Disclaimer: Neither the African Queen (Romulus-Horizon) nor the original Mummy (Universal) belong to me. Ali-Es-Hadji is from The Lad and the Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tommy Smythe, however, is mine.

Warnings: implied underage, coercion, character death

Notes: This is a crossover of The African Queen and The Mummy. (I've changed Kate Hepburn's character Rose Sayer to a young man Roddy Sayer.) Ralph Norton is a character I brought in from The Mummy; I'm not sure he's the one who decided it would be a neat idea to translate the Scroll of Thoth aloud. I've taken liberties with the description of Tut's tomb, which was not the one discovered in the movie, and to my knowledge, another body was not found in the main golden coffin. Thanks, as always, to Gail for the beta.

I sat at the bar in the hotel The Duke of York, in a seedier side of Nairobi. I drew a lungful of smoke from the cigarette that dangled from my mouth, and reached for my beer.

The last time I had been there, ten years before, my... partner... had been with me. We had just come from the Lake, where we had succeeded in sinking the German steamship, Konigin Louisa.

He had taken me up to our rooms and fucked the life out of me, in celebration of our marriage.

Yes, we were two men. And we had married each other. I looked down at the ring finger of my left hand. On it was a gold band, etched to look like river grass. It replaced the first ring Charlie Allnutt had woven from actual grass and placed on my finger. I had lost the original when a storm blew up and sank the African Queen.

I slid it up and down my finger, finally taking it off and placing it on the bar in front of me. I ordered another beer. Charlie would have laughed, remembering how tipsy I had gotten the first day he had introduced me to the beverage.

And remembering what happened afterwards that night.

* * *

From Nairobi we had wandered to South Africa, doing a little of this and a little of that, and spending our nights locked in each other's arms. Often I awoke with his prick buried deep in my arse, or his mouth industriously working to drive me to an overpowering orgasm.

He was the dominant one in our marriage. There was no doubt of that, and I never wanted it any other way.

While in South Africa, we came across a patch of land that pleased him, and so we bought it. It didn't cost much, but we about mortgaged our souls for it. After almost seven years, we were only a little closer to owning it outright.

Charlie returned that night to the little cabin we had built with our own hands. I'll never forget how excited he was.

"Little Rev!" This was a pet name he had called me for years, from even before our adventure down the Ulanga on the African Queen.

I was washing myself on the tiny verandah that fronted our home. After a long afternoon on the Veldt my torso was streaked with sweat. I turned to smile at him. "Yes, Charlie?"

He caught his breath, and his eyes roamed over me. My skin was bronzed now, and my body had toughened from the constant physical labor. Whatever he had been about to say was lost in the heat that swept over him. He tossed his hat onto the verandah, and seized me, his mouth ravenous on mine. I could feel the hard length of him pressing against my groin.

Something had made my partner unusually randy.

"Charlie!" I laughed. "Can't this wait until after supper?"

His hands had dropped to my arse, and he squeezed and kneaded my muscular buttocks. "Not tonight, sweetheart! I have to have you now!"

I leaned forward to run my tongue over the side of his neck, savoring the salty taste of his skin. I took his hand and strode into the house, my free hand already working the buttons of the canvas trousers I wore. "How do you want me, love?" Eight years, and I still couldn't get enough of him.

He licked at my mouth, and then took my lower lip between his teeth, worrying it gently. His fingers reached down to encircle my shaft, which was already leaking precome. He gathered the moisture on his thumb, pressing hard against the slit at the tip, obtaining the gasps he loved to hear.

Charlie walked me backwards to a wall, his mouth devouring mine, and dropped his trousers. I was so lost in a fog of lust that I didn't even notice when he picked up the jar of hand cream. He turned me around and worked quickly to lubricate my passage. I thought he meant to take me that way, but he spun me back to face him and slid his forearms under my thighs.

Raising me up, he spread my legs wide and held me open, his shaft nudging the crevice of my buttocks. I leaned my back against the wall, and waited breathlessly to feel my lover breach my opening. We had learned on our wedding night that if I made him work for it, if I teased him, the results for us both were very well worth it.

It had been too long since the last time he had taken me, and neither of us was in the mood to play. The rough material of his shirt teased my prick, and I shuddered. "Charlie!" I groaned impatiently. "Fuck me!"

He laughed softly and then moaned as he felt the tight ring of muscle surrender and he slid balls deep into me. I clenched my muscles, enjoying the hard length that impaled me.

"Yes! Sing for me, little Rev!" He wrapped my shaft in his loving grasp and stroked me in time to his thrusts in my arse. Normally he would take his time, but tonight he urged me higher, made me hotter, drove me faster, and then I was exploding over his shirt and my naked chest.

I sagged in his embrace, my inner muscles contracting as he came, and I milked him of his hot essence, filled with his heat. "I love you, Charlie."

He started to say something, but broke off as a fit of coughing seized him. His prick jerked out of me as he dropped my weight, and I winced from the sharp sting.

"Sorry..." the coughing almost overpowered him, "Sorry... little Rev. Did I... hurt you?"

"Don't worry about me, love. What's wrong?" I had seen the blood that streaked his sleeve as he wiped his mouth.

"Ah, hell! It's nothing, Roddy! I swear! How many times do I have to tell you that?"

I knew better than to press him. For the past six months that cough had been getting progressively worse. The only time he had ever struck me in the face in our years together had been when I insisted he see a doctor.

He did up his trousers, barely taking the time to clean himself off, and went to the iron stove that took up most of one wall. A kettle of beef stew had been simmering on it all afternoon. Charlie poured a scoop of it into a bowl, making sure none of the vegetables joined the chunks of meat.

I reached for the scrap of blue blanket that had followed me from England to Kungdu to South Africa and wiped myself off.

"We may not be able to keep the freehold, Roddy."

My head shot up. In the same amount of time that things had been off with Charlie, I had noticed the farm was not doing well either. The land wasn't really conducive to growing things, and whatever cattle we had seemed to vanish from one day to the next.

"Will we be able to salvage anything from it, love?"

He shook his head. "If things remain the way they are, it will be gone by the end of the year."

"All right, Charlie. We'll just move on. We can always hire ourselves out to the other farmers if we must."

"No, Roddy. I'm too old for that! And that's what I've got to tell you! I have a plan. I got in touch with an old friend of mine, an English archeologist, Howard Carter. He's going to be doing some excavating in the Valley of the Kings, and he's hired me on."

"The Valley of the Kings?" I repeated.

"It's in Egypt."

"In Egypt?" All I seemed able to do was repeat him stupidly.

He looked away, uncomfortable. "I'll...be there about three months; I'll be gone about six, all told. Carter promised me enough to cover what we owe on the farm."

"All right, Charlie."

"All right? You're not going to try to change my mind?" He sounded a bit disgruntled, but I brushed that aside.

"No. If you want to go to Egypt, who am I to gainsay you? When do we leave?"

"Hold on now, little Rev! Who said anything about you coming along?"

"Oh?" I cocked an eyebrow at him. "Whither thou goest...?"

"You can't go with me!"

I didn't say anything.

"One of us has to stay and run this farm!"

I looked at him, keeping my gaze flat and steady. I knew it was just a matter of time.

"Roddy! S'welp me, I've a mind to tan your hide!" He pulled me up out of my chair and into an embrace, giving a huff of laughter. "We leave at the end of the month, sweetheart."

"Wait a minute. Were you planning on taking me with you all along?"

"I'm sorry, little Rev. I shouldn't have teased you like that. Would I go anywhere without you? I love you, sweetheart."

I hugged him tight and kissed the spot under his ear. "I love you, too, Charlie." But I was worried.

* * *

Charlie took us into the Syrian Desert first, where he tracked down a band of Bedouins from his roving, younger years. The sheykh embraced him heartily, and Charlie's glance toward me was sheepish. I suspected that their relationship went a little deeper than casual friends, and when the swarthy desert dweller gifted us with a pair of his finest horses, a chestnut stallion and a dapple-grey mare, I was certain of it.

Wisely, I refrained from saying anything. I was secure in my marriage to the older man, and I knew that whoever was in his past was just that, in his past. We stayed with the tribe for almost a month, and I could see the sorrow in the sheykh as he realized his old comrade's health was not what it should have been.

"Have a care for him, my young friend," he told me as Charlie climbed laboriously into his saddle, "or by Allah, I will hunt you down and slice the flesh from your bones."

I touched both hands to my forehead to signify I accepted his decree. To my surprise, he enveloped me in a hug, and then brusquely stepped away, signaling for me to mount my mare.

"And what will you call her, this drinker of the wind?" he asked, stroking her strong, sloping shoulder as I gathered the reins into my left hand.

"Hubini - my beloved." But my eyes were on Charlie as I said this, and the Bedouin gave a grunt of satisfaction.

"He has chosen well, the friend of my youth." Uncomfortable with the show of emotion, he changed the subject. "What does he call his steed?"

"George." I bit my lip to prevent myself from laughing. "For our king." The other man looked as if he had bitten down on a particularly tart lemon. Then he laughed, and with a light slap to Hubini's flank to start her on our journey, bid us farewell.

* * *

Egypt was hot, a hellhole, hotter even than German East Africa. I never want to see Egyptian soil again in my life.

We met up with Howard Carter, Ralph Norton, a young expert in translating hieroglyphics, and Lord Carnarvon, who was backing the project, in Cairo. Mr. Carter gave Charlie the list of supplies he would need, and the two of us began to scour the city for mules and camels, ropes and timbers, shovels and pickaxes, and men to work the dig.

It was also around this time that I began to be disturbed by nightmares, erotic dreams made the worse because Charlie had not made love to me since we had left our farm. I would wake up, sweating and sticky from having climaxed, and feeling as if my arse had been thoroughly plundered.

And the closer we came to the Valley of the Kings, the more vivid the dreams became.

The Valley of the Kings, across from the ancient city of Luxor, was in an isolated, secluded area, miles from civilization. It was steeped in superstition.

After we got there, we worked and sweated, and every day we would have fewer men than the day before, as the desolation acted upon their wildest fears. The eerie wail of the wind at night, the jackals' howls, the never-ending susurration of the desert sand, all this contributed to the ever-rising tension.

And I started to dread the approach of twilight. I looked for reasons to stay awake, but of course, sleep would eventually overtake me, and I would again find myself in the court of an Egyptian pharaoh.

"Roddy."

"Yes, Charlie?" I used the ends of the bandanna that was tied around my throat to mop at the sweat that rolled down past my cheekbone.

"I want you to go back to Cairo." He cut off my automatic protest. "Howard and I have been discussing this with Lord Carnarvon, and we desperately need men to replace the ones who run away. You're looking very tired, Roddy; I think you need a break from this place. Will you do this for me, sweetheart?"

"Come with me, Charlie? We could have some time alone together! Please come with me!" He seemed to be drifting further and further from me. He set up his tent beside mine, and refused to come to my bed, even for a cuddle. And he coughed more and more.

"No, I can't come this time, little Rev. Howard needs me here. But I promise you a second honeymoon as soon as this dig is finished!"

I was uneasy at the thought of leaving him behind, but god help me, I jumped at the opportunity to get away from that place. And so it was planned that I would leave for Cairo the next morning.

But there was still that night to be gotten through.

* * *

The personal guards of the high priest of Anubis escorted me through the airy corridors to his private quarters. Once inside the huge carved entrance of his sleeping chamber, they thrust me forward, bowed deeply and departed.

I stood by the door, reluctantly enthralled by the terrible beauty of this powerful man.

"Prince Teremun."

"My Lord Imhotep. You wished to see me?"

The tall, physically fit priest made a show of selecting a handful of dates from a bowl. "I have heard that your brother, King Tutankhamun, has decided to send you away from his royal city."

"This is true, Lord Imhotep. He wishes me to meet with a delegation of Greeks."

"I do not trust these Greeks. I hear they enjoy handsome princes such as yourself." He whirled around to face me. "Drop your loin cloth!" he ordered sharply.

Having been dedicated to the dark god Anubis from birth, I had no choice but to obey my high priest. I unfastened the silver cloth and let it drop to the floor.

"Ahhh," he breathed. "Excellent! I see you wear the belt I had created solely for you."

The deceptively fragile-looking silver links of the chain hung low around my hips. The clasp constantly brushed against the base of my shaft, keeping me in a state of semi-arousal.

It was devised so that cunning appurtenances could be attached to the wearer's body at the high priest's pleasure, a cock ring to prevent the wearer from achieving orgasm. A sheath to prevent the wearer from touching the aroused flesh. Other things, as well.

"Prostrate yourself before me, Teremun!"

I paled, but sank to my knees and touched my forehead to the lush dark-hued rug that covered the chill tiles of the floor.

His footsteps were muted as he crossed to where I abased myself. "It would not do for a prince of Egypt to be used for the pleasure of a horde of Greek barbarians."

"No," I said in a low voice. "It is better that a prince of Egypt be debauched by his high priest and made his whore!"

"I see it has been too long since you were in my bed, Teremun! When you return from your mission, I shall have to remedy that! In the mean time..."

I started at the cool, slick unguent that was inserted into my back passage, and moaned. "Please, Lord!"

"Please, what, Prince? Fuck you? Perhaps, perhaps not." He removed his finger, and something blunt and hard was pressing at my anus. I trembled at the sensation, for I knew what he was inserting into me. A phallus of onyx that would fasten to the chain I wore.

"Please, Lord!" I was willing to beg now. "I swear to you on my soul that I will allow no one to enter that which you consider yours!"

He snapped the last link to the belt, then walked to where my head still touched the floor. He tipped up my chin until he was able to look into my eyes, and stroked my hair back. "Such a handsome prince," he mused. "None would be able to resist you, I fear. You will not remove this until you return to this palace. Oh, very well," he chuckled when he saw my aghast expression, "you may remove it when you must visit the necessary, but other than that, if it leaves your passage, I shall know, and I shall punish you severely for it!"

I touched my forehead to the carpeting again, and breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Lord Imhotep."

He raised my face until it was opposite his groin. He had dropped his own loincloth and his rampant shaft was brushing against my lips. I knew what he desired of me. I opened my mouth and took him in. "Your brother, the Pharaoh, would be so amazed to see how well you suck my cock, Princeling. And just think, if you had been born the elder, he would be on his knees before me now!"

The high priest took great pleasure in fucking my mouth. He made it last a long time, in spite of all the tricks I had learned to bring him to a speedy climax. When he finally erupted and poured himself down my throat, my cheeks ached and my throat was sore.

Imhotep turned to walk to his bed, and I sank back in relief, only to utter a cry of dismay as I drove the phallus deeper into me. "Remember, keep that in place, Teremun, or I promise, you will feel my wrath!"

* * *

When I woke the next morning, the hinges of my jaw ached, and my arse felt as if Charlie had been buried in it all night.

"Are you all right, little Rev," he asked, his eyes dark with concern as I sat gingerly beside him to break my fast.

"I don't like the thought of being away from you, Charlie. You know this will be the first time since 1914 that we were apart." I didn't want him worrying about my state of mind. Restlessly, I stood. "Perhaps Mr. Norton would be a better choice to make the trip to Cairo."

"Howard needs Ralph here in camp. You'll be back before you know it, sweetheart!" He got to his feet and kissed my cheek, then ran his hand over my buttocks. I jerked away from his touch, and he looked hurt.

"I'm sorry, love. I...had a bad night. Take care of yourself, Charlie. I worry about you."

"I worry about you too, Roddy. Godspeed."

I leaned forward to kiss his mouth, but he turned his head away. "Haven't brushed my teeth yet this morning, sweetheart," he offered half-heartedly. I tried to give him a cheery smile, but it was all I could do to prevent myself from weeping. How long had it been since he had kissed me?

I walked stiffly to where Hubini, my little Arabian mare was waiting, along with the guide who would see me back to Cairo. I mounted her, and flinched as my arse came into contact with the saddle, feeling as it had in my dream, when the onyx phallus pressed deeper into me.

* * *

The further we got from that desolate spot, the more the ache that filled my arse eased, until, by the time we finally got to Cairo, it was just a vague, nagging reminder of a vague, nagging dream.

Surprisingly, I found men who were more than willing to return to the desert with me, and so after only a handful of days in the Egyptian capital, I was ready to return to the Valley of the Kings. The night before our scheduled departure, I went to a local bar and ordered a beer.

"I say, old chap! Don't I know you?"

I turned to find myself addressed by an Englishmen a few years older than myself. About my height, with almost white-blond hair, he wore a black eye patch. A scar marred the handsomeness of his face.

"I don't think..." I hesitated, as something in his remaining tourmaline eye reminded me of days long past. "Captain Fortescue-Smythe? Good God, is that you, Tommy?"

"Roddy Sayer!" he exclaimed. "I thought I recognized you! How are you doing?"

"Well, thanks," I lied politely. "And you, Tommy? How are you?" I was reluctant to bring up his missing eye.

He sighed. "Not too shabby, old sod! Lost the eye back in '14. Run in with the Hun, don't you know, shortly after we parted ways at the Lake. I had to sell out. The Mater thought I should come home, had a deb picked out for me and everything, eh what? Of course the little filly took one look at my phiz and ran screaming into the night."

"Really? What a little fool! You're the best of good fellows, Tommy, and I always regretted not having the opportunity to know you better."

"Is that so?" His smile became charmingly lascivious. "We could always remedy that now, old boy."

I started as I felt a burn as if someone had shoved his cock up my arse. Or an onyx phallus. I laughed uneasily and shook my head. "Sorry, Tommy. I'm still with Charlie. Although I thank you for the offer." The sensation faded, and I dismissed it.

"Ah, well. Never hurts to ask. Care for another beer, Roddy?"

We carried our drinks to a table away from the bustle at the bar and caught up on the years between our last meeting. Being strangers in a strange land, it was as if we were long lost brothers.

The bartender was starting to nod off when I noticed the time. "Lord, Tommy, is it really four A.M.? I've got to leave for the desert in a couple of hours!" We staggered to our feet and wavered a bit, not realizing how much we had drunk. We made our way out the door.

Tommy's digs were in the same direction as my hotel, and as we walked companionably, arm in arm, he began to sing. "An old man came courting me, hey ding duram dey."

I picked up the next line, having learned many naughty songs from my love. "An old man came courting me, me being young!"

His mellow baritone joined my tenor. "An old man came courting me, fain he would marry me, maids when you're young, never wed an old man!"

Heads popped out of windows and voices shouted in various languages, no doubt telling us to pipe down. We barely sidestepped a pitcher of water that was flung at us, and a pair of shoes that hit the wall on the other side of the alley.

That didn't stop us from continuing to sing, although much more softly. Breathless laughter interrupted the choruses, and by the time we got to my hotel, Tommy was propping me up. "I'm sorry I let you drink so much, Roddy. You'll have a head tomorrow. Or rather, later this morning."

"Not to worry. I never have a hangover," I slurred proudly. "It drives my Charlie wild, that I can match him drink for drink, and wake up the next morning, none the worse for wear!" I straightened out of his hold, feeling slightly melancholy to be parting from him, and extended my hand. "Well, now. It's been marvelous seeing you again, Tommy. Maybe when we pass through Cairo again..."

