PASSION OF ISIS
Published by Virgin, Black Lace
ISBN # 0352339934
September, 2005

Contemporary Erotic Romance

Adie Hamilton is young, ambitious and wants to make a name for herself in Egyptology. When the enigmatic and sexy Killian Carmichael invites her to join his research team at the desert necropolis of Saqqara it’s not all dusty tombs and broken pots. Whilst Adie is drawn into the search for a vital missing fragment of an erotic mural, Dareth Sadler, a charismatic leader of a cult hooked on sex magic, arrives to threaten the future of the project. Sadler is Killian’s bitter rival, so it’s up to Adie to keep one step ahead of Sadler and his scheming coterie of ankh-wearing New Age groupies. The desert landscape and the hidden chambers of its monuments are suffused with sybaritic secrets. They have a beguiling effect on the archaeological team and everyone who is drawn to learn more about the mysterious erotic rites of the ancient Egyptians.

Amazon.co.uk   |  Amazon.com   |  AReBooks |

 

an intense, well-researched setting and lets the lust develop. Cleverly plotted, with a feisty, appealing heroine… we dig it!’ – FRM

‘For anyone who likes their fiction intelligent, compelling and arousing,. Her descriptions are fluid and vivid; her characters reach beyond the page; and each erotic episode is brought to life with a memorable style’ Ashley Lister, for ERWA

 

CHAPTER ONE:

‘Damn it!’

Adie slammed her fist into the desk, causing the dodgy lamp to flicker. It was past nine and she was still no closer to deciphering the dog-eared hieroglyphic manuscript. ‘Ask Joe,’ she said, more calmly, and shuffled off the high stool onto her feet. Her supervisor would still be at his desk. He was rarely anywhere else.

She trudged along the main corridor in semi-darkness, camouflaged with stripes of shadow that the security lights cast through the blinds. At this rate, she’d never convince him that he’d trained a maverick genius when she had to ask for help with an inscription – even one this complicated. Adie glanced again at the paper. She hated admitting defeat, especially to the gruff, bushy old professor who’d taken her under his wing during her doctorate. Her hopes of a permanent position in the department were foundering; all her fellow students had moved on, mostly to clerical jobs. One or two had scraped in as archivists or curators, but Adie wanted more. She wanted a place on an excavation team.

The light in the office was on; the door wedged permanently half-open. Her supervisor sat hunched over his desk in his shapeless brown suit. Professor Josef Levine was nearly 70 and ripe for retirement, something he swore he’d never consent to. ‘If they push me out, Adie-’ he’d confided one afternoon, ‘-they’ll see me dead in a year. Work’s the only reason I get up in the morning. All my other passions are long withered and gone.’

To Adie, he was the eccentric uncle she’d never had. She was still a few feet away from the door when Joe raised his head. ‘So you’re back at Saqqara,’ he said to an unseen figure across the desk.

Adie halted mid-stride, surprised to find anyone with him at this late hour. She checked her watch then leaned against the photocopier, resigned to a wait.

‘I had to face it someday. Besides, the prospects for the new site are good.’

‘And it’s two weeks into the season? So why have you come to me?’ asked Joe.

‘Staff shortages. I was hoping you could recommend someone.’

Adie stopped breathing. An opportunity to work at Saqqara’s desert necropolis would be hotly contended, and if she kept quiet, she might get the chance to apply before anyone else even heard about it.

‘Come now, you don’t need my help. You could have anyone you wanted.’

‘Perhaps,’ admitted the stranger. He shifted position in his seat, so that the aged springs creaked. ‘But then, you know the problems I have with publicity.’

‘You mean you can’t risk advertising because you’ll get swarmed by tourists and amateurs.’ There was a heavy disdain in Joe’s voice.

The man gave a gentle cough, while the furrows in Joe’s brow deepened. He took a long, slow, sip from his stained coffee mug. ‘You know I hate picking favourites. Besides, what makes you think I’ve got anybody you’d want?’

‘Because you have high standards, Josef, just like me. Just like you taught me.’

