Read an Excerpt
T he Khan el-Khalili Bazaar--the dark and timeless bowels of the city of Cairo--proved to be a labyrinth of lamp-lit alleys littered with merchandise overflowing from a myriad of tiny shops.
Simon had kindly exchanged some of my American money at the hotel for Egyptian currency, and there was a precious moment when his fingers brushed mine as he handed me the colorful bills. We had both drunk wine with dinner, our coordination wasn't at its best, so I tried not to make too much of it. Ever since Carol's revelation, I was trying to remain detached from this man, who was suspiciously too much like a dream come true for me.
Strolling leisurely through the bazaar's exotic maze, we passed dozens of jewelry shops selling reproductions of ancient Egyptian pieces that probably looked good to the average tourist but did not fool me. The faces of the gods and goddesses forming the center of elaborate pectoral pendants wore sour expressions nothing like the profoundly peaceful smiles found on ancient originals. The personalities of the modern artisans were revealed in the often-harsh casts of the deities' features and their discontented frowns, which completely failed to capture the profoundly positive ancient Egyptian spirit. All my life I had gotten into countless arguments with people who insisted people in the time of the pharaohs were morbid because they were obsessed with death, and I had tried my best (usually not very patiently) to make them understand the Egyptians were obsessed with life and all its pleasures, and therefore had no desire to give it up.
Carol stopped to inspect a cart loaded with bundles of dried herbs and what looked like every kind of incense known toman. Simon had apparently talked himself out at dinner, because he walked silently between us looking a bit bored. After all, he must have been to the bazaar dozens of times already. Or perhaps he was distracted by his thoughts; there was a slightly preoccupied air about him. His shoulder brushed mine as he turned away from the aromatic cart, obviously realizing it was going to be a while before Carol finished inspecting it, and the contact triggered something inside me.
"You know, people make the mistake of thinking the Egyptians drew the human figure the way they did because they didn't know how to do it right,' I said, pursuing my thoughts out loud.. 'But I read a fascinating book once that said they drew the body the way they did in order to capture the essence of each feature and present an essentially whole picture of the human being ... I mean they drew the shoulders facing forward beneath a profile in which the eye was also fully visible while the torso was turned sideways, because that way we see the person in his entirety all at once. Their use of perspective attempted to conquer the limits of time and space. Do you know what I mean?'
He opened his mouth to speak just as Carol thrust a stick of incense beneath his nose to get his opinion on it, and he ended up responding to both our queries by sneezing.
"Bless you!' my friend and I cried in chorus.
"Thank you.' He sniffed. 'Mm, that's ... interesting, Carol.' He said, and then facing me with his body, he turned his profile on me. 'It's a damned uncomfortable perspective if you ask me.' His one eye winked.
Considering the distraction, I forgave him this irreverent response to my enlightened observation.
Carol waved the same stick of incense in my face. 'Doesn't it smell delicious, Mary?'
I took a step back. 'Jesus, that's one potent stick.'
"Damn right it is,' Simon murmured, brushing past me. 'Come on, Carol.' He pulled her away from the cart by her braid. 'You don't need any more incense. When my friend returns to his apartment, I'm going to have a hell of a time trying to explain what you've been doing in there.'
I trailed behind them, gazing admiringly at Simon's broad shoulders, narrow waist and long legs. In his white shirt and shorts he was as tall as an ancient Egyptian nobleman in white linen, an effect marred only by his blond hair. He and Carol turned into a shop that sold what appeared to be footrests--large red cushions embroidered with eighteenth dynasty dancing girls in gilded thread--while I chose to remain out in the cool alleyway. A strip of sky showed between the awnings, but the golden glow of the lamps strung between them washed out the stars. I should have known better than to just stand there all by myself, however; a crowd of merchants immediately surrounded me. As each one gestured passionately for me to follow him to his cart, I attempted to escape by diving between the choppy waves of their dark robes. I waited for Simon to rescue me, but there was no sign of him.
"No ... la, shukron,' I said. 'No, la ... la la!' I sounded as if I was about to break out into song as I fervently repeated the Arabic word for 'no'. The tide of merchants ebbed away reluctantly, and I quickly entered the shop of footstools in search of Carol and her boss. The small space was empty except for the owner, who swooped towards me like a vulture in his black robe. I turned and hurried back out into the alley. At a loss as to where my companions could have gone, I glanced into the dark space between two shops just in time to see two luminous heads coming together and the tendons in Simon's arms standing out like serpents as he pressed my friend's slender body hard against his.
Without thinking, I ran from the sight.
