Authors: Danita Minnis
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #romance, #Fantasy & Futuristic, #historical, #Historical Romance, #Paranormal, #angels
A Cardiff Novel
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © 2012, Danita Minnis. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Angelina’s passion is music but she has never felt
kind of want before.
Falcon wants the Stradivarius in her possession and goes undercover to track down a thief. He soon discovers he is not the only killer in search of the violin.
, a devil-worshiping cult, wants revenge for a past only they can remember.
Falling in love was never part of Falcon’s plan but before he can have what he wants, he must help Angelina unlock the secrets of a love, which ended in tragedy in Eighteenth Century France.
This is one special assignment that must be completed before
gets what they want.
Author bio here: If you asked Danita Minnis which is easier, writing songs or writing novels, she would say it was the former. Melodies and rhymes are second nature. What her characters want is another thing entirely. With her debut novel,
, Danita learned to listen to her spunky heroine and sinfully confident hero. They’re funny and in danger, and that’s just the way they want it. Lesson learned: don’t try to save them.
When she’s not writing, Danita exercises her lungs at her son’s soccer matches and their favorite theme park, because everyone knows it’s easier on the stomach to scream your way down a roller coaster.
Falcon and Angelina
London Present Day
Angelina closed the violin case as the lights dimmed.
Security must have announced that the Royal Academy of Music was closing for the day, but she had been caught up in a Handel sonata. She hadn’t realized the late hour.
Her pumps clicked, echoing through the dim corridors. By the time she made it down to the next level to clean out her locker, the building was deserted.
She hurried toward the down escalator with the violin case slung over her shoulder and a box of school supplies tucked under one arm. She breathed a sigh of relief to see the escalator still working. That meant Sam was still around.
On the way down, Angelina scanned the lower level for the security guard.
Probably on his rounds.
She walked through the darkened vestibule.
The study hall door opened.
Angelina set the box of supplies on top of the security podium and walked over to the study hall. “I’m leaving, Sam.” She peeked into the unlit hall.
“You won’t see me for a while … Sam?” She walked further into the hall.
The door behind her slammed shut, and she was in total darkness.
Angelina grasped the door handle.
“Sam?” She knocked on the door. “I’m in here.”
It was too quiet on the other side of the study hall door. If Sam had closed it, he must be able to hear her now on the other side.
Why doesn’t he open the door?
Angelina banged on the door. “Sam, I’m locked in.”
She tried the doorknob again, but the door would not open.
Sam could not have left the building. The escalator was running and the main entrance lights were still on. It was only a matter of time before he came for her.
Rummaging through her bag, she searched for something to jimmy the lock. She touched a hairbrush, a nail-clipper. She could not find a nail file.
She stopped to take a deep breath and ignored the darkness closing in around her. But she stood in a cramped black box, and it was getting smaller.
Please, not now.
Digging her hand back into the bag, she came up with a CD.
Hang on. Sam will come.
“Sam?” She leaned against the door, calling for the guard between deep breaths.
It was not enough to keep her focused on breathing.
She started to count backward from five hundred, pounding on the door with each number.
Her lightweight sweater felt two sizes too small and burned hot through the linen blouse she wore under it. She took off the sweater.
Four hundred eighty-nine … four hundred eighty-eight … concentrate …
she wiped a sheen of sweat from her upper lip …
four hundred eighty-five … four hundred eighty-four …
a sickening lethargy settled into her bones …
four hundred eighty…
“Sam?” Air bottled up in her throat, unable to pass the barrier constructed by growing anxiety.
Sam will open the door.
Four hundred seventy…
The door on the other side of the study hall opened. A weak beam of light cut across the room.
“Th-There you are … I-I’m locked in.”
The door across the study hall closed.
There was no answer, just a click when the person locked the door from the inside.
Angelina wiped her palm on her jeans and then lifted it to the wall. No light switch.
Unhurried footsteps approached in the dark.
“Jonny … is th-that you? You s-scared the life out of me!” She walked towards the footsteps, holding on to the back of a sofa for guidance. She wanted to slap him before she blacked out. “This … is n-not … funny!”
A table slammed into a wall.
Closer still, a chair skidded across the floor.