The reflected praise brought a smile to Adie’s lips. This was more promising than she’d hoped. But to her dismay Joe just hunched his shoulders and grimaced, either at the coffee or the flattery. Adie suspected the latter. She wondered who the other man was. Joe seemed to be treating him with a lot of respect, so he must be important, and there weren’t many famous Egyptologists about any more; the days of Howard Carter were long past. She strained to see him around the edge of the door, but his chair was set too far back and all she got was a glimpse of freshly pressed trousers.

‘I want someone competent that no-one will miss.’ His voice was unfamiliar, and rang with rich low tones that conjured images of stealthy beauty. Adie suspected he spent a lot of time speaking Arabic, though he sounded English. ‘A new post-doctorate with some field experience would do.’

Adie’s head started pounding. This was perfect for her. She’d received her PhD two months ago, and had worked on a summer dig in Cyprus. Not the same as Egypt, admittedly, but it was still fieldwork, and she could start immediately. She held her breath waiting for Joe to say her name. Instead, he shook his head. ‘There’s nobody. I’m sorry Killian, I really don’t think I can help you.’ He sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest.

Adie gave an incredulous snort, but they didn’t hear her muted outrage. What did he mean, there wasn’t anyone? He knew she was looking for work. The wilful part of her wanted to march straight through the door. The sensible part made her stay put as soon as she realised Joe had given his companion a name.

Killian – Dr Simon Killian Carmichael to be precise – was the leading authority on the Early Dynasties, and had headed high profile expeditions to Giza, Abusir, Dahshur and most recently, Lisht. Rumour in the department was that he’d once been one of Joe Levine’s students, and now she’d heard it from his own lips. Adie had never given it much thought until now, when the chance of working with him was slipping away.

‘Why do you need extra staff, anyway?’ asked Joe.

‘Not extra, a replacement. I’ve sent Bill Harris home with a broken leg. He slipped down some steps at the dig and won’t be on his feet again for months.’

Joe’s lips thinned to a tight line. ‘Assuming you’d want him back.’

Killian made no audible response.

Adie tried to imagine his expression. She’d never seen him, but she’d heard of his work. What student of Egyptology hadn’t? His books and papers littered their rooms. He’d been the most requested guest for end-of-term lectures for the last five years. Not that he’d ever given one.

Joe pushed a stray paperclip towards the small silver mountain by his work-tray. ‘All right, I’ll think about it, but I’m not making any promises.’

‘Thank you. You can contact me at the hotel.’

Joe nodded. ‘I’ll let you know.’ He rose, their discussion apparently at its end. Adie scrunched the inscription into her pocket. There was no way she was going to walk in and ask for help now, not even for a glimpse of Dr Carmichael. She wanted this job, and with that thought in mind she pulled out her keys and headed for the exit, determined to confront Joe first thing tomorrow.

*****

Joe was marking essay papers when Adie arrived. She placed a fresh mug of coffee at his elbow, before finding a seat opposite him – the same seat Dr Carmichael had occupied the previous night.

‘What do you want?’ Joe greeted her, gruffly but with a friendly smile, and without breaking the flow of ink from his pen.

‘I wondered if you’d heard of any new projects I might apply to work on,’ she asked, having decided to try a subtle approach.

Joe’s red pen stopped mid-sentence.

So much for subtlety.

He peered inquisitively at her from beneath his bushy eyebrows. ‘No,’ he said, too slowly. ‘Not that I can think of.’

Adie twisted her hands in her lap. The scratch of the pen nib resumed. ‘What about the Saqqara project you were discussing last night?’

Joe sat back in his chair, and began to tap the pen on his desk. When he finally spoke, it was in a brusque whisper. ‘Who told you about that?’

‘Nobody. I overheard you. Dr Carmichael’s looking for someone to work on his project, isn’t he? He was here last night.’ It was impossible to keep the excitement out of her voice.

Joe laid his pen across the top essay in the pile. His normally cheerful blue eyes seemed glassy. ‘And I suppose you think you’re just what he’s looking for. I won’t put you forward Adie; you’re wasting your time.’

‘But…I…you…’ She fell silent. Last night she’d assumed he’d overlooked her; now it was clear that there had been no mistake. She frowned. Joe wasn’t being fair; he knew how much she wanted it.

