The following is an excerpt from BLEEDING HEARTS
Demimonde Book 1 by Ash Krafton
In the great hall housing the Egyptian exhibitions, I immediately noted the change in the atmosphere. The room was cool and dry, its climate controlled to mimic the conditions in which the relics had existed in their native land.
The entire room had been designed to resemble an Old Kingdom temple. The main lights were dimmed while strategically-placed spotlights emphasized massive columns and
magnificent wall carvings like sunbeams through temple windows.
I scanned the room. No other tourists. Even better. I meandered, enjoying the rare
opportunity to linger.
Craning my neck, I ran my gaze up each of the columns, reading the images, admiring the palm leaves carved at the tops like great stone trees. Eyes toward the ceilings, I turned slowly around, admiring the handiwork of the ancient artists.
What was it like to live in those lands and those times? Could an ancient version of my spirit have been there, stepping barefoot and silently through a sandy temple like
Lost in contemplation, I was completely unprepared for the shock of smacking into
someone, bumping him hard enough to lose my balance. I’d have fallen had he not
caught my arm. Wide-eyed with consternation, I stammered an apology to the
handsome but serious-faced gentleman.
“You are not hurt, I hope?” His voice, deep and smooth, sent shivers marching down my neck, between my shoulders, down my spine.
“I’m okay.” I shook my head, too shy to make direct eye contact, wishing I’d
checked my hair and lipstick before coming in. “I’m far too adept at being
He flashed a grin and I caught a glimpse of nice white teeth. “Temples are places for spiritual reflection. It is forgivable if your vision was turned inward, rather
than toward where you were walking.”
His expression softened by amusement, he tilted his head toward the pillars. “Majestic, aren’t they?”
I stole another glance at him—black hair smoothed back into a discreet tail, clear light skin framed by long sideburns, strong jaw culminating in a square, cleft chin. Like
the other items in the museum, something about him made me want to look closer,
inspect each detail.
A subtle flush warmed my cheeks and ears so I quickly turned back to the heights of the exhibition. Murmuring a sound of agreement, I circled the column, stepping a
few feet away so I could see both him and the stone. “Do you visit this
Furtive glances allowed me to take in more of his appearance a tiny section at a time. Clothing dark as his hair. Long blazer, something in between a suit coat and an
overcoat. In one hand he carried a bound book and fountain pen, as if he’d been
His gaze was calm and steady and entirely on me. Taking a deep breath I permitted the contact of the direct look. My boldness was well-rewarded. His Paul Newman lips
brought to mind the sculptured busts on display in the Greco-Roman Quarters and
he wore a stern expression that cast a veil of hardness upon his features,
enhancing the impression he’d been carved from marble.
Except for his eyes. The Roman busts bore eyes that were blank and white but this man’s eyes were alive with bright green color. Like gemstones, they glittered and drew my
“No, actually,” he said. “My first time here. Although, I admit, I’m drawn
to places like this.” His voice made music of the words—deep bass notes
and soothing rhythm.
“Ah!” I said. “A man after my own heart.” His left eyebrow arched so
sharply I thought it might disappear into his hairline and I hurriedly
continued. “Are you a professor?”
“No, nothing like that. I do studying of my own, it’s not a living. It’s more of a
hobby. Personal research, of sorts.”
“Studying past times is one of my pastimes. It’s my preferred form of
“Mmm.” Eyebrow cocked again, he cast a disapproving look at me and swept his hand around the contrived temple. “Would the gods be pleased to know they are
reduced to the level of entertainment?”
“I hope so.” I kept my tone light. Considering the seriousness of his expression,
I didn’t want to accidentally insult him. “Otherwise, they’d have to be
content with staying dead, right?”
His gaze swept over me and I shivered again as if the touch had been tangible, a brush of fingertips against my cheek.
“Well, I’ll leave you to your worship. I mean, your wanderings.” He gave me a
conspirator’s wink. “Unless…”
He hesitated, with a quiet clearing of throat as he tucked his notebook and pen into an inside pocket. “You wouldn’t mind a companion? Sometimes one sees things
differently when seeing through another’s eyes. I would appreciate a new
I mulled it over, listening to the rain spattering the windows and distant voices echoing faintly from other rooms. Although I’d looked forward to a quiet afternoon, it
might be nice to spend it with someone who seemed to share my interests. He
certainly was attractive, and his pleasant voice intrigued me.
I realized I’d become used to living inside a shell. This man made me want to step outside for once.
“I’d like that.” I smiled at his pleased expression. “I’m Sophie, by the
way.” I stuck out my hand in introduction.
Instead of shaking my hand, he bent his head over it and pressed polite lips to the backs of my fingers. The quaint gesture would have seemed strange and out of place
had we been elsewhere. “I am Marek. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Fingers tingling from the unexpected kiss, I fought the urge to curtsy. “Well, Marek. Lead me into the past.”
His almost-smile sent a thrill down the back of my neck. “That’s exactly the sort of thing I’d hoped you say. Shall we?”
He turned on his heel and swept out a hand with a slight bow, indicating the archway to another exhibit. For the first time since I’d been coming to this museum, I wondered what I’d see on the other side, and was surprised to realize I wasn’t afraid to
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