Tears of Amun
Digital • March 19, 2003
RE-EDITED IN 2011 & RE-RELEASED
• Apr 30, 2006
Trade Paperback–OUT OF PRINT
By the pharaoh’s breath
When the waters rise to the highest depth
Then the veils will thin
For two worlds to see
A fated love, that must once again be
He who gazes upon the one wearing the Tears of Amun
Shall go on to rule the kingdoms of Egypt.
Charlotte Witherspoon is in love…with a picture.
When fate tosses her back in time and she finds herself face to face with the man who holds her heart, will she choose to stay, accepting the promise of passion glowing in his eyes or return to her own time? And what happens when destiny steps in to decide for her?
THE PORTAL, a three-author anthology that also contained Jordan’s TEARS OF AMUN, is OUT OF PRINT.
Read an Excerpt
Note for Readers: This excerpt contains adult content intended for individuals 18 years of age or older.
“ Hurry up, Charlotte . Don’t dawdle.” Frustration pinched Victoria Witherspoon‘s voice until it squeaked.
“Coming, Mother,” Charlotte Witherspoon called out, hastening her step, hoping to avoid her mother’s ire.
Charlotte closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, as she pushed down her vexation. This same haunting scenario had been happening every day for as long as she could remember with little variation. Victoria nitpicked her, continuously chipping away at her self-esteem. Unable to deal with the pain, Charlotte squelched the hurt that twisted her insides. There was no sense dwelling on it.
Balancing her bag in one hand, Charlotte picked up her skirt to step over the fallen rubble that once was the great temple of Karnak . She’d made it a few yards further when her ankle wedged between two rocks and she tripped, the sack flying out of her hands as she tumbled forward. It was at that precise moment that her mother chose to glance back. Charlotte felt heat rise to her face.
“For pity’s sake, Charlotte , do pick up your feet like a graceful young lady should.” Her mother’s hands went to her hips and she shook her head in disapproval. “How many times must I tell you?”
“Sorry, Mother.” She pushed herself up off the ground, ignoring the diggers’ curious stares . It’s not like I did it on purpose , Charlotte wanted to say, but didn’t dare speak her mind. It would only make matters worse with her mother, the perfect Victoria Witherspoon, who never did anything untoward. Her mother’s manners were impeccable, her taste enviable, and she expected nothing less from her only daughter; which made it unfortunate since Charlotte took after her father Henry, a self-professed, slightly clumsy bookworm. Despite being eighteen, a fact her mother refused to acknowledge, Victoria had a way of making Charlotte feel like an inadequate, somewhat dim child.
She brushed her hands on her skirt and picked up the sack she’d dropped. Charlotte opened the bag, taking a quick inventory of the contents. The book she’d borrowed from the lending library in London was still there, along with her brushes. She held her breath as she examined the brushes, looking for any sign of cracks or breaks. She let out a sigh of relief. Thank goodness the brushes were intact. Charlotte didn’t want to receive another lecture on carelessness. Assured she hadn’t lost anything she closed the sack and continued on.
Her parents had already slipped into one of the chambers leaving Charlotte standing at the entrance breathing stale air. Their minds were one-track when they were on-site. They probably hadn’t even noticed she was missing, not that the oversight was something new. Charlotte was quite used to being considered a nuisance. Instead of allowing her to stay home, curled up with a good book, her mother insisted she be at the dig.
Instead of following, she stepped back into the sunlight, blinking against the glare. Her parents would be in there for the rest of the day and probably into the night, making traces. Charlotte expelled a heavy breath, knowing she should follow them but unable to bring herself to do so. She was itching to get at the book in her sack.
She spun on her heel and made her way around the ruins to a spot near some newly uncovered stairs. Huge sand piles hugged the sides of the staircase, like a giant hourglass that had been tipped on end, lending itself as the perfect hideaway. Charlotte sat on the highest step, drawing out the book. She cracked open the cover, a musty smell indicative of an old tomb wafting from the pages. Charlotte leaned forward and inhaled deeply, closing her eyes for a second in delight. There were few things on Earth that struck her as close to the soul as a good book.
