Golden Labryss by Anne Clayre Mason by Anne Clayre Mason - Read Online

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A Minoan artifact, contact with an ancient spirit, a case of mistaken identity, plus falling in love with sexy photographer Nikolas Tyler, add up to a thrill a minute for astrology buff Adriane Ducote during her trip to the Greek island of Crete. Several factions want the golden labrys, a ceremonial double-headed axe, and attempt to gain possession of the artifact which was sold to Adriane by mistake. She gets help from a Minoan priestess, but the lovely spirit has her own agenda regarding the labrys. Although strongly attracted to Adriane, Nikolas believes she is the mysterious relic smuggler his brother's artifacts recovery agency ARPA is trying to locate. He's fallen in love with her, yet he feels duty bound to stop her and return the labrys which was stolen years ago from a Washington DC museum. He soon discovers she's not the only player in this dangerous game.
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781611603873
List price: $3.99
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27

GOLDEN LABRYS

by

ANNE CLAYRE MASON

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Published by

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

Whiskey Creek Press

PO Box 51052

Casper, WY 82605-1052

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Copyright Ó Arlene C. Messa

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-61160-387-3

Cover Artist: Gemini Judson

Editor: Marsha Briscoe

Printed in the United States of America

Dedication

To the late Tom H, a Pisces and a photographer

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,

And comes down from the Father of lights

James 1:17

Prologue

Knossos, Crete

The royal palace, 1440 b c

A fresco on the wall in the throne room portrayed a fierce bull pawing the ground. In contrast, painted blue dolphins and brightly colored birds leaped and soared in the air over a turquoise sea, all oblivious to the ominous message about to be delivered.

The messenger, a young man in his teens, bowed before the king. Sweat dripped down his bare chest onto his white kilt. In spite of his long, distant run he did not appear winded.

Invaders from the North, Great Minos, the runner announced. Their ships have been detected a fair distance offshore.

A murmur arose from the royal attendants. Several began to invoke the goddess for divine protection. Men and women milled around in conversations with each other, their voices filled with a mixture of defiance and alarm.

Seated on an elaborate marble throne surrounded by large painted columns, Agenor Minos sat motionless for a few moments, his thoughts resting on the fresco directly opposite his throne, the depiction of a great bull. The massive beast signified the king himself and symbolized divinity, royalty, and strength.

Fortified by the image, Agenor held up his hand and called for silence. His consort offered him a confident glance, her expression assuring him of his ability to protect his people.

Who are these invaders? the king demanded.

Their vessels bear the mark of the Mycenae. Our fleet has been dispatched to engage them.

Then we have much time to prepare. The ruler’s voice remained calm and steady.

An older man of great prominence addressed the king. The navy of the Mycenae has become much stronger in recent times, Great One. We must not delay our preparation.

Agenor frowned. We have the strongest seafaring empire in the Middle Sea. I cannot believe our ships will be defeated.

A woman, dressed in a flowing skirt and a bejeweled jacket which exposed her firm breasts, rose from her seat on the long stone bench beside the throne. Around her neck she wore a gold chain. A pendant shaped like the head of a bull hung from the chain and sparkled against her pale skin. Demetris is wise in his suggestion. I too have heard of the new-found prowess of the Mycenae. Our sacred labrys must be protected, she said. If the enemy gains control of the island, they will no doubt sack and burn the temple as well as the palace. I will take our treasures far down the coast to the sacred cave.

You are right, Mara, Agenor replied, resigned to the possibility. He also had received intelligence concerning the strengthening of the Mycenae military forces. As ruler he found this knowledge hard to accept. But accept he must and be prepared. Better to have his people safe than to fall victim to an unexpected victory by the enemy.

He turned to the Captain of the guards and ordered him to assign a contingency to follow the high priestess to the temple and accompany her on the journey. They must go with her to the sacred place and guard her and the labrys with their lives.

One half of the remaining guards were to help prepare in case the need arose to evacuate the royal family, and the rest would remain with him to defend the palace. We will fight to the death if necessary. Our enemies cannot be allowed to gain possession of the golden labrys or any of the other temple treasures.

A roar of agreement erupted from the members of the court.

Chapter 1

Present day

Airborne, approaching the island of Crete

Adriane Ducote inhaled sharply. The first glimpse of the Greek island from her window seat sent her pulse racing.

The Fasten Your Seatbelt light came on with a ding. Hypnotized by the scene below, Adriane vaguely heard the Captain’s voice announcing their imminent arrival. Snow crested mountains in the distance contrasted sharply with the sandy beaches along the shore. The island topography grew larger as the plane made its descent toward the capital city Iraklion.

