Back into time, Oh Me My! What is a girl to do?
Tourist Elissa McLaughlin is startled to find herself thrown back in time to the building of what is now called Deir el Bahri, the mortuary temple of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut, but that is just the beginning of her problems.
Mistaken for a woman from the pleasure tents by General Amunakht, she is quickly plunged into the politics and turmoil of an empire on the verge of civil war.
Without any choice she is forced into a dangerous impersonation that could make or break the fortunes of the nation, an impersonation where her blue eyes and blonde hair could be her death warrant.
Can Elissa find more than turbulence but a love that will build a nation or tear it down?
"You see, Your Majesty?" Nakht asked, angry that his heart was in his throat and trying to tell himself that it was only because of relief that he had not been mistaken.
The pharaoh stood slowly and in spite of herself Elissa looked at her with great interest, the angry protest she had been forming stifled by the sheer presence of such majesty.
A woman with the unmistakable air of habitual command, Hatshepsut wore the ghosts of great beauty while giving the impression of still being beautiful. Her face, though strong, was sculpted with delicate grace, reminding Elissa of the classic head of Nefertiti known to every schoolchild of her time.
The pharaoh looked tired, though, tired or worried. There were deep furrows on either side of her mouth and shadows beneath her heavily made-up eyes. Those eyes fascinated Elissa; she had never seen eyes truly the color of gold before. Her wig was short and surprisingly simple - unbraided, barely clearing her shoulders and topped only with a simple fillet of gold.
"Come here." The words were spoken gently enough, but there was no mistaking that they were a command not to be disobeyed.
The room was a surprisingly small one, not more than twenty feet square. The walls of mud brick had been smoothly plastered and then painted at eye height with a delicate mural of impossibly acrobatic ducks playing in a pond. In one wall there were great sashless windows opening out onto a terrace filled with flowers in enormous stone containers. Like the room itself, the terrace had a floor of slickly polished limestone. At the far end of the room the floor had been raised by three steps to form a dais. Except for a map-cluttered table and two chairs on the dais, there was no furniture.
Nakht watched the unconsciously sinuous movements of the barbarian's body and fought for mastery of his own as it began to stiffen and throb with pure desire. "Is it not as I told you?"
Golden eyes were studying Elissa with an intensity that made her uncomfortable. "Indeed, you spoke the truth, Amunnakht! I would not have believed it, but here is proof! Surely she is a gift from the gods!"
Again it annoyed Elissa to be spoken of as an object, but she could not look away from those mesmerizing golden eyes.
"And her coloring! Who would have thought it possible? Look at her hair - like the gold of the gods. And have you seen her eyes, Amunnakht? Blue eyes! I have heard of such a thing, but I never thought to actually see any," Her Majesty said with wonder. "Until now I thought your green eyes were the oddest things I had ever seen, but they're almost ordinary compared to these! Eyes that are really the color of the sky!" From a childlike enchantment her voice dropped suddenly into unquestionably businesslike tones. "They are beautiful, but they are going to be a problem."
The general nodded. He had had the same doubts. "Only if people come too close, Your Majesty."
"True. As you said, she does wear the Sacred Metal."
Nakht's mouth tightened. "Indeed she does, Your Majesty, but I assure you she is no goddess. She is mortal through and through."
The pharaoh's eyes shrewdly surveyed the newcomer's defiant stance. "Yet she wears it casually, as if it were nothing. I wonder if she stole it."
First she was raped, now she was suspected of being a thief! Elissa bristled at that, but a quick glare from the general melted the words on her lips.
"From whom, Your Majesty? It is of a design I have never before seen."
"True; however, while it is an interesting trifle, it is not of paramount importance at the moment. I am beginning to think your plan might work, my clever Amunnakht. It's dangerous, but it really might work."
"Plan? Dangerous?" Elissa spoke up suddenly, unable to remain silent any longer. "What are you talking about?"
Amunnakht's eyes flashed angrily while Her Majesty looked as startled as if the table or one of the chairs had spoken to her.
"Silence before your pharaoh!" roared the general.
"Why? She's not my pharaoh," Elissa snapped back. "I'm just a tourist here. Besides, you're talking about me. I have a right to know what is going on!"
Desire replaced by anger, the general stepped forward, his grim expression boding ill for Elissa, but Hatshepsut raised a pale and slender hand, stopping him in his tracks. Her face was much to well trained to show any emotion, but the ghost of a smile lurked in the back of those leonine eyes.
"Hold, my loyal general! While we cannot encourage such defiance, it shows that the woman has both spirit and courage, and if they can be contained and disciplined, that is good. She will need both of them if we are to make this work."
Elissa was beginning to become frightened. Things were happening that concerned her of which she knew nothing. Throwing her appeal to Amunnakht, she asked, "Make what work? What are you two planning?"
How could any man contrive to look so sexy and desirable when he was wearing make-up and a skirt? Elissa wished she could hate the illustrious general unreservedly, that the mere sight of him would rouse distaste and revulsion in her instead of a weak-kneed, electric physical desire. Amunnakht had cared for her last night, had made love to her; surely that joyous rapture they had shared had been more to him than just a quick physical release with the warm and (oh, the shame!) enthusiastically willing body of a female! After last night he really couldn't send her into true danger, could he?