The remainder of my suggestion was cut short as the former army officer's lips found mine, and his tongue began a thorough reconnaissance of my mouth. I moaned and wrapped my arms around his neck, leaning into his body, actively pursuing the kiss.

"Roddy, I've wanted you for such a long time! Come back to my rooms. I promise I'll make it good for you!"

I was about to agree. God forgive me, I would have broken my vows without a single thought, without a regard for the man who awaited me in the desert. It had been long months since I had been brought to climax by the loving mouth or prick or hands of my partner. And since coming to the Valley of the Kings, those dreams had kept me in a constant state of arousal, although I could never remember their content.

Suddenly I yelped, feeling as if I was actually being impaled on that onyx phallus, and it was piercing me to the core. I sobered abruptly, regaining my senses. I didn't even dare reach out to shake his hand. "Good night, Tommy."

I could feel his eyes on my back as I limped stiffly into my hotel. "Perhaps another time, rosebud."

His whispered promise followed me into slumber.

* * *

I returned back to camp a few days after Carter and Charlie had discovered the door to a tomb that gave every indication it had never been looted. It had been buried under the rubble of another excavation. The workers who remained had cleared off the rock and debris and shored up the winding passage that led deep under the ground.

Carter was beside himself with excitement. In the ten years he had been searching for the boy king's tomb, this was the closest they had come to success.

"Don't get your hopes up, m'lord," Ralph Norton groused to Lord Carnarvon. "This looks more like a high official's tomb than a king's."

I joined them at breakfast. "Will it be safe enough to enter, Mr. Carter?" I asked around a slice of toast, purposely ignoring the young expert. He had tried to interest me early on in whiling away the hot afternoon hours in his bed. When he refused to take my rejection seriously, persisting in trying to touch or to kiss me, I knocked him on his arse. He made sure he kept his distance after that.

Mr. Carter was oblivious to the younger man. "Indeed yes, young Sayer. The extra men you returned with will be of great assistance, as well, I assure you." He glanced around the campfire. "Well, gentlemen, shall we get to it?"

Charlie began coughing harshly and wasn't able to rise. I bolted to his side and caught him before he could topple over.

Irritably, he brushed my hands away from him. "I'm fine. I'm fine!" he insisted, and he got to his feet.

"Oh, love, you're not well!" I whispered. "Stay here in camp and let me care for you today! You've been over-doing it again!"

I thought the reference to our trip down the Ulanga would bring a smile to his face, but he scowled at me and pushed me away. "You ain't my nursemaid, Roddy. Leave me be! I intend to go into that tomb today!"

My lips tightened. "Stiff-rumped, opinionated old fool. Fine! You go in that bitch of a tomb. And I'll be right behind you!"

Only I wasn't.

The entrance of the tomb was like a hungry, black mouth, waiting to swallow me whole. I had never been claustrophobic, but I could not force myself to take a single step. I was trembling and perspiring. One after another, the men brushed past me, Norton with his lip curled, until only Charlie and I were left above ground.

"Sweetheart, what's wrong?" he asked.

I shook my head helplessly. "I don't know, Charlie. I can't make myself go in there. Oh, please, love! Don't go! Don't go!"

He led me back to the campfire and pressed me down to a canvas chair, and I whimpered at the discomfort when I sat.

"Roddy, I have to go. If I'm there when they find the treasure room, Carter's promised me a decent cut. You'll... I mean we'll be able to pay off the farm, and have enough to live comfortably for the rest of your... I mean our lives. I've got to go!"

He squeezed my shoulder and disappeared into that goddamned, fucking bitch of a tomb.

I was shivering constantly now, terrified to go into the darkness, but even more terrified that my lover was going in to face... what? What horror was I so certain lay in wait for the twenty-four men who had gone into that tomb?

* * *

It was like trying to advance against an invisible army. I would get to within feet of the gaping maw, and then be forced to retreat when my heart would start racing out of control, and my breath would clog in my throat.

Finally, however, I put a foot over the threshold and took the first step down. The difference in temperature was shocking, probably a good twenty degrees cooler than above ground, and now I shivered from the cold as well as from anxiety.

I could hear the shouts, and I followed the sounds down the passageway that the men had worked so hard at shoring up. Torches had been set along the wall, casting fitful light to illuminate the way.

And then I was in the first of the five rooms that belonged to the boy king.

Piles of dust covered the floor, starting to scatter now that fresh air was entering the long-sealed tomb; all that was left of the slaves who were to serve their master in the afterlife.

There were earthen jugs that contained foodstuffs. A number of them had been overturned in the rush to examine all the tomb held, and the powdery residue that was their contents danced like dust motes in the air.

The next room contained personal belongings of the young king. Bed frames covered in gold leaf. A chariot in hammered gold. Bridles and saddles laden with gemstones, saddle blankets that were woven from threads of precious metals. These spilled over into the third room.

I walked through there, passed on into the room beyond, and had to edge my way along a wall. This was the treasure room, where baskets and chests were filled to overflowing with pearls, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds, and figures carved in jade and ivory. Semi-precious stones lay scattered carelessly about as if they had just been dumped there. Except for Mr. Carter, Lord Carnarvon and Charlie, all the men were in this room, and I wondered how much of what was in this room would find its way into their pockets.

Finally I was in the burial chamber, and a massive shudder rippled through me as I stood in the doorway. In the center of the room was a huge sarcophagus, which contained the remains of the boy king, Tutankhamun.

Funerary urns containing the remains of the Pharaoh's cats stood in each corner of the room, demonstrating his devotion to the worshipped animals.

But I couldn't tear my eyes off the area at the foot of the sarcophagus. It was in deep shadow, but I could just make out the elegant mummy case made of teak and ebony, and covered in intricate hieroglyphs. Norton was crooning over it, stroking the wood as if it were a lover. I knew something had been consigned to that spot, as a warning, as a promise of retribution, as an example to those who earned the Pharaoh's wrath.

"Cha...Charlie," I uttered through frozen lips.

"Roddy! Come see!" He was removing a rope of black pearls from a bag of intricately woven linen, whose creator had been gone to dust for over thirty centuries. "It's... it's mag...magnificent!" The linen disintegrated in his fingers, and he gasped and began coughing uncontrollably.

Mr. Carter helped me get Charlie out of that chamber, out past the men in the other rooms. I ignored them completely, too concerned about the horrible wracking sounds that were ripping through my love's chest.

Once Charlie was safely in his tent, Mr. Carter went back to the tomb, anxious to see if Lord Carnarvon would consider opening the boy king's coffin. Royal mummies could be buried with upwards of fifteen rings and numerous bracelets, amulets and earrings, and he was desperate, after all those years, to see what lay buried with the young pharaoh.

There was also a scroll that was reputed to contain the secrets of restoring life to the dead. It had disappeared some time during Tutankhamun's reign, and legend had it that it was buried with him. If they could indeed find that, their reputations would be made for all time.

I dismissed the young king and what was in his tomb. I had more serious concerns on my mind.

I knew that whatever had been ailing Charlie had taken a toll on his lungs, and whatever he had inhaled in that tomb wasn't helping matters. I had one of the few camp followers bring me herbs and a pot of water that I heated on our own fire. When it was hot enough, I threw in the herbs and had Charlie bend over the pot, breathing in the fumes.

That didn't seem to help. I soaked strips of bandages from our first aid kit and laid them across his chest, hoping they would ease the tightness that I could see constricting his upper torso. He sank into a restless slumber.

Odd how one sees exactly what one expects to see. Over the years, my partner's body had softened, and his stomach had developed a bit of a paunch. But I loved it, loved resting my cheek on the soft flesh, loved having it rest on my back as he furiously plowed my back passage. That's what I expected to see when I looked at him, and so that was what I did see.

I really saw him that day, and realized how long it had been since he had allowed me to observe his body. He was gaunt to the point of emaciation, and I wondered if he had eaten at all in the time I was away from the dig. His bones stood out in relief and looked so fragile I almost feared to touch him. But his abdomen was grossly distended, and he looked like a woman about to give birth. Slow tears began to roll down my cheeks.

"Oh, Charlie!" I whispered. "What's wrong? Why wouldn't you share the knowledge of this illness with me?"

"Roddy." He roused briefly, and had heard my question. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I wanted to spare you this."

I sank down next to his cot and enfolded his hand in both of mine. "Charlie..."

He brought my hands to his mouth and kissed them. "I'm done for, little Rev. I've got a cancer that's been eating away inside me."

"How long?"

"According to the doctor I saw in South Africa, it's just a matter of time."

"We shouldn't have come here."

"No, this was the only way I could leave you anything. Carter's an honest man. He'll see you get my share of this."

"Do you think I care about money?" I wept openly now.

"You've got to have it, little Rev. You'll lose the farm otherwise."

"Fuck the farm!" I said fiercely. "All I want is you!"

He chuckled, the sound changing to a painful wheeze, and I understood why he no longer wanted me to kiss him. His breath had the sickly sweet odor of eminent death. I bowed my head until it rested on his chest.

"Reach into my pocket, Roddy. I want you to have this. Meant to have it made into a pendant for you, but I never had the time."

I pulled out a chunk of rock with green crystal imbedded within. "What is it, Charlie?"

He smiled with difficulty. "That's a diamond in the rough, sweetheart. That's why you've got to keep that farm! If we've got a diamond mine on it, you'll be fucking rich!"

"But I'll still be fucking alone!"

"Ah, now, sweetheart, don't carry on so! We had us a good run!"

"It isn't long enough, Charlie! Not nearly long enough! Please, give me just six months more!"

"Is that all you want?"

I shook my head against him. "No," I said on a choked laugh. "In six months I'll bargain for another six!"

His hand touched my hair, stroking over it gently. "I'm sorry, my own beautiful boy. I'd give you forever, if I could. There's nothing I can do about it." He struggled up and unfastened the money belt he was never without these days. "Take this, sweetheart. It has all our important papers." My tears dripped onto the worn leather, and I placed it around my own waist.

Charlie sank back down onto his cot, and plucked at the strips that covered his chest. "'m so hot, little Rev."

I dipped a piece of cloth into a water jug and wiped it over his torso, aghast to find him covered in red welts that he scratched at fitfully.

"I've been a ... proper bastard these lasts months, sweetheart, and I'm... sorry for that. Want you to... know, you're my... last love, but you ... were my first... love, too!" He panted with the effort to speak.

I buried my head under his chin and held him. His struggle for breath became more desperate, the wheezing loud in the sudden quiet of the afternoon. "Can't... breathe, Roddy!"

I pressed my lips to his and blew into his mouth. "Take my breath, Charlie!"

"Love... you, sweetheart... " And then his last breath sighed out and he went limp.

And I sobbed my loss.

* * *

"I'm sorry, Mr. Sayer, but we're going to need to bury him immediately."

Howard Carter was behind me. He had returned to see how Charlie was doing, only to find me clinging to his remains. I got slowly to my feet, feeling ancient. "Yes, I know. I'll prepare the body."

He pressed my shoulder. "I'll see you get his share of this venture also."

"Thank you, sir." I sniffed hard and rubbed my eyes on my sleeve. Another press to my arm, and he left me alone with the man who had been all I wanted in life.

I didn't notice that I was starting to feel unwell. I took care of what needed to be done, then sought out the leader of our expedition.

"He's ready, Mr. Carter." I scratched at my palms, and shuffled my feet, trying to ease the itching in my soles.

"That was very expeditious."

"Yes, I'm nothing if not expeditious," I said bitterly.

"I'm sorry, we have no choice but to rush this. The grave has been dug just across the Valley."

I borrowed Lord Carnarvon's Bible and read from it as Charlie was laid in the hard Egyptian soil. "Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, I will fear no evil..." Kneeling beside the grave, I tossed in a handful of sand. "Heavenly Father, this is a very good man. Welcome him into heaven. And never let him forget I love him. Amen." I added hastily and rose to my feet.

"Here, now, are you all right?" Mr. Carter caught me as I stumbled and would have fallen.

"I'm...feeling a trifle...warm..."

From behind him, Ralph Norton came running up, waving something. "I say, Mr. Carter, I've found it! The Scroll of Thoth!"

The other man released me and turned, excited, and I went to my knees. "Where did you find it, dear boy?"

Norton laughed giddily. "In that wooden mummy case. There were all kinds of nonsensical warnings and such claptrap scratched into it. Superstitious heathens!"

Wearily, I climbed to my feet and staggered to my tent, which was right beside Charlie's. It was the closest he would let me get to him on this dig. I was already regretting that I hadn't objected more strenuously when Charlie insisted we sleep apart. I dropped onto my cot, unable to untie my work boots for fear I would pitch head first onto the ground. And as I struggled, swallowed up by the terror of being unable to breathe, I was sucked down into another dream, one I somehow knew that took place before the previous one.

* * *

"It is good to see you again, Teremun. I have missed your... attentions."

I stared expectantly at the high priest of Anubis. "What would you have of me, Lord Imhotep?"

"Your mouth," he said, with a cruel smile. "And your nether regions." He spun me around and the long-nailed fingers of one hand squeezed my buttocks, causing small drops of blood to bead to the surface. The other hand toyed with the puckered opening, pressing and dipping into it, taking me dry, each time going deeper until his entire finger was in me.

"Please, Lord," I moaned as he bent me over his lapis desk.

"I enjoy hearing a princeling beg. I would enjoy it more if I had a pharaoh as a vessel for my lust, but one must make do, I suppose." He withdrew the finger and when two entered me the next time, they were slick with a lotion the ladies of my brother's court favored.

I hated when he did this to me.

I loved when he did this to me.

I shivered and spread my legs wider.

"You are my whore, aren't you, my beautiful Teremun? I can do anything I chose to you, and you'll allow it, even welcome it! I could give you to my slaves as a toy, and you wouldn't protest!" He rammed three fingers into me, lifting me forward onto the desk, my toes barely in contact with the floor, and I whined with the intensity of it.

Held in place by one of Imhotep's large hands on the base of my spine, I wriggled, uncertain if I was trying to get away from his invasive fingers or take in more of them. He curled his fingers and found the spot that made me forget I was born a prince. While he plundered me thus, his thumb rubbed the sensitive skin behind my balls, and the twofold assault drove me wild.

I trembled on the brink of climaxing when he withdrew brutally from me. "Lord, please!" I managed to turn around and dropped to my knees before him, embracing his thighs as I licked a path to the edge of his loincloth.

He whipped off the material that kept him from my mouth, and wound his fingers in my hair, tightening his grip until tears started in my eyes. I parted my lips to beg for mercy, and he pushed his huge organ past them.

He had attempted to fuck my mouth before, but I had always been hesitant to do more than lick it tentatively, or bathe his length with my tongue. This time I was so on fire with unslaked lust that I sucked on him eagerly.

But then he shoved it so deeply into my throat that I gagged. It felt as if I were being suffocated, and I couldn't get a breath...

* * *

A face I had only seen in my dreams loomed over me. "Take me in your mouth," he ordered coldly.

"Can't..." I gasped, struggling to breathe.

"Teremun, you shall!"

"I am not..." An enormous prick forced my lips apart and buried itself deep in my throat. I gagged, and the shaft was slightly withdrawn, but not enough for me to take a breath.

I gulped convulsively. His prick quivered, pouring the bitter fluid of life down my throat and into my lungs. I was drowning in his semen.

Panicking, truly terrified, I looked up into that beautiful, pitiless visage. Helpless to struggle any longer, I surrendered to my fate, certain I was doomed. Blackness engulfed me and I sank into it.

* * *

"Mr. Sayer? Mr. Sayer? I say, young man, are you feeling any better?"

Blearily I opened my eyes and jerked away, startled by the face that appeared right above mine. "Oh. Mr. Carter." I got myself up on my elbows. "What happened?"

He sat down heavily on a camp chair and threaded his fingers through his hair. "You've been ill, young man. Lord Carnarvon and I were a trifle concerned. How are you now?"

I stretched and flexed my body. "I... I feel well, thank you. A bit of a sore throat, but other than that... How long was I sick?"

The older man scrubbed his face. "It seems like forever but it's only been a little more than twenty-four hours. No one noticed until last evening that you were missing." He was unable to meet my eyes. "Do you feel well enough to return to Cairo? I think, perhaps, it might be best if you left."

"Of course I'll leave. There's nothing here for me anymore, with Charlie gone."

He handed me an envelope that contained a sheaf of banknotes. "Yours and Allnutt's," he murmured, still avoiding my eyes. "I regret it couldn't be more. Er, you'd better leave as soon as possible. The men have been pointing toward you as the source of bad luck we seem to be having."

"Beg pardon, Mr. Carter? Me?"

"I'm sorry, young Sayer. As Norton insists, they're just superstitious heathens, but once they get a notion in their heads, well, it takes an act of god to remove it."

"It's almost sunset, Mr. Carter. Will you permit me until first thing in the morning?"

"Of course. I've had all Allnutt's possessions brought here. The blighters would have looted his tent if I hadn't got there first!"

"Thank you, sir."

"Yes, well, I'll just leave you to it, shall I? Oh, and Mr. Sayer?" Mr. Carter hovered in the doorway. "It might be wiser if you remained close to your tent until you left. Least in sight, don't you know?"

"Of course." I just stood there as he walked out, then heaved a huge sigh before I pulled out my carpetbag and began to pack my possessions, including that scrap of blue blanket. I folded it carefully around the diamond in the rough that my love had given me, and tucked it away.

I went through Charlie's things, and selected a few items that I would take away with me. His clothes were too large for my thinner frame, but I wanted his shirts: I planned to wear them when my despair became too great.

For some reason, I was not hungry, although I had not eaten in more than a day. I ventured out of my tent only long enough to brew myself a pot of tea, then retired within the confines of the canvas shelter.

I barely finished one cup. My loss surged over me like a tidal wave, and I curled on my cot, hugging my knees to my body, and silently mourned the man with whom I had thought to grow old.

Having slept away the greater portion of the time since I had buried Charlie, I didn't expect to fall asleep again. I thought simply to rest for the long trip back to Cairo. Once there, I would need to make decisions about returning to the Veldt, about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, about...

I fell into a dream-tormented sleep.

* * *

I entered the throne room of my brother, the pharaoh, and went down on one knee before him. In my possession was a Greek offer for the hand in marriage of our half-sister, Nephritiri. If I had not been promised at birth to the dark god Anubis, she would have been wedded to me.

"Teremun, what news have you for us?" Tutankhamun asked regally.

I offered him the papyrus scroll. "The Greeks are highly desirous of this marriage, O Mighty One. If Nephritiri is amenable, it will add greatly to your coffers."

Casually he glanced at the scroll, then passed it on to one of his ministers and rose to his feet. "We would have private speech with you, Prince." He dismissed his court and led the way to a small council chamber.

The door closed behind us, and I was alone with my twin brother, and the highest members of his council, Seti, his chief minister, and Akhenatun, the chief of his armies.

I bowed gingerly. I had not been to see Imhotep yet, and the onyx phallus was still within my back passage. It had given all my movements a certain languid allure, which I was sure had not been the high priest's intent. To my dismay, I had been importuned not only by the Greeks, but also by members of the entourage my brother had assigned to me.

