Every Last KissCourtney Cole
To my husband. If I believed in soul mates, you would be mine.
THE MAUSOLEUM OF QUEEN CLEOPATRA AND MARC ANTONY
“Charmian! Is there any sign of her?”
I hurriedly rushed back from the outer room of the mausoleum, looking nervously over my shoulder as my bare feet padded lightly on the cool stone floor.
“No, my queen. Only the guards.”
Queen Cleopatra nodded solemnly, her golden armbands glistening in the lamplight. She rose from her perch on a jeweled chaise lounge and gazed sadly at the golden sarcophagus that glittered mutely in front of her. Ornate and beautiful, it held the remains of her husband. Lovingly, she slid her hands along the golden shell that would protect him for eternity.
From the open windows of the outer chambers, the tangy sea breeze blew softly into the inner rooms and I found myself wishing that it could carry me away, somewhere far from here. I fingered the birthmark on my wrist. It was not throbbing, not even an ache, and I knew that I would not be leaving this crypt.
A sudden, soft knock on the doors echoed in the quiet room, causing both of us to whip around. Tension immediately formed in my neck. This was it. It had to be. Cleopatra squared her shoulders, then bent to brush a soft kiss on the golden mask covering Marc Antony’s face.
“Forgive me, my love,” she murmured.
There was another low knock and I felt my shoulders ripple with the stress that they carried as Cleopatra reached out to grasp my hand.
“Iras, love… could you answer that?” Cleopatra whispered. She squeezed my hand tightly, but I barely noticed.
Cleopatra’s other handmaiden nodded obediently and slipped silently from the room to answer the door. She returned a scant moment later with a tiny shriveled woman who looked not a day younger than 200 years old. The glinting eyes that stared from under her brown hood were ageless, full of wisdom and I felt my heart begin to race. It was time. There was no doubt.
Cleopatra squared her shoulders, her face a perfect regal mask as she walked purposely toward the old woman.
“Do you have it?”
“Yes, your highness,” the old woman rasped throatily.
She held out a woven reed basket. I wouldn’t have thought it was big enough to conceal anything and apparently the Roman guards hadn’t either. Nowadays, they checked everything that came in for the queen.
I rushed to Cleopatra’s side and we peered into the interior of the basket together. It was full of plump figs and I inhaled their sweet, heavy scent. My eyes raised questioningly to the old healer.
She nodded at my unspoken question. “It is hidden under the figs.”
“How long will it take?” Cleopatra whispered, her voice not reflecting even a bit of the fear that raced through my veins.
“Only a few moments.No longer.” The healer’s faded eyes searched Cleopatra’s bright ones. “You must be certain, your highness. Once the poison enters your body, there can be no turning back.”
Cleopatra nodded. “No, there is no turning back, old woman.”
The healer nodded gravely and held out the basket as if it were an offering. Cleopatra took it and sank back into her chaise lounge, staring absently at the opulence surrounding her as she reached into the basket, withdrawing a fig. Slipping it into her mouth, she chewed it delicately, then smiled.
“Delicious,” she announced, swallowing calmly.
She eyed the basket again pensively. I sucked in my breath. It was time. I felt it coming, the air crackled with it. Death was an unseen presence in the room, waiting for our last breaths.
Reaching into the basket once again, Cleopatra withdrew a long, thin black snake. It draped itself along her arm and she stared into its black slitted eyes.
“You will take me to the afterlife,” she instructed it firmly. “And do it quickly.”
Leaning back into the silk cushions, she shook the snake lightly. It hissed, its large mouth yawning open ominously, revealing glistening fangs. As it stared at her, one drop of deadly venom dripped from its mouth. Nothing more. Impatient, Cleopatra shook it again. It struck her so quickly that I barely had time to register the movement before I heard her gasp.
“It is done then,” she murmured, dropping the snake once again into the basket. I flew to her side, my arms around her slender shoulders. Two drops of blood dripped from her breast.
“Cleopatra…” My voice broke as pain flooded through me.
“Charmian, do not fear. We have done what we must. All is well.”
Her obsidian eyes met mine and I saw peace in them. My breath caught in my throat just as she drew her last. Her lips quivered and then she was still, her dark eyes staring sightlessly at me. My heart shattered silently.
“All is well,” I whispered as I reached out and gently closed her eyes. “Is it? Is it well where you are now, my queen?”
Her face was peaceful and even in death, she was beautiful. I swallowed hard as I looked up at Iras. She was shaking her head in grief as she rocked back on her heels. The old woman watched me silently, waiting to see what I would do, waiting to see if I would follow our queen.
