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What the Pharaoh Took to the Grave

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It is 1924 and Cairo has never been busier, glitzier or ritzier. By day, the Valley of Kings swarms with hopefuls, all keen to unearth the next great find, while at night Jazz and hookah permeate the air and liquor flows free as the Nile among the fashionable set. Archaeologist Eris Buchanan knows that the competition is stiff, and she, a woman alone in the world, must fight harder than all the rest for any chance of success. She enlists the help of Ben Mallory, a gruff alpha-for-hire to be her guide and protector on the expedition of her lifetime. There are just two problems. First, that the desert heat seems to be playing havoc on her suppressants, threatening to ruin her carefully curated disguise. And second, her new body guard is perhaps the most aggravating alpha she has ever met, with a scent that she can't seem to get out of her head. They must overcome their hatred of each other, fight off rival treasure hunters as well as navigate their own instincts on the quest for long-lost treasure.

Romance / Adventure
Age Rating:

Chapter 1 - The Candidate


For great expedition. Must be able to travel vast distances, find water, fight wild dogs, defuse booby traps, carry great burdens. Danger very likely. Wages: 10 pounds per week.

-E. Buchanan, Museum of Antiquities, Cairo.


There were broadly two types of Alphas in the world, and Eris Buchanan thought she knew which type she was looking at.

Like the others, this one was broad and big, almost obscenely so, tall enough to make her makeshift office seem even more like a broom closet. He was a decade older than her, perhaps about thirty, with features that were a little too rugged to be considered truly handsome. The skin on his cheeks was pink and flaked from too long in the sun, and an ugly scar gouged a crooked track through one eyebrow and through the bridge of his nose, which was a little crooked.

The start of a stubbly beard and hair that tumbled in no particular style past his ears gave her a sketch of the man, and the threadbare khakis and scuffed boots furnished some details.

But it was his eyes that really gave it away. They peered out from deep sockets, stone grey with a cold expression that would have been more forbidding without the dark circles that hung around them almost like bruises.

All Alphas desired domination. It was in their nature to crave the submission of others, to want to own softer, weaker things. This desire could never be truly sated. They were ravenous beasts who grew hungrier the more you fed them. And like other wild animals, you could never truly trust them. The successful ones were almost worse than the other kind, with nothing and no one to ever come between them and whatever it is they lusted after. But the poor and desperate ones could sometimes be muzzled.

He might do, thought Eris, looking into those hard, tired grey eyes in their deep, dark sockets.

“I thought this was a job interview,” drawled the Alpha, raising one sardonic brow. “Aren’t you going to ask me any questions?”

Desperate or not, he certainly had the Alpha voice. It was low, slow and rumbling, the kind of voice that assumed you were already listening and would continue paying attention until they were quite done.

An uncomfortable and familiar feeling stirred in the pit of Eris’s stomach. She hushed the soft, fluttering creature that resided deep inside her, hidden to the world.

You are safe, she reminded herself.

She made herself smile, slowly, and not too much. She made sure that when she spoke, she kept her eyes fixed on his, even as they seemed determined to try and bore a hole through her soul.

“Only a few, Mr - ” she consulted the page in front of her, his name forgotten in that little moment of lost calm.

“Mallory. My name is Ben Mallory. Miss - ?”

"Ms Eris Buchanan.”

“Oh, so you’re the one who put out the advertisement. I thought you were only the secretary.”

She forced her smile to grow just a little wider and warmer, even as her mouth began to run dry.

You are the one in control. You decide how this goes from here.

She took a deep breath, and began.

“I am the leader of the expedition, yes. Mr Mallory, let us start with a bit about yourself. It says here that you were a soldier. Can you tell me more about that?”

“It’s all there in my paperwork, isn’t it?” he snapped, a slight frown pinching his dark eyebrows together.

Eris continued to smile. “All the same. I’d like to hear it from you.”

The Alpha visibly bristled, his wide shoulders squaring up and his square jaw tightening. There was silence for a moment that seemed to stretch on for far too long.

