Rain by Nicole Hurley-Moore
sensual historical romance novella
Release Date: 11/21/2013
Cover Artist Valerie Tibbs
On the mountain, high above the village of Farran – Nuri is caught between heaven and hell. Two men fight for her love and her soul. The first is Maras, an elemental being that follows the storms. Nuri knows that he is not human, he’s something more. She believes he is her beautiful fallen angel. But he is transient and is bound to the elements and their love may be as fleeting as the storm itself. And Brother Erebus, a pious monk whose tortured soul is twisted by his desire for her, will do anything to protect her soul from the silver haired devil, even if he has to crush her body to do it.
“Ah, Brother Erebus, ’tis a joy to have you join our little village.” Brother Galfridus smiled as he walked forward and clasped the young man’s hands. As he stepped back, he adjusted his hood to keep out the fine, misty rain that fell. “Welcome to Farran. You are an answer to my prayer. I thank Lord Guilleme and Blackwood Monastery for sending you here. Time marches on, and I am in need of assistance in running our church.”
“Brother.” Erebus bowed before the old monk. Erebus was a tall man of about two-and-twenty. He had a finely chiselled face, with high cheekbones and brown hair and eyes. He would have been called handsome, but something was lacking. Perhaps it was the coldness his eyes held, or the way his lips twitched in condemnation. He carried himself with an air of superiority, although his fellow brothers from Blackwood Monastery would have pledged that he had always been devoted, obedient, and humble. Yet if they had scrutinized his face, they would have realized that humility never quite reached Erebus’s eyes, and perhaps his outer beauty did not emanate from within. “I am glad to be here, and look forward to continuing God’s work in this village. Is the weather always this dismal?”
“’Tis spring. Our village will be buffeted by winds, rain, and great storms.” The old monk rubbed his chin with one hand. “Yet as soon as summer is upon us, it will be unlikely that we will see a drop until the seasons turn once more. It is as if the mountain stands in the rain’s path.”
“Good,” Erebus replied as he thought that he would rather have a summer without rain than this dismal weather. He turned around and looked back towards the little collection of cruck houses making up the village situated a short distance away from the church. They were small structures, consisting of only one or two rooms; all resembled one another, with wattle and daub walls and thatched rooves. Unfortunately, the distance was not great enough in his opinion, since he could smell the smoke from their fires and the scent of damp soil and animal excrement. He found the odour unpleasant, and wrinkled his nose. The rain had turned the dirt road to a fine mud, and he felt the moisture leak through his soft leather shoes. He was chilled and damp, and in truth not in the mood for niceties, nor polite conversation. His only thought was: why in God’s holy name had he been chosen to come to this miserable, dark, and insignificant village? At the monastery, Brother Abbot had said that it was an opportunity that should be seized, that soon Brother Galfridus would hand his church to Erebus’s care. Yet as he stood on the muddy stone steps in front of the small chapel, Erebus believed he had made a great error in judgement.
“Come, Brother, come out of the damp air. It is neither rain nor mist, but a combination of the two.” He clasped the boy’s shoulder and ushered him towards the little stone church. “It is a happy event that you have joined us. Yet it is a sad day for our community, as we are about to bury our dearly loved John, who was a talented artist. The Mass is said, and now we wait for the rain to clear so we can put him in the ground for eternity and comfort poor little Nuri.”
“A great effort for one so lowly,” Erebus answered with a sniff as he entered the church. “You did say he was an artist.”
“Aye, he was a very talented painter who used his skill for the glory of God. And nay, saying the mass was no chore. John was much loved by the village and Lord Guilleme. And the gift he possessed was great, as you can see.” Galfridus waved his hand in a gesture that encompassed the room. The plaster walls were covered in detailed paintings; the biblical stories were brought to life by John’s talented hands and the use of bright colour.
Erebus was momentarily transfixed as he studied the pictures. He saw Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden, the Great Flood, and above the simple stone altar, a depiction of the Crucifixion. Galfridus had been correct in his assessment of the painter’s skill. The paintings were astonishingly beautiful. He had never seen such detailed and realistic work. As he slowly turned, his eyes fell upon an interpretation of the Holy Mother holding the infant Christ. He caught his breath. The face of the Madonna was sublime, her beauty transcendent. The painter had somehow captured the embodiment of loveliness, innocence, and holiness. The Mother was painted in such a way – so realistic – that she could have been standing before Erebus and breathing, rather than trapped on the cool plaster wall. She stood in such precise detail, from the fire in her blue eyes, the cream of her perfect skin, to the hint of roses in her cheeks. The rich blond hair fell in loose curls about her face and below her slim shoulders. Erebus felt his heart quicken and his body tighten in reaction, and an ember of warmth begin to glow within.
“Ah, I see that you have found our treasure.” Galfridus chuckled. “Exquisite, is she not?”
“Aye.” The word tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop it. Annoyed with himself for having such a physical response, he clenched his fist so tightly in an attempt to regain his control that he could feel his nails bite into his palm.
“John managed to capture the goodness, although we expected no less, not when the model embodied such purity.”
The church door opened, and for an instant a weak shaft of pale sunlight managed to break through the gloomy sky and illuminate not only the walls, but the slim figure standing upon its threshold.
Erebus felt his mouth go dry as the Madonna of the wall was made flesh. Silently, the vision moved along the nave towards the monks. He could hear her soft footfalls on the hard stone and the swish of her blue skirts.
“Nuri, my dear, now that the rain has stopped, all is prepared for your father’s final journey.”
“My thanks, Brother Galfridus. You have been truly kind,” the girl answered in a small voice. As she raised her eyes to regard him, he could see they were overbright with unshed tears.
“Now…now…your father has been lifted up. He is in paradise, Nuri. A good man now rewarded. You would not wish to keep him from that?”