‘Why not?’ she managed, with a little more composure. ‘I heard you. He wants a PhD and some fieldwork experience. I’ve got that, and nobody’s going to miss me.’

‘Adie, you’ve never even been to Egypt. Besides, I’ve already made my recommendations. I’m sending Murphy and Longford. They both worked on the Luxor project last spring.’

Adie raked her fingers through her long hair in exasperation then slapped her hands down forcefully on his crowded desk. It hurt her palms, but at least an ornament and his pen jumped. ‘This is bullshit! How experienced do I have to be? Chris Longford’s not even qualified.’

Joe regarded her sternly.

‘Please Joe, at least give me a chance. I can’t stay here forever fixing other people’s broken pots. My brain’s turning to mush.’

Joe pressed his fingers to his temples. ‘Adie, you don’t know what you’re asking. I’ll help you find something else, I promise, but Carmichael’s team is not for you.’

‘Why not? Aren’t I good enough all of a sudden? Does it have to be a man?’

‘No, it does not. I just don’t think you’d work well under Carmichael. You’re too intuitive, and it’s not his way. He’d stifle you, and I’m afraid he’d ruin you.’

Adie didn’t understand him at all. ‘That’s the best you can come up with? He’s one of the biggest names in the field. I can’t just let it go. Besides, isn’t it my choice who I work for?’

Joe shrugged his shoulders and coughed meaningfully. ‘It’s my decision and I’ve already made it. Now please, I have lots of marking to do.’

Adie bit her lip and remembered Killian’s need for discretion. ‘I’ll leak news of the find,’ she blurted.

‘Don’t be stupid. You don’t know what you’re taking about.’

‘I do.’

A heavy silence fell. Adie stared stubbornly at the essay papers. She couldn’t bear to see the anger in his eyes, but she wanted a shot at this job. She had to hold out. Back down please, she prayed, because if they fell out over this she’d be packing her bags in the morning.

Joe flicked a speck of lint from his corduroy jacket. ‘I don’t believe you’d go to the press. Some of my students, yes, but not you.’

‘I might,’ she said, in a voice less convincing than before. ‘Even a couple of emails to some of the more sensational web sites would do it, or one of those lunatic fringe writers. You know, Cadillacs of the Gods, that kind of thing? Are you willing to take that chance?’

For a moment, Joe actually looked worried, and she wondered if she’d touched on a sore subject.

‘You’d ruin your career.’

‘I don’t have a career. I’m going nowhere. What’s there to lose?’

The crow’s feet around his eyes softened, then his lips twitched as he shook his head.

‘Please Joe,’ she begged. ‘All I want is an interview.’ She hung her head. This had already gone too far, and if he didn’t give in soon she’d have to do something dramatic like run crying from the room. The tears would be real enough.

Joe sighed wearily. ‘I’m not happy about this, but if it means so much to you, I’ll call him. Now get back to work. I’ll talk to you later.’

‘Thanks Joe,’ she said, relief dissolving her tension. She scampered around the desk and flung her arms around his shoulders. ‘You won’t be disappointed.’

‘We’ll see,’ she heard him growl, as she skipped through the open door.

*****

By the morning of the interview, Adie’s excitement had turned into a bad case of nerves. She felt completely numb apart from her stomach, which churned every time she thought about anything to do with archaeology. The worst part was not knowing what to expect. She didn’t know what he was looking for, what the project was about, or even what he looked like. Her friends had speculatively described Dr Carmichael as a daring, darkly attractive Indiana Jones type, but she’d guessed he was going to look like one of the guys off Time Team. Of course, she secretly hoped they were right; a bit of excitement and adventure would make a nice change.

She arrived at Joe’s cottage twenty minutes early. The rickety wooden fence was thick with ivy and moss, and weeds besieged the small vegetable patch. The back parlour was equally untidy, and dusty as well, with faded brown furnishings that matched their owner’s scruffy, comfortable style. Adie fidgeted with the fringe of one of the overstuffed chairs, while Joe’s ancient tabby cat eyed her suspiciously from a battered cushion.

Joe made her a cup of tea, then retreated outside to take a brush to the dead leaves. Adie sensed that he was still unhappy, but didn’t understand why. She wished he’d stop being so secretive. If there was something dodgy about the project or Dr Carmichael, she’d rather be forewarned.

