Authors: Kathy Kulig
Tags: #Paranormal romance
HIS LOST MATE
Archaeologist and psychic Lauren Halpern embarks on a journey to uncover an ancient mystery in a sultry and exotic jungle, but everything is getting in her way. Deven Chandler, the drop-dead gorgeous leader of their excavation is a serious distraction she does not need, and she’s desperately trying to guard her heart. But the heated passion between them is undeniable, and they simply cannot find a way to stop the inevitable. Lauren senses a supernatural connection between them holds a secret deeper than the hot sex they’re trying to resist. And Deven, the scientist that he is, simply won’t believe her esoteric beliefs or warnings.
Once they tumble into a sizzling affair the real trouble begins. From the ancient ruins, a ghost of an ancient shaman lures them deeper to into the jungle where lies the deadliest evil of all. When danger arrives, can Deven learn to trust her and risk everything to save her?
HIS LOST MATE was previously published under the title WILD JADE and has been revised and updated.
Tikal, 700 AD
“We have to leave tonight,” Kayab said, clasping Cimi’s hand. He didn’t dare look at her or she’d detect the fear in his eyes—and a Mayan warrior never showed fear. Kayab was not afraid for himself. He was afraid for Cimi.
Sitting on a rock ledge above the lagoon, Cimi dangled her feet in the cool water. “Why now, Kayab?”
“It’s too dangerous to stay. Your father said we must leave tonight, when Chac meets with the shamans in the temple. They will be praying to the gods until morning. We’ll be far away by then.”
She stared up to the heavens and sighed. “I know we have to go. I didn’t think it’d be this soon. I hate leaving my father, my friends, this forest…”
Kayab glanced around the lagoon. What had once been a roaring waterfall only a few seasons ago was now a thin trickle. Surrounding the lagoon, the giant ferns, orchids and palmettos had browned or withered and the tall, lush trees were now spidery, brittle branches.
In the village, the maize crops barely produced enough food for their people. Chac, the ruler, demanded more offerings to the storm god to bring the rains. The storm god was angry, only more blood would satisfy him. The thought made Kayab’s stomach churn.
“Our last afternoon in our secret place,” Cimi said with a teasing grin as she slid one delicate toe up his leg. Then she slowly stroked her hand up and down his thigh. He shivered and felt his loins stir and his shaft grow hard. How could she be playful during these dangerous times?
Restraining his desires for a moment, he untied a leather pouch secured to his belt. He removed a small object wrapped in a black woven cloth and tied with a thin branch of violet orchids. The orchids he had found at the far end of the lagoon, still thriving on a dead mahogany tree. It had to be a sign of hope from the gods. “Cimi, I have a gift for you.” He handed her the package. “Open it.” He’d carved the owl himself and had Muan, Cimi’s father, bless it with special powers of protection.
Cimi unwrapped it. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered as she turned it over in her hand. “An owl made from jade.”
“It will protect you from harm. Keep it with you always.”
“But women are not allowed to own jade. If someone sees this, they will take it from me.”
“Then hide it, but keep it close to you.”
“I will, Kayab. I promise.”
Kayab rose and touched her cheek. He breathed in her musky feminine essence blended with the fragrant jasmine blooming around the lagoon. One of the few flowers not yet killed off by the drought.
“Come swim with me.” He was sorely hard now. If he didn’t get into the cool water soon, he’d take her, but he did not want to rush this precious time.
After removing his beaded necklaces, he untied the leather belt and pouch then dropped the black cloth wrapped around his waist in a pile on the rock. He stood naked before her, studying her expression. Although violence and starvation had been common in the village for many years, he expected Cimi to show fear about leaving, because they would be breaking the laws of their ruler, Chac and the gods. But he didn’t see any fear in her eyes. She was braver than he or Muan thought. She seemed to think exile was more of an adventure, so unlike a Mayan woman. He loved her strength and innocence.
Silently, he beckoned her to follow him. Her sultry look and her parted moist lips said she wanted him too. He stepped to the edge of the rock and dived into the pond.
The water was cool, but did not ease the throbbing heat in his loins. When he surfaced, he flung his long hair out of his face, spraying water droplets in all directions.
Standing naked at the edge of the stone ledge, her dark hair cascading down her back, Cimi offered him a full view of her firm, small breasts. When she cupped her breasts and massaged them, he struggled for breath as if the gods were stealing the air from his chest. Then her hand slid down her belly and stroked between her legs.
He froze and gazed at her in disbelief. She had never been so bold. “Come be with me, Cimi.” He groaned like a wild animal.
She dived into the water and swam to him.
Grasping her arms from under the water, he pulled her to him, kissed her hard and hungrily. The water made her skin slick and smooth. He felt the curve of her breast, the roundness of her buttocks, felt her arms reach around his neck and cling to him.
“Cimi. I burn for you.” With his lips, he caressed her neck, her breasts, then sucked her nipples until he felt her body quiver. Her hand covered and guided his, pushing his hand down between her legs. Her urgency inflamed him.
When he found her slick folds, she moaned and arched her hips into him.
His fingers probed and opened her, sliding inside her sex. She sucked in her breath and rocked against his hand. As her moans became louder and her body trembled, he knew she was ready. With a whimper, she shoved his hand away, gripped his shaft and pressed it against her sensitive flesh. For a moment, he thought he would lose all control.
