DIVIDED BY CENTURIES
Contessa Donnatella di Poliziano has power, beauty, and-as a vampire-eternal life. Her overwhelming regret is a mistake she made centuries ago when she chose not to transform her one true love, Jergan, into a vampire too. Donnatella's choice has deprived her of the only true love she's ever known. But just as all seems lost, the discovery of a 300-year-old note leads her to a gift left by her old friend, Leonardo da Vinci: a machine to take her back in time to rewrite the history of her heart...
UNITED BY OTHERWORLDLY DESIRE
Once back in time, Donnatella's memory of the intervening years is lost. Yet when she sees the breathtaking barbarian slave, Jergan, from afar, she feels like she has always known him. The instant attraction she feels draws them together. For Donnatella, the romance is tantalizing, awakening a passion that feels both old and new. But as the two fall in love again, a new danger threatens to tear them apart. Now Jergan's love for Donnatella will be tested in a most perilous way-and if he fails, the two lovers will be separated again...for eternity.
This book was previously published by St. Martin's Press
"Superb writing, vivid narrative combined with complex plotting, and intricate characterization make each novel by Ms. Squires an absolute winner. Don't miss this exciting chapter in this unique and captivating vampire series." -- Romantic Times BOOK Reviews
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)|
About the Author
Susan Squires is a New York Times bestselling author known for breaking the rules of romance writing. She has published seventeen books with Dorchester and St. Martin's Press. Her contemporary Magic Series is independently published with six novels and a novella. Whatever her time period or subject, some element of the paranormal always creeps in to her work. She has been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America Rita Contest, and won numerous regional and national awards, including the Holt Medallion, the Golden Heart, and the Book Buyers' Best award, and garnered several Reviewer's Choice awards from RT Book Reviews as well as starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly. Publisher's Weekly named Body Electric one of the ten most influential mass-market books and One with the Shadows, the fifth in her vampire Companion Series, a Best Book of the Year.
Susan has a Masters in English literature from UCLA and once toiled as an executive for a Fortune 500 company. Now she lives at the beach in Southern California with her husband, Harry, a writer of supernatural thrillers, and two very active Belgian Sheepdogs, who like to help her write by putting their chins on the keyboarddddddddddddddddddddddd.
Follow Susan on Twitter, like her Facebook page at AuthorSusanSquires or check out her website at http://www.susansquires.com .
Read an Excerpt
One with the Darkness
By Susan Squires
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Susan Squires
All rights reserved.
Florence, Tuscany, 1821.
Her friend, Euripedes, used to say, "Time cancels young pain." Euripedes was wrong. After eighteen hundred years, the thorn of regret had festered until it was like to poison her.
Contessa Donnatella Margherita Luchella di Poliziano drifted onto the balcony of the Palazzo Vecchehio. The scent of star jasmine hung in the air as twilight deepened into indigo. Summer in Florence gave precious little darkness, an inconvenience to her kind. Below her in the Piazza del Signoria the usual throng of women crowded around Buonarroti's statue of David. It had been modeled after her son, Gian, in 1504.
Gian was the bright spot in her life. It was so rare for her kind to be blessed with a child. He was like his father, Jergan — as handsome as Jergan had been, as much of a leader. But Gian was vampire, like Donnatella, born in A.D.41 in Rome, and Jergan had been human.
Her eyes filled. She could have changed that. She hadn't had the courage to make Jergan vampire because the Rules forbade it and the vampire Elders always enforced the Rules. So she had watched the only man she ever loved grow old and die. Such a short time she'd had with him! Half a century? No more.
She shook herself and turned inside. The library smelledof the lemon oil used to polish the heavy, dark furniture. Her gaze fell on her favorite painting. Botticelli had rendered Jergan as Neptune rising from the waves, based only on Donnatella's description. The likeness was remarkable in view of the fact that the artist had never seen him. Green eyes. Long, dark hair. Body sculpted by a warrior's training. The painting and her son were all she had left of Jergan.
If only she had known the regret that waited for her, she would have found the courage. She could have infected him with her Companion, the parasite in her bloodstream. Then he would have shared her more-than-human strength and senses, the healing, the power to compel men's minds, the ability to translocate. There had been one moment — he'd been wounded; she'd almost done it then, used that as an excuse. The Companion would have healed him. Of course the Companion also demanded its host drink human blood. How could she have asked him to take on such a burden? To be thought a monster ... Still, if he'd survived the infection, they would have had forever together.
