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by Susan Laine
Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
Description: Sequel to The Wolfing Way
Lifting the Veil: Book Two
Ten years ago, the Great Unveiling revealed the presence of supernatural beings living on Earth. But the residents of the ruined city discovered in Majlis al-Jinn are long dead--or so junior archaeologist Pip Butler thought until he accidentally unleashed a very naked genie named Jinn.
Even though he's been shyly pining for his charismatic supervisor, Val Velde, Pip has a hard time refusing Jinn's flirtatious advances. He barely has time to even consider the fact that he has an all-powerful genie and three glorious wishes at his fingertips when ruthless mercenaries sweep down on the dig to collect the most valuable artifact of all--Jinn's lamp.
So Pip, Val, and Jinn have to work together in a race against the clock to discover the secrets of the ancient city, free their captive colleagues, and keep Jinn from the mercenaries' clutches--all while trying to sort out their romantic tangle.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: September 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [274 KB]
Reading time: 173-242 min.
"Rub it, Pip, and see what pops up," Valdemar said to Philip, grinning and winking salaciously.
If only it had been a sexual tease, Philip thought ruefully, but alas, it wasn't.
Shoving the ancient electric-blue-and-gold-trimmed oil lamp against Philip's stomach, Valdemar laughed good-naturedly and trotted off like an Arabian stallion. Val Velde might not have been an Arabian, but he was definitely a stud with his stunning blond Viking appearance, sexy sky-blue eyes that could've melted the sun into a pool of jelly, and a bright suggestive smile with pearly white teeth, like some exotic carnivore about to ingest its lunch with a single bite.
Philip had hoped for nearly a year Valdemar would do just that with him--but he never had.
Sighing despondently, Philip turned his attention back to the ancient lamp they'd recovered just today at the archeological dig site at Majlis al-Jinn, the ninth-largest cave chamber in the world--one that after the Great Unveiling had been revealed as a site of an ancient ruined city of unknown origin. The domed cavern of fossiliferous carbonate rock consisted of a single massive chamber 310 meters by 225 meters--and the floor area more than quadrupled after the discovery of the city. Before the Unveiling, the site used to be a favorite hangout of spelunkers, base jumpers, and cave climbers. There were three vertical access points on the freestanding cavern roof, but only one was used.
There was a single entryway into the ruined city from the lowest point of the cave, where two substantial pylons and an arch above a gateway opened up to gigantic stairs leading down into the city proper. Illumination to the city had been provided by the light shafts and their reflections on the light-colored sediment and rock as well as bronze cups of oil that had been lit during the heyday of the palatial city. Remnants of the sweet scented oil had been recovered from these vessels.
Much of the city had been excavated and cleared by flooding and cave-ins, but mostly the city, with its plazas, colonnades, and structures great and small, had been undamaged despite all the time that had passed. Carbon dating of the artifacts found on-site had determined them to be between twelve and fifteen thousand years old, far surpassing even ancient Egyptian culture. The arid desert air kept the structures untouched by the elements, and in the cave the temperature was always a balmy seventeen to eighteen degrees Celsius.
The cavern and the excavated city had been closed to tourists for years now, as it had been classified as a UNESCO Unveiled Heritage Site. Naturally, as the Veil lifting had exposed the well-preserved city virtually intact in this desolate, unpopulated region of the Sultanate of Oman for all the world to see, archaeologists, anthropologists, mythologists, and scientists of a variety of disciplines as well as amateurs, curiosity seekers, and plain old tourists had all flocked to the site.
Ten years later, the site's magnetic pull had diminished considerably, since the rest of the world offered far more exciting--and inhabited--locations for study into the mythical Unseen world. Still, there was an expedition staying at the site, and Philip Butler was one of the members of this international team of scientists.
Philip, or Pip, as he was called to his infinite dismay, was an archaeologist whose main influence for his choice of career had unfortunately been more Indiana Jones than Kathleen Kenyon or Sir Arthur Evans. Reality had been startlingly different than the glory movies had portrayed, but as he'd learned more and more about archaeology, mythology, and cultures, Philip had found he quite enjoyed digging around in the dirt looking for pieces of pottery in an ancient trash heap, or excavating bones from a burial site, or uncovering any proof of civilization at all.
In three days, their expedition would have been in Majlis al-Jinn for a full year, and less than coincidentally, it was time for their funding to be either renewed--or discontinued. This ancient nameless city of the formerly Unseen world had been a sight for sore eyes in its heyday, but now it lay in ruins, and even though during the first two years after the Great Unveiling there had been back-to-back discoveries made every day, nowadays they actually had to dig around to find anything of interest that would keep the money flowing in.
Having graduated from both Harvard in the US and Oxford in England and now working for the Harvard Semitic Museum, Philip Butler was doing well with his professional career. Sometimes, though, he felt like there was something missing in his life.
