#Free #Read #excerpt: The Knight’s Portal #TKP Chapters 1 & 3

THE KNIGHT’S PORTAL (excerpt)

CHAPTER ONE 

“If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom”

Queen Elizabeth I of England

 

Eric gasped for fresh air as he lifted the visor of his steel armet with a sharp move. His eyes stung by smoke and his nostrils filled with the metallic smell of blood. The deafening sound of a cannon thunder rolled through his ears although they were still protected by the close helmet the Knights Hospitaller had forced him to put on before he joined them in the battle.  The steel cuirass they had also made him wear looked ridiculous over his button-down white shirt and his comfortable light blue jeans. Last night he was enjoying a delicious hot meal in a cozy 21rst century apartment in London and now he was defending the Mediterranean island of Malta from the Islamic Ottoman Empire in a sixteenth-century epic battle.

Boom! Pieces of stones, bricks, and wood fell over him. Four emerald green stones shined in the dimmed sunlight as he lifted the golden baculus he held up to shield himself.

“That’s wrong, this shouldn’t be happening,” he whispered as he pulled his armet off his head.

It wasn’t his jump back in time that troubled him. It could have been weird, but wrong, no it wasn’t. He didn’t become a time travel with no reason. It wasn’t his dream. He never wished that happened. He didn’t ask for it. He didn’t even know that time travel was even possible.

It was the advance of the Turkish army to inland that was an anomaly. It was supposed to be the Great Siege of Malta. When the Ottoman Empire tried to invade the rocky island, an army of 2,000 Knights Hospitaller and barely 400 Maltese men withstood the siege and repelled the invaders. All of Europe celebrated what would turn out to be the last epic battle involving Crusader Knights. The last act of the heroic medieval Catholic military Order of which the Order of the Black Rose derived.

Boom! Another shellfire distracted his thoughts. He should move to another spot. His jeans were wet soaked with blood. It wasn’t his blood; it was the blood of Knights and soldiers whose lives he was supposed to have protected. And now they were lying dead, their bodies buried beneath enormous stones of the ruined curtain wall they were assigned to guard.

He crawled over Zanoguerra’s cold body. The poor boy dreamed of being a Knight someday; his dream would not come true. Eric knew that he should act as fast and efficiently as he could or the Knights Hospitaller would face their ultimate end. The whole Western civilization depended on him.  That sounds pompous, he thought. It was never his choice though. He was a loyal member of the Order of the Black Rose, however he never dreamed of playing hero. Badass yes, hero no, he thought as he crawled on his hands and knees toward a huge pile of rubble that once used to be a family house. His moves were slow under the weight of the steel armor which covered his torso. Bearing the golden baculus didn’t help either. That golden rod with a cross pattée on the hilt wasn’t just a historic artefact of unfathomable value; it was his ride to Middle Ages.

Four emerald green stones decorated each of the four corners of the cross pattée, the distinguished Christian cross of the Knight Templars, arms narrow at the center and broader at the perimeter. It was when those four stones flashed that the grey and white dining room Eric was in faded away, replaced by the thick walls of Mdina’s medieval castle. The jazz music he was listening during the romantic dinner he had prepared for Floriana was switched with thuds and clangs of heavy swords. One moment he was enjoying hoisin-glazed pork tenderloin with Asian rice salad, and the next he had the taste of blood and gun powder in his mouth.

“Nothing is right here,” muttered Eric as he looked around at the collapsed buildings. “Everything is wrong.”

Half of the city walls bastions were ruined. The famous fortification of Mdina, which was supposed to still intact to the 21rst century, was now almost gone. In his time this series of defensive walls which surrounded the former capital city of Malta were on the country’s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. “They won’t be anymore.” Mdina city had withstood several sieges, but the walls kept her inhabitants safe, except in two occasions, none of which was during the Great Siege of Malta. The Ottoman army had failed to attack Mdina, unaware of the fact that the city was guarded only by a small group of local soldiers and Knights of St John. The poorly-defended and supplied Mdina fired its cannon at the approaching force of Mustafa Pasha at pointlessly long range; this bluff fooled the tired of the long-lasted siege Turks into thinking the city was full to the brim with defenders and led to their retreat. A few days later the Turks would flee to their ships, and Malta would survive the Ottoman assault.

