OK, here is an excerpt from my WIP! The title is A Kiss of Poison. It's very different from anything I've done before, both with the setting and the characters, but I'm having fun writing it. Maybe tomorrow I'll post a bit about the hero and heroine meeting. This is just a few paragraphs from the beginning:
Chapter One--Venice, 1530
Oh, yes. He was really dead.
"Madre de dio," Julietta Bassano whispered, leaning close to examine the man's corpse, sprawled across the rich silk cushions of his gilded bed. It had not been an easy death, nor a pretty one. His face, so florid in life, was turned a dark, mottled purple-blue, his black beard matted with bile and spittle and blood. The wide, staring, sightless eyes were dotted with tiny spots of red, and his stiffening limbs were thrown wide in abruptly frozen death throes.
No--not an easy death at all. She recognized the signs. She had seen them in her own husband three years ago, as he collapsed in the middle of their own bed, convulsing and heaving.
"Witch!" he had screamed. "Sorceress! You have murdered me." And his clawlike hands snatched at her gown, his blood and vomit spraying her flesh with death...
No! she thought sternly, closing her eyes and her mind to the memories. Giovanni Bassano was long dead; he had deserved his end. He could not hurt anyone ever again.
Unlike this man before her now...
Julietta opened her eyes to stare down at the corpse of Michelotto Landucci, noble of the Most Serene Republic, high member of the Savio ai Cerimoniali. His richly brocaded robe hung open, revealing a heavy, hairy stomach, a flaccid, blue-tinged member. With a snort of disgust, she grabbed the edge of a silk sheet and drew it up over him, hiding him from view.
Behind her, she heard a soft, frightened sob, a stifled gasp. Julietta tried to take in a deep, steadying breath to calm herself, but the stench of death had grown too strong. It stuck in her nostrils, clung to her hair and cloak. Clasping the black velvet closer about her throat, she spun around to face the woman who huddled in the shadows of the palatial bedchamber. Cosima Landucci, wife--nay, widow--of the man beneath the sheet. Unlike her spouse, she was still fully dressed in an elaborate gown of gold-embroidered blue silk. Thick, dark red hair spilled down her back and fell over her white, unlined brow, proclaiming how very much younger than her husband she was. Just a child, really.
A child, whose husband lay poisoned in his own bed. Well, well. She would not have thought it of timid little Cosima. People were ever surprising.
"What happened here, signora?" Julietta asked, as gently as she could. She knew this girl--Cosima had been a loyal patroness of Julietta's perfume shop for almost two years, coming in weekly to buy her special scent of jasmine and lily, and to talk to Julietta. And talk and talk, as if she had no other friend in the world but her perfumer. And Julietta had been glad to listen. She felt sorry for the girl, who seemed so lost and unhappy despite her fine gowns and flashing jewels. She--well, she rather reminded Julietta of herself so long ago, when all her dreams of marriage and family were shattered in the face of cold reality.
But this--this was something else altogether.