* * * * *
Dust caked her clothes and clogged her pores. She’d actually thought going to a dig
in Egypt would be fun. What an idiot! She pulled down the mask covering her mouth so
she could take a swig of her bottled water. Sweat dripped from her brow.
She wiped her eyes and looked across the dig site at her professor. It was his fault
she was here. He’d made the student trip sound so romantic and exciting back in her
Ancient History class at university.
Uncovering the past, looking for relics…picturing herself as some real life Lara
Croft. Maybe that had been her first mistake. Gwen Patterson, Tomb Raider.
Another stinging bite had her swing a hand and slap her thigh. Damn flies. They’d
eat you alive if given the chance. You had to move fast to avoid them or become lunch.
She stood and stretched her aching back muscles. No wonder she hurt. She’d been bent
for the better part of three hours, brushing eons old sand off of some ancient carved stone
with what amounted to a tiny paintbrush. All her efforts so far yielded a few shards of
The only good thing to come of this entire
was the weight she’d lost.
She’d been in Egypt less than three weeks and already dropped fifteen pounds. Back
home, her Grammy was probably baking Dutch apple pie, or her dad fixing a rack of his
signature tangy barbeque ribs on the grill. Oh, and he’d have blackeyed peas and roasted
ears of corn dipped in honey butter…ahh. She closed her eyes, her mouth watering. She’d
given up all of that for three months of misery in the desert. The food here didn’t agree
with her. She knew subsiding on bottled water and imported boxes of crackers could last
only so long.
Maybe that’s why she felt so weak and began to hallucinate. Because she couldn’t
be seeing what she thought she saw. A solid gold scarab rose from under the weight of
sand, winked at her with jewel red eyes, and then skittered across her section of the dig
and reburied itself at her feet.
She jumped back and fell hard on her butt.
“Help, guys! Somebody!” She yelled, looking around wildly, scooting back fast as
she could in case the damn thing tried to crawl up her leg. She shuddered as hands
grabbed her arms and pulled her up.
“Miss Patterson, are you alright?” Her professor asked in a clipped British accent.
“Oh, Professor Walcourt! I saw a beetle, a large beetle, and it disappeared into the
“Just step on them, Miss Patterson. Or kick them out of your way.”
“No. You don’t understand. It was gold and had ruby eyes and it was
All the students stopped work, and turned to stare in her direction.
She pointed to a spot two feet in front of her. Professor Walcourt squatted in the
sand, and dug around with his fingers, where she’d pointed.
“There’s nothing here. You must have imagined it. Why don’t you go back to the
base camp, dear. Relax, maybe eat something? American girls always on a diet.” He said
the last, under his breath.
She heard a few chuckles coming from the roped off area next to her, and cringed.
“Yes. Sorry, I didn’t mean to cause a fuss. I think I’ll go lay down.”
He nodded his consent, and seemed to dismiss her from his mind, as he turned to
talk with Adam, his teaching assistant.
Well, wasn’t that fun? Nothing like proving you’re a ditz to the entire class.
walked over to one of the guides sitting near the jeeps, and asked for a ride. She knew
what she’d seen, but could she trust her eyes? Much as it pissed her off to admit it, maybe
played tricks on her.
The base camp sat empty, everyone else at the dig site. A rest would do her good.
She shook the rough blanket and lay down for a nap.
When she woke up, she decided to try and eat. She pulled a protein bar from her
backpack and took a bite. Not the best tasting stuff, but nutritious and full of vitamins.
After a while, she acknowledged she felt better and promised herself to make a point of
eating more often.
With nothing else to do, she decided to take out her journal and write some notes.
She even tried to do a rough sketch of the gold scarab. Something about the odd bevel
flickered in her mind’s eye. She turned back to another sketch she’d done a week earlier,
one of a cartouche with the concave shape of a scarab at the bottom. Almost as if…yes–as
if a three dimensional scarab should be inset there. Some kind of an ancient lock and
She had to take her journal, go back to the dig site, and show this to Dr. Walcourt!
Gwen grabbed her backpack, tossed her journal along with extra snack bars and water
into it, and headed to the jeep.
“But don’t you see? This means something. If we could find the gold scarab again, I
just know it fits into this cartouche! Who knows what we could unlock?”
“No. This is a serious archeological endeavor and I am not assigning a student to
help you look for some
gold scarab in the sand.”
“Sir, I think this is important. If you would just look at the sketch again…?”
“Ms. Patterson, I understand your excitement over what you believe is a potential
find. But there was no gold scarab. You were delusional and weak from the sun. Perhaps
it would be best if you returned to your hotel in Cairo, and then home to the States.”
“I know what I saw, and this drawing should be evidence. I mean, look at the details
of the cartouche. This person Kemnebi must have been important in some way. Why else
would he have all these paintings and carvings dedicated to him?”