“This is not going to happen anymore, and I don’t know how to fix it” Eric yelled as he threw his armet down with anger. The sound of the steel helmet crashing on the ground was covered by another cannon thunder.

Mdina has fallen. Malta, a stepping stone to Italy, wouldn’t last long either. The rest of Europe would fall under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent. The western civilization was in peril. He was sent back to time to stem the tide of the Ottoman imperialism and make sure that History would not be altered. But he had no idea how to do that.

* * *

CHAPTER THREE

“Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta”

Voltaire

 

A sudden rustle of Sirocco wind slapped Eric’s face. Sand and dust raised above the ruined buildings and overlay the lifeless bodies that lay along St. Peter’s bastion. Women and children lay dead beside Knights, soldiers, and peasants. The wind carried the sound of iron clad hooves as the strong courses of the Ottoman cavalry reached Mdina’s city walls. The bell of the St. Pauls Cathedral was rung; a signal that the enemy was within the fortifications.

Eric picked up a fallen Knight’s sword before he moved fast towards an alley crowded with people trying to flee. It was a place well known to him. After all, Mdina was his adoptive hometown. Even if he lived there five centuries later, little had changed during centuries.  However, St Paul’s Cathedral, where he was heading to, had changed a lot. Founded in the 12th century, it was severely damaged in the 1693 Sicily earthquake and rebuilt in the 17th century. “That’s in two hundred years from now,” Eric thought as he tried to accelerate but the steel cuirass he wore, and the heavy sword made his moves difficult.

He couldn’t understand how all that had happened; how history changed its course. According to the history books, Mdina was the base of the Order’s cavalry during the Great Siege. When the Ottoman attempted to invade Mdina to winter there, the city fired its canons misleading the Ottoman commander on the size of their ammunition. “That was supposed to be happening, but it isn’t”.

The next rumble of the enemy’s cannon sounded like a thunderstorm. With a thunderous crash the sandstone building he was passing by collapsed taking dozens of soldiers and citizens down in its ruins. Eric held the baculus tightly as he rushed behind a tree trunk to avoid the dust the collapsing building had arisen.

He was the Keeper of the Baculus. He was appointed by birth. It was his family’s longtime duty to preserve that valuable artifact, a duty that was lost in the midst of history. Some would call it a privilege. Others would call it a burden. Eric hadn’t even been warned for what the baculus bore. He found out the most spectacular way; a romantic-dinner-gonne-spectacularly-wrong way.

The table was wonderfully decorated, the silverware was shiny, the food was delicious, Floriana looked beautiful in her red dress and her red curly hair; just like a fresh-cut red rose. The atmosphere was heavy though and their troubled relationship was the reason. “I was the reason,” Eric thought as he recalled the events that led to his current situation. “I don’t do relationships” he had once said to Floriana. That was before he got to know her better, before he was charmed by her looks, captivated by her vibrant personality. Quiet on the outside, Floriana was bright and lively in the inside, she always got the most out of life. Living with her in his medieval palazzo in Mdina, the one that once owned to his ancestors, but he had to spend a small fortune to gain the ownership of the astonishing property, was an experience wonderful yet challenging. Floriana was not only his partner in life, but she was also his partner in the Order of the Black Rose. There were benefits to working with his life partner; he didn’t have to live a double life. However, that came with a lot of stress. His constant worrying about Floriana’s well-being resulted in a vexing sense of unhappiness and lack of freedom. Cracks began to show in their relationship and ended up with Floriana moving to her apartment in London. Their reconciliation dinner brought them further apart; centuries apart.

