HER FATHER’S SERVANTS KEPT the ebony grand polished to a mirror-smooth gloss. Ariadne sat stiffly at the keyboard, playing Debussy but not hearing it, looking out past open shutters to the sea. The sun was sinking into molten copper and crimson, ash from the latest eruption refracting vivid shimmers. Her fingers summoned arpeggios to echo the rippling colors.
This might be the last time she played her mother’s piano. She sighed, letting the old hurt out through her hands, letting the music flow through her. Her mother had loved to play here, where she could see the sea and the gulls, her pale hands moving over the keys like the sweep of wings. Then the music had died for little Ariadne, light dimming in Uncle Dmitrios’s magical blue crystal that she’d given to the mountain chapel’s altar so God would heal her mother. But it hadn’t worked. Nothing had worked. Ellen Barrett Demodakis had become too ill to play the music that first captivated her husband in the concert halls. To the end, the servants carried her daily to this room with the long windows and distant wings.
After Ellen’s death, Ariadne’s father had ordered her to keep practicing, until she finally stopped hating her mother’s piano. And so she had to owe even the gift of music to Tyrannos Constantin.
She stood abruptly, echoes of “Clair de Lune” summoning that childhood day—her father’s stern voice, her uncle’s white grin as he gave Ariadne the carved crystal, then turned to intently watch his brother’s wife at the keyboard.
And now Lisa, here? Pretty blond Lisa, laughing, teasing—the sorority’s trickster. So brash yet sweet. To Ariadne, she’d embodied the American freedom to explore, challenge the rules, plunge into experience. Maybe her old friend might help lighten these dark times.
She took a deep breath, smoothing her blue silk dress that had also been her mother’s, touching the knot of hair at her nape, sliding her fingers over the smooth facets of her crystal pendant. She stilled her nervous hands as the door swung open to admit Lisa.
Blue toenails, high-heeled sandals of colored straps, long thin legs in garish orange prancing past Marta’s stiff outrage, pale skin and bright makeup and the gauzy sheer blouse clearly molding high breasts. An American ad come to life. Ariadne had always enjoyed Lisa’s free-spirited fashions, and she herself knew too well that look of Marta’s.
But as she raised her gaze to Lisa’s, her welcoming smile froze. The pale topaz eyes glittered in a painted mask of the face she’d known, wearing an arrogant—hostile?—expression.
Ariadne finally offered her hand. “Chairete, Lisa.” Rejoice.
“It’s Leeza now.” A wolf’s grin. She held out her hand, not taking Ariadne’s, but displaying the platinum and sapphire ring. “Nice little souvenir you left me with.”
Ariadne stood rigid, struck dumb.
Lisa paced past her. “Figured better late than never. You did invite me, you know, back when you ran off. Even if you never answered my messages.”
“But . . . You didn’t receive my letters? When I didn’t hear from you, I thought. . . .” She closed her eyes. Of course, the Tyrannos would have intercepted them in his campaign to keep her isolated here. She cleared her throat. “Lisa, I’ve been something of a prisoner here, cut off from the world.”
“Right, I can see it’s brutal.” She snorted, gesturing around the room with its expensive antiques. She ran a finger over the grand piano. “Recognized the music.” She picked up a cushion from a couch and dropped it, touched a restored amphora, stopped at the windows. “Wild view.”
She turned, long legs in a model’s stance. “You’re still gorgeous, of course. Cool as a cucumber in this heat. You haven’t changed.”
Was it a question? Her pale eyes were intent, unreadable. Almost. She wanted something. Lisa, like all the others, coming to plead and take, angry when they found only a woman and not an oracle. Ariadne had learned to be wary of people’s needs.
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