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Chapter One

Nothing irritated Sandy Whitaker more than an uncooperative mummy. Especially when said mummy was part of the most important exhibit of her career as museum curator.

She threw the full force of her weight—admittedly, not the most effective leverage—into shoving the heavy table back to its original spot. The position she’d calculated as the optimum angle for visitors to view within the glass-encased display, reserved for the most sensitive and highly prized pieces. She’d carefully arranged every item, but somehow, the damn mummy had moved. For the second freaking time.

“Good thing I hold you in such high regard. Or else”—her scolding lost momentum when she stepped closer to the warrior— “you and I would have a serious problem.” Prophetic words. Or just a statement of fact, since her obsession with him had distracted her from the moment he’d arrived. His robust appearance had puzzled the archaeologists who’d discovered him, but more than that captivated Sandy. The strong line of his jaw. Large, wide-set eyes. The downward slant of his thick brows, a seriousness balanced by the curve of his lips, not to mention other curves. Thanks to his sleeveless, knee-length tunic, she had a glimpse of his chiseled calf muscles, and ripped biceps. Her imagination filled in the rest.

Yep, fantasies about a mummy tipped the scales toward the strange-to-bizarre category, yet she didn’t think of him as the mummified remains of an ancient Egyptian warrior. His presence radiated amazing strength and filled the enclosure.

Maybe that was her problem. Too much hanging around old artifacts, dead people included, and not enough getting out among the living, breathing types. Which reminded her… a whole bunch of the latter sort would show up for the opening. Every detail had to be perfect. She’d decided to place the mummy inside the glass enclosure because of the ability to better control temperature and humidity and its location away from exposure to sunlight—and people. Not even the security guard had a key to this space. So how the hell had the mummy moved?

“You have the best spot in the room, so stop messing around.” One more nudge, then she stood back to examine her work, arms folded across her chest. Nope, not quite right. She wanted people to share her thrill and awe at being able to view at close range an object originating from thousands of years ago.

Though her tiny university-affiliated museum generally went ignored in Philadelphia, this time would be different. A world-class exhibit would propel them into the spotlight. Finally, she might get her dream job of curating in the major leagues. Maybe even—her breath stilled—The Metropolitan Museum.

She stood beside the warrior and wagged her finger. “They won’t be amazed by your awesomeness unless you stay where I put you.”

Since the shipment had arrived, the mummy had been nothing but trouble, and that was beside his tendency to steal her focus, to stop her dead in her tracks to stare at his stunning features.

No matter how many times she glanced at him, her reaction was always the same: wow. Okay, sometimes double wow. Whoever mummified Iker must have worked magic with embalming fluids. Talk about your Pyramid Text spells—someone must have cast a doozy of a spell on him. His skin tone appeared almost healthy, with solid tissue beneath. If she believed in fairy tales, she’d glide across the room to him, lean over him and touch her lips to his to awaken him.

“They sure put a lot of care into the process.” She’d never seen such a remarkable specimen. Better preserved than Egyptian royalty, which made it even more odd. This warrior had held a high rank during Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s reign, but nowhere near that of the ruling class.

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