Cover photo © PeriodImages.com
Cover design by Fiona Jayde Media
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-946271-23-5
iBooks ISBN: 978-1-946271-22-8
For over six hundred years, Darius of Agremon has fought wars on behalf of those who needed his skills in combat. As a general of the Minoan army on Thera, he spends his days commanding coastguardsmen against pirates and marauders. His nights are spent alone, for despite having had wives in the past, he has watched them all grow old and die, childless, as he continues to live.
So when he senses immortality in a farmer's young daughter, Darius bargains to take her to wife when she is old enough to marry.
A foundling, Stella works in her adoptive father's olive orchard above Akrotiri, climbing the ancient trees to prune and to harvest the strings of pearls from their branches. She fears invaders when she watches flaming arrows arc in the sky, a sign the island is under attack. She worries about how the ground quakes beneath her feet and steam erupts from cracks in the ground. She wonders at the odd tingling sensation she experiences whenever Darius is near, a sensation not unlike the one she feels when spending time in the oldest trees.
Unaware of the arrangement her father has made with the general, Stella thinks she has been sold into slavery when Darius comes to claim her. Her youth has been spent admiring the man who helped her father's olive business thrive. Now she has only contempt for him and his hard-headed manner.While the earth trembles and a volcano threatens to destroy the island of Thera, these two will have to forge a relationship that will last far longer than a lifetime—one that must endure an eternity.
At the edge of the grove, he half-expected to feel the slight tingle he had come to realize was the signature of Stella's essence. Had she been older, or if she had already died for the first time, he knew her essence would be more pronounced, the tingling sensation she caused more noticeable. Having learned of her existence only the week before, Darius had spent the past few nights wondering if she was truly another Immortal.
Anticipation had him wanting to urge his horse to trot faster—run, perhaps—but he had no need to hurry, and he feared he might miss her if he allowed his horse the rein.
About halfway through the orchard, the tingle tickled at the edge of his awareness, and he slowed his horse to a walk. He glanced to his left and right, looking for the colorful fabric of a skirt amongst the leaves of the trees. When the tingle increased in intensity, he halted the Sorraia and studied the trees. He could detect no movement in their branches, nor any color outside of the sage green of the leaves. There was no sound of birds or insects. The quiet in the orchard was almost unnerving.
So it was a bit of a surprise when the thump of an olive hitting his head had him giving a start.
He might have expected such an occurrence should he be parked beneath one of the trees, but he had stopped his horse between a row of them.
Listening carefully for the sounds of tree branches cracking or leaves rustling, he allowed a chuckle when a second olive hit his shoulder.
"Another direct hit!" he called out, making sure to keep his expression from appearing dour. He didn't want to scare his assailant.
The sound of a giggle gave away the young girl's location. Seeing Stella's grinning face staring at him from between two branches, Darius realized the color of her skirt was nearly the same as those of the leaves of the black olive tree in which she was sitting. "Your aim is excellent, young lady," he called out.
"You are so close, I could not miss," Stella countered as she lowered herself onto a branch closer to the ground. She sat on it, her legs dangling below the lowest branches. "Are you looking for my father?"
Darius had his mount approach the tree, and he halted the beast when he was nearly under the young girl. "No. But I am gladdened to find you," he responded. "I had hoped to introduce myself when I last visited Pietro."
Glancing around as if she thought he might be speaking to someone else, Stella finally asked, "To me?" He gave a nod along with a look of amusement, deciding the young girl wasn't as percocious as he first thought. "I am Darius of Agremon."
Stella furrowed a brow. "I have not heard of Agremon. Is it on the other end of the island?"
Darius shook his head. "It is... it is far north of here. In a much larger land than this," he replied, his gaze going to her feet. She wore thin leather sandals, the ties wrapped around her calves to keep them in place. "And you? Where are you from?"
Stella regarded him with suspicion a moment before she said, "Akrotiri." She straightened on the branch and announced, "I am Stella of Akrotiri." And then she giggled, the musical sound bringing a smile to Darius' face.