I finished unpacking from my trip. Laundry’s done–that’s the worst, right? All the work you have to do after a trip. I shouldn’t complain. I had a vacation.
Michelle Willms (Nov. 30)
Enikö (Dec. 1)
Sarah DeShields-Bass (Dec. 2)
Jamie L (Dec. 3)
So back to Crescent Moon…The book releases in print on Tuesday. Yesterday, you briefly met Khepri, The God’s Wife. The opening chapters describe her frightening journey that lands her wrapped as a mummy in Ancient Egypt. In today’s excerpt, you will see the scene where Juste and Khepri first meet. I promise, I’ll get to the sexy tomorrow.
In the meantime, you get a taste of Juste’s bad attitude, but hints of his true, heroic nature shining through. Juste has suffered a demotion, lost a close personal friend, and he’s just going through the motions with a new partner he doesn’t trust or like. And he’s no longer working homicide and resents the hell out of the museum robbery investigation. He’s hunting missing mummies? He really could give a rat’s ass less, until something happens that piques his interest. Enjoy!
Post a comment and you’ll be entered to win a pair of pretty ankh earrings I’ll gift to one person after Tuesday’s release. If you post a comment on every day, including Tuesday, you’ll have several chances to win them!
From ancient Egypt to present-day New Orleans, a woman of exceptional strength is called to protect against an unspeakable evil…and to experience an unforgettable seduction.
Khepri still isn’t used to being The God’s Wife. The daughter of a common farmer, she’s more comfortable being friends with servants than employing a whole team of them. Being the wife of Amun affords her luxuries she only dreamed of, but her dreams are not always a haven…they are also filled with demons. Lately she’s had doubts about the role she’s been thrust into. She’s had yearnings for another sort of life, one where she’s loved intimately, rather than only adored from afar.
When a powerful man lures her away from her temple, she’s thrilled at the chance for an adventure. Her adventure quickly becomes a nightmare when the handsome vizier mummifies her alive. Pure of heart and body, she’s the warrior he foresees will battle a demonic pharaoh if ever he awakens. Khepri’s sure he’s insane, until she awakens in a distant future. Alone and needing a guide in this strange and garish new world, she turns to the troubled man who set her free…
When New Orleans police detective Justin Henry Boucher is called to the Garden Museum to investigate stolen Egyptian artifacts, it’s not exactly the adrenaline rush he used to get working a homicide. But with a reprimand on his record and a sorrow he can’t shake, he will take what he can get – as long as he can keep his badge. What he doesn’t count on is having to keep his cool when he finds one of the priceless artifacts—a golden-skinned goddess wrapped in fabric like a mummy, left to die and needing his help. She’s a mystery he’s determined to unravel. She might also be the cure for his lonely heart.
When Juste returned to the museum, the sky was darkening with clouds. It looked like rain would soon fall, and from the forecast, the storm might produce some flooding. He hoped like hell they could wrap up soon so he wouldn’t spend the night there.
Inside the door, he donned latex gloves. The crime techs were still in the warehouse. One was on a ladder dusting the camera in the corner for prints. Good idea. He looked around for his partner.
Mikey stood beside a crate with a clipboard while museum workers carefully swept away straw before pulling out bubble-wrapped artifacts. His partner gave him a nod. “With the storm comin’ in, I told the two guards we’d see ’em here in the mornin’.”
Juste grunted, irritated he’d made that call. The sooner they wrapped this one up, the better.
Mikey lifted his shoulders. “It’s mummies, not shooters,” he muttered under his breath.
Not liking the reminder he wasn’t in homicide anymore and that robbery investigations didn’t proceed with the same urgency, Juste smothered a curse. “I’m gonna take a look around the back.”
Mikey gave him another nod and then returned his attention to the items. By the look of all the empty crates, they were nearing the end of the inventory anyway.
Juste felt a moment’s guilt for leaving Mikey with the bulk of the tedious work, but only a moment’s. He scanned the room, found Dorman and Haddara sitting beside the white table, talking quietly.
Because he wasn’t ready to make nice with either man, Juste strode deeper into the storage area, away from the activity, through crates and metal racks where less important items, or perhaps ones that were rotated in and out of the museum’s displays, were stored. The lighting was poor and so far from the faded daylight spilling through the cargo bay door that he withdrew a small flashlight from his jacket pocket and flicked it on.
Toward the very back, he found rolled-up rugs and emptied boxes. And a crate nearly buried in refuse. A crate that didn’t look to be nearly as dusty as everything else around it. By the painted arrows on the plywood, the box sat on its side, the lid facing him.
Juste glanced around, but no one was watching. He gently knocked on the box and listened to the sound. By the dull, muffled rap, he knew the crate wasn’t empty. Curious, his belly knotting in the way it always did when he had a hunch, he gripped the nailed face of the crate and tugged.
