Saturday, July 19, 2008

Meet Sebastiano Diadema....

© Vincenzo Chiofalo

Well, my newest novel is going to take me back to the night and its special magic. This is a brief passage from the opening of the new book, A Perfect Beauty. There will be a longer excerpt available on my website soon, and more details. But, for the moment.... meet my latest extraordinary hero....

The heavy darkness in the sky had been threatening rain all day, now, late in the evening, the promise remained unfulfilled. But it was there. Like so many other threats looming within the shadows. As she watched, the storm-grey above her deepened, and a gust of wind tore chunks of white cloud to shreds and tossed them carelessly into the emerging blackness, until they lost their airborne wildness and settled over the ground in a shroud of fog. Amid the swirl of night-cooling, rain-laden air, she stood, waiting and watching.

It had been a night much like this, less than a month past, when her life had been altered in the most terrifying of ways. A stranger had come to her; a man unlike any she had ever known before, and she’d loved him. With desperate and all-consuming passion. She had given herself to his desires, and his madness. And, she had learned the folly of her misguided trust all too quickly when she’d awakened alone—and Changed.

The Hunger had been a compulsion different from anything she’d ever before experienced, as senseless and savage as the need she’d felt while in his arms. Now, the nights were a misery she struggled through, and the days a torment of agony that destroyed her over and over again. Yet, she survived. In spite of her longing for an end, she still ran when the light of the sun’s rays grew too intense, sought the sanctuary she instinctively knew would be found in the sheltering darkness.

This was another eternal night to endure. And the ache inside her was as much a mental torture as a physical wanting. She turned away from the turbulent beauty of the restless Bay of Naples, and began to walk, her footsteps taking her deep into the city. Before long, she was standing in front of a nightclub, and the gathered motorcycles outside it stirred a twinge of apprehension and undeniable curiosity. She hugged herself tightly then sighed and continued her interrupted journey, wondering as she did if there was something inside L’asilo that would make her feel safe, as the name implied.

Music was the first assault on her hyper-active senses, and she winced as she entered the main room of the trendy club. Her eyes wandered over the crowded space, and the pulsating rhythms of countless heartbeats began to pound in earnest, keeping time with the excited, fearful tempo of her own breaths. On some distant level, she already understood she had no need to breathe as she once had, yet the habit, instinctual and familiar, hadn’t yet been broken. She walked deeper into the swarm of life, and was overwhelmed.

* * *

“She’s one of us,” Gino Scala noted as they watched the newcomer drifting through the gathered throng of people assembled in the club’s main room.

Beside him, Liliana Medici shook her head, thoughtful.

“No, she’s not,” she disagreed softly. “She’s one of us. But different. She doesn’t have the same presence.”

Gino looked again, curiosity and faint disbelief colouring his handsome features. Then, he too sensed the ‘difference’ in the stranger’s manner. She was terrified, as well as alien to them, and he knew that fear would only grow, then, perhaps, make her reckless. She might present a very real threat to their anonymity if she wasn’t made aware of it.

“Do you know her?” he asked his beautiful companion, smiling as he looked into her perfect, glittering eyes.

“No,” she countered softly, thoughtfully. There was something about this woman that made her feel as though she knew the stranger. “I think I’ve seen her, but I can’t be sure.”

The response wasn’t the one Gino had been hoping for, and he turned again to watch the woman who roamed the busy nightclub.

* * *

In the main room of the club, the stranger wandered aimlessly, looking closely at some patrons, ignoring most. She was taking mental inventory of those who felt alien and different from the rest, sensing them to be like herself. The thought that there could be so many was terrifying and she wondered why she had never before thought that such creatures could in fact be real.

“Do I know you?”

She whirled, startled beyond reason by the presence at her side. When she turned to look closer at the woman a warning went off inside her head, followed almost instantly by fear. This woman was beautiful, tall, slender, regal, and unerringly shrewd. The last came as pure instinct, and it frightened her more than the fact that she hadn’t heard the newcomer arrive so close to her.

“I don’t think so,” she answered softly.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” Lilli noted with a smile. She could almost taste the terror in the other woman’s heart. “But I do know that I’ve seen you before.”

She smiled at the assessment and the genuine note of curiosity in Lilli’s voice.

“My name is Isabella DuVeaux, and I run an art gallery. Perhaps you’ve been to one of the shows or openings?” She smiled and waited, this time the curiosity hers.

“Ahhh,” Lilli mused softly, “I think that may be it. You’ve showcased some truly original artists,” she added as the memory solidified at last.

Isabella laughed and nodded. “As well as some bizarre ones, correct?”

Lilli’s smile was genuinely delighted by the other woman’s directness and she gestured that they move to her personal table. After only a breath of hesitation, Isabella shrugged and followed the mysterious, alluring nightclub owner.

“If you’ll forgive me my bad manners, Signorina....?” she paused, and Lilli supplied her name into the brief silence, then Isabella continued, “Medici, why are you taking such an interest in my presence in L’asilo?”