My hurt indignation carved its way through groups of tourists and eager vendors who did their best to intercept me, and how hard my heart was beating told me it was at least a full minute before I finally stopped to catch my breath. I went for long jogs in Boston three days a week, but never after dinner and wine through dark, lamp-lit alleys wearing high-heeled boots. I had always possessed a flare for the dramatic, and in the back of my mind I hoped Simon had observed me run off and would follow me. Obviously, I had seen too many romantic movies, because naturally he wasn't following me; he had been too busy kissing Carol to even notice me. Once again I was in the eye of a storm of shopkeepers, one of whom abruptly grabbed my arm and began forcibly leading me somewhere.
I clutched my purse close to my body and tried to remember more of the Arabic words Carol had taught me. 'Ana mish ... eis,' I said breathlessly. 'I don't want any,' I translated for my own benefit. 'Ana mish eis,' I repeated, to no effect. My captor shoved me up a short flight of steps, reached past me to open the door, and gave me another encouraging shove. I turned around to give this unbelievably fascist merchant a piece of my mind, but he was gone and had closed the trailer door behind me.
I turned around again. I was standing in a tiny perfume shop. Cushioned seats ran along both walls in front of a glass display case full of colorful little vials that made me think of miniature genie bottles. The exotic trailer was empty, and I turned back towards the door with the intention of opening it.
"Good evening, my lady,' a cultured male voice said from behind me.
I whirled around again. 'I don't want any,' I cried. 'Mafish!' I was developing a nice little vocabulary, for all the good it did me. Then the robed figure behind the counter flung off his hood and I found myself at a loss for words in any language.
"I believe you have it backwards, love.' His deep voice was lightened by a sophisticated English accent. He slipped out from behind the counter and approached me. 'You have something I want.'
"I do?' I asked hopefully.
He took my flushed and confused face in his large hands. 'Yes,' he said quietly, 'I suspect you do.' There was a deeply serious expression in his slate gray-green eyes as he caressed both my cheeks with his thumbs very much like a sculptor assessing the quality of my bone structure, and I suffered the impression he was mysteriously determining my worth. I opened my mouth with the idea of saying something, but was distracted by the pale crescent of a scar just below his own mouth that gave him a dangerous aura. Part of me knew I should be worried to suddenly find myself completely alone in a pungent trailer with a total stranger boasting a scar on his face. Yet it was beginning to feel wonderfully natural to run into strikingly handsome men in Egypt, so I simply accepted what was happening. He had the most remarkable eyes, and it wasn't just because his pupils were rimmed in gold ... there was something very familiar about the way they looked at me...
"My lady,' he whispered fervently, and suddenly kissed me softly on the lips.
It was not just a paralyzing blend of shock and pleasure (or was it that the pleasure was shocking?) that kept me from pulling away, I simply couldn't; I had absolutely no desire to pull away from him. On the contrary, I was magnetically drawn to this total stranger. While we spoke, I had been standing as close to him as I possibly could, trying to fight an irrational but almost irresistible desire to fall into his arms. It was an intense relief when he kissed me, as though I had been waiting forever for his lips to press against mine like this again.
He pulled back to observe my reaction, and a gratified smile I might have found humiliating had I been thinking straight, turned his firm mouth up at the corners. Caressing the sleek black hair on both sides of my face, he kept my head reverently in his hands, making me feel precious as an ancient bust he had just unearthed. 'What do you know about it?' he whispered.
"Know about what?' I whispered back. He was dressed like a native Egyptian in a traditional white galabiyya. At first I had thought his black hair was cut short, but now I realized it was actually long and pulled back in a ponytail. I wondered if he had tired of the long winters back home in England and come to sunny Egypt to run a cozy little perfume shop, but I dismissed the possibility at once because there was absolutely nothing retired looking about this man. He wanted something, and I found myself hoping I had it to give.
"Don't you remember?' He looked searchingly down into my eyes.
"Remember what?' I asked even though it sounded silly, because if I remembered I wouldn't need to ask what I had forgotten.
"Yes, actually, I do.' I didn't even think to wonder why a complete stranger was asking me about my dreams in the heart of the Khan el-Khalili bazaar since for some reason it felt perfectly natural. 'I had a particularly vivid dream today, as a matter of fact, when I was taking a nap inside a mastaba.'
He glanced at the door to the trailer. 'We don't have much time,' he warned quietly, and then suddenly laughed as though what he had said was extremely funny.
The naked joy in his smile struck me as a bright light reaching into the darkest corners of my mind, illuminating something I had always known but had only just realized. 'There's no such thing as time,' I declared happily because it was the only way I could translate the wonderful feeling suddenly possessing me into words.
"Most people don't realize that.'
"Well, I'm not most people.'
"No,' he agreed fervently, reaching for my hand, 'you're not.' He led me over to the counter.
For a highly confused and disappointed moment I thought he was going to try and sell me some perfume, and that our encounter had only been some kind of mercantile foreplay found only in Egypt, so I was both relieved and surprised when he grabbed me by the waist and lifted me up onto the glass surface. My short dress hiked shamelessly up my thighs, nearly exposing the black lace bikini panties my dinner with a sexy Egyptologist had inspired me to wear beneath it.