"How may I serve my Pharaoh?"

"Prostrate yourself, Teremun!"

I could feel the blood drain from my cheeks, and then return in a heated flush. Never had my brother bid such an action from me. I sank to my knees and touched my forehead to the rushes that covered the floor, not daring to challenge his order.

My white linen kilt was flung back, exposing my buttocks, and what was nestled between them.

"You will explain the meaning of this, Teremun!" I ventured an upward glance, and saw the sneer that twisted his lips. "How is it that a prince of the royal house has become little more than the plaything of the temple of Anubis?"

I closed my eyes in mortification. The gods had not seen fit to keep that information from my brother.

"No answer, Brother?" he snarled. "Remove that shameful thing!"

"Please, no, Majesty!" I cried. He had no idea what train of events would be set in motion if that phallus were not in me when Imhotep finally deigned to have me brought to him.

"So. You've found your tongue. You want that thing inside you? Have you any excuse for such a vile exhibition?"

I crawled toward his feet and rested my forehead on the rushes before them. "If not me, than you, Mighty One," I said simply.

"What?" Akhenatun was reaching for the ceremonial sword that hung at his side.

"Silence, General! We would hear further what Our brother has to say. Speak, Teremun!"

"My Pharaoh, the year we were nine, and our father married you to our half-sister, the Princess Akhesenamen, Imhotep, who had just become the high priest, had me brought to him. I was told that I was to be his student, and while for a few years that was true, eventually he took me to his bed, and as you say, made me a plaything of the temple of Anubis." I was so filled with shame that I wanted to die. "He informed me that if I did not submit to him, he had the power to see to it that you did!"

Gentle hands touched my hair. "Rise, my brother. You are unaware of Imhotep's plans?"

"He does not tell his whore his intentions, Mighty One," I said bitterly.

To my utter amazement, I found myself enfolded in Tutankhamun's arms. "You have suffered much, my brother, but the day of reckoning is at hand. Seti discovered a plot instigated by Imhotep to have Us slain, and you put on the throne in Our place."

"But, my Lord, you have two children who would take precedence over me."

"Why would they, if their father lived? You look enough like Us to fool even Our half-sister, the queen. Imhotep would rule Egypt through you!"

I dropped to my knees before him. "My Pharaoh, I did not know!"

"Can We trust you, Teremun?"

"You have no reason to believe me, Mighty One, but I never sought to replace you."

"Very well. Return to the temple of Anubis. Imhotep will seek an audience with Us, bringing you with him. He shall see that although We are called the Boy King, We are not a boy!" He grinned, a feral twist of the lips that made me shiver. "Seti, see that Our brother is escorted to the temple, and make sure the high priest has no reason to question the delay in Teremun's return."

The chief minister bowed and waited for me to get to my feet. We backed out of the chamber and then turned to make our way out of the palace.

* * *

"...tenders his regrets at having kept his brother so long at the palace. Princess Nephritiri was desirous of having all the details that Teremun could give her regarding the young Greek who wishes to wed her." Seti radiated distaste, for the Greek attaining to a daughter of the royal house, for having to enter the disturbing temple of the Lord of the Dead, for being in the presence of the high priest.

Imhotep bared his teeth in a parody of friendliness, and the chief minister turned his back on us and left.

"Now, why would the Pharaoh send such an important man on such a pedestrian errand?" he pondered.

"Perhaps Seti just wanted to be certain I didn't take anything from the palace," I said quietly. "He has no love for me, you know."

"Unlike me. I've missed you, my beautiful Prince. Were I to examine you now, would I find that object I placed in your delectable bottom still there?"

I was shocked. "Of course, Lord. Would I dare disobey your order?"

"Would you, indeed? Very well, go to my chambers and prepare to await my pleasure."

I bowed my head and left him leafing through his correspondence, but it was not long before he joined me. I was just unfastening my kilt when he strode past the cotton panel that shielded the doorway to this room.

"On my bed, Teremun, on your hands and knees. I have a fancy to take you like a dog!"

I shivered at his words, aroused in spite of myself, and climbed onto the large platform where the high priest slept.

"Get your head down on your arms, and make sure your exquisite hindquarters are elevated in the air. Ah, I do love these delicate chains you wear, the way they frame this most tempting part of you. Do you remember the first time I had you, Prince? You were begging for me to fill your emptiness."

"Lord!" I said hoarsely. My shaft was hard, jutting up toward my belly.

"And I see the phallus is still in place. Excellent, my little pet. Let me remove it, and you will tell me of all the Greeks it kept from ravishing your snug channel!" He frowned. "But they still could have had your mouth!" he exclaimed, and seized my chin, jerking my head toward him. "Did you show them how talented your mouth is, my beautiful Prince? Did you take them, one by one, or perhaps two by two, and suck them off?"

His fingers tightened cruelly on my face, forcing my lips to part, and he rocked his hips forward until the tip of his shaft was in my mouth. I ran my tongue over the large vein on the underside, and forced the foreskin back with my lips and let my tongue probe the slit at the tip.

The high priest hummed with satisfaction as I worked him with my mouth. Before he climaxed, however, he pulled himself free and I moaned. "Have no fear, my own Teremun. I have plans for this night!" He slid a cock ring over my weeping erection. "And we wouldn't want them ruined by anything as inconsiderate as an untimely orgasm!"

He walked to the rear of the bed and unfastened the chains that held the onyx phallus in place. With a sigh of relief, I felt it withdrawn from my passage, and a finger entered me, slicked with a cool salve. It soothed the walls that had become sensitized by the constant presence of the phallus in my channel.

And then the salve began to warm. "Lord, what have I done?" I cried in real fear as the maddening sensation started. Once before he had used that ointment on me, when he wished to punish me. On that night even the most impressively endowed of his personal guard had not been enough to blunt the ravening desire that enveloped me.

I dropped my head to the bed and my hips twitched as the warmth turned to voluptuous heat that demanded friction to ease it. "Lord Imhotep, have pity!"

He climbed on the bed behind me. "Don't I always take care of you, my pet?" His long- nailed fingers scraped gently over my back, pushing my shoulders down so that my back bowed and my bottom was at his disposal. His rampant erection slammed into me, lubricated just enough to enter me without damage.

But that didn't matter. I needed the violent, brutal fucking. The salve he used left me mindless with the desperate, uncontrolled desire to be plundered, to have something, anything, in my back passage. I would have accepted a stallion's huge organ my need was so great.

I must have uttered those words, for he laughed, delighted to have so corrupted a prince of the royal house. "What a depraved idea, Prince! Perhaps the next time! But for tonight, it will have to be something more mundane, I'm afraid!" With those words, he plunged into me one final time, spilling his seed.

His grip on my hips would leave bruises, I knew. But the craving had not been assuaged. He leaned forward and bit the skin over my shoulder blade hard enough to leave imprints there. "Would I leave you in such dire need, princeling?"

He withdrew his softening prick, and slapped my flank. "Are you ready for the next one, little whore?" A second erection was sliding past my spasming anus, and I cried out in relief. But even as it plumbed the depths of my passage, I knew it wouldn't be enough.

Nor would the third, nor the fourth, nor all the others that the high priest planned to give me to this night.

* * *

It was just past daylight when the last of Imhotep's priests finished fucking me. My thighs were streaked with semen, enough of which had been poured into me to finally remove the remains of the salve the high priest had used. I toppled to my side, my chest heaving as I tried to regain my breath. My throat was sore from the cries and groans and howls that had emerged from it.

Imhotep removed the cock ring with some difficulty. A single touch of his fingertips, and I came with a scream that destroyed what was left of my voice. I was a mass of aches, even more so than the last time he had done this to me.

"This," he whispered, unaware I could distinguish his words, "this is how I shall rule the kingdom!" I resolved that I would allow an asp to bite me before I permitted the high priest to ever make me his creature again.

He ordered slaves in to remove me to my own chamber and clean the residue of the night's debauchery from my body. I was asleep before the huge Nubian slave could pick me up.

A slap to the face awoke me. "Why didn't you tell me the Pharaoh wanted you to accompany me when I went to the palace?"

I could barely focus my eyes. "I'm sorry, Lord." My voice was a gravelly wreck. I didn't bother telling him he hadn't given me time to say a word.

He snapped his fingers and slaves brought in a tray with food and wine on it. "Make sure you eat that! The physician will be in to see you shortly. When I return for you, you had better be able to walk! I'll try to put Tutankhamun off for at least an hour."

Imhotep must have succeeded, because the physician had at least that long to work on me. When he touched my anus, I moaned in protest and tried to roll away from him. "Allow me to ease some of your discomfort, young man! This is the price one must pay for being the guest of honour at an orgy!" He repeatedly inserted a long, slender rod that was coated with some concoction that did, indeed, make my sorely used channel feel a trifle better.

After that, he kneaded the sore muscles of my upper thighs, smoothed something on the bite marks on my back, and had me drink a potion that would give me enough energy to get through the meeting with my brother. "These excesses, in one so young!" The physician shook his head in disgust, tsk, tsking as he left my chamber.

* * *

Hobbling like an old man, I followed the high priest into my brother's council chamber. "What is wrong with Teremun, priest?" he demanded, taking note of the bruises that circled my eyes, indicating too little sleep.

Imhotep's smile was indolent. "It must have been something he ate. He spent the night in the necessary," he lied easily. "I can always send him back to the temple."

"No. He will not be returning to the temple with you."

Imhotep stiffened. "Mighty One, your brother has been consecrated to the service of Anubis. It is not permitted for anyone to sunder his vows!"

"But it is permitted for the high priest to turn him into a whore? Stand away from Our brother, Imhotep, and prepare to hear your punishment!"

"For taking the boy as my lover? It is my right!"

"No! For daring to plot the destruction of your Pharaoh! Guards!"

Before I could move away from the high priest, I felt a sharp stinging in my lower back. I grunted from the blow, and swayed slightly, but no one seemed to notice the bloodstained knife that Imhotep let drop to the rush-covered floor.

The Pharaoh's personal guards seized the high priest's arms, twisting them up behind his back. "Hear my decree, priest! Your shaft will be severed from your conscious body and thrust into your throat. You will be bound in strips of linen and buried alive in a coffin made of wood, but so that your misguided followers do not try to revive your miserable corpse, we shall have the Sacred Scroll of Thoth buried with you! Your temple will be dismantled stone by stone, and the ground upon which it stood sown with salt! And the name Imhotep will be expunged from the records of the reign of Tutankhamun!" He made a slicing gesture. "So shall it be written, so shall it be done!"

The high priest was dragged, hurling curses, from the chamber. My last sight of him was of his burning eyes, fastened on mine. "You will never be free of me! I will return for you!" he raged, as the door swung shut behind him.

"Mighty One, you must not destroy the temple!" I wavered, finding it more and more difficult to remain upright.

"Teremun!" My brother was at my side, his arm around me. "Have no fear! We shall build a new one on duly consecrated soil!" With a cry, he withdrew his hand and stared at the blood that covered it.

I sagged in his arms, my weight bringing us both to the floor. "Send for a physician!" he shouted.

"Too late," I whispered in my ruined voice. My vision was beginning to blur, and pain was radiating out from the wound in my back. "Know, O, Mighty One, that ever have I been loyal to you!"

"Your body will be preserved to be buried with mine, my brother!" Moisture fell on my upturned face.

With wondering fingers, I touched my Pharaoh's cheek, finding it wet with tears.

And then my Lord Anubis was beckoning me, and I followed him into the afterlife.

* * *

I awoke to find my face wet with... rain. A freak desert storm had blown up, to vanish as suddenly as it arrived, and the tent had sprung a leak. The thirsty ground swallowed the moisture greedily, and by the time I rose from my cot, the heat of the new day had evaporated the last of it.

The tea I had brewed the night before was tepid, but I drank it anyway, while I gnawed on a piece of hardtack. As I rolled up the blanket I realized that for the first time in quite some time I didn't feel as if that huge phallus I had dreamed of was shoved up my arse. I could walk freely and comfortably.

Someone scratched on the canvas of my tent. "I'm almost ready," I called. To my surprise, Mr. Carter entered.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Mr. Sayer, but... I need to ask a favor of you."

"Of course, sir." I was a Christian. It was my duty to help my fellow man. Even if that particular fellow man treated the death of someone I deeply loved so cavalierly. Still, Charlie spoke well of him. "How may I be of assistance?"

"Something horrid has happened, and what I'm going to ask of you will not be an easy task, young Sayer. I'll be sending a number of men with you." He plucked fitfully at a button on his vest. "Ralph Norton needs medical attention. He's... not quite himself."

"Beg pardon, Mr. Carter?"

"He's... to put it quite frankly, Norton seems to have gone mad!" His face was pale and he was sweating. "I'll see that you have plenty of supplies, and of course, I'll give you a purse to cover all expenses. You may keep whatever is left, if anything is left. If you'll come with me?"

I gathered up my carpetbag and followed him to the end of camp, where the horses were corralled. "What happened, Mr. Carter?"

His shrug was a gesture of loss. "No one seems to know. He retired early last evening to work on deciphering the Scroll of Thoth. We heard a shriek some hours later, and found him unconscious. When he revived, he was like this!"

I stopped dead. I had dreamed of the Scroll of Thoth, the night before. It was supposed to have the ability to bring the dead back to life. I could recall little else of the dream, although it seemed to me it was highly erotic. "Where is it, sir? The Scroll? Do you have it in a safe place?"

"What? Oh," he looked around vaguely, as if the Scroll was somewhere nearby. "I say, I have no idea where the blasted thing is! Bloody hell! That's all we need! The first tomb of a pharaoh to be found intact, and now important pieces are turning up missing!"

I became alarmed. "Is something else missing, sir?"

"Not your concern, young man. Ah, here we are! And your horse is all saddled."

A handful of men sat their mounts sullenly, none of them looking too well. Ralph Norton was restrained in an impromptu straightjacket and tied to a donkey that had proved his stamina on the trek to the Valley of the Kings. Norton's eyes stared blankly at the horizon. Periodically, he would look around and giggle insanely, muttering, "He's alive. He shouldn't be, but he's alive!"

I felt the hairs at the nape of my neck rise, but I fought down the uneasy feeling and examined my mare.

I made sure the tack was comfortable for her. We had a long way to go, and I didn't want to take the chance that she would develop a canker because someone was careless. She was a well-behaved animal, and when I tapped her leg, she obediently raised her foot so I could check her hoof. I repeated this action with each leg. Our lives depended on her being fit to cross the desert.

Each hoof was smooth and unbroken. I patted her shoulder and fastened the donkey's lead rein to my saddle. Then I secured my carpetbag behind Norton, hoping it would help keep him in place.

I returned to Hubini and rubbed her nose as I picked up her reins. All the riding that I had done with Charlie on the Veldt had made me a competent horseman.

"Charlie's horse, sir?" I was about to step into the stirrup, but paused.

He looked uncomfortable. "Oh, I thought, if you didn't mind, we might keep him. Splendid animal, what?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but the horse was a gift, given with the understanding that when he was no longer needed, he would be returned to his original owner." I stood there obstinately, until George was brought to me, and his reins were tied to my saddle. Only then did I swing up over Hubini's back.

"One moment, young man!" Lord Carnarvon came striding up. One hand rested on Hubini's mane, while the other held something out toward me. "A letter to the Governour. He's an old acquaintance of mine, and will see to Norton's well-being for my sake." He squeezed my knee, and then hurried away, his mouth a grim line.

The men were already heading out of the Valley of the Kings. Mr. Carter searched my eyes for a long moment, then nodded. I tapped the brim of my hat and touched my heels to the mare's sides. She set out at a ground-eating walk.

"Godspeed, young man."

I waved my hand to let him know that I had heard him, as ahead of me the land blurred. I struggled to restrain tears that were too close to the surface.

Not all that long before it had been Charlie biding me Godspeed.

* * *

On the whole ride back, I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was being watched, followed. Yet every time I glanced over my shoulder, the trail behind me was empty. Even the horses exhibited a nervousness not usual for warhorses of the nomadic desert tribes.

But we were so plagued by disasters that I was forced to push it from my mind, and eventually buried it so deep that I forgot about it.

We buried two men along the trail. The third died just before we entered Cairo. The others vanished, not even waiting to get paid. They were certain a curse had followed us out from the desert.

Wearily, I rode up to Government House. Streaked with dust, hungry, thirsty and heart sore, I dismounted and untied Ralph Norton from the back of the patient little donkey. One of the guards hurried down the steps to assist me.

"He's a British subject," I said, in partial explanation.

"Let's get 'im out of this sun, shall we, sir?" The grizzled soldier got an arm around Norton's shoulders and we encouraged him to set one foot in front of the other. "What 'appened to 'im, sir?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Too much heat, too much desolation, too much... " Curiosity? I couldn't tell this pragmatic soldier that. He would never believe that Norton had delved into things best left unexplored. I felt a frisson of unease at the thought of the missing Scroll of Thoth.

He just nodded in agreement, accepting that these scholarly-types tended to go out into the desert without an inkling of what they might be facing. The man we brought into the consulate wasn't the first to return from the vast sea of sand driven to madness.

An under-, under-secretary took charge of the shell that was Ralph Norton. He accepted the purse I handed him, along with the letter from Lord Carnarvon.

"Will you be needing anything, Mr... er... "

"Sayer," I informed him, exhaustion starting to creep up on me. "No, I'm... I'll... I don't need anything, thank you." I turned on my heel, leaving the last reminder of that disastrous dig behind me.

As I made my way carefully down the steps of Government House, I heard my name hailed.

"Roddy! Roddy Sayer! I say, hold on a tick, old chap!"

"Tommy? Good lord, what are you doing here?"

He gripped my arm, grinning happily. "I always pop in for a spot of tea around this time! I must say, I hadn't expected to see you here anytime soon."

"Yes, well, things didn't work out for the best, and I left the dig."

"I'm sorry to hear that, old man. How about letting me buy you a beer?"

I remembered too clearly what had almost happened the last time he had bought me a drink. For a moment I considered what would have happened if that ghostly phallus hadn't made itself felt.

To my amazement, I could feel myself grow hard, and I paled in dismay. What kind of a whore was I, to even think of taking another man into my body, when the love of my life was lying in a miserable grave at the back of beyond?

Again there was the sensation of eyes watching me. I scanned the street, seeing only the usual bustle of the crowd. Heat waves rippled the atmosphere. Heavy beads of sweat trickled from my hairline, rolled down my spine, dripped from my jaw as the heat reflected off the narrow street and surrounding buildings engulfed me, and my vision narrowed to a pinpoint of light. I swayed on my feet, on the verge of a swoon.

"Here, now, Roddy! Are you all right?"

I came to my senses to find myself sitting on the kerb, my head between my knees. Tommy lifted my hair and patted the back of my neck with a moistened handkerchief. "Charlie's gone, Tommy."

"He left you?" he exploded. "The slimy bastard left you? I'll hunt him down like a dog!"

I gave a watery chuckle. "You never struck me as being melodramatic, Tommy. No, he didn't leave me, at least not the way you mean. Charlie is dead. I buried him in that fucking desert!" I had to stiffen my upper lip. "He always joked that he wanted green grass over his grave, and now he'll never have it. Never have flowers. Never have anyone visit it!"

