Gathering my skirts, I perch on the edge of the fountain and look up at the stars. The night is clear, the dark sky awash with golden jewels. I once knew an astronomer and he taught me to find Orion and Ursa Major. I breathe in the flowered air and listen to the wind rifle through the leaves as I search the stars for familiar shapes.
Tonight the heavens are full of swords and tombstones. Bad omens that make me think again of the old woman’s words. Chosen…the Devil’s mark. A chill prickles the back of my neck. I’ve been trying so hard to blend into Joseph’s world. Why could she not have seized upon a noblewoman’s skirts instead?
The crescent moon hangs low in the sky like Charon’s scythe. I drop my eyes to the flowerbeds. Thankfully, the petals do not tell tales of death and destruction.
“Maria,” a voice says.
I spin around. Batista stands just behind me, an unreadable look on his face.
“It took you long enough,” I say. “I was hoping you would join me.”
“What are you doing out here?” he asks. “Are you all right?”
“Fine. Just reading the stars.” I pat the edge of the fountain. “Come sit.”
Batista sits next to me and takes my hand in his own, his fingers twining through mine as if it is the most natural thing in the world. For a second, I imagine we are the couple that I saw embracing, that we are two well-bred people fretting about our wedding—two people desperate to go home to the same house and rise together in the morning.
Batista squeezes my hand gently and I turn to rest my head against his chest. Just because I cannot have that sort of life, doesn’t mean I cannot borrow it for a night.
“Do you still want to meet me later?” I focus on the warmth of his fingers wrapped around mine.
His eyes turn colors in the firelight—brown, then blue, then gold. His lips twitch as if he’s holding back a smile. “I’m glad you changed your mind.”
“Our usual spot?” I ask. Batista and I normally meet at a little taverna on one of the outlying islands. I don’t know what his fascination is with the place, since I know he lives on the Rialto like I do, but it’s remote enough that we can be together without word getting back to Joseph.
“Our usual spot,” he confirms.
I give his hand a gentle squeeze, and feel warmth light up in my stomach. “I’ll be there.”
More about Venom:
The year is 1600 and the streets of Venice, Italy are ripe with intrigue and danger. In this introduction to the world of Venom, eighteen-year-old Mariabella has recently elevated herself from the rank of common prostitute to the status of courtesan, a respected high-class escort for those men in Venetian society who can afford them. Mariabella steps out to attend a party on the arm of her powerful new patron, certain that the night will be filled with glamour, secrets, and adventure.Goodreads/ Amazon/ Barnes and Noble
More about Fiona Paul:
Fiona Paul lives in the Midwest but travels a lot since she can’t breathe if she spends too much time away from the ocean. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in psychology and spent a year teaching English in Seoul, Korea while she was deciding what she wanted to be when she grew up. Answer: everything. In addition to being a teacher and a writer, she’s also worked as a sauté cook, sporting goods manager, veterinary assistant, and registered nurse. When she’s not working, you can usually find her kayaking, reading, or helping turtles cross the road. Her future goals include diving with great white sharks and writing more books, not necessarily in that order.is her first novel
To find out more about Fiona and her book, head on over to her website.
And don't forgot to check out the next part of the story on Kari’s Crowded Bookshelf tomorrow 10/19.