Floriana and he hadn’t finished their dinner when the baculus flashed in the see-through plastic case it was placed in. Since Eric found out he was the Keeper, he always bore it with him whichever his destination was. And that was the first time he ever saw it glint. Curious as he was, he opened the case and took the golden rod gently in his hands. The moment his fingers touched its golden surface, it got adhered to his skin as an octopus sticks its suckers on its victim. The picture of everything around him began to fade as if he was watching an old analogue television set transmitting static. The last thing he saw in that flicker of “snow” was the image of a frantic Floriana moving to grab his hand. A few moments of a skydiving feeling and next thing he knew, a bunch of Knights Hospitallers stared at him, observing him, scrutinizing his modern clothes, his freshly shaved face, and his 3D printed grey suede sneakers.

g with his life partner; he didn’t have to live a double life. However, that came with a lot of stress. His constant worrying about Floriana’s well-being resulted in a vexing sense of unhappiness and lack of freedom. Cracks began to show in their relationship and ended up with Floriana moving to her apartment in London. Their reconciliation dinner brought them further apart; centuries apart.

Floriana and he hadn’t finished their dinner when the baculus flashed in the see-through plastic case it was placed in. Since Eric found out he was the Keeper, he always bore it with him whichever his destination was. And that was the first time he ever saw it glint. Curious as he was, he opened the case and took the golden rod gently in his hands. The moment his fingers touched its golden surface, it got adhered to his skin as an octopus sticks its suckers on its victim. The picture of everything around him began to fade as if he was watching an old analogue television set transmitting static. The last thing he saw in that flicker of “snow” was the image of a frantic Floriana moving to grab his hand. A few moments of a skydiving feeling and next thing he knew, a bunch of Knights Hospitaller stared at him, observing him, scrutinizing his modern clothes, his freshly shaved face, and his 3D printed grey suede sneakers.

 

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The Knight’s Portal: $0.99 limited time pre-order offer

The world as we know is no more. And she is the only one who knows. Now she must jump back to Middle Ages and fix history. But fixing history always comes with a price.

OUTLANDER meets TIMELESS in this thrilling time travel thriller by USA Today best-selling author Penny BroJacquie

Southern Europe is still under the Ottoman rule. United States of America doesn’t even exist. And Floriana is the only person who realizes that the course of history has been altered.

She’s at her home on Cava island, however she had never been there before. People she used to call family, now they are only colleagues to her. Furthermore, the whole world is not as she knew it. She tries to warn the Order of the Black Rose, but no one listens. Until, the ancient Baculus flashes again and a Maltese Knight shows up, right there in 21rst century Northern Scotland.

1565 A.D. It’s the Great Siege of Malta and 21rst century Eric is fighting along with the Knights Hospitaller against the mighty Ottoman Empire. As the Keeper of the Sacred Baculus of the Order of the Black Rose, Eric truckled to its orders; to protect history from being altered and preserve the Order of the Black Rose against its enemies.

However, things in 1565 don’t go well. Eric is fatally wounded, and the Knights are withdrawing from Malta.

Five centuries later, Floriana realizes she must travel back to 1565 to fix history and save Western civilization. And the man she loves. Or she thinks she loves. Because when you change history nothing remains exactly as you knew it.

How bad can things go?

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY NOW to find out!

~ THE KNIGHT’S PORTAL is book #4 in The Order of the Black Rose NA science fantasy series.

Book #1: The Undead Must Die
Book #2: A Knight’s Oath
Book #3: The Withered Rose
Book #4: The Knight’s Portal

*** All books in The Order of the Black Rose series can be read standalone.

CHECK OUT ALL MY BOOKS NOW

https://pennybrojacquie.com/my-books/

Wrath and Ruin (including The Withered Rose) is now available!

Wrath and Ruin is now available!

I’m really proud to be part of this stunning set, #1 Amazon Best Seller!