Of course, if he'd died, then she'd have had no time with him at all.
And it was against the Elders' Rules. If one made a vampire every time one fell in love ... She straightened her back and daubed at her eyes. The Elders were wrong. She would have been stronger for having Jergan by her side, a man who understood her, loved her. He made her whole.
The clock chimed ten. Already she had missed the first act of the opera. This was fruitless longing. There was no going back. It would do her good to get out of the house. She rang for Maria. The rust silk, perhaps. It made her complexion glow. And her garnets. She opened the secret compartment in the wall and removed the large puzzle box containing her jewels. The bas-relief on the box had been carved by Buonarroti, showing Adam and Eve in the garden. Adam's likeness was amazing. Buonarroti always had a better feel for the nude male figure than the female, for obvious reasons.
She sat at her dressing table and pressed open the box as she had a thousand, thousand times before, twisting just the right way. The box popped open as it always had.
But this time a tiny drawer in the edge popped open, too.
Donnatella blinked. What was this?
She pulled open the tiny drawer. A folded piece of paper lay inside. A note? But who could have put it here? Had one of her maids learned to open the box? But even Donnatella didn't know how she had sprung open this special little drawer....
She set the box down and unfolded the paper. Holding it to the light, she recognized Buonarroti's cramped hand. Really, how could such a brilliant artist write so badly?
"Go to the catacombs under Il Duomo. Take the main corridor from the north end directly south. Behind the end wall is something Leonardo says will make you happy, Donnatella." It was signed "Michelangelo" in just the scribble one could still see on the base of the Pietà.
Whatever could he mean?
And why leave a note for ... for more than three hundred years inside a puzzle box? Why, she might never have opened the little secret drawer. He'd never showed her how when he demonstrated the box back in 1501.
Maria knocked discreetly and let herself in. She bustled about, opening the wardrobe. "Which dress would you like tonight, your ladyship?" "The rust silk," Donnatella murmured, still staring at the note. "Behind the end wall is something Leonardo says will make you happy. ..." Not likely. Only one thing would make her happy, and it was nearly eighteen hundred yearstoo late to get it. She hadn't even admitted what it was to herself until tonight. Buonarroti could not have known. Whatever was behind that wall would long ago have crumbled to dust. Finding a pile of dust was definitely not worth missing that new castrato at the opera.
No, she was not going to go chasing off after some daft dream that Buonarroti could never fulfill. No one could fulfill it, and to think otherwise for a single second only indicated just how close to madness she was drifting.
But what else was left for her?
She rose so suddenly the chair toppled over. "Never mind the rust silk, Maria. Get the dress I wore when we reorganized the wine cellar."
The maid's eyes widened. "Your ladyship is never going to wear that dress to the opera!"
"No, I am not. And find my sturdiest half boots." She rang the bell again. It sounded as though she'd need a tool for demolition. A blacksmith's sledgehammer perhaps. Bucarro, her faithful majordomo, would know where to procure one. A footman peeped into the room.
"Get Bucarro," she ordered. This was insane. But she was going to the catacombs.
Donnatella stood alone in her rooms in front of a full-length mirror, the sledgehammer and a lantern concealed under her cloak. She dared not meet any late-returning revelers in the streets carrying a sledgehammer and dressed for dirty work. So she called on the Companion in her blood. Power raced up her veins, trembling like the threat of sheet lightning in the air around her. A red film dropped over her field of vision. To anyone watching, her eyes would now be glowing red. Companion, more! she thought. And the being that was the other half of her answered with a surge. A whirling blackness rose up around her. Even light could not escape that vortex. She watched her reflection in the mirror disappear. She pictured the Baptistery of the Duomo in her mind. Not many living knew about the catacombs beneath it anymore. The field of power grew so intense it collapsed in on itself, popping her out of space. The familiar pain seared through her just as the blackness overwhelmed her. She gasped.
The blackness drained away, leaving only the dim interior of the octagonal Baptistery. She did not bother with the lamp. To humans the mosaics of the dome above her would be lost in shadows, but she saw well in darkness. The place felt like the crossroads of the world. The building itself was clearly Roman, almost like the Pantheon, but the sarcophagi on display were Egyptian, the frescoes Germanic in flavor. The floor, with its Islamic inlay, stretched ahead to the baptismal font. Her boots clicked across the marble. Behind the font was a staircase. She ran down into the darkness without hesitation. Below, the walls of the vast chamber were of plain stone, the floor above supported with columns and round arches. Marble tombs of cardinals and saints lined the edges. It smelled of damp stone and, ever so faintly, decay.
