Read an Excerpt
Embrace The Twilight
By Maggie Shayne
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe gorgio dropped three pieces of silver into the woman's palm. It was a beautiful palm, a beautiful hand, Will noticed as she closed it into a fist. Dark and slender, but strong, not fragile looking, as slender hands tended to be. She wore rings on every finger, and gold and silver bangles on her wrists, which made tinkling music every time she moved.
"Thank you," she told the pale-skinned man. "When the predictions come true, tell your friends. And be sure they ask for Sarafina when they come."
He backed away, nodding, thanking her profusely, but never turning his back on her all the way out. As soon as his feet touched the ground outside her wagon-tent, he crossed himself and ran away.
The gorgios might deny it, Sarafina thought, but they were every bit as superstitious as the Gypsies. Will thought it was odd that he could hear what she was thinking as well as what she said aloud. It was almost as if he had retreated into her mind to escape the pain, instead of his own.
But he was distracted from the odd notion by her smile. She smiled slowly, and it transformed her face from dark and sullen and exotic to something of sheer, glowing beauty. He loved her. Everything about her, from her smooth olive-bronze skin to the masses of raven hair curling wildly over her back and shoulders. He loved her lips, how full they were, how ripe. He loved her eyes, gleaming onyx gemstones, set very wide beneath heavy brows most women would pluck down to nothing.
She tucked the coins into the heavy drawstring pouch that dangled from one of the colorful sashes at her waist. "Ten already this week," she whispered, as she leaned over the table to drop a black silk scarf over the crystal globe that held court in its center. The "table" was an upturned wooden crate covered in more silk scarves, as was the chair. The chair on the other side of the table, the one for the customers, was also a crate, but an undressed one. She wasn't about to have one of them sitting on her silk.
Andre. She was thinking of Andre now.
It gave Will a bitter pang to realize it, to feel the little leap of her heart when she thought of the man, but he stayed with her all the same, like a shadow hidden within her own. She left the tent, her strong, bare feet padding down the fold-up steps of the wagon, then pressing onto the cool brown earth as she crossed the camp. Will loved tagging along when she went outside, because the camp was such a fascinating sight; concentric circles of painted wagons and tents, and odd combinations of the two. Bells and prisms hung from most of them. At the center was a communal fire, though many smaller ones burned here and there. The center was where people met. There was often music, dancing. The women in their brightly colored skirts, with their countless scarves trailing them like comet tails as they whirled. The men with their tight-fitting trousers, and red and gold vests. The musicians with their violins and tambourines and pipes.
They were a beautiful, vibrant people, these Gypsies. He didn't know where they were. He was uncertain when they were. Not that it mattered, since they were mere figments of his imagination.
Too vivid, too detailed, to be real.
Many greeted Sarafina as she passed. The younger ones bowed respectfully, while the elders looked upon her as an equal. She was spectacular, walking with her head high and her hips swaying, proud of who she was.
She was a gifted seer, and she used that gift to bring wealth to the tribe. That earned her the honor and respect of the group, just as it did her far less worthy sister. But Will worried about the woman. Lately, she'd been feeling poorly, and her gifts of prophecy refused to tell her why.
The fire in the center of the camp jumped and danced, yellow-orange flames spreading a pool of light in the midst of the pitch-black ocean of night. The wood smoke smelled good, warm and tangy and familiar. Many of the people had gathered around the fire that night, listening as the old ones told tales. Stories of adventures and the misdeeds of their youth brought gasps and then laughter from those gathered around to hear.
Sarafina loved these people. They were her family, and family was all that mattered to her. And they loved her in return. Except, of course, for her sister. Katerina was her own blood, but she had hated her sister from the moment Sarafina had drawn her first breath. Sarafina liked to pretend the feeling was mutual.
It wasn't. Her sister's hatred ate at her like a cancer.
Katerina's vardo stood on the opposite side of the camp from Sarafina's, as was always the case wherever the tribe made camp. As Sarafina approached it, leaving the light of the fire far behind, a dark form emerged from the wagon, turned and hurried away into the shadows. A man, Will thought, but he was gone before giving either of them more than a brief glance.
Sarafina stepped up and reached for the door flap, and the bells attached to it tinkled as she drew it open and stepped inside.
Her sister looked up at her with an expectant smile that turned to a grimace the moment she saw who it was. They were so different, the two of them. Katerina's black hair was long and perfectly straight. Her eyes were small, close set and round. They looked like cold pebbles. Shark's eyes.
"Did you think your lover had returned, Katerina?" Sarafina asked with an edge in her voice. "So sorry to disappoint you."
"You've done nothing but disappoint me from the day our mother died giving birth to you, little sister. Why begin apologizing for it now?"
The words stung. Will could feel Sarafina's pain as acutely as she herself felt it. But her heart had toughened and formed calluses over the years, thanks to her sister's constant attacks. It didn't hurt as much as it would have once.
Smiling, Fina lifted her coin pouch in her palm, bouncing it slightly so the coins inside jangled. "Ten gorgios have come to see me this week. Ten, Katerina. Twice as many as have sought you out for divination."
Her sister shrugged. "Your wagon is nearer the road than mine."
"They ask for me by name," Sarafina countered. "They come to me because I am the most skilled seer in this camp, and because word of my abilities has spread throughout the town. I'll have still more of them crossing my palm with silver next week. And I predict you'll have even fewer."
"Bah! By the week after that, when not one of your false predictions has come to pass, they'll see that your only talent lies in deception, and they'll begin seeking my counsel instead." Katerina tossed her hair. "We both know the truth. Not only am I the more gifted diviner, I am the rightful Shuvani of this tribe, Sarafina."
Excerpted from Embrace The Twilight by Maggie Shayne Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.