“I like to know the more intriguing people who pass through my club,” she offered with an amused quirk of one delicate eyebrow.

Isabella shook her head, feigning regret as she replied, “Then I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere.”

To Lilli’s considerable surprise, she rose and walked away.

* * *

The dreams came, as they always did now, terrifying and horrific in equal measure. Isabella twisted away from the latest obscenity to invade her mind, but the nightmare followed her with relentless, ruthless delight. His face flooded into focus and she shuddered, dimly aware that some part of her wondered how she had ever found him exotic and beautiful. Pale, silvery hair shone in the artificial sun created by the gallery’s floodlights, and eyes darker than midnight skies smiled down into hers. She was captivated the moment he spoke, his soft, resonant voice throbbing life into her veins in pulsing waves of excitement beyond her ability, or desire, to control. She surrendered to him, and revelled in the madness that he wove into her being. Passion swelled and became a rushing tide that carried her to the very edges of unbearable ecstasy, then swept over her and drowned the last, faint morality that might have objected to his domination.

Pain replaced the exquisite pleasures of moments before, and she writhed in new agony, suddenly desperate to extricate herself from the embrace that was draining her of life, and forever stealing her soul. But it was long past the time that her pleas would grant her immunity, and she screamed her terror, in loud, keening cries--a mourning dirge that erupted from the deepest recesses of her heart…

The scream lingered as her loft apartment above her gallery business came into focus with painful abruptness. The taste of blood haunted her, as it had for several days; this time it didn’t revolt her. To her considerable disgust, it lured and appealed to her starved body; she hadn’t been able to eat since the night she’d met him, the compelling and devastating presence who called himself Luciano Calendri.

Calendri had come into her gallery, drawn, he said, by the name of the place and the theme of the latest showing. She understood now that the bloodshed and mayhem would have been appallingly familiar to him, and she shuddered. She thought she’d fallen in love that night, the enchantment had lasted for less than a month, then they’d made love and her life had become a nightmare. She hated him now as passionately as she’d adored him in those short yet eternal weeks.

Angered and afraid, Isabella rose and walked the shadowy rooms of her once beloved home. This was her sanctuary, she told herself firmly. Her place of refuge and creativity. A macabre and bitter laughter echoed distantly in her mind, and she cried softly as she came to the window and stared outward, dimly aware of the setting sun and the tingling that was stirring the mutated blood in her veins. Her perceptions sharpened and she shivered as a rush of strength came into her limbs and chased away the pain and frustration of minutes earlier.

She turned from the window and went to dress. Instead of another night of misery and terror, she would work tonight. The gallery was already open. Funny how she could hear the voices of the patrons below her, and smell the myriad scents of perfume, cologne, and all the other heady fragrances that were unique to the human race. Her studio was secluded, located in the rear of the gallery. Few people even knew it was part of the building.

* * *

“What have you found out about her?” Gino asked when Lilli strolled into the library of the mansion they had shared for decades.

“Only what I told you two nights ago,” she admitted with a pretty smile. She perched on the arm of the chair he was seated in, and kissed his forehead when he smiled up at her. She rose again and went to the door, gesturing for one of the servants to bring in a large box. The silent worker disappeared in seconds and she turned to look at Gino, who was waiting with patient amusement.

“A gift, Lilli?” he mused, “I’m touched.”

“I think you’ll find this interesting,” she remarked softly. She had the painting slid free of its protective wrappings in minutes and placed the medium-sized canvas where Gino could study it.
The tilt of the painting gave him an excellent view of it, and a quiver of uneasiness created an unconscious frown between his brows. The background of the canvas was a swirl of crimson fury, shades of scarlet and raging fire flowing into a whirlwind; at the centre of the maelstrom, the glory of vampire hunger, bared fangs, luminescent eyes, and ecstatic prey embraced in eternal bliss.

Gino felt a shudder ripple through his being, part cold dread, part excitement. He forced his gaze from the painting and looked up, some sixth sense aware of another presence in the room. He met the impassive blue eyes of Sebastiano Diadema across the room, and he gestured for the ancient Prince to join them.

Regal in bearing, ageless in manner, Sebastiano radiated power and mystery. He was an enigma even among their kind, and had the respect of all, though in many cases it was matched with fear. Lilli took a step closer to Gino, and he smiled. Like so many women, she was in awe of the eternal Prince, drawn and afraid at the same time. For just a moment, Gino allowed his thoughts to mingle with hers, seeing Sebastiano through her eyes. What she saw was complex, but compelling. He was over six feet tall, thick brown hair the colour of earth, while his eyes were the morning sky their kind so seldom dared to look at. He was dressed as he always was, in shades of the night, black and deep grey. The imprint of power was in every slight motion he made, and there was a sensuality embedded in his being that stirred hearts long dead, as well as those still beating. Contained passion and fury, tempered with the wisdom of a man who had seen everything of life, and death.

He shook off the almost cloying sense of being drawn into Sebastiano’s being by Lilli’s desire to touch the ancient Prince.

