Authors: Danita Minnis
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #romance, #Fantasy & Futuristic, #historical, #Historical Romance, #Paranormal, #angels
They arrived in Naples two days later.
Casa di Città
, Sacha struggled with her feelings for Armand.
The meeting with her parents the morning she’d left England was very strange. Her mother was uncharacteristically firm, adept at the role her father typically handled in his commanding manner.
“Do you love him?” her mother had demanded to know.
“We all make mistakes, sweetheart. Armand was just doing his job.” Her father made his point with that smile. “Besides, you were not entirely honest with him, isn’t that right?”
“Why are you on his side?”
“Because he is the one, chérie.”
“Stay with him. One day it will all become clear,” her father promised.
What was he, a shaman?
She had never heard her no-nonsense father wax poetic before. It disturbed her because his words carried the ring of truth and she couldn’t explain why.
There was Armand, who was no help at all in her indecision. He seemed to always be around. He insisted upon walking her to the Conservatory in the mornings and met her after classes at the end of the day for dinner.
There was something he wanted to talk to her about, but she didn’t want to have another serious discussion. She had asked him to wait, fearing the worst, that he would ask her to marry him.
She didn’t have an answer for him. He’d finally agreed that they should get to know each other as Armand and Sacha. He gave her the space she requested, remaining in his apartment three doors down from hers.
Now she was virtually in hiding in her apartment.
One night Armand took her to
. Sacha was so happy to see Aunt Maria, Zio, and their two children together, Julie and Leo that it took her a while to realize the family was acting as if she and Armand were already married.
They were planning the next family vacation during Julie and Leo’s spring break. Kauai would be nice. She didn’t have the heart to tell them she wouldn’t be going on the trip if Armand went, so she remained silent.
“Why so quiet?” Armand whispered in her ear while Aunt Maria told Julie and Leo about the big island.
“If you’ve stayed away from me all these years because of your missions, they are far too important to miss for a family vacation, which you have obviously lost interest in.”
“Bella, when are you going to stop fighting this?”
“Us.” His gaze dropped to her lips and he leaned closer.
Sacha sat back in her chair, away from his lips. “I’m just staying focused on the job. You know, the one where you watch over the violin until the symphony is over.”
Armand placed his hand over hers on the table. “It should be a crime to enjoy a job this much.” He rejoined the vacation discussion.
Although she allowed herself the comfort of his hand covering hers like a warm glove, she was all too aware that he had followed her to England to ensure the Strad’s safety. She had no intention of sleeping with him again. It would only make his violin watch that much sweeter.
A week before the symphony, they sat together in the living room practicing a complicated modulation of
Opus 6:12 Concerti Grossi
Armand knew the Corelli pieces as well as she did. Despite her determination not to have personal contact with him, she loved to play with him.
In the middle of the chorus, she stopped playing. “Don’t you hear it?”
“The piano, a baby grand, I think.”
Armand got up from the digital piano and came to sit beside her on the couch. “You hear another piano?”
“And another violin. Sometimes I hear it when we play together.” She felt silly admitting it, but she was relieved to talk about it finally, and she wanted Armand to know in case she was going a little bit crazy.
“How long has this been going on?”
“Since the first time we played together. Do you think I’m mad?”
“No.” Armand’s expression was thoughtful, and then he grinned. His dimpled chin made her stomach drop to the floor. “I think we’ve been working too hard tonight.”
He stuffed his hands in his jeans pockets and watched her put away the violin. “I should go.”
She fingered the small metal latches on the violin case, aware that he was staring at her.
The apartment felt like solitary confinement and it was Armand’s fault. Before she’d met him, she had been obliged to spend hours alone with her music. When he left her in the evenings, she ended up either playing the violin or reading the Maestro’s music books until sleep triumphed.
She had acquired an appetite for Armand. He was in her blood, and the knowledge of him made her restless with longing. Although he was the reason for her troubled thoughts, his presence was comforting. She should do something about it. No one should be so dependent on another person.
“Would you keep me company for a bit longer?”
Armand took her hand and led her to the sofa. “Let’s watch the game.” He turned on the television and she settled next to him. He gently pushed her head back against his chest as they sat down to watch football.
* * * *
“Will you marry me?”
“Oui, mon cher. I will marry you.”