Tommy slid his arm around my shoulder and hugged me to him.

It would not do for passersby to see one man sobbing in the arms of another. I struggled to bring my emotions under control. "Sorry, Tommy. I'm... I'd better be on my way."

"Like hell, you are! Did you get a hotel room?"

"No, I hadn't the time. Norton needed to be taken care of."

"Who? Oh, the chap who's off his rocker? You brought him here?"

"Yes." I searched futilely for my own handkerchief, and had to settle for drying my cheeks on my sleeve. I sighed and lurched to my feet. The horses were... where? I located them and walked to where they were patiently waiting, and collected their reins. "That site's had nothing but bad luck right from the start."

"But... you don't have a room for the night yet, do you?" He seemed to be most concerned with where I would spend the night.

"No." I blotted the sweat from my forehead and settled my hat on my head.

"Come back to my place with me. I've plenty of space, I'll never even know you're there!"

"I don't know if that's a good idea, Tommy."

"Roddy, it's some sort of holiday here in Cairo. One of their religious do's. You'll never to find a place to stay at this hour."

My resolve wavered. I knew I should object more strenuously, but I didn't. I wanted to spend some time with him, with another human being. "All right, Tommy," I conceded. "Is there a place where I can stable my animals?"

A huge grin split his face. "Of course, dear boy! Just come along with me!"

* * *

After he got me settled in his digs, Tommy took me to a restaurant he swore served the best English food in Egypt. Boiled beef and potatoes. I gave him a pained look, but ate to please him.

He toyed with his drink as I blotted my lips. "Shall we go out and get disguised, Roddy? It seems to me you could use a night of forgetfulness."

"Certainly, Tommy. Whatever is your pleasure."

"Oh, you shouldn't be saying such provocative things to me, dear boy!"

I blushed. What had come over me? "I didn't mean anything... "

"Of course not. How very naughty of me to tease you that way. Very well, Roddy, let's go get blotto."

We went a bar that tried to pass itself off as an English pub, and failed spectacularly. But the ambience was unimportant. All that mattered was that it was stocked with liquor.

Tommy was about to order my usual beer, but I rested my palm on the back of his hand. "Gin, tonight, please."

He searched my eyes before nodding to the native boy who tended bar. We took our glasses and found an unoccupied table.

"So. Care to tell me the whole, sordid story, Roddy?" Tommy sipped his drink and lit one of those dark, Egyptian cigarettes. I took it from his fingers and put it between my lips, drawing deeply on it. I let the smoke trickle from my nostrils, then set the cigarette down at the edge of the table and sampled the gin.

I gasped and held my breath as liquid fire burned my gullet. My eyes watered and I swallowed repeatedly, until I was finally sure I wouldn't spew the contents of my stomach all over the little table.

Tommy grinned ruefully. "Sure you don't want me to get you a beer, rosebud?"

"I don't think you should call me that," I said, disquieted by the warmth in his voice. "And no, I don't want a beer!" I downed another swallow, and this time it wasn't quite so bad. Gradually, I finished that first drink, and went to the bar to get another. To save time, I had the bartender make it a double, and ordered two of them.

My companion cocked an eyebrow at me when I returned with two glasses and set them down on my side of the table. He picked up the cigarette and knocked off the long ash before bringing it to his mouth.

I licked my lips, barely stifling a groan. I wanted that mouth. I looked away in shame.

Tommy turned my face toward him. "I can see you're in pain, Roddy. What can I do to help you?"

"You might want to be careful what you offer, Tom Smythe! Don't you know what they say about comforting a widow?"

"Bloody hell, Roddy! He married you? I didn't know that! I thought ...hell, I don't know what I thought! Sweetheart..."

"Don't you ever call me that!" I spat. "That's what Charlie called me!" I stood up abruptly, almost causing my chair to tip over. "I'm getting another gin. Do you want one?"

"Er... no, I think I'll finish this one first." He murmured something else under his breath, and he smiled at me with regret.

I dropped my gaze to scowl at the empty glasses in front of me, then turned. After I was able to focus and locate the bar, I made my way over to it with exaggerated care.

"Do you remember RSM Cutter, Roddy?" he asked when I returned.

"Your regimental sergeant major? Of course. He was the one who got Charlie and me to Nairobi."

Tommy nodded. "Good man; one of the best. Took me under his wing, so-to-speak, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears officer away from home for the first time. It was because of him that I didn't lose more than my eye. But I lost him, and I'd rather have lost my life!"

"Tommy! I'm so sorry! I had no idea things were that way between you!"

"No. You were so wrapped up in your Charlie. I'll tell you the truth, old chap. My nose was a trifle out of joint, when you turned down my offer so you could stay with that old man! Archie set me to rights, soon enough, I can tell you!" He laughed softly over the memory. "Warmed my seat quite thoroughly, and then made love to me all night long!"

"He was the alpha?" I asked curiously. Somehow, it never dawned on me that the dashing captain would have allowed a subordinate to fuck his arse.

"Oh, yes. You'd never have thought, to see us outside our tents. Then he was always, 'Yes, sir,' 'Right away, sir,' and 'As you say, sir.'" There was a hitch in his voice. "I miss him to this day, Roddy."

I reached across the table and closed my hand over his. "Tommy..." I hiccupped, and put my fingers to my lips. "Oops! Pardon me."

"I think we've had more than enough for tonight, rosebud. Let's toddle on home, shall we?"

I climbed to my feet, swaying slightly. "Why's the room rocking, Tommy?" He shook his head and went to the bar to settle our tab.

"We're on our way, mate." He got an arm around me and kept me steady as we walked out onto the street. I whirled around when I felt eyes on my back, but no one was there, and I would have fallen but for Tommy's hold on me.

His rooms weren't too far from this place, and soon we were climbing the stairs to his apartment.

He brought me into a bedroom and nudged me until I was sitting on the edge of the bed. Then he knelt to remove my boots.

"Wanna sing!" I informed him, and did. "'I threw m' leg over him, hey ding duram dey. I flung m' leg over him, me being young! I threw m' leg over him, damned near did smother him!'" I began to giggle as I toppled over onto the bed. I pulled a pillow into my embrace and as competent fingers undressed me, I fell deeply asleep.

* * *

This dream was unlike any I had had in the desert. My lover was with me, holding me while I wept.

"Hush, sweetheart. Hush. There's no need to weep." His mouth came down on mine, feasting on my lips, and I pushed him onto his back, following him down to the mattress. He was naked beneath my questing hands, his chest more furred than I seemed to remember, but his nipples stabbed into my palms, and I found I didn't care. I squeezed those points to pebble harness, and he moaned.

"You left me!" I whispered, the pain tearing me apart, and I tightened my grip on him.

"But I'm here now, love." His hand was on my prick, coating it with a slick lotion. "Take me!" He pulled his legs back, exposing his back passage to me.

There was no fumbling, no probing. I found his hole, and thrust forward. He must have prepared himself as well, for I slid easily in. And I thought I would die.

Was this what it had been like, all those years when my lover had taken me? Unbelievable heat, in a grip that fit like a silken glove? I shoved in as hard as I could, and froze as a sound between a groan and a whimper passed his lips.

"Oh, love, have I hurt you?"

"Jesus god, no! Don't stop! Do it again! Fuck me!"

Bracing myself on my arms, I withdrew until just the tip of my shaft was enclosed in his wondrous heat, then buried myself in that snug channel over and over and over again, until I reached the summit and poured myself into him.

I sank down and slid gently out of my lover, only then realizing that he hadn't come. I licked the base of his throat, and began working my way down his body. Pausing to suckle the flat male nipples, I enjoyed his sighs and moans.

I moved further downward, exploring his slightly convex navel. No, that could not be right!

But an upward thrust of his groin distracted me, and I continued on my journey. Carefully avoiding his prick, I kissed the thicket of curls that surrounded it.

"Roddy!"

I laughed softly and ran my tongue from the broad base of his shaft to the weeping tip. The taste was different, but again he distracted me, and I swallowed him down and sucked on him strongly. With a muffled shout, he poured himself into my throat. I milked the last drop from him, lazily licking the slight kink in his softening length.

Before I could question that unfamiliar bend, a breath whispered over my lips, and he tasted himself on my mouth. "That was wonderful, love. Thank you."

"I never knew it could be like that," I murmured as I sprawled on top of my lover and marveled at the vividness of this dream. "You never told me, Charlie... "

* * *

A hard hand slapped my bum, and I moaned and buried my head under the pillow. "Go 'way and let me die in peace!"

"Roddy! What's wrong?"

"Oooh! I'm dying! My head is killing me and my stomach... " I clapped a hand to my mouth and rolled over to the side of the bed. Fortunately, Tommy had the chamber pot handy, and I spewed the contents of my stomach into it. "What's wrong with me?"

Tommy laughed. "I was afraid you might have this reaction to all the gin you drank last night."

I glared at him from the fringe of hair that hung in my eyes. "It's not nice to mock the afflicted, Smythe! I'm dying, I tell you!

"No, rosebud, you've got a hangover!"

"I never have a hangover." I was affronted.

"You've never drunk that much gin before!"

"Well, actually, I've never drunk gin before at all. Oh, God, how did Charlie do it? Charlie!" And my loss washed over me all over again.

"Are you feeling any better, now?"

I glared at him. "How could you let me get that drunk?" I demanded.

He backed up, chuckling, his hands held as if to ward off a blow. "What would you have me do?"

"Anything! Next time you see me even thinking of having a gin, stop me! Tie me to the bed, anything! I don't care!"

"Oh, that's a dangerous image to place in my mind, Roddy Sayer!" He looked uncomfortable. "About last night..."

"I trust you," I said at the same time he spoke.

"Hell!" he growled under his breath. "Ah, fuck it! Let's get dressed and get some breakfast!"

"Er, if you don't mind, I think I'll see to my animals right now. Maybe later..."

"Roddy, I've already taken care of the horses and that evil creature you call a donkey! You're going to eat something now. You'll feel better, I promise you!"

"Famous last words!" I groused, but sat up carefully.

"Drink this!" Tommy commanded, handing me a twist of powder and a glass of water. Surprisingly, once I had downed it, I did feel better.

We went to a café nearby and ordered a pot of good English tea while we waited for our breakfast to be prepared.

"Why do you call Don Quixote evil?" I asked as I raised my cup to my lips.

"Because he is! Damned beast tried to take a chunk out of my arse!"

"Sorry. I should have told you he's likely to be out of sorts in the morning. You have to tread warily around him."

"Well, tomorrow you can see to his care!"

I set the teacup down gently. "I...won't be here tomorrow, Tommy. I've got to get back to our...my farm. If I don't pay off the mortgage, I'll be homeless."

"You'll never be without a home, Roddy!" I looked at him questioningly. "What I mean to say is, you're more than welcome to stay with me."

"That's too kind of you, Tommy. But Charlie wants me...wanted me to keep that land."

Tommy was silent for a moment, thinking hard. "You needn't go to South Africa. You can wire the payment from here, handle the entire transaction long distance!"

"Yes, I suppose I could. But why would I?"

"I need to go home to England, Roddy. A family matter. I want you to come back with me."

"Home?" I tested the word on my tongue. Home had been where Charlie was. Now that he was gone, it didn't matter where I lived anymore. "Very well, Tommy. I'll go home with you."

* * *

One of the under-secretaries at the consulate saw to the wiring of the funds that made our little farm completely mine.

The sensation of being watched followed me there.

Then I needed to find Sheykh Ali-Es-Hadji's camp and return the horses to him. It took us some time to scour the desert looking for him. When he learned of Charlie's death, he wept, and insisted I keep the animals as a token of the friendship he bore my love. Gratefully I accepted the magnificent gift.

I found a small awl and worked a hole into the matrix of the stone that held the diamond Charlie had given me. I threaded a strip of rawhide through it, and wore it around my neck, next to my body.

Tommy insisted we leave Don Quixote behind. He refused to travel to England, he said, with a beast that wanted to dine on a portion of his anatomy of which he was rather fond.

Truth be told, I was growing fond of it myself, I realized with dismay.

He claimed the animal would be more trouble than he was worth, and besides, there were plenty of donkeys in England, much better looking and sweeter tempered, if I wanted one that badly.

But that beast was not coming with us!

Needless to say, when we boarded the ship that would take us to England, Don Quixote was with us.

And the further we got from Africa, the more that nagging feeling of eyes constantly on me weakened, until by the time the ship reached the Straits of Gibraltar, it vanished completely.

* * *

At every opportunity he could find or make, Tommy touched me. Nothing overt, of course. A hand on my shoulder. A clap on my arm. That progressed to straightening my tie, brushing a crease out of my sleeve, adjusting my collar. I grew used to having him in my personal space. And when I grew to miss him because he wasn't in my personal space, I encroached on his.

Once the large vessel reached the Atlantic, we both discovered that I was not a good sailor. The ocean voyage did not agree with me, and I lost over a stone, which I could ill afford. Tommy worried over me like a mother hen with one chick, finally insisting on sleeping in my cabin.

He charmed a cot out of the bursar so he could keep an eye on me, and I was stunned by the flare of jealousy that rippled through me. I convinced myself it was only because the bursar had narrow, beady eyes and was after the former captain simply for personal gain, and I resolved to tear his beating heart out of his chest if he went near my Tommy.

A little obfuscation was needed to determine how Tommy came to belong to me, but eventually it came down to the simple fact that he was my friend, so that made him mine.

Only, by that time I was so miserably unwell that I couldn't leave my cabin to ensure that no one flirted with him. One particularly bad night, when we had just entered the Bay of Biscay, I was so restless that Tommy had to crawl onto the bunk with me to keep me from falling onto the deck.

After that, he spent each night for the remainder of the voyage in my bed. I would often awaken with his morning arousal pressed firmly against my buttocks. I never said anything though. I was afraid he would return to sleeping on the cot.

Eventually the voyage came to an end, and we docked in England. Tommy insisted we stop at his family's London townhouse to rest, because it always took him a few days to regain his land legs. But I knew he was really doing it for me.

Although his oldest brother, who had inherited, was not in residence, the house was fully staffed, and they greeted Tommy as if he were the prodigal son. The cook fussed over him and laid out a feast that tempted even my flagging appetite.

Mrs. Johnson, the housekeeper, led me to a spacious suite of rooms and waited patiently outside the door while I changed into a spare set of Tommy's clothes. She left me a nightshirt and dressing gown as well, and promised to have all my things washed and mended by the morning, then offered to return with a pot of tea and some biscuits, which Mr. Thomas had forever teased her for as a boy.

I went to the bed and sat down, bouncing a bit to test the mattress, entranced by the idea of a young Tommy begging for treats, and being indulged by his family. I wished my family had been that loving.

A scratching at my door had me hastily drying my eyes. "Come," I called.

"May I, really?" Tommy strolled in, carrying a tray with the tea things and two cups, indicating he intended to join me.

"Beg pardon?"

"You told me I could come, rosebud. I'd really like you to make me come!" He walked to the small piecrust table by the window and laid the cups and saucers out, as innocent as could be. "Would you care to pour, Roddy, or shall I?"

I swallowed hard, feeling the heat in my cheeks. "I'll pour, if you don't mind." I sat down across from him.

A quick glance told me he was watching me blandly. I forced myself to look away and concentrate on what I was doing. I picked up the teapot and poured. Tommy started to say something, then lapsed into silence. I looked into his cup, and realized that the tea hadn't been put in to steep.

"Oh!" I moaned. "What a bleeding fool!"

Tommy stretched across the table. "It's all right, rosebud." He cupped my chin and half rose out of his chair. "It's..." He leaned closer and I sighed as my eyes slid shut. I was positive he was going to kiss me.

Instead, he picked up my left hand. "You still wear this, I see." He rubbed his thumb over my wedding ring.

"Of course," I responded. "Why would I stop wearing it?"

"Why, indeed?" Was that disappointment in his voice? "I think it might be best if I retire for the evening, Roddy. We'll want to make an early start of it tomorrow."

He walked out the door and I dropped my head to my hands. I knew what he wanted from me, but Charlie was the only man I had ever slept with. He had known and liked me from the time I was a young boy, and had grown to love me as a young man. I had learned over our years together what he liked, how to please him; just as he had learned what caused me to melt in his arms.

I dragged a tongue over my lips and moistened them, wondering what making love with Tommy would be like. I wasn't sure I could let another man have my body, even a man I liked as much as Tommy, but I was determined to picture in my mind what he could do to me.

I imagined his shaft in my hands. I imagined myself on my knees before him, taking his prick deep into my mouth. I imagined myself on my hands and knees, and Tommy buried balls deep in my arse. And because he mentioned what his regimental sergeant major had done to him, I imagined myself returning the favor.

Aroused, I stripped off the clothes I wore and got into bed, making sure I had my blue blanket with me. I would have need of it this night.

* * *

Two hours later, although I had fisted myself to orgasm a number of times, I was still unable to sleep. The situation was becoming impossible, and I began to get cross with Tommy. He had got me so used to having his body against mine in the night that now I couldn't sleep when it wasn't there!

I sat up and reached for a candle. While the townhouse was equipped with gas lighting, I was hesitant to attempt using it, fearing I would wind up asphyxiating the entire household.

I knew his bedchamber was just down the hall from mine. I gritted my teeth and flung back the bedclothes. I snatched up the dressing gown and slid my arms into it.

After opening my door, I poked my head out to make sure that no one prowled the halls. How uncomfortable that would be, to be spied entering my host's chamber in the middle of the night. I slipped out and hurried across the hall. Shielding the light of the candle, I quietly entered Tommy's room.

The curtains were thrown back from the window and moonlight streamed in, illuminating the naked figure that was sprawled across the mattress. The sheets were twisted, half off the bed. Silently I approached him, reluctant to wake him if he was asleep.

I let my gaze roam over his muscular body, which was amazingly fit even though it had been years since he'd left the army. Drawn closer by the lure of what I had never seen before, I feasted my eyes on the chest that had more hair than I was used to seeing. Following the line that arrowed down toward his abdomen, I was halted by the slight convexity of his navel.

An alarm went off in my head. Bending closer toward his groin, I visually traced the line of his shaft, noting its slight kink. My eyes grew huge. "It was you!" I whispered. Something alerted me to the fact that he was awake "You let me make love to you!"

"Should I hide my pistols?" His one good eye was watching me warily.

"Why didn't you say something the next morning?" I asked through dry lips.

He sat up cautiously, aware I was on the verge of bolting from his room. "You... didn't remember. How could I tell you that you had given me the best experience since I lost Archie, when you didn't bloody well remember? And then, to top it off, you said you trusted me!"

He stood, and I backed away, but only a few steps. "I... I thought it was a dream."

His smile was droll. "It wasn't."

"Well... well... I wa-wasn't expecting to have so-someone else in my bed!" I stammered.

"You were crying, Roddy. Great, shaking sobs, and I ... wanted to comfort you." He walked toward me. "I've wanted you since my men pulled you sopping wet from that Lake!"

I couldn't tear my eyes from his mouth, not realizing that I was losing important escape time. He advanced, I retreated, and then the wall was at my back and I could go no further.