And Valdemar Velde, a successful academic and author from Norway by way of Great Britain, an Oxford graduate with three doctorates, gave Philip's heart palpitations to the point of imminent heart failure. Philip couldn't deny his intense instinctive attraction for the Viking god of a man, but to Philip's utter disappointment, Valdemar showed zero interest in him, yet always treated him kindly. Like a friend.
But Philip wanted to get naked with his friend. Maybe he could coax the man into a friendship-with-benefits type of deal?
Going over the possibilities in his vivid imagination like a porno flick, Philip's gaze lowered to the beautiful antique bronze oil lamp, painted electric blue with gold inlay. Even without inspecting the object more closely, Philip could tell it was much younger than the ruined city where it had been found. The age of the city had been estimated at around fifteen to sixteen thousand years.
Digging out a clean handkerchief from his khaki pants pocket, Philip carefully rubbed off the most obvious pieces of dirt and mud stuck on its engraved surface, and even grazed it a bit with his fingertips, relishing the luxury of holding in his hands a concrete piece of history--and mythical history to boot.
A whoosh of air knocked him backward so fast, so far, and so hard that his thick mess of blond hair landed in front of his hazel-brown eyes. Landing on the sandy ground on his ass with a heavy thud, Philip's lungs emptied of precious air, and he had to gasp several times to regain his breath, but he finally managed to push himself up on his elbows.
A bright flash suddenly blinded him, and he had to cover his eyes from the burning hot stream of white light pulsating and roaring like a forest fire.
His senses on overload, Philip wanted to cover his eyes and ears, but with only two hands he failed, and the pain behind his eyelids, in his eardrums, and in his heaving chest increased, like pressure building inside a cooker.
Shadowy silence washed over him soothingly, and his inner relief mixed with it. Allowing himself to fall on his back on the sand-covered ground, Philip fought for calm and composure now that his senses had reclaimed their serenity.
Carefully sitting up, Philip brushed the thicket that was his unruly hair from his sleepy eyes--and then wished he hadn't.
The man standing in front of him was stark naked.
All Philip could do was stare, wide-eyed, with his mouth hanging open in surprise.
The man was remarkably tall, maybe six nine or seven feet. If it were possible for a mountain to be reincarnated in male form, this colossal man would've fit the bill to a tee. He had dark tanned skin so silky smooth and hairless, that if it weren't for the iron-black hair cascading down his back, Philip might've thought he'd been born without a hair on him. The man had a muscular athletic frame to die for, and Philip's mouth went as dry as the desert around them as his eyes roamed the vast expanses of broad shoulders, taut belly, narrow hips, and strong long legs--and the thick shaft, perpendicular in its half-hardness before Philip. Chiseled masculine features conflicted with the full sensuous lips, half-parted. Closed heavy-lidded eyes opened slowly, and Philip gaped in amazement and adoration at the electric-blue eyes that shone eerily in the shade of the caves, despite the beams of sunlight above reflected on the yellowish stone walls.
"Oh... my... God...."
It being lunchtime, Philip hadn't even noticed until now how quiet it was here down in the cavern until his voice reverberated and echoed all around.
The strange nude man turned his head, only a black leather collar around his neck, and looked at Philip lying on the ground in front of him, braced up only on his elbows. What an embarrassing spectacle he must've made to this curiosity of a man, Philip thought, and he blushed all over.
A distinct lightning-blue glow flashed in the man's eyes as he studied Philip from head to toe, and his long lashes rimmed his eyes like black curtains. "English.... So, I didn't imagine the endless British chitter-chatter throughout the years after all."
Being half-British and half-American, Philip had a remnant of Oxford English in his accent--and this unknown man had it copied to a tee. That struck Philip silent.
"Who might you be?" the man asked, his head tilted so that his long black hair--so black that it absorbed sunlight--fell to his side as far down as his midsection.
In awe, Philip managed to stammer, "Um, Pip...." The man quirked an amused eyebrow, and Philip blushed again, shaking his head to clear his mind of the blood-red haze of arousal. "I mean... Philip Butler. I'm an archaeologist." That statement earned another curious look from the drop-dead gorgeous man, whose lean frame shifted, and hard muscles moved beneath the dark skin like some kind of majestic beasts. "That's the study of human society through evidence of the past, like artifacts, structures, cultural relics...." His voice fading, Philip tried to gain some insight into the man in front of him, at least to discern whether the man was actually listening or interested, but his look remained the same--a curious, amused detachment with warm glowing eyes and curved full lips. "Anyway... I'm here to study this ruin," he added, waving his hand around in a general gesture, indicating the ruined state of affairs of the palatial string of structures at the bottom of the cavern at Majlis al-Jinn, extending far beyond what had once been solid rock.