He took her in his arms. His kiss stirred her soul’s memory, and she wept.
“Amore mio, why do you cry?”
“We are one, do you not feel it?” Her joy knew no bounds. She belonged to him.
“Sì, Bella. We are blessed.” His kiss was like fire. It consumed her.
Red, fiery eyes shimmered through the fire.
She was no longer kissing her beloved.
The dragon roared and engulfed her in flames. All around her were burning, blinding flames, and screams. Someone was wailing in agony…
“Angel! Wake up!”
Someone held her. “No! Get away!” She could not free herself.
“Angel! Baby, calm down. It’s a dream. Angel, it’s a dream.”
Sacha looked up at Armand, and then flung herself against him. He had pulled off his T-shirt at some point in the night. She clutched that hard chest, grabbing at him, needing to feel that he was real.
“I won’t let you go.” He was here. He hadn’t left her.
Choking on the horror of the dream, she couldn’t speak. She kept her face in his chest, breathing him in.
The last thing she remembered was the close game on television and Armand coaching from the sofa. He must have carried her to bed where he held her now in the dark.
“You’re shaking. Come here.” Armand sat up against the headboard and pulled her onto his lap.
She sat with her face buried in the crook of his neck, trying to forget. She did not want to remember this nightmare. The heat so intense she could not breathe. The lancing pain of the flames washed over her skin before they finally consumed her.
And the smell of her own burning flesh.
“What is happening to me?”
Armand turned on the bedside lamp, bathing them in a golden circle against the pillows. He held her tighter. “You’re safe now.”
Exhaling, she fell back against him. The soft light chased away the remnants of dread, which had followed her out of the nightmare.
“It was terrible. I was on fire.”
Armand tensed, and she turned, catching his pained expression. “I wasn’t alone this time, you were there. But then there was nothing but fire, and I couldn’t wake up.” She started shaking.
His arms tightened around her. “Shh-h, it’s over now.” He brushed away the bangs clinging to her forehead and kissed it. “I’m sorry, baby. You’ve dreamed of this before, haven’t you?”
“The night I was kidnapped I dreamed I was trapped in a room. I couldn’t get out. The blaze…” It was cathartic to talk about it now. She told him what little she remembered of her dreams.
“Where do the dreams take place?”
“I don’t know, but there is a river nearby and it is not the Wharfe. I don’t think it is in England.” She sighed. “They’re all just vague impressions now.”
Armand pulled her back down on the bed, his arms encircling her. “Sleep.”
“Will you stay with me?”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
That was all she needed to hear. Sacha turned in his arms, nestling her back against his hard warmth, and fell into an exhausted sleep.
* * * *
“This land was once owned by Comte d’Avril.” Falcon looked down towards the moat where an ornamental lake was set like an emerald on the first level of the gardens. Statues of Greek gods encircled the lake, set in niches cut into the hedges. “He and his family were killed here.”
Angel touched a lush bloom as they walked where roses in every hue vied for attention. “What happened?”
“The French Revolution. The commoners tore through the countryside, burning title deeds. It was called
La Gran Peur
Chateau de Vaujours
was burned to the ground with the family in it.”
“God, that is horrible.” Angel stared up at a carved stone balcony with French doors overlooking the wide parklands. Margaux’s suite, at least where it would have been if the original building had not been gutted.
Angel turned, pulling him along. “Look at the plane trees.”
Falcon could barely hide his disappointment. He’d hoped the chateau would prompt a memory.
Her claustrophobia stemmed from that terrible fire in the past. If she were to remember this place, maybe she would remember what they were to each other in the past. Maybe it would help stop the visions that haunted her. But none of this struck a chord in Angel.
Unable to give up, Falcon took her by the shoulders and turned her to face him. “A few years ago, I was on a narcotics investigation and tracked the target here. During the drug lord’s interrogation, my team and I searched the suite. I opened those balcony doors.” He pointed to the doors she’d been watching, “and could only stare out across the green. I was drawn to the sunset. At the time, I didn’t know why, but I decided to stay a few days. I come here every now and then.”
“It is beautiful,” she murmured. “So tragic, what happened to them.”
“Angel, do you know this place?”
“No.” She frowned. “Should I?”
“I thought you might have heard of it. It’s a popular tourist spot.”