She wondered if it was really going to be like that the whole time, like performing dentistry on a disgruntled lion. If so, that would make this one even worse than the last one, a thing she would not have thought possible.

When he spoke again he spat the words out like apple seeds.

“I was a volunteer, not drafted. Enlisted in late sixteen, sent over to France in November seventeen. I fought at Marne and Somme. What else is there to know?”

Eris forged on.

“It says in your paperwork that you were discharged for medical reasons.”

“I am still fit and able, if that’s what you’re asking,” he growled.

That was another thing about Alphas, particularly male Alphas. They almost never spoke normally. They growled, they snarled, they purred, like animals. Demihumans was the name given by Betas to the others. It had not been the Omegas who had earned them all the scorn of the rest of society.

“It is what I am asking,” said Eris, evenly. “Physical fitness is an essential requirement - ”

“I’m still an Alpha, sweetheart. I can still run further and jump higher than nine out of ten regular men, and beat the last one to a bloody pulp. ”

Eris could feel a headache coming on. She blinked her growing frustration away. She could end this if she wanted, and advertise again tomorrow. But now that he was here, she ought to finish the interview at least, so as not to have wasted the effort.

“What is your experience of traveling in the desert, Mr Mallory?”

“More than yours, I’ll guarantee. I’ve lived here for three years. I’ve been out as far west as Siwa and south to Farafra. I know the land, and I know how to find water. I can get you where you need to go.”

There was an expression of irritation mingled with earnestness in his grey eyes now that spoke of an easily wounded pride. She believed him, she decided. There was substance under this particular bit of bravado, and that was perhaps more than could be said for the others she had seen that day.

“That sounds very impressive. We could certainly use that experience on the expedition.” she said.

Something in the Alpha’s eyes flared up at that, some brilliant and strange expression that was snuffed out again not a moment later.

She made a note in his paperwork, taking her time to write it in longhand.

“Can I ask why you applied for this job?”

She liked asking this question. It was always revealing.

The Alpha stared at her, blinked once, and then began to laugh. It was a humourless sound, not unlike the baying of the wild dogs that stalked the streets after sundown.

“Did I say something funny?” It was a struggle now to keep her voice level.

This is nothing new, she reminded herself. Alphas were, almost without exception, extraordinary arseholes. This was the behaviour she had come to expect.

“Just listen to yourself, sweetheart. Why did I apply for this position? Do you see many other openings for intact Alphas in this town paying anywhere near what you’re offering?

Her heart sank a little at that. She sighed.

“So, you’re only interested for the money. I thought all Alphas were supposed to be naturally protective. Do you not have that instinct?”

“My instinct is to protect Omegas. I just don’t make a hobby of trudging across the dessert just so spoiled Beta princesses can pick up another jewel for the mantle piece back home.” For variety, he snarled this time.

Eris smiled. Beta Princess? She rather liked that.

“All the treasure will go into a public collection.” she explained. ” But I take your point. Do you have one, Mr Mallory?”


“An Omega.”

Or a point.

She knew what the answer would be, of course. That much was written into every wrinkle in his worn-out clothes and his even more worn-out expression. Omegas were rare. For every ten men there was one Alpha. And for every ten Alphas, there was one Omega. The odds were so stacked that even upper class Alphas were not always guaranteed a mate, whereas Omegas were snapped up by the mating agencies nearly as soon as they presented.

An Alpha like this one would have next to no chance in the game. He was strong and big, yes, but she imagined that was all he had to offer. He was too brash to be truly commanding, too rude for polite society, and evidently could not hold down a steady job long enough to support a brood of pups. Alphas like this one were destined to be alone, always seeking to fill an unfillable hole in their lives. Many ended up trying to plaster the gaping void over with a cocktail of violence and worse vices. She wondered what his particular weakness was. It did not seem to be wine or women.

“If I had an Omega, don’t you think I’d be at home snugged up with them rather than trotting across the desert?” He smiled a wry smile, as if her had said something very funny, but it did not reach his tired eyes.

“That keeps things simple. The expedition may take a long time, perhaps several months, and we cannot accommodate mates. When was your last rut?”