This time the man's look changed, turning darker and more dangerous for an instant as his inspective gaze traveled the archaeological site before it landed back on Philip. "You can see the city?"
That Philip had not expected. "Yes...."
"You must be special, then," the man said, his voice smooth and seductive and his blue eyes striking in their appreciation as they wandered all over Philip's body.
"I, uh...," Philip muttered, fighting for comprehension and clarity but succeeding in neither pursuit, and all the while those shining eyes made their leisurely journey on his figure, giving him goose bumps and arousing his cock into a salute.
As if aware of the reaction he was causing, the man stepped forward--still butt naked--and extended his hand. "Here, allow me to help you get back on your feet--" A sharp clank stopped him, and the oil lamp he must've accidentally kicked jumped and glided on the sandy ground, landing in front of Philip's feet. Leaning down to grasp the lamp, the man's fingers brushed only air when the lamp moved away from his touch as if it had a mind of its own, bouncing into Philip's lap.
"Oh... my... God...," Philip mumbled, hugging the ancient oil lamp close to his chest and staring at the peculiar man all wide-eyed, like a surprised child watching Santa actually climb down a chimney.
The unusual man grinned. "Sadly, no. But I'm flattered."
Philip frowned. "No, I mean...." The man's grin widened, like the Cheshire cat, and as his cheeks flushed red, Philip stumbled to his feet, clutching the lamp tightly. "You... you're a... a genie.... A lamp genie...."
"The proper term, I believe, is a jinn," the man corrected, his sensuous lips curving into a sweet smile that made Philip's knees buckle. "But in general, yes, that would be a fair and accurate assessment."
While Philip was busy ogling the mythical apparition before him, standing there so very much in the flesh, he suddenly heard faint voices approaching from the distance. Someone was coming down toward the main palace from either the staircase or the elevator that had both been added to the site soon after the Great Unveiling, when it turned out that at the bottom of the site stood a palatial city stretching deep into what had formerly been solid rock.
"Oh my God...," he mumbled in abject horror, staring in the direction lost in the shade of the palatial structures now lying in ruins.
"You do say that a lot," the man noted from his side. "Any particular deity you're trying to invoke or commune with?"
"Wha--" Philip's fixed look held those electric-blue eyes that he was now close enough to see were filled with tiny lightning bursts of powers beyond his imagination. He had to shake his head to clear his vision and his mind of this bizarre man. "No. Don't talk."
"I do not take kindly to commands that aren't presented as wishes." A warning loomed beneath the surface, like a shark prowling the shallow waters of Philip's pond.
"Wha--" In passing Philip realized he sounded like a broken record, and he blushed deeply. "No. That's not what I meant." The sounds of footsteps and voices came closer, and Philip froze. "Please, don't speak. Let me handle this. Please...?" Philip's hazel eyes pleaded with the... genie... for understanding.
Suddenly the man relaxed again and grinned with a wink. "As you wish... Pip."
Blushing for the umpteenth time, Philip suddenly remembered that the man--the genie--was still completely nude. "Oh my God...," he mumbled as his eyes traveled in shock and awe across the masculine apparition before him, and that action earned him an amused chuckle in response. Philip began to believe that spontaneous human combustion would be a preferable option to all this intense blushing.
Waving someone off, Valdemar appeared on the scene, with his usual laid-back grin and suggestive eyes. Philip thought that he'd seriously suffer a nervous breakdown when he came face to face with a naked lamp genie.
And sure enough, Valdemar's sky-blue eyes lit up like a bonfire upon seeing Philip's mysterious visitor. Even through the irrational and hopeless surge of jealousy and envy that coursed through his veins, Philip longed to speak, to try to explain the situation somehow--though he had no idea how, exactly. He ended up opening his mouth but saying nothing and finally closing it before flies swarmed in--not that there were any in the desert.
"Who might you be?" Valdemar asked, still smiling, and, scared out of his mind, Philip turned to look at the genie--who was wearing clothes.... They were similar to Philip's own: simple brown khaki pants, white button-down shirt, and brown mountaineering boots. On the genie, however, the clothes didn't hang unflatteringly as they did on Philip, who was slim to the point of thin and bony, but instead they fit him like a glove, showcasing that perfect masculine physique like a smooth second skin. As far as the colors were concerned, in essence, Philip--like the genie--would've been able to camouflage himself like a chameleon in his desert surroundings, if he so chose. Sometimes Philip felt invisible no matter what he was wearing.
Like right now, when the guy he'd lusted after for a year was lusting after his genie.
Now that was a strange thought, Philip considered in passing, and he glanced at the genie. Upon finding the genie smiling at him almost lewdly, he blushed.
"I'm a friend of Pip's," the genie replied smoothly.
"Pip, huh?" Valdemar