Shakily, I picked up the basket and reached inside. The snake’s body was surprisingly dry, not scaly in the slightest. It writhed beneath my hand, agitated already. My fingers closed around it determinedly, pulling it back out into the light.
Staring into its flat black eyes, I implored it softly.
“Please be quick.”
And it was.
The country music singer’s spunky voice ripped through the silence in my room as she began singing loudly from my nightstand, causing my phone to vibrate against the espresso colored wood. I smiled. The lyrics about demolishing a cheating ex-boyfriend’s car with a baseball bat was tempting. Too tempting. I answered my phone before I got any more ideas.
Jessa’s voice was authoritative and bossy. And so on the money that it was ridiculous, not that she needed to know that. Even as she spoke, my eyes were glued to my computer screen, where Derek’s face grinned at me. His perfectly mussed blonde hair draped just-so over his green eyes, and I shuddered. Cheater.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I sniffed, trying my best to sound both innocent and offended at the same time.
I could practically hear my best friend roll her eyes through the phone.
“Macy.” One word, perfectly conveyed disbelief. I sighed.
“Okay, fine. There might be a small amount of obsessive behavior going on. How did you know?”
“Because I’ve known you since kindergarten, that’s how. Mace, seriously. Anyone who would do what he did isn’t worth the time that it takes to obsess over him. Instead of wasting your time going over every detail, and yes, I know that’s what you are doing, you should be plotting your revenge. And I mean, in a big way.”
Apparently, she hadn’t heard my new ringtone. I was way ahead of her on that one.
“Yeah…I should totally get on that.” I tried to sound innocent again.
“Have you showered yet?”
I looked down at my unwashed body clad in old sweats and nodded.
Loud sigh, long pause.
“Macy, jump in the shower. I’ll be over in two.”
And she was gone. And since she only lived two streets over, I knew that I literally only had two minutes to shower before she arrived and saw for herself that I had lied. I dropped the phone and ran for the bathroom.
2.5 minutes later, I was still rinsing the conditioning balm out of my hair when her smug voice drifted throug
h the steam.
“So, how’s that shower coming along?”
Did I mention that my BFF is a total snot?
“Does the word ‘annoying’ mean anything to you?” I shot over the shower wall.
“Yeah, um, I would think that after taking a pumice stone to yourself last night, that that hot water probably feels pretty annoying, doesn’t it?”
She was right again. Yesterday, after someone had ‘mistakenly’ texted me a video of my boyfriend Derek doing the nasty with Tara Wilson at Haley Beckman’s party last weekend, I had felt the urgent need to vigorously (and I mean vigorously!) wash every place that Derek had ever touched me.
It had taken a while.
I had stayed in the shower with my loofah, scrubbing myself until the water turned cold and my skin was bright pink, until I was certain that I had scrubbed away any memory of his touch. And Jess was right. My skin was a little sensitive (and still pink) today. The hot water was annoying right now, to say the least.
I turned it off and took the thick blue towel that Jess handed to me.
Toweling off, I stepped into a clean bra and undies and pivoted on the stone tile to face my friend. She tucked her light brown bob behind her ear as she watched me contemplatively with her lips pursed.
“Why are you here, anyway? I was perfectly happy obsessing alone. And don’t roll your eyes. They’re going to get stuck one of these days.” I tossed my wet towel in her face as I walked back into my room to get dressed.
“I came to plot revenge. I already told you that,” she reminded me as I dug through my drawers for a pair of jeans and my favorite comfy tee- the light purple one that said MAN EATER across the boobs. It was perfect for my mood.
“What makes you think I need help with that? Trust me, that part’s coming pretty easily right now. I need you to reign me in.”
She grinned her ornery Jessa grin at me, the one that lit up her entire face and made me instantly nervous about the fate of mankind, with an emphasis on the man. Women probably didn’t have much to worry about. Well, except for maybe Tara Wilson.
“Yeah, don’t count on me for that part. I already have plans.”
As she spoke, she dug through my closet, pulling out Derek’s favorite red hoodie that I had borrowed after our last swim meet, his letter jacket that I wore to make him feel good even when it was too warm outside, the oversized stuffed bunny that he won for me at a carnival, the pink hoodie that he bought for my birthday… and threw it all promptly into a pile in the middle of my room.
As she moved to my dresser to continue her search, I stared at her in confusion.
“What the hell are you doing, Jess? Have you lost your mind? I’m going to have to clean all that up!”