But this was not her destination. A large rectangular stone carved in an ornate medieval style lay in the middle of the floor. It was perhaps four feet across and six feet long, six inches thick. Setting down her sledgehammer, she stooped and lifted. Thank the gods for vampire strength.
She dragged the stone aside so that it only partially covered the opening. A black maw revealed rough stone stairs leading down. The smell of human dust assailed her. Rats skittered somewhere. Now she took out her flint and striker and lit the lamp. Stepping into the darkness, she turned and lifted the stone above her once again. It dropped into place with a resounding thud, concealing the stairs. Holding the lamp high in one hand, she started down. Light flickered on the stone walls on either side of the staircase. Catacombs at night were the stuff of nightmares for most of the world. But she was not afraid. She was the stuff of nightmares, too.
The stairs finally opened out on a maze of corridors, each lined with niches to hold the bodies of the early Christian dead. Most were filled now only with piles of dust or sometimes a clutter of bones. Occasionally a skeleton hand still clutched a crucifix or some shred of rotted fabric fluttered in the air that circulated from somewhere.
Before she headed into the maze, she got her bearings. She must find the north side and locate a corridor that led south. That would take her back under the nave of the main building of the Duomo. She took a breath and started out. It took her several wrong turnings to make her way to the north edge of the maze, but she was rewarded by finding a long, straight corridor that led away from the main catacombs.
This was it. She knew it. Whatever Michelangelo Buonarroti thought would make her happy was at the end of this corridor. She was foolish. There was no doubt about that. Buonarroti couldn't know what would make her happy, and if he did, he couldn't give it to her. Traipsing around in catacombs on a treasure hunt that would no doubt prove disappointing if it wasn't useless altogether was a sign of just how desperate she had become.
But she was desperate. She didn't know how much more she could take of the gnawing regret that had overwhelmed her in the last years. So, foolish as this was, however likely to end in disappointment, she couldn't turn and walk away. She started down the corridor.
It ended abruptly in a solid wall of plaster. She set down her lantern, her stomach fluttering no matter how she tried to tell it there was no cause for excitement. Hefting the sledgehammer, she hauled it back and slammed it into the wall with all her strength. The plaster crumbled, revealing carefully cut stone that fitted exactly together. Dust choked the air. This would take some doing. Again and again she swung at the stones until she could pry at the ruined corners. Her fingertips were bloodied. No matter. They healed even as she glanced at them. But wasn't she going about this the wrong way?
Instead of trying to pry the stone out, she shoved it in. It toppled into the darkness. She pushed a neighboring stone and then another until she confronted a yawning chasm, coughing.
She lifted her lantern and stepped through the cloud of dust into the darkness.
What stood towering above her was a maze of a different kind. Giant gears and levers interlocked in some crazy pattern that was positively beautiful. The metal gleamed golden, still shiny with oil. At points in the mechanism, jewels the size of her fist were set, red and green and blue and clear white. Those couldn't be real, could they?
She stood dumbfounded, staring. What was this thing? A machine of some kind. But what was it for?
It was long minutes before she could tear her eyes away from the beautiful intricacy and look around the room. There was no dust except for the puff that had wafted in from her exertions with the wall. The place must have been tightly sealed to keep out even dust. How long had it been sealed? Probably since the note was written. Besides the machine, the room contained only a simple metal chair and a table to match, golden like the machine, sitting in a corner, unobtrusive. On the table was a leather-covered book.
Disappointment lurked at the edges of her mind. Amachine could not give her back happiness, no matter what it pumped or measured. And yet there was something almost otherworldly about this most human of creations.
She pulled out the chair, sat, and drew the book toward her. The cover had mold on it. Even a sealed room couldn't keep out mold. Carefully she opened it. The first page startled her. "For Contessa Donnatella Margherita Luchella di Poliziano, from her friend Leonardo da Vinci. I dedicate to you my greatest work."
Shivers ran down her spine. Twice in one night she had received notes from friends dead hundreds of years. They must have expected her to open the notes long ago. They'd never believe she was still alive three hundred years after they'd written them. Whatever they wanted her to know or do with this machine, she was very late in accomplishing.
