Authors: Hazel Hunter
Tags: #Erotic Romance
Even knowing what it read, he could barely keep up with her.
Her pronunciation of the K’iche was mesmerizing. It was soft and nuanced, as though she was a native speaker–a strange mix of soft sounds like French and quiet clicks.
“Shee-bal-bah,” she muttered, giving the X its soft “sh” sound.
Suddenly, she was on to the next stela.
It was as though she were consuming it, going fast, like speed-reading. She was already on to the third.
He stayed right behind her, though she was oblivious to him. This was the important one. He didn’t want to miss it. He tensed as her hands ran over the glyphs, top to bottom. And then her breath caught.
Slowly, she uttered the words that he’d been waiting to hear. The words that he dared hope he’d gotten right.
“Tulan Zuyua,” she whispered.
He could have screamed, shouted it to the world, but he didn’t.
“Yes,” he ground out between clenched teeth. “I
Legendary, mythic, and impossible. He’d found the birthplace of the Maya, the realm of Blood Gatherer, the Red King, and the first Maya lord.
Now she went to the back of the stela, as though drawn there by the Great Lord himself. As she stared at it, she went to her knees.
“Cuchumaquic,” she whispered. “Blood Gatherer.”
He knelt next to her.
She was breathing hard through parted lips, with one hand resting on the stela.
it?” he said, hardly able to contain himself.
Until this moment, he hadn’t realized how badly he’d wanted to share this with somebody.
“The Red King,” he said. “
She didn’t move.
Though her eyes were open, there was a glazed look to them. Her pupils were huge and she was still breathing hard.
“Jessica?” he tried again and touched her outstretched arm.
She slowly blinked and then swallowed.
Then she looked at his hand on her arm and finally to his face. She was smiling.
“The Red King,” she said quietly.
He knew he must be grinning like a kid.
“I know,” he gushed. “You see why I couldn’t tell anybody.”
As far as the rest of the world knew, the Red King was a myth. His city, Tulan Zuyua, was a part of a migration fable, a story the Maya told in order to legitimize their rule by divine right.
But some fables had a basis in fact and the Red King was one.
Jessica nodded and looked back up at the stela.
“The paint,” she said quietly.
“Perfectly preserved in the cavern,” he said, nodding. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I have,” she said, still looking at it.
“What?” he said.
Nearly every free moment that he wasn’t here, he was researching similar sites, similar glyphs, and the other sites in the area. There was nothing with this kind of preservation of color.
“Where?” he asked.
“In my head,” she said. She slowly turned to him. “Would you think I’m crazy if I told you I’ve always seen the glyphs like this?”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “You see them colored? I thought you’d never been to the field?”
“I haven’t,” she said, finally taking her hand off the stela. “It’s just that…even in black and white photos, this is how I see them.”
He stared at her and then at the stela.
“Not like these colors,” she said. “But ever since I can remember, from the very first time I saw an image of a Maya panel, I saw colors.”
He looked back to her.
“That’s how I remember the glyphs or the texts that I read,” she said, quietly. “Everything has a color and some things...” She looked up at the stela. “Some images and words have a feeling.”
He looked up at the image of the Red King holding the severed head of an enemy, a standard Maya portrait of power. She had actually recoiled from that image.
“The Blood Gatherer deserves his name,” she said. “I don’t know why but…it’s not a good thing.”
He scowled at the image. It seemed like the usual.
“Where are the other six caves?” she said.
His head whipped around and he knew his mouth must be open.
,” she said, smiling. “It says there are seven in all.”
“You’re amazing,” he said. “You know that?”
A shy little smile appeared on her lips and she looked down at the lantern.
amazing, in more ways than one. Her hair had dried now, in long red waves that framed her face. The light hazel of her eyes stood out when they weren’t behind the glasses, which were hooked at the front of her tank top.