“That is what we are here to find out, Ms. Patterson.”
“Then you should be interested in this.” She stabbed the journal with her finger.
“Sir, we may have something.” The young man interrupted, excitement dancing in
“Now if you’ll excuse me?” The professor turned from her and followed the other
Gwen hoisted her backpack over her shoulders, picked her way over to the area
where she’d been earlier, and squat down in the sand. So, where the hell was the damn
thing? Still buried here, or long gone. She dug around the marked off square, and settled
in for the afternoon. She wasn’t giving up, nor was she about to fly home without a fight.
In time, her persistence paid off. The carved stone revealed more of itself. A cat-
like form emerged, a collared panther. It too, bore the cartouche on its belly, stamping it
as part of the mysterious Kemnebi’s property. She stroked the cat form, imagining it to
have real fur, silky black and shining.
“Ouch!” Something pinched her knee. She looked down, praying she wouldn’t see a
scorpion. Instead, the gold beetle lay on the sand, tiny drops of her blood on it. It scurried
past her to crawl onto the belly of the statue and embed itself there.
She blinked. Nope. Not a delusion. The ruby eyes glowed as if watching her. She
stood and heard the rumble before she felt the ground shake. Everyone was yelling,
running back to the makeshift tents and the jeeps. She thought she heard someone scream
the word “Earthquake,” but a cloud of dust sucked her down into the maw of a giant hole
beneath her feet. She could neither hear, nor see anything more.
Kemnebi woke, a silent scream of thick air pushed against sharp ribs. Someone had
broken the spell, thanks be to Sekhmet and Bast! His body creaked as he shifted from cat
form to man. His cloth funeral bindings snapped at the change, the strips hanging from a
wasted torso. Did he live, yet remain mummified? Would his beloved Goddesses Bast
and Sekhmet not show him mercy?
The heavy door protecting the tomb rolled in a slow arc, allowing the faintest light
to illuminate his final resting place. Someone had found the ensorcelled scarab and used
it to free his cat form, and then used it again on the cartouche above his burial chamber,
to open his prison.
The person must be a brave soul, to have willingly shed their blood to break the
curse. Did the person realize they now belonged to him? And he to them? A harsh
bargain, but one he’d make again, in order to live once more, and walk the land in
Slow, careful movements carried him from the room, and into the antechamber. A
small figure stood in the passageway. His rescuer, no doubt. He licked bony lips, pain
shooting to every new nerve, every tissue as he became flesh and blood once more. His
moan of agony mingled with the figure’s scream of fright. The human dropped to the
hard packed floor, unconscious.
He reached the cartouche above the entrance to the antechamber and pried the
golden scarab from the recess. Gait stiff, he walked to the prone figure. He breathed
slowly, stinging deep breaths that expanded his revived lungs.
A woman! Was she a follower of Bast, of Sekhmet? Large, confused gray eyes
blinked up at him. Hair the color of silver and wheat, wove in a single braid like rope,
lay over one shoulder. Eternity with such a beautiful woman would be no hardship at all.
“I mean you no harm. I want only to thank you for my freedom.”
The female made no sign that she had heard him or understood a word he said. He
took her hand in his, and ripped the cloth strips binding him, so that her hand could touch
the bare flesh of his chest. Her eyes seemed to widen and alarm darkened her irises.
“Sekhmet and Bast have blessed you for your selfless act. I owe you my life.” He
lifted her other hand and cupped them together in front of her. “I remain now forever in
your hands. Your heart to hold for eternity. And your heart, I will guard as my own.” He
leaned forward and placed a kiss on her lips.
She pushed at his chest in a mad scramble to get away. “No…this isn’t real–not
happening! Please! Somebody help!”
Her words made no sense to him, but he knew well the fear in her voice and the
panic in her eyes. He released her wrists scant seconds before she passed out once again.
This time he was ready to break her fall.
He carried her in his arms to a low stone bench, and hovered over her. Was he so
terrible still to look upon? The warrior mage raised a hand to brush his scalp. Hair
sprouted from his bald head. He ran hands down his long muscled body, whole once
more. He removed the rest of his wrappings and stood naked.
The cleansing pools were but a level below. Perhaps after a tranquil bath they
would both feel refreshed, if not calmer. He hefted her slight weight in his arms and made
his way through the secret passage. Darkness cloaked the narrow space.
“In Ra lumaya tahn!” The golden glow of candlelight chased away the dark.
His magick had returned along with his flesh. Could he return to his cat form?