There weren’t enough nails to keep the crate closed. The lid gave slightly beneath the second tug. And then he heard a sound. A soft mewling cry. His heart stopped, and then thudded dully against his chest.
He leaned close pressing his ear against the lid and listened again.
The noise came from inside the box.
Juste pulled harder on the lid, prying it back. The wood splintered, then gave, and he carefully pulled it off to lean against a rack, trying to keep down the noise because he didn’t want anyone else alerted. Maybe it was just an animal trapped in a crate.
He shone the light into the crate. “Well, I’ll be damned,” he whispered.
A bundle lay on the floor, covered in black plastic trash bags. The bundle was moving, and from the outline, there was something inside. His heart hammered. By the shape, it wasn’t any small animal.
“Sonofabitch.” He hunched down and entered the crate, kneeling beside the struggling figure to begin pulling at the bags to tear them away. Once he’d cleared away the plastic, he sat back, shock rendering him still.
The wriggling body was wrapped in dirty strips of fabric. A fucking mummy with the exact same drawings covering its body as the mummy he’d seen pictures of. Not that he thought for a minute this was some dead thing coming to life. No, some bastard had played a horrible trick, leaving a living person like this to die. Anger swept through him, but also caution.
This wasn’t a simple robbery anymore. And he didn’t know who’d had the misfortune to wind up in the crate. Better to proceed with caution.
Again, he bent over the figure and noted the sounds of short gasping breaths. “I’ll get your face freed first so you can breathe. Hold still.”
After wedging the flashlight high in a corner to free both hands to work, he stripped off his gloves and reached into his pocket for his keys and the short pocket knife attached to the ring. Opening a blade, he wedged it beneath one of the stiffened strips, cut it, and then peeled it slowly away.
The mouth beneath it was soft, feminine. Opening for air.
With her tongue, the woman pushed out something lodged inside her mouth. A round stone. She swallowed hard, and then opened her mouth fully to gasp.
He worked faster, peeling strips from the woman’s eyes.
They remained closed, but he noted the thick black eyeliner rimming the upper lids, the long dark lashes lying in a fringe along the lid. He lifted her head, unwinding more of the strips, peeling them off to reveal soft, brown hair matted with moisture.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s okay,” he whispered more to himself, because he still couldn’t believe this. What sort of monster would do this to someone else?
As her breaths became less jagged, her quiet sobs faded.
He went to work tucking his finger under the cloth at her neck and hacking through the stiffened fabric, hardened by some resin-like substance. He couldn’t imagine how she’d lived, because the strips were tight and constricted her chest.
He sliced a line down one arm and then turned to the other. From the side of his eye, he saw her free arm raise and something glinted. Out of instinct, he reached up to deflect the wild swing and caught her wrist.
A blade clattered to the floor.
He glanced toward her face. Her eyes were wide open and staring wildly back at him. They gleamed golden and sparkled ferociously.
Juste didn’t know if she had meant to kill him, but he couldn’t take the chance. Not when he only had her partially freed. Moving his right leg, he straddled her body, careful not to give her his weight, and pressed her arm to the floor. “I’m here to help. Let me help you.”
She shook her head and said something in a language he didn’t understand, something guttural but soft, sounding Arabic perhaps.
“I don’t understand you,” he said more loudly, but realized shouting wouldn’t make her understand him any better.
With his free hand, he cupped her cheek, finding it soft and moist with tears. From what he could see of her features, she was young…and hauntingly beautiful.
His breath caught as her gold-flecked gaze locked with his. “Let me help you,” he repeated, then eased his hand from her wrist. He raised his short blade to show it to her, and then climbed to the side and resumed slicing the fabric.
This time he started talking, a monologue of nonsense, just making sounds to soothe her as he worked. She had to be frightened out of her mind. He could only imagine the horror she’d been through. And then he made himself stop that line of thinking and start thinking like a cop.
She was wrapped like a mummy; her skin was olive and her eyes were shaped like almonds. She might well have something to do with the exhibit, might have been involved with the theft. Or she could be a witness. How she’d run afoul of the thieves… Well, he wouldn’t know until he got her to the station.
At her collarbone, he stuck his fingers under the fabric to lift it high enough to run the knife beneath it and was further surprised to slide his fingers along naked skin. Juste pulled in a deep breath and shot another glance at her face.
Her features were still, not a blush or a grimace crossing her face. Perhaps she was too shocked to realize she’d be naked as the day she’d been born by the time he was done. But what could he do? He wasn’t leaving her in this death shroud—evidence or not, he was ridding her of the wrappings.