In answer, she tossed the lacy black bra that had also been a birthday gift from my lying ex-boyfriend onto the pile. I was beginning to sense a pattern.
“Hey, I like that one...” I stepped forward to rescue it, but she silenced me with a stare and I stopped in my tracks.
“The asshole bought it for you, Mace. We’re not keeping it. We’ll get you another one.”
I stepped back silently, marveling at the way she said we’ll, as if it was her bra that she was throwing out. As I moved, my attention was snagged by the lovenotes taped to my mirror. His sprawling, bold script mocked me now.
I love you today.
You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.
You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.
My heart is the property of Macy Lockhart.
Lies. All of it.
I suddenly saw red, something that has never happened to me in my entire life. I was literally so pissed off that my vision blurred together in a swirl of inky red shades and I couldn’t think straight. In my mind, all I could see were his lips; the luscious, soft lips that had kissed me so many times, kissing a trail down Tara Wilson’s neck- right after whispering obscene dirty-talk into her ear. And I was seeing red again.
In my underwear and bra, I furiously ripped every single note off the mirror one-by-one and threw them violently onto the big pile on the floor. Jessa watched with a satisfied grin as I got further into the spirit and added his favorite CD to the top of the heap and then another. A few minutes later, I gazed at the large mound in satisfaction. I felt a tiny bit better seeing his things littering my floor like unwanted garbage.
Staring at the pitiful pile of bad memories, I realized that I desperately wanted to set fire to it. But, obviously, that would be crazy. And probably against some sort of city ordinance. Plus, it would also burn my house down. So, I settled for pulling on a pair of boots and stomping on it instead…like an insane Italian woman making wine. After the very last cd had been adequately smashed and my legs were literally shaking from the effort, I finally turned to Jessa.
“Okay, now I’m ready to go,” I announced, slightly out of breath from the exertion and still almost naked…except for my boots, of course.
She stared at me wide-eyed and then burst into laughter. I couldn’t help but giggle too, as I imagined what I must look like…face flushed and half-naked and insane.
“Go where?” she gasped as she laughed.
“To Derek’s house, of course,” I answered matter-of-factly. “I need to drop a few of his things off.”
I stared pointedly at the broken pile of his belongings and then cracked up again in a high-pitched giggle that bordered on hysterical. I should feel guilty for ruining his things, but I SO didn’t. It almost seemed like Poetic Justice since he had broken my heart. I really just hoped he wasn’t home when we got there. In the mood I was in, I might be tempted to slash his tires.
I quickly pulled on my MAN EATER shirt and we piled into Jessa’s little blue Volkswagen bug because she didn’t think I was up to driving, even the short distance to Derek’s house. She was probably right. Two minutes and three streets later, we pulled up onto his driveway, right behind his little black Ford Ranger with the dent in the fender.
He was home. I fought the itch in my fingers to dig a tire iron out of Jessa’s trunk and give it a matching dent on the other side. It was so very tempting. But I resisted, using an extraordinary amount of self-restraint.
We climbed out and I reached into the backseat to pull out the trash bag filled with his broken belongings as Jess watched me in anticipation.
“What are you going to do with it?” she asked curiously, her light blue eyes developing a sadistic gleam.
Without hesitation, I marched straight to the bed of his truck, emptying his things out over the side. Everything tumbled out, small pieces of his CDs scattering onto his bed liner like the trash that it was. My battered black bra settled to a rest on the top of the pile, a garish reminder of the intimacy we used to share. Grabbing it, I looped it around his antenna, letting it hang as a limp banner for everyone to see. I could only imagine his mother’s face when she saw it.
I smiled in grim satisfaction as Jess started laughing again. And then I remembered his class ring. Pulling it off of my middle finger, I tossed it in as well, listening to the metallic clink as it bounced along the truck bed. It tumbled to a stop, the blue stone glittering in the light.
And then his front door creaked open. I froze in panic as he stepped onto the porch, bare-chested and in a pair of running shorts. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might actually come face to face with him. Now what?
He stepped lightly from the porch and walked towards us, his handsome face hopeful. My heart started racing as he approached, his blonde hair wet from a shower. He smelled so clean and masculine. I steeled myself with the reminder that I hated him now. He was no longer my perfect, green-eyed Poseidon.
“I’m so glad you came,” he sighed as he reached for me. “I was afraid that you were never going to speak to me again.”
I side-stepped out of his reach and glared at him.
“I’m not planning on it,” I spit, beginning to see red again.