It was another ten minutes before Dr Carmichael arrived. By then, Adie was so anxious that she could taste her own bile, but she forced a calm expression when she heard the doorknob turn.

His appearance shocked her.

Dr Carmichael was so unlike anything she’d expected that she forgot to rise and greet him, and instead just stared at him in amazement. Of the many faces she had imagined for him, none had come close to the truth. Killian Carmichael was an elegant businessman wearing a very expensive looking black overcoat, and although he had startling white hair, if he was a day over 35 she’d give up chocolate forever.

‘Killian, this is Adie Hamilton,’ announced Joe as he entered the room behind his guest, and his bushy eyebrows danced like two fat hairy caterpillars, reminding her to rise from her seat. The light cotton shirt she’d put on was clinging to her back, and she realised that her palms were sticky just in time to surreptitiously wipe them on her skirt before offering her hand.

‘Dr Carmichael, I’m pleased to meet you at last.’ Her voice was unsteady, and she could feel herself blushing as she spoke. He was surprisingly attractive, even beautiful in a poised, masculine way.

Killian accepted her hand. His grip was firm but his touch was icy, and his accompanying smile didn’t reach his eyes. He wore no jewellery on his slender fingers, but Adie noticed the expensive wristwatch. Everything about him spoke of measured aesthetics.

‘I’ll leave you to it.’ Joe retreated through the patio doors into the garden. Adie was dimly aware of him disappearing into a tumbledown potting shed. Get your brain in gear, she told herself as she returned to her chair; you really want this job, and you need to impress this man.

Killian settled into the chair opposite. He crossed his long legs and withdrew a smart leather notebook from his briefcase. It occurred to Adie that he was obviously wealthy. She felt shabby in comparison, in her one interview suit.

He tilted his head to one side and regarded her coldly. ‘Professor Levine tells me you threatened to go to the press.’

Adie gave sharp cough. Joe had really dropped her in it. She was amazed that Killian had chosen to interview her at all.

Killian awaited her answer patiently.

‘I wouldn’t really have done it, Joe knows that.’

Killian leaned forward in his chair as she spoke, and her image filled his pupils. His irises were grey, the colour of dove feathers, and held a strange inner warmth. ‘Good. I just wanted you to confirm it for me. Josef wouldn’t recommend someone he didn’t like. I suspect he likes you an awful lot.’

‘I suppose,’ Adie said. She’d thought so too, but then why was he trying to wreck her chances of getting this job? And why did Killian seem to think this made her special?

Killian turned his gaze back to his notebook. ‘Why do you want to go to Egypt, Dr Hamilton?’

Still shaken by his first statement, she took a breath and tried to form her thoughts. ‘Egyptian culture and society fascinate me. I want to see the foundations that the theories are built on.’ She knew she could have done better.

‘I dislike theories,’ he said intensely. ‘I work only with concrete facts. Adventure stories and daydreams don’t interest me.’

‘Oh!’

Could he read her thoughts? Had he guessed that she dreamed of finding lost tombs and spectacular treasures?

He made some notes, and then began to interrogate her on all aspects of Egyptology. She answered with a degree of clarity she’d never found in exams, but struggled when it came to naming four of Ramesses II’s 30-odd sons. Their names just eluded her.

‘I could look them up,’ she said. A tiny half-smile flickered across his lips. It made her want to reach out and touch his mouth. She quickly swatted the thought away.

‘Is that your thesis?’

Adie handed over the leather-bound copy. He closed his pad and began to flick through the heavy volume, pausing to ask the occasional question. He seemed genuinely interested, and with his focus shifted away from her, she was free to gaze at him.

Now she knew why the press made so much fuss over him. Success and good looks were a rare combination outside of show business, and this man had both in abundance. She felt drawn by his cool laconicism, and aroused by his aloof beauty. Adie pressed her thighs together, only to find that it rubbed her cotton knickers against her cleft, and she was wet. She flushed, realising that she’d grown aroused watching him, and tried to regain her composure by taking a gulp of her stone-cold tea.