He shot her a sharp look.

“Three weeks ago.”

“Would you consider taking blo- ”


“As I said, the expedition may take months and blockers would make it easier to manage -”

“No blockers,” he snarled. Then he drew a deep breath and, speaking a little more softly, he added. “You don’t want me on blockers where you are going, sweetheart. The desert is a wild place, Ms Buchanan. If you want me to beat that tenth man for you, you’ll want me at my best.”

Or worst, she could not help but think. But there was some wisdom in what he was saying. Besides, it was the same answer the others had all given. Alphas and their pigheaded pride. It seemingly did not matter how much trouble an Alpha’s rut caused them, they would rather let their lives burn down around them than suffer the humiliation of a muted rut. It was another way in which they were were simply not adapted to modern life. Unlike Omegas.

“You would have to be caged then,” she said, keeping a close eye on his reaction.

A steely look of resolve came over him. She could see the muscles in his jaw working.


“Fine. One final question, Mr Mallory.”

She put down her pen, took a deep breath. This question she did not like to ask. The answers that she had received so far had been less than favorable.

“How do you feel about taking orders?”

“I was in the army, sweetheart. I can take orders.”

“From Alphas, I would expect. There is no Alpha leading this expedition. I will be leading this expedition. I need to know that whoever I employ will be able to put aside their pride, their emotions, their need to take control, their selfish interests and do what I need them to do. Whatever I need them to do.”

She noticed how tight his jaw was, how his hands were curled into white-knuckled fists. He seemed suddenly larger, larger certainly than any of the other Alpha she had interviewed that day. She noticed for the first time how far up she had tilt her head in order to look directly into his eyes, even as they were both sitting. She made herself hold his intense gaze and let the silence grow for as long as she was able.

She only allowed herself to blink when he did, although she could feel her eyes watering.

“I can take orders. That’s a guarantee,” he said at last. She was not so sure that she believed him.

“Very well. Thank you for your time Mr Mallory. I will make a selection soon. I will contact you, should you be successful - ”

“Why don’t you cut that out?”

He surged forward suddenly, placing his hands on the desk between them. She flinched back as far as her seat would allow, her heart leaping into her throat without warning.

“What?” She had meant to snap at him, or snarl like he did, but it came out as more of a squeak, the sound that a small animal might make in the moment of crisis. How she hated it when she sounded like that.

“All this. Pretending.” He waved a large hand vaguely at her, at the papers on her desk, at the office that she had made out of this hired storeroom at the back of the local museum.

You are still in control. He is only here because you invited him to be.

“There have been several outstanding candidates -”

“Martin, Larue and - ” He gave the air an exaggerated sniff. “- Khaled. Martin is a drunk, which you already know. Larue won’t work for a woman, no matter your designation. Khaled might be an option, if you spoke any Arabic.”

“I do speak Arabic -”

“No, you don’t. You only think you do.” He gave her a disdainful, lingering look. “So that really just leaves me, or nothing. Doesn’t it?

She could feel the anger rising in her now, overtaking her fear momentarily.

“Well, Mr Mallory. You must be proud of yourself to be considered a better candidate than nothing,” she heard herself say with a strange voice, as if from the other end of a long tunnel.

“Whatever it takes to get the job, sweetheart. I do have the job.” Somehow it did not seem like a question.

Eris was standing up before she knew what she was doing, her legs shaking a little and her voice shaking a lot.

“Please leave my office, Mr Mallory. This interview is over.”

The Alpha flashed a smile, a genuine smile of real enjoyment that lit up his entire face. He suddenly seemed years younger. The grey eyes seemed to sparkle with dark enjoyment.

It was all a joke, she realized with a sinking feeling. All of this was a sick joke, at her expense. He was trying to rile her up, and he had succeeded. How could she have let him?

He pushed his seat backwards with an unnecessarily loud scrape, the noise making Eris wince, and left the room in heavy, lumbering steps. He did not look back.

