18th Century Vienna was glamorous and corrupt, and the pathway to fame could not be trodden in innocence. Count Maximilian discovers Klara in a Nightingale Cage, an orphanage for the abandoned children of musicians. He educates her, fosters her remarkable vocal talent and initiates her into the art of love, intending to create the perfect mistress. The Count controls every aspect of Klara’s life, until Fate, in the form of handsome Akos Almassy, takes a hand. The tall, dark Magyar violinist can make beautiful music and healing potions, too, but can he rescue Klara from the Count—and live?
An excerpt from my latest Viennese romance, the story of a premier Nightingale, Maria Klara Silber:
"I sincerely hope that my accompaniment will be acceptable. And please let me add, Fraulein, that the memory of the Eurydice you sang last Christmas will only die when I do."
At his side, the Baron gravely nodded his massive head. He, too, had much admired Klara in the role.
"Thank you, Herr Almassy." Klara smiled at the compliment, offered by a musician who was fully competent to have an opinion. Singing Eurydice had been both a joy and a universally acknowledged triumph. What the nuns had taught was sinful pride - wicked, but apparently inextinguishable-insisted she should take pleasure in her vocal skill, in her achievements. She could feel a flush rising, coloring her cheeks and tinting her bosom. All the humility drummed in during childhood was often at war with the vainglorious world in which she now moved.
Herr Almassy's eyes followed the progress of the blush with interest. They were extravagantly lashed and there was a hint of the exotic, a tilted fold at the corner. The color was interesting, a hazel that tended, not to green, but to amber, like one of Signor Manzoli’s exotic cats.
And how his eyes were looking, as if he could pierce straight through her chaste exterior to the white-hot essence!
She found Herr Almassys' aquiline nose and high cheekbones compelling, and began to imagine him as some long ago Attila carrying fire and sword across the Hungarian plains. His black braid, thick as horse tail, slipped over one strong shoulder as he bowed to kiss her hand.
His lips grazed her knuckles, and Klara was struck by a series of inexplicable sensations. First, came a startling flash of deja vu, as if this raw moment had already had a thousand repetitions. Hard on the heels of that came another sensation, one even stranger, perhaps because it had been so long since she'd felt it in relation to another human being - a rush of absolute joy!
His lips were soft and warm. They lingered. To actually kiss the hand and not the air above it was somewhat daring, but the feeling that they were already intimate was so powerful that she experienced, not displeasure, but a thrill. She caught the scent of him, healthy, manly, and something else as well, something musk and green, something from a wild, dark mountain forest.
The salute to her hand completed, he lifted his head. In the instant his eyes pierced hers again and the world of up and down was no more.
She was falling, head over heels, a long dizzying descent through clouds. Falling…
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