"I love these boots,' he told me, sinking to one knee before me like an old-fashioned cobbler cradling the backs of my high-heels in his hands as though admiring his work.
"Thank you ... hey, what are you doing?' I leaned back against the counter even as I made an effort to keep my thighs modestly pressed together, but it was impossible simply because I didn't really want to. It wasn't his hands gripping my boots that were spreading my legs as much as my own shameless yet irresistible desire to open myself to this man.
"Just having a little taste, love, don't be afraid,' he urged, caressing the smooth black leather up to my knees and gently shoving them even further apart. 'Tell me your name.'
"Mary!' I gasped, desperately trying to control my pussy's sudden wanton hunger in the face of my usual modest behavior and in his face, the proximity of which was making my sex so hot and wet, my panty was clinging to my labial lips in a dangerously tantalizing way; teasing me with the wicked knowledge that what I really wanted was to feel his strikingly handsome features between them.
"Mary...' He savored my name on his tongue before glancing up at my face. 'May I?'
I didn't respond, riveted by his intensely earnest expression and by how much I wanted to feel it between my legs.
"Time is a man-made concept, and as a result,' he indicated the door behind him with a slight tilt of his head, 'we don't have much of it now. All I ask, Mary, is a taste of what's to come.'
I inclined my head in wordless ascent.
He reached up beneath what there was of my dress and gripped the edges of my panties, holding my eyes the whole time in a way that was both reassuring and hypnotic.
I lifted my hips off the cool glass and let him slide the skimpy lace garment over my knees, down my boots, and off. He kept bracing me on his stare as he exposed my pussy, not letting me look away shyly, forcing me to face what was happening in a way that excited me even more. It had been a long time since I'd been so intensely turned on that I couldn't control myself.
"Oh my God,' I breathed, scarcely able to believe the sight of a complete stranger's face framed by my bare thighs as he draped them over his strong shoulders. But it was truly happening, and I sighed, 'Oh yes!' watching the lips on his face touch the lips of my sex, which were much wetter and fuller as I was so aroused by this wickedly daring encounter. I couldn't believe I was letting a man whose name I didn't even know lick my pussy. A man who could conceivably be dangerous was eating me out with a violent skill that even as it frightened my mind also literally thrilled me to the core of my being.
I leaned back against the counter to brace myself, and watching his head working between my legs, I began longing to take hold of it and caress the sleek dark hair that I could now see fell all the way down his back.
"Who are you?' I gasped, not really expecting or wanting an answer because his mouth and his tongue were doing something much more important than talking. The need my brain felt to hear his name was nowhere near as important as the pleasure his absolute wordless attention was giving me. And even though it made no sense, somehow everything about him felt more familiar than all my other lovers combined. Was it him, or was he so perfect because I didn't know anything about him and it was actually only my own fantasies that were wreaking such divine havoc on me? No, it was definitely him because oral sex had never felt so unbelievably good to me no matter what I was daydreaming about at the time.
"Mm!' he moaned, and the deep vibration of his satisfaction against my vulva contributed another layer to the ecstasy of his tongue diving in and out of my hot hole. I had never experienced such a hard, thrusting tongue and it was starting to drive me wild with the desire to ride it. I edged my hips forward on the counter in a breathless effort to impale myself on his tongue's thick, rigid energy, crying out softly as its gloriously agile hardness penetrated me as deeply as possible, and then licked my vulva soothingly, as though apologizing for not being a penis by treating me to sensations distinct from the pleasures a cock could offer. And when his firm lips caught my aching clit between them, I forgot my delicious frustration and succumbed to a sweet, sharp, almost unbearable pleasure as he toyed with my swollen seed, alternating between flicking the tip of his tongue against it and slowly circling it.
"Oh my God,' I repeated helplessly, because it didn't seem possible that a man I didn't know at all knew exactly how to please me. He seemed magically in touch with the current of my delight. It was as if he had sensed it ebb slightly when he sucked directly on my clitoris and knew that indirect pressure and stimulation were what would direct the rush of exquisite feelings inside me into the irresistible undertow of an orgasm. Of all the things I couldn't believe about this encounter, the most unbelievable was the fact that I felt myself coming. My pussy seemed to be dissolving in his mouth, the whirlpool of a climax forming around his spiraling tongue threatening to suck my awareness of everything into the tumultuous depths of uncontrollable vaginal spasms as I climaxed.
"Oh yes!' I cried breathlessly. 'Yes ... yes ... oh my God...' I closed my eyes and flung my head back as an orgasm broke between my thighs, flooding my pelvis before crashing through my blood with such power I nearly fell back across the counter as my elbows buckled. Even after the searing ecstasy dimmed, my sex kept throbbing contentedly, and I could hardly stand it as he continued lapping up my juices, the deep, gratified sounds rising from his throat only adding to my blissful torment.
