Venom is one of those stories that sticks with you. The dark setting of Venice in the 1600s where classes don’t mix and mysterious murders are on the rise sets the tone of the whole book and left me chilled.
So, I’m very excited to be a stop on the Venom Blog Tour! I’m got the fourth part of an original short story by Fiona Paul. Check it out!
Venom Blog Tour
Short Story Part 4 by Fiona Paul
A Secrets of the Eternal Rose short story
By Fiona Paul
The year is 1600 and the streets of Venice, Italy are ripe with intrigue and danger. In this introduction to the world of Venom, eighteen-year-old Mariabella has recently elevated herself from the rank of common prostitute to the status of courtesan, a respected high-class escort for those men in Venetian society who can afford them. Mariabella steps out to attend a party on the arm of her powerful new patron, certain that the night will be filled with glamour, secrets, and adventure.
If you missed the last part of the story, check it out on The Book Goddess.
My heart speeds up, as it always does when I see him. I can smell the scent of grass clippings and sharp sea air on him.
Batista is one of my favorite admirers. He takes my arm and sweeps me into the dance before I can protest. Not that I would have said no. He moves a bit stiffly, but that doesn’t matter. As we dance, he flashes me a shy smile with his dazzling white teeth, and I resist the urge to run my fingers down his jaw. Beneath the flaming chandeliers, his eyes sparkle with hidden colors. He leans in close as we circle around each other.
“How did you get in?” I tease. I was hoping he might be here, but it didn’t seem likely. “I thought this event was only for personal friends of the don.”
“You’re not the only one who knows how to get what you want,” he says with a smile. With one finger, he reaches out and traces the heart-shaped birthmark on my temple.
The way he looks at me is different from the way other men do, as if he sees more than just the pretty plaything for which he is paying. His gaze cuts straight through to my spine and I drop my eyes to his chest.
We split apart, move down the line of dancers, and then come back together in time to the music. “Zago Bonbiolo told me you’d not replied to his messages. Are you really giving up all of your other men, just to be with him?” Batista gestures across the room at Joseph, who is now deep in discussion with a senator, one of the government’s elite Council of Ten.
I don’t know why my Joseph doesn’t want me to see any other men, but he’s paying me handsomely in order to have exclusive use of me. It isn’t that he’s demanding of my time. He has at least two other courtesans and a wife to entertain him. According to the rumors, even a serving girl or two occasionally spends time on her back with him. I think it’s all about appearances. If he can persuade me into being his and his alone, it makes him look all the more powerful to his friends. Not that I ever would.
We have not yet even lain together. He’s been too busy promenading me around on his arm.
“I was planning to explain,” I say. “The next time I saw you.”
“Only you’re no longer allowed to see me,” Batista says. “Convenient.” He freezes mid-step, causing a near-collision on the dance floor.
Casting a wary glance at Joseph, I pull Batista from the dancers, toward the corner of the room. Joseph is still talking to the senator, but eventually he will look for me, and when he does it would inadvisable to be arguing with another man.
“It’s not what you think,” I say.
“You’re letting him own you, like a common servant,” Batista’s eyes search mine.
“No, I’m letting him believe he owns me, for the good of everyone,” I reply. But Batista shakes his head. “Batista.” I stroke his arm through the fabric of his charcoal tunic, noting with satisfaction the way he relaxes beneath my touch. “Of course I’m not going to quit seeing you. We just have to continue to meet privately. It will be our little secret.”
For the next part of the story, visit A Glass of Wine on Wednesday 10/10.
About Fiona Paul
Fiona Paul lives in the Midwest but travels a lot since she can’t breathe if she spends too much time away from the ocean. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in psychology and spent a year teaching English in Seoul, Korea while she was deciding what she wanted to be when she grew up. Answer: everything. In addition to being a teacher and a writer, she’s also worked as a sauté cook, sporting goods manager, veterinary assistant, and registered nurse. When she’s not working, you can usually find her kayaking, reading, or helping turtles cross the road. Her future goals include diving with great white sharks and writing more books, not necessarily in that order. Venom is her first novel.