by Shannon Duffy
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“Thanks, Mr. Matteo,” Senora Bianchi says to me as I hold open the cast-iron door to the castle. My eyes cut to the stack of papers she holds in her hands, wondering what drill I’m in for. She smiles tightly, tugs the papers close to her chest, and sashays past me inside. A blast of cold air hits us, lifting the hem of her white dress, and a stale whiff of cigarettes and booze wafts off her. I know Jewel’s waiting for me at the Café Florian and I need to get out of here. Fast. Just answer her questions short and to the point.
Senora Bianchi is a high council member for the Augusti Forza. They don’t want me with Jewel. Nobody wants me with her, especially not Paolo. Now, over the next few days I’m expected to answer a series of questions by different members of the council to decide my punishment.
I follow behind her, hands sunk low in my jean’s pockets, and zone in on the clicking of her shoes against the cobblestone floor. This castle has been the Augusti’s command center for centuries now. Although I’ve been here a million times before, a nervous knot settles in my stomach, unsure of what will happen at this interview. Keeping my head low, I drag in air from behind my leather jacket in a hopeless attempt to drown out her lack of hygiene—not even the musty odor of the castle can mask that.
We pass a set of giant wooden doors and the clanging of swords and shouts from inside causes me to lift my head. I pause and cop a peek. Dozens of the Augusti Forza train here every day, for every imaginable threat. My cousin Stefano catches my gaze just as a lightning bolt is shot through the air. He shifts at in-human speed, barely missing the zinger. It strikes one of the statues fitted with chain mail armor and he watches as the armored knight clatters to the ground in a heap. Stefano laughs haughtily.
My laugh in return is cut short by the clamping of Senora Bianchi’s fingers around my arm like a vice grip. She’s lucky she’s a woman or she’d be toast. Instead, I tug my arm back and fall in line behind her again.
She ushers me into a small, circular brick room and we take a seat across from each other. Flanked beside her chair like bookends are two life-size lion statues, and behind her, four red, gold, and white Camelot style banners hang on the wall. The largest one in the center bears the crest of the Augusti Forza, a huge Andean Condor in flight.
Senora Bianchi rifles through her papers and I shift my attention back to one of the lions. Its head is held high, one enormous paw held out in front.
She clears her throat. “So, Mr. Matteo.”
She sweeps her gaze over my black, freshly polished boots, up over my blue jeans, and sets her glare back on me. “Roman. Please tell me what it is you see in that girl?”
I want to ask her what she doesn’t see. I want to ask her why she feels I need to answer her dumb questions, or even better, why she doesn’t shower. Instead I shrug. “Jewel’s not what you think.”
Her eyes narrow and her fingers tighten around the papers in her hands. “Then please enlighten me. What is it about this girl that’s so special? So special that you thought it was important to betray your coven…your own family?”
I clamp my jaw tight, feel it working, and swallow back the fire burning in my throat. I didn’t sell my family out. “Our coven wasn’t ever in danger,” I say, forcing my voice to remain steady.
She runs her fingers through her red hair, styled in a hairstyle as archaic as this medieval castle. After folding the papers in sharp edges, she places them on her lap, lips tight. “And you would know this, si? Because you’re so mature at age eighteen?” She lifts a ginger brow. “You think you’re so special that you can go around breaking rules that have been around for centuries?” She crosses her arms, shooting daggers at me.
Now she’s just being condescending. My pulse begins to climb, but I sit still and put on my poker face. I imagine Jewel’s beautiful face, and her eyes that are like liquid pools of the sea. I check my watch. I don’t want to make Jewel wait much longer. I promised my girl a gondola ride, and I always deliver. She has this way of making me feel important, needed. And right now, I need to feel her arms wrapped around me, need to kiss her. Just thinking about her makes me feel like the wind got knocked out of me.
I let my eyes wander to the golden statue of the lion again. Its mouth is molded into a proud grin. It’s strong, proud, fearless.
I am that lion.
Glancing back at Senora Bianchi, I twist my lips, mimicking its expression. “Senora Bianchi. I’m sorry I let the Augusti Forza down. I’ll do anything that’s asked to fulfill my punishment.” Her mouth slides up into satisfied smirk and in a calm voice laced with steel I add, “Anything besides leaving the girl I love.”
Guest post created by Shannon Duffy, author of Spectral
© 2012. All rights reserved.
Shannon Duffy writes young adult and middle grade fiction. She grew up on the beautiful east coast of Canada and now lives in Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of one boy, Gabriel, her angel. She loves writing, reading, working out, soccer, and the sport of champions-shopping. She is the author of the young adult paranormal romance, SPECTRAL. Her upcoming middle grade fantasy novel, GABRIEL STONE AND THE DIVINITY OF VALTA is scheduled for a January 2013 release.
by Shannon Duffy
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READ more about Roman here...
by Shannon Duffy
Just released: April 4, 2012
Convinced she’s a part of the witness protection program, sixteen-year-old Jewel Rose is shuffled around the globe with her family like a pack of traveling gypsies. After arriving at lucky home twenty-seven, she stumbles upon a mysterious boy with magical powers claiming to be her guardian . . . and warning of imminent danger. Despite the obvious sparks between them, Jewel discovers a relationship is forbidden, and the more she learns about dark, brooding Roman, she begins to question who she can even believe — the family who raised her, or the supposed sworn protector who claims they’ve been lying to her all along.
As she struggles to uncover who her family has really been running from, she is forced to hide her birthmark that reveals who she is. With new realities surfacing, unexplained powers appearing, and two tempting boys vying for her heart, Jewel battles to learn who she can trust in an ever growing sea of lies, hoping she’ll make it through her seventeenth birthday alive.
* image source castle door
* part of Spectral tour - check out the other stops for more details on this book and goodies sponsored by Tribute Books