"I've tried to be patient, Roddy. I've tried to give you time to recover from your loss; I know how devastating that can be." He shook his head. "I was still in hospital when they gave me a list of casualties. All I saw was Archie's name, and I couldn't read any further."

"Is that what you want from me, Tommy? Comfort?"

"If that's all you're willing to give me, rosebud." He parted my dressing gown and laughed softly when he saw I was naked under it. "You are a naughty puppy, aren't you?" He reached into it and caressed my shaft, which was, astonishingly, after all the times I had tossed myself off, hard once more. I groaned and gave myself up to the feeling of his warm, calloused hand on me.

Tommy leaned into me and his mouth settled on mine. My lips parted and I suddenly found myself with a mouthful of tongue. It glided past my teeth and teased my tongue to come play. His other hand came up to toy with my ear, stroking the curve, tugging on the lobe.

He left my mouth and began to nibble the curve of my throat, pushing the robe off my shoulders. I spread my legs and rocked into his grip, squeezing my eyes tightly closed. A babble of incoherent murmurings spilled from my lips.

"Is that what you want, rosebud?" Tommy understood what I was pleading for, and slid down to his knees before me. He blew on the head of my shaft, which was glistening with precome, and I shivered convulsively.

His tongue traversed my prick from base to crown with a broad swipe, and I wound my fingers in his thick, pale hair, urging him closer. "Do you want to fuck my mouth, Roddy?" he asked hoarsely.

"Yes!" I groaned.

"Then do it!" He opened his mouth and helplessly I thrust forward. His teeth lightly scored my length and then he began to suckle, deep and strong. His hands slid around to my buttocks, palming the curves, stroking the crease that parted them. And when he pressed a questing finger against my opening, my knees buckled and he had to let me slide from his mouth or risk biting me.

Tommy caught me and rolled me onto my back. He settled himself between my parted thighs. His prick jerked as it glided against my needy shaft, clear fluid oozing from it. Twining his fingers with mine, he held my hands beside my head and rocked against me gently, bringing our shafts into tenuous contact.

I tossed my head and bit at his mouth, needing him to press harder. Tommy gave a huff of laughter and released one hand, to capture both our shafts in his grip and begin the steady friction that would cause us to explode. His lips were by my ear, and his warm breath tantalized me as he whispered what he intended to do to me... soon. His prick in my arse, my legs over his shoulder, his hands doing ... this to me.

With a moan I came, the heat of my semen pouring over my belly and Tommy's chest. And then he was coming as well, mingling our essences.

I lay on the floor, a boneless mass. Tommy levered himself off me, and I muttered a protest.

"We can't stay on the carpet all night, rosebud. It's murder on the back!"

I peeled open an eye. "I'm willing."

He grinned and kissed the corner of my mouth. "It's unbecoming my dignified years to sleep on the floor, Roddy!"

I gave a put-upon sigh, but he just laughed and went into his bathroom. Since I wasn't going to be able to use him as a blanket, I pulled the dressing gown over me, turned on my side and closed my eyes.

"Oh, no you don't, Roddy Sayer!" He pushed me onto my back and brushed the robe off me. There was a warm washcloth in his hand and he did a thorough job of cleaning my chest and groin. Then he leaned down and licked my shaft. I groaned as it tried to twitch to life once more.

Tommy laughed again. He had a charming laugh.

"We'd better go to bed, Roddy."

"Do you mind if I sleep with you for a little while, Tommy?"

"I was counting on it!"

* * *

I awoke with a start. The night sky was dark now, the moon having set. A hairy thigh imprisoned my legs, and I hummed with pleasure. I had missed the heat that radiated along my back when I slept with my love so much!

It took me a moment to realize I wasn't in my own bed, and another to realized whose bed I was in. I stared over my shoulder at Tommy's head, which was buried under his pillow. "Don't go, love," he murmured drowsily and started to gather me closer.

He called me 'love'! I grinned fatuously, until it dawned on me that he must be dreaming. And I had fallen into a snare as old as time: I had fallen in love with him!

My heart stuttered as I scrambled out of bed. I had to search for the dressing gown. Plucking it from the chair it had been tossed onto, I quietly made my way across the hall.

Once safely back in my bed, I hit my head with my hand, cursing myself for being all kinds of a fool. I couldn't be in love with him! He was my friend! And then I relived what I had done with my friend, and cursed myself for being an even bigger fool.

Never mind having crept out of his bed like a thief in the night! How could I face him in the morning, thinking that I loved him?

I couldn't be in love with him! I had to squash that notion.

Perhaps England would suffer an earthquake: nothing massive, just one large enough to encompass this bedroom so I would be swallowed up and spared the ignominy of sitting across the breakfast table from him in the morning, with my guilty secret.

* * *

Of course, I wasn't so fortunate. It seemed that I had barely fallen asleep before Mrs. Johnson was knocking at my door, with my clothes all neatly folded. "Oh, and the laundress found this in a pocket, sir. You'll want to be taking better care of that, I'm sure!" She handed me a rope of black pearls.

My fist tightened around it and I bowed my head so she couldn't see the tears that filled my eyes. "Thank you," I murmured. Charlie had held them, the day he died. He must have stuffed them into a pocket.

I took the clothes from her and asked if she knew where Tommy was. I could feel the heat rising up the back of my neck.

"He's having breakfast in the morning room, sir. Shall I tell him you'll be joining him shortly?"

Face him before I came to grips with the fact that I had committed an unforgivable blunder? "Er... no, I... uh, I think I'll just see to my animals, Mrs. Johnson."

"Oh, but Mr. Thomas has grooms to take care of the livestock, Mr. Sayer. Won't you be wanting your breakfast, sir?"

"I don't eat breakfast," I lied. Perhaps by the time I was finished with the mundane tasks the horses required, Tommy would have found an errand that would take him into the city. I knew he had dealings on 'Change.

She stood looking at me as if I were not quite bright. I shrugged.

With a perplexed nod, she left. I changed into a set of work clothes and packed everything else away, running the pearls through my fingers, fascinated by their lustrous sheen.

I sighed heavily. I'd have to send a wire to Africa. The pearls would need to be returned to Howard Carter as soon as possible. I just hoped he didn't want them returned in person. I didn't think I could face another ocean voyage just yet.

* * *

It was a soft morning, and I walked round to the mews where my animals were stabled. They'd need to be grained and groomed. My stomach rumbled, and I mused glumly on the fate of those who told less than the truth.

The doors to the stable had been flung wide, and a very young stable boy was standing before them, hopping from foot to foot, wringing his hands and weeping. He cried even harder when he saw me.

"Oh, sir! Oh, sir! I'm that sorry, sir! Your lovely horses! I opened the door to clean out their stall, and they bolted!"

My heart felt as if it had lodged in my boots. George and Hubini had been placed in a very large box stall, having refused to be separated. "How long?" I asked.

"Not more than a quarter hour, sir!"

Jesus god, fifteen minutes. With their stamina, they could be anywhere in the city. I went into the stable and opened the first stall I came to. It contained a tall, blood bay gelding.

A slightly older stable boy came running into the stable yard, severely out of breath. "They're down to Rotten Row, Jemmy!" he said to the younger boy. Then he saw me. "Oh, I say, sir, you don't want to be riding that horse! He ain't never got over the fact that his last owner had him gelded!"

I pulled the large head down and blew into his nostrils, letting him learn my scent. "What's his name?"

"Anubis, sir."

For a moment I felt lightheaded, my hands frozen on the black mane, and then I shook myself out of the sense of disbelief and swung up onto the leggy animal's bare back. He reached around to lip my knee, and I rubbed his muzzle. "Which way?"

The young groom pointed to the east, and I nudged the bay forward into a canter.

It was too early in the day for anyone other than grooms to be out exercising their animals, and nannies taking their charges for a walk. Anubis' hooves beat a rhythmic tattoo over the cobblestoned streets, and I was able to reach the sandy track without incident.

I arrived just in time to see the chestnut stallion dismount from the mare. His long shaft was rapidly softening, and ropes of semen dripped from the tip. Hubini stamped a satisfied hoof, and looked over her shoulder at her mate, flicking her tail flirtatiously against his chest. Both horses ambled to the side of the path and began to graze on the grass that grew to its edge.

A ring of grooms surrounded the now peacefully feeding animals, trying to get a grip on the halters they wore. Whenever they approached too closely, however, the stallion bared his large, square teeth, his ears flattened in warning. I dismounted from the bay and handed his reins to the head groom. "See Anubis is returned safely, if you please. I'll take care of my horses."

"Sir, they're devils! I like to thought they'd stomp us into the ground!"

"No," I crooned, reaching out a palm to them. "They're Allah's treasured gift to Ishmael, aren't you, my beauties?" I stroked the grey dish-face of my mare. Hubini allowed me to take her halter and lead her back toward the stable. George followed docilely. Wherever she went, he would be going as well.

By the time we returned to the stable, Anubis had been saddled and Tommy was about to mount up and come after me. His mouth was set in a grim line. "Are you all right?"

"We're fine." Maybe he'd think last night was a dream. I had, our first time together.

"I don't care about those animals! Are you all right?"

I nodded, feeling colour mount my cheeks.

"You didn't come down to breakfast."

I led the horses into the stable and examined them carefully, making sure they had taken no hurt from their early morning escapade.

"Let the grooms take care of them. We have to talk."

Oh, my. That was what I had been afraid of. I pretended to ignore him, pouring a measure of grain into their mangers and seeing they had fresh water, watching him out of the corner of my eye.

"Roddy, I didn't mean to..."

"Tommy, I'm sorry..."

He crowded me into a corner of the stall, and my hand tightened on the partition that separated it from George's. I couldn't quite meet his eyes. "I... er... I made a fool of myself last night, Tommy, and I beg your pardon." I cringed at the thought of him discovering I had foolishly fallen in love with him. Well, I would just have to keep that information tucked in my heart until I could fall out of love with him.

"Roddy, I wanted you to make a fool of yourself over me! I've been wanting that for months! If you tell me I've jeopardized our friendship because you weren't ready for me... "

"Beg pardon?"

His hands feathered through my hair and he urged me closer to his mouth. "Good god, how I want to kiss you!" His words were a hoarse whisper.

I couldn't take my eyes off his lips, and I whimpered. He set me away from him, turned on his heel and strode into the townhouse. I stared after him, my mouth tingling as if his lips had indeed branded mine.

* * *

I found him in the morning room, where a buffet-style breakfast had been set out. He stared at my mouth hungrily, and then buried his head in the newspaper.

There was hot chocolate in a pot, which I hadn't had since I was a boy. I poured myself a cup and wandered to the sideboard to see what had been prepared. Kippers and eggs, steak, kidneys. I had gotten out of the habit of a large English breakfast, but I was suddenly so hungry that I helped myself to a little of everything, while Tommy watched in stunned surprise. Well, perhaps it was more than a little of everything. I took it back to my seat and ate in silence.

Finally, "About last night, Tommy... "

"We'll be leaving right after breakfast for the manor house in Kent," Tommy told me, setting aside the newspaper. "The Mater is expecting us. We can rent one of those new horse carriers to transport the horses, or we can make the journey in easy stages, so it won't be too hard on them. I suppose you'll insist on bringing along that misbegotten fleabag?"

"Don Quixote? Um, yes." I barely paid attention to his words. "About last night, Tommy... " I repeated insistently, and he sighed.

"Last night was just friends offering comfort to one another. That's all there has to be to it."

Well, what had I expected? A declaration of everlasting love? I was suddenly swamped with the overpowering urge to force just such a declaration from him. I bit down on my cheek and took a sip of the chocolate, and reverted to the subject of our method of travel.

"Is Lady Fortescue-Smythe expecting us right away? If not, I think I'd rather we rode the horses. If you don't mind? I haven't seen anything of England since I was a boy, and then it was just parts of London."

"Good Lord, Roddy! Why should I mind? I want you to stay here in England! You're my best... friend, you know." He saw my look of puzzlement and grinned. "I've been out of the country for over ten years now, and the friends of my boyhood have all drifted away."

"You're my best friend, too, Tommy," I said shyly. "You're my only friend, now that Charlie is gone."

He suddenly looked sad. "Archie would never marry me, you know. He said I was too young, and I'd find someone else. And I was a captain: sooner or later I'd want to top. I envy you that, Roddy." Tommy rose from the table and came around to where I was sitting. He squeezed my shoulder, and I would have sworn I felt a phantom kiss upon my hair. "Let's be on our way, then, if you're quite finished demolishing my brother's larder?"

I made a rude noise and rose, wiping my lips on the cloth napkin. "Lead on, Macduff. And cursed be he who first cries, 'Hold, enough!'"

"Ah, Roddy, how cruel of you to make me want to kiss you when anyone can walk in on us!" He smiled. "You do realize that I'll be taking advantage of your delicious body every chance I get, don't you? Simply as friends, old chap!" And he strolled out of the door, leaving me standing in the middle of the room with a sudden, almost painful arousal.

By the time I had once more got myself under control, Tommy was awaiting me at the stable, with the horses saddled and our gear packed on the little donkey's back.

The journey passed, now in companionable silence, now in comfortable stories of how we had spent the years since we had first met. Each night we would stop our travels at a different inn, where Tommy was sure we would be provided with clean sheets and decent food, for us as well as the horses. And true to his word, Tommy had his hands on me at every discreet opportunity.

The one time there were no beds available, due to a mill that was to be held in the vicinity, we spent the night in the stable with the horses.

Making love on a bed of hay, I found, was highly over-rated. And he was making it very difficult for me to fall out of love with him.

We finally arrived at Fortescue Manor after a week on the road. Lady Fortescue-Smythe, a petite beauty with a riot of white-blonde curls which she had passed on to her youngest son, still retained the fine looks that had earned her the title of 'diamond of the first water' during her come out. She welcomed her youngest son with tears of joy, and I felt bereft, as if I were on the outside of a charmed circle, looking in.

No one in my family, not even my own mother had ever shown me such affection.

Of course, Nanny had cared for me, and I was satisfied with the tenderness she had showered on me. And Charlie had loved me beyond life. I rubbed my thumb over the ring I wore.

But then Tommy pulled me into their shared embrace. "Mother, this is Rodney Sayer. He came with me from Africa. You've heard me speak of him."

"Rodney! What a pleasure to meet you at last, dear boy!"

"Roddy, please, m'lady." I took her hand and raised it to my lips. In all the books I had read, that was how it was done. "Meet me at last, m'lady?"

She chuckled indulgently and patted my cheek. "Dear boy!" she repeated. "You must call me Lady Eugenia! And how long may we count on the pleasure of your company?"

"For as long as I can keep him here, Mother. I'm afraid I got Roddy to... come...under duress; I gave him no choice!" Tommy answered before I could say a word, and I felt myself blushing at his slight innuendo. "And I'm depending on you to help me persuade him to stay! Ah, Roddy, why don't you stable the animals?"

"If you'll tell me where I may find the stable, I'll be happy to."

"Oh, the grooms can do that!" Lady Eugenia said gaily.

"No, Mother. Roddy allows no one near those beasts of his, and Anubis has taken a liking to him." I caught his signal to one of the footmen, and he spoke to him in an undertone.

"You still have that devil? I wish you'd get rid of him, Thomas! He's dangerous!"

"You needn't fear him, m'lady. Anubis is very well behaved," I assured her as I unfastened my carpetbag and Tommy's valise from Don Quixote's back.

"For you, he is!" Tommy retorted. "I think he only just tolerates me. Leave the bags, Roddy. I'll have them taken up to our rooms. This is Wilson. He'll show you where the stable is, and then bring you back to the house."

I nodded, reluctant to be parted from him but knowing he must want to have private conversation with his mother. I followed the young footman around the side of the house and to the beautifully kept, airy stable.

The grooms made a great fuss over my Arabians, but they approached the blood bay gelding with caution. Surprisingly enough, the presence of Don Quixote kept the high strung animal calm. Perhaps when I left... The thought of leaving my friend depressed me, and resolutely, I pushed the notion from my mind. Perhaps one day I would gift Tommy with the stubborn little beast.

The horses were settled in nicely, and Wilson escorted me back to the lovely manor house, its stone walls a warm gold in the late afternoon sun. He was about to show me my room when I was hailed by Tommy's mother.

"Roddy! One moment, dear boy! Beastly news! Thomas has had to return to the city. Bertie, my oldest, put in a trunk call from London, something to do with some investments the two of them are making on 'Change. He wanted to wait for you, but time apparently is of the essence, and I've had the chauffeur run him up to Town. I hope you won't mind dining with me?" Lady Eugenia finally paused to draw a breath.

If I had known her better, I might have questioned the lengthy, effusive explanation. As it was, all I paid attention to was the fact that Tommy would not be here. It would be rude to let my friend's mother think I regretted his absence. "Of course I'll dine with you, m'lady. I hope you won't be dressing. I'm afraid all I have are clothes more suitable for the desert."

"Not to worry, dear boy. You can borrow something of Thomas'. You're much the same height and build, the two of you. We keep town hours, Roddy. Dinner will be at seven."

* * *

Tommy was supposed to return in a couple of days, but instead a message arrived stating that Bertie needed him in Town a while longer, and he wasn't sure when he'd be able to get away.

Lady Eugenia refused to let me leave when I went to her and mentioned that she could not be wanting me to stay when the sole reason for my visit was away. She pooh-poohed the idea, and having discovered that I had a fine copperplate hand, found things to keep me occupied. Midmornings, after I had seen to the horses, I would write out invitations and copy letters for her.

It was a week or so later, and I was making a list of guests for a dinner party she planned to have, welcoming our newest neighbors to the refurbished estate, Talbot Abbey. She made a sound of disgust and tossed the London newspaper to the floor beside her dressing table. "Whatever can Bertie be thinking of?"

"Lady Genie?"

"I hate those blind items. 'What former captain of the _th, has been seen squiring the lovely Lady B.C., with her family's blessing and his brother's fond approval?' Poppycock!"

I felt the blood leave my cheeks. "They're talking about Tommy?"

Her lip curled in an affectionate grimace. "The foolish boy! Because Bertie finally decided it was time to get married, and is happily so, he wants to see the whole world and his mother-in-law in that same state!"

"Tommy's getting married?" My heart hurt.

"What? Oh, no, my dear boy! No!" She embraced me and urged me to take a seat beside her on the fainting couch. "Oh, Roddy. How close are you to my son?"

"M'lady?" My voice cracked. I cleared my throat. "Tommy is a friend of mine. We first met in..."

"Yes, yes, I'm quite aware that you met in Africa in 1914. Thomas told me all about it."

"He did?"

"Roddy, I know my son's led a wild life, the more so since he lost his eye. There's something about that patch that women find irresistible. Well, except for that twit I thought might suit." She shrugged. "I won't make that error again."

"Women aren't the only ones who find that patch irresistible, m'lady." I said softly, twisting the ring on my finger, and she took my hand and examined it closely.

"Unless I miss my guess, this is a wedding ring. Not too many men are willing to wear them."

I nodded.

"How long were you married, Roddy?"

"Eight years, and twenty-six days. He died almost a year ago, in the Valley of the Kings."