Later, he would try. He set the little female down on the floor and glanced toward the
empty pools. How long had he been imprisoned? The royal scribe had much to answer
Did his enemy feast with Osiris and Anubis, or had Suten Anu cheated death, as he
He intoned the spell for water and watched as the pools filled once again. Then he
removed the female’s clothing and lifted her into the water. Whispered words soothed
and seduced and enchanted, reaching into her subconscious.
* * * * *
She had to be dreaming. The most gorgeous man she’d ever seen in her life, cupped
water in his large hands and let it cascade over her back and shoulders. Thighs like tree
trunks held her in place, one leg braced on either side of her body. Lust stirred in her, as
an impressive cock poked her lower abdomen.
Heat swirled in the chocolate eyes watching her. Oh my! A slow smile curved those
full, passionate male lips. His skin reminded her of hot chocolate, with just the barest
touch of rich cream. She reached out a trembling hand, glided her fingertips against his
muscled chest in wonder…satin over steel.
Any thoughts of resistance melted under his sensual gaze. She allowed him to taste
her lips, and his hands to cup her breasts. He deepened the kiss, as water lapped at her
hips and thighs.
Her heart drummed loud in her ears, her breath rapid and shallow. Firm hands
gripped her hips and lifted her, impaled her on the hard, heavy length of his shaft.
A bubble of nervous excitement caught in her throat. If this was a dream, she never
wanted to wake. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed him back.
He surged into her, broke off the kiss. “One heart. One flesh. One love.” He
whispered the words against her throat like a vow.
She threw her head back, relished the feel of his mouth on her–kissing, tasting,
sucking, licking. He groaned, his hands sliding down to the pool of liquid heat where they
joined. His light caress, intimate and teasing.
The pleasure built into a tight ache, a spiral of need that fed upon itself. Her thighs
quivered, slick with her essence, as his hands demanded complete surrender. She gasped,
fought to prolong the sensation of teetering on the edge and lost as her orgasm rushed
over her in a wave. His hoarse cry of satisfaction echoed his own climax. He held her
through the aftershocks, quick kisses, and wet shudders of deepest gratification.
With a reluctant sigh, he eased himself from her body, and climbed out of the water,
carrying her in his arms. This wasn’t a dream, an illusion. Who was he?
She opened her eyes and raised her hand to touch the wet strands of his…hair? Her
other hand shot out to run her fingers through the silky cloud. No. It couldn’t be…could
it? He had been practically bald mere minutes earlier, but now his hair reached past his
“I don’t understand?” She looked up at him in shock. She’d just spoken in English,
at least she thought she had, but the words came out in what sounded like a dialect of
ancient Egyptian. She’d been so entranced by him in the pool earlier, she’d paid no heed
to his words. But now she realized he’d said something about them being one flesh, one
love, and she’d heard perfect American English in her mind…yet the words themselves
had been in a foreign tongue.
“A product of magick. My magick.” He dropped a kiss on her nose, and set her on
“Magick?” She grabbed her clothes, hurried to put them on. He’d undressed her
while she’d been out of it, and then fucked her into a sensual haze of acceptance.
Magick? More like some kind of drug. Even now, she could feel the gnawing ache of
need heavy in her womb, the phantom fingers tweak and pull at her clit.
He took her hand, led her from the bathing chamber to the hidden tunnel.
“Where are we going?”
“I have not felt the warmth of the sun upon my skin in some time. I would have that
“You can’t! I mean–you’re naked! And I didn’t imagine those wrappings, right?
Won’t you disintegrate if you go outside your tomb?”
“You freed me with the golden scarab of Anubis.” He cupped her chin, looked into
her eyes. “Your gift of blood, of your very life force, released me. I am renewed. It is a
priceless gift I will cherish forever.”
He bent his head, pressed his lips to hers for little more than a few seconds, before
he tugged on her hand. The next corridor was narrow and they had to walk sideways to
clear it. Ahead, a large slab of stone blocked their path. She glanced around, tried to find
something, anything they could use as a fulcrum.
“Ak-a-hoe-tem, sum-an ma’at!” He shouted as he pointed at the stone. The sand
beneath the heavy slab shifted.
“Okay, I think I’m starting to believe you and this magick thing you have going.
He pushed the slab into the groove made by the sand, and rolled it away from the
doorway. Once more, he took her hand in his. He led her through the passageway and
into the bright light of the sun.
She scanned the area and realized they were closer to the base camp than the dig
site. “You have to stay here. I’ll go get clothes for you to wear. Okay?”
“O-kay is yes?”
She nodded. Shame to put any clothes on the man, but he needed to blend in if she
had any hope of sneaking him back to camp.
“Then I shall wait here for you.”
She squeezed his hand then turned to leave. Most of the crew were still at the dig.
Now, whose clothes would be big enough to fit her mummy? Professor Walcourt was
tall enough, if too narrow in the shoulders and chest.
