Three powerful merchants, two independent women in love, one masked vigilante.
Florentina, set on revenge for her father’s murder, creates an alter-ego known as the Night Flyer. Madelena, whose husband was also murdered, hires Florentina as a tutor for her children and love blossoms between them. However, Florentina’s vendetta is fraught with danger, and surprising developments threaten both women’s lives.
Merchants of Milan is the first book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like gadgets and gismos, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and fast-paced action with a slow-boil lesbian romance, then you are sure to love this series. Buy this one of a kind novel today and let the adventure begin!
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Marco: This is Marco Marcello of the Daily Gazette, and today I am speaking with Don Alessandro Torelli, one of our city’s leading citizens. Don Alessandro, is it fair to say you are the wealthiest merchant in Milan?
Alessandro: (shrugs) Well, one of the wealthiest perhaps; no need to squabble over a few coins more or less.
Marco: Who then do you consider your equals?
Alessandro: That would be Don Benetto Viscardi and Don Giovanni Sacchi.
Marco: Could you describe them for us?
Alessandro: Benetto is a shrewd businessman, even unscrupulous, an arms dealer who you would not want to cross. Between you and me, he’s been known to kill those who oppose or betray him.
Marco: Surely not! I know you are as big as a mountain, but aren’t you afraid of him?
Alessandro: No; he doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother him. Now, Giovanni is the current leader of our guild and a fair man. Both are older than I, but Giovanni has acquired a much younger second wife.
Marco: Do I detect a note of jealousy?
Alessandro: (laughs and shakes his head) Absolutely not! While Julia is buxom and bubbly–though I doubt there’s a brain in her head – my Portia is the perfect wife and mother with whom I am completely satisfied.
Marco: And is it true that your sister is a recent widow and actually functions as an unofficial partner in your business?
Alessandro: Madelena’s late husband Vergilio, God rest his soul, died in a riding accident; however, she is convinced Don Benetto had him killed. And yes, she has quite a way with numbers and keeps our books. Being very personable, she also regularly deals with our clients. I can’t possibly do everything myself and my sons are not old enough to be partners. Even when Vergilio was managing the wool branch of our textiles business, Maddie did the accounting.
Marco: Isn’t it unusual to employ a female in such an important role?
Alessandro: She isn’t employed; she is my sister, and an entirely capable partner. A good businessman knows how to utilize all his assets regardless of the shortsighted social norms adhered to by some.
Marco: Speaking of social norms, the word is that you also retain a woman as a tinker which is quite obviously a man’s profession.
Alessandro: Is something wrong with your hearing, or is it your mind that fails to comprehend? I make use of my assets. Florentina de Bossi is the daughter of an inventor who worked closely with the great Master Leonardo. She has a vast array of knowledge and skills that only a fool would waste. Officially she is employed as a tutor to Maddie’s young children, but when I discovered she excelled at repair and mechanical engineering, I made the wise decision to utilize her expertise in that capacity as well. I didn’t become one of the richest merchants in Milan by being more concerned with societal norms than sound spending practices.
Marco: That brings me to another matter; it appears that Madelena and her tutor spend a great deal of time together and behave in a familiar manner. Is there anything about their relationship you find improper?
Alessandro: (a pause followed by a steely stare and stern tone) Now listen to me, Marco–I will not have you besmirching my baby sister’s reputation with your innuendos. Maddie’s personal business is exactly that–personal. I don’t care how “friendly” she is with her tutor. Florentina is a wonderful young woman who loves my niece and nephew and adds joy to our home. My primary concern is for Madelena’s happiness. And I’ll add this fact: I am by nature a non-violent man, but as you noted earlier, I do possess a commanding stature and should anyone attempt to harm my sister, I would not hesitate to squash him like an insect. Is that understood?
Marco: Uh, yes sir, quite clear indeed. May I suggest we move on to your children? You have three, correct?
Alessandro: My daughter, Pollonia is such a joy that I am not ready to give her away to wed yet. My youngest, Bernardo, is eager and energetic. Antonio, I’m afraid, is at that age where he feels the need to prove himself, to exert his independence, and to be his own man, so we butt heads like two mountain goats, but he’s a good lad; he’ll turn out… as long as he doesn’t get himself killed.
Marco: Is he in any danger?
Alessandro: He joined the Milanese battalion of the French army, and I do not wish to speak of it.
Marco: Then I suppose that leads me to my last question: what is your take on the arch-criminal, the Night Flyer? Aren’t you afraid he will attack your warehouses and steal from you?
Alessandro: Not at all. The Night Flyer is quite an ingenious individual and has created rather a stir, but I’m not worried in the least. In fact, I don’t even believe the Night Flyer is a criminal. The only House he has attacked is Viscardi’s; he even distributed a great volume of coins to the people. No, I think he is the relation of someone Benetto killed who is carrying out the traditional vendetta. If that is the case, no one need fear the Night Flyer save Benetto himself.
Marco: Don Alessandro, I thank you for your time. The inquiring minds of our readers will enjoy learning about you and your family. And you can be assured of my complete discretion.
When Madelena withdrew she whispered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to overstep.”
“Sorry?” Florentina’s heart sank and her head spun. How could she be sorry? “Why? I’m not.”
