Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Angel of Soriano by Stella Marie Alden ♥ New Release Spotlight & GIVEAWAY ♥ (Historical Romance)



Stella's bestsellers have strong, savvy, and sassy heroines.

Tonight, Aurelia's uncle plans to steal Soriano away from Rodrigo Borgia. Although she doesn't give a fig who owns the town that nearly stoned her to death, her handsome captain is behind bars. She should never have agreed to marry him, especially not upside down and over his shoulder.

What is it about Bernardo's new wife? The beautiful angel refuses to trust him, not even after he weds her without a dowry. She wields a firearm like a pirate, disguises herself as a male doctor, and nearly drives him mad. And yet he can't go on without her.

How can a mere man convince a woman like that to come home?



Chapter 1

Late summer 1489

Bernardo Carvajal raced out of Cardinal Borgia’s chambers in the Vatican. He flew down the flagstone path and sprinted under the arches of the great ancient viaducts. To his right, the late afternoon sun caught the top of Hadrian’s tower which cast its long thin shadow over the whole of Rome.

After passing under the iron teeth of the Carvajal entrance, he darted across the marble floors, and up the wide staircase. All the while, he prayed that he’d find his father, Dideco, among the living. He stopped at the open door to the upstairs chambers and caught his breath.

Thank God.

Blue and shivering, but very much alive, his father leaned against the oak headboard. Wet footprints led to the center of the room, where a chunk of ice floated in a wooden tub. The normally cluttered room seemed sparse with tables and chairs folded, leaning against the stone walls.

Dressed all in black, Doctor Nardini approached with a wide grin. “Come, come. Greet your father.”

Bernardo crossed the floor, and hugged the nearly frozen man, “It’s good to see you alive and well. I feared for what I might find.”

“Tell me, how did the audience with Borgia go?” Cold fingers dug into his shoulders and his father pushed out of the embrace.

Would that he had better news. “I gave him a full accounting of Soriano in your stead but he insisted on personally seeing to your health. He comes on my heels.”

He held his breath and waited.

His father did not disappoint. Stark naked he shouted when his towel dropped to the floor. “Don’t just stand there. God’s blood. Help me to get dressed. Quickly.”

Nardini rushed across the room, his wide black wide sleeves creating the only breeze. He grabbed the clean shirt and wool hose hanging from a hook.

Much more accustomed to his father’s mood shifts, Bernardo smirked, watched the melee, and folded arms across his chest.

“The eldest of his sons, I presume?” The doctor lifted an amused eyebrow and held open the shirt for Dideco.

He growled and inserted one arm.

Despite his best efforts to remain serious, Bernardo grinned. “How could you tell?”

Bernardo shared his father’s curly brown hair, large build, and eyes so dark that they could be considered black. Their temperaments, however, were as different as the night was from the day.

As if reading his thoughts, his father cursed when an arm got caught in the billowing folds of a sleeve. Bernardo stepped forward, helped him untangle, and then stuffed his father’s wide girth into a violet doublet. He quickly surveyed the room for the missing belt and sword.

In that moment, the sun lowered, bathing a corner of the room in yellow light. All thoughts of the weapon vanished when a dazzling, ivory-skinned angel stepped out of the shadows. Her hair was so blond, it was almost white. Thick lashes lowered to the tops of pink cheeks and demure eyes stared at the floor.

He stared, stunned into silence like the village idiot.

The palest blue eyes he’d ever seen met his, and he gasped, unable to breathe for fear the heavenly vision would disappear. A slight smile played upon her heart shaped lips below a perfectly shaped little nose.

He dared not lower his gaze, not even when his father shouted for his sword. Then, the merciless sun descended another notch leaving him bereft. She stepped back and melted into the dark shadows.

The latest style of puffy slit sleeves and multiple silk skirts indicated she was no vassal. And yet, a modest lace cap covered the top of her head. Maybe she was another of his many Carvajal cousins from Spain?

Convinced she was real and not an apparition, he shot her the smile that made ladies swoon and his bed warm at night. The light again shifted in his favor and she blushed a most delicious shade of pink.

Mio Dio. She is lovely.

“May I inquire the name of your lovely helper?” He helped his father don his sword and buckle his belt.

The doctor wrung his hands. “That is Aurelia Nardini, my daughter and most precious gem.”

She curtsied with the grace of a princess. Where in all of Christendom, had she come from?

“Aurelia? Meet Don Bernardo Carvajal, son of the steward of Soriano, cousin of the Bishop of Carvajal. This is his home.” The doctor sighed when she said nothing and stood mute. “I apologize. She is slow. Dim-witted.”

Was that his imagination, or did her lips twitch into the slightest of frowns.

His father, Dideco grumbled as he struggled with his boots, “Jesu! Just call her over, doctor. The boy is drooling.”

Bernardo moaned.

“Per favore. Please. Over here, Aurelia.” Nardini beckoned her with an impatient wave.

She approached with dainty steps, modest and pure. Then a hint of lavender laced with womanly scent assaulted his nostrils. His heart beat out of control and under his garment, his lust swelled hard.

When she curtsied again, Bernardo tucked a thumb under her chin and lifted her face to his. This is no idiot. Intelligent, stormy eyes narrowed and her lips pursed. She twisted her head away and nipped at one of his fingers.

“Devil take it.” He opened his mouth to swear up a storm, but stopped when his man-servant appeared in the doorway.

Fulvio cleared his throat. “Cardinal Borgia has arrived”

The red-robed man pushed Fulvio aside and entered the small room. He outstretched a hand so that Dideco could kiss his ring. After wiping his ring with a grand gesture, Borgia tucked his lace handkerchief into a sleeve.