My book in the WRATH AND RUIN boxed set is THE WITHERED ROSE; a genetic engineering Sci-Fi novel full of suspense and romantic elements.

Here is the blurb:

Fighting against bioterrorists is dangerous. Fighting against your blood is lethal.

When Floriana returns to Malta to become officially a member of the Order of the Black Rose, she believes that her complicated relationship with Eric is the biggest challenge she has to face.
However, the fate of the world is being threatened by a string of bioterrorist attacks decimating cities across the globe. As a fully-fledged agent under the tutelage of Eric, she’ll have to delve deep into the Order’s roots to discover the truth and stop the attacks. And that means traveling overseas and involving the movers and shakers there…including the president of the United States.
Unfortunately, Floriana’s relationship with Eric isn’t the only personal matter she’s tangled up in. Someone from her past is emerging from the shadows of history, and they’re directly involved in the very plot Floriana is fighting to stop.

25 bestselling authors. 24 exclusive novels. One epic collection.

 

Take flight with all new and exclusive stories that are out of this world, including full-length novels from some of today’s most popular names in science fiction and fantasy!From magnificent dragons, bloodthirsty aliens, and mad genetic engineers to intergalactic wars, magical curses, and fantastical worlds, you’ll find everything you’ve been waiting for in this heart-stopping, limited edition collection.

With over 100 hours of reading, you’ll be able to travel to faraway lands and distant planets. A safe return cannot be guaranteed.

Welcome the WRATH and brave the RUIN when you order today!

WHAT’S INSIDE:
  1. OUR DARK STARS- by Audrey Grey and Krystal Wade. Sci-Fi. Sleeping Beauty in space.
  2. WHEN THE GODS LAUGHED – by Lydia Sherrer. Epic Fantasy. If you give a man the power of the gods, you shouldn’t be surprised when he uses it against you.
  3. DRAGONIA: THE RISE OF THE WYVERNS – by Craig A. Price Jr. Epic Fantasy. The Resistance struggles to find a way to defeat the Dragonia Empire, all hope seems lost against the dragonriders, until they discover an island full of wyverns.
  4. A SKY OF SHATTERED STARS – by Ali Winters. High Fantasy. A Tree of Ages meets The Grisha Trilogy. Kingdoms will fall. Worlds will shatter. And darkness will reign.
  5. WHEN FATE ALIGNS – by A.K. Koonce. Fantasy. One beautifully lethal hybrid-vampire, one ordinary girl, and a twist of fate that threatens both of their lives…
  6. THE FLAMES OF DEATH – by Nicole Zoltack. Epic fantasy. In a world where dragons rule the skies, the land, and the sea, one human slave will dare to rise up against them.
  7. A BOND OF DESTINY AND DRAGONS – by Karen Tomlinson. Fantasy. When kings and gods fall, a queen will rise.
  8. REPLICA – by Kelly Hashway. Sci-Fi. When a group of scientists decide to play God, an experimental town becomes something straight out of a nightmare.
  9. SHADOWS OF KIEV – by Eliza Tilton. YA Historical Fantasy. Romeo and Juliet meet The Walking Dead in 9th century Kiev.
  10. CURSE OF THE ICE DRAGON – by Tara West. Epic Fantasy. When a young hunter is forced to flee the vengeful sky goddess’s ice dragon, he must choose between the life of his brother and the fate of the girl he loves.
  11. BOOK OF GODS – by Pamita Rao. Epic Fantasy. When a young boy stumbles upon a book, he starts reciting the spells on each page. What he deosnt realise is that the spells are for dark magic and can turn him evil.
  12. SUCH A SECRET PLACE – by Cortney Pearson. YA Fantasy. When a girl discovers a vial of enchanted tears she becomes the target of the tyrannical Arcaian army and finds herself on the run.
  13. THE COVEN AT CALLINGTON – by Shereen Vedam. Alternate-history fantasy. A devout church guard and a fierce coven protectress team up to rescue a child, but old loyalties soon test their growing trust in each other.
  14. PROJECT S.K.I.E. – by Caitlyn Mancini. YA science fiction. The dark side of science can have unpredictable consequences, dangerous or extraordinary.
  15. THE SLEEPLESS-by D.K. Cassidy. Dystopian Science Fiction. In 2111, no one in the Nation sleeps unless they earn it—the hard way.
  16. THE ROYAL FOLD- by Milly Ly. YA Fantasy. Super heroes don’t always emerge from the sky. Sometimes, they’re the best friend you’ve known your entire life.
  17. THE MARK OF NOBA- by G.L. Tomas. YA Fantasy. Sterling Wayfairer discovers he shares a spiritual bond with the mysterious Tetra. They must work together to find a way to bring an end to all the sudden disappearances.
  18. DHARMA LORD- by Damian Boyle. Grimdark science fiction. An indebted ex-con. A lost siddha child. A galaxy on the brink of war.
  19. THE WITHERED ROSE – by Penny BroJacquie. Science Fiction genetic engineering. Fighting against bioterrorist is dangerous Fighting against your blood is lethal.
  20. THE PEOPLE’S NECROMANCER – by Rex Jameson. High Fantasy. Amidst the darkest days of antiquity, mankind discovers a new kind of hero.
  21. THE ORDER OF ST. MICHAEL: A BUD HUTCHINS THRILLER- by JB Michaels. Sci-Fi and Fantasy mashup! A grisly murder ties to the theft of Bud’s dangerous invention, a device that gives humans the ability to teleport. In an attempt to recover his stolen teleportation tech, finds the eviscerated body of a monk who belonged to the Order of St. Michael, a special sect of the Roman Catholic Church formed to keep evil spirits at bay
  22. THRIVE – by Jonathan Yanez. Dystopian Sci-Fi. The lies are comfortable the truth is horrifying.