“You’re not?” Maybe Maddie was as uncertain as she, as overcome with raw emotion and not knowing how to express it. “It’s just that–and I have contemplated this–with me being your employer and all, I don’t want you to expect you must do something you aren’t comfortable with. I would never pressure you-”
It was Florentina’s turn to be impulsive. She silenced Maddie by repeating the gesture, tasting again those full, cherry lips that flooded her mind, body, and soul with sensations. When it broke, they gazed into each other’s eyes looking for confirmation. “I understand I am only a servant in your household.”
“Don’t say that!” Maddie replied firmly. “That is not how I view you. Please, Fiore. How can I explain?”
The earlier butterflies began to settle in Florentina’s stomach and the fog of trepidation evaporate. She could perceive that the beautiful wealthy widow did regard her with esteem, did have feelings for her. This was not a mere dalliance she realized. “I care for you also,” she spoke softly and stroked Maddie’s luxurious strands. “Do not think you press me to do something I have not wanted to do since the moment I first saw you.”
Relief engulfed Madelena’s expression, and she brushed her cheek to Florentina’s then nuzzled her neck with moist, eager lips. A euphoric sigh escaped Fiore’s mouth at the intimate touch and she pulled Maddie closer. When their lips found each other’s again she opened to the honey-sweet tongue that was impatient to delve into it. Without willing them to do so, she realized her fingers were wound in those silky red strands while her other hand slid down Madelena’s back as far as the bench would allow. She could perceive her heartbeat against her own heated breast. This is what she had dreamt of and it surpassed her expectations. All she wanted to do was touch, caress, explore, and please this singular woman. Even as she was rendered breathless from the physical passion, her heart was telling her head that what she felt was far more, endlessly deeper. It was a very dangerous cavern, a bottomless pit that could spell her doom; she was falling in love.
Madelena realized she was making a mistake. She had acquired a good tutor for her children and a new friend to share meaningful experiences with, but a romantic affair? Where could that possibly lead? What would her brother think or do when he found out, and she knew he would, eventually. Hadn’t she lived a well-disciplined life? Could she not control her desires for more than a few weeks?
As her mind was blaring at her all the reasons to say no, her heart had been pleading an opposing case. Yes, she had found a teacher and a friend, but in Florentina she had discovered abundantly more. She was interesting, witty, talented, intuitive, and compassionate. She opened whole new worlds to the widow whose entire education was meant only to prepare her to be a merchant’s wife. For the past six months she had felt lost, as if she had no place and no purpose. She had helped Alessandro with the bookkeeping and personal relations with customers, but she had also spent her nights alone speculating on what the future may hold for her. She still could not answer that question, but she had spoken honestly when she said that Fiore made her feel real and alive. Since growing closer to the dark-haired inventor’s daughter she had begun to experience so many things. And today–today had likely been the best day of her twenty-eight years on this earth! Then the emotion of sharing her story, it was just all too much to expect her to maintain self-control. But now that she had initiated this passionate encounter, what would she do next?
Presently, she drew back from those sultry lips trying to regain some restraint. “Have you ever been with a woman before?” she asked to fill the silence.
Florentina shook her head. “If you mean sexually, I am quite inexperienced with anyone, male or female. Years ago when Cesare told me he was attracted to men, I mentioned that I was more drawn to women. I didn’t think he’d ever say anything; it’s not like we talked about it much, but now,” she paused casting starry eyes at Maddie, “I’m glad he did.”
She smiled and stroked Florentina’s cheek. “So am I.”
“I know you have experience,” she noted. “So, what do we do next?”
What indeed! Madelena considered. “Take one step at a time. May I suggest we try to get some sleep and take a night to process it all? I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment.”
“You’re overwhelmed?” Fiore laughed. “I’m not certain my legs will carry me upstairs!”
Maddie hesitated to move, as the tug of an invisible cord was drawing her back to her newfound treasure. Neither was Florentina was moving away. One more kiss and you must move. Give both of us time to think. She touched her lips to Fiore’s and closed her eyes. What makes one kiss a sloppy flop and another a driving, sensuous pleasure? Is it one’s mental perception or a physical current that connects two individuals who are similarly charged? I can feel the energy pass between her and I unlike any other before.
“I shall see you in the morning.” She released Florentina and pushed herself to her feet with a sheer force of will. Florentina followed saying her good-nights and Madelena closed the bedroom door behind her as she left. Alone once more, she glanced around her empty chamber and wished her lover could have stayed all night.
Ms Romeo is a retired school teacher who currently travels the country as an over the road truck driver. Her first book, Vlad, a Novel, an historical thriller, was published in 2002. She has had short stories published in anthologies by Seventh Star Press, Charon Coin Press, Alban Lake Press, Less Than Three Press, and Past and Prologue Press.
Edale Lane’s first novel, Heart of Sherwood, is an historical retelling of the Robin Hood story supposing that the hooded outlaw had been a woman: https://www.pastandprologuepress.lpages.co/Sherwood1/
In addition to driving and writing, Melodie is also a musician who plays the French horn, composes, and has spent many years as a choral and instrumental director. She aspires to be a successful enough author to quit driving and devote herself to writing fulltime. Melodie resides in Utica, MS with her longtime partner, Johanna.
Some of her works can be found at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00WFFFEA4
In 2019 Melodie founded Past and Prologue Press. Please visit her website.
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