"He? Oh!"

"I'm sorry, m'lady; I thought you realized... " I rose unsteadily. "Would you prefer me to leave Fortescue Manor?"

"Young man, sit down!" I sat. "Forgive me if I seemed surprised. And if I say I fail to see what the problem is. Unless you don't care for Thomas that way?"

"No, m'lady! I... I care for him deeply. But if his brother wants him to marry this Lady B... ?"

"I'll handle Bertie! Interfering young fool! Now just finish that list, and then tell Cook I'll need to speak with him about the menu for this dinner party!" She shooed me out of the room.

I grew more and more restless as the days passed with no word from my friend. I was finally able to think of Charlie without feeling as if my heart were being torn from my chest, but I missed having someone in my bed. I missed Tommy.

I was copying the menu for the party Lady Eugenia insisted on having in the middle of the week, when the door to her study opened. I spoke without looking up. "Lady Genie, are you sure you want mock turtle soup?"

"Roddy."

The pen went skidding off the paper, leaving a deep gouge in it. "Tommy?" There were circles beneath his one good eye, it had been some time since he had shaved and his shoulders drooped with exhaustion. And he looked ...beautiful.

I rose so sharply my chair went toppling back, and I threw myself at him. My fingers clenched tightly in his hair, pulling his mouth to mine. I thrust my tongue into his mouth, dueling with his tongue. His hands came down to cup my buttocks and pull me close against his arousal.

"Rosebud!" He would have raised his head, but I moaned and pulled him to me for another kiss. Eventually, we had to break apart to breathe. "I take it this means you missed me?" he asked, the corner of his mouth quirking in a tired grin.

I couldn't say anything beyond, "Tommy!" I devoured him with my eyes, and his own gaze grew hot.

"Come upstairs while I get washed up, love."

Trembling, I seized his hand and hurried him out of the study, leading him up the stairs to his bedroom. There was an ensuite bath, and I went in and started a tub for him.

I turned to face him. He had removed his topcoat, and I began to undress him, taking my time, exploring the planes and valleys of his body. "You're beautiful, Tommy!"

"Here now, turnabout is fair play, isn't it, Roddy? I want to see you. We've always made love in the dark." He stroked my cheek.

I unbuttoned my shirt. "I hope you won't be disappointed." Aside from the faded scar on my arm, a souvenir of a boating trip down the Ulanga that I took with Charlie, my back and thighs were also covered in faint white marks, remnants of Brother's attempts to beat the fear of god into me. When Charlie realized what they were, he was furious. If Brother had still been alive, my love would have gone back to Kungdu and killed him, I think.

Tommy didn't notice them, I noted with relief. He had other things on his mind, and was already crowding me back toward the bed, kissing me senseless. "Tommy, the bath!" I reminded him, trying to restrain my giddiness.

"Bugger the bath! We'll take one together later."

"Let me at least shut if off!" I was outright laughing now. "It's going to overflow!"

He let me up and I hurried into the bathroom. As I leaned forward to twist the taps, warm hands parted my buttocks and stroked the crevice, seeking my puckered opening. "Ah," he breathed as he leaned close to my ear. "Here's the rosebud I've been missing!" Slick lotion prepared the way for him, and I shuddered and breathed deeply to relax.

Tommy took his time, and was gentle, and I was moaning steadily when he finally pressed his shaft to my opening and slid past the ring of muscle that guarded it. The angle at which he took me had him hitting that magic spot inside me every time, and I shivered and backed up to take more of him.

"God, you're on fire, Roddy! That's it, rosebud, squeeze me! Let me know how much you're enjoying this!"

His hand covered my mouth to muffle the sounds I was making. "Hush, love, we'll shock the Mater!" he panted. I tickled his palm with my tongue. "We'll need to get our own place, Roddy. I want to drive you so wild with passion your throat becomes hoarse from your cries!"

Tommy erupted inside me, biting my shoulder to keep from shouting himself. He was startled when he realized that I hadn't come, and reached for the soap. Working up a handful of lather, he began to toss me off, his hands knowledgeable on my weeping prick. By the time he brought me to climax, his flaccid length had slipped out of me.

Without giving me time to recover, he tumbled me into the bath. Waves of water splashed over the edge, and he laughed happily. He turned my face to kiss me, and frowned when he saw the blood on my lip. "Here, Roddy, what's this?" His fingers touched the tiny cut.

"I didn't want to embarrass you by making too much noise, so I bit my lip to keep silent."

"Oh, love, you could never embarrass me!"

I could feel myself blush. "Let me get you cleaned up." I took a washcloth and picked up the bar of soap.

"I want you to move your things into my room, all right, Roddy?"

"I can't."

"Now, rosebud, you aren't going to be difficult about this, are you? I want you sleeping with me, and you can hardly do that if I'm in one room and you're in another!"

"Of course not, lo... Tommy. I've been sleeping in your room." He had gotten suddenly quiet. "Tommy?" He turned my face toward him and took my mouth, gently this time. I dropped the washcloth and surged against him, sending water cascading over the side again.

"The Mater will be cross with us, rosebud!"

"Shut up and love me again, Tommy!"

* * *

"Ah, Thomas, we're having guests for dinner, our new neighbor from Talbot Abbey, and some gentlemen who are staying with him. He's from Egypt! High up in the government hierarchy, I believe. But then, Thomas would know more about that than I." Lady Genie seemed so excited that she missed her son's cautionary glance. "Workers have been preparing that old place for months now! I'm the first to snag them for dinner! That's such a feather in my cap, I can assure you! Mrs. Burrell-Higgins, she's the squire's wife, Roddy, she'll be green with jealousy!"

"Mother, you're a wicked creature! How long have you been plotting this coup?" Tommy slung an arm around my shoulder and pulled me close to him. His mother beamed at us both.

"Would I do something that underhand, Thomas?" She laughed at his droll look. "Have you evening wear, Roddy?"

I could feel my eyes almost cross at the thought of formal wear. "No, m'lady. Must I really wear a monkey suit?"

Tommy grinned and squeezed me. "If I have to, so do you, rosebud. You're about my size. I'm pretty sure I have something in my closet that will fit."

"You'll have a marvelous time, Roddy. The women will sigh over you, and the men will be fascinated by your tales of Africa!" She didn't notice her son's sudden frown, but I did, and I felt warm with pleasure, that the thought of others wanting me would disturb him. "I've been dying to show you off, as well! Now, shoo, you two, while I confer with cook!"

We went upstairs to see which of Tommy's evening clothes would do for me. But my lover seemed determined to brand me as his, and we when we came down just before dinner, my collar barely covered the livid bruise he had placed on me.

It was almost six o'clock, and long shadows were creeping up the drive, when we met for drinks in the Rose Saloon. Lady Eugenia had invited the socially prominent couples of the neighborhood, to flaunt her triumph. I tugged uncomfortably at the bow tie that felt as if it were strangling me, and glanced up as the butler announced the guests.

"Ardeth Bey, My Lady. Lord Carnarvon. Mr. Howard Carter."

She crossed the room as if she floated rather than walked. Never had I seen anything so graceful. She extended her hand to the men in greeting. "Gentlemen, how splendid of you to join us for dinner!"

"Lady Fortescue-Smythe, thank you for extending your invitation to us," Lord Carnarvon was saying. "I know our arrival at Talbot Abbey was highly unexpected."

"How do you know Mr. Bey, my lord?" she asked, setting the conversational ball rolling. Ardeth Bey was the Egyptian gentleman who had purchased the old pile on the other side of the manor's property line.

"Oh, we had met Ardeth Bey in Egypt. He is in charge of the Bureau of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo and he agreed to take on the cataloguing that needed to be done for all the many wonderful things we found in the Boy King's tomb. He was so kind as to invite us to visit him when we returned to England."

"All those rumors of the curse plaguing King Tut's tomb have led to us being hounded by the press, the blighters! Beg pardon, ladies. Mr. Bey has his own men keeping them off his grounds, so we shall be undisturbed for the length of our stay. The rumors are all balderdash, of course!"

I stared at the dark-haired, dark-eyed man in the unassuming black suit, the uneasy sensation that I knew him from somewhere hitting me deep in my gut. His eyes met mine, and I was both aroused and terrified by his lazy perusal. He left his companions and crossed the floor to join me. "Young sir, I bid you As-Salam'Alayk." He frowned and raised his hand to stroke the mark on my throat.

I knew enough Arabic to understand his wishes. 'Peace be with you.' Before I could respond, Tommy was by my side, striking his hand away. "As-Sam'Alayk!" he snarled, using a play on words - death be with you.

The Egyptian's nostrils flared with anger, and I was tempted to hide behind Tommy. Instead, I forced myself to step in front of him. "You will not harm this one, Lord," I said.

He struggled to bring his temper under control, then nodded as if in accord. But I heard his softly worded vow. "Will I not, indeed!"

Lady Genie could see that something was occurring between her guest of honour and her son. She wasn't sure if she should move to interrupt, and her hands fluttered nervously. Her butler entered just then and whispered in her ear, and she gave a sigh of relief. "Dinner, ladies, gentlemen. Lord Carnarvon, if you will escort me in?"

Tommy sat at the foot of the table, opposite his mother. I would have preferred having the length of the table between the Egyptian and me, but he sat opposite me, on Lady Genie's left.

We started with the soup course, and as I raised my spoon to my mouth, I nearly choked. A foot was insinuating its way under my trouser leg, caressing my calf. My head jerked up and I stared at the man across the table from me. His lip curled in satisfaction, and he sipped delicately at the consommé as if nothing was amiss.

I desperately tried to find a spot where he could not reach me. Lady Genie frowned as I jostled her leg, and the lady to my right, whose name I never could remember, had her toe trod upon. I flushed bright red and ducked my head, edging my chair backward, studiously finishing my soup.

"I say, Mr. Sayer, I can't thank you enough for sending us the wire about that string of black pearls," Mr. Carter said. "I can understand your concern that Charlie Allnutt be thought to have stolen it. However, I can assure you that, having known him for so many years, that would never have crossed my mind!"

"Thank you, sir. I was concerned. I wouldn't want his memory besmirched."

"Black pearls! Oooo, that sounds like something out of King Solomon's Mines!" Mrs. Burrell-Higgins, who sat on the Egyptian's left, simpered. "I should love to see such unusual gems! I have a weakness for pearls," she confided, actually batting her lashes at me.

"You will have to ask Lord Bey for permission to view them, Madame. They belong to Egypt." I did not want to have those pearls on my person when Ardeth Bey was nearby.

He scowled at me, then turned a charming smile on the older woman. "I regret that until the authenticity of the pearls has been established, they may not be exhibited. So sorry."

"Well, perhaps you can persuade your government to allow some of the items to be displayed at the British Museum?"

"Perhaps, Madame. I cannot promise." He looked across the table at me. "And when will you be returning to Africa, young sir?"

I could feel Tommy watching me. Although at the far end of the table, he had been following the conversation with interest. "I have no plans to go home for some time, Lord."

"Ah. But you do intend to go back to Egypt at some point, do you not? Perhaps you will let me have the pleasure of your company when you do. I would be more than happy to rearrange my schedule." His dark eyes were hooded.

"Return? With you, Lord?"

"Yesssss!" His voice was like that of a cobra about to strike.

"Roddy's home is here!" Tommy abruptly interrupted. "He will be going nowhere."

Ardeth Bey smiled tightly at my lover, but when his eyes swept back to mine, they somehow seemed to promise retribution. A tremor shook my hand as I raised my glass to take a sip of wine, and his smile broadened.

Dinner finally wound to an end, and at a nod from Lady Eugenia the ladies left the men to their cigars and port.

"Could I impose upon you to retrieve the pearls now, young sir?"

"I thought you did not want them on display, Lord." My will battled his, although I was certain I would prove to be the loser.

"Ah, but we are all men of the world here, and the tale behind the pearls, even if they shouldn't prove genuine, would be most entertaining."

"Yes, do please get the thing, would you, young Sayer?" Howard Carter asked.

I set my napkin neatly on my chair and hurried up to the room I shared with Tommy. I didn't realize he was right behind me until he slammed the bedroom door shut.

"What in heaven's name was that all about, Roddy?"

"What do you mean, Tommy?" Distracted, I pulled my carpetbag from a corner cupboard.

"I mean you were fidgeting so much I thought you were going to fall off your chair! And if you stepped on Mrs. Sheringham's foot one more time she would have tipped her dinner plate into your lap!"

I rubbed my temples with the tips of my fingers. "I don't know what's wrong, Tommy. That man... unsettles me."

"Why do you keep calling him 'lord'? Everyone else addresses him as plain Mister."

I shrugged. "It seems as if that is how I should address him." I dug into a side pocket in the bag and pulled out the pearls. Tommy whistled through his teeth.

"Oh, I say!" This was the first time he had ever seen them. There were about a dozen, perfectly round, perfectly black, without a single blemish. Each the size of the first joint of a man's thumb. Smooth and cool to the touch, they rapidly warmed in my palm, imparting a sensual feel to them.

I coiled the rope in my hand and went back to the dining room, Tommy hard on my heels.

Heads spun to watch avidly as I crossed the rug and let the pearls dangle from my grip. There was a concerted gasp.

"Ah. Yes." Ardeth Bey's eyes gleamed malevolently. "If these are not the real thing, then they are an excellent reproduction! No, young sir, you hold onto this precious artifact, while I tell the tale of it."

I didn't want those opaque jewels in my possession, but it seemed I had no choice. I retreated to the far end of the room, and Ardeth Bey grinned to see me try to distance myself from him once again.

"In the time of King Tutankhamun, so the legend has it," he began, "a very powerful high priest commissioned a little known jeweler to devise a masterpiece of erotic domination for him. Why would such an eminent man do this, and not go to the Pharaoh's own craftsman, you ask? Well, the jeweler selected to create the rope of pearls was a sorcerer. And the gems had a spell woven into them."

"A sorcerer? A spell? Oh I say, I had no idea this was going to be a kiddie story!" Mr. Sheringham huffed arrogantly and placed his cigar between his lips.

Ardeth Bey gave him a mocking smile and continued. "You will find this is not a story suitable for children, my dear sir. Now, if I may proceed?" He took a sip of his port. "The high priest had his eye on one of his young priests, and had in mind to give him the pearls... "

I found it hard to breathe. The room seemed to be pressing down on me, and the pearls in my hand grew warmer. I tried to drop the rope, but my fingers had closed tight around them, and refused to open.

* * *

"Teremun."

"Yes, Lord Imhotep?"

"I have a gift for you, my beautiful young prince!"

I approached him warily, for I had learned to my cost that his gifts could conceal snares. He held out a string of wondrous black pearls, each carefully matched and flawless.

"Oh! This is beautiful, Lord! What have I done to merit such a gift?"

"It's not what you have done, but what you shall do! Come with me, princeling!" He led me to my chamber, and my heart sank. The gift was to be a bribe. Or a temptation. "The ointment, Teremun!"

I took the jar of the odorless unguent from a shelf and handed it to him without a word, turning to remove my loincloth and climb on my sleeping platform, presenting my hindquarters to him.

"Ah, it pleases me to see how well you remember your lessons, my beautiful prince."

He parted my nether cheeks and began stroking the ointment over my anus, dipping in a little more with each stroke. I was growing hard, for in spite of myself, I craved what he did to me.

Now he had two fingers in my channel, and he was applying more lotion than he normally did. "Bend your head lower, princeling, that I may better enjoy what is mine."

I obeyed him, and felt something being pressed past the tight ring of muscle that guarded my opening. Another object followed the first, and then another, and another, until I counted a dozen.

"Squeeze your inner muscles," he ordered, and I did as he bid. I trembled. The feeling was... unusual. Not quite uncomfortable, not quite pleasurable.

He smiled at my frightened glance. "Now, Teremun, kneel facing me." He stroked my hair, to signify his approval of my actions. My eyes widened as he squatted down before me.

His mouth was level with my shaft, and he leaned forward and licked at the tip. I shivered at the sensation, my breath coming rapidly. I had to balance my weight on his shoulders, and I dared to caress the skin beneath my fingers. And then his mouth engulfed me and he swallowed me down to the root.

More and more swiftly, he moved up and down, his mouth working my prick. The feeling of the objects in my passage, and my shaft in his mouth drove me wild. I bucked forward, and with a whimper began to spill myself down his throat. At the same time, I felt his hand behind me, and then I let out a shriek as he swiftly pulled the dozen pearls from my channel, causing me to swoon from the violence of my orgasm.

When I regained my senses, he had me kneeling at his feet, forcing me to look up at his face. His smile was evil. "If you want to feel that ever again, you will obey me in all I say. Do you understand, little prince?"

Helplessly I nodded, shivering, already wanting that intense sensation again. Now we both knew I belonged to him not only in body, but also in soul.

* * *

"Roddy! Roddy! What's wrong?" Tommy was lightly tapping my cheek.

"I belong to him," I murmured, so softly only Tommy and the Egyptian could hear me.

"I fear the tale was a bit much for the young sir." That loathsome voice, gloating! "I must leave. Tell him, when he is feeling more the thing, that he may return the pearls to me at my residence. Any time tomorrow will be soon enough."

There was a moment of babel as Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Carter offered profuse apologies to their host. The other guests curled their lips at my reaction to what was after all, only a naughty story.

Tommy's face was flushed, and I could see the bulge in his trousers. The Egyptian had made his tale exceptionally arousing. My lover helped me to my feet, his hand sliding unseen over my buttocks, then adjusted his trousers and cleared his throat. "Gentlemen, shall we join the ladies?"

* * *

The men were so distracted that conversation constantly petered out. The ladies grew weary of trying to make small talk, and finally, shortly after the tea tray was brought in, the evening came to a close. The husbands exchanged winks, placed their hands at the small of their wives' backs and hurried them along.

Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Carter looked resigned. Neighborhood gossip had it that the Egyptian's household consisted solely of men, and the only method of relief that would be available to the two Englishmen would be what came to hand.

Lady Genie waved them off, gratefully. "Well, that was a less than satisfactory dinner party, I must say. And how peculiarly the gentlemen were acting."

"Oh, Bey imparted a story that intrigued them, and I imagine they wanted to share it with their wives," Tommy grinned.

"Will you share it with me, my dear?" She stroked her son's cheek, and turned to climb the stairs to the second floor.

Tommy choked on his laughter. "I think not, Mother!"

She pouted, then spoiled the effect by grinning saucily. "And where are you two off to?" Her brow was arched at the sight of her son urging me on ahead of him.

"Forgive me, Lady Eugenia. I'm a trifle weary; I think I'll make an early night of it," I offered lamely.

"And I think I'll just make sure he's all right, Mother."

"Naughty one! Don't think you're fooling me! I know full well what you're intending!" Her voice lowered. "I just don't understand the urgency tonight." She sighed and retired behind her bedroom door.

* * *

"Are you all right, Roddy?" Tommy asked as he leaned against our door. Our dinner jackets had already come off. "Your eyes look ... tired." He glanced at the rope of pearls, which I had placed on the night table.

