The Maid of Milan by Beverley Eikli
After three years of marriage, Adelaide has fallen in love with the handsome, honorable husband who nurtured her through her darkest hours.
Now Adelaide’s former lover, the passionate poet from whose arms she was torn by her family during their illicit liaison in Milan six years previously has returned, a celebrity due to the success of his book The Maid of Milan.
High society is as desperate to discover the identity of his ‘muse’ as Adelaide is to protect her newfound love and her husband’s political career.
Beverly will award a $20 Amazon book voucher and a digital copy of The Reluctant Bride to a randomly
drawn commenter during the tour.
The following scene takes place after Adelaide has decided she cannot be present for the visit of her former lover and the man who was her husband’s childhood friend. Here, she is suddenly caught off-guard.
Mrs. Henley knocked and they entered as Tristan rose, his forced smile replaced by one of pleasure when he saw Adelaide. He took a step forward, extending his hand for hers, the flare in his eyes as intense as the day she consented to be his wife, and Adelaide felt an unexpected jolt somewhere in the region of her heart, her determination bolstered to bridge the distance between them, despite the oppressive presence of her mother, always a footfall away, it seemed.
‘Tristan, I-.’ She stopped, pulling back as a warm, fragrant breeze stirred the papers on his desk.
The French doors from the garden had been thrown open, and the heavy tread of Hessian boots upon the wooden floor pulled their attention towards the muslin curtains which swirled in eddies, silhouetting the shape of a man: a slender man of middle height – the only ordinary thing about him – dressed in a black cutaway coat and buff breeches, who materialized before them like a young demigod, smoldering with an enthusiasm he did nothing to inhibit, for good manners were always in abeyance to the passion that ruled James’s life.
‘Tristan!’ Tossing his low-crowned beaver upon the ottoman, James strode forward, arms outstretched, his voice taut with emotion.
Nearly four years, it had been, and from first impressions it was as if nothing had changed. Inky curls framed his delicately boned face and his eyes were like coals burning the fire within. No, nothing had changed, she could see, for James was still like a coiled spring, eager for love, eager for life, as ready to give as he was to take … without discernment.
Adelaide froze with nowhere to go, tense with premonition while shafts of sensation, painful and familiar, tore through her.
Could this really be happening? Unwillingly, her gaze was fixed upon James’s profile, dusted with dark stubble, tapering up to angular cheekbones delineated with the slivers of sideburns sported by the fashionable Corinthians of the day.
In four years he could not be so unchanged whereas she …
She touched her face, her heart. She was a mere husk of what she’d once been. Tristan knew nothing of the passions that burned within her when her heart was engaged – and she didn’t know if he ever would, for suddenly she felt reduced to nothingness by the force of James’s personality. She’d been his equal once – a woman of fire and vitality – and she’d loved him with a savagery that her mother claimed bordered on insanity. She’d been a child, thrust into adulthood by this charismatic older man. Married older man. But as she looked between the two men before her it was Tristan who made her heart beat faster, as much with longing as with fear of what he would think of her if he knew the truth.
Beverley Eikli is the author of eight historical romances. In 2012, she won UK Women’s Fiction publisher Choc-Lit’s Search for An Australia Star competition with her suspenseful, Napoleonic espionage Romance, The Reluctant Bride, which has just been shortlisted by Australian Romance Readers for Favourite Historical in 2013.
Eikli wrote her first romance when she was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page was, she discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt and she became a journalist.
After throwing in her job on South Australia’s metropolitan daily The Advertiser to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, she discovered a new world of romance and adventure in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire.
Twenty years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s as an airborne geophysical survey operator during low-level sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland’s ice cap, Eikli is back in Australia teaching in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University, as well as teaching Short Courses for the Centre of Adult Education and Macedon Ranges Further Education.