My second novella for Carina Press came out on the 21 March. It's my first paranormal--and possibly my last--there are many people doing the genre better than me. It's called "A Brush with Darkness" and is set in 19th Century Florence.
Why Florence? I hear you say. And the God's honest truth is, I haven't a clue! I've been to the city, but then I've been to dozens of European cities and Florence was lovely but no lovelier than Venice or Amsterdam. However, as the story is about an ancient vampire matriarch, her "grandson"? and a very talented up and coming painter, the medieval gorgeousness of Florence seemed to be right for the setting.
I wanted to emphasize the corruption of Florence too, as it was terribly corrupt for many, many years despite it being officially a democracy - the Medici--bankers to the Popes--ruled the city from behind the scenes, Not that A Brush with Darkness is political but I simply hint at what might be going on.
Michel is the protagonist of the story and he narrates in first person. His father died, after having lost his buisness to a partner and Michel, his mother and sister are now dependent on the "good graces" of that business partner, Michel's patron, Signor Bettano. It is Bettano who introduces Michel to Signora Guildeccia who wishes him to paint a relative of hers, the exquisitely beautiful Yuri. Who is he? Is he her son? Her lover? Her grandson? Michel can hardly imagine.
The story explores the light and the dark of corruption and of relationships of many types--sometimes the worst of us do the best things, and sometimes the best of us sink into horror we can never recover from.
Here's an excerpt for you. Michel is ordered to attend a ball with his patron:
After initial introductions to our host and hostess, Bettano left me with instructions to be available when called, and he swept into the glittering throng with a greasy smile on his fat face.
Standing sullenly near a corner out of sight of my patron, I wondered how long it would be before I could escape, how many glasses of champagne it would take before he stopped trying to find me every time he wanted to show me off.
As I lurked, a voice spoke from the other side of the column. “Don’t move. He’s looking this way.”
I flattened myself against the marble instinctively. The voice spoke again. “Now. Round the back. This side, he’s moving.” I obeyed without thought, sliding around the pillar, the stone cool through my jacket.
The man had his back to me, scanning the glittering dance floor, broad shoulders filling black velvet. He turned and my knees weakened.
The smile on his face had made Lucifer throw himself from the gates of heaven in unrequited passion. “Well done. Now I have you. He has been claimed by Count Dimillio, and he will not escape from him and his ever-so-grateful family for at least an hour.”
He took my hand to shake it, but instead pulled my glove off before taking my hand in his. The touch shook me to my core—impossible to describe and yet I can feel it still—it was as if my arm were suddenly boneless. It seemed I had no control over the muscles and sinews which held me together.
If he had let me go, I was certain I would have poured to the floor like quicksilver. The nerve endings in my hand seemed to burn under his touch; his cool skin singed my flesh.
He used my hand to pull himself closer, keeping my hand in both of his. His fingers danced over my knuckles, entwining and tangling with mine until I could not tell which belonged to me and which to him. My cock, which had stirred on first seeing his face, now seemed boiled in its prison of cloth.
The lust sweeping through me was a guttural, visceral rumbling, seeming deafening to my ears, making the blood drain from my face.
“A pale and silent artist,” he said in the lowest of tones. “A rarity, then. How will you pose me without words?” His eyes reflected the glitter of the room, the pupils so large I could hardly make out the colour of the irises. The flames of the candles accentuated the highlights in his golden hair, and he seemed more alive than anything I’d ever seen before—light radiated from him.
The impulse I felt to pull him closer was unbearable. I imagined I could feel the heat of his body even though we were still inches apart. He leaned forward—he was only a little taller than I, but that night he seemed to tower over me like a god.
“Are you as hard for me, I wonder?”
The words should have shocked me, but they did not. I was and I wanted him to know it. I knew nothing more of him than his face and his voice, and yet he owned me completely.
Softly, he pulled my hand down, down, and my breath was held in a prism of sound, suspended by a cobweb. One swift cut and my heart would have stopped. His mouth opened and a deliciously moist tongue ran its course along his pale, slender lips. He pressed my hand to his trousers, and my palm encountered such rigidity beneath the velvet that I gasped, the breath returning to my lungs like a forest fire, scorching and burning
Buy here from Carina Press $2.69 - a bargain! - and I hope that if you try it, you enjoy it!
I am offering one free copy to one lucky commenter - simply ask me anything in the comments and I'll pick a winner and will email them on Friday 6th April.