He slowly reached a hand down to her chin and tilted it up as he leaned in. But just before their lips touched, he paused. He didn’t want it to be like last night, the frenzied aftermath of a brush with death.
slowly closed the small distance.
Her lips barely moved, as though she was unsure. For his part, he was
sure but he kissed her lightly in return. He didn’t move his fingers from her chin, but he fought the urge to hold her face or draw her forward. Her lips were tender and soft and she seemed content to simply linger in that moment. And suddenly, she wasn’t the quiet and bookish girl who kept to herself but a strangely gifted young woman. With a small final pressure on his lips, he realized she was drawing back and he reluctantly let her go.
She slowly opened her eyes with that dreamy smile of hers. Then she focused on his face.
“Are there more glyphs?” she asked.
“Bring me the map,” Frederico barked in Spanish.
He set his beer down on the corner of the wooden table with a thud. The ceramic incense burners at the left edge of the table bounced once.
He glanced at them.
Priceless artifacts, they were called. Priceless–what a stupid word.
had its price. These ones might fetch tens of thousands of dollars, even caked in dirt like they were. But he preferred to have them clean.
“Wash those out in the rain,” he said, finishing with a burp.
As he heavily sat on the stool, the topographic map appeared in front of him. He spread his hands out on it. Tomás took one of the artifacts and Frederico heard the door open. As if the sound of the pounding rain on the corrugated roof weren’t enough, the sound of the rushing river in the distance was added to it. Then the door closed.
He leaned over the map.
“Where did you go?” he mused out loud. “Where did you take my boat?”
That gringo who rented the boat–something was going on with him. Three years in a row he came during the field season, always by himself, but now with a woman.
He placed a grimy finger on his own location, at Sayaxché, on the Rio Pasión.
“Always the supplies go in,” he muttered. “But nothing ever comes out.”
He traced the thin blue line of the river.
Several famous archaeological sites were nearby–Dos Pilas, Seibal, and Aguateca. He’d marked them with large black dots but there was nothing at those places but ruins. The archaeologists had taken everything. It was the red dots that were more interesting.
His finger slowly ran past them.
These were his own excavations.
Suddenly, he heard something smash outside and then cursing.
Frederico’s hand flew to the holster at his side and grabbed the handle of the machete. In seconds, he was through the door, the machete held in front.
Tomás stood there, in the rain, gaping at him–the shards of the broken incense burner at his feet. It was the first one he’d broken but he obviously knew what would happen next. He took off at a run.
Frederico grinned as he hefted the machete in his hand.
Jesse looked up to the temple in front of them, at the far end of the plaza.
“The Caracol,” Brett said, beside her.
“Like Chichén Itzá,” she said, nodding.
Caracol was Spanish for snail, which meant that inside there would be a spiral staircase, like the shell of a snail. Unlike Chichén Itzá, though, this couldn’t be an observatory, not inside a mountain.
The ornate facade of the building was stone, like everything else, but the carving was incredible. It looked like latticework, deeply recessed in black shadows, with the floodlights at the opposite end of the plaza barely reaching it. The round building sat on a large rectangular platform, with steps that led down to the plaza.
As she and Brett climbed them, they held their lanterns high. At the dark doorway, she could just make out the beginning of the interior staircase.
There were glyphs on it.
Her mind raced as the colored images of other glyphs swam through her vision, mixing and matching. They quickly slotted into place.
“Bin in t’zuutz’ a chi,” she said, scanning across the first riser. “I will kiss your mouth.”
The beginning of a love poem
, she thought. The Itzá, the mythic founding race of the Maya kings, were known for their erotic imagery and love poems.
“Between the plants of the fields,” she said, reading the second riser.
“Shimmering beauty, you have to hurry,” read the third, as she took a step up.
“Put on your beautiful clothes.”
She took another step.
“The day of happiness has arrived. Comb the tangles from your hair.”
• • • • •
Brett watched as Jessica touched her own hair.