“No.” Angel shook her head. “Thank you for bringing me to
, letting me into your past, even just a little bit.” She took his hand and swung it in hers.
He couldn’t manage a smile, but kissed her before she could move away.
Angel was hanging onto her anger, undoubtedly confused about what their next move should be, but even in that, she wanted to be with him. It was a start, anyway.
He would wait on her. If it took a lifetime, he would see to it that she remembered.
“Come, let’s go.”
“To the Seine?” Angel pulled him along to what was just another scenic tourist location to her.
They walked along the quiet banks where Margaux and her sister Jacqueline had ridden their fine Arabians.
Falcon watched her follow the geese gliding among the tall reeds in the swirling waters, and heard Margaux’s trilling laughter.
When Angel was ready, he took her back up the terraced green to what was now an exclusive getaway in the French countryside, preserved in the tradition of the
, a weathered sandstone mansion with its elegant Corinthian columns and mullioned windows stood like a tombstone on their past.
“Well, come on then.” Angel tugged on his hand and he started walking again. “I want to see our rooms.”
“You know it wasn’t easy getting in during the season. I’m afraid there was only one room available.”
Her smile faltered. “Two double beds?”
He shook his head. “One bed. King size.”
“You should see your face. You look terrified.”
She punched him on the arm. “You’re worse than Muddy!”
Falcon laughed. “You’re wrong there. Miles would have reserved the honeymoon suite.”
“She doesn’t remember
,” Falcon said. “She dreams of fire but knows nothing of the tragedy.”
“They are the worst memories, of death by fire. Mon dieu.” Amelie turned to Roman. “She would not be going through this if she had escaped with us to England.”
Falcon looked from one to the other. “What do you mean? Weren’t you there? I thought that Margaux’s sister was trapped in the chateau with the rest of the family when the rioters attacked, and Captain Cardiff was en route to England.”
Roman’s solemn blue eyes looked through Falcon, to the past. “Jacqueline and the captain were not in the chateau. The captain was helping the footman load the carriages, trying to get everyone out before the rioters attacked. He went looking for Jacqueline but she wasn’t in her room. He found her on the banks of the Seine. They would have been in the chateau if she hadn’t wandered off.” He met Amelie’s eyes, and wiped a tear from her cheek.
Amelie closed her eyes. “I can still hear them screaming.”
“It’s over now, my love.”
“Most of Angel’s memories are terrible like that, but she saw me in the dreams, too,” Falcon said.
“More will come.” Roman sounded so certain. Falcon only wished he were right.
He gave an exasperated sigh. “I haven’t told her yet.”
“Don’t worry,” Amelie said. “Just being with you helps her remember some things.”
“Curtain’s going up.” Roman smiled in that chiding way that was beginning to annoy Falcon.
* * * *
There was a chorus of anticipation on the other side of the curtain in the
Teatro di San Carlo
. It was a humming not unlike the adrenaline coursing through her veins and just as loud.
Sacha felt wired and ready to spring like the wound coils of the Stradivarius.
The violin was familiar and cool against her fevered cheek. She commanded the notes, but she’d never played for such a large group.
The symphony would be televised. There were cameras flashing everywhere as if this was a movie premiere.
She had already met some of the masters assembled tonight, composers and musicians she had only read about. She had never imagined that one day she would be standing among them in this historical opera house. But this is what she had longed for, to play before such a crowd.
She envied the composure of the musician sitting next to her. His violin rested on his shoulder and he had one leg stretched out, relaxed. He was a musician who had played in the
Teatro di San Carlo
many times before.
The man’s kind brown eyes crinkled up at the sides like the Maestro’s when he was pleased with her playing. “Feel the notes, Signorina. Block all else from your mind, and you will see that all of heaven and earth will take notice.”
Sacha nodded. Those were words she had heard from the Maestro often in his gruff way. She thought of her last night with the Maestro.
Angelo di Luce
…that is what I call her.”
She sat down on the edge of the bed. “Angel of Light,” she whispered the Maestro’s pet name for her.
“A fine name, eh? And fitting, for she is yours now.”
“Maestro, I couldn’t!”
“You will play the finest houses. When you play, I’ll be listening.”
“But you play the Stradivarius.”
The Maestro snorted. “Not in a very long time.”