Methodically she thumbed through the satiny sheets until she’d found her favorite spot. Photographs of papyruses dotted the page. Pharaohs gliding across the cool waters of the Nile came to life before her eyes, their bronze skin glowing against the white linen of their embroidered kilts. Charlotte ‘s gaze caressed the figures, focusing on one man in particular. His chest was bare and unusually broad for an Egyptian. His arms appeared strong, bulging with muscles. The man’s kohl-lined black eyes seemed to penetrate the very pages, demanding her attention, drawing her nearer.
Charlotte ran her fingers over the image. Goosebumps immediately rose on her arms. She knew she was being silly but for some reason couldn’t bring herself to stop returning to him over and over. She’d loved this man since she was fifteen years old, if it were even possible to fall in love with an image.
She’d even gone so far as to imagine their life together, what it would feel like if he held her in his arms, pressed his lips to hers. Would his lips be firm or soft? Wet or dry? Charlotte knew if she’d mentioned her infatuation with the picture, her mother would remind her that she needed to get her head out of the clouds and meet a nice young man to settle down with.
That would take all your fanciful notions away tout suite. Really Charlotte , sometimes I wonder where your head is…
Her mother didn’t need to be standing in front of her for Charlotte to be able to hear her admonishing voice clearly in her mind. Charlotte harrumphed. She knew there wasn’t much chance of meeting someone suitable on a dig site in Thebes . All the eligible men she’d considered taking a shine to had been far too wrapped up in trying to make the next big discovery to even notice she was there. Not that Charlotte cared. She wasn’t interested in anyone but the commanding man in the picture.
“If only you were real,” she muttered under her breath, running her fingers over his still form.
She glanced down at the byline under the papyrus. The Egyptologist who’d written the book had believed the figure in the depiction was King Amasis, but had put a side note at the bottom explaining his lack of evidence and all around uncertainty.
“Little help you are,” she spoke to the picture, laughing.
Ever since Charlotte had learned his name, she’d had a vague sense of dèjá vu, but couldn’t understand why. Once again she could almost hear her mother tsking in disapproval. Charlotte closed the book and put it aside, picking up her brush in its stead. It was time to get to work. At least if her mother wandered by she’d appear to be busy. The air settled around her, hot and oppressive, as she dusted away debris from the half-exposed step with a swish from the brush in her hand.
It had been three years since Mr. Carter and Lord Carnarvon had uncovered the find of the century, Tutankhamen’s tomb. She’d been relegated to this small area of Karnak along with her parents, lesser known explorers who strived for one thing only: the preservation of Egyptian history. While the true Egyptologists were free to delve into the Valley of the Kings.
She stopped, laying the brush down at her side. It wasn’t fair. Her parents had been here just as long as Howard Carter, if not longer. They should have been the ones to stumble upon such a great find as Tutankhamen.
Charlotte sighed and went back to work, toiling deeper into the sand, pushing thoughts of treasure from her mind. She had made three more swipes when her hand struck something hard beneath the sand. Her breath seized and her heart thudded wildly in her chest. Her vision narrowed to where her hand lay still against the hidden item. With trembling fingers, Charlotte carefully cleared the area. The sounds around her muted as she uncovered a small wooden case.
At first glance, it didn’t look like much. Perhaps a toy left behind by a child, or a worker’s tool kit, long buried in the unforgiving sand. Upon closer inspection, Charlotte changed her mind. She leaned back and glanced around the pile of sand to make sure none of the nearby diggers had observed her making the discovery. All eyes were upon the tasks at hand as they rhythmically worked with picks and shovels.
Charlotte stood, wiping the dust from her hands. She slid the item, along with her brush and book into her sack and made her way to the sacred lake of Karnak . In the late morning the area tended to be deserted. She’d be able to examine her find before taking it to her parents. Perhaps it would be good enough to garner them the recognition they deserved and get them moved to a more prestigious area to dig. Surely if Charlotte accomplished that, her mother would finally see her worth and begin to love her. She sighed. But first she needed to confirm its authenticity or her mother would never let her live it down.
Walking over the fallen stones, Charlotte rounded the columns along the path, her heels clattering over the rocks. She stared at the ruins for a moment, wishing it were possible to see the temple at Karnak in its full glory. The sun, golden in the sky, shined brightly on the water ahead, twinkling and radiant. It was the perfect spot to uncover her treasure. Charlotte glanced at the glass-like surface, shielding her eyes, so that she wouldn’t misstep. The area was empty, except for an occasional goose or two that called the Nile valley home. She found a cleared spot near the water’s edge and sat.