Order Today!
Universal amazon link myBook.to/WrathandRuin
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Google Play: https://play.google.com/…/detai…/Audrey_Grey_Wrath_and_Ruin…

 
Better yet–order this stellar collection for just 99 cents this week AND get in on the authors’ amazing coloring book! Each page has been individually designed, one to represent each book in the set. Trust me when I say these images are gorgeous. Here is a sneak peek of the cover:

Get in on this set for just 99 cents!

 

The fabulous authors of the WRATH and RUIN Boxset have put together this awesome giveaway for a $120 Amazon gift card.

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Win one $10 Amazon Gift Card

To than you for your continuous support I’m giving away one $10 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner.

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I’m also giving away a free downloadable coloring book to all those who get their Wrath and Ruin copy until Jan 10th.

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Huge 99 cent sale

Celebrating the release of Wrath And Ruin we are offering a huge 99 cent sale. Click the link below”

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The Withered Rose (The Order of the Black Rose book #3)

The Withered Rose, the second installment in my The Order of the Black Rose series is available in all major online bookstores.

Book Description

She thinks she fights against bioterrorists; but her own blood is the real enemy.

When Floriana returns to Malta to become officially a member of the Order of the Black Rose, she believes that her complicated relationship with Eric is the biggest challenge she has to face.

However, the fate of the world is being threatened by a string of bioterrorist attacks decimating cities across the globe. As a fully-fledged agent under the tutelage of Eric, she’ll have to delve deep into the Order’s roots to discover the truth and stop the attacks. And that means traveling overseas and involving the movers and shakers there…including the president of the United States.

Unfortunately, Floriana’s complicated relationship with Eric isn’t the only personal matter she’s tangled up in. Someone from her past is emerging from the shadows of history, and they’re directly involved in the very plot Floriana is fighting to stop.

Book Details
List Price: $0.99
Print Length: 136 Pages

Available from

Red Velvet Ribbon: Spells & Potions Book Series

NEW RELEASE!!