"No," I stated flatly as I stripped the blankets off our bed, leaving them puddled on the floor. "Forget the pearls. Get undressed, Tommy," I ordered, quickly undoing the studs that fastened my shirtfront and stripping it off. My hands dropped to my trousers and undid them, and I stood there naked before my lover, whose mouth was agape at my uncharacteristic aggressiveness. "You have too many clothes on, sweetheart!"

He started to get out of his evening togs, but events weren't moving fast enough to suit me. While he shed his clothes, I found the jar of lotion that we used and scooped out enough to coat my finger. Turning my back, I leaned against the bed and began preparing myself.

Already hard and leaking precome, it was just a matter of seconds before I was able to work three fingers into my passage. Resting my weight on the bed and spreading my legs wide, I loosened and relaxed myself for my lover's possession.

"Tommy. Fuck me now!"

He had been enthralled by my actions, and he was still half-dressed, his hands hovering at the waistband of his trousers. They gaped open, and he pushed them down over his hips. Pausing only to cover his shaft with the lubricant, he parted my buttocks and drove into me with one smooth motion.

I gasped at the invasion, and braced myself. I wanted him to pummel me. I needed him to pummel me. He met my erratic thrusts, gripping my hips to steady me. I groaned and whined, biting the sheets to mute the sounds I made. Sweat beaded down from my temples, and my back became slick with it. The hair under my arms grew damp, and Tommy raked his nails through the tangles, making me shudder from the sensation.

His fingertips stroked over my nipples, which tightened and seemed to beg for more attention.

Tommy fucked me, and I burned for him. But I couldn't come. He poured himself into me, and when he realized that I hadn't climaxed, he reached for me.

But nothing he did could bring me to orgasm.

Lying sprawled on the bed, trying to catch his breath, he panted, "Sorry... rosebud. Give me... half a mo... Promise I'll... make you come... love... "

He didn't even realize what he had called me.

I shivered at the need that still rode me, and my eyes kept wandering to the object on the night table. Tommy saw. And remembered the tale the Egyptian had told.

He sat up and brushed my sweat streaked hair out of my eyes, then leaned close to kiss me, so gently I could have wept. His arms were tight around me. "What can I do to help you come, love?"

After my flat out refusal to allow Tommy to reenact the tale of the young prince and the high priest, he was surprised when I handed them to him and went onto my hands and knees. "Please, Tommy!" I begged hoarsely. "Put them into me!"

With soft, soothing kisses, he tried to calm me. I was still slick from his possession, and they slid easily past my guardian ring. I gasped and quivered at the feeling of fullness that was almost overwhelming. Tommy left the last few pearls nestled against my balls, and each movement had them caressing the tender skin, driving me mad.

I turned and reached for the lotion, coating my fingers to prepare my lover for my invasion. He lay on his back, his legs pulled tight to his chest, his hole exposed, watching as one by one my fingers entered to loosen him.

A whimper had me jerking my eyes up from the banquet that was spread so temptingly before me. There was a grimace on my lover's face, and I was afraid I had hurt him. And then he breathed out, and groaned, "Again, Roddy! Hit that spot again!"

I tried to smile, but I was in real pain at this point. Carefully, I removed my fingers and replaced them with the blunt head of my prick, which was a furious red by this time. He pulled his legs further back and breathed as I breached his opening and slid into him with one stroke.

I leaned forward, balancing my weight on my hands, and pulled back. He made a sound of protest that turned into a hum of pleasure as I thrust even deeper this time. I found the rhythm that I knew would ultimately bring me to orgasm, and I rocked confidently into him.

Tommy's prick was soft beneath me, and he stroked the curve of my jaw. "This one is for you, Roddy," he whispered, and I stopped moving. "What is it, beloved?"

I was not so foolish as to think that words spoken in the heat of passion would mean anything in the light of day, but that single word buried itself deep in my heart. I got my arms around him and brought him up onto my thighs, his weight causing him to impale himself on the hard flesh within his passage.

Frenzied kisses covered my shoulders and throat as I fitted my hands under his buttocks and helped him raise and lower himself. My fingers dug into the firm muscles and I watched the play of emotion over his face.

He leaned back to caress my cheek, his beautiful tourmaline eye fastened to mine, and for the first time, I saw fear in it. "Tommy, what's wrong?"

"Your eyes, Roddy! Your eyes are black!"

That was absurd! My eyes were blue.

But I was too close to the edge to do anything but gasp out my need. "Tommy! Oh, sweet god in heaven, Tommy!"

His arms enclosed me, and one hand swept down, probing the crevice between my buttocks. And he found the pearls that had been brushing across my balls with tentative, maddening touches.

He clamped down on his inner muscles, pulled the pearls out of me, and triggered the most intense orgasm I had ever had.

So intense that I passed out.

* * *

I awoke with a start, sure I had heard my name being called. I rolled over to embrace my lover, but found myself alone in the big bed. I climbed out of bed and staggered into the bathroom, where I cleaned the residue of passion from my pleasantly aching body.

It was when I returned to the bed that I realized Tommy must have been gone for some time; the sheets were cool. Moonlight filtered in through the sheer curtains, and fell on the clock on the wall, revealing the time to be a little past three. Suddenly I felt hollow.

What had I been dreaming of when that phantom call had awakened me? Tommy, taking those pearls to return them to a man I obviously feared, or at the very least of whom I was wary?

I grabbed the first items of clothing I came across, the dress clothes that had been flung aside in the heat of passion, and scrambled into them, then ran down to the room where Tommy kept his pistols and rifles. There I found that a dueling piece was missing. My insides turned to water and I bit back a moan of panic.

I slid the mate of the dueling pistol into a pocket. Tommy also had a slim bladed knife that folded in on itself, and sprang out when pressure was applied to the hilt. That went into my boot.

My mouth was dry as I let myself out of the stately manor house and went in search of my lover, for I knew, as surely as I knew my name was Teremun, that he was in desperate danger.

I froze. What was I thinking? My name was Roddy Sayer!

The horses were awake when I opened the stable door. The occasional swish of a tail, or stamp of a hoof, signaled its occupancy. Hubini had recognized my step, and was waiting for me when I approached her stall, her ears pointing alertly toward me. I led her out into the night. Behind us, George gave a muffled whinny, letting me know of his displeasure with having his mate removed.

I went back and spoke to him gently, stroking his dish-face, and he settled down. That was when I noticed that Anubis was gone, and I whimpered in distress.

Hubini was standing patiently as I raced out of the stable, swung up onto her bare back and kicked her into a flat-out gallop.

Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Carter had both spoken of the guards that Ardeth Bey had on his property, and I was uncertain of how I would elude them. This was not exactly the correct hour of the day to be paying a morning call.

In the end, it proved unnecessary.

They saw me cantering up to the gates, and allowed me to enter, unchallenged.

* * *

The guards said nothing, but took me to the Abbey. I slid from my mare's back and with a slap to her flank, let her return home. The massive front door was opened by another who served Ardeth Bey, and I was ushered into a huge hall that reminded me of Tourneur's Revenger's Tragedy: Hell would look like a lord's great kitchen without fire in't. I looked around, barely taking note of its sparse furnishings.

Two of the Egyptian's followers came silently up behind me and stood on either side, prepared to take action only if I should become violent. There was something vaguely familiar about them.

They shoved me toward a wall, and I thought my nose was going to be put out of joint. Then one of them pressed a sconce and twisted it slightly. The panel before me slid open, revealing a steep, narrow winding passage leading down. Torches were placed every few yards, and shadows grew to gigantic proportions, only to shrink to nothing as we would pass.

The walls had a slimy feel to them, and I touched them as little as possible. The air became redolent of damp, and I tried to breathe shallowly.

Finally we reached the bottom of the staircase, and entered into a large amphitheater, which had been turned into a replica of the temple of Anubis. A huge, black statue of the jackal-headed god stood to one side, while in the center of the room was a stone altar.

Around the perimeter of the walls were cells for the monks who once dwelled within Talbot Abbey's walls. The Egyptian's guards kept herding me toward one in particular, and reluctantly I let them crowd me forward. Until I could discover my lover's whereabouts, I was not about to give them any reason to either tie me up or knock me unconscious.

A short, compactly built follower, dressed in flowing black robes, opened the door. His eyes glittered maniacally, and his bald skull glinted in the fitful light of the torches. "So. You are the one our master has been waiting for." His eyes raked over my frame, and then his lip curled. "A pretty enough boy, but there are many such here. Obey the high priest, or it will be my pleasure to give you to his guards!"

I took a single step toward him before I was stopped. "Get stuffed!" I snarled at him. "Where's Fortescue-Smythe? Bring him to me and I'll be more than happy to obey this high priest, whoever he might be."

He gathered himself in, affronted, before he turned and gestured for me to enter the cell. When I didn't move fast enough, a hard hand to the back had me stumbling forward. The door clanged shut behind me, leaving me in darkness, but not before I saw that I was not alone. A body was sprawled face down on the floor, the white-blond hair matted with blood.

I could hear the key being turned in the lock, but it was as if it was occurring in another lifetime.

Before me was the body of the man I loved. All I could think was that I had found Tommy, but that it was too late.

A small amount of light filtered through the tiny grilled window in the door. His body just beyond that pool of illumination was motionless in the shadow. Pain ripped through me, a living, breathing entity, so powerful it forced me to my knees.

It didn't matter now what the Egyptian had planned for me. I crawled to where my lover's body lay and cradled him in my arms, rocking the lifeless form. Tears slid down my cheeks and dropped onto his face.

"Here, now, love, don't drown me!"

I dropped him and scooted backwards on my bum. "Alive? You're alive?"

I could just make him out now that my eyes were becoming accustomed to the dimness of the cell. He got up on an elbow and gingerly touched a hand to his head, wincing as he came across the laceration that had caused his scalp to bleed.

"Yes, it looks like I am, rosebud."

"You bleeding get! You miserable, sodding, bent bastard! You - " Before I could continue castigating him, he was beside me, hauling me into his arms and kissing me into silence.

My hands closed on the material of his shirt and I held on, shudders racking my body. "I'm sorry, Roddy. I'm so sorry! Don't carry on so, love."

"I thought you were dead! I thought... "

"Shhh." His mouth came down on mine again, soft, teasing kisses meant to distract me.

Finally my head dropped to his shoulder, and I tightened my arms around his ribs. He flinched and hissed with pain. "Tommy, what's wrong?"

"Your Egyptian gentleman was not happy with me. He had his guards give me a going over." My fingers traced the lines of his ribs, and he tried to bite back a groan.

"Which was nothing more than you deserved for doing such an idiotic thing!" The fear of having lost him swept back over me, but I was still curious as to what he was doing at Talbot Abbey. "Why did you decide to meet with Ardeth Bey alone?"

"I didn't want you to face that bastard. I saw how disturbed you were by him."

"So instead you went to face him, leaving me to wake up to an empty bed? Do you know how much that disturbed me? No, just listen to me a second!" I growled when my lover would have interrupted me. "There are forces in effect here of which you know nothing!"

He rubbed his palm against the stubble that covered my chin, trying to calm me. "Now you're starting to sound just like Mrs. Shelley, rosebud!"

"Tommy... " I decided that conversation was fruitless. "Why'd he have you pummeled? I'm assuming you brought him the pearls, since they weren't by the bed when I woke up."

"Oh, yes. The pearls."

"Tommy!"

"Bey really believes they have supernatural powers, love. He took great delight in telling me what he planned to do with them."

I sighed. "Let me guess. It had to do with him putting them in my arse."

"That doesn't bother you?"

"Tommy, I'll kill myself before I let him touch me again."

"What do you mean, 'touch me again'? That bugger had his prick up your arse?"

I rubbed my forehead. "No, of course not. I... I don't know why I said that. I met him for the first time last evening." I leaned into my lover's embrace. "Never mind. What did you do to cross him?"

I could just make out the scowl that darkened Tommy's face. "The bastard told me he was going to use those pearls to subjugate you again, and then sacrifice you to his god. I told him Allah doesn't accept human sacrifices, and he laughed and said he did not worship such a young god."

"Anubis. He's a high priest of Anubis."

Tommy's blond eyebrow disappeared into the fringe that covered his forehead. "If you say so, love."

"And he has the pearls now?" I felt sick. Since entering Talbot Abbey, more and more of the young prince's memories were coming back to me, and I was only too aware of what those pearls would make me, if the Egyptian forced me to take them once again into my body.

"No."

"Beg pardon?"

His single eye looked at me with innocence. "Well, you see, old chap, there was a bit of an accident."

I regarded him suspiciously. "I think you're enjoying the telling of this entirely too much, Tommy!"

He shrugged. "Do you want to hear what happened, or not?" I nodded. "Very well. He demanded that I give him the pearls, and of course, being an honourable subject of His Majesty, the King, I had to return the property in question. He took great pleasure in informing me of that. But somehow, when I stepped forward to give them to him, they slipped from my fingers to the floor. And I'm afraid I'm such a clumsy oaf. I stepped on them."

"Tommy... "

He dropped his languid Englishman pose. "Ground the bloody things to powder!" he said fiercely. "It was worth the beating, if only to see the bastard start foaming at the mouth and tearing his hair."

"Oh, sweetheart, you didn't have to do that!" The cords of uncertainty that had been wound around my heart loosened and I hugged him again. "They've really been destroyed? Thank you!"

"Um, there's just one thing about those pearls, rosebud. He claimed there really was a spell woven into their creation."

"I know. Whoever has them inserted into his body belongs to the one who puts them in. Oh. You needn't worry about that, Tommy. I know that's just superstition. You can tell me to leave whenever you want to, and I'll be gone!" It killed me to say those words. But if he believed in the legend, he'd never believe that I had fallen in love with him long before last night.

"Well, I had rather... that is... I rather... Oh, bugger it! I liked the idea of having you as my own personal love slave. And I don't want you to leave!" His arm settled around my shoulder and he pulled me into his embrace, groaning as I leaned into a tender spot.

"How romantic!" a voice sneered from the other side of the door, and we broke apart. "And how typically English! Remove them!"

A key sounded in the lock and the door swung open. Half a dozen of the Egyptian's guards rushed in and hauled us to our feet, dragging us out into the center of the temple. At a gesture from him, his men sliced the clothing from Tommy's body and dragged him to the altar, where he was bound, face down.

Ardeth Bey strolled casually around me. "You are even more desirable than I remembered, Teremun." He paused, examining me thoroughly, then reached down to cup my shaft and balls.

I jerked away from him, stunned that he would lay hands on me. I backed further away, but his followers prevented me from going far. He seemed not to notice. He walked to where Tommy was straddling the altar, and fondled the crevice between his buttocks, probing his opening. A frown marred his beautiful, cruel face. "I see this one enjoys the pleasures of lying with a man!"

My lover snarled his defiance and I struggled with the guards to get to him, but they held me fast. "You have no quarrel with the Englishman, Ardeth Bey! Free him. I will do whatever you wish!"

"Oh, you will do what I wish, Teremun! But the Englishman destroyed the pearls of Anubis, and for that he must pay! Perhaps I will give him to my guards when I am done with him. If he survives!"

"What do you plan for him, Lord Bey?" I asked uneasily.

He gestured toward the statue of Anubis, and suddenly I could see the enormous phallus that jutted out from between its massive thighs. It was slick and shiny, and I felt saliva pool in my mouth at the knowledge of the damage it would do to Tommy.

"The dark god needs a sacrifice, and your Englishman will provide a satisfactory one. Not as much as a virgin, perhaps, but time is of the essence, and I find I cannot be too particular. My priests will see that Anubis drives his member deep into Captain Fortescue-Smythe."

"That...that will kill him!"

The Egyptian waved the results aside as immaterial. "He will die. Whether on the phallus of the god, or on the pricks of my guards remains to be seen."

I tried to swallow a sound of distress, but was unsuccessful. Ardeth Bey smiled and strolled back to where his men were forcing me to watch helplessly. At his signal, his priests cut my clothes from me, and I stood naked before him, staring into the dark eyes that burned with malice. His men faded to the corners of the room, eagerly anticipating what was about to take place.

"Originally, you were going to be the sacrifice, my beautiful prince. You nearly died in the desert, did you know that, Teremun? I could not allow that. Had I not forced you to breathe the god's semen, you would have suffered the fate so many of those stupid, greedy men who disturbed the boy king's tomb are going to meet."

"My name is..." My voice faded and I paled as I vividly recalled that time in the desert; Charlie dead and I struggling frantically for each breath, positive I was going to die, and what I had thought was a dream of bitter fluid pouring down my throat and flooding my lungs.

"Teremun." He stalked toward me, stopping only when we were toe to toe. "Ah. I see the veil of the untold centuries lingers still to cloud your mind. Perhaps this will sunder it!" With that, he wrapped his hand around the back of my neck and pulled my face toward him. In dismay, I watched as his lips drew closer, and then his mouth was savaging mine.

Tommy growled in fury and fought his bonds to no avail.

The Egyptian's thumb pressed hard on the hinge of my jaw, forcing my lips to part, and he thrust his tongue into my mouth. The veil was indeed sundered, and my mind was filled with all the young prince's memories. Imhotep's eyes bored into mine, glittering in triumph, and he awaited my submission.

I sighed voluptuously and made my glance sultry. "Lord Imhotep. It has been so long. I have missed you." I glanced toward Tommy. "What need have we of him now?" I flicked my tongue over my lips to moisten them, and slid my palms over his chest and around his neck, pulling his face to mine. "Let him go free. Dismiss your minions." I rubbed my body along his, somewhat surprised that he wasn't reacting to my blatant attempt at seduction. "He is nothing. Take me to your bed, Lord!"

"Ah, I see you have remembered! I have waited these wide centuries to possess you once more, Teremun. Although, thanks to your brother, it cannot be the same! For this, I shall have to make you pay!" He stepped back and parted his kilt, and I saw the gaping wound at the juncture of his thighs, where his shaft should have been.

I shuddered and looked at him with horror, remembering the orders of my brother, the king: "Your shaft will be severed from your conscious body and thrust into your throat. You will be bound in strips of linen and buried alive..."

He stuck me across the face. "You will not look at me that way, Prince! I am still the high priest of Anubis. I would have ruled Egypt through you. But I have had the slowly passing eons to devise an even more satisfying plan, and now I shall rule the entire Earth! With your invaluable assistance!"

"How can that be, Lord? I was once a prince, that is true, but in this life I am merely the brother of a humble missionary!"

He leaned close to me and whispered obscenely in my ear. "I will sacrifice your lover to Anubis!" he gloated. "And then, since I no longer have the ability to enjoy your body, I will sacrifice you. Our dark god will give me all I desire, and more. He will sate himself on your succulent flesh, as I often did!"

His laugh was crazed as he reached for me and ground his mouth down onto mine, forcing his tongue into my mouth. Filled with uncontrolled fury, I snapped my jaws shut, and the copper taste of blood filled my mouth. Imhotep had somehow sensed my intentions, and managed to withdraw his tongue, but not quite in time. He howled in rage.

I backed away from him and watched in horror as his priests wheeled forth the stone statue and angled the huge phallus to pierce my lover.

With a wild cry, I threw myself onto the altar, covering my lover's body with my own.