Her fingers inadvertently brushed the book on her lap and drew her attention away from the scenery. She touched the distressed cover with reverence, savoring its musty antique odor. Golden Labrys, published in 1912 by a woman archaeologist, turned out to be one of the most interesting volumes she’d ever discovered in New Orleans on any of her visits to the used bookstores there.

Page after page of tantalizing descriptions of ancient Minoan frescos and the people who created these fabulous works of art prompted her to drop everything and catch the next available flight to Crete. She could hardly believe she was actually here. In a short time she would set foot in a land where myth became part of history and the past and the present merged into one.

The plane touched down on the runway with a jolt and rolled to a stop at the terminal. Adriane drummed her fingers on the arm of the seat while her seatmate retrieved his items from an overhead compartment at a turtle’s pace. Not very Zen to be in such a hurry.

She needed this getaway badly and didn’t want to be rushed through palace ruins and museums like a sightseer on a guided tour. Why should she be in such a hurry to get off the plane anyway? The island had been here for centuries. It would still be here in another fifteen minutes. Let the man take all the time he needs. She took several deep breaths to calm herself and tried not to stare at him.

This man never uttered a single word to her or anyone else on the flight from Athens. He kept his nose buried in several different Greek language newspapers, only glancing up when a flight attendant came by to check on seatbelt compliance. Although the flying public had long since abandoned the custom of being dressed to the nines for air travel, the man’s shaggy black hair and rumpled clothes somehow seemed out of place.

He wore a gold ring on his left hand, displaying an odd insignia, the meandering lines of a labyrinth and a small owl superimposed on top. Perhaps this was the emblem of a Cretan organization or the design might even signify membership in a cult. She knew the owl was associated with the goddess Athena and logically the labyrinth represented the infamous Minotaur’s lair. Finally he gathered his belongings and shuffled down the aisle to the exit.

About a dozen other passengers made their way past Adriane, all looking expectant of the touristy adventures ahead of them. At last she slipped into the aisle.

Standing on tiptoes, she tried to reach her carry-on bag. Her silent seatmate had boarded late and hastily shoved his bags into the compartment. In the process, he managed to push hers all the way back. She would have to stand on the seat in order to retrieve her bag.

She carefully set the antique book out of the way next to her purse and her laptop. Clutching the rim of the compartment, she prepared to step up onto the seat. A deep male voice stopped her in mid-action. His words were recognizable as Greek, although she didn’t understand them. Turning her head, she gazed upward into the commanding green eyes of an extremely good-looking blond man. She should have paid more attention to the Greek part of her college Classical Languages course years ago. Latin had been her forte.

His tawny gold hair, curling slightly over the collar of a red polo shirt, and his broad shoulders immediately made her think of Brad Pitt as Achilles in the movie Troy. She visualized him in a kilt and bronze armor wielding a sword. He repeated his question in the same foreign tongue.

She frowned. Excuse me?

Oh, sorry. Your Mediterranean coloring threw me off. I mistook you for a Greek, he said. Let me try this again in English. Do you need help getting your bag?

Yes, thank you, she said. It’s terrible being short. Besides, I would’ve fallen on my face, and I hate making a fool of myself.

He laughed. Good thing I can prevent such a scene. He grabbed the bag with no problem. Being tall does have its advantages.

A smile touched Adriane’s lips. Tall, and you even speak Greek. Thanks for your help. She reached for the book and her other items on the seat.

Looks like a real old volume, he said, studying the cover with narrowed eyes.

It is, published in the early 1900’s. I found the book in New Orleans hidden away in a dark corner of a store. It was pure luck.

Pure luck, was it?

His rugged face reflected a subtle change of expression, one Adriane couldn’t quite decipher. Suspicion, maybe, or distrust? Yet his voice remained friendly. Perhaps she only imagined a change.

Are you planning to take in the sights at Minoan ruins? he asked.

Yes, but I’d also like to get a real taste of local flavor instead of touristy places while I’m here.

That’s my intention too. There are a lot of great photo opportunities on the island, he said, scrutinizing her face.

Just from what I’ve seen out the window, I believe you’re right. Are you a photographer?

He nodded. Mostly freelance work. This trip I’m doing a spread on Crete for a new travel magazine. This is my third trip to the island in the last couple of years to take photos. Crete is more down to earth than the tourist destination islands like Santorini.

Photography, a Pisces occupation, she thought. But his eyes are definitely Scorpio.