"Smooth as alabaster,' he said approvingly, running the tip of a finger down between the full bloom of my labial lips glistening with the sticky sap of my climax, 'and soft as a flower.' His mouth shiningly anointed with my body's delicate musty scent, he smiled up at me. 'I like it that you shave, Mary.' My thighs were still resting on his shoulders; I couldn't seem to move, I was feeling so beautifully relaxed. 'I want you to always keep yourself smooth for me like this.'
I had to bite my lip to keep from asking, 'Does that mean I'm going to see you again?' A nameless stranger had just eaten me alive, yet my only concern was that he would vanish forever as suddenly and mysteriously as he had appeared. 'All right,' I said instead.
"Did you like that?'
"Are you kidding?' I replied an instant before I realized he was teasing me.
He laughed quietly as he gently brushed my legs off his shoulders and stood up, my black lace panties in his hand. 'I'm going to keep these,' he told me, lifting them to his face and inhaling the unique fragrance of my pussy still clinging to them thanks to how excited he had gotten me before he slipped them off. 'To remind me of you until we meet again, Mary.'
"Aren't you going to tell me your name?' I asked finally, sitting up straight and attempting to smooth my dress down over my thighs, which were still subliminally quivering.
"You know my name, Mary.' He glanced behind him at the trailer door again.
"No I don't, you never told me.'
He gave me a long, sober look. 'Yes, you do,' he insisted quietly, 'you just don't realize it yet.'
There was suddenly the sound of a commotion outside.
He stashed my panties in his robe, and slipping a strong arm around my waist lifted me off the counter so that my boots barely touched the floor as he held me against him. I could scarcely breathe he was holding me so tightly, and I wondered if (I hoped) he would kiss me again, but all he did was stare deep into my eyes while stroking my hair away from my face. 'Remember your dreams, Mary,' he urged quietly, and suddenly I was standing alone on trembling legs inside a trailer full of exotic glass perfume vials in the middle of Cairo trying to wrap my brain around the exhilarating pleasure I had just experienced, the aftermath of which was still making my whole body feel deliciously weak.
The trailer door burst open.
"Jesus, Mary, there you are! Why the hell did you run off like that?' Simon demanded. 'We've been looking everywhere for you.'
I wasn't surprised he had found me sooner than later; a trail of grinning merchants had undoubtedly pointed the way for him. I glanced over my shoulder at the softly swaying curtains behind which my mysterious British sheik had vanished, feeling bereft. 'I thought you and Carol wanted to be alone,' I replied sulkily.
"Was someone in here with you?' he asked accusingly.
I didn't reply, but I have always had a very expressive face.
Brushing past me abruptly, he too slipped behind the glass counter, and vanished between the curtains.
I held my breath, wanting very much to learn the identify of the stranger whose sensually eloquent lips and tongue had made such a beautiful impression on my pussy. I did not, however, want him and Simon in the same room; an explosive combination that I feared would destroy my chances with the Egyptologist if he realized what had just, literally, gone down between me and the handsome Brit. So when Carol's boss returned a moment later, alone, I was at once disappointed and relieved. I let out my breath in a long, languid sigh, strangely glad my mysterious friend had made good his escape.
Simon came to stand before me, and gripping both my arms stared searchingly down into my eyes. 'Who was here with you, Mary?' he demanded to know.
"I have no idea,' I replied, gratified to be able to protect the robed stranger even while telling the absolute truth.
"Was he an Egyptian?'
"No, actually, he sounded British.'
Simon's grip on my arms tightened almost painfully. 'What did he say to you?'
"Why do you want to know?'
"Just answer my question, Mary.'
"He said I had something he wanted...' I couldn't speak for a moment, breathlessly remembering how his tongue had swirled around the glowing jewel of my clitoris. 'Then he asked me how much I knew about it. And for some reason, he called me "my lady".' I glanced pointedly at his hands clutching my arms to indicate this was no way to treat a lady, and he let go of me self-consciously. 'And he also asked me if I remembered my dreams. I have no idea why, but he was extremely ... pleasant.' My sex lips were still tingling from how extremely pleasant he had been to them.
"Did he say anything else?'
"Yes, just before he left he told me to remember my dreams,' I confessed.
"Mary!' Carol exclaimed, appearing in the doorway with what looked like a small crowd of native men in gleeful pursuit, their combined curiosity lapping like an intangible wave against the trailer. 'What's the matter with you?' she gasped, catching her breath. 'Why did you run off like that?'
I didn't answer. I was too busy enjoying both the consternated and possessive way I fancied Simon was looking at me, and being deliciously haunted by the stranger's kisses, both on my mouth and the lips of my pussy, both of which had opened for him willingly.
"Let's get the hell out of here,' Simon said.