The priests had Tommy's legs spread wide and his buttocks parted, in preparation for his impalement. But it was I who slid into him. He grunted as my weight knocked the breath from his body.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," I whispered. I bit down on my lip and squeezed my eyes tight shut.

But when the phallus touched my anus, there was no pain. It glided smoothly into my nether regions, stretching me, plumbing my depths, and bringing me such great pleasure, that I couldn't help but raise my bum to give it better access to my hot passage.

It felt as if cool hands gripped my hips, and the thrusts of the god's phallus seemed smoother, almost as if a living being was taking what I so willingly offered. I wriggled on the shaft that buried itself within me.

The god fucked me, and I fucked Tommy.

Imhotep's underlings released my lover, reeling back with cries of shock and terror as the living god accepted the sacrifice.

Tommy was moaning steadily under me. "I'm sorry, Tommy," I murmured over and over again, while I nipped at his shoulder and then his ear.

And when the god's semen flooded my bowels, I bit down where his shoulder and neck joined and my hips jerked as I spilled myself into my lover.

Tommy gave a hoarse shout, and went limp beneath me.

Imhotep howled with fury when the statue withdrew one final time, the essence of life spewing from its massive phallus. His followers stared in numb horror, and I slipped out of Tommy and fell from the altar to my knees. The high priest bounded toward me, his fingers outstretched like the talons of a bird of prey.

I prostrated myself before the dark god and began praying in a tongue I hadn't spoken in three thousand years.

"Anubis, lord of the underworld, ever have I sought to follow thy commands. I ask you to spare not my life, but that of the man I love. In exchange I willingly surrender myself to your desires." I touched my forehead to his feet, and awaited my fate.

A crack of thunder shattered the eerie silence of the cavern. A fissure appeared in the ceiling, and huge chunks of rock began to rain down upon the followers of the ill-fated Imhotep. Gouts of flame flared up through the sundered ground beneath the temple, and shrieks and screams of pain echoed in the cavern.

I managed to get Tommy off the altar and dragged him into the shelter of the god's spread thighs, touching my cheek to the cool stone of the statue. All about us there was death and destruction.

Finally silence filled the ruined cavern once more, and I climbed out of my refuge. Around me were bodies charred by molten rock and bodies crushed when the roof of the temple collapsed.

The high priest came staggering out of the rubble, madness rife in his eyes. "I was promised!" he shouted. "I was promised!"

As he came toward me I backed away from him, until I could retreat no further. And then, above me, I sensed movement.

Imhotep's dark eyes widened in terror and he dropped to his knees, his arms outstretched in supplication. He screamed, a sound of torment, as a lightning bolt speared from above and behind me to slice his body in half.

I reached out to steady myself, and found my hand on the thigh of the god, as the severed halves of the high priest crumbled to dust.

Swaying on my feet, I managed to reach into my boot to withdraw the slim knife. Squeezing the sides together, the deadly point slid out and I sliced through the cords that bound my lover's arms.

I rose to my feet, putting out a hand to steady myself. I touched something cool and moist: the god's phallus.

I stroked it, looking up into the snouted face, then leaned toward it and ran my tongue across the tip, tasting the bitter fluid. Unable to help myself, I licked it clean, stroking it gently before prostrating myself before the god one final time.

* * *

Tommy and I helped each other up that narrow staircase and out into the mist of a rainy morning. The state of the weather seemed rather appropriate.

In the stable, we found Anubis, the blood bay gelding, irritably pacing a box stall. While I saddled him, Tommy went looking for something to cover our nakedness. Unfortunately, most of Ardeth Bey's followers seemed to have been much larger than either of us. The trousers had a tendency to slide off our hips, and the shirts would have comfortably covered us both at the same time.

We dressed sluggishly, the events of the last hours starting to catch up with us, and hoped there were no livestock inhabiting the clothing.

I stroked the gelding's neck and shoulder to calm him as my lover tried to mount. He was too stiff from the beating Ardeth Bey had his minions administer. And from my attempt to save him from being sacrificed, which resulted in him being fucked by me, while I was fucked by the god Anubis.

Fortunately, Tommy had been well-lubricated from when I had taken him earlier.

He leaned his head against Anubis' saddle, his hands resting on the pommel, the reins wrapped around them. "Roddy?" He sounded exhausted.

"It's all right, sweetheart." I took the reins from him and led the big bay to the mounting block. Then I went back to my lover. I got my shoulder under his arm and helped him to the block. This time he was able to climb laboriously onto the gelding's back. I swung up behind him, and he relaxed into my hold.

I tapped my heels against Anubis' sides and he set out at a decorous walk. Tommy shifted uncomfortably. "My arse is sore, Roddy."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart." I couldn't understand how in the midst of all that turmoil in the temple, I had developed an erection. All I had wanted to do was protect my lover, and I had wound up plundering his back passage, while I myself was being impaled on the phallus of the dark god. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to...I was just trying to...I'll leave as soon as we get back to the Manor."

"What? What are you taking about? You can't leave! I won't let you!"

"But...It's my fault. I hurt you, and I never meant to do that, sweetheart."

"Roddy, I didn't say I hurt; I said I was sore. A wholly different definition, don't you know, rosebud? I know what you were trying to do, and hurting me was not a part of it! What happened in the temple was...extremely unusual!" He could see I had trouble accepting his casual attitude toward what I had done to him, and he sighed. "Very well, love, if you're going to carry on so... will you just promise never to fuck me in front of a mob of crazed Egyptians, ever again?"

"Of course!" I was insulted that he even thought it necessary to make such a request. And then I realized he was teasing me. "Oh."

He leaned his head back and pressed a kiss that wound up at the corner of my mouth. "I forgive you, love." He gave a tired laugh. "Just don't let me hear anything more about you leaving me!"

"Very well, sweetheart." The tension that had tied my gut in knots eased, and I drew him deeper into my arms.

* * *

We were halfway back to Fortescue Manor when a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost came tearing up the road carrying Lady Genie, the men of her household hard behind her.

It seemed that Hubini had been found standing placidly outside George's stall when the grooms rose to start the day, and Anubis had been nowhere in sight. Lady Eugenia had been alerted that something was amiss. When neither Tommy nor I could be found, her mother's instincts went on the alert, and she dispatched her people and came out to search for us herself.

"Thomas!" Her lips parted in shock at her son's bruised face and blood-soaked hair. "Get him into the car, Roddy! I'll have Ware drive us directly to Dr. Cliffe's office."

"Don't fuss, Mother," Tommy said wearily. "I'm a bit battered, but I've been in worse shape. I just want to get home, all right?"

Tears drowned the cornflower blue of his mother's eyes, and she looked to me for guidance.

"He'll be fine," I murmured. "Hold tight, Tommy." I shifted my weight and carefully dismounted, taking care not to jostle him. I just barely stopped myself from grimacing at the protests my own muscles were giving. Mindful of the men surrounding us, I bit back the endearment I would have used. "All right, come to me now."

He freed his feet from the stirrups and looked down at me, his smile telling of his trust in my care. He closed his eyes and slid into my arms. The men helped me settle him in the roomy back seat of the luxurious vehicle.

"Merriott! Drive to Dr. Cliffe's and make sure he comes to the Manor as soon as may be!"

"Yes, m'lady." The young man hurried to his automobile, and drove into the mist that hovered over the road.

"Roddy, I want you in the back seat, keeping Thomas steady."

I would have protested, but the thought of being with Tommy in that enclosed space was too great a lure to resist. "Behave, Anubis!" I ordered sternly as I handed the reins to the groom. And then I didn't give him another thought as I got into the car and cradled my lover against my chest, trying to absorb the worst of the bumps the car drove over.

"He has to be all right, Lady Genie."

"Of course, Roddy. He wouldn't dare be anything else!"

"I'm not dead, Mother," Tommy groused. "You needn't speak as if I weren't here!"

"My precious boy! Of course you aren't dead! I'd kill you if you were, frightening me like this!"

He gave a sputter of laughter and cuddled into my embrace, closing his eye with a sigh.

Merriott must have broken all kinds of speed records, because by the time we pulled up in the drive, Dr. Cliffe was waiting for us. One encompassing glance told the physician most of what he needed to know. "I want him in his own bed. From the look in his eye, he may be concussed, and if you don't want him tossing up his accounts, you'll be careful how you carry him."

I carried Tommy up to his room and laid him down on the bed. Because of the upset to the household, none of the normal tasks had been completed, and the bed was still looking as if it had been a battlefield.

"Er, Tommy always was a restless sleeper, Dr. Cliffe," Lady Eugenia offered feebly.

The doctor cocked an eyebrow at her and simply said, "Hmmm." He curled his lip at the clothes Tommy wore. "Strip him out of those, if you please."

I removed the shirt and trousers and left them lying on the floor. My lips tightened over the sight of the livid marks that covered his ribs.

Carefully, the doctor ran his fingertips over Tommy's sides, and gave a relieved exhalation. "Nothing seems to be broken. Let me see to this scalp wound, now." He parted the tangled locks, peering intently at the injury, then straightened with a wry grin. "I always said Thomas was the hardest headed of your children, Eugenia. He'll have a bump, but he doesn't even need stitches this time."

The tears finally overflowed, and Lady Genie buried her face in her hands. "Thank you, Freddie. I was so worried!"

He smiled at her, and I wondered about their relationship. But then Doctor Cliffe was saying, "Thomas will just need to rest for a day or so. A hot tub should soak away most of his aches."

"I'll run one right away." As I hurried into the bathroom, I noticed the odd glance the doctor sent my way.

"Freddie, we must have taken you away from your breakfast. Let me get you some tea."

He gave me another look, and then followed Lady Genie out the door.

"All right, sweetheart, into the tub with you." With a groan, he let me help him into the bath. He eased down, and for the first time I saw his back. I began to swear.

Tommy listened in amazement at what came out of my mouth.

"Roddy! Oh, I say, love! I didn't even know you knew words like that!"

I wet a washcloth and carefully began to wash the blood from his hair. "I lived for over eight years with a man who was not only in the British army, but who ran a riverboat on the Ulanga from Limbasi to Kungdu. Of course my vocabulary expanded!" My hands were gentle, but I had to struggle to keep them that way. "My poor Tommy. For what he had his men do to you, he should have died harder!" I said softly.

"Ardeth Bey? Well, he was not pleased with me, if you'll recall, love. How did he die, anyway?

"With his plans turned to ash. Kneel up for me, sweetheart, and let me ease your... uh..." I stroked the washcloth between his buttocks.

Tommy leaned against the foot of the tub, and looked at me over his shoulder. "At least you spared me the embarrassment of getting my arse fucked by a statue! Mmm," he hummed. "I could think of another way for you to ease my... uh... "

"No, that's the last thing you need right now." I moved the soapy cloth away from that tempting area and to his hips, where I saw the deep purple prints my fingers had left. I winced.

"I'm getting you all wet, love." Tommy leaned tiredly against the rim of the tub.

"Doesn't matter. I intend to have these clothes burned, and the ones you were wearing as well." I assisted him out of the tub and wrapped him in a fluffy towel. "Bed now, love, and I'll see if cook has anything tasty for when you wake up."

The bed had been straightened while we were in the bathroom, and I saw him settled into it before I stripped out of the Egyptian's guards' clothing.

"Roddy? Don't you think you need to rest also?" His eyes were already growing heavy.

"In a bit, sweetheart." I pulled on a pair of my own trousers.

He rolled onto his side and I brought the covers up over his shoulder. "Love you, y'know, Roddy."

I froze, but his breathing had evened out into sleep. I lifted that soft, white blond hair off his neck and pressed a gentle, open-mouthed kiss to the sensitive skin. "I love you too, Tommy."

Lady Genie was just coming up the stairs when I stepped out of our bedroom, closing the door behind me, the used clothing in my arms. She raised an eyebrow.

"He's sleeping."

"And why aren't you, may I ask?"

"I need to speak with the doctor. I think Tommy's head wound is worse than we thought."

She paled. "What's happened?"

I ran a distracted hand through my hair. "He said he loves me!"

"Dear boy, is that all? Of course he loves you! I've known that since he first brought you here!"

"Beg pardon?" How could she have known such a thing?

"Ah, Roddy, you made quite an impression on my son when he first met you. And when he returned to complete his recuperation after he lost his eye, all he spoke about was the lad who had sunk the Louisa."

I could feel the heat rise in my cheeks. "Charlie Allnutt did that, m'lady. I just went along for the ride."

She patted my cheek. "Of course. And then, after that silly twit with whom I tried to pair Thomas proved to be such a disappointment, he asked me not to try my hand at matchmaking anymore, because he rather fancied he had left his heart in Africa. At first I feared it was with that poor sergeant of his."

"Well...well, he did care for Archie Cutter quite a bit, Lady G."

"Yes, he did. But I believe he cares for you even more. Now, why don't you give me those horrid clothes and get some rest. Cook has promised all Thomas' favorite foods, and if there's anything in particular you would like, dear boy?"

I was totally dazed. "Oh, no, thank you very much. I'll just... I think I'll take a nap."

She beamed at me and went back down the stairs.

And I went back into the bedroom and climbed into bed with my lover. I didn't need to sleep, however. I would just lie there next to him breathing in his scent, and marvel at my great good fortune at finding two wonderful men to love. I wasn't going to fall asleep at all...

* * *

"Teremun."

"Yes, Lord Anubis?" I turned to face the dark god of the underworld.

"I granted your request: the life of the man you love. And in exchange you will willingly surrender to my desires?"

I bowed my head toward him. "Yes, my lord."

He tipped my chin up to meet his onyx gaze. "You will take me into your body?"

In response, my hands went to my loincloth and I unfastened it, letting it drop to the cool stone floor of the temple of Anubis. "Whatever is your wish, my lord."

Long-clawed fingers rested on my arm and stopped me, as I was about to turn and prostrate myself for him.

"Teremun." My hair was stroked back from my face. "Because you are willing to bend to my will, and because of all that you suffered at the hands of my high priest, I release you from your pledge. In recompense for the acts committed upon you by Imhotep, I grant you a lifetime of happiness to make up for a lifetime of misery. And this will seem nothing more than a dream."

Lips pressed to my forehead.

* * *

"Roddy." I snuggled up to the warm body that was lying in my arms. My leg was thrust between his, and my hand rhythmically stroked his torso, periodically drifting down to caress the hardness of his shaft. "Wake up, love."

Blinking slowly, I looked up into the eye of my lover, and smiled. "Hi, sweetheart."

I rolled onto my back and reached my arms high over my head, stretching the kinks out of my complaining muscles.

Tommy flowed over me, lying full length on my body, his shaft nudging mine impudently. He peppered my chin and jaw with kisses. "Did you mean it?" Warm lips found the spot just to the side of my Adam's apple that he had discovered turned my legs to jelly, and my prick thought that perhaps it was time to rise.

"Mean what, sweetheart?" Still not quite awake, I arched my neck, giving my lover better access to that spot, and I uttered a drawn-out sigh.

"Do you love me, Roddy? Do you?"

I snapped out of the haze of pleasure in which I had been lost. "Beg pardon?"

"You said you...No, I guess I must have imagined it; I was almost asleep. I guess you couldn't love someone as scarred and ..."

"You're angling for compliments, aren't you, Tommy? You know damned well that you're one of the handsomest men in the county!"

"But it isn't enough, is it?" His tone was deliberately melancholy. "You can't love me."

"Well, why not? You're a respected former soldier. You're a good man. And you're one of the best lovers I've ever had."

"Roddy, I'm only the second lover you've ever had."

I waved that aside. "That isn't important. What is important is that you are eminently lovable!"

He undulated his hips and my lips parted on an indrawn breath. "So, Roddy, are you saying that you love me?" His hands worked their way under my hips and he jerked them up toward him, letting his shaft glide toward my exposed opening.

I groaned. "What do you want from me, Thomas Smythe? You've already got my body!"

"I'm a greedy get, rosebud. I want more than that." His fingers were slick as they made their way into my back passage.

I shivered. "Tommy, whatever I have is yours, don't you know that?"

He nipped at my collarbone while his hands positioned his prick and he just let me feel him pressing lightly against my opening. "Even your heart?"

I couldn't catch my breath. "Tommy!"

"I'm talking forever, here, Roddy, till death do us part! I'll fuck you, love, but you're going to have to tell me you love me!"

He was just inside me now, holding himself completely still. I tried to buck up onto him, to take more of him into me, but his grip on my hips kept me motionless.

"Yes, all right, yes," I moaned. "I love you, you irritating, domineering ex-soldier!" I was almost weeping with need. "How could I not? You're handsome, and gallant, and you risked not only your life for me, but also your bodily integrity! So shut up, fuck me hard, and fuck me now!"

And he did.

* * *

It was a nine-day wonder, the catastrophe at Talbot Abbey. Of course there was an inquiry. It had collapsed in on itself and an untold number of men had been killed. Faulty workmanship was blamed, but the locals considered it part and parcel of the curse that was becoming known to be plaguing those who excavated the boy king's tomb.

That Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter were uninjured was regarded by those not in the know as nothing short of miraculous. In reality, they had been unable to deal with the lack of female companionship that night, and so had made an unpremeditated trip to a certain house in Tunbridge Wells.

Surprisingly, the Bureau of Egyptian Antiquities had no knowledge of anyone calling himself Ardeth Bey.

No one ever discovered the part we played in the destruction of the man who used that name. And even Lady Genie had no idea of how closely we had come to death.

Tommy, who now and again did some undercover work for the government, was requested to return to Egypt to soothe ruffled feathers, and he decided it might be an excellent place for us to honeymoon.

And while we were in Africa, he wanted to revisit the Lake where we had first met.

* * *

So, here I sat at the bar in the hotel The Duke of York, in a seedier side of Nairobi, drawing a lungful of smoke from the cigarette that dangled from my mouth, and reaching for my beer.

I looked down at the gold band on the ring finger of my left hand. I slid the ring up and down my finger, finally taking it off and placing it on the bar in front of me. I sipped at my beer, contemplating the future.

Tucked under my shirt was a chain of fine silver links, fastened with a tiny silver padlock. A similar lock was on the identical chain that Tommy wore. On each chain was the key that opened the other's lock, and heart as well.

He never pressured me to stop wearing Charlie's ring, but there was only so much time a man could spend living in the past.

I reached for the ring, to put it in my pocket.

A hand closed over it.

Bristling, I whirled to face whoever had dared to touch my ring.

White-blond hair, a single tourmaline eye, and an eye-patch that intrigued men and women alike. "You don't want to lose this, love," he said quietly. "Come on, we need to get back to our hotel."

"Tommy!" I smiled and rose. "I was just going to put it away in my pocket."

His breath snagged. "You're not going to wear it any more?"

"No. I loved Charlie. He was a good man, the best. But he's gone."

"And me, Roddy?"

I smiled at him. "Ah, Tommy. I'll love you till the day I die!"

A deep sigh whispered past his lips, and he smiled at me. If we hadn't been in such a public place, I would have kissed him.

"Ready to go back to our hotel, love?"

I nodded and we strolled out into the late afternoon sun. I had said my goodbyes to the past I had shared with my first love, and was ready to look to the future with my last love. Somehow I knew that I would spend the rest of my life with Tommy Smythe.