He turned to Doctor Nardini. “I understood Dideco was all but dead just this morning?”

Moving with bird-like movements, the doctor picked up a small book and read his notes aloud. “Ice is necessary. But that alone is no cure.”

When all in the room stared blankly, the healer continued as if instructing a classroom. “Some are able to fight the disease. Signore Carvajal has had Roman Fever three times now. I believe that some men have an extra organ that can cure this disease.”

Borgia held out his hand for the notes and studied in silence for a moment. “Bring all your research to The Vatican tomorrow. His holiness wishes a book on the subject immediately.”

Biting back a retort on the tip of his tongue, Bernardo fumed. So that’s why Borgia kept them waiting for over two weeks. To make time for his father to get sick and then miraculously get well. To study Roman Fever. A favor for Pope Innocent?

He sighed and waited for his temper to dwindle. His father was none the worse for another bout of the fetid city’s disease. Their lord, Cardinal Borgia, seemed happy enough with their services. Their position and wealth in Soriano, at least for the time being, was secure.

But something was off with the angel. She inched toward the door, head lowered. Borgia caught the movement and eyed her like a wolf, about to pounce on a motherless lamb. The doctor saw all and quickly pushed her through the arched opening and slammed the door shut.

Damnation. Bernardo had hoped for a few more words with the sweet, young thing.

He wasn’t the only one. Borgia pointed out the door and commanded one of the young robed men to his right, “Find her and bring her to my chambers.”

Nardini’s eyebrows shot up, his face pale. “B-b-but, your eminence, she has but the mind of a child, certainly of no interest to a learned man such as yourself.”

Bernardo stepped up with hand to his sword and bowed to Borgia. “Per favore. Please. Allow me.”

The cardinal nodded, deep frown indicating he was not at all pleased with his offer.

“Fulvio. Anon.” Bernardo tried to allay Doctor Nardini’s fears by shooting a confident look over his shoulder before rushing out of the room.

Where is she? He jumped down the steps two at a time, sword bouncing at his side.

On the bottom floor, he called out to an old woman pounding bread dough in the kitchen. “Which way did the Donna Aurelia run off?”

Suspicious dark eyes narrowed under gray brows and she shrugged.

Grasping her arm, he hissed, “Quickly. I mean her no harm. I save her from the Borgia devil’s cock.”

A thin finger pointed out an ancient lintel at the back of the room. “There.”

He had to bend in half to duck under the musty smelling stones. Fulvio’s footsteps indicated he followed closely behind.

There. A long strand of golden hair flew out from under an oversized cowl. A nun raced down a narrow alley as if chased by the hounds of hell with skirts gathered up to her knees.

Bernardo increased his speed to keep pace, feet pounding upon the flagstones, breathing hard.

Fulvio rasped, falling behind, “Get her.”

“By God, I’m trying.”

Ahead, she turned the corner. By the time he arrived in the small dark piazza, it was empty.

He turned about. A bakery. A shoe maker. A hanging sign on a chain with a colorful picture of wine and pasta.

All empty.

Then, he spied a narrow archway nested between the shops. That was the only logical choice.

Without making a sound, he approached the ancient door and pushed it open ever-so-slowly. To the left and several feet away, she stood under a painting of a weeping Virgin Mary. Under that, a white marble statue of Saint Stephen, crouched with an arm over his face, as if eternally blocking the stones that would be his death.

Bernardo inched forward while Aurelia, holding onto a votive candle, kept her back to him.

Now that he’d caught her, what to do next?

Convinced she was real and not an apparition, he shot her the smile that made ladies swoon and his bed warm at night. The light again shifted in his favor and she blushed a most delicious shade of pink.

Mio Dio. She is lovely.

“May I inquire the name of your lovely helper?” He helped his father don his sword and buckle his belt.

The doctor wrung his hands. “That is Aurelia Nardini, my daughter and most precious gem.”

She curtsied with the grace of a princess. Where in all of Christendom, had she come from?

“Aurelia? Meet Don Bernardo Carvajal, son of the steward of Soriano, cousin of the Bishop of Carvajal. This is his home.” The doctor sighed when she said nothing and stood mute. “I apologize. She is slow. Dim-witted.”

Was that his imagination, or did her lips twitch into the slightest of frowns.

His father, Dideco grumbled as he struggled with his boots, “Jesu! Just call her over, doctor. The boy is drooling.”






This is me.

Just like every little kid, I pretended. The only difference with me? I never stopped.

One of most fun I had with my girls when they were little, was making their stuffed animals come to life. Even now, two of the favorite bears sit on shelves, waiting for the twenty-four-year-old to come home for a visit. Don’t be sad. They have the cats to talk to and I chat with them, occasionally. I think, as they grow older, they mostly sleep in a Peter Pan heaven.

I’ve had many trades; mother, wife, writer, librarian, electronics engineer, software architect, home repairman, psychiatrist, chief tear-dryer, career counselor…

But I love to write. I jump out of bed at 5:30 AM everyday, eager to go. I can’t wait to give those lovely couples a happily-ever-after. Nothing good comes easy, so they must struggle. Life is like that

I also enjoy working out almost everyday. My favorites are zumba, yoga, and running along a warm sandy beach in bare feet.


      


Win a $25 Amazon gift card, signed SWAG & an eCopy of The Angel of Soriano!

https://goo.gl/A4ow6x

1 comment :

♥ Thank You for Your Comment! (It means more than you know) Good Luck in the Giveaway! ♥