🎀Red Velvet Ribbon 🎀

Book One in my new

Spells & Potions
Book Series

Autumn, a young woman in her late twenties, thought she had found happiness in her life. She had a potentially successful career, she was financially independent, she was with a man she loved, and she felt loved. However, she always had that feeling that something was missing in her life, that she wasn’t complete…
Her bad feeling was right; nothing in her life was what it seemed to be, and one night she found out in the most heartbreaking way.
After a night of despair, she found herself lying in Hubbard Park with her clothes ripped and a strange man’s voice whispering in her mind.
Then she saw him, and her mind flooded with questions. Who was that man with the old-fashioned clothes and a gentleman’s manners? Why was he holding her red velvet ribbon in his hands? Did he really have growing fangs?
What does a young woman from Connecticut have to share with a four-centuries-old vampire more than both having a broken heart? And how can they heal each other’s wounds?
Find out in this fast-paced suspense paranormal romance with strong historical elements.

RED VELVET RIBBON is part of a new PRN series called Spells & Potions; a series of standalone paranormal novellas with strong historical and mystery elements.
RED VELVET RIBBON was first published in 2016 as an erotic romance; now it’s relaunched and rebranded, as a clean paranormal romance.

 

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Cover Reveal: Red Velvet Ribbon, my new suspense paranormal romance

Allow me to introduce you to my new suspense paranormal romance. RED VELVET RIBBON, a mashup of contemporary and historical romance, will be released on July 18th. It will be part of my new PRN series called Spells & Potions; a series of standalone paranormal novellas with strong historical and mystery elements.
Some of you may have already been acquainted with the story of RED VELVET RIBBON, as it was first published two years ago as an erotic romance under the penname Lavinia Sely Ederyth. Unfortunately, Lavinia had to withdraw when I realized that my talent isn’t anywhere close to erotic stories. But I loved Autumn and Richardt, two main characters of RVR, and I didn’t want their story to remain imprisoned in the depths of my PC memory card.
So, here it is, RED VELVET RIBBON, relaunched and rebranded, as a clean paranormal romance, full of suspense and historical elements, a full-round novella, part of my new series of standalone novellas called Spells & Potions.

RedVelvetRibbon

RVR is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released on July 18th and will go wide after spending a three-month period on Kindle Unlimited.

> US https://amazon.com/dp/B072M6CCXQ

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072M6CCXQ

CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B072M6CCXQ

AUS https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B072M6CCXQ

As for Lavinia… I’m already missing her, but that won’t be for long. Lavinia is returning as the main character of the next book in the Spells & Potions series, and she will also be the kick-ass heroine of my next steampunk paranormal love story.

RED VELVET RIBBON BLURB

Autumn, a young woman in her late twenties, thought she had found happiness in her life. She had a potentially successful career, she was financially independent, she was with a man she loved, and she felt loved. However, she always had that feeling that something was missing in her life, that she wasn’t complete…
Her bad feeling was right; nothing in her life was what it seemed to be, and one night she found out in the most heartbreaking way.
After a night of despair, she found herself lying in Hubbard Park with her clothes ripped and a strange man’s voice whispering in her mind.
Then she saw him, and her mind flooded with questions. Who was that man with the old-fashioned clothes and a gentleman’s manners? Why was he holding her red velvet ribbon in his hands? Did he really have growing fangs?
What does a young woman from Connecticut have to share with a four-centuries-old vampire more than both having a broken heart? And how can they heal each other’s wounds?
Find out in this fast-paced suspense paranormal romance with strong historical elements.

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

#free #read: ‘The Undead Must Die, Episodes 1 & 2″ – Chapter 2’ (Who kidnapped Floriana?)