Sweat trickled down her neck and under her white blouse. Her eyes once again sought the promise of cooling water. The still liquid, tempting in its calmness, called out to her. Charlotte stamped her foot. She couldn’t go swimming in the sacred lake. It was forbidden. Besides, it was probably full of crocodiles.
She removed a handkerchief from her sleeve and dabbed at her forehead. The white linen came away with a smudge of dirt across it. Charlotte humphed. Nothing stayed clean in the middle of the desert. She tucked the now soiled linen back up her sleeve and removed the wooden box and her brush from the sack.
The box was no larger than a thin loaf of bread. She gently blew away the sand covering it. The cartouches were well worn, but still clearly visible in their gold inlay. Charlotte stared in wonder, turning the box this way and that, studying the craftsmanship. The wood felt rough against her fingertips from the harsh treatment of the sand.
She looked for an opening. There didn’t appear to be one. It certainly hadn’t belonged to a commoner. Had a thief dropped it while trying to make his escape? It wouldn’t be the first time artifacts had been found discarded in the sand like rubbish. She shook her head in disgust.
She picked up her brush and proceeded to clear away the last remnants of sand until she was able to read the inscription. Charlotte ‘s eyes widened as the words on the box came to life in her mind.
By the pharaoh’s breath
When the waters rise to highest depth
Then the veils will thin
For two worlds to see
A fated love that must once again be
He who gazes upon the one wearing the Tears of Amun
Shall go on to rule the kingdoms of Egypt
Charlotte almost dropped the box as she read the last words. It didn’t sound like a curse, but it definitely sounded ominous. She set the box down, taking a moment to catch her breath. Who had owned this and what were the Tears of Amun? She’d never heard of them, even though her parents had taken care to teach her about all of the legends and pharaohs that existed in ancient times.
They’d pounded everything Egyptian into her head, until she could read and write Hieratic, Demotic, and Hieroglyphs. Charlotte could also speak Arabic, Coptic, and even a little Ancient Egyptian; although she was unsure whether her pronunciations on the latter two were correct, since they had been virtually extinct for over a thousand years. She picked the box up again to examine it further, the words inscribed on top floating through her mind like an apparition. Its presence, a ghostly voice from the past, spoke to her.
Her mother and father had warned her about curses, although they didn’t believe in them personally. Charlotte wasn’t so sure. Howard Carter had lost several men who’d been there to open Tutankhamen’s tomb. Whispers of a curse had spread like wildfire throughout the campsites. Charlotte shivered at the thought.
She heard a splash as something hit the water. Charlotte jumped, her hand automatically flying to her heart, before spotting the culprit. A duck paddled around the center of the lake, unconcerned with her presence, quacking away. She laughed, the nervous sound strained to her own ears. Why was she so jumpy? It wasn’t like she’d done anything wrong.
Sweat was now pouring off her. She told herself she’d just go to the water’s edge to wet her handkerchief, then come right back. Charlotte went to stand the box on end, when a latch she hadn’t noticed before slid free. A golden necklace dropped out on the ground with a clunk. Her breath caught. The sun sparkled off the precious metal, glimmering red on the stones inlayed in the gold. They were teardrop shaped and as crimson as blood. Charlotte gasped—rubies. She ran her fingers over the gems.
The Tears of Amun…
Charlotte heard footsteps and immediately grabbed the necklace, slipping it over her head before someone could spot her. Hanif, one of the workers, stepped from behind a column, his slight body drenched in sweat. She waved to him. Hanif smiled back, white teeth flashing against bronze skin. The man turned silently, as if realizing he’d intruded on her space. Once again she was left alone with her thoughts and her precious treasure.
Charlotte ‘s head was spinning. The gold and jewels around her neck were heavy, weighted. The gold heated her skin, eclipsing the warmth of the day. Lightheaded, she made her way to the water, pulling the square of soft linen from her sleeve. She knelt down near the edge to dip her handkerchief in the liquid. Unable to reach, Charlotte inched closer. The rock near the shore crumbled, toppling her headfirst into Karnak ‘s sacred lake. The air was knocked from Charlotte ‘s lungs as she hit the water.