Yes, Walcourt’s clothing would do nicely for now. She darted through the
encampment, and opened the flap of the professor’s tent.
Good. No one spotted her. She unzipped his duffel bag, and withdrew a pair of
khaki slacks, a white T-shirt, socks, and a pair of briefs. Next, she needed a pair of shoes,
and spied an extra pair of work boots on a chair. She shook them out, just in case
something had made the boots their home, and added them to the pile of stolen booty.
Her hand reached for the tent’s flap, when she heard voices coming from outside.
Where the hell could she hide in a four by five foot tent? She looked around, saw the
stacked boxes of equipment by the chair, and dove behind them.
* * * * *
“You have to notify the authorities. The poor girl is probably dead, dropped down
the hole that opened up and broke her neck.”
“And took the golden scarab with her!”
“Have you listened to a word I’ve said?”
“Even if she is alive and has the key, she didn’t appear bright enough to figure out
how to use it. You’re worr ying over nothing, Walcourt.”
“The silly fool has the curiosity of a cat. Of course, given time, she’ll figure it out,
and Kemnebi will be free after three thousand years!”
“But the curse is mere superstition, pure myth.”
“Do I look like a myth, Adam?” The tone held a note of threat.
“N-no. Please, I only meant–”
“Yes, I know what you think. But you know less than a dung beetle. Do not become
a liability to me, Adam. Now leave. I must think.”
* * * * *
She heard the muffled sound of shuffling feet, then silence. She peeked over the
boxes. Walcourt lay on the cot. Her only chance was if he fell asleep. She hoped
Kemnebi would wait as he promised.
His stomach growled. The sun had begun to set and his little female had yet to
return. Had she been caught stealing? Or had she changed her mind? He could wait no
longer. She might be in danger. He picked his way across the sand and rocks, his big
body and longer stride eating up the distance.
He crouched behind the side of a metal box on strange wheels. Several men passed
by, but his presence remained hidden. He wondered at their odd clothes and manner of
speech. Stealth carried him to another of the metal boxes across from the tents.
The golden scarab grew warm in his fist. He looked down and saw the ruby eyes
begin to glow with an inner fire. She was here, in this tent. Two silhouettes moved inside
the space. One tall and male. The other shadow, female.
He called upon his beloved mother, Bast, and winced as pain lanced with the shift
of his form. The cat emerged from where once crouched a man. He padded silent as
darkness and stepped through the flap on all fours.
* * * * *
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I thought you said I was delusional from
dieting and the heat?” By now, her mummy had to know something had gone wrong
with her plan. She looked up into the crazed eyes of Professor Walcourt.
“Stupid girl. You let him escape, didn’t you? You have no clue what he is, what he
“If you believe in curses and silly superstitions, why did you become an
archeologist? You’re a man of science.”
“I don’t believe in them! I believe in Kemnebi!” He leaned over her, rage forcing
the veins on his neck to pop out. “I will not repeat this again! What were you looking for?
Surely you didn’t come just to steal a few measly pieces of clothing?”
Gwen blinked. A long, sleek, black…
moved through her peripheral
vision. Too fast to know exactly what she’d seen. Her lack of attention provoked the man
“Stupid little bitch! Answer me!” He backhanded her.
She fell on her side, lifting a hand to wipe blood from the corner of her mouth. “I
hope you rot in hell.” Gwen flinched as his arm swung back for momentum. Two fat
tears rolled from her eyes.
A huge black paw whipped from out of nowhere, swiped at Walcourt’s midsection.
The professor staggered, gasping. The black panther stood on hind legs, it’s eyes fixed on
the man. The beast shimmered and coalesced into the shape of a human.
“Suten Anu! Foul creature!”
“You are the creature, Kemnebi. Walking the earth in two forms, vile offspring of
“Your schemes shall not go unpunished. I care not what finds you at my door, only
that you remember my curse, Suten Anu! And feel my wrath!”
“I no longer use that name. Besides, it is you who will suffer God’s wrath.”
Professor Walcourt tried to grab Gwen but was pushed from the tent by invisible hands,
his body taken in a swirling sandstorm contained only by the will of Kemnebi. Her
magnificent mummy stood under the open flap of the tent–naked, watching the storm
carry Suten Anu to the halls of the dead.
She pulled him back inside, and closed the flap. “Not that I really want to cover you
up, but people are staring.” She handed him the clothes she’d swiped.
He hesitated, then grabbed them from her and put them on.
“Where do we go from here?”
“Wheresoever you desire, my lioness.”
“Lioness, huh?” She stood on tiptoe and linked her hands behind his neck. “I could
get used to this.” He lowered his mouth to hers.
Neither saw the shadow move across the stretched fabric at the back of the tent. Nor
did they hear the contented, rumbling purr of a pleased goddess.