hand on each shoulder, he forced her to face him. Eliza struggled, terrified now, clearly at his mercy.
He locked his deep gaze on hers for a moment before pulling her to his body, clutching her in an iron embrace. The heady aroma of frankincense and the contact with his bare skin made her lightheaded.
“Who are you?” she whispered.
“I am your master, Kasdeya. But I am also your servant. You are my Keeper,” he leaned in and whispered into her ear. His breath sent chills to her scorched body. “I have waited too long for you.”
In terror, she looked up into his black eyes, seeing her own reflection for a moment. Not Eliza, filthy dirty archaeologist in khakis and boots, but Eliza in a gown of thin gold, with a torc of light circling her neck. As he pressed his lips to hers, her world, the heat and her fear misted across the sand, shimmering like an oasis. He scooped her into his arms and pushed her head to his shoulder firmly.
“All will now be well.” It wasn’t a reassurance—it was a call for silence, for acquiescence. Deep inside, a call to question him, to scream or fight, gave way to his scent, to the stupor he cast on her. I want this. What’s wrong with me? Why do I want this?
“Yes.” He hissed in pleasure at her submission. The real Eliza would be angry, fighting furiously to flee, she thought. But this Eliza barely cared what happened, except that Kas…Kas-somebody carried her to shade and brushed the back of his hand against her burned cheek, cooling her whole being.
“Why do you need so much healing, little one? Why has my Keeper ignored her needs? That will end now. Do you understand?”
“Sure, whatever you say. I’ll get a check-up and manicure as soon as I get home. Can I have some water first? I’m so damned thirsty…”
“No cursing!” His breath brushed Eliza’s ear, and she realized that he now spoke aloud, and sounded a bit less pleased.
“Well, I can’t live to take care of myself if I die of thirst. Priorities, you know?”
“Why are you arguing with me? You should not be able to resist me.”
Eliza tried to move her head from his shoulder, but he pushed her firmly against his skin. The fog clouding her senses lifted enough to let in a bit of fear, and the clear sense that something was extremely strange.
They had reached the temple interior, only minutes earlier covered in sand and granite rubble. Eliza cried out at the splendid, intriguing refuge in the desert, now a temple to luxury, with silk curtains blowing in a cool breeze, exquisitely crafted carpets strewn with colorful pillows and throws, and gold and silver decanters and cups and bowls, overflowing with fruits, wine, water and exotic flower petals.
He’s a genie, and I opened his bottle!
He growled in annoyance. “Genie indeed. This is mortifying. Why have you broken our bond, cast aside your longing to be with me? How is it possible?”
“Look, I’m obviously having some kind of hallucination, so don’t blame yourself for how it’s going. Put your mortification aside and drop me.”
“As you wish.” He unceremoniously plopped her onto a mound of cushions and sat cross-legged by her side, chin propped in one palm. He studied her intently, alternating expressions of anger and confusion switching on and off his gorgeous face.
Eliza backed up like a crab, never letting him out of her sight. She reached behind to a low table and grabbed a cup of cool water, and then a second.
“We were to wed today.” His words rushed out, as if he were testing his own sense now.
“You aren’t very bright, are you? And I have no one to blame, because you’re my hallucination. You’re damned good-looking, though.”
“By now we should be in the throes of grand passion, coupling in the ecstasy I’ve yearned for these many decades. Suckling on your wonderful nipples, clawing at one another as I pound my seed to your womb…and so forth and so on.”
“So forth and so on?” Eliza sat against a pillar, wondering why it seemed to sway with the beat of her heart. So forth and so on. She broke into a sweat.
“The rest, of course.”
“Of course. You might remind me, in detail, about what “so forth and so on” involves, as I’ve had a bit of a shock today.”