I'm very excited to be a part of the Venom blog tour this month! As a part of this tour, I'm posting a part of an exclusive short story prequel to Venom. But first, here's more about Venom and Fiona Paul:
Cassandra Caravello has everything a girl could desire: elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, invitations to the best parties, and a handsome, wealthy fiancé—yet she longs for something more. Ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.
When Cass stumbles upon the body of a murdered woman—with a bloody X carved across her heart—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a poor artist with a mischievous grin . . . and a habit of getting into trouble. Will Cassandra find the murderer before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?
Beauty, romance, and mystery weave together in a novel that’s as seductive and stunning as the city of Venice itself."
And now, here's the excerpt of the short story!
A Secrets of the Eternal Rose short story
By Fiona Paul
The year is 1600 and the streets of Venice, Italy are ripe with intrigue and danger. In this
introduction to the world of Venom, eighteen-year-old Mariabella has recently elevated
herself from the rank of common prostitute to the status of courtesan, a respected high-
class escort for those men in Venetian society who can afford them. Mariabella steps out
to attend a party on the arm of her powerful new patron, certain that the night will be
with glamour, secrets, and adventure.
If you missed the last part of the story, check it out on Fiction Freak.
“What a positively dreadful start to the evening,” a woman behind me says. I’m not sure
if she’s trying to comfort or insult me, so I pretend not to hear her. Instead, I lift my
chin as Joseph places a heavy hand on my lower back, and together we enter Palazzo
Domacetti, one of the largest palazzos on the Grand Canal and the home of an influential
don and donna.
“I am sorry about that,” he murmurs. “I should have stayed closer to you. Usually
we have no problems in this district.”
My own district is full of problems. There, we just refer to them as people. “It’s
all right,” I say. “Just a drunk old biddy who lost her way.” I try not to let the woman’s
words upset me. This is only my third evening on Joseph’s arm and I am determined to
show him a good time.
He watches as I hand my cloak to the butler and slip out of my chopines just
inside the front door. They’re not as fancy as the overshoes worn by some of the other
women in attendance, but soon that will change. Soon, I will have the means to buy new
chopines and fine dresses, to outfit myself in the manner befitting one of Venice’s top
The staircase spirals upward toward a room awash with candlelight and laughter.
Joseph takes my arm and we move as one toward the glowing light. My velvet shoes
whisper against the black marble. I reach out and run my fingers along the smooth
banister. There’s not a speck of dust anywhere.
I have only seen this beautiful home from a distance. Until recently, I would have
been turned away at the door, scorned, perhaps escorted forcibly from the premises like
the old woman was. A few weeks ago, I was still a common prostitute, living in a brothel,
trolling the tavernas for lonely sailors or soldiers. I learned this trade from my mother,
who learned it from her mother before her. She taught me how to read people, how to
figure out what it is a man wants to hear and then say it.
Ever since I began this way of life, I knew that if I was patient and clever I could
improve my lot. Instead of begging for men’s company, I would one day make them beg
And now I had.
The stairs lead straight to the portego, the great room, which smells of jasmine
and rosewater. The walls are mahogany with swirling white molding. Red and yellow
painted angels and winged horses adorn the walls and ceiling. And the mirrors—they
hang on every wall, reflecting the bright décor and the even brighter gowns of the women
in attendance, a dizzying swirl of colors. It’s obvious that the Domacettis embrace the
idea of excess. More is better. More colors. More angels. More mirrors. I turn my eyes to
my own dark green skirts, momentarily overwhelmed.
Joseph looks down at me—curious, studying. “What do you think?” he asks.
I return his gaze, taking in his dark hair and the shadow of beard across his
jawline. “It’s exquisite,” I answer. “Thank you for bringing me here.”
Exactly what he wants to hear: just as my mother taught me.
“Come,” Joseph says. “I want you to meet some friends of mine.”
Dutifully, I let him lead me across the room. I cast my eyes downward, marveling
at the tiles beneath my feet, which are arranged as a replica of Bottacelli’s Birth of Venus.
Unlike the rest of the portego, the floor doesn’t make my head throb when I look at it.
Bottacelli’s color palette is muted—soft blues, corals and flesh tones. A servant offers us
wine. I allow Joseph to take the glass from the servant and pass it on to me, murmuring a
We approach a cluster of finely-dressed Venetian nobles. I smile and curtsy,
catching a glimpse of my reflection in one of the portego’s many mirrors. For a second, I
see the old woman’s face in the place where mine should be. A tremor dances up my
spine. I blink hard and she vanishes, leaving behindI my own pale skin, high cheekbones,
and raven black hair.
For the next part of the story, visit The Book Goddess on Friday, 10/5.
Click here to read my interview with Fiona!