“Now, Kayab…take me.”
Kayab lifted her legs around his hips and drove into her, thrusting deep and hard as Cimi dug her fingers into his shoulders.
The cool water sloshing around their heated bodies didn’t cool the fire building within his erection, but he held back while her soft cries of pleasure increased with each thrust.
Focusing to keep his control, he held her gaze, then her body jerked and Kayab supported her tightly while she soared in ecstasy. Then he plunged faster and deeper as his sensations grew, his muscles tensed and passion claimed him. He flung his head back, groaned and his body quaked his sexual release.
While his body continued to pulse, he held her close and waited for his strength to return. When he slid from her body, Cimi moaned in protest. Her hands caressed his chest and she kissed his neck. “Kayab, lie with me in the grass.”
“Oh my beautiful Cimi.” He kissed the top of her head. “It is late. We must go back or we will be missed.”
“Why don’t we leave the forest now?”
“Your father said we don’t dare leave before the evening meal or Chac will have the warriors track us.” He stroked her cheek with his fingers, kissed her hard, then scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the shoreline, where he laid her on the grass. Living in exile was a frightening choice for a young woman, but the risk to stay was great. Even the daughter of a shaman was not safe, but he and the jade owl would protect her.
Seeing her naked stirred his shaft again. She noticed his erection and giggled. He loved making her laugh. “I burn for you, Cimi.” But their playful afternoon was over. They had a long and frightening night ahead of them. “We must go now. Don’t be afraid. I promise, I’ll always protect and love you.”
A slight breeze stirred the dried grass and ferns surrounding the lagoon and long shadows crisscrossed the trail back to the village. Kayab and Cimi quickly dressed.
“After the evening meal,” Kayab instructed, “meet me at the small northern pyramid. It will be safer to escape at night.”
* * *
Where was he? Kayab was late. The sky had darkened and turned a deep indigo blue streaked with orange and crimson. Soon it would be night and Cimi avoided the pyramids after dark. On top of the northern pyramid a fire still burned from an earlier sacrifice. The shamans and Chac had returned to the village for the evening meal and by now were in the large temple. She was alone. Kayab would be coming soon.
She tried not to look at the peak of the temple. The smell the smoke and flickering shadows on the stones chilled her more than any predator in the jungle. The top of pyramids always terrified her.
Another sacrifice would come soon.
They needed to leave now. Her heart pounded as panic seeped into her veins. Cimi paced next to two stone monuments with four vertical rows of carved symbols and an image of the maize god.
As she bowed her head and closed her eyes, her black hair fell over her face. She prayed to the gods to bring Kayab safely to her.
Fear seized her soul. They didn’t have much time. She gripped her jade owl in a tight fist. If Kayab didn’t come soon, she would have to go back to the village. She couldn’t leave without him. She wouldn’t survive alone.
Tears dripped down her cheeks as she gripped her little carving. If she took the owl back with her, the shamans would surely take it away.
She dropped to her knees between the two monuments and frantically dug a hole. She placed the owl inside, then covered it with dirt. Now they couldn’t take away her treasured talisman. It would be safe.
Would the stone still protect her while it was buried?
Tears dripped onto the ground, christening the earth above her buried jade owl.
A rustling in the jungle startled her. She jumped to her feet. “Kayab?”
Two warriors emerged from the jungle with spears gripped in their hands. Before she had a chance to run, the warriors rushed up and ordered her to kneel.
A third man appeared, smacking a club as thick as his arm against his palm. Veins bulged in his neck and temples. The satisfied smile and the triumphant gleam in his eyes turned Cimi’s blood to ice as one warrior yanked her to her feet and dragged her past the pyramid toward the village.
Anger overcame her fear. She would not fight them, she would not speak or cry out and no matter what happened to her now, but she would not betray her father or Kayab.
Present-day Tikal, Guatemala
“Check out the tomb, Lauren. There’s a surprise at the end. I’ll wait for you here.”
Lauren Halpern peered into the ancient Mayan ruin, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck prickled and she shivered despite the heat of the jungle. The chamber was hidden by overgrown vegetation with leaves shaped like giant hands and vines as thick as pythons. Although it was midafternoon, the mist still swirled and hovered a few feet above the ground. If her professor hadn’t pointed out the chamber’s opening, she would have walked right by.
“You did say you wanted to go exploring,” Dr. Deven Chandler said, standing at the entrance to the tomb.
Go in by herself?
She leaned into the opening and sniffed the air. The cool draft from inside smelled like moss and decayed leaves—not bodies, she assured herself. A tomb in the center of Tikal National Park would’ve had any mummified remains removed by archaeologists decades ago, but it wasn’t mummified bodies that concerned her.
“What kind of surprise?” She hoped her voice didn’t convey her nervousness.
“You’ll have to search the chamber to find out.”
Crouching down, she laid her camera on a rock, dropped her canvas backpack and searched inside for a flashlight. Above her head, a screech and rustling in the trees startled her. She looked up so fast, she fell back on her butt.
“Just howler monkeys,” he said calmly.
“Oh, cool.” She pressed her hand to her chest and felt her heart thumping. Taking a deep breath, she got up off her butt as gracefully as possible, then dug inside her pack again and pulled out a bandana, insect repellant, water bottle, hair brush, two protein bars and a trowel. “Shouldn’t I wait for the other students?” She was stalling.