Eventually, he handed her thesis back. ‘I’ve one last question for you,’ he said while she did her best to look alert and clever. ‘I’d like you to imagine you are in charge of a dig and that you need to recruit a team member. You’ll interview dozens of recent graduates and at best, their experience has been polishing the exhibits and gluing the pots. What could possibly interest you about any of them?’

‘Depth of knowledge,’ suggested Adie.

Killian shook his head. ‘They all have that. Try again.’

‘Team spirit.’

‘This isn’t an IT company. One last try.’

Think, Adie, she told herself as she tried not to scowl. Then for a split second she was back in the dingy classroom of the first lesson of her ‘A’ level History course. ‘Never forget,’ her lecturer had said, as he wrote an important word in big chalk letters on the blackboard. Adie had copied it on to her pad while he’d underlined it and put a full stop at the end with such vigour that the chalk had crumbled between his fingers.

‘Objectivity,’ she said, knowing that it was something she frequently lacked.

Killian observed her calmly for a second or two, then said, ‘That concludes your interview Ms Hamilton. I’ll let you know.’

‘Wait, don’t I get to ask you any questions?’

His intriguing half smile reappeared. It was a very disarming smile; the sort that knocked you off balance and left you feeling that whatever he said was right. Adie wondered what the effect would be if he ever broke into a real smile.

‘No,’ he replied, ‘If I decide to employ you, I’ll give you all the information you need then.’

He shook her hand, and before she knew it, Joe was escorting her along the gravel drive to her car. He didn’t ask how the interview had gone, and Adie didn’t offer an opinion. She was too busy wondering what to make of Dr Carmichael and whether she’d get to see him again.

*****

Six hours later she was still wondering the same thing. The interview was a grey blur and she couldn’t remember half of what she’d said. The phone rang. ‘Hello,’ she said, as she absently fiddled with a piece of the pottery jigsaw that littered her desk.

‘Adie, it’s Joe Levine. Congratulations, you got the job.’

‘I did!’ she managed to gasp, almost dropping the receiver in her surprise.

‘Yes. Killian’s prepared to offer you the position provided you can be in Cairo by the end of next week.’

‘That soon!’

‘Yes. If you’re not certain, I’m sure he’ll understand.’

‘No. There’s no problem. I’ll be there.’ She bit her lip and frowned at the receiver. Joe’s voice sounded unusually throaty. ‘Is there something wrong?’ she asked.

‘No of course not. I’m happy for you. It’ll be a wonderful experience. A step in the right direction, eh?’ He was trying to sound jolly, and Joe was never jolly. She guessed that he resented being proved wrong. At least, she hoped that was it. ‘Killian will email your instructions. Good luck,’ he said, ‘and call me if you need any help.’

‘I will. Bye Joe, and thanks. Thanks for everything.’ She hung up.

‘Yes!’ Too quiet, so she said it again loudly and punched the air for emphasis. She forgot about Joe’s odd tone, and instead stared at telephone suspiciously, wondering if it had tricked her. ‘Congratulations,’ she mouthed to herself. ‘You actually did it.’

Adie grinned wickedly, and imagined long shadows cast over the still desert sands, and unearthing lost treasures with Killian. He was rich, famous and bloody gorgeous. Life had just improved immeasurably.

She surreptitiously glanced around the empty workroom. It was Friday afternoon, and she was unlikely to be disturbed. She crossed to the door and flicked the main light switch. Inky shadows instantly suffused the windowless room, leaving just the warm pool of light around her desk lamp. Adie stepped out of her knickers and stuffed them into her desk drawer. She straddled her stool and lifted her skirt at the front, so the she could slip a hand between her legs.

The cool air on her thighs made her nipples tingle. She was taking a risk by indulging her fantasies at work, but the thought of working with Dr Carmichael was too deliciously enticing. She deserved a little celebration, and she knew that her friends would insist on taking her out as a treat.

