Friday, April 16, 2021

A haunting and captivating story of love, loss, and betrayal


Chapter One

Zakynthos, Greece, seventy-five years earlier


A voice in her mind screamed out, Jump! JUMP NOW!

Anna stood transfixed at the edge of the sheer cliff, staring into the abyss. Hot, bitter tears were streaming down her face as a violent storm was raging around her, turning day into night. Frothy white waves were crashing on the steep rocks surrounding the secluded beach down below. Succumbing to nature’s unleashed rage, the narrow strip of sandy shore had vanished from sight.

A surge of fear gripped her. The pounding of her heart echoed in her head louder than the blasts of thunder. A moan of despair escaped her lips as the solitary figure stood against the menacing wind as if fused to the rock.

All of a sudden, another burst of lightning lit up the sky. Anna recoiled back from the dizzying, jagged edge of the rock and lifted her eyes to the vast horizon. The emerald waters of the Ionian Sea surrounding the Greek Island of Zakynthos were now a threatening, charcoal gray color, blending in the distance with the ominous sky.

Andreas’ adorable face flashed before her eyes.

I have no choice… I can’t live without him.

Shaken to the core, she drew a deep breath and inched closer to the edge. She was scared to death, and even though it was in the middle of summer, Anna was freezing. Her soaking wet, white dress clung to her delicate body like a second skin, and her tangled chocolate brown hair wrapped around her shoulders like snakes.

But what choice did she have? Her father would never allow her to marry the younger brother of his sworn enemy, not even for the sake of their unborn child. And an unmarried mother at a closed community like Zakynthos wasn’t something her family or the society will accept. At the sweet age of seventeen, she would be an outcast. And so would be her eighteen-years-old lover and father of her child.

But even more than her father, Anna was terrified of Nicholas—Andreas’ older brother. Every time he laid eyes on her, her blood turned to ice; that unnerving expression on his face and the fire burning in his intense gaze foreshadowed something evil.

Why does he hate me so much? She’d never done anything to him; she hardly even spoke to him every time they met. And when he found out that Andreas and Anna were in love, he went out of his mind. He kidnapped Anna and took her to a remote mountain cabin on the other side of the island.

Nicholas was ruthless. Yannis—Anna’s father—had warned her to stay away from the Kortesis family and especially Nicholas. Her father called him a cold-hearted snake who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. And he was set on getting his claws on Yannis’ land; he had made one offer after the other to buy him out. And when her father kept refusing, he declared war on Yannis, sabotaging his crop and threatening the workers not to work on his land.

During the terrifying hours he’d kept Anna captive in that deserted cabin hidden in a veil of murky fog, she’d realized that he would never leave Andreas and her alone. And why on earth had he insisted on Anna marrying him instead of Andreas? If he hated her so much, why would he want to marry her?

Anna had spent a chilling night in the dimly lit, falling apart cabin, crying and begging Nicholas to let her go. But he’d remained stone-cold, warning her that the only way out for her was to forget his brother and marry him instead. Otherwise, he would kill her and then kill his brother as well. And she could feel it deep inside that his threat was real; Nicholas was capable of murder.

When he’d left the cabin that morning, Anna had frantically gathered all the strength she could muster and had loosened the ropes holding her captive. After the long hours, she’d spent confined on the uncomfortable, worn-out chair, rising to her feet was almost impossible. But there was no time to waste; she needed to get out of there before Nicholas got back.

With staggering steps, she’d made it to the door and stumbled outside, only to find out that the cabin was fused to a sheer cliff far away from any living soul. The night before, she hadn’t been able to see her surroundings in the dark. But now, she was devastated. How far could she make it on foot? Besides, even if she did get back to the village, Nicholas would find her and Andreas. And he would kill them both. After what she had witnessed in that cabin, she was now sure that there was no escaping Nicholas’ menace.

Grasping the cruel reality, Anna had decided that the only way to save her beloved Andreas was to kill herself. Reluctantly, she had raised her eyes to the cliff top and had collapsed in sobs of anguish.

A few minutes later—or maybe it was hours, she had lost track of time—Anna had gathered all her strength, had crawled up the cliff, and had made it to the edge. Unnerved by the height, she had averted her eyes from the chasm, and fear had paralyzed her.