The room seemed to ring with the ugly scream of wood scraping against wood for several long moments. Eris found herself breathing quite hard, drawing short puffs through her mouth. The temperature seemed to have risen in the stifling, tiny room, and the air seemed to hang heavy, spiked with the layered scents of four Alphas.

Thankfully her senses were dulled by the heavy dose of suppressants she was on, but the smell was still almost unbearable in the stuffy closet-turned-office. Eris turned to the single tiny sash window and ripped it open. Hot, dry air hit her squarely in the face, the abrasive furnace blast of it still infinitely preferable to the overbearing stench of Alpha.

She needed to think. But first, she needed a drink. She needed it, frankly, hours ago. Preferably before this whole ordeal had started. Maybe before she had had this stupid idea in the first place.

The window was at the back of the Museum and opened over one of a busy side street, where there were already signs of Cairo’s nightlife awakening. The sun was low in the sky, just kissing the tops of the row of townhouses at the end of the street. She ought to hurry home before the streets filled with revellers, and the stray dogs came out looking for scraps.

Eris bundled the application papers into her carpet bag and pulled her straw hat on, making sure not to disturb her smooth, newly set hair.

The museum was already closed by the time she made her way out to the main floor below. The visitors had gone, and the curator, Mr Adel, was sitting in the west wing, standing over an open cabinet.

He looked up at the sound of her echoing footsteps, and smiled from beneath his curly waxed moustache.

“Will you need that room again, Ms Buchanan? Or can I return it to its former glory?” he asked, not unkindly. ” I have some forty-three boxes of documents that are missing their home.”

“I may need to advertise again.” she replied, with a sigh.

“So I take it that the last interview did not go so well?”

“I am not so sure,” said Eris. “Alphas - you know how they are.”

“You could always go without.”

“You know I can’t. I will let you know tomorrow. I just need to think it over tonight. Thank you for your generosity and help, Mr Adel.”

“I hope for my sake and for yours that you choose one,” said Mr Adel. “Good evening, Ms Buchanan.” He waved her off with a dismissive hand and turned his focus back to his work.

She passed by a display of bronze mirrors on the way out and had the fleeting impression of a pale face framed by short black hair, with a vermillion mouth. It startled her to see herself reflected back, strangely distorted and reduced.

She tore her gaze away and wrapped her silk scarf over her face as she began her walk home.

The streets were a little crowded, the traffic a mixture of locals returning from work mingled with the first of the tourists stepping out of the refuge of their cool hotel rooms for a night of coffee houses, cocktails, clubs, and other adventures.

She dodged them and tried not to let that bother her too much. The suppressants muted the worst of her sensitivities, but she still did not like crowds. She certainly could not think clearly with the noise and the heat of the afternoon sun as well as the mingled scents of a city beginning to come alive for the evening.

It did not help her head, which was beginning to throb properly now. She did not get her heats anymore, but her body was still haunted by old pangs. She would be due to have one around now, she knew. If not for the wonders of modern medicine, she would be be at home, dripping slick, surrounded by soft things, being fucked to an inch of her life by her Alpha.

Instead, she was free of all of that. Free to practice her profession. Free to make preparations for the expedition of her lifetime.

Free to make her own choices, including this one.

Martin, Larue, Khaled, and Mallory. Those were the options she carried in her bag. An Alpha to the bone, each one, each in their own uniquely unsavoury way.

Martin had reeked of cheap wine, and could barely string his answers together, his words slurring clumsily as he swayed in his seat. She and Khaled could barely understand one another, despite her attempts at both Arabic and French. As for Larue, something about that man had made her shiver. She could still feel the way his gaze slid over her body, making her feel exposed despite her high-necked dress.

And then there was Mallory. She had never met someone so arrogant, so insolent, so aggravating.

Rude, selfish, prideful, barely civilized.

She really could not bear them.

And yet she had to pick one to have any chance of success.


Author’s Notes:

Hello lovely reader! Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Buckle up, we are just getting started! Just as soon as Eris has packed her bags and picked her guy.

I hope you’ll stick around for the next chapter, as we enjoy a little more of the city and meet a few more of Eris’s friends.

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