The casual saunter with which the person made their way across the room after this violence made her turn back to the door.
Trapped in a body intent on betraying her commands, Angelina strained to lift one foot and then the other. It was a painstaking process, but she made it to the door. Her outstretched hand searched for a light switch but her hand met with a large picture frame. She would not see who came her way. And she could not get out of the hall.
The room no longer had walls. The floor, black as the air around her, felt buoyant under her weakening legs.
In a starless space, Angelina pressed back against the door, trying to hold off the spiral down into hysteria. Tears of frustration streamed down her cheeks; though she knew what to do, she could not move any faster.
She was wading through a soupy atmosphere thick with her shortcomings. The very air hindered her movements.
Breathe in … breathe … out … Sam will come. He will come.
A chair overturned only a few feet away.
Angelina stilled against the door. “You stay away from me!”
Her silent study hall companion lunged. Not for her, but for the violin case.
She hung on to the violin case, with both hands wrapped around it. “No!”
Keys jingled outside in the lobby.
Her attacker let go of the violin case so abruptly that she fell against the door.
“Sam! Help me!”
“Who’s in there?”
She banged her open palm flat on the door. “Open up!”
The study hall door swung open so fast that she fell backward, clutching the violin case to her chest.
Sam’s kind gray eyes looked down at her where she lay sprawled on the floor.
“It’s all right young Miss, you’re okay now. Come on then, up you go. You just got locked in, is all.”
“Thank God … you opened the door.”
Sam cocked his head. “I didn’t open it. I thought you did.”
“But, your keys…”
“I just picked them up from the counter.” Sam nodded in the direction of the security podium in the lobby, which was about twenty feet away.
“Then, who…?” The look in Sam’s eye stopped her.
Angelina rubbed the back of her head and winced when she touched a sore spot. How could she make Sam understand that she had not opened the door when he hadn’t opened it either? He thought they were the only two people in the building.
“Someone is in there!” She pointed into the darkness.
Sam turned to a light switch on the wall outside of the study hall.
The sofas in the study hall came to life in rich jewel colors. Bookshelves lining the walls were separated by vibrant paintings. The door on the far side of the room stood open. Her assailant was gone.
Sam walked past her into the room. “Wait here.”
Angelina sagged on the sofa closest to the study hall door. With Sam’s back turned, she allowed her composure to slip. It would only be worse for her if she held in the anxiety.
Someone was there…
With a death grip on the violin case, Angelina shook with the knowledge.
I did not imagine it.
She stood when a skeptical Sam came back into the study hall.
He held out the sweater she had dropped on the study floor. “Did you get a look at them?”
She shook her head. “It was dark.”
“And you were locked in.”
Sam’s words would have meant little if not for the worry creases around his eyes as he searched her face. His unspoken words bared ugly bruises on her soul.
He knew she’d had another attack.
Angelina took the sweater from his extended hand.
This was her father’s doing. After their maid Caroline found her lying unconscious in the cellars, he had insisted upon informing the school of her vulnerability. Now, two months later, she was still dealing with the consequences.
Watching Sam pick up the chair her assailant had overturned, Angelina shivered. Memory of the suffocating terror she had thought conquered along with the fertile imagination of a child was still biting fresh in her mind.
Through the years, she had managed to control the inexplicable fear by leaving doors ajar. However, on her trek to the vault that day for a necklace to wear that night claustrophobia had risen in her like bile. Instead of hosting a dinner party her parents had spent the night in hospital watching over her.
Sam was about to turn the lights off when Angelina grabbed his sleeve. “Wait!” She took a breath. A trickle of sweat ran between her shoulder blades and down her back under the linen blouse. “Wait.”
What a sight she must be. Sam sat in the lobby listening to big bands on his ancient transistor radio with nary a ruffle in his day save for the occasional miss-read of the alarm when patrons walked past the sensors. Determined to be heard and not pitied, she summoned a calm tone.
“Someone was here. They tried to take my violin. They must have gone through there.” She pointed to the open door across the room.
“Everything’s still locked up tight, the way I left it before I went upstairs.” Sam studied her grip on his arm. She dropped her hand. “Let’s go out to the desk,” he said.