She was gone again, in her own world. Colored glyphs with certain feelings attached, she’d said.
As he climbed up after her, he watched her fingers running quickly over the glyphs in front of her as her head swiveled left and right to read the entire line. The glyphs here were dense and he’d never even attempted their translation. He was looking for the Red King and he already suspected where his burial had to be.
“String garlands around your shapely throat,” she said quietly, as she took another step up and she ran her fingers down the front of her throat. He stared at the strangely seductive movement, not quite believing what he was seeing.
What is she doing? Acting out the poem? Mimicking the glyph?
Clearly, it was a love poem and, though it probably wouldn’t lead to the Red King, Brett couldn’t help but follow, entranced by the words and her. Occasionally, she’d slip into K’iche and rarely Spanish but most of the time it was English.
“Glorious you will be seen, for none is more beautiful here, in the seat of Dzitbalché.”
Brett nearly tripped.
The Songs of Dzitbalché.
, the connection with the Itzá.
They had nearly reached the top of the stairs and she was reading at a faster pace now.
Cah in yacumaech
. I love you, beautiful lady. That is why I want you to look glorious and beautiful,” she panted as they entered the sanctuary.
The glyphs continued on the nearby altar. She left her lantern at the top of the stairs and rushed over to it, breathing hard. Brett set his down as well and had to run to keep up. It was darker inside but the lantern light was enough to cast some light on the small interior.
“You will appear like the smoking star,” she breathed, leaning over the top of the altar. She pivoted at the hips and still her fingers danced over the glyphs on its surface. “So that you will be loved even as existence, the moon, and the wildflowers.”
She paused to drag in a deep breath.
Brett stood next to her, though she had no idea. Her right hand was drifting down her throat toward the dip in her collarbones.
Why did she
He stared at her, riveted by the movement.
Her hand moved lower, down to the dip between her breasts. He was hardly hearing her as a pounding in his ears took over.
“Pure and white are your clothes, maiden,” she breathed. “Go give happiness with your laugh. Put goodness…”
He found himself standing directly behind her.
“… in your heart,” she said, as she touched her own breast.
He gently placed one hand on her hip and slipped his other hand under the front of her tank top.
He felt the touch of her back against his chest and his own labored breathing started to match hers.
“Because today…” she said.
He gently cupped her breast and she shuddered.
“…is the moment of happiness,” she whispered.
He kissed the nape of her neck and she gasped.
The multi-colored glyphs were still whirling in mid-air but Jesse no longer looked at them. Although the words of love pulsed a deep violet, it was only the warm feel of lips on her neck that she sensed any longer.
“Brett?” she murmured.
“Jessica,” he breathed against her skin and then he nibbled on her ear.
But it wasn’t just his lips.
Now she realized that his hand was moving over her breast and she felt his fingers gently squeeze. She moaned as they contracted over her nipple.
She reached up behind her and dug her fingers into the hair at the back of his neck. His other hand immediately went to her other breast. Slowly, he caressed her with tender, massaging movements. His hands were warm and soft and she let her head rest back against his shoulder. But as he circled his palms over the nipples, even through the bra, she felt the tips swell.
“Oh,” she gasped quietly, clinging to his neck and squirming under his light touch.
Again, one hand cupped her but the other began to slide down the center of her midriff. He stroked the skin there with his entire hand. One by one his fingers dipped into her belly button and then out. They travelled downward and pushed past the elastic waistband of her shorts. He gently squeezed her breast and his moist breath bathed her neck as his fingers smoothly dipped into her panties. A buzz of anticipation raced up her spine and a tiny whimper escaped her lips. At that, his fingers delved over the edge of her mound and covered her sweet spot. It pulsed immediately. As he squeezed her nipple with one hand and stroked her with the other, Jesse convulsed. She tugged hard on his neck as her abdomen contracted, threatening to make her double over, but his grip on her was firm and he pulled her back against him. Then he squeezed and stroked her again.