Illuminations of the Heart: Excerpt

Illuminations of the Heart

(Poitevin Hearts, Book 2)

by Joyce DiPastena

“Hide away in a room, pull out the chocolate or popcorn, get comfortable and escape to the medieval times. I enjoyed getting lost in the romance and suspense that is interwoven in Illuminations of the Heart.”
—LDS Women’s Book Reviews


She sat in a high chair, bent over a tall, slanting desk, rubbing a piece of pumice over what looked like a sheet of parchment. She looked up at the sound of his footstep. Her soft mouth quivered up at the corners in what he recognized as a brave attempt at a smile, an attempt he knew was going to fail. In another moment those lips would droop back into a pout, or worse they would start trembling and tears would well up into those big blue eyes. He would have to sweep her into his arms and cradle her to his heart and whisper over and over again that he would make everything right…

“They have ruined it,” she said. “I have tried and tried to clean it, but the stains are too deep.” 

There went her mouth, and the tears— He took a step towards her, but she rubbed them away with a briskness that startled him into stopping again.

“I’m sorry. I know it is foolish to be so mournful over a mere painting. But it was one of Simon’s.”

He moved cautiously closer to the desk, where she had neatly set out several vials of paint and a row of pens and brushes. She looked like a small burst of sunshine herself, draped in a vibrant yellow gown with her shimmering gold hair flowing loose in rich, curling waves down her back. That sorrowful face he knew, but the bright strength springing even through her tears…

 Unaccountably disturbed by that subtle foreignness in a countenance he knew as well as he knew his own heart, he looked away from her to the scatter of sheets on the desk. Vellum, not parchment, and a very fine quality, much better than the inferior stuff he used for his scribblings. Some of the stained sheets were blank, but he knew that her tears were for the few that bore her brother’s paintings.

“Simon loved his craft, I recall that well,” he said. “I don’t think I ever saw him without parchment and quill tucked into his belt, and that tiny inkwell he always carried about on a chain. It seemed as if he could not sit still without being about some drawing, detailing the strange plants and creatures we saw on our pilgrimage, or creating some new monstrosity from the vivid realms of his imagination.”

He gestured at the vellum where a winged blue ram charged a green bear with tusks and red, curling antlers like a deer. It was a measure of Simon’s talent, Triston recalled, that he had been able to draw such oddities in fully plausible shapes, if not in convincing colors.

“Yes,” Siri said, “Simon did take especial delight in transposing various animals’ heads with other animals’ bodies and attaching to them the wings of birds. It started when he drew his first bestiary. He wanted to prove to our father that he was ready to be advanced from apprenticeship. Simon worked morning and night, drawing and painting, scarcely pausing to eat, until the project was finished. He said when he slept that night, he dreamed the animals all jumbled up in his head, and the next morning he drew his first staglion—a stag with the head of a lion.”

She laughed, although he heard a small catch in the sound. Triston could not remember the last time he had heard laughter at Vere, even tinged with sadness, as hers was.

He resisted the impulse to look into her face again, but said, “Surely your father did not apprentice you, as well?”

“No, but he allowed me to watch the others and sometimes gave me cast-off scraps of parchment to draw on. One day I sketched my name and decorated the S with three vines and a veritable garden of flowers. Father said it showed talent, so he began instructing me, and then he gave me a brush and taught me to illuminate as well. Sometimes he would even let me help with a patron’s commission, but I was never allowed to sit and draw in the workshop until after he and Mother died.”

“You learned French from your father?” Triston asked.

“Yes. He never learned Italian well. His apprentices had to translate until Simon grew old enough to work in the shop.”

“And you do not know from what part of Poitou he hailed?”

“He never said.”

Triston nodded. “I’m afraid I am unable to restore your brother’s paintings, but I will send to Poitiers for fresh vellum to replace the blank sheets that are spoiled.”

“Thank you. Naturally I will pay for it.”

“Nonsense. Consider it a gift, Lady Siriol, to show how pleased we are to have you with us.”

He stole a glance at her. A mistake. The brilliance of her smile banished the last threat of tears, but it also sent such a shaft through his heart that he turned away quickly and walked over to the window.

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