Angelina followed him out of the study hall. Her friends knew she stayed after classes to practice. Jonny was a bit of a prankster, and would sometimes pass by and turn the lights off, begging her to go home while she was in the middle of a complicated score.
Could he have played a joke on me?
“Have you seen Jonny?” she asked.
“He left hours ago. There isn’t anyone else here, young Miss.” Sam picked up the phone on his desk. “I’ll call your father to collect you. He’ll get here just in time to speak to the police.”
“No! Sam, please don’t call the police.”
“But you were frightened…”
“It’s late, and I’m just tired.”
Sam looked into her eyes and then put the phone down. “You should be, so much studying.”
He was too kind; that was not at all what he meant. She smiled, though her cheeks trembled with the effort.
Sam looked indecisive.
“And there’s no need to call my father, he didn’t come into the city today.”
Sam’s eyes widened. She started walking across the entrance hall, away from the lie she had just told.
Why did everyone in London know when her father came to town? He must be checking in with the Conservatory, keeping an eye on her. “I’m fine,” she said through clenched teeth.
Angelina stopped in front of the Royal Academy of Music’s main doors.
She stared, half expecting the doors to unlock on their own in her present state of mind.
Sam came up behind her. She held her breath while he unlocked the doors, and then exhaled.
There was no shadowy specter waiting on the other side, reaching out to claw her with bony digits. Just a dark Marylebone Road buzzing with central London traffic.
Angelina looked back at the main hall’s murky interior.
If the doors were locked, how did my attacker exit the building?
“Here is your car now.” Sam was waving at Suresh, her limo driver. Glancing down at the white knuckles gripping her violin case, he said, “Are you sure you’re all right?”
She relaxed her fingers and the case slipped from her grip.
The case and the priceless Stradivarius inside would have dropped to the ground if Sam had not grabbed it.
“Really, I’m fine.” She crossed the threshold to prove it.
Sam handed the case to her. She took it without a word because she could not stop spouting lies.
“I want to see pictures of that Greek theatre you told me about. The one Bach played in. What’s it called?”
She laughed. “It’s called The Pantheon, and it is actually a temple.”
“Is it, now?”
“And I’m going to play Bach on its steps.”
“The Maestro would be very proud.” Sam eyed his shoe.
She wiped the tear threatening to run down her cheek. “Great. Allergies,” she lied again.
“Well, you take care, young Miss.” He gave her an encouraging smile when she walked out into the night.
She had been doing so well. There’d been no attacks in almost a year, and now she’d had two episodes within a few months.
She sat down in the back of the limo. “Suresh, did you happen to see anyone exit the building just now?”
“Oh, yes.” Suresh’s white turban nodded. “So many people leaving on holiday.”
Suresh’s teeth gleamed against cinnamon lips. “The first one out, and the first one in the Pub. But I will go back for him if…”
“No, thank you, Suresh. I have already said my goodbyes.” She kicked off her pumps and tucked her feet underneath her.
Suresh grinned at her in the rearview mirror. “You will have a great time in Italy,” he declared.
Suresh could always shake her out of the doldrums. That was his way. She settled in for the long drive home thinking of this new adventure.
Dean Challis had nominated her for the fall program at the
San Pietro a Majella
, the Naples Music Conservatory. The grand finale of the musical program was a performance in the historical Opera House
Teatro di San Carlo
in Naples honoring the works of violinist Arcangelo Corelli. She had studied Arcangelo Corelli’s work under the Maestro.
If her father found out what happened tonight, he would insist that one of her brothers accompany her to Italy. He would pack the bags himself for the trip tomorrow morning.
She did not want that much company in Naples. She had never been outside of Britain without her family. Now she had a chance to experience life as Angelina Natale and work on her music alone in the land of the sun.
Tears threatened to embarrass her in front of Suresh. She turned on the overhead light and rummaged through the box perched on the seat beside her. Pulling out one of the Maestro’s books on composition, she ducked her head inside. She could not see a word on the well-worn page, which was awash in memories of Giovanni Natale, who was known to all at the Conservatory as Giovanni Buono, the Maestro.
After what turned out to be their last practice together, the Maestro had given her the Stradivarius. He had fallen into that deep slumber she had witnessed more often as the months passed, as if his dreams were more interesting than life itself.