“You will play again…”
He put a hand over hers. Warm but rough as his teaching style, and she would not have changed him for the world. “You are ready,
Angelo di Luce
Sacha looked around, expecting to see the Maestro standing next to her.
The curtain went up and the
Teatro di San Carlo’s
horseshoe-shaped auditorium with its opulent red and gold interior hushed to expectant silence.
Angelo di Luce
. Sacha composed herself.
What good is a dream coming true if you are not prepared for it?
The conductor signaled and they played the opening of Arcangelo Corelli’s
Violin Concerto No.1
. The flowing melody, chromatic in some parts, was similar to the Maestro’s harmonic preferences. He was there, smiling with eyes closed while he enjoyed the music.
Red and gold swirled in the purest blue as the theater gave way to a salon.
Armand sat on a white powdered sofa with blue velvet cushions. He accompanied her … on the Stradivarius. She was sitting behind a white baby grand, her fingers flying over the keys. There was so much joy in their playing together…
Sacha’s eyes flew open. She kept them open now. No longer nervous, she now feared she might have dozed off in the middle of the concerto and dreamed the vision.
I don’t play the piano.
And yet the feeling of déjà vu was overwhelming. She knew where Armand sat with her, in the parlor where they played together. They had played this very concerto in that parlor.
The concerto came to an end to deafening applause.
Sacha scanned the dark theatre. Armand and the rest of the family were sitting in the boxes to her left but she couldn’t see much of them.
In front of a crowd of over fourteen hundred patrons, she had to tamp down the urge to get up and find him. She was filled with so many questions that she was crazy to think he had the answers to.
But she had to talk to him.
The conductor signaled.
Sacha wanted to run off stage. However, years of discipline made her automatically reposition the violin. She put her face against the chin rest to begin the
Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Opus 6: 8.
The Christmas concerto was scored such that the violins took a break while the cellos played the movement. Sacha had a few moments to compose herself.
The dream in which Armand had asked for her hand in marriage was more than a by-product of her concerns over their relationship. It felt different, like a memory.
Had it actually happened?
Now was not the time to wonder such impossible thoughts. She concentrated on the music. When
was done, the ensemble stood once more amidst resounding applause.
“Do you see, Signorina? It all comes back to you.” The kind violinist stood next to her when the curtain came down. “When you play with your heart, the world knows.”
“Yes, with your heart…” Sacha was already making her way through the prop room backstage. She felt light-headed with questions.
She had always loved the classics. Even as a little girl, she had played them perfectly. Much too perfectly.
Did the music I love come back to me from some other time? Maybe a time I had spent with Armand?
The two warring muses on her shoulders were lost for words at last. All the questions she had formed in her mind during the performance seemed too fantastic now to speak out loud.
What would Armand think? How will I explain this feeling—no, belief—that I cannot ignore?
“Angel!” Armand scooped her up in his arms. His kiss held no regard for their prior agreement to forgo intimate contact until they knew each other better.
But that seemed such nonsense now. She could not deny him, and suspected they had known each other for a very long time.
Armand leaned his forehead against hers and his eyes held a luminous glow. “Duke Eduardo Falco has invited us to his estate this weekend. After hearing you play tonight, he is so impressed that he is loaning the Colossus to you indefinitely.”
“Really?” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “The Stradivarius will remain with me!” She lowered her voice. “Armand, we need to talk.”
“Bravo!” Her parents were approaching.
Armand put her down in a whirl of black tulle and satin. Surrounded by the family, she would not be able to talk to Armand. She turned to him, and he winked.
“May I steal her away for a minute?” Armand pulled her through an alcove.
“Armand…” She dragged him into a corner under one of the bronze wall sconces. A halo of light fell over them.
Now that she stood before him, she did not know how to begin.
“What’s on your mind, Angel?”
“During the concerto I saw us together. You played the Stradivarius and I played a baby grand. It seemed so real. We were in the parlor.” There was a light in his eyes. Her heart started pumping faster.
“It is coming back to you.”
“It is real, then?” she whispered, though no one was near enough to hear. She leaned back against the wall because she wasn’t certain she could stand on her own. “When?”
“A long time ago.” Armand was looking at something on the wall behind her. A slow smile spread across his face.
