by Aislinn Kerry
Amber Quill Press
Aten, immortal pharaoh of the Two Kingdoms, keeps his eternal good looks by sucking the blood of innocents. Everyone knows it. His very existence is a blasphemy against the gods. So when Seth, a priest of Ra, is told to assassinate this tyrant at the masquerade celebration during the Festival of Opet, he accepts the task without questioning it. He seduces Aten and waits until they’re in the privacy of the pharaoh’s bedchamber before he strikes, driving a stake into Aten’s chest. But Aten doesn’t die. The stake shatters without even leaving a scratch, and Aten laughs at him for the attempt.
Seth expects to be executed for treason, but neither man can deny their attraction and Aten’s intrigued by Seth’s misguided desire to see him dead. He challenges Seth to stay, to see if he can find a way to kill him — and maybe to see that he’s not the man people say he is.
The longer he remains, the more Seth struggles with his convictions. Is it possible that all the rumors are wrong? Can a man who survives on the blood of others possibly be good and just? When the time comes to choose sides, will he honor his gods, or his heart?
I spread my hand above Aten’s heart and kissed the skin between my fingers. Slowly, I slid a hand down my side and found the stake in my kilt’s deep pleats. My fingers brushed over the hard wood. I grasped it and pulled it free of the cloth, watching Aten closely.
He still didn’t stir. I kissed his chest once more, then positioned the point of the stake between my fingers.
Aten stiffened and I felt opportunity slipping away from me. I poised the tip of the stake in the space between two ribs, grasped the shaft in both hands, and leaned all my weight against it.
There was a moment’s resistance, then it gave beneath me and I fell forward. He grunted in surprise — only that, nothing more.
I scrambled up, shaking with the knowledge of what I’d done. But the sight before me made me shake even harder. The stake hadn’t driven into him, it had shattered, and Aten’s chest wasn’t even scratched.
No, I thought, dizzy. It’s impossible.
Aten picked a splinter up from his chest. His brow quirked. “That’s what this was all about?”
I could only stare at him, unable to speak.
His lips curved, a wry smile. “All this. I supposed there was some point behind it, but…” He rolled the splinter between his fingers, then flicked it away. “I admit, I didn’t expect that.”
I slid backwards to the foot of the bed, watching him, waiting for his retaliation.
He sat up and brushed the splinters from his chest and the bed. “Well? If you are intent upon killing me, the least you could do is tell me why.”