And now, down on her knees, she was still sobbing uncontrollably. I can’t do that; I can’t kill my baby girl, she thought, caressing her belly with a shaky hand. Even though she was only three months pregnant, Anna was sure that the baby was a girl. She had dreamed about her baby girl; she had seen her face, and had already given her a name…Tatiana. But that was only in her dreams because her baby was destined to die, and so was she.

Anna’s thoughts drifted to Andreas again. What would happen to him? How would he be able to go on after losing her and the baby? I know he’ll be devastated. But I hope he’ll find the strength to move to that far away land he always dreamed about and go on with his life.

During the last two years, they’d been together, Andreas frequently talked about both of them relocating to America. He wanted to get away from the hate and thirst for revenge that poisoned their lives here on the island. Her lover talked about having two kids, a dog, and a small white house with a garden.

I wish, Anna thought and took a deep breath, closing her eyes. But she knew better. Her family would never allow her to board the ship to freedom. And even if they managed to escape, she had to think about those left behind. A betrayal like this would bring more pain and blood-shedding to both their families.

Jump! She rose to her feet and took a small step, her knees shaking badly. Her foot at the edge of the cliff caused some pebbles to fall. Mesmerized, Anna watched them crash on the rocks and disappear in the foamed waves. The awful taste of bile poisoned her mouth, and her ears were ringing.

A surge of fear gripped her, and a voice in her head screamed out, Don’t! You’re too young! You have your whole life ahead of you! And what about your baby? Doesn’t she have the right to live?

Immobilized by fear, Anna stood motionless for what seemed like an eternity…

“Anna!” Andreas’ desperate scream shook her to the core.

Oh! No! He found me! The realization hit her like a bolt of lightning.

“Andreas!” she yelled and turned abruptly, losing her balance…

Chapter Two

Athens, Greece, present day


“Anna!” The voice echoed in Joanna’s head.

She sat up in bed, her chest heaving to draw in noisy gulps of air. Glancing around the dark room, Joanna gasped. Her rapid heartbeat drummed in her ears. Where am I?

Slowly, the events of the last few days trickled into her mind. Oh, yes. I’m in Athens. With the back of her hand, she wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead. Even though she was awake now, she could still see glimpses of the abyss flash before her eyes.

It was that dream again… Joanna stood at the edge of the cliff while a man was desperately calling her name. He always called her Anna. But it was Joanna he was calling—she could feel it deep inside her. And every time, the dream left her with mixed feelings—terror for the abyss and longing for that mysterious stranger.

Sobbing uncontrollably, she flipped back the covers, swung her legs over the side of the bed, and reached for the glass on the nightstand. After greedily drinking a few sips of water, she stood up and took a few staggering steps towards the sliding doors leading to the balcony. She opened them and walked outside. The sight of the Parthenon at night was breathtaking. So much beauty and history!

Joanna stood there, unable to break her glance free from the captivating view. The night breeze caressed her face softly and relieved the heat, burning her up inside.

It was a warm night in late June, but the temperature wasn’t the reason Joanna was on fire. It was those dreams that kept coming back…visions of a mystery man with dark hair, blue eyes, and a body to die for kept haunting her for years. Joanna longed for his touch and his deep, sexy voice—sometimes filled with passion and need and others with pain and despair. Who was that mystery man who resembled her favorite actor, Ian Somerhalder? And why did he dominate her dreams night after night ever since she could remember?

While Joanna was still a child, she mentioned something about her dreams to her mother, Maria. But her mother dismissed the subject and told her that it was just a nightmare. So Joanna kept her dreams to herself. And, of course, she was too young at the time to understand the passion in the man’s voice.

After growing up, however, she realized that the man in her dreams sounded like a desperate lover. But that wasn’t something she could share with her mother. The only one she could talk to was her best friend, Lizzie.

They grew up in Chicago, and while in high school, Joanna told Lizzie about her dreams that were filled with love and passion. She confided in her friend about the mystery man whose soft caresses made her body trembling, and his scorching kisses left her wanting more.

