The Staff of Moses

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Chapter 19: Recovery

Oliver was paralyzed with surprise for a moment, but soon enough he gave in to the kiss and allowed himself to be lost in the experience of it. It had been a long time since he had kissed a woman and Diana was absolutely the type of woman he was attracted to. He closed his eyes and surrendered to the warmth of her lips, dry from the trek through the canyon, yet pleasingly soft.

When Diana finally pulled back, Oliver reached down to pull the seat lever. He leaned back in the soft cushion and scooted sideways to make room for Diana to lay beside him on the seat. She slid lithely over the center console and pressed herself against him, wrapping one arm tightly around his neck as she pressed her face into his chest. Oliver wrapped both arms around Diana and pulled her closer, enjoying the soft, curvaceous press of her body against his own. She began to shake gently against his chest and spent the next several minutes alternating between pounding her fists ineffectually against Oliver’s back and kissing him on the neck, softly sobbing the while.

Oliver did his best to ignore the soft pressure of her body against his own, knowing that this was nothing more than a momentary outburst. He focused instead on reviewing his concerns of the previous few days, letting each of them melt away and be replaced by a warm thrill at having found the site of Sephor’s estate. Working together, they had managed to get a look at the scroll and interpret its contents to uncover this ancient estate. They had shaken off Senator Wheeler’s grip on the expedition, and apparently rid themselves of Rais Karim. Most importantly, Oliver no longer felt any guilt about bringing Diana along on this excursion. Her sudden need to be held by another living human was a fairly predictable reaction to encountering an honest to god, undeniable sign of magical power, especially one that took the form of a murderous undead skeleton. Oliver was impressed that Diana had not frozen when the skeleton charged at them in the hall. Present tears aside, she had a strong spirit and Oliver was confident that Diana would soon recover and continue to be a valuable asset.

Eventually, Diana reached a hand up between them and wiped away the tears from her cheeks. She looked into Oliver’s eyes for a moment then turned away, blinking back more tears. “Some strong, independent, modern woman I am right now,” she said, wiping away more tears and pressing her cheeks against Oliver’s shirt to dry them.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a good cry. You just survived a literal encounter with death.”

“You’re not crying. Hell, I was on the brink of collapse and you went back out and shot that thing right in the face.”

Oliver smiled and pushed a strand of tear-sodden hair away from Diana’s right eye. “Trust me, Diana, this is nothing to be ashamed about. The first time I encountered a… well… magical guardian, I didn’t have time to even think about it for three days as Amber and I fought our way out of the jungle. Then, when I finally escaped from the jungle and made it back to civilization, I spent a week waking up screaming with night terrors.”

“Really?”

“Complete truth. Only reason I’m not freaking out now is that I’ve faced dozens of things like that skeleton in the last few years.”

Diana sighed and laid her forehead against Oliver’s chest. They lay together in silence for a while, until finally she stirred and said, “What comes next?”

Oliver had been pondering that very question and had a response prepared. “Tomorrow we go back in and see if we can find any clues to the location of the staff. Sephor clearly had links to genuine Egyptian magicians, so I think we can assume he really did have something to do with the staff. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find some sort of clue to the location of the staff somewhere in his estate.”

“But what about the skeletons?”

“You saw what I did to the one that chased us.”

“Yes.”

“I’ve got a spare gun and plenty of ammo. How’s your aim?”

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