She turned another page.
When you read this, for I know you will, you will have found my machine. Magnificent, isn't it? And only I could have designed it.
Leonardo, the dear, always had quite an ego. Still, the man was amazing. He was probably right about the machine.
I could never find enough power to test it, and yet I know it works. Or at least in one possible reality, it works. But really it is all too complicated, even for one of my intellect. I must find a way to get you here. Something you will keep by you through all the years, something valuable. A piece of art? You love the arts. Buonarroti, that dwarf, will know something. But of course, whatever I do works, because you are here, reading this, and I know you are reading this because ...
Or it doesn't work, and everything is changed, and I never built the machine, or wrote this explanation, and I am not who I am, and you are not who you are. ...
Well, never mind that. I have no choice but to fulfill my part in this epic, or this tragedy, whatever it turns out to be.
So here is all the truth I know: what you see before you is a time machine.
Gods, do you jest? She looked up at the machine that filled the space. It gleamed in flickering lamplight, towering above her. The jewels sparkled as the light caught them. The possibilities flickered through her in response. What if she could go back? Undo the decision that took Jergan away from her, have at least the hope of happiness? This might be the one thing that could make her happy.
Her eyes darted back to the journal. But Leonardo had said he'd never tested it....
You are asking yourself how it works. If you care to read the journal, you will know. But if you are in haste, know this: time is not a river but a vortex, and with enough power man can jump into another part of the swirl.
Or perhaps man can't, but you can, my dear Contessa, you who are not human. Do you think I did not notice the hum of energy about you? I measured it without your knowledge, and was astounded. The people around you think it is vitality, a force of personality. They feel it only as an incredible attraction to you, but I know better. Your power is real and it is incredibly strong. It keeps you young and heals you. The you of today thinks I did not know those things about you, either. But the you who you will be told me in the past. It is the knowledge of this source of power that inspires me to build a machine worthy of its use.
My only regret is that I will not live to see it used. But you, who started me on this quest, told me you must not find it until after I am dead, or too much would be changed. It will wait for you, who live forever, to use it when the time is right.
So, my dear Contessa, pull the lever. Use your power. Think of the moment you want to be your now as you jump into the maelstrom. That will influence the machine. You will end up in the moment you imagine. At least I think you will.
But be warned: the machine will go with you but it cannot stay long in another time. To return, you must use it again before it disappears and returns to the time whence it came. I do not know how long it can stay with you. I do not know what will happen if you make it back to the time you are in now, or what will happen if you don't. I give you only the means to change your destiny, or perhaps all of our destinies. Use it if you will.
Excerpted from One with the Darkness by Susan Squires. Copyright © 2008 Susan Squires. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Contessa Donnetella di Poliziana has beauty, power and since she is a vampire-eternal life, she regrets a mistake she made many centuries ago when she didn't make her great love into a vampire, suddenly, she finds a note from Leonardo da Vinci and a machine to take her back in time to her true love. Once back in time, her memory fades and she sees her love Jergen from afar and feels that she has always known him, she buys him as her slave and the two fall in love again. I did have a problem with the violent rape scenes in some parts of this book, Jergen is taken by Cesar's sisters and raped and tortured, but is reunited with his true love. Will she make him Vampire this time to save him? Will she trust him enough to tell him she is Vampire? You will have to read the book to find out.
Eighteen hundred years have past since Contessa Donnatella di Poliziano followed her species¿ strict rule outlawing the creation of a new vampire. Over the eighteen centuries, she has been lonely, angry and acerbic because back then she had the chance to save the life of the only man she loved, Jergan, but timidly let him die instead of converting him to what she was and is. --- In 1821, her Renaissance friends Michelangelo and Leonardo left Donnatella a note that they knew of a time machine that would enable her to back to that first century and mend her broken heart. However, upon her return to the age of Caligula when she was and once again is Livia Quintus Lucellus, she forgets her quest. Instead she is part of a group wanting the Emperor removed from power. However, fate intervenes when she buys Jergan the slave, but will the second time around end any different than the first tragic time. --- This is a superb time travel vampire romance starring a courageous heroine who goes after the love of her life in an attempt to rectify what she believes was an error on her part. The underlying second chance at love theme enhances a strong plot in which Caligula¿s Rome is a key element. Susan Squires knows her vampires as she provides a strong tale of forbidden love in Ancient Rome. --- Harriet Klausner