Unfortunately for his peace of mind, the body he revealed inch by inch was achingly lovely—slender, with skin the color of golden honey. He tried not to think of what he uncovered, tried to keep his gaze busy with what he was doing, and not lingering on her pretty breasts with their soft, tan nipples. More breathtaking was her feminine mound, which was completely bare. Her long silky legs were gently curved. Crusts of the resin, which had hardened the wrapping, stuck to her skin but failed to detract from her beauty. From the tip of her head to her slender toes, Juste had never seen a more perfectly formed female.
The woman barely breathed, staring upward from her plywood bed. Realizing he’d studied her body a little too long, he shrugged out of his jacket. “Wear this until I can get you out of here. I have a blanket in my car.” He held out the coat.
But she didn’t move to take it. She laid there, her gaze studying him. And then she opened her mouth. “Say…that…again,” she said slowly.
Her words held no hint of an accent, as he would have expected. Her voice was raspy, as though she’d shouted herself hoarse. And perhaps she had. “You understand me?”
“I do now.”
He shook his head, narrowing his eyes. “Who are you?”
She got her elbows under her and slowly raised her torso.
Her gaze darted around the crate. “Where am I?”
Trying to ignore what that raised position did to her breasts, he muttered, “In the Garden Museum. The storeroom near the cargo bay.”
A frown dug a wrinkle between her brows, and her lush lips thinned. “I’m not in the Duat?”
What the hell? “Duat?” He shrugged.
“The Land of the Dead.”
“A cemetery? Is that where you expected to be?”
Her breaths came faster, and she rolled slowly to her knees.
He tried not to stare at her perfect breasts, shaped like apples and quivering with her movements swaying beneath her as she glanced up, her expression wild and wary. “You should put on my jacket.”
She glanced down at her body. “Am I living then?”
Wondering if her strange actions and words were a sign of her mental state, he frowned. “As alive as I am, sugar,” he said softly, not wanting to alarm her, because her features were hardening, her expression losing the last vestiges of fear and shock.
Her gaze speared him. “Has Selk risen?” she asked, each word as hard as a bullet.
“Who the hell is Selk?”
“The other body. The one I was entombed with.”
“The second mummy?”
“Mummy,” she repeated and slowly nodded. “Yes.”
“Haven’t found it yet. Was he like you? Wrapped alive?”
She shook her head. “He was strangled before he was brought to the tomb.”
“Strangled and in a tomb.” His mind sharpened. This might be a real case after all. “How long do you think you’ve been like this?”
“I am thinking it must have been a while,” she said, eyeing his clothing.
“Not so long. You don’t look any worse for wear.”
Her dark brows drew together. “Do not ogle me.”
“Then put on the damn jacket.”
Her chin lifted. Again, her gaze studied him, lingering on his face and then scanning his body. “You said you are here to help me. Perhaps my husband has sent you.”
Juste didn’t like the sting of disappointment that settled in his gut. The gorgeous woman was married. “I don’t know who your husband is. But he didn’t send me.”
Her lips curved.
He really wished she hadn’t smiled. If she was beautiful before…
“Given I will need a guide, I accept your offer. We must work quickly.” She pushed up, bending over to avoid crashing against the upper wall of the crate, but swayed on her feet.
Still on one knee, he caught her before she fell. Holding her against his chest, he kept his gaze straight ahead rather than at the woman whose delicate curves molded against his body. “Cher, you shouldn’t have stood so quickly,” he murmured against her hair.
She clung to him, her delicate hands wrapped around his biceps.
He glanced down and her eyes were closed tightly.
Her emotions were seesawing between anger and horror.
Something he totally got.
Moisture gleamed at the base of her lashes. A tremor racked her body. “I thought I would remember. Something,” she whispered. “Not simply wake.”
“Remember? About how you wound up wrapped like a mummy?”
“I remember that,” she whispered and shivered again.
“I just don’t know what happened after…”
“Should you?” he murmured, liking the way her body curled against his, catching a waft of her natural feminine scent.
“I guess not. But I am no closer to understanding the battle I must wage.”
Battle? “You don’t have to fight. Let me do that for you. I’ll figure this out.”
Her head tilted back and her gaze roamed his face.
“Then you are a warrior?”
He wondered whether she’d been drugged before she’d been bundled. Her word choices were strange. And she didn’t seem to notice her naked state. “Lady, I’m a policeman. Guess that’s as close to a warrior as you’re gonna find here.”
She leaned back her head. “I am Khepri.”
“No last name?” he asked, keeping his voice low.
“It is my first and only name. Should I have more? I was born to farmers, not kings.” Her head tilted and her gaze narrowed, as though listening to something far away. “You have more names. Three?”
Juste wasn’t sure why, but he smiled. Yeah, she was a strange one. “Well, Khepri, I’m Justin Henry Boucher. I do have three names.”
“You must be very important.”
“Only if you think so.”
She smiled, and Juste’s chest tightened. He decided then and there, whatever had happened here, whoever had touched her would pay dearly. Khepri, Amun’s wife, was now his problem.