Sacha followed his gaze to the painting on the wall. The raven-haired couple was sitting on a white powdered sofa with blue velvet cushions, heads bowed together. The young man in black breeches and a waistcoat bent toward his lady, who wore a long gown. Matching kid slippers peeked out from the lace across her hem in late Baroque fashion.
Tinkling laughter drifted around her as the girl in the painting smiled at her beau.
An inscription under the portrait read:
Donated by Duke Carlo Francis Falco
“The Marchese Falco had always been a generous patron of the arts,” she murmured, and then put a hand over her mouth. “Did I say that?”
He kissed her. “You certainly did, Angel.”
“Is that us?”
“He was Duke by the time he gave this gift to the theatre, and in his sixties.” Armand said quietly, and then his smile returned. “Your sister was a very talented painter.”
Armand stared at the portrait. “Such a mischievous Margaux. You haven’t changed, you know. Here at the
Teatro di San Carlo,
he and his fiancée would always be surrounded by the music they loved.”
“His fiancée? We … they never married?”
His laughter was filled with relief, desire and all the things she loved about him.
Armand put an arm around her bare shoulders. “I’ll explain later, Angel. They’re waiting for us.”
* * * *
Sacha padded barefoot out of the bedroom and plopped down next to him on the sofa. She crossed her legs and the tulle underskirt covered his tuxedo pants.
Falcon kissed her and handed her a flute of champagne. “I was scheduled to return to New York when Granger told me the violin was in Italy. Cara, were it not for my interest in the violin, we would not be together now.”
“I would have gone back to England after the symphony.” Sacha fell silent.
He would be consumed with New York’s unsavory denizens while she carried on with the only love she was aware of, music. But she did not fully understand the import of the violin, so he went on.
“Do you remember when we first met you were familiar to me and I thought I’d seen you before in
“I thought you were remembering how we played together when I was a little girl, and how I loved you.” Sacha drained the flute, and hiccupped. She handed him the glass. “How many was that?”
“Including what you drank at
“Never mind.” She leaned her head against his shoulder. “The celebration is over for now or I’ll be comatose before you tell me everything, and the story will have to wait until the next life.”
Leaning back against the sofa, he wrapped his arms around her. “The night you ran from the apartment, the bump on the head knocked me out. Somehow, I went back to that time in Italy, after … one year after we met and we fell in love.”
“In the time of this king I dream of?”
“In the late seventeen hundreds, aristocrats were not safe in France under the rule of King Louis XVI. The Comte and his family were preparing to leave the chateau when they were attacked. They never boarded that ship bound for England, but were trapped inside the burning chateau. I think you have been dreaming of that fire.”
Angel turned in his arms and her eyes met his. “Margaux…”
He nodded. “Margaux Angelina d’ Avril, the Comte d’Avril’s second daughter. Somewhere inside you there is a memory of that time, and it is coming through in your dreams.”
“Sometimes there is a man talking with this king in my dreams.”
“The Comte was a member of the Estates General.”
“My father and the king,” she whispered.
“We met at the palace in
. I’ve loved you ever since. We were to be married, but two weeks after I asked for your hand in marriage you…died in the fire.”
“Yes… You said you loved me in the garden. How is this possible?”
“I don’t know, Angel, but I know that it happened. There is something else. Margaux played the pianoforte, and Marchese Falco played the violin.”
“The second set of instruments. That is us playing together.” A single tear coursed down her cheek.
“You see, you do remember.” Falcon brushed the tear from her cheek. “After the fire I went back to
, hoping there was some mistake, but you were lost to me. I grieved for so long I didn’t want to live anymore.”
“The Stradivarius you have searched for all this time reunited us.” Angel leaned her head against his. “I am so sorry, my love.”
“It was the Stradivarius that kept me alive—until I went to Forlì.” He told her of
“This is how you knew where they had taken me.”
“It is incredible, but a blessing. I would never have found you without having lived through the pain of losing you two centuries ago.”
“Margaux died so young, did Marchese Falco marry another?”
“Her name was Livia, a peasant girl. It wasn’t the match his father had originally hoped for, but he accepted it.”
“You were one of Duke Eduardo Falco’s great-grandfathers. I wish I could remember it all.”
“The dreams are frightening, but they are the key in helping you remember. And I’ll help you.” His lips brushed hers. “Do you forgive me?”
“If you forgive me. I love you so much.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and he carried her into the bedroom.