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Melodic Torment

Written By: Marvelle Petit
Published by: Devine Destinies
ISBN #:978-1-4874-0052-1
Word Count:78200
Page Count: 265
Heat Level:
Price: $5.99
Available in: Adobe Acrobat, Palm DOC/iSolo, Microsoft Reader, Hiebook, HTML, Mobipocket, Rocket, Epub, Sony PDF, Sony LRF

    Biting air harmed the voice. Alice tugged the thick wool coat against her chest to ward against the chill. For extra measure, she threw the ends of her scarf around her neck. The frigid weather did not slow the patrons of her bustling city. As usual they scurried to their destinations and gathered at bus stops and crosswalks with their heads down, absorbed into the popular social media of the moment.

    She clicked her phone to check the time. Johan did not like it when she arrived even a minute late. When the grandfather clock chimed once for the half hour, she should be seated with book in hand, using the chime as a cue to begin.

    Every day she entered an opulent house of days gone past and both read and sang to her employer. His throne, as she named it, faced the window. An antique leather sitting-chair in a beautiful beige, stretched high above his form, with elaborately carved honey maple rungs. By his voice she knew he could not be much older than she, yet she never saw his face to confirm it. The only other hint came from a hand that flitted to the side as she sang, lightly following the notes. No age spots or wrinkles marred his golden skin.

    His eccentric quirks took time to get used to, but the price he deemed fair for her services allowed her to pay the rent, a great boon when the auditions were scarce and roles impossible without a connection.

    At times he served as a teacher and instructed various techniques, including proper control of the voice, how to breathe, and how to bring the emotions of the character to the forefront with hints of sound. He rarely interrupted her for instruction now, compared to the early months. She wasn’t quite sure if she pleased him or if he’d rendered her a lost cause. He only spoke when necessary, and with short phrases at that.

    From a distance the house seemed ominous against the gray sky. Its gothic design stretched toward the hazy orb of the sun, guarded by gargoyles and other demonic beings she could not identify. A tall and thick wrought iron fence circled the perimeter, sharp points glistening like daggers. The house itself matched the gray of the sky. From a distance all she could see were the thick black fence and black peaks of the roof. No surprise the place and its inhabitant were christened The Ghost of Cothelstone by those who lived nearby.

    The thick wooden door towered over her by a good three feet. Just above her head a gargoyle held the knocker in its snarling mouth and growled each time she lifted the worn metal. The rust looked like blood. Despite seeing it every day, it never failed to create a torment of unease in her belly. She slammed the metal against the door once and yanked her hand away as though the gargoyle would snap her fingers off if they lingered too long.

    His butler, Richard, answered the door. He appeared a stereotype of his profession to the point of comedy in a perfectly pressed black suit with matching perfect posture. His brown eyes passed judgment with a mere glance and his face was average to the point she failed to recall his features at the end of the day.

    She smiled and unraveled her scarf. “Good afternoon, Richard.”

    He gave a nod of acknowledgment. “Good afternoon, Lady Alice. Did your commute fare well today?”

    “Yes, it’s the same as always. I assume he’s in the study?”

    He nodded, “As it is every day, Lady.” He took her personal items.

    “Thank you.” She sighed and muttered, “I feel old when you call me that.”

    Richard said nothing, but his smile said a thousand words. “Make haste. It is one minute to half.”

    As she made her way up the stairs to the study, her gaze drifted to the piano downstairs in a living area. Once she asked if he could accompany her on a song rather than use the old record player. He ordered her to leave in a rage. The cover had a layer of dust on it now, despite everything else in the house being in a pristine state.

    The third door on the right was the study. The other doors were a mystery. After his reaction to the piano she shied away from asking anything outside of things relating to the task at hand. The door creaked open. The smell of musty books filled her nose. He sat in his usual spot, wearing the same shiny black dress shoes, the only thing she had to identify him physically.

    “Good afternoon, Lady Alice.”

    His rich baritone voice melted the remnants of the chilly day. Though he paid for the sounds of her voice, she enjoyed the hearing his as well. “Good afternoon, Johan. Has your day been pleasant?”

    “As pleasant as a gray Wednesday can be. Has the cold bothered your voice?”

    “No. I made sure to keep it warm during my commute.”

    He clapped his hands. “Wonderful. I feel like hearing an aria today. I taught it to you several months ago. I hope you remember it.”

    “I should.” Oftentimes he would teach her a song and ask for it again at another time. The few times she forgot a song he would become upset to the point of sending her home without pay. She created a playlist specifically of the songs he’d taught her and made a point to listen to it in full once a week to ensure she would not forget.

    She picked up the sheet music and began to look it over. He wished to hear “Addio, del Passato”. Months had passed since the last request for it. She grimaced as her eyes fluttered over the notes. Even a master soprano would find it difficult.

    Secrets are best left alone, but where’s the fun in that?
    
    Alice is a struggling actress with a peculiar part time job – reading and singing to Johan, a mysterious man whose face she has yet to see. When he spontaneously reveals himself to her, they begin an awkward, yet sweet romance. As their relationship develops, inexplicable things occur with startling frequency. Despite the warnings of those around her, she pries into his deepest secrets and uncovers a pernicious world hidden for centuries. Nathaniel is a successful actor with a secret that haunts the darkest crevices of his being. After centuries of living alone, a chance meeting with Alice brings a chance for redemption. Centuries past come to a head as the three struggle to conquer their sins and save a dying world.

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