But during the past year, those passionate dreams had turned to nightmares…terrifying images of herself standing at the edge of a sheer cliff, staring into the abyss. A storm was raging, and frothy white waves were crashing on the rocks below.

Joanna shook her head to clear her thoughts. What is happening to me? Am I going crazy? She let her eyes roam over Athens, lit up like a Christmas tree. Her room was on the sixth floor of the hotel, providing an amazing view of the Parthenon and Plaka—a picturesque district in Athens, developed around the ancient Agora under the Acropolis hill.

She drew a deep breath, overwhelmed by the feeling that whatever was happening to her had to do with the Greek Island of Zakynthos—her mother’s birthplace. She couldn’t wait to step foot on that island for the first time in her life. Why on earth my mother never talked about Greece?

All the Greeks in their neighborhood back in Chicago were always talking about Greece and their hometowns. On every occasion, they’ll share memories of how it was while growing up, things they used to do, and places they used to visit. But that wasn’t the case with Maria; she was always distant and reserved, never talking about her birthplace, her childhood years, or her family. And that was an unceasing ache for Joanna; she felt alienated from her heritage.

Most of the Greek families they knew visited their hometowns every summer. When Joanna was still very young, she was jealous of her friends and the fun stories they had to share coming back from their Greek holidays. And she used to cry and beg her parents to visit Zakynthos, at least once. But her parents explained that such a trip was too expensive for them. But was that the real reason? Or was there something else they were not telling me? Joanna kept wondering, more and more frequently as the years went by.

And then, her father—detective Dan Williams—was fatally wounded during a police raid. Joanna was fifteen years old at the time, and the whole world came crumbling down around her. She leaned on her mother, and the two of them made it through the years of pain and grief until her mother passed away three years later. At the age of eighteen, Joanna was left all alone.

But during this horrible time of loss and desperation, Father Theodore and the Greek Orthodox Church of their community showered Joanna with love and kindness. Thanks to their moral and financial support, Joanna was able to get her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a good job at a real estate agency. Eternally grateful, Joanna was also helping at the Church in every way she could.

However, those same dreams kept haunting her, and the urge to visit Zakynthos was getting stronger with each passing day.

And now, six years after her mother passed away, Joanna stood perched on the edge of a precipice, figuratively speaking, about to embark on an exciting but yet frightening new phase of her life. She was in Athens, scheduled to board a ship to Zakynthos the next day.

Pulling her gaze from the breathtaking view, she walked back inside and glanced at the clock. Four-thirty. It was too early in the morning, but Joanna knew she wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. So she stepped into the bathroom to take a shower and get ready for the trip.

“It’s going to be fun,” she whispered, trying to shake off an eerie feeling of déjà vu. “After all, I’ve never been anywhere outside Chicago. And now, I’m in Greece, ready to board a ship to Zakynthos, one of the most beautiful Greek Islands in the Ionian Sea. No matter if I get some answers to my strange dreams or not, I’m going to have the best vacation of my life.”

She was dead wrong.

End of excerpt

I hope you have enjoyed the above excerpt of reincarnation romance Eternal Soul Mates. To find out what happened to Joanna click here to continue reading the book on Amazon for free.

The novel is available as eBook and paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and other fine booksellers everywhere:

Here is the blurb:

In Eternal Soul Mates, the past merges with the present in a haunting and captivating story of love, loss, and betrayal.

Joanna Williams is bewildered by her mother’s mysterious past and scorching dreams of an irresistible stranger. Trying to find some answers, she visits her mother’s birthplace—the Greek Island of Zakynthos.

Alexandros Kortesis—the owner of a luxury resort on Zakynthos—is drawn to Joanna like no other. But a dark secret threatens his family’s legacy, and unfortunately, Joanna is the one trying to uncover it.

Danger and passion collide as the two soul mates—unaware that they were lovers in a past life—confront each other while at the same time try to resist the compelling force that draws them together. Will their eternal love prevail? Or will the battle against the evil guarding the secret lead them to their graves?

Eternal Soul Mates is a reincarnation romance story, cloaked in mystery and suspense. The action unfolds on the Greek Island of Zakynthos—a paradise on earth, in the aquamarine waters of the Ionian Sea.

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