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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!
“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.
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.
“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.