“What do you think of this, Sebastiano?” he asked in a soft murmur when his friend was at his side and able to view the painting properly.

For several moments, Sebastiano stared in silent contemplation of the work, his mind and heart searching past the obvious for the subtle layers of mood and thought that lay beneath the brilliant, vivid colour on the canvas. The backlash of rage, and fear, and pain made him suck in an unnecessary breath as he fought the urge to slump into the nearest chair.

“She’s in great pain,” he finally spoke, his low, rich voice soft and more alive with compassion than anything else. “She’s vampire,” he went on quietly, “but not in the same way as our Tribe. This was not done to her by her choice, Gino,” he stated with certainty, his eyes meeting the steady gaze of his old friend.

Gino nodded, expression somber. He looked at Lilli, who’d been watching the exchange with real interest.

“Has she returned to the club?”

Sebastiano was surprised. “You know who painted this?” he asked, gaze moving from Gino to Lilli, then back.

“Yes,” Scala answered honestly. “Her name is Isabella DuVeaux. She runs an art gallery called-”

La galleria d'Arte dell'angelo nero,” Sebastiano supplied, his eyes distant with thought. “I know it.”

“Really?” This time it was Gino’s expression that filled with startled speculation.

“She’s showcased a number of promising artists in recent years,” Sebastiano replied, meeting the slight smile in Gino’s eyes with his own. “She’s not afraid of controversial material,” he added, a fleeting tilt of his head indicating her own painting.

“Could she endanger the Illusion?” Gino posed the question carefully, sensing that it would not be a welcome doubt to the Prince who was again staring at the evocative painting with something akin to enchantment in his pale, expressive features. Despite his almost death-like outward appearance, Gino knew that Sebastiano was probably a great deal more human than the rest of them. While very capable of blood-chilling violence and ruthlessness, Sebastiano also possessed a capacity for gentleness that frequently humbled Gino and others of their kind.

Sebastiano smiled slightly at the query, and the care with which it was voiced.

“She doesn’t even know what she is, Gino,” he said softly. “How could she endanger us?”

“She could go on a killing frenzy without understanding why she was doing it,” Lilli pointed out, her beautiful features colder than ice.

Sebastiano merely gazed at her, his look unflinching. She turned away from his direct scrutiny in less than a minute, and he transferred his attention back to Gino.

“What do you want me to do, my friend? Advise you, or destroy her?”

There was a note of inflection in the rich, velvety voice of the reclusive Prince, something Gino couldn’t readily identify, and he was silent for several moments, considering Lilli’s assertion against what he instinctively felt would be objectionable to Sebastiano.

“We do nothing for the moment,” he decided quietly. “We’ll watch her, but not interfere until it becomes necessary.”

Sebastiano inclined his head in acceptance then peered a moment longer at the young man who ran his business interests.

“You assume it will be necessary to approach her,” he noted in a murmur.

“She’s family to us, at least in some fashion,” Gino nodded. “If she doesn’t understand what she is, she’ll have to be told. Otherwise, she’s a danger to us.”

Sebastiano considered the words, then nodded a small bow before leaving the luxurious decor of the Scala mansion’s sitting room.

“He won’t let you order her death,” Lilli said, voice low and soft with disbelief as she considered the possibility.

“Sebastiano is a survivor, Lilli, he’ll make sure I do whatever is necessary to ensure we all remain living,” Gino snapped, irritated that she was speaking aloud the sense of foreboding that had settled into his heart the instant he’d seen the painting, and his friend’s response to it...


  1. Hi Denyse....

    Which came first then?
    The picture of said hero or the title.....??? ;-)
    This looks FANTASTIC! More please!!!!

    BTW, love the name of the club pet...reckon I'll be umm checking in? there soon enough!!!!

    Lisa xx

  2. Lovely excerpt. You know how much I love the Italian setting!

  3. Loved the settings; almost felt like I was walking alongside them.
    A very nice take on vampires; I truly enjoyed this.

  4. Very nice - love all your book covers

  5. I'm not a vampire book lover, but this one might change my mind!

  6. This looks very good indeed Denyse! Looking forward to it's release. Phylis

  7. Denyse,
    It's rare if ever if I pick up a vampire story, but this one has drawn me in. The setting is fantastic.


  8. Oh wow Denyse!! When and where will this be out? I got goosebumps reading this!

  9. Oh my, so many wonderful and postive comments!! You guys are just thrilling me to pieces with all this. I'm beyond happy that you find the story so intriguing because I am loving the creation and writing of this one, I have to admit.

    THANKS so very much, to everyone, for the postive energy, the supportive comments, and the generosity you extend to me and my work - it means everything to me, believe me.

    Love & hugs to all...

  10. Almost forgot - since this is still a WIP, I dont' know yet where or when it will be released, but I'm hoping early next year if all goes well, possibly late this year if I can manage it!!

    Thanks again.


  11. Beautiful, it will be worth the wait! Thanks for all you do Denyse!

  12. It was nice to reread this again Denyse. It looks so good! Phylis


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