It’s finally here! THE UNDEAD MUST DIE, EPISODES 1&2 is now available at Amazon!
Both episodes in ONE book!
Only for 99 cents, Free with Kindle Unlimited.
Grab your copy NOW!

vintage old paper with copy space

Floriana is a seemingly ordinary art student, until an exciting opportunity to study ancient Greek relics introduces her to long-held secrets and shockingly dangerous truths.

Her life becomes altogether extraordinary when a seemingly benign morning excursion transforms into an agonizing race across Europe to save humanity. Soon, she must work against the clock to recreate an antidote to save mankind before nostalgic Nazi militias make good on their plan to create a legion of superhuman zombie-soldiers that will wreak havoc on mankind.

As the heir apparent to a family of masterminds, Floriana is the only one capable of thwarting their efforts, but first she’ll come face-to-face with black roses, presumptive killers, and mysterious sects.

With the fate of the world in her hands, can an inexperienced and clumsy art student create an antidote before it’s too late?

Find out in this adrenaline rushing, young adult thrill ride, chock full of espionage, conspiracy theories, spies, and zombies!

vintage old paper with copy space

CHAPTER ONE

“DID YOU KNOW that Lord Byron carved his name into one of those marble columns?” a voice asked from behind her.
Floriana’s first thought was whether the query had been addressed to her; the second was to whom that calm and deep voice belonged. She turned around and saw a male figure standing a few steps away. The light of the sun directly behind him blinded her, and in the glare, the white-dressed man appeared to have glowing angel wings on his back.
What the heck?
Had there been something in the coffee she drank with breakfast?
“Did you know that?” asked the stranger again, taking a step toward her. Now she could tell, he had no wings. Of course.
“Lord Byron was a great philhellene. He even spent much of his fortune on the Greek battle for independence from the Ottoman Empire,” he explained, ignoring her puzzled look.
She raised her hands to protect her eyes from the sun and tried to discern the man’s facial features.
“Was Lord Byron really here, at Cape Sounion?” she asked.
“Not only did he come here, but he also wrote a poem about the place. His name is carved into one of the columns of this temple. The inscription exists, it’s just not known for certain whether Byron was the one who engraved it.”
He walked hastily to the north side of the ancient temple, and he motioned for her to follow him. Walking with difficulty on the stone-littered, sloping ground, she caught up and found herself beside him.
Seventeen white marble columns were all that was left of the ancient temple dedicated to Poseidon, god of the sea and water according to ancient Greek mythology. The tall hill that the temple stood upon penetrated the Aegean Sea like a pointed spear. In past times, it had inspired the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Nowadays, it inspired the romantic feelings of thousands of couples who rushed to enjoy the sea view early in the morning, as well as the breathtaking sunsets in the evening.
“Here it is. Can you see it?”
She looked carefully at where his finger was pointing. Indeed, on the base of one of the middle columns at the north side of the temple the word Byron was etched in cursive letters.
She turned to him. Now she could get a better look at him. His short hair had a warm reddish blond hue that added a natural light blush to his pale skin. His thin lips formed a broad smile above his square jaw. He had broad shoulders and a slim waist, very active and athletic without a doubt.
Damn, I forgot to comb my hair. Again.
She ran her fingers through her unruly, red hair that was dancing in the morning breeze.
“Excuse me, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Eric.”
He took her hand then bowed and kissed the top of it gallantly, sending a sensation of electric shock through her palm.
“Um… I’m Floriana.” She was still trying to overcome the shock of the unexpected knightly kiss.
“And what are you doing here at this place on the Mediterranean Sea, Floriana?” he asked.
“Um… I study… I mean… I am a student of fine arts. I am interested in the history of art. I thought there was no better place to begin than Greece. It’s full of ancient ruins.”
“You didn’t pick the right time to come here though. It’s more romantic at sunset.”
“Oh, I’m not looking for romance. I travel alone, simply for educational reasons.”
She regretted it the moment she said it. She had been tired of giving off the pathetic impression of a sexually inexperienced student. She stroked her neck and opened one button of her shirt. She didn’t manage to do it discreetly, though.
Now I’m going to get freckles from the sun. And my shoes are so dusty.
She was so busy observing her appearance that she didn’t notice the nervous glances that the charming stranger was throwing around.
“It’s late April, and it’s so hot already,” he said. “Want a drink? There is a cozy café down there.” He pointed to a tidy building near the entrance of the archaeological site.
There was no way for her to say no. They took the downhill road to the coffee shop. She was chatting, uncontrollably excited about the beautiful man she’d come across. He was shaking his head condescendingly.
Then everything faded away. The last thing she saw before she blacked out was two ominous figures moving straight toward her.