His gaze both fascinated and frightened her. Those Scorpio eyes were as deceptive as calm seas. Any secrets lurking within lay hidden by the smooth, still surface. Studying his face made her pulse race. Although his conversation sounded relaxed and casual, an aura of danger surrounded him. Dangerous and alluring, what a risky combination.

Thanks again for helping me, Adriane said, lowering her own eyes. Turning away from him, she made her way toward the front of the plane, all the while feeling his stare boring into her back. She definitely didn’t need another menacing male in her life right now…or maybe not ever again for that matter.

Her former husband possessed those same alluring eyes as this man. Unwelcome memories of Joey flipped through her mind like a slide show all the way out of the plane and to the queue for customs.

Customs proved to be a breeze for her, but claiming her baggage developed into an agonizing wait for the luggage to start flowing down the conveyor belt. After what seemed like forever, Adriane spotted her suitcase and moved past the crowd just in time to grab the bag as it passed by.

Outside, the April sun warmed her. White puffy clouds broke the expanse of a porcelain blue sky. The combination of flower scents, salt air, and sun-heated concrete created a strange, but pleasant aromatic collage. This was heavenly.

Out of the corner of her eye, Adriane caught sight of the Brad Pitt look-alike. Cell phone to his ear, he leaned against the wall in a relaxed pose. His casual stance contradicted an agitated expression on his face. Too bad he’s so gorgeous. No doubt in her mind about his horoscope chart. Either his sun sign or his ascendant was Scorpio.

Dealing with such a forceful personality wasn’t on her agenda. She came here to relax, enjoy the scenery, and soak up ancient knowledge. She brushed Brad Pitt-Achilles out of her mind.

Adriane spotted a lone taxi in front of the airport. The driver, leaning against the vehicle, looked bored.

Are you free? she asked.

He perked up, his onyx eyes sparkling. Yes, I am at your service. He moved to the back of the taxi and opened the trunk.

She handed him her suitcase, electing to keep the carry-on with her. After stowing her bag, he opened the door for her and she climbed inside.

The man slipped into the driver’s seat and turned to her. Your destination?

Taurus House on Han do kas Street, she said. I’m sorry. I murdered the pronunciation of the street name.

Oh no, he said with a wave of his hand. You did fine. You must be staying a while, eh?

Yes, a few weeks. She noted his photo ID attached to the dashboard. His first name was Costas, but she couldn’t make out his last name.

You will be speaking essential Greek in no time. Taurus House is a very nice place. I know you will like it.

She smiled, amused at the idea of learning Greek so fast. Like Russian the language had its own alphabet and was difficult to learn. I’m glad to know I made a good choice with the room since I made all the arrangements over the internet. She didn’t know whether he told the truth or if he was simply doing a little public relations for his city. But so what? She could always move if the accommodations proved to be unsatisfactory.

When her internet search landed a room at this establishment, she interpreted it as a good omen since her astrological sign was Taurus represented by the bull, an animal also associated with Crete. Back home in Baton Rouge, another bovine connection existed. She named her bookstore Hathor’s Realm after the Egyptian goddess sometimes depicted with a cow’s head.

Adriane looked out the taxi window, ready to take in the sights of the city. Brad Pitt-Achilles remained in his position against the wall. His gaze seemed to follow her departure. A nervous feeling came over her. Her intuition told her they would meet again long before her visit to Crete ended.

* * * *

What’s the chance of this happening, one in a trillion? Nikolas Tyler made a quick mental note of the number on the taxi and took a much longer look at the dark-haired beauty in the back seat. Her full lips, flashing dark eyes and all the rest of her body parts sure made him want to get better acquainted. Even after he noticed the book—the one in the photographs his brother showed him a couple of days ago—he found her intriguing. Could she be involved in smuggling operations?

When Phil found out Nikolas was headed for Crete, he showed him photographs of the book and a Minoan relic. Phil had been searching for these pieces for years. Nikolas didn’t officially work for his brother, but he occasionally came across information in his travels Phil might be interested in following up, and Phil was definitely interested in this.

His thoughts strayed again to the brunette. He couldn’t get her out of his mind. Hopefully she’s not involved in the business. Although, the book she carried with her left little room for doubt of some kind of involvement.

According to his brother, the book, along with a solid gold Minoan double-headed axe, was part of a heist taken years ago from a Washington DC museum. Every two-bit smuggler wanted to get their hands on this gold artifact, but so did the FBI and a few other alphabet agencies. Since he didn’t even get the woman’s name, locating her again