Every Last Kiss

25 Apr

 

Is it possible to be in love with a cover?  Because I’m in love with mine.  Maybe because it is my first cover on my first published book, but mainly, I think, because it is gorgeous and exactly what I wanted.  The amazingly talented Christel Michiels from Darkria Design created it.  **Love**  And I should also mention that Christel is very, very patient.

So, Every Last Kiss came out a few days ago in e-book format on Amazon.  SO EXCITING!  I had to have champagne to celebrate (which came with the appropriate headache the next morning, but that’s neither here nor there).   I’m excited for May 15, too… which is when the print version will be released.  Woo-hoo! 

I also recieved my very first review.  You can read it here.   Because I’m so excited about all of this… I thought I would post an excerpt from Every Last Kiss today.  Just a little peek into the book.  I hope you enjoy it and that it makes you want to snatch the book up and finish reading it!   🙂     Happy Monday, everyone!

PROLOGUE

  Alexandria, Egypt

  The Mausoleum of Queen Cleopatra and Marc Antony

30 BC

 

“Charmian! Is there any sign of her?”    

I hurriedly rushed back from the outer room of the mausoleum, looking nervously over my shoulder as my bare feet padded lightly on the cool stone floor.

 “No, my queen.  Only the guards.”

Queen Cleopatra nodded solemnly, her golden armbands glistening in the lamplight. She rose from her perch on a jeweled chaise lounge and gazed sadly at the golden sarcophagus that glittered mutely in front of her.  Ornate and beautiful, it held the remains of her husband.  Lovingly, she slid her hands along the golden shell that would protect him for eternity. 

From the open windows of the outer chambers, the tangy sea breeze blew softly into the inner rooms and I found myself wishing that it could carry me away, somewhere far from here.  I fingered the birthmark on my wrist.  It was not throbbing, not even an ache, and I knew that I would not be leaving this crypt.

A sudden, soft knock on the doors echoed in the quiet room, causing both of us to whip around.  Tension immediately formed in my neck.  This was it.  It had to be.  Cleopatra squared her shoulders, then bent to brush a soft kiss on the golden mask covering Marc Antony’s face.

“Forgive me, my love,” she murmured.

There was another low knock and I felt my shoulders ripple with the stress that they carried as Cleopatra reached out to grasp my hand.

“Iras, love… could you answer that?” Cleopatra whispered.  She squeezed my hand tightly, but I barely noticed.  

Cleopatra’s other handmaiden nodded obediently and slipped silently from the room to answer the door.  She returned a scant moment later with a tiny shriveled woman who looked not a day younger than 200 years old.  The glinting eyes that stared from under her brown hood were ageless, full of wisdom and I felt my heart begin to race.  It was time.  There was no doubt.

 Cleopatra squared her shoulders, her face a perfect regal mask as she walked purposely toward the old woman. 

  “Do you have it?”

  “Yes, your highness,” the old woman rasped throatily. 

She held out a woven reed basket.  I wouldn’t have thought it was big enough to conceal anything and apparently the Roman guards hadn’t either.  Nowadays, they checked everything that came in for the queen. 

  I rushed to Cleopatra’s side and we peered into the interior of the basket together.  It was full of plump figs and I inhaled their sweet, heavy scent.  My eyes raised questioningly to the old healer. 

 She nodded at my unspoken question.  “It is hidden under the figs.”’

 “How long will it take?” Cleopatra whispered, her voice not reflecting even a bit of the fear that raced through my veins.

 “Only a few moments. No longer.”  The healer’s faded eyes searched Cleopatra’s bright ones.  “You must be certain, your highness.  Once the poison enters your body, there can be no turning back.”

 Cleopatra nodded.  “No, there is no turning back, old woman.”

 The healer nodded gravely and held out the basket as if it were an offering.  Cleopatra took it and sank back into her chaise lounge, staring absently at the opulence surrounding her as she reached into the basket, withdrawing a fig.  Slipping it into her mouth, she chewed it delicately, then smiled.

 “Delicious,” she announced, swallowing calmly. 

She eyed the basket again pensively.  I sucked in my breath.  It was time.  I felt it coming, the air crackled with it.  Death was an unseen presence in the room, waiting for our last breaths. 

Reaching into the basket once again, Cleopatra withdrew a long, thin black snake.  It draped itself along her arm and she stared into its black slitted eyes. 

 “You will take me to the afterlife,” she instructed it firmly. “And do it quickly.”

 Leaning back into the silk cushions, she shook the snake lightly.  It hissed, its large mouth yawning open ominously, revealing glistening fangs.  As it stared at her, one drop of deadly venom dripped from its mouth.  Nothing more.  Impatient, Cleopatra shook it again.  It struck her so quickly that I barely had time to register the movement before I heard her gasp. 

 “It is done then,” she murmured, dropping the snake once again into the basket.  I flew to her side, my arms around her slender shoulders.  Two drops of blood dripped from her breast.

 “Cleopatra…” My voice broke as pain flooded through me.   

  “Charmian, do not fear.  We have done what we must.  All is well.” 

Her obsidian eyes met mine and I saw peace in them. My breath caught in my throat just as she drew her last.  Her lips quivered and then she was still, her dark eyes staring sightlessly at me.  My heart shattered silently. 

 “All is well,” I whispered as I reached out and gently closed her eyes.  “Is it?  Is it well where you are now, my queen?” 

Her face was peaceful and even in death, she was beautiful.  I swallowed hard as I looked up at Iras.  She was shaking her head in grief as she rocked back on her heels.  The old woman watched me silently, waiting to see what I would do, waiting to see if I would follow our queen. 

 Shakily, I picked up the basket and reached inside.  The snake’s body was surprisingly dry, not scaly in the slightest.  It writhed beneath my hand, agitated already.  My fingers closed around it determinedly, pulling it back out into the light.

Staring into its flat black eyes, I implored it softly. 

“Please be quick.”

 And it was.

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3 Responses to “Every Last Kiss”

  1. Wren Emerson April 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    It’s really as good as it sounds. Read it, you’ll love it!

  2. Leesa Birch April 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    I’m on chapter five already and I’m loving it !!!
    Thank you, Courtney for introducing me to such an interesting and beautiful story.

  3. Cindi Schneiders-Woodworth April 27, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    I have read it twice – the first time I couldn’t put it down until I finished it! The second time, I still found myself sitting on the edge of my seat even though I knew the outcome! The author has a unique way of bringing words to life. I am looking forward to a sequel and to other new books she’ll be bringing to her audience.

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