CHAPTER TWO

SHE DIDN’T ENJOY going to their neighborhood playground. Her mother used to urge her to go, hoping she would make friends with other children.
Her mother couldn’t understand why she didn’t like playing with other children. The truth is, she loathed mingling with other kids. They used to mock her for her red hair and freckles. They were irreducible, noisy, and dumb. None of them knew by heart all the tales of Greek mythology.
But above all, she did not like the swing sets. That ceaseless back and forth, back and forth, back and forth… How giddy she was feeling… Her mom should take her out from there, but her mother was nowhere to be seen. She had to shout, cry out for her mom, beseech to take her out of there.
“Mom!” she yelled. She felt her lips move, but she didn’t hear her voice. She took a deep breath and released the loudest cry her throat and lungs could give. Once again, she didn’t hear her voice. Everything around her began to darken and she tried to shout again. “Mom! Mom!” Her mouth opened, however no sound came out. That couldn’t be happening. She was yelling out as hard as she could. She was pushing herself so intensely that her throat and lungs felt like burning. And she was swirling, whirling, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…
Someone grabbed her hand. It was a woman. It was her mom. Her mother came to her rescue. She will take me out of this hell. She was beset by darkness, but soon her troubles would come to an end.
“Mom…”
“Only if I had given birth to you when I was ten, I would have been your mom.”
She tried to open her eyes, but a bright, blinding light forced her to close them again.
“Don’t be afraid, you are not in danger,” a female voice told her.
As soon as her eyes became accustomed to the light, she looked around. She was lying on a bed. She was in a room that looked like a ship’s cabin. A shapely brunette was sitting on a white sofa right next to the bed. Everything was swaying rhythmically right and left. She felt her body heavy, as if it was sinking in a sand dune.
“Where am I?”
This time she heard her own voice asking the question, but she did not recognize it. What the heck was happening?
“We are on a yacht. You might be feeling odd for a few hours but you will get better soon. No need for you to worry, everything is fine. At least for now,” the young woman announced in a strict voice.
“I’m feeling sick… My head… My stomach… How the heck did I end up here?”
“The good old chloroform. This is the answer to everything you asked. I’m sorry. We had to improvise, and we had to do it fast.”
“Chloroform? I do not understand. How?…”
“Eric. Remember him? He gave you a rose when he met you outside that ancient temple. We had it soaked with chloroform, but we couldn’t be sure how effective it would be and how quickly it would take effect. Luckily for us, you didn’t only smell that rose, you stuck your nose in it.”
“Eric! I should have known better.” A man like him couldn’t have been allured by her uncombed hair and her dusty shoes.
“Don’t feel embarrassed. No one resists Eric.”
“Why? I mean why did you do that to me? What do you want from me? And why am I on a yacht?”
She felt a twitching inside her stomach like her guts were dancing inside her abdomen.
“Easy, gal!” The attractive woman stood up, took a bucket that was placed near the sofa and set it before Floriana. She was dressed in black and a black ring adorned her middle finger.
“You can consign your … goods in here. You are still under the influence of the drug. It will pass in a few hours. Until then, you should rest and have a good sleep. Either way, you can’t go anywhere. We’re in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.”
It was then that Floriana realized that sleeping was the best option she had, at least for the moment.

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