The lake was hot, stagnant from lack of current. As she struggled to break the surface, Charlotte felt as if a thousand hands were tugging her from below, preventing her from gasping much needed air. She opened her eyes. Her movements slowed as she watched the light from the sun fade and reappear over and over again. Surely her mind was playing tricks on her due to lack of oxygen. She blinked.
Fear surged through her, giving her an added boost of adrenaline. Charlotte broke the surface, sputtering and coughing, trying to rid her lungs of Nile water. Reaching out with both hands she grasped the rough stones near the water’s edge. Her hat was gone, leaving her curly brown hair plastered to her back. Her clothes hugged her like a second skin. She brushed a hand over her face, ridding her eyes of water. Geese honked overhead as they flew by.
Charlotte blinked again as she pulled herself out of the lake enough to sit on the stone edge. She scanned the area, a frown upon her face. Once again she wiped at her eyes while her mind struggled to decipher what she was seeing. The columns in Karnak were aligned with intricate carvings at the base, not crumbling and worn. She stood to get a better view. The stones that she’d carefully maneuvered around to get to the sacred lake were smoothed into level walkways. A wall rose up in the distance marking the entrance into the temple area. Charlotte reached over and pinched her hand.
Her flesh turned an angry pink upon contact. Well at least she knew she wasn’t dreaming. Was it possible that she’d drowned? She glanced out at the lake and saw craft upon the Nile in the distance. They didn’t look like the normal boats used by modern Egyptians. They appeared to be longer, thinner. Dark-haired people dressed in white linen stood at the ends of the vessels steering them through the black water.
“Oh my…this can’t be…it isn’t possible,” Charlotte muttered to herself. “I must have hit my head on the bottom.” She closed her eyes, resting her head in her hands. Perhaps if she sat here long enough the world would return to normal. “It’s only a dream, a bad, bad dream.” A cough coming from behind one of the nearby columns jolted Charlotte back to reality. “Hanif, is that you?” she called out.
There was no answer.
“Hanif, I’ve had a terribly bad day. Please show yourself.” Her voice quivered.
A brown hand appeared to the side of the column. Charlotte released the breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding and waited for Hanif to appear. Instead, the most striking man Charlotte had ever seen stepped from behind the column. He wore a white linen kilt with embroidery at the top around his slim hips. The material hung down to his knees, leaving his well-developed calves exposed. His dark eyes, slightly slanted, were lined with kohl, like the ancient Egyptians had been depicted in carvings for thousands of years.
Charlotte frowned. He looked familiar.His chest was wide and heavily muscled. Gold bracelets with blue scarabs crowning the tops bound his wrists. A gold necklace bearing the shape of three flies circled his throat. Hair of the blackest night hung to his shoulders and had been ornately braided. Charlotte instantly recognized the necklace as a sign of bravery. Why was he wearing it? And who was he?
His face was a work of art, sculpted with high cheekbones and full lips, squaring into a firm chin. His black eyes were heated, intense. His gaze was locked on the front of her shirt. Charlotte watched the rise and fall of his chest, the rhythm mesmerizing, as his fire took hold of her. She glanced down to see what was holding him so captivated.
The white of her shirt had turned transparent from the water. The Tears of Amun were clearly visible through the garment, along with her rosy nipples, which had taken that moment to bead under his close scrutiny. Charlotte sucked in a surprised breath and covered her breasts with her hands.
For a moment more, his gaze lingered before returning to her face. When his eyes met hers, he smiled. The simple act melted her insides.
He was the man from her book.
The same man she’d spent countless hours gaping at like a schoolgirl suffering from her first crush—except he was real. It wasn’t possible, was it ? Had she wished so hard, he’d come true?
Charlotte felt heat start at her toes, rise along her legs, over her knees, gravitating to the apex between her ample thighs. If he could do that with just a look, what would it feel like if he touched her? The traitorous thought entered her mind, sending warmth flaring to her face. She knew without the aid of a mirror, she was blushing.
Her dream man stepped forward. Charlotte hadn’t noticed the harpoon in his other hand. She glanced over her shoulder at the water. There was nowhere for her to escape. Her eyes once again found his. He paused, frowning as if reading her thoughts. Charlotte forced herself to smile, willing herself to keep calm until she could figure out what was going on. Of course, why panic over the fact that my fantasy man has come to life from the pages of a book? It happens all the time. Yeah, and Mother thinks I’m the perfect daughter.
