Tormented by guilt. Haunted by scandal. Freed by love.
Eight years ago, composer Arie De Voss claimed his late mentor’s final symphony as his own and became an icon. But fame has a price: fear of discovery now poisons his attempts to compose a redemptive masterpiece. Until a new muse appears, intoxicating and inspiring him…
Mathilda Heidel renounced her own musical gift to marry, seeking a quiet life to escape the shame surrounding her birth. Sudden widowhood finds her tempted by song once more. An unexpected introduction to her idol, Arie De Voss, renews Mathilda’s passion for the violin–and ignites a passion for the man himself.
But when lust and lies reach a crescendo, Arie will be forced to choose: love or truth?
In this excerpt, Mathilda Heidel is preparing to practice with a full orchestra for the first time. She and Arie de Voss, a renowned composer and pianist, have become lovers, but no one knows the secret that still keeps them from their happy ending.
Roughly twenty musicians milled around the sparse furnishings, every man as varied as the instruments he played. Old, young, thin, heavy…their compulsion to stare at Mathilda provided the diverse professionals with their single common trait.
The word “only” drummed at her temples. Only woman. Only newcomer. Only the composer’s lover. Her neck and ears grew hot. Having endeavored to make her life unremarkable, she now intended to stand among veteran performers, asking to belong. What had she been thinking, agreeing to Arie’s mad scheme?
Despite weeks of schooling her nerves to accept unfamiliar exposure and criticism, her lifetime of fears threatened to overwhelm any joy she might have found. None of her anxieties were mirrored in those assessing eyes, their expressions ranging from intrigued to disdainful. The musicians, secure in their place within the court orchestra, stood with surefooted arrogance, when she would turn and run at the first chance. Born of long association, their solidarity united them against her unexplained arrival.
But she took comfort in what she knew–the things they could not yet imagine. She knew Arie, and after a week of intense practice, she knew his symphony. Insistent repetition had filled her remarkable memory with countless melodies and audacious, untried harmonies. His composition tested boundaries and broke new ground. These men, for all their confidence and haughty unanimity, knew nothing of what he would require.
But where was he?
Arie, like a man beckoned by her flashes of dread, strode across the long expanse of marble. Another dozen men carrying assorted pieces of musical equipment followed him, the sight of which drew more questioning stares than had Mathilda’s unexpected arrival.
At least until after the concert, she and Arie had agreed to keep their engagement a secret. The sight of her maestro, however, captivated Mathilda. She made no effort to hide her admiration. There, inside the man who worshiped her, lived a self-possessed, almost haughty conductor. An exotic creature. Well-dressed and fanatically groomed, he radiated strength of purpose. He had banished familiar aspects of his personality–confusion, loneliness, mockery–to create a new male animal forged of equal parts determination and passion.
She had seen his passion. She had been tugged by its irresistible draw. But at that moment Arie reserved his intensity for his newest creation, the task of bringing it into being. Far from jealous, Mathilda allowed the spell of his magnetism to envelop and fortify her. In the hall, in front of those musicians, he was a leader and an innovator. A man without equal. Without peer. And she could not deny the need to watch.
His heart-stopping blue eyes met hers. Paired with that teasing, arched eyebrow, the smallest possible smile invited her into his world. Irresistible melodies and frustrating doubts swirled to nothingness. He dared her to recall how they occupied the hours they did not devote to music. Kisses, touches, eager bodies–they had learned each other as thoroughly as she had learned his new composition. Together they had reveled in the steady, unshakable comfort of their love.
And in front of an audience of forty, she thought that keeping the secret of their love affair might prove nearly as arousing as acting on their passion.
Born in California and raised in the Midwest, Carrie Lofty met her English husband while studying abroad–the best souvenir! Since completing her master’s degree in history, she’s been devoted to raising their two precocious daughters, managing Unusual Historicals, and writing romance. Her 2008 debut was the Robin Hood-themed What a Scoundrel Wants, followed by its Spanish-set sequel, Scoundrel’s Kiss.
Join Carrie in early 2012 as she embarks on a new Victorian series from Pocket, beginning with Flawless. And look for her “Dark Age Dawning” trilogy of hot-n-dirty apocalyptic romances, co-written with Ann Aguirre under the name Ellen Connor. Nightfall kicks it off in June 2011 from Berkley Sensation. Follow Carrie on Twitter and Facebook