Author: Heloise West
Publisher: Manifold Press
Release Date: February 1st 2017
Genre: Historical MM Romantic Suspense
In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.
As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.
But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.
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Morello poured the last of the wine from the pitcher and raised it to the serving maid for another. When she nodded, he turned to Donato. “Where is Benedetto?”
“There.” Donato flapped a hand toward some laborers and their women with Benedetto in their midst, a bright star surrounded by pale moons.
Morello stood. “Tagliaferro!”
Benedetto glanced over with a smile. Morello smiled at Benedetto in return, and Donato shook his head.
“Benedetto has been waiting for you, I think, Master. Every time the door opens, he looks just like you do now.” Donato pulled his features into a lovesick buffoon face.
Pleased and blushing, Morello ducked his head to avoid Donato’s assessing eye.
“Primo should give up and go home. I keep telling him but – ”
“Telling him what?” Primo crowded Morello on the bench and reached for his cup. “Well? What did the master from Florence say about your red?”
Morello elbowed his arm hard. “Hush, you! He said not to speak of it. There might be a place for it, and it might be just the thing I need.”
Primo sucked spilled wine from his fingers.
Zeno was testing him, Morello was sure, testing his honor and his integrity. He hoped he had passed. “They worry. Why could I not have dreamed of a new green or something? Why that ardent red?”
“But, what are they worried about?” Donato asked.
“Better to make my fortune painting for a wealthy patron with the real crimson than to have people think me a fraud. Especially at the cost of my life.” He grabbed a handful of Primo’s jerkin and pulled him close. “You didn’t tell anyone? I told you not to.” Every workshop had its secret formulas and techniques, and Morello had been in such ecstasy at his success he had bragged to the journeymen.
“We swore not to tell.” Primo put his hand over Morello’s and loosened his grip. “And he’s right, you know, so don’t take it out on me!”
“You will have more patrons than you can keep up with some day, don’t worry,” Donato said.
“Not here in Torrenta, I won’t.” Morello glanced up as Benedetto arrived and smiled into his blue eyes. “Benedetto, have these two louts been boring you to death?”
Benedetto seated himself across from Morello and next to Donato, who blushed and looked guilty. Morello reached across the table, placed his hand on Benedetto’s arm as if they were familiar old friends, and leaned forward to be heard over the noise. “How long will it take your Leo Guisculo to come to the attention of a patron like the Medici?”
Benedetto frowned. “Years of hard work. This commission might be the start of something big for us. But there are so many good painters and one needs an advantage to get ahead.”
“Master Morello could go to Florence and open his own workshop there,” Donato boasted. “But he had an offer to go to Milan, to a big workshop.”
“Ah, yes, Milan.” Morello frowned at Donato for the reminder. “Have you been there, Benedetto?”
“No, but Leo says nothing there can compare to what we have accomplished in Florence.”
Primo cast a meaningful glance at Morello. “Master Leo Guisculo?”
“Who else?” Morello reprimanded the drunken journeyman. “Hush, now, and listen. Go on,” he urged Benedetto.
Morello was not mistaken in the faint glow the golden man’s skin had taken as he spoke about what Master Leo thought of this and that. It would not surprise Morello to learn Benedetto had many lovers in Florence. He expected that from one of such beauty, poise and intelligence. Despite the fact that Benedetto directed all his conversation to Morello as if they were the only two in the room, Morello was unaccountably envious of the Master Leo reflected in Benedetto’s sad eyes.
About the Author
Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of thirteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.