The man continued on slowly, making his way toward her until they were standing but a yard apart. The detail of his clothing was unmistakable. Charlotte had never seen anything like it with the exception of Howard Carter’s finds and the book she’d borrowed from the library. She glanced to the ground where she’d left her sack before falling into the lake, but it was gone.
Charlotte looked back at the man before her. A shift of the wind brought his spicy scent to her. Shock and awareness slammed into her body. Her knees weakened as she inhaled deeply. Her senses came alive, zeroing in on the man before her. The juncture between her thighs started to throb. Her nipples beaded painfully. It was as if his mere presence jolted her awake from a deep, deep sleep. Charlotte fought the urge to move closer so she could inhale more of his essence. Touch his bronze skin. He was even more handsome than she’d imagined. The picture did not do justice to this striking figure.
What was she saying?
In all likelihood this man simply resembled the man in the picture. He couldn’t possibly be him. That man’s name was Amasis and he’d lived over two thousand years ago. Charlotte felt the back of her head, her fingers tangling in her wet locks. There had to be an injury somewhere. She gave up after a moment, unable to locate a wound.
If she wasn’t hurt, then she needed to figure out where he had gotten all of the items on his body. She needed to authenticate what she was seeing, and then inform her parents of the find. Charlotte was sure her mother would have a thing or two to say about her appearance, but it couldn’t be helped. After all, she hadn’t planned to take a swim in the sacred lake. It was an accident, like all the other times…
She held out her hand. “My name is Miss Charlotte Witherspoon.”
The man looked at her hand and then back to her face. When he made no move, Charlotte clasped his hand. His large palm enveloped hers, sending delicious tingles racing up her arm. His eyes widened but he didn’t pull away.
“It’s nice to meet you,” she prompted, before quickly releasing him.
She blew out a ragged breath and ran her hand through her hair. Charlotte wasn’t sure why the man wasn’t speaking. Fantasies don’t talk, the little voice in her head chided. She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. She needed to focus, but it was difficult with the resemblance to the picture being so uncanny. Perhaps he refused to talk because he thought she’d turn him in for theft. Charlotte glanced at his necklace. For something over two thousand years old, it showed remarkably little wear and tear. In fact, it looked almost new, along with the temple’s reconstruction, which was impossible.
“What is your name?” she asked in her best Egyptian tongue, the words stumbling from her lips.
His brows furrowed and then rose as he finally comprehended. “My name is Ahmose.” He pressed a large hand to his wide chest.
“Ahmose,” she repeated, letting the name play across her mouth. Charlotte tried to ignore the way his taut skin was stretched across a canvas of hard muscle. “I like it.” She smiled. At least that answered the question at the back of her mind. He wasn’t the man in the picture. His name wasn’t common in Egypt , but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Familiar, yet not. She brushed it away, deciding to examine it later.
Charlotte placed a hand over her breast, her erect nipple stabbing her palm. Surprised by her body’s strange reaction to the man’s nearness, she gulped and forged on, praying he hadn’t noticed. “I’m Charlotte Witherspoon.”
He stared at her for a moment, his gaze caressing the rigid crests, as if they were still visible. Her skin prickled. Then once again he sought her eyes, his lips now pursing to try and mimic what she’d said. Well so much for him not noticing… She flushed as she repeated her name.
“Ch-aaarleete,” he said attempting to imitate the sound she’d created.
Charlotte nodded encouragingly. “ Charlotte .”
“Ch-charlotte,” he said again.
“Yes.” She smiled.
Charlotte glanced over his shoulder at the temple of Karnak . Why wasn’t it in ruin? As the question ran through her mind again, her head began to swim. The temple was complete, not a stone out of place. There were no ruins in sight. She’d really thought her fall in the water had affected her perception, but since Karnak was still whole, Charlotte was beginning to get worried.
Several men rushed toward their location, weapons drawn, dressed exactly like Ahmose.
This wasn’t conceivable. There was no way this could be happening. The man standing before her wasn’t her dream. She’d already confirmed that. Charlotte shook her head in denial. She was not back in ancient Egypt , it wasn’t possible. She couldn’t be seeing what she was seeing.
Charlotte ‘s gaze locked onto his and she swayed. The man grabbed her. The warmth from his palms penetrated her skin just as her world faded into darkness.