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Authors: Tracy L. Higley

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Palace of Darkness (45 page)

BOOK: Palace of Darkness
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The compliment should have warmed Lydia, but she knew better than to believe it was born of affection. Cleopatra never allowed anyone to feel secure. Though only ten years older than Lydia, since Caesarion’s birth, Lydia had seen her order the murders of both a younger brother and sister. And her second brother’s death—

Lydia tried to refuse the memory, the soul-suffocating memory that crouched in waiting if she was not diligent in breathing it away. Cleopatra had followed in her father’s royal footsteps, having watched him order the execution of her older sister, Berenice, while Cleopatra was still a girl.

Lydia returned to Caesarion, still cradling his knee, and pulled him to herself.

Cleopatra turned to her, eyed the two on the floor, and tilted her head. “You always find a way to look prettier than your station should allow, don’t you? Is that one of my dresses you have pilfered?” Her mood had turned sour suddenly, as it often did.

“What? No!” Lydia smoothed the white linen sheath dress embroidered with delicate threads of blue. “No, I sewed this myself.”

“Hmm. Well, you look too elegant to be a servant. I am sick of you and your ideas. Perhaps it’s that troublemaker you spend time with, Samuel. I’ve been meaning to get rid of him. He’s far too old to do much good at the Museum any longer.”

Lydia opened her mouth, but there was nothing to be said. Better to ignore the threat and pray it was spoken without much thought.

Cleopatra observed herself in the bronze once more. “Well, this should be good enough to win Herod as a friend.”

Friend? As the only living Ptolemy left, besides her son, she was a shrewd and wary ruler and no friend to anyone. Not even Marc Antony, who had fallen victim to her charms two years ago, after the assassination of his mentor and her lover, Julius Caesar. She had nothing left of Caesar but his son, and she had quickly understood the need to ingratiate herself to the next man in line to rule all of Rome. Antony’s twins had been born to Cleopatra a few months ago, and she had only grown more paranoid since.

The queen floated from the room on a wave of perfume, leaving Lydia hugging Caesarion all the more fiercely, the younger brother she would never have.

Often as a child she had pretended that she was a princess too. Stolen from her parents who even now searched the world for her. But such dreams were remnants of childhood, and there was nothing, no one, that was truly hers. No one to whom she belonged.

She buried her face in Caesarion’s sweet-smelling hair.

It was best to keep some distance.

BOOK: Palace of Darkness
4.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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