Adie closed her eyes while her middle finger found her clitoris. Her lips parted as she gave a low sigh. She summoned Killian’s image and he gave her that intriguing half-smile, then she pictured him loosening the buttons of her blouse and lifting her breasts free of the lacy cups of her bra. He was dressed as before, but he’d discarded his overcoat and pristine white cotton emphasised the breadth of his strong shoulders. ‘Can’t you concentrate, Ms Hamilton?’ he asked her, mid-interview, while he plucked and teased her nipples. He was knelt between her thighs and her neat skirt was bunched up. Waves of golden sensation loosened her knots of tension; she arched her back and thrust her sensitive teats towards his mouth. His breath whispered over their surface. ‘Do you remember yet?’

‘Khaemwese…Merenptah…’ Adie gasped as she recalled the names of Ramesses II’s sons. In response to each answer, he flicked his tongue over her steepled nipples. Adie dredged her memory for more names. Inside she was burning, soaring above the blue skies of the desert, with the sun warming her skin. ‘Amunhotep…Mery-Atum.’ His touch switched to her clitoris. Her image swam in his inky pupils, drawing her closer. Pleasure coiled around her nub, became more intense, more focused. Liquid heat swirled through her body, and rose to her skin like tiny effervescent bubbles, bringing the chase nearer and nearer to its ultimate goal.

‘One more, one more Adie, and I’ll give you what you want.’

‘I don’t know any more.’

‘Just one more.’ All that stood between her and the subtle brush of his fingertips that would yield her the ultimate reward.

‘I don’t know,’ she gasped again, frantic and clawing at his shirt. ‘Ramesses, after his father.’

‘A good guess.’ The pad of his thumb quickened the spark of bittersweet pleasure that prickled in her clit. Adie clasped the stool in a vice-like grip and rode her climax to its pinnacle, before she slumped and pressed her burning cheek against the cool surface of the desk. Her throat felt hoarse from her strangled gasps, and she coughed tentatively. All was quiet around her. She sighed, then smiled to herself. If only the interview had gone the same way.

*****

Across town, as Joe Levine replaced the receiver in its cradle, Killian’s gaze lingered on the row of dusty photographs above the parlour fireplace. He knew Josef didn’t approve of him appointing Adie Hamilton to the team, and he had a fair idea why. His past was a constant threat to his future, and Josef Levine never forgot that. He was being overprotective.

Joe crossed the room in five strides. His craggy face was set and his eyes were blazing. ‘Why her?’ he demanded. ‘You knew I was against it. She doesn’t have the right attitude.’

‘Hasn’t she?’ Killian thought Adie Hamilton was exactly what he normally looked for, young, bright, and self-assured.

‘No.’ Joe’s eyes shone with fury. ‘She’s impetuous and far too romantic. She wants to find secrets and treasures.’

‘Don’t we all?’

‘You used to.’ Killian flinched at the brittle tone. He watched Joe’s arm reach out towards the mantle-piece, and immediately knew what was coming. The old man was getting predictable.

Joe thrust a photograph into his hands. ‘Do you even remember what it was like to have such hopes and idealism?’

Killian glanced at the photograph; he knew every detail of it. He had a copy of his own somewhere. The picture was of two young men posed either side of their professor on graduation day.

‘She’s just how you were in those days. Do you remember you couldn’t wait to get to Egypt, even if you had to dig with your bare hands? The young Dr Carmichael and his faithful sidekick.’

‘People change,’ Killian said dismissively. He carefully replaced the picture back in its impression in the dust.

‘Have you seen him since?’

‘You know I haven’t.’ He turned his back on the old man and walked to the window. He couldn’t fear the future because of the past. ‘She’ll be a good worker Joe. You’ve told me so yourself, and that’s what I need right now. If she’s as ambitious as you say, she’ll be heading her own projects in a few years. You should be thankful I’m giving her a head start.’

‘If that were all, I’d be grateful. You have the respect of your peers at the moment, but you know very well how fast you can rise and fall.’

‘Josef, it’s in the past. Let’s leave it there. I wouldn’t employ her if I thought it would harm her.’ Killian drew a heavy breath. When he spoke again, it was with a softer voice. ‘And I promise I’ll try not to ruin her with my cynicism.’

Joe bowed his head sadly. ‘It’s out of my hands. What can I do?’ He sat down in one of the over-stuffed armchairs, and the cat leapt on to his knee. ‘Just look out for her, eh? She doesn’t really have anybody.’