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October 2014

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History Behind the Book

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Giuliano led Caterina away, his friends tumbling behind them.  Isabella was glad of the sudden quiet, the space that opened up around her.  She wandered in the other direction, away from the echo of laughter.  She took in the canvases stacked along the walls, the swirl of color and beauty that was almost too much to bear.  She found herself behind a screen, with a table laid out before her that was grander than any banquet.

Clear jars and pots held chunks of minerals, swirls of dyes—ocher, greenish-brown underwashes, vermillion, purple, priceless lapis, even flakes of pure, shining gold.  All waiting there, just for her, like a box of jewels.

As she drew closer, her breath held, she saw the piles of brushes in all sizes, the charcoal sticks and planes of poplar for stretching canvases.  Everything an artist could want, everything so hard to find in her country home, all in one place.  It was amazing.

Isabella leaned over a selection of valuable crushed insect pigments, envisioning the sheer veil on Signor Botticelli's painting.  What could be used to create such an effect?

“You are an artist, then, signorina?” a deep, quiet voice said behind her.

Isabella gasped and spun around, half-expecting to see one of the artist's assistants, come to demand how she, a mere female, could be caught snooping about.  Her mouth opened to explain herself, but the words suddenly strangled in her throat.  The man before he was not like any of the pale young apprentices she had seen running around the studio.

If he was a man, and not an angel.  For there he was again, the man who had saved her from the thieves the day she arrived.  And she had begun to think he must have been a figment of her imagination!

But no.  He was as beautiful as she remembered, transcendentally so, but she saw right away the comparison to an angel was not apt.  The darkness that she had glimpsed when he fought the thieves, the darkness that had frightened and thrilled her in equal measure, was still there. 

He looked like a Hades, sailing the dusky waters of the Styx toward his shadowy kingdom.  He was tall and lean, with dark brown curls brushed back from the perfectly sculpted, almost harsh angles of his face.  His eyes, green and unreadable, stared down at her but reflected nothing back.  She was used to reading people as she sketched them, trying to find the essence of them to give life to her paintings, but this man was completely baffling.

Unlike Giuliano de Medici and his merry band of friends, this man again wore black.  A black velvet doublet, narrow-sleeved and high-necked, trimmed with the moonlight glint of silver.  Black hose, soft black boots.  An onyx set in silver dangled from his ear, tangling with those dark curls.

Was he really a mirage, a spirit come to drag her down to the afterlife?  Hades, that was surely who he was, the dark king of the underworld.

But then